Sri Jhanava Ishwari Devi, whom devotees also adore with the name Jhanava Maiya (Mother Jhanava) is the wife of Lord Nityananda Prabhu.
As described in Gaura Ganoddesa Dipika (Verse 66), and later mentioned by Srila Prabhupada in Chaitanya Charitamrta (Adi, Chapter 11, Verse 21) she is the expansion of Ananga Manjari, the younger sister of Srimati Radharani in Nitya Goloka Vrindavan.
Lord Balarama had two wives, Srimati Varuni Devi and Srimati Revati Devi. Both of them later expanded themselves in Gaura Lila as Srimati Vasudha Devi and Srimati Jhanava Devi respectively.
These two internal energies of Nityananda Prabhu were born to Sri Surya Das who himself was a great personality, of which Jhanava Maiya was the youngest.
Marriage to Sri Nityananda Prabhu
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had persuaded Lord Nityananda for marriage, knowing that his internal energies had already descended and will play a vital role in the spreading of the Krishna Consciousness Movement.
For the Divine Marriage of Lord Nityananda first with Mata Vasudha and later on with Mata Jhanava, blessings poured in and everyone in the 14 worlds was joyful. Lord Nityananda stayed at Shaligram and later left to see Sachi Mata.
Jhanava Maiya is famous as Nityananda Swarupini. She did not bear any children, instead took great care of son Virbhadra and daughter Ganga, who were both born to Mata Vasudha. She even initiated Virbhadra Prabhu later.
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Jhanava Maiya was revered as a leading Vaishnava, at whose lotus feet, the whole Gaudiya Sampradaya took shelter. Within Her heart, the Divine Couple always performed Their eternal pastimes. She showed incomparable compassion to uncountable fallen conditioned souls, reviving them to their original consciousness by Her own mercy.
Slowly when the flag bearers of the Hare Krishna Movement, Lord Gauranga, Lord Nityananda and their close associates like Advaita Acharya and Srivas Pandit disappeared, Jhanava Maiya travelled in Gauda Desh and Braj Mandal, becoming the loving shelter of the devotees whose heart were burning in separation from their golden Lord, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Significant devotees like Srila Narottam Das Thakur, Srinivas Pandit and Shyamananda Prabhu were constantly tormented by not being able to associate with Lord Gauranga, were pacified by the cooling shade of Jhanava Maiya's Lotus Feet who overflowed with Prema Bhakti.
Grand Kheturi Festival
Kheturi is the hometown of Srila Narottam Das Thakur, where he wished to inaugurate the six deities on the most auspicious occasion of Gaura Purnima.
Jhanava Maiya was personally instructed by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to attend this grand festival of Kheturi as Srinivas Acharya and Narottam Das Thakur along with many devotees were longing for Her association.
Personified form of love, mercy and compassion, Jhanava Maiya went to become a part of this festival. One day prior to the festival day, Srimati Jhanava Devi was worshipped with chandan and garlands. The devotees of the Lord honoured her and she was made the chief guest of the whole festival.
The following night, the uproaring sound of Harinama Sankirtan filled the entire Kheturi. The helpless callings of the devotees went on and on, anxious to see Lord Gauranga and his eternal associates. They prayed again and again chanting the all-powerful Hare Krishna Mahamantra.
Later Srila Narottam Das Thakur led the kirtan and was personally blessed and empowered by Jhanava Maiya Herself who is the epitome of pure devotional service to the Lord.
The intensity of kirtan in vipralambha bhav (separation) slowly reached the pinnacle. Devotees trembled and some danced in ecstasy. Some cried and others chanted like madmen. Hearing this kirtan, Jhanava Maiya shed loving tears.
When the transcendental emotions reached the highest position, Lord Gaurasundara appeared with His eternal associates shining like millions of moons.
Kahite ki sankirtan sukhera ghotay
Ganasaha avatirna haila gaura raya
Meghete udaya bidyutera punja yaichhe
Sankirtana meghe prabhu prakataya taichhe
(Bhakti Ratnakara, 10.572)
The fortune of the devotees present there knew no bounds. They witnessed the most remarkable, astounding and ecstatic Kirtan ever graced by the presence of Gaura Hari and his personal associates like Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya, and Jagadisha Pandita amongst many others.
They all danced filling the entire devotee community with unparalleled bliss. After letting the devotees relish the darshan of Their Lotus Feet, They all disappeared.
Appearing for the fulfilment of the desires of his devotees, Lord Gauranga again stayed true to his Name of the most munificent incarnation.
The next day, Jhanava Maiya Herself cooked prasadam for the Lord and served the remnants to all the devotees.
Seeing that the devotees were too afflicted with the pain of not seeing Mahaprabhu, she ordered Srinivas Acharya to begin the festival of Holi. She took colours and smeared them on the lotus feet of the six deities and later left for Vrindavan.
Vrindavan & Radha Kund
The Six Goswamis of Vrindavan highly admired her, well aware that Jhanava Maiya was eternally situated in perfect Krishna Consciousness.
A crystal staircase leads to the personal kunj of Ananga Manjari, situated at the centre of Radha kunda. Thus, Jhanava Maiya even though externally present in the material world was always absorbed in the transcendental pastimes of the Divine Couple, relishing it at each moment by the constant chanting of Hare Krishna Mahamantra.
One time, Gopinath Deity along with Radharani appeared in Her vision. They desired that the deity of Radharani who was presently small must be replaced by a larger deity of Radharani. Willing to fulfil the lord's desire, Jhanava Maiya went to Bengal and returned back to Vrindavan with the larger deity.
The previous small deity of Radharani was then installed on the left of Sri Gopinath and the newer larger deity of Radharani was placed on the right.
She served the Lordships of Her life offering them matchless bhoga.
One day, she entered the temple and the gates closed. Lord Gopinath made Jhanava Maiya sit on His left.
Later when the devotees opened the temple door, they found that Jhanava Maiya had transformed into a golden deity that appeared on the right of Lord Gopinath.
The original deities with which Jhanava Maiya merged are presently in Jaipur.
Srimati Jhanava Thakurani carried in Her heart, the divine treasure of love of Godhead and our humble prayer remains for it to be available to us, purely by Her causeless mercy.
All glory to Jhanava Maiya whose life and soul are Lord Nityananda and Lord Gauranga!
Jai Jai Shri Radhe!
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