According to both the Chaitanya Bhagavat and the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Nandana Acharya’s father was named Caturbhuja and he had two brothers, Vishnu Das and Ganga Das. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.5.74; Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.43) They were a family of Bhattacharya Brahmins residing in Nabadwip. Both Vishnu Das and Ganga Das stayed in Nilachala with Mahaprabhu for a while. Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu and Advaita Acharya all hid in Nandana Acharya’s house at one time or another. Nityananda Prabhu stayed at his house while at Nabadwip.
Nandana Acharya is a branch of the Chaitanya tree that is celebrated throughout the world because two of the Prabhus hid in his house.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.39
) In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, a different family tree is given for Nandana Acharya. The author of that dictionary writes: “Nandana Acharya came from a family of astrologer Brahmins. His father’s name was Lakshmi Narayan. Lakshmi Narayan had two sons: Nandana Acharya and Bhagavan Adhikari Sarvabhauma. Lakshmi Narayan had a reputation as a seer and astrologer. He was present when Mahaprabhu was born. Nandana Acharya is included as a branch of the Chaitanya tree. He was lame. When Mahaprabhu returned from South India, all the devotees were overjoyed to see him. Even though Nandana Acharya was lame, he went ahead of everyone else to perform puja to the Lord.
Nandana Acharya came forward with a deep attachment. Though lame, he went to the front of the group of devotees.
Sri Nandana Acharya came from a family of Shakadvipi Brahmins descended from Shanti Muni, the son of Parashara. He belonged to the Bharata branch of the Vatsya gotra from Rarha. He lived for some time in Bahirkhanda village near Tarakesvara in present-day Birbhum before moving to Nabadwip where he made his home in Srihatiya or Dakshin Para.”
It is also written in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana: “The Nandana mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita as the brother of Ganga Das and Vishnu Das is a different person. He is counted as a branch of Nityananda Prabhu. He is a writer of poetry and songs, but little else is known about him. He is not Nandana Acharya.”
The devotees were astonished to behold a personality as effulgent as a million suns. In order to reveal Nityananda’s true identity to all his devotees, Mahaprabhu signaled Srivasa Pandit to sing a verse from the Bhagavatam:
barhapidam nata-vara-vapuh karnayoh karnikaram
vibhrad-vasah kanaka-kapisham vaijayantim ca malam
randhran venor adhara-sudhaya purayan gopa-vrindai-
rvrinaranyam sva-pada-ramanam pravishad gita-kirtih
Krishna,As soon as he heard this verse, Nityananda Prabhu uttered the words “Ha Krishna!” and fainted, the eight ecstatic symptoms manifesting in his body. Mahaprabhu became anxious to be reunited with his brother and he clutched Nitai to his bosom while glorifying him to the assembled devotees.
whose glories are sung to the world by the cowherd boys,
dressed as a dancing performer,
a peacock feather decorating his topknot,
karnikara flowers behind his ears,
a golden cloth covering his body
and a victory garland around his neck,
entered Vrinda’s forest,
the pleasure garden of his auspiciously marked feet,
while filling the holes of his flute
with the nectar of his lips.
(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.21.5)
Sri Nandana Acharya was fortunate, indeed. Just look, Srinivas, this is his house. The Lord came to this house with all the devotees and found Nityananda sitting here in meditation. The devotees stood here gazing upon his incomparable beauty.
Ramai acted according to Mahaprabhu’s instruction and went to Advaita Acharya’s house. Advaita asked him why he had come. When he heard from Ramai that Mahaprabhu had manifested in Nabadwip, he and his wife Sitadevi, his son Achyutananda, and a number of his other followers all became excited and shed tears of joy. Advaita did as he had been instructed, gathering up the paraphernalia for worship and made for Nabadwip with his entourage. Nevertheless, he wished to test Mahaprabhu first, and so he stopped at Nandana Acharya’s house and remained there. He sent Ramai ahead but told him to keep his presence there secret and to tell Mahaprabhu instead that he had refused to come.
As the Supersoul, Mahaprabhu could understand exactly what Advaita was trying to do. He revealed a majestic divine form on the altar of Srivasa’s house. He indicated to Nityananda Prabhu to hold the parasol over his head and the other devotees to engage in various services. Mahaprabhu then announced to all the devotees, “Advaita Acharya has decided to test me. He is hiding at Nandana Acharya’s house with all the paraphernalia for my puja.” He again sent Ramai to tell him that he was aware of his plan and to tell him to quickly come. When Advaita got the direct order from Mahaprabhu a second time, he joyfully went to Srivasa’s house. As soon as he saw the Lord, he fell to the ground at some distance to pay obeisance to his lotus feet and began to recite hymns of glorification. Seeing the Lord’s opulent form, Advaita became motionless and then began to glorify the unequalled mercy of the Lord Gaurahari everywhere. He then washed the lord’s lotus feet and then worshiped him with the five ingredients (pancopacara), using the following mantra to do so:
namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya caI pay my obeisances to Krishna Govinda, the lord of the brahminical society, to him who is the source of the cows’ and the Brahmins’ welfare, and who is the source of the welfare of the entire universe.
jagad-dhitaya krishnaya govindaya namo namah
Mahaprabhu then commanded Advaita Prabhu to get up and dance. Advaita started to dance madly until he became completely intoxicated, immersing all the watching devotees in a flood of ecstasy.
When Mahaprabhu heard this, he decided that he could not bear to live another minute in a useless body devoid of prema, and so he went and jumped into the Ganges, intending to drown himself. Nityananda and Hari Das immediately jumped in after him and pulled him out. Mahaprabhu then revealed to these two his intention to go and stay out of the sight of the other devotees for a while at the house of Nandana Acharya. They were thus the only ones to know that he was there.
The other devotees found no sign of Mahaprabhu anywhere and began to feel intense separation from him. Advaita Prabhu even undertook a fast. Meanwhile, Mahaprabhu sat down on the deity’s throne in Nandana Acharya’s house and engaged its owner in various kinds of service. Mahaprabhu also instructed him not to tell anyone that he was at his place, but Nandana answered, “You are the wealth of the devotees’ hearts. The devotees are the ones who reveal you. How will you possibly be able to remain hidden from them?”
Indeed, the Lord was aware that the devotees were unable to tolerate the pain of his absence, and so he asked Nandana Acharya to bring Srivasa Pandit there. Srivasa recounted to him that Advaita was extremely upset and that he was fasting. Mahaprabhu immediately accompanied Srivasa to Advaita’s residence and when he saw him lying faint and weak on the floor, he felt himself to be a great offender. Advaita himself rose up from his faint and prayed the Lord again and again for forgiveness for his rash statements and asked that he be allowed a place at the Lord’s lotus feet so that he could serve him birth after birth.
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.17)
Nandana Acharya was also amongst the participants in the nightly kirtan at Srivasa Angan and in the procession to the Kazi’s house. In Puri, he participated in the cleaning of the Gundicha temple and the Nrisingha temple and the Lord’s bathing pastimes in Indradyumna Sarovara. He also took part in the feast in the Ai Tota gardens and, of course, the Rathayatra festival.
Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, the founder of the Gaudiya Sangha and who has now entered the eternal activities of the Lord, constructed a temple at the site of Nandana Acharya’s house in Ishodyan, Mayapur. The temple houses deities of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu.
The date and place of Nandana Acharya’s appearance and disappearance are unknown.