sankarshanasya yo vyuhah payobdhi-shayi-namakah
sa eva viracandro’bhuc caitanyabhinna-vigrahah
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, is the origin of unlimited expansions and incarnations. He is the avatari. His first expansion is the root Sankarshan or Balaram. This same Balaram appeared with Lord Chaitanya as Nityananda Prabhu. Balaram’s expanison Maha-Sankarshan has his abode in the Vaikuntha planets, and he in turn expands as the purushavataras in the work of creation of the universe, first as the Karanodakashayi Vishnu, who lies in the causal ocean, then as Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, who lies in the ocean within the individual universes, and finally as the Kshirodakashayi Vishnu, who not only lies in the ocean of milk, but is the director of the individual universe and is present as the indweller of every living being within the universe. He is also known as Aniruddha and, in the course of Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya’s pastimes, appeared as Virabhadra Prabhu, the son of Lord Nityananda and his energy, Vasudha Devi.
Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami has written in his Chaitanya Charitamrita that Virabhadra is the best of all the branches of Nityananda trunk of the tree of devotional service which grew with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes.
The best of all of Nityananda’s branches is Virabhadra Goswami. The subbranches which grew out of him are unlimited in number.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.56)
As with all Vishnu-tattvas, in Virabhadra’s life the three energies, Shri, Bhu (or Bhakti), and Nila (or Lila) Shakti, are present. Virabhadra’s Shri-shakti was named Shrimati, who appeared in the village of Jhamatpur in Hooghly district as the daughter of Yadunatha Acharya and Vidyunmala (or Lakshmi).
Yadunandana’s wife Lakshmi was extremely chaste and devoted to her husband. Two daughters were born to her, Shrimati and Narayani, both of whom were startlingly beautiful. At Jahnava’s behest, the fortunate Brahmin gave both of his daughters in marriage to Virabhadra.
Though Virabhadra belongs to the category of Vishnu-tattva, it is his lila to behave like a devotee:
The greatest branch coming out of the trunk named Nityananda is Virabhadra Goswami, who also has innumerable branches and subbranches. It is not possible to describe them all. Although he is the Lord of the creation, Virabhadra presented himself as a great devotee. Though transcendental to all Vedic injunctions, he strictly followed the Vedic religion. Though the power of God was operating within him, out of sight to the world, he showed no pride. He is the main pillar holding up the edifice of devotional service to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is by the glorious mercy of Sri Virabhadra Gosaïi that people all over the world now have the chance to chant the names of Chaitanya and Nityananda. I therefore take shelter of the lotus feet of Virabhadra Goswami for by his mercy all desires are fulfilled. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.8-12)
Sri Narahari Chakravarti Thakur has written the following about Virabhadra in his Bhakti-ratnakara:
Nityananda Prabhu had a single son, Virabhadra, who was an ocean of virtue and capable of purifying the world. Who can sufficiently glorify him, for their is no limit to his glories? He is famed as the branch of the Nityananda Prabhu... He is the root of all joy, is sometimes known as Virabhadra and sometimes as Viracandra. If anyone sees him even once he will give up everything and make his lotus feet his all-in-all in life.
(Bhakti-ratnakara 9.413-4, 420-1)
Virabhadra took initiation from his aunt and stepmother, Jahnava Devi. In his Anubhashya, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written, “Virabhadra Goswami had three disciples who were later celebrated as his sons-Gopijana-vallabha, Ramakrishna and Ramachandra. The youngest, Ramachandra, belonged to the Shandilya dynasty and had the surname Batavyala. He established his family at Khardaha, and its members are known as the gosvamis of Khardaha. The eldest disciple, Gopijana-vallabha, was a resident of a village known as Lata, near the Manakara railway station in the district of Burdwan. The second, Ramakrishna, lived near Maladaha, in a village named Gayeshapura.”
It is described in the thirteenth chapter of the Bhakti-ratnakara that Virabhadra took permission from his mother Vasudha to go to Vrindavan. He did the Vraja Dham parikrama with the blessings of Bhugarbha and Sri Jiva Goswamis.
At Khardaha, the old Shyamasundar temple has a manuscript of the Bhagavat which is said to have been handwritten by Virabhadra Prabhu. Some hold that this was actually written by Nityananda Prabhu himself. Virabhadra personally brought a piece of stone from which the deities worshiped there were carved. Their names are Shyamasundar, Radhavallabha, and Nandadulala. The quay on the Ganges where this stone was unloaded and brought on shore is known as Shyamasundar Ghat. Virabhadra established the custom of celebrating the birth of Nityananda Prabhu at Khardaha. The current managers of the Khardaha temple have many other legends about the life of Virabhadra Goswami.
The date of Virabhadra’s appearance is given as Karttik krishna navami. The Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana gives the date as Agrahayan shukla caturdashi.
[Excerpted from "Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates" by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]