Five poets emerged towards the 16th century: Balaram Das, Jagannath Das, Achyutananda Das, Ananta Das and Jasobanta Das. Although their dates of activity span one hundred years, they are collectively known as “Panchasakhas”, since they adhered to the same school of thought, Utkaliya Vaishnavism. Balaram Das’s Jagamohan Ramayan provided the other pillar on which subsequent literature was to thrive. His Laksmi Purana is considered to be the first manifesto of Women’s Liberation and Feminism in Indian Literature. However, the most influential work was yet to come. 

It came in the form of Jagannath Das’s Bhagabata, which had a great influence among Oriya people, as a day-to-day philosophical guide, and on Oriya Culture. The Panchasakhas are very much Vaishnavas by thought. In 1509, Chaitanya came to Orissa with his Vaishnava message of love. Before him, Jaydev had prepared the ground by heralding the cult of Vaishnavism through his Geetagovinda. Chaitanya’s path of devotion was known as Raganuga Bhakti Marga, but the Panchasakhas differed from Chaitanyas and believed in Gyana Mishra Bhakti Marga, which has similarities with the Buddhist philosophy of Charya Literature stated above. In the holy land of Kalinga (Orissa) many saints, mystics, and devotional souls have taken birth, from time to time, and have fortified the culture and the spiritualism. The land is witness to most of the important Hindu traditions and spiritual movements. Jewelled by sacred Buddhist monuments to temples of Shakti (the supreme female power), Shiva (the supreme male power), and Jagannâth Vishnu (Lord of the Universe), the state is unique in itself. Most important spiritual rituals have been extensively practised here by several seers – including Buddhist ceremonies, Devi “Tantra” (tanric rituals involving worship of Shakti), Shaiva Marg (the path followed by devotees of Shiva), and Vaishnava Marg (the path followed by devotees of Vishnu). Hardly there is any “Sadhak” who would not pay a visit to the Shri Jagannâth temple once.

Among the various great souls, the most prominent (in the domain of the known History) are the Panchasakhaa (=Five friends) who have deeply influenced both the Oriya Spiritualism and the Literature. These five friends lived between 1450 to 1550 AD and enriched the spiritualism in a way that normal man can also understand and benefit out of that. These great souls are: Achyutânanda Das, Ananta Das, Jasovanta Das, Jagannâtha Das, and Balarâma Das. They popularly were called as Panchasakhaa (=Five friends).

Pancha means five and Sakhaa means friends -The great spiritual leader and naamayogi avataar Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu has referred to these five of his disciples as Panchasakhaa and stated that the Panchasakhaa are like his Pancha Atma, i.e., five souls (Atma-Tattva) and are in no way lesser than some of the Avataars of Vishnu. Shri Chaitanya was the first to establish the Bhaaba-Mishrita Naama Marga (the path of chanting the holy name with proper feelings and faith); before him this method was not so popular or well-known even if the path is partly described in the ancient Vedas. He first introduced this method for all the simple-minded people and made many realize that God-realization can also be achieved by simpler method of pure devotion without undergoing difficult method of austerities. It is he who first disclosed the importance of the HareKrusna MahaaMantra.

The Panchasakha converted ancient Hindu texts into prose (of simple language) easily understood by the people of Udra Desha (Orissa). Shri Achyutananda Das was the most prolific writer of the Panchasakhas and has written numerous books (called as Pothi’s), believed not in one life but in many successive lives. He is known as the Mahapurusha, which means – a great man. 

Mahapurusha Achyutânanda was a shunya sadhak and had acquired immense knowledge about almost every aspect, i.e. spiritualism, Ayurveda (Indian healing medical science that uses only natural resources and herbs), various other sciences, and social regulations. For details please look at the “Literature Pancha-Sakha” topic.

There is an interesting belief (school-of-thought) about the origin of Panchasakhâ which relates them to the Mahabhârat era (Dwapara-yuga), and is also stated in Shunya Samhitâ written by Mahapurusha Achyutânanda. Here, Mahapurusha describes, Panchasakhâ literally means “five mates or friends”. Towards the end of Mahabhârat era when Lord Krusna was leaving the mortal body, Nilakantheswara Mahadeva (another name of Lord Shiva, residing in Puri, with a blue-colored neck caused by intake of poison to save the world) appeared and had a conversation with Lord Krusna. He revealed that the Lord’s companions Dâmâ, Sudâmâ, Srivatsa, Subala, and Subâhu would reincarnate in the Kali-yuga and will be known as Ananta, Acyutânanda, Jagannâtha, Balarâma, and Yasovanta, respectively. Thus, the believers of the Panchasakhâ consider that these five saints were the most intimate friends of Lord Krusna in Dwapara-yuga, who came again in Kali-yuga to serve Him. They are also instrumental to perform the crucial and much-awaited Yuga-Karma of destroying the sinners and saving the saints, according to the Sanatana-Hindu beliefs.

To describe briefly the individual ways and specialties of the Panchasakhaa, it is told that :
Agamya bhâba jânee Yasovanta Gâra katâ Yantra jânee Ananta Âgata Nâgata Achyuta bhane Balarâma Dâsa tatwa bakhâne Bhaktira bhâba jâne Jagannâtha Panchasakhaa e mora pancha mahanta. [in Oriya] Yasovanta knows the things beyond the reach Yantras using lines and figures are known to Ananta Achyuta speaks the past, present and future Balarâma Dasa is fluent in tatwa (ultimate gist of anything) Ultimate feelings of devotion are known to Jagannâtha These five friends are my five mahantas [direct translation might result in slight loss of information]

The birth/origin of the Achyutânand is described as:

!! Shunyaru khasilaa Pavane misilaa, anaakare helaa thula !!

!! Thula bhangigale athule misiba, rahijiba anaahata !!

“Mahapurusha Achyutânanda”, is believed to have been born with special mercy or divine intervention from “” which is symbolic for Lord Jagannâth himself (“Vibhuti Yoga, Shrimad Bhagavat Geeta”). Hence the name of Mahapurusa is Achyuta (“A + chyuta”: A= Shri Visnu; Chyuta = created from). Occasionally, “Mahapurusha Achyutânanda” is also referred to as “Achyuti”, which literally means “who has no fall (“chyuti nahin jâhâra” in Oriya language)”. Sri Achyuta Das was born to Dinabandhu Khuntia and Padma devi in a village called Tilakona in Orissa in about 1510 AD on a “Magha Sukla Ekadasi” (a specific time described in Oriya calendar). His parents were childless for a long time and were praying to Lord Jagannâth for a child. One night his father had a vision that Garuda (the bird of Vishnu, an Eagle) gave him a child. 

Next morning he rushed to the temple and prayed at the “Garuda Khamba” (a pillar in front of the Jagannâth temple) thanking the Lord for his mercy. At this point there are two different beliefs: some are of the opinion that he (Dinabandhu Khuntia) found a newborn divine child there and he is Achyuta (“A + chyuta”). Some others believe that, soon after this incident (vision), Padma devi was booned with a divine child.

Mahapurusha Achyutânanda had established various spiritual energetic centers called ‘Gâdi’s distributed throughout east India (former states known as Anga, Banga, Kalinga, Magadha) and some in Nepal. These ‘Gâdi’s were host to most of the spiritual actions, discourses, penance, and provided various services to the seekers. Examples are, Nemal, Kakatpur, Garoi, Jobra Ghât (a river bank in Cuttack) etc. During this brilliant era of Panchasakhâ, another seer His holiness Arakhsita Das (the presiding seer of Olasuni near Paradweep) who was not among the Panchasakha but was a revered saint, once found a divine child and handed over the newborn child to Mahapurusha Achyutananada. This child was known as Ram Das who is the disciple of Mahapurusha Achyutananda, Panchasakhaa, and Arakhsita Das together. The PanchaSakhaa were called as Pancha Guru (five Gurus) and together with Shri Arakhsita Das they were known as Sada-Goswami (six Lords). Shriguru Arakhsita Das, a great Shunya Sadhak, is the patron saint and seer in the Olasuni hills.

Olasuni hill is located near the border of Cuttack and Jajpur district, adjacent to the Daitari- Paradip Express Highway near the Ratnagiri and Laitgiri hills. The Gobari river also flows nearby. Olasuni hill was the place of Sadhana where Shri Arakhsita Das performed austerities in a cave (Olasuni gumphaa) before attaining salvation. The annual nine day Gumphaa festival of Olasuni is very famous. There is also the temple of Goddess Olasuni, near the tomb of Saint Arakhit Das. Baba Buddhanath Das sings in a song that Goddess Olasuni is the mother of Shri Arakhsita Das, one of the greatest ShunyaVaadi sadhakas. He is extremely merciful and accepts every offer, irrespective of any other factor, when they are offered with feelings.

Subsequently the Pancha Sakhaa and Arakhsita Das, in Samaadhi, could know that in the 13th birth (also the last birth) of this child (Ram Das), all their souls (Atma-Tattva) will remain in Ram Das and he will perform Yuga Karma on behalf of his Gurus during the transition from Kaliyuga to Satyayuga. The devotees and followers believe that His holiness Baba Shri Buddhanâth Das is the last incarnation of Yogi Ram Das and is enlightened by the conscious of his six Gurus.


The Five Saints of Orissa

The famous five Saints or five Friends (pancha sakhas) of Orissa were Balarama Das, Jagannatha Das, Achyutananda Das, Yasobanta Das and Sisu Ananta Das.

They started their own Sampradaya, already preaching Bhakti for Radha and Krishna in Orissa before the arrival of Chaitanya, following a tradition that had been established by Jayadeva Gosvami’s Gita Govinda. Such was the popularity of Gita Govinda that, as we have already mentioned, king Purushottama Deva wrote his own imitation, called Abhinava Gita Govinda, hoping to establish it as the new devotional success of his times. Many other Oriya poets such as Dinakrishna, Abhimanyu, Bhakta Charan, Baladeva and Gopala Krishna composed poems about Krishna’s romantic stories, such as the famous Valis.

Songs on Radha and Krishna written by Vidyapati of Mithila (in north Bihar) had also become famous in Orissa, and in fact both Jayadeva’s and Vidyapati’s songs were deeply appreciated by Chaitanya, who had them sung again and again to him by his companions. Before meeting Chaitanya, Ramananda Raya had written the Mahabhava prakasa, in which Kanai (Krishna) describes Radha as the embodiment of mahabhava, and the Jagannatha vallabha nataka. Another work on Krishna Bhakti that enjoyed great popularity before the arrival of Chaitanya was Markanda Dasa’s Kesava koili.

The five Friends all came in contact with Chaitanya, who arrived in Sri Kshetra in 1510, and often associated with him and his followers. Chaitanya Bhagavata mentions Nityananda and Ramananda Raya celebrating Sankirtana together with Balarama and Achyutananda.

They found Chaitanya’s preaching very near to their own ideas, because Chaitanya introduced the Nagara Sankirtana where there were no discriminations based on caste or social class, and the songs of the kirtanas were not only in classical Sanskrit but also in the popular languages such as Bengali and Oriya, encouraging ordinary and low-caste people to participate more directly. Chaitanya also accepted low-caste people as his followers, embraced fishermen and honored “ex-Muslim” devotees such as Haridasa, Rupa and Sanatana etc.

The liberality of the Pancha sakhas antagonized the Brahmins, who disparaged the Oryia translations of the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavata and Harivamsa compiled by Sarala, Balarama, Jagannatha and Achyutananda. The Oriya Bhagavatam of Jagannatha Das was even called “teli bhagavata”, the “Bhagavata of the low-caste oil-maker”. However, the literary work of the Pancha sakhas was vital to the development of the Oriya language and cultural identity, uniting the people and creating a feeling of solidarity that protected the region for a long time.

The five Friends preached the Vaishnava dharma or ninefold process of Bhakti and chanting the Holy Names (Harinama), giving more importance to the realization of the soul rather than worship of the Deities.
The most important aspect of their preaching was the abolition of all discriminations among Vaishnavas, no matter from which caste or background they came; Achyutananda, Yasovanta, Balarama and Ananta met a strong opposition from the caste-conscious Brahmins, who even disparagingly called Jagannatha Dasa’s Oriya Bhagavata as “teli bhagavata” (“the Bhagavata of the oil-maker”). However, this Oriya Bhagavatam became so popular that every village had a Tunga, a hall where the villagers regularly gathered to listen to its reading.

As a reaction against the excessive ritualism of the caste Brahmins and their monopoly and control over the temples and Deity worship, the Pancha Sakhas preached that Lord Krishna/Jagannatha could be worshiped as Sunya, “void”, a particular “non-shape” that transcended the Deity in the temple and therefore could be accessible by everyone at all times. It is important to understand that such “void” is not an impersonal emptiness devoid of sentiments, qualities and relationships – in fact quite the opposite, as Jagannatha Dasa preached the Rasa krida, Acyutananda preached the Nitya Rasa, Yasovanta preached the Prema bhakti brahma gita and Ananta the Tula sunya rasa.

They accepted Radha Krishna as Paramatma and Jagannatha as Radha Krishna yugala murti or bhava murti, and taught that Guru is the manifestation of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesvara. According to their doctrine (that is also shared by many other groups, including the Natha yogis and several traditions of Bhakti in Bengal), the human body is a microcosm where the Supreme Lord resides and manifests His pastimes, including the most intimate lilas of Radha Krishna, where Radha is the pure devoted soul and Krishna is Paramatma.
The Pancha sakhas followed the path of Bhakti adopting mantra, tantra and yantra in their sadhana; they manifested mystic power and could change their body into different forms.

For many generations, there has been a serious rift between the followers of the Atibadi Sampradaya and the Bengali followers of Chaitanya, and especially the Sarasvata Gaudiyas, sometimes with excessive emphasis on marginal details such as the order of the two verses of the Maha mantra sloka:

“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna  Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare,”

While the Atibadi Sampradaya and several other ancient Gaudiya Mathas in Puri chant the mantra starting with the “Rama line”, the Sarasvata Gaudiya insist that the mantra should start with the “Krishna line” in order “not to be offensive by reversing the lines”. It is not clear how sincere followers of Chaitanya could find “offensive” the recitation of the Holy Names simply because one verse is put before the other - also considering that by continued recitation, neither of the two verses appears to come first, but they form a circle.

In fact, we have heard that Narada Muni tricked Valmiki into chanting the name of Lord Rama by instructing him to chant the name of Death (Mara); the constant chanting “in circles” of the syllables Ra and Ma was nevertheless so powerful that it turned a highway robber into the greatest devotee of Sri Ramachandra. Besides, we should remember the clear teaching of a verse of the Sikshastakam, the short ideological summary considered the only text actually written by Chaitanya: 

namnam akari bahu-dha nijasarva-saktis tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah

“O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benedictions to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names.”

The Jagannatha charitamrita, a biography of Jagannatha Das written by Divakara Das, states that the difference between the Oriya (Utkali) and the Bengali (Gaudiya) Vaishnavas is that the Oriyas consider Jagannatha as the avatari, the source of all avataras, while the Bengalis say that Krishna is the avatari.
Such distinction could be easily overcome by considering that Jagannatha is Krishna Himself, and especially in the light of the acintya bhedabheda tattva taught by Chaitanya. The rift between the Bengali and Oriya Vaishnavas has lasted long enough, and is based on very flimsy grounds, more emotional than philosophical or theological. Divakar Das wrote that the Bengali devotees were jealous of the Oriya devotees, and in fact still today we find people from the Sarasvata Gaudiya line writing that the title “Atibadi” given by Chaitanya to Jagannatha Das was meant in an offensive and sarcastic way, while we know that Chaitanya strictly taught and demonstrated the utmost humility towards all groups of people.

Some also say that the powerful influence of the Atibadi Sampradaya, challenging the excessive ritualism and casteism of the orthodox society, was carried to the extreme consequences by the antibrahminic and iconoclastic movement called Mahima Dharma in more recent times. However, this would be an exaggeration considering that the Mahima Dharma actively opposed the worship of Jagannatha, to the point of attacking the Puri temple with the intent of destroying the Deities. This seems to be quite far fetched, as all the Atibadi Mathas worship the form of Jagannatha as well as other divine forms, and uphold the sacredness of the Shastra, which the Mahima sect do not recognize.

The Acharya in the sixth generation of the disciplic succession from the Atibadi Sampradaya, Purushottama Das, had five prominent disciples, the first of which, Mukunda Das, became the Mahanta of the Bodo Oriya Matha, and the other four established new branches of the Matha in Puri, called Sana Oriya Matha, Rama-Hari Das Matha, Vanamali Das matha and Bhagavata Das Matha.

Balarama Dasa

He was born between 1472 and 1482 in Erabanga village at Gop (near Konarak); his father was Somanatha Mahapatra and his mother was Mahamaya Devi. Some say that he was born in the village of Chandrapur, where he also met Chaitanya. Balarama Dasa became a minister of king Prataparudra Dev, but after meeting Chaitanya he left the Government service and utilized his previous knowledge of Kundalini yoga, vaidhi bhakti in the mood of Ramanuja Acharya, and jnana to propagate the chanting of the Holy Name. He is sometimes called Matta Balarama, because of his disregard for social conventions in favor of ecstatic Bhakti.

He used to participate to the discussions on Vedanta in the Mukti Mandapa in the Jagannatha temple (inspite of the resentment of the Brahmins), and it is said that anyone who touched his head would become instantly able to explain the philosophy of Vedanta. One day a beggar (who was dumb and deaf) approached him, touching his head, and he was not only cured and became able to speak, but he also started to discuss philosophy immediately. This beggar then became Balarama’s foremost disciple with the name of Hari Das. 

The mula mantra chanted and taught by Balarama Das was the Krishna mantra. His residence in Puri is called Gandharva Matha. Balarama Dasa wrote the famous Jagamohana or Dandi Ramayana, as well as a number of other works entitled Gita Abakasa, Bhava samudra, Gupta Gita, Vedanta Sara, Mriguni Stuti, Saptanga yogasara tika, Vedanta sara or Brahma tika, Baula gai gita, Kamala locana chotisa, Kanta koili, Bedha parikrama, Brahma gita, Brahmanda bhugola, Vajra kavaca, Jnana chudamani, Virat gita, Ganesh vibhuti, Amarakosha Gita, Lakshmi Purana (which is very popular in Orissa). 

In his Bata Abakasa he writes hat Lord Jagannatha is served by 64 yoginis.In his Virata Gita, he describes the nirakara form of Krishna as Sunya. However, his idea of Sunya is quite particular, as it includes form and relationships. He was also a social worker and reformer, and an expert astrologer as well. He disappeared in 1540.

Achyutananda Dasa

He was born in Tilakana near Nemala, Cuttack, in 1485; his father was Dinabandhu Khuntia and his mother’s name was Padmavati. His grandfather Gopinath Mohanty had served in the army of the Gajapati King. As a child, he was named Agani. When he grew older, he had a mystic dream where the Lord taught him the Gita, the Upanishads and the Tantra. Immediately he went to pilgrimage and on the way he met Chaitanya and it is said he received Harinam initiation from Him. Some other people say that he went to meet Chaitanya together with his father; he was then 18 years old. At the time of Achyutananda’s initiation,
Chaitanya asked Sanatana Gosvami to take care of him and coach him in spiritual knowledge. Achyutananda married the daughter of Raghurana Champati Rai and stayed in Dhauligram. He had 12 main disciples, of whom the most prominent was Ramachandra Das. The King gave him some land in Banki Mohana.   The mula mantra he chanted and taught was the Radha mantra. Achyutananda is mostly famous for the book of prophecies called Achyutananda Malika, composed of 13 chapters, describing the future destruction of the town of Puri after Jagannatha has moved out, and the appearance of Kalki avatara who will annihilate all the evildoers starting from Orissa. A few summary studies have been published in Oriya language Achyutananda also translated into Oriya and commented Harivamsa, Tattva bodhini, Sunya samhita, Jyoti samhita, Gopala Ujjvala, Baranasi Gita, Anakara Brahma Samhita, Abhayada Kavacha, Astagujari, Sarana panjara stotra, Vipra chalaka, Mana mahima.

He wrote a book about the preaching mission of the Pancha sakhas (five friends) and organized a travelling party of Rahasankirtana, for which he also wrote several bhajan songs. It is said that once he was attacked by some envious Brahmins and he manifested his laghima yoga siddhi by becoming extremely light and floating away in the air. Achyutananda’s teachings present a fusion of Saguna and Nirguna worship, uniting the doctrines of Dvaita and Advaita, and knowledge from Upanishads and Kundalini yoga. He left his body on Jyestha sukla Ekadasi.

Atibadi Jagannatha Dasa

He was born in Kapilesvarapur or Kapilesvar grama (one of the 16 traditional Sasana villages) at 14 kms from Puri towards Brahmagiri, on the day of Radhastami of 1487 (some say in 1490). Because he was born on Radhastami, he is considered to have a close relationship with Srimati Radhika.

His mother was Padmavati Devi and his father was Bhagavan Das, from the Kaushiki Gotra. He used to recite the Bhagavata Purana in Lord’s Jagannatha temple, and his explanations were so attractive that king Prataparudra gave him the title of “Purana Panda”. As son of the Purana Panda, Jagannatha Dasa used to sit by his father and learn the Bhagavata. One day, while visiting the temple, Chaitanya noticed the 18 years old boy sitting near the Bata Ganesha Deity in Sri Mandira, reciting the Brahma stuti from Gopa lila (10th Canto), and honored him by offering him a cloth and the title of Atibadi (“very great”).

Jagannatha Das also used to go to recite the Bhagavatam in the houses of people and made no discrimination on the basis of bodily identification, befriending men and women in the same way. A famous incident regarded such confidential exchanges with Medha and Sumedha, two ladies endowed with great spiritual power and who were said to be going in the night to visit Jagannatha in the temple by their mystic powers after it was closed. Some envious men complained to king Prataparudra accusing Jagannatha Dasa of immoral behavior (illicit relationships with women) and the King called him for questioning. Jagannatha Dasa replied that for him there was no difference between men and women; he said that in fact when he was associating with ladies, he actually regarded himself as a woman, too.

The King did not believe him but when Jagannatha Das was put in jail he actually manifested himself in the form of a woman and the guards, impressed, called the King to witness such an extraordinary feat.
King Prataparudra realized he had committed an offense to a great devotee, so not only he released him/her from prison, but he also asked that s/he gave initiation to his chief Queen into Bhakti yoga. The Queen invited Jagannatha Dasa within the royal palace, where he could open his own Matha, called Bada Odiya Matha. 
It is said that by the order of Narada Muni, Jagannatha Das translated Srimad Bhagavatam into Oriya. This work gave him the reputation of the best spiritual teacher in Orissa in his times, and is still extremely popular even today, being worshiped and recited in all households. In fact in Orissa this text is considered on the same level of Tulasi Das’ Rama charita manasa.

Jagannatha Dasa wrote also Gupta Bhagavat, Tula vina, Sola chapadi, Chari chapadi, Tola bena, Daru brahma gita, Diksa samyad, Artha koili, Muguni stuti, Annamaya kundali, Goloka sarodhara, Bhakti chandrika, Kali malika, Indra malika, Niladri vilasa, Nitya gupta chintamani, Sri Krishna bhakti kalpa lata and other books. The mula mantra he chanted and taught was the Rama mantra. He established two Mathas in Puri, the Bada Odiya Matha and the Satalahari Matha. His main disciple was Baliga Das. Jagannatha Dasa passed away on Sukla Magha saptami (the day of Chandrabhaga Mela in Konarak) in 1557, and his Samadhi Mandira is on the beach. His main disciples were Uddhava, Ramachandra, Gopinatha, Hari Das, Nandani Acharya, Vamani Mahapatra, Srimati Gaura, Gopala Das, Akhandala Mekapa, Janardana Pati, Krishna Das, Vanamali Das, Govardhana Das, Kanai Khuntia, Jagannatha Das and Madhusudana Das.

Yasobanta Dasa

He was born in 1482 near Aranga Nandi village, district of Cuttack, in a kshatriya family. His father was Balabhadra Mala, his mother was Rekha Devi. He married Anjana Devi, the sister of king Raghunath Champatti of Aranga. Later on, he took sannyasa and traveled to many holy places in India, he attained mystic powers and was able to change his form at will. The mula mantra he chanted and taught was the Shyama mantra.

He wrote Govinda chandra, Shiva sarodaya, Sasti mala, Prema bhakti, Brahma gita, Atma pariche gita, a Malika and several bhajans. The Govinda chandra became very famous in Assam, Bengal and north India; it is basically related with traditional dance and teaching of dance, connected with the Vaishnava tradition. His best disciple was Lohi Das. It is said that also the famous saint Salabega was his disciple. He left his body on Margasira sukla Sasti.

Sisu Ananta Das

He was born in Balipatna village, near Bhubaneswara, in 1488. His father’s name was Kapila, and his mother’s Gaura Devi.

In a dream he received from Surya Narayana in Konarak the order to go and meet Chaitanya, so he approached the party and took diksha initiation from Nityananda Prabhu. Sisu Ananta Das resided in Khandagiri, in what is today called Gadi Tapovana Ashram; through his Sadhana he attained mystic powers, and he was able to change his form at will. Usually he would take the form of a little child, hence his name as Sisu. In this form, he became the adopted son of the wife of king Prataparudra, who nursed him.

He personally found a Patita pavana (Jagannatha) murti in the Matha in Balia patana. His main disciples were Barang Das, Hamsa Das, and Sisu Das.

He wrote the Bhakti mukti daya gita, one of the oldest and most important popular scriptures of Orissa, and other texts like Sisu Deva gita, Artha tarani, Udebhakara, Tirabhakana, a Malika and several bhajan songs. In Udaya bhagavata he describes Lord Jagannatha as the combined form of Radha and Krishna. However, due to general lack of interest, these books are not properly valued at present.

Pañca Sakhā

The five Mahāpuruṣa of Orissa are the initiators of the lineages. Our lineage of Vedic astrology comes from the holy feet of Sri Achyutananda.

अच्युताय नमस्तुभ्यं गुरवे परमात्मने।
सर्वतन्त्रस्वतन्त्राय चिद्घनानन्दमूर्तये॥

acyutāya namastubhyaṁ gurave paramātmane |
sarvatantrasvatantrāya cidghanānandamūrtaye ||

Pancha Mahapurusha of Orissa …

Pancha means five and sakha means friends – it is noteworthy that just like Sri Krishna referred to Arjuna as a friend, so also did Chaitanya Mahaprabhu refer to these five Maha Purusha (great men) disciples of his as Pancha Sakha or five friends. Under this page you will find links to their various works related to Jyotish and dharma.

Astrology has a lot to draw from parallels in history. One such parallel is that every time the Guru-Shisya parampara (literally master/teacher & student/disciple relationship in an unbroken chain or lineage/tradition) is to be revived or revitalized, the Guru (Bhagavan as the ultimate teacher) establishes Dharma along with FIVE disciples. This is observed in the panch-pyare (five dear ones) of Sri Guru Gobind Singhji or the Pancha Sakha of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. These five Mahapurusha disciples were Yashwanta Das, Ananta Das, Achyuta Das, Balram Das & Jagannath Das. Sri Chaitanya has commented that these five are like His five atma-tatwa and are in no way lesser than some of the avatars of Vishnu.

ତୁମ୍ଭ ପଂଚ ସଖାଂକୁ ମୋ ଜନ୍ମେ ଜନ୍ମେ ଆସ‌
ତୁମ୍ଭ ପାଇ ଅବତାର ଲୀଲା ଅଭିଲାସ. [ଶୂନ୍ଯ ସଂହିତା]

tumbha panca sakhanku mo janme janme asha
tumbhapae avatara lila abhilasha|[sunya samhita, oriya

Amshavatar Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had five Mahapurusha (great men) disciples in Orissa called his Panca sakha (five friends or witnesses of His activities and teachings). These five Mahapurusha (disciples) were Yashovanta Dasa, Acyuta Dasa, Ananta Dasa, Jagannath Dasa and Balaram Dasa. Sri Caitanya explains that the avatara lila (by Him) is due to the desire of the sakha.

ଆଗମ୍ଯଭାବ ଜାଣେ ଜଶୋବନ୍ତ
ଗାରକଟ୍ଟା ଯନ୍ତ୍ର ଜାଣେ ଅନନ୍ତ
ଆଗତ ନାଗତ ଅଚ୍ଯୁତ ଭଣେ
ବଲରାମ ଦାସ ତତ୍ତ୍ବ ବଖଣେ
ଭକତିର ଭାବ ଜାଣେ ଜଗନ୍ନାଥ
ପଂଚ ସଖା ଏ ଓଡିଆ ମାହାନ୍ତ

agamya bhava jane yashovanta
gara katta yantra jana ananta|
agata nagata acyuta bhane
Balaram dasa tatva bakhane|
bhaktira bhava jane Jagannath
panca sakha e odia mahanta|[sunya samhita, oriya]

Sri Jagannath Das was the foremost having understood the teachings related to bhakti bhava. Sri Balaram Das understood the tatva. Sri Ananta Das was adept at mantra shastra and understood the complete knowledge associated with yantra. Sri Yashovanta Das had complete knowledge of the rituals, procedures etc, associated with purity. Sri Acyuta Das was blessed to know about the past, present and future events as a part of destiny (Jyotisha).

ତୁମେ ମୋର ପଂଚ ଆତ୍ମା ଅଟ୍ଟ ପଂଚଜଣ‌
ଅବତାର ଶ୍ରେଣୀ ତୁମ୍ଭପାଈ ପୁନହଃ

tumbhe mora panca atma atta pancajana|
avatara shreni jete tumbha paen puna||[sunya samhita
Sri Caitanya has commented that these five are like His panca atma (five atma-tatva) and deserve the status like that of an avatara. Sri Achyuta was the youngest of the panca sakha. 

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