Srila Bhakti Pramod Puri Maharaja passed away in Jagannatha Puri last November 22. Puri Maharaja had been the oldest living disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Born in 1898 in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), in his youth he encountered the teachings of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's father) and took up Krsna consciousness in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in 1915 and received initiation from him in 1923, receiving the name Pranavananda Brahmacari.
A college graduate, Pranavananda Brahmacari worked at the Port Commission in Calcutta while living in the ashram of his spiritual master's temple on Ultadanga Junction Road. In 1925 he gave up his job to dedicate himself to his spiritual master's mission. A year later, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati made him co-editor of the Krsna conscious daily paper Nadiya Prakash. After four years he became an editor of Gaudiya magazine. Recognizing his literary talent and knowledge of scriptures, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati awarded him the title Pratna Vidyalankara ("decorated with traditional knowledge"). Pranavananda Brahmacari edited many books published by his spiritual master, including Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Bhaga-vata, Sri Brahma-samhita, and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. His service allowed him close and regular association with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati for a number of years. Pranavananda Brahmacari was known for his diligent note-taking, and in later years wrote many articles from the notes he had taken during his spiritual master's lectures.
From 1941 to 1947, Pranavananda Brahmacari spread Krsna consciousness throughout Bengal and other parts of India. In 1947 he accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, and received the name Bhakti Pramod Puri Goswami.
In 1954 the royal family of Burdwan (Bengal) gave the temple of Ananta Vasudeva (a form of Krsna) in Kalna to Puri Maharaja, who installed his own Deities, Radha-Gopinatha, alongside Ananta Vasudeva. Puri Maharaja was well known among his godbrothers for his dedication and expertise in Deity worship and would often be called upon to install Deities in his godbrothers' temples.
Puri Maharaja took seriously Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's instruction that he never "give up the service of the pen." For most of his life he wrote, edited, and published Krsna conscious literature. His disciples have published more than a dozen of his books (written in Bengali), two of which have been translated into English.
Puri Maharaja opened temples in Mayapur, Calcutta, Medinipur (Bengal), and Puri. He was given an old temple of Dauji (Lord Balarama) in Vrndavana. His institution is known as Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math. In recent years, branches have opened in Holland, Panama, Costa Rica, and the United States.
Puri Maharaja visited His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada shortly before Srila Prabhupada's passing in 1977. When Prabhupada asked Puri Maharaja to sing, he sang Jaya Radhe, Jaya Krsna, Jaya Vrndavana for Prabhupada's pleasure. Puri Maharaja greatly appreciated Srila Prabhupada service. "His preaching in the West is simply amazing," he once said. When he saw a photo of the Deities at ISKCON's Los Angeles temple, in great emotion he said, "How happy Srila Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati] must be!"
In 1998 the king of Orissa attended Srila Puri Maharaja's Vyasa Puja (appearance-day celebrations), commemorating Maharaja's one-hundredth birthday. India's prime minister, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sent a letter of praise and congratulations.
Srila Puri Maharaja dedicated his life to Lord Krsna's service. He passed away in the holy land of Jagannatha Puri, surrounded by devotees chanting the holy names of the Lord. His purified body was placed in samadhi (entombed) in Sridham Mayapur.