Srila Prabhupada's revered Godbrother and friend Sripada Bhakti-raksaka Sridhara Maharaja, the senior sannyasi in the Gaudiya Matha and the founder-acarya of Sri Caitanya Saraswata Math in Navadvipa, West Bengal, passed away at 5:48 A.M. on August 12 at the age of 93. He was the last remaining sannyasa disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the founder-acarya of the Gaudiya Matha. He passed on to the spiritual world surrounded by his followers and calling on the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu.
Sripada Sridhara Maharaja, raised in a village of Sanskrit-speaking brahmanas in Hapaniya, West Bengal, joined the Gaudiya Matha in 1927, after completing his study of law at Calcutta's Presidency College. He received the name Ramendra Sundara from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta at the time of his initiation. Thereafter, he preached extensively throughout India, and in the 1920s he discovered the site on the banks of the Godavari River in South India where Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya had held their famous conversation recorded in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta went there to install the impressions of Lord Caitanya's feet in a shrine and awarded Ramendra Sundara with a new name, Ramananda dasa, in honor of his affinity for the teachings of Ramananda Raya.
In January 1928, in Allahabad, he met Srila Prabhupada during the time of the Kumbha-mela festival at a program at Srila Prabhupada's house. When he met Srila Prabhupada again, in 1932 in Vrndavana, he had become Bhakti-raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had given him this name in recognition of his expertise in penetrating the essence of scriptural conclusions.
In the early 1930s, Srila Prabhupada helped Sridhara Maharaja establish the Bombay branch of the Gaudiya Matha. Later, while Srila Prabhupada was living with his family in Calcutta, Sridhara Maharaja and Bhaktisaranga Maharaja lived in the same building. They would discuss Srimad-Bhagavatam and go out together to preach.
Many years later, when Srila Prabhupada's preaching had become successful, Srila Sridhara Maharaja often expressed his appreciation. Once, upon Srila Prabhupada's returning to India, Sridhara Maharaja remarked, "Our Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja has done a miracle! Thakura Bhaktivinoda conceived and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura began to translate this conception into action. And we find that through Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, in his last days, it has been fulfilled to such a great extent. We are happy, we are glad, we are proud."
Srila Sridhara Maharaja established temples in Navadvipa, Calcutta, and Hapaniya. Widely respected for his scholarship, he wrote several books in Bengali, Sanskrit, and English.
The international Vaisnava community deeply regrets the passing of Sripada Sridhara Maharaja, but we take solace in the conviction that this pure devotee has entered the eternal pastimes of Lord Caitanya.