Surrounded by the serene and spiritual groves of Vrindavan, in a temple having an unrivaled feat of architecture, Śrī Śrī Radha Govinda dev was worshipped with supreme love and devotion by Their confidential servitors. In that temple the chief servitor was Śrī Haridāsa Paṇḍita.
Paṇḍita Haridāsa was a beloved disciple of Śrīla Ananta Ācārya, who was a disciple of Śrīla Gadādhara Paṇḍita. Paṇḍita Haridāsa had great faith in Lord Caitanya and Nityānanda and took great satisfaction in Their pastimes and qualities.
By this time, followers of Lord Caitanya and scholars had already written several biographical works on the life of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu. These included Śrī Caitanya-carita, by Murāri Gupta, Caitanya-maṅgala, by Locana dāsa Ṭhākura, and Caitanya-bhāgavata. This latter work, by Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, who was considered the principal authority on Śrī Caitanya’s life, was widely circulated.
Paṇḍita Haridāsa always heard the reading of Śrī Caitanya- maṅgala(later became Śrī Caitanya Bhāgavat), in the association of other Vaiṣṇavas. However they were eager to know in detail about the later pastimes of Śrī Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which were not elaborated in Śrī Caitanya Bhāgavat.
Vrindavan Das Thakur wrote an elaborate outline of Mahaprabhu’s lila at the beginning of the Śrī Caitanya Bhāgavat, but as he became absorbed in describing Lord Nityananda’s activities, many events mentioned in the outline were left out of the final version of the book. Also fearing that it would become too voluminous, Vrindavan Das Thakur avoided elaborately describing many of the events of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s life, particularly the later ones.
Therefore Pandit Haridas and other devotees requested Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī to write a book recounting all the later pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī was a disciple of Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, a confidential follower of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, heard and memorized all the activities of Caitanya Mahāprabhu told to him by Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī. After the passing away of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Svarūpa Dāmodara, Raghunātha dāsa, unable to bear the pain of separation from them, traveled to Vṛndāvana, intending to comnmit suicide by jumping from Govardhana Hill. In Vṛndāvana, however, he was convinced by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī to give up his planned suicide and impelled him to reveal to them the events of Lord Caitanya’s later life. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī was also residing in Vṛndāvana at this time, and Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī endowed him with a full comprehension of the transcendental life of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
The title Kavirāja (the king of poets) was conferred for his poetic masterpiece Govinda-lilamrta. Narottama Dasa Thakura wrote in Prarthana: “Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, the devotee who knows very well the loving relationships of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, compiled Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta and Govinda-līlāmṛta, describing the nectarine pastimes of Śrī Gaura-Govinda. Even the stones melt in ecstasy upon hearing these narrations. But alas! Only my mind is not attracted to them. ”
kṛṣṇadāsa kavirāja rasika bhakata-mājhaje racila caitanya-carita
gaura-govinda-līlā śunile galaye śilānā ḍūvila tāhe mora cita
Despite his exalted position and vast learning, Kṛṣṇadāsaa Kavirāja Gosvāmī always remained the emblem of humility.
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī was in very advanced age and in failing health, as he vividly describes in the book itself: “I have now become too old and disturbed by invalidity. While writing, my hands tremble. I cannot remember anything, nor can I see or hear properly. Still I write, and this is a great wonder.” That he completed the greatest literary gem of medieval India under such failing health is surely one of the wonders of the world literary history. How could that wonder become possible?
Even though Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī considered himself unfit to attempt such a great task, he could not deny the request of the devotees.
So Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī begged for the blessings and permission of Madan Mohan to fulfill the order of the Vaishnavas. Just as he was begging for permission, the garland from Madan Mohan fell from his neck and the Pujari put it around the neck of Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī. Thus Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī was empowered by the Lord and His devotees to describe the pastimes of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu
Desiring the blessings of Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, who is the Vyāsadev of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s pastimes, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī prayed to him earnestly and Vrindavan das Thakur appeared in his heart and gave his permission and blessings. It was then that Kavirāja Gosvāmī began this great literature, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta.
Being empowered by the request of devotees, and with the permission and blessings of the Madana-mohanaji, he began compiling Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, which, due to its literary excellence and philosophical thoroughness, is today universally regarded as the foremost work on the life and profound teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
During the early 17th Century, the Vaishnava communities of Bengal and Orissa widely circulated Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta by making hand copies. By the untiring efforts of Narottama Dasa Thakur, Shyamananda Pandit and Srinivasa Acarya who were trained by Jiva Goswami and Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Goswami himself the book was widely distributed. Later in the 18th Century, however, the book became so rare that Bhaktivinoda Thakur fount it difficult to find even a single copy of the book for many years. After a long struggle, Bhaktivinoda Thakur not only found a copy for his personal reading he also reprinted it with his Amrita Pravaha commentary. Following in his footsteps, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur printed the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta and also wrote his Anubhasya commentary to this book.
Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder acharya of ISKCON, the foremost disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, brought Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta to inundate the West with the nectar of the pastimes of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
In 1975, Srila Prabhupada had a great desire to publish Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta as soon as possible. Working tirelessly, his followers offered this most invaluable gift to their spiritual master just in a record time of 2 months. A deluxe 17-volume English edition of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta with the commentary of Srila Prabhupada based upon the Amrita Pravaha and Anubhasya commentaries of Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was finally printed through the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. This edition of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta has been distributed worldwide and remains the best-known and most influential English edition of the book Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta all over the world even today.