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JAHNAVI (16th CENTURY)


Jahnavi was a Vaishnav spiritual leader and the wife of Nityananda. During the reign of the Palas in the Eastern India, there had been a tradition of women teachers and sages of Buddhism, but the Muslim invasions and the influence checked that trend. With the revival of Vaishnavism, women once again took to the road for religion. Chaitanya placed Radha above Krishna in the Vaishnava pantheon, thus paving the way for women to take part in religion. One such woman was Jahnavi, junior wife of Nityananda, one of Chaitanya’s spiritual successors. She was well read in the Bhagavat Purana and other Vaishnava texts. She had, moreover, the personality to impose her will on the naturally anarchic sect. She made contact with the Goswamins [Vaishnava spiritual leades] of Vrindavan, thus connecting Bengal with the fountainhead of Vaishnavism. This tended to suppress local characteristics that had begun to develop exclusively in Bengal, but it made for a greater unity and a sense of mission among the Vaishnavas.
 
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