▪ Hindu mysticalso spelled Chaitanya, in full Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, or Śrī Krishna Chaitanya, also called Gaurāṅga, original name Viśvambhara Miśraborn 1485, Navadvīpa, Bengal, Indiadied 1533, Puri, OrissaHindu mystic whose mode of worshipping the god Krishna (Kṛṣṇa) with ecstatic song and dance had a profound effect on Vaiṣṇavism in Bengal.The son of a Brahman, he grew up in an atmosphere of piety and affection. He received a thorough education in the Sanskrit scriptures and, after the death of his father, set up a school of his own. At the age of 22 he made a pilgrimage to Gayā to perform his father's śrāddha (death anniversary ceremony). While there he underwent a profound religious experience that completely transformed his outlook and personality. He returned to Navadvīpa a God-intoxicated man, entirely indifferent to all worldly concerns.A group of devotees soon gathered around Caitanya and joined him in the congregational worship called kīrtana, which consists of the choral singing of hymns and the name of God, often accompanied by dance movements and culminating in states of trance. In 1510 he received formal initiation as an ascetic and took the name Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. His intention was to leave for Vṛndāvana (the area near Mathurā that was the scene of Krishna's childhood and youth), but at the insistence of his mother he agreed instead to settle in Puri, where his disciples could more easily keep in touch with him.Caitanya neither organized a sect (Caitanya sect) nor wrote any works on theology, entrusting this work to his disciples (see Caitanya sect). Nevertheless, his simple life of intense religious emotion proved at once the source and the impetus of a great religious movement. Frequent and prolonged experiences of religious rapture, however, took their toll on his health; he himself diagnosed some of his seizures as epileptic. The exact date and circumstances of his death are unknown, and many legends have sprung up, such as his merger into a temple image or (more plausible) his accidental drowning while in a state of religious ecstasy.
* * *