A resident of No.1 Madan Mitra Lane , near Hedua, Kolkata Sri Atul Chandra Champati was good in studies and obtained B.A. degree with honors in three subjects – English, Mathematics, and Sanskrit. He was a favorite student of the great mathematician Gouri Sankar Dey. He was married to Prabhu Jagadbandhu Sundar’s only niece (Digambari Devi’s daughter), “Kshiroda Devi.” Sri Champati got attracted to BandhuSundar on the very day of marriage and was mesmerized by Prabhu’s beauty, splendor, soft and sweet behavior. In fact, soon after the ceremonial function, Prabhu, who was meeting Sri Champati for the first time, said a very secret thing about Sri Champati into his ears which very few other than Sri Champati knew – hearing which, Sri Champati developed great regard for Prabhu Jagadbandhu from that very instant.
At this time Sri Atul Champati was the Head teacher of a High school in Arrah, Bihar . He had very good reputation as teacher and as a learned person. He was quite a wealthy man too. Once while his family was away in Patna , Sri Champati was staying in the Teacher’s hostel. During these days, once while on his journey to Vrindaban from Kolkata Prabhu Jagadbandhu got down at Arrah station. It was early dawn when he knocked at Atul’s door. Sri Atul was overjoyed at his sight. He welcomed him most heartily and decided to drop school for the day. But on Prabhu’s insistence he had to go. Being too eager to have Prabhu’s company he returned early from school but found Prabhu to be out.
Perplexed, whether he will be back or not, while waiting for him he fell asleep and in dream saw Prabhu standing with a luminous figure, smiling affectionately, and sparkling lights coming from his beaming face with something wrapped in banana leaf in his hand which he offered him and said –“Atul, you come to me. I have to get lot of jobs done by you. You are an eternal saint, why should you live in a home? ” Electrified, he woke up looking all over but could not see anyone there.
Late afternoon, Prabhu returned –“Tonight I am going to the west; I came to see you only; Take this Prasad; Will meet you soon in Kolkata” saying these he immediately went off. Atul took the Prasad (cooked rice with ghee) and was stunned at its divine taste. The Prasad of Prabhu and his words completely changed an already brilliant and intellectually sound Atul Champati, into a spiritually and philosophically charged devotee. Wife, home, headmaster’s job, wealth and reputation everything appeared meaningless before him. The call of the Supreme was fiercely dragging him to renounce all earthly pleasures. Chanting “Haribol”, he left home for ever, with some money and only a saffron (saint’s) robe. He reached Kolkata but did not take shelter at home. Within few days all his money was exhausted. He lived on whatever anybody would give and slept in parks or places like that – there was only one strong attraction that kept him contended, that Prabhu will meet him there.
Chanting Harinaam, like everyday, he was roaming today also when suddenly in Strand Road a horse-cart stopped near him – it was Prabhu calling him; Atul got on; they reached no.67, Chasa Dhopa Para Lane. Prabhu gave him two rupees to buy a white dhoti-chadar and one kartaal stating that he has not the right to wear Saffron. Sri Champati complied. Then he said to Sri Champati which possibly no Guru has ever ordered neither any disciple ever done – “Coming morning go to Ganga ‘s Jagannath ghat, take bath, take off saffron dress and put on the new dress. Playing kartaal and loudly chanting the mantra “KRISHNA GOBINDA GOPAL SHYAM, RADHAMADHAB RADHIKANAM” (this is also a Harinam) go to Kalighat; take a dip in Ganga ; again loudly chanting the mantra come back to Jagannath ghat. Do it as many times as you can, day & night.”
Atul’s “Diksha” was complete.
He did this religiously for one year and by doing this he got transformed into a fully dedicated saint devoid of all worldly desires. During this painful but pious and sacred task, he felt the extreme mercy and power of Sri Prabhu, which again made him forget his high position pride, prestige and even his near relations.
After this one year’s penance or Harinam Sadhana, Prabhu went to Pabna (now in Bangladesh ) and took Champati Thakur along with him. There at the far end of Pabna lived a highly enlightened Saint “Bura-Shib” who for his slightly eccentric ways was known as “Haran Khyapa.” PrabhuSundar laid Sri Atul Champati in his hands. Sri Champati followed “Haran Khepa” and did everything what the saint ordered him to do. By doing so he was immensely blessed by Khyapa and he showered him with all powers, the powers of Harinam as narrated below.
Epidemic Plague came to Kolkata. The city was reeling under its attack with death everywhere. Champati thakur (as he was widely known by now) spread Harinam everywhere. Fearlessly, singing Harinam, he roamed around the worst affected areas and the plague could not spread anymore under Harinam’s influence.
Under orders from Prabhu, whose main aim was to spread Bhakti (devotion to God) amongst the then untouchables and the destitutes, Champati thakur went to Sonagachhi – the prostitutes’ area in central Kolkata. Under his influence and by the power of Harinam, prostitutes like Jadumoni got transformed as devotees.
Though deeply influenced from the very first meeting with Prabhu, Sri Atul Champati’s conviction about Prabhu’s Godhead had not come easily. Once, when he was teaching in Arrah, he had a controversy with a teacher of his school which turned into a strong dispute. The dispute continued for a few days. Meanwhile Atul Champati received a letter from Bandhu Sundar saying – “Do not quarrel. Better try to be a Mad (here actually he meant spiritual fullness apparent as Madness)”. This letter gave a big jolt to him and he started thinking, how could Bandhu Sundar come to know about this incident while he was far away from him. A big turmoil began in his heart, “was Bandhu Sundar really an incarnation of the Supreme Godhead?” He deeply thought over this for a few days and finally took an awful decision. What he did is quite impossible for someone to even think of.
He went out to the nearest railway track on a dark night and lay on the track fully knowing that after sometime, Bombay Mail is supposed to run on that track. He pledged, “if Bandhu Sundar was real Godhead then the Bombay Mail would stop just five yards away from where I lay now.” Bandhu Sundar showered his mercy and miraculously the train stopped near him.
It was this conviction of Sri Atul Champati that paid him dividend throughout his life. It was his unfathomable regard and faith on Prabhu Jagadbandhu that made him ONE for whom the great follower of Mahanam Sampraday, Dr. Mahanambrata Brahmachari recites – “Charan Aankri Bukey, Mahanam Kaandi Fukey, Kotha Aachho Champati thakur” (ref. Sri Sri Champati thakurer Shochak, p.124, Leela Smaranika) meaning – with your feet held tight onto my bosom, Mahanam weeps and cries, where are you Champati thakur?
Sri Sri Champati thakur became a true Saint without self esteem, ego and prestige. He used to be extremely cool in any adverse situation and would just chant loudly “Haribol.” That is why he was popularly named – “Haribola Thakur.”