Nama Ghosa—The Proclamation of Pure Devotion

The chief literary oeuvre of Madhavadeva (1489-1596 CE), the foremost exponent of the sole-refuge (eka sarana) school in the post-Sankaradeva period, is the Nama Ghosa (IAST: Nāma Ghoṣā; AS: নাম ঘোষা) (The Proclamation of Pure Devotion).“Nama” is pure devotion—sravana and kirttana of the ‘birth and deeds’ of Krsna—while “Ghosa,” presumably from the Sanskrit ghoṣaṇa meaning “proclaiming aloud” or “sounding,” is translated as just that—“proclamation.” This text, which enjoys canonical status among the adherents of the school, is based chiefly on the Bhagavata Purana.A critical edition of the Nama Ghosa prepared by scholars of the Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha has traced a large number of verses of the Nama Ghosa to the Bhagavata. The Nama Ghosa itself extols the Bhagavata which is referred to in its verses as the essence of the Vedanta (samasta vedānta sāra) (v. 18), the crown-jewel (śiroratna) (v. 44) of all the scriptures of revelation (śruti). All references are with respect to the critical edition. It celebrates the pure, joy-filled devotion (bhajana) to Krsna, the supreme spiritual personality (parama puruṣa, paramātmā), that causes the “materialness” (kṛśatā) (v. 141)Śrīmanta Śaṅkaradevara Kīrttana-Ghoṣā Ratnākara Kandalira Sahasra-Nāma-Bṛttānta Āru Śrīśrīmādhavadevara Nāma-Ghoṣā, 7th ed. (Śrīmanta Śaṅkaradeva Saṅgha, ), 635. of the jiva to be removed. Madhavadeva has internalized the message of the Bhagavata—its call-to-action as well as its philosophical rationale—with the aid of the commentary of Sridhara Svami, and supplemented it further with apt translations from the other primary texts of the Vedantic-puranic tradition such as the Bhagavad Gita.Apart from the Bhagavata and the Gita, there are translations of several slokas culled from other Puranas such as the Padma, Brihadnaradiya, Brahma, Skanda and from other famous works like the Vaisnavanandalahari, the Pandavi Gita, the Yogavasistha Ramayana, the Mohamudgara and others. The first verse of the Nama Ghosa is indicated in the critical edition (mentioned above) as having for its source the opening lines ye muktavapi nisprha of Visnupuri’s Kantimala commentary (tika) to his own Bhakti Ratnavali.

A Landmark Text

Madhavadeva’s Nama Ghosa, written 1568-1596,It appears to be the last work of Madhavadeva. is a landmark “essence-text” in the history of spiritual thought in India not only because its author shows extreme courage for his time to boldly call for the forsaking of all the Vedic (dharmic) stipulations— technically referred to as vidhi kinkara (vv. 127, 250, 732)—in asserting the supremacy of pure devotion, but also due to the revolutionary impact of some of its pronouncements on society. Spiritual and social reforms go hand in hand in Madhavadeva. This made the preaching of the Eka Sarana faith also very much a social movement.

Philosophical Rejection of Caste

The society of the time was organized into a hierarchy on the basis of a system of varṇa and āśrama which laid down separate ‘ordained duties’ (dharmas) for the different categories and castes. This was essentially born of a philosophy of bheda or difference which saw man as a part of material nature (prakṛti) rather than as a spiritual personality. It sought to emulate the material ‘personalities’ of the microcosm.

However, the philosophy of pure devotion championed by Madhavadeva in the Nama Ghosa, which runs counter to such a philosophy of difference, is that of intrinsic equality. Here, man is an aṃśa, a (tiny) part, as it were, of God. Madhavadeva says, “You are eternal, unstained, Narayana. We too are your aṃśas” (v. 273). In fact, here, the very doing of pure bhakti is predicated on the existence of a transcendental society in which all members are essentially of one kind; all are puruṣas or pure personalities. They are by nature immutable (unlike matter) and, hence, not subject to placement at different levels on a material scale. Therefore, the bhaktic philosophy envisages a kind of society which is modeled on Vaikuntha, the transcendental society, in which the governing ideal is one of equality. In the Nama Ghosa, we find perhaps the most clear and emphatic rejection of caste in the entire corpus of Sankaradeva-ite literature: noho jānā āmi cāri jāti, cārio āśrami noho āti (v. 670). “Know that we are no member of the four castes nor do we adhere to the system of four āśramas.”

The embracing of such a philosophy and its widespread dissemination among the masses automatically put the conception of the dharmic society at peril and in threat of diminution, if not eventual extinction. For caste, it now was logically concluded, could be sustained only in the state of ignorance (avidyā, māyaā) in which there is the identification of the self with matter. The Nama Ghosa thus contains the framework of a unique philosophical rejection of caste based on the contradictions between two opposite ideologies.

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Editor’s Notes

This page is compiled out of a series of blogs on the topic by Arunava Gupta (see citation below).

References (Resources Utilized in Making this Page)

The following resources were used in making this page:-

  1. Arunava Gupta, “Madhavadeva’s Nama Ghosa: A Landmark Text,” Madhavadeva’s Nama Ghosa: The Proclamation of Pure Devotion (blog), June 10, , , accessed June 14, 2018,
  2. Arunava Gupta, “The Bhagavata Is the Chief Source of the Nama Ghosa,” Madhavadeva’s Nama Ghosa: The Proclamation of Pure Devotion (blog), June 14, , , accessed June 14, 2018,
  3. Arunava Gupta, “The Proclamation of Pure Devotion,” Madhavadeva’s Nama Ghosa: The Proclamation of Pure Devotion June 14, , , accessed June 14, 2018,