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Chaitanya (chĪtŭnˈyə) [key], 1485–1533, Indian mystic, also called Gauranga ("the Golden"). He was born of Brahman parents in Nabadwip, Bengal, a center of Sanskrit learning. As a young man he attained prominence as a scholar, but at 22 he underwent a profound religious conversion and became an ecstatic devotee of Krishna. At 24 he became a renunciant and left Nabadwip on pilgrimage, finally settling in Puri, Odisha (Orissa), where he lived the rest of his life. His charisma made him the leader of an important sect of Vaishnavites that is still active. He emphasized the importance of nonritualistic worship in the form of kirtan, or religious song and dance, and devotion focusing on the love of Krishna and his consort Radha as the archetype of mystical union. Chaitanya is regarded by his followers as an avatar (incarnation) of Krishna and Radha in a single form. See bhakti.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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