Sri Balaram Das was born between 1472 and 1482 in Erabanga village at Gop (near Konarak); his father was Somanatha Mahapatra and his mother was Mahamaya Devi. Some say that he was born in the village of Chandrapur, where he also met Sriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu . Balarama Dasa became a minister of king Prataparudra Dev, but after meeting Chaitanya Mahaprabhu he left the Government service and utilized his previous knowledge of Kundalini yoga, vaidhi bhakti in the mood of Ramanuja Acharya, and jnana to propagate the chanting of the Holy Name. He is sometimes called Matta Balarama, because of his disregard for social conventions in favor of ecstatic Bhakti.
He used to participate in the discussions on Vedanta in the Mukti Mandapa in the Jagannatha temple (inspite of the resentment of the Brahmins), and it is said that anyone who touched his head would become instantly able to explain the philosophy of Vedanta. One day a beggar (who was dumb and deaf) approached him, touching his head, he was not only cured and able to speak, but he also started to discuss philosophy immediately. This beggar then became Balarama’s foremost disciple with the name of Hari Das.
The mula mantra chanted and taught by Balarama Das was the Krishna Mantra. His residence in Puri is called Gandharva Matha. Balarama Dasa wrote the famous Jagamohana or Dandi Ramayana, as well as a number of other works entitled Gita Abakasa, Bhava samudra, Gupta Gita, Vedanta Sara, Mriguni Stuti, Saptanga yogasara tika, Vedanta sara or Brahma tika, Baula gai gita, Kamala locana chotisa, Kanta koili, Bedha parikrama, Brahma gita, Brahmanda bhugola, Vajra kavaca, Jnana chudamani, Virat gita, Ganesh vibhuti, Amarakosha Gita, Lakshmi Purana (which is very popular in Orissa).
Saint Balaram Das was a great devotee of lord Jagannath while writing the Dandi Ramayan (Ramayan in Oriya language) He felt an urge to visit the city of Lanka which according to the Ramayan was once the capital city of the demon Ravana. In His mind he expressed this desire to Lord Jagannath. At night He had a dream that he went to visit Lanka along with Lord Jagannath. He saw that Lord Jagannath during that visit told him to hold his gold jhari (A typical ornament of gold). After finishing their visit, the Gold Jhari of the Lord remained with Balarama Das and in the morning He found the ornament in possession with Him. In the morning the priests found that the ornament has been stolen by somebody and when Saint Balaram Das came with to return the ornament but he was accused as the thief and was taken to the court of the Gajapati King. He was ordered to be imprisoned. That night Lord Jagannath appeared in the dream of Gajapati Maharaja and instructed him to apologize to Sri Balaram Das as he was innocent.
In his Bata Abakasa he writes hat Lord Jagannatha is served by 64 Yoginis. In his Virata Gita, he describes the nirakara form of Krishna as Sunya. However, his idea of Sunya is quite particular, as it includes form and relationships. He was also a social worker and reformer, and an expert astrologer as well. He disappeared in 1540.
MRIGANKA MAHANTI, EDITOR