Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the great apostle of love of God and the father of the congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord, advented Himself at Śrīdhāma Māyāpur, a quarter in the then city of Navadvīpa in Bengal, on the Phālgunī Pūrṇimā evening in the year 1407 Śakābda (corresponding to February 18, 1486, by the Christian calendar).
His father, Śrī Jagannātha Miśra, a learned brāhmaṇa from the district of Sylhet, came to Navadvīpa as a student because at that time Navadvīpa was considered to be the center of education and culture. He domiciled on the banks of the Ganges after marrying Śrīmatī Śacīdevī, a daughter of Śrīla Nīlāmbara Cakravartī, the great learned scholar of Navadvīpa.
Jagannātha Miśra had a number of daughters by his wife, Śrīmatī Śacīdevī, but they all expired at an early age. The two surviving sons, Śrī Viśvarūpa and Viśvambhara, became at last the object of their parental affection. The tenth child and youngest son, who was named Viśvambhara, later became known as Nimāi Paṇḍita and then, after accepting the renounced order of life, Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu exhibited His transcendental activities for forty-eight years and then disappeared from this mortal world in the year 1455 Śakābda at Purī.
For His first twenty-four years He remained at Navadvīpa as a student and householder. His first wife was Śrīmatī Lakṣmīpriyā, who died at an early age when the Lord was away from home. When He returned from East Bengal He was requested by His mother to accept a second wife, and He agreed. His second wife was Śrīmatī Viṣṇupriyā Devī, who bore the separation of the Lord throughout her life because the Lord took the order of sannyāsa at the age of twenty-four, when Śrīmatī Viṣṇupriyā was barely sixteen years old.
After taking sannyāsa, the Lord made His headquarters at Jagannātha Purī due to the request of His mother, Śrīmatī Śacīdevī. The Lord remained for twenty-four years at Purī. For six years of this time He traveled continuously all over India (and especially throughout southern India) preaching the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Lord Caitanya not only preached the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam but propagated the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā as well in the most practical way. In the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is depicted as the Absolute Personality of Godhead, and His last teachings in that great book of transcendental knowledge instruct that one should give up all other modes of religious activities and accept Him (Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa) as the only worshipable Lord. The Lord then assured that all His devotees would be protected from all sorts of sinful acts and that for them there would be no cause for anxiety.
Unfortunately, despite Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa's direct order and the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā, less intelligent people misunderstand Him to be nothing but a great historical personality, and thus they cannot accept Him as the original Personality of Godhead. Such men with a poor fund of knowledge are misled by many nondevotees. Thus the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā were misinterpreted even by great scholars. After the disappearance of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa there were hundreds of commentaries on the Bhagavad-gītā by many erudite scholars, and almost every one of them was motivated by self-interest.
Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the selfsame Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This time, however, He appeared as a great devotee of the Lord in order to preach to the people in general, as well as to religionists and philosophers, about the transcendental position of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the primeval Lord and the cause of all causes. The essence of His preaching is that Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who appeared at Vrajabhūmi (Vṛndāvana) as the son of the King of Vraja (Nanda Mahārāja), is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is therefore worshipable by all. Vṛndāvana-dhāma is nondifferent from the Lord because the name, fame, form and place where the Lord manifests Himself are all identical with the Lord as absolute knowledge. Therefore Vṛndāvana-dhāma is as worshipable as the Lord. The highest form of transcendental worship of the Lord was exhibited by the damsels of Vrajabhūmi in the form of pure affection for the Lord, and Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommends this process as the most excellent mode of worship. He accepts the Śrīmad-Bhāgavata Purāṇa as the spotless literature for understanding the Lord, and He preaches that the ultimate goal of life for all human beings is to attain the stage of premā, or love of God.
Many devotees of Lord Caitanya like Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrī Locana dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Śrī Kavikarṇapūra, Śrī Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and in this latter age within two hundred years, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī, Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣana, Śrī Śyāmānanda Gosvāmī, Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and at last Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura (our spiritual master) and many other great and renowned scholars and devotees of the Lord have prepared voluminous books and literatures on the life and precepts of the Lord. Such literatures are all based on the śāstras like the Vedas, Purāṇas, Upaniṣads, Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and other histories and authentic literatures approved by the recognized ācāryas. They are unique in composition and unrivaled in presentation, and they are full of transcendental knowledge. Unfortunately the people of the world are still ignorant of them, but when these literatures, which are mostly in Sanskrit and Bengali, come to light the world and when they are presented before thinking people, then India's glory and the message of love will overflood this morbid world, which is vainly searching after peace and prosperity by various illusory methods not approved by the ācāryas in the chain of disciplic succession.
The readers of this small description of the life and precepts of Lord Caitanya will profit much to go through the books of Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura (Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata) and Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta). The early life of the Lord is most fascinatingly expressed by the author of Caitanya-bhāgavata, and as far as the teachings are concerned, they are more vividly explained in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Now they are available to the English-speaking public in our Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
The Lord's early life was recorded by one of His chief devotees and contemporaries, namely Śrīla Murāri Gupta, a medical practitioner of that time, and the latter part of the life of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was recorded by His private secretary Śrī Dāmodara Gosvāmī, or Śrīla Svarūpa Dāmodara, who was practically a constant companion of the Lord at Purī. These two devotees recorded practically all the incidents of the Lord's activities, and later on all the books dealing with the Lord, which are above mentioned, were composed on the basis of kaḍacās (notebooks) by Śrīla Dāmodara Gosvāmī and Murāri Gupta.