Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 – 1534 C.E.) was a great spiritual teacher and the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are known as Gaudiya Vaishnava(s). He was born as Vishvambhar Mishra on 18 February 1486 in present-day Nadia, West Bengal, India, into a Brahmin family, to Jagannath Mishra and his wife Sachi Devi. He was their tenth child and his childhood nickname was Nimai. His mother’s father, Pandita Nilambara Chakravarti, a renowned astrologer, foretold that the child was destined for greatness in future.
He grew up to be a bright child and developed an early interest in religious pursuits. He entered the Gurukula of Gangadasa Pandita in Ganganagara when he was eight years old. A brilliant student, he excelled in his studies and became a scholar in Sanskrit grammar and rhetoric at a young age. He went to Gaya as a teenager and it was here that he met the ascetic Ishvara Puri who would become his guru. Nimai received initiation with the Gopala Krishna mantra from his guru. Upon his return to Bengal he became a prominent religious preacher and before long was considered the eminent leader of the Vaishnava group within Nadia. He soon received entrance into the sannyasa order by Keshava Bharati. After becoming a sannyasi he travelled throughout India, visiting many places, spreading the name of the Lord Krishna.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared as a devotee of Krishna in Mayapur, West Bengal, India in the late fifteenth century. He introduced sankirtan, widespread congregational chanting of the Supreme Person’s names, as the most effective means by which anyone can achieve spiritual perfection. By His influence, many of India’s leading religious scholars and their followers became devotees of Krishna themselves. In His youth, Mahaprabhu started a Sanskrit academy in Navadvipa—one of India’s top centers of learning at the time—and earned a reputation as an excellent scholar. But at age twenty-four he renounced everything to travel the subcontinent, encouraging everyone he met to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON, is a continuation of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan movement.
As per Hindu lunar calendar, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born during Phalguna Purnima in the year 1542 of Vikram Samvat. Hence, followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, observe Phalguna Purnima as Gaura Purnima and it is observed as the birth anniversary of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
As per Julian calendar, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born on February 18, 1486 C.E. At the time of his birth Gregorian calendar was not invented. In proleptic Gregorian calendar it was Saturday, February 27, 1486 C.E. when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born.