Gaura Purnima is the auspicious appearance day of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (who is also known as Gauranga due to His golden complexion and who is Radha and Krishna combined and who is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee). This festival also marks the beginning of the New Year for Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
The Supreme Lord Sri Krishna appeared as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to establish Sankirtana (chanting of the Holy Names) – the Yuga Dharma for this age of Kali. He appeared on Phalguni Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Phalguna, (Feb-March) in the year 1486 AD (1407 Shakabda) at Sridham Mayapura as the son of Sri Jagannath Mishra and Srimati Sachidevi. His father, Jagannatha Misra, a learned brahmana, or intellectual, came to Navadvipa as a student because at that time Navadvipa was considered to be the center of education and culture. He lived on the banks of the Ganges after marrying Sacidevi, a daughter of a learned scholar of Navadvipa. His parents named him Nimai since he was born under a nimba (neem) tree in the courtyard of His paternal house. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the great apostle of love of God and the father of the congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord. His appearance day is celebrated as Gaura Purnima.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Person, Krishna Himself, appearing as His own devotee, teach us that we can gain full enlightenment simply by chanting the holy names of the Lord:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
He appears in this world to spread love for Krishna through the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord. Those who witnessed Mahaprabhu’s pastimes saw Him dance and chant with ecstatic love for God, the likes of which had never been seen before. He encouraged everyone to follow this same process. He taught that anyone—regardless of background or spiritual qualification—could develop their innate love of God and experience great spiritual pleasure by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.
Those who witnessed Mahaprabhu’s pastimes saw Him dance and chant with ecstatic love for God, the likes of which had never been seen before. He encouraged everyone to follow this same process. He taught that anyone—regardless of background or spiritual qualification—could develop their innate love of God and experience great spiritual pleasure by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.
His activities and teachings are described in detail in the book Teachings of Lord Chaitanya and the multi-volume Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita.
The present-day, Hare Krishna Movement continues the work begun by Lord Chaitanya, who predicted that the chanting of the holy names of Krishna would spread all over the world.
Gaura Purnima means “golden full moon,” signifying that:
1) Lord Chaitanya was “born” during a full moon, and
2) The Lord blesses everyone with the soothing, moonlike rays of His sublime teachings.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to deliver the most fallen souls from the clutches of Maya, by spreading the yugadharma, the chanting of the holy names of the lord. He travelled throughout the country, singing and chanting the holy names of the lord, transforming the hearts of all those who heard him and infused within their hearts shudha Krishna bhakti. The most magnanimous Lord Gauranga, resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, came to freely distribute that highest and most confidential aspect of devotional service, namely the conjugal love of Radha and Krishna, which was never before bestowed by any other incarnation.
anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ
Therefore, all the Gaudiya vaishnavas, knowing Shri Gauranga to be Shri Krishna himself, appearing to bestow upon one and all the most nectarian devotional service to his own two lotus feet, consider him to be their life and soul, begging to be the recipient of a particle of his mercy. May that Sachinandan Gaurahari be pleased with all of us and kindly grant us the service to his lotus feet.
A grand abhiseka of Gauranga Mahaprabhu is done in the evening. The ecstatic hari-nama sankirtana transports one to the spiritual world.
Gaura Purnima means “Golden Full Moon”, a reference to Chaitanya. On Gaura-purnima devotees fast till moon rise and spend this festival with chanting congregationally. Anukalpa maha-prasada (ekadasi-prasada) is served after moonrise, while regular grain prasada is served on the next day, Jagannatha Misra’s festival which is starting a New Year for all Gaudiya Vaishnavas.