I worship Sri Radha’s beloved handmaids, who die inside when they don’t see Her for even a moment, who are happy when She is happy, who are very soft-hearted and whose deeds are supremely glorious.
tasyāḥ kṣaṇādarśanato mriyante
sukhena tasyāḥ sukhino bhavanti
snigdhāḥ paraṁ ye kṛta puṇya puñjāḥ
prāṇeśvarī preṣṭha gaṇān bhaje tān
Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In this verse, Raghunath Das Goswami praises the most intimate friends of Srimati Radharani. Previously, all of Sri Radha’s girlfriends and maidservants have been praised. It seems that there is a special reason why these maidservants have been praised here with the words prāṇeśvarī preṣṭhagaṇān. First of all, these dear ones of Sri Radha are defined as follows: tasyāḥ kṣaṇādarśanato mriyante – “When they don’t see Sri Radha for even a moment they are almost like dead.” In his Vrindavan Mahimāmṛta (8.23-24) Śrīpāda Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī has written this about Sri Radha’s maidservants or mañjarīs:
kṣaṇaṁ caraṇa vicchedyāc chrīśvaryāḥ prāṇa-hāriṇīm
padāravinda samlagnatayaivāharniśaṁ sthitām
bahuna kiṁ svakāntena krīḍantyāpi latā-gṛhe
paryaṅkādhiṣṭhāpitāṁ vā vastrair vācchāditām kvacit
The maidservant feels like dying when she is separated from her beloved Queen’s lotus feet for even a moment. She stays close to those precious lotus feet day and night. What more can I say? When Srimati sits alone with Her Darling in the secluded forest havens of Vrindavan, she seats Her maidservant upon the same couch, or even hides her beneath a sheet.
Therefore, if they don’t see their Īśvarī for even a moment they are like dead. Their forms embody devotional service, and if they are deprived of that devotional service it is as if they have lost their lives.
rādhā padābja sevānya spṛhā kāla-trayojjhitām
rādhā prīti sukhāmbhodhāv apāre buḍitām sadā
rādhā padāmbujād anyat svapnānte’pi na jānatīm
rādhā sambandha samdhāvat prema sindhaugha-mālinīm
(Vrindavan Mahimāmṛta 8.35-36)
She never wanted, nor desires, nor ever shall crave for anything else but Shri Radha’s lotus feet, and she always drowns in the boundless ocean of blissful love for Her. Even in dreams she knows nothing else but Sri Radha’s lotus feet, and she’s like a river that swiftly runs towards the Ocean of Sri Radha!”
Following these quotations we can assume that the mañjarīs, whose entire hearts are dedicated to Sri Radha, are indicated in this verse.
Then again it is said: sukhena tasyāḥ sukhino bhavanti “When Sri Radha is happy, they are happy.” Just as buds (mañjarīs) and fresh sprouts automatically blossom when a vine is nurtured with water, the mañjarīs or maidservants of Sri Radha blossom up with great bliss when the Radha-vine is sprinkled by the nectar of Sri Krishna’s ambrosial pastimes. Sri Radha’s happiness and distress is reflected in them as if they are Her mirrors.
patatyasre sāsrā bhavati pulake jāta pulakāḥ
smite bhāti smerā sumalimani jāte sumalināḥ
anāsvādya svālir mukuram abhivīkṣya sva vadanaṁ
sukhaṁ vā duḥkaṁ vā kim api kathanīyaṁ mṛga dṛśaḥ
Sri Krishna says: “O fawn-eyed girls! As long as you do not meet your girlfriends you can look in the mirror whether you are happy or sad, but when your girlfriends stand before you, then what is the use of mirrors for you? They are just like mirrors themselves! When tears are falling from your eyes they also fall from their eyes; when you have goosebumps on your body, they also have them; when you laugh, they also laugh; and when you are morose, they are also sad!”
In Sri Govinda Līlāmṛta (11.137) it is described:
spṛśati yadi mukundo rādhikāṁ tat sakhīnāṁ
bhavati vapuṣi kampa sveda romañca vāṣpam
adhara madhu mudāsyās cet pibaty esa yatnād
bhavati bata tad āsāṁ mattatā citram etat
How amazing! When Krishna touches Radha, her girlfriends cry of ecstasy and their bodies tremble, perspire, and are adorned with gooseflesh, and when Krishna blissfully drinks the honey of Radha’s lips (by kissing Her), then they all become mad!
After a long search, one could never find happiness comparable to the happiness the mañjarīs feel when they behold the sweetness of Shri Radha and Krishna offering each other Their love, through the windows of the secluded forest havens of Vrindavan.
rādhā nāgara keli sāgara nimagnālī-dṛśāṁ yat sukhaṁ
no tal leśa lavāyate bhagavataḥ sarvo’pi saukhyotsavaḥ
(Vrindavan Mahimāmṛta 1.54)
The festival of bliss that exists in Narayan’s heaven, is not comparable to a single drop of the bliss Sri Radha’s dear ones feel as their eyes drown in the ocean of Her romance with Sri Krishna.
The maidservants can experience Sri Radharani’s happiness more than anyone else.
Finally it is said:
snigdhāḥ paraṁ ye kṛta puṇya puñjāḥ prāṇeśvarī preṣṭha-gaṇān bhaje tān
“I worship Prāṇeśvarī Sri Radha’s most beloved ones, who have very soft hearts and whose deeds are supremely glorious.”
Because Sri Radha’s maidservants show the limit of selflessness, they are soft-hearted like no one else in the circle of sakhīs. They are in name mañjarī, and in nature also mañjarī (flower buds). They will never allow the bumblebee to enjoy them. Just as the buds increase the bee’s thirst for the flowers by surrounding these flowers, similarly the mañjarī-buds always increase the Krishna-bee’s thirst for the flower-like Sri Radha. Here they have been called kṛta puṇya puñjāḥ, girls that have performed many pious acts. But there is no kind of pious merit that can bring about the good fortune of attaining the service of Śrī-Sri Radha-Mādhava.
In his Laghu-Toṣaṇī-ṭīkā on the final words ‘kṛta puṇya puñjāḥ‘ of the Bhāgavata-verse itthaṁ sukhaṁ brahma-sukhānubhūtya (10.12.11) Śrīmad Jiva Goswami has written atas tebhyaḥ sarvebhyaḥ kṛta puṇya puñjā iti lokoktiḥ. vastutastu kṛtānāṁ caritānāṁ bhagavataḥ parama prasāda-hetutvena puṇyāś cāravaḥ puñjā yeṣāṁ te ityarthaḥ. puṇyas tu cārvapītyamaraḥ: “Sri Śuka Muni repeatedly praised the cowherd boys who enjoyed with Sri Krishna as being more pious than the previously mentioned jñānīs, the devotees with a reverential service-attitude, and those people who have taken shelter of māyā.
This is just a customary saying. Actually there is another meaning to the word puṇya (pious merit), and that is cāru or enchanting. This can be seen in the Amara Koṣa dictionary. The word kṛta means ‘pastimes’. In other words, Sri Krishna is completely controlled by those who can perform such enchanting pastimes with him. Here also the mañjarīs have been called kṛta puṇya puñjāḥ because they are so fixed in a service attitude towards the Yugala and they have such beautiful characters because they are free from even the slightest fragrance of personal desire. Raghunath Das Goswami says: “I worship Sri Radha’s most beloved maidservants!”
kṣaṇa kāla śrī rādhāra adarśana hole;
mṛta prāya hoy – yārā viraha anale
śrī rādhāra sukhe yārā hoy ātma-hārā;
ki vicitra puṇya puñja koriyāche tārā
prāṇeśvarīra snehārdra cittā preṣṭha-gaṇe
bhajana koribo āmi ei vāñchā mone
I yearn for the worship of Prāṇeśvarī Radha’s beloveds, whose hearts melt with affection, who almost die in a fire of separation when they do not see Her for even a moment, and who are beside themselves in ecstasy when Sri Radha is happy. What wonderful pious activities have they performed!
It was published in Gaurābda 503 (1989 A.D.) by Sri Krishna Chaitanya Shastra Mandir, Vrajananda Ghera, PO Radhakunda (district Mathura), U.P., India.
The devotional songs in Bengali that follow each commentary were composed by Dr. Haripada Sheel.