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Vraja Vilasa: May the Raas Sthali protect me

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May the Rāsa-sthalī protect me: the place where the Rāsa-dance took place, which is filled with all the wonderful sweetness of the three worlds, where Krishna Murārī dances with the gopīs, who are clever in the arts of Eros, and then abandons them to take Sri Radhika to a lonely place to decorate her with flowers and enjoy with her in great jubilation. 

VERSE 63:

vaidagdhyojjvala valgu ballava vadhū vargeṇa nṛtyannasau
hitvā taṁ murajid rasena rahasi śrī rādhikāṁ maṇḍayan
puṣpālaṅkṛti sañcayena ramate yatra pramodotkarais
trailokyādbhuta mādhurī parivṛtā sā pātu rāsa-sthalī

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In this verse, Das Goswami praises the most delightful place where the Rāsa-dance takes place.

The Rāsa-līlā is the crownjewel of all of Sri Krishna’s pastimes. Śrīpād Śrīdhar Swāmī explains the word ‘rāsa‘ as follows: rāso nāma bahu nartakī yukta nṛtya viśeṣaḥ “The Rāsa is a kind of dance wherein many girls are dancing.” In the Alaṅkāra-shastras we can find the following statement: naṭair gṛhīta kaṇṭhīnām anyonyātra kara śriyām nartakīnāṁ bhaved rāso maṇḍalībhūya nartanam “When the male dancers and the female dancers stand in a circle, the male dancers embrace the female dancers around the neck and the female dancers hold each other in the arm, then this dance is called a Rāsa.”

Although this is the popular explanation of the word ‘Rāsa’, Śrīmat Jiva Goswamipāda has written: rāsaḥ parama rasa-kadamba-maya iti yaugikārthaḥ “The pastime that contains the greatest amount of rasa is called Rāsa.

Rasa is the main ingredient of the Rāsa, because when the word rasa is inflected in the optimal way, it becomes Rāsa.

Rasa means relish and when it is inflected to Rāsa it means the pastime which contains the most relish. The purport of this is that the Rāsa-līlā is the pastime in which the gopīs can fully and blissfully relish the unrivalled sweetness and beauty of Sri Krishna’s perfect form, flavour, fragrance, sound and touch through their famous mahābhāva-love, and Rasika Śekhara (the king of relishers) Sri Krishna can fully and blissfully relish the perfect forms, flavour, fragrance, sound and touch of the Vrajadevīs, who are anointed with the famous mahābhāva.

The hero of the Rāsa-līlā is Vrajendranandan Rasikendra Mauli Sri Krishna, the heroines are the Queen of the Rāsa-dance Sri Radha herself, who is endowed with mādanākhya mahābhāva, and the Vrajasundarīs, who are endowed with mahābhāva, and the place is the Śrī-Sri Rāsa-sthalī, the most rasika place on the bank of the Yamuna which is endowed with extraordinary natural beauty. This verse praises this Rāsa-sthalī.

Rāseśvarī Sri Radha is the main pillar of the Rāsa-dance. tāhā vinā rāsa-līlā nāhi bhāya cite (Caitanya-caritāmṛta) “Without her, Krishna does not like the Rāsa-līlā.” Hence, Raghunath Das Goswami praises the Rāsa-sthalī by describing the great glories of Rāseśvarī, saying: “This is the place where Krishna Murārī dances with the gopīs, who are clever in the arts of Eros, and then abandons them to take Sri Radhika to a lonely place to decorate her with flowers and jubilantly enjoy with her in different ways.”

In the description of the Mahā Rāsa, it can be seen that on the Rāsa-night, Sri Krishna first attracted the Vrajasundarīs with his enchanting flute playing and then joked with them by speaking words of rejection to them (upekṣā-vāṇī). Their humble prayers then removed his neglectful manner and he met with them, laughing and joking.

During their first pastimes of meeting, the Vrajasundarīs became very proud of their good fortune of getting the greatest attention from Sri Krishna‚ and Sri Radha became jealous that Krishna was enjoying equally with all the gopīs. tāsāṁ tat saubhagamadaṁ vīkṣya mānaṁ ca keśavaḥ praśamāya prasādāya tatraivāntaradhīyata (Bhāg. 10.29.48) “Seeing the gopīs‘ pride of their good fortune and Radha’s jealous pique, Keśava abandoned the Vrajasundarīs and went off alone with Sri Radha. In this way he subdued the pride of the Vrajasundarīs and pacified Sri Radha’s jealousy.”

Actually the Rāsa-līlā had not commenced yet at that time, but it was about to begin and thus, Śrīpād speaks about Krishna leaving the gopīs who were dancing. All the Gopa-sundarīs are endowed with mahābhāva and are expert in the arts of Eros, so the fact that Krishna took Radha away in front of them all and brought her to a lonely place to enjoy pastimes with her there shows her greatness far beyond the glories of all the other gopīs.

Das Goswami is Sri Radha’s beloved maidservant, so his favorite part of the various events that took place during the Rāsa-līlā is that Sri Krishna took away Sri Radha alone from millions of other assembled gopīs, decorated her with floral ornaments and enjoyed amorous pastimes with her in solitude. That is why he mentioned this pastime in his description of the Rāsa-sthalī.

When Sri Krishna took Radha away and disappeared with her during the Mahā-Rāsa even Sri Radha’s girlfriends weren’t aware of it. When they did not see Sri Radharani in their midst anymore they understood that Sri Krishna must have taken her off somewhere, and they became simultaneously happy (because of Sri Radha’s greatness) and sad (because they could not see the pastimes of the Divine Pair anymore). But when Sri Krishna took Sri Radha along and disappeared with her, her maidservants, who are nondifferent from her in the heart, were with her and could personally witness the sweet and intimate pastimes of the Divine Pair, and feel very happy and proud about the special glories of their Īśvarī. This can be learned from the descriptions by Sri Rūpa Gosvāmipāda:

rāsārambha vilasati parityajya goṣṭhāmbujākṣī-
vṛndaṁ vṛndāvana bhuvi rahaḥ keśaveṇopanīya
tvāṁ svādhīna priyatama pada prāpaṇenārcitāṅgīṁ
dūre dṛṣṭvā hṛdi kim acirād arpayiṣyāmi darpam

(Utkalikā Vallari – 42)

“When will my heart be filled with pride as I see from afar how Keśava leaves all the lotus-eyed girls of Vraja at the beginning of the Rāsa-dance in Vrindavan and takes you to a lonely place where he, under your command, decorates you with flowers?”

In his description of the Rāsa-līlā, the Rāsa-vaktā (speaker) Śrīpāda Śuka Muni has clearly mentioned that Sri Krishna privately and blissfully enjoyed with Sri Radha in different ways in the Rāsa-night, arranged her hair and adorned her with decorations like flowers:

atra prasūna-vacayaḥ priyārthe preyasā kṛtaḥ
prapadākramane ete paśyatā sakale pade
keśa prasādhanaṁ hyatra kāminyāḥ kāminā kṛtam
tāni cūḍayatā kāntām upaviṣṭam iha dhruvam
reme tayā svātma-rata ātmārāmo’pyakhaṇḍitaḥ

(Śrīmad Bhāgavata 10.30.32-34)

“Sri Radha’s rival gopīs told each other: “Here Krishna has picked flowers to decorate his beloved with. Look! Here he stood on his toes to pick flowers from a high branch; that’s why we can see half footprints in the earth here! Look, look! Here Krishna arranged her hair and sat down to make floral ornaments for her head. Although he is Self-satisfied and Self-delighted, he enjoyed romance with this girl in various ways here!”

Raghunath Das Goswami says: “May the Rāsa-sthalī, where Śrī-Sri Radha-Mādhava freely enjoyed such amorous pastimes and that fills the three worlds with the very wonderful sweet flavours of the Rāsa-dance, protect me!”

vidagdhā ujjvalā gopī, yārā kṛṣṇa anurāgī,
sarva śreṣṭha kṛṣṇa kāntā-gaṇa
kori nānā nṛtya raṅge, govinda yādera saṅge,
yāre loiyā koilā antardhāna

sei śrīmatī rādhāre, nānā puṣpa alaṅkāre,
sājāiyā rasika govinda
dampati yugala mili, śṛṅgāra mādhurya keli,
kore yethā pāiyā ānanda 

trailokye adbhuta śreṣṭha, mādhurya maṇḍita preṣṭha,
‘rāsa-sthalī’ kori ārādhanā
sethā vāsa virodha yāte, rakṣā koro tāhā hoite,
nirantara ei se kāmanā

“May the Rāsa-sthali, where Rasika Govinda danced various dances with his greatest lovers, the gopīs, who are expert in the arts of Eros and who are passionately attached to him, and then left them to decorate Srimati Radha with different floral ornaments, where the Divine Couple finds great joy in playing Their sweet romantic pastimes and which is ornamented by the most wonderful kinds of sweetness of all the three worlds, protect me from anything or anyone who is stopping me from residing there. Thus I yearn to worship the place where the Rāsa-dance took place!”

 

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