Today is Sharadiya Rasa, which is a commemoration of the five chapters in the Bhagavatam that describe the Rasa-lila. Sometimes these chapters are called the five life-airs of the Bhagavatam or its five senses. I thought this would be a good opportunity to serialize the last two chapters of Govinda-lilamrita by Krishnadas Kaviraj and then perhaps fill out the rest of Karttik with the Rasa-lila from Gopala-champu. We will increase our Niyama-seva a bit. Why not?
The translation and commentary were done by my friend Gadadhar Pran Das and people will be able to contact him through Vrindavan Today and get a published version of this book from him.
The Vraja Nisha Lila Sutra
These opening verses are attributed to Rupa Goswami. They give the broad outline of all the activities of the night-time pastimes of the Divine Couple.
tāv utkau labdha-saṅghau bahu-paricaraṇair vṛndayārādhyamānau
gānair narma-prahelī-sulapana-naṭanaiḥ rāsa-lāsyādi-raṅgaiḥ
preṣṭhālībhir lasantau rati-gata-manasau mṛṣṭa-mādhvīka-pānau
krīḍā-cāryau nikuñje vividha-rati-raṇa uddhatya vistāritāntau
tāmbūlair gandha-mālyair vyajana-hima-payaḥ-pāda-saṁvāhanādyaiḥ
premṇā saṁsevyamānau praṇayi-sahacarī-sañcayenāpta-śātau
vācā kāntairaṇābhir nibhṛta-rati-rasaiḥ kuñja-suptāli-saṅghau
rādhā-kṛṣṇau niśāyāṁ sukusuma-śayane prāpta-nidrau smarāmi
When Radha and Krishna meet, Vrinda worships them with many fine articles. Then a host of lilas begin such as: wandering in the forest (vana-vihāra), riddle competition (prahelis), singing, Rasa dancing and drinking intoxicating liquors (madhu-pāna). When the Divine Couple becomes tired the sakhis serve them by fanning, massaging their feet, supplying water, divine fragrances and pan. At last the Sri Yugala Kishor happily falls asleep on their bed of flowers. Let us thus remember their night-time pastimes (niśā-vihāra). (Smaraṇa-maṅgala, 10-11)
Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The remaining portion of Govinda-līlāmṛta will elaborate on this sutra. Although it is not mentioned here, the Yogapith, Yamuna jala-keli and the late night meal are also included in Radha Krishna’s night-time pastimes.
2-3With a humble entreaty, Vrinda and her vana-devis escort Vrajanath and Vrajeshwari Rai from the ratna mandir to a golden vedi which basks in the moonlight. Their throne is decorated with scented flowers, covered by a fine silk sheet and cooled by the Yamuna’s breezes. 4Pan, scents and freshened water are brought from the storage rooms. Then Sri Yugala Kishor are outfitted with flower ornaments, crowns and malas as the dasis fan them, using chamara whisks.
Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The Guṭikā now describes Radha Govinda’s Yogapith lila. The sadhaka manjari can perform this seva as previously described in the Pratah Lila. Sri Narottam Das Thakur depicts this scene as follows:
ratana mandira manohara
āvrita kālindī nīre, rāja-hamsa keli kare
tāhe śobhe kanaka kamala
tāra madhye hema pīṭha, aṣṭa-dale suveṣṭita,
aṣṭa-dale pradhānā nāyikā
tāra madhye ratnāsane, basi āchena dui jane
śyāma saṅge sundarī rādhikā
o rūpa lābaṇya rāśi, amiyā podiche khasi,
hāsya parihāsa sambhāṣane
narottama dāse kaya, nitya līlā sukhamaya,
sadāi sphuruka more mane
Vrindavan is a pleasureful divine abode, made of chintamani, here there is a jeweled temple being caressed by the Yamuna’s rivulets, where swans frolic amidst the golden lotus patches.
The mandir has a golden throne where the ashta sakhis stand upon eight lotus petals. In the center is the chief nayika, Radhika sundari, sitting on a jeweled simhasana beside Govinda Deva.
As the Divine Couple laughs and jokes, nectar appears to be pouring from their effulgent sweet forms. Narottam Das says, “This eternal lila is always blissful. May it always appear within my mind.”
This pada focuses only on the inner whorl of the Yogapith mandala. There are thousands of petals where Radha’s other sakhis stand.
5Govinda observed, “Here is that same wonderful moonlit night, that same pleasureful forest, the beautiful Yamuna and its banks, and here are my dearest gopis.” Thus his desire to enjoy the Rasa awakened.
Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: This verse brings to mind the first sloka of the Bhagavata’s Rasa Pancadhyaya.
vīkṣya rantuṁ manaś cakre yogamāyām upāśritaḥ
Seeing the beautiful autumn night with its blooming mallika flowers, Bhagavan Sri Krishna desires to enjoy with the gopis, and so he takes Yogamaya’s shelter. (SB 10.29.1)
6Hence the lila begins: forest sight-seeing (vana-vihāra), dancing upon the spinning chakra (cakra-bhrama+na), ladies’ circular dancing (hallishaka-nṛtya), dancing in pairs (yugma nṛtya), the gopis dancing (lāsya-nṛtya), solo dancing (eka-eka-nṛtya), the gopis’ singing, rati-krīḍā and jala-keli.
7Seeing Radha Krishna’s appearance, the spring displays her opulences: the full moon’s lightbeams filter, gentle malayan breezes toss the dancing forest latas and the sounds of the bees and the kokilas form an orchestra. Thus Krishna becomes zealous to enjoy vana vihara with the gopis.
8Krishna makes his desire known to the gopis by playing his flute, and they respond by singing Krishna’s names.
9Krishna says, “Oh dear ones! The moonrays beautify the forest and its flowers and they are carrying my desire to enjoy with you.”
10The gopis answer: “Oh Krishna, Krishna, Krishna! Oh Ramana! Let it be so!”
11Thus taking his sundari ramanis, Krishna sweetly sings and wanders with them under every tree and every lata and in every kunja.
12The Vraja sundaris sing about Krishna as they joyfully wander with him. Yet meanwhile the lata dance, and the kokilas, the bees and the peacocks sing in the fifth scale.
Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: Srila Narottam Das Thakur depicts this scene:
kadamba tarura dala, namiyāche bhūme bhāla
phuṭiyāche phula sāri sāri
parimala bhorala, sakala vṛndāvana
keli kore bhramara bhramarī
rāi kānu vilāsai raṅge
kibā rūpa lāvani, vaidagdha khani dhani,
maṇimaya ābharaṇa aṅge
rādhāra dakṣiṇa kore, dhari priya giridhara,
madhura madhura coli jāy
āge pāche sakhigaṇa, kore phula bariṣaṇa
kono sakhī cāmara dhulāya
parāge dhūsara sthala, candra kore suśītala,
maṇimaya vedīra upore,
rāi kānu kara jori, nṛtya kore phiri phiri,
paraśe pulaka tanu bhore
mṛgamada candana, kore kori sakhī gaṇa
bariyase phula gandha rāje
śrama jala bindu bindu, śobhā kore mukha indu
adhare muralī bāje
hāsa vilāsa rasa, sarala madhura bhāṣa
narottama monoratha bhoru
duhuka vicitra veśa, kusume racita keśa
locana mohana līlā koru
Overloaded with flowers, the kadamba’s branches gracefully bend to the ground. And as the flowers’ wonderful fragrance permeates the forest. The bees buzz hither and thither.
Aha! Rai Kanu wander playfully. Rai is a jewel mine of luster, form and cleverness, and as she clasps her priya Giridhari’s hand, they gracefully stroll, forming a madhura madhura scene. From in front and behind, some sakhis’ toss flower petals and others twirl chamara whisks.
Kanu dances in circles, holding Rai in his arms and when they touch, they horripilate! The sakhis dip flowers in kasturi and chandan and toss them over Sri Yugala Kishor, yet still perspiration droplets adorn their moon-faces. Then Krishna places the murali to his lips. Sometimes they laugh…and sometimes they musingly chat.
Aho! Narottam’s desires become completely fulfilled. Their dress is colorful, and their hair is bound with flowers. So let this lochana mohan lila go on!” (Prārthanā)
13-19 The ambrosial vision of Krishna’s promenade through the spring forest brings the trees, the latas, the bees, the deer and the birds back to life—as though coming back to consciousness after fainting! So just as people dress up to warmly welcome the King and the Queen, Vrindavan dresses up in moonbeams, places the deer, birds, bees and other family members in front, and ecstatically trembles with the malayan breezes to greet Radha Govinda.
The forest is painted gold and silver by the golden gopi maidens’ luster stream mixing with the effulgent moon-rays. But when Kanakini Rai’s golden aura merges with Krishna’s sapphire effulgence, their bodies turn emerald green like new tamal leaves basking in the moonlight.
Govinda asks the forest inhabitants: “Oh birds! Oh trees! Oh latas! Oh bees! Are you all well?”
The trees’ flowers and branches are its hands and feet. Thus as the malayan breeze instructs, the flower vines dances in jubilation to welcome Kishora and Kishori! As Radha Shyama’s bodily fragrance pervades the forest, countless madhu-intoxicated bees soar around them. Thinking they must be fatigued, the madhavi vines, moist with love, want to feed them their own honey and so they motion with their hand-like leaves, which are fluttering in the breeze.
Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The madhavis are the bees’ springtime lady friends, so the their affection for the bees is natural. But noticing their bee boyfriends turning dizzy while soaring around Radha Govinda, they wave them back to drink their honey. However, having found a better source of honey, the bees neglect the madhavis’ call.
20 Having learned from the gopis how to discard their religious principles (kula dharma) for Govinda’s pleasure, the madhavis though blossoming and fragrant offer praise with the droning sound of the honey-bees.
Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: Ananda Vrindavan Campu mentions that as the bees suck the madhavi flowers’ honey, their intoxicating buzzing resembles the spring festival’s trumpeting conchshell. But just as the pollen-sucking causes inebriation, so does the bees’ buzzing awaken the intoxicating moods of Madana.