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Govinda-lilamrita :: Rasa-lila (2)

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This is part II of our Govinda-līlāmṛta nighttime līlā descriptions. These postings are inspired by Karttika Niyama Seva, which is separated by two Rasa Purnimas. Part I was here.

22 Seeing Krishna coming nearby, the other vines offer an auspicious welcome through the chirping of the birds, and while the wind tosses their branches, they dance while showing hand mudras with their leaves.

23 From kunja to kunja, flower petals and gunja berries fall on the ground to form colorful flower beds. The sound of the kokilas and bees inspire Radha and Krishna’s desires for prema vilāsa and the sakhis’ desires for the joy of service (sevānanda).

24 Everyone knows that the peacocks call when the lightning flashes amidst the clouds, but today they are calling out ke-kā with even greater bliss. Upon seeing the black cloud Krishna embraced by the sweet flashes of Radha’s lightning and raining down ambrosia, they dance with their open tail feather fans outspread in the company of the pea-hens!


dhvanad-ali-vihagaṁ śīta-vāteritaṁ
pariṇata-phala-yuk candrikā-rūṣitam |
vikaca-kusuma-sat-saurabhaṁ śrī-harer
vanam idam atanod indriyāṇāṁ mudam ||
Hari’s forest brings pleasure to all of his senses:
the sounds made by the birds and bees,
the cool breezes murmuring,
the ripened fruits,
the patterns made by the moonbeams
and the blooming flowers’ wafting fragrance.

Kusuma keli-vinoda : Playing with flowers

26 Then Sumukhi Rai picks two slightly blooming ashok clusters and with a trembling hand tries to place them behind Krishna’s ears. 27 Then, as she tried to do so, Krishna who always loses to Radha in their lovers’ quarrels, was able to claim victory by snatching the flowers and putting them behind her ears.

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: Dhira Lalita Madhava, however, wants Priyaji to wear the flowers, so he tries to catch them—but Shrimati steps aside! Then Krishna quickly steps behind her to snatch the flowers from her hand. Although Rai Dhani is the jaya-śrī-svarūpiṇī, the embodiment of the goddess of victory, this time she loses, and Krishna places the flowers beside her ears.


sukaṇṭhībhiḥ kaṇṭhī-rava-madhura-madhyābhir
abhitaḥ kalaṁ gāyantībhiḥ sarasam anugītāmala-guṇaḥ |
spṛśann aṅgāny āsāṁ stavaka-kusumādy-arpaṇa-miṣād
akuṇṭhām utkaṇṭhāṁ nibhṛta-rataye’vardhayad ayam ||28||
The gopis have glorious voices
their waists are sleek like those of a lion
gathered around Krishna they sang with artistry
and emotion of his spotless virtues.
Using the excuse of decorating them with clusters of flowers
he touched them, increasing without limit
their desire to enjoy with him in private.

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The gopis are sukaṇṭhinī and madhura-bhāṣiṇī — they have beautiful voices and their words are sweet — and their slim waists are sleeker than a lion’s, but as they sing about Krishna he fondles them while pretending that he will decorate them with flowers. Hence their desire to enjoy the erotic pleasures of nirjana rati strongly awakens.

Ānanda-vṛndāvana-campū provides more details: “Using his fingernail, Shyamasundar writes love messages on a leaf and presents them to his preyasis. He picks the best flowers to make their kanchulis, and using the vines he makes armlets. Then he tosses flower pollen over their hair! But Krishna doesn’t stop—he also fashions mallika flower necklaces, kadamba forehead decorations, and sthala padma hair ornaments. Then he places lodhra flowers beside their cheeks, offers kunda flowers neck-ornaments and strings them waist-bells with bakula, keshara and naga-keshara flowers.

“And the gopis reciprocate: one Vrajasundari places naga-keshara flowers around Krishna’s ears and ketaki flowers in his hair. Another sundari garlands him with a mallika mala. One leading gopi decorates his turban with ashok clusters, another offers a yuthi-mala and someone makes armlets and waist bells from bakula flowers.”

Phula Dola (Flower Holi)

“Then begin the puremost dalliances in the forest. As the forest reverberates with the maudlin pitched sound of the bees and kokilas, the Vraja sundaris lose themselves in Kandarpa’s fascination! (Kṛṣṇāhnika-kaumudī)

The golden-skinned Vraja lalanas pick punnaga flowers, extract their pollen and throw it over Krishna as their jingling bracelets announce the fresh start of Kandarpa’s battle! But Krishna retaliates! He picks more flowers, rolls them into balls and hurls them back! Although the gopis’ flower bombs hit Krishna from every direction, still, somehow, Krishna manages to win, and the shukas call “Jaya! Jaya! Jaya!” to cheer his victory. Thus feeling a bit proud of his conquest, Krishna approaches Radhika, hoping to defeat her too. But Radha’s stern eyes and arching brows captivate him, so the sharikas shriek: “Jaya! Jaya! Jaya! Vrishabhanu-nandini!”

When Radhika picks fragrant punnaga flowers some bees fly out to frighten her—and her hand trembles! Krishna says. “Hey Vinodini! You’ve defeated the puṁnāga (the best of men) so it’s no wonder that you’re shaking.” Then, as Krishna smiles, Radha lowers her head and reveals a sweet smile too.

Seeing a special flower on a high branch, Radhika wants to pick it, so standing on her toes she stretches out her creeper-like arms, but then her lower garment slips off! Thus as she turns nervous, Krishna seizes the opportunity to lift her from behind. This only embarrasses Radharani further.

One Vraja bala feigns calamity, saying: “Oh, pollen fell in my eyes!” Thus raising her lata-arms, her bracelets jingle as she pretends to remove the pollen. Krishna then shows concern, saying, “Oh no, oh no! Let me see, let me see!” Placing his lips beside the gopis’ eyes, Krishna pretends that he will blow the pollen away—but he kisses her eyelids instead !

When Radha raises her arms to pick flowers, the flowers out of reach take to sakhī-bhāva and descend lower on their branches so that Srimati can pick them. (Kṛṣṇāhnika-kaumudī)

29 Owing to Krishna’s touch the sakhis’ bodies become decorated with the ornaments (or anubhāvas) known as bibboka, vilāsa, lalita and kila-kiñcita.

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: This is the outcome of Krishna’s fondling the gopis while pretending to decorate them with flowers mentioned in the previous verse.

  • bibboka alaṅkāra: prideful neglect of the beloved.
  • vilāsa alaṅkāra: One’s stance, movement, facial expression and eye gestures upon seeing the beloved.
  • lalita alaṅkāra: The unique stance, bodily curve, and facial expression upon seeing the beloved.
  • kila-kiñcita: Pride, desire, shrieking, smiling, jealousy, fear and anger that simultaneously arise from the heart’s elation upon seeing the beloved.

30 As Krishna’s wanders, he approaches some of the latas to describe their madhuri, but then with the buzzing of their honeybees, they sing Krishna’s glories. So Krishna picks their flowers to touch them.

Rasa Saṅgīta :: Lovesong Duets

31 Thereafter, Krishna composes songs about the moon, the latas or the stars…. and the sakhis respond with the exact same words which describe Radha Govinda.

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: In other words, the same verse is repeated but in Krishna’s verse, nature is being described, while the second meaning sung by the gopis describes Krishna and Radha.


jagad-āhlādaka-śilaḥ pramadā-
hṛdi vardhita-manasija-pīlaḥ |
rādhānurādhikāntar vilasan
śuśubhe kalā-nidhiḥ so’yam ||

32 Krishna sings, “This kalā-nidhi (moon) excites everyone’s romantic desires when coming between the two stars Radha and Anuradha.”
33The gopis respond: “Sri Kalanidhi (Krishna the expert lover) has come between Radha and Lalita to excite their desire for rati.”

san mālatyām asyāṁ mālatyāṁ malatībhiḥ phullābhiḥ |
saṁveṣṭita iha paritaḥ punnāgo’yaṁ virājate gahane ||

34 Krishna sings: “Just see the malati vine embracing the punnaga tree on this splendid moonlit night.”
35 The gopis respond: “Seeing Purushottam and praphulla Radha embracing in the moonlight makes us happy!”

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The word mālatī can mean the moonrays, the night, the malati lata or a highly qualified nayika. And punnāga can mean either the punnaga tree (naga-keshara) or the greatest male (Sri Purushottam).


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