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Govinda Lilamrita :: Riddle game interlude

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Praheli-vinoda Khanda :: Riddle games

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: Although Sri Rupa Goswami’s sutra mentions prahelis (riddles), Govinda-līlāmṛta hasn’t included them. But since they form a part of the original Bhagavata version of the Rasa-lila (10.32), Vishwanath Chakravarti says it should be considered an integral part of that pastime.

So while everyone rests at Vamshivata, this is a good time to present some of Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta’s prahelis (Chapter 19). Krishna offers the first riddle. Because Gopinath Bosak’s Bengali padyānuvadas have been nicely done, they have been included here rather than the original Sanskrit of Vishwanath:

svabhābato nije acetana yei jana
caitanya labhiyā kare jagata mohana
nava-dvāra deha, kintu deva nara naya
bala dekhi ei rūpa lakṣaṇa kāra haya?

“Who, although naturally unconscious, on attaining consciousness enchant the entire universe? And who, despite having a body with nine gates, is neither god nor human? Let’s see if you can tell me who has these characteristics?”

Radhika answers,

satata yāhāre tumi nijādharāmṛta
dāna kara ye tomāra kuṭṭinī niścita
tomāra se priyā ei lakṣaṇe anvitā
vaṁśikā nāmete yei jagate vidita

“This one, on whom you always bestow your lip nectar, is most certainly your procuress (kuṭṭinī). She is the one who has these characteristics, and is known to the world as your priya vaṁśikā.”

Then Radha composes her own praheli:

gāite tomāra kebā guṇa yaśāvali
mūrcchā lābha kare haye ati kutuhalī
bala dekhi nātha sei ke anurāgiṇī
atiśaya suśobhita yāra guṇa-śreṇī
grāmete basati kare tabu atiśaya
atanu rasete parabīṇa sei haya

“Oh Prananath! Who is that passionate beloved who faints while singing your glories in which she is so immersed, who is graced by many qualities, who resides in our village but is famous for her skill in ananga-rasa?”

Radha’s riddle is amazing for its multi-meanings. The word mūrcchana means to faint, but it also refers to the fading of a melody, and atanu is a name of Cupid, who has no body, but here it refers to a song’s imperceptible feature. So the poem’s outward appearance of eroticism draws Krishna’s attention; yet the real answer isn’t erotic as it first appears. However, Krishna gets it and replies,

īrṣānvita haye prakaṭiyā kalābali
jinite garaba dhare ye more muralī
mādhurye āmāre sukhī kare sei dhanī
binā nāma taba sama pīna tumbī stanī

“O Radhe! That jealous, talented and fortunate one who can remove even my vamshi’s pride, whose sweetness brings me joy, and who, like you, has plump, gourd-like breasts, certainly must be your vina!”

The sakhis smile and applaud Krishna’s wit, but then Lalita Sundari recites her praheli:

bālatve bikhyāta ati bṛddha kāra haya ?
baddha mokṣa daśā satata labhaya
śuddha ha-iyāo nirantara tamo dhāma
kaha kṛṣṇa se kuṭila-gaṇera ki nāma?

“Who is known for being youthful and yet is very old? Who is bound, yet always attains the liberated state? And who, even when clean, is as black as night? Oh Krishna, tell us who are these crooked ones.”

Krishna answers with a grin :

prati karme yāhādera bandhana bidhāna
ratira udgame āmi kari mokṣa dāna
sei vibhakta keśa nāme khyāti yuta-gana
āmāra priyāra suśobhita sarva kṣaṇa

“Although they are supposed to be kept bound in every activity, I give them liberation at the beginning of rati-keli. Thus Radha’s elegant hairs are very dear to me—even though they are divided by a part.”

A woman’s hair is to be bound at all times, except in privacy.

Krishna prowess thrills the sakhis, but then Vishakha presents her riddle:

ye yoginī tattva bistaraṇe supaṇḍita
biśba bhāba nicaye yāhāra abhijñāta
bibhūti dhāraṇa kari sadā ghure phire
ohe priya bola dekhi jāno ki tāhāre ?

“The great yogini who is expert in revealing the mind’s secrets, and who knows everyone’s intentions? She wanders about, covered in ash. O Priya Krishna, tell us, do you know who it is?”

Krishna replies;

anaṅga sukhera siddhi karibāre
ujjvala ātmā jñāna lābha haya yāra dvāre
yāhāra nirdeśa sarba tyaji yāi bane
stabi āmi se yoginī priyāra locane

“In order to attain the mystic power of Love-joy,
through whom I gain knowledge of the self in ujjvala-rasa,
on whose order I renounce everything to go the forest.
I bow down to those yoginis, my Beloved’s eyes.”

A yogini is a match-maker, bringing two people together, as well as a practitioner of the mystic arts and spiritual knowledge.

Chitra Devi offers her vicitra praheli next:

sadāpabargera yāhā susādhana haya
dānta śrī-vigraha śuci-priya atiśaya
anurāge rañjita ye tāra guṇapanā
barṇanā kariyā dhanya karaha rasanā

“Who is always the best means to liberation,
whose entire body is sense-controlled, who loves that which is holy,
and whose virtues are tinged red with passion:
Tell us who this is and make your tongue blessed.”

Krishna answers,

śudhu ki barṇiyā sādha mite he tāhāya?
milāo se rādhādhara mora rasanāya

“To simply describe them won’t be fine—
let Radha’s sweet lips meet with mine!”

Hearing Krishna’s words Radha feigns resentment and starts to leave. But with a smile, Krishna exclaims, “Hey Priya! Fearing defeat, don’t retreat—just hold on, I’m going to outwit you this time, listen:

yāhāra prathama ākhare uttama bujhāya
dvi barṇe bekata karaye devatāya
tina barṇe haya tora ati priya kāja
cāri barṇe svargera viśeṣa tarurāja
pañca barṇe karṇānanda dāyaka ghaṭana
bala dekhi se ki yāhe sukhī sakhī jana

“This object’s first syllable means the best
the second is known as the devatas,
the third is your dearest activity,
the fourth is a type of heavenly tree,
and the fifth syllable gives pleasure to the ears.
So just tell me the answer which will delight your sakhis.”

Srimati understands that Krishna is boldly speaking of her su-ra-ta-ru-ta (the sounds she makes during rati keli). Thus frowning her evebrows, she retorts: “You’ll find the answer with Padma’s sakhi (Chandravali). But why don’t you answer my praheli first?

grihīra prārthita āra yubāra vāñchita
dvi drabyera ādy-akṣare nāma ārambhita
tāra pare vinā-ādi-bādyera ādy-akṣara
rodana jnāpaka ucca dhvani tāra para
se ki bastu lukāiyā duṣṭa sakhī gaṇa
vañchaye karite sadā yāhā āsvādana

What do the grihasthas pray for? (Answer: suta or a son)
What do the young men desire? (Answer: rata)
What is the first letter of a synonym of vina? (Answer: tata)
Which word denotes a loud cry? (Answer: ruta)
What is that thing that the wicked sakhis are always hiding
and want to relish it always?

Hence, the answer to Radha’s praheli is the same as Krishna’s a ramani’s heart—piercing cry during rati-keli. Krishna guesses the answer, thinking he is very smart: surata-ruta! But then the sakhis cheer and exclaim: “Aha! Radha has won!”

Thus with beaming smiles they tell Krishna “Oh Ajita! You’ve lost because the answer to your own praheli slipped from your own mouth! Thus our Rajanandini Radha is the worshipable Jaya Sri, the Goddess of Victory!”


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