In the mood of deepening our sentiments for Vrindavan, I would like to translate Hit Dhruva Das’s poem about Vrindavan. Dhruva Das lived in the first half of the 16th century. This poem was written in 1682 samvat, which is for most people these days, 1626. After Hit Harivansh himself, and Sewakji, Dhruva Das is the third great poet teacher of the Radha Vallabhi sampradaya.
A few days ago it was Hit Harivansh’s appearance day, and even though it was totally unintended, I had a Hit Harivansh Chandra Goswami day.
The fact is that I don’t get out of the house very much. You would think that with all my talk about Braja vasa sadhana that I do, I would occasionally visit Bihariji, Radha Vallabh or Radha Raman and Damodar… like I used to, not so long ago. I guess I am a real Vrajavasi in that I just live here.
But then, living here has its benefits. I was thinking that it was Hit Harivansh’s birthday and I hadn’t written anything special for VT. And I was occupied in some other activity, no doubt noble, when I heard music being played nearby and I thought I would take a gander. The music sounded attractive, and as I walked toward it, I recognized it as a Radhavallabhi song sung on the occasion of Hit Harivansh’s birth, so my curiosity grew even more.
As it turns out, a neighbor, a retired businessman from Haryana, a deep bhakta of the Radha Vallabha sampradaya had purchased the property neighboring the Jiva Institute garden. He was having a sort of auspicious event and inauguration of the home he intends to build there, and had chosen that most joyful of days to do it. There were numerous sadhus there, and I recognized my friends from the Khandelwal family and their bhaktas.
They had set up a nice phool bungalow altar with a beautiful tiny Radha Krishna. The women of the family, even young ones, were dancing. It was another Vrindavan party!
I got there just as the generous host was giving out yellow Radhe Radhe shawls and, of course, I thought I would just get in the mood. I hadn’t gone to Harivansh, but he had come to me. And I have long reflected on Harivansh in relation to Prabodhananda Saraswati and their role in Vrindavan history.
If only the Gaudiyas had been in charge of Vrindavan, we might still be greeting each other, “Hare Krishna! Haribol!” Or if the Vallabhis, “Jai Sri Krishan!” like they do in Mathura. No it was Harivansh who made Vrindavan Radharani’s rajya. There are other reasons, but I think the main one is language. Bengalis were foreigners and they were writing in Sanskrit, which made them very influential amongst the pandit class. But the ideas of Rupa Goswami came to one conclusion, Radha dasya, and that was the exclusive mood of Harivansh, and he sang it, and his followers sang it, and it became the local reality.
Mr. Khandelwal from the bookshop in Ath khamba, who is a great Radhavallabhi bhakta, as is his entire family, Vrindavana vasis to the core, and whose uncle is Hit Jash Ali Sharan, who is one of the living great scholars and bhaktas of the Radhavallabhi school. At any rate, one of the gifts distributed to the guests was Dhruvadas’s Vrindavana-sata-lila, in a nice handy format.
I had to say it was a lovely coincidence. I had just been looking the poem in Hitdas Swami‘s unwieldy Biyalis Lila. So suffice it to say that this little book started to take over a part of my life. I am interested in the influences back and forth of Prabodhananda Saraswati and the Radhavallabha sampradaya. Prabodhananda Saraswati was of course best known for Vrindavana-mahimamrita, which we are currently slowly becoming immersed in.
There can be little doubt that Dhruvadas was influenced by Prabodhananda’s Mahimamrita, as was another half-Gaudiya, half Radha-vallabhi, Bhagavant Mudita, who also wrote in Braja Bhasha. The point is clearly that even though Bengali was influenced by Braj, they did not overwhelm Braj with the mood of Bengali, of Nitai and Gauranga and the Pancha Tattva. Gaudiyas came to Vrindavan to fulfill Mahaprabhu’s incarnation by becoming one with Radha and Krishna lila. One way or another, they did not do in Vrindavan what they did in Bengal, in their own language. It was the Radhavallabhis, the Haridasis, and in their wake, the Vallabhis, Nimbarkis and Gaudiyas, who became progressively obsessed with the exclusive Radha mood.
And the primary mover in all this [for a Gaudiya like me] is Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya, who is the source of Prabodhananda Saraswati’s vision, who is really the one who brought Radha bhava and Vrindavana bhava into Vrindavan.
So that’s my rather complex thesis and I am going to try to explain it all, bit by bit. But it does not matter what the flow of influences was, because the principal medium for the Radha Vallabha sampradaya was the language of the people, Braj Bhasha. And they captured the imagination and became the shapers of the Jai Radhe! mood that is Vrindavan’s essential character.
श्रीवृन्दावन सत लीला
śrī vṛndāvana sata līlā
One hundred verses describing Vrindavan
प्रथम नाम हरिवंश हित रटि रसना दिन रैंन ।
प्रीति रीत तब पाइयै अरु वृन्दावन ऐंन ॥१॥
prathama nāma harivaṁśa hita raṭi rasanā dina raiṁna |
prīti rīta taba pāiyai aru vṛndāvana aiṁna ||1||
First of all, may my tongue call out the name of Hit Harivansh,
for then will I obtain the method of worshiping in love, and residence in Vrindavan Dham.
चरन सरन हरिवंश की जब लगि आयौ नाहिं ।
नव निकुंज निज माधुरी क्यौं परसै मन माहिं ॥२॥
carana sarana harivaṁśa kī jaba lagi āyau nāhiṁ |
nava nikuṁja nija mādhurī kyauṁ parasai mana māhiṁ |
If one has never taken shelter of Harivansh’s lotus feet,
then how will the sweetness of the Nikunja Lila ever touch his heart?
वृन्दावन सत करन कौं कीन्हौं मन उतसाह ।
नवल राधिका कृपा बिनु कैसैं होत निबाह ॥३॥
vṛndāvana sata karana kauṁ kīnhauṁ mana utasāha |
navala rādhikā kṛpā binu kaisaiṁ hota nibāha ||3||
As I set out to these hundred verse about Vrindavan, my mind was full of enthusiasm,
but without the youthful Radha’s mercy, how will my ambition ever be realized?
यह आसा धरि चित्त में कहत जथा मति मोर ।
वृन्दावन सुख रंग कौ काहु न पायौ ओर ॥४॥
yaha āsā dhari citta meṁ kahata jathā mati mora |
vṛndāvana sukha raṁga kau kāhu na pāyau ora ||4||
Holding to this hope in my heart, I speak according to my understanding,
but there is none who can understand the extent of the joy of Vrindavan’s revelries.
दुर्लभ दुर्घट सबनि तैं वृन्दावन निज भौंन ।
नवल राधिका कृपा बिनु कहि धौं पावै कौंन ॥५॥
durlabha durghaṭa sabani taiṁ vṛndāvana nija bhauṁna |
navala rādhikā kṛpā binu kahi dhauṁ pāvai kauṁna ||5||
To make one’s home in Vrindavan is the rarest and hardest thing to achieve.
Without Radhika Kishori’s mercy, tell me who can attain it?
सबै अंग गुनहीन हौं ताकौ जतन न कोइ ।
एक किसोरी कृपा तैं जो कछु होइ सु होइ ॥६॥
sabai aṁga gunahīna hauṁ tākau jatana na koi |
eka kisorī kṛpā taiṁ jo kachu hoi su hoi ||6||
I am without virtue of any kind, and I have no means by which to overcome this flaw.
Only if Radha Kishori is merciful then whatever happens will happen.
सोउ कृपा अति सुगम नहिं ताकौ कौन उपाव ।
चरन सरन हरिवंश की सहजहिं बन्यौ बनाव ॥७॥
sou kṛpā ati sugama nahiṁ tākau kauna upāva |
carana sarana harivaṁśa kī sahajahiṁ banyau banāva ||
It is not easy to get that mercy either, but there is a means of attaining it.
By taking shelter of Hit Harivansh’s lotus feet, then everything is arranged.
हरिवंश चरन उर धरनि धरि मन वच कै विस्वास ।
कुँवरि कृपा ह्वै है तबहिं अरु वृन्दावन वास ॥८॥
harivaṁśa carana ura dharani dhari mana vaca kai visvāsa
kuɱvari kṛpā hvai hai tabahiṁ aru vṛndāvana vāsa ||8||
Holding Hit Harivansh’s feet to my heart, keeping faith in mind and word,
I will get Radharani’s mercy and residence in Vrindavan.
प्रिया चरन बल जानि कै बाढ्यौ हियैं हुलास ।
तेई उर में आनि हैं वृन्दा विपिन प्रकास ॥९॥
priyā carana bala jāni kai bāḍhyau hiyaiṁ hulāsa |
teī ura meṁ āni haiṁ vṛndā vipina prakāsa ||9||
My excitement to go on increases on the strength of beloved Radha’s lotus feet.
By holding those feet in my heart, all the glories of Vrindavan will be revealed.
कुँवरि किसोरी लाढ़िली करुनानिधि सुकुँवारि ।
बरनौं वृन्दा विपिन कौं तिनके चरन सँभारि ॥१०॥
kuɱvari kisorī lāḏilī karunānidhi sukuɱvāri |
baranauṁ vṛndā vipina kauṁ tinake carana saɱbhāri ||
Remembering the lotus feet of the youthful Radha Kishori, the beautiful ocean of mercy,
soft and lovely, I now describe the glories of Sri Vrindavan Dham.
So now, here is Hit Ambarishji Maharaj’s rendering of the Vrindavana Sata Lila: