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Shri Vraja Dhama

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Vraja Vilasa 15 : Krishna’s uncle Upananda, the protector of Vraja

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UpanandaMay Kṛṣṇa’s uncle Upananda, who delights his nephew with billions of life-airs, whose face is beautified by a white moustache, who has a blackish complexion, who is a wise and learned counsellor, who lives in the village of Sāhāra and who always stays in the government of the king of Vraja as a learned scholar, always protect the land of Vraja!

śveta-śmaśru-bhareṇa sundara-mukhaḥ śyāmaḥ kṛtī mantraṇā-
bhijñaḥ saṁsadi santataṁ vrajapateḥ kurvan sthitiṁ yo’rcitaḥ
sva-prāṇārbuda-khaṇḍanair murabhidaṁ bhrātuḥ sutaṁ toṣayet
sāhāre nivasan sa goṣṭham avatān nāmnopanandaḥ sadā

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In this verse Shripad Goswami Charan praises Upananda, the elder brother and minister of Nanda Maharaj.

upanando’bhinandaś ca pitṛvyau pūrvajau pituḥ. 
pitṛvyau tu kanīyāṁsau syātāṁ sannanda nandanau

“Nanda’s elder brothers are Upananda and Abhinanda, and his younger brothers are Sannanda and Nandana.” (Rādhā-kṛṣṇa-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā 1,32):

They are all Krishna’s uncles. Upananda was the oldest son of Parjanya Maharaj, and the third son Nanda inherited the kingdom only because of Upananda’s magnanimity. In the Gopāla-campū it is described as follows,

When Parjanya Maharaj considered the qualifications of his sons he decided to hand over the responsibility of the kingdom to his eldest son Upananda. He had become eager to perform Haribhajana and had thus attained peace of mind. He had the royal class, headed by Vasudeva, and the brahminical class, headed by Garga, called into the assembly and gave his eldest son Upananda the royal tilaka there.

Sri Upananda kept the order of his father on his head (followed it), considering himself blessed. Then, in the presence of Vasudeva and other great souls he called his younger, middle brother Nanda into the assembly, lovingly embraced him and gave him the kingdom of Gokula by giving him the royal tilaka. Then he honored him as the new king of Gokula.

Seeing this inconceivable behavior of his elder brother, Nanda became shy, those present in the assembly were struck with wonder and father Parjanya looked at the two men with eyes wide of bliss. Actually, Parjanya had been desirous to give the kingdom to Nanda, having seen his countless attributes, but he had thought it better just to follow the etiquette and give the kingdom to his oldest son.

Seeing this Upananda said: “This is not a thoughtless action of mine, because everyone is controlled by feelings of affection. The proper thing was done, considering Nanda’s glorious attributes. This is not a whimsical action on my behalf, the great qualities of Nanda just have an overwhelming, all-controlling effect. Besides, this is the arrangement of Sri Narayana, the Overseer of all living beings. This is because everyone’s bee-like eyes drink the honey of Nanda’s beautiful lotus-like face. This has been Narayana’s decision long ago. Also, his name is Nanda, while my name is Upananda (sub-Nanda). Upa means inferior and assisting. Hence he is the king of Gokula, and I am his assistant.”

Hearing these words of Upananda the demigods showered flowers from the sky and sang sādhu sādhu (glory, glory!). The lotus-like eyes of everyone present began to blossom and the auspicious sounds of jaya jaya! filled the universe. From that day on Nanda, the mine of all great qualities, was the king of Gokula, and Upananda was appointed his minister. (Gopāla Campū Pūrva 3.31-34)

Therefore it was said that Upananda is a learned and expert counselor. His body has a deep blackish complexion and his face is beautified by a white moustache, which are signs of a learned and expert advisor and minister. His expert advice was the source of an increase in Nanda’s bliss in all respects. When the demons caused havoc in Gokula it was Upananda who advised the cowherd community to leave Gokula and move to the safe haven of Vrindavan, just to save his nephew Krishna, who was dearer to him than millions of lives. It was on his advice also that the safe haven Nandishwar Giri was established as the capital of the king of Vraja.

When the people of Vraja are safe then Shripad Raghunath Das is also safe and his aspirations will be fulfilled – that is the secondary meaning transcending the first meaning of the verse.

śveta śmaśru-bhare yāra vadana sundara;
śyāma ruci aṅga śobhā ati manohara
mantraṇāya mahā-vijña nanda sabhā mājhe;
pūjita hoyena yini paṇḍita samāje
bhrātuṣputra śrī govinde kolete koriyā;
santoṣa vidhāna kore marama bujhiyā
sei kṛṣṇa pitṛvya śrī upananda nāma;
goṣṭha-rakṣā korun tini ei nivedana

“I pray that Krishna’s uncle, who is named Upananda, whose face is beautified by a white moustache, whose body shines with an enchanting blackish luster, who is the very expert counselor in the assembly of Nanda Maharaj, who is worshiped in the assembly of scholars, who takes his nephew Govinda on his lap and makes Him happy by understanding his feelings, may protect the goṣṭha!”

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