Today is Vasanta panchami tomorrow. Spring is in the air and will be until Holi. There seems to be a general feeling of good cheer as the weather reaches its most comfortable of the year, neither too hot nor too cold. The women are wearing their most colorful saris, or perhaps the saris are already anticipating Holi in a kind of colorful expectation.
Last night I remembered Shri Bhatta‘s famous vasanta song and listened to it several times. Then today I was reminded that Swami Gopal Sharan Devacharya is celebrating the installation of his beloved Radha Goloka Bihari Jiu. This is now the beginning of the 25th year of the Golok Dham temple in Goshala Nagar just off the Mathura Road.
I had just seen Gopal Sharanji on the stage at Devkinanda Thakur’s big Sant Sammelan. They are both leading members of the Nimbarki tradition. But I neither spoke to Gopal Sharanji nor heard him speak. So I decided to visit the Golok Dham temple. Maharaj was happy to see me and very welcoming.
He said that they were just going to have a small program on that day, and the main theme would be to honor a few senior members of the sampradaya. In particular he introduced me to 88-year-old Kanhai Lal Swami, who had led a Rasa Lila troupe for many years. I mentioned that I had met Shrinath Shastri for the first time when I went to his ashram in Delhi and lamented his passing. I told him that I wanted to, if I ever got a chance, to interview as many of the senior Vaishnavas in Vrindavan to capture their oral history. This would be a good Vrindavan Today project when it becomes possible. Now that Vrindavan is undergoing such drastic and rapid changes, memories of the past again become more valuable.
Maharaj was also very loquacious in his praise of those who have lived their lives in the Dham engaged in singing the glories of the Divine Couple. Kanhai Lal Swami also spoke and said that service to the Deity had three divisions: shringar (dress), bhoga (offerings of food) and raga (beautiful songs).
After all the big events, a small gathering of very good musicians in the amiable company of Gopal Sharanji Maharaj was refreshing. Several people spoke on the meaning of vasanta in Vrindavan, and of course, we sang Shri Bhatta’s pada. After arati, Maharaj took out a mini-pichkari and sprayed us… with clear water.
Spring is the time for new beginnings, a new season. This idea is captured in Shri Bhatta’s pada:
From Yugala Shataka, pada 84:
नव किसोर नव नागरी नव सब सौंजरु साज।
नव वृन्दावन नव कुसुम नव वसंत रितुराज॥
nava kisora nava nāgarī nava saba sauṁjaru sāja |
nava vṛndāvana nava kusuma nava vasaṁta riturāja ||
पद राग वसन्त इकताल
pada (rāga vasanta ikatāla)
नवल वसन्त नवल श्री-वृन्दावन नवलहि फूले फूल।
नवलहि कान्ह नवल सब गोपी निरतत एकै तूल॥
नवलहि साषि जवादि कुंकुमा नवलहि बसन अमूल।
नवलहि चींट बनी केसर की मेंटत मनमथ सूल॥
नवल गुलाल उडै रंग बूका नवल पवन कै झूल।
नवलहि बाजे बाजत श्रीभट कालिन्दी के कूल॥८३॥
navala vasanta navala śrī-vṛndāvana navalahi phūle phūla |
navalahi kānha navala saba gopī niratata ekai tūla ||
navalahi sāṣi javādi kuṁkumā navalahi basana amūla |
navalahi chīṁṭa banī kesara kī meṁṭata manamatha sūla ||
navala gulāla uḍai raṁga būkā navala pavana kai jhūla |
navalahi bāje bājata śrībhaṭa kālindī ke kūla ||
Radha and Krishna are the newly adolescent lover and beloved. The kunj is adorned with new vines. Vrindavan is new, the flowers are new, it is the new coming of spring, the king of the seasons.
The new spring season, Vrindavan is newly blossoming with new flowers. Kanhai is new, all the gopis are new, and they dance together as though they are one and the same. The sakhis are dressed in new costly garments and their kunkum is as red as the China rose. They spray each other with saffron water, which arouses amorous desire in them. The colored powders fly in every direction, coloring the air, while a refreshing new breeze carries them aloft.
And thus Shri Bhatta plays a new tune on the banks of the Yamuna River.