The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Lord Krishna’s Rasa with Gopis which is chapter 29 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the twenty-ninth chapter of the Tenth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 29 - Lord Kṛṣṇa’s Rāsa with Gopīs

Introductory:

Rāsa or hallīsaka is a dance in which one male dancer plays his part with a number of female dancers moving in a circle. Jīva Goswāmī quotes in BKS.

nartakībhir anekābhir maṇḍale vicariṣṇubhiḥ /
yatraiko nṛtyati naṭas tad vai hallīsakaṃ viduḥ //

Ch. 20 in HV. 2 is titled hallīsaka-krīḍana [krīḍanam] in stead of rāsa. This rāsa-krīḍā forms a part of Viṣṇu Purāṇa 5.13, but the rāsa-pañcādhyāyī which begins from this chapter is poetically superb. SG. calls these “five vital breaths”—pañca-prāṇa-tulya-pañcā'dhyāyī. These five chapters form the corner-stone of the warm, sensuous madhurā bhakti. Commentators of Bengal school of Vaiṣṇavism such as Sanātana Gosvāmī, Jīva Gosvāmī have grown ecstatically lyrical and have given full play to their poetic imagination. Vallabha also is at his best while annotating these chapters. These annotators have written so exhaustively (over and above the implication of the actual wording of the text) that it cannot be compressed here, as it will be an independent book by itself to include them all.

For the significance of Rāsa-līlā vide Intro, pp. XLIX-LIV.

Śrī Śuka said:

1. Perceiving that those (indescribably beautiful and hence proper for indulging in delightful sports[1]) nights were beautified with full-blown jasmines of the autumnal (śarad) season, even the glorious Lord, in exercise of his Supreme yogic Māyā potency [see notes] made up his mind to play (rāsa).

2. Like a lover, returning after a long absence (would make the face of his beloved blush into crimson-red by the touch of his hand as if he) painted the face of his beloved with saffron-paste by his extremely soothing hands, the lord of stars—the moon—arose presently making the face of the orient blush into crimson-red by his balmy beams, (simultaneously) mitigating the distress of the people caused by the scorching heat of the sun.

3.[2] Beholding the moon, the friend of lilies (which blossom at the touch of his rays) in full orb, reddish like fresh saffron, superbly resplendent like the countenance of goddess Lakṣmī and seeing the groves (of Vṛndāvana) lit up with its soft rays, he breathed forth such melodious music through his flute as to captivate the hearts of the beautiful-eyed Gopīs.

4. Hearing that music which increased their love for him (or rather “which enhanced their forgetfulness about their own person”[3]), the damsels of Vraja whose hearts were captivated by Kṛṣṇa, unmindful of what the other was doing, arrived hastily with their (gold) ear-rings dangling through their fast gait, at the spot where their Lover was waiting.

5. (Even hearing the name of Kṛṣṇa instantaneously makes his devotees renounce all other activities and hence the Gopīs left their work half-done as follows:)

Being extremely eager (to join the Lord), some who were milking cows, went away leaving the milking half-done; others started, placing the milk (for heating) on the oven to boil (without removing it from the oven), while others flew to Kṛṣṇa without removing the dressed dish (of wheat flour) from the hearths.

6. Some who were serving food (to the merṇbers of their family) left off without serving (any further); some others suckling their babies set them aside and fled; some others who were waiting upon their husbands suddenly stopped and departed; while others who were taking their meals, set aside their food and started.

7. Some were painting their bodies (with pigments, sandal paste), while others were cleansing their person, still others were applying collyrium to their eyes, while others were bedecking themselves with clothes and ornaments in a disorderly[4] way—All hastened to the presence of Kṛṣṇa (leaving their work half-done in the middle).

8. Though prevented and obstructed by their husbands, fathers, brothers and relatives, their hearts being lured away and robbed by Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Gopīs were hypnotised and they did not return.

9. Some being shut up in the inner apartment, could not manage to get out. They closed their eyes and meditated upon Lord Kṛṣṇa with their minds absorbed in his devotion.

10-11.[5] Their inauspicious karmas being consumed by the fire-like intense agony of unbearable separation from their dearest Lord, and with their auspicious karmas being exhausted by the ecstatic bliss of the embrace of the Immortal Lord enjoyed in their meditation on him, the cowherd women who became united with[6] that Supreme Soul, even as a beloved would do with her paramour,[7] and with all the karmic bonds of mundane existence being instantaneously sundered off, they cast off their mortal coil constituted of three guṇas.

12.[8] They (the damsels of Vraja) knew him only as a Supreme Lover and could not recognize him as the Brahman himself. How did the cessation of the flow of guṇas (in the form of continuity of the cycle of birth and death, take place in the case of those women whose minds were under the influence of guṇas.

Śrī Śuka explained:

13. It has been previously[9] explained to you that as Śiśupāla, the king of Cedis, attained the summum bonum (absorption in the person of Lord Kṛṣṇa), there is no problem at all how the beloveds of the Supra-sensuous Lord should do so.

14. Even though the Lord is not subject to any modification or change; is beyond the ken of intellect, and infinite; transcends all the guṇas yet controls them; he manifests himself for the good (Final beatitude) of people.

15. Persons who always cherish love, anger, fear, affection, identity and friendliness unto Lord Hari, ultimately attain one-ness with him.[10]

16. It does not behove your Majesty to entertain such feeling of wonder in the case of the birthless glorious Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Ruler of all the masters of yoga, through whose Grace, the entire (mobile and immobile) creation gets emancipated (from saṃsāra).

17. Seeing that all the damsels of Vraja[11] have approached him, the Lord who was the foremost among the eloquents, addressed them, hypnotising them with the most fascinating or loving expressions.

The glorious Lord said:[12]

18. Hail to you, Oh highly blessed ladies! You are welcome. What pleasant services can I render to you?[13] Is everything well with Vraja? Please explain to me the cause of your hasty arrival.

19.[14] Oh ladies with beautiful waists! This night is of frightful appearance. It infested with ferocious beasts (and demons). Please do return to Vraja. This place is not fit for women to stay out at night.

20. Not seeing you in Vraja, your mothers, fathers, sons, brothers and husbands must be searching for you. Do not create fear and anxiety in your relatives.

21. You have now seen how the forest is adorned with floral beauty and illuminated with the silvery beams of the full moon, and beautified with the tender foliage of trees dancing sportively with the gentle breeze blowing from the Yamunā.

22. Oh ye virtuous ladies! Please return to Gokula without delay. Wait upon your husbands as ideal wives. Your children and calves are crying, suckle them and milk the cows.

23. Or if you have come as your heart is attached to me out of deep affection to me, it is quite natural (that you should have done so) for all creatures are affectionate to me.

24. But it is the supreme duty of women to wait upon and render service to husbands with sincerity of hearts, to look after the well-being of relatives and to nourish children.

25. The husband may be ill-natured or quarrelsome unfortunate, decrepit with age, dull-witted, sickly or penniless but women desirous of the heavenly world should not desert him if he be morally not fallen.

26. Resorting to illicit intercourse with a paramour by women of noble families, is a hindrance to the attainment of the heavenly world; it is scandalous, base, fraught with miseries and dangers, and it is abhorred everywhere.

27. Devotion to me is truly engendered by hearing about me, by looking at me, by meditating upon me and glorifying my sportive and noble deeds, and not by physical proximity. Therefore, please return home.

Śrī Śuka said:

28. Having heard that unpleasant speech of Kṛṣṇa, the cowherd women grew despondent as their expectations were frustrated, and they were immersed in deep anxiety out of which they could not extricate.

29. With their faces down-cast (in disappointment), and their Bimba-like red lips parched with hot breaths of grief, scratching the ground with their toe-nails and washing the saffron-painting on their breasts with tears mixed with collyrium, they stood silent, heavily burdened with distress.

30. The Gopīs who discarded all their cherished desires for his sake, and who were still deeply attached to him, wiped out their eyes sore with weeping, and with their voice chocked up with anger resulting from frustration, and in faltering accents, they addressed to their dearest Kṛṣṇa who talked to them as if he bore no love to them.

Gopīs urged:

31. “It does not behove, you, Oh Omnipresent Lord, to speak so harsh to us, your devotees, who have renounced all objects of enjoyment and have resorted to the soles of your feet. Pray do not abandon us your earnest devotees but accept us as does the Deity (Viṣṇu), the most ancient person, accept his devotees desirous of Liberation from Saṃsāra.

32. Knower of the principles of righteousness as you are, it may be as you say it, that the natural duty of women is to attend upon and render service to their husbands, children and friends or well-wishers. May this be so in the case of you, Oh dear Lord, who are the origin and object of such precepts. For, you being the Soul, the most beloved relative of all embodied beings, are dearest to all.[15]

33. Persons who are well-versed in dharma direct all their love (and devotion) to you, Oh ātman (soul) of all. For when you, the eternally ḍear Lord are available, what purpose can be served by husbands, sons and other relatives who are nothing but a source of trouble. Therefore, Oh Supreme Ruler! Be pleased to be gracious unto us, Oh Lotuseyed God!

34. Our heart which uptil now used to be engaged happily in our homes, has been easily enticed away by you; so too our hands which were occupied with our domestic work. Our feet refuse to move away a single step from the soles of your feet. Under these circumstances, how can we return to Gokula and (even if we are carried there) what possibly can we do there?

35. Extinguish, Oh darling, with the flood of the nectar of Your lips[16] the conflagration (of passion) set ablaze in our hearts by you, with your beguiling smiles, sideglances and melodious music, otherwise, with our bodies consumed by the fire of separation, we shall, by meditating upon you (like yogins), attain to the position of your feet.

36. Oh lotus-eyed Lord who are affectionate and favourable to persons (like yogis, sages and cowherds like us) who dwell in forests! Since the moment we happened somewhere (at some unknown place) to touch (but once) the soles of Your feet which are the delight of goddess Lakṣmī[17] we have been blessed by You and are now not at all able to stand before any other person, Oh ḍear Lord!

37. Although Śrī (the goddess of affluence and beauty)—to bask in whose favourable glance (at least once), gods make strenuous efforts,—has already secured a place on your bosom, she still aspires with Tulasī (the presiding deity of the basil plant) and loves to secure the dust on Your lotus-like feet which it is the privilege of Your servants to enjoy. We also have similarly sought the dust under Your feet.

38. Do be propitious unto us, You soother of all afflictions. It is with the hope of (getting the opportunity of) adoring You that we quitted our homes (like yogis) and have approached the soles of Your feet, Oh adornment of mankind! Grant us who are burning with intense longing, excited by Your charming smiles and enchanting glances, the privilege of serving You.

39. Looking at Your countenance covered with curling locks of hair, with cheeks shining with refulgent earrings and with lips full of ambrosia, and with sideglances accompanied by charming smiles, and beholding Your mighty arms reassuring protection (to Your devotees) as also Your bosom that excites passion in the heart of goddess Śrī, we would like to be Your menial servants (lit. your slaves).

40. Oh darling! Breathes there a woman in all the three worlds who would not swerve from the noble path approved by the elite, when (she happens to be) enchanted with the ravishing melodious (modulations of the) music of Your flute and (chances to be) be witched by gazing of Your form, the most charming in all the (three) worlds, even a glance which sends a thrill of joy through cows, birds, trees and beasts.

41. It is certain that your honour has specially incarnated for dispelling the fear and afflictions of Gokula even as the First Divine Person—god Viṣṇu—did as the Protector of the Celestial Region. Therefore, Oh friend of the distressed, place Your lotus-hand on love-fired breasts and (aching) heads of Your maid-servants.”

Śrī Śuka continued:

42. Listening to the piteous prayer of the Gopīs, the Ruler of the Masters of Yoga laughed loudly. Although he was ever-revelling in his own self, out of mercy and grace he conferred bliss on them.[18]

43. With their countenances blooming under the gaze of their beloved Lord, the Gopīs gathered around Lord Kṛṣṇa (Acyuta) of glorious deeds, whose charming smiles radiated the splendour of his jasmine-like teeth. And he looked like the full moon surrounded by stars.

44. Being praised in songs (by the Gopīs) and himself bursting into a loud song, Lord Kṛṣṇa, adorned with the Vayayantī wreath and leading a bevy of hundreds of beautiful damsels, wandered over the forest, gracing it (with his hallowed and charming presence).

45. Surrounded by Gopīs, he entered the cool sandy bed of the river and sported with them, while pleasant gentle breezes cooled by (their contact with) the waves of the Yamunā and charged with the fragrance of water lilies (blooming by the moonlight) were blowing.

46. Exciting amorous sentiment in the beautiful damsels of Vraja by stretching out his arms, embracing them, touching their hands, locks of hair, thighs, waists, bosom, by indulging in jokes and by pricking them gently with his nails, by his sportive glances and smiles, Kṛṣṇa gave delight to Gopīs.

47. Recipients of such a high honour from the noble- souled Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Gopīs got puffed up with pride and (each one of them) regarded (herself) as superior to all other women on the earth (in beauty).

48. Perceiving their conceit at their fortune (of being associated with the Lord) and their pride (of being the most beautiful woman), Lord Kṛṣṇa disappeared then and there, for curing them of that pride and showering Grace on them.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

tā anirvacanīyāḥ sarva-kālataḥ śreṣṭha-tarāḥ paramānanda-rasamayīs tat- krīḍāyogyā iṭyarthaḥ /

[2]:

VT. informs that the place where the rāsa play took place is known as Rāsaulī. SG. and VT. emphasize that all adjectives or adjectival phrases used in this verse show that the time, place etc. were quite proper and opportune for love-making.

VB.—The moon is the presiding deity of the mind and he naturally emulates whatever arose in Kṛṣṇa’s mind, carṣaṇī—Faculties. These were concentrated in highest bliss.

[3]:

anaṅga-vardhana [vardhanam]—The usual translation following annotators will be “Increasing the feeling of love of Gopīs for Kṛṣṇa is not complimentary to Gopīs or Kṛṣṇa. The word anaṅga—means ‘bodiless’. The Gopīs were so much engrossed in Kṛṣṇa’s devotion that they practically forgot themselves. This forgetfulness about their person was so much enhanced by listening to the flute-call that they left their work then and there and ran to him. Even an exponent of madhurā bhakti like SG., warns that the word anaṅga is not used in a vulgar sense : grāmya-dharma- hetu-prākṛta-kāmāṃśābhāva-vivakṣayā.

VB understands the destruction of the gross body and the creation of a new one by the word aṇaṅga

aṅgaṃ tu nāśayatyeva ato nūtana utpannaḥ /

[4]:

This is technically known as vibhrama. SG and VT quote the famous characteristic:

vallabha-prāpti-velāyāṃ madanāveśa-sambhramāt /
vibhramo hāra-mālyādi-bhūśāsthāna-viparyayaḥ //

When the time of arrival of the Lover approaches and the mind is overwhelmed and confused with the passion of love, the wrong or disorderly way of wearing clothes and ornaments is the characteristic of Vibhrama (confusion).

[5]:

Padaratnāvalī explains that even sañcita karma (Potential karma which did not begin to give its effect) is destroyed by the knowledge and realization of God.

SG. The Gopīs lost all the bonds of hopes of participating in the rāsa by retaining their bodies (as pointed out in the Bhāgavatāmṛta). There is more intense joy in separation from a lover as it gives rise to more fervent love.

Alternately SG. explains: By their attachment (saṅgam āsaktim) to the Supreme Lord as their paramour, they, by their suffering intense agony at the unbearable separation from their dearest Lord, destroyed the inauspicious sufferings of three types (physical: elemental etc.) of the world and had enhanced the auspiciousness of the world (akṣīṇamaṅgalaḥ—akṣīṇaṃ puṣṭaṃ vṛddhiṃ gatam, jagatāṃ maṅgalam) by their bliss of the happy embrace of Lord Kṛṣṇa attained by them in their meditation, gave up the various states of mind (Bhāva).

SG concludes: Liberation (mokṣa) is attained by knowledge, attainment of the region of Vaikuṇṭha, by loving devotion of the Lord; the Lord is won over by sakhya prema (friendly affection); by intensity of love and always regarding him as the dearest Lord, leads to union with him at Vraja.

[6]:

Saṅgata—Who properly realized Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme Lord.—Padaratnāvalī

[7]:

VT. raises the point whether the Gopīs united with the Lord as a paramour (in illicit sexual relations) and ably refutes the moral charge. It is the intensity of passion of a beloved for the paramour which is implied here.

[8]:

Bhāvāratha Dīpikā correctly explains the nature of Parīkṣit’s doubt. The husbands or sons of those Gopīs were, as a matter of fact, Brahman himself. But as they had no knowledge or capacity to recognize that Brahman in them, they could not attain Liberation (Mokṣa). Similarly they did not look upon Kṛṣṇa as the Brahman but only as a Lover. Hence how could their association with him be the cause of Mokṣa?

SG. endorses the question raised above by Bhāvāratha Dīpikā but adds: To the Gopīs or devotees, Mokṣa (Liberation) is quite insignificant as they were more interested in the excellences such as superb beauty, sweetness, love etc. of the Lord. He, however, clarifies that King Parīkṣit had personally no such doubt, but it is for the knowledge of others that he asked this question.

Padaratnāvalī explains in the next verse that Liberation (Mukti) is attained by direct realization through uninterrupted devotion, but not due to Kāma (desire, sexual or otherwise). If kāma is amalgamated with Bhakti (devotion), it brings in the Grace of the Lord. But this love of the Supreme Being cannot be regarded as the paramour-beloved relation. (It seems Padaratnāvalī treats Vr. 11-13 as a unit and explains the api in v. 11 as implying this explanation.

[9]:

Vide Supra 7. 1-30.

[10]:

Bhāgavata Candrikā and Padaratnāvalī reject the notion of Mokṣa as absorption of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. Naturally Bhāgavata Candrikā interprets tanmayatām yānti as “attain similarity to Him”—tat-prakāratāṃ tat-sādharmyaṃ yānti

Padaratnāvalī states that due to cherishing Love etc. for the Lord, the souls of such persons become saturated with those very feelings even in the final stage, but they do not become identical with Hari.

harau kāmādikaṃ vidadhata upāsate te tan-mayatām yānti kāmādyātmatām āpnuvanti, na tu bhagavan-mayatām.

[11]:

All women of Vraja young and old who should have stayed at Vraja instead of coining into the forest—SG.

[12]:

SR: Noticing that all the damsels of Vraja have hastened there in an agitated state of mind, Kṛṣṇa expresses anxiety and asks.

SG.: Kṛṣṇa pretends indifference.

Subodhinī: In the following ten verses Kṛṣṇa wards off the tāmasa, rājaṣa and sāttvika categories of characters in the following order: tāmasa-cum- sāttvika, tāmasa-cum-rājasa and tāmasa-cum-tāmasa.

[13]:

By serving the cause pious ladies like you, I shall attain special merit—SG.

[14]:

SG. explains the double entendre thus:

This full-moon-night is delightful to people (janān rañjayatī ti rajanī). (Due to absence of darkness) it is quiet and beautiful in appearance (aghora-rūpa). It is inhabited (and visited) by beautiful creatures (a-ghora-sattva-niṣevitā) like deer and peacocks (which awaken erotic sentiment), or it is being enjoyed by a person like me who am quiescent and pleasant by nature (aghoraṃ sukhadaṃ śāntam svabhāvaḥ yasya tena mayā ṇiṣevitā) Therefore, please do not go back to Vraja (pratiyāta vrajaṃ na). As you are beautiful women, you please stay on here (ihāstheyam).

Siddhāntapradīpa: As you have by chance come here, please return. It is night time, it is not desirable that women should stay with me now.

[15]:

KD. explains that just as a coin of the highest denomination contains within it the coins of lower denomination (e.g. a rupee consists of one hundred paise. When you possess a rupee you have with you one hundred paise, similarly) when you, who are the soul of all creatures, are served well, other beings like husbands, sons etc. are automatically served properly. You form the basis of our desired objects as well as their accomplishments. This being the case, enough of your precepts of dharma—29.455—471.

[16]:

SG. clarifies that the fire of passion set ablaze is so intense and enormous that it requires a flood and not sprinkling of the nectar-drops for extinguishing it.

(ii) SG.’s second interpretation: Let the nectarine flood of your lips be crystallized into words and let it enter our ears and put out the fire of passion enkindled in our hearts.

[17]:

Or which condescend to give (occasional) opportunity of touching the goddess Lakṣmī.

[18]:

Subodhinī emphasizes the aloofness of Lord Kṛṣṇa who Himself being immersed in His own spiritual bliss, proceeded to delight the Gopīs (with no personal involvement).

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