The Raas Lila When Kirshna Dances With the Gopis in Madhuvana
Sri Vrindavan Dhaam
21st November 1970
With love, Jai Sri Hari.
In that magical time of the year which comes with Sharad Ritu, nature is celebrated in her most glorious state. The whole earth rejoices on being cleansed. The days are enchanting and the nights intoxicating. All the elements of nature are instilled with one mood, one emotion which pervades the environs, that of ecstatic devotion or shringara bhakti.
A year back Lord Krishna had made a promise of bathing with the gopis in the flowing waters of the Yamuna on the radiant night of Sharad Poornima. Ever since, the gopis had prayed for this moment to be realized to the goddess Katyayani: they performed vratas and bathed in the icy waters in the coldest month of Hemanta.The time span seemed like ages due to the pathos of longing. Somehow summer passed, the rains were over and the long awaited days of Sharad arrived.
Krishna breathed music into his flute,the breath of love, on such a beaming joyous night of Sharad Poornima. ( A call to eternity, the sound of the flute attracts the cows and draws the gopis, the milkmaids of Vrindavana out of their homes for a romantic dalliance with Krishna.) Delighting rasiks (dedicated devotees), the dark god's amorous frolics and spirited antics fill the atmosphere.
When Krishna played the flute, the beauties could not resist the call and reached the comforting proximity of their supreme lover. The paragon of mischief, initially rebuked them, asking them to return to their respective homes. Because of their egotistical pride he vanished. Soon after, charmed by their ardent entreaties and honoured by their humility he relented, reappearing among them.
During the exquisite spectacle of the raas lila when Krishna's dances with the cowherdesses in the forests of Madhuvana, Sri Radha-Krishna sing mesmerizing the night with their ascending and descending scales. The raas padas (verses) are sung in courtyards bathed in the glimmering moonlight's cool serenity.
Krishna reveals his double identity in the maharasa; now dallying with childlike playfulness and now exhibiting divine majesty. He is very much in and of this world and yet he is above it. A mere mortal, in love with the gopis of Vrindavana but essentially divine; pulsating with earthly romance but also pointing to the spiritual aspect of romantic love.
The rapturous dance becomes an event of primordial belief linking the microcosm to the macrocosm. Imparting to the gopis the naive innocence of the bhakta, the raas makes no distinction between earthly, sensual love and spiritual ecstasy.
May this fiesta of Krishna's dalliance become the focus of our intense longing. If our ardour is sufficient and understanding complete we can acquire such great love by imagining ourselves as women, as the gopis in the rapturous dance. All men and women in the world are spiritually women and the lord alone is male, because a woman's love for her lord or husband is the only greatest possible love.
An ethereal sight! Sri Radha-Krishna in the center surrounded by delicately dancing gopis holding hands and tapping their feet in several circles. Making them reach the heights of elation and ecstasy, Krishna loves by giving in to freedom, spontaneity and intense passion.
The golden sands of the Yamuna eternally resonate with a melee of beauteous forms, expressive dance steps, tinkling anklets, mellifluous flute play amidst lotuses blooming in the waters, exotic environs and melodious musical instruments. Those who sighted the raas sang about its ineffable beauty and effulgence. Let us hear it in their own words and unite with the divine.
Nachat rasmagan Vrashbhanuja Giridharan,
Vadan chavi dekhi sudhi jati rati madan ki.
Mukut ki tharharni,peetpat farharni,
Tatathei thei karni harni sab kadan ki.
Dashan damkani, hasni lasni ang ang ki,
Adhar var arun lakhi upma ko hai.
Drig jalaj chalni dig kutil alakni jhulni
Manhun ali kulni ki panti sohai.
Such an exquisite description of the domain of passion, frolicking with joyous abandon on the ethereal banks. Those who saw the infinite glory of Priya-Priyatam dancing delightfully with their loving sakhis on the banks of the Yamuna's clean sands surrounded by nikunjas bathed in the radiant nights of Sharad Ritu were spellbound.
Endowed with the sakhi bhava, Surdas has etched a beautiful picture of the rapturous raas in his divine voice. The singers did not need to be the women of the world alone. The same fusions of delight and of desire combined within the songs of men. We can acquire such great love only imagining ourselves as sakhis and love the lord calling after him.
Noted devotees and even saints had to undergo a metamorphosis as gopis in order to have access into the celestial paradise of Vishnu. Because of the sakhi bhava, Surdas is part of this delightful rapture and a mere spectator due to his body. He sang with enthused exultation:
Nirtat Shyam nana rang.
Mukut latkani,bhrikuti matkani dhare natwar ang.
Chalni gati kati kunit kinkini ghoongru jhankar.
Mano hans rasaal bani aras paras vihar.
Lasti kar pahunchi upajay mudrika ati jyoti.
Bhav son bhuj phirat jabhin,tabhin,shobha hoti.
Kabhun nirtat nari gati par kabhun nirtat aap.
'Sur' ke prabhu rasik shiromani rachyo raas pratap.
Dark-hued Krishna,the ruler of our hearts, dances with joyous abandon. The swaying extensions of his diadem, the flowing flirtatious curls, and his form of a natwar (skilled dancer) is enchanting. When his waist wiggles with the dancing feet and the bells of his ornaments jingle;it seems as if the environs are ringing with the softly tender notes of swans.
Natwar Pritam is engrossed in various love sports with these love-lorn beauties. The armlet glitters on the soft wrist and the flute sparkles when his tender dark arms move in different dance postures. Enacting melodious emotions Krishna makes hundreds of moonbeams shimmer;outwardly expressing the grand madhurya or sweetness of that moment. At times he picks up the melodious note and the maidens break into a dance and sometimes they sing and he sashays to their pitch.
The cowherdesses seem like flashes of lightning in a black cloud, Krishna. The colour of the condensed sky; Krishna encircled looks like an immense sapphire in a circlet of gold. By assuming the form of the mandala, the gopis circumscribe a space which is sanctified and eternal. We might infer that literally the raas lila takes place in Vrindavana, and metaphorically in a space between heaven and earth. Time stands still, entranced by the dance.The cowherds are fascinated and Krishna duplicates himself through his maya so that between two gopis was found a Krishna.
Santosh,the speaker of the 'Bhagwad Gita' has blessed you with the naive innocence of a bhakta. Implore him to grant, the melody of his flute, his loving entreaties, his mystical inundations and emotionally passionate song which celebrates a love of selfless devotion. May his loving tenderness become the focus of our being. Pray that his discourse in the 'Gita' easily endorses our lifestyles and we attain his close presence.
Centering our attention upon the handsome god, may his passionately playful persona make us his love-struck devotees-his intoxicating smile pierce the core of our heart- his tapping lotus feet enchant every fiber of our being and his ardent touch fill us with frenzied madness.
Look at the amazing revelations I have dwelt upon, which only Krishna, the supreme lover, is aware of or you know because of his loving grace.
Okay, Jai Sri Hari.