from six daṇḍas of the night until midnight
(approximately 8:30 p.m. — 12:00 a.m.)
The internal symptom of devotion at the stage of perfection (sādhya-bhakti) is worship of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in a mood of separation. Śikṣāṣṭaka (7) states:
śūnyāyitaṁ jagat sarvaṁs
O sakhī, in separation from Govinda, even a moment seems like a millennium to Me. Tears pour from My eyes like torrents of rain in the monsoon season and this entire world seems void to Me.
udvege divasa nā yāya, ‘kṣana’ haila ‘yuga-sama’
varṣāra meghaprāya aśru varṣe du’ nayana
govinda-virahe śūnya haila tribhuvana
tuṣānale poḍe – yena nā yāya jīvana
Śrīman Mahāprabhu is absorbed in Śrī Rādhā’s feelings of intense separation from Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He says, “Sakhī, in My distress without Śrī Nanda-nandana My days stand still. Each and every moment seems like an entire millennium. Tears flow incessantly from My eyes, like torrents of rain from the clouds. I cannot tolerate separation from Govinda anymore. The entire universe appears void and My body constantly burns in the fire of separation from Him. It is as if My limbs have been placed in a fire of burning husks.1 But still, My life air does not leave Me. What shall I do now?”
Both pūrva-rāga (attachment prior to meeting one’s beloved) and pravāsa (separation by distance) are favourable to bhajana in the mood of separation. Rati (attachment) that is filled with eagerness and which exists prior to meeting is called pūrva-rāga. When the gopīs, who are deeply attached to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, hear the glories of His form, qualities and so forth, many types of sentiments are stimulated in their hearts and an astonishing impatience (vyagratā) arises that is impossible to describe. Those learned in the rasa-śāstras call this impatience pūrva-rāga. In this state of pūrva-rāga, various sañcāri-bhāvas arise, such as longing (lālasā), anxiety (udvega) and sleeplessness (jāgaraṇa). Texts 2–6, taken from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, describe the pūrva-rāga of the gopīs.
The gopīs praise the flute, which drinks the nectar of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lips. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.9) states:
gopyaḥ kim ācarad ayaṁ kuśalaṁ sma veṇur
dāmodarādhara-sudhām api gopikānām
bhuṅkte svayaṁ yad avaśiṣṭa-rasaṁ hradinyo
hṛṣyat-tvaco ’śru mumucus taravo yathāryāḥ
What pious activities has this flute performed to relish the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s lips, which is meant for us gopīs? He is drinking all the rasa and not even leaving us one drop. Sakhī, upon seeing the good fortune of the veṇu, the Yamunā, Mānasī-gaṅgā, and other rivers and ponds manifest the ecstatic symptom of horripilation in the form of blossoming lotuses and other flowers. The trees shed tears of love, delighted to have such a descendant in their dynasty, just as noble persons are delighted that a Vaiṣṇava has taken birth in their family.
ohe sakhi! kivā tapa kaila kṛṣṇa-veṇu
gopī prāpya mukhāmṛta piye punaḥ punaḥ
avaśeṣa-jala deya taru aśru-chale
sādhu-putra-prāptye yena pitṛ-aśru gale
One gopī says to another, “O sakhī, I do not know what kind of highly pious activities this veṇu, a dry piece of wood, has performed to profusely and independently relish the nectar of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lips, which is meant to be enjoyed only by us gopīs. He does not leave even a drop of this nectar for us. Seeing the good fortune of this veṇu, Mānasī-gaṅgā and other ponds secretly display their ecstasy through their blossoming lotus flowers. When family elders see that one of their descendents is filled with love for Bhagavān, they shed tears of joy. Similarly, since the trees have a relationship with the veṇu, they emit streams of honey, as if shedding tears of bliss.”
Now the vraja-ramaṇīs, already eager to meet with Kṛṣṇa, become even more restless. A vision of the sweetness of Kṛṣṇa’s beauty appears in their hearts, and in this vision, they see the veṇu on His lips. The gopīs reflect on the flute’s rare good fortune. “O sakhī, this veṇu always relishes the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s association, so there is no doubt about his extreme fortune. But he has now become so proud and arrogant that we find it intolerable. The nectar of Dāmodara’s lips is meant for the pleasure of the gopikās, but the veṇu considers it his. Dāmodara was born in the gopa dynasty and so were we. From childhood we shared deep love for each other. He is our priyatama, so we alone have full rights to the nectar of His lips. But this impudent and shameless veṇu is depriving us of our birthright, and he drinks the nectar of Dāmodara’s lips just as he pleases. We have taken birth in the dynasty of gopas, but we are deprived of the nectar of Gopendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lips. Yet the veṇu, who has taken birth in the dynasty of inert trees, constantly drinks that nectar. By doing so, he challenges us in a manly way.
“The day Yasodā-maiyā bound Kṛṣṇa with rope, He became famous as Dāmodara, and that very same day we gopikās began our loving relationships with Him. No one in Vraja knew anything about the veṇu then. It was when Kṛṣṇa started taking the cows out to graze that the veṇu’s relationship with Him began. By this meagre relationship, the veṇu became the complete heir to the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s lips. Even though we gopikās have loved Kṛṣṇa since childhood, we remain deprived of this right. Therefore, I say, O sakhī, birth as a veṇu is higher and more blessed than birth as a gopī.
“Seeing the great fortune of the veṇu, the trees, unable to contain themselves, become covered with fruits and flowers and ooze honey. It is as if they become ecstatic and their hair stands on end upon seeing the supreme good fortune of their own child, and they shed tears of love due to pride. And why not? The veṇu is made of bamboo, and bamboo is considered to be in the family of trees. Bamboo is nourished by the water of rivers and ponds, so for the bamboo, this water is actually milk, and the rivers and ponds are the bamboo’s mothers. Seeing the rare good fortune of their son, these mothers, such as the Yamunā, Mānasī-gaṅgā, Pāvana-sarovara, Māna-sarovara and Kusuma-sarovara, sometimes laugh by displaying blossoming flowers. Sometimes, in their great rapture, they express their joy through their undulating waves, and at other times they shed tears of happiness.”
In this way the gopīs, endowed with mahābhāva, deliberate upon the veṇu’s great fortune and on their own misfortune, and they display envy (asūyā) and other sañcāri-bhāvas. They say, “In his previous life, this veṇu must have performed some severe austerity or pious activity. If we knew what it was, we would do the same and also attain such rare good fortune. Paurṇamāsī is a perfected ascetic who knows past, present and future. Let us go and ask her! By acting according to her instruction, we will attain that rare good fortune.”
According to Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, this verse is spoken by Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī Herself, as She reveals Her bhāvas to Her dear Lalitā Sakhī. Upon analysing the various statements and indications in this śloka, it is apparent that this prema is on the level of adhirūḍha-mahābhāva.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.11) describes the good fortune of the does and their husbands when they hear the sound of the flute:
dhanyāḥ sma mūḍha-gatayo ’pi hariṇya etā
yā nanda-nandanam upātta-vicitra-veśam
ākarṇya veṇu-raṇitaṁ saha-kṛṣṇa-sārāḥ
pūjāṁ dadhur viracitāṁ praṇayāvalokaiḥ
O sakhī, when Nanda-nandana Śyāmasundara, wearing beautiful, multi-coloured attire, vibrates a sweet melody on His flute, even the does, who are foolish due to having taken birth from the wombs of ignorant animals, run towards Him along with their husbands and gaze upon Him with love-laden eyes. They are not merely gazing, sakhī, but they are worshipping Him with crooked sidelong glances from their large lotus-like eyes, and He is accepting their worship with His own loving sidelong glance. The lives of these deer are truly blessed. Sakhī, although we are gopīs of Vṛndāvana, we are unable to offer ourselves like this because our family members harass us. How ironic!
kṛṣṇa-citra-veśa svīya cakṣete heriyā
tāṅhāra vāṁśarī-dhvani karṇete śuniyā
pūjāra vidhāna kaila praṇaya-nayane
kṛṣṇa-sāra-saha āja dhanya mṛgī-gaṇe
The vraja-ramaṇīs are always restless to meet with Kṛṣṇa. This restlessness is due to their inability to be satisfied, which is a natural characteristic of their prema. They are also unable to steady their minds in any way. They consider anyone who has even the slightest relationship with Kṛṣṇa to be extremely fortunate. While sitting in their homes, the gopīs hear the flute-song of Govinda, who steals the hearts of all beings in Vṛndāvana, and they become completely submerged in prema-rasa. With eyes of bhāva, they see the does in the forest not only abandon grazing when they hear the sound of the veṇu, but abandon caring for their offspring and everything else as well. These does dash towards Kṛṣṇa with great speed, stopping so close to Him that He can touch them with His hands.
The gopīs express their moods in a concealed way (avahittha-bhāva). One says, “O sakhī, just see the affection that these does, from the animal kingdom, have for Kṛṣṇa. Indeed they are blessed! We, on the other hand, who have taken birth as human beings, are deprived of taking such darśana and performing such sevā, which are a human being’s right. This is the frustration of our lives.”
In autumn Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa, beautifully decorated in marvellous attire suitable for roaming in the forest, enters Vṛndāvana to herd the cows and blissfully plays enchanting notes on His flute. At that time, the does become content by seeing the sweet form of Śyāmasundara, who steals the hearts of everyone in the universe, and by hearing the sound of His flute. One sakhī begins to speak, saying, “When the does hear the sound of prāṇanātha Śyāmasundara’s flute, they become senseless and proceed towards Him, staggering and stumbling. At that time, their husbands, the kṛṣṇa-sāra deer, follow behind them, accepting the guidance of their wives. In this way, no obstacle prevents the does from meeting with Kṛṣṇa.” Kṛṣṇa-sāra means that Kṛṣṇa alone is the essence of their lives.
Hearing this, another sakhī says, “O friend, this is really true! Where is our such fortune? We are females and the wives of other men, so we cannot abandon the fear of public opinion. When Śyāmasundara goes cowherding on the path that runs by our homes, we can only get darśana of Him through the holes in the latticed windows. For this only, our family members abuse us and create obstacles for us. Our husbands are also disapproving. Birth as a deer is more fruitful than birth as a human.”
The vraja-devīs’ longing to meet with Kṛṣṇa increases more and more. Eagerness (utkaṇṭhā) and longing (lālasā) to meet Kṛṣṇa are very helpful for a sādhaka.
Praṇayāvalokaiḥ pūjāṁ dadhau means that the does lovingly look upon Kṛṣṇa with their very beautiful eyes, which serve as lamps to perform ārati to Him. Kṛṣṇa reciprocates by accepting their worship.
In Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī defines praṇaya as the state in which the hearts of both the hero (nāyaka) and heroine (nāyikā) become one. The hearts of the does are one with Kṛṣṇa’s heart, and therefore the gopīs have used the word praṇayāvalokaiḥ. With these glances, the does offer their bhāvas as flowers and other articles to worship Kṛṣṇa. In this Text, the sweetness of the vraja-devīs’ paramour love is expressed through metaphors.
Hearing the sound of the veṇu, all the rivers stop flowing and worship Kṛṣṇa’s feet with lotus flowers. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.15) states:
nadyas tadā tad upadhārya mukunda-gītam
āliṅgana-sthagitam ūrmi-bhujair murārer
gṛhnanti pāda-yugalaṁ kamalopahārāḥ
Hearing the song of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s veṇu, the Yamunā, Mānasī-gaṅgā and other rivers have become deluded by lust (kāma). Their hearts’ desires for love cause many whirlpools to surface and they stop flowing. Bringing lotuses as gifts with their arm-like waves, they embrace Madana-mohana and place His lotus feet on their breasts.
āhā! nadī kṛṣṇa-gīta śravaṇa kariyā
śroto-vega phirāila mohita haiyā
urmi-chale kṛṣṇa-pada āliṅgana kaila
o pada-yugale padma upahāra dila
Hearing the sweet sound of Kṛṣṇa’s veṇu, the vraja-devīs, who are attached to Kṛṣṇa with profound love (kṛṣṇa-anurāgiṇī), have become overwhelmed with prema. They started speaking with sakhīs from their own groups about the effects of the sound of the flute (veṇu-nāda) and other such topics. With metaphors, they describe how lifeless rivers exhibit transformations of love upon hearing the sweet sound of Kṛṣṇa’s veṇu. Although it is not possible for rivers to experience any feeling, the vraja-ramaṇīs, who are endowed with mahābhāva and controlled by its astonishing nature, do not consider whether a being is sentient or insentient, and they ascribe their own respective bhāvas everywhere they look. Whatever mood and relationship an uttama-adhikārī devotee has with his worshipful deity (iṣṭadeva), Śrī Bhagavān, that same mood and relationship is seen by him to exist in all living entities. This is described in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 8.273–4):
mahā-bhāgavata dekhe sthāvara-jaṅgama
tāhāṅ tāhāṅ haya tāṅra śrī-kṛṣṇa-sphuraṇa
sthāvara-jaṅgama dekhe, nā dekhe tāra mūrti
sarvatra haya nija iṣṭa-deva-sphūrti
While roaming in the charming Vṛndāvana forest, Nanda-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa arrives at the banks of the Yamunā or Mānasī-gaṅgā, where he hears the sweet murmur of water, sees the beautiful lotus flowers floating on high waves, hears the sounds of cuckoo birds on the river banks, and is pleasantly touched by a gentle, fragrant breeze. Overwhelmed with immense elation, He plays a sweet melody on His muralī. Upon hearing it, the river stops flowing, and on the still waters of her breast, unlimited whirlpools appear. Gradually the water of the river rises to the height of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s chest. The repeated crashing of waves causes the lotus flowers to break from their stems and present themselves at Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.
Upon seeing these whirlpools in the rivers, the gopīs are unable to conceal their own bhāvas. One says, “O sakhī, hearing our prāṇakānta’s flute-song, this river is affected by lust (kāma) and has become senseless. His face is all-pleasing. It is radiant, fragrant, soft, sweet and attractive to the heart, like a kunda flower. This is why He is called Mukunda. With His soft, delicate lotus face, He relishes kissing, the biting of lips and other transcendental mellows of union. When these mellows are relished, all kinds of obligations are cut and, due to an increase in kāma, He observes with an agitated heart the gopīs’ lotus-navels, which look like whirpools.”
Another vraja-devī says, “When the rivers see Mukunda’s sweet beauty and hear the ascending and descending waves of sound from His veṇu, both of which enchant the whole universe, their hearts become afflicted with kāma. Now they have reversed their flow with great force, and instead of moving towards their husband, the ocean, they flow towards Kṛṣṇa. Their arm-like waves rise up higher and embrace Murāri’s chest.”
There is a reason why the gopīs call Kṛṣṇa “Murāri”. They say, “We have taken shelter of Śrī Nanda-nandana, who has all the qualities of Nārāyaṇa, the destroyer of the Mura demon. It is very sad, however, that we are always tormented by kāma, or Cupid. Although the killer of Mura is aware of this, He makes no arrangement to punish māra, or kāma (lust). Śrī Nārāyaṇa has become famous as Murāri by killing the demon Mura, thus making the demigods fearless. In the same way, if Kṛṣṇa destroys māra, He will become famous as Murāri and will be recognised as having the same qualities as Nārāyaṇa, otherwise not. With māra destroyed, we vraja-ramaṇīs will also breathe a sigh of relief.”
Āliṅgana-sthagita – The waves of the rivers move closer and closer to Kṛṣṇa’s chest and upon reaching it, they fall to ripple at His lotus feet. Seeing this, the gopīs, whose hearts are filled with loving attachment for Kṛṣṇa, say, “O sakhī! Look, look! At first these anurāgī rivers were trying to bind Śyāmasundara in the bond of their embrace, but seeing His indifference, they have become ashamed. They have stopped trying to embrace Him and are again offering lotus flowers at His feet with their arm-like waves.”
Upon observing the behaviour of the Yamunā and other rivers, the vraja-ramaṇīs express various bhāvas. Seeing how the moods of Śrī Yamunā and Mānasī-gaṅgā are one with those of the gopa-ramaṇīs is an unprecedented darśana.
Giri-Govardhana becomes blissful by the touch of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s and Śrī Balarāma’s lotus feet, and he worships them with various articles. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.21.18) states:
hantāyam adrir abalā hari-dāsa-varyo
mānaṁ tanoti saha-go-gaṇayos tayor yat
O sakhīs, this mountain, Govardhana, is the crown jewel of Hari’s servants. Blessed is his fortune! By the touch of the lotus feet of our prāṇa-vallabha Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva Prabhu, who is most pleasing to the eyes, Govardhana is blossoming with delight and supplying crystal-clear water, soft grass, wonderful caves and varieties of roots. By thus serving Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, who are surrounded by the cowherd boys and cows, he highly honours them.
haridāsa-varya ei giri-govardhana
rāma-kṛṣṇa pada-sparśe sukhe acetana
sakhā-dhenu-saha kṛṣṇe ātithya karila
The vraja-devīs, who are the embodiments of mahābhāva, say, “If anyone can be said to be the topmost devotee, it must be Girirāja. In a variety of ways he serves our prāṇa-vallabha and the cowherd boys and cows who accompany Him. We do not have the strength of kṛṣṇa-prema, and therefore we are weak (abalā). This Girirāja, however, is the proprietor of kṛṣṇa-prema. Let us go, sakhī. We should bathe in Mānasī-gaṅgā, do parikramā of Girirāja, take darśana of his presiding deity, Śrī Harideva, and worship him. Then the desires we have long held in our hearts will be fulfilled. Even though attainment of the wealth of prema is extremely rare, Girirāja will give some of it to us. O sister, we want to touch priyatama Śyāmasundara’s chin and talk to Him. It is so frustrating that we are unable to talk with Him, what to speak of render direct service to Him.
“Just look! Girirāja becomes ecstatic by the touch of Kṛṣṇa’s limbs as Kṛṣṇa climbs upon his body, and one can easily see his ecstatic sentiments, such as tears, horripilation and perspiration. The appearance of grass is horripilation, the humidity is his perspiration and the waterfalls are his tears. Moreover, Kṛṣṇa also receives pleasure by sporting on Govardhana’s body and performing pastimes there. Having seen all this, we do not have even the slightest doubt that Girirāja-Govardhana is haridāsa-varya, the topmost servant of Śrī Hari.’’
That servant who delights Śrī Hari with his service, and who receives the greatest happiness by rendering that service to Him, is topmost among Śrī Hari’s servants. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, three great personalities are called haridāsa: Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira, Śrī Uddhava and Śrī Girirāja-Govardhana. Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira accepts Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is the Supreme Absolute Truth and fully independent, as his intimate friend, and he serves Him lovingly in the mood of a servant (dāsya), a friend (sakhya) and a parent (vātsalya).
Śrī Uddhava, the second haridāsa, became Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s messenger and went to Vraja to console Kṛṣṇa’s parents as well as the vraja-ramaṇīs and other Vrajavāsīs. Upon seeing the symptoms of the gopīs’ high class of prema, Śrī Uddhava became astonished. He not only realised the glories of the gopīs’ foot-dust, he also expressed a desire to take birth in Vraja as grass, a shrub or a herb. He fulfilled this desire at the most magnanimous Girirāja-Govardhana, by taking birth in Girirāja’s lap near Kusuma-sarovara as a blade of grass, but still he was unable to serve the Vrajavāsīs as Girirāja does.
Girirāja is haridāsa-varya, the topmost servant of Hari. Why? Because he fulfils all the needs of Kṛṣṇa and the Vrajavāsīs. He serves Kṛṣṇa and His companions, the cowherd boys and cows, with his body, mind, wealth and very life, sacrificing everything to satisfy all of their inner hearts’ desires. He offers them the pure, cool, sweet drinking water of Mānasī-gaṅgā and other sarovaras, very tasteful fruits and roots to eat, varieties of flowers and red minerals for decoration, jewelled seats and beds, precious stones to use for lamps and mirrors, and well-adorned caves and kuñjas for resting and playing. And he offers nutritious grass and plants to the cows. Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His beloveds relish very confidential pastimes in the beautifully decorated groves and caves of Girirāja, who is expert in performing the topmost service in śṛṅgāra-rasa. Because Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s confidential nikuñja-līlās take place inside and upon his body, so as to not disturb these confidential pastimes he has permanently assumed the stationary form of stone.
In this way, the gopīs lavishly praise Girirāja-Govardhana upon seeing the many kinds of services he renders to Kṛṣṇa.