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Sri Krishna and His Raas Lila
Sportive Play with Radha and Gopis: the milkmaids of Vrindavan
Raas Lila forms the most enchanting and the most devotional play (Lila) of Sri Krishna. It depicts the supersensual love between milkmaids (Gopis) of Vrindavan and Sri Krishna. However, it must be remembered that child Krishna was just about ten years of age at that time. All this love for Gopis in general and Radha in particular should be seen as divine love between atman and paramatman, without any physical or carnal element. We human beings may not understand the celestial beauty and spiritual content of such love between a man and a woman, but it is not the fault of Sri Krishna or the Gopis; we must blame ourselves if we see the whole episode with impure mind, if we get feeling of attraction between flesh and flesh in this Lila.
Sri Krishna now started going to forest regularly with his cows. As the cows grazed in the loneliness of forest, Sri Krishna would play most melodious tunes on his flute. The clear skies, soft breeze, and newly blossomed tress with lush green foliage made the atmosphere pleasant, enchanting and cool. Peace, bliss, and love exuded all around. The Gopis (milkmaids of Vrindavan) were captivated by the sweet melody of Krishna's flute, unable to control their feelings towards Him. Forgetting their household duties, their children and husbands, these youthful lovers of Sri Krishna rushed to forest to have the company of their beloved. [This is known as relationship of a devotee with the attitude where the Lord is 'sweetheart'; Madhur Bhava as it is called.] Their heart and mind was occupied with the virtues of the Lord of the Universe, Paramatman Krishna. Praising the beauty and love of Sri Krishna, the Gopis were immersed in His Bhakti in its highest manifestation - para bhakti - where union of Atman with Paramatman was the goal sought. Body, mind, and thoughts vanished even while in body; transcendental joy and bliss was all that mattered. What to talk of Gopis and Radha (best amongst the Gopis), even the trees and shrubs, flowers and leaves, birds and animals all surrendered themselves to the sweet music of captivating flute. Hence, Sri Krishna is also known as 'Muralidhar' (One holding the Flute).
Evenings changed into nights, the full moon spreading its bright but pleasant light to make the night shine with gaiety and desire to unite. Sri Krishna with a peacock feather in his hair, adoring the loveliest yellow silk cloth on his beautiful celestial dark body, the flute kissing his rosy lips, and the gracious dance that he performed, all this was beyond the grasp of any mortal on the earth. The Gopis oblivious to the time of day rushed to the Tulasi (Sweet basil) Grove to meet Sri Krishna in this prime mood of Love.
Then the divine Raas Lila would to be enacted. The leader amongst the Gopis, Radha by name, the most beautiful and greatest exponent of Madhur Bhava, Love Power of Lord Krishna, losing her ordinary consciousness would start dancing in tune with Chitchor (one who has stolen the mind and heart - another name of Sri Krishna). Other Gopis would encircle this divine pair and thus would the Lila continue whole night. [It still continues night after every night in Vrindavan, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Surdas and a few more saints and Holy people have had visions of these Raas Lilas at Vrindavan in their lives).
Heavens and earth would come to standstill; gods and demigods of heaven - kinnaras, gandharvas, and yakshas - would enjoy Raas Lila peeping down from their abode in the high sky. They would fill the grove with fragrance of celestial freshness and sweetness of heavenly music, while stars and the moon would stop in their orbit in awe and joy, becoming brighter and cooler to allow Raas Lila to reach its peak of eternal bliss.
However, this supernatural delight brought feeling of superiority and pride in the hearts and minds of the Gopis. "Why, the Lord Himself is dancing with me. Has anyone else such a fortune? Others are inferior to me", so would think a Gopi. And to rectify this defect of vanity and pride, Sri Krishna would vanish for a moment! The restless Gopis would search Him here and there, running from one tree to another, from one shrub to the next, inquiring 'have you seen my Krishna? Please tell me where he has disappeared.' And when the pangs of separation would become too unbearable, the Gopis would cry and lament:
"O my friend, please arrange my meeting with Him, I cannot stay alive without Him. Where has He gone? What wrong have I done that He now no more loves me? I have given everything to Him, and now how shall I survive! My body, mind, emotions, thoughts, home and children, husband and family I have sacrificed in his favor. O my friend, bring Him to me; otherwise this life force is sure to leave from my heart. Bring Him to me or take me to Him; I shall wash His feet with tears from my eyes, I shall clean his feet with my long hair. I shall do everything and anything that might appear impossible for a human being. These pangs of separation are no more possible to tolerate, don't you feel my skin is dry and parched, burning in the separation from the Beloved! Don't you see my eyes have lost their entire luster, my breath is irregular, my mind is not steady, and my heart is pounding in fear! O friend, have you seen my Krishna!"
Such and many more songs are composed in the Vaishnava tradition of literature in India, which bring tear to every eye, which express the pang of separation as writhing of heart like a wet towel. From medieval time to this date, scores are songs are composed, ballet and dramas enacted, with wonderful description of Raas Lila. From Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, from Dwaraka in the West to Manipur in the east music is played in all Vaishnava temples with madhur bhava as the main ingredient eulogizing this 'out of the world' feat of Sri Krishna and Radha.
No one has captured the heart and mind of the masses with such fervour as Sri Krishna has. Not for nothing, He is the most adored deity in His many varied and beautiful divine forms. In his gesture of supreme love towards Radha and Radha's love for Him, Sri Krishna blessed her thus: 'O Radha, for centuries to come people would take your name first and then mine.' And thus devotees chant 'Radhe Krishna; Radhe Krishna', in ecstasy of madness; Radhe Krishna having become the Mantra for Final Liberation!
C S Shah