The purpose of this exercise is just to see what fundamental similarities and differences can be drawn between the Chandi Das version and that of Rupa and Raghunath. I am assuming that much of what will be said about DKC will also apply to Dana-keli-kaumudi, but I am leaving that for last. Actually, I did an annotated translation of DKK some time ago, but I want to go through Surendranath Shastri’s commentary and also type it out for the Grantha Mandir for the benefit of future generations.
Actually the Bharati Research Institute (Indore) edition (1976), which was edited by the abovementioned S.N. Shastri, is a good addition to the work that has been done on DKK and has many worthwhile ideas in both the introduction and the commentary.
I also picked up another book on DKK by a Dr. Jayasree Mitra, published the Sanskrit Book Depot (Kolkata, 2003). Frankly, this book is a disappointing jumble and totally unreadable, but somehow it got published, probably on the author's own dime. I suspect that this is her thesis, in which case, heaven help the Indian university system. I will go through it for any kernels of value, but at first glance those are few and far between and barely worth the effort. I don’t recommend that anyone spend the 150 Rs. that this book costs.
I will return to Chandidas later. I have to compile my notes on the dana-lila in SKK, and I have found out that I have another, different annotated edition of SKK edited by Amitrasudan Bhattacharya (De’s Publishing, Kolkata, 2003), which has a different introduction, etc., for the Bangla Sahitya Samsad edition, so I will go through that before I publish the next article on Chandidas’s Dana-khanda.
I also have another book here in Montreal called Gopala-vijaya (ed. Durgesh Chandra Bandyopadhyaya, Shanti Niketan: Vishwa Bharati, 1966), which has a dana-lila in it. I will discuss that on another occasion as it is also very interesting.
The dana-lila and other original lilas found in Chandidas are not in either Maladhar Bosu’s Sri Krishna Vijaya, nor in Raghunatha Bhagavatacharya’s Krishna-prema-tarangini, both of which faithfully follow the Bhagavata Purana. Gopala-vijaya was written after those two books by Devakinandan Kavishekhara, son of Chaturbhuja (the probable author of Hari-charitam, a Sanskrit work on Krishna’s life). The critical edition is based on 8 manuscripts, which is a pretty good number, considering that SKK itself is based on the single MS ever discovered. It indicates a sustained popularity over time.
Devakinandan lived in the same general area (a village near Ramkeli) as Rupa and Sanatan, and was a contemporary of Sri Jiva. It would seem a safe bet that Jiva himself would have been familiar with this work. This indicates that there was already a strong Krishna-bhakti tradition in the area even prior to Mahaprabhu’s coming.
Devakinandan has also based his book primarily on the Vraja lilas of Krishna in the Bhagavatam. (Sri Krishna Vijaya does the whole 10th Canto, Prema-tarangini does primarily the 10th, but briefly covers the main parts of each of the other cantos as well. Devakinandan however also adds some of the elements of SKK, for which he actually apologizes in his introduction. Anyway, we will have more about that later.
Radha-premamrita is one more source that I may already have mentioned. It is a Sanskrit work primarily based on themes found in SKK, but adding a bit of Sanskrit poetic sensibility. It is very sparse and barely developed, certainly barely anything of the post-Chaitanya mood is there, though there is something that can be seen as intermediate between Chandidas and the Goswamis.
Three of its verses are quoted in Padyavali, but these are related to nauka-khanda. (There are no dana-lila verses in the Padyavali.) RP has only 16 verses on the theme, and in fact many of them kind of stray into another subject. The following verse shows a kind of typical dana theme as found there.
lAvaNya-ratna-paripUrNam idaM vibhAti |
tasyopari sphurati mauktika-hAra-yaSTir
nAlokase kim iti ratna-mayaM sharIram ||9||
O Radhe, in your heart, you have these two golden pitchers which seem to be full of jewels of radiance. And on top of that are all these strings of pearls. Don't you recognize that your entire body is made of valuable jewels?
This is when Radha says to the customs man, "I have nothing to declare." Anyway, there is some glorification of Radha in RPA.
So here are some salient points from DKC, in no particular order:
(1) The buildup is more controlled in Dana-keli-cintamani when compared to Chandidas. In other words, the purva-raga element in Chandidas is almost nil. In DKC, though purva-raga is not relevant, there is still an introductory portion in which Radha sees Krishna, Krishna sees Radha. This first encounter is portrayed with elaborate alankarika figures of speech, like sandeha, where Radha asks, “Is this a cloud? No, it cannot be, because...”, etc. The gopis or gopas might tease Radha or Krishna about their feelings, etc.
(2) There is much less back and forth, less repetition. In Chandidas, the same themes are repeated over and over again as Krishna makes his proposition, Radha responds, etc. In DKC, many of the very same themes appear, e.g. the threats to tell Kamsa (146), Yashoda (90) or Abhimanyu (108, 143). But these are only briefly mentioned, usually in a single verse, and not elaborated on.
(3) The theme of what taxes should cover what beauteous features is only briefly developed in one or two songs in SKK. In DKC, these take up a substantial portion of the work (verses 49-84). Then Krishna does the same with several of the sakhis (92-98).
(4) In SKK, Kamsa is mentioned several times. But only once in DKC. In DKC, an important role is given to Madana-raja, Smara-nripati, “King Cupid,” who is mentioned several times. (verses 26, 32, 37-38 105, 125-126, 137, 139, 147, 148). The most significant verses state that Krishna is non-different from him (his own claim, tad-advitiyah). Indeed, this theme is important enough to be investigated.
In particular the two following verses (147-148) are noteworthy. Madhumangala says:
vimathya dara-lIlayA sphurati yo’tra goShThAntare
sa eSha tava kaMsataH sakhi bibheti kiM me sakhA ||
147. “O sakhi! Krishna is an emperor
not different in body from the king Cupid,
manifest here in the pasturing grounds.
He playfully crushed Keshi and others,
friends of the cruel king, dearer to him than life.
Do you think my friend is afraid of your Kamsa?
sa eva laghu-manmathaH param amuShya kaMso vashaH |
ato’sya lipim ankitaM sapadi tatra nItvA dadan
nripAt kaTakam Anayan pati-kulAni badhnAmi vaH ||
148. You see, my friend Krishna is the great mind-churner,
and the small mind-churner is his satrap,
by whom this King Kamsa is easily subdued.
So I am immediately going to Kamsa,
taking a signed letter from Krishna,
and then, bringing chains from him,
I will bind your husbands and families.
(5) In DKK, Radha and gopis are much stronger (e.g. 104). The theme, familiar to Gaudiya Vaishnavas, that Radha is the queen of Vrindavan and is better than Krishna (112), which is in the concluding portion of the DKK also, plays large. In fact, this is really the key to understanding the difference between the two sets of works. In Chandidas, Radha is weak and helpless. Here she is not only strong and a queen, but is worshipable.
Raghunath Das cannot resist glorifying Radha’s name, which is almost unthinkable in SKK, where Radha is bullied and overwhelmed, and ultimately succumbs helplessly, not in control or in full freedom.
rAdheti prathitaM samastajagatIromAJNchasaJNchArakam |
tasyAmUlyatarasya dAnam aparaM yogyaM kvachit kiM bhavet
tasmAdujjvalakeliratnam atulaM rAdhe mamAdhIyatAm ||
79. This name, the most auspicious mantra
that vibrates everywhere here in Vraja
and is dearer than the nectar of the gods,
these two syllables, Ra-dha,
that send a thrill around the world.
So priceless is this wealth that it
is impossible to find a way to tax it,
so therefore, Radhe, you must give me
the unequalled jewel of your effulgent lovemaking.
The main thing really seems to be Radha's supremacy. The kidding and joking and flirting is all centered around, "We know who's boss."
In Chandidas, Krishna is crazy with desire for Radha, but she doesn't have any control. She has no sense of being in control of his desire and over him. At least not in the dana-lila chapter. I will have to go through the whole book to really see whether the mood changes later, but I don't think so.
But like verse 112. Tungavidya gets on Chitra's case for wanting to run away:
tasyAH pracaNDa-sacivA lalitA ca shUrA
baddhvA nayAmi madhumangala-bhaNDa-vipram
Radha is always victorious, for she is
the overarching monarch of the cowherd community.
Her ferocious chief minister is the valorous Lalita.
Just watch me: today for taxes due
for damages done by the cows to the forest,
I am going to imprison
this buffoon of a brahmin, Madhumangala.
(6) There are more characters, both among Krishna’s and Radha’s entourage. This means that Radha only has to do very little of her own defending. Lalita and the others truly are the extensions of her personality. Radhe needs, deserves and gets protection.
At one point I was thinking that Lalita could be said to correspond to the Borai Buri in Chandi Das. If you look at the SKK and Gita Govinda, Radha is practically on her own. In particular, the role of the Borai is really slanted toward Krishna. And though there are sakhis, they seem to play no significant role.
The sakhi in Gita-Govinda is the "third" person. In all the other earlier versions of Krishna lila, there are other nayikas (as in GG) and sakhis, but they are shadow figures. Even the go-between sakhi in GG has only a shadowy role. The Borai in Chandidas is more significant, since she has some personality, but not really all that agreeable or friendly to Radha. At the very least, it is somewhat ambiguous.
In verse 86 of DKC, Radha blames Lalita for getting her into the trouble with Krishna, which is similar to the way Radha blames Borai (with justification).
sandUSitena nitarAM sakhi tena tena |
itthaM mad-uktam api naiva nishamya garvAd
AnIya mAm iha dadau lalitA kare’sya ||86||
I told Lalita, "I am not going.In this respect, Lalita is similar to Borai. But as we saw, Borai Buri’s role in Chandi Das is very ambivalent, and she is very strongly taking Krishna’s side. Here it is clear that Lalita's role is much stronger. See also verses 117, 118. Verse 119 is a theme typical of Chandidas, but spoken by Lalita it has more force. It is a typical threat but demonstrates how Lalita is the boss of the others.
I cannot take a path that is contaminated
by a womanizing scoundrel."
But Lalita did not listen to me
and indignantly insisted I come,
and now she has put me in the hands
of that very person.
chitrAchireNa kuTilAM jaTilAM saputrAm |
vRRindottamaM sapadi yaGYika-vipram ekam
AlokituM naTanam asya naTendra-bhartuH ||119||
Sudevi should quickly leave and bring Ma Yashoda here.
Chitra should go as soon as possible
and get that crooked Jatila along with her son.
And Vrinda Devi, go right now and bring
a first class sacrificial brahmin
so they can all to witness the play
this star is putting on.
(7) In DKC there is no Mukhara or Paurnamasi. Nandimukhi does come in to play the peacemaker, a role that no one plays in Chandidas (or Radha-premamrita).
(8) Some favorite insults: Krishna's untouchability. I will have to go through this a little more thoroughly to catalog the various kinds of insults. Same for the threats.
I think there is more, but that will have to do for now.