Friday, July 17, 2009

Gopala-vijaya V: Aiana, the Cuckold


Aiana or Abhimanyu is an interesting character, playing a necessary role in this Radha-Krishna drama. According to the Bhagavatam, the husbands of the gopis are all bewildered by Yogamaya and do not even know that the gopis have left their sides--and this even after the gopis ran off, some leaving their husbands waiting for dal to go on their rice, some proffering a deaf ear to their husbands' entreaties.

I got to thinking about Aiana a little more when encountering his personality in GPVJ, where he is something of a more substantial character than in SKK, though still a background or shadow figure nevertheless. Indeed, of Jung's archetype, the Shadow seems the best fit for Abhimanyu.

We have already seen that in GPVJ, Aiana has a position of some importance with the cowherds: He advises Nanda Maharaj with regards to the move to Vrindavan from Gokula; he is the only name amongst the other cowherds when Barai urges the resumption of women going to market. So we have a substantial member of the community, a minister and advisor to Nanda Maharaj.

When Barai Buri gets on Krishna's case for wanting to link up with Radha, she refers to Aiana as senior to Krishna, a guru.

ebe guru-nārī-jana haribāre kaila mana
nāhi cāḍo mukhera caturāi
āpanāra apamāne āpana nā thāko kene
kena āra jhāṁkaho baḍāi
Now you have decided to make off with the wife of a man who is your respectable senior. You don't stop trying to say clever things to convince me. Why don't you consider the ill effects this will have on your reputation and why do you go on glorifying yourself? (32.9)

But often it is said that Aiana has some special standing with Kamsa. Barai says jāhāra vacana kaṁsa pelite nā pare-- "Even Kamsa cannot ignore his statements." (31.40). He is a powerful man (vīra) and widely respected (jagate pūjita) (31.39).

In Vidagdha-mādhava, Govardhana and Abhimanyu are both described as willing to deal with Kamsa to protect their wives against Krishna's predations. As a matter of fact, Rupa Goswami gives a direct role to him, and allows him to be directly fooled by Krishna and the gopis; this we note here, but shan't go into detail as it is somewhat outside the scope of this discussion.

GPVJ does not speak of Aiana as a eunuch, which is a recurring theme in other texts, found specifically in SKK and elsewhere, such as in BVP. Rupa Goswami also says that the gopis' husbands never touched them.

māyā-kalita-tādṛk-strī-śīlanenānasūyabhiḥ
na jātu vraja-devīnāṁ patibhiḥ saha sangamaḥ
The marriages and relations of the cowherd men were all arranged by Maya and thus they were never envious of Krishna. In fact, the goddesses of Vraja never had sexual relations with their [so-called] husbands. (UN 3.32)
Taking all these clues, we can fill out a composite of Aiana's personality, and what we get is the laughable caricature of the archetypal cuckold. In the narration, it is a necessary device that creates sympathy for Radharani and makes her stepping out him forgiveable. It makes him a joke, like all cuckolds in literature throughout history, and only sometimes can you find a bare space for pity. Basically, in the romantic comedy, you can keep unloading as much negativity on him as you like.

In the Vaishnava literature, Abhimanyu is greedy; his only interest (and that of his indulgent and rather unpleasant mother) is increasing his wealth. In GPVJ, he seems to be more interested in social stature and power, but the sum and substance is the same: He is someone who is more interested in worldly affairs than in his wife, whom he neglects.

In GPVJ, this has already deteriorated to a situation of nuptial emptiness. :

hena rūpe janamiā goālāra kule
tore svāmī kari dila bhāṇḍuā goāle
murūkhera ṭhāi guṇa adhika āśoāthe
mālatī paḍila jena bānarera hāthe
Such a beauty has taken birth amongst the cowherds, but your parents gave you in marriage to a buffoon cowherd. Fools cannot recognize true virtue; it is like a beautiful flower falling into the hands of a monkey.
In a somewhat ambivalent statement, Radha's sakhi tells Krishna

ghṛnāe āiana bīre kāca nāhi jāe
se rādhikā kona guṇe bhajiba tohmāe
kāca kāñcane kabhoṁ nā hae milana
neāli daḍite nahe mukuṭa gāthana
Radha does not go near Aiana (such a highly qualified person!) out of disgust, so what makes you think that she will be attracted to you? Glass does not belong with gold, nor does one string pearls on rough hemp rope. (31.45-46)
Here, on the one hand, the sakhi is apparently attempting to ward Krishna off by emphasizing Radha's purity and disinterest in sex, while at the same hinting at the disgust she has for her husband.

So the composite is the picture of a marriage where there is no love: the husband is preoccupied with worldly wealth and ambition, and he has attained considerable success, but is unappealing romantically, neglectful and even impotent. And this is without even speaking of the dreadful family situation.

niḥśvāsa chāḍite bāṭa nāhi mora ghare
michā kāje bharachae nānā parakāre
gṛha-pati duramati sadāi chidra cāhe
vicārite tirie puruṣe nāhi jāe
deora nanada eko jana nahe bhālo
chitusa cāhiyā niti karāe khāṅkhāra
jiṅata māchete krimi pāḍe parijane
jata dekho mora bali nāhi eka jane
I haven't even got a place to breathe in my house. I am given trivial tasks for which I am always being criticized. My husband is wicked and always finding fault with me. As far as men and women are concerned, he doesn't even think about it. [Not quite sure what is intended here.] No one of my brothers and sisters-in-law is a good person. They are always looking for something to argue about or to blame. Just like insects swarm over a still living fish, all these other relatives surround me. I cannot say that a single one of them is on my side. (34.83-86)
So when a dashing and worthy hero like Krishna comes on the scene and is aggressively attracted to her, who can doubt that the passions hidden in her heart will be awakened? And who will not forgive her for so doing?

All this is from the purely material angle, which is not to be disparaged. But devotees know the subtext: Aiana is a symbol of the false masculine, i.e., ahankara--the idea of being the doer, owner and enjoyer. Like Ravana attempting to own and enjoy Sita, the World can never be the true owner of the Soul. Abhimanyu ("the proud and insidious") is the false master, whether within one's own psychic universe or within the external world. He is the false promise of worldly power, accomplishment and happiness, but who is ultimately impotent.

The metaphor is so powerful in purely archetypal terms. The yearning for romantic love and the yearning for God are so conflated that it is easy to see how they become confused.

C.S. Lewis points out that romantic love, no matter how powerful on this psychic level, remains an idol or false god if we think that it can replace the true God. But here we enter into some complex ethical questions about the value of other human beings and our individual rights, religion, ethics and spirituality. The woman or man who abandons a partner, whether for God or for a lover, at some point has to reduce the rejected partner to a caricature, has to abandon "empathy" and drop the guillotine of personal interest on its neck.

This is Abhimanyu, supported by Kutila and Jatila, who keep me imprisoned in my home, never to see the sun, hiding me from my Krishna. They may all be devastated by my rejection; I can understand their reasons, as real people, for their attachments to something that is not the truth, but at some point, I have to save myself. And one "hardens one's heart." Sarva-dharmān parityajya.

yat paty-apatya-suhṛdām anuvṛttir aṅga
strīṇāṁ sva-dharma iti dharma-vidā tvayoktam
astv evam etad upadeśa-pade tvayīśe
preṣṭho bhavāṁs tanu-bhṛtāṁ kila bandhur ātmā
O dear one! You have instructed us to be devoted to our husbands and families, telling us that this is the religious duty of every woman. You know the truth of religious matters, so you are justified in saying it. But we turn this instruction around to make it fit you, the giver of the instruction, the Lord. For you are the true beloved, the true friend and soul of all creatures. (10.29.32)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jaya Radhe!!!