Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Introduction to Gopala-vijaya

The Gopāla-vijaya by Devakinandan Singh Kavishekhar is an interesting work for several reasons, but mostly because it seems to represent a response to Radha Krishna and the Bhāgavatam in Bengal which is roughly contemporary to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu without necessarily being directly influenced by him.

As is often the case, we have sparse historical information that can reliably pinpoint the author’s dates. So, Durgesh Bandyopadhyaya, the editor of this fine critical edition (Shanti Niketan: Vishwa Bharati, 1966) goes through an extensive discussion of the author’s dates without giving sufficient weight to the one piece of hard evidence: Devakinandan Singh, known for his literary skills as Kavishekhar, worked in the courts of both Hussein Shah (1493-1519) and Nusrat Shah (1519-1533).

This makes him an exact contemporary of Chaitanya and a neighbor of Rupa and Sanatan at about the time that they leave for Vrindavan. But since he is not named as an associate of Chaitanya, we must consider him as likely being influenced by the devotional upsurge of the time without being a direct participant.

Kavisekhara (who is not to be confused with later poets writing with that or similar titles, e.g., Shekhara Ray) was the son of Chaturbhuja. We know of an author of that name who also lived and worked at the Gauda court and wrote a Sanskrit work on Krishna’s life called Hari-caritam. These bits of information are particularly interesting since it shows that Rupa and Sanatan as well as Jiva Goswami, etc., were living in an environment that had strong Vaishnava influences. Kavisekhara wrote at least two other works (Gopāla-kīrtanāmṛta, Gopīnātha-vijaya-nāṭaka), but only Gopāla-vijaya seems to have survived.

Since Bandyopadhyaya had access to eight complete manuscripts with numerous variant readings, it would appear that Gopāla-vijaya attained considerable popularity, usurping earlier works like Chandidas’s SKK. Although I have not been able to prove it, I have stated before that there is some evidence that the Bhāgavata was not widely known, or at least not widely influential.

The earliest Bhāgavata manuscript in Northeastern India is dated 1417 a.d., and is signed by Maithili Vidyapati, the famous songwriter appreciated by Mahaprabhu. In literature, the influence of the Bhāgavata in Bengal first appears in Maladhar Basu’s Sri-krishna-vijaya. Gita-govinda may have indirect influence of the Bhāgavatam  but it really belongs to folk traditions, like Sri Krishna Kirtan. The abovementioned Hari-caritam also seems based entirely on Hari-vaṁśa and Viṣṇu-purāṇa.

Gopāla-vijaya is an attempt to harmonize the folk and Bhāgavata traditions—just as was done by the Goswamis, who elaborated lilas and participated in the evolution of a Radha-Krishna lila that has theological roots in the Bhāgavata  but which assimilates details and pastimes that arise out of the folk traditions. The dāna-līlā is a prominent example of one of these, and that is why we are interested in it.

Gopala-vijaya thus differs from SKK or GG in the sense that it structures the whole Krishna story in line with the Bhāgavata. But you have to look where the heart of the Gopāla-vijaya lies. In the Gaudiya Math we always heard about not skipping directly to the Tenth Canto, but this is exactly what Maladhar Vasu and Devakinandan both do. However, whereas Basu sticks faithfully to the Bhāgavata narrative, Devakinandan inserts snippets of stuff that we recognize from Padyāvalī and Sadukti-karnāmṛta as original themes that grew out of the folk tradition.

  • Radharani is older than Krishna. I don’t know where this particular theme comes from. It is found in Gita-govinda and Brahma-vaivarta-purāṇa, but BVP is NOT older than GG. Indeed, BVP probably dates from around the same period as the Gopala-vijaya  and Hajari Prasad Dvivedi has shown with some authority that the extant version was probably written in Bengal. The Garga-saṁhitā, which is later than any of these and appears to be directly influenced by BVP, also has this idea of Radha being older than Krishna, but clearly it has not been accepted in Gaudiya Vaishnava orthodoxy.

    In Padyāvalī, there is a section (verses 135-139) called “showing precocious signs of adolescence while a baby” (śaiśave tāruṇyam). [These have all been quoted in Bhakti-ratnākara (Brk), though the theme does not appear in Gopāla-campū or anywhere else that I can think of.

    For the purpose of this article and the pleasure of the readers, I am including all these verses here with new translations.

    adharam adhare kaṇṭhaṁ kaṇṭhe sa-cāṭu dṛśau dṛśor
    alikam alike kṛtvā gopī-janena sa-sambhramam |
    śiśur iti rudan kṛṣṇo vakṣaḥ-sthale nihitaś cirān
    nibhṛta-pulakaḥ smeraḥ pāyāt smarālasa-vigrahaḥ ||
    May that Krishna who was fondled as a baby
    by the cowherdesses, who pressed lip to lip,
    neck to neck, eye to eye, and forehead to forehead,
    and who, when he cried, held him to their bosom
    and consequently experienced a thrill of his love-affected body,
    smiling all the while, protect us all.
    (Padyāvalī 135, Divakara, SKM 1.51.4; Brk 5.1751)

    brūmas tvac-caritaṁ tavādhijanani cchadmātibālyākṛte
    tvaṁ yādṛg giri-kandareṣu nayanānandaḥ kuraṅgī-dṛśām |
    ity uktaḥ parilehana-cchalatayā nyastāṅguliḥ svānane
    gopībhiḥ purataḥ punātu jagatīm uttāna-supto hariḥ ||
    “We will tell Your mother what you do
    delighting the eyes of the doe-eyed girls
    in the caves of Govardhana,
    disguised as nothing more than a tiny baby,
    you enjoy amorous pastimes with the doe-eyed girls.”
    May baby Krishna, spoken to thus by the gopis
    place a finger in His mouth and suck on it,
    lying stretched out on the bed before them,
    and thus purify the entire world.
    (Padyāvalī 136, Vanamali, SKM 1.51.5)

    vanamālini pitur aṅke
    racayati bālyocitaṁ caritam |
    smita-paripāṭī parisphurati ||
    While Vanamali on His father's lap,
    acts in ways suitable to a child,
    the brand new gopi brides
    blossom with seductive smiles.
    (Padyāvalī 137, Mukunda Bhattacharya, Brk 5.1752)

    nītaṁ nava-navanītaṁ kiyad
    iti kṛṣṇo yaśodayā pṛṣṭḥ |
    iyad iti guru-jana-savidhe
    vidhṛta-dhaniṣṭhā-payodharaḥ ||
    When Yashoda asked Krishna:
    "How much fresh butter did you take?"
    "This much," he said to all the grown-ups,
    as he fondled Dhanishtha's breast.
    (Padyāvalī 138, Ranga, Brk 5.1753)

    kva yāsi nanu caurike pramuṣitaṁ sphuṭaṁ dṛśyate
    dvitīyam iha māmakaṁ vahasi kañcuke kandukam |
    tyajeti nava-gopikā-kuca-yugaṁ nimathnan balāl
    lasat-pulaka-maṇḍalo jayati gokule keśavaḥ ||
    “Thief, where do you think you’re going?
    Haven’t you been caught stealing?
    In your bodice you are hiding my second ball!
    Give it to me!" So saying,
    he forcefully pummeled the young gopi's breasts,
    his hairs standing up over his body. All glories to Keshava!
    (Padyāvalī 139, Dipaka, Spd 74, Smv; Brk 5.1754)

    In GPVJ (Gopāla-vijaya), this comes up on page 54, where Radha is mentioned for the first time.

    marama jāniā śeṣe rādhikā sundarī
    prabodhiā niā bule kole chāpi dhari
    After no one else was able to calm Krishna, the beautiful Radhika, understanding his mind, finally took him and held him to her breast, walking back and forth with calming words. (12.26)
    They go to a secluded place where rasika Krishna shows his nāgara-panā and starts to kiss her, embarassing Radha when she starts to feel an erotic reaction heno rasa anubhae āpanā pāsari / lāja bhae byākulī hoilī rādhā nārī. Radha gets nervous and so Krishna kindly falls asleep. When Radha lays him down, Mother Yashoda and others ask her to lie down with him, holding him tightly. And this went on on a regular basis. (12.27-35)

  • In the next chapter, also, it says that Krishna when herding the cows would tease and flirt on the path with the cowherd women, refered to here as para-nārī. (13.35, page 57).

  • Then, in an interesting passage on page 60, Krishna goes missing one day and cannot be found. Mother Yashoda looks for him everywhere and becomes anxious. So she goes to Radha and Aihana’s house and chastises Radha at some length. The reason is that Krishna has become so attached to her than he “abandons his mother and father and leaves them at home.” (13.82-87). And she threatens to keep Krishna locked up in the house.

    Radha answers (13.89-92) that she is not at fault, that Krishna is just playing with his friends, and tells Yashoda to keep him locked up if that is what she wants. Yashoda is angry at this reaction and leaves. A few moments later, she finds Krishna who is indeed with his friends and the cows. Krishna immediately recognizes his mother’s state and jumps into her arms, but at the same time, he smiles at Radha. māera hṛdaya bujhi catura kāhnāi / kole jhāṁpa dila hāsi rādhā pāne cāi //. The chapter concludes with the words kapaṭa-bālaka-veśe, which is similar to Padyāvalī 136 above.

  • It is worth mentioning that Aiana (aiāna, also spelt, aana) is given a role in the discussions that lead to Nanda Maharaj moving the community from Gokula, and actually suggests taking everyone to Vrindavan. [In Gopāla-campu, this role is played by Upananda.]

  • On p.83, Krishna is awakened by his mother to go on the goṣṭha, but he gets up on hearing Radha's name. (19.7-8)

  • The description of Vastra-harana, which does not include the promise of the Rasa dance, mentions no Radha. This is clearly because Radha in GPVJ is already married, as is the case in the Goswamis' version also.

  • Last but not least in this pre-rāsa-līlā section, is on p. 115, during the description of lifting Govardhan. Here again, we are reminded of verse 267 from the Padyāvalī, where Krishna looks at Radha's breast while holding up Govardhan and starts to tremble, making everyone fearful that he was about to drop it.

    sei chale gopīnāthe, beḍhiā dakṣiṇa hāthe
    mandāra-dhāraṇa phala pāe
    tāhe aparūpa dekhi, rādhā-kucha-giri dekhi
    kāpe kṛṣṇana jāni ki bhae
On page 118-119, Krishna's coming of age is described. He can think of nothing other than the gopis, and they too, even though married and living in their homes, cannot concentrate on their duties as they hear and think of him.

There are many other things that could be looked at in relation to the Gopāla-vijaya and other books--a closer look at what has been added and what dropped, the vocabulary of the language itself--to what extent are words like prema, bhakti and rasa, etc., being used. But for the time being, let us consider the next section, from chapters 28-42, which include the dāna-līlā.

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