Monday, August 31, 2009

Gopala-vijaya Dana-lila translation, Part I

Just trying to get back in the game. I am posting the Gopala-vijaya version of the dana-lila, in a rather rushed and imperfect translation. This translation is unofficial. Bits in italics are those I am not
sure of and should get checked by someone who knows this old Bengali better than I.

(1) Chapter 36. (73)

1. One day Kanai put on his fancy attire and went with his friends into the forest. 2. He put his friends in charge of grazing the cattle and himself went to the Mathura Road. 3. When he got to the Yamuna’s banks, he sat down in the shade of a kadamba tree.

4. While he sat there, the girls of Braja came along that very path, carrying their goods for market. 5. When Krishna saw them, he could not restrain himself and began bobbing in an ocean of delight, the end of which could not be seen.

6. Meanwhile, the gopis themselves became wary on seeing Krishna. Their knees weakened and they could barely move forward. 7. They stood there, lined up like rag dolls, immobile, and began speaking to Barai,

8. “O Barai! Look over there, close by under the kadamba tree. The more we look, the more our life-airs flutter. 9. Is that a new raincloud adorned with lightning flashes, with a full black moon riding on its crest? 10. And is that a sliver of a white moon upon that full black moon, and on top of it a garland of darkness? 11. And above that darkness, it seems, is a rainbow, Indra’s bow. Who has ever seen such an amazing sight? 12. Tell us what we should do, O Barai. We have work to do and must go to Mathura, but seeing this wonder, we have become afraid.”

13. Another gopi said, “I know what that is. A young cowherd is sitting under that kadamba tree.”

Comment: This is a fairly common trope in Sanskrit poetry called sandeha alankara. Instead of making a simple simile, you express the comparison in the form of a doubt (sandeha). The doubt can either be resolved or unresolved (niscaya). Here the doubt is resolved by the second gopi in verse 13. This kind of classical use of rhetoric is not so prominent in Chandidas and seems to show the influence of the classical as opposed to the folk tradition as a part of this intermediate stage between Chandidas and the Goswamis. As I have already said, the introduction of the Bhagavatam to Bengal seems to have rejuvenated both folk and classical as well as the religious elements related to Krishna.

14. When the gopi answered in this way, Barai laughed and spoke [to the others]. 15. “Where do you see clouds or tamal trees? That’s a young cowherd sitting under that kadamba tree. 16. Anyway, we all know that Yashoda’s boy is a batch of trouble. 17. Nobody look anywhere. Walk carefully. and if Kanu asks anything, don’t pay him any notice.”

জানিএ আজাতি বড় জশোদা তনএ
দু আঙ্গুলি মুখে জার কথা দিল নহে

18. Giving this instruction to the gopis, the old lady joyful walked on before them. 19. Seeing this, Krishna laughed and said, “Where are you going, Barai, with all these beauties?”

20. Barai went to Krishna while the gopis continued along the path in single file. 21. Krishna barely noticed her, as his eyes were fixed on Radha’s face. 22. The perceptive old woman just laughed and with her eyes indicated to Krishna that he should stop the gopis from proceeding. 23. So Krishna spread his arms and stood on the path. All the gopis stood before him, their heads lowered. 24. Disturbed, the girls looked towards Barai, but this only made Krishna laugh.

25. He said, “O cowherd women! What are you looking at Barai for? She hasn’t any power over anyone. (বড়াই শকতি কার কি করিতে পারি) 26. Get serious here and put down your goods, and bring them to me so I can make an estimate of their value. 27. Don’t get clever with me. You owe me twelve years worth of customs duties.”

28. When Barai heard this she lifted her cane and advanced quickly as if to strike Krishna. 29. “What are you jabbering on about? What is this nonsense? On what pretext are you blocking these young women’s path? 30. You are bullying us all for no reason. Don’t you know what happens to those who interfere with married women on the public highway?”

31. Damodar just laughed when he heard this and said, 32. “Listen to me, Barai, I have something to tell you. This kind of trouble never happened in the past. 33. No one likes to do this kind of government work, but no one likes to lose money, either. 34. Don’t think of me as Kanai, the village boy, and just ignore me. You won’t get away with word games this time. 35. So I am telling you that you in for a bit of trouble if you don’t pay your customs duties. 36. Tell these girls that there is no point in just standing there either. 37. Tell them to put down their goods and stand by that tree, while I make a note of what they owe me.”

38. After Krishna had said this, Barai advanced toward Radha and repeated it all to her. 39. On hearing it, the gopis were disheartened and began thinking. 40. “We all knew that Kahnai had this tendency to be a troublemaker. But we never thought he would show it externally in this way. 41. We are just going to the market to sell our goods and he comes and starts to harass us in this way. 42. We heard it said everywhere that if we went with Borai we would be able to avoid such difficulties. 43. On their word we forgot everything and now we are in this mess. We cannot calculate what the end result will be. 44. How many ways they assured us when we were at home, but their laughing assurances have been the cause of our downfall. 45. Even now we are condemning ourselves, as we genteel housewives head off to market in her company. 46. But we told Barai at every step of the way, that we don’t want to go to the market by the road where Kahnai will be found.

47. "My mind warned me that today we wouldn’t make it back home after going to the market. 48. Tell me why Kanu is blocking our way. What will he gain by imprisoning the young brides of the cowherd families? 49. O Barai, why don’t you free Radha from Krishna? And why does Krishna interfere with us in order to collect on behalf of Kamsa? 50. We know what is proper it is not proper for him to hold us here like this."

The above passage is partly thought, partly spoken by different gopis including Radha.

51. Hearing this, Barai slowly said, “What did he say that made you unsettled? 52. If a thorn gets on your clothes while you are walking, don’t you stop and pull it off? 53. If someone who presents a danger to your life asks you something, doesn’t it make sense to answer? 54. In truth Krishna is joking with you. Let me explain. 55. Kamsa may rule over his kingdom for many yugas, but by whose shakti can he do so? 56. So you should face Govinda and speak sweetly to him."

One of the obvious things to look for is any statement indicating aishwarya.

[Barai says to Krishna] 57. "Listen Kahnai, take what we say seriously. Don’t delay us by playing this silly toll collector game. 58. Otherwise, we will just leave our milk and curds here. Do what you like, just let us go home. 59. We don’t know what to say to you, Nandakumar. When one falls into the hands of a known hooligan, there is no respite."

Here is the essence of the amusement or rasa: Borai just said to the gopis that Krishna was the source of the king's power and now she calls him a hooligan to his face.

60. On hearing these words, Kahnai got angry and said, “What pleasure do you get out of saying such nonsense, Barai? 61. No one should listen to the words of a senile woman. Let’s ask the gopis directly what they say. 62. No gain comes of remaining silent. But neither should anyone try to trick the trickster."

63. On hearing this, Radha became angry and, directing her words to Barai, said in a measured tone. [Radha does not speak to Krishna directly but through Barai as intermediary (the same convention as in the SKK).] 64. “You are the son of an important person, and so I know of you as someone important. And yet such words come out of your mouth. 65. Nanda Maharaj is the authority over the cowherd community, even Kamsasura considers him worthy of respect. 66. You are his son and the life of the cowherd settlement (gokulera parANa). No one here is equal to you in beauty or virtue. 67. At a very early age you have become famous for your heroism. Parents are delivered by a son like you. 68. You can do as you like, but whatever you do, people will applaud you. 69. If a high caliber person does some despicable act, he becomes the black sheep of his community which is filled with shame. 70. What has pushed you to set up this toll booth here and who has given you the authority to do so, pray tell. 71. Are you only doing it because you see women on the path. I am sure that when he hears about it, King Kamsa will give you the appropriate punishment."

72. When Kahnai heard the gopis say all this, he laughed and then angrily said, looking in Barai’s direction. 73. Kavishekhar recounts the story of the dana, hearing which will bring great joy and at the same time free you from material bondage.

72. When Kahnai heard the gopis say all this, he laughed and then, looking in Barai’s direction, spoke angrily. 73. Kavishekhar recounts the story of the dana, hearing which will bring great joy and at the same time free you from material bondage.

Once again Krishna is speaking to Radha through Barai. Krishna speaks in the next chapter. Note Kavishekhar hear says that listening to this lila will free one from material bondage. Baru Chandidas never says this.

(2) Chapter 37

[Krishna speaking] 1. “I am just going to say one thing, Radha. Listen carefully. If one says too much, then you will never get it. 2. O Aihan’s wife! I can answer all your criticisms fully. 3. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt for Barai’s sake, but you will have to recognize your own value and establish what you owe in taxes. 4. Monetary matters are irksome, but to laugh them off is shameful. If you behave properly you never get anything.

Krishna is saying he has to be tough to get his money.

5. “Because I ask for taxes, you attack my right to do so. All these prideful utterances are unworthy. 6. O foolish girl, ask every person to whom the king has given authority over Gokula, one by one. 7. Every month I pay a sum to him, and this amuses his whole household. Since we are related, I can say nothing to anyone. 8. What more can I say, so my beautiful one, make your own estimate and give me my taxes. 9. Our community is all cowherds, nobody knows agriculture. The only way to pay the taxes to the government is through giving the toll.

The idea is that usually taxes would be paid by giving a portion of the crops. I guess that tradesmen, merchants, etc., would have to pay in cash or in kind. That is implied by the word dana.

10. “I used to have a man do this for me, but no one paid him any mind and just walked all over him. 11. So my dues have not been given to me for some time, and what fool would tolerate such losses, Radha? 12. So I have set up the toll gate myself this time, and I am not letting even a farthing get away. 13. As far as you are concerned, you all come and go on this path regularly and out of pride and personal strength you never pay your taxes. 14. I will break and throw away all your jewels and possessions, I will tear your blouse and take away your jeweled necklaces (sAtesarI hAra). 15. I won’t let you go to the market to sell your wares, foolish one. Otherwise, [if you pay me], you can go freely.

The threat of tearing the blouse is more subdued here in this version than in SKK. parabodhi "if you give me a good excuse."

16. “What behavior are you showing me, Radha? If Kamsa has appointed me as his agent, then I should be respected by everyone. 17. If you think you are greater than me, then come with me to see Kamsa and have my appointment taken away.”

18. On hearing these words, the beautiful Radha feigned humility and said the following: 19. "O rasika Gopala, you have done well, for it has been a long time since I have heard the word dana. 20. I consider it a matter of great fortune that I have encountered the son of Nanda today as the great customs officer. 21. So look at our goods and make an assessment of their value and then take whatever you decide. 22. Since you are new to this work and this toll station is also new, I can tell you that to exercise force on people in this way is quite improper. 23. A new customs officer behaves in this way, deciding beforehand how much he is going to take. 24. Instead of writing everything down and making a proper assessment, you just make your demands as soon as a merchant arrives. 25. Please don’t mind everything I have said and simply take what you want from what is here.”

Calling Krishna rasika is another sign of progress from SKK. The last verse means that Krishna should not ask for more than what is present right there. He is asking for back payments without making an assessment of the value of what they have with them.

26. Hearing Radha’s words, the clever Kanai laughed and said the following: 27. “You have spoken well, O beautiful Radhika, and I will indeed write down what taxes must be paid, then will do what I must do. 28. Now all you beautiful girls sit down in rows while I calculate each one of your taxes. 29. Radha, you have butter, ghee, milk and yogurt, and you yourself are a priceless treasure. 30. These things are worth the same as the nectar of the gods. Surveying it all, it is worth an incalculable amount. 31. I will call gopi's name and tell her how much she owes me."

32. Hearing all the unspeakable things spoken by Krishna, the gopis bowed their heads and began to think. 33. Sighing heavily and began to speak sadly, “We don’t know what madness is going on.” 34. They went and sat in rows beside Borai. 35. “O Barai, tell us what to do, tell us what to do! What offense have we committed that this uncouth Kahnai is holding us up? 36. Krishna is imposing a tax on our milk based on the value of divine ambrosia. He puts so much pride in his physical strength that he does not even care for Kamsa. 37. He tears off our pearl necklaces. We can’t understand what is going on. 38. Krishna’s behavior is not good, nobody would call it appropriate. 39. We came with you, Barai, on the assurances that everything would be alright. Now you are just sitting on the sidelines here, watching the fun. 40. We will just leave all our wares here and go home. Let’s see what Nanda Kumar does then."

41. Thinking all this, the gopis stood in front of Krishna and looked at Barai. 42. Then putting down their goods they started off home, but Krishna spread his arms and stopped them. 43. "What are you putting your goods down for?" he asked. "Vanamali wants twelve years worth of back taxes. 44. Without any reason, you are offering worthless cow milk as payment, but your youthful beauty is worth millions of times more than that. 45. Your hair is the whisk fan of Kamadeva’s victory. Why do you bind it?

46. "Now I have to examine the strands of your hair, one by one, to see how much they are worth. 47. The vermilion in your part is a priceless jewel. How will you hide Kamadeva’s golden staff? 48. And all these musk decorations on your forehead, I will have to ascertain how much you will have to give me in duties for that. 49. Who can say how much the diamond pendants dangling from your ears are worth, but it must be a great deal. 50. Your two eyebrows are Kamadeva’s bow. The strings of the bow are the collyrium, the arrows are your darting glances. 51. I cannot find anything on earth with which to compare your nose; if there were a parakeet of gold, perhaps its beak would be appropriate. 52. Your nose is the quiver for Kamadeva’s arrows. All these items are worth a considerable amount that need to be calculated.

53. "Your lips are bimba fruits, your teeth are pearls. What wealth are you hiding there in your smile? 54. No one knows the price to put on your speech; each syllable coming out of your mouth is a priceless jewel. 55. Your entire face is like King Kamadeva’s mirror of touchstone. It is a treasure I cannot describe, even after seeing or touching it. 56. Your throat is Kamadeva’s clockwise conchshell. Its worth is inestimable. 57. Your arms are Kamadeva’s victory garland. Your hands rubies, one with the fingernails shine.

58. "Ayana’s queen (Radha), let me tell you this. There is no customs officer anywhere who would let you get away without paying duties on all this. 59. At every step you are stealing from us, Radhe. How could anyone tolerate it? And yet you hold a golden treasure box against your chest. 60. Above that shines a Sateswari necklace that is desired by inestimable numbers of people throughout the world. 61. I know your little game. It is not good. I am telling you what you should do if it does not embarrass you.

62. "Judge for yourself. Whether you pay me or not, but what are you hiding when you keep tying and untying your waist string? 63.Your buttocks are the wheel on Kamadeva’s victory chariot. You can cover them with your skirt, but you cannot cover the love. 64. Your thighs are Kamadeva’s throne. How can I let you go without you telling you this?

65. "I can’t think what I should ask for the jeweled ankle bells jingling on your feet. 66. But don’t worry about paying for that. Just give the appropriate duties and go home. 67. The ankle bells are hanging on your feet like Kamadeva’s decoration. You will have to ask Kamsa himself how much he should pay for it. 68. Once you have paid the duties on all things, you can go sell your goods. But what toll keeper keeps small change on hand? 69. If you don’t and simply joke around with me, then you won’t get to go home. 70. You have shown me your beauty, Radhe. Now what person would let you go without getting for it? 71. You are Barai’s maidservant, you are a daughter-in-law (bahuAri) in Barai's household, so I am afraid to use strong language with you. 72. You are clever and I am a liberal man, so don’t say that you won’t pay the appropriate taxes. 74. Now listen to one more thing, Radha, preserve your respectability and pay me my taxes. 75. If you don’t, then don’t blame me for the consequences. Pay the tax and the entire country will be blameworthy.

76. Kavishekhar says that anyone who listens to Krishna’s dana-lila will never have to meet with Yamaraja.



This Orissan picture of Dana-lila was posted by Karunamayi Das on Facebook.

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