SKK 7: Yamuna-khanda

The Yamunā Khaṇḍa is the next section of the SKK. It is somewhat different as it has three divisions. Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa, Vastra-haraṇa-khaṇḍa and Hāra-khaṇḍa. The section covers folio leaves 133/1 to 152/2.
  • Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa (“The repression of , from 127.2 to 133.1 (songs 245 to 254)
  • Vastra-haraṇa-khaṇḍa (“The stealing of the clothes”), 133.1 to 144.2 (songs 255 to 276)
  • Hāra-khaṇḍa (“The necklace episode”), 144.2 to 152.2, but with 145-151 missing, so only 5 songs are left, 2 of which are incomplete. Probably 8-9 songs are missing.
This means that there would have been around 40 songs in the pālā, so I think we can imagine that these were meant to be performed on three separate nights. The events described do not take place on the same day. They simply have some continuity in terms of the plot. Some features of this section are that there is a wider range of participants than the three (Radha, Krishna and Barai) plus the other gopis, which we have become accustomed to. Nanda and Yashoda and the other Brajavasis are present in at least two of these three khaṇḍas, in particular Yashoda.

Another feature of the section is the influence that the Puranas have had on them, though only the Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa shows any close resemblance to the classical sources, most clearly to the Viṣṇu-purāṇa version.

Another striking element is the somewhat more complex nature of the events, along with the confusing emotional ups and downs of the characters, which sometimes becomes quite incomprehensible and is only attributable to their immaturity. In fact, the characterization problems that we have been talking about since the beginning of our discussion of SKK are again in evidence here, as the “plot thickens” so to speak.

On the one hand we have the continuing hope that is no doubt being kindled in the audience’s mind of a positive outcome to Radha and Krishna’s love, and its constant self-sabotaging by their own childishness, especially where Krishna is concerned (though Radha does not seem to be without blame).

It is not even easy to entirely call hers a response to the existential situation, where she, as a married women, is caught in an impossible love from which she cannot extricate herself. One thing that has to be considered, as I have tried to do from time to time, is the social backdrop of the performance. What does not need to be said, since it will be accepted as common knowledge for everyone in the audience? But I have to confess that I find the story gets more and more confusing and problematic.

1. Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa

In Kāliya-damana-khaṇḍa is notable for a significant shift in the love of Radha for Krishna. The section starts with Krishna thinking that he has enjoyed with the gopis in the forest, now it seems that it would be fun to have some jala-keli. Kālīdaha is the deepest and most suitable spot for such pastimes, but because the great snake is living there, the fish and trees have all died. The water is undrinkable. So Krishna decides to chase Kāliya to clean up the water and make it suitable for his jala-keli. This motivation is, of course, entirely original to SKK.

Krishna climbs a kadamba tree and jumps into the water and starts the big fight with Kāliya and his companion snakes who bite him all over and wind around him in an attempt to squeeze him to death. Krishna’s body is filled with poison and the few cowherds who are witness to this fear the worst.

While this is going on, Radha and some gopis are walking along the river bank to Mathura and see some cowherd boys in great anxiety. Getting the news of Krishna’s situation from them, Radha starts to cry and lament the danger or even death of her prāṇa-pati (“the love of her life”). Two songs make up this lament.

dāṁte tṛṇa kari jācoṁ kāhnāñiṁ | kapaṭa chāḍī āyisa mora ṭhāi ||

I beg you, Kanai, with straw between my teeth, stop pretending and come to me.
Radha calls herself a devoted servant girl. (bhakati-dāsika tejaha kehne ?)

jāhāta lāgiāṁ nija pati nā cahīla |
loka dharama bhaya kichu nā mānila |
hena kāhna mailā kālī dahe jhāṁpa diāṁ |
gopa yuvatī saba ānātha kariāṁ || 
hṛdayata ghāa diāṁ rādhā goālinī |
karae karuṇā vināyiāṁ cakrapāṇī ||
kabhoṁ nā laṅghiba āra tohmāra vacana |
uṭha uṭha jale haiteṁ nāndera nandana || 
ki kariba dhana jana jīvana ghare | 
kāhna tohmā biṇi saba niphala more ||

That Kahnai for whose sake I gave not a fig for husband, religious duties or fear, has jumped into the Kāliya lake and lost his life, leaving all the gopis as orphans. This milkmaid Radha’s heart has been wounded, O wielder of the discus! Come back out of the water, come back ! I swear I will never disobey you again. Of what use to me are home, family and possessions if I lose you? It is all worthless. (Song 247)
In all the versions of the story, gopis are mentioned, but I did not detect any madhura-rasa. The Bhāgavata has pūrva-rāga at the end of Chapter 10.15, with the following two verses describing Krishna’s return from the goshtha. Neither HV nor VP has this description. So the possibility of some madhura-rasa connection to the Kāliya story, which comes in chapter 16, stands to make some sense.

taṁ gorajaś-churita-kuntala-baddha-barha- 
vanya-prasūna-rucirekṣaṇa-cāru-hāsam |
veṇum kvaṇantam anugair upagīta-kīrtiṁ 
gopyo didṛkṣita-dṛśo’bhyagaman sametāḥ ||

pītvā mukunda-mukha-sāragham akṣi-bhṛṅgais 
tāpaṁ jahur viraha-jaṁ vraja-yoṣito’hni |
tat sat-kṛtiṁ samadhigamya viveśa goṣṭhaṁ 
savrīḍa-hāsa-vinayaṁ yad apāṅga-mokṣam ||

Lord Krishna's hair, powdered with the dust raised by the cows, was decorated with a peacock feather and forest flowers. The Lord glanced charmingly and smiled beautifully, playing upon His flute while His companions chanted His glories. The gopīs, all together, came forward to meet Him, their eyes very eager to see Him. 
With their beelike eyes, the women of Vrindavan drank the honey of the beautiful face of Lord Mukunda, and thus they gave up the distress they had felt during the day because of separation from Him. The young Vrindavan ladies cast sidelong glances at the Lord — glances filled with bashfulness, laughter and submission — and Śrī Krishna completely accepting these glances as a proper offering of respect, entered the cowherd village. (BBT)
Then Radha sends a cohwerd to fetch Nanda and Yashoda who immediately come with the rest of the cowherds, etc. Everyone starts lamenting, but like in the VP 5.7 and HV 2.12, Balaram steps in to remind Krishna of who he is. And this may be the first actual real stuti in the book. līlā-tanu dhari ebeṁ hayilāhā goāla (Song 249) Balaram lists the ten avataras and concludes, “You were all those and now you have appeared to kill Kamsa.” In this, the narrative resembles more VP 5.7.36-42 than HV 2.12.30-31 or BhP 10.16.22 where Balaram does not even say anything, but simply stops Nanda from jumping in the water, being fully knowledgeable that Krishna is in no danger.

With that, Krishna’s awareness returns. Song 250 describes how Kahnai defeats Kāliya and dances on his heads and that the Nagapatnis glorify him. Song 251 is the Nagapatnis prayers. This theme is in VP 5.7.48-59 and BhP 10.16.33-53. But the greatest similarity is to Vishnu Purana. Compare the refrain in verses 57 to 59, bhartṛ-bhikṣā pradīyatām (“grant us our husband, we beg you”) and SKK sāmī dāna deha dāmodara (“O Damodar, give us our husband!”).

In Song 252, Krishna sends Kāliya to the “south ocean” (“south” a detail not found in any other version). The benefits to Kāliya of having Krishna’s footprints on his head, which is described in all three Puranic versions, is here also mentioned. The story concludes with cheers and embraces. Radha watches with tear filled eyes. Krishna says, “I did it so the water could be drunk by everyone.” And he makes a ghat so that people can go down to bathe and collect water. (Song 254)

2. Vastra-haraṇa-khaṇḍa

Though this section is named Vastra-haraṇa-khaṇḍa, the actual stealing of the gopis’ clothes occupies only a small portion of it. The theme itself is found neither in HV nor VP, i.e. it is unique to BhP, but it is presented so differently here that it is legitimate to question whether this Purana is the source of the story. Whereas BhP has the unmarried gopa-kumārikās praying to Katyayani to have Krishna as their husband, and Krishna’s taking of the clothes symbolizing his acceptance and their total surrender, here none of the symbolic value is to be found. Indeed, the BhP’s theological overlay makes one even suspect that the SKK may be continuing to reproduce an archaic folk theme that had been adapted by the Purana without having penetrated the wider culture. This is, of course, quite possible if we maintain our belief that the Bhagavatam was not well known to Chandi Das and was fairly new in Bengali society.

The chapter begins with Radha and the gopis going there to fetch water from the ghat that Krishna has made in the river bank, now that the water of the Yamuna is drinkable. Krishna is sitting there, and so the gopis are all laughing and looking, forgetting to fill their jugs with water. They are discombobulated by his presence, their saris slip and they forget to adjust them.

Krishna goes up and speaks to Radha as if he did not know her. “Whose daughter-in-law are you? Of whose household are you the queen? Why are you coming here to fetch water?”

It is an open invitation to flirt, which Radha avails herself of. “I am married into a respectable household, and daughter of a respectable family. And if I have come here to fetch water, what is that to you?” Again Krishna tries to tempt her with an offering of tambul. Radha answers, “This offering means that you think you can catch a salmon with a tiny hook.” “Here, take these golden ankle bells.” “I am a cowherd girl, not a dancer. What use do I have for ankle bells?” “Take my golden flute, just talk to me.” “I wouldn’t use your flute even for spooning rice or stirring milk.”

On being offered a silken cloth, she says she wouldn’t even use it to wipe a ghee pot. On being offered a golden crown, she says, “You are black inside and out. If you use the water that has washed over this crown, then perhaps the gold may help clean you up a little.”

Krishna says, “Your pomegranate like breasts are driving me wild.” Radha: “Wrong fruit. You should really compare them to the mākāl fruit: Looks good, but you eat it, it’s poison.”

And so Radha has a riposte for everything Krishna proposes, but despite the playful nature of the exchange, she leaves him without hope, only the fear that he will not win her over. But Radha is clearly no longer the little girl who was desperately refusing Krishna’s advances in the dāna-khaṇḍa. She is not just parrying his advances with clever words, she is simultaneously driving Krishna crazy with provocative bodily movements. These are described in song 257: How she lifts her arms to fix her hair, or smiles. With each movement of her eyes, or adjusted cloth, Krishna takes it as a sign and challenges her, “Why are you doing that? Quickly, let me hold you or I will go mad.”

bātula hayiloṁ tohmāra doṣe, tore kariteṁ juāe mora paritoṣe

It is your fault I am going crazy, so you should set things right by satisfying me.
Radha innocently explains all her movements and gestures (song 258) as though she were really adjusting her hair or cloth for reasons other than to drive Krishna mad.

pabane calilo more hṛdaya basane daiba yogeṁ tāta tora paḍilo nayane

The wind blew and so my cloth slipped. It was just an accident that you noticed it.
She concludes by saying, “You are responsible for your own madness, so control your senses.” Poor fellow. Radha has certainly learned a thing or two about the art. [I am fairly sure there are parallels to this theme in the Sanskrit, but I will have to look them up. The song itself may be calqued on Sanskrit verses. Or vice-versa.] Krishna seems quite helpless now. “Why are you so angry with me?” he asks. “I did not do anything wrong. I just love you that’s all.”

So, once again he turns to Baḍāī for assistance. The old woman goes to Radha on his behalf and again reminds Radha,

āhmāra bacana nā karaha helā yauvana sāgare tora kāhnāi bhelā

Don’t disregard my words, Radha. Kanai is the raft that will take you across the the ocean of your youth. (260)
Radha’s reply, like her flirtatious actions, are still at odds with her apparent public avowal of love for Krishna in Songs 246 and 247. She complains,

baḍa duṣṭamatī se je kāṇa āhmā chāḍī nāhi jāṇe āṇa

Kanai is a real rascal. He does not know anything but me. (261)
Krishna responds by telling Radha the real reason he cleansed the Yamuna. He professes his undying love and asks her to come back and fulfill this purpose. But for some unclear reason he does not want anyone other than her to take water. Radha refuses to accept this double standard and so the argument goes on. Finally Krishna asks to say something confidentially, but when he gets close enough, on the pretext of whispering something to her, he kisses her cheek. Radha gets angry and negotiations break down again.

As she walks away, Krishna again tries to persuade her to return, but as usual, it is a mixture of furtive pleas of love and threats, “I will break your clay waterpot.”

Radha turns and gives him a piece of her mind,

bhāla manda kata loka patha mājhe yāe |
tāhāka bāriāṁ bola buliteṁ juāe | 
yehna tohme gopa kathā karaha bikāśa |
bujhila tohmāra kāje nāhiṁ kichu bhāṣa ||
pathata bāraha mana nāndera nandana |
ki kāraṇe jhagaḍa karaha saba khana ||

There are people on the public pathways, some are good, some bad. But you should be careful about what you say. You talk about these private matters in public, it makes it clear that you have no control over your speech. Control yourself on the public roads. Why do you always have to argue? (264)
Radha goes on to warn about her family situation and that he himself will be in deep trouble if things come out in the open. (265) Krishna responds by again turning to Baḍāī. He speaks of his heroism in defeating Kaliya and saving the community by restoring the safety of the water supply. But despite it all, Radha still was unsatisfied with him. "Go and tell her she can come and take water without any obstruction." (266) Baḍāī successfully intervenes on his behalf and Radha returns with the sakhis.

Now Krishna persuades them to go in the water to bathe, as it is the hot season and what could be more pleasurable than a dip in the cool waters? This is followed by a short description of jala-keli with the usual playful touching and splashing.

[Jala-keli is mentioned in the Bhāgavata at the end of the Rāsa-līlā (10.33.23-24) and in Dvārakā (10.90.6-13). It is also described in Śiśupāla-vadha, Sarga 8, based on HV (Ref?), also in the context of Dvaraka. The theme of Krishna disappearing is mentioned in UN 15.234. Also see Padyāvali 301, Govinda-līlāmṛta 15.55-68, Alaṅkāra-kaustubha 5.30, 8.122. For more see Vishnudas to 15.234. See also Caitanya-caritāmṛta Antya 18.79-108.]

But Krishna hides amidst the lotus flowers, disappearing from the gopis’ view. They think he has drowned and they come out to tell Baḍāī. Though they are anxious about Krishna, since it is getting late, the girls return home with the intention of looking for him in the morning.

Krishna hides out on the banks of the Yamuna for a few hours, then returns home, but can’t sleep because of his desire for Radha. Then early in the morning he returns to the Yamuna and climbs a kadamba tree to wait for her. When the girls come, they take off their clothes to look for Krishna in the water. They discuss this first, and decide that since it is so early it is unlikely that anyone will come that way. Since they have left home in a hurry, they did not bring a change of clothing, necessitating this course of action. But of course, this gives Krishna the opportunity to steal their clothes.

The customary scene of Krishna insisting that they come out of the water with folded hands so he can see them in their naked beauty is followed. The theme is not explored very thoroughly though, with Radha only making one comment and then acquiescing to the demand. Krishna gives Radha back her clothes, but does return her necklace. (Songs 274-275) This reminds us again of the end of the Dāna-līlā when he also took her necklace, hoping to use it as a bargaining chip for extorting future favors.

There seems to be something missing here as apparently Krishna responds mockingly to Radha’s complaint that he has not returned the necklace. Krishna says to Baḍāī that if Radha and the gopis are going to bathe naked in the river they could expect trouble. “Aihana Ghosh keeps a woman like that, who has no regard for her seniors!”

More vastra-harana pictures.


As noted above, this līlā is much truncated and little is left by which any thorough assessment can be made. However, it seems quite clear that Radha, having tried to get some action on her necklace through Baḍāī (277), fails and takes matters in her own hands.

When we return to the action, well near the end of the section, she is talking to Krishna’s mother and complaining extensively about his behavior, how he is repeatedly harassing her and the other gopis. How he took their clothes and stole her beautiful necklace. She asks Yashoda to please control her son, if not everyone will end up in great difficulty. “If Kamsa hears of this it will be the end of it for you,” she says in a veiled threat. Perhaps she has even gone and already tried to complain to government officials.

In song 279, Yashoda tells Kanai off. “We have lived in this community for a long time and have a good reputation. You have taken birth in this family and are supposed to bring honor on it, but it looks like you will be the cause of our downfall. If the girls complain to Kamsa then he will come and take us all off to prison. You should revere your parents, so listen to what I say and stop doing the things we have told you so many times to stop doing."

In song 280, Krishna lies overtly about Radha, placing all the blame on her. "I am there just minding my own business taking care of the cows and they keep calling me, 'O uncle (māmī, māmī!)' They have been teasing me and coming on to me, and now because they are afraid that I will complain about them, they have come and preempted me by complaining first. I swear on your feet that I am telling the truth!”

The pālā ends with Baḍāī taking Radha back to Aihana’s house and making up a big story about why her necklace has gone missing, making it look like she ran to escape a bull and fell into some thorns. [We will never know how her dress really got torn...] “By your past merit, your wife has escaped with her life...” Aihana thanks her and touches her feet in gratitude and respect.


So this section was pretty complex. Krishna engages in an act of heroism by defeating Kaliya. Indeed, this is a kind of “coming out” as an avatāra, as Balaram reveals to all that Krishna previously was one of the ten avatāras. [Interestingly enough, the demon-killing aspect of Krishna lila, which increases in the HV -->  VP --> BhP progression, is played down considerably in SKK, emphasizing Krishna’s humanity over his divinity.]

Radha has now openly spoken of her love for Krishna, and shown her emotion once he came out of the water. In the next chapter, the most complex so far, she starts by flirting quite openly with Krishna, pushing him to excrutiating desire, but when he responds, she rebuffs him and complains that he is always starting arguments.

Perhaps it is his lack of finesse. He keeps trying to use overt appeals to her to fulfill his desires, which he blames her for, blackmail (not allowing the girls to take water from the river), aggression (stealing a kiss) and threats (I will break your pots). He speaks openly in public without any apparent awareness of who might or might not hear him. Once again, Badai has to intervene on more than one occasion and arrange for things to continue. Krishna and the gopis have their water games. But once again, Krishna doesn’t seem able to leave well enough alone and pretends to drown, putting the girls into great anxiety.

The next day, the girls go into the water naked [for reasons that are a bit farfetched] and Krishna once again cannot leave well enough alone and continues to play games with Radha. By now she is fed up with his childish antics and goes to complain to Yashoda and perhaps even to Kamsa, prompting him to lie to his mother and cast all blame and suspicion on Radha. Just like Krishna lied when accused of eating clay or stealing butter. Alas, they are both just children!

The next chapter is the Bāna-khaṇḍa, which we have already described here (link below).

1a. Janma-khaṇḍa 1b. Tāmbūla-khaṇḍa 2. Dāna-khaṇḍa 3. Naukā-khaṇḍa 4. Bhāra-khaṇḍa 5. Chatra-khaṇḍa 6. Vṛndāvana-khaṇḍa 7. Yamunā-khaṇḍa 8. Bāṇa-khaṇḍa 9. Vaṁśī-khaṇḍa
10. Rādhā-viraha


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