SKK 10: Radha-viraha (Part III)

Krishna has left for Mathura in a manner quite different from the Bhagavatam. No Akrura, no scene of desperation at his departure, no invitation from Kamsa or wrestling match, no sense of heroic destiny. Krishna has said he needs to be pure in order to carry out his mission of killing Kamsa and the demons and so must abandon Radha. He seems to have not given up his deep-seated grudge at Radha's resistance to his earliest advances and other offenses she has committed. He seems to have stopped identifying himself as a cowherd; he says he is the son of Vasudeva and Devaki and that he has no further use for a cowherd woman.

Even though both Krishna and Radha still refer to him as Narayan or Jagannath, or any of the other names of Vishnu, Krishna is using this in the way that any unscrupulous powerful person might use his status: to serve his own interests.

Nevertheless, at Barai's request, after repeated refusals, Krishna finally agreed to meet Radha and the two made love, but this was to be the last time. While Radha is sleeping, Krishna sneaks away to Mathura. There are no promises of a return, no expression of regrets, just the statement to Barai that "I did it because you asked me."

In song 405, Barai speaks, first chastizing Radha for having fallen into such a deep sleep that Krishna could leave. "After all the trouble I went to convincing him." She says she does not know where he has gone or where she could find him, instead blaming Krishna for being a womanizer:

viṣama puruṣa jātī kapaṭa pūrita matī
nānā bole se tirika rañje |
hena mateṁ paḍihāse se āna yuvatī lañāṁ
kāhna rati bhuñje kuñje kuñje

The hard-hearted male species is full of deception. They will say anything to charm a woman. So Krishna has laughing and joking charmed some other young girl and now is making love to her in some forest bower.
Nevertheless, Barai goes off looking for him. Does she not know that he has gone to Mathura, when he told her already? Does she simply not want to reveal the truth to Radha? Though Barai has already made this accusation before, we have no other statements that Krishna is indeed engaged with any other woman.

After wandering the whole day in the woods, Barai returns, fatigued. "I have not found him anywhere." Radha recounts her day to the old go-between.
In the first watch [early morning], I thought I would have my handsome Kahnai. And so I waited here and did nothing. I am now reaping the consequences of my mistake.

How will I survive alone here in the kunja? Where and with whom is Kahnai enjoying the pleasures of love-making? (refrain)

In the second watch [late morning], I was alone and thought, Krishna has abandoned me. Where has he gone? What woman has bathed in sacred waters so that now she is relishing Murari's love?

In the third watch [early afternoon], the koils began calling so intensely and my breath began to palpitate from his separation. In my worrying, I came to the conclusion that nothing can be done, and I began to wail and call his name, "Kahnai, Kahnai!"

In the fourth watch, as the day came to an end, I came here to the kadamba tree, where there is no Krishna, and wonder how I am going to go on living. (406)
Barai says, "No doubt you are right. Whatever woman is in Kahnai's arms is blessed. But still I will go look for him again along the Yamuna and elsewhere. When I find him, I will call you. Just tell me where to look." (407)

Radha gets some renewed hope from Barai's statement and says:
Oh yes, Barai, go and look by the Yamuna's banks. Search under the bakul tree. Look in all the bowers along the riverside, and don't forget to look up into the branches of the big trees.

If you get any sign of him, then call out to me,
I am just a poor milkmaid, alone in the woods. (refrain)

Go look for him with the other boys. He himself is just a boy and often hangs out with them. No one understands his activities through the four yugas, so be careful to watch for any sign at all. If you get him back this time, Barai, I will never leave him again, like my breath I will hold him. If you can bring him back to me, I will never hurt you again, Barai.

hara ārdha āṅga gaurī śire gaṅgā dhare |
yeteke jānila nārī yehena śarīre ||

Half of Shiva's body is Gauri, and he holds the Ganga on his head. From this we know that woman is part of a man's body. Explain this to Kahnai, Barai, and bring him to me. (408)
(409) Again Barai looks for Krishna in all the places Radha suggested, but cannot find him. Exhausted, she returns again to Radha. Her return prompts another lament from Radha (410). Barai tells her to go home, trying again to reassure her that she will find Krishna and bring him back (411).

Radha's song:
The kadamba flowers are blooming and their branches hang low; Gopal still has not returned to Gokul. How much longer will my youth and beauty go to waste? Cruel and heartless, Kahnai left me without saying a word.

Who has destroyed my childhood love? Kahna, the love of my life has not come home! (refrain)

I will wipe off the sindur from the parting in my hair, I will grind the conch bangles on my arms to dust. Without Kahnai, my life airs are burning every moment. I am like a deer that has been pierced by a poison arrow. The other cowherd girls are pious and happy in life. What sin have I committed that God makes me suffer so? Day and night I remember Kahnai's virtues, but these memories are like a lightning bolt that pierces my breast. Jyeshtha month is gone and Asharh is beginning, rainclouds cover the southern sky. And still, the cruel son of Nanda has not come home. (412)
Now Radha describes the coming of the rainy season (Asharh, Shravan, Bhadra, Ashwin):
The clouds of Asharh rumble in the sky, and the pain inflicted by Madan cause my eyes to release torrents of tears. I am not a bird, Barai, that I can just fly to wherever Kahnai is. How will I survive the four months of the rainy season? In the fullness of my youth, Kahnai has deprived me of hope. 
In the month of Shravan, it rains so intensely; I lie alone in my bed and cannot sleep. How long will I suffer this fever of desire? O Barai, now is the time to bring Kahna to me. 
In the month of Bhadra, the sky is dark both day and night; the peacocks, frogs and dahuk birds make a great racket. If then I cannot see Kahnai's face, my breast will burst from distress. 
In the month of Ashwin, the rains will come to an end, the kash flowers will bloom and the clouds depart. If Kahnai is still gone, my life will have lost any purpose. (413)

Autumn in west Bengal, India, ushers with its soft golden sunlight reflecting over the seasonal kash phul (Kash flower) beds waving as teased by the cool breeze. This ubiquitous kash is found especially in wetlands,  covering extensive areas. Their soft wavy movements in the gentle breeze are a real treat to the eyes. (Photo by H.G. Mukhopadhyaya, Flickr)

Radha has another lament and then she and Barai argue, with the final conclusion that Barai saying she will go all the way to Mathura to talk to Krishna, as that is the only place left where he could be. On arriving in Mathura, Barai speaks to Krishna and tells him of Radha's distress in separation.

Krishna's answer is spoken angrily:
Radha is very bold impudent. Just hearing about her makes me tremble. I am afraid to go near her. None of the cowherd women are any good, they all have wicked minds. How will I go in such circumstances? What have I not done for Radha? So tell me why I should have to go now? When my heart was burning for her, you took her by the hand and brought her to me, but still she was not favorable to me. So I have made my decision never to look at her again. There is no point in me going on about this, you know everything that has transpired. So I beg you now, just go back home. (416)
Barai makes another effort to convince him:
Kahnai, I don't understand your behavior. How can you refuse ambrosia when it falls directly into your hands? Please believe my words and come with me. Radha will never speak an ill word to you again.

Radha is sick with love, filled with desperation,
It's not right to leave her to suffer in separation. (refrain)

If you don't go to her now, I promise you that you will yourself suffer separation. Previously you fasted from rice on her account, now you won't take dessert when it is given to you freely?

bhāṁgila sonāra ghaṭa yuḍibāka pārī |
uttama janera nehā tehena murārī ||
ye puṇi ādhama jana āntare kapaṭa |
tāhāra se nehā yehna māṭira ghaṭa ||

The love of superior people is like a golden jar, which can be repaired if broken. But the love of lesser folk, whose hearts harbor deception, is like a clay jar: it can never be put together again. Radha was there with you, but you left her for Mathura. Going back and forth between you is going to kill me. (417)
In the last song (418) left in our manuscript, Krishna is still unbent and intransigeant:
Don't speak to me of her, Barai. When I hear her name, I don't ever want to return. You know how much she has made me suffer, and I have decided I will never look on her again. Go back, Barai, go back and don't come to talk to me of Radha any more. How much lemon juice will you pour on these open wounds? I could easily leave the wealth and opulence that I have here, but I will never be able to tolerate the burning of Radha's mean words. I have left my home in Gokul because I have decided to destroy Kamsa. In separation... [Here ends the truncated manuscript.]
Barai's character is somewhat interesting and worthy of analysis. She is irritable, easily offended, expects to be respected and is hurt if she is dishonored. Nevertheless, she continues to make the effort to mediate between our two rather difficult and childish lovers, who are constantly quarreling and bickering throughout their entire love saga. Sometimes she seems barely better than they and only rarely does she show the wisdom of her age. Caught between Radha and Krishna, she sometimes favors one, sometimes the other. On the whole, though, she generally seems to take Krishna's side and shows irritation with Radha recalcitrance or lack of surrender, and in the last act, recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, often tries to discourage her from pursuing what seems like inevitable failure. But Radha's persistent pleas finally have the effect of softening her heart and she increasingly sympathizes with her and her suffering. Though she is old, she goes into the dangerous forest, crosses the dangerous river, and in the end even makes the trip to Mathura, just to intervene on Radha's behalf. By the last song, it seems that she is as committed to Radha as she was to Krishna in the beginning. Indeed, it is this last song that makes me think that Chandidas was preparing the audience for a final reunion.

We are as I have stated several times, frustrated by the missing pages of the SKK manuscript and so we will never really know whether Chandidas wrote of Krishna's return to Vrindavan from Mathura. The general tendency in Bengal lila kirtan as also exemplified in Gopāla-vijaya, is to prolong the descriptions of separation for as long as the audience can take it and then end with a rather brief but jubilant reunion. Barai, in her final statement to Krishna, contrasts the uttama (superior) and adhama (inferior) lovers. It is really the first time any such statement has been made. Indeed, Chandidas has not made much critical commentary anywhere, showing rather than telling. But there is really nothing much anywhere that reveals that Radha and Krishna are "superior" lovers, not even when their status as immortals is openly discussed.

So though Krishna's wretched behavior to the very end of song 418 is almost irredeemable, I suspect that Chandidas is preparing us for a redemption and a happy ending. Radha's love has developed through the five years over which the events take place. In the beginning, she was just a child, and though Krishna's aggression was, certainly to our modern eyes, unconscionable, he also was in fact just a boy. I would call him a lout, but there are redeemable characteristics too: he showed some sincerity as a boatman, a laborer who would carry her wares, one who carried a parasol to protect her against the sun. He made the Vrindavan garden as a playground for her and rid the Yamuna of Kaliya for her. She took advantage of him, at first fearful and insecure, then with increasing self-awareness, testing him to his limits. And he, still immature and full of hormones, did not have the wherewithall to deal with it in any way except to profess his desire and his love, sometimes pugnaciously crossing the boundaries of seemliness.

Can we say that Radha's love, which by the end -- perhaps due to the display of divine power in Krishna's shooting of the magical flower arrows -- has become truly unconditional and overwhelming? It is true that we don't know how Sri Krishna Kirtana will end; in the last chapter Krishna has truly not looked hopeful at all. At the end of the Bana- and Vamshi-khandas, there seemed to be some hopes that there would be a reconciliation, but in this last, long, chapter, he just keeps dashing our hopes.

I don't think everything has been quite said. The problem of Krishna's divinity is a thorny one. Chandidas, if he thinks Krishna is a god or God, it is a little difficult to follow his theology. Radha and Krishna are Lakshmi and Narayan playing a game as humans, experiencing this adolescent love. Rupa Goswami would never let us completely forget that no matter how human Krishna and Radha are, they are always ideal humanity. Inwardly they are always predominantly self-aware and mature and only outwardly playing.

For Chandidas, Radha and Krishna have truly slipped into self-forgetfulness of their divinity and have really become children, experiencing the same unpreparedness and total confusion in the face of adolescence, sex desire and love. Krishna's loutishness is even somewhat forgivable in view of this, as well as the heroic destiny that lies before him, his constantly present divine beauty, as well as his boyish attempts to please Radha, even if they seem based in nothing but unrestrained desire. And if he were to come back to Radha, would we, the audience, not forgive and forget all, as surely Radha would?


Vinode Vani d.d. said…
Thank you for these excerpts and commentary on Sri Krishna Kirtan. I have begun reading Caitanya and His Age by Dinesh Chandra Sen, which begins with the historical context of Caitanya's advent. Your work on Chandidas was the help I needed.

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