SKK 9: Vamsi-khanda

We left Radha at the end of the previous khaṇḍa having been pierced by the arrows of love fired by Krishna, seemingly the last vestiges of resistance having been erased.

This khaṇḍa begins with Radha going with the other girls to the Yamuna to bathe and fetch water. Krishna is there playing various musical instruments and putting on a show, amusing the gopi girls. Radha remains strangely indifferent until Krishna makes himself a bamboo flute that is inlaid with gold and encrusted with diamonds. Krishna fills the flute with the omkara and this has a devastating effect on Radha.

ke nā bāṁśī bāe baḍāyi kālinī na:i kule |
ke nā bāṁśī bāe baḍāyi e goṭha gokule ||
ākula śarīra mora beākula mana |
bāṁśīra śabadeṁ mo āūlāiloṁ rāndhana ||
ke nā bāṁśī bāe baḍāyi se nā kona janā |
dāsī haāṁ tāra pāe niśiboṁ āpanā ||
ke nā bāṁśī bāe baḍāyi cittera hariṣe |
tāra pāe baḍāyi moṁ kailoṁ koṇa doṣe ||
ājhara jharae mora nayanera pāṇī |
bāṁśīra śabadeṁ baḍāyi hārāyiloṁ parāṇī
ākula kariteṁ kibā āhmāra mana |
bājāe susara bāṁśī nāndera nandana ||
pākhi nahoṁ tāra ṭhāi ūḍī paḍi jāoṁ |
medanī vidāra deu pasiāṁ lukāoṁ ||
bana poḍe āga baḍāyi jagajane jāṇī |
mora mana poḍe yehna kumbhārera paṇī ||
āntara sukhāe mora kāhna ābhilāṣe |
bāsalī śire bandī gāila caṇḍīdāse ||

Who is playing the flute by the banks of the Yamuna River, Barai? Who is playing the flute in the pastures of Gokul? My body is agitated, my mind confused. Hearing the flute has made me ruin my cooking. Who is playing the flute, Barai? Who is that person? I will surrender myself to him and become his slave. Who is playing the flute, Barai, with such delight? What offense have I committed that he treats me so? The tears are flowing from my eyes incessantly, Barai, I have lost my life in the sound of the flute. Is Nandanandan playing this sweet tune on his flute just to disturb my mind? I am not a bird that I can just fly to him, nor does the ground open up under my feet so I can go there and hide. When a forest fire starts, Barai, it burns and everyone knows, but my mind is burning like a potter's furnace. I am drying up inside in my desire for Kahnai. So Chandidas sings, his head at Basali's feet. (Song 310)

This is the first song in the book that makes me think, “You know, maybe this is the same Chandidas as the one everyone likes so much, the one who is supposed to be Mahaprabhu’s favorite.

The next song also has the same flavor. Radha is feeling that Krishna called her with his flute to the Yamuna, she came and now she does not see him, so where is he. Many of the familiar expressions of Vaishnava padavali are there. Much as I would like to save space by not quoting more songs in full:

susara bāṁśīra nāda suṇī āiloṁ mo yamunā-tīre |
śobhana kalasī kare dhariāṁ puriloṁ yamunā nīre ||
bāṁśīra nāda nā śuṇī ebeṁ kāhna gela kibā dūre |
prāṇa beākula bhaila ebeṁ kimane jāyiboṁ ghare ||
baḍāi lo ! tohme ki dekhileṁ jāyiteṁ pathe |
kāla kāhnāñiṁ cāṁcara keśe kusuma śobhita māthe || (dhru)
ahoniśī mo āna nā jāṇo eta dukha kahiboṁ kāe |
kāhnera bhāveṁ citta beākula lāje moṁ nā kāndo rāe ||
yamunā-tīre kadamera tale kāhna more dile kole |
tāhā suṁāriāṁ bikalī bhailoṁ kāhna visarila bhole ||
cāri digeṁ taru puṣpa mukulila bahe basantera bāe |
āmba ḍāle basī kuyilī kuhale lāge viṣa-bāṇa-ghāe ||
cānda surajera bheda nā jāṇo candana śarīra tāe |
kāhna biṇi mora ebeṁ eka khana eka kula yuga bhāe ||
bāṁśīra śabadeṁ prāṇa hariāṁ kāhna gelā koṇa diśe |
tā biṇi sakala āntara dahe yena beāpila biṣe ||
ebeṁ āṇiāṁ deha nāndera nandana pura ta āhmāra āśe |
bāsaī caraṇa śire bandiāṁ gāila caṇḍīdāse ||

Hearing the sweet flute song I came to the Yamuna's banks with my waterpot, and I filled it with water from the river. But now I can no longer hear the flute, Kahnai has gone away. My heart is troubled, but I don't know how I can go back home now.

Refrain: Oh Baḍāi! Did you see which way he went?
Black Kahnai, with curly hair and flowers on his crown?

Day or night, I am aware of nothing else. In whom can I confide my pain? My heart suffers so intensely and yet I cannot cry out loud. Kahnai held me close here by the Yamuna under a kadamba tree, now he has forgotten me while the memory of it makes me suffer. All around the spring breezes blow while the trees and flowers bloom while the koil sits on the branch and sings; it is all like the wound from a poison arrow. The moonlight is as hot as the sun, and sandalwood has the same effect on my skin. Without Kahnai, a single moment feels like a century. Where has Kahnai taken my heart, after stealing it with his flute song? Without him, my entire body is burning inside, as though it is pervaded by poison. Please, fulfill my hopes, Barai, bring me the son of Nanda! So sings Chandidas, his head at Basali's feet. (Song 311)
After Radha appeals to Barai to help her find Krishna, Barai makes excuses: her eyes are going bad, how can she see? The river is full of alligators and crocodiles, how can she cross? And even if she could cross, the woods are dark and full of bears and wolves and tigers, how would she manage? She reminds Radha of how Krishna helped her across the river (naukā-khaṇḍa) and carried her goods (bhāra-khaṇḍa), and still her hopes have not been fulfilled. (312)

Radha sings two more songs (313-314) about the effects of the flute on her mind and body and begs Barai to bring her Kahnai. Barai is somewhat less than kind, “You were born in a good cowherd family. It is not right for you to behave like this. Only where the mother has been unfaithful does the child have these kinds of problems and desires sexual relations with another man. Whatever went on before was all hidden. Now you want to come out in the open with this affair? You are Aihan’s dāsī, doesn't it frighten you to behave this way? (315)

Radha makes another impassioned plea to Barai, calling her "messenger" (dūtī). She imagines how she will make garlands for Krishna, a bed of flowers and twigs, and hold him in her arms. Barai finally relents, and though she says, "Why do you want to commit suicide?" she promises to tell Krishna of all of Radha's suffering and bring them together (317). Descriptions of the effects of the flute, pleas for Barai to find Krishna, Barai's protestations, all continue for the next few songs.

In Song 322 Barai resumes many of the events that have taken place so far, "Why did you refuse the gift of tambul when Krishna sent it through me? He carried the yogurt pot for you, held the parasol in the hot summer sun, cleaned the Yamuna so you could bathe, filled Vrindavan with flowers and fruits, all just to win your heart. And yet you still refused him and claimed to be a pious and chaste housewife. Nandanandan did all that for you, and yet you continue to find fault with him. Where will I find him now? Give it up, Radha, it is too late now."

[I have been wondering if it is possible to read SKK as a metaphor, and here it is perhaps becoming clear. God is often thought to be like a child, since his activities appear to be without sense to us, like those of a child who builds castles in the sand and then just as easily breaks them. But the purpose is to get the jiva to surrender. But rather than surrender, the jiva complains and resists and finds fault with God, even though everything he does is ultimately for the benefit of the jiva, from giving life and beauty and all the rest. So perhaps that is an underlying metaphorical meaning that is being taught. This reprise of all these events from Krishna's point of view seem to point to that.]

Radha describes how Krishna's flute made her ruin her cooking (323). Barai says, "You are making a big mess of things and you make it sound like it is a good thing. Alright, Krishna is wandering around somewhere in Vrindavan, go find him." (324)

So the two set off to the Yamuna, Radha with her water jug. They look, but do not find him anywhere. Finally, as evening approaches, Barai tells Radha to go home, and they would look again the next day. Ayan is coming back from the goshtha soon, and if he does not find her at home, he will blame Barai. But Barai promises to help her in any way she can.

āhmāta ādhika tora ke karibe hita |
saba khana tora kāje jāge more cita

Who will try harder for your welfare than me? My heart is always looking for ways to help you. (326.4)
That night after Aihan has gone to bed, Radha hears the flute. Seeing Aihan is deeply asleep, she goes looking for the source of the sound. She searches all night, but does not find Krishna anyway. Finally, she falls in a faint. Luckily, Barai finds her and gives her water and brings her back to consciousness. (327)

The old woman says, "Let's go to the Yamuna on the pretext of fetching water. Kahnai is always hanging out there. But this time, let's steal his flute. I know a magic spell that will put him to sleep while he is sitting under the kadamba tree. Then you can hide the flute inside your water jug." (328)

The plan is carried out. Barai casts the spell and Krishna falls asleep. Radha quickly takes the flute, puts it in her clay pot and scurries home. She takes out the flute and contemplates it for a while. Then, thinking that she will never give it back, she hides it somewhere where no one ever goes.

[Interestingly, there is no projection of personal qualities on the flute. No cursing of it or blaming of it, no envious remarks, as are so popular in the Sanskrit literature, even prior to the Goswamis. The classic example, of course, would be BhP 10.21.9:

gopyaḥ kim ācarad ayaṁ kuśalaṁ sma veṇur
dāmodarādhara-sudhām api gopikānām |
bhuṅkte svayaṁ yad avaśiṣṭa-rasaṁ hradinyo
hṛṣyat-tvaco'śru mumucus taravo yathāryāḥ

Dear gopis! What indescribably auspicious activities did the flute perform in previous lives that it can now freely enjoy the nectar dripping from Damodar’s lips, nectar that truly belongs to us gopis? And just look! Cultured people shed tears and tremble with joy when they see someone in their family take to the service of the Lord. Similarly, the river, where the bamboo grows and who is like the flute’s mother, is jubilant, and the lotus flowers blooming are like the hair standing on her body. The trees, senior members of the flute's family, drip with sap as though shedding tears of pleasure.
In the commentary to this verse, Sanatan Goswami says that the gopis, out of envy that the flute is stealing their property, the nectar of Krishna's lips, think it would be good to steal it and thus deprive it of its ill-gotten goods. Not only that, but it would teach the arrogant piece of bamboo not to make such a public show of his thievery.

There is an example of vaṁśī-caurī in the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, taken from Padyāvalī which is nice. No resemblance really to this song, but I cite it here anyway:

nīcair nyāsād atha caraṇayor nūpuraṁ mūkayantī
dhṛtvā dhṛtvā kanaka-valayāny utkṣipantī bhujānte |
mudrām akṣṇoś cakita-cakitaṁ śaśvad ālokayantī
smitvā smitvā harati muralīm aṅkato mādhavasya ||

Tiptoing carefully so as not to let her anklebells make a sound,
Holding up her arms so her bracelets and armbands won’t jingle,
Anxiously focusing her glance on the sleeping Madhava’s eyes,
With a triumphant smile, Radha snatches the flute from his lap.
(P 253, UN 15.238)

Krishna wakes up and looks around for his flute. He does not find it, but sees Barai and starts lamenting. (330) He describes the beauty and power of the flute. Someone has taken it, he says, and starts going door to door looking for it. Radha hears that Krishna is coming and starts to panic. Krishna in frustration starts to cry. (331)

Barai tries to appease Krishna by saying that the flute has been disturbing people, but no one more than the gopis. So surely one of them has taken it. Krishna responds by looking at Barai, folding his hands in prayerful posture and begging for her help in recovering it. Radha sees this and can't help smiling. Krishna catches Radha's smile and realizes that she is the one who has stolen the flute. He asks her to return it, saying that his father will be displeased if he hears that it was taken while he was sleeping. (332)

From here to the end of the chapter, Krishna, Radha and Barai are engaged in accusations back and forth. Krishna says Radha took it, she repeatedly denies it, lying brazenly. Radha says maybe Barai took it. Finally, Krishna is so frustrated that he starts crying. Barai tells Krishna that maybe if he says "pretty please" to all the gopis, one of them will surely give it back. "You have offended them all in one way or another."

When Radha hears Barai's description of Krishna's suffering, she relents and in the last song the two finally come to an agreement. Radha says she only took the flute because of her intense feelings of separation, which were worsened by hearing the flute. If Krishna promises to come to her when she is suffering in that way, she will give it back. Krishna promises that he will never cause her pain and that he forgives her whatever wrongs she has done him. Radha says that henceforth she is his dasi. And so the flute is returned to its owner and everyone goes home happy. (349) The chapter does not end with a love scene as did the previous.

The problems of the progression in the plot also remain. This chapter began with Radha's heartfelt, helpless and unabashed commitment to her love for Krishna. This had already been achieved by Krishna in the previous chapter through the rather unscrupulous means of Cupid's arrows. Now, here, he uses the flute to further his control over her, and it appears that he has won. But somehow Barai convinces Radha to steal the flute as a solution to the problem... which it isn't, since the problem, as Radha herself states in the last song, is that her feelings of separation require union, and Krishna did not give that. So it seems that her capitulation has not been complete.

Though Krishna forgives her this theft, we will see in the next chapter that this too is not true.

One thing that is immediately noticeable about this chapter is that the arguments between Radha and Krishna have not stopped, but in fact are the subject of at least half of songs. So this theme of quarrelsome argument seems to have been what Chandidas has really bequeathed to the Gaudiya world, what Rupa Goswami calls premorjitā narma-vivāda-goṣṭhī, "love charged banter and love quarrels" (DKK 5).


DKM said…
You made my day by sharing the exquisite poem on Vamshee-choranam. Being a Bansuri player, a Krshnabhakta, and an unschooled Samskrta poetry enthusiast, what else could I have asked for? Maybe for one more thing? A samskrta transliteration. I did it, but I am not totally confident of the perfection of my transliteration into Devnagari. Raadhaa-Krshna bless us all. P.S. I must say half of me is with Shyaamamanoharee but the other half with Vamsheemohana who loves His flute as well. Cant all the gopika-s become Banshee-s and avoid the stealing?

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