The Five Essential Verses of Gita Govinda (Verse 2)


Krishna, the Lover of Radha

Our second verse is taken from Gīta-govinda's third chapter—

kaṁsārir api saṁsāra-vāsanā-baddha-śṛṅkhalām |
rādhām ādhāya hṛdaye tatyāja vraja-sundarīḥ ||
Krishna, the enemy of Kamsa, took Radha, who is the link that makes all his hopes for happiness possible, into his heart and left aside all the other cowherd beauties. (3.1)
The context in GG is provided by the next verse we will cite. Radha has seen Krishna as described in verse 1.48 and is not pleased. She has become overwhelmed by jealous anger and has left the scene of the rāsa. We shall discuss this further in the appropriate place.

In Rupa Goswami's categorization of the madhura-rasa in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, this verse is given as an example of kṛṣṇa-rati, which in this case does not mean (as is customary in BRS) love for Krishna, but Krishna's own love for another, in this case Radha. Although from the theological point of view it goes without saying that God loves his devotees (Cf. Gītā 4.11), in each description of rasa, he is generally presented primarily as the object of devotional love (viṣaya) rather than as the āśraya, or reservoir of love for his devotee. In this case, a significant exception is being made.

This in itself should be considered a significant development. It would seem that this change in emphasis is a result of the poetic tradition that considers the mutuality of romantic love to be necessary for the production of rasa. Even though the sentiments of the nāyikā are usually elaborated more fully than those of the nāyaka, if the love of the two is not equal, then the sentiment falls into the category of rasābhāsa. This also leads to one of the fundamental problems that poeticians have in dealing with religious devotion as a rasa, which those who oppose declare is a only a subordinate emotional state (bhāva) that never reaches full-fledged rasa. 

The verse is centered around the interesting compound word used to describe Radha: saṁsāra-vāsanā-baddha-śṛṅkhalām, nearly every word of which is theologically inappropriate. Miller translates, "Feeling Radha bind his heart with chains of memories buried in other worldly lives," and Siegel, "having placed Radha in his heart as the chain binding him with desire for the world." However construed, the language is inappropriate where theology is concerned. God has no worldly life or repeated birth and death (saṁsāra), no conditioned desires (vāsanā), and is certainly not bound by chains (baddha-śṛṅkhalām). These words fit the descriptions of woman as the source of material bondage, but how can they have any relevance to God?

Vishwanath rightly points out that the verse is a paradoxical statement. Krishna is the enemy of the material condition, which is represented by the word kaṁsa  Now here he himself is being shackled by a desire for saṁsāra! How can it be? (kaṁsāriḥ kaṁsasya ariḥ | ari-bhāvena saṁsāra-nāśako’pi svayaṁ saṁsāra-vāsanayā baddha iti virodhābhāsaḥ |)

Jiva Goswami says that saṁsāra should be taken to mean samyak sāraḥ, "the most perfect essence." In Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Krishnadas glosses the word as meaning the rāsa dance itself. But Krishnadas probably elucidates most clearly what meaning these verses (along with the immediately following GG 3.2) have for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas in Ramananda Ray's conversations with Chaitanya; for him, this verse is the central evidence of Radha's glories.

First, GG 3.2:

itas tatas tām anusṛtya rādhikām
anaṅga-bāṇa-vraṇa-khinna-mānasaḥ |
kṛtānutāpaḥ sa kalinda-nandinī-
taṭānta-kuñje viṣasāda mādhavaḥ ||
His mind afflicted by the wounds inflicted by Cupid's arrows, he wandered here and there in search of Radhika. Overcome by remorse, he came to a bower by the banks of the Yamuna and there started to lament. (CC 2.8.107)
Now the rest of Ramananda's explanation:
One can understand Radha's glories simply by contemplating these two verses. Through reflecting on them, it is as though one is tapping a mine of ambrosia. Although Krishna was enjoying the rāsa in the company of hundreds of millions of gopis, only a single form remained next to Radha. When she saw that Krishna's love was equal towards all the gopis [including herself], her love took a crooked turn and she became contrarian.

aher iva gatiḥ premṇaḥ svabhāva-kuṭilā bhavet |
ato hetor ahetoś ca yūnor māna udañcati ||
Like those of a snake, the movements of love are naturally crooked. For this reason, loving pride (māna) arises between lovers, sometimes for good reason and sometimes without any reason at all. (CC 2.8.111, Sarasvatī-kaṇṭhābharaṇa 5.48)

When Krishna did not see Radha, who had left the rāsa dance out of anger and loving pride, he became confused and distressed. Lord Krishna's perfected desire is his wish for the rāsa-līlā, but Radha is the essential link in that desire. Without Radha, he felt no pleasure in the rāsa dance, and so he left the group and went looking for her. When he could not find her after looking all over for her, he began to lament, afflicted by the arrows of Cupid. Since Krishna's desires could not be satisfied even in the midst of hundreds of millions of gopis, we can deduce the extent of Radha's glories. (2.8.112-116)
We will talk further of Radha's māna in the discussion of the next verse, and the apotheosis if Radha will be complete in the fourth verse in which the cycle of the Gīta-govinda is completed.  And this is in fact the essence of GG: We start out in the first verse with a depiction of Krishna's divine attribute of being the supreme male, the all attractive one, but here we see him being subjugated by love. Gīta-govinda is a paean to the power of a woman's love. Radharani making a man out of Krishna, making him a human being where he had only been a god! The lesson here is thus that it is better to love than to be loved.

Prabodhananda correctly points out that this expression saṁsāra-vāsanā-baddha-śṛṅkhalām is a description of the internal potency.

tābhir ya eva nija-rūpatayā kalābhiḥ |
goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūto
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi ||
I adore the original conscious being, Govinda, whose portions are imbued with the ambrosia of the spiritual bliss potency, who are verily extensions of his own self, residing with them in his abode of Goloka even as he is the universal soul of all beings. (Brahma-saṁhitā, 5.48)
So the second verse of our quintet is to show Krishna as the āśraya of love. The power of Radha's love, which is here being shown as her refusal to accept any competitors. She demands exclusivity of Krishna as much as Krishna demands ekāgratā of his devotees.

Verse 1: Krishna, the Embodiment of the Erotic Rasa
Verse 2: Krishna, the Lover of Radha
Verse 3: Radharani's māna
Verse 4: Radha, the empress of love.
Verse 5: Rasa-niṣpatti.


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