Gopala-campū I (Intro and Purva 1-2)

Since I am currently working on Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha and have arrived at Anuccheda 174, which more or less summarizes the revised version of Krishna lila, which later becomes the basis for Jiva Goswami's magnum opus, Gopāla-campū.

yan mayā kṛṣṇa-sandarbhe siddhāntāmṛtam ācitam|
tad eva rasyate kāvya-kṛti-prajñā-rasajñayā||
so'haṁ kāvyasya lakṣyeṇa mano nirmāmi tādṛśam|
tan mahānto yadīkṣeraṁs tadā hemni cito maṇiḥ||
The conclusions compiled by me in the Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha can here be savoured by the palate that is learned in the poetic art. Thus, I set my mind to write it with poetry as my goal. Should the great souls examine this work, it will be as if a jewel has been set in gold.
When I did my dissertation on Gopāla-campū, then I foolishly thought that I could truly understand the last of the Six Goswamis, Sri Sri Jiva Prabhu, by going to his final work, but without fully understanding all the rest of what he had done. Understanding the mind of someone from as different a world as that of Jiva Goswami is a great challenge.

I remember while I was still an undergraduate and I went to a lecture by a young Ismaili graduate student at the Islamic Studies Institute at McGill. I don't remember the exact nature of the arcane philosophical details from a medieval Arabic scholastic, but I remember asking, "This is important, how?" I realize that one may ask the same questions about Jiva Goswami. But whatever someone else may think about his principal concerns -- which are to explain the manifest and unmanifest forms, pastimes and Dhamas of Krishna and to synthesize them in order to come to an fuller understanding of the unlimited potencies and nature of God and to establish the human pastimes above all -- we enjoy following his journey.

At any rate, I have two other works of immediate importance in relation to my role in the Jiva Institute's mission to explore and publicize the contribution of Sri Jiva Goswami, namely Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad, which is important enough to have eight or nine commentaries, four by Gaudiyas, and Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma, his last work before leaving the world. And of course my translation of Gopāla-campū. These are some of the projects I want to complete before I leave the world. But sooner rather than later. Well first things first...

Anyway, here is the first portion of the six-part summary of Gopāla-campū.


Gopala Champu is composed of six champus - three each for both its divisions of purva and uttara. These six divisions are as follows:
GC 1. Pūrva-campū:
(1) Goloka-vilāsa-campū GCP, chapters 1-2 (2 chapters)
(2) Bālya-vilāsa-campū GCP 3-13 (11 chapters)
(3) Kaishora-vilāsa-campū GCP 14-33 (20 chapters)

GC 2. Uttara-campū:
(1) Uddhava-pūrṇa-vraja-campū, GCU 1-12 (12 chapters)
(2) Balarāma-pūrṇa-vraja-campū GCU 13-22 (10 chapters)
(3) Kṛṣṇa-pūrṇa-vraja-campū GCU 23-37 (15 chapters).

Introduction and Purva-champu chapters 1-2

Purva-champu, Balya Vilasa

Purva-champu, Kaishora-vilasa

Uttara-champu, Uddhava and Balaram’s visits to Vraja

Krishna returns to Vraja and marries the gopis

Though Jiva states that his aim in GC is to express the same ideas as are contained in KrishnaS, both these works owe a great deal to Sanatan's elaborate commentary (Tippani) on BhP, Vaishnava-toshani. Since GC is in effect a rewriting of BhP, the VT's influence is here even more clearly discernible. Indeed, it may safely be said that there is nothing from KrishnaS found in GC which is not originally in VT. Sanatan's innovative interpretation of the events described in BhP must have led Jiva to feel the necessity for a retelling of the tale of Krishna's life.

Primary amongst the elements from Sanatan's commentary adopted by Jiva is the somewhat rudimentary effort at a historically critical reading of the BhP in relation to the other Puranic accounts. This accounts for numerous changes in sequence, many of which are nevertheless quite rational. For example, the killing of Vyomasura is recounted by Jiva in GC i.10. This story is unique to the BhP in the Puranas, but is found rather out of place at the end of Krishna's Vrindavan adventures, after the killing of Keshi (x.37). Sanatan argues that this event took place in Krishna's early childhood; Jiva therefore collates the story with other similar adventures in a chapter of the balya-vilasa, following Sanatan's sequence. Similarly, in GC i.23, the important events of Krishna's meeting at Kurukshetra with the gopis and the other residents of Vrindavan are described. These events come toward the end of the tenth book of the BhP, i.e. toward the end of the account of Krishna's life (x.82-84). Sanatan argues in VT that this event must have taken place prior to the battle of Kurukshetra and the war of the Mahabharata due to the presence there of numerous personalities who were slain in that great battle. From this basis, he calculates exactly in which year of Krishna's life these events must have taken place, concluding that it was prior to the killing of Jarasandha. Jiva places the story in its proper chronological sequence. Shuka's infallibility is not called into question; rather, it is explained that his narrative was guided by emotional promptings rather than strictly chronological thinking.

On numerous other occasions Jiva follows Sanatan's imaginative interpretations of the individual events. Notably, the GC presentation of the yugalagita (i.31 < BhP x.35) is an interesting exercise in rewriting the commentary and the mula to make a single coherent recital of the events.
(1) Indeed, it might be seen that the champu form became attractive to Jiva on account of the elaborate settings which Sanatan's commentary gave to some of the events. In almost every case where Jiva has quoted Vishnu Purana or Harivamsa, or even more obscure sources in the Skanda Purana or Brahmanda Purana, the same citations are to be found in the corresponding portions of VT.

Jiva's main concern is with the events of Krishna's life and the emotional response of the residents of Vraja as well as Krishna himself to those events. Numerous portions of the BhP have been abandoned as irrelevant, such as the many lengthy prayers that are found scattered through the Purana. The demigods' prayers in BhP x.2, Nalakuvara and Manigriva's prayers in x.9, Brahma's in x.14, Indra's in x.27, Akrura's in x.37 and 40, Muchukunda's in x.50, etc., have all either been dropped in their entirety or reduced to a single representative verse. Jiva has not replaced these prayers with others of his own; indeed the BhP's particular style of philosophically based panegyric is completely absent from the work. It is true that throughout the GC there are occasional indications of Krishna's majesty, his deity, etc., but these are nowhere allowed to dominate the narrative in the way that they do in BhP.

As far as the events of Krishna's life are concerned, Jiva has not only faithfully repeated most of those found in BhP, but has also added some from other Puranas that are not found there. However, events from Krishna's Dvaraka-based activities reported in the MBh, such as the speaking of the Bhagavad Gita and the Kurukshetra battle are conspicuously absent, since they take place after the Vrindavan Krishna has returned home. Other incidents such as Krishna's presence at Draupadi's svayamvara are mentioned, but only peripherally.

The underlying theological presumption operative in this selectiveness is one that conceives of the cowherd Krishna as having ontological superiority over other forms of not only Vishnu, but also Krishna, including that manifestation which appears as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. This deliberate reversal of the evolutionary forces that are understood by scholars to have forged the union of the Vasudeva deity with the rustic cowherd deity of Krishna is characteristic of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and reaches its summit in GC. This is the point of departure for the KrishnaS and the underlying assumption on which GC is based.

The theological scope of Sanatan's Vaishnava Toshani is somewhat greater than that of GC. Whereas Sanatan has commented upon the prayers, etc. found in BhP x, Jiva's polemics are restricted to the issues that he has repeatedly attacked in a number of his other commentaries and Krishna-sandarbha. These can be reduced to the following:
1.     the existence and nature of Krishna's paradise, Goloka. (i.1)

2.     the gopis and Radha's eternal relationship with Krishna in that abode as consorts or, more precisely, married wives. (i.15, i.32).

3.     Krishna's return to Vrindavan to fulfil the promises made to Radha and the gopis. (i.33, i.29).

Occasionally, other minor theological points are made. Indeed, almost every story has some message about one or the other aspect of Krishna's character, about the depth of the love and devotion felt by the devotees for him, or about the nature of devotional relations.(3)

It should not be thought, however, that Jiva's finished product is merely a mechanical rehashing of the BhP tenth book, a criticism that could more easily be levelled at works lacking theological depth, like Champu Bhagavata. In certain stories where Jiva possibly had less interest, such as those of demon-killing, it is true that a certain amount of mechanicalness of rendition can be found. After all, how often can one expect Krishna's ritual slaughter of demons barely distinguishable one from another to merit individual creative attention? On the other hand, the work abounds with original additions like the description of Hori, the excavation of Radha Kund, Krishna's return to Vrindavan and his marriage there to the gopis, etc. These latter events are entirely the creations of Jiva's own imagination and are told with enthusiasm. The familiar BhP stories are also imaginatively and refreshingly retold. At times one thinks that Jiva might have gone further, but in the context of Sanskrit literary history, his work can claim much that is original, not only stylistically, but also in his treatment of his sources and subject matter.

I will here make an attempt to present the skeleton of Jiva's narrative, pointing out as much as possible its relation to its sources and to demonstrate how Jiva has added to or glossed over them. This will set the context for a detailed discussion of the theological imperatives that dictated Jiva's attempt at enhancing BhP. This can be found in the articles 
Does Krishna Marry the Gopis in the End? Part I and Part II

Though a complete summary of GCP has been made for this purpose, much of GCU has been omitted in the interest of saving space since it is arguably expendable in the present context where particular attention has been given to the Vrindavan lila and the Vrindavan Krishna. Thus only the climax and denouement of events in GCU have been recounted in any detail.


1. See the examples of such reworking in the article "Use of Metre and Prose in the Gopala Champu." Link to be given later.

2. The other major imports from puranic sources are aspects of Krishna's visit to the city of Yama (2.10.17, from Skanda Purana), the invitation of Kratha and Kaishika (2.14.7-35), from the northern recension of the Harivamsa; background information about the 16,000 princesses married by Krishna (2.18.59, from Kalika Purana), the return to Vrindavan from Dwaraka (2.30-37, from Padma Purana), etc.
3. Various aspects of bhakti, the glories of the devotees and devotional acts are manitioned in passing throughout the work. Some examples can be found, e.g., 1.21.10, 21v43, 21v59, 22v5, 22v27-28, 22v44, 27v49, 33v42, 33.87, 261, 272, v114; Uttara Champu 5v35, v65, 8v5, v8, 16v10, 17v10, 18.63, 22v3, 22.10, 23v10, 24v3, 24v5, 27v1-3, 28v13, 29v2, etc. A typical statement:

utkaṇṭhayā saha premā dhatte mithunatāṁ yadā
aṅgajaṁ hari-saṅgākhyaṁ tadā bhajati nānyadā
When eager desire is united with love, only then will the bodily association of Hari become possible, and not otherwise.

The first division of the Pūrva-campū is called "Pastimes in Goloka" and covers chapters 1-2.

Chapter 1: A description of Goloka

The first chapter of Gopāla-campū contains the maṅgalācaraṇam in one verse, which is repeated again at the beginning of each of the six sub-campūs. Jiva immediately introduces the reader to his idiosyncratic style with several paragraphs of commentary on the ostensibly simple anuṣṭubh verse. S.K. De makes the typically snide comment, "The opening verse (which is elaborately explained by the author himself lest his readers should not appreciate it!)...” (S.K. De op. cit, 477), but this is evidently far from being a condescension to less intelligent readers as Jiva sets the tone for the entire work by writing the exegesis of his own verse in a sophisticated prose, replete with rhymes and punning.

The author gives a brief statement of intent and then begins the work proper.

He introduces the terrestrial Vrindavan, the locus of the activities of the GC with the traditional formula asti kila.... The chapter is in effect both a description of this Vrindavan and the supramundane Goloka and their relation to one another. Numerous citations are made, amongst which those from Brahma-saṁhitā are particularly important because it is according to the authority of that book that Jiva makes distinctions between Goloka, Svetadvipa, Gokula and Vrindavan. Much of the presentation here will be familiar to readers of Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha, in particular Anuccheda 106.

Two verses (BrS 5.67-8, cited at GC i.1.19) are particularly important for in them Krishna is described as Goloka's lone lover, the gopi goddesses of fortune as his beloved, Goloka's elements as having a spiritual nature; Goloka is said to be filled with wish-fulfilling trees and water like ambrosia, cows which give a great abundance of milk, and there time does not exist. Gokula, the cowherd settlement (= vraja) is described in topological detail as a city in the shape of a thousand-petalled lotus, the different parts of which are apportioned as residences to the various associates of Krishna. The area surrounding the lotus is Vrindavan and includes within it the hill Govardhana, the Manasaganga river to the southwest, while Yamuna, the banyan tree (Bhandira) and Rama Ghat all lie to the northeast. This vision is roughly based on the actual geographical plan of the terrestrial Braj, an interest in which is evident from time to time throughout the work.

Chapter 2: Illumination of the activities in Goloka.

The second chapter contains the description of a typical day in Goloka. In it we are also introduced to the two young bards, Snigdhakantha and Madhukantha who will in turn recite the remainder of the Gopāla-campū.

Everyone is awakened by the sound of the music of Krishna's glories being sung. The activities of the gopis (now Krishna's lawfully wedded wives) from their waking to their arrival in Yashoda's kitchen to prepare Krishna's breakfast. Krishna goes through his morning activities, with the special performance of a monthly ritual abhisheka performed customarily on his birthday (janma- nakṣatra). Yogamaya, appearing in another form as a woman ascetic Paurnamasi, and the vidūṣaka Madhumangala are introduced. Krishna's meal is described with Madhumangala's witticisms playing an important part. Krishna asks permission from Yashoda to go herding, reassuring her that dangers from demons no longer lurk. Before leaving, however, he goes into his father's assembly where Madhukantha and Snigdhakantha, disciples of Narada, are introduced.

Upon hearing of their omniscience and poetic talent, Krishna invites the two to entertain everyone on the following day. Krishna and Balarama then leave to pasture the cows with the vidūṣaka once again distinguishing himself. After Krishna returns to the cowherd settlement and performs his evening duties, an evening assembly is held where the twin bards are entertained by the local talent, all of which enhances their own desire to perform. Afterward Krishna takes the two boys with him to the inner quarters where he introduces them to Radha. He then sends them to their own quarters, after which he goes to bed with Radha, who is described rather like a mugdhā nāyikā.

The main elements of this chapter, Krishna's bath, the morning meal, the cowherding activities, etc., all form important parts of Krishnadasa Kaviraja's description of a day in Krishna's eternal life, Govinda-līlāmṛta. Jiva's alternative vision of this eternal life, where Krishna is married, is described in much the same terms in GC as in Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma.


GC 1. Pūrva-campū:

(1) Goloka-vilāsa-campū GCP, chapters 1-2 (2 chapters)

(2) Bālya-vilāsa-campū GCP 3-13 (11 chapters)

(3) Kaishora-vilāsa-campū GCP 14-33 (20 chapters)


GC 2. Uttara-campū:

(1) Uddhava-pūrṇa-vraja-campū, GCU 1-12 (12 chapters)

(2) Balarāma-pūrṇa-vraja-campū GCU 13-22 (10 chapters)

(3) Kṛṣṇa-pūrṇa-vraja-campū GCU 23-37 (15 chapters).


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