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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Compiled and Imp Scriptures > Ananda Vrindavana Champu > 20 The Rasa Dance

Chapter Twenty

The Rasa Dance



The burning pain in the hearts of those fortunate gopis, who were the very  life of Krishna, had now been extinguished. Taking to heart the gentle,  nectarean words flowing from the full moon of Krishna's mouth, the gopis  went almost mad as they caressed Him with their trembling arms. They  desired to enjoy their lover who displayed irresistible attraction. With  His incredibly gorgeous form, looking more beautiful than a hundred  thou­sand Cupids, Krishna served the gopis a continuous feast for their  eyes. Then the enchanter the whole creation began His pastime of the rasa  dance in order to fill the gopis' hearts with endless bliss. Krishna wanted  the gopis to perform the joyful Hallisaka dance to display their talents  and individual mellows. Bharata Muni, the authority on mundane dramatics,  describes Hallisaka as a circular dance that girls perform while holding  their hands on each other's shoulders. Desiring to enjoy this dance, Krishna  spoke to His gopi lovers, who resembled the best jeweled flags.


Krishna said, "O my beloved gopisl I derive great happiness from all of you.  Now please hear My words with faith. See this auspicious expanse of  naturally brilliant beach made by the Yamuna River, her heart bursting  with pleasure. It is like a well-ploughed field devoid of pebbles and  shin­ing like camphor. Although there are many of you, see if you can make  a circle there."

Hearing this, the gopis replied, "If we stand in a circle we will be far  away from You. Our hearts are all trembling at this thought. Being so far  away from You, we will not be enthusiastic, nor can we endure the  sor­row."

Krishna said, "Now just see the potency of My instructions. Though I will  stand in the center of the circle with Radhika, I will also remain beside  each of you rapidly twirling around in a playful mood."

Their doubts dispelled, the gopis became anxious to see the fun. In great  happiness they joined hands and formed a circle around their beloved  Krishna. Their bodies seemed to merge into one form that spread out over the  beach like circular waves expanding in an ocean of moonlight. That circle  of all-attractive ladies looked like a golden net spread over the wa­ters  of eager love for catching the fish-like mind of Krishna with the bait of  ripe tumbi fruits (their breasts). The rasa circle resembled a fortress of  moonlight topped by the black flags of their swaying black braids, and  decorated with golden pots shimmering in the reflection of their full moon  faces.


The rasa circle looked like a huge earring decorating the ear of the  goddess of the earth, or a golden bracelet of Manasottara Lake  surround­ing Sumeru (Krishna), or like a giant bangle around the full moon  of Krishna. It looked like a potter's wheel rotating from the touch of a  potter expert in Cupid's sports. It appeared like a circular grove of  interlocked golden desire creepers decorated with dew drops of  perspiration, springing up instantaneously without any seed on the camphor  dust beach beside the Yamuna. As literature is decorated with essays called sarvatobhadra, all forms of  auspiciousness and happiness ornamented this dance. Like skillful poetry  that can be read forward and backward, the rasa dance sometimes went one  way and at other times the opposite way. As poetry is marked by equal  flowing syllables, the dance progressed with balanced steps and no  stumbling. As poetry is written in both local and Sanskrit languages,  vari­ous statements and counter statements punctuated the dance. As poetry  is ornamented with puns, which compress two meanings in one sound, tight  embraces ornamented the circular dance. As poetry is adorned in  alliteration, similarly, during the dance the gopis wore suitable clothing  to accentuate the various movements of their hands and feet. As poetry is  ornamented with repetition, so in the dance one Krishna appeared as many. As  poetry has both flowing and syncopated meters, similarly, the dance  sometimes proceeded steadily and sometimes in a halting motion. As the eye  has a black spot in the center, the circle of dancers had Krishna in the  center.


Without anyone's notice, Yogamaya dressed the gopis in beautiful cloth­ing  and ornaments perfectly suited for the rasa dance. Without knowing why,  Krishna felt overwhelmingly attracted to the gopis. Just see how expert  Yogamaya is at satisfying Krishna's heart!

At the beginning of the dance, the daughter of Vrsabhanu displayed the  epitome of glory and beauty. Encouraged by the gopis, Radha stayed in the  center of the circle with Krishna. Standing like a picture, Radhika bathed  in bliss as She watched the dancing expertise of the other gopis.

Fearing that they had become too spread out, the gopis gathered to­gether  again. As poetry may have the fault of looseness, the gopis placed their  arms each other's shoulders in order to close up the gap between them.  Then Krishna, the king of pleasure, left the center of the circle and  quickly entered between each pair of gopis. Releasing their locked arms,  Krishna placed His arms on the gopis' shoulders and danced with them,  displaying fascinating poses.

Coming between the pairs of gopis, Krishna first faced them and then hid  behind their backs. Krishna held their necks between His arms and moved  about. By this, the rasa circle took on a spectacular appearance—like a  firebrand twirling around, straight, then reverse, then zigzagging in  mo­tion. Krishna's attractive dancing movements filled the gopis with  desires to associate with Him.


Turning at full speed and putting His arms on the left and right  shoul­ders of two gopis, Krishna simultaneously embraced both of them.  Making a space between the two gopis whom He had just embraced, Krishna  quickly moved behind them. Then taking His hand away from one, and using  the shoulder of the other, He circled around again to face them. In this  way the fun-filled rasa dance continued. Moving in this zigzag motion,  Krishna rapidly and skillfully went around to embrace each gopi from front  and back. Krishna's artistic dance of love filled His dearest gopi and all  the oth­ers with ecstatic joy.

Overcome with impatience to witness the rasa dance, unlimited num­bers of  demigods and their wives crowded the sky with their hundreds of celestial  airplanes, which looked like planets hanging in the sky. The ho­rizon  looked like an assembly hall filled with the Caranas, Kinnaras, Siddhas,  Sadhyas, Gandharvas and Vidyadharas. The demigods played varieties of  festive tunes and melodies to increase the pleasure of Radha and Krishna.  They accompanied the rasa dance with muraja drums, shaped like poems of  the same name. They beat drums (mrdanga), made from pure clay devoid of  rocks and other debris from the earth (mrdanga). They rang small metal  cymbals (panavas) as plentiful as an exchange of coins (pana) in buying  and selling goods. The drummers held the beauti­ful alingya drums in close  embrace (alinga). They played brilliant ankya drums suitable for the  various acts of a drama. The anakadundubhi drums equaled the praiseworthy  Anakadundubhi (Vasudeva) of the Yadu dy­nasty. The vibrations of numerous  stringed instruments such as the vina (vitata) pervaded (vitata) the sky.  The wind instruments (susiram) had needle-like holes (sasusiram), and the  special drums (anaddha) were tied up (sanaddham) like precious jewels.


The celestial musicians showered so many flowers that the bees thought  they were the kajala-tinged tears of the goddess of heaven. With hairs  standing erect in ecstasy, the Gandharvas sang the glories of  Yasodanandana. The rhythmic sounds of the anklets and bracelets of Krishna  and the gopis poured nectar into the ears of the devatas accustomed to  drinking ambrosia, and destroyed their desire to taste anything else.

Krishna submerged in unlimited bliss as He rapidly spun around between each  pair of gopis and embraced them. When the circle of gopis combined with  the single dark body of Krishna, it conquered the beauty of the combi­nation  of moonlight and darkness, of lightning and storm clouds, of campaka and  blue lotus flowers, and of gold and sapphires. Ceasing their zigzag  movements, the dancers started turning in a circle. As they merrily

danced, the gopis' veils rustled, their earrings swung on their cheeks,  their coral necklaces swayed playfully on their shoulders, and their  bracelets, waist-belts and ankle-bells tinkled delightfully. The gopis,  flashing like stationary lightning, sent waves of light around the  universe of cloud for­mations (Krishna) whirling around in the dance. Then something extraordinary happened. Making smaller circles, Krishna  danced close to Radha in the center, and then He expanded again to the  circumference of the circle in order to dance close to the other gopis.  Enjoying His pastime, Krishna appeared like a roaming sapphire necklace,  freed from its thread, in the jewel box of the circle of gopis. Impelled  by the festive sight and desiring to dance like the blissful gopis, the  god­desses of dancing, singing, and playing instruments appeared  personally at the rasa dance. The presiding deities of music and dance had  attained expertise in these arts after long practice. In a blissful mood,  the teachers of music and dance worshiped those skilled dancers. They  welcomed the arriving demigods of hand positions (mudras) who assist them  in their productions.


As the gopis expertly sang and danced to the beat of the music, they  displayed various mudras and enchanting bodily poses. Mudras are hand  postures that tell a story or act out the drama of the music. In the  follow­ing list, the mudra is first defined and then explained with a  metaphor. During the rasa dance the gopis exhibited all of these mudras to  express their different moods.

(1)Pataka Mudra (flag): like a beautiful flag flying from the mansion of a  wealthy man.

2)Tripataka (three banners): like the smoke from the sacrificial arena, the  flag of the sacrifice.

3)Hamsa Mastaka (swan's head): as tender as the lotus stem touched by a  swan.

4)Kartari Mukha (betel nut clipper): a curved blade, like the thin moon on  the second day after dark moon.

5)Suka Tundaka (parrot's head): brilliant, like the beak of a parrot, the  color of the palasa flower.

6)Sandamsa: compressed like pincers pulling out threads of molten gold.

7)Khataka Mukha (suspicious face): like Siva holding a khataka (musi­cal  instrument) in His hands.

8)Padma Kosa (lotus bud): attractive as a lotus surrounded by eager bees.

9)Ahitunda Mudra: like a snake charmer skillfully holding a snake's head.

10)     Suci'Mukha (pinhead): like the head of the needle, plentiful in  the

tailor's shop.


11)Mrga-sirsaka (deer's head): like the constellation mrgasirsa during the  full moon of the winter month.

12)Ardha Candra (half moon): like the moon on the eighth day.

After thanking the hand position devatas, the goddesses of the perform­ing  arts welcomed the devatas of songs and ragas. The devatas in charge of  various styles of prabandha and dhmva, and of irregular intonation such as  harivilasa, svarartha, along with various rhythms such as caccatputa,  caccaputa, hamsalila, gajalila, simhananda (extensive talas), as well as  ekatali, rupaka, pratimantha, nisaru, yati, triputa aduka, and adi tola  were also in attendance. The music devatas of southern, tailanga, and  western styles all gathered there. They received the devatas of ragas such  as malara, mallara, bhairava, kedara, nata, karanta, kamoda, sama, desaga,  gandhara, bangala, and vasanta; the devatas of raginis: gujjari,  bahulagujjari, barati, desika, bhairavi, velavali, ramkiri, dhanasika,  shri, pali, gori, todi, gondakiri, and kafyanika.


They greeted the Laksmi of singing and the devatas of text and music, the  seven melodies (svaras), the twenty-one fading notes (murcchana), three  scales (grama), eighteen scales (jati) and twenty-two marginal notes  (sruti). They welcomed four types of instrumental devatas: wind  instru­ments such vamsi, muralika, pavika, upanga; string instruments like  vina, mahati, kavilasika, vipanci, svara mandalika, kaccapi, rudravina and  kinnari; drumming instruments like mrdu, mrdanga, damaru, dampha; and  percus­sion instruments like cymbals. They welcomed the different tempos:  fast, slow and medium, and the body poses of dance. Among them appeared  devatas such as svaramandalika, vipancika, mahati, rupavati holding lutes  and others holding tamburas. Many singers with drummers, vina, and flute  players joyfully appeared there. Many expert karatala players kept the  rhythm. All these devatas, the embodiments of the performing arts, and the  Upanisads of the arts, attended the rasa lila with smiling lotus faces and  looks of astonishment.

The best dancers assembled there showing their expertise in both the  improvised and the pure styles. They exhibited proficiency in all the  se­crets of music and graceful movements like a person who turns ordinary  words into songs. Something more may be added. There are two types of  songs, marga (song, dance and music according to the rules laid down by  Brahma) and desi (regional). There are thirty-four types of marga and  forty types of desi songs. In musicology, the cancaputa beat is famous.  The recitation of beats (bol) sounded most attractive: thaiya  tatha-tatha-thaiya, tatha-tatha-thaiya-tathatti-tatha-thaiya,  thaiya-tatha-tatha-thaiya, thaga-thaga-thaga-tattitha-diganathai.  Following this recitation, the rhythm keepers kept karatalas in their  hands. Moving them left, right, up and down, they sang an attractive new  eighth note, though there are only seven notes in the scale, playing in different measures (laghu, guru, pluto,  drat and virago) sometimes with bol and sometimes without.


When the drummers raised a tumultuous sound by hitting the ends of the  drums with their hands, their lips shone and their throats quivered. The  female singers took on a splendor as they turned their ears towards the  sound of the instruments thundering with great skill. The seven notes  revealed their beauty in four ways according to their placement in the  tune: anuvadi, vivadi, vadi and samvadi. The vadi is like a king; it is  used frequently and defines the svarupa or essence of the raga. The  samvadi acts like the fifth note and is called the minister. Any of the  other four notes may be the vivadi, or enemy. The remaining notes of the  raga are called anuvadi, the followers of the king and minister. The constituents of the svaras are called srutis, which re twenty-two in  number named tivra, kumudvatx, and so on. When these combine they form  three types of grama (scales): sadja, madhyama and gandhara. When a svara  (melody) fades into a raga it is called a murcchana (fading note). Raga  develops by using murcchana. There are a total of twenty-one murcchanas  (seven svaras times three scales) such as pancama, rodri, and others. All  these murcchanas appeared during the rasa-lila. Playing the murcchanas in ascent is called tana. There are forty-nine  tanas (key notes). From them minor tanas arise. It is impossible to count  their varieties. In the rasa-lila 300,000 tanas appeared. Jatis are the  arche­types of ragas. There are seven pure jatis and eleven secondary  jatis, a total of eighteen. Though only eighteen in number, seventeen  thousand nine hundred jatis appeared in this rasa dance. There are three  types of complete ragas appearing in fifty forms. By omitting and  retaining notes many forms of ragas resounded within the rasa dance. There  are six main ragas such as shri and vasanta, and thirty-six raginis (wives  of the ragas) or derivative forms such as mala, shri, and todi. Unlimited  varieties of ragas and raginis arise by mixing those forms.


In order to sing the srutis, jatis, murcchanas and the fifteen gamakas  (trills or making a melody pulsate), Brahma supplied fixed and change­able  tuning on the vina. While sounding the vinos to regulate the pitch of the  gopis' voices, one wondered about the accuracy of the vinas tuning. Proud  of their ability to test the pitch of voices, the vinas themselves be­came  tested by comparison with the gopis' voices. The gopis sang a type of song  called suddha prabandha. There are nine types of suddha: adi, yati,  nisaru, adda, triputa, jhampaka, manthaka and ekatali. Then the gopis sang  dhruva and mantha songs of the salaga suddha style using various  irregu­lar beats. They also sang prabandha songs.

Excitedly uttering the bol, "thaiya thaiya tatha tatha thaiya thaiya  thaiya— tigara td-thaiya, the gopis, stamping their feet on the ground and  raising

their arms in the air, danced sweetly from left to right, while going around the circumference of the circle. To further relish the singing the gopls made mudras to dramatize the words of the songs. As they gracefully turned their necks, their eyes darted from left to right glancing at Krishna with looks of love. Raising their arms high and shaking their bangles while spinning around, the gopis danced with lightning speed. Because they tasted such ecstasy within, they could not stop. Being strung on the thread of Krishna's beauty within their hearts, they flawlessly and continuously moved their feet to the left and right. While stamping their feet to the beat "dhi dhidhi dhita dhidhi," their bodies swayed in time and their jeweled ankle-bells softly jingled. The cloth slipped from their breasts, and it seemed their thin waists would soon snap in half. But fearlessly, they swung their arms around and danced in joy, twisting left and right.


The vina and flute players also danced with precise steps. The singers and rhythm makers danced according to the beat of the song. The drum­mers played loudly and danced in unison. Their sound was like a thread tied to the bodies of the dancing gopis. When Krishna turned to the left while moving around in the rasa circle, the gopis turned to the right. And when Krishna turned to the right, they turned to the left. Dancing in this manner, they appeared as figures spotlighted by a moving lamp, which cast shadows first on one side then on the other side, as the combination of golden bodied gopis and dark blue Krishna repeatedly reversed their positions.

The instrumentalists, situated outside the circle, assisted the pastime of the Lord by playing according to the dancing of the gopis. The gopis sang various songs about the sweetness of Krishna, "the personification of all nectarean enjoyment." In response, Krishna sang about the beauty of the moon, "who brings pleasure to the night." In a gentle ragini, the gopis sang, "His face is the abode of sweetness..."


As the beat picked up and the gopis stamped their feet harder, drops of perspiration fell from their lotus feet like honey on the sand. Astonish­ingly, the fury of the dancing did not raise a speck of dust. The image of Krishna's dancing, which reflected on the gopis' tilaka, swayed to the rhythm of the dancing gopis as they rocked their heads. The gopis seemed to be saying to that reflected image of Krishna, "O skillful dancer, Your dancing can never, never, never compare with the splendid dancing of the gopis in the rasa mandala."

At the end of the dance, all the lotus-eyed gopis tightly embraced Krishna. Trembling in ecstasy, they sang another raga in loud voices, conveying their intense longing. The devatas of music all fainted upon hearing this raga. One gopi, joining Krishna in His singing, sang pure melodious tones with full feeling in the gandharva scale made pleasant by suitable jati,  sruti and gamckas. Pleased, Krishna showed great appreciation for her  perfor­mance, spying "Excellent! Excellent!" She pleased Krishna by singing  the seven notes of the scale embellished with twenty-two srutis presented  with the principle ornaments in the introductory passages {alapa).


Hearing the mrdangas playing "to dhik ta dhik" the dancers of the  heav­enly planets filled with cheer. Though critical of any competition,  they filled with delight on hearing that sound. The gopis kept dancing and  the instruments kept playing. Due to intense attraction to Radhika,  Mukunda, swelling Vith bliss and pride, performed a danced a solo  exhibiting His eternal nature as the embodiment of rasa. Wearing a peacock  feather in His hair, Mukunda showered the rasa dance in a cloudburst of  nectarean prema by embracing Radha in His arms. Krishna looked like a tamala  tree embraceq by a golden creeper, a cloud flashing with lightning, or  like a perfect nl£dicine produced by the goddess of amusement herself to  bring satisfaction ancj to dissipate all lamentation.

The spjendor of Krishna's elegance conquered the pride of a million Cupids.  Ijke a magnet, Krishna attracted the flower buds of Cupid's arrows of love.  Seeing Radha dancing with Krishna, the other gopis wanted to en­hance Htr  expert dancing, but they could not keep up with Radha's pro­ficient  paying, singing and dancing.This performance was not simply a result of  practice, nor a show of expertise jn learning singing and dancing, nor a  momentary display of enthusiasm based on a little talent cultivated  through repetition. Radha's impeccable qualities are eternally present and  eternally perfect. They do not depend on practice to manifest. Radhika's  natural perfection far ex­ceeds thjt of all the famous women in creation.  The dancing skills of Urvasi cannot be compared to Radha's. What to speak  of the other Apsaras who hide themselves in the pleasant waters of  bashfulness before Radhika. In front tf Radha, the wives of the Caranas  retreated to the edge of the forest, the wives of the Siddhas gave up  their pride, and the wives of the Gandharvas iost their noble character.  Fixing their minds on the great fortune (>f Krishna's intense love for  Radha, the wives of the devas and munis sprinkled flowers.In a mixture of  joy, enthusiasm, and a desire to outdo each other, Radha and Krsra>  overcome with attraction, sang the alapa (introductory part) with the   nitial note (graha) and the sixth note. They sang all the notes of the  ascerding and descending scales with gamaka (trills or wavering). This  invoked various tastes, induced more singing and dancing, and spread  auspicioisness all around. It did not, however, appear to be a  manifesta­tion of aiy material skill.As the hythms faded out just before  the end of the song, Krishna concluded the song with the final note (nyasa),  extending His lotus hand (nyasa) to touch Radhika's breast. Although  intrigued by Krishna's witty behavior, Radhika pretended to be angry and  pushed Krishna's hand away with Her left lotus hand. Merciful Krishna captivated all the gopis with the sweetness of His face and  His broad, playful smiles, which gave rise to selfless love. Though  Krishna's heart overwhelmed with the desire for conjugal love, He contin­ued  to dance a little more, while swinging His head. Sometimes Krishna moved to  the outside of the circle and danced with the tribal Abhira women standing  on the edge, and other times He moved to the center of the circle to dance  with Radhika.


After relishing the dancing, Krishna wanted to see the expertise of the  gopis in performing other intimate pastimes. He stood before them,  show­ing His radiant face and attractive arms while interacting with each  one according to her individual rapture. Krishna said, "O my beloved gopisl  Now take sufficient rest for some time. Then we will see how to enjoy  ourselves."


Saying this, Krishna and the gopis relaxed on the cooling, camphor-white  sands along the bank of the Yamuna. The intelligent Yogamaya, Vrnda-devi,  and her associates came there; knowing the time had come for their  service. They brought plenty of elegant and appropriate things to give to  the gopis. With great affection they offered wild flower honey, cooling  fruit juice in palasa leaf cups more attractive than jeweled dishes,  gar­lands, and betel nuts, with a taste so satisfying and perfect that no  ordi­nary person could have made it.

Krishna forgot about His pastimes of eating on the riverbank with His  cowherd friends. It occurred to Krishna that He had now fulfilled His  de­sire to picnic directly with the gopis on the bank of the Yamuna. Krishna  passed the time playfully eating with them in unlimited bliss. Intensely  desiring to see the fun, Brahma and the other devatas did not go  any­where. But since they had previously offended Krishna when He picnicked  with His cowherd boyfriends, they did not have the courage to gaze on this  secret picnic. Thus they raised their cloths to cover part of their faces.

After savoring the ecstatic rasa dance, Krishna enjoyed in a different way  in that solitary place, joking and laughing in the madness of love. Devoid  of restraints, the ocean of prema in the rasa mandala swelled with high,  unlimited waves. In that condition, Gopinatha and His lovers tasted the  sweet fruits and nectar drinks. With great pleasure Krishna sipped the cool  water brought by respectful vanadevis. He relished the betel nuts flavored  with camphor and sara root, which He held before His mouth in a unique  way. The wind passing over the Yamuna carried the scent of lotuses and the blissful sound of cranes and ducks as it blew gently on Krishna's body.  After drinking His fill of liquor before the battle, Krishna left His  sitting pastime with a desire to dance again in the artful battle of love.  Standing up, Krishna played an amazing raga in the gandharva scale on His  flute. It so much surpassed His previous songs that even the expert  musicians could not touch it. The devatas sang along accompanied by  mrdangas. Because it is impossible to describe the fantastic dancing of the  indi­vidual gopis, the dancing of one gopi of Radha's group will now be  de­scribed, from which everything can be understood. As the voices and instrumental music blended in a pleasant way, one gopi,  who embodied the essence of the art of dancing, stood up amidst the  singers like the center of a flower surrounded by golden petals. When the  beat fell off, she appeared like a deity making a sudden appearance to the  clanging of musical instruments. That gopi had a very thin waist and heavy  swollen breasts. While bending her delicate left and right hands to show  the ardhendu (half-moon) and padmakosa (lotus bud) mudras, she glanced  slowly from right to left. Perspiring profusely, her body seemed to be as  soft as molten wax as she moved gracefully executing difficult dance  steps. According to proper method, she extended and contracted her arms  while touching her waist, forehead, neck and knees, and forming mudras  such as hamsasya. Dancing in this way, her waist became even thinner and  her breasts more firm. Her braid licked her heels and the three lines on  her belly disappeared.


When the beat stopped, she waved her hands in the air and suddenly bent  her back in such a way as to conquer the beauty of the campaka flower bow  of Cupid. Fixing her knees firmly on the ground and stretch­ing her arms  out to the sides, she twirled around with lightning speed. Her ornaments  jingled, her necklace and earrings swung, and swarms of bees circled  around, being attracted by the fragrance of her mouth. She appeared like a  golden wheel spun rapidly by a mad potter. The combina­tion of the pale  luster of her gold necklace, the redness of her lips, and the blackness of  the bees made an extraordinary picture.


While contracting her belly, dropping her sash, and expanding her breasts,  this gopi dug her toes into the earth, straightened her legs and raised  herself on her feet. Clenching her fists and pressing her thumb against  her breasts, she recited the bol "tathd td-thdi thai td-thdi thai ta-thdi"  in unison with the beat while ringing her bangles and ankle-bells. When  the song finished she suddenly disappeared from the center of the circle  and positioned herself on the circumference. While the voices, vinas,  flutes, karatalas, and mrdangas resounded, this gopi stood behind the  sing­ers and rested her arms on the shoulders of a friend. While chewing  betel nut, she extended her legs so that a friend could untie the strings  of her ankle-bells. To relieve her fatigue her friends stood around  fanning her with their shawls. Her breasts heaving, she took a few deep  breaths and fell asleep.After resting some time, she heard the singers  expertly reciting the alapa to introduce a new song. Then she reentered  the rasa mandala like Cupid personified. Illustrating the song with  intricate mudras, she danced so enthusiastically that Siva became inspired  to perform His tandava dance. Her thumb had the best of beauty, her  forefinger excelled the pride of Cupid, her middle finger defeated the  grace of the universe, her ring fin­ger defeated the pride of Cupid's  wife, and her little finger established the meaning of colorful  expression.This gopi with beautiful teeth, raised firm breasts, and nicely  shaped buttocks, waved her hands, exciting her golden bracelets to jingle  attrac­tively. She raised her knees and arms in turn to the beat of  "tat-ta ta-thai tiki-da tiki-thai." This golden gopi appeared like a  continually rising golden light as she twisted and turned higher and  higher. She appeared like a stream of golden pollen stirred up by a storm  amongst a group of lotuses composed of singers and musicians.


As she swayed in the sky like a glowing vine, she displayed many  compli­cated movements. Indeed, this did not arise from dance lessons. As  the essence of gracefulness, her feet never touched the ground. If a group  of lightning bolts from a cloudless sky remained stationary for a long  time swaying in the breeze and roaring with the beat "tat-ta ta-thai," it  might compare with this gopi's dancing. As the beat subsided and her  footsteps softened, this gopi with full breasts swayed her body back and  forth, re­vealing the perfection of beauty in her upper limbs. Her friends  feared that her thin waist, unable to bear the bending, would break like a  tender lotus stem. When her golden ankle-bells signaled the beginning, she  danced with great skill. Moving her feet to the different beats (laghu,  guru, pluta, druta, drutata, and ardha drutapadd), she rang all her  ankle-bells. Some­times she jingled only a few, and sometimes not even one  bell sounded. Pleased with her, Radha and Krishna cheered out, "Very good!  Very good!" and embraced her. This gopi's spectacular performance  astonished the assembly of Apsaras and devatas.


After watching each gopi dancing in this way, Krishna commenced His  performance. Displaying inconceivable dancing prowess, He moved with  abandon along with all the gopis. Abounding in joy, He sang and danced and  induced the gopis to sing and dance. Dancing in this way the night passed  in an instant, although it extended for the length of Brahma's night. In  this extraordinary rasa dance, sometimes the gopis danced alone or in a  group. Sometimes they danced singly in turns, or joined with Krishna to sing  and dance a duet. Feeling both tired and extremely satisfied from the blissful rasa dance,  the gopis opened their bodices and rested their arms on Krishna's  shoul­ders. The gopis looked as gorgeous as golden creepers hanging on the  branches of a tamala tree caressed by the breeze. Embraced by the  ex­hausted gopis, Krishna appeared to be the embodiment of conjugal rasa  embraced by the embodiment of ecstasy.

One gopi, with swaying necklaces, lotus bud earrings, and an elegant  dress, put her left arm on Krishna's shoulder. As her belt and ankle-bells  chimed along, she sang and danced in a slow, artistic manner. Krishna danced  after her, following her movements. One love-excited lotus-eyed gopi  grabbed the border of Krishna's golden dhoti in her lotus hand, and danced  back and forth while pulling it and making Krishna dance in response. Another gopi, charged with emotion, sang and danced in an even tempo  responding to the sweet sound of Krishna's flute. In a mood of jest, Krishna  intentionally played some dissonant notes. With her glance that gopi  chas­tised Krishna while at the same covering her own discordant notes. The  gopi said, "Krishna! You are playing out of tune to distract me and point  out my faults. I know Your tricks. Your gestures reveal Your intention to  make me sing out of tune!"

After dancing for a while to His flute song, one gopi induced Krishna to  dance proudly by singing and playing her vina. Just for fun, in the middle  of the dance, Krishna moved with a complicated, irregular gait. Becoming  very impatient, the gopi thought, "That Krishna is not going to make me  laugh and miss the beat."

Thus Krishna gave pleasure to all the young ladies of Vrndavana by  em­bracing them, glancing lovingly at them with His playful smiles,  kissing them, and drinking the nectar of their lips. All the different  gopis present at the rasa mandala got a chance to dance and individually  enjoy with Krishna. In this way, the gopi group leaders, their followers,  and maidser­vants all relished the greatest ecstasy in the rasa dance  festival.

Fatigue personified as a friendly sakhi to decorate the gopis' foreheads  with beads of perspiration that looked like attractive strings of pearls.  Their limbs hung loosely from lethargy as if they were drunk from liquor.  But even in their exhaustion the gopis looked elegant and effulgent. Her  body drooping from weariness, one gopi draped her arms on Krishna's  shoul­ders. Not being able to bear the weight of the mountain of her good  for­tune, she had to load it on the shoulders of her lover in order to  rest for some time.


After getting intoxicated on honey wine, one gopi completely discarded her  bashfulness. Brimming with affection, she went mad to enjoy without  restraint. She looked particularly beautiful due to shaking from the  fa­tigue of bearing the weight of her heavy breasts. Upon her shoulders  Krishna placed the jeweled batons of His arms, whose natural blue-lotus  fragrance mixed with that of the sandalwood pulp anointing them. As the  gopi rel­ished that fragrance, she submerged in an ocean of ecstasy. Then  riding the high waves of satisfaction, she kissed Krishna's arms.Next to  Krishna's cheek one tired gopi put her own, beautified by effulgence of her  jeweled earrings, which glittered as she danced. Admiring her soft  splendid face, Krishna kissed her and slowly offered His chewed betel nut to  Her honey sweet lips. Though they were exhausted, some exceedingly elegant  gopis, inspired by the auspicious fragrance of Krishna's body, con­tinued to  sing and dance. In doing so, their bodices heaved with their heavy  breathing, their necklaces moved like billowing waves, and they moved in  frivolous ways. While they danced like this, Krishna grabbed both their  breasts with one hand. It appeared like a blue lotus covering two golden  water pots. Being so closely set, touching one breast equaled touch­ing  the other.The ears of the lotus-eyed gopis moistened with drops of  perspiration from the exertion of dancing and singing. As the intense  dancing gradu­ally slowed down, the tinkling of their jeweled ankle-bells  ceased. Then another enthusiastic gopi stepped forward to dance with  Krishna, accompa­nied by her pleasant singing, precise movements, and the  delicate vibra­tions of her ankle-bells.

Although the long night of Brahma passed away, the joyous adventures of  intimate love raged on. Krishna sported like an engrossed boy with mem­bers  of the groups assisting the performance of the rasa dance. As expan­sions  of their group leaders, these gopis embodied portions of individual arts  and skills. Krishna, the source of Narayana, smiled, talked to them,  embraced them, kissed them, and drink the nectar of their lips. Krishna  performed all these loving pastimes simply to fulfill the desires of the  gopis. The doe-eyed girls with thin, creeper-like arms swam in the river  of desire for Krishna, inundated by the delight of directly serving Him. In  the gopis' ecstasy, their hair, bodices, and clothing had unknowingly  loosened.

The devatas headed by Siva and Brahma praised the son of the king of  Vrndavana, the Supreme Person, who stole the minds of all beautiful women  in the universe, who is endowed with all wonderful qualities, and who is  always absorbed in His pastimes of love. The wives of the devatas fainted  simply seeing Krishna from the sky. What an astonishing, incom­prehensible  pastime! Even the stars in the sky, caught in the whirlpool of love  manifested there, lost their intelligence, became attracted by the desires  of their minds and fainted. From its very beginning, the rasa dance  disturbed the movements of the moon. The night served Krishna's desire by  lasting as long as Brahma's night. Following the rasa dance, Krishna enjoyed with each gopi in separate

solitary bowers. Krishna and the gopis were mutually attracted to each  other. Thus Krishna satisfied each gopi to the limit of her desires. Krishna's  love displays a wonderful sweetness in union. With His tender lotus hand  Hari affectionately wiped the drops of perspiration from the beautiful  faces of the smiling gopis, who had tired from the varieties of love  sports. But the touch of Krishna's hand saturated their minds with ecstasy,  and made the gopis perspire even more! Seeing His lack of expertise in  this matter, the gopis themselves took pieces of cloth and wiped their own  faces. Then the gopis, who had exhibited their talent in performing  enthralling dances, sang some unique self-composed songs, which were  charmingly sweet, evoking compassion, and endowed with exquisite beauty.


Playing in the Yamuna


To dispel the gopis' fatigue from dancing and exhaustive conjugal  pas­times, Krishna entered the Yamuna, followed by swiftly moving, singing  bees. Their lengthy pastimes on the bank had covered Krishna and the all  gopis with dust. With great enthusiasm they entered the lotus-filled  cur­rents of the Yamuna River. Krishna looked like a lordly elephant playing  in the water with his consorts. While bathing in the Yamuna the exquisite lotus faces of the gopis  de­feated the beauty of thousands of lotus flowers, their thin arms  defeated the lotus stems, their full, rounded breasts defeated flocks of  cakravaka birds, and their graceful flowing movements defeated the flocks  of swans gliding on the water. When the gopis submerged themselves up to  their necks, the sky filled with the golden lotuses of their faces. Upon  touching their pot-like breasts, the river rose in waves to serve those  pairs of cakravaka birds. Their many slender arms hanging down in the  river ap­peared like hundreds of lotus stems. Smelling the fragrance of the gopis' bodies, the swarms of black bees gave  up the lotuses and soared towards the gopis. It appeared as if the black  Yamuna had come to respectfully greet them. When the swans flapped their  wings, it appeared that out of affection the Yamuna fanned the tired  gopis. When swarms of black bees gathered above them and the devatas  showered white flowers, it appeared like strings of pearls sewn on a dark  blue cloth, shaking in the wind. Keeping their beloved in the center and making a circle around Him, the  gopis hit the water while holding their hands together. This caused little  waves to rise from the Yamuna, which in turn splashed against the chest of  Krishna. The waves looked like the hairs of Yamuna's body stand­ing on end  in ecstasy. Interlocking their fingers, the gopis gathered water in their  hands and forcefully splashed Krishna.


It appeared that Hari had been wounded by the power of Cupid's water  weapon. Knowing that Cupid's weapon could not be destroyed, but it could  be counteracted, Krishna dove under the water. Moving His hands, Krishna  playfully snatched the sashes of the gopis. Pretending to be afraid, they  jumped up and ran away as Krishna pursued them splashing water. After  quickly defeating the gopis in the water fight, Krishna grabbed all their  necklaces as booty and stored them under His armpit. Radha se­cretly  approached from behind, loosened Krishna's arm, and seized the necklaces.

Radhika tried to hide amongst some golden lotus flowers but was afraid of  the deep water. Radha looked fearfully when Krishna discovered Her hiding  place and swam toward Her. Coming up from behind, Krishna sud­denly placed  His hands firmly on Radha's breasts and lifted Her up. The other gopis  just stared in amazement at His behavior.


Radhika startled when some restless saphari fish (minnows) suddenly  brushed against Her legs. Out of fear, She clutched Krishna's neck and  embraced Him again and again. Then Radha glorified the genuine friend­ship  of the saphari fish and broke out in a tender smile. While some gopis  competed to pick lotus flowers and stems they laughed and felt no  dis­tress. They faced but one difficulty—the desire born from the bliss of  seeing Krishna, who happily witnessed their actions. Afflicted thus, they  appeared to be stupefied from a beating. When Krishna approached these gopis and tried to caress their cakravaka  breasts, they crossed their arms in front. Their crossed arms looked like  lotus stems embracing their throats. The gopis appeared to be sniffing  lotuses as they shyly covered their faces with their lotus hands. In this  way, by various gestures, the intensity of passion grew in the water games  between Krishna and the gopis. While drenched in the ghana rasa (water, or  srngara rasa) the gopis' kunkuma ran off their breasts, their necklaces  broke, the kajala washed off their eyes, their lips lost their red color,  their jeweled belts came undone, and their hair braids loosened. In this  condi­tion, the luscious beauty of the gopis doubled. This is the nature  of per­sons drowning in the pleasurable waters of madhura rasa. After offering their precious gems and jeweled ornaments to the Yamuna  River as a gift, the gopis fashioned earrings of spotless water lilies,  hair ornaments of lotuses, necklaces of lotus stems, and belts of saivala  plants. Their bangles tinkled when they scooped up water in their left  hands and slapped them with their right hands to imitate the music of  frogs. Thus the water pastimes met a fitting close.


After rubbing oil on their bodies, the golden-hued gopis bathed and then  climbed up on the bank of the Yamuna. They looked very beautiful with  their loosened undergarments and dark locks of hair dripping with water. It appeared as if the bright rays of the moon, pursued by dense  darkness, now retreated and wept. The gopis towel dried their bodies and  put on ornaments, clothing, and cosmetics supplied by the all-auspicious  Yogamaya, who is always active and expert in supplying the right things at  just the right time. While dressing themselves the gopis took on the role  of women who dominate their lovers (svadhina bhratrka). With their  pleas­ing complexions and dangling earrings, the gopis looked like the  goddesses of fortune. Intelligence judges them as the topmost reservoirs  of prema and the abodes of sweetness covered with festive joy.


Surrounding the supreme enjoyer and Lord of their lives, who wore an  elegant crown, a kaustubha necklace, and other effulgent ornaments, the  gopis entered the courtyards of the forest kunjas along the Yamuna, which  resounded with flocks of singing swans and other water birds. The  vanadevis provided delicious, fragrant madhu (honey liquor made from  flower ex­tracts) in jeweled pitchers. Intoxicated by the fragrance,  swarms of bees flew in from all directions and circled overhead. Though  lit by full moon­light, the evening sky appeared darkened by their  presence. Illumined by the moonbeams, the strand of beach looked like a  silver band and the crystal wineglasses looked enchanting. Because the  moonlight and the crystal glasses glistened with equal intensity, one  could distinguish them only by touch and not by sight. Gazing at the intoxicating beverage in front of the gopis, Krishna paused a  moment to ponder its specialty. To better understand how it causes intense  madness and varieties of bewilderment, Krishna eagerly drank the madhu.  Joking with the manjaris, Krishna said, "O beautiful eyed women! Fill the  crystal cups and freely distribute this delightful drink to all the group  leaders."

After giving Krishna His share, the manjaris distributed the rest. Krishna and  the gopis sat on the bank of the Yamuna, which was purified by the  lotus-scented wind and washed by the nectar of the full moon's rays. The  madhu appeared to be all-attractive due to its reflecting the image of the  moon in the crystal glasses, the presence of the intoxicated bees circling  overhead, and the sweet fragrance of full-blooming lotuses emanating from  the drink. It is a well-known fact that drinking madhu produces amazing  effects. With the first sip the eyes become bloodshot, with the second sip  words stop, and the third sip makes a person fearful of harm­less objects  and fearless before danger. Knowing the characteristics of madhu, the  assembled gopis were reluctant to drink it and show these amusing symptoms  for Krishna's pleasure. Nevertheless, the gopis sipped the strengthening  potion (madhu increases one's virility and amorous prow­ess) as they  approached the battlefield of love.

The beautiful faces of Radha and Krishna looked like a combination of a  nectar-filled moon and a honey-filled lotus. Drops of betel nut juice  stained Their lips with an attractive reddish hue. While drinking the  madhu, Radha and Krishna also sipped the nectar of each other's lips. As the  festival pro­gressed, Krishna became as proud and uncontrollable as an  intoxicated el­ephant. Krishna, who is the infinite ocean of bliss and the  precious jewel of sweetness, abandoned all discrimination as He played  madly with the gopis. Appearing intoxicated, Krishna listened to Himself  without speaking. The gopis quenched their thirst with their first sip of  madhu, and with the second sip they felt stupefied. They conversed with  the manjaris in drunken voices. Noticing the reflection of the moon in her  glass, one gopi asked, "Hey sakhil Is the moon drinking up my liquor?"

While fanning her, a sober manjari replied, "He is not only drinking your  madhu, but he is stealing the beauty of your face as well. It has already  gone down his throat. Quickly bite him with your teeth, for he is immortal  anyway."

The gopi replied, "Oh, I will not drink his leftovers!" Then she drank  some madhu and threw away the glass.

Another garrulous gopi, with slurred incoherent words, tightly grasped  Krishna and said, "Oh, look, the sky is f-f-falling! Ooh! The earth is  t-t-turning! O Lord, please h-h-hold me! My body is shaking! I will fall  o-o-over!"

Seeing the reflection of the bees swarming over her glass, one  intoxi­cated gopi said, "This is the dregs of the wine." Then she poured  the wine into another glass to remove the dregs before offering it to  Radha.

Being totally intoxicated from drinking madhu and the nectar of Krishna's  association, Radhika looked extremely attractive as She repeatedly  ad­dressed Krishna as "O lady friend!"

Radhika said, "O lady friend!"

Playfully matching Her mood, Krishna replied, "Yes, O Lord of my life!"

Radha said proudly, "You are called Hari because Your are a thief and You  take away all women."

Krishna said, "O Krishna, be gracious towards Me." [Actually Krishna meant to  say, "O Radha, may You be happy."]

Becoming angry, Radha replied, "O lady friend Syame, has Krishna met you?"  [Radhika intended to say, "O Krishna, has My friend met with You?"]

Krishna said, "O Lord, I worship You." [He meant to say, "O Radha, I worship  You alone. There is no one else in this world but You."]

Radha and Krishna bewildered Cupid with Their inverted conversation caused  by drinking madhu. After some time the intoxication of the liquor wore off  and They recovered their self-awareness. The lethargy, dizzi­ness, and so  on from being intoxicated caused a lessening of desires. Now Radha and  Krishna entered a state of transcendental madness in love wherein inebriety  decreased and desire increased. In this way the beauti­ful gopis of  Vrndavana spent the night, which lasted as long as Brahma's day,  intimately associating with the Lord of their lives.

Thus the crest jewel of enjoyment, whose body is made of intense bliss,  revealed His playful pastimes of love in the company of the Vraja gopis  who are expansions of His personal potency known as hladini sakti. Since  the conjugal affairs of materialistic men are devoid of spiritual rasa,  the poetic works written about them are all useless productions. Therefore  Krishna displayed His transcendental pastimes to show the perfection of such  activities. Cupid also attained success by assisting Krishna's divine  pastimes in Vrndavana.

The multitude of stars in the sky, which seemed like the remnants of  flowers showered by the wives of the devatas, looked like the fading  mor­sels of the moon's repast. The pearls of the night queen had been torn  from their strings and scattered about in play by her consort the moon.  Now, the night collected them again. The remaining stars in the sky looked  like the last stray pearls, which gradually disappeared as the night drew  to a close.

The moon appeared like a silver ship traveling from one continent to  another on the ocean breast of the sky. Being trapped by the counter winds  of the rasa-lila, that ship could not move forward for a long time. When  the rasa-lila subsided, the ship again moved and soon arrived at its  destination in the west. As the moon and stars gradually disappeared, the  long night, feeling sorrowful due to its impending separation from the  Lord, appeared ready to give up its body. The wives of the devatas, their  hearts being pierced by the lance of separation, also disappeared from the  sky.

Though the night had been as long as a day of Lord Brahma, upon the  conclusion of the rasa dance at the end of that night, the gopis returned  to the homes of their "so-called" husbands. Their husbands, however, did  not find any fault in them, for Yogamaya had made duplicate copies of each  gopi. The husbands took these forms to be their wives. These dupli­cate  gopis spent the whole night sleeping next to their husbands. Thus the  "so-called" husbands never actually had any intimate contact with Krishna's  transcendental consorts known as the Vraja gopisl

For Krishna, the possessor of unlimited energies (saktiman), and the gopis,  the embodiments of His hladini sakti, there is no question of immorality  in His enjoying His own svarupa sakti manifesting as the forms of the  Vraja gopis. However, to nourish the taste of His pastimes, Krishna's  rela­tionship with the gopis seems to be unchaste illicit love according  to the conventions of mundane society. The deep attachment Krishna has for  His beloved Vraja gopis is never seen in the Lord of Dvaraka and Rukmini,  or the Lord of Vaikuntha and Laksmi. The full taste of rasa that Krishna  expe­riences in the parakiya-bhava (paramour love) of the Vraja gopis far  ex­ceeds the rasa tasted in the svakiya-bhava (wedded love) of His Queens  in Dvaraka.The parakiya bhava Ma (the rasa-lila) is not simply a temporary  mani­festation. This perfectly pure transcendental pastime is eternally  going on, even though it may be invisible to our eyes. Krishna displays this  mar­velous pastime in the material world just to bestow His mercy upon the  conditioned souls. Anyone who faithfully hears or describes Krishna's  rasa-lila with the gopis will attain inestimable good fortune. Among  literary works, those about Hari are sweet, but those describing Krishna in  Vrndavana are the sweetest quintessence of nectar! As the Ganga for­ever  flows, among the topics of Krishna the rasa-lila is the ever-flowing  embodiment of bliss. May my mind always swim in that river of nectar.