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The Pastime of Stealing Krishna's Flute
After enjoying the rasa-lila in the autumn season, Krishna relishes the pastimes of Holi and having His flute stolen which take place in the spring season.
One night, Govinda and Rama (Balarama) went to the forest of Vrndavana to enjoy the pastime of Holi (festival of throwing colors), which is enacted either in the morning or evening. The skillful festival performance exactly matched the local customs. The devatas were very enthusiastic to observe this celebration. Seeing the astonishing beauty of Krishna holding His flute, and wearing a fresh garland, glittering garments and ornaments, the gopis tied Him up in their hearts and sang His glories in charming voices. Krishna and Balarama, and their dear cowherd boyfriends performed this pastime amongst the splendid gopis of Vrndavana who are clever and skillful at playing Holi. The two brothers, however, out of respect for each other's moods of love, played separately with Their own groups of gopis whose minds relished the association of their respective lovers.
Krishna and Balarama sang a special alapa in a raga with great devotion. Their artistic vocalizing of the appropriate notes and embellishments produced waves of continuous joy. Under the influence of the Holi festival, the land of Vrndavana, having revived its strength after the long cold winter, looked beautiful and auspicious. To begin the festival, the young ladies of Vrndavana, who are adorned with all wonderful qualities, and whose bodies looked attractive smeared with natural ointments, shyly held water in their hands and offered it to the land of Vrndavana. The cowherd boys and their associates sang lovely songs in dvipadika and carcari tala. Their traditional Vraja bhasa songs sounded as pleasing as the smell of musk. The accompaniment oikaratalas and sweet mrdangas enhanced the charming vibration of their bangles and ankle-bells. Krishna and Balarama played in this way for a long time, and then wandered around in the lonely forests, pleasant with rows of young trees. The only signs of life in that deep forest were the maudlin cries of the peacocks piercing the evening sky. The rays of the moon filtering through the leaves of the trees painted the forest floor with beautiful colors. Illumined by the moonlight of spring, the splendid forest atmosphere easily aroused the sweet mellows of conjugal love.
Haladhara (Balarama, the holder of the plow) looked extraordinarily elegant moving with His own group of young gopi consorts. One golden earring enticingly danced on Balarama's cheek and His eyes rolled from drinking varuni. With His dark blue caddar half falling off His camphor white chest, Baladeva looked like the white moon breaking through the darkness. For some time, Baladeva, who is a talented artist, danced to the beat of songs in carcass and dvipadika. Appearing like the personification of bliss, Balarama sang, laughed, and threw kunkuma powder on His beloved gopis, as if sprinkling the sindura of love on their foreheads. Backed by the vina, Baladeva loudly sang a song in dvipadika. Then in a joking mood, He threw colored powders on the restless-eyed gopis. Balarama mixed with His many gopi group leaders and their companions in the same way that Krishna enjoys with His gopis like Radhika, Lalita, Candravali, Syama, and Bhadra.
Krishna meanwhile defeated the gopis' long-standing pride of their singing skill by playing sweetly but indistinctly on His flute. The gopis responded by surrounding Krishna and dousing Him with kunkuma while their bangles jingled joyfully. While tolerating the showers of kunkuma, Hari hung His head down submissively like the best of youthful, intoxicated elephants, and continued playing His flute song in carcari tala. As Krishna playfully moved with heroic steps, He met with Balarama who rambled about like an intoxicated elephant along with His own group of enraptured young gopis. These gopis, who were completely attached to Balarama, gazed at Him with tender eyes, conveying their affection for their beloved consort. Lifting their bangle-laden arms, they sang according to the beat and sometimes induced Balarama to sing along. While their ankle-bells tinkled in time with the nimble movements of their feet, the gopis danced beside their beloved Balarama, and threw kunkuma powder on His body with great delight.
Understanding the hints from Krishna's glances, the cowherd boys bombarded the gopis with red, white and yellow scented powders. Balarama's gopis ran away fearfully. Seeing their condition, Krishna smiled and mocked them by playing merrily on His flute. Krishna's gopis laughed along in sweet tones. While clapping their hands with a strong beat and bellowing "Ho! Ho! Hee! Hee!" Krishna's friends filled the four directions with robust laughter.
His anger and passion enflamed, Rohininandana, roaring like a wild young bull elephant suddenly spurred to competition, chased Krishna's companions to defeat them with a deluge of powders. Glancing forwards and backwards like lions stalking prey, Krishna's girlfriends desired victory. But losing their intelligence, they could not decide whether to attack or to retreat, so they all ran away. When Krishna's gopa friends counter-attacked Baladeva, He laughed as He squeezed them in His strong, snake-like arms and covered them with colorful powders. In the pleasure of playing, Krishna's cowherd boyfriends lost all sense of awe for Baladeva, as they shouted at Him with contorted faces. Being very strong, they managed to get free from Baladeva's grip. Gathering in a group, they fearlessly retaliated with a volley of vermilion flower bombs. Though defeated, Baladeva remained fearless.Krishna, bathing everyone in the glow of His soft, sweet smile, said, "What you have done is not right. I do not like it. It is ungentlemanly to gang up on My brother who is all alone." Hearing this, all the boys calmed down.
Moved by the emotions of comedy, pride and anger, Baladeva's complexion assumed a ruddy hue to appear like a diamond pillar embraced by red lotuses. The majestic form of Balarama shone like a huge crystal bud reflecting the red jaba flower, or like a proud pinnacle of ice touched by the pink of early dawn. Baladeva looked as elegant as a mountain of white lotuses covered by a forest of pink lotuses inhabited by cakravaka birds. He looked like a full moon anointed with vermilion, glowing in the red evening sunset. Seeing Him thus, Balarama's gopis surrounded Him and amused Him with blissful singing and dancing as they wandered off together. Meanwhile, Krishna's gopis, their hearts full of longing and drunk with the potion of love, enhanced the festive atmosphere with various amorous gestures indicating their conjugal desires. Conspiring together they planned a theft. The gopis said, "How can we steal that flute, which is like a snake scented with aguru, from Krishna's strong arms? What will Krishna do without His flute? Is it a good idea to put our beloved into depression? But when the flute is in Krishna's hand, it acts like a lance to cleverly pierce our hearts with its sweet, enchanting melody. Therefore, we must get that flute in our hands!"
Smiling surreptitiously, the lotus-eyed gopis continued whispering among themselves, "We cannot take the flute in Krishna's presence. Nor does He ever put it down. Even in a state of confusion, He does not let go of it. Among these three possibilities, we must find some way to steal it. The third possibility, taking it out of Krishna's hand when He is bewildered, is the strongest."
In order to bewilder Krishna, one expert gopi met Radhika in a lonely place and confided, "O fortunate Radha. If You really want to take Krishna's flute under Your control, then put on a show of obstinacy for some time. The impudence of Krishna's flute playing will flee, and the skill of our singing will become prominent."
After the gopis' secret talk, Krishna's close friend Kusumasava, though not knowing their complete plan, boldly spoke to Krishna. Combining shrewdness with the fragrance of the flowering creeper of frank talkativeness, Kusumasava said, "O friend! Listen! Though the gopis are very learned, their singing cannot match Your ambrosial flute playing. So out of jealousy, they are planning to steal Your flute. To prevent this You should keep Your flute with me and sing in a loud voice. The gopis will not be able to approach me because of the power of my brahminical austerities."Krishna replied, "O friend! We have fully witnessed the great strength of the brahmanas in the pastimes of your spring festival. Without a doubt, it seems that today you will show us the festival of protecting the flute as well."
Kusumasava said, "O friend! I cannot protect the flute as much as that person who has given You the ability to attract everyone by the special power of his mantra. But one cannot see such a person in this world. So what is the question of someone trying to take Your flute? Do not mistrust a dear friend like me."
Krishna said, "What will you do if the intensely frenzied gopis, due to being overpowered by bliss, just snatch the flute from your hand? How will you get it back?"
Kusumasava replied, "You will see the power I have gained from penance." Then taking the flute and tucking it under his arm, he said, "Please sing a song."
In a voice conquering the sound of the vina, Krishna sang a song in carcari tala with great artistry. The Yamuna stoppa^towing in her stunned condition, the trees rained tears, and the birdJHn animals trembled in ecstasy. Hearing the song, the does felt blissHrand licked up the drops of perspiration behind each other's ears. It seeined that the streams of sweetness from Krishna's song entered the ear holes of the deer and then oozed out due to finding insufficient space. The expertly composed raga pleased the ear due to its precise srutis, jatis, and seven notes.
Kusumasava proudly boasted, "O how wonderful! My friend, I have never heard such strong singing in the carcari tala in all my years! O arrogant gopisl You cannot sing songs with alapa that give such happiness."
Sangita Vidya, a learned gopi musician, said, "O unintelligent one! If Lalita, who is wearing a gorgeous silk sari, can sing better than Krishna, then crooked-minded fellow you will lose the flute. Let the flute be the wager."
Kusumasava said, "O learned one! Only I know the science of music! It is difficult for an ordinary person to know, even if engaged in constant meditation on the subject. According to my final judgement, I will proclaim the winner at the appropriate time. This will please the devatas and be agreeable to all."
Sangita Vidya, said, "O learned brahmana boy! This is not simply chanting the Vedas, which satisfies the Vedic scholars. Who are you to judge this?"
While smiling, Krishna continued singing and hinted with a glance. Understanding His intentions, Kusumasava said, "O vain woman! If you do not agree that my knowledge of music is sufficient for judging, then we should agree that the singing of both parties is equal. Let us see if your singing, like Krishna's, can stun the Yamuna water, bring tears to the trees and creepers, and make the birds and animals tremble in ecstasy. I am certain that no one can sing as zestfully as my friend. Therefore we will wager the flute! If you want to gamble over the singing, then to be fair, you must offer Radha as a wager from your side."
Lalita said, "O stupid boy! A fool makes the whole world insipid! In all gambling matches, the stakes must be of equal value. We can never equate glass with gold!"
Kusumasava responded, "O worshipable one! Do you think that my dear friend's flute is like glass, and that your friend is like gold?"
Lalita answered, "Is there any doubt? If you want equal stakes, then without fear you should wager your friend."
Kusumasava said, "All right then, begin singing. Since I am totally pure in heart, I will wager my friend."
Then Lalita, her throat reddened and her eyebrows dancing, gave up all shyness to sing a gentle kedara raga with boldness and enthusiasm. Lalita clearly enunciated a variety of gamakas (trills) spanning from lower to higher octaves, ascending and descending. Using the full grandeur of the gandharva scale, Lalita easily surpassed the expertise of the Gandharvas and vanquished their pride. After feelingly singing the alapa (without tala) in kedara raga, Lalita sang a song in a pleasing tempo according to the conventions of musical taste in the maharastrian dialect.
Lalita sang, "The brightly shining moon of Syama, the nectarean disc endowed with all arts, is expert at giving bliss to the lotuses, and in agitating the ocean oiprema. Krishna, the beloved of Vrndavana who wears a crown of mango buds while fondly sporting in the spring, is partial to His girlfriends."
With great pride, Kusumasava held his arms above his head and pranced about while blurting out, "Hee! Hee! You are defeated! O, Lalita has been defeated!" Unseen, Krishna's flute slipped from Kusumasava's armpit and fell on the ground. Without anyone in the universe knowing, Sangita Vidya quickly snatched it up and hid it. Overwhelmed with vanity, she did not even tell her friends about it.
She spoke to talkative Kusumasava, "Listen, Why are you so happy over something that never happened? You are prancing around like a madman. Your friend with the fickle ankle-bells should consider who is the actual winner!"
Kusumasava replied to Sangita Vidya, "O one respected by the learned!
According to me, your defeat is evident, for the wager was laid for singing in carcari tala. Lalita sang only one little fragment in dvipadika tala. O one with a happy face! Please consider, has she been defeated or not?"
Hearing this, Lalita and Sangita Vidya broke out in laughter. Sangita Vidya said, "O uncouth one! What is remarkable about carcari, dvipadi or jambhalil The attraction is in the use of murchana, svara and grama. Lalita's song displayed the epitome of sweetness. Indeed, just see! The jewel basins under the trees have melted into water due to the strong currents of her song. By its nature this water has spread out around the bases of the trees and solidified as sitting platforms.
"It is true that from your friend's song the Yamuna looks divine, the trees of Vrndavana become conscious, and the birds and animals seem fully alive. But by our friend's song, they have all become petrified like hard rock. Therefore we have won. Bring your friend and hand Him over to us!"
Subala-sakha said, "O Sangita Vidya! How is it that you have become covered with foolishness like an ignorant person? With such intelligence can you understand music? Did it not occur to you that it is impossible for this boy to wager Krishna and give Him away? It is an accepted rule that a person can wager only one who is His dependent. No one can wager and give away the Lord."
Krishna said, "Kusumasava! Now you cannot command the respect of others! You have been defeated by these girls, who are proud of their victory and mad with the intoxicatior«mhe festival. You will fall into an inescapable condition. Therefore yoHJld better give the flute. Otherwise, My flute will go along with you arWway."
Kusumasava said, "O friend! But I have won! Showing Your strength, You should snatch away their dear companion."
Lalita said, "Unabashed you are! Hard working ass! Dullard! We have wagered on the song I sang and the song proclaims my victory."
Kusumasava said, "Friend! Greedy woman! If you speak in such an arrogant way, then take the flute which I have hid." Saying this, He looked for the flute but could not find it. "O friend! Out of fear, the flute has run away from my arm pit to some safe garden with unbroken creepers." When he said this everyone broke out smiling.
Meanwhile, Balarama enjoyed throwing colors at His beloved gopis. At that time, a foolish demon named Sankhacuda, a lowly Yaksa servant of Kuvera with no sense of propriety, brazenly tried to rob the jewels of Balarama's gopis. As if called by death, he leaped in front of them.
Sankhacuda resembled a man delirious from the hot sun, leaping from a tall tree into the mirage of an oasis of cooling water produced by the rays of the sun. He appeared like a foolish grasshopper jumping into a fire while thinking it to be the effulgence of a forest of succulent herbs. He resembled a frog leaping at a snake in order to grab the jewel on his hood, or an antelope approaching a lion with the idea that his shining mane is a field of ripe grains.
With a crest jewel firmly fastened to his turban, Sankhacuda raised his arms and frightened the girls. Trembling like deer seeing a powerful wolf, the gopis cried out, "O Balarama! Krishna! Please protect us!" Before Balarama heard those painful cries, Krishna quickly stopped His Holi pastimes and instantly went there. The Yaksa fled in haste, but Krishna ran after him so quickly that His feet did not appear to touch the ground. Balarama, angry at the disturbance, also ran after him. Seeing heroic Krishna and Balarama in hot pursuit, the rascal hurled the dirtiest insults and discarded the jewels. Filled with anxiety, Sankhacuda rapidly fled for his life as if mounted on an airplane. Displaying intense anger, the demon roared while running away, and then he started shaking from exhaustion.
As Krishna chased the demon wherever he went, He looked like the king of lions running down a regal elephant, or Garuda chasing a snake, or like a hawk pursuing a crow. That best of all men, who happily pleases His surrendered servants, grabbed the Yaksa by his hair. Though Krishna's hand is as soft as a lotus, it becomes as hard as the back of a tortoise when He makes a fist. Using His fist, Krishna removed the wicked demon's head along with his crest jewel. It was a high quality effulgent gem of fine workmanship, pleasing to look at, and famous for its beauty. Feeling excessive delight, Krishna gave the jewel to His elder brother as His consorts looked on.
Krishna Searches the Gopis for His Flute
In a playful mood, Krishna met again with His beloved gopas and gopis, who are expert at singing proper scales, notes, and fading notes. Krishna celebrated His eternal pastimes with these eternal associates, the personified touchstones of all the pleasure arts. Krishna's meeting them resembled a sputtering wick regaining its bright flame by adding a new supply of oil, like a dried up pond filling with water during the monsoon season, or like a dilapidated palace restored by repairs. Pretending to search for the flute, Krishna made false accusations while approaching different gopis. Accosting one gopi, Krishna said, "You are the thief." Going to another, He said, "You are the thief. You are the one who has stolen My precious flute." Coming up to Candravali's assistants,whose hearts melted with love, Krishna rudely ripped open their bodices to search for the flute. They responded by scolding Him with frowning faces and charming smiles.
The gopis said, "O associate of Kusumasava! Such bad conduct is just what we expect of You! How could the flute slip from Your hand and hide in our bodices? If we have stolen Your attractive flute, then You may punish us severely. But if it is not true, then we will take Your necklaces and kaustubha jewel as a wager."With great pride, Candravali said, "O arrogant fellow, who gives pain to women! Kusumasava has forcibly taken that flute, which we wanted to steal, from your hand. Don't You remember?"
Kusumasava said, "When you say 'the flute we wanted to steal' you show your intention to steal it. What proof have you that I forcibly took the flute?"
Candravali replied, "All the witnesses are here."
Kusumasava retorted, "They are all my enemies."
Candravali said, "Your friend there is also a witness."
Kusumasava said, "That cannot be true. Then why did my pure-minded friend open your clothing to look for it? Therefore, it is certain that you ladies have stolen this best of flutes. Your statements have proven to be downright lies."
After speaking like this, Kusumasava, who is clever, fearless, and effulgent, again spoke to Krishna, "Sangita Vidya, the goddess of music, has stolen Your flute, not these gopis." Hearing this, the clever Sangita Vidya became afraid and with a graceful gait went to see Lalita. With a sly glance, she passed the flute to Lalita without anyone's noticing.
Seeing Sangita Vidya's gestures and movements, Kusumasava said hotly, "Friend! This Sangita Vidya has really stolen the companion of Your hand, the flute. She definitely took it! When we jokingly mentioned her name, intending it to mean the presiding goddess of musical knowledge, she took it as meaning herself, and thus felt fearful. That is the sign of the thief."
Hearing this, Sangita Vidya stepped forward while Lalita hid the flute behind her back. With an astonishing smile Sangita Vidya said, "O little boy! What is this? You are a big pit of deceit. How could I ever steal the flute while playing in the Holi festival? You are heartless. What use have I in stealing the flute? If you accuse people of lying, please understand that you are committing a serious sin. You talk too much! You are the incarnation of injustice. It is not necessary to speak such false words. So go away! Today I have been merciful and spared you from punishment!"
Everyone broke out in mild smiles upon hearing her words. Krishna, smiling all the while, derived more pleasure from boldly attacking the gopis
while searching the flute than from His intimate pastimes with them. Surrounded by the gopis, who could not be submissive because of their innate bold natures, Krishna, wearing forest flower garlands, finally stopped the search.
Disregarding Lalita's show of pride that always manifests newer and newer features, Krishna touched her with His lotus hand. Lalita, a master in all arts, secretly slipped the flute into the hand of the daughter of Vrsabhanu. Then devoid of fear she spoke without hesitation.
Lalita said, "O killer of Agha! Though I am innocent, You insist on touching me, due to being mad with the pride of love. I will stop this display of impudence born of Your pride. I am not lying. I do not have Your flute." Saying this, Lalita opened her bodice to prove it. Showing her brilliant white teeth as she smiled, Lalita continued, "O one under the spell pride and lust! Please remember that when You ran after Sankhacuda, possibly Your flute fell to the ground. Your attempts to corner me have proven fruitless."
Kusumasava said, "O friend! The thief must be Radha!"
Krishna replied, "Intelligent one! It must be as you say. Radha has the flute so I will search Her!"
Just when the crest jewel of witty behavior started to search Radha, a dear girl friend of Balarama happily presented the Sankhacuda crest jewel to Radha, saying, "O Radha, endowed with all qualities! Listen to me. Balarama is offering this jewel to You, so please accept it." The incredible effulgence of Sankhacuda's crest jewel lit up the heavenly planets. It brought more happiness than the eight mystic siddhis.
As Radha gladly extended Her hand to accept the jewel, Her bodice slackened and the flute fell on the ground. Kusumasava's face lit up. He slapped his armpits, twisted his neck, stepped in a crooked manner, contorted his body, clapped his hands, and laughed in a raucous voice. Surrounded by His laughing, boisterous friends, Krishna smiled and ridiculed Lalita.
Krishna said, "O Lalilta! Unrepentant one! You have spoken truthfully. While running after that demon, My flute, seeing our preoccupation with the jewel of Sankhacuda, felt neglected and fell on the ground. Now, seeing Radha's preoccupation with the same jewel, My flute has again become angry and fallen on the ground."
Kusumasava said, "Such intelligence of Brhaspati cannot be found in anyone of Your age. It is not astonishing that Radha, whose perfect, faultless, and auspicious form takes away my friend's intelligence, has also stolen His enchanting flute whose form is inauspicious and full of holes. But Krishna, the amazing thing is that You saw that I had taken the flute from You, so how did they get it? O friend, with the hue of a tamala tree,now please take Your celebrated flute."Damodara, rejoicing with pleasure, took the flute and played it sweetly. And as the beautiful gopis displayed various symptoms of ecstatic bliss the festival came to a close.