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A Synopsis Of The Kṛṣṇa-Kāvyas Of Three Vaiṣṇava Saints

The consequential contribution of the philosophy of bhakti to Indian literature is rather understated. A close examination of the literary works in Indian languages, especially Sanskrit, produced in the last eight centuries clearly indicates the significant role played by bhakti in enriching the vast inventory of Sanskrit literature and bringing out some of its finest specimen, for which it śall eternally remain indebted to the former. Although, bhakti for its exclusive spiritual fervour was kept outside the scope of the rasas by earlier rhetoricians, great authorities such as Vopadeva, Rūpa Gosvāmī and Madhusūdana Sarasvatī not only recognized bhakti as a rasa, but also establiśed bhakti as the Supreme- rasa that included all the other sentiments within its purview. While literary works rooted in bhakti were produced from across all devotional sects, Vaiṣṇavism deserves its due credit for redefining Indian aesthetics with bhakti as the fulcrum and for the voluminous works composed by poets and saints from the various Vaiṣṇava-sampradāyas. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavata Purāṇam that states:

एकान्तलाभं वचसो नु पुंसां सुश्लोक​-मौलेर्गुणवादमाहुः ।

श्रुतेश्च विद्वद्भिरुपाकृतायां कथा-सुधायाम् उपसम्प्रयोगम् ॥३.६.३७॥

(The ultimate reward of a man’s faculty of speech is to narrate the qualities of the most praiseworthy Śrī Kṛṣṇa and best utility of one’s ear is to listen to the nectarine stories narrated by the learned)

True to this, several saints from the Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas, who were polymaths, chose the transcendental pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa to fructify their poesy and to invigorate the sentiment of devotion among the masses.

Here, are taken into account three such works viz., Śrī Rukmiṇīśa-vijaya of Śrī Vādirāja Tīrtha, Śrī Yādavābhyudaya of Śrī Vedānta Deśika and Śrī Gopāla-Campū of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. The three works composed by some of the most towering figures in their respective sampradāyas, despite having Śrī Kṛṣṇa- līlā as their basic plot, distinctly stand out on account of their respective author’s unique literary styles and the philosophical & theological ideas conveyed through them.

Yādavābhyudaya of Śrī Vedānta Deśika

Veṅkaṭanātha or Vedānta Deśika (1268-1369 CE), as he is popularly known, is the most illustrious Ācārya belonging to the scholastic tradition of Śrī Rāmānuja. Known as Sarvatantra-svatantra for his polymathy and Kavi-tārika-kesarī for his unparalleled poetic and dialectical skills, he was a prolific scholar who had authored about 120 works including commentaries, theological texts, stotras, philosophical works as well as literary creations such kāvyas, nāṭakas etc. He was a poet of the highest order and his works such as Yādavābhyudaya– a mahākāvya, Haṁsa-sandeśa– a khaṇdakāvya, Saṅkalpasūryodaya– a nāṭaka, Subhāṣita-nīvī – a subhāṣita-kāvya and Pādukā-sahasra – a stotra-kāvya bear testimony to his poetic genius.

Of all his literary works, it is the Yādavābhyudaya that seems to have afforded Svāmī Deśika the utmost scope to manifest his poesy in the description of the complete life of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Influences of Raghuvaṁśa are unmistakable in this work, nevertheless, there are several places where Deśika seems to have even overshadowed the poetic genius of Kālidāsa. The work thoroughly conforms to the definition of a mahākāvya as laid down by the rhetoricians. It consists of 24 sargas and borrows its plot primarily from the Viṣṇu-Purāṇa, the Bhāgavata-Purāṇa and the Harivaṁśa. The Hero of this epic poem is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the perfect Hero. The principal sentiment is vīra with the others such as adbhuta, śṛngāra, karuṇa etc,. as the sub-ordinate sentiments. The poem also consists of the conventional descriptions of seasons, mountains etc., as laid down by the rhetoricians. The construction of the plot is progressive with the first canto being an account of the lineage of Yadus till Vasudeva, the second is a prelude to Kṛṣṇāvatāra, the third describes the birth of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, The childhood pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa upto the lifting the Govardhana mountain are described in the next four cantos The eighth canto is a picturesque description of the Rāsa-līlā. The next two cantos describe the events upto the killing of Kaṁsa. The eleventh canto describes the splendour of Dvārakā. The twelfth canto is dedicated to the description of Rukmiṇī, the principal heroine, followed by her marriage with Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the thirteenth. The Śyamantaka-episode and the marriage of Satyabhāmā and Jāmbavatī are mentioned in the next canto while the succeeding two cantos describe the well-known episodes of Śiśupāla-vadha and Narakāsura-vadha respectively. The seventeenth canto describes the confrontation between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Indra over Pārijāta and the eighteenth describes the return of Satyabhāmā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa to Dvārakā, enlisting the sanctity of various regions and holy places they pass through. The nineteenth canto is Svāmī Deśika’s eulogy of the Lord, conceived as songs of the bards awakening Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The twentieth and the twenty-first canto describe Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s encounter with Pauṇdraka and Bāṇāsura. The twenty-second canto is unique and describes the conquest of Sātyaki to re-establiś dharma and chastise those averse to dharma. The twenty-third canto is Deśika’s summary of the Bhagavad-gītā. The last canto is dedicated to the śṛngāra-līlā of Śrī Kṛṣṇa with his queens.

Appayya Dīkṣitar, the great rhetorician and philosopher, in his commentary on the Yādavābhyudaya states – “भावाः सन्ति पदे पदे” i.e., every word conveys specific emotions. Nevertheless, here is an attempt to introduce the poetry of Deśika through a few striking verses.

The birth of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is beautifully described as:

अथ सितरुचिलग्ने सिद्धपञ्चग्रहोच्चे व्यजनयदनघानां वैजयन्त्यां जयन्त्याम्।

निखिलभुवनपद्मक्लेशनिद्रानुपत्त्यै दिनकरमनपायं देवकीपूर्वसन्ध्या॥ (II.96)

(The dawn of Devakī brought forth the Sun that never sets, to remove the affliction in the form of slumber of the lotuses of the whole world on the day of Jayantī, which is regarded as the flag of the victory of the pious, at a time when five major planets were in exaltation and the taurus was the ascendent with the moon in it.)

While describing the Govardhana mountain, Svāmī Deśika asserts the identity of the mountain with Śrī Viṣṇu by using adjectives for the mountain which, by śleṣa are the ones exclusively applicable to the Lord:

मरुद्गणसमाश्रितो मघवरत्ननीलद्युतिः

बिभर्ति वनमालया वितत​नित्यतुङ्गाकृतिः।

कनत्यभिगतः श्रिया कनकरश्मिपीताम्बरः

करोति विधृतिं भुवः कथमसौ न विश्वम्भरः॥ (VI.41)

(Resorted to by the Gods, sporting the hue of the sapphire with its form being vast and towering, sporting the vanamālā i.e., consisting of numerous forests, (the mountain) shines as if adorned by the yellow raiment in the form of golden–rays (of the sun) as it supports the earth. How is it not then Viśvambhara i.e., Śrī Viṣṇu, the supporter of the universe?)

Deśika beautifully describes the episode of Balarāma dragging Yamunā by his plough, by drawing parallels between the two other Rāmas i.e., Paraśurāma and Śrī Rāma whose encounter with the ocean are well-known.

प्रत्यञ्चमब्धिमवधूतवतोऽतिदूरं दग्धुश्च कूलमिव दक्षिणमस्त्रभूम्ना।

आकर्षतश्च सरितं सवितृप्रसूतां रामस्य तस्य शुशुभे रसिकस्य लीला॥ (XI.80)

While describing the glory of Dvārakā, Svāmī Deśika describes the various transcendental abodes of the Lord viz. The Vaikuṇṭha, the Kṣīra-sāgara and the Sūrya-maṇdala and refers to Dvārkā, the place abided by His devotees being preferred to, by the Lord over the others:

अभिन्नसत्त्वान्नभसः परस्मात् क्षीरोदधेरंशुमतश्च बिम्बात्।

रमासखस्य प्रणिधानभाजां याऽभूत् प्रियं व्यक्तिपदं पृथिव्याम्॥ (XI.69)

Svāmī Deśika subtly introduces some of the theological ideas of Viśiṣṭādvaita at many places. In the introduction of Rukmiṇī, the ontological status of Śrī and Her indispensable role in delivering the jīvātmas are suggested.

शिखण्डकं निष्प्रतिमं श्रुतीनां शृङ्गारलीलोपमविश्वकृत्यम्।

अधीयते तन्मिथुनं स्वभावादन्योन्यजीवातुमनन्यभोग्यम्॥

दयेव नित्यं दयिता त्रिधाम्नः सर्वेषु भावेषु समानभावा।

परावराणां जननी प्रजानामासीत् विदर्भाधिपतेरपत्यम्॥ (XII.3-4)

(The Vedas proclaim – the couple Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa as their incomparable crest-gem, for whom the cosmic functions are akin to amorous sports and the two by nature mutually sustain each other and enjoy each other exclusively (3). She, the Mother of various kinds of creatures, the eternal companion of the Lord in all his abodes, who follows him in His every form like His grace and assumes a befitting form has now incarnated as the daughter of the king of Vidarbha.)

तां प्राप्य कृष्णः प्रभुतामिव स्वां मनःप्रसूतेरिव मन्त्रसिद्धम्।

आसीदभीतैः सहसाऽभिगम्यो मित्रैरमित्रैरपि सापराधैः॥ (XIII.105)

Here is highlighted the theological role of Śrī as an interceder on behalf of the sinners who recommends them to receive the grace of Her Lord. Referring to the marriage of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī, Svāmī Deśika mentions that after the Lord attained Her, He was approached fearlessly by one and all, including His enemies who had offended Him.

Using the simple analogy of a chariot, Vedānta Deśika illustrates the ideals of prapatti as:

भरन्यास्याश्वयुक्तेन भाववेगप्रधाविना। मनोरथेन गन्तव्यः सारथिश्च भवान् सताम्॥ (X. 75)

(Wise-men furnish the chariots of their minds with the horse in the form of bhara-nyāsa or complete surrender to the Lord, with bhakti as the driving force and You i.e., the Lord as the charioteer.)


Giving the illustration of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the charioteer protecting Arjuna and his chariot, Deśika succinctly suggests the philosophical standpoint of the Īśvara being the protector of both the cit and acit.

रथाधिरूढं च रथं च रक्षन् यथार्थतो दर्शयति स्म यन्ता।

त्रय्यन्तचिन्तानिरपेक्षमीशो तत्तादृशं तत्त्वविभागमाद्यम्॥ (XXIII.22)

Again, the overlordśip of Īśvara over the creatures in their embodied state as well as the state of liberation is suggested by the illustration of Śrī Kṛṣṇa releasing and tying the calves.

अबालिशो बालिशवत्प्रजानां प्रख्यापयन्नात्मनि पारतन्त्र्यम्।

न्यदर्शयद्विश्वपतिः पशूनां बन्धे च मोक्षे च निजप्रभुत्वम्॥ (IV.71)

Svāmī Deśika also introduces a few allegorical stanzas at some places, such as:

तैस्तैरसौ निर्मथितो विधूतः संक्षोभितो बन्धनपीडनाद्यैः।

प्रसादगाम्भीर्यनिधिः प्रथिम्ना क्षमान्वयं नोज्झति शीतलात्मा॥ (XVIII. 100)

The poet here alludes to the equipoised nature of the exalted men by describing the ocean that never gave up its natural coldness even when it was churned (by Devas and Asuras), tossed (by Śrī Varāha), bound (by Śrī Rāma) and hurt (by Paraśurāma).

Svāmī Deśika also reveals his unique skills in citra-kāvya or acrobatic constructions by his verses exhibiting complex visual or geometric patterns such as turaga-bandha (horse’s moves in the game of chess) in VI.65, ekākākṣarī-bandha (use of a single consonant throughout the verse. Eg. VI.98) and other kinds of palindromic constructions such as anuloma-pratiloma-bandha (VI. 76) , gomūtrikā-bandha (VI. 64) and sarvatobhadra (VI. 100) to name a few.

Śrī Rukmiṇīśa-vijaya of Śrī Vādirāja

Śrī Vādirāja Tīrtha (1480-1600 CE), a disciple of Vāgīśa Tīrtha, was one of the distinguiśed pontiffs of the Sodhe Matha establiśed by Śrī Madhvācārya. One of the greatest exponents of Dvaita Vedānta propounded by Madhvācārya, he was also known as Abhinava Ānanda Tīrtha for his contributions to the Dvaita school. He is most well-known for Yuktimallikā, one of the most exhaustive treatises on Dvaita. His dialectical treatises include Paśandamatakhandana and Nyāyaratnāvalī which refute the anti-Vedic doctrines and the Advaita Vedānta respectively. He also has to his credit numerous commentaries on the works of his predecessors as well as stotras. He is also revered as one of the Haridāsa poets who composed with the signature of ‘Hayavadana’. As a poet, he is best known for the Rukmiṇīśa-vijaya, a mahākāvya and Tīrtha-prabandha, a travelogue describing the sacred places visited by him across Bhārata.

Śrī Rukmiṇīśa-vijaya is a mahākāvya consisting of 1240 ślokas spread across 19 sargas. The basic plot is borrowed from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavata Purāṇa and Harivaṁśa-Purāṇa along with the Mahābhārata-tātparya-nirṇaya of Śrī Madhvācārya which serves as the theological basis of the poem. The Hero is Śrī Kṛṣṇa and śānta is the one of the most dominant sentiments with śṛngāra and vīra developed at various places. It gives an elaborate account of the life of Śrī Kṛṣṇa from his birth up to his marriage with Rukmiṇī. The poem is unique, in the sense, despite its aesthetic features and complex constructions, it is primarily illustration of the theological and ontological concepts of Dvaita Vedānta through the medium of Kṛṣṇa-kathā. True to his name, Śrī Vādirāja exhibits himself as the king of dialecticians in this mahākāvya wherein he unequivocally establishes the Mādhva standpoint on several ambiguous and enigmatic subjects that form a part of the plot through reasoning and scriptural statements.

In the very first sarga describing the descent of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Śrī Vādirāja emphasises on the ‘manifestation’ of Śrī Kṛṣṇa from the womb of Devakī to distinguish the idea of avatāra from the birth of an ordinary mortal.

एतेनैव पुरात्मनाऽ’हमभवं’ त्वद्दृष्टिमार्गेऽधुना

तेनैवासमितीरयन् जनिमसौ मेने न सूनुः स्वकाम्।

माता तं किल  विश्वं संस्तुवन्यभिनवं यदित्यादिना

प्राज्ञोऽसौ विनतः पिता च विदितोऽसीत्यादिभिस्तं गृणन्॥ (I.49)

In the above verse, Śrī Vādirāja alludes to Śrīmad-bhāgavatam X.3.42, wherein Śrī Kṛṣṇa refers to His earlier manifestations as the son of Devakī and Vasudeva in their past lives (3.42) and thereby infers that Śrī Kṛṣṇa did not consider this as His birth and it was rather His descent by His own choice. To further establish the idea of ‘manifestation’ Śrī Vādirāja refers to the eulogy of the Supreme Lord  by Devakī  and Vasudeva at the time of His descent as their child, from the same chapter of Bhāgavatam wherein they speak of Him as the Supreme being and not as their child.

In order to refute the probable objection to the idea of Śrī Kṛṣṇa manifesting directly from Devakī’s womb without emerging out of the birth canal, Śrī Vādirāja questions – “When evil spirits are known to enter the bodies of humans and leave them at will, is it impossible for the Omnipotent Lord to emerge out of the body of Devakī?”

अहो पिशाचा अपि देहिदेहे गतागतं शक्तियुता लभन्ते।

अनन्तशक्तेः परमस्य न स्यात्कुतो बहिर्निगम एव तर्हि॥ (I.53)

Putting to rest, the views that manifestation on this earth is impossible unless it is through the mother’s womb, Śrī Vādirāja cites the example of Śrī Nṛsiṁhāvatāra, wherein, the Lord manifested himself out of the pillar, with no woman conceiving Him nor out of any man’s seed.

यदा नृसिंहाकृतिराविरासीत् पदाहतस्तम्भवराद्धि पूर्वम्।

तदा नु का स्त्री सुषुवे मुकुन्दं स कस्य वीर्यादजनिष्ट कायः॥ (I.54)

While describing the episode of Pūtanā-vadha, Śrī Vādirāja takes up the idea of ‘dveṣa (hatred) leading to mokṣa’, as stated in some of the Purāṇas like Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam which also refer to the liberation of Pūtanā. Dveṣa, as a means to salvation is vehemently condemned by the Mādhvas. Śrī Vādirāja brings in the radical idea of twin souls abiding the same body and based on the Mahābhārata-tātparya-nirṇaya concludes that, the Purāṇas refers to the liberation of the pious Ūrvaśī and not the demoness from among the two souls abiding her body –

मुकुन्दविद्वेषविषानुषङ्गाद्वियोजिताङ्गी किल पूतनैका।

पपात धन्या ललनाग्रगण्या जगाम चान्याऽमरलोकलोकम्॥ (II.41)

He further strengthens his argument by referring to the silence of Śuka about the fate of Ariṣṭa, Vāta and Keśi after being killed by Śrī Kṛṣṇa and questions the need for the ‘path of liberation’ if hatred really leads to liberation.

द्विषां हरिर्यच्छति यर्हि मोक्षं न तर्हि कस्मादपवर्गमार्गः। अरिष्टवातासुरवत्सकेशी विनाशकाले विवृतः शुकेन​॥ (II.43)

To refute the objections against the idea of two souls abiding a man’s body, he refers to instances of persons being possessed by evil spirits and cites the story of Kalmśapāda from the Rāmāyaṇa, wherein, an Asura name Kiṅkara enters the body of Kalmaśapāda when he is cursed to become an Asura by sage Śakti. Śrī Vādirāja thus concludes that the existence of two souls, one being divine and the other being demonic is the cause behind their beatitude and damnation.

[यथा ग्रहाविष्टकलेवरे द्वौ कृताभिमानाविह चेतनौ स्तः।

तथैव कंसादिशरीरसंस्थौ शुभाशुभौ द्वौ सुखदुःखभाजौ॥ (II.53)

न चोग्रशापादसुरत्वमेषां विहाय दुष्टं कमपि स्वनिष्ठम्।

यतोऽभिशप्तेऽपि नृपे तेदेतदभूत्पुरा किङ्करदैत्ययोगात्॥ (II.55)]

While speaking of the fate of the Bhagavad-dveṣīs, Śrī Vādirāja refers to the peculiar concept of eternal damnation of the haters of the Lord, known as tamo-yogyas in Dvaita ontology. He unambiguously states that those who disregard the feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa fall into the regions of darkness alluding to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (X.2.32) –

पतन्त्यधोऽनादृतकृष्णपादाः वन चेद्यमस्यालयमेष्यसि त्वम्।

स नैऋतं धाम जगाम दैत्य इतीरिता दुर्गतिरेव तेषाम्॥ (II.44)

Justifying the ambiguousness on this matter in the Purāṇas, Śrī Vādirāja says Vyāsa does not clarify on this since he intends to encourage the Bhagavad-dveṣīs, lest there would be none to abide the regions of eternal darkness which is exclusively meant for the haters of the Lord.

[द्वेषाभिवृद्धिं द्विषतां विधातुं व्यासश्च न स्पष्टमिदं प्रमेयम्।

ऊचे न चेद्भक्तजनैरगम्यं पपारसाध्यं तम आप्नुयात् कः॥ (II.59)]

In the thirteenth sarga, Śrī Vādirāja draws several parallels between Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s battle with Jarāsandha and a philosophical debate between the Dvaitins and Advaitins through striking similes and metaphors throughout the sarga and presents a number of philosophical ideas. For instance;

कृष्णोऽपि स्वचमूं सुवर्णखचितां कृत्वा चतुर्ध प्रभुः

तत्राग्र्यांश्चतुरो विधाय नगरीरक्षार्थमीशोऽदिशत्।

भास्वत्सूत्रचमूमिवोपनिषदां रक्षार्थमत्यूर्जिता-

मध्यायैः सहितां चतुर्भिरमलैस्तन्मानपादोज्ज्वलै:॥ (XIII.44)

Śrī Vādirāja compares the strategy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa of dividing his army into four, employing them in the four quarters and appointing the heads of the four divisions to guard the city with the composition of the brahmasūtras with four adhyāyas and four pādas each to guard the city of the Upaniṣads.

पौराणिकं वाक्यमिवोग्रसेनमग्रे जरासूनुरसौ जहास​।

जीवेशयोर्भेदमिवात्मयुक्त्या भेदं सा चासाधयदस्य चापे॥ (XIII.59)

Here Ugrasena and Jarāsandha allegorically represent an Advaitin and a Tattvavādin respectively. Śrī Vādirāja says, even as Jarāsandha ridiculed Ugrasena like (the advaitins) mocking at the Purāṇic statements, Ugrasena, employing his strategy (logic) severed the bow of Jarāsandha into two like the Īśa and jīva that are separate.

The following verse alludes to the Advaitins who uphold the idea of the Nirguṇa-brahman.

गुणोज्झितं श्रीरमणं विधातुं शरोऽरिवर्गं यतमानमाशु।

गुणैर्विहीनं विरचय्य कृष्णमनन्तसच्चिन्त्यगुणं वितेने॥ (XIII.60)

Referring to the arrow of Śrī Kṛṣṇa delighting Him by cutting the bowstrings of His enemies who sought to make him guṇojjhita i.e., one with a broken bowstring (or the one devoid of attributes), Śrī Vādirāja suggests the defeat of the Advaitins by the Dvaitins who are symbolised by the arrow.

Describing battle, Śrī Vādirāja draws parallels between the arrow of Śrī Kṛṣṇa destroying the camp of the enemies and the Dvaitācārya establishing the theory of Pañca-bhedas or five categories of differences viz. i) Between jīva and Īśa, ii) between the jīvas,

iii) between jaḍa and Īśa,  iv) between jaḍa and jīva and v) between the jaḍas

[शस्त्रास्त्रप्रकरेषु शार्ङ्गधरतो भेदं द्विपाश्वद्विप​-

द्वर्गेष्वात्तशरासनान्मुरभिदो निर्भिन्नगात्रेषु च​।

मृत्योर्लोकमितेषु तं स्वजनतः कायान्मिथः खण्डिते

हस्तादौ युधि साधयन् स विदधे व्यक्तं भिदा पञ्चकम्॥ (XIII.62)]

In the third sarga, Śrī Vādirāja enlists following meanings of the name Kṛṣṇa

सपत्नपत्नीवदनोडुराजं क्रमेण यः क्षीणकलं करोति।

सितेतरः पक्ष इवर्क्षनाथं गुणोचितां तस्य हि कृष्णसज्ञः॥ (III.21)

Who, like the dark fortnight (kṛṣṇa-pakṣa) causes the lustre of the faces of the wives of the enemies to fade.

यतः स्वसन्दर्शनतो नराणां वराङ्गनानां सुरचारणानाम्।

मनांसि सर्वाण्यपकर्षतीशस्ततोऽपि कृष्णं प्रवदन्ति सन्तः॥ (III.22)

The wise-men call Him Kṛṣṇa as His very sight attracts (apakarṣati) the minds of men, women and demigods.

यतः स पृथ्वीतलसंस्थितोऽपि सुखी धरण्याः सुखदायकश्च​।

ततोऽपि कृष्णं प्रवदन्ति कृष्णं समुल्लसत्केशवकेशरूपम्॥ (III.23)

He is also known as Kṛṣṇa as He bestows bliss (na) to the earth (kṛṣi) while residing on this earth.

While referring to the episode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa śowering His grace upon the wives of the performers of sacrifice, Śrī Vādirāja boldly states the irrelevance of one’s gender in securing the Lord’s grace –

विप्राङ्गनाः स्वप्रभवे प्रहृष्टाः प्रत्यर्प्य सर्पिर्दधिपायसादि।

मुक्तिं करस्थां किल ता वितेनुः पुंस्त्वेन किं पूरुषमौलिभाजाम्॥ (IV.53)

Like Svāmī Deśika, Śrī Vādirāja too exhibits his skills in numerous complex constructions such as ekākṣarī-bandhas and different kinds of yamakas. A major part of the eighth sarga comprises of such constructions. For instance, Śrī Vādirāja beautifully uses yamaka while referring to the plea of the Gopīs towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa-

व्रजे महं तोषसितं विकुण्ठं भजेम चक्षुर्विषये त्वयीश​।

व्रजेम हन्तोषसि तं विकुण्ठं न चेत्त्वदीक्षोत्सवभङ्गहीनम्॥ (VIII.8)

The verse needs to be construed as –

व्रजे महं तोषसितं विकुण्ठं भजेम चक्षुर्विषये त्वयि ईश व्रजेम हन्त उषसि तं विकुण्ठं न चेत् त्वदीक्षोत्सवभङ्गहीनम् (We shall celebrate at Vraja with uninterrupted joy as long as You are an object of our sight, else we shall depart to Vaikuṇṭha where there would be no obstruction to our joy of seeing You)

Śrī Gopāla-campū of Jīva Gosvāmī

Jīva Gosvāmī (1511-1608) one of the six great teachers of Gaudiya Vaiṣṇavism was a polymath and a disciple of his illustrious uncle Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, a direct disciple of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. His works are spread across a diverse range of subjects such as philosophy, theology, grammar, aesthetics and poetry, as well as commentaries on several Vaiṣṇava scriptures. Some of his prominent works are the Ṣat-sandarbhas (the principal philosophical text in Gaudiya Vaiṣṇavism comprising of six parts viz, Tattva-sandarbha, Bhāgavata-sandarbha, Paramātma-sandarbha, Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha, bhakti-sandarbha and Prīti-sandarbha), Harināmāmṛta-vyākaraṇa, Bhakti- rasāmṛta-śeṣa, Saṅkalpa-kalpadruma and Śrī Gopāla-campū. Śrī Gopāla-campū, the best among his literary creations, deserves the pride of place among the Sanskrit literary works of the campū style as the most voluminous and erudite specimen of this class. Campū is the literary style characterized by the combination of both prose (gadya) and verse (padya).

Śrī Golpāla-campū consists of two parts viz. Gopāla-pūrva-campū and Gopāla-uttara-campū. Every chapter is known as a pūraṇa and the Pūrva-campū consists of 27 pūraṇas, while the Uttara-campū consists of 32 pūraṇas. The pūraṇas of both the campūs are spread across 3 sections known as vilāsas, representing the various phases of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s life and the key events of the plot. Thus the pūrva-campū which deals with the life of Śrī Kṛṣṇa till the killing of demon Keśī consists of the Goloka-vilāsa, Bālya-vilāsa and Kaiśora-vilāsa, while the Uttara-campū dealing with the life of Śrī Kṛṣṇa after his departure to Mathurā consists of Uddhava-pūrṇa-vilāsa, Rāma-pūrṇa-vilāsa and Kṛṣṇa-pūrṇa-vilāsa named after the visits of Uddhava, Balarāma and Śrī Krṣṇa respectively to Vṛṇdāvana. In addition to gadya and padya, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī also includes numerous gītas (songs) at several places to enhance the devotional fervour of the work.

At the very outset of this work, the poet makes an unambiguous assertion that Śrī Gopāla-campū is an attempt to aesthetically represent the theological principles establiśed in his Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha

यन्मया कृष्णसन्दर्भे सिद्धान्तामृतमाचितम्।

तदेव रस्यते काव्य​-कृति-प्रज्ञा-रसज्ञया॥

Some of the prominent conclusions of Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha reflected in Śrī Gopāla-campū are-

Śrī Kṛṣṇa in his human form (as against the four-armed Viṣṇu) being the Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient Supreme Lord, Goloka-Vṛṇdavana being His eternal abode and the Superiority of Gopīs over the queens of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and that of  Śrī Rādhā over all His consorts.

If the Purāṇas are regarded as the supplementary exegeses (upabṛṁhaṇas) on the Vedas, Śrī Gopāla-campū is undoubtedly Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s exegesis on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Śrī Gopāla-campū is clearly an attempt to disambiguate the enigmas in the Bhāgavata-Purāṇa in connection with the life and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. To this effect, the poet uses a unique style of story-telling, wherein whole poem is presented in the form of a discourse (upanyāsa) taking place at Goloka, the eternal abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, where the līlās of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are narrated by twin bards named Snigdhakaṇṭha and Madhukaṇṭha (who were Nalakūbara and Maṇigrīva in the previous birth and attained Goloka after being redeemed from a curse by Śrī Kṛṣṇa). Thereby, the poet also reconstructs the sequence of episodes mentioned in Bhāgavata-Purāṇa and presents them in a chronological order. At several places, the dates of important events in the life of Śrī Kṛṣṇa too are mentioned. The bards who narrate the transcendental pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, like any other upanyāsakāra are cleverly made to quote several scriptures at relevant places to establish the theological principles of Gaudiya Vaiṣṇavism, to justify the reconstruction of the plot and to loosen the gordian-knots as regards the līlās of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. As many as 33 texts such as Viṣṇu-Pūrāṇa, Padma-Purāṇa, Harivaṁśa-Purāṇa, Skanda-Purāṇa, Gopāla-Tāpinī -Upaniṣad, Gautamīya-tantra, Brahma-Saṁhitā and Manusmṛti, to name a few, are quoted by the bards during the course of their exposition. It is interesting to note that, apart from the scriptural texts, literary works such as Gīta-Govinda, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi etc, are quoted by the bards in Goloka as authoritative works that would be composed in future (bhaviṣyat-kāvyas).

Even the story-telling is peculiar, in the sense that it is non- linear, with the recitation taking place at two distinct gatherings convened in the morning and at night. The former takes place in the chambers of Nanda and is attended by the senior members of the family wherein, are narrated most of the līlās of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. On the other hand, the session taking place at night is convened in the chambers of Śrī Rādha, which is attended by Śrī Rādha, Śrī Candrāvalī and other consorts of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, wherein are narrated the erotic pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The principal sentiment of the campū is madhura-bhakti which pervades the whole poem. Sentiments such as vīra, adbhuta, vātsalya, prīti etc, are developed at appropriate places as the sub-ordinate sentiments.

Although the plot is based on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavata-Purāṇa, the campū is completely dedicated to the Supreme love of Śrī Rādhā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, on which the Bhāgavatam is rather apparently silent. Śrī Gopāla-campū is one of the most holistic works describing the eternal love of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the Gopīs. The work culminates with the union of  Śrī Rādhā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa on this earth after a separation of several decades. According to Gaudiya aesthetics, the Parakīya-bhāva (feeling of belonging to another), characterized by unadulterated love transgressing all scriptural injunctions and societal conventions, brings about the sentiment of ertico-mysticism (madhura- rasa) of the highest order. This is best represented by the Gopīs. In this connection the question that is naturally bound to arise is “Why should the Gopīs, who are the eternal consorts of Śrī Kṛṣṇa be considered Parakīyas?” In this campū, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī establishes that the Gopīs are in reality the Svīyas (consorts) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, yet, the Lord in order to relish the madhurā- rasa of the highest order uses his yogamāya to create an illusion of the parakīya-bhāva in the Gopīs. Although the idea of the parakīya-ness of the Gopīs being illusory is mentioned in the Padma-Purāṇa and suggested in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, a significant part of Śrī Gopāla-campū treats this episode intricately.

The Kaiśora-vilāsa speaks of a prediction by sage Garga that, Vraja would be afflicted with sorrow for long years if the Gopīs were given in marriage to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, following which the parents of the Gopīs decide to get them married to other cowherds. It is further stated that Paurṇamāsī (Yogamāya) creates the clones of Gopīs using her potency and conceals, the real Gopīs. In the Kṛṣṇa-pūrṇa-vilāsa (pūraṇa.31), Paurṇamāsī reveals that the marriage of the Gopīs was a myth as it was the clones of the Gopīs that were married to the other cowherds and cohabited with them. In the same section, Yogamāyā appears in her true self and testifies the purity of the Gopīs and reveals that she had concealed them as well as made them manifest, as demanded by the circumstances, even without the Gopīs realizing the truth. Even then the Gopīs are ridden with guilt and decide to undergo a fire ordeal. That is when Durvāsā arrives and advises the Gopīs to undergo the fire ordeal in the fire of his austerities. It is only thereafter that the marriage of Gopīs takes place after being separated for several years.

The Śrī Gopāla-campū is the finest example of the unparalleled poetic genius and scholarśip of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. The vocabulary too is extraordinary with almost all the words contained in lexicons such as Amarakośa and Medinikośa (except the vanauṣadhi-varga) being used by the poet. The poet effortlessly uses various rare grammatical forms at many places to make the poem more sonorous. The work abounds in the use of śleṣa (pun) and anuprāsa (alliteration) and yamaka (alliteration). For instance, the following verse describes the Pūtanāvadha, wherein the demoness Pūtanā is metaphorically identified with the night (vyāja- rātrī) and the adjectives used for the night, through śleṣa also qualify Pūtana.

नव​-नव​- रस​-पाकाद् उत्पलाभोग​-धात्री स्थलज​-जलज​-पद्मे सर्वदा दुःख​-दात्री ।

रजनिचर​-गणानां शश्वद् आमोद​-पात्री प्रति हरि- लयम् आगात् पूतना व्याज​- रात्री ॥

Nava-nava- rasa-pākādutpalābhoga-dhātrī refers to the night as the nurse who nouriśes the water- lilly with its freś nectar (nectarine rays). The same in the context of Pūtanā means the hired  nurse (bhoga-dhātrī) who was lean (utpalā) on account of the freś chyme produced (i.e due to her food already being digested, she appeared to be emaciated due to hunger). Sthala-jala-padme sarvadā duḥkhadhātrī in the sense of the night refers to the natural tendency of the night to cause the wading of the lotuses growing in water as well as the earth.While, for Pūtanā it refers to the one who inflicts pain upon all the creatures (padmam- padyate iti) living on the earth and the waters, rajanicara-gaṇānāṁ śāśvadāmoda-dātrī is directly applicable both the night and Pūtanā  i.e who delights the hosts of demons. Hari stands for both the Sun and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, thus meaning who was destroyed by the presence of the sun (night) and who died by the presence of Śrī Kṛṣṇa (Pūtanā).

In the pūraṇa 15 of the Pūrva-campū, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī uses the ten conjugational forms of the verbal root √vac – to speak in a single verse.

अवचमवोचमुवाच च​, वच्मि हि वक्तास्मि वक्ष्यामि ।

उच्यासमिदं वच्यां वचानि नो चेदवक्ष्यं न ॥१६॥

Pūrṇamāsī while assuring Vṛndā that Śrī Kṛṣṇa alone is the consort of the Gopīs who were the manifestations of Lakṣmī, establiśes her statement firmly by stating – “I have said (imperfect tense), it has been said (aorist), it was said (perfect), I (still say) (present tense), /I śall say (first future tense), I will say (second future tense), I śould say (benedictory mood), I ought to say (potential mood), if I may not say (imperative mood), then I śall never say (third future tense)”

The poet presents a graphic description of the battle between the Yādavas and the troops of Lord Śiva in the pūraṇa 19 of the uttara-campū using the best of his skills as a poet. Here, the encounter between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Mahādeva is described as follows:

अथ सर्व​-भूत​-प्रमथन​-भूत​-भूत​-प्रमथादि-तद्-दुर्गणे दुर्गणे रचितावरणतया सर्वेषां लोम​-हर्षणे जाते युधि जातेच्छः स महेच्छः शार्ङ्ग​-सङ्गत​-शरैः कृतया धृत​-प्रत्यङ्ग​-च्छिन्नताभिन्नतया तत्र सुष्ठु दुर्गणताम् आसादयामास । ततश् च जटा-घटा-सङ्घट्टन​-भर​- ललाट​-बाट​-दृग्-विभाव​-सुज्वाल​-वात्या-पाङ्शु-चक्र​-बाल​-द्रवाद् उपद्रावणया श्यामता- राम​-स्निग्ध​-धाम​-धाम​- लसित​-वाम​-स्मितामृत​-वर्षाद् अन्तर् बहिर् अपि द्रावणया च यथास्वं निदाघ​-मेघागमयोर् इव तयोर् युद्धम् उद्बुद्धम्; यत्र च हरः सर्वं संहरन्न् इव स्वयम् अस्त्राणि मुमोच​, सर्वं पालयन्न् इव तु तत्-प्रत्यस्त्राणि हरिः॥(19. 78)

In that thrilling battle, when the Pramathas and the other fierce gaṇas (durgaṇa) who were innumerable (durgaṇa) that tormented all creatures had surrounded all like, Śrī Kṛṣṇa of noble desires (maheccha) became desirous (jāteccha) of fighting and rendered them a tiny assemblage (durgaṇa) by severing their limbs by the arrows śot from his Śāṛnga bow. Thereafter when the all were distressed by the heatwave (jvālavātyā) caused by the flames emerging out of the third- eye (lalāṭa-vāṭa-vibhāvasu) of Śiva with matted locks, the śower of nectar beautiful gentle smile  (vāma-smitāmṛta-varṣāt) of the dark-complexioned Śrī Kṛṣṇa brought relief, both internally. Thus their encounter was like that of the summer and the rain-bearing clouds. As Hara would release his missiles as destroying everything, Hari would employ the counter weapon as if protecting all.

Vopadeva interestingly refers to Śrīmad-Bhāgavata Purāṇa as a Veda, a Purāṇa and a kāvya considering its injunctive nature, its theme and its aesthetic beauty. It would be no exaggeration to say that, this description of Bhāgavatam by Vopadeva is evidently applicable to Yādavābhyudaya, Śrī Rukmiṇīśa-Vijaya and Śrī Gopāla-campū too for the same reasons.

चक्षुश्रवा यद्द्विसहस्रनेत्रैः ददर्श लीलास्तु हरेर्हि धन्यः।

निशाम्यमाणा नु वयं श्रुतिभ्यां श्रीकृष्णकाव्यानि ततोऽपि धन्याः॥

[The Śeṣa, the serpent (lit. that which uses the eyes are its ears) indeed was blessed having witnessed the beautiful pastimes with his two thousand eyes, however, we are even more blessed, for we can hear the beautiful Kṛṣṇa-kāvyas through our ears]


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