So the encounter in love began,
when the shuddering of bodies
hindered firm embrace;
where the joy of contemplating one another
with searching looks
was interrupted by blinkings;
where the mutual sipping
of the honey of each other’s lips
was impeded by the utterances
of small love-cries.
Yet even these seeming hindrances
enhanced the delight in love-play.
Though entwined in her arms
though crushed by the weight of her breasts
though smitten by her fingernails
though bitten on the lips by her small teeth
though overwhelmed by the thirst of her thighs
his locks seized by her hands
inebriated with the nectar of her lips
he drew immense pleasure from such sweet torments.
Strange indeed are the ways of love!
The Gitagovinda ends in a delightful mood of post-coital languidness, when, with the tension resolved, Krishna meekly obeys Radha’s commands.
Adorn my breasts with leaf designs of musk
put colour on my cheeks
fasten the girdle around my hips
twine my heavy braid with flowers
fix rows of bangles on my hands
and jewelled anklets on my feet.
And thus requested by Radha
Krishna who wears the yellow garment
did as she has asked him to, with pleasure.
From the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, a host of poets carried forward the legacy of Jayadeva. However, unlike Jayadeva who wrote in Sanskrit, these poets wrote in the language spoken by the common man. Chandidasa, who lived at the confluence of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, wrote in his native Bengali; Vidyapati (1352-1448) wrote in Maithili; Surdas and Bihari (1595-1664) composed in Braj; and Govindadasa, in the sixteenth century, wrote in Brajaboli. The cumulative result was that the love lore of Krishna and Radha moved out from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple to the dust and din of daily life. Their erotic love play made a transition from the refined, if passionate, milieu of Sanskrit poetics to the earthy and seductive medium of the lingua franca of the masses. The Lord and his consort were removed from the rarefied atmosphere of lotus-leaved arbours and ethereal jungle thickets, and placed with poetic adroitness in more familiar settings. Their rasa leela continued with unabated ardour, but in new situations that were inspired by the humdrum routine of ordinary people.
Two poems, the first by Govindadasa (E. Dimock, Jr. and D. Levertov, In Praise of Krishna, Songs from the Bengali) and the second by Vidyapati (Love Songs of Vidyapati, translated by D. Bhattacharya), beautifully capture the joyful turbulence of the first time Radha and Krishna make love. Radha is afraid and nervous, but that master-lover will brook no delay, and she, against her own resolve, yields’ to him. It is an indescribably evocative profile of the tension between a girl’s diffidence and a woman’s passion, the awakening of love and the losing of innocence in that sudden, pleasurable discovery of sex.
Fingering the border of her friend’s sari, nervous and afraid,
sitting tensely on the edge of Krishna’s couch,
as her friend left she too looked to go
but in desire Krishna blocked her way.
He was infatuated, she bewildered;
he was clever, and she naive.
He put out his hand to touch her; she quickly pushed it away.
He looked into her face, her eyes filled with tears.
He held her forcefully, she trembled violently
and hid her face from his kisses behind the edge of her sari.
Then she lay down, frightened, beautiful as a doll;
He hovered like a bee round a lotus in a painting;
Govindadasa says, Because of this,
Drowned in the well of her beauty,
Krishna’s love was changed.