Krishna As God: Part – I
In Vrindavan, they still believe that every night Krishna and Radha meet to enact their rasa leela. The city is more concrete than jungle, overcrowded and dirty, like so many other cities in India caught in the penumbra of development, neither metropolis nor village. An unexpected expanse of green greets the visitor when he enters Madhuvan, a large walled-in courtyard full of stunted but green amarvraksha trees, remnants, it is said, of the lush grove where Madhu and his beloved met on moonlit nights in sensual dalliance.
They say Rang Bhavan—the garden pavilion in the centre of the shrubbery—still has traces every morning of their passionate love play. Betel leaves inexplicably adorn the floor. There is a broken bangle or two. And often also parts of a gajra, the weave of the flower strings undone, but the flowers still in bloom. They say that no man or beast can stray into this garden of love at night. Retribution for encroaching on the privacy of the divine lovers is severe. Those who have tried have been maimed, or robbed of their senses, or rendered deaf and dumb. In nearby Sevakun), where it is believed Krishna and Radha rest after their rasa, a bed (shayya) decorated with flowers is still prepared every evening. The doors are reverentially locked at night so that none may stray in inadvertently to disturb their rest. And on a sandy stretch along the river Yamuna—the Raman Reti— people still build sand-houses in the hope that the Yugal Sarkar—Krishna and Radha—strolling hand in hand in the wind-caressed nights, may walk over the edifices, and thus bless them.
Krishna and Radha live on in and around Vrindavan, not as lore or legend but simply as faith. Every year, hundreds of devotees happily chant their way on foot on a pilgrims’ trail that leads from Mathura to Vrindavan, to Gokul, Nandgaon, Barsana and Goverdhan. Goverdhan, the mountain which Krishna so effortlessly lifted on his little finger, can hardly be seen. It is at best an indifferent hillock, but this hardly tests the faith of the worshippers. They are aware of the belief that the more sin proliferates in the world, the more the mountain is diminished, and they complete the 22 km parikrama of the elevation with gusto. At Goverdhan, there is a water tank. It is said that its waters were brought forth by Krishna by merely scratching the soil with his flute—an art of mental invocation. The Sarovar is thus called Mansi Ganga, and huge crowds gather on its steps during the festival of Diwali.
At Barsana, Radha’s village, not far from Vrindavan, the entire area is sprinkled with sites commemorating her love for the blue god. Radha Kund is the pond where she swam with Krishna; Anjanokh is the bower where he lovingly put collyrium in her eyes; Mor Kuti is the spot where he disguised himself as a peacock and danced for her; and Sankhet is the place where the two met secretively to make love. In the post monsoonal verdant countryside, people gather also to celebrate another sport associated with Krishna: wrestling.
The arenas are makeshift, and the audience is happy to watch from tree perches or tractor tops, but the enthusiasm is in no way less than what it must have been when Dau and Mohan took on Kamsa’s famed wrestlers, Chanura and Mustika. In spring, the colourful if tumultuous festival of Holi is another mass invocation of the name of Krishna. When Krishna and the gopas smeared Radha with colour, or when she, with her sakhis, took Krishna by surprise and drenched him in coloured water, it was but one aspect of their manysplendoured love play.
The men and women of Braj still play Holi as though each of them was Krishna or Radha, a gopa or a sakhi. There is a popular local saying: Jag Holi Braj Hola (The world plays holi; the people of Braj, hola). A sensuous undercurrent permeates the celebrations and sometimes, given the social sanction of this occasion to the public interaction between the sexes, the latent eroticism is more than overt, a conscious negation of inhibition in the name of divine precedent. The animating mythology takes on different forms.