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Braj : centre of Krishna pilgrimage

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Title:
Braj : centre of Krishna pilgrimage
Series Title:
Groningen oriental studies
Creator:
Entwistle, A. W.
Place of Publication:
Groningen (Netherlands)
Publisher:
E. Forsten
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
1987
Language:
English

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Subjects / Keywords:
Hindu pilgrims and pilgrimages -- India -- Mathura (District) ( lcsh )
Hindu pilgrims and pilgrimages -- India -- Bharatpur District ( lcsh )
Krishna (Hindu deity) ( lcsh )

Notes

General Note:
This title is now part of the Brill catalogue. Kindly placed in the public domain by Brill in 2017 January.
General Note:
Three maps on 3 folded leaves in pocket. This copy is missing one of the three maps.

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SOAS, University of London
Rights Management:
This item is believed to be copyrighted from 1987 under Netherlands copyright law.
Resource Identifier:
400556 ( ALEPH )
JA294.5 /552990 ( SOAS classmark )

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Full Text


A.W. Entwistle
Braj Centre of
Krishna Pilgrimage
Egbert Forsten. Groningen. 1987.


This book has been written and published with financial support from the Netherlands
Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research (Z.W.O.)
Cover illustration & frontispiece: The temple of Shrinathji on the Govard-
han hill as seen from Anyor
Cover design: Jurjen Pinkster
Distributor for India and the Indian Subcontinent:
Motilal Banarsidass, Bungalow Road, Jawahar Nagar, Dehli 110 007 (India).
CIP-GEGEVENS KONINKLIJKE BIBLIOTHEEK, DEN HAAG
Entwistle, Alan W.
Braj, Centre of Krishna Pilgrimage / Alen W. Entwistle. Groningen :
Forsten. Ill., krt. (Groningen Oriental Studies ; vol. 3)
Met 3 kaarten.
Met lit. opg., reg.
isbn 90-6980-016-0 geb.
siso 214.4 UDC 294-5 (54) (091)
Trefw. : Braj (India); cultuurgeschiedenis / Krishna-cultus ; bedevaart;
India.
Copyright 1987, Egbert Forsten, Groningen, The Netherlands
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.


Contents
Abbreviations vii
Preface ix
1 Introduction
1 The landscape 1
2 The local inhabitants 4
3 The devotional sects 8
4 Varieties of pilgrimage 12
5 Rules and regulations 19
2 The myth
1 The scriptural sources 22
2 The setting 27
3 The birth of Krishna 30
4 Krishna overturns a cart (sakatarohana) 32
5 Putana (putanavadha) 32
6 The whirlwind demon (trnavartavadha) 32
7 Garga's visit 32
8 Krishna eats dirt 33
9 Krishna is tied to a mortar (ulukhalabandhana) 33
10 The encampment is moved to Vrindaban and other demons attack
Krishna 34
11 Brahma spirits away the calves and cowherd boys 34
12 The defeat of Kaliya (kaliyadamana) 34
13 Dhenuka (dhenukasuravadha) 35
14 Two forest fires (davanalajdavagni) 35
15 Pralamba (pralambasuravadha) 35
VII


16 Krishna steals the Gopis' clothes (vastra-/ciraharana) 35
17 The brahmins' wives (yajnapatni-) 36
18 Krishna lifts up Govardhan (govardhcmadharanci) 36
19 Nanda is abducted 37
20 Krishna dances with the Gopi 37
21 The pilgrimage to Ambikavana 38
22 Shankhachuda 38
23 Arishta 38
24 Keshi 39
25 Vyoma 39
26 Akrura fetches Krishna and Balarama 39
27 The return to Mathura 39
28 Kansa is slain 40
29 Uddhava's message 40
30 Krishna and Balarama move to Dwarka 41
31 Balarama visits the Gopis 42
32 Later sources and developments 42
33 Radha 47
34 The entourage of Krishna and Radha 49
35 Krishna extorts curd from the Gopis 53
36 Lila of the eight watches of the day 55
37 The marriage of Krishna and Radha 57
38 Narada and Shiva change sex 58
39 How Govardhan came to Braj 59
40 The reclamation of Braj 60
3 Devotion in theory and practice
i Emotion and aesthetics 62
2 Tantric influence 65
3 The nature of Krishna's love 67
4 Love in separation (viraha) 69
5 Eschatology 70
6 The ontology of the sacred places 71
7 Manifestations of devotion 76
8 Idols and epithets 78
9 Looking at idols (darsan) 82
10 Offering food 83
11 Music, chanting, drama, and preaching 85
12 Individual and solitary practices 88
13 Cows, milk, and ras 89
14 Femininity 91
15 Fantasies 96
16 Motivations for pilgrimage 103
VIII


4
Ancient and early medieval Braj
1 The devotee's view of history 109
2 Dynasties of ancient Mathura 110
3 Buddhism 112
4 Jainism 113
5 Non-Vaishnava Hindu cults 114
6 The cult of Vasudeva/Krishna 116
7 Balarama 120
8 The end of Hindu power in Braj 122
9 The location of ancient Mathura 124
10 Mounds outside the modern circumambulation of
Mathura 124
11 TheKatra 125
12 Finds at other places along the circumambulation of
Mathura 126
13 Sites in the vicinity of Maholi 128
14 Sites west and north-west of Maholi 128
15 Finds in and around Vrindaban 129
16 Finds in the vicinity of Govardhan 130
17 Finds in the north-western part of Mathura District 130
18 Finds at Kaman 131
19 Finds east of the Yamuna 132
5 Braj since the thirteenth century
1 Braj under the Delhi Sultanate (1194-1526) 134
2 The arrival of a new kind of Krishna worship 136
3 Chaturanaga (Nagaji) 140
4 Vallabha 141
5 Chaitanya 143
6 Political developments from 1516 to 1556 144
7 The Six Goswamis and other contemporary Gaudiya
devotees 145
8 Vitthalnath's succession to leadership of the Pushtimarg 151
9 Hit Harivansh 155
10 Swami Haridas 156
11 Shribhatt 157
12 Akbar and his Hindu associates 157
13 Vitthalnath's expansion of the Pushtimarg 160
14 The Ashtachhap poets 165
15 Some Gaudiya devotees of the late sixteenth century 166
16 The Radhavallabh Sampraday 168
17 Followers of Swami Haridas 170
18 Harivyasdev and other devotees of the Nimbark
Sampraday 171
IX


19 The Sampradays of Ramanuja and Ramanand 172
20 The reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan (1605-58) 173
21 Bir Singh Deo of Orchha 175
22 The Pushtimarg in the first half of the seventeenth century 177
23 Some devotees in Vrindaban during the first half of the seventeenth
century 179
24 Aurangzeb (1658-1707) 180
25 The exodus of deities from Braj 183
26 Rajaram and Churaman 187
27 Sawai Jai Singh 188
28 Religious activity in the time of Sawai Jai Singh 191
29 Badan Singh 194
30 Suraj Mai 196
31 Suraj Mai's successors 200
32 The period of Maratha supremacy 204
33 Devotional activity in the latter part of the eighteenth
century 207
34 Pax Britannica 213
35 Patronage in the nineteenth century 215
36 The Gaudiya Sampraday in modern times 218
37 The Nimbark Sampraday in modern times 219
38 The Pushtimarg in modern times 221
39 New arrivals 224
Texts dealing with places of pilgrimage in Braj
1 Earliest references 226
2 Lakshmidhara (KK) and the original Varahapurana 228
3 Jinaprabha Suri (VTK) 231
4 The Mathuramahatmya of the extant Varahapurana (VP) 232
5 The Mathuramahatmya attributed to Rup Goswami (R) 235
6 Mitra Mishra's Mathuramahatmya (VM) 238
7 Anantadev's Mathurasetu (MS) 239
8 Skandapurana (SP) 240
9 Interrelationship of texts so far discussed 242
10 Naradapurana (NP) 243
11 Adipurana (AP) 244
12 Bhusundiramayana (BRam) 245
13 The yogapTtha theme (PP, GLA, VRC, AY etc.) 246
14 Narayan Bhatt (VBV, VOC) 252
15 Vrajavilasastava (VVS) and shorter eulogies 255
16 Chaitanya's visit to Braj (KCC, CM, CC) 256
17 Narahari Chakravarti (BRat) and Sundarlal 258
18 Gargasamhita (GS) 259
19 Shorter texts dealing with Govardhan 261
20 Govardhan in the varta literature 261


21 Caurasi baithak caritra (CBC) 263
22 Jagatanand (GVY, VGV, VVV) 264
23 PTtambardas ki varta (PV) 265
24 Ban yatra parikrama (BYP) 266
25 Brajmandal kamalakar bhavna (BKB) 267
26 Brajnath(BP) 268
27 Other Pushtimarg texts 269
28 Braj poets 270
29 The account of a pilgrim from Bikaner (BYV) 270
30 Nagaridas (TA) 270
31 Somnath and Sudan (SC) 271
32 Chandralal, Abhayram, and Gopal Kavi (VDA) 271
33 Nawal Singh Pradhan (BBP) and Lakshminarayan Singh 273
34 Modern published sources 273
7 Some varieties of sacred place in Braj
1 The origins of pilgrimage in Braj 275
2 The primordiality of Govardhan 278
3 The original deity of Govardhan 280
4 Govardhan and serpent worship 286
5 The worship of Govardhan stones 288
6 Stone worship in general 289
7 The Yamuna 290
8 Bathing places 292
9 Groups of five bathing places (pahctTrth) 294
10 Wells 295
11 Trees 296
12 Forests, groves, and arbours 299
13 Goddesses 302
14 Shiva 303
15 The samadhi, baithak, and bhajan kutl 304
16 Parallels, imitation, and influence 306
8 The pilgrimage itinerary 309
Plates 429
Appendices
1 An obsolete itinerary for the circumambulation of
Mathura 460
2 The forests and banyans listed by Narayan Bhatt 467
XI


3 Places listed by Jagatanand and in Ban yatra parikrama 472
4 Some pilgrimage schedules 478
5 Fairs and festivals of Braj 482
Bibliography 492
Index 521
Key to maps 553
Maps
1 The pilgrimage circuit of Braj
2 Mathura
3 Vrindaban


Abbreviations
AA
AN
AP
ASI
ASIAR
AV
AY
BBP
BC
BhP
BKB
BP
BRam
BRat
BYP
BYV
CBC
CC
CM
EI
GLA
GM
GVY
GS
HBV
HV
KCC
KK
MBh
MM
MS
NBC
Abu'l Fazl, Acin-i-Akbari
Abu'l Fazl, Akbarnama
Adipurana ( Vrndavanamcihatmya)
Archaeological Survey of India
Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report
Astachap ki varta, attrib. Gokulnath
Vrindabanchandradas, Astayam
Nawal Singh Pradhan, Braj bhumi prakas
Bhasa, Balacarita
Bhagavatapurana
Vallabhji, Brajmandal kamalakar bhavna
Brajnath, Braj parikrama
Bhusundiramayana (purvakhanda )
Narahari Chakravarti, Bhakti ratnakar
Ban yatra parikrama, attrib. Gokulnath
Maheshwari, BJkaneri yatra vivaran
CaurasT baithak caritra, attrib. Gokulnath
Krishnadas Kaviraj, Caitanya caritamrt
Lochandas, Caitanya mahgal
Epigraphia Indica
Krishnadas Kaviraj, GovindalTlamrta
Banmalilal Sharma, Gokul mahatmya
Jagatanand, SrTgusSijT ki vanyatra
Gargasamhita
Gopal Bhatt, Haribhaktivilasa
Harivamsa
Murari Gupta, Krsnacaitanyacaritamrta
Lakshmidhara, Krtyakalpataru ( Mathuramahatmya )
Mahabharata
Mathura Museum
Anantadev, Mathurasetu
Janakiprasad Bhatt, Narayanabhattacaritamrta
XIII


NP Naradapurana
PP Padmapurana (Venkateshwar Press edition)
PV Pitambardas kT varta, attrib. Hariray (in 252V)
R Rup Goswami, Mathuramahatmya
SC Sudan, Sujan caritra
SP Skandapurana
SPV Hariray, Srigovardhannathji ke prakatya ki varta
Sund. Sundarlal, Vraj yatra
TA Vrind, Tirthanand
VBV Narayan Bhatt, Vrajabhaktivilasa
VDA Gopal Kavi, Vmdavan dham anuragavalT
VGV Jagatanand, Vraj gram varnan
ViP Visnupurana
VM Mitra Mishra, VTramitrodaya ( Mathuramahatmya)
VOC Narayan Bhatt, Vrajotsavacandrika
VP Varahapurana, ed. A.S. Gupta
VRC Vishwanath Chakravarti, Vrajariticintamani
VRI Vrindaban Research Institute
VS vikram samvat
VTK Jinaprabha Suri, Vividhatirthakalpa ( Mathurapurikalpa)
VVS Raghunathdas, Vrajavilasastava
VVV Jagatanand, Vraj vastu varnan
84V CaurasT vaisnavan ki varta, attrib. Gokulnath
252V Do sau bavan vaisnavan ki varta, attrib. Hariray
XIV


Preface
Although many studies have appeared on different aspects of the Krishna cult,
there is no up-to-date and suitably comprehensive account in English of Braj, the
most important centre of Krishna pilgrimage. From the seventeenth century
onwards various European travellers passed through the area and made a brief
record of their impressions. A more detailed account of life in Mathura and the
surrounding district was given by Mark Thornhill, who described his experiences as
Collector at the time of the 'Indian Mutiny' of 1857. Though he was more familiar
with the area than previous European visitors, many of his comments now appear
prejudiced and typically 'colonial'. The settlement reports of Deeds and Tyler
(1831) and Whiteway (1879) are restricted to statistical, topographical, and
economic information.
A major contribution to the study of Braj was made by Frederick Salmon
Growse (1837-93), who was District Magistrate at Mathura from 1871-77. He had
an antiquarian interest in local history and culture, was a keen amateur architect,
and was responsible for unearthing, salvaging, and preserving many fine examples
of ancient sculpture. Besides founding Mathura Museum, he restored the
sixteenth-century temples and other monuments of Mathura and Vrindaban. His
Mathura, A District Memoir is a rather unorthodox kind of gazetteer in that the
statistical information is overshadowed by his coverage of historical and cultural
topics. The later gazetteers of H. E. Drake-Brockman and E. B. Joshi follow a more
standard format and scarcely provide us with any additional information on local
history and culture. Up to the present day Growse's District Memoir has remained a
standard work of reference, though some of his views are outdated and much more
information about the topics he discusses has since become available.
Early this century two missionaries who spent some time in Braj published
accounts of its religious life. J. E. Scott's Braj, The Vaishnava Holy Land, while it
contains some information about the Krishna cult, is primarily concerned with
advertizing missionary activity. The tone of E. Mabel F. Major's On the Wings of a
Wish, written to inspire children in the West to come to India and save the heathens,
can hardly fail to provoke derision on the part of modern readers. Until fairly
recently there were few westerners who attempted to appreciate Krishna from the
standpoint of a Hindu devotee. Growse, for example, allowed his Catholicism to
XV


colour his assessment of the ethics and behaviour of local devotees; others tended to
dismiss Krishna rather superficially in terms of classical mythology. Joseph
Tieffenthaler considered the songs and stories about Krishna to be indecent and
deemed them more appropriate for 'ein muthwilliger Satyr oder Faun'. Emily Eden
tells us that Krishna 'seems to have been a larking sort of Apollo', an identification
also suggested some decades earlier by Thomas Twining, and by her contemporary
James Tod, with reference to Shrinathji. A more sensitive and penetrating
appreciation of the religious life of Braj is given by Klaus Klostermaier, who, during
the two years he spent in Vrindaban in the 1960's, had many theological discussions
with local Vaishnavas.
In recent decades several scholars have undertaken studies of specific aspects of
the culture, history, and social life of Braj. The Miracle Plays of Mathura hv Norvin
Hein, which gives a detailed account of the ras lila tradition, begins with a good
general introduction to the district and its religious activity. John Stratton Hawley
also paints a vivid picure of the atmosphere of Vrindaban in the first chapter of At
Play with Krishna: Pilgrimage Dramas from Brindavan. Bimanbehari Majumdar, in
an appendix to one of the chapters of his Krsna in History and Legend, gives a list of
the sacred places of Braj as recorded in some of the older texts. His listing, however,
is much less comprehensive than the one given in chapter 8 of the present study, and
in many cases his identification of the places is deficient or inaccurate. Much of
what I have to say endorses and enlarges upon articles written by Charlotte
Vaudeville on the reclamation of Braj and the cult of Govardhan; the additional
detail I have provided and my investigation of a larger number of texts help to
qualify and modify some of her conclusions.
K. D. Vajpeyi, sometime Director of Mathura Museum, produced the first
detailed history of Braj in Hindi (1954-58). The second volume contains chapters
by various local scholars on aspects of Braj culture. One of the contributors was
Chandrabhan Rawat, who has elsewhere written on the local dialect (1967) and has
surveyed some of the elements and themes of the literature of Krishna devotion
(1976). Satyendra has written extensively on the folklore of Braj (1948, 1949,
1953), and has also produced a rather ragged history of Braj literature (1967). The
only history of prose literature in Braj to have been published so far is that of
Jaykishan Prasad. Prabhudayal Mital, besides editing the works of some of the
devotional poets, has written three volumes on the cultural and religious history of
Braj (1966, 1968, 1975), which are a mine of information. In addition there are
several studies by Indian scholars and devotees that deal with particular sectarian
traditions, especially their devotional literature. Some of them are pervaded with a
distinct sectarian bias, or have been written by scholars who do not share an
outsider's scepticism with regard to questions of historicity.
I cannot by any means claim that my own study has not been tinged by personal
tastes and subjectivity. In my efforts to present the Vaishnavas' own account of
their beliefs, history, and practices, I have tried to avoid giving undue stress to the
views current in any particular Sampraday. Though I have attempted to suppress
value judgements and be less opinionated than my colonial predecessors, my
perspective remains that of an outsider who, while being charmed by the aesthetics
and vivacity of Braj culture, has remained stubbornly impervious to the theology
and mysticism. I am intrigued by the sentimental and emotional appeal of Krishna
XVI


devotion, but have failed to let it sweep me off my feet. Consequently, devotees will
find much of what I have to say irrelevant, dry, and lacking in ras. Though, in their
eyes, I will have completely missed the point, I hope that the majority of readers will
find something of use in my survey of Krishna worship as practised in Braj. I have
tried to assimilate and select information from the vast amount of material
available in various languages, emphasizing the salient points and providing
references to sources where more detail can be found. My aim has been to produce a
digestible cultural history for the western reader and a handbook that will be useful
for students of various disciplines. Though I may have personal preferences, I have
no ideological axe to grind. Rather than adhering to any particular model, I have
tried to survey the interpretations offered by other scholars. In summarizing the
early history of the Krishna cult I have restricted the information to points that
have some bearing upon later developments in Braj. Fuller accounts of the history
of Krishna worship are given in recent studies by Suvira Jaiswal, Friedhelm Hardy
(1983/1), Benjamin Preciado-Solis, and J. S. Hawley (1983), all of whom refer to
earlier studies which, on the whole, they supersede. Similarly, I have merely
summarized the canonical version of the story of Krishna, since there are enough
readily available publications in which it is told in greater detail.
The historical chapters are based largely on secondary studies, supplemented
with details gleaned from the accounts of European travellers and the mass of
devotional literature. Anyone embarking upon further research into the history of
Vaishnavism in Braj must delve into the various documents in the possession of
Pandas and Goswamis, temple libraries, archives, and law courts. I am not
equipped to deal with firmans and other documents in Persian, and even a study of
archival material in languages known to me would have required much more
patient negotiation and research, resulting in many more years of work. Though I
would have liked more time to mull over several issues touched upon in this study,
the time now seems ripe for a general introductory history.
My own particular contribution to the study of Braj has been to examine all
available texts relating to the sacred places (chapter 6). By collating these sources I
have produced a description of the pilgrimage circuit (chapter 8), presenting the
itinerary in the form of a gazetteer. I have pruned away much of the whimsical or
even fatuous detail given in many of the texts, retaining an occasional example in
order to convey the flavour. My collated sequence of places does not correspond to
any particular pilgrimage itinerary, but note has been made of variations,
diversions, and omissions. The numbers given to the places correspond to those
used in the maps to show their location. The references to sources give some
indication of the antiquity of the different places and their sectarian affiliation.
Variant spellings of place names have been noted, in the hope that they will be
helpful to anyone speculating on the etymology of toponyms. I have included some
of the etymologies suggested by Growse and others, even though they are often
improbable.
In transcribing Indian names and terms the aim has been to keep the use of
diacritical marks down to a minimum, restricting them to titles and words printed in
italics. Proper names have been given an anglicized spelling, using the forms for
toponyms that are given in the latest census report, unless they are anomalous or
contradict established local usage. My transcription of b/v/w, cerebral d(h)/r(h),
XVII


and -o-/-au- is blatantly inconsistent, and there are some anomalies in my
attempted compromise between Sanskrit spelling, Hindi pronunciation, and
standard romanized forms ('Vrindaban', for example, is a conventional but
questionable transcription, and I have resorted to 'Harivansh', where 'Haribans'
would be a more accurate reflection of Hindi pronunciation). To minimize
confusion, and to serve as a guide to pronunciation, anglicized proper nouns are
accompanied in the index by the standard transliteration from Devanagari of their
Sanskrit and/or Hindi forms. Similarly, in the bibliography, transliterated forms of
Indian authors' names are given in parenthesis after the anglicized spellings used
elsewhere in the text.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to some of the many people who
have helped and encouraged me over the past decade. First and foremost I must
thank Doctor Ram Das Gupta for providing me with the opportunity of spending
two and a half years in Braj (1976-78) and for inspiring me with his enthusiasm for
the local culture and his unflagging dedication to its study and preservation. While
in Vrindaban I was able to benefit from the scholarly insight of other participants in
the Research Project organized by the International Association of the Vrindaban
Research Institute, in particular Professor J. C. Wright and Doctor Tarapada
Mukherjee. Local associates of the Vrindaban Research Institute who facilitated
my research and provided information and entertaining discussion were Doctor R.
C. Sharma (then Director of Mathura Museum), Shri Srivatsa Goswami, and the
late Doctor Moti Lai Gupta. The staff of the Institute were always ready and willing
to help with my enquiries. Among them Shri Gopal Chandra Ghosh and Shri
Brindaban Behari were especially forthcoming in sharing with me their extensive
'local knowledge'. On my excursions into the Braj countryside I was accompanied
by Shri Keshav Singh Verma and Shri Pulin Krishna Goswami, who offered me
valuable guidance and companionship and patiently answered my endless stream of
questions about the local dialect and customs. More recently, Professor Owen M.
Lynch kindly provided helpful criticism of remarks I made on the Chaube brahmins
of Mathura in a draft of my opening chapter.
The compilation of this study was carried out under the auspices of Professor
Jacob Ensink, who invited me to participate in a project on pilgrimage at the
Institute of Indian Studies, University of Groningen. Thanks to a grant from the
research fund of the Faculty of Letters, I was able to spend five years at Groningen
working on this study and to make two trips to India for further research. Among
the colleagues at Groningen who helped to create such a pleasant working
environment, I am especially grateful to Doctor Ranajit Sarkar for his help with my
reading of Bhakti ratnakar. My closest associate at Groningen was Doctor Hans
Bakker, who was simultaneously busy with his study of Ayodhya. I was able to have
many enjoyable and fruitful discussions with him, and his help in arranging for the
publication of the book and maps has been invaluable.
XVIII


1 Introduction
1 The landscape
The term 'Braj' does not refer to an area with clearly defined boundaries and has
never been used as the official name of a political territory or administrative
division. It is derived from the Sanskrit vraja, which is used in the oldest accounts of
Krishna's childhood to mean 'an enclosure or station of herdsmen.' Modern
pundits, however, define it as 'a place where cows roam' (vrajanti gavo yasminn iti
vrajah), thereby endorsing the use of'Braj' as a name for the countryside in which
Krishna grazed his cattle and in which all the sacred places associated with his early
years are located. It may also be used to designate the more extensive area in which
the Braj dialect of Hindi is spoken, encompassing the westernmost part of
Rajasthan and districts of Uttar Pradesh as far east as Hardoi.1 Here, in accordance
with popular usage, we shall use it to refer to the religious and cultural centre of this
area, namely the districts of Mathura and Bharatpur and adjacent parts of other
districts, including the towns of Aligarh, Hathras, Agra, and Alwar.
The pilgrimage circuit of Braj covers an area stretching ten kilometres to the east
and south of Mathura and nearly fifty to the west and north. The Yamuna winds its
way through the eastern part of this area, flowing past Shergarh, Vrindaban,
Mathura, and Gokul, separating the many sacred places on its western bank from
the few that are located to the east of it. For most of the year the river is sluggish and
easily fordable, but during the rainy season, and for several weeks afterwards, it is
broad and turbulant, covering the wide sands on which melons and marrows are
grown in the hot season, flooding the surrounding fields, and sometimes even the
streets of Vrindaban and Mathura. To the west, the low-lying terrain around
Kaman and Govardhan is frequently inundated during the monsoon. The water
eventually drains away leaving numerous ponds that gradually evaporate during
the dry months from October to June. The fact that the roads and pathways of Braj
are at their worst during the monsoon, if not completely unusable, does not seem to
dampen the enthusiasm of the hordes of pilgrims who come here at this time of
year.
1 See D. Varma, map facing p.2 and pp.7-11.
1


The countryside is at its most verdant during the rainy season, but visitors
familiar with literature dealing with the setting of Krishna's encounters with Radha
will find little that lives up to the conventional poetic descriptions. There are no
luxuriant forests lining the banks of the Yamuna, no profusion of exotic flowers,
nor does the breeze bear the fragrance of sandalwood. The twentieth-century
pilgrim finds himself confronted with a flat expanse of agricultural land that is
dusty in the dry months and muddy and waterlogged during the rains. In late
December and January the fields are bright yellow with flowering mustard, but for
the rest of the year they are filled mainly with duller crops such as wheat, barley,
millet, sorghum, pulses, and sugar cane, while much of the wasteland is covered
with low thorny bushes that grow out of the bare earth. It is no more distinctive for
natural beauty than any other district of the plains through which the Ganges and
Yamuna flow.
Nowadays there is just an occasional thicket or pond fringed with trees to remind
one that this might once have been the lush forest of Vrindaban, or even the largely
uncultivated woodland in which the sixteenth-century saints searched for the places
frequented by Krishna. One of these devotees, Sanatan Goswami, said that the
flora and fauna wasted away after Krishna migrated from Braj to Dwarka. The
lofty mountain of Govardhan has been sinking steadily into the ground ever since,
and the Yamuna has dwindled to a shallow stream.2 A devotee surveying the
relative starkness of the modern landscape is apt to bemoan the loss of the former
paradise, his eyes filling with tears as if he had once witnessed the primordial beauty
of Braj with his own eyes. The cause of this decline is usually attributed to our living
in the degenerate age of kali yug, in which all the noble values of the past are
vanishing. Nevertheless, even though there is hardly a trace of his mythological
environment, the presence of Krishna remains alive in the hearts and minds of the
people.
Four hundred years ago the Mughal emperor Akbar was able to go tiger hunting
in the forests around Mathura, and his son Jahangir, in his autobiography, records
the shooting of troublesome tigers on two occasions.3 Wendel, who spent some time
in the region in the 1760's, tells us that although there was nothing that could
properly be called a forest, at several places on the plains there were woods which he
describes as Tort epais et de longue etendue'.4 In those days the rulers of Bharatpur
attempted to preserve the thickets and natural vegetation over a wide area around
the town by prohibiting the cutting back of shrubs and bushes.
Ecological change has accelerated in the course of the last two centuries. The
latest District Gazetter of Mathura notes the decline in the number and variety of
wild animals since the beginning of the century, and Growse, writing a century ago,
described the herds of deer as being 'so numerous that the traveller will seldom go
many miles in any direction along a bye-road without seeing a black-buck, followed
by his harem, bound across the path'.5 Fifty years earlier Emily Eden had written
2 Brhadbhaga vatamrta 1.6.116-121.
3 AA vol.1 p.294, AN vol.2 pp.294 & 311, Jahangir, vol.2 pp. 104-5.
4 Wendcl, p.82.
5 E. B. Joshi, p. 14, Growse, p.27.
2


that between Kumher and Bharatpur 'antelopes abound, there are hundreds of
them to be seen at a time'.6 She visited Mathura and Bharatpur in 1838, the same
year that the area suffered from famine. Growse notes that this year was invariably
cited as the date when land reclamation began on a large scale following the opening
out of new roads as famine relief work.7 The process was continued with the
opening of the Agra canal for irrigation in 1874, and more recently by the
Govardhan drain that was begun in 1962. Any elderly resident of Braj will confirm
the rapid acceleration of land clearance and deforestation that has taken place since
his childhood. There has been a widespread impoverishment of the type of common
grazing land known as rakkhya or kadam khandi, the latter denoting an abundance
of kadamba trees. Nowadays the only places where there exists any kind of
woodland that could possibly merit the descriptions given by the poets are the
groves at Pisayo, Kokilaban, and Biharban. Some other sacred sites, such as Dhruv
Tila at Maholi, are located in a copse adjacent to a village, but many of them now
stand amid open agricultural land or have been encroached upon by expanding
village settlements. Many of the sacred pools mentioned in pilgrimage itineraries
have in recent years come under the plough.
With the disappearance of marauding armies and wild animals the villages
themselves changed in appearance. The typical village stands on a mound that is
either wholly artificial or partially composed of the rubble and debris of previous
generations. Nearby there may be another low mound that was once the site of an
earlier settlement, and round about a few natural ponds and perhaps one or more
masonry tanks. Up to the first half of the nineteenth century villages were farther
apart and surrounded by strong mud walls flanked with towers. The cattle, at least
equalling, if not outnumbering the human population, would be led out at sunrise
and brought back within the walls at sunset.8 The particularly evocative
atmosphere that still envelops the countryside in the early evening is known as
godhuli, '[the time of] cowdust' when the light of the setting sun filters through
clouds of dust kicked up by the returning herds of cattle.
The hills to be seen in the western part of Braj are outlying spurs of the Aravalli
system that stretches diagonally across Rajasthan. To the west of Dig and Kaman
lies a range of rocky hills on which the westernmost pilgrimage places are situated.0
Further to the east there are just a few scattered quartzite ridges, none of them rising
more than ninety metres above the plain. The lowest and most northerly of these is
Charan Pahari, lying to the north of the Nandgaon hill. A short distance to the
south-west a larger range commences at Unchagaon, runs along part of the
boundary of Mathura District and continues past the village of Sehu on the road
between Dig and Kaman. Parallel to it are three detached ranges on which stand the
villages of Rankauli, Dibhala and, on the largest of them, the temples of Barsana.
The most easterly and isolated of these ridges is the hill of Govardhan, lower than
6 Eden, p.354.
7 Grcwse, p.74.
8 Ibid., pp.71-2, citing Jacquemont, who visited Braj in 1829-30.
9 The highest of them, near the village of Alipur, rises to a height of 1357 ft above sea
level.
3


most of those mentioned above but exceeding all of them in the degree of sanctity
attached to it. Despite their low elevation, the summits of these hills, especially the
cluster at Barsana, command extensive views of the plains around them.
2 The local inhabitants
In recent years light industry has begun to develop around Mathura and a massive
oil refinery has been built beside the road to Agra, a few kilometres south of the
town. The majority of the indigenous people of the district, however, still derive
their income from agriculture, traditional crafts, or from temples and the
pilgrimage trade. According to the most recent District Census Handbook the
smaller towns are reliant on agricultural produce; among the most important
commodities manufactured in Mathura are printed calendars and sarees. and the
only article worthy of mention as a product exported from Vrindaban is the cheap
rosary made from wood of the sacred basil plant (tulsi).10 Those who earn their
livelihood from pilgrimage are mainly the brahmins who act as guides or have
custody of temples and the traders who cater for pilgrims and sell various kinds of
religious paraphernalia. In the bazaars of Mathura and Vrindaban there are rows
of shops selling items used in worship, brass deities and all the decorative articles
that go with them, religious pictures and booklets, and the varieties of sweets made
from condensed milk that are offered in the temples. Restaurants, with few
exceptions, sell the kind of pure vegetarian food that is acceptable to Vaishna-
vas.
The vast majority of the population of Mathura District is Hindu, while
Muslims, nearly all of them Sunni, account for no more than seven per cent, and the
number of Jains, Sikhs, and Christians is minimal. The largest landowners and
most important cultivators of the district are the Jats, comprised of various
subcastes and predominant in the tahsils of Mathura, Chhata, and Mat.11 In the
eighteenth century Jats fortified several towns in Bharatpur District and became the
Rajas of the land lying between Delhi and Agra and a large part of the Doab.
Although they claim to be of Thakur or Rajput origin, and thus to belong to the
noble martial (ksatriya) class, they were originally an agricultural tribe who looted
and plundered their way to power as the Mughal empire disintegrated. Genuine
ksatriya clans, settled mainly in the western part of the district, are the Jadons, who
claim descent from the Yadava clan to which Krishna belonged, and others such as
the Kachhwahas, Gahlauts, Gaurawas, Bachhals, Jaiswars, and Chauhans.
The Gujars are cultivators and cattle keepers who have lived in the area for many
centuries. They are a non-scheduled sudra caste living mainly in Chhata tahsil and
Bharatpur District, but are nowadays less significant than they used to be, many of
them having emigrated from Mathura District when, as a reprisal for their part in
the 'Mutiny' of 1857, most of their land and villages were confiscated and given over
10 D. M. Sinha, pp.8-9.
11 Bingley, p. 52, lists the different sub-castes (pal, got) of Jats and Gujars in Mathura
District.
4


to the Raja of Hathras.12 Wendel classed the Gujars, as well as the Gaurawas and
Ahirs (a caste of herdsmen) with the Jats, since they all had a comparable style of
living and observed similar customs.13 In the north-western part of Braj, in the
neighbourhood of Kaman and Alwar, live a number of Meos. They are nominally
Muslims, but retain many Hindu customs and before their conversion were
probably Minas, a tribe similar to the Gujars that was prominent in Rajasthan
before the rise of the Rajputs. In addition to these groups there is the usual range of
sudra castes engaged in their traditional occupations. Among the scheduled castes
the Chamars, also called Jatavs, are the most important agricultural labour
force.
In the nineteenth century a family of Seths rose to prominence in Mathura and,
with the profits of their banking empire, built fine mansions and temples.14 Today
there are no merchants who exert the same degree of influence. The Agrawals,
followed by the Khandelwals, Maheshwaris, and Barahsainis are the main
merchant (vaisya) castes, but none of them can match up to the Seths of the
nineteenth century. Nowadays business families from other parts of India,
especially the Marwaris, are more notable as patrons of religious activity. Many
businessmen decide to spend their retirement in Vrindaban, leaving younger
members of the family to see to the daily running of their concerns.
The most significant brahmins in the district belong to the Sanadhya (or
Sanaurhiya), Gaur, Chaube, and Ahivasi lineages. The Sanadhyas, of whom there
are twelve main branches in Braj, are custodians of several of the old religious
establishments. They are the most numerous among the brahmins who work as
Pandas (priests and guides for pilgrims) at sacred places in Braj, apart from the
town of Mathura. Many of the Gaurs came into the district as family priests of the
Jats15, and there are some Bhatt families of South Indian origin and Saraswats
originally from Panjab. Some of the Bhatts and Saraswats have inherited temples
founded by ancestors who settled in Braj from the sixteenth century onwards.
Brahmins who belong to a family that has custodianship of one of the more
important temples usually call themselves 'Goswami' a term that serves as a title as
well as a surname. Literally it means 'owner of cows', though some claim that it
should be interpreted to mean 'one who has mastered his senses'. In addition there
are other priests known as Jogis, originally related to the Nath Sampraday, who
preside over rituals at most of the Shaiva and Shakta shrines, but whose claims to
brahminical status are often dubious.
Like other important pilgrimage centres, Braj has its hereditary communities of
brahmins who act as guides for the pilgrims (Pandas) and perform rituals for them.
They maintain registers (bahT-khata) in which they enter the names of their clients
12 Whiteway, p.38. Bingley, ch. 1, considered that since Gujars, Jats, and Rajputs are all of
Scythian origin, the distinctions between them are social rather than ethnic.
13 Wendel, pp.7 & 81. He also included Bargujars, a caste that considered itself somewhat
more noble than the Jats.
14 Including the temples of Dwarkadhish and Rangji. See Growse, pp. 12-16, and Thorn-
hill, pp.93-6, for an account of their importance in the commercial and political life of
the town.
15 Whiteway, p.31.
5


(jajman). These registers are passed on from fathers to their sons, who thereby
inherit their fathers' clients. They are always on the lookout for new customers, and
once they have entered a pilgrim's name in their books they can lay claim to any of
his relatives or descendants who happen to visit subsequently. The Pandas of Braj
are no less notorious and maligned than their counterparts at Prayag, Varanasi,
and Gaya, yet pilgrims depend on them for ritual services, despite their reputation
for being unscrupulous, money-grabbing, and ignorant.
The Pandas of Vrindaban belong to the predominant brahmin castes and,
though they have formed an intermittently active association, operate largely on a
Tree for all' basis. The Chaubes and Ahivasis, who reside respectively at Mathura
and Baldeo, deserve special mention since they are two clans peculiar to Braj. From
time immemorial the Chaubes, whose name derives from caturvedin ('learned in the
four Vedas'), have exercised a monopoly over all rituals performed by pilgrims on
the ghats at Mathura.16 They identify themselves with the brahmins of Mathura
whose wives once fed Krishna and his friends, a legend told to account for their
being given the boon that the women descended from them would be fair-skinned, a
quality for which the Chaube women are praised.17 The Chaubes of Mathura claim
to have no connection with other clans of Chaturvedi brahmins and are described as
having two divisions called mitha ('sweet') and karua ('sour'). The term 'sweet' is
used for families that have emigrated and settled in Agra, Etawah, and other towns
to the east. Those who live in Mathura or claim to have originated there are referred
to as mcithur and categorize themselves into two groups referred to as the kulin
('noble, ancestral') and the Pandas. The Chaubes residing in Mathura form a
tightly-knit community that has its own variant of the Braj dialect and preserves
some peculiar customs. It is usual for wives to spend the afternoons at their
mother's house and prepare and eat food there before returning to their marital
home in the evening. Formerly brother-sister exchange marriage was current
among them, though nowadays the dowry system is practised with increasing
regularity.
The Chaubes are celebrated for their fair complexion, voracious appetite,
voluminous paunches, and predilection for bhang, an intoxicating beverage made
from cannabis leaves. Like brahmins at other places of pilgrimage they have a poor
reputation among outside observers, especially among those who have an interest
in downgrading them and who begrudge their socio-economic position, which is
based on their ties with the pilgrims. The habits of a few of them have been used to
characterize the clan as a whole. Thornhill, Collector of Mathura in the
mid-nineteenth century, formed the opinion that 'by the educated and better classes
they are regarded as a set of idle, dissolute beggars'; according to Growse they 'are
now ordinarily described by their own countrymen as a low and ignorant horde of
rapacious mendicants...they are the recognized local cicerones; and they may
always be seen with their portly forms lolling about near the most popular ghats and
16 VP 161.51-2, 163.54-7, R 324-8. For more information on the Chaubes see Growse, pp.
9-10, B. Chaturvedi in Vajpayee 1958, pp.487-9, P. Mital 1966, pt.l pp.75-6, Y. K.
Chaturvedi, and Lynch's article on the ideal of the mastram.
17 Lynch, ibid. For the story of the brahmins' wives see below §2.17.
6


temples, ready to bear down upon the first pilgrim that approaches'.18 Thornhill
went on to describe their daily routine in the following terms: To the north and west
extend gardens. To them each morning the Brahmins repair, and, stupefied with
bhang, pass the day lying beneath the shade of the trees, oblivious of all the world
beyond. When they wake up they amuse themselves with wrestling and other
athletics.'
Lynch has given a less biased and more favourable appraisal of their way of life.19
He sees their consumption of bhang, taken more often later in the day than
suggested by Thornhill, as an important factor in their typically carefree,
spontaneous, extrovert, and boisterous way of life some of the qualities that make
them appear to 'epitomize the quintessence of Braj character.' The tradition of
resorting to gardens where there was a wrestling arena (akhcird), a practice that has
declined in recent years, provided an opportunity for engaging in exercise and other
social activities. Young men could learn wrestling, an art for which many Chaubes
became famous. The stout and celibate wrestler represented, for the Chaubes, part
of the ideal of a carefree and contented life. Nor are the Chaubes as ignorant as their
detractors would have us believe. There are several learned pundits among them,
they run their own Sanskrit school, and down to the present day there have been
many singers and poets of local repute. In the latter part of the eighteenth century
they began to invest the income derived from pilgrimage and rose to become one of
the prominent trading and money-lending groups in the region.20 Like pilgrimage
priests elsewhere, following the decline of the traditional jajmani system, many of
them have become engaged in banking, accounting, and various kinds of
commercial activity.
The Pandas attached to the Balarama temple at Baldeo are all Ahivasis.
Elsewhere in Braj members of this caste live as cultivators, and in former times used
to supplement their income by 'taking salt from Rajasthan all over West India and
bringing back sugar etc.'21 Growse described them as a pseudo-brahminical tribe,
having as many as seventy-two sub-divisions, who were hereditary proprietors of
several villages west of the Yamuna, chiefly in the vicinity of Chhata, were 'without
exception...utterly ignorant and illiterate', were largely employed as general
carriers, and had almost a complete monopoly of the trade in salt.22 He records the
tradition that they are descended from a brahmin father and Chamar mother and
first settled at a village called Sunrakh, which adjoins the place at Vrindaban where
Krishna is believed to have defeated Kaliya, the great serpent (ahi) from which their
name is supposed to derive. Alternatively they are said to claim descent from a sage
named Saubari who did penance in the waters of the Yamuna, near the place where
Kaliya dwelt, and later married the daughters of the king of Mandhata.23 The
18 Thornhill, p.91, Growse, ibid.
19 Lynch, ibid.
20 Bayly 1983, p. 139.
21 Whiteway, p.32.
22 Growse, pp.10-11.
23 P. Mital 1966, pt.l pp.76-77. For Saubhari cf. BhP 10.17.9-11. Narahari (BRat p. 301)
calls the place Sonarakh Gram and refers to the nearby kpl (hrada) of Kaliya\ and
Sundarlal, p.l 1, says that Saubhari did tapas there.
7


Pandas of Baldeo claim descent from an Ahivasi who, according to legend, lived at
the village of Rirha (now called Baldeo) and was put in charge of the service of the
Balarama deity when it was recovered some four hundred years ago.
Although the people of Braj, or 'Brajbasis', as they are usually called, appear to
have been originally preoccupied with worship of folk deities, Balarama, Shiva, and
the Mother Goddess (Devi), they have absorbed the cult of Krishna in the form in
which it was promoted by brahmins from other parts of India who settled in Braj in
the sixteenth century. They have taken the image of the romantic and pastoral
Krishna to their hearts and have made him the central character in their folklore.
They are proud to be associated with the land in which Krishna spent his youth and
delight in telling visitors stories about the deeds he performed in their neighbour-
hood. In keeping with their pastoral background, they are lovers of all dairy
products and, if they indulge in a feast, prefer to gorge themselves on butter, ghee,
and sweets made from milk, rather than any other kind of delicacy. They are also
proud of their dialect, usually referred to as 'Braj Bhasha'.24 It is universally
admired for its sweetness and is popularly assumed to be the language that Krishna
spoke while he lived and played among the rustic people of Braj. Because it was
thought to be the dialect most appropriate for describing Krishna's pastoral
adventures, it became the most widely used form of literary Hindi from the
sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Throughout this period Braj was a centre of
inspiration for anyone concerned with the adventures of Krishna and Radha.
3 The devotional sects
Devotees of Krishna usually belong to a particular group, order, or movement
which may be referred to for convenience as a 'sect', though, since Hinduism has no
established or orthodox 'Church', the term does not have the same connotations as
it does in the context of Christianity. Generally devotees of a particular Vaishnava
sect have never studied its specific theological doctrine and do not necessarily
refrain from visiting temples administered by members of another sect. On the
contrary, it is usually the reputation of a particular Krishna idol that attracts them,
rather than the sectarian affliation of the priests that run the temple. There is
considerable variation in the degree of exclusivity and sectarianism shown by
devotees. For many of them initiation into a particular sect is purely a formal
matter. Most people are initiated by their parents' guru or another member of his
family or sect, but they are free to take initiation again from any qualified person
who makes an impression on them.
The priest or religious figure who gives initiation usually belongs to a particular
sampraday, a term that can best be translated as 'tradition', since this is the nearest
English equivalent to its literal meaning. The conventional number of such
'traditions' in Vaishnavism is four: the Shrivaishnava Sampraday, which originated
24 See D. Varma for a study of the language and its dialectal variants, Rawat 1967 for a
detailed study of the varieties spoken in and around Mathura, the dictionaries of Bahari
and P. Tandan (based on Sur sagar), and 'Suman's' extensive glossary of local
terminology.
8


about a thousand years ago in Tamil Nadu, where it still has its largest following;
the Madhva Sampraday, named after its founder who lived in the thirteenth century
at Udipi in Karnataka; the Nimbark (or Sanakadi) Sampraday, named after a
teacher from Andhra Pradesh who probably lived at about the same time; the
Rudra Sampraday, normally named after its obscure founder Vishnuswami, whose
writings have entirely disappeared.
All of these Sampradays worship Vishnu or one of his incarnations, perform
similar rituals in their temples, and follow the same basic religious observances.
Their respective theological systems were all attempts at refuting the monistic
doctrine of Shankara, looked upon as a champion of Shaivism, who argued that the
phenomenal world is merely the result of illusion (maya), that the supreme being is
without attributes (nirguna), and that the path to ultimate liberation is one of
intellectual realization (jnana).25 The Vaishnava theologians offered different
explanations of the nature of god, individual souls, and the world, maintaining a
more or less dualistic position so as to admit the possibility of a devotional
relationship between god and his devotees. They all agree that god, as brahman, is
the supreme cause of the universe, but emphasize his possession of attributes and
his appearance in personified form as Vishnu, Rama, or Krishna. They hold that
individual souls and the inanimate world are both as real as brahman and that the
distinction between them cannot be completely erased. Only devotion (bhakti) to
Vishnu or one of his incarnations can lead to deliverance from the material world
and the endless cycle of rebirth. It is claimed to be a more effective means of
approaching god in the present age than either reliance on ritual or intellectual
apprehension. The ultimate goal is not one of extinction of the self and complete
immersion in brahman, but an exalted state of adoration and communion with god
in heaven.
While these four Sampradays survive in one form or another, the picture has been
complicated by the emergence of sub-sects or new religious movements, most of
which claim to belong to or even to be the true inheritors of one of the original four.
Nearly all the Vaishnava sects of India have some kind of establishment in Braj, but
the ones that are most active and have had most influence on developments since
the sixteenth century are the Pushtimarg, Gaudiya Sampraday, Nimbark Sampra-
day, and two more localized groups called the Radhavallabh Sampraday and Sakhi
or Haridasi Sampraday. They are all dominated by brahmins, even though in
theory a devotee's background and personal circumstances are no bar to spiritual
attainment. Low caste devotees may participate in certain aspects of worship, but
the brahminical order prevails, with slight modifications of orthodox doctrines and
social ethics. We shall have more to say about the origin of these groups and their
contribution to the development of Braj, but it will be useful to make a few
introductory remarks here before proceeding further.
The Pushtimarg, or 'Path of Grace', is often referred to as the Vallabh
Sampraday, since it was founded by Vallabha (b. 1478), who was born into a family
25 See Karmarkar for a comparison of Shankara, Ramanuja, and Keshav Kashmiri on the
nature of brahman, the world, and the soul (/Tvc/), with reference to their Brahmasutra
commentaries.
9


of brahmins from Andhra Pradesh, but spent most of his life in North India.26 He
and his followers set up the temple of Shrinathji at Govardhan, which housed the
main deity of the sect in Braj until it was removed to Nathdwara in Rajasthan in the
late seventeenth century. The present gurus of the sect are all descendants of
Vallabha and are venerated by their followers. From the very beginning the
Pushtimarg appealed to the affluent mercantile castes, especially in western
Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Braj their main centres are at Mathura, Jatipura, Gokul,
and Kaman. Many of the Chaubes belong to the Pushtimarg and thus act as priests
and Pandas for fellow devotees who come to Braj on pilgrimage. Pushtimarg
doctrine does not value asceticism, and in fact virtually encourages its followers to
indulge in sensual gratification, provided they first make a token dedication of
everything to Krishna. This encouragement of material display and feasting was the
reason why Growse dubbed them 'the Epicureans of the East'.27 The movement is
usually typified as one in which the infant Krishna is worshipped, but the childhood
episodes in his mythology and his nature as an infant are given no special emphasis
in the theology of Vallabha or any of his successors. It would be more accurate to
say that some followers have particular affection for stories and songs about
Krishna's infancy, and that in some ways his idols are treated as if they represented
him as a child, but there is nothing so striking or peculiar in this to warrant its being
cited as an essential characteristic of the Pushtimarg. More notable, in comparison
with other Krishna sects, is its relative lack of emphasis on the role of Radha.
The Gaudiya Sampraday is so called because its main theologians came from the
province of Gauda in Bengal.28 The sect evolved out of the ecstatic devotional
movement inspired by Chaitanya (b. 1486), and it is still the most popular form of
Vaishnavism in his native Bengal, as well as in Orissa, and Assam. In the third
decade of the sixteenth century some of his more intellectual followers settled in
Braj and composed treatises which gave the theology and ritual of the movement a
formal and theoretical framework. Descendants of the followers of Chaitanya who
came to Braj have inherited custody of the Gaudiya temples and have become
naturalized 'Brajbasis'. They cater primarily for devotees from Bengal, many of
whom have taken up residence in Vrindaban, thus maintaining a strong Bengali
community there. An important factor in the mass appeal of the sect has been its
emphasis on communal singing and chanting of the names of Krishna.
The Nimbark Sampraday has probably been established in Braj the longest,
though its presence is somewhat overshadowed by the Pushtimarg and the Gaudiya
Sampraday.29 Several of the older, but on the whole less imposing temples and
places of pilgrimage are affiliated to the Nimbark Sampraday, and it has a larger
26 For a general account of the Pushtimarg see Barz, D. D. Gupta, and P. Mital 1968. For
its theology see Marfatia and Redington.
27 Growsc, p.284.
28 For an account of the sect see studies by De, Dimock, Eidlitz, Kennedy, D. C. Sen, R.
Chakravarti (whose article of 1977 summarizes the development of the sect with
copious bibliographical references), and (especially for its role in Braj) P. Mital 1968
and Bansal. A. N. Chattcrjee's book is a compendium of traditional hagiographical
sources.
29 There are no specific studies of the Nimbark Sampraday in English. Sec N. D. Sharma
pt.l, P. Mital 1968, and Brajvallabhsharan (ed.) 1972.
10


following among local Brajbasis, including most of the Sanadhya Pandas and some
of the Chaubes of Mathura. Followers are also found in other parts of North India,
especially in Rajasthan.
Two smaller sects are described as rasik because they concentrate exclusively on
savouring the emotional experience (ras) generated by contemplation of the
love-play of Krishna and Radha. They have both developed out^xhe popular
following of sixteenth-century devotional poets, whose lyrics are thought to
supersede the standard canonical accounts of Krishna's life, or any theological
treatise based upon them. The Radhavallabh Sampraday is named after a deity
worshipped in Vrindaban by Hit Harivansh.30 His lyrics deal with the eternal
dalliance of Krishna and Radha in the bowers of Vrindaban, a theme that became
the essential preoccupation among his followers. They venerate Radha in particular
because she represents the ultimate beauty and perfection which attracted the love
of Krishna. Swami Haridas also wrote lyrics on the love-play in Vrindaban, and his
followers emulated the role played by the Sakhis, Radha's handmaidens.31 Both of
these Sampradays are based in Vrindaban and have no important centres outside
Braj. The followers of Swami Haridas comprise an order of ascetics, who align
themselves with the Nimbark Sampraday, and families of interrelated Goswamis
who are custodians of the famous temple of Banke Bihari and claim to belong to the
Vishnuswami Sampraday.
There are also some establishments of the Ramanandi order, though since its
members are primarily devotees of Rama its main centre is at Ayodhya, his place of
birth, which lies four hundred and fifty kilometres to the east of Braj. The
Ramanandi presence in Braj consists mainly of ascetics belonging to orders whose
worship of Rama has been strongly influenced by the emotional devotion to
Krishna, especially its stress on his love for Radha.32
Goswamis form something of an elite among the Vaishnavas of Braj since they
act as gurus and serve the most prestigious deities. In most cases their number is so
large that they now have only a limited share in the service of the deity, and hence of
the temple income. Many of them are continually engaged in protracted litigation,
contesting their rights to a share of the communal inheritance either with fellow
Goswamis, the government, or trustees appointed to regulate the temple admini-
stration. As well as receiving disciples at their temples, Goswamis sometimes go on
tour visiting their followers. This enables them to propagate their sect, collect
donations, and ensure that their followers invite them to initiate their children.
While members of the Pushtimarg are all householders and its leadership is
restricted to descendants of Vallabha, the other Sampradays have, in addition to
the Goswami families, one or more ascetic orders. The head of an order or group of
ascetics, usually given the title 'Mahant', is succeeded by a pupil whom he has
designated or who is elected from among his followers. Ascetics may wander
continually from one pilgrimage centre to another, or settle down ih one place to
30 See Snell, Snatak, Lalitacharan Goswami, and P. Mital 1968.
31 See Haynes, Datt, and S. B. Goswami (who also deals with two more \Sakhf groups
called the Pranami and Lalita Sampraday).
32 For the origins of the Ramanandi order see Burghart 1978, B. P. Singh for those orders
influenced by Krishna devotion, and van der Veer, ch.4, for their presence in
Ayodhya.
11


live alone, or in a small or fairly large community. Wherever they go, they are
dependent upon the charity of householders, though some of the larger monastic
institutions derive considerable income from endowments. Ascetic establishments
are referred to as an asram ('hermitage'), math (literally 'hut' or 'cell', but used to
refer to an institution resembling a monastery or cloister), or akhara ('arena,
wrestling ground') if its residents belong to one of the militant orders set up in the
eighteenth century to defend their faith.
Ascetics aim at exercising more restraint than Vaishnava householders, as is
implied by the use of the terms virakta and hairagJ ('dispassionate') to refer to
them. Those who belong to the Gaudiya Sampraday usually shave their head,
whereas those of the Nimbark Sampraday, like Ramanandi and Shaiva ascetics,
have matted hair and smear their bodies with ashes a sign that they are dead to the
world. Even so, ascetics are unlikely to decline an invitation to a feast held in their
honour, and will indeed eat heartily. They also indulge in the same kind of sensous
emotional fantasies as other devotees of Krishna. Formerly some ascetics,
especially those of the Gaudiya Sampraday, lived with nuns, referred to by the term
hairagin, who were often their concubines. The practice is no longer maintained,
but there are still many Bengali widows who seek refuge in Vrindaban and live the
life of a pious ascetic.
Krishna devotion is largely a popular and participatory form of religion. Practice
consists mainly in visiting temples to look at deities, joining in the chanting of divine
names, and listening to songs and plays about Krishna, or to sermons which deal
with ethics and exemplary devotion rather than theology. Very few devotees take
the trouble to study any of the Sanskrit doctrinal texts, but all of them are fond of
the vernacular lyrics and narratives describing the adventures of Krishna. Despite
the relative uniformity of practice, some devotees tend to look upon members of
other sects as rivals. They claim that certain saints or devotional works belong to
their sect rather than another, argue that theirs is the more original or authentic
tradition, and criticize some of the practices observed in other sects for being
unorthodox or unjustified. Like all Vaishnavas, they tend to be sanctimonious with
regard to non-Vaishnavas, priding themselves on their ritual purity and vegetaria-
nism.
4 Varieties of pilgrimage
In India pilgrimage is an increasingly popular phenomenon. It combines tourism
and acquisition of merit and allows the faithful to participate in a shared experience
of the sacred and to offer prayers to deities renown for their beneficence. Hein
records that five hundred thousand pilgrims visited Mathura and Vrindaban in
1949-50. According to Klostermaier the annual total had reached two million by
the 1960's.33 Mathura and Vrindaban are ideally situated for both the serious
pilgrim and casual visitor, since they lie just off the national highway that runs
between Agra and Delhi. An ever increasing number of chartered buses and private
cars turns off the main road to give passengers a chance to see the famous temples.
33 Hcin, p. 10, Klostermeier, p.l.
12


With the growth of India's urban middle class, and its increasing mobility, more
and more people are coming for week-end trips.
Pilgrims arrive in Braj throughout the year, the busiest times being the spring,
when Holi is celebrated, and the rainy season that lasts through the Hindu months
of Shravan and Bhadon (July-September). This is when most of the buses arrive
that bring pilgrims on organized tours, and when groups of devotees begin the full
circumambulation of the sacred places. The second fortnight of Shravan, when the
temple deities are placed in a swing, is a particularly hectic period. Other important
festivals are the birthdays of Krishna and Radha that fall in the following month.
At these peak times the narrow streets of Vrindaban and Mathura are filled with
groups of villagers, especially from Rajasthan, who cling to each other as they jostle
through the crowds from one temple to another. They may not be the most
munificent pilgrims, but for the sharks who lurk at the bus stands, stations, and
sacred places they are certainly the most gullible. The biggest fish, of course, are the
wealthy merchants and industrialists who come with their families by taxi or private
car. In addition there are convoys of politicians and other dignitaries, with police
escorts forcing their way through the throng, their blaring jeep horns competing for
attention amid the cacophony of loudspeakers.
A cursory visit to Braj must include at least Krishna's birthplace and the temple
of Dwarkadhish in Mathura, and a trip to Vrindaban to see the temples of Banke
Bihari, Rangji, Shahji, and the 'Hare Krishna' movement (ISKCON) an
intriguing attraction for Hindus who come to gape at the zealous foreign
converts.34 Many of the fine temples that once thrived on royal patronage and
endowments are ignored because the service of the deity is no longer maintained in
its former splendour. Although most visitors are shown the imposing temple of
Govind Dev, it is the newer and more gimmicky temples that attract more attention
than the battered relics of the sixteenth century. Rangji, apart from being the largest
temple in Braj, is novel in that it is the only one built in Dravidian style and is
equipped with a range of vehicles for the deity, a fabled 'golden column', and a
gallery of mythological tableaux featuring electrically operated dolls. The italianate
temple of Shahji, panned by Growse as resembling 'nothing so much as a
disreputable London casino',35 is admired for its colonnade of spiral marble pillars.
The new temple founded by Pagal Baba on the approach road to Vrindaban
promises to be a regular attraction on account of its tall tower accomodating a
variety of deities on its many floors. Connoisseurs of kitsch will be delighted by a
recently developed park next to the temple of Lala Babu which contains gaily
painted cement statues of all the gods, saints, and sages, and a cow that provides
drinking water from a tap attached to one of its teats.
A more extensive tour of Braj will include Govardhan, Barsana, Nandgaon,
Mahaban, and Gokul. Most of the other pilgrimage sites, being less readily
accessible by motorized transport, receive few pilgrims apart from those who make
the Cull circuit of Braj.
34 C. R. Brooks carried out a poll in Vrindaban in 1982-3 which showed that 98% of all
one-day pilgrims visited the ISKCON temple, and that only 6% of pilgrims who stayed
2 days failed to visit it. See his dissertation, p. 216
35 Growse, p. 263.
13


Apart from visits to temples to see the deities, pray to them, and make offerings,
an important rite is the circumambulation of a sacred place. The act of walking in a
clockwise direction around a sacred object (Skt. pradaksina, parikramci, Hindi
parikrama) is a long-established religious practice. It was a fundamental part of the
worship of a Buddhist or Jain stupa, and in the late Vedic period sacrifice provided a
context for circumambulation. It was interpreted as an act of encompassing or
encircling the universe, defending it from evil spirits who roam the outerlying areas
of darkness, demarcating the boundary between universe and non-universe, and of
identifying the performer with the brahman that pervades and sustains creation.36
Everywhere in India it is customary to circumambulate a sacred tree, a pedestal or
mound on which the sacred basil plant grows, and any deity either by walking
around the temple itself or by using a passage within the building that encircles the
shrine room. Pilgrims should also circumambulate any sacred place that they visit.
The precincts of holy towns in India are delineated by a parikrama route, and are
sometimes surrounded by another longer circuit that includes many subsidiary
sacred places. Such is the case in Braj, where individual towns, villages, and groves
have their circumambulatory paths that are all incorporated in an extended
parikramci encompassing them all.
Local residents may walk around their sacred centre at any time daily if they are
particularly devout, on the eleventh day of any lunar fortnight, on the full moon, or
every day during the month of Karttik and intercalary months. Circumambulations
can usually be started at any point along the route and are not considered complete
unless one returns to the point of departure. Some of them are done by large
numbers of people, such as the ones called ban bihar performed at night around
Mathura (on the full moon ofVaishakh) and Vrindaban (on Jyeshth 1.5, and in the
daytime on Jyeshth 1.2). Joint circumambulation of Mathura and Vrindaban,
known as jugal jorl parikramd, is performed at the beginning and especially at the
end of the four month period when the gods are believed to be asleep (i.e. on
Ashadh 11.11 and Karttik 11.11). The route incorporates the normal circuit of
Mathura as far as Saraswatikund, then proceeds via Garud Govind to Vrindaban,
joining the parikramci path at Raman Reti and following it as far as Akrur Ghat,
whence the participants take the old road back to Mathura, a total distance of some
forty kilometres.
Circumambulation of the Govardhan hill is particularly popular among the
people of Braj, especially on new and full moon days, above all the full moons of
Ashadh, Karttik, or any intercalary month. Thousands participate on the
important days, forming a continual stream of people all along the route, which is
about eighteen kilometres long. Some people circulate the hill in a manner called
danciaun parikrama. This involves prostrating along the whole length of the sacred
circuit at every step, lying flat on the ground with arms outstretched and then
moving forwards to prostrate again at the place last touched by one's fingers. This
takes between ten and twelve days; but there is an even more arduous form of
dcindauti parikramci undertaken by those who wish to repay a boon, acquire merit,
or feel that they have a heavy burden of karma to work off. They perform one
hundred and eight prostrations on the spot before they move one body-length
36 Burghart 1985, p. 142, citing Satcipcithcibrahnuma.
14


forward, counting their prostrations by moving a small stone from a diminishing
pile at their feet to a growing one at the point reached by their outstretched hands
(see plate 1). This form ofparikramd takes between two and four years, but one will
always find a few people engaged in it if one walks around the hill. Sometimes they
are sponsored by the guilty rich to perform it vicariously.
The full circumambulation of Braj is known as the caurasT kos parikrama, so
called because its length is reckoned as being eighty four kos,37 a distance of some
three hundred kilometres. Every year different groups of pilgrims undertake this
pilgrimage, but they do not follow exactly the same route. Each group of pilgrims is
led by, or mainly consists of members of one particular sect, hence they do not show
the same degree of reverence for the various sacred places. The first person to draw
up a detailed itinerary for the sacred circuit of Braj was Narayan Bhatt. In his
Vrajabhaktivildsa, written in 1552, he distinguished between two types of
pilgrimage, a vrajaydtra ('Braj pilgrimage') lasting from the beginning of Vaishakh
to the end of Shravan that toured the villages of Braj, and a vanayatrd ('forest
pilgrimage, see appendix 5), held from Bhadon 1.8 up to the full moon of the same
month, that included the forests, groves, lakes, and ponds. The distinction between
the two is not made today and may always have been a theoretical one; nowadays
hem ydtrd and braj ydtrd, the modern equivalents of the terms used by Narayan
Bhatt, are synonymous with caurasT kos parikrama.
The nearest modern equivalent to Narayan Bhatt's vanaydtra is a pilgrimage
undertaken mainly by ascetics of the Gaudiya Sampraday. They set out from
Vrindaban on Bhadon II. 11 and on the following day formally begin their circuit at
Bhuteshwar in Mathura, where they return fifteen days later after completing their
circuit. This circumambulation is known as the ram dal or lathamar ydtrd, the latter
term, meaning 'stick-beating pilgrimage', referring to the fast pace at which the
participants cover the route. The term ram dal suggests that it was once performed
by a group {dal) of Ramanandi ascetics.
The most elaborate circumambulation of Braj is organized annually by the
Pushtimarg and lasts between six and seven weeks. On account of its scale it is often
referred to as the ban ydtrd, or 'big pilgrimage'. There are always a few thousand
participants, some years as many as ten thousand. The majority of them belong to
the Gujarati trading community from among whom the sect draws most of its
support. They are led by one or more of their spiritual leaders, referred to by the
regal title of'Maharaj', who trace their descent back to Vallabha the founder of
the sect. A few hundred Chaubes from Mathura accompany the pilgrims in order to
provide guidance and ritual services. The number of participants varies according
to the popularity of the Maharaj and the amount of publicity and other support
that he is able to muster. Sometimes the pilgrims are divided into two separate
groups with different leaders, one group following the other a couple of days
behind.38 Of all the groups that circumambulate Braj the ban yatra is the one that
bears most resemblance to the old Jain type of pilgrimage known as sahgha in which
37 Skt. krosa.Tb.e number eighty-four, conventional in Hindu numerology, is arrived at by
multiplying the number of months in the year by the number of days in the week.
38 As in the ban ydtrd held in 1975 (see S. Mital, p. 4). The one held in 1983, in which 2,500
people participated, was reckoned as being very small.
15


a religious leader (muni) and his followers were financed and accompanied by rich
merchants referred to as sahghapati. A hundred years ago Growse noted that it was
usual for the expenses of the whole circumambulation to be borne by a single
wealthy individual, 'often a trader from Bombay or other distant part of India',
who was accompanied by a large gathering of friends and retainers numbering at
least two or three hundred persons.39 Some Pushtimarg temples possess painted
wall hangings (calledpichvai) depicting the places visited on the pilgrimage and the
incidents in the life of Krishna that are associated with them. They are intended to
be hung in the temple shrine while the pilgrimage is in progress.40
The bariyatra begins and ends in Mathura, where most of the participants stay in
the type of pilgrims' lodge called 'dharmshala', most of which are controlled by the
Chaubes. Outside of Mathura camps are set up for them at some twenty-five places
(see plate 2 and appendix 4). They spend seven nights at Jatipura, a village beside
Govardhan where a great feast called kunvarau is offered to the sacred hill, three
nights at some of the townships along the route (Kaman, Vrindaban, and
sometimes Barsana, Nandgaon, and Gokul), and one or two nights at other places.
Contractors from Mathura provide porters and watchmen, supply tents and other
requisites, including 'tongas' (horse-drawn carts) or litters for the aged and infirm,
and arrange for all the equipment and pilgrims' luggage to be transported from one
camp site to another by truck, bullock cart, or tractor and trolley. The camp sites
are referred to as mukam( Ar. maqcim), a term referring to any kind of halting place
or station, though its use in this context may have been inspired by Sufi mysticism in
which it refers to the stages of a spiritual journey.
The Maharaj escorts his Krishna deity, which is carried in a litter and provided
with a tent or mobile wooden and canvas temple, or is installed for worship in
certain temples on the pilgrimage route. Tents are also erected to house mobile
shops, a clinic, post office, and bank. The pilgrims rise every morning before dawn
to attend the first service of the deity, then set off on foot to visit the sacred places
featured on the day's itinerary. They arrive at the next camp site in time for an
afternoon rest before enjoying an evening of preaching, singing, and a performance
of a play (ras lila) dealing with an episode in Krishna mythology. At some places
there are special festive celebrations, a re-enactment of an incident in the life of
Krishna, or a sponsored feast and entertainment for the deity (mcinorath). A special
kind of feast (tapeli) is offered at shrines called baithak which mark places where
one of the early leaders of the Pushtimarg is believed to have preached or performed
a miracle.
A few days before the start of the ban yatra, on the day known as Radhashtami
(Bhadon II.8), the Maharaj worships at the baithak shrines of Vallabha and his son
Vitthalnath at Gokul and asks them to confer their blessing (asTrvad) on himself
and his followers. On Bhadon II. 11 he formally begins the ban yatrd by going to
Mathura and, in a ceremony conducted by a Chaube beside the river at Vishram
Ghat, proclaims his resolution (samkalp) to undertake the circumambulation of
39 Growsc, p. 80.
40 I.e. daily between bhog and saycm during almost the whole of the month of Ashwin.
Some examples arc illustrated in Spink 1971, fig. 17 (and details of same, figs. 13, 14, 18,
33, 39, 41, 46, 50), and in Talwar and Krishna, pi. 23 & 24, pp. 26-7, nos. 16 & 17.
16


Braj. All of the pilgrims who are to accompany him must also make their vows
under the supervision of one of the Chaubes. After making their samkalp they bathe
in the Yamuna, offer milk and sweets at the baithak of Vallabha, and promise to
abide by all the rules that apply to a pilgrim (an act known as niyamgralum). On the
following day their Panda takes them on a tour of various places, mainly temples on
or near the ghats in the quarter known as Chaubiya Para.41 This is referred to as the
antargrhTparikramd, a term derived from the Puranic differentiation between two
kinds of pilgrimage, an inner circumambulation (antargrhT or antarmandala) and
an outer pathway encircling the whole world (bhumandalaydtrd) that is followed by
Brahma, and other gods and sages. The outer circumambulation of Mathura,
referred to aspcmckoslparikrama because its length is reckoned as five kos (about
sixteen kilometres), is done by the ban ydtrd pilgrims on their return to the town
after finishing the full tour of Braj (usually on Karttik I. 9 or 10).42 They may then
formally renounce their pilgrimage vows, give their Panda his fee (daksind), and
return home, or decide to stay for a while longer in order to attend the festivals of
Diwali at Govardhan and Yam Dwitiya at Mathura, and even Gopashtami, Kans
ka Mela, and Prabodhini Ekadashi, which are celebrated later in the month of
Karttik.
Another version of the caurcisTkos parikrama is organized under the leadership of y
the Mahant of Gore Dauji temple in Vrindaban.43 This circumambulation lasts "TV
twenty-five days from Karttik II.3 to Margashirsh 1.13. The ashram and temple of
Gore Dauji is a Ramanandi establishment, but both ascetics and householders of
other Sampradays participate in the pilgrimage. The daily programme is much the
same as that of the ban ydtrd, but the itinerary is not as comprehensive and only one
night is spent at each camp site, apart from two nights at Govardhan, Kaman,
Barsana, and Kosi. The Mahant and a band of followers walk at the head of the
party, leading the others in a devotional chant (kTrtan) that is sung continually as
they move along. At the halting places there is a programme of preaching and
recitation of verses from Ram card mdnas, the most popular Hindi version of the
story of Rama. On the first day the party sets out from Vrindaban and goes to
Mathura, where they visit Krishna's birthplace and the nearby sacred places. The
next day, after bathing at Vishram Ghat, they leave Mathura and begin the
circumambulation of Braj, crossing the Yamuna at Chir Ghat and again at Raman
Reti (Mahaban), so as to bring them back to Mathura, from where they return to
Vrindaban and conclude their pilgrimage with a circumambulation of the town.
A circumambulation of Braj lasting nearly eight weeks is undertaken annually by
Nimbarki ascetics of the Kathiya Baba Ashram, situated on Gurukul Road,
Vrindaban. Led by their Mahant, they leave Vrindaban on Bhadon 1.10 and begin
their circumambulation from Mathura on the following day. Their route follows a
41 Among places visited are Ramji Dwar, Gopalji, Satghara, Gatashram, Adivaraha, the
caran caukT of Shrinathji and Dauji, Mathura Devi, Padmanabh, Shatrughna, and
Virbhadreshwar. See 'Krishna', p. 56, for a more comprehensive itinerary.
42 The terms antargrhi-and panckosi are also used for inner and outer circumambulations
of Varanasi, cf. Eck, pp. 42 & 354-5.
43 See L. P. Purohit for an account of this pilgrimage, and appendix 4 for the
schedule.
17


sequence that differs from that of other versions of the caurdsT kos parikrama, and
includes some places that are not visited by other pilgrims (see appendix 4). This is
partly because they stop at villages where local people provide a feast for them.
Their visits to Barsana and surrounding places coincide with the series of
re-enactments of adventures of Krishna that is called bur hi III a. Their stay at the
village of Paigaon coincides with the annual festival of a legendary ascetic named
Nagaji. Ascetics belonging to this order wear a distinctive kind of chastity belt
known as an cirbcmd- a thick wooden girdle with a chain attached that passes under
the groin. The wearing of such an uncomfortable trapping is said to prevent one
from falling into a deep sleep, thus enabling one to keep one's mind pure and fixed
on spiritual matters. At each halting place the ascetics are feted by the local people
and there is a ras Ula performance.
The biggest circumambulation ever organized by the Nimbark Sampraday, held
in the spring of 1970, followed a similar pattern to that of the Pushtimarg ban
vdtra.44 The spiritual head of the sect, Shriji Maharaj, led over two thousand people
on a tour of Braj that lasted thirty-nine days. It began with mass bathing at
Vrindaban, after which the participants crossed the Yamuna and followed the
standard parikrama circuit, omitting Dahgaon, Kamar, and Rasoli, but including
Nimgaon (a place of special importance for the Sampraday), and arriving at
Barsana, Nandgaon, and Phalain in time to take part in their respective Holi
festivities. They camped at thirty places along the route and were provided with the
same kind of facilities laid on for the barlyatra, including a 'Shri Sarveshwar Bank',
named after a particular sdlagrcim stone that is especially revered by the sect.
In former times kings and princes used to undertake elaborate pilgrimages to
Braj. On Vishram Ghat stand arches commemorating the fact that some of them
donated their weight in gold to the priests who performed the necessary rituals (see
plate 16). Bir Singh Deo, Raja of Orchha, made such an offering in 1614;
inscriptions on the arches record others made by the Maharajas of Rewa in 1851, of
Kashi in 1891, and by a Seth from Ahmedabad in 1931. The rulers of Datiya were
among the most regular aristocratic pilgrims from the time of Bhagwan Rao, son
of Bir Singh Deo and founder of Datiya, down to the last Maharaja, Gobind Singh
Deo45. One such royal pilgrimage undertaken by Raja Parichhat in 1822 was
described by Nawal Singh Pradhan, a poet in the king's service. Throughout his
narration the poet mentions his patron's largesse in distributing gifts to priests and
temples and in sponsoring feasts. The first place in Braj visited by the royal party
was Baldeo, since many of the Bundela nobles looked upon the Balarama idol there
as a patron deity. On his arrival the king celebrated the Dashahara festival, and five
days later, on the full moon day, had his head ritually shaved, donated
accoutrements to the deity, and held a feast for local brahmins, ascetics, and other
Vaishnavas. He then proceeded to Mathura, where he bathed at Vishram Ghat,
offered eighty-one maunds of gold, and gave money to the priests. On the following
day his queen also donated her weight in gold. He performed rites for his ancestors
at Dhruv Ghat and then circumambulated Mathura. He proceeded to Vrindaban
where, like many other nobles, he had a mansion that served as his official residence
44 Sec Govind Das 'Sanf (ed.) for a full description of this pilgrimage.
45 Babulal Goswami, in his introduction to BBP, p. 104.
18


while in Braj. He spent several days in Vrindaban visiting temples and receiving
people, including a party of Englishmen and the Collector from Agra, whom he
entertained on the day of Sharad Purnima. Although he did not circumambulate
Braj, he did attend some of the local festivals. He spent three days at Govardhan
during Diwali, and then returned via Shantanukund to Mathura for Yam Dwitiya.
In Vrindaban he celebrated Gopashtami and did parikrama on the following day,
after which he attended the Kans ka Mela at Mathura and the fairs that used to be
held in Vrindaban at Keshi Ghat, Kalidah, and Bhatror. On the first day of the
month of Margashirsh he sponsored a wedding ceremony (byahulau) for Krishna
and Radha, followed later by a ras lila performance before his return to
Datiya.
5 Rules and regulations
When a householder sets out on a pilgrimage he becomes a temporary ascetic. He is
expected to renounce material comforts and dedicate himself to spiritual ends. He
should maintain himself in a state of purity in accordance with the notion that the
holy ground is pure, just as the act of pilgrimage itself has a purifying effect. These
attitudes are reflected in the regulations that pilgrims agree to observe while
engaged in the circumambulation of Braj. They vow to go everywhere barefoot, to
sleep on the ground, to bathe and worship regularly, not to shave, cut their hair, or
use oil, to wear clean clothes every day, to eat once a day, to remain chaste, to
abstain from intoxicants, not to harbour sensual or aggressive thoughts, to show
reverence for the land, to do no harm to the trees and plants, and to keep the ponds,
tanks, and rivers pure. Once a pilgrimage is begun it must be completed; should any
pilgrims have to suspend their circumambulation, as a result of illness or impurity
arising from menstruation or the death of a close relative, they are expected to
resume it as soon as they are able.46
The attitude devotees visiting Vrindaban are expected to adopt has beed
described at length in a booklet recently published in the town.47 Local residents, it
says, are not to be regarded as ordinary people because they have been granted the
privilege of living in Vrindaban. The visitor should therefore consider himself
fortunate to be helped by those who live and work in the ashrams and pilgrims'
lodges. During his stay he should not indulge in excessive sleep but rise and bathe in
time to attend the earliest temple service, after which he may eat and rest for a
couple of hours, then go for a walk along the Yamuna, visit one of the sacred
gardens, or attend a sermon or ras lila performance. After observing the customary
period of rest and quiet in the early afternoon, he should prepare for the evening
visit to the temple. He should go everywhere barefoot (the writer reminds us that
Krishna was so fond of the earth of Braj that he even ate it), and have a tolerant and
patient attitude towards the pigs, dogs, monkeys, and filth that he encounters. He is
not to beat the animals of Vrindaban, and if a monkey snatches a piece of bread
46 There is no definitive listing of these regulations, though most of them are given by
Narayan Bhatt in VBV 1.34-66.
47 Cf. 'Madhur'.
19


from his tray he should be able to see the funny side of it. Similarly the sweepers are
not to be feared or beaten, but simply given a wide berth, for everyone in this world
has his appointed function and all those who have earned residence in Vrindaban
are in some respect blessed. In view of the sanctity of the cow and its role in the
mythology of Braj, milk products are the most appropriate foods to be eaten while
in Vrindaban. One should keep the river pure by not entering it with shoes on, and
by not urinating, washing clothes, or spitting in it. After washing or gargling the
used water should be disposed of on the bank, not in the flowing river.
Vrindaban is a 'dry' and ostensibly vegetarian town, but alcohol and meat are
openly sold elsewhere in Braj. There is, however, tacit acceptance of the fact that
many of the Bengali householders are partial to fish, though few of them will readily
admit to their indulgence. Recently eggs have appeared on open sale in Vrindaban,
a sight that offends the more pious inhabitants. Many devotees avoid and express
strong disapproval of garlic and onions, items that are thought to be too
inflammatory for a Vaishnava diet. Conscientious devotees will only consume food
that is suitable for offering to Krishna, and so they abstain from carrots, tomatoes,
red lentils (masur), and other foods rejected because they are suggestive of blood or
flesh. They may even be disqualified because their name has some unfortunate
connotation, as is the case with cabbage and cauliflower because the first syllable of
the word used to refer to them (gobhT) means 'cow'. Some even say that cheese
(panTr) should not be made in Vrindaban since it is an offence to split the ambrosia
that the cow produces. Accordingly it is a general rule in temples of the Pushtimarg
not to offer sweets that are made with curdled milk.
Owing to its exclusively religious character, Vrindaban remains an enclave of
orthodoxy. Vaishnava attitudes that are prevalent all over Braj are here found to an
intensified degree. The town has a higher proportion of ascetics and others with a
vested interest in religious fundamentalism. There are many who support the kind
of traditionalism that opponents mockingly refer to as lagotivad, a term derived
from a kind of undergarment made from a simple T-shaped piece of cloth that is
championed by conservative Hindus in the face of the increasing popularity of the
western-style underpants that they consider insanitary and sexually frustrating. In
1982, when suggestions were invited from people interested in restoring the pristine
environment of Vrindaban, in order to recapture as far as possible the timeless
autumnal and vernal atmosphere described in the scriptures, a handbill was
distributed that, in addition to such welcome proposals as planting trees,
counteracting pollution and excessive noise, provision of a green belt around the
town, restoration of the ghats and the channelling of the Yamuna to make it flow
along them, also advocated such retrogressive and intolerant measures as the
banishing of hospitals and 'modern educational institutions' from the precincts of
the town, and prohibition of meat, intoxicants, smoking, and tea. Although it did
not go as far as to suggest a ban on western dress, it is not unheard of for some
orthodox Vaishnavas to condemn the wearing of trousers instead of the traditional
Hindu dhoti.
Some people in Braj have also been affected by the wave of communalism
currently sweeping across North India. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, as part of its
campaign to 'liberate' holy places that are occupied by Muslims, has formed a
committee that aims to reclaim the birthplace of Krishna, believed to lie under a
20


mosque built in the late seventeenth century on the orders of Aurangzeb. The
campaign is supported by a few local politicians, businessmen, teachers, and
sadhus, and is spearheaded by a group of activists called the 'Bajrang Dal' ('the
Hanuman party'). Like similar movements elsewhere in India, they attempt to
inflame the situation by voicing anti-Muslim slogans and exploiting an emotive
issue in order to whip up support among the Hindu majority for right-wing
politicians.
Fortunately this kind of Hindu chauvinism and the more sanctimonious rules
and regulations described above do not have much appeal for the majority of
devotees and pilgrims, nor are they the most esteemed aspects of devotion to
Krishna. Nearly everyone agrees that a devotee's state of mind and the intensity of
his involvement in the pastimes of Krishna are of far greater importance. On the
whole the people of Braj are fun-loving and easy-going, in accordance with the
playfulness inherent in the mythology of Krishna. Many of the developments that
have taken place in Braj and still motivate pilgrims to come there have been inspired
by his adventures. Before proceeding further, it would be useful to summarize the
basic story of Krishna, noting how it has been revised and supplemented to suit the
local topography and culture.
21


2 The Myth
1 The scriptural sources
Orthodox Vaishnava scholars generally accept the idea that Krishna lived five
thousand years ago at the conjunction of the dvapar and kali ages. They also make
unconvincing attempts to show that Krishna, as well as Braj, Vrindaban, and
Radha are all somehow mentioned in the Vedas.1 The name Krishna, literally
meaning 'black', does indeed occur in the Vedas, but there is no apparent
connection with the hero or god of later scriptures.2 In the Rgveda the term krsnam,
meaning 'night', is used in opposition to arjunam, meaning 'day' two abstract
concepts that had some influence in the formation of Krishna and Arjuna as
characters in later epic literature.3 In narratives about Krishna's childhood the role
of his fair companion is played by Balarama, his elder brother. Another reference in
the Rgveda that might conceivably have some relevance for later developments in
the mythology of Braj is a mention of the abundance of cows on the banks of the
river Yamuna.4
The oldest narratives of the early years of the gods we now call Krishna and
Balarama refer to them more frequently by the names Vasudeva and Sankarshana.
A remark made by Panini, a grammarian of the fifth or fourth century BC, to the
the effect that Vasudeva was the object of 'adoration' or 'devotion' (if this is what
he meant by bhakti) has been the subject of much discussion.5 No less controversial
1 E.g. B. Chaturvedi in Dwivedi (ed.) 1972, pp.14 ff., with reference to Rgveda 1.10.7,
1.31.7, 1.86.3, 1.92.4, 1.101.8-11, 5.45.1-6, 6.10.3-4, 8.41.7, 8.46.9, 8.51.5, 10.25.5,
10.62.7; Brajvallabhsharan in Vmdavanahk, pp.22-44, 47-8, also referring to late
Upanishads, Sanhitas, and Tantras. Arguments for c. 3,000 BC are summarized by P.
Mital 1966, pt.2 pp.10-11, and A. Goswami, pp.129-144.
2 For discussion of Vedic references cf. Preciado-Solis, pp.11-17, 35-7.
3 Corcoran, p.34.
4 Rgveda 5.52.17, quoted, for example, by Jiv Goswami in Krsnasamdarbha (118) ad 372,
p.305.
5 Asthddhyayi 4.3.98. See Dandekar's discussion of references in Panini and Patanjali,
and Preciado-Solis, pp. 19-23, 27-9, 36-7, for a survey and assessment of scholarly
opinions.
22


is Megasthenes' statement that the people of Mathura worshipped 'Herakles'.
What he probably meant, though some have argued otherwise, is that Vasudeva
(alias Krishna), was deified in the area of Mathura, as is implied by archaeological
evidence.6 Patanjali, in his commentary on the work of Panini, refers to Vasudeva's
slaying of his maternal uncle Kansa and to some kind of re-enactment or staging of
the event, which was already regarded as having taken place long ago.7
From these references, as well as from the Buddhist Jatakas, early Jain literature,
and the oldest strata of the Puranas,8 it appears that the story of Krishna/Vasudeva
being separated from his parents and growing up in a pastoral community under the
care of Nanda was well known by the third or second century BC. In epic literature,
however, more attention was given to his role in events surrounding the
Kurukshetra battle. Although a couple of passages in the Mahdbhdrata mention
Krishna's early adventures,9 they appear to have been of little interest to the bards
who compiled and transmitted the epic. Initially the pastoral and epic Krishna may
have been separate heroes popular among different groups of people. It was only
when Vaishnavism emerged as a coherent and widespread cult that Sanskrit
literature began to give a full account of Krishna's childhood.
The kernel of the legends told about his childhood is that he was destined to kill
Kansa, a tyrant who had usurped the throne of Mathura, and that until he was old
enough to do so he grew up in the country as a foster child of Nanda and Yashoda.
This pastoral interlude was gradually expanded to incorporate other tales that
presumably came from oral folk traditions. Most significant among these additions
to the myth were the episodes in which he danced and frolicked with the Gopis the
young women of the cattle-herding community. This emphasis is closely related to
the emergence of devotionalism (bhakti), a development that required a more
human and personal deity. The BhagavadgTta proclaimed that the hero Krishna/
Vasudeva, already idolized by the second century BC (cf. below, §4.6), was identical
with the Supreme Being (purusottama) who incorporated the most abstract form of
brahman, yet was also a personal god identified with Vishnu. It also acknowledged
worship of him by offering a flower, a leaf, or some water in the spirit of devotion a
6 See Arrian, Indica 7-8 (tr. McCrindle, pp. 198-202), on Dionysos and Herakles, based
on the account of Megasthenes, and Preciado-Solis, pp.29 ff., for opinions about
'Herakles'.
7 Mahcibhdsya ad Panini 3.1.26, 3.2.111. These and other references to Krishna/
Vasudeva are discussed by Dandekar and by Preciado-Solis, ibid. See Hein 1972,
pp.240-51, for a survey of polemics over the question of whether Patanjali is referring to
theatrical performance of the killing of Kansa. Patanjali is normally assigned to the
second century BC, but in an introduction to part of their edition of his Mahabhasya
S. D. Joshi and J. A. F. Roodbergen argue for his having lived in the first century
AD.
8 For Jain and Buddhist sources see E. Hardy, Liiders 1904, and B. C. Law, pp.25-6. For
the earliest strata of the Puranas see Kirfefs Purana Pahcalaksana, pp.472-81. Versions
of the story from various Puranas are collated by Ruben and Tadapatrikar.
9 Viz. Shishupala's diatribe and Bhishma's mention of some of the places connected with
Krishna's youth that later became places of pilgrimage, MBh sabha. app.I pp.402-5,
729-856.
23


form of ritual from outside the orthodox tradition that has become an essential part
of the worship of images. Such references show us how the mythology gradually
conflated the legend of a hero (who was perhaps a historical figure), tales from
popular tradition about his pastoral childhood, and concepts and mythical
elements derived from Vedic or brahminical tradition that were reworked and made
applicable to Krishna as an incarnation (avatara) of Vishnu.
The oldest text giving us a continuous narrative of Krishna's childhood and
youth is Harivamsa, a supplement to the Mahabharatci, that most scholars accept as
having been composed by the fourth century.10 In the Mahabharata Krishna is a
martial hero and in the Bhagavadgita he is a rather solemn and aloof preacher, but
in the Harivamsa he is a more playful figure, as befits the rustic milieu in which he
spent his childhood. His beauty is seductive and his frankly erotic encounters with
the Gopis are transgressions of conventional morality. A southern recension of the
Harivamsa, in which the eroticism is given greater emphasis, appears to have been
the main scriptural source for the Alvar poets of Tamil Nadu.11
A more concise narration of Krishna's early years is given in the Visnupurana,
probably composed some time between the fifth and seventh centuries.12 This
version gave expression to the kind of devotion propagated in the Bhagavadgita. and
served as a literary model for the Bhagavatapurana. It gives a fuller account than the
Harivamsa of Krishna's play with the Gopis, but the story is padded out with
theological digressions and eulogistic passages. The eroticism is subdued and
theologically justified; physical contact with Krishna is reduced to mental
identification in a condition of separation; the absent lover is someone whose
presence is to be recalled and evoked in song. Thus the Gopis are obliged to
withdraw from the world of the senses and meditate in yogic fashion upon Krishna
as the Absolute.13
Another text that relates or alludes to many of the adventures of Krishna and
Balarama (consistently referring to them as Damodara and Sankarshana) is
Bdlacarita, a drama attributed to Bhasa.14 It is a secular work that is substantially
derived from folk tradition, though there are similarities in content and wording
10 References here are to the critical edition of P. L. Vaidya, who explains in his
introduction, p.xxxvii, that his aim was to present the text as it stood in c. AD 300. Most
other editions give the narrative of Krishna's childhood in a second section of the HV
entitled Visnupcirvan, but in Vaidya's consecutive edition it constitutes chapters 46-113.
Ingalls, p.394, accepts the general consensus that it dates from between the lst-3rd
centuries. See also Masson 1974, p.455 fn.
11 F. Hardy 1983/1, pp.77, 459-60, 473.
12 ViP 5.1-31. An almost identical version is contained in Brcihmapurana 181-194. Both
relate the same incidents in the same sequence as HV, apart from placing Putana's
attack before the overturning of the cart. For bibliography and a survey of opinions
regarding these Puranas see Rocher, pp. 154-6, 245-50.
13 As pointed out by F. Hardy, ibid, pp.41, 89-103.
14 F. Hardy, ibid. p.79, cites various scholars who are of the opinion that it was composed
some time between the 2nd-4th centuries. Hawley 1983, p.27, correlating it with
iconography, favours 7th-9th century, probably in the Deccan.
15 Some of these similarities are noted by U. V. Rao.
24


with the Harivamsa, and also the Visnupurdna75 Bdlacarita will be referred to
below only in cases where its narrative differs from that of the other sources.
The Krishna stories travelled to the south and there became further elaborated by
the introduction of Tamil themes.16 The most important cultural centres were the
Pallava capital of Kanchipuram and the city of Madurai, 'the southern Mathura\
where Krishna was identified with Mayon, a local deity associated with the Pandya
kings. By the sixth century a typically southern variety of Krishna devotion had
evolved and the Tamil epic Cilappatikdram had included stories about Mayon/
Krishna's rustic adventures. The Alvar poets, who were probably active from the
sixth century onwards, gave expression to their religious ecstasies and love
mysticism by borrowing themes from a folk literature in which Krishna was the
hero of specifically southern myths. His devotees pined for him as an absent lover
and revered him as a transcendent god who was represented on earth by temple
images. The theme of love in separation came to the fore in the poems of
Tirumangai and Nammalvar, expressed from the point of view of a Gopi and
accompanied by all the emotional and physical symptoms of intense love, anxiety,
frustration, and yearning.
The Bhdgavatapurdna, probably composed in the milieu of the temple of
Shrirangam in the ninth or early tenth century, was inspired by the emotional type
of devotion propagated by the Alvars. It incorporated some episodes from the
Tamil poets that were new to Sanskrit literature, but presented the myth in terms of
the northern brahminical tradition and in a style that was deliberately archaic.17 Its
many digressions explain the import of the story and the nature of devotion in terms
of Vedanta theology and Sankhya ontology. It also makes use of terminology
borrowed from poetics and lays stress on Krishna's transcendent beauty and the
devotional sentiments felt by Yashoda and the Gopis, especially their ecstasy on
meeting him and the pangs of separation they suffered when he abandoned them.
Whereas the Visnupurdna had pietized Krishna's adventures, the Bhdgavatapurdna
transformed them through its doctrine of mystical love.18 The account of Krishna's
adventures in the Harivamsa appears to have been composed primarily to entertain
its listeners, but the Visnupuranci and Bhdgavatapurdna were more concerned to
edify them by portraying him as a divine being who bestows salvation on those who
adore him. The Bhdgavatapurdna presented the adventures of Krishna as divine
play (iTla) performed as a means of bestowing grace. The demons he defeats are
granted salvation, whereas in the Harivamsa they are merely disposed of as evil
forces. It adapted or justified those incidents which, in earlier sources, place
Krishna in a rather dubious light, diminish his divinity, or are morally disconcer-
16 Adaptation of Krishna myths to the cultural milieu of southern India is explored by F.
Hardy in 1983/1, pts.3-4, from which the summary given here is derived.
17 For Shrirangam as the milieu and various proposed datings see F. Hardy, ibid.
pp.441-5, 486-8, 525-6, 637 ff. He attributes the admixture of Upanishadic ideas to the
increase in immigration of brahmins from the North. For the dating of the BhP sec also
Hopkins in Singer (ed.), pp.4-6, who suggests AD 850. For the style of the BhP see van
Buitenen's article in the same volume. For bibliography and further references to the
BhP cf. Rocher, pp.138 ff.
18 Ingalls, pp.384-5.
25


ting.19 Rather than being identified with Vishnu or the transcendent brahman,
Krishna is clearly acknowledged as the Supreme Being, of whom all other gods are
partial manifestations. Any apparent limitations are simply the result of the maya
he employs when he imitates human ways. Having dressed a number of
non-orthodox elements in traditional garb, the Bhagavatapurdna became accepted
by later devotees as the most authoritative account of Krishna's life on earth. Many
later Vaishnava theologians looked upon it as the ultimate scriptural authority that
superseded the Vedas, Upanishads, BhagavadgTta, and Brahmasutra.
The eventual acceptance of the Bhagavatapurana as a canonical scripture for
Vaishnavas all over India is expressed in a short text written to proclaim its glory.20
Here it is eulogized as the scripture that men must resort to for salvation in this age
of kaliyuga, which began when Krishna returned to his celestial abode. It tells how
the sage Narada later visits the earth, by which time there is decadence in all spheres
of human activity and Muslims are in control of the sacred places. On the banks of
the Yamuna he encounters Bhakti, a woman personifying devotion. She is in
distress and is attempting to revive her two decrepit sons named Jnana ('higher
knowledge, gnosis') and Vairagya ('dispassionateness, asceticism'). She tells him
that she was born in the south of India, attained maturity in Karnataka, and grew
old in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, but was mutilated by heretics and became
weak. However, since reaching Vrindaban she has been refreshed and rejuvenated,
but is pained and perplexed because her sons have remained old and exhausted.
Narada explains that in the present age the paths to spiritual attainment that her
sons personify are no longer viable and that they are in decline because men no
longer have need of them. Nowadays consolation can come only from contempla-
ting the lotus feet of Krishna. Devotion is the only means of gaining liberation; even
pilgrimage, spiritual discipline, rituals, and preaching are of no avail. He makes an
unsuccessful attempt to revive Jnana and Vairagya by reciting the Vedas,
Upanishads, and the BhagavadgTta, but a voice from above tells him that they will
be reinvigorated only if he performs a particular rite. He wanders in search of
information about the rite in question, but no one is able to help him. Eventually he
meets the sage Sanaka and his three brothers, who tell him that recitation of the
Bhagavatapurana will relieve the suffering of Bhakti and her sons. Following their
instructions, Narada organizes a seven-day ceremonial recitation of the scripture,
as a result of which Bhakti, Jnana, and Vairagya are given a new lease of life.
In various parts of India Jain versions of the Krishna story were composed
during the first millennium and the centuries that followed, but they remain outside
the Vaishnava tradition.21 They relate how Neminatha, the twenty-second
19 This process is examined in detail by Sheth, with reference to HV, ViP, and BhP. See
also Spink 1982, for a concise survey of the the emergence of the Krishna cult and the
elaboration of his character in classical mythology.
20 Bhagavatcimcihatmya chs. 1-3 (= PP 6.193-5). Chapters with the same title and import
are also found in SP, see below § 6.8.
21 The most notable are Vasudevahindi, composed in the first half of the first millennium,
perhaps by the end of the 3rd century (cf. Jain's introduction to the text, pp.27-8),
Jinasena's Harivamsapurcina (AD 783-4), Pushpadanta's Mahapurana (Nemicarita
81-6, completed AD 965), and Hemachandra. For further discussion and references to
Jinasena and Pushpadanta see Hawlcy 1983, pp.27-9, and Rocher pp.91-3.
26


Tirthankara, was a Yadava and a cousin of Vasudeva/Krishna.22 In addition to the
textual tradition, iconographical representations of incidents in Krishna's child-
hood became increasingly widespread and popular in the course of the first
millennium. Depictions of his adventures in Braj far exceed those dealing with his
later life, and some themes appeared in iconography long before they were included
in brahminical literature.23 Some early verse anthologies in Prakrit also contain
poems mentioning the love of Krishna and Radha, a popular theme that was not
incorporated in religious texts until several centuries later (cf. below §33).
2 The setting
All accounts of the early life of Krishna say that he was born in the city of Mathura
or Madhupuri. The former name may be related to the root math, in the sense of
'churning', and the latter may simply mean 'charming city'; but in mythology it is
said to be named after Madhu, a character who is described as a 'demon' (dsura,
daityavamsT, danava), though he is praised for his intellect (huddhi) and reverence
for brahmins. His son, Lavana, was a distinctly more demonic figure. According to
the Rdmdyana, some sages who were living on the banks of the Yamuna sent a
message to Rama, then ruling in Ayodhya, complaining about the depradations of
Lavana.24 Rama despatched his younger brother Shatrughna, declaring that after
defeating Lavana he should be consecrated as king of Madhu's city. After a fierce
battle Shatrughna killed Lavana, became king of Madhupuri, and made the city
even more beautiful and populous. Later he divided the kingdom between his two
sons and returned to Ayodhya. The inclusion of this episode in the last book of the
Rdmdyana may well have resulted from a desire on the part of its Vaishnava
author(s) to associate Mathura, a well-known centre of the Bhagavata cult, with
Rama, regardless of any historical reality or probability.25
The Harivamsa gives a shorter version of the story in which Madhu is said to have
lived not in a city but in a forest called Madhuvana.26 Lavana sent Rama a message
reviling him for slaying Ravana and challenging him to battle. Shatrughna was sent
to deal with Lavana, after which he cleared the forest and founded the city of
Madhura. Although the Harivamsa disagrees with the Ramayana by attributing the
foundation of Madhupuri/Madhura/Mathura to Shatrughna rather than Madhu,
both versions describe it as a splendid city that stretched in a crescent shape along
22 See Hemachandra (tr. Johnson, vol.5 pp.153 flf.: 8.5, Neminatha carita).
23 For a survey of early Krishna iconography see Hawley 1983, ch.2 and appendices, and
Preciado-Solis, ch.5. The sequence of events in friezes rarely follows that of the literary
versions.
24 Rdmayana 7.59-62. The story is also referred to in Agnipurdna 11.6-7, BhP 9.11.13-14,
Brahnumdapurana 2.3.63.186-7, Vdyupurdna 88.185, ViP 1.12.2-4, and in Kalidasa's
Raghuvamsa, sarga 15. In a Jain version by Vimalasuri (Paiimacariyam 86-89) Madhu
is described as king of Mathura and son-in-law of Ravana. This Madhu should not be
confused with a demon of the same name who was slain by Vishnu.
25 Goldman 1986, p.478.
26 HV 44.21. See Goldman 1986 for a comparison of the Rdmayana and HV versions.
27


the bank of the Yamuna. According to the Mahdbharatcu Mathura was subse-
quently entrusted to Bhima Satvata, who had two sons called Andhaka and
Vrishni. It was their descendants who became the hereditary rulers of Mathu-
ra.27
Madhuvana is also named as the place on the bank of the Yamuna where Dhruva
performed austerities.28 At the age of five he left home after being repudiated by his
father's co-wife. Narada told him that in order to have a vision of Vasudeva he
should go to Madhuvana, bathe regularly in the Yamuna, meditate, and practise
austerities. After six months Vishnu/Vasudeva appeared before Dhruva and, as a
boon, promised him a lasting abode in heaven. Dhruva returned home, eventually
succeeded to his father's kingdom, and at the end of his life took a vow of
renunciation. On his death he assumed his place in the heavens as the pole star
(dhruvatcira, 'fixed star'). Sites in Mathura that derive from this myth are a bathing
place and mound named after Dhruva, a nearby mound named after Narada, and
another named after Dhruva at Madhuban (Maholi).
On the very night that he was born, Krishna was smuggled out of Mathura and
placed in the care of the herdsman Nanda. The scriptural sources use various terms
for the environment in which Krishna grew up, but none of them refer to the precise
geographical locations known to us today. The term vraja occurs frequently, but,
unlike the modern 'Braj', it is not used as a name for the region around Mathura.
Similarly gokula, another term used for the location of some of his adventures,
should not be taken as referring to the modern village of Gokul. Both vraja and
gokula are used to refer to the encampment or settlement of cowherds of which
Nanda was the headman.29 Monier-Williams, in his Sanskrit-English dictionary,
defines vraja as an 'enclosure or station of herdsmen' as well as simply a 'fold, stall,
cow pen or cattle shed'. Other synonyms used in the narratives are govraja,
nandavraja, nandagokula, and gostha.30 It is clear that no permanent location or
settlement is intended since gokula is used for the first encampment to which
Krishna was brought for refuge, as well as for the later one established when the
community moved to the area of Vrindaban. None of the earlier sources uses the
term vraja to refer to an extensive area. An attempt at justifying such a usage is given
in a relatively late passage in the Skandapurana. There, in a story interpolated to
explain how the sacred places of Braj were reclaimed, the sage Shandilya explains to
Vajranabha that the term vraja connotes expansiveness.31 Only relatively modern
sources tell us that Nanda moved from a village called Gokul and settled at
27 MBh 2.13.29-30, 5.126.36 ff.
28 BhP 4.9-12, which gives an amplified version of the story of Dhruva that is alluded to in
HV 2.8-13, Lihgapurana 1.62, Matsyapurcma 4.35-8, SP 4.1.19-21, and ViP 1.11-12.
29 Corcoran, p. 146, notes that only in H V, where gokula may sometimes refer to the herds
of cattle rather than the encampment, is there any discernible difference in meaning.
When later Sanskrit sources wish to denote 'Braj' they use compounds such as
vrajabhumi and vrajadesa (cf. §§2.40, 6.8, & 6.12).
30 See Amarakosa 3.3.30: gosthadhvaniha vrajdly BC uses ghosa as another synonym.
31 SP 2.6.1.19-20: vrajanam vydptir ityuktya vyapanad vraja ucyate/ gundtltam par am
brahma vydpakam vraja ucyate. See also the definition cited above at the beginning of
the introduction.
28


Nandgaon. Even in the poetry of Surdas, written in the sixteenth century, vraja is
most satisfactorily translated in its original sense rather than to mean what we now
call Braj.
In the earliest narratives it is evident that Nanda is the headman of a nomadic
pastoral community. The Harivamsa clearly depicts their contempt for urban life
and their complaints about having to pay a yearly tax of bulls, buffaloes, and butter
to the king of the city.32 That they had no permanent settlement is evident from
Krishna's telling Balarama of the need to change the location of their encampment
(vraja) because the present one had become overgrazed. He suggested the area of
Vrindaban as a suitable alternative, and it was there that they made a new
encampment by arranging their carts in a broad semicircle and surrounding them
with wood and thorns.33 In the Vismipurana he declares that the herdsmen are not
people who are confined by doors and walls, possess neither fields nor houses, and
wander as they please in wagons.34 The Bhagavatapurcma normally refers to carts,
but on one occasion implies a more permanent settlement by saying that the houses
of the vraja were decorated for the celebration of the birth of Krishna.35 This
suggests a tendency to consider Nanda as having a permanent home, which in later
literature is described as a sumptuous mansion or palace.
It is presumably references to the 'great forest' (maha-\mahadvana) surrounding
the encampment that gave rise to the name 'Mahaban' for a village near to the
modern Gokul.36 The cattle are said to be taken to graze in a 'great forest' near to
Nanda's encampment, but no specific location is intended, for subsequently the
herdsmen decide that they should move on to another such 'great forest'.37
The name vrndavana refers to the area in which Nanda and his community set up
a new encampment. The Yamuna flows there and it is described as having good
pasture, many kadamba trees, luxuriant vegetation, plenty of fruits, and sweet
water. In older sources, as well as many later ones, it designates the whole area in
which Krishna and Balarama graze their cattle.38 The Bhagavatapurana says that it
is an area with sacred hills and forests in which Krishna defeated the serpent Kaliya,
slew the demon Keshi, and danced with the Gopis.39 Later texts explain that the
name derives from vrnda, meaning the tulsi plant (sacred basil) or a goddess who
personifies it, but the original meaning is obscure.40 Govardhan is described as a
32 Ingalls, p.386.
33 HV 52, 53.21-22. See also BhP 10.11.35.
34 ViP 5.10.32-3.
35 BhP 10.5.6. Kirfefs Purdna Paiicalaksana, p.473, also refers to nandagopagrha, 'the
house of the herdsman Nanda\
36 Mahaban became the name of a stronghold near Mathura by the 11th century, see
§4.8.
37 HV 52.7, 53.2. See also MBh 2 app.I 785. In BhP the term brhadvana is used. cf. 10.7.33,
10.11.21-9.
38 Later sources say that it is five yojana in extent, e.g. NP 2.80-72.
39 BhP 10.11.28.
40 Corcoran, pp.20 & 27 fn.l, suggests that it is related to vrnda in the sense of 'group',
perhaps referring to a grove resorted to by ascetics (yativrnda). Kosambi, p. 116,
suggests that vrndavana means 'forest of the group goddess1.
29


lofty mountain, located either in Vrindaban or in the vicinity of Vrindaban and the
river Yamuna.41
Later Vaishnavas suggested various explanations for why the setting of the
scriptures does not conform to modern topography. Vallabha disposed of the
problem simply by saying that the description given in the Bhcigcivcitapurdna is
different because it refers to another era (kcdpa).42 Sanatan Goswami says that
although Nandishwar (i.e. Nandgaon) is now a considerable distance from the
Yamuna, it used to appear much closer because in those days people could walk
faster.43 Prabodhanand Saraswati reconciles the vrnddvanci of the scriptures and
the modern toponym Vrindaban by differentiating between an extended grazing
area called gosthavrndcivana and, within it, an inner realm of dhamavmdavana
where Krishna's most intimate encounters with the Gopis take place.44 Some say
that Braj is like a lotus: when it is open during the daytime the places on its petals are
far apart; at night the petals close in on Vrindaban, bringing all the places closer
together.
A gigantic banyan tree called bhandira is said to grow in the area of Vrindaban
or, like Govardhan and the Yamuna, to be visible from there.45 It is described as
reaching up to the sky and providing shade in which Krishna and Balarama used to
shelter and play while they were out grazing the cattle.46 Here they were once
attacked by a demon called Pralamba. A grove with an old banyan tree on the east
bank of the Yamuna is now identified as Bhandirban. Another modern toponym
derived from early accounts of Krishna's adventures is 'Talban' the 'palmyra
forest' where Balarama slew the demon Dhenuka. In the Harivamsa it is said to be
north of Govardhan and on the banks of the Yamuna,47 a location that is at
variance with that of Talban.
3 The birth of Krishna48
The Bhdgavatapurana begins its narrative of the birth of Krishna with the Earth, in
the form of a cow, seeking divine intervention in order to be relieved of demons and
tyrants. Vishnu decides to be born as Krishna among the Yadavas, a ksatriya clan
named after its founder Yadu. In this incarnation Vishnu is accompanied by
Ananta, the cosmic serpent upon which he lies, who becomes incarnate as
Balarama. Krishna's father Vasudeva was a Vrishni, while his wife Devaki, her
uncle Ugrasena, and her cousin or brother Kansa were Andhakas, another branch
41 HV 49.16, 52.24-27.
42 Subodhim 10.11.35.
43 Commenting on BhP 10.11.36, see B. Majumdar, pp.88-9. Sanatan, like Jiv Goswami in
his commentary on the same verse in his Krsnasamdarbha, says that vraja extends from a
point south of the Kaliya pool in Vrindaban for a distance of over two yojana.
44 Vmddvanamahimcimrta 1.8. Other writers refer to the latter as nijavrndavana.
45 HV 52.27.
46 HV 55.17-22. MBh 2 app.I 803 ff.
47 HV 57.3
48 HV 47-8, ViP 5.1.3, BhP 10.1.4.
30


of the Yadavas.49 The Andhakas were the hereditary rulers of Mathura and the
Vrishnis ruled over Dwarka or a town called Shaurapura (identified with the
modern Bateshwar). Vasudeva's sister Kunti married Pandu, chief of the Kurus,
and gave birth to the five Pandava brothers. This family connection eventually led
to the Andhakas and Vrishnis becoming embroiled in the Mahabharata war.
Krishna's main task is to overthrow the wicked Kansa, who had deposed his
father Ugrasena and usurped control of Mathura. When it was prophesied that
Kansa would be slain by the eighth child born to Devaki, he imprisoned both her
and Vasudeva and killed their first six children as soon as they were born. Vishnu,
by means of his magic power, personified as Yogamaya, caused Ananta to be
conceived as the seventh child of Devaki, but had the embryo transferred to the
womb of Rohini, a second wife of Vasudeva who lived in the encampment of his
friend Nanda. While everyone had the impression that Devaki had miscarried,
Ananta was born safely to Rohini in the form of Balarama. The sources explain that
because he was drawn out of the womb of Devaki he is also called Sankarshana, but
the name can mean 'ploughing' as well as 'extraction' and probably refers to his
function as an agricultural deity. He is also referred to by the names Rama,
Baladeva, and Haladhara ('plough-holder'). After the birth of Balarama, Vishnu is
then conceived as the eighth child of Devaki. The Visnupurana says that Vishnu
plucked two hairs from his head, one black and one white, and placed them in the
womb of Devaki, where they grew into the dark Krishna and fair Balarama, while
Yogamaya was born as a daughter of Nanda's wife Yashoda.
Krishna was born in prison, but Vishnu's magic power caused the guards to fall
asleep and Vasudeva's fetters to be loosened, allowing him to escape with his son
and take him to Nanda's encampment, a place now identified with the township of
Gokul. The Harivamsa says nothing about him having to cross the Yamuna to get
there, but the other sources describe how the river, then flowing in full spate because
of the rains, parted in order to enable Vasudeva to reach the opposite bank. Shesha
(another name for Ananta) appeared to protect Vasudeva and the child from the
rain by rearing up behind them and sheltering them with his serpent hoods.
Vasudeva exchanges Krishna for the apparently still-born daughter of Nanda and
returns with her to the prison. On hearing that Devaki has given birth, Kansa goes
to her cell, seizes the daughter and dashes her against a stone. She rises up in the
form of the goddess Yogamaya and tells Kansa that Krishna will one day return to
slay him.50
49 The relationship between Devaki and Kansa is not consistent. In the most authoritative
texts she appears to be Kansa's cousin and a niece of Ugrasena, but in the Buddhist
Ghatajataka (Jcitaka no. 454) and in PP she is Kansa's sister and daughter of Ugrasena.
For further discussion see Luders 1904, p.697 and U. V. Rao. Ghatajataka (cf. E.
Hardy, p.32), which Luders (ibid. p.696) suggests was composed in Sri Lanka, says that
Upasagara (Vasudeva) lives with his wives Devagabbha (Devaki) and Rohini at
Govardhan (govaddhamana).
50 She is called Yoganidra in ViP, Ekadasha in Kirfel's Pur ana Pahcalaksana, p.475,
Katyayani by Bhasa in BC 2.20, and Anjani in Ghatajataka. See Hiltebeitel, pp.66-7, for
discussion of opinions regarding the name Ekadasha/Ekanansha.
31


4 Krishna overturns a cart (sakatarohana)51
Yashoda wakes to find that she has acquired a son, and the whole community
celebrates his birth. The first revelation of Krishna's supernatural power is his
overturning of a cart (sakata) under which Yashoda placed him to sleep. He kicks
his feet in his sleep and overturns it, an event that in the Bhagavatapurana is related
to the celebration of his 'sitting up' (autthanika), a rite that usually takes place three
months after birth when the sign under which the child is born is in the ascendant.
The incident seems to be no more than a demonstration of Krishna's miraculous
power, but the Bhagavatapurana describes how Yashoda felt that some evil spirit or
inauspicious force may have been at work. Only Bhasa goes so far as to say that the
cart was a form of demon (later known as Shakatasur), though it was depicted as
such in iconography in the late seventh century.52
5 Putana {putanavadha)53
The first demon sent by Kansa to attack Krishna is an ogress called Putana. She
arrives at the encampment in the guise of a beautiful woman and offers her services
as a wet nurse.54 When she places her poisoned nipple in Krishna's mouth he sucks
all the life out of her and she reverts to her terrible demonic form. Her gigantic body
is then dismembered and burnt.
6 The whirlwind demon (trnavartavadha)55
When Krishna is one year old a servant of Kansa attacks the encampment in the
form of a whirlwind (Trinavarta) and whisks Krishna away. Yashoda and the other
women are greatly distressed, but Krishna is able to make himself too heavy for the
whirlwind to carry. He chokes the whirlwind to death, causing it to revert back to its
normal form and its eyes to burst out of their sockets.
7 Garga's visit56
Two of the main sources tell us that Garga, the family priest of the Yadus, visited
the encampment in order to officiate in the naming ceremonies of Krishna and
51 HV 50.1-19, ViP 5.6, BhP 10.7.1-17, BC 3. See Herbert, pp.268-72, for a symbolic
interpretation of the cart as representing the body.
52 Hawley 1983, p.27 fn.
53 HV 50.20 ff., ViP 5.5, BhP 10.6.1-34.
54 In HV and MBh 2.38.4 & 7 she is said to appear as a bird of prey (sakuni), cf. Ingalls,
p.384.
55 BhP 10.7.18-33.
56 ViP 5.6.8, BhP 10.8.1-20.
32


Balarama. He predicts that the boys will delight and protect the herding
community.
8 Krishna eats dirt57
Balarama and the other boys tell Yashoda that Krishna has been putting dirt into
his mouth. Yashoda catches him doing it and scolds him, but he denies the offence
and asks her to look in his mouth. When she does so she is amazed to see that it
contains the earth and the whole universe, including the encampment and her very
own self. The same thing happens some time later when she looks into his mouth
after feeding him. These revelations hearken back to the story of the sage
Markandeya who, after the dissolution of the world, found himself to be alone and
walking on water.58 He came across a child resting on the branch of a banyan tree
who, on seeing his confusion, opened his mouth and allowed him to enter it. Inside,
Markandeya finds the universe that he has just seen destroyed. This child is none
other than Krishna, for he is described as wearing a yellow garment and as having
the srlvatsa mark on his chest. Accordingly Krishna is sometimes depicted lying on
a banyan leaf and sucking his toe (see plate 8). Both myths may be interpreted as
portraying a god who devours the devotee, who simultaneously realizes the god
inside him.59
9 Krishna is tied to a mortar (ulukhalabandhcina)60
The mischievous side of Krishna's character shows itself as soon as he is old enough
to move about. While Yashoda's back is turned he breaks one of her butter pots and
gorges himself on its contents. She chases him with a stick, catches him, and ties him
up to a heavy mortar. Her intention is that Krishna should stay put so that she can
carry on with her chores without further hindrance, but he is so strong that he
manages to crawl away, dragging the mortar behind him. The mortar gets stuck
between a pair of teak trees (yamaldrjuna), but Krishna keeps on crawling and
uproots them. In the Harivamsa the two trees are said to be the abode of spirits
worshipped by the women, and the Bhdgavatapurana states explicitly that the two
trees had once been sons of 'the bestower of wealth' (viz. Kubera), named
Nalakubera and Manigriva, who had been cursed by Narada for their unseemly
behaviour. When Krishna uproots the trees the two spirits are set free and attain
salvation. This incident is cited as the origin of Krishna's epithet 'Damodara' -
'having a rope round the waist'.
The image of Krishna as a butter thief (Hindi mcikhan cor) became a standard
theme in iconography from the fifth century onwards and must at the same time
have been popular in poetry. In the older narratives Yashoda binds him to the
57 BhP 10.8.32-45.
58 MBh circinya. 3.186.81. ff.
59 O'Flaherty 1984, p.268.
60 HV 51, ViP 5.6, BhP 10.9-11.6.
33


mortar because of his ebullience rather than his naughtiness. It is in Bdlacarita and
the Bhagavatapurdnci that he is portrayed as an unruly and mischievous stealer of
butter.61
10 The encampment is moved to Vrindaban and other
demons attack Krishna62
In the Harivamsa Krishna says that the pastureland surrounding the encampment is
overgrazed and prompts the herdsmen to move the settlement by causing it to be
plagued by a pack of wolves that issue from his body. In the Bhdgavatapurana
Upananda, a junior brother of Nanda, suggests that the encampment be moved
because of the threatening events that have taken place. At this point in the story it
introduces some incidents involving three demons sent by Kansa to attack the boys
while they are grazing the cattle. The first demon (Vatsasura) appears in the guise of
a calf. Krishna seizes it, swings it around, and hurls it against a tree. The second
demon (Bakasura) is a giant heron or crane that tries to swallow Krishna, but he
grasps the tips of its beak and tears it apart. The third demon (Aghasura), intent on
avenging the death of his sister Putana and his brother Bakasura, adopts the form
of an enormous serpent. Krishna's companions inadvertently walk into the open
jaws of the serpent, mistaking it for a cave, but he follows them inside and by
causing himself to expand manages to choke the monster and split its sides.
11 Brahma spirits away the calves and cowherd boys63
These onslaughts are followed by an account of how Brahma spirited away the
calves and the cowherd boys, simply because he wanted to witness Krishna's
miraculous power. Krishna creates duplicates of himself and his companions in
order to prevent their mothers from becoming distressed. These substitutes stand in
for the real boys until their reappearance a year later, upon which Brahma praises
Krishna and apologizes for his conceit.
12 The defeat of Kaliya (kaliyadamana)64
In Vrindaban there is a large pool beside the Yamuna where a serpent king named
Kaliya dwells. His presence poisons the water and makes the surrounding
woodland a frightening place. Krishna jumps into the pool from the branch of a
kadamba tree and is dragged down by the serpent, causing panic among the
onlookers. After a fierce struggle Krishna eventually resurfaces dancing on the
61 Hawley 1983, pp.30, 37-45, 54 ff., who refers to some of the early Tamil sources.
62 HV 52-53, BhP 10.11.21-12.39.
63 BhP 10.13.12-14.48.
64 HV 55-56, ViP 5.7, BhP 10.15.47-17.19.
34


hoods of the subdued serpent. Kaliya's wives plead for his life to be spared, and so
Krishna banishes him to the ocean. The water of the pool is now suitable for
drinking and the land around it is safe for the cattle and herdsmen.
13 Dhenuka (dhenukasuravadha)65
The boys hear of a large grove where there are palmyras bearing delicious fruit, but
dare not go there because it is guarded by Dhenuka, a demon in the form of an ass.
The demon charges at Balarama when he begins to gather the fruit, but is killed
when Balarama hurls him against one of the palmyras. Thereafter the herdsmen
and cattle were able to frequent the grove.
14 Two forest fires (davdnala/davagni)66
A forest fire breaks out while everyone is sleeping somewhere near the Yamuna, but
Krishna swallows up all the flames. Later, after the slaying of Pralamba, a second
fire breaks out in a clump of rushes (munjatavi) and threatens to burn the cattle.
Krishna again swallows the fire and leads the cows safely back to the bhandira tree.
These incidents are assumed to have taken place in the dry season, for they are
followed by a description of the rainy season and how Krishna began to enchant the
Gopis by playing his flute.
15 Pralamba {pralambdsuravadha)67
The boys play a game in which they form two teams and race in pairs, skipping like
deer, up to the bhdndira banyan tree. The boy who is last to reach the tree has to
carry his rival back to the starting point on his shoulders. Krishna competes against
Shridama, and Balarama against Pralamba a demon who has joined them in the
guise of a cowherd boy. Balarama reaches the tree first, but when he climbs on
Pralamba's shoulders the latter reverts to his huge demonic form and races away
with him. Balarama, however, manages to kill him by pounding his head with his
fists.
16 Krishna steals the Gopis' clothes (vastra-j
ciraharana)68
During the month of Margashirsh the Gopis observe a ritual vow (vrata) in honour
65 HV 57, ViP 5.8, BhP 10.15.20-40.
66 BhP 10.17.20-25, 10.19.
67 HV 58, ViP 5.9, BhP 10.18.17-32.
68 BhP 10.22.1-28.
35


of the goddess Katyayani. Every day they go to bathe in the Yamuna, worship an
image made of sand, and pray to the goddess that Krishna might become their
husband. While they are bathing Krishna steals their clothes and hides with them in
a tree, only consenting to hand them back when the Gopis agree to step naked out of
the water. He reprimands them for bathing naked in the river and promises that
their vow will be rewarded when he meets them in the autumn.69
17 The brahmins' wives (yajnapatni-)70
When the boys tell Krishna that they are hungry he suggests they approach some
brahmins engaged in a sacrifice and ask for some cooked rice. Their request is
refused, and so Krishna tells the boys to ask the brahmins' wives. These women
have all heard about Krishna and are eager to see him. They bring the boys food,
despite the protestations of other members of their families. When Krishna blesses
the women the brahmins feel ashamed for having at first refused to let the boys have
any food. The story serves to illustrate the supremacy of devotion over
sacrifice.
18 Krishna lifts up Govardhan (govcirdhanadharana)11
Krishna asks why Nanda and the other herdsmen are preparing for an annual
festival in honour of Indra. He is told that Indra is worshipped because he becomes
manifest as the rain-giving clouds upon which they all depend for good pastureland
and milk. Krishna says that, rather than the Vedic Indra, their gods are the cows,
mountains, and forests. He advocates worship of mountains in conjunction with
that of cows, saying that mountain spirits wander about in the form of wild beasts in
order to protect the forests. Since they are nomadic pastoral folk, mountain
worship (giriyajiia) is most appropriate for them, just as furrow worship (sitayajna)
is appropriate for cultivators, and the chanting of incantations is appropriate for
brahmins. He describes the benefits of autumn, with its abundance of grain, water,
and milk, and suggests that they perform the worship at the foot of Govardhan,
bringing the cattle together, decorating them, and leading them around the
mountain.
Impressed by Krishna's words, the herdsmen abandon the worship of a post or
flag-staff (dhvctja) erected in honour of Indra and instead collect all the milk
produced over three days and make a huge feast of heaps of rice and large quantities
of fruit and meat. The Bhagavatapurana, in accordance with orthodox Vaishnava
principles, has dropped the reference made in the earlier sources to animal sacrifice
and non-vegetarian offerings. Through his magic power (maya) Krishna makes
69 The episode is based on a popular theme in Tamil poetry that originated in the custom
of presenting girls with a leaf frock at puberty. For references see F. Hardy 1983/1,
pp. 195-6, 419, 499-501, 512-6.
70 BhP 10.23.
71 HV 59-62, ViP 5.10-11, BhP 10.24-28.
36


himself identical with the mountain, appears on top of it, and announces that he is
pleased with their worship, will be auspicious for them, and take care of them. He
then instructs them to lead the cattle around the mountain.
Indra is extremely displeased and retaliates by assailing them with wind and rain.
Krishna lifts up the mountain in order to provide shelter underneath it for the
people and their cattle. The torrential rain continues for seven days until Indra is
exhausted. He arrives on his mount, the elephant Airavata, concedes victory to
Krishna, confers upon him the epithets Upendra and Govinda, and ceremonially
anoints him. The heavenly cow Surabhi appears and bathes Krishna with her milk,
and Airavata pours Ganges water over him from his trunk. The Harivamsa account
also says that Indra offered Krishna two of the four autumn months reserved for his
worship, declaring that people will worship both himself and Krishna ('Upendra')
by means of posts.
19 Nanda is abducted72
One night, when Nanda bathes in the Yamuna as part of his observances for the
eleventh day of the lunar fortnight, he is abducted by a demon and taken to the
realm of Varuna, lord of the waters. When Krishna goes to rescue him, Varuna
apologizes for the stupidity of his demon servant and declares how blessed he feels
to be honoured with a visit from Krishna.
20 Krishna dances with the Gopis73
On the night of the autumn full moon Krishna is inspired to indulge in love play
with the Gopis. The Harivamsa tells how Krishna joins the girls in a type of dance
called hallisaka, which Bhasa refers to by the Prakrit form hallisaam. What in these
sources is no more than a herdsmen's dance or a conventional interlude in a drama,
is described in the Visnupurana as a more sensual rasa dance, endowed with more
religious significance.74 The Bhagavatapurana gives an extended account of this
episode in five chapters (the celebrated rasapahcadhyayi), presenting it as the most
significant encounter between the lord and his devotees. When the Gopis hear the
enticing music of Krishna's flute they rush out of the encampment in disarray,
abandoning the various household chores that they were engaged in, even if they
were busy attending to their husbands or feeding their children.
Their meeting begins with Krishna reminding the women of their domestic
duties, but they refuse to return home because their devotion for him takes priority
over everything else. They all go to the bank of the Yamuna, where Krishna begins
72 BhP 10.28.
73 HV 63, ViP 5.13, BhP 10.29-33, BC 3.
74 For sources and discussion of this episode see F. Hardy, ibid. pp.84-5, 100,499-506, 600
ff. He cites Kamasutra 2.10.25, where both hallisaka and rasa are mentioned as dances
of an erotic nature. Bhasa also uses halljsaam for the dance Krishna did on Kaliya's
head.
37


his dalliance with the Gopis. After a while he suddenly disappears because, it is said,
the women were beginning to feel proud at receiving so much attention from him.
The Gopis are perplexed and begin to search for him, asking the trees and creepers
where he has gone and distractedly imitating his various deeds and mannerisms.
They discover the footprints of Krishna and one of the Gopis, whom they take to be
his particular favourite. They find evidence that the two of them gathered flowers
which he plaited into her hair. However, this Gopi became so arrogant at being
singled out by Krishna that she asked him to carry her, saying that she was tired.
Krishna began to comply with her request, but disappeared before she had a chance
to climb up on his shoulders. The other Gopis come across this woman, who is now
as desolate as they are because she too has been abandoned. They all sing a song of
despair, expressing the pangs of separation (viraha) that they are suffering.
Eventually Krishna reappears and brings them relief by dancing the rasa with
them. They form a circle and Krishna multiplies himself so as to appear next to each
of the Gopis as her partner. Following this experience the Gopis are able to
appreciate that their feeling of love for Krishna is sufficient in itself. They learn how
to derive comfort from thinking about him throughout the day, while he is out
grazing the cattle, in anticipation of his return home in the evening.
21 The pilgrimage to Ambikavana75
The herdsmen undertake a pilgrimage to a grove sacred to the goddess Ambika.
After bathing in the river Saraswati and worshipping Pashupati (Shiva) and the
goddess, they settle down for the night on the bank of the river. While they are
asleep a gigantic and ravenous serpent appears and proceeds to swallow Nanda, but
Krishna frees him by touching the snake with his foot, thereby relieving it of its
karma and restoring it to its original form of a supernatural being (vidyadhara).
22 Shankhachuda76
While Krishna, Balarama, and the Gopis are engaged in nocturnal revelry in the
forest, a demonic attendant of Kubera named Shankhachuda attempts to abduct
the women. Krishna pursues him, cuts off his head, and presents the crest jewel he
wore to Balarama.
23 Arishta77
One evening a demon called Arishta charges into the encampment in the form of a
ferocious bull. It begins to kill the bulls and assault the cows, making them and the
75 BhP 10.34.1-19.
76 BhP 10.34.20-34.
77 HV 64, ViP 5.14, BhP 10.36.1-15.
38


pregnant wives of the herdsmen so frightened that they miscarry. Krishna wrenches
out the monster's horn and bludgeons it to death with it.
24 Keshi78
Kansa announces that a 'bow festival' is to be held in Mathura.79 He arranges for
the construction of an arena and orders Akrura to fetch Krishna and Balarama. He
also begins a final series of attempts to annihilate the two youths. The first demon
he sends to Vrindaban takes the form of a horse named Keshi. Krishna thrusts his
arm into the beast's mouth, causing it to choke and burst apart.
25 Vyoma80
A demon called Vyoma adopts the guise of a cowherd boy and attacks the other
boys while they are playing in the hills. He carries them off to a cave, but Krishna
strangles him and rescues his friends.
26 Akrura fetches Krishna and Balarama81
Akrura arrives at the encampment and summons Krishna and Balarama, telling
them about the 'bow festival' and the plight of Vasudeva and Devaki. The next
morning they set out for Mathura, a parting that causes the Gopis much pain. At
noon Akrura suggests that they pause to allow him to bathe in the Yamuna. When
he ducks under the water he has a vision of Krishna and Balarama as Vishnu
reclining on the serpent Shesha, but when he resurfaces he sees the boys sat as
normal in the cart. He ducks into the water and again sees them in the form of
Vishnu and Shesha, prompting him to give a eulogy in praise of them.
27 The return to Mathura82
The citizens of Mathura rush out to see the entry of Krishna and Balarama. The
boys notice a dyer {rajaka, rahgakara) and demand some of the fine clothes that he
is carrying. When the dyer disdainfully refuses, saying that the clothes belong to
Kansa, Krishna decapitates him. The boys then choose some garments for
themselves and give the rest to their companions from the encampment, who have
also arrived in Mathura. The next person they meet is a gardener who gives them
78 HV 67, ViP 5.16, BhP 10.37.1-19. For comments on the incident see O'Flaherty 1980,
p.225.
79 dhanuryajna: HV 65, ViP 5.15, BhP 10.36.16 ff. dhanurmaha: BC 4.
80 BhP 10.37.27-34.
81 HV 68-70, ViP 5.17-18, BhP 10.38-40.
82 HV 71-77, ViP 5.20, BhP 10.41-42.25.
39


flowers, and then a hunchbacked woman known as Kubja83 who offers them some
of the unguent that she is taking to the royal bath house. Krishna shows his
gratitude by curing her of her deformity and making her beautiful again. He also
promises to visit her after accomplishing his mission. He then goes to the place
where the bow is kept, seizes it, breaks it, and slays the men who were guarding
it.
28 Kansa is slain84
The next day Krishna and Balarama go to the arena (rahgasala jrahgabhumi) where
first Krishna has to dispose of an elephant named Kuvalayapida that Kansa had
posted at the gateway to slay him. He rips out the elephant's tusk and uses it as a
weapon to kill it. In the arena Krishna and Balarama first have to fight Chanura
and Mushtika, Kansa's champion wrestlers. After defeating them Krishna slays
Kansa and, according to the Bhagavatapurana, drags him by his hair. Vasudeva and
Devaki are released from captivity, Ugrasena is reinstated as king of Mathura, and
Nanda returns tearfully to his encampment. Having fulfilled their mission, Krishna
and Balarama take their vows of celibacy and become students. They depart for
Ujjain in order to study under the guidance of their guru Sandipani.
29 Uddhava's message85
After completing their studies Krishna and Balarama return to Mathura, but
instead of going himself to visit Nanda and Yashoda, Krishna sends his counsellor
Uddhava with a message for them. His foster parents shed tears of longing when
they recall the happy years Krishna spent with them. Uddhava also tries to console
the Gopis, one of whom addresses a bee, taking it to be another messenger from
Krishna, and complains that they feel deserted. Uddhava praises them for the
constancy of their devotion and their undivided attention to Krishna. He explains
the ontological reasons for their condition of separation and how Krishna can be
reached through remembrance and contemplation of his deeds. He praises them for
having developed the supreme form of love through which they have earned the
grace of Krishna. His cerebral arguments contrast with the Gopis' spontaneous
outbursts of feeling.
This episode, which may well be based on the account given in the Visnupurana of
Balarama's visit to the Gopis,86 became a popular theme in later literature. The
dialogue served as a context for contrasting the passionate devotional path
followed by the Gopis with the detached and emotionally cold approach offered by
Uddhava, a spokesman for the path of transcendental and and yogic contempla-
83 BhP also calls her Trivakra; BC 5 calls her Madanika.
84 HV 78, ViP 5.19, BhP 10.42.26-44.
85 BhP 10.46-47.
86 Sec below §31. See F. Hardy, ibid, pp.499, 507-9.
40


tion.87 In these later versions the Gopis often accuse him of disregarding feelings
and human attachment, reflecting the increasing importance given to emotional
experience rather than contemplation or rationalization.
This episode, as it is described in the Bhagavatapurdna, earned Uddhava the
reputation of being the first pilgrim to Braj. After meeting the Gopis he stayed on
for a few months, recollecting Krishna's adventures in the company of the Gopis
and seeing the streams, forests, hills, and flowering trees that reminded the local
people of Krishna. The Bhdgavatapurdna also tells how, on the banks of the
Yamuna, Uddhava is met by Vidura, brother of Dhritarashtra and Pandu, while he
is on a pilgrimage to various holy places.88 It was Krishna's wish that Uddhava
should be the sole survivor of the annihilation of his clansmen at Dwarka and
remain on earth because he was the person best qualified to impart the message of
devotion.
30 Krishna and Balarama move to Dwarka
Krishna, meanwhile, enters into new spheres of activity. In Mathura he visits Kubja
and repays her for the gift of unguent by spending some time with her and making
love to her.89 Subsequently he becomes more involved in the conflicts between his
kinsmen and between the Kurus and Pandavas. These topics are central to the
Mahcibhcirata, but are treated briefly in the narratives referred to above and have
had virtually no influence on developments in Braj. Krishna's departure from
Mathura is occasioned by the arrival of Jarasandha, a brother-in-law of Kansa and
the ruler of Magadha. He and his forces, as well as the foreign troops of a chieftain
called Kalayavana, lay siege to Mathura. Krishna decides that the only escape for
the Yadavas is to move westwards to Dwarka. There, on the shore of the Indian
Ocean, Vishwakarma constructs a citadel for them. Krishna sets up court there and
takes sixteen thousand wives, the foremost of whom are Rukmini and Satyabhama,
but his relationship with them does not have the same intensity and significance as
his earlier romance with the Gopis. His married life is no less erotic, but it does not
have the same mystical overtones.
Balarama marries Revati, daughter of Revata, whose name means 'wealth' or
'prosperity'.90 In view of Balarama's links with cults relating to the fertility of the
soil, it is appropriate that Revati should be associated with the welfare of children.
In the Mahdbhdrata she is one of the goddesses who preside over children's diseases
and elsewhere she is described as one of the 'seizers of children', identifiable with the
goddess Shashthi, or the Bahuputrika and Hariti of Jain and Buddhist texts.91
87 Nandadas' version of Uddhav's visit (tr. McGregor) is the most famous of later
versions.
88 BhP 3.1-4.
89 BhP 10.48.
90 HV 58.84, BhP 10.6.28.
91 See U. P. Shah with reference to MBh vana. 129.27-30, Susrutciscimhitci, uttara. 31, and
R. N. Mishra, p.75, with reference to Kcisyapasamhitci.
41


31 Balarama visits the Gopis92
The only subsequent episode in the early sources that is relevant for Braj is a visit
paid by Balarama to Nanda's encampment. He is welcomed by the Gopis and
herdsmen and consoles them with messages from Krishna. He goes to a grove
beside the Yamuna and there dallies with the women. He becomes intoxicated after
drinking liquor that flows from the hollow of a tree and commands the Yamuna to
come near to him so that he can play in her waters. When she refuses, he becomes
angry and drags her towards him by making a channel with his plough. He then
enters the river and sports with the Gopis.
32 Later sources and developments
Gradually the Bhdgavatapurdna gained acceptance all over India as the prime
canonical source for the narrative of Krishna's adventures. In Bengal, at least,
Sanskrit poems of unknown provenance derived from the Bhdgavatapurdna were
known by 1 100.93 An indication that the work as a whole had attained canonical
status in the North by about 1400 was the writing of a commentary upon it by
Shridhara, a Shaiva ascetic and resident of Varanasi, who tried to explain its
message of emotional devotion in terms of the monistic teachings of Shankara.94
Even so, there is no extant Hindi version of the Bhdgavatapurdna earlier than the
sixteenth century, and it was not the only source for vernacular poetry dealing with
Krishna. Some time between 700 and 900 Swayambhu had written an Apabhransha
version of Krishna's life entitled Ritthanemicariu, or Harivamsapurana, that is
known to have been recited before a Jain audience in the vicinity of Gwalior in the
mid-fifteenth century. This is precisely the period when, under the patronage of the
Tomar rulers of Gwalior, the earliest narrative poetry dealing with Krishna in the
Braj dialect emerged, though it did not emphasize his early years and the theme of
devotion, which were to become the main concerns of sixteenth-century Braj
poets.95 What was lacking in the Bhdgavatapurdna was any reference to Radha, a
figure who first appeared in poetry that was amatory rather than devotional in tone.
Her acceptance as Krishna's divine consort can be explained in the light of religious
developments in the medieval period, especially in eastern India.
The kind of devotion recommended in the Bhdgavatapurdna had its counterpart
in the love mysticism of the Sufi saints, whose teachings had become widespread in
the northern half of India by the thirteenth century. The Sufis, like followers of
Hindu devotionalism, sought a more intense and emotional contact with god than
was offered by their pedantic and orthodox co-religionists. Besides making use of
song (in the form of samac and qawwalT) to express their fervour, they were also
preoccupied with the symbolism of divine love, particularly the traditional Indian
92 HV 83, ViP 5.24-25, BhP 10.65.
93 F. Hardy 1983/1, pp.547-552.
94 See below §5.2.
95 McGregor 1984, pp.33-5.
42


theme of the yearning felt by a woman in the absence of her lover.96 Also influential
in northern India throughout this period were the Nath Yogis, Shaiva inheritors of
yogic and Tantric traditions. Against a background of mutual influence between
the Nath Yogis and Sufi mystics there arose a current of non-orthodox religious
enthusiasm, similar in its emotional intensity to that of the earlier Alvar poets of
Tamil Nadu. Hindus attracted to this kind of devotion rejected brahminical
ritualism in favour of direct and ecstatic communion with god. Some of them
objected to the maintenance of caste distinctions and proclaimed that the
spontaneous devotion of an untutored and humble soul was more rewarding than
any amount of scholastic learning and expertise in ritual.
During the twelfth century the main cultural centre for the development of
Vaishnavism in eastern India was the court of the Sena dynasty. Sculpture from the
earlier Pala period shows that Krishna had already been locally popular from the
eighth century onwards, but as the Senas were of Kanarese origin they may have
been instrumental in the propagation of the teachings of southern schools of
Vaishnavism.97 People in eastern India would certainly have been receptive to the
emotional kind of devotion advocated by the Bhcigavcitapurdna, but the Tantric and
Shakta traditions had also had a pervasive influence on their religion and culture.
This explains why they were preoccupied with the notion of Krishna having a
consort who personifies his creative power (sakti). The most influential work that
described the love-play of Krishna and Radha was GTtagovinda, a cycle of songs in
polished Sanskrit composed in the latter half of the twelfth century by Jayadeva, a
poet at the court of Lakshmana Sena.98 It is the earliest extensive treatment of
Radha and, by virtue of its effective combination of the aesthetic and the spiritual, it
not only became universally recognized as a classic of Sanskrit erotic literature, but
was also used as a devotional text and recited each evening in the temple of
Jagannatha at Puri, a tradition that survives to this day. By the sixteenth century the
poem was used in religious performances all over India, but it was probably the
emotive recitation of it at Puri that inspired Chaitanya and his followers to hold the
work in such high esteem.
After Jayadeva the theme of the love between Krishna and Radha was further
popularized by the vernacular lyrics of Vidyapati, who flourished in Mithila in the
latter part of the fourteenth century. While his explicitly devotional verses are
directed towards Shiva, he used the theme of Radha and Krishna in amatory verses
that continue the tradition of Sanskrit court poetry.99 It was the followers of
Chaitanya who gave these lyrics a religious interpretation. Another influential poet
was Baru Chandidas, who wrote a long sequence of lyrics in Bengali. The title
'Baru' implies that he was a temple brahmin; his name itself and the dedication of
his songs to Basali (or Vasali) suggest that he was primarily devoted to a form of the
96 Ibid., pp.23-8.
97 See S. C. Mukherjee and the first two chapters of R. Chakravarti 1985 for a survey of
evidence relating to the emergence of Vaishnavism in Bengal.
98 For a translation and introduction to the work see Miller 1977, and also Sandahl-
Forgue. For studies of the poem see R. Sarkar and Siegal. The oldest Braj translation is
that of Ramray, composed in 1565, cf. Mital 1962, p.148.
99 McGregor 1984, pp.29-33.
43


Goddess.100 His exact date is uncertain, but he probably lived in the fifteenth
century and at least some of his songs were known to Chaitanya and his followers.
His SrTkrsna klrtan contains over four hundred songs strung together as a narrative
of the courtship of Krishna and Radha. Around the beginning of the sixteenth
century poets of eastern India developed a literary language that was considered
appropriate for dealing with Krishna themes. It is called Brajabuli, 'the speech of
Braj\ and is basically the dialect of Mithila with a superstructure of Bengali and a
smattering of elements from Hindi and the Braj dialect.101
Outside religious and cultic circles the childhood and loves of Krishna had long
been a popular theme in lyric poetry, and have remained so until the present day.
Anthologies dating back to the third century present Krishna as the typical lover
(nayaka) of traditional amatory literature, and are the earliest sources to name
Radha as his beloved.102 In the medieval period collections of Sanskrit verses
attributed to Bilvamangala were widely circulated and were drawn upon by many
vernacular poets.103 These, along with poems from other Sanskrit anthologies,
provided vernacular poets with a set of imagery and poetic devices that could be
used to describe the childhood and amorous adventures of Krishna. For many of
them the devotional overtones were implicit and did not need to be stressed. The
love of Krishna and Radha was a theme exploited by devotees interested in the
moods and emotions of love mysticism, as well by court poets who wrote amatory
verses with a more scholastic intent. This meant that there is often no clear dividing
line between devotional and profane lyrics, between those that aimed at evoking a
devotional sentiment and those that were intended to exemplify some traditional
poetic conceit in accordance with classical aesthetic theory. The love of Krishna and
Radha is not just an allegory for religious passion, it is that passion, and so there is
no call for any distinction to be made between the religious and the erotic.104
Devotional theology and aesthetic theory were successfully combined in the
works of Rup Goswami, a disciple of Chaitanya and the foremost theologian of the
Gaudiya Sampraday. He received a Sanskrit education that gave him a grounding
in the Hindu scriptures as well as classical aesthetics. Since he was a native of Bengal
and served in a Muslim court, he must have been familiar with both Tantric and
Sufi doctrines. In their theoretical writings he and his followers freely adapted
Tantric and Agamic sources, works of aesthetic theory, and manuals describing the
100 Klaiman, intro. to Baru Chandidas pp. 16-17. See her introduction for further details
about the poet and his work, and also Dimock, pp. 56-67, and Zbavitel, pp. 148-55,
179.
101 See S. Sen 1935.
102 For sources see below n.122.
103 The two anthologies are entitled Krsnakanuunrta and Balcigopcdastuti, sec Wilson's
introduction to Bilvamahgalastava. According to CC 2.9.278-82 Chaitanya was
impressed by Krsnakamamrta when he found it to be popular among brahmins of
southern India and had a copy made to take back to Puri. An anthology of Sanskrit
verses by various poets that had a considerable influence on later vernacular poetry was
Saduktikarnamrta, compiled by Shridharadasa in 1205.
104 For more discussion of this theme (with reference to Gitagovinda), see Siegel, pp.
178-84.
44


established Vaishnava form of ritual. A theologian as well as a poet, he was the
foremost representative of a circle of scholars who produced Sanskrit works, either
in the scriptural style of a Purana or samhitd, or using such classical poetic forms as
the kdvya, campu, and ndtaka, that expressed and gave sanction to developments in
the worship of Krishna that had taken place in the preceding centuries. Rup and Jiv
Goswami, Krishnadas Kaviraj, Kavikarnapura (Paramanand Sen), and later
Vishwanath Chakravarti, were some of the literati of the Gaudiya Sampraday who
retold the Krishna story with special emphasis on his sports in Vrindaban.
Generally they went in for a stilted, rhetorical, and mannered style that featured
prolix and euphuistic descriptions, endless elaboration of minutiae, and classifica-
tion of sentiments in terms of aesthetic theory.105
Devotional poets familiar with the works of Rup Goswami and his followers
conveyed their ideas through the medium of vernacular poetry. This type of
literature was the most important medium for the propagation of devotion to
Krishna among the masses. Thousands of devotional lyrics were composed in
Bengali, and from the sixteenth century onwards poets writing in the Braj dialect
proliferated in all sects devoted to Krishna.106 Their works constitute a collective
tradition that makes use of stereotyped themes, conceits, and situations in which
there is seldom a hint of idiosyncrasy. This does not mean that all the poems are
more or less of the same quality, but that there is a relatively small number of
outstanding poems amid a vast sea of standard and fairly indifferent versification.
The nature of the lyrics themselves, as well as the fact that they were initially
transmitted by means of oral performance, gave plenty of scope for improvisation,
expansion, and interpolation. A case in point is Sur sugar, the most famous
anthology of Braj lyrics. They are all attributed to a poet named Surdas, who
flourished in the first half of the sixteenth century. The oldest anthology of his
work, compiled in 1582, contains only 241 poems, whereas the standard modern
edition of the Sur sugar contains well over four thousand, arranged in such a way as
to follow the structure of the Bhdgavatapurdna.107 This kind of inflation can also be
observed in Paramdnand sdgar, an anthology of the poems of Paramanandadas.
The oldest manuscript, copied in around 1600, contains a mere 150 poems, a later
one copied in about 1800 has 1,101, and a modern published edition has almost
1,400.108 In both cases the interpolated poems have been inserted to make the
anthologies more comprehensive, more suitable for liturgical use, or to substantiate
the notion that the poets were adherents of the Pushtimarg, which in the case of
Surdas is highly unlikely.
105 For a summary and appraisal of some of their works see De, pp.577 ff.
106 See McGregor 1984, pp.73 ff., for a survey of relevant authors and further
bibliographical references. See also his introduction to Nandadas for an account of
literary developments, and Zbavitel, pp. 176-84, for a concise survey of the thousands of
Vaishnava poems composed in Bengali between the 15th and 19th centuries.
107 Viz. the edition of Vajpeyi. The 1582 ms. has been published in facsimile with an
introduction by G. N. Bahura and K. Bryant. For the evolution of the Sur sdgar sec
Hawley 1984, eh.2.
108 Viz. theedn. ofSharma, Shastri, and Tailang, to which reference is made here. Another
edition of G. N. Shukla contains 900 poems.
45


The lyrics of these and many other devotional poets were sung regularly in the
temples as part of the daily worship of Krishna. Most of them are written in the pad
form a poem usually consisting of three or four rhyming couplets with an opening
line shorter than the rest that serves as a refrain. Anthologies of verse by some
devotional poets that are venerated or used as liturgical texts are referred to as vanT,
a term implying that they are the product of divine revelation. Many of the poets
who lived in Braj described the adventures of Krishna in terms of the world around
them, introducing themes and situations drawn from local culture. There are poems
in the Sur sagar that describe the first feeding, ear piercing, and other ceremonies
surrounding the birth of Krishna.109 Other poems, written to be sung on festive
occasions, describe some of the local customs that were incorporated into
celebrations held in Vaishnava temples. Hariram Vyas, for example, describes how
the birth of Radha was celebrated with dadhikSdau a rite that consists of throwing
around curds mixed with turmeric, as is still done in some Braj temples on the
birthdays of Krishna, Radha, and Balarama.110
Theological ideas about Radha and her role as Krishna's creative power, or
Shakti, were expressed in Sanskrit works belonging to one of the standard
scriptural genres, but their influence was much less pervasive than that of the
vernacular poetry. Tantric interpretations of the role of Krishna and Radha were
particularly popular among Bengalis. In the Mahabhagavatapurana, for example,
Shiva and the goddess Kali are said to have been reborn as Krishna and his beloved
Radha.111 Tantric adaptations of the Krishna and Radha theme are also found in
the DevTbhagavata112 and the Brahmavaivartapurana. The latter, believed by most
authorities to have been composed in the sixteenth century, is an extraordinary
composition, quite different from an earlier Purana of the same name, or at best an
extensively reworked version of it.113 The largely spurious Bhavisyapurana
attributes the last part of the Brahmavaivartapurana to Rup Goswami, but the
absence of specific topographical references suggests that it was not composed in
Braj or by anyone familiar with its sacred places.114 Judging from the content it
would appear to be the product of a Bengali author who did not belong to the
109 Sur sagar, sequence of poems dealing with the arrival of Krishna in Gokul, nos. 633
ff.
110 Hariram Vyas, pad nos. 611, 615.
111 Chap. 149. For discussion of the work see Hazra 1958-79, vol. 2 pp.320 ff.
112 For summary and bibliography of the work see Rocher, pp. 167-72.
113 Rawal notes that the oldest listed ms. is dated 1692. See also Rocher, pp. 160-3, Hazra
1975, pp. 166-7, and Farquhar, pp. 240, 271, 376, who thought the Krsnajanmakhanda
to be a late interpolation by a Nimbarki author. De, pp.11-12, without adducing any
supporting evidence, accepts the suggestion that it pre-dates Jayadeva. Dimock, pp.
210-11, makes the plausible suggestion that it is influenced by the Sahajiyas. Brown, pp.
2-6, refers to catalogued mss. and printed versions, discusses its dating in chapter 2, and
its possible milieu in chapter 11. He concludes that the evidence suggests that it was
written in the 15th or 16th century.
114 Bhavisyapurana 3.14.19.39. Thirty-three groves or forests named after plants are
mentioned in this Purana, including the traditional twelve vana of Braj, 28.160 ff., but
there is no further specification of their location.
46


Vrindaban circle, since it is not cited by any of the Goswamis who lived there and
does not appear to have had any influence on the Braj poets.115 The story of
Krishna and Radha is given in the latter part of the work, entitled Krsnajanma-
khanda. It is full of repetitive and overblown descriptions of endless sexual
encounters and orgies, replete with hyperbolic and tedious descriptions of the
Gopis, their orgasms, and the millions of pleasure domes, bowers, and gem-
encrusted dancing circles in which the participants disport themselves. It amounts
to sanctified soft-porn, as relentless as My Secret Life or Les 120 journees de
So dome.
Another Sanskrit version of the Krishna story, which gives a truer reflection of
developments in Braj, is Gargasamhita, probably composed some time after the
sixteenth century by a member of the Pushtimarg.116 The narrative begins with an
account of the descent to earth of Krishna, Radha, their entourage, and the whole
area of Braj ('the eighty-four krosa area around Mathura'). Apart from the usual
episodes in the life of Krishna, it contains additional information about Govard-
han, stories about groups of Gopis from different parts of India, and a pilgrimage
undertaken by Balarama in the course of which he defeats a demon called Kola (an
event believed to have taken place at Aligarh). The eighth book describes the
adventures of Balarama in some detail, and the tenth book contains a narrative of a
return visit made by Krishna to Braj, during which he meets Radha and dances the
rasa with her once again. It concludes with an account of the Kurukshetra battle,
the annihilation of the Yadavas, the submergence of Dwarka, and the return of all
the participants to Goloka.117
33 Radha
The acceptance of Radha as the foremost of the Gopis and Krishna's consort is the
most significant development in his mythology since the end of the first millennium.
The Bhdgavatapurdna only went so far as to say that in the midst of the rasa dance
he departed with a favourite Gopi, whom he eventually abandoned just like the
others. Later versions of the story show less concern for the 'heroic lover' who
dallies with any number of women and turn their attention to the 'romantic lover'
who is attracted to a single, irreplacable mistress whom he would rather serve and
adore than vanquish and demand.118 Krishna's intimate and exclusive relationship
with Radha came to predominate over his more diffuse communion with all of the
Gopis. Radha became so important in theology that later commentators, feeling
obliged to find a reference to her in the Bhdgavatapurdna, usually identify her with
the Gopi that Krishna took with him when he disappeared during the rasa.119 Some
115 Some verses dealing with janmastami are quoted in Gopal Bhatt's Haribhaktivildsa, but
they may well derive from an older work on ritual that was incorporated into the
Brahmavaivartapurdna.
116 See below §6.2 for details of date and authorship.
117 Some other treatments of the Krishna story, such as Jiv Goswami's Gopalacampu, also
describe the reunion of Krishna and the Gopis at Kurukshetra (2.23-24).
118 Here I have paraphrased Kakar 1985, p.77.
119 Stressing the use of drddhita in BhP 10.30.28.
47


even go as far as to trace her name in Vedic occurences of words derived from the
root rddh- ('succeed, be accomplished, propitiate, gratify'), but the most that can be
said is that her name means 'perfection' or 'success' (Vedic radhas), and that the use
of rddhaspati as an epithet of Indra may be yet another incidence of the transfer of
elements of Indra to Krishna, but there is no indication of any personality
comparable with Krishna's Radha.120 Early Tamil sources mention Krishna
dancing with Pinnai or Nappinnai, a cowherd wife he won after fighting seven bulls,
but the theme is either independent from the original Krishna story, an assimilation
of the dance described in the Harivamsa, or some variant of the episode retold in
terms of southern folk traditions.121
Radha, or Radhika, is first known to us from anthologies of secular verse, mainly
in Prakrit and Apabhransha, compiled from the third century onwards.122 Exactly
when she became universally acknowledged as his consort is uncertain. Lakshmi-
dhara referred to a pond or tank (kunda) named after her in his mdhdtmya of
Mathura, written in the first part of the twelfth century, which may be the same as
the modern Radhakund. A few decades later Jayadeva, in his Gitagovinda, brought
together elements from secular poetic tradition and the themes of the rasa dance
and love in separation, which had been given so much emphasis in the
Bhdgavatapurdna. Jayadeva also developed the theme of mdna Radha's becoming
offended and temporarily withdrawing herself when she suspects Krishna of
infidelity. A Sakhi, one of her companions, is obliged to act as a go-between and
effect a reconciliation between them. The imagery and phraseology used by
Jayadeva were endlessly paraphrased by later vernacular poets, and his work was
probably the main inspiration for the concept of Krishna and Radha retiring to a
bower (kunja) in order to make love.
The illicit nature of the relationship between Krishna and Radha exercised a
particular fascination. The poets dwelt increasingly on Radha as someone swept
away by her feelings, regardless of conventional propriety. Baru Chandidas depicts
her as a shy and simple twelve year-old who is gradually won over by the tricks and
scheming of the wily Krishna. Unable to resist his power, she succumbs to him, but
although he is dominant, Krishna has to win her over and cajole her into making
love to him. As Radha became more important, so the interdependence between her
and Krishna is emphasized. Poems dealing with the theme of mdna describe how
distraught and penitent Krishna becomes when Radha refuses to see him. There are
also some examples to be found of role reversal, in which Krishna does the kind of
things normally expected of a devotee. Jayadeva describes how Krishna asks Radha
to place her foot on his head as a sign of his submission to her.123 The poet
Dhruvdas describes how Krishna reacts when he comes across Radha's footprints:
'seeing those places where the ground was marked with the maiden's feet, that
120 Sec Miller 1975, pp.668-9, who also refers to Radha as the name of a naksatra.
121 Sec Hudson, Hardy 1983/1, pp.221-5, and Shulman, pp.285-6.
122 Sec Miller 1975 & 1977 (introduction), Hardy ibid., pp.56-65, 104-115, for references.
The oldest is Hala's Sattasdi (Gdthdsaptasati), but most references date from the 8th
century onwards.
123 Gitagovinda 10.8.
48


paragon of lovers rolled in the dust that he knew her feet had touched.'124 Raskhan,
in a well-known poem, tells how he searched the scriptures for some account of
Krishna's transcendent beauty, but failed to find any adequate description. It was
only when he collapsed in exhaustion that he was finally granted a vision of Krishna
- and saw him secluded in a bower massaging the feet of Radha.125 Poets sometimes
refer to Krishna repeating the name of Radha when he longs for her, just as
devotees repeat the name of Krishna.
Theologically Radha is different from other Hindu goddesses. She is neither a
mother, creator, or personification of wifely virtues, nor has she anything to do with
fertility. She has no independent function outside of her relationship with Krishna,
in which she plays the role of a divine and fair-complexioned mistress with whom
the dark Krishna can experience cosmic bliss. As the supreme consort of Krishna,
she represents all the other Gopis, and thus the souls of his human devotees. It is
claimed that the followers of Nimbarka were the first to worship her in conjunction
with Krishna, but the oldest and most definitive theological accounts of her are
those of Rup and Jiv Goswami. They describe her as the mistress of Vrindaban
(vmddvanesvarT), the eternal consort and Shakti of Krishna, identified specifically
with the hlddimmahdsakti of Tantra, the power by means of which Krishna is able to
experience his bliss, while the other Gopis are various aspects or emanations of
her.126
34 The entourage of Krishna and Radha
Texts written from the early part of the sixteenth century onwards give more
information about the families of Krishna and Radha. After moving from the
neighbourhood of Gokul, Nanda is said to have settled at Nandishwar or
Nandagram (modern Nandgaon). Radha, who becomes a participant in some of
the episodes in Krishna's childhood, is thought to have lived at nearby Barsana,
referred to in the earliest Braj sources as varasdnau and in the Sanskrit ones as
vrsabhdmipura, named after her father Vrishabhanu. The devotional poets say that
she was born at her mother's native village of Rawal, or in her father's house at
Barsana.127 Gopalakelicandrikd, a Sanskrit drama written in the sixteenth century
or later by a Gujarati brahmin named Ramakrishna, also mentions Radha's
124 Sri vrnddvan sat Hid 37 (Bay alls Hid, p. 15): kuvari carana amkita dharani, dekhatajf ijhi
j[I] Id tjuiura / priyd carana raja jdni kai, luthata rasika siramaura.
125 Raskhan, p. 76. The poem begins brafuna me dhudhyau purdnana gamma...* and ends
dekho duryau vaha kumja kutira me, baithau palotata rddhikd pdvana.
126 De, pp.288, 352-3,410-11. The Brahmavaivartapurdna even suggests that she is superior
to him, but it holds onto the view that, as prakrti, she is manifested from Krishna and
dissolves back into him at the end of an aeon (cf. Brown, p. 139). Sec Brajvallabhsharan
(ed.) 1966 for a collection of articles by various devotees on the concept of Radha in
different Sampradays. See Hawley 1984, ch.3, esp. pp. 89-91, for Radha as portrayed in
Sur sugar.
127 Poets are ambivalent about where her birth actually took place, sec for example
Hariram Vyas, pad 609-11,614-115, Paramanandadas pad 46 & 52, Govindswami pad
19-23.
49


parents and says that they lived at Rawal. Gargasamhita talks of there being nine
Nandas, nine Upanandas ('junior Nandas'), and six Vrishabhanus, all of them
herdsmen who graze their cattle in Braj.
Some writers of the Gaudiya Sampraday say that Nanda's father was called
Parjanya and that he obtained five sons by performing austerities beside a pond
near Nandgaon.128 The seventeenth-century poet Hariray relates the visit of
Nanda's genealogist (dhSrhi) shortly after the birth of Krishna. He recites the
child's supposed lineage, beginning with Abhirabhanu who settled at Mahaban,
followed by his descendants Suraj Chand, Bhilakabahu, Kanana Sasi, Kanjanab-
ha, Birabhana, Dharamadhira, Kalinda, his ten sons, and the nine Nandas.129 A
different and probably earlier genealogy is given in a Vrnddvancimahatmya ascribed
to the Adipurana, according to which Nanda was the youngest son of Chitrasena,
who was in turn the youngest son of Kalamedhu, great-grandson of Abhirabhanu,
the chief of the herdsmen of Mahaban.
The same text also gives the genealogy of Vrishabhanu, naming his father as
Mahabhanu and his grandfather as Arshtisenu of Arshtigrama, probably referring
to Radhakund. Her mother is here named Manavi, though in most sources,
including the earliest Braj poets, she is called Kirti or Kirtida.130 Mukhara is the
name given to Radha's maternal grandmother in the dramas of Rup Goswami
(Vidagdhamadhava and Lalitamadhava), in Govindalilamrta by Krishnadas Kavi-
raj, and in some later works. According to Rup Goswami she was once the wet
nurse of Yashoda.
These same sources also feature Radha's husband Abhimanyu and her
mother-in-law Jatila. Here Radha is a married woman, like the other Gopis, and
has a mother-in-law who does all she can to stop her from coming into contact with
Krishna. These characters make their first appearance in the poems of Baru
Chandidas, where Radha (daughter of Sagara and Padma) is married to Aihana (or
Abhimanyu) who is a maternal uncle of Krishna. Radha's great-aunt (referred to as
barayi, 'grandma') helps to contrive meetings with Krishna, which Aihana's mother
is always trying to prevent. Works written by devotees who lived in Braj follow the
dramas of Rup Goswami, in which the role of Radha's great-aunt is played by
Paurnamasi, who lived near Nandgaon. She is a white-haired old woman who
personifies the moonlight, a phenomenon that stimulates the love-play of Krishna
and Radha. Sometimes she is assisted in her match-making by her granddaughter
Nandimukhi. In the last act of Gopalakelicandrika she appears with another woman
called Shardi, the two of them personifying the spring and autumn full moon nights
respectively
Apart from Nanda and Yashoda, none of the relatives of Krishna and Radha
plays an important part in literature or devotional activity, though Radha's parents
and grandparents are enshrined in temples at Barsana. More interest is shown in
128 VVS 60, and later by Narahari and Sundarlal, who name the sons as Nanda, Upananda,
Abhinanda, Sananda, and Nandana.
129 Hariray, ed. Mital, pp.23-5.
130 AP, Vrnddvanamahatmya ch.12, entitled Rddhakulakathana. Kirti is mentioned, for
example, in Shribhatt's Yugcilsatak. In Brahmavaivartapurdna(Krsnajanmakhanda 17)
Vrishabhanu is the son of Surabhanu and marries Kalavati.
50


some of Krishna's friends, and above all in the close companions of Radha, known
as Sakhis. They are daughters of herdsmen, like Radha herself, but they are more
important than ordinary Gopis because they help to promote her love-play with
Krishna by acting as go-betweens, contriving meetings, and decorating the bowers
where they spend the night together. These hand-maidens of Radha represent the
most privileged kind of devotee because they witness the most intimate pastimes of
Krishna and Radha. Rup Goswami was probably influential in establishing their
importance, and their number was considerably expanded by poets and theologians
of the sixteenth century.131
The standard number of Sakhis is eight, but their names vary and some texts
mention many more besides. The idea probably derives from Tantric conceptions
of a deity as occupying the centre of a lotus, surrounded by eight Sakhis on the
innermost ring of petals, as in yantra diagrams devised for meditation upon Vishnu
and Kama, the god of love.132 In Sanatkumarasamhita the eight Sakhis of Radha
are named as Lalita, Vishakha, Vijaya, Nanda, Jayanti, Jaya, Sumukha, and
Subhaga,133. A more common enumeration, given by most writers of the Gaudiya
Sampraday, is Vishakha, Lalita, Chitra, Indulekha, Champakalata, Rangadevi,
Tungavidya (or Tungabhadra), and Sudevi.134 Alternatively, their names are
Lalita, Vishakha, Champakalata, Chandrabhaga, Bhama, Padma, Vimala, and
Chandrarekha the Sakhis with whom the Pushtimarg identifies its group of eight
'Ashtachhap' poets. Other Sakhi names met with in the literature are Chandravali,
Chameli, Shaivya, Shyamala, and Vrinda. Baru Chandidas used the name
Chandravali as an epithet of Radha, but in the plays of Rup Goswami she is
Krishna's first sweetheart, whom he neglects when he becomes infatuated with the
younger Radha. She thus plays the role of a jealous and offended mistress and tries
to lure him back with the help of two friends called Padma and Shaivya.
Chandravali and Radha are also rivals for Krishna's affection in Kanhavat, a Sufi
adaptation of the Krishna story written in 1541-42 and attributed to Muhammad
Malik Jayasi.135 In this work Krishna is married to Radha, but is attracted by the
younger Chandravali, who is said to dwell in the moon. Krishna sports with Radha
by day and with Chandravali by night, but ultimately choses to stay with the
former.
Some of the Sakhis, in pilgrimage itineraries, are associated with villages in the
neighbourhood of Barsana. Some works assign certain colours to them, specify
their particular function in promoting the love play of the divine couple, and name
131 Rup Goswami gives the names, forms, colours, nature, and dress of a number of them in
Rddhdkrsnagcmoddesadipika. The oldest text to name any of the Gopis is BC, which says
that Chandrarekha, Ghoshasundari, Vanamala, and Mrigakshi keep company with
Radha. There are Gopis who accompany Radha in the poems of Baru Chandidas and
take part in certain incidents, but they are not named and do not act as intermediaries.
Several are also mentioned in VVS.
132 See G. C. Tripathi in Eschmann et al. (eds.), pp.42 ff.
133 Sanatkumdrcisamhita 31.69 & 32.
134 E.g. AY 358 ff., naming Gautamiyatantrci as its source.
135 Jayasi, author of the more accomplished and celebrated Padmavat, is said at the
beginning of Kanhcivat to have composed it in Hijri 947.
51


various subsidiary Sakhis who attend upon the main eight.136 An extremely
elaborate listing of Sakhis is given by Harivyasdev in the Siddhdnt sukh section of
his Mahdvdm. He begins with Rangadevi, whom he identifies with Nimbarka, and
then lists another seven who are said to have become incarnate as other gurus in the
poet's sect. Each of these Sakhis has eight others in attendance upon her, and they in
turn have eight more in attendance upon them, thus giving a total of five hundred
and eighty four Sakhis, each of whom is mentioned by name.
The Brhadbrahmasamhitd says that Vrinda is the presiding Shakti of the forest
named after her.137 Rup Goswami is believed to have discovered an image of
Vrindadevi that was installed in a side chapel of the Govind Dev temple in
Vrindaban. He describes her as a messenger of Radha or go-between (dutT) who
lived in Vrindaban and was always engrossed in the divine couple.138 He names her
parents as Chandrabhanu and Phullara, her husband as Mahipala, and her sister as
Manjari. Krishnadas Kaviraj says that Vrinda is one of the most prominent Sakhis
and that Vrindaban is named after her because of the efforts she made to establish
and cultivate it.139 Other poets refer to her as one who makes the flowers bloom and
supplies Vrindaban with foliage in order to provide a pleasant setting for Krishna
and Radha.
The Brahmavaivartapurana says that she lived in Vrindaban, remained absorbed
in meditation there, and eventually became a consort of Krishna in his heavenly
abode. It also says that she is equivalent to the sacred basil plant (tulsi), that as a
result of a curse uttered by the sage Durvasa she was first obliged to marry
Shankhachuda, and that she is a form of Radha who was cursed by Shridama to be
born on earth as a forest goddess. In this form she became the daughter of a king
called Kedara, who practised austerities in Vrindaban and was later married to
Jalandhara.140 This is partly derived from an older myth that appears in two
different versions in the Padma- and Sivcipuranci.141 The former tells how Vrinda, a
woman who had performed austerities in the forest named after her, immolated
herself on the pyre of her demonic husband Jalandhara, an act which pleased
Vishnu and inspired him to plant myrobalan, basil, and jasmine on the place where
her ashes lay. The other Purana gives a Shaiva version of the story in which Vishnu
impersonates first Jalandhara and then Shankhachuda in order to seduce their
wives Vrinda in the first instance and Tulasi in the second. Here Shankhachuda is
an incarnation of Sudama, a friend of Krishna who had been cursed by Radha. As
compensation for her maltreatment by Vishnu, Shiva grants a boon whereby Tulasi
becomes the patron goddess of the basil plant and is worshipped in conjunction
with the sacred sdlagrdm stone, symbolizing the relationship between her and
Vishnu. To go further back in time, there is a remote possibility that she is
136 E.g. AY ibid., Dhruvdas Sabhd mcmdal lild and Rcis muktdvalTtila, nos. 17-18 in Baydlis
lila. Some listings are tabulated by Rawat 1977, pp.10, 139-40, 270. See also n.131.
above.
137 Brhadbrahmasamhitd 2.4.93-170, 3.1.155, 3.2.12.
138 Rculhdkrsnagcmoddesadipika, pp.64-6.
139 GLA 9.52.
140 Krsnajanmakhanda 2-3, 14.191-209, 17.193-219.
141 PP 6.3-16 & 102-3, Sivapurana 2.5.14.41.
52


connected with a Yakshi (female spirit) of Mathura called Vendi who is mentioned
in the Gilgit manuscripts.142
Like Radha, Krishna also has a retinue of companions (Sakhas). Rup Goswami
assigns a particular duty to each of them,143 but the concept did not have the same
appeal as that of the Sakhis. Only two of Krishna's companions appear regularly in
popular literature. One of them, called Shridama, first appeared in earlier
narratives as one of the boys who played at the Bhandira tree when they were
attacked by Pralamba. In an interpolation in the southern recension of the
Harivamsa he is the son of Yashoda's brother,144 but in later northern sources he is
said to be the brother of Radha. He appears in adventures with Krishna in
Padmapurdna and Gargasamhitd, and plays a more important part in Brahma-
vaivartapurdna, where he is described as a friend of Krishna rather than a brother of
Radha. This Purana relates how Radha refused to see Krishna when she learnt that
he was having an affair with a woman called Viraja. Shridama, annoyed at her
display of pique, began to argue with her. This resulted in them laying a curse on
each other to the effect that she would be born on earth as Radha and he as
Shankhachuda, the demon who later married Vrinda. This story provides a new
motive for Krishna's incarnation: that he wanted to accompany Radha and sport
with her during her period of exile from heaven. He therefore descended to earth
along with his paradise and retinue, but, owing to Shridama's curse, he eventually
had to abandon her and depart for Mathura and Dwarka. Madhumangala, or
Mansukha, plays the role of Krishna's accomplice in some of his mischievous
escapades. Rup Goswami, in his Vidagdhamddhava, says that he is a grandson of
Paurnamasi. In this work and in modern rds lild performances his role is that of the
traditional jester or buffoon (vidusaka).
35 Krishna extorts curds from the Gopis
Krishna's extortion of curds from the Gopis is the most popular of the episodes
added to the narrative by later texts. It is usually called the dan Hid because it
describes how Krishna intercepts the girls and demands a toll (dan) on the pots of
curd that they are carrying to market. They refuse to give him anything because
they know that he is not authorized to make any such demand. A lively exchange
ensues, culminating in Krishna attacking the girls, smashing their pots, and stealing
the curd. It is a continuation of the theme of Krishna's theft of butter in his infancy,
but with more aggression and sexuality, for he usually goes so far as to molest the
Gopis, break their necklaces, and rip their bodices.145 In most accounts of this
incident he accosts the girls as they enter a gully or narrow passage between two
hills, and is usually accompanied by a group of cowherd boys who also take part in
the tussle. Several versions of the incident say that it took place at Sankari Khori in
Barsana, where it is re-enacted every year; others locate it at Dan Ghati the place
142 3, pt. I pp.2-17 (venuti).
143 See Rup Goswami, op. cit.
144 HV (ed. Vaidya), vol.1 pp.xliii-iv. See Hudson in Hawley and Wulff(eds.), p.241.
145 For further discussion of the theme see Hawley 1983, pp.144-7, 165, 185-190.
53


where the Mathura-Dig road crosses the Govardhan hill, and there are some who
say that it happened at Vrindaban or between Gokul and Mathura.146 In fact the
term Sankari Khori or Gali may refer to any narrow lane in which Krishna meets or
intercepts Radha,147 though the place in Barsana bearing the name was known in
the sixteenth century.
The episode is depicted in iconography from at least the eighth century,148 but
the earliest extended literary treatment of the theme is found in a sequence of over a
hundred poems by Baru Chandidas.149 The theme is taken up by Rup Goswami in
his Ddnakelikaumudi, a drama in one act that was probably composed some time
between 1533 and 1541.150 In this version Radha and the Gopis are intercepted by
Krishna while they are carrying pots of ghee to be used in a sacrifice to be performed
near Govind Kund, a tank beside the hill of Govardhan. Krishna, proclaiming
himself lord of the forest and posing as a revenue official, demands that they pay
him a toll. He goes on to declare that the girls should also be taxed for their physical
charms. A dialogue full of sexual inuendo and punning ensues between Krishna and
his companions and Radha and her Sakhis. Eventually Paurnamasi intervenes to
suggest that Radha be offered to Krishna as payment, and assures him that Radha
will come to meet him that night.
In his old age Raghunathdas, to whom Rup dedicated his Ddnakelikaumudi,
produced a similar version of the incident entitled Danakelicintamani. He locates
the incident at the tank called Dan Nivartan Kund near the Govardhan hill where
Krishna and his friends set up an octroi.151 In 1572 Kavikarnapura included a
similar version in the third act (called ddnavinoda) of his drama Caitanyacandro-
daya.152 More popular versions of the theme were written in the Braj dialect,
notable examples being the relevant poems in Sur sagar and compositions entitled
146 The first location, also called Sankari Gali, is mentioned in Sur sagar, pad 945-6,
Madhuriji's Dan mddhuri., pad 75 of Surdas Madanmohan, pad 556 of Govindswami,
pad 173 & 234 of Paramanandadas. Dan Ghati is specified in the latter's pad 628, and
the road between Gokul and Mathura in his pad 605. Hariray (Dan lila, ed. Mital, pp.68
ff.) talks of a Gahwarban at Govardhan. Vrindaban is specified in pad 641 of
Paramanandadas and by Dhruvdas (Baydlis lilci no. 42), who says that Krishna waited
for Radha at Bansi Bat.
147 E.g. Paramanandadas, pad 443, referring to a sakari gali at Nandgaon, and Vrinda,
Yamak satsaiAl 1, p.242: merikcinha nisa kari, naika sd karinahi / milana saka rikunja
ki gari sakari main.
148 See Hawley ibid., pp.58-9. A terracotta plaque in the museum at Bikaner, perhaps
dating from the 5th century, has been described as representing this incident, but the
interpretation is open to doubt, cf. Preciado-Solis, pp. 105-6.
149 The sequence is entitled Dan khand, and is by far the longest section of his SrTkrsna
kin an.
150 It may, however, be a revised version of a work written before Rup Goswami met
Chaitanya, cf. De, pp. 161-2.
151 ghattipatta, cf. De, pp.121, 123, 616-7 and the Dananivartanakundastaka in the
Stavavali of Raghunathdas. A work called Danacarila is also ascribed to him.
152 De, pp.44, 571. There is also a work called Danakhanda attributed to Gopal Bhatt (ibid,
pp. 123-4). See B. Majumdar, p. 199, for some discussion of the antiquity of the theme in
Vaishnava literature. The theme also appears in Kanhavat, 93 ff.
54


Dan Vila by Kumbhandas, and Dhruvdas. There are several variations on the theme
of Krishna intercepting Radha while she is on her way to market. Baru Chandidas
wrote a sequence of poems on the theme of naukd I7ld, in which Krishna poses as a
ferryman and contrives to make love to Radha in a boat as he ferries her across the
Yamuna.
36 Lila of the eight watches of the day
Several later texts give an account of the various sports or pastimes (lila) of Krishna,
Radha, and the Gopis that take place throughout the day. The sequence of events
corresponds both to the daily ritual cycle of the temples and to the notion that their
play is eternal. Because each of the episodes takes place during one of the eight
watches of the day, the cycle is referred to as astayamalila or astakalikalTld. The
cycle is summarized in the thirty-sixth chapter of Sanatkumarasamhitd and in a
short text by Rup Goswami entitled Smaranamahgala. It is described at length by
Krishnadas Kaviraj in his elaborate GovindalTlamrta. Notable examples in the Braj
dialect are the Seva sukh section of Harivyasdev's Mahdvanl, Ras muktavalT ITla by
Dhruvdas, Gaurahg astayam by Chandragopal (in which it is applied to the worship
of images of Chaitanya), and later works entitled Astayam by Vrindabanchandra-
das, Damodarvar, Chacha Vrindabandas, and Ativallabhji.153 Several anthologies
of lyrics by various poets were arranged into sections that could be sung in temples
during the different watches.
In his GovindalTlamrta Krishnadas Kaviraj declares that the purpose of the work
is to inspire devotees to contemplate the various pastimes of Krishna and Radha as
they take place throughout the day.154 He begins the cycle with the first watch
(pratah) when Vrinda calls upon the birds to wake Krishna and Radha, who have
been sleeping together after meeting at night to dance the rasa. They emerge
dishevelled from the bower, return to their respective homes, and creep into bed
before the rest of the household awakes. During the second watch (purvcihna)
Paurnamasi visits Nanda's house in order to see Krishna wake up. She notices the
marks caused by his love play with Radha, but assumes that they are the result of his
having wrestled playfully with Balarama before falling asleep. Krishna gets up,
plays with the other boys, and goes to milk the cows, while Radha is woken by her
mother-in-law and begins her daily routine. During the third watch (madhyahna)
Krishna goes out into the forest to graze the cattle while Radha and the Sakhis go to
worship Surya. Radha's mother-in-law had encouraged the Sakhis to take her with
them in order to keep her occupied because she suspected that Krishna would
attempt to meet her. Nevertheless, they do meet each other in the forest and during
153 The version by Dhruvdas is in BayalTs lilci, 18.76 ff. Chandragopal's version is referred
to by P. Mital 1962 p. 165, and the last three are mentioned by Lalitacharan Goswami,
p.493. For Vrindabanchandradas see below (AY). An adaptation of the cycle to the
context of Rama worship is attributed to Nabhadas, cf. B. P. Singh, p.385, and in a
secular context by Deva, cf. McGregor 1984, p. 178.
154 GLA 23.94: sevasya yogyavapusa'nisam atracasyd ragcidhvasadhakajanmair manasd
vidheyd.
55


the fourth watch (aparahna) amuse themselves on the banks of Radhakund. After
playing in a swing and frolicking in the water of the lake, Radha returns home, and
Krishna, during the fifth watch (.sayahna), brings the cattle back to the village while
playing his flute. During the sixth watch (pradosa) Krishna and Radha eat their
evening meal and look at each other from the gazebos of their respective homes.
During the seventh watch (naisajmadhyaratrT) everyone goes to sleep and Krishna
and Radha steal away for their tryst in Vrindaban. During the eighth watch
(nisanta) they dance on the banks of the Yamuna, frolic in the water, and finally
retire to their bower.
GovindalTldmrta, like other examples of the genre, intersperses this daily routine
with accounts of various apocryphal incidents. Such episodes often form the subject
of separate poems or a rds lila performance, and usually revolve around some
humorous trick or ploy instigated by one of the Sakhis or by Krishna himself in
order to contrive a meeting between him and Radha. The tenth chapter of Govinda-
lTlamrta,, for instance, includes an episode in which Krishna's flute is stolen by one
of the girls, in this case Shaivya, a companion of Chandravali. The theft of the flute
is a popular theme, the thief in most cases being Radha. It is first found in the poems
of Baru Chandidas, in a section entitled VamsTkhand. Here Radha refuses to return
the flute unless Krishna promises to remain faithful to her.
Raghunathdas wrote a poem called Muktacarita which tells how the Gopis
refused to hand over their pearls to Krishna, and so he asked Yashoda to give him
some. He sowed them in the soil of Vrindaban, where they grew into pearl-bearing
creepers. On seeing this, the Gopis sowed their pearls as well, but the creepers that
grew were covered with thorns. Radha and the Gopis then offered to buy Krishna's
pearls, but he refused to sell them. This led to an argument in which Krishna
declared that the only form of payment acceptable to him would be for the Gopis to
let him embrace and fondle them. The dispute is finally settled amicably through the
intervention of Nandimukhi.
Disguise or exchange of clothes (chadma lila) is another popular theme, often
combined with a certain amount of altercation and reconciliation. Sometimes
Krishna dresses up as a Yogi in order to trick the girls or convey some message to
Radha. In some poems (such as those entitled SSjhT Ida) Krishna manages to
infiltrate the company of the Gopis by dressing up as a girl and calling himself
Sanvari, a feminine form of his epithet stivaro, meaning 'dark'. In Gopalakeli-
candrika the Sakhi Lalita encourages Krishna to dress up as a Gopi in order to gain
access to Radha's home. There he manages to meet her, draw her portrait, play with
her dolls, and meet her mother. Sometimes he and Radha dress up as each other by
exchanging clothes, a pastime interpreted theologically as being symbolic of their
ultimate unity. The earliest poet to mention this is Bilvamangala, who describes
how Krishna and Radha avoid each other after a quarrel. Later on Radha saw
Krishna approaching dressed as a girl. Taking him for one of her friends she
affectionately embraces him, upon which he tenderly kissed her and she turned into
Krishna.155
155 Bilvamahgalastava 2.75.
56


37 The marriage of Krishna and Radha
All commentators are faced with the problem of justifying Krishna's relationship
with Radha and the Gopis. In all the authoritative sources it is clear that the women
are married to the herdsmen. In the Bhdgavatapurdna doubts raised about the
propriety of his touching other mens' wives during the rasa dance are answered with
the argument that a being as powerful as Krishna, who controls and dwells in all
souls, who manifested himself and appeared on earth in order to experience the bliss
within himself, bestow his grace, and inspire us with devotion, is not governed by
the rules applicable to ordinary people. Furthermore, the herdsmen were not
jealous of Krishna because, as a result of his magic power, they were unaware of the
fact that their wives were absent.156 Later commentators provide other more or less
ingenious excuses for the adulterous behaviour of Krishna and the Gopis.
Ultimately their justifications rest on the argument that his divine activity cannot be
assessed in terms of our mundane and conventional morality.
The nature of Krishna's relationship with the Gopis was of particular concern to
theologians of the Gaudiya Sampraday. There are two opposing points of view
among them: some argued that Radha and the Gopis belonged to Krishna, that
they were in effect his own wives (svakTyd); others defended the notion that they
belonged to other men (that they were parakiya).151 Apart from the fact that there
is no question of marriage in the scriptural sources, poetic convention, at least until
the time of Baru Chandidas, required that they remain unmarried because
extra-marital love was regarded as being more intense and spontaneous. Rup
Goswami and his successors pursued various lines of argument: that adultery was
not in principle committed; that some kind of unmanifested marriage took place;
that the Gopis obtained Krishna as if he were their husband, not their lover, and are
therefore to be considered as properly belonging to him; that the Gopis had never
consummated their marriage with their husbands, and the latter had been deceived
by Krishna's magic power into believing the contrary; that the Gopis are
manifestations of Krishna's power and therefore belong to him; that the Gopis are
in essence always with Krishna, and that their husbands were married only to
secondary or illusory manifestations of them.
One way of resolving the problem was to effect a marriage between Krishna and
Radha, thereby justifying, retrospectively at least, their premarital dalliance. The
theologically convenient notion that they were married was accepted by many
writers, but there is sometimes inconsistency within sectarian circles, or even in the
works of individual authors. Rup Goswami presents Radha as the wife of
Abhimanyu in Vidagdhamddhava, and in Lalitamddhava describes her marriage
with Krishna at the 'New Vrindaban' in Dwarka.158 Their marriage is also
described in the Brahmavaivartapurana and by Jiv Goswami in the latter part of his
Gopdlacampu. They are also married in Kanhdvat, but here the theme exemplifies a
convention in Sufi literature whereby Radha plays the role of a first wife who must
suffer when her husband is attracted to a younger woman. Their marriage is
156 BhP 33.27-40.
157 De, pp.204-5, 348-350, 410-11. Dimock, p.200 ff.
158 Lalitamddhava, act 10.
57


mentioned in Gopalakelicandrika, but there is no conventional ceremony. Instead
Lalita officiates at an informal gandharva wedding rite. In the fourth act Yashoda
recalls how she and Kirti used to play together when they were young, and on one
occasion performed a mock wedding with their dolls, promising that one day their
children would marry each other. The engagement or wedding ceremony of
Krishna and Radha occurs as a theme in the Utsah sukh section of Harivyasdev's
Mahavanl, in some of the Sur scigcir poems, and in the works of various poets of the
Pushtimarg, including a poem called Syam saga! attributed to Nandadas.
In these and other later versions the marriage is usually described in terms of a
Braj village wedding, as in a poem by Hariram Vyas dealing with various domestic
rites and Krishna's wedding procession (barat) from Nandgaon to Barsana.159
Dhruvdas wrote some verses called byahulau that describe how the Sakhis make
arrangements for the wedding. The term byahulau ('wedding') is used to refer to
enactments of the marriage ceremony that are periodically performed with much
pomp at the Radhavallabh temple in Vrindaban.160
The introduction of the marriage theme had no effect on the ideal of love in
separation, for whether married to Radha or not, Krishna still abandons her when
he migrates to Dwarka. Basically the question of whether they committed adultery
is an ethical and theological problem that has only really bothered the more
intellectual devotees. Most people are prepared to accept the ambivalence, being
more concerned with the quality of their love rather than whether Radha should be
regarded as a legally wedded wife or mistress.
38 Narada and Shiva change sex
An earlier myth about Narada becoming a woman was adapted in later texts to fit
the Krishna story and underline the need for devotees to emulate the Gopis.161
Originally Narada was ordered by Vishnu to bathe in a tank, as a result of which he
turned into a woman. The reason for this penalty was his being so presumptuous as
to expect to know the secrets of maya, something that could even delude the gods.
The female version of Narada married a king called Taladhvaja and, in the course
of many years of sexual indulgence, gave birth to eight sons and many grandsons,
but they were all killed in battle. Eventually Vishnu appeared in disguise and told
Narada to bathe in another tank, as a result of which he regained his masculinity.
Here Narada's becoming female is seen as a punishment for his arrogance, but in
the versions relevant for Braj his experience as a woman is seen as a glimpse of a
higher reality rather than a delusion, and both sexuality and femininity are
159 pad 721.
160 The poems are appended to BayalTs Ilia, pp. 293-5. Radhavallabh is the main deity of the
poet's Sampraday. For mention of other Radhavallabhite poems on the marriage
theme see Lalitacharan Goswami, pp.497-8.
161 For references and discussion of the older version of the Narada myth (Devibhagavata,
6.28-30) see O'Flaherty 1984, pp.81 ff., and Shulman, pp.300-301 & 304, citing a Tamil
adaptation in which the charioteer of the sun takes the form of a woman in order to
watch the dance of Urvashi.
58


presented as positive factors. In these versions Narada is told by Vrinda to bathe in
a lake called Pushpasaras (i.e. Kusum Sarovar), as a result of which he becomes the
female Naradi and is able to join the Sakhis and participate in the erotic sports of
Krishna. Later he became male again after bathing in Pushpasaras a second time or
in some other lake to the south-east of it (i.e. Narad Kund).162
The story of Shiva wanting to watch the rasa dance, but having to become a
woman before he was able to do so, is a variant of the Narada myth that is popular
in oral tradition and folk songs. Local people tell it to explain why the most famous
Shiva temple in Vrindaban is called Gopishwar, 'Lord of the Gopis' or 'the Lord as
a Gopi\ According to Gargasamhitd} 63 there was a sage called Asuri who lived on
a mountain where he practised severe austerities, meditated on Krishna, and had
visions of him with Radha. One night, however, he was unable to concentrate and
felt a strong desire to see Krishna. He searched everywhere but could not find him,
even when he went to the Vrindaban bower in heaven (goloka). Eventually he came
before Shiva on Mount Kailash and asked if he had any idea where Krishna was to
be found. Shiva, praising Asuri for his diligence in seeking Krishna, told him that he
could find him dancing the rasa with the Sakhis in the terrestrial Vrindaban. Shiva
himself was intending to go there and invited Asuri to accompany him. Together
they went to Braj (vrajamandala) and approached the bank of the Yamuna. Their
path was blocked by female guardians who explained that Krishna was the only
male who could participate in the rasa, and that before going any further they
would have to become Gopis by bathing in a pond called Manasarovara. Shiva and
Asuri followed their instructions and, in the form of Gopis, were admitted into the
area where the rasa is performed. They marvelled at the dance and paid obeisance to
Krishna. He explained that they had gained admittance by virtue of their prolonged
asceticism and offered them a boon. They asked that they might permanently dwell
in Vrindaban, a wish that was duly granted.
39 How Govardhan came to Braj
Gargasamhitd provides an explanation of how Govardhan came to Braj.164
Initially it became manifest as a son of the mountain Drona on the western island of
Shalmali. When the sage Pulastya saw it, he decided to have it moved to Kashi so
that he could perform his austerities on it. Govardhan, however, was reluctant to go
and made the excuse that he was too large to be transported. Drona, fearing that he
would be cursed by Pulastya, allowed him to take Govardhan away with him. When
they got as far as Braj, however, Govardhan remembered that it was his duty to be
present there in order to participate in the sports of Krishna, and so he refused to let
Pulastya carry him any further. This so annoyed the sage that he pronounced a
curse to the effect that Govardhan would decrease in size by an amount equivalent
to the size of a sesamum seed every day. The myth does not seem to have had much
162 SP 2.6.2-3, NP 2.80.9-32, PP 4.75.25-46.
163 GS 2.21-2.
164 GS 2.2.
59


currency. Narayan Bhatt gives an alternative explanation of Govardhan's arrival,
saying that it was brought from the Himalayas by Hanuman.165
40 The reclamation of Braj
In order to link modern Braj with the mythological realm, as well as the terrestrial
and transcendental planes on which Krishna performs his adventures, a myth was
developed on the theme of the reclamation of Braj by Vajranabha. The basis for the
myth is the tradition, mentioned in the Mahdbhdrata and Bhagavatapurana,166 that
Arjuna, while he was based at Indraprastha (Delhi), rehabilitated the Vrishnis
under the leadership of Krishna's great-grandson Vajra. A relatively modern
section of the Skandapurdna tells how Arjuna placed Vajranabha, the son of
Krishna's grandson Aniruddha, in charge of those Yadavas who had survived the
internecine warfare that followed the destruction of Dwarka.167 Vajranabha
complained to Parikshit that the domain he had been given control of (referred to as
mathurdmandcda or vrajabhumi, i.e. modern Braj) needed to be repopulated.
Parikshit summoned the sage Shandilya and asked for his advice. Shandilya, after
extolling Krishna's pastimes with Radha and the Gopis, took Vajranabha on a tour
of the places where they had occurred. He told Vajranabha that because these
places were without guardians, he should establish some villages in the area and
take care of the rivers, hills, tanks, and groves. He refers specifically to the
establishment of settlements at Govardhan, Dirghapura (i.e. Dig), Mathura,
Mahaban, Nandigrama (i.e. Nandgaon), and Brihatsanu (i.e. Barsana). He
predicted that Vajranabha would meet Uddhava and learn all the secrets from
him.
Vajranabha began to rule in Mathura, repopulated the sacred places, and
established tanks, wells, Shiva shrines, and images of Krishna, including Govin-
dadeva and Harideva. He spread the message of devotion and people began to take
part in singing the praises of Krishna. He met Kalindi and other abandoned wives
of Krishna who were suffering from the pangs of love in separation. She told him of
their condition and suggested that he consult Uddhava, who was residing in the
form of a creeper at Sakhisthala, near Govardhan. They went there together and
rejoiced when they saw Uddhava appear beside a tank called Kusumasaras (Kusum
Sarovar). Uddhava praised them for their devotion and the depth of their
absorption in Krishna, saying that those who reside in Braj are more fortunate than
the people of Dwarka because here Krishna continually sports with Radha, just as
he is always present in the Bhagavatapurana. He prophesied that the Bhdgavata-
purdna would be the subject of inspiration and commentary and that he would
continue to reside at Narad Kund in order to convey its message to devotees.
Vajranabha also appears in Gargasamhitd, where he is said to be the founder of
images of Dirghavishnu and Keshava at Mathura, Govindadeva at Vrindaban,
165 VBV 5.1.
166 MBh sabhd. 14.48 ff., 17.1.9, BhP 11.31.25.
167 Bhdguvcitanuihdtmya, viz. SP 2.61-3.
60


Harideva at Govardhan, Gokulesha at Gokul, and Baladeva at Baldeo.168 In a
later version of the story, given by Gopal Kavi in the early nineteenth century,169
Vajranabha is said to have been so disconsolate when Krishna returned to his
supreme abode that Parikshit took him to Uddhava, who told him that he should
excavate four images of Krishna (Keshavadeva, Govindadeva, Harideva, and
Baladeva) that had sunk beneath the ground because of the onset of the kali
age.
168 GS 10.62.26-8.
169 VDA 24.
61


3
Devotion in theory and practice
1 Emotion and aesthetics
In the introductory chapter we described the different types of pilgrimage and the
formal regulations that participants are expected to observe, while in the second
chapter we summarized the scriptural accounts of the life of Krishna and surveyed
later developments in his mythology. His amorous exploits became the dominant
theme, especially his love for Radha. The mythology was elaborated in conformity
with the increasing importance of the theme of divine love, both in theology and
popular devotion. Accordingly, emotional involvement in the pastimes of Krishna
was generally accepted as more rewarding than meticulous performance of rituals
and other observances.
Human sensuality was acknowledged and celebrated, but there was also a
tendency to create a theoretical framework that would contain potentially anarchic
emotions. Rup Goswami, who flourished in the first half of the sixteenth century,
was the most influential theorist of this type of devotion, not only among fellow
members of the Gaudiya Sampraday, but also among devotees belonging to other
sects. The excessive formalism of his theological system is in strong contrast to the
emotional abandon of Chaitanya, the exemplary devotee. Its intricate definitions
and categorization can hardly have had much interest for the average worshipper of
Krishna. Although his theory and analyses, like those of other scholastic
theologians who followed him, constitute a learned world unto themselves, they
were an attempt at systematizing popular manifestations of devotion. Some of the
terms they use, such as ras (a), bhav(a), and prem(a), have entered into the
vocabulary of every devotee of Krishna.
Rup Goswami made a distinction between two types of devotion based on
external effort, one that consisted of following scriptural injunctions governing
religious practice (vaidhibhakti), the other of a more intense and passionate nature
(raganugabhakti). The former is the approach followed by those who are still
ensnared by delusion (may a) and have no direct relationship with Krishna. It is a
kind of preparatory discipline and training that is undergone by those as yet
incapable of enjoying the superior and more passionate kind of devotion. Higher
than either of these is the kind of devotion that results from spontaneous inward
62


emotion (bhdvabhakti), and above all is the kind that ripens into the sentiment of
love (premabhakti).1 The intensity of one's devotion ultimately depends on the
degree to which one can experience bhava a kind of feeling or emotional
identification, rasa a refined mood or sentiment, and prema love. These basic
elements were already present in the Bhagavatapurana, composed some seven
hundred years earlier, which in turn had borrowed the terminology from classical
aesthetic theory. In its opening lines the Bhagavatapurana likens itself to a fruit
filled with nectar (rasa) that is to be drunk by those who are connoisseurs (rasika)
and have acquired a taste for the beautiful (bhavuka). It points towards a form of
devotion that seeks an emotional and aesthetic experience, that cultivates love for
god concurrently with that of love for one's fellow men, rather than liberation or
solitary enlightenment. Evocation and experience of sentiments by means of
poetry, song, and visual display constitute in themselves a means of fulfilment and
salvation. They take one further than any form of speculative theology and
transcend any reservations one might have about Krishna's unruly behaviour and
his flirtations with the Gopis.
Ideally the feelings experienced should be spontaneous and unconditioned, but
the techniques used to evoke them are almost wholly conventional. In aesthetic
theory, for which Bharata is the standard authority, bhciva refers to a basic human
mood or sentiment that is transformed by an artist and experienced aesthetically as
rasa.2 This rasa is the 'essence' of the qualities that distinguish a work of art. It is
something that cannot be explicitly stated because it is more rarefied than any
feeling derived from direct sensual perception or experience. It is a sensation evoked
in a listener or spectator that is experienced as an impersonalized condition of pure
aesthetic enjoyment. In a devotional context the term bhava refers to the
appropriate attitude a worshipper adopts when he contemplates an aspect of
Krishna. We may develop our emotional responses by dwelling upon an aspect that
is best suited to our natural inclinations. In emulation of Yashoda, we may cultivate
the emotions associated with motherhood (vcitsalyabhava) and adore Krishna as an
infant. Alternatively, if we choose to look upon him as our lord and master, we may
place ourselves in the role of his slave (dasyabhava). By identifying with his
companions in Braj we may cultivate the emotions associated with friendship
1 The most important theoretical works of Rup Goswami are UjjvalanTlamani and
Bhaktirasdmrtasindhu. For a fuller account of Rup's definition of bluikti based on the
latter see De, pp.170 ff., who also gives more detailed discussion of the theme of this
section, mainly with reference to Rup and Jiv Goswami. An outline of devotion
according to the Gaudiya Sampraday is given in CC 2.7 ff., where it is said that
Chaitanya learnt the doctrines while in South India from Ramananda Ray. N. N. Law
gives a summary of Gaudiya theories on bhakti, based primarily on CC. Other accounts
are given by R. Chakravarti 1985, ch.3, S. Dasgupta, vol. 4 chs.21 -3, Dimock 1966, ch. 1,
and in Singer (ed.), pp.41-63, Eidlitz 1968, pp.388-96, Kinsley, chs.1-2, Majumdar,
Wulff 1984, pp.25-34 (and chs.VII-VIII for application of the theories in Rup
Goswami's Vidagdhcimddhava) and Haberman, esp. chs. III-IV. For Vallabha's
interpretation of BhP see Redington.
2 Bharata, Ndtyasastra ( rasadhydya ). See Gerow, pp.245 ff, for a concise summary of
the aesthetics of Bharata and his successors.
63


(sakhyabhdva). The most intimate and powerful emotions, however, are those felt
by the Gopis who fell in love with him.3 They give rise to the highest and sweetest
kind of sentiment, referred to as srhgara- or madhurarasa, 'the erotic' or 'sweet
sentiment'. Identification with the Gopis is the basis for a theology in which the soul
is regarded as feminine. The mutual love of Krishna and the Gopis is looked upon
as the supreme parable of the relationship between god and the soul. The role to be
played by a devotee is thus modelled on the ideal of womanhood meek,
self-sacrificing, and devoted to satisfying her partner's needs.
The impassioned form of devotion arises from the desire to realize the feelings of
the people of Braj who took part in Krishna's sports. It is to be cultivated by living
either physically or mentally in Braj and emulating the mental attitude (i.e. bhcivci)
of a member of Krishna's entourage, preferably one of the Gopis. This is to be
achieved by recalling his pastimes, reliving them in one's imagination, and imitating
the associated moods and feelings according to one's predisposition and emotional
capacity. It is a form of vicarious participation, a sublimation of erotic and other
intimate human feelings in terms of the devotional sentiments felt by the characters
who associated with Krishna. When dwelling upon his amorous adventures,
catharsis comes not from actual participation or physical enactment of the sexual
experience, but by singing emotional and erotic lyrics about it.
Rup Goswami, his contemporaries, and successors are sometimes surprisingly
frank in their treatment of the erotic elements in the Krishna myth. Even so, they
tended to regulate or contain the eroticism by imposing an intellectual system upon
it. They applied Bharata's enumeration of all the constituent elements of a work of
art to the context of religious devotion, following his exhaustive classification of
feelings and all the motifs used in poetry to evoke it. These include, for example, all
those elements that serve to excite the emotions and foster the appropriate feeling,
such as descriptions of the seasons, various items of luxury, diversions enjoyed in
beautiful houses and gardens, and features of the environment of Vrindaban its
rivers, seasonal groves, and abundant flora and fauna.4 Such stereotyped motifs
recurr again and again in both secular and devotional poetry dealing with the
pastimes of Krishna. The tendency is to follow the classical tradition in which
intensity of mood is enhanced not by psychological depth, but by an accumulation
of sensuous detail. Love is not described as something personal and subjective, but
as a depersonalized voluptuous state. The lovers are not particularized individuals,
but are stereotyped representations of any handsome youth and beautiful young
woman.5 While there were many inspired poets, there were also duller devotees who
adopted a more clerical approach, creating works of literary overkill that
laboriously reiterate the standard repertoire of imagery, metaphors, and vapid
conceits.
3 nuidhurya- or gopibhciva. See Singer in Singer (cd.), pp. 129-36, for an account of how
this is envisaged and experienced among devotees in Madras.
4 These elements are termed uddipanavibhdva. Sec De, pp.180, 210-11, with reference to
the works of Rup Goswami. For further discussion of the imagery of Vrindaban in Rup
Goswami and other writers sec Corcoran, ch.V, pp.195 fif.
5 Kakar 1985, pp.80-81.
64


2 Tantric influence
In addition to its use in the field of aesthetics, the term rasa had physiological
connotations that were also taken up by the Vaishnava theologians. One of the
ways they describe of contemplating Krishna is to visualize him in the centre of a
lotus situated in the heart. At the root of this is the older conception, expressed in
the Upanishads and BhagavadgTtd, of a microcosmic purusa (male principle)
residing in the heart that corresponds to the macrocosmic Supreme Being
(purusottama). Although the Vaishnava theologians were primarily influenced by
Tantric ideas current in north and east India, their conception of Krishna was
already foreshadowed in the Bhagavatapurdna, which proclaimed that he is
equivalent to the supreme male principle (purusa) and is radiant amid the Gopis,
who represent his female potencies (Shaktis).6
Esoteric yoga physiology, as it was propagated in Buddhist and Hindu schools of
Tantra, conceived of there being a series of six centres of power (cakra) in the body
that represent different states of consciousness. The lowest cakra is thought to be
located at the perineum (or sacrococcygeal plexus) and the highest at the crown of
the head. The latter is regarded as the seat of cosmic consciousness and is visualized
as a lotus with a thousand petals. In the Hindu Shaiva or Shakta conception it is
Shiva, the primordial male and representative of pure and static consciousness, who
is envisaged microcosmically as residing in the thousand-petalled lotus. This is the
seat of bliss where he unites with his Shakti, the dynamic female power that is
conceived of as a coiled serpent (kundaliru) located in the lowest cakra.1 The
discipline of Tantric yoga was a way of internalizing sexual intercourse by making
the female power rise up the hollow of the cerebrospinal axis. As it moves upwards
it energizes the different cakra, causing the lotuses that symbolize them to open out.
The union of Shiva and Shakti in the highest lotus represents the recovery of a state
of non-duality, the ultimate condition of the macrocosmic absolute. It is a reunion
that brings with it liberation from the process of phenomenalization. It is a reversal
of the process of becoming that entailed separation and increasing bondage and
suffering. One of the terms used to describe this blissful union is samarasa, meaning
'sameness or oneness of emotion'.8
The primary meaning of the word rasa is simply 'juice' or 'sap', but since it can
refer to any kind of liquid essence or extraction, it is used in a variety of contexts. In
the Vedas it refers to the 'fluid of life', which can be water, milk, or soma, and in the
post-Vedic period it was used for both male and female sexual fluids. According to
the rasciyana school, whose practitioners developed a form of theological alchemy,
it was a substance (generally mercury, and equated with the seed of Shiva) that
could be used to render the body immutable. In the Nath Sampraday, a cult closely
related to rasciyana, this rasa was envisaged as a kind of nectar that oozed from the
moon located in the thousand-petalled lotus at the crown of the head. By resorting
to yogic practices this nectar, which is physiologically equal to semen, could be
6 BhP 10.32.10.
7 See Woodrofife, pp.641 ff.
8 Sec Shashibhushan Das Gupta, pp.xxxiv-xxxv.
65


transformed so as to make the body perfect and immortal.9 The process is one of
raising the rasa from the lowest cakra, the seat of sexual passion, up through the
other cakra until it unites with the thousand-petalled lotus in the head. The
technique is one of abstracting and transposing sexual power, avoiding seminal
discharge in order to store semen in the head, as is believed to be done by yogis. It is
said to lead to the realization of absolute truth, a state of supreme bliss that is
expressed in terms of the ecstatic union of male and female ontological
principles.
In the late tenth or early eleventh century Lakshmana Deshika, who came from
Kashmir, wrote a work called Saradatilaka that became especially influential in
eastern India and was much quoted in Vaishnava ritual manuals.10 It described the
Supreme Being (purusottama) as uniting in himself the characteristics of Vishnu as
the husband of Lakshmi, Krishna as lover of the Gopis, and Kama, the god of love.
This inspired further Vaishnava developments of the theme with relation to
Jagannatha, the main deity of Orissa, who was called purusottama and was
identified with Krishna. He was visualized as a god of love who could be meditated
upon by means of the lotus symbolism. This conception was shared by Vaishnavas
of Maharashtra, for whom Krishna was represented by the regional god Vithoba.11
They visualized him in the eight-petalled lotus cakra located in the heart rather than
the thousand-petalled one in the head. In traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda)
the heart is the true location of the mind and the centre of the channels within the
body through which the vital fluids flow. Furthermore, Vaishnava devotion was
concerned with love felt in the heart rather than with the monistic union that takes
place in the highest cakra. Conceptualizations that give precedence to the heart
lotus incorporate the lotus of a thousand petals by visualizing the inner ring of eight
petals as being surrounded by concentric rings of petals, each having twice as many
as the ring it encircles. Such a conception was later applied to Braj, in whjchKrishna
\ \ and jladha were visualized as occupying Ihe centre of the lotus^ located aT
'Wrindab.an^ wjJ^acr^ on the surrounding petals.I2
The Vaishnava sect most strongly influenced by Tantric and Shakta cults was
that of the Sahajiyas of Bengal, whose name derives from their being concerned
with everything that was sahaja ('spontaneous/natural'), a term also used to
describe the ultimate state of being. In their system Krishna and Radha replaced
Shiva and Shakti, representing absolute reality in a state of union of the enjoyer and
the enjoyed.13 Their system was more psychologically orientated than that of the
Tantric schools, since their discipline was one of divinization of the emotions felt in
human love. The Sahajiya doctrines were presumably known to Rup Goswami and
other theologians of the Gaudiya Sampraday, and probably influenced their
conception of the love of Krishna and Radha as something abstracted from the
physical that could lead the devotee to experience a purely emotional and
9 Ibid., chs.VIII-IX, csp. pp.251-5.
10 G. C. Tripathi in Eschmann ct al. (eds.), pp.42-50.
11 See Kichnlc, who calls them 'Nath-Vaishnavas'and refers specifically to Dnyandev.
12 This yogapith concept is dealt with in more detail below, §6.13.
13 For an account of Vaishnava Sahajiya doctrines see Shashibhushan Das Gupta and
Dimock 1966, pp. 177-80.
66


psychological transmutation. In Gaudiya theology, Radha is considered to be a
transfiguration of the blissful power (hlddimsakti) that Krishna made manifest in
order to be able to realize his nature as the eternal enjoyer. These conceptions found
their way into the theology of the other Sampradays and underlie the way in which
Krishna and Radha are extolled and worshipped. The state of union of the divine
couple is generally referred to as yugala, a term borrowed from esoteric yoga. The
term yugala is also used to describe idols of Krishna and Radha when they stand
together in a shrine. One icon of Krishna and Radha shows them with their limbs
entwined, a quasi-androgynous representation known as 'one soul, two bodies' (ek
pran do deh) that recalls Tantric icons showing male and female deities in a sexual
embrace, and reflects the Tantric goal of realizing masculinity and femininity in
one's own body (see plate 4).
3 The nature of Krishna's love
In devotional literature Krishna is described as having the qualities of the typical
hero (ndyaka) of amatory literature. Some theologians also equate him with Kama,
the god of love. Jiv Goswami says that for the women of Braj, Mathura, and
Dwarka he plays the role of Kama and is worshipped by them as such.14 Krishna's
greatest quality is his belovedness; he attracts the soul just as love attracts people to
each other on earth. The love between Krishna and his devotee is mutual, and both
have need of each other. It is through Radha, the Gopis, and thus through his
devotees, that Krishna is able to realize his own blissful nature. It was in order to
achieve this experience that he caused the Gopis, and above all Radha, to become
manifest.
The purpose of Krishna and his whole retinue appearing on earth was to reveal to
mortals the nature of divine love. The love experienced among ordinary mortals is
regarded as a gross transformation of the pure and eternal love that is realized in
Krishna's supernal Vrindaban. Love in its carnal form, which is preoccupied with
gratification, is known as kama; the higher kind of love that does not seek
self-fulfilment is called prema. It can be transposed into an emotion of intense
devotion of the soul towards god, seeking the fulfilment of the divine desires in and
through the whole being. Even though this kind of love is proclaimed to be pure and
transcendent, it is described analogically in theology and literature in terms of
human love, using the imagery and terminology of secular love poetry and erotic
treatises (kamasbstra).
The model chosen is not the relationship between man and wife because, in the
Indian social context, such a relationship is a dutiful one in which love is likely to
become attenuated due to familiarity and formal obligations to each other and the
rest of the family. Krishna enjoyed erotic play with sixteen thousand wives in
Dwarka, but it has never received much attention in devotional literature. In erotic
treatises it is said that women are more passionate if the love affair is an illicit one.
Similarly, classical Sanskrit amatory verse is mainly concerned with the love of an
unmarried couple. Devotional poets look upon extra-marital love as something
14 Krsnasanularbha (115), ad 358.
67


more intense and romantic because it is maintained for its own sake and dares to
transgress normal social conventions. The lovers take more risks and have more to
lose, thus their love is a better example of premct. This first emerged as the dominant
theme of emotional devotion in Tamil Nadu. Shulman has noted that in ancient
Tamil love poems the illicit premarital love of the heroine for a stranger was seen as
the supreme and the most fulfilling state of love, and so the total love of man and
god is enacted in a dimension of disorder in which conventional limits are shattered
and transgressed.15
Although several poets have described the wedding of Krishna and Radha, it
remained a secondary development, a marriage of convenience that has never been
more than a peripheral theme. Nothing is said about the subsequent married life of
the divine couple; their premarital encounters remain the focus of attention. No
interest is shown in Radha as a potential mother or daughter-in-law; she retains
instead the characteristics of the ndyikci of amatory literature, and is thus portrayed
as a deified courtesan rather than a self-effacing and sexless wife. Tantalizing
imagery is used to describe the love between Krishna and Radha, but theological
commentators attempt to camouflage the physical sensuality by giving an abstract
interpretation of the erotic elements. They point out that although the path of
emotional devotion is open to all, it is beset with difficulties and pitfalls; relatively
few devotees can attain the degree of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-control that
is necessary for transposing and transcending the seductive imagery that is used to
convey the message of divine love.
The prevailing view among sects devoted to Krishna is that the human soul
shares some of his infinite qualities, but cannot enjoy them until it is freed from the
misperceptions caused by his power to create illusory appearances.16 The way to
free oneself from delusion is to follow the path of devotion, but without desiring any
selfish reward, for there can be no true devotion if the goal is one's own satisfaction.
Krishna's amorous relationship with Radha and the Gopis is the supreme example
of reciprocal love, and so emulation of the female role is the best way in which a
devotee can enter into a mutual love relationship with Krishna. The devotee should
have no desire for material benefit or self-gratification, but must be intent on
pleasing the beloved, regardless of social and other worldly constraints. The way of
devotion is regarded as superior to the paths of intellectual knowledge (Jjhdna) and
ritual practices (karma); it leads to emotional realization and vicarious enjoyment
of Krishna's sports as a participant or spectator. The supreme condition of the soul
is not one of cessation or extinction of individuality (like yogic samadhi or Buddhist
nirvana), but is a state of communion in which one experiences the eternal flow of
divine love. This type of devotion is similar to the tradition of Tantric yoga in which
sexual union is fantasized, in macrocosmic terms, the purpose being to raise one's
consciousness, denying oneself sexual release in order to harness and transpose
one's sexual energy. By a gradual process of physical and psychological discipline
human love can be dissociated from carnal desire and transformed into a loving
communion with the Supreme Being. It is a blissful state of arrest that arises not
15 Shulman, p. 157.
16 I.e. his maydsakti. For the Gaudiya explanation sec Dimock in Singer (cd.),
pp.46-7.
68


from a denial of the sexual impulse, but from a transposition and purification of
it.17 Having renounced physical consummation with the object of their love, the
Sakhis are content with a kind of voyeurism, doing all they can to bring Krishna
and Radha together, while themselves remaining chaste.
Vaishnava poets often use the phrase 'ocean of rasa (rasa samudra) when
describing some aspect of the beauty of Krishna or Radha, or the sensations felt
when immersing oneself in their love play. This points to a correspondence between
oceanic and orgasmic feelings, evoking fantasies of plunging into a sea of unlimited
sexual experience, of becoming both man and woman in the mystic process of
achieving union with the universe.18 This experience contrasts with the standard
yogic goal of sharpening one's consciousness and suppressing distracting sensual
thoughts. Devotional literature is full of phrases referring to immersion in joy,
swooning, horripilating, forgetting oneself, no longer being responsible for one's
behaviour, of being enchanted, stunned, transfixed, or spellbound by Krishna.
4 Love in separation (viraha)
Sexual union (sambhoga) is not the only way of experiencing love; it can also be felt
intensely in a condition of separation from one's beloved (viraha or viyoga). This
type of love, or yearning, is closer to the everyday experience of the devotee, in view
of the virtual absence of any opportunity for passionate romantic attachment in
real life, and the impossibility of consummating one's love with a god who cannot
be realized within the human dimensions of time and space. Love in separation was
felt by Radha and the Gopis when Krishna abandoned them, temporarily while
they danced the rasa, and definitively when he left for Mathura and Dwarka. The
longing felt by a woman in the absence of her beloved is a stock theme in classical
and popular literature. It was used in a devotional context by the Alvar poets of
Tamil Nadu and was current in vernacular poetry throughout the the medieval
period", notably in the rcisau ballads of western India, the mystical romances of the
Sufis, and the poems of Vidyapati.19 For the devotional poets of Braj the
abandonment of Radha and the Gopis was the most poignant theme in the whole
mythology. Tt]r^"gh U (Jre^r^jj^^ emotive pexceplioiL of the^
conditionojjhgj^a^ waslheirequivalent of renimcITfioiT;^"ftrf-fhey-
1 ikened-fh^pangs of separation to a fire that burns one up (virahanala), jusi as in
traditional asceticism austerity generated internal heat (tapas) and sexual restraint
was a means of storing up this fiery energy.
Although Krishna is said to miss the Gopis, their longing for him is much more
intense, in accordance with the theological notion that the soul suffers more than
the god from whom it is separated. The desired aim is not union with Lb.e
transcendent, for such a state is impossible in the Vaishnava conception of the
17 Shashibhushan Das Gupta, p. 147, with reference to the Vaishnava Sahajiyas.
13 See Masson 1980, p.72, for fuller treatment of 'oceanic feeling' in psychological
terms.
19 See F. Hardy 1983/1 for an account of the beginnings of virahabhakti in South India in
the 6th or 7th century; McGregor 1984, cf. index under virahf afor medieval Hindi
literature; and Hawley 1984, ch.4, for a discussion of the theme in Sur sugar.
69


nature of the soul and god. They are viewed as being qualitatively the same, but the
individual soul does not ultimately dissolve into the great universal soul, as in the
monistic theological systems.
Mystical love in separation serves as an ideal substitute for involvement in a
human love relationship. It is pure, orgasm is postponed, the state of desire and
arousal is prolonged, the beloved is abstracted, there is more scope for idealization,
and since the lovers remain apart there is less chance of rejection or disappointment.
Xhej^ndition of love iji separation^thus_aD^ndTnJts^ejfLthe intensity of one's
longing increases in^propprtion to^the degree of love. Rather than being a form of
withdrawrbTadmi^sioTi'of defeat, it i^a^sMtejpT-sustained emotional involvement,
the ul.timate^xpeiippcej^ Emotional identification with the
Gopis is the only means by which the forlorn soul can relate to the absolute from
which it is ontologically separate. The fact that the devotee's emotional drive to
unite is frustrated in separation reconfirms, in the words of Friedhelm Hardy, the
basic validity of his full human existence, his anthropocentrism, his 'flesh and
blood'.20
5 Eschatology
The form of dualism expounded by Vaishnava theologians meant that salvation
was not seen as a state of total liberation or merging into a monistic absolute.
Several passages in the Bhdgavatapurana declare that the ultimate goal is not
liberation (mukti).21 Instead, the highest destiny of the soul is to participate in the
transcendent play of Krishna. This is reflected in terms for death that are current
among his worshippers. When referring to the demise of a fellow devotee they use
phrases that denote his proceeding to the eternal realm of Krishna (nitya dham me
padhdmd), his entry into the divine play (Iliaproves), his admission into the bower
in which it takes place (nikunj gaman, nikunj lild me proves), his taking up residence
in the bower (nikunj vas), or his attaining the dust of Braj or Vrindaban
(braj/brinddvan raj kT prapti). Devotees hope that they will be granted a permanent
place as a Gopi in Krishna's highest heaven. Some have even declared that they will
feel blessed if they are reborn as some lower element in the eternal sport of Krishna,
a desire expressed in the Bhagavatapurdna by Brahma, in the course of a eulogy to
Krishna.22 He hoped that he would have the good fortune to be reborn among the
inhabitants of the cowherd settlement or forest frequented by Krishna, in any form
whatever, so that he would have the privilege of bathing in the dust of the feet of one
of Krishna's entourage. Similarly, when Uddhava returned to Braj to console the
Gopis he was so impressed by their devotion to Krishna that he declared his wish to
be reincarnated as a shrub, creeper, or herb of Vrindaban so that he might catch the
dust kicked up by their feet.23
20 F. Hardy 1983/1, p.546, in the course of his evaluation of virahabhakti, pp.542 ff.
21 E.g. BhP 3.25.34, 9.4.67, 10.83.41-2, 11.14.14, 11.20.34.
22 BhP 10.14.30 ff.
23 BhP 10.47.61-3.
70


Reincarnation is not something to be avoided, so long as one is reborn in Braj and
has the chance of serving Krishna and participating in his divine play. The poet
Raskhan expressed his thoughts concerning his next life in a poem that virtually
everyone in Braj has memorized:24
Should I be a man, then let me, Raskhan,
mingle there with the herdsmen of Gokul.
If as a beast, then how should I live
but ever grazing among the cows of Nanda?
If a stone, then one of the very hill that he made
an umbrella for Braj against the torrents of Indra.
If as a bird, then let me dwell for ever
in the boughs of a kadamba on the banks of the Yamuna.
6 The ontology of the sacred places
To wonder whether Brahma, Uddhava, and Raskhan are referring to a heavenly or
earthly realm would be to miss the point that the transcendent is thought to pervade
the terrestrial. Devotees believe that the earthly Braj is imbued with the heavenly
one and that it is necessary to develop the kind of sensibility that allows one to
appreciate this. A fundamental concept underlying the motivation for pilgrimage to
Braj is that Krishna's activities, while they once occurred on earth in historical time,
are by no means over and done with. They are not remote events that nowadays
serve as no more than an allegory of how we should relate to god, but are being
enacted eternally on a plane that transcends the world of our blinkered everyday
experience. Krishna, who is not just another incarnation of Vishnu but the supreme
manifestation of godhead, resides in his highest heaven where he is continually
engaged in the sports that he once performed on earth. His dalliance with Radha
serves to evoke the experiences of human love, but-theJandscgpe in which Jhey_
disport ijLgEflprous rathe r than_gcographicaJL_the se11ing is neither social no_r
j^toricajr-but^gnsuous.25 Krishna's exploits are envisaged as taking place on a
different plane, in^rLother dimeriSLon of time_and space. As earthbound mortals we
are constrained by rules and obligations, but by worshipping Krishna we can
identify with a being who is free from all restrictions of time and place. Because of
the correspondence between contemporary Braj and the transcendent realm of
Krishna the pilgrims and residents of the sacred centre are encouraged to experience
what may be called a place and moment 'in and out of time'.26
Vaishnava theologians differentiate between Krishna's manifest (prakata) and
unmanifest (aprakata) play, the former being cognizable in the phenomenal world,
24 Raskhcin-ratncivall, p.73. The poem is usually placed at the beginning of editions of
Raskhan's poems.
25 See Kakar 1985, pp.75-6.
26 A phrase borrowed from Turner 1974, p. 197.
71


the latter being enacted on a transcendent plane.27 In the manifest play Krishna
moves between Mathura, Braj, and Dwarka, but in the unmanifest play he is
eternally present in his transcendant Vrindaban. The term used to refer to Krishna's
realm is dhanumj\\\r\j& may be definecLas-the-plaee-where divine ;
power is located, a 'refraction' or. 'embodiment' of thc-divine, a dwelling place
imbtrechwfrh radiance.28/TKcTword dhdm is regularly used to refer to Vrindaban,
the earthly counterpart of Krishna's heavenly abode, and is also used for other
places of pilgrimage where one of the gods became manifest on earth.
There are two heavenly spheres, named Goloka and Vaikuntha. Goloka, 'the
world of the cows', is the exclusive abode of Krishna and his entourage where he
sports eternally with the Gopis. In comparison, Vaikuntha is a rather staid place
where the pleasures indulged in by Vishnu-Narayana do not transgress conven-
tional norms. Sanatan Goswami describes the spiritual quest of a devotee named
Gopakumara, who yearns for a vision of Krishna.29 He goes to Vaikuntha,
Ayodhya (the realm of Rama), and Dwarka, but learns that his goal can only be
realized if he manages to get to Goloka. This is because Vaikuntha, Ayodhya, and
Dwarka are realms where the majesty (aisvarya) of Krishna is manifest, which
means that in those places he inspires awe rather than love. The feeling of love can
only arise in a more 'down to earth' environment in which Krishna can relate to.
people on a more human level. Sanatan Goswami makes it clear that the heaven of
Goloka is synonymous with the realm of Braj (vrajadhaman) and can only be
obtained by devotees who fix their minds on the pastimes that Krishna enacts
there.
Rup Goswami said that Mathura, because Krishna was born there, is superior to
Vaikuntha and Goloka. Residence in Mathura leads not to liberation, as is the case
with other sacred places, but to the realization of devotion. Vrindaban is even
higher than Mathura because the rasa was danced there, but even higher is
Govardhan because Krishna lifted it up with his blessed fingers. Here, he says, the
most important place is Radhakund, because the essence of divine love (premarasa)
flowed there.30
Jiv Goswami also discourses upon the nature of Dwarka, Mathura, and Gokul
or Vrindaban, the three realms (dhaman) of Krishna, stressing above all the
supernal quality of everything in Vrindaban.31 The places on earth where Krishna
spent his life are his dhaman, but besides being geographical locations they also have
a transcendent nature. Gokul is that part of the Vaikuntha heaven where Krishna
and Balarama play, and is ultimately identical with the heavenly realm of Goloka.
Vrindaban is defined as being either the same as Goloka or as a region within it. The
27 The terms arc used in Brhadhrahmasamhita, see below § 6.13, and were taken up by the
Gaudiya theologians.
28 See Gonda and Eck, p.289.
29 In the second part of Brhadbhdgavatdmrta; see 2.5.82-89 for his remarks on
aisvarya.
30 Bhaktirasdmrtasindhu 1.2.237 fif.
31 Krsnasamdarbha, anuccheda 105 fT., in the light of Brahma's eulogy in BhP 10.14.30 IT.
Jiv Goswami also discusses the nature of Vrindaban and Gokula/Goloka in his
Digdarscmitikd.
72


heavenly realms are thus considered to be immanent in their terrestrial counter-
parts. Sanatan Goswami says that all the participants in the play are eternal, just
like Krishna himself. His various llld are performed over and over again. Though he
goes to Mathura, he never really abandons the people of Braj because his moving
from one place to another is just an apparent withdrawl. The earthly region of
Mathura (mathurdmgndala) and the pastimes enacted there are the same as those
that take place in Goloka.32
Jiv Goswami gives a more subtle definition of the difference between heaven and
earth.33 He says that in Goloka only the unmanifest play (apvakrtalila) is
performed, whereas in the earthly dhaman both the manifest and unmanifest forms
take place. The transcendent play of Goloka cannot be perceived, described, or
enactedlnThe phenomenal world. Krishna and his entourage can become manifest
on earth, but they are not of it and are not tainted by contact (sparsa) with it. The
realm of Krishna is beyond the power of illusion (mayatita), and so it cannot be
argued that the earthly dhaman is unreal and no different from any other place on
earth, or is nowadays no more than a location where the divine play once took
place. Krishna is still immanent in his earthly dhaman, just as he is present in his
idols. The process by which the celestial realm appears on earth is similar to that by
which Krishna becomes incarnate; in becoming manifest they both became visible
to the human eye. All of Krishna's sports are taking place simultaneously and
eternally in the transcendent sphere, while on the terrestrial plane they are perceived
as occurring sequentially in different earthly locations. His apparent movement
from one place to another is a feature of the manifest realm. Vrindaitanr-the
teixcstriaLGoloka., is jusp_a^niimpheaamen^a^h£Lixj^tial one, but through^
KrishnaVi-nsomtable power it appears as a ternporaLaacLphonomenai mani#sfa^
tion-ef-it ..in order to help benighted mortals comprehend the true nature of
reality.
Devotees of all Sampradays recognize this kind of distinction betweeen a
transcendent and terrestrial realm and regard the difference between them as
qualitative and related to the nature of a god who is both immanent and
transcendent. Followers of the Pushtimarg regularly distinguish between things
that are laukik belonging to the gross material world, and that which is alaukik -
'other-worldly' or 'transcendent'.34 Members of the Radhavallabh Sampraday,
however, hold that the actual Vrindaban is the real and only one, but that its
transcendent nature is imperceptible to those who are entramelled by delusion
(may FA A5 -However the^iffkrenre is perceived andjbrmulated. alLagreelhat the
phenomenal Vrindaban is a manifestation of an eternal and transcendent realm
that can.be experienced by those who have cultivafe^the_a^prop.riate devotional
atMude._Ajiyone can go to Braj, but only those with purified and refined senscsxaiL
perceive its transcendent dimension. Just as Krishna's amorous sports take place in
32 Sanatan Goswami, ibid., csp. 2.5.54-5 & 165-71, 2.6.352-9 & 372-5.
33 Krsnasamdarhha, ibid. Sanatan simply distinguishes between Goloka and 'earth'
(hhurloka) or 'the world of mortals' (martyaloka).
34 See, for example, Dwarkeshji's Bhciv hhdvnci, pp.71-5.
35 As noted by P. Mital 1968, p.390.
73


s^cVyrd^d ja^y^ejcs or in the inner recesses of the temple,jsQjhey are perceptible only tp^
the inner eye and are'rh^ditat^ of the devotee.
As evidence of the special nature of Vrindaban, Jiv quotes some verses from Rup
Goswami's Mathurdmdhdtmya that refer to a kadamba tree beside the pool of
Kaliya that astonishes pundits by blossoming and remaining fragrant all the year
round, and an asoka tree at Brahmakund that bursts into flower every year on the
twelfth day of the bright half of the month of Vaishakh.36 Stories abound of
miraculous indications of the transcendant nature of Braj and Krishna's continual
presence there. Vaishnava hagiographies and oral tradition tell how Krishna
appeared before various devotees in the form of a beautiful child. Among followers
of the Pushtimarg there is a belief that Krishna, as represented by the deity of
Shrinathji, returns nightly to Braj by an underground tunnel that connects the
temple at Nathdwara with its original site at Govardhan, so that he can dance in the
groves of Vrindaban. Attachment to Braj among devotees is expressed by their
veneration of the dust of Braj (braj raj). Some devotees smear it over their
foreheads or use it to make the sectarian tilak mark. Pellets of earth from Brahmand
Ghat, a place near Mahaban where the infant Krishna is believed to have put dirt
into his mouth, are sold for this purpose under the name of'butter clay' (makhan
mattl). The dark-coloured clay from Radhakund is also used for drawing the tilak
or to make rosaries.
In order to cultivate the emotions essential for participation in the sports of
Krishna, it is thought necessary to centre one's heart on the transcendental
Vrindaban. The notion that Krishna's heavenly realm is immanent in Braj.has
spawned a number of visionSTfyHescriptiolT^ landscapes. Krishnadas
Kaviraj, after giving an extravagant description of Radhakund and the jewelled
pavilions, bowers, and pools that surround it, says that such a luxuriant
environment becomes apparent only to those who manage successfully to attain a
state of empathy with the divine sport, while to those who fail to cultivate such an
attitude it appears only in its phenomenal form.37 Elsewhere he says that
Vrindaban is the crest-jewel of the earth, a forest of wish-granting trees that appears
as an illusion to material eyes and manifests its true form only to those who look
upon it with the eyes of love.38 Many other devotees composed panegyrics
describing the transcendental beauty of Vrindaban and Braj, praising it as a
timeless realm where everything remains fresh and green, where Krishna and the
Gopis continually enjoy themselves in various seasonal surroundings. While
declaring its beauty to be beyond the power of words and the scope of our
imagination, they attempt to convey the wonder of it by describing the ground as
being like gold, and the pavilions, arbours, and ever-blossoming trees and creepers
as being studded with all kinds of precious gems.39 Several works describe the
36 Krsnasamdarbha 105.332-5/R 409-410, 399-400.
37 GLA 7.119: lilcinukulesu janesu cittesutpannabhdvesu ca sddhakdndm / evam vidham
sarvamidam cakcisti svarupatah prdkrtavat paresu.
38 Viz. prema, CC 1.5.17-18.
39 The most notable works of this type arc Anandavrnddvanacampu of Kavi Karnapura,
Vrnddvanamahinuimrta of Prabodhanand Saraswati, and Vrnddvan sat of Dhruvdas.
Later examples of the genre are Ban jan prasamsd of Nagaridas and Vrnddvan jas prakds
beli of Chacha Vrindabandas.
74


spiritual Vrindaban in terms of a lotus, a meditative visualization derived from
Tantric diagrams of the thousand-petalled lotus at the crown of the head.40
Terrestrial Braj, especially Vrindaban, is the place most congenial for the
realization of emotional devotion, not only because it is the earthly location of
Krishna's manifest play, but also because one can benefit from the company of
other devotees who reside there. Many of the devotees who have taken up residence
there declare that they have no intention of ever going outside of Braj because bhciv
and ras are more readily attainable there than in any other place of pilgrimage. The
merits of residing in Mathura, Braj, or Vrindaban are mentioned in some of the
Sanskrit mahatmya texts that deal with the sacred area.41 They declare that people
who reside in Mathura become godlike and have a better chance of gaining spiritual
attainment through the Lord's grace. All creatures who live there, even insects, will
attain liberation; the benefits of living there are greater than those earned by
someone who does penance by standing on one leg for a thousand ages. The
mdhdtmya compiled by Rup Goswami includes verses that warn of the dire
consequences of showing disrespect to the inhabitants of Mathura, state that those
who live there dwell in close proximity to Hari, those who bathe in the Yamuna are
better than all other classes of men, and that even the untouchables of Mathura are
to be considered most pure.
Hariram Vyas, who lived in Vrindaban in the latter part of the sixteenth century,
praises it as a place of eternal erotic play where the devotee may experience the
spontaneous love that transcends the barriers of worldly propriety and scriptural
injunction (loka and veda).42 Because it is unaffected by time and the web of mciya,
the birds continually sing and the flowers are always in bloom. It is the capital of all
those who are receptive to sublime aesthetic feelings (rasikana ki rcijadhani), where
one may experience the bliss that arises from beholding Krishna and Radha.
Residence in Vrindaban offers the best chance of attaining, in the role of a female
attendant upon Krishna and Radha, the full experience of the eternal and
transcendent dimensions of the environment in which they sported. He even goes so
far as to wish that he may be like a dog of Vrindaban that has the privilege of
feeding upon the left-over food of the inhabitants of Braj. However, unlike most
other poets, he gives us something more than fulsome praise. He was not so
idealistic as to ignore the presence of hypocrisy and corruption, a blemish
attributed to the degenerate age in which we now live (viz. kali yug). He declares
that iL is no use Hvingan Vrindaban if one merely displays outeard-signs-oL
religiosity while at heart.one isintep^tedonlyin ^ and sensual.pleasure.
TJie ainv-of -re^idejice in Vrindaban should be. to cultivate the right_emotional
..receptivity, not to enrich oneseff by hofdiiyg people in the.thrall of magic and spells.
His awareness that competition for clients had already begun to vitiate the
atmosphere is apparent from his complaint that religious leaders of different
persuasions had become envious and hostile towards each other.43
40 Sec above §3.2 and below §6.13
41 VP 150.21-23, 156.5, 163.49-59/R 329-343/VM, pp.416-7/PP 73.46-7.
42 See pad 38-57, 127-147, 253-269 in the edition of Vasudev Goswami.
43 Ibid., pad 142: svdmJ, bhatta, gusCii aganita mati kari gati dear am / priti parasapara
karata na kabahii, mitai na hiya kl jar am.
75


7 Manifestations of devotion
How and to what extent are the theoretical analyses of the theologians expressed in
religious practice? The Bhcigavatapurcma gives a classic enumeration of nine
activities that constitute the necessary spiritual discipline for a devotee: hearing
about Vishnu's deeds, singing his praises, remembering him, attendance upon his
feet, worshipping him, adoring him, servitude, friendship, and surrendering oneself
to him.44 These nine activities somewhat overlap and are variously incorporated in
different forms of devotional practice. Elsewhere the Bhcigavatapurcma gives a more
general description of how devotion should be cultivated by saying that we should
begin by resorting to a preceptor under whose guidance the ways of devotion are
learnt.45 The devotee should cultivate humility, equanimity, and detachment from
worldly things, exercise self-restraint, study and listen to the scriptures, dedicate
everything he has to the Lord, and continually remember him so that his devotion
turns into a rapturous experience of divine love, expressed by singing and dancing,
as well as by peaceful contemplation. Krishnadas Kaviraj enumerates five practical
means of cultivating devotion that might serve as headings for classifying religious
activity: association with other righteous people (sddhucisahga), singing the names
of the Lord, listening to the Bhcigavatapurana, dwelling in Mathura, and serving a
deity.46
In all these forms of worship the main concern is with immersing oneself in an
appropriate devotional mood, with cultivating hhclv. Such involvement manifests
itself when devotees stare at a deity and admire the way it is dressed and decorated.
It is also manifested when one of them is inspired to dance or sing in front of the
deity, or when he is touched by hearing about an episode in the life of Krishna, or
when he becomes convinced or, to view it more cynically, when he wishes to
convince others that he can hear Radha's anklets tinkling at night in one of the
groves of Vrindaban. Devotees who shed tears when they relate one of the Krishna
legends are also showing us the depth of their bhav. The tears may arise from a
nostalgic yearning to return to the Arcadian Braj of their fantasy, or from the
rapture that flows through the soul when it is overwhelmed by emotional
involvement in the activities of Krishna. The delirium, raving, and swooning of
Chaitanya serve as a classic example of how a devotee can become possessed by
intense emotions.
Religious celebrations, enactment of the Krishna legend, temple decoration, and
devotional songs have their own kind of aesthetic that is not based on purely artistic
criteria. Symbolic and conceptual considerations tend to predominate over purely
artisitic ones. The trend in recent years has been for subtle ways of evoking bhav and
ras to be replaced by vulgar ostentation. Being seen to be doing the right thing has
begun to predominate over doing it well. Expansion and commercialization of the
pilgrimage industry, its development as a mass phenomenon, has encouraged the
44 BhP 7.5.23: sravanam kTrtanam visnoh smaranam pddasevanam / arcanam vandanam
ddsyam sakhyam dtmanivedanam. See Gail for a detailed account of bhakti in BhP, and
Hopkins in Singer (ed.), pp.7 ff., with reference to its social context.
45 BhP 11.3.21-33.
46 CC 2.22.125.
76


tendency to be demonstrative. At any religious gathering in India loudspeakers are
the most obtrusive symptom of this decline in taste and refinement. It is not merely
symptomatic of an obsession with technology, but is done with the intention of
attracting peoples' attention, of broadcasting the fact that one is doing something
holy.
It is generally believed that taking initiation from a guru is a prerequisite for
anyone wishing to follow the path of a devotee and become a recipient of Krishna's
grace. The guru is regarded as someone who has managed to free himself from the
trammels of mciyci and who, by virtue of his contact with the divine, can act as a
channel through which grace can pass from god to man. The procedure for
initiation is basically the same as for any Hindu sect. The initiate brings the guru
offerings of cloth and fruit, is asked to repeat some formulae, after which the guru
whispers a secret mantra that he should repeat during his daily prayers and
contemplation, then confers upon him a rosary of beads made from the wood of the
sacred basil (tulsl), and a picture or small idol that he can worship as his personal
deity. Lay devotees are usually householders and take initiation when young from
the family of gurus who initiated their father, thus people generally retain their
affiliation to the sect to which their forefathers belonged. Later, like ascetics, they
may take a second initiation from a religious leader or teacher whose charisma
impresses them.
By becoming initiated one joins a community of the faithful. Despite the
egalitarian attitudes professed in certain texts and in the sayings of various saints,
caste barriers are usually rigidly maintained among Vaishnavas. In part this may
have been motivated by a desire on the part of brahmins to retain their monopoly
over the temples. Vaishnavas are particularly scrupulous in their observance of
purity regulations, especially in anything to do with preparation of food and the
worship of a deity. Low caste, even Muslim, initiates are mentioned in the
Pushtimarg hagiographical vdrtd literature, but in practice their presence is
shunned. Statements attributed to Chaitanya say that devotion was more
important than caste, but he himself left the question open and took no real
reformist position.47 He professed the supremacy of devotion, but maintained
conventional purity regulations, with the result that there is no common policy
among different groups within the Gaudiya Sampraday. The Vrindaban Goswamis
took an anti-caste stance, but in their temples the rituals followed an orthodox
pattern, as formulated by Gopal Bhatt in Haribhaktivilasa, though he did allow
non-brahmins to act as preceptors to their equals and inferiors.48
Each sect has its own preferred manual giving details of the way Krishna should
be worshipped. Such works are based primarily on Pancharatra ritual texts and
probably derive from the form of ritual that evolved at Shrirangam and other
Vaishnava temples in South India.49 The different manuals cover a similar range of
topics, varying only in minor details and, in their description of how a deity should
be served, generally include the conventional sixteen acts of homage (sodasopa-
47 Dimock 1966, pp.78-80.
48 De, p.343.
49 Sec J. Filliozat in his introduction to R. V. Joshi, pp.6-7.
77


cdra). They are comprised of quotations attributed to various Puranas, Tantras,
smrti texts, and obscure and usually untraceable branches of the Vedas. The earliest
manuals of Vaishnava ritual appear to have been composed by Aniruddha Bhatta
and Halayudha, and towards the beginning of the fifteenth century Shulapani
wrote three works on specific rituals.50 The relatively late Vaishnava Gautanuya-
tcmtra is frequently quoted by some of the Vrindaban Goswamis of the Gaudiya
Sampraday, including Gopal Bhatt.51 His Haribhaktivildsa, perhaps composed
under the supervision of Sanatan Goswami, is one of the most comprehensive
compilations dealing with the worship of Krishna. It is the authoritative manual for
members of the Gaudiya Sampraday, but all other Krishna sects by and large
observe similar rituals and practices.52 Among the topics dealt with in such works
are the daily ablutions and rituals that should be performed by individual devotees,
sectarian marks drawn on the body, initiation, rosaries, the construction and
consecration of temples, the making and installation of images, their worship, and
the celebration of festivals.
8 Idols and epithets
The most central activity in devotion to Krishna is adoration of him in the form of
an image. The Bhdgavatapurdna states that devotion consists of worshipping
images, celebrating festivals in temples, caring for images and temples in the
manner of a servant, and offering the image all the good things that one desires for
oneself.53 This form of worship, referred to as 'service' (sevd), requires continual
attendance upon the deity. One should be preoccupied not with one's own needs but
with ministering to those of the image. It is regarded as a living presence endowed
with human feelings. It has to be woken up, bathed, dressed, fed, entertained, and
put to sleep; in winter it is given a quilt and gloves, in summer it is scantily clad in
light garments and smeared with sandal paste to keep it cool. Though the image is
supposed to represent Krishna as a cowherd boy, it is, like other Vaishnava deities,
treated as if it were a king or prince. By regaling the deity as if it has human tastes
and needs a connection is established between man and god, and between the
mundane and the transcendent.
Technical terms for the image of a deity are vigraha ('individual form or shape,
figure'), murti ('embodiment'), and svarupa ('own form') referring to Krishna's
ultimate or real nature rather than his physical form, which is simply rupa. The most
popular term in common parlance is thakurjl, meaning 'lord', a term also used to
refer to a feudal landlord, master, or chief. Krishna is often called braj raj ('King of
50 Viz. ckddasi-, dolaydtrd-, and rasaydtrdviveka, cf. R. Chakravarti 1977, p. 110.
51 See Goudriaan & Gupta, pp. 105-6, and their discussion of other Vaishnava Tantras in
the same chapter.
52 Sec R. V. Joshi for a summary of the contents of Haribhaktivildsa, with occasional
reference to other texts, and Entwistle 1982, pp. 11 -12 & bibliography, for manuals used
in the different Vaishnava Sampradays.
53 BhP 9.11.34-41, see also 9.27 where procedure for purifying oneself and serving an
image is described as a combination of Vedic and Tantric rites.
78


Braj'), and in later literature the homes of Nanda and Radha's father Vrishabhanu
are described as having all the luxuries that one would expect to find in a princely
mansion, and which are appropriate for the courtly hero of classical amatory
verse.
The most revered images are those which are believed to be 'self-manifested'
(svayam prakat). Some of them are said to have been dug out of the ground or
discovered in a nearby pond, usually after their presence was revealed to a saint in a
dream. It is said that Shrinathji emerged gradually out of the hill of Govardhan, and
that a scilagrdm stone worshipped by Gopal Bhatt metamorphosed into the deity of
Radharaman. Shrinathji at Govardhan and Govind Dev at Vrindaban came to
light because a cow used to shed its milk on the ground beneath which they lay a
standard theme in stories told about the discovery of deities.
Krishna is represented in various postures or manifestations which are referred
to by epithets that usually serve as a name for the temple in which they are
enshrined. He is most commonly represented standing in the tribhahga posture,
which means that his limbs are 'bent in three places' his head inclines slightly to
one side, the upper half of his body is bent in the opposite direction at the waist, and
his right calf is crossed in front of his left shin with the ball of his right foot resting on
the ground. Since this is the characteristic posture he adopts when playing the flute,
his hands are raised beside his right shoulder (see plate 5). The flute is separate from
the image and is placed in his hands in the daytime and removed at night. Names for
this type of image are Gopal, Sakshi Gopal, Govind, Muralidhar, Muralimanohar,
Gopinath, Bihari, Mohan, Madanmohan, and Madangopal all epithets relating to
Krishna as playing the flute while grazing the cows or enchanting the Gopis and
enticing them to join him for the ras dance. Another name is Murari, meaning
'Enemy of Mura' a demon slain by Vishnu. The flute-playing images are the ones
most commonly accompanied by Radha, who stands gracefully at his left side.
Epithets that emphasize his relationship with Radha are Radharaman, Radha-
madhav, Radhakant, and Radhavallabh; others that denote their interdependence
and joint worship are Jugal Kishor, Shyama-Shyam, and Larili-Lal. Three
'self-manifested' deities of Vrindaban, called Banke Bihari, Radhavallabh, and
Radharaman, are not accompanied by an image of Radha; instead she is
represented by her name or a coronet (mukut) placed on a cushion beside
Krishna.
Another common type of image shows Krishna standing up straight with his left
arm raised in order to lift Mount Govardhan, which may or may not be shown in his
hand. This type of image is called Giridhar or Giridhari, though both names are
often used for flute-playing images. The most famous example is Shrinathji, an
abbreviated form of Shri Govardhan Nathji, the main deity of the Pushtimarg (see
plates 12 & 14). Some temples have, as a main or subsidiary idol, an image of
Krishna as an infant crawling on his hands and knees with his right hand raised and
holding a sweet (laddu) or lump of butter. Images of this type, which first appeared
independently (other than in narrative panels) in the eleventh century,54 are called
Navanitapriy ('Fond of cream or butter') or Laddu Gopal.
54 Hawley 1983, p.75.
79


Some images of Krishna are variations of the standard icon of Vishnu. They
depict him standing with four hands, two raised and two hanging down, in which he
holds a lotus, discus, conch, and mace. Sometimes the lower hands are shown
making the classic iconographical gestures of benediction or giving. Such Krishna
images are associated with his regal life at Dwarka and are referred to as
Dwarkadhish, Dwarkanath, or Chaturbhuj. This is the type of Vasudeva or
Krishna image that is described in older iconographical and ritual texts. Haridev
and Keshav, two of the oldest images of Krishna/Vishnu recorded as being
worshipped in Mathura, appear to have been of this type.55 After the sixteenth
century such images remained popular only in the Pushtimarg, probably because of
its connection with Gujarat, where this type of icon was and still is popular.56 The
persistence of four-armed images in Gujarat is also evident from illustrated
manuscripts of Bilvamangala's Bcilagopdlastuti dating from the fifteenth to the
seventeenth century. They depict Krishna with four arms, even when playing his
flute in the company of the Gopis. In sects other than the Pushtimarg this type of
image is regarded as representing the sovereignty (aisvarya) that Krishna assumed
after leaving Braj and settling in Dwarka, and so it is considered less appropriate for
the emotional type of devotion than the two-armed forms.
The flute-playing image, which in Braj eventually superseded the four-armed
ones, was probably introduced and popularized by devotees from eastern India,
where it appears to have been popular from the fifteenth century.57 Nevertheless,
Gopal Bhatt, writing in the sixteenth century, makes only passing reference to the
two-armed version but describes the variations of the four-handed type in detail,
even though they had become far less current and were less suited to the evocation
of Krishna's childhood and youthful adventures.58 This is probably due to his
reliance on older texts and his desire to follow orthodox forms of ritual.
Radha, who has a few temples in Braj dedicated primarily to her, is often called
Shriji (an epithet of Lakshmi), Lariliji ('darling'), and Thakurani or, among
members of the Pushtimarg, Swaminiji which both mean 'mistress' (in the
non-sexual sense). Sometimes she is referred to as Vrindabaneshwari ('Lady of
Vrindaban'), and sometimes as Nagari, counterpart of Krishna as Nagar two
epithets that derive from their association with the urbane and sophisticated hero
and heroine of amatory literature. Radha and Krishna images may also be
55 See below §4.6
56 The most famous are Shamlaji in Saba Kantha District and Ranchhor at Dwarka.
57 Vaudeville in Hawlcy and Wulfif (cds.), pp. 10-11. refers to the account in CC 2.4-5 of
Chaitanya's visit to images of Gopinath at Remuna and Sakshi Gopal in Cuttack, both
of which she says depict a flute-playing Krishna. In the Balasore Gazetteer, however,
the Rcmuna figure is described as a crudely-fashioned image with, apparently, no
distinct iconographical attributes.
58 The flute-playing Krishna is referred to in HBV 7, and the varieties of four-armed image
(including kesava, mddhava, samkarsana, govinda, ndrdyana, padnumdbha, ddmodara,
trivikrama, and vdniana) in HBV 52.168-175 and 18. The earliest reference to the epithet
govinda appears to be the govindasvdmT mentioned in an inscription dated 448 from
Baigram (Bogra Distt.), probably referring to the four-armed type of deity of the
Bhagavata cult, cf. EI 21 pp.81 ff. and S. K. Sarasvati in JISOA 8, pp.151 flf.
80


accompanied by one or more Sakhis. There are a few temples called Ashtasakhi
Mandir in which all eight Sakhis are enshrined together. In Gaudiya temples images
of Chaitanya and Nityanand are placed alongside the main deities and, as in
Bengal, there are some temples dedicated solely to Chaitanya.
Balarama may also be enshrined alongside Krishna, as well as being worshipped
in temples dedicated to him alone. He is regularly shown with a seven-hooded
serpent rearing over his head and holds either a cup or a plough.59 A popular
epithet for him in Braj is Dauji, referring to his status as Krishna's elder brother.
Sometimes, because of his fair complexion, images of him are called Gore Dauji. He
is usually accompanied by his consort Revati, who is iconographically similar to
Radha. Apart from the above deities there are a few other temples in Braj dedicated
to particular manifestations of Krishna or to other incarnations of Vishnu, and a
few with images of family members of Krishna and Radha.
Rituals performed in all Vaishnava temples follow the same basic pattern. At
home devotees may tend for their personal household deities, but in public temples
only male brahmins who have custody of the image, or other brahmins who are
appointed by them, are allowed to enter the shrine. Bathing and dressing the image
is always done behind closed doors. Before the attendant priests can enter the shrine
and handle the image they have to purify themselves by bathing and putting on
clean clothes. In order to preserve their purity they are careful to avoid physical
contact with visitors when handing out consecrated food and holy water.
Preparation of food and other offerings in adjacent rooms of the temple is also
strictly governed by rules for maintaining ritual purity. In some cases, as in temples
of the Pushtimarg, lay people may be permitted to lend a hand in the preliminary
stages of preparing offerings, but only in tasks that do not result in the transfer of
impurity.
In addition to the worship of images, Vaishnavas also revere the sdlagrdm, a kind
of smooth and rounded black stone, usually marked with fossilized ammonites and
other molluscs, that is found in the bed of the Gandak river, which flows through
Nepal and joins the Ganges at Patna.60 They are worshipped as representing
Vishnu and are often placed in shrines containing an image of him or one of his
incarnations. According to their shape, colouring, and distinctive markings they
are related to different manifestations of Vishnu and are regarded as having special
properties and effects. Worship of them is recommended as a regular part of daily
ritual and may be performed by women and low caste people, who are not normally
allowed to handle an image of a deity. They are worshipped in conjunction with the
tulslor sacred basil plant (Occimum sanctum) that is particularly sacred to Vishnu.
Members of the Nimbark Sampraday show special reverence for the sdlagrdm.
Their leading guru, who bears the title of Shriji Maharaj, has a particularly sacred
one called Shri Sarveshwar that is believed to have been inherited from the founders
of the sect. Some devotees also worship stones from the Govardhan hill as
embodying Krishna and keep them in their domestic shrines. Most of the Krishna
temples of Braj have a pedestal in their courtyard on which grows a tulsT plant,
59 Images in bold relief showing him with a cup arc to be seen at Tarsi, Jikhangaon,
Kamai, Baldeo, and in the Assi Khambha temple at Mahaban.
60 For details of how to worship a sdlagrdm sec HBV 5.
81


around which is placed one or more such stones. The presence of tulsixs essential for
any Krishna temple and at the time of its installation the plant is ceremonially
married to him. Vaishnava devotees grow it in the courtyards of their homes, where
it is tended by the women of the household. Its worship consists of circumambu-
lation, watering it, and placing a lamp before it in the morning and the
evening.
Regular service of the temple image incorporates both a daily routine and the
cycle of annual festivals. The ordinary daily routine is based on a day in the life of
Krishna in Braj, as described above in connection with the astaycim lild (see §2.36).
All temples follow the same basic cycle, though the different Sampradays have their
own variations in timing and detail. The most important part of the ritual is aratT, a
form of lustration in which a lamp is waved before the image while a gong is beaten
or a bell is rung and the spectators sing a hymn. It is done five times a day and a true
devotee should be present for every performance, thus making his daily routine
synchronize with a day in the life of Krishna. The first one, called mahgal aratT, is
held when the deity is woken up shortly before sunrise. Since one has to bathe
before entering the temple, it is only the most fervent devotees, mainly ascetics and
widows, who are regularly up in time for this early-morning service. The second
performance (srhgar aratT) takes place about two hours later after the deity has
been fully dressed and decorated. The temple is closed for the first few hours of the
afternoon in order to allow the deity to have a nap. He is woken for the third dratl
(dhup dratT), which is followed at sunset by samdhya aratT. The final one, usually the
most popular because people who work during the day are able to attend, is the
sayan aratT, held just before the deity is put to sleep and the temple is closed for the
night. It may be held as late as nine thirty, but in temples of the Pushtimarg, in
which the deity is considered to represent Krishna at a somewhat younger age, it
usually occurs at about five or six o'clock. This basic daily pattern is modified on
festival days when special celebrations are organized.
9 Looking at idols (darsan)
Service of an image is commonly said to comprise three elements, namely food
(bhog), music (rag), and finery (srhgar). The latter is used to refer to the clothes
and other accoutrements worn by the idols as well as to the decoration of the shrine
as a whole. Different sects, or even individual temples, have their own prescriptions
governing the colour and style of dress that the idols should wear. Every temple
deity has a wardrobe from which items of clothing and decoration are chosen to suit
the requirements of a particular day of the lunar fortnight or a special festival. The
style and thickness of the garments vary according to the season; drapery or wall
hangings are changed regularly to match the costume of the idols or in accordance
with a particular festive motif. Other items may also be placed in the shrine for the
enjoyment of the deities, including toy animals, a game called caupar (played with
dice on a cross-shaped board or cloth), and a selection of cosmetics for Radha.
Devotees are extremely attentive to the deity's dress and overall appearance.
They note all the minute variations, register the bhav that is evoked by them, and
pass comments about the charm and elegance with which everything has been
82


arranged. The act of going to a temple to admire the idol and the setting provided
for it in the shrine is called darsan, a word meaning basically 'seeing'. The term is
also applied to a visit to any kind of sacred place and to seeing or having an audience
with one's guru, a saint, or any august person. Since eye contact and the appearance
of a deity are so important, devotional poets emphasize visual imagery and the act
of beholding Krishna in some kind of charming situation.61 One genre of poetry is
devoted to describing the beauty of every part of Krishna and Radha, from the top
of their head to the tips of their toes (nakh sikh varnan). Many devotional poems are
concerned with how Krishna 'looked' at a particular moment or the manner in
which his glances stole the hearts of the Gopis. His look is devastating: it causes
trembling, horripilation, and all the other symptoms of infatuation. The poets
employ the standard imagery of classical love poetry, describing his eyes as roving,
darting, flashing like lightning, or (using his eyebrows as a bow) firing arrows at the
heart.62 The lover's sidelong glance (kataksa), when directed by Krishna at his
adorers, is referred to as a 'sidelong glance of grace' (krpakatdksa).
Throughout India the addition of eyes to an icon provides the finishing touch
that brings it to life, thus it is usually done ceremonially as part of the consecration
ritual. One liturgical text says that the sun and the moon should be invoked when
marking each of eyes, and that they should be the main objects that shine in the
lotus of the heart (of the person who marks them).63 In the section of Haribhakti-
vilasa that deals with this ritual it is said that the divine presence becomes evident
when the image becomes illuminated, trembles, takes on an expression of
happiness, or when someone present becomes speechless, swoons, or begins to
dance before the image.64 In Pushtimarg temples, on completion of the decoration,
the ministrant holds a mirror before the idol so that it can admire itself, and then
presses it against his heart as if to implant the reflection of Krishna there. Enamel
eyes, with black pupils standing out boldly against the whites, are fixed onto the
face of an idol in order to make sure that its gaze can be clearly seen. They serve as
the point of contact between the devotee who comes for darsan and the god who
looks out at him from within the shrine.
10 Offering food
Feeding an image is particularly important because the food that is offered is
subsequently distributed among the worshippers. A true devotee will not eat
anything that has not first been offered to Krishna, and so they will place a portion
of every meal they prepare at home in front of their household deity before they sit
61 See Bryant, pp.72-112, who refers to examples of the genre in Sur scigar as 'verbal icons'.
Hawley 1980 discusses how such poems encourage the surrender of the beholder to
what is seen and 'abrogate the distance' between the two parties.
62 See translation by Ingalls of poems 465, 468, 482, 520 from Vidyakara's Subhdsita-
ratncikosa. Other poems in the same sequence contain examples of the type of eye
imagery used by later Krishna poets.
63 Mcmciscini 70.69-71 & 111.
64 HBV, as summarized by R, V. Joshi, ch.5.
83


down to eat themselves. In temples the food is placed before the deity, then a curtain
is drawn or the door of the shrine is closed to give him time to 'consume' it. The
belief is that the food offered becomes infused with a divine potency which is
subsequently transferred to anyone who partakes of it. Hindus normally regard the
remnants of somebody else's meal with revulsion, but when they come from a deity
or divine person they are regarded as pure, a kind of spiritual nourishment referred
to asprasdd, a word that also means 'grace' or 'favour'. Devotees are able to express
their b/ulv through the care with which they prepare the food, by impregnating it
with loving feelings, and by anticipating the moment when it will be relished by
Krishna. Their feelings are conveyed to him through the offering, and on receiving
their share of prasdd they are able to reabsorb his divine qualities, made manifest
and augmented by the addition of his happiness and love.65 When visiting a temple
devotees may bring some sweets as an offering and take them away once they have
been enjoyed by the deity, or they may purchase a package of prasdd that has been
prepared and offered by the priests in attendance. Wealthier devotees, as a form of
thanksgiving, may sponsor one of the meals provided for a deity, or even his menu
for the whole day. In larger temples the cost of such a donation may amount to
several thousand rupees.
The Pushtimarg pays particular attention to the feeding of Krishna deities and
has evolved the most detailed and sophisticated cuisine.66 At the time of mahgal
drat! the deity is given milk, curds, fruit, sweets made from condensed milk, and a
mixture of butter and sugar; after the srhgdr drat! he is offered a light meal of cereal
and vegetable dishes; a couple of hours later he is given some milk sweets, a snack
known as gvdl bhog, and later in the morning he receives a meal of cooked food.
When he wakes up after his afternoon nap he is given fruits and a preparation of
condensed milk; later in the afternoon and again at samdhyd dratlht receives more
cooked food, and before he goes to sleep he is offered milk, halwa, and some light
sweets. In addition areca nuts wrapped in betel leaves are placed in the shrine for
him to chew between meals. The water that is used to bathe the image is also
distributed among devotees after the end of an dratiriiwaX, usually with a few leaves
of the sacred basil. It is referred to as caranamrt, 'elixir from the feet', and is
regarded as being highly beneficial.
On special occasions large feasts may be prepared for the enjoyment of the deity,
two particularly elaborate kinds being those consisting of thirty-six different dishes
(chattTs vyahjan) and of fifty-six preparations made from each type of grain
(chappan bhog), ideally consisting of fifty-six baskets of each of the fifty-six items,
an offering that costs the sponsor between sixty and a hundred thousand rupees.
Visitors to the temple are able to purchase a portion of food from the feast. The
largest feasts are held in Pushtimarg temples on the occasion of Krishna's birthday,
at the Annakut festival, and when the barl vatrd pilgrims arrive at Jatipura (a type
of chappan bhog feast called kunvarau that is offered to the Govardhan hill). When
the pilgrims arrive at a baithak shrine of Vallabha or his son Vitthalnath, one of the
party sponsors a feast called tapelT (named after a large cooking pot), which
r
65 Bennett, p.353.
66 See studies of food in the Pushtimarg by Bennett and Toomey. Several such
preparations are mentioned in Sur sdgar, pad 1831.
84


features some special dishes for certain places. The sponsor pays about a thousand
rupees in order to feed the leading Goswami and his entourage of about a hundred,
as well as a few dozen people invited by the sponsor himself, including his
Panda.
11 Music, chanting, drama, and preaching
The rag or musical element in the service of a deity consists primarily of kirtan or
hhajan the singing of devotional poems in the temple. They are sung with
instrumental accompaniment by someone who is appointed to be present every day,
or by a group of devotees who sing as a chorus, led by a main singer (a kind of
performance known as samdj). In addition, as often happens in smaller and private
temples, onlookers may be inspired to sing a favourite poem spontaneously and
unaccompanied. As with other devotional activities, the aim of the singing is to
evoke bhciv. The lyrics usually describe a particular incident in the life of Krishna,
conveying the emotions felt at a specific moment by a member of his entourage who
is entranced or delighted by a revelation of his beauty or playfulness. Most sects
have special anthologies containing lyrics by a number of poets that are arranged
into sequences appropriate for a particular moment in the daily ritual or for a
festive celebration. Some poets composed complete cycles of poems intended to be
sung at different times of the day and at the various annual celebrations. The lyrics
are chosen because they deal with an incident in Krishna mythology that is relevant
to the time of day and season of the year. They therefore serve to enhance and
complement the mood evoked by the decoration of the deity.
* The importance of song in the spread of devotional cults, especially those related
to Krishna, cannot be underestimated. The emotional form of devotion originated
under the inspiration of the Alvar poets of Tamil Nadu. By the sixteenth century
vernacular lyrics were being sung throughout India by devotional poets of various
persuasions, encouraging large numbers of people to participate in a more emotive
and spontaneous kind of worship. Many of the poems are stereotyped, but the
better examples are among the highest artistic achievements of Hindu devotiona-
lism and continue to retain their popularity. Translation cannot do justice to them
because they depend so much on the emotive connotations of the imagery and
mythological context. When performed by a talented singer they can have a
profoundly moving effect on their audience.
Apart from listening to solo performers, devotees also gather to sing and chant
together.67 This type of singing is necessarily less ornate and more repetitive than
that of the trained vocalist, but is often done with an impressive degree of
enthusiasm and involvement. Besides having an emotionally cathartic effect on the
participants, this form of worship has always played an important role in creating a
feeling of solidarity among devotees. Biographies of Chaitanya tell how he reached
the masses by leading groups of his followers through the streets, all of them
67 See Hein 1976 with reference to samklrtan and nagar klrtan by Chaitanya and his
followers, and articles by Singer and Venkateswaran in Singer (cd.) for an account of
bhajan sessions in South India.
85


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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00002.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:08] A.W. Entwistle Braj Centre of Krishna Pilgrimage Egbert Forsten. Groningen. 1987.

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00003.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:08] This book has been written and published with financial support from the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research (Z.W.O.) Cover illustration & frontispiece: The temple of Shrinathji on the Govardhan hill as seen from Anyor Cover design: Jurjen Pinkster Distributor for India and the Indian Subcontinent: Motilal Banarsidass, Bungalow Road, Jawahar Nagar, Dehli 110 007 (India). CIP-GEGEVENS KONINKLIJKE BIBLIOTHEEK, DEN HAAG Entwistle, Alan W. Braj, Centre of Krishna Pilgrimage / Alen W. Entwistle. Groningen : Forsten. Ill., krt. (Groningen Oriental Studies ; vol. 3) Met 3 kaarten. Met lit. opg., reg. isbn 90-6980-016-0 geb. siso 214.4 UDC 294-5 (54) (091) Trefw. : Braj (India); cultuurgeschiedenis / Krishna-cultus ; bedevaart; India. Copyright 1987, Egbert Forsten, Groningen, The Netherlands All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00004.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:08] Contents Abbreviations vii Preface ix 1 Introduction 1 The landscape 1 2 The local inhabitants 4 3 The devotional sects 8 4 Varieties of pilgrimage 12 5 Rules and regulations 19 2 The myth 1 The scriptural sources 22 2 The setting 27 3 The birth of Krishna 30 4 Krishna overturns a cart (sakatarohana) 32 5 Putana (putanavadha) 32 6 The whirlwind demon (trnavartavadha) 32 7 Garga's visit 32 8 Krishna eats dirt 33 9 Krishna is tied to a mortar (ulukhalabandhana) 33 10 The encampment is moved to Vrindaban and other demons attack Krishna 34 11 Brahma spirits away the calves and cowherd boys 34 12 The defeat of Kaliya (kaliyadamana) 34 13 Dhenuka (dhenukasuravadha) 35 14 Two forest fires (davanalajdavagni) 35 15 Pralamba (pralambasuravadha) 35 VII

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00005.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:09] 16 Krishna steals the Gopis' clothes (vastra-/ciraharana) 35 17 The brahmins' wives (yajnapatni-) 36 18 Krishna lifts up Govardhan (govardhcmadharanci) 36 19 Nanda is abducted 37 20 Krishna dances with the Gopi 37 21 The pilgrimage to Ambikavana 38 22 Shankhachuda 38 23 Arishta 38 24 Keshi 39 25 Vyoma 39 26 Akrura fetches Krishna and Balarama 39 27 The return to Mathura 39 28 Kansa is slain 40 29 Uddhava's message 40 30 Krishna and Balarama move to Dwarka 41 31 Balarama visits the Gopis 42 32 Later sources and developments 42 33 Radha 47 34 The entourage of Krishna and Radha 49 35 Krishna extorts curd from the Gopis 53 36 Lila of the eight watches of the day 55 37 The marriage of Krishna and Radha 57 38 Narada and Shiva change sex 58 39 How Govardhan came to Braj 59 40 The reclamation of Braj 60 3 Devotion in theory and practice i Emotion and aesthetics 62 2 Tantric influence 65 3 The nature of Krishna's love 67 4 Love in separation (viraha) 69 5 Eschatology 70 6 The ontology of the sacred places 71 7 Manifestations of devotion 76 8 Idols and epithets 78 9 Looking at idols (darsan) 82 10 Offering food 83 11 Music, chanting, drama, and preaching 85 12 Individual and solitary practices 88 13 Cows, milk, and ras 89 14 Femininity 91 15 Fantasies 96 16 Motivations for pilgrimage 103 VIII

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00006.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:09] 4 Ancient and early medieval Braj 1 The devotee's view of history 109 2 Dynasties of ancient Mathura 110 3 Buddhism 112 4 Jainism 113 5 Non-Vaishnava Hindu cults 114 6 The cult of Vasudeva/Krishna 116 7 Balarama 120 8 The end of Hindu power in Braj 122 9 The location of ancient Mathura 124 10 Mounds outside the modern circumambulation of Mathura 124 11 TheKatra 125 12 Finds at other places along the circumambulation of Mathura 126 13 Sites in the vicinity of Maholi 128 14 Sites west and north-west of Maholi 128 15 Finds in and around Vrindaban 129 16 Finds in the vicinity of Govardhan 130 17 Finds in the north-western part of Mathura District 130 18 Finds at Kaman 131 19 Finds east of the Yamuna 132 5 Braj since the thirteenth century 1 Braj under the Delhi Sultanate (1194-1526) 134 2 The arrival of a new kind of Krishna worship 136 3 Chaturanaga (Nagaji) 140 4 Vallabha 141 5 Chaitanya 143 6 Political developments from 1516 to 1556 144 7 The Six Goswamis and other contemporary Gaudiya devotees 145 8 Vitthalnath's succession to leadership of the Pushtimarg 151 9 Hit Harivansh 155 10 Swami Haridas 156 11 Shribhatt 157 12 Akbar and his Hindu associates 157 13 Vitthalnath's expansion of the Pushtimarg 160 14 The Ashtachhap poets 165 15 Some Gaudiya devotees of the late sixteenth century 166 16 The Radhavallabh Sampraday 168 17 Followers of Swami Haridas 170 18 Harivyasdev and other devotees of the Nimbark Sampraday 171 IX

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00007.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:09] 19 The Sampradays of Ramanuja and Ramanand 172 20 The reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan (1605-58) 173 21 Bir Singh Deo of Orchha 175 22 The Pushtimarg in the first half of the seventeenth century 177 23 Some devotees in Vrindaban during the first half of the seventeenth century 179 24 Aurangzeb (1658-1707) 180 25 The exodus of deities from Braj 183 26 Rajaram and Churaman 187 27 Sawai Jai Singh 188 28 Religious activity in the time of Sawai Jai Singh 191 29 Badan Singh 194 30 Suraj Mai 196 31 Suraj Mai's successors 200 32 The period of Maratha supremacy 204 33 Devotional activity in the latter part of the eighteenth century 207 34 Pax Britannica 213 35 Patronage in the nineteenth century 215 36 The Gaudiya Sampraday in modern times 218 37 The Nimbark Sampraday in modern times 219 38 The Pushtimarg in modern times 221 39 New arrivals 224 Texts dealing with places of pilgrimage in Braj 1 Earliest references 226 2 Lakshmidhara (KK) and the original Varahapurana 228 3 Jinaprabha Suri (VTK) 231 4 The Mathuramahatmya of the extant Varahapurana (VP) 232 5 The Mathuramahatmya attributed to Rup Goswami (R) 235 6 Mitra Mishra's Mathuramahatmya (VM) 238 7 Anantadev's Mathurasetu (MS) 239 8 Skandapurana (SP) 240 9 Interrelationship of texts so far discussed 242 10 Naradapurana (NP) 243 11 Adipurana (AP) 244 12 Bhusundiramayana (BRam) 245 13 The yogapTtha theme (PP, GLA, VRC, AY etc.) 246 14 Narayan Bhatt (VBV, VOC) 252 15 Vrajavilasastava (VVS) and shorter eulogies 255 16 Chaitanya's visit to Braj (KCC, CM, CC) 256 17 Narahari Chakravarti (BRat) and Sundarlal 258 18 Gargasamhita (GS) 259 19 Shorter texts dealing with Govardhan 261 20 Govardhan in the varta literature 261

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00008.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:09] 21 Caurasi baithak caritra (CBC) 263 22 Jagatanand (GVY, VGV, VVV) 264 23 PTtambardas ki varta (PV) 265 24 Ban yatra parikrama (BYP) 266 25 Brajmandal kamalakar bhavna (BKB) 267 26 Brajnath(BP) 268 27 Other Pushtimarg texts 269 28 Braj poets 270 29 The account of a pilgrim from Bikaner (BYV) 270 30 Nagaridas (TA) 270 31 Somnath and Sudan (SC) 271 32 Chandralal, Abhayram, and Gopal Kavi (VDA) 271 33 Nawal Singh Pradhan (BBP) and Lakshminarayan Singh 273 34 Modern published sources 273 7 Some varieties of sacred place in Braj 1 The origins of pilgrimage in Braj 275 2 The primordiality of Govardhan 278 3 The original deity of Govardhan 280 4 Govardhan and serpent worship 286 5 The worship of Govardhan stones 288 6 Stone worship in general 289 7 The Yamuna 290 8 Bathing places 292 9 Groups of five bathing places (pahctTrth) 294 10 Wells 295 11 Trees 296 12 Forests, groves, and arbours 299 13 Goddesses 302 14 Shiva 303 15 The samadhi, baithak, and bhajan kutl 304 16 Parallels, imitation, and influence 306 8 The pilgrimage itinerary 309 Plates 429 Appendices 1 An obsolete itinerary for the circumambulation of Mathura 460 2 The forests and banyans listed by Narayan Bhatt 467 XI

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00009.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:10] 3 Places listed by Jagatanand and in Ban yatra parikrama 472 4 Some pilgrimage schedules 478 5 Fairs and festivals of Braj 482 Bibliography 492 Index 521 Key to maps 553 Maps 1 The pilgrimage circuit of Braj 2 Mathura 3 Vrindaban

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00010.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:10] Abbreviations AA AN AP ASI ASIAR AV AY BBP BC BhP BKB BP BRam BRat BYP BYV CBC CC CM EI GLA GM GVY GS HBV HV KCC KK MBh MM MS NBC Abu'l Fazl, Acin-i-Akbari Abu'l Fazl, Akbarnama Adipurana ( Vrndavanamcihatmya) Archaeological Survey of India Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report Astachap ki varta, attrib. Gokulnath Vrindabanchandradas, Astayam Nawal Singh Pradhan, Braj bhumi prakas Bhasa, Balacarita Bhagavatapurana Vallabhji, Brajmandal kamalakar bhavna Brajnath, Braj parikrama Bhusundiramayana (purvakhanda ) Narahari Chakravarti, Bhakti ratnakar Ban yatra parikrama, attrib. Gokulnath Maheshwari, BJkaneri yatra vivaran CaurasT baithak caritra, attrib. Gokulnath Krishnadas Kaviraj, Caitanya caritamrt Lochandas, Caitanya mahgal Epigraphia Indica Krishnadas Kaviraj, GovindalTlamrta Banmalilal Sharma, Gokul mahatmya Jagatanand, SrTgusSijT ki vanyatra Gargasamhita

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00010.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:10] Gopal Bhatt, Haribhaktivilasa Harivamsa Murari Gupta, Krsnacaitanyacaritamrta Lakshmidhara, Krtyakalpataru ( Mathuramahatmya ) Mahabharata Mathura Museum Anantadev, Mathurasetu Janakiprasad Bhatt, Narayanabhattacaritamrta XIII

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00011.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:10] NP Naradapurana PP Padmapurana (Venkateshwar Press edition) PV Pitambardas kT varta, attrib. Hariray (in 252V) R Rup Goswami, Mathuramahatmya SC Sudan, Sujan caritra SP Skandapurana SPV Hariray, Srigovardhannathji ke prakatya ki varta Sund. Sundarlal, Vraj yatra TA Vrind, Tirthanand VBV Narayan Bhatt, Vrajabhaktivilasa VDA Gopal Kavi, Vmdavan dham anuragavalT VGV Jagatanand, Vraj gram varnan ViP Visnupurana VM Mitra Mishra, VTramitrodaya ( Mathuramahatmya) VOC Narayan Bhatt, Vrajotsavacandrika VP Varahapurana, ed. A.S. Gupta VRC Vishwanath Chakravarti, Vrajariticintamani VRI Vrindaban Research Institute VS vikram samvat VTK Jinaprabha Suri, Vividhatirthakalpa ( Mathurapurikalpa) VVS Raghunathdas, Vrajavilasastava VVV Jagatanand, Vraj vastu varnan 84V CaurasT vaisnavan ki varta, attrib. Gokulnath 252V Do sau bavan vaisnavan ki varta, attrib. Hariray XIV

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00012.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:10] Preface Although many studies have appeared on different aspects of the Krishna cult, there is no up-to-date and suitably comprehensive account in English of Braj, the most important centre of Krishna pilgrimage. From the seventeenth century onwards various European travellers passed through the area and made a brief record of their impressions. A more detailed account of life in Mathura and the surrounding district was given by Mark Thornhill, who described his experiences as Collector at the time of the 'Indian Mutiny' of 1857. Though he was more familiar with the area than previous European visitors, many of his comments now appear prejudiced and typically 'colonial'. The settlement reports of Deeds and Tyler (1831) and Whiteway (1879) are restricted to statistical, topographical, and economic information. A major contribution to the study of Braj was made by Frederick Salmon Growse (1837-93), who was District Magistrate at Mathura from 1871-77. He had an antiquarian interest in local history and culture, was a keen amateur architect, and was responsible for unearthing, salvaging, and preserving many fine examples of ancient sculpture. Besides founding Mathura Museum, he restored the sixteenth-century temples and other monuments of Mathura and Vrindaban. His Mathura, A District Memoir is a rather unorthodox kind of gazetteer in that the statistical information is overshadowed by his coverage of historical and cultural topics. The later gazetteers of H. E. Drake-Brockman and E. B. Joshi follow a more standard format and scarcely provide us with any additional information on local history and culture. Up to the present day Growse's District Memoir has remained a standard work of reference, though some of his views are outdated and much more information about the topics he discusses has since become available. Early this century two missionaries who spent some time in Braj published accounts of its religious life. J. E. Scott's Braj, The Vaishnava Holy Land, while it contains some information about the Krishna cult, is primarily concerned with advertizing missionary activity. The tone of E. Mabel F. Major's On the Wings of a Wish, written to inspire children in the West to come to India and save the heathens, can hardly fail to provoke derision on the part of modern readers. Until fairly recently there were few westerners who attempted to appreciate Krishna from the standpoint of a Hindu devotee. Growse, for example, allowed his Catholicism to XV

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00013.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:10] colour his assessment of the ethics and behaviour of local devotees; others tended to dismiss Krishna rather superficially in terms of classical mythology. Joseph Tieffenthaler considered the songs and stories about Krishna to be indecent and deemed them more appropriate for 'ein muthwilliger Satyr oder Faun'. Emily Eden tells us that Krishna 'seems to have been a larking sort of Apollo', an identification also suggested some decades earlier by Thomas Twining, and by her contemporary James Tod, with reference to Shrinathji. A more sensitive and penetrating appreciation of the religious life of Braj is given by Klaus Klostermaier, who, during the two years he spent in Vrindaban in the 1960's, had many theological discussions with local Vaishnavas. In recent decades several scholars have undertaken studies of specific aspects of the culture, history, and social life of Braj. The Miracle Plays of Mathura hv Norvin Hein, which gives a detailed account of the ras lila tradition, begins with a good general introduction to the district and its religious activity. John Stratton Hawley also paints a vivid picure of the atmosphere of Vrindaban in the first chapter of At Play with Krishna: Pilgrimage Dramas from Brindavan. Bimanbehari Majumdar, in an appendix to one of the chapters of his Krsna in History and Legend, gives a list of the sacred places of Braj as recorded in some of the older texts. His listing, however, is much less comprehensive than the one given in chapter 8 of the present study, and in many cases his identification of the places is deficient or inaccurate. Much of what I have to say endorses and enlarges upon articles written by Charlotte Vaudeville on the reclamation of Braj and the cult of Govardhan; the additional detail I have provided and my investigation of a larger number of texts help to qualify and modify some of her conclusions. K. D. Vajpeyi, sometime Director of Mathura Museum, produced the first detailed history of Braj in Hindi (1954-58). The second volume contains chapters by various local scholars on aspects of Braj culture. One of the contributors was Chandrabhan Rawat, who has elsewhere written on the local dialect (1967) and has surveyed some of the elements and themes of the literature of Krishna devotion (1976). Satyendra has written extensively on the folklore of Braj (1948, 1949, 1953), and has also produced a rather ragged history of Braj literature (1967). The only history of prose literature in Braj to have been published so far is that of Jaykishan Prasad. Prabhudayal Mital, besides editing the works of some of the devotional poets, has written three volumes on the cultural and religious history of Braj (1966, 1968, 1975), which are a mine of information. In addition there are several studies by Indian scholars and devotees that deal with particular sectarian traditions, especially their devotional literature. Some of them are pervaded with a distinct sectarian bias, or have been written by scholars who do not share an outsider's scepticism with regard to questions of historicity. I cannot by any means claim that my own study has not been tinged by personal tastes and subjectivity. In my efforts to present the Vaishnavas' own account of their beliefs, history, and practices, I have tried to avoid giving undue stress to the views current in any particular Sampraday. Though I have attempted to suppress value judgements and be less opinionated than my colonial predecessors, my perspective remains that of an outsider who, while being charmed by the aesthetics and vivacity of Braj culture, has remained stubbornly impervious to the theology and mysticism. I am intrigued by the sentimental and emotional appeal of Krishna XVI

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00014.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:11] devotion, but have failed to let it sweep me off my feet. Consequently, devotees will find much of what I have to say irrelevant, dry, and lacking in ras. Though, in their eyes, I will have completely missed the point, I hope that the majority of readers will find something of use in my survey of Krishna worship as practised in Braj. I have tried to assimilate and select information from the vast amount of material available in various languages, emphasizing the salient points and providing references to sources where more detail can be found. My aim has been to produce a digestible cultural history for the western reader and a handbook that will be useful for students of various disciplines. Though I may have personal preferences, I have no ideological axe to grind. Rather than adhering to any particular model, I have tried to survey the interpretations offered by other scholars. In summarizing the early history of the Krishna cult I have restricted the information to points that have some bearing upon later developments in Braj. Fuller accounts of the history of Krishna worship are given in recent studies by Suvira Jaiswal, Friedhelm Hardy (1983/1), Benjamin Preciado-Solis, and J. S. Hawley (1983), all of whom refer to earlier studies which, on the whole, they supersede. Similarly, I have merely summarized the canonical version of the story of Krishna, since there are enough readily available publications in which it is told in greater detail. The historical chapters are based largely on secondary studies, supplemented with details gleaned from the accounts of European travellers and the mass of devotional literature. Anyone embarking upon further research into the history of Vaishnavism in Braj must delve into the various documents in the possession of Pandas and Goswamis, temple libraries, archives, and law courts. I am not equipped to deal with firmans and other documents in Persian, and even a study of archival material in languages known to me would have required much more patient negotiation and research, resulting in many more years of work. Though I would have liked more time to mull over several issues touched upon in this study, the time now seems ripe for a general introductory history. My own particular contribution to the study of Braj has been to examine all available texts relating to the sacred places (chapter 6). By collating these sources I have produced a description of the pilgrimage circuit (chapter 8), presenting the itinerary in the form of a gazetteer. I have pruned away much of the whimsical or even fatuous detail given in many of the texts, retaining an occasional example in order to convey the flavour. My collated sequence of places does not correspond to any particular pilgrimage itinerary, but note has been made of variations, diversions, and omissions. The numbers given to the places correspond to those used in the maps to show their location. The references to sources give some indication of the antiquity of the different places and their sectarian affiliation. Variant spellings of place names have been noted, in the hope that they will be helpful to anyone speculating on the etymology of toponyms. I have included some of the etymologies suggested by Growse and others, even though they are often improbable. In transcribing Indian names and terms the aim has been to keep the use of diacritical marks down to a minimum, restricting them to titles and words printed in italics. Proper names have been given an anglicized spelling, using the forms for toponyms that are given in the latest census report, unless they are anomalous or contradict established local usage. My transcription of b/v/w, cerebral d(h)/r(h), XVII

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00015.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:11] and -o-/-auis blatantly inconsistent, and there are some anomalies in my attempted compromise between Sanskrit spelling, Hindi pronunciation, and standard romanized forms ('Vrindaban', for example, is a conventional but questionable transcription, and I have resorted to 'Harivansh', where 'Haribans' would be a more accurate reflection of Hindi pronunciation). To minimize confusion, and to serve as a guide to pronunciation, anglicized proper nouns are accompanied in the index by the standard transliteration from Devanagari of their Sanskrit and/or Hindi forms. Similarly, in the bibliography, transliterated forms of Indian authors' names are given in parenthesis after the anglicized spellings used elsewhere in the text. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to some of the many people who have helped and encouraged me over the past decade. First and foremost I must thank Doctor Ram Das Gupta for providing me with the opportunity of spending two and a half years in Braj (1976-78) and for inspiring me with his enthusiasm for the local culture and his unflagging dedication to its study and preservation. While in Vrindaban I was able to benefit from the scholarly insight of other participants in the Research Project organized by the International Association of the Vrindaban Research Institute, in particular Professor J. C. Wright and Doctor Tarapada Mukherjee. Local associates of the Vrindaban Research Institute who facilitated my research and provided information and entertaining discussion were Doctor R. C. Sharma (then Director of Mathura Museum), Shri Srivatsa Goswami, and the late Doctor Moti Lai Gupta. The staff of the Institute were always ready and willing to help with my enquiries. Among them Shri Gopal Chandra Ghosh and Shri Brindaban Behari were especially forthcoming in sharing with me their extensive 'local knowledge'. On my excursions into the Braj countryside I was accompanied by Shri Keshav Singh Verma and Shri Pulin Krishna Goswami, who offered me valuable guidance and companionship and patiently answered my endless stream of questions about the local dialect and customs. More recently, Professor Owen M. Lynch kindly provided helpful criticism of remarks I made on the Chaube brahmins of Mathura in a draft of my opening chapter. The compilation of this study was carried out under the auspices of Professor Jacob Ensink, who invited me to participate in a project on pilgrimage at the Institute of Indian Studies, University of Groningen. Thanks to a grant from the research fund of the Faculty of Letters, I was able to spend five years at Groningen working on this study and to make two trips to India for further research. Among the colleagues at Groningen who helped to create such a pleasant working environment, I am especially grateful to Doctor Ranajit Sarkar for his help with my reading of Bhakti ratnakar. My closest associate at Groningen was Doctor Hans Bakker, who was simultaneously busy with his study of Ayodhya. I was able to have many enjoyable and fruitful discussions with him, and his help in arranging for the publication of the book and maps has been invaluable. XVIII

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00016.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:11] 1 Introduction 1 The landscape The term 'Braj' does not refer to an area with clearly defined boundaries and has never been used as the official name of a political territory or administrative division. It is derived from the Sanskrit vraja, which is used in the oldest accounts of Krishna's childhood to mean 'an enclosure or station of herdsmen.' Modern pundits, however, define it as 'a place where cows roam' (vrajanti gavo yasminn iti vrajah), thereby endorsing the use of'Braj' as a name for the countryside in which Krishna grazed his cattle and in which all the sacred places associated with his early years are located. It may also be used to designate the more extensive area in which the Braj dialect of Hindi is spoken, encompassing the westernmost part of Rajasthan and districts of Uttar Pradesh as far east as Hardoi.1 Here, in accordance with popular usage, we shall use it to refer to the religious and cultural centre of this area, namely the districts of Mathura and Bharatpur and adjacent parts of other districts, including the towns of Aligarh, Hathras, Agra, and Alwar. The pilgrimage circuit of Braj covers an area stretching ten kilometres to the east and south of Mathura and nearly fifty to the west and north. The Yamuna winds its way through the eastern part of this area, flowing past Shergarh, Vrindaban, Mathura, and Gokul, separating the many sacred places on its western bank from the few that are located to the east of it. For most of the year the river is sluggish and easily fordable, but during the rainy season, and for several weeks afterwards, it is broad and turbulant, covering the wide sands on which melons and marrows are grown in the hot season, flooding the surrounding fields, and sometimes even the streets of Vrindaban and Mathura. To the west, the low-lying terrain around Kaman and Govardhan is frequently inundated during the monsoon. The water eventually drains away leaving numerous ponds that gradually evaporate during the dry months from October to June. The fact that the roads and pathways of Braj are at their worst during the monsoon, if not completely unusable, does not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the hordes of pilgrims who come here at this time of year. 1 See D. Varma, map facing p.2 and pp.7-11. 1

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00017.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:11] The countryside is at its most verdant during the rainy season, but visitors familiar with literature dealing with the setting of Krishna's encounters with Radha will find little that lives up to the conventional poetic descriptions. There are no luxuriant forests lining the banks of the Yamuna, no profusion of exotic flowers, nor does the breeze bear the fragrance of sandalwood. The twentieth-century pilgrim finds himself confronted with a flat expanse of agricultural land that is dusty in the dry months and muddy and waterlogged during the rains. In late December and January the fields are bright yellow with flowering mustard, but for the rest of the year they are filled mainly with duller crops such as wheat, barley, millet, sorghum, pulses, and sugar cane, while much of the wasteland is covered with low thorny bushes that grow out of the bare earth. It is no more distinctive for natural beauty than any other district of the plains through which the Ganges and Yamuna flow. Nowadays there is just an occasional thicket or pond fringed with trees to remind one that this might once have been the lush forest of Vrindaban, or even the largely uncultivated woodland in which the sixteenth-century saints searched for the places frequented by Krishna. One of these devotees, Sanatan Goswami, said that the flora and fauna wasted away after Krishna migrated from Braj to Dwarka. The lofty mountain of Govardhan has been sinking steadily into the ground ever since, and the Yamuna has dwindled to a shallow stream.2 A devotee surveying the relative starkness of the modern landscape is apt to bemoan the loss of the former paradise, his eyes filling with tears as if he had once witnessed the primordial beauty of Braj with his own eyes. The cause of this decline is usually attributed to our living in the degenerate age of kali yug, in which all the noble values of the past are vanishing. Nevertheless, even though there is hardly a trace of his mythological environment, the presence of Krishna remains alive in the hearts and minds of the people. Four hundred years ago the Mughal emperor Akbar was able to go tiger hunting in the forests around Mathura, and his son Jahangir, in his autobiography, records the shooting of troublesome tigers on two occasions.3 Wendel, who spent some time in the region in the 1760's, tells us that although there was nothing that could properly be called a forest, at several places on the plains there were woods which he describes as Tort epais et de longue etendue'.4 In those days the rulers of Bharatpur attempted to preserve the thickets and natural vegetation over a wide area around the town by prohibiting the cutting back of shrubs and bushes. Ecological change has accelerated in the course of the last two centuries. The latest District Gazetter of Mathura notes the decline in the number and variety of wild animals since the beginning of the century, and Growse, writing a century ago, described the herds of deer as being 'so numerous that the traveller will seldom go many miles in any direction along a bye-road without seeing a black-buck, followed by his harem, bound across the path'.5 Fifty years earlier Emily Eden had written 2 Brhadbhaga vatamrta 1.6.116-121. 3 AA vol.1 p.294, AN vol.2 pp.294 & 311, Jahangir, vol.2 pp. 104-5. 4 Wendcl, p.82. 5 E. B. Joshi, p. 14, Growse, p.27. 2

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00018.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:11] that between Kumher and Bharatpur 'antelopes abound, there are hundreds of them to be seen at a time'.6 She visited Mathura and Bharatpur in 1838, the same year that the area suffered from famine. Growse notes that this year was invariably cited as the date when land reclamation began on a large scale following the opening out of new roads as famine relief work.7 The process was continued with the opening of the Agra canal for irrigation in 1874, and more recently by the Govardhan drain that was begun in 1962. Any elderly resident of Braj will confirm the rapid acceleration of land clearance and deforestation that has taken place since his childhood. There has been a widespread impoverishment of the type of common grazing land known as rakkhya or kadam khandi, the latter denoting an abundance of kadamba trees. Nowadays the only places where there exists any kind of woodland that could possibly merit the descriptions given by the poets are the groves at Pisayo, Kokilaban, and Biharban. Some other sacred sites, such as Dhruv Tila at Maholi, are located in a copse adjacent to a village, but many of them now stand amid open agricultural land or have been encroached upon by expanding village settlements. Many of the sacred pools mentioned in pilgrimage itineraries have in recent years come under the plough. With the disappearance of marauding armies and wild animals the villages themselves changed in appearance. The typical village stands on a mound that is either wholly artificial or partially composed of the rubble and debris of previous generations. Nearby there may be another low mound that was once the site of an earlier settlement, and round about a few natural ponds and perhaps one or more masonry tanks. Up to the first half of the nineteenth century villages were farther apart and surrounded by strong mud walls flanked with towers. The cattle, at least equalling, if not outnumbering the human population, would be led out at sunrise and brought back within the walls at sunset.8 The particularly evocative atmosphere that still envelops the countryside in the early evening is known as godhuli, '[the time of] cowdust' when the light of the setting sun filters through clouds of dust kicked up by the returning herds of cattle. The hills to be seen in the western part of Braj are outlying spurs of the Aravalli system that stretches diagonally across Rajasthan. To the west of Dig and Kaman lies a range of rocky hills on which the westernmost pilgrimage places are situated.0 Further to the east there are just a few scattered quartzite ridges, none of them rising more than ninety metres above the plain. The lowest and most northerly of these is Charan Pahari, lying to the north of the Nandgaon hill. A short distance to the south-west a larger range commences at Unchagaon, runs along part of the boundary of Mathura District and continues past the village of Sehu on the road between Dig and Kaman. Parallel to it are three detached ranges on which stand the villages of Rankauli, Dibhala and, on the largest of them, the temples of Barsana. The most easterly and isolated of these ridges is the hill of Govardhan, lower than 6 Eden, p.354. 7 Grcwse, p.74. 8 Ibid., pp.71-2, citing Jacquemont, who visited Braj in 1829-30. 9 The highest of them, near the village of Alipur, rises to a height of 1357 ft above sea level. 3

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00019.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:12] most of those mentioned above but exceeding all of them in the degree of sanctity attached to it. Despite their low elevation, the summits of these hills, especially the cluster at Barsana, command extensive views of the plains around them. 2 The local inhabitants In recent years light industry has begun to develop around Mathura and a massive oil refinery has been built beside the road to Agra, a few kilometres south of the town. The majority of the indigenous people of the district, however, still derive their income from agriculture, traditional crafts, or from temples and the pilgrimage trade. According to the most recent District Census Handbook the smaller towns are reliant on agricultural produce; among the most important commodities manufactured in Mathura are printed calendars and sarees. and the only article worthy of mention as a product exported from Vrindaban is the cheap rosary made from wood of the sacred basil plant (tulsi).10 Those who earn their livelihood from pilgrimage are mainly the brahmins who act as guides or have custody of temples and the traders who cater for pilgrims and sell various kinds of religious paraphernalia. In the bazaars of Mathura and Vrindaban there are rows of shops selling items used in worship, brass deities and all the decorative articles that go with them, religious pictures and booklets, and the varieties of sweets made from condensed milk that are offered in the temples. Restaurants, with few exceptions, sell the kind of pure vegetarian food that is acceptable to Vaishnavas. The vast majority of the population of Mathura District is Hindu, while Muslims, nearly all of them Sunni, account for no more than seven per cent, and the number of Jains, Sikhs, and Christians is minimal. The largest landowners and most important cultivators of the district are the Jats, comprised of various subcastes and predominant in the tahsils of Mathura, Chhata, and Mat.11 In the eighteenth century Jats fortified several towns in Bharatpur District and became the Rajas of the land lying between Delhi and Agra and a large part of the Doab. Although they claim to be of Thakur or Rajput origin, and thus to belong to the noble martial (ksatriya) class, they were originally an agricultural tribe who looted and plundered their way to power as the Mughal empire disintegrated. Genuine ksatriya clans, settled mainly in the western part of the district, are the Jadons, who claim descent from the Yadava clan to which Krishna belonged, and others such as the Kachhwahas, Gahlauts, Gaurawas, Bachhals, Jaiswars, and Chauhans. The Gujars are cultivators and cattle keepers who have lived in the area for many centuries. They are a non-scheduled sudra caste living mainly in Chhata tahsil and Bharatpur District, but are nowadays less significant than they used to be, many of them having emigrated from Mathura District when, as a reprisal for their part in the 'Mutiny' of 1857, most of their land and villages were confiscated and given over 10 D. M. Sinha, pp.8-9. 11 Bingley, p. 52, lists the different sub-castes (pal, got) of Jats and Gujars in Mathura District. 4

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00020.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:12] to the Raja of Hathras.12 Wendel classed the Gujars, as well as the Gaurawas and Ahirs (a caste of herdsmen) with the Jats, since they all had a comparable style of living and observed similar customs.13 In the north-western part of Braj, in the neighbourhood of Kaman and Alwar, live a number of Meos. They are nominally Muslims, but retain many Hindu customs and before their conversion were probably Minas, a tribe similar to the Gujars that was prominent in Rajasthan before the rise of the Rajputs. In addition to these groups there is the usual range of sudra castes engaged in their traditional occupations. Among the scheduled castes the Chamars, also called Jatavs, are the most important agricultural labour force. In the nineteenth century a family of Seths rose to prominence in Mathura and, with the profits of their banking empire, built fine mansions and temples.14 Today there are no merchants who exert the same degree of influence. The Agrawals, followed by the Khandelwals, Maheshwaris, and Barahsainis are the main merchant (vaisya) castes, but none of them can match up to the Seths of the nineteenth century. Nowadays business families from other parts of India, especially the Marwaris, are more notable as patrons of religious activity. Many businessmen decide to spend their retirement in Vrindaban, leaving younger members of the family to see to the daily running of their concerns. The most significant brahmins in the district belong to the Sanadhya (or Sanaurhiya), Gaur, Chaube, and Ahivasi lineages. The Sanadhyas, of whom there are twelve main branches in Braj, are custodians of several of the old religious establishments. They are the most numerous among the brahmins who work as Pandas (priests and guides for pilgrims) at sacred places in Braj, apart from the town of Mathura. Many of the Gaurs came into the district as family priests of the Jats15, and there are some Bhatt families of South Indian origin and Saraswats originally from Panjab. Some of the Bhatts and Saraswats have inherited temples founded by ancestors who settled in Braj from the sixteenth century onwards. Brahmins who belong to a family that has custodianship of one of the more important temples usually call themselves 'Goswami' a term that serves as a title as well as a surname. Literally it means 'owner of cows', though some claim that it should be interpreted to mean 'one who has mastered his senses'. In addition there are other priests known as Jogis, originally related to the Nath Sampraday, who preside over rituals at most of the Shaiva and Shakta shrines, but whose claims to brahminical status are often dubious. Like other important pilgrimage centres, Braj has its hereditary communities of brahmins who act as guides for the pilgrims (Pandas) and perform rituals for them. They maintain registers (bahT-khata) in which they enter the names of their clients 12 Whiteway, p.38. Bingley, ch. 1, considered that since Gujars, Jats, and Rajputs are all of Scythian origin, the distinctions between them are social rather than ethnic. 13 Wendel, pp.7 & 81. He also included Bargujars, a caste that considered itself somewhat more noble than the Jats. 14 Including the temples of Dwarkadhish and Rangji. See Growse, pp. 12-16, and Thornhill, pp.93-6, for an account of their importance in the commercial and political life of the town. 15 Whiteway, p.31. 5

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00021.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:12] (jajman). These registers are passed on from fathers to their sons, who thereby inherit their fathers' clients. They are always on the lookout for new customers, and once they have entered a pilgrim's name in their books they can lay claim to any of his relatives or descendants who happen to visit subsequently. The Pandas of Braj are no less notorious and maligned than their counterparts at Prayag, Varanasi, and Gaya, yet pilgrims depend on them for ritual services, despite their reputation for being unscrupulous, money-grabbing, and ignorant. The Pandas of Vrindaban belong to the predominant brahmin castes and, though they have formed an intermittently active association, operate largely on a Tree for all' basis. The Chaubes and Ahivasis, who reside respectively at Mathura and Baldeo, deserve special mention since they are two clans peculiar to Braj. From time immemorial the Chaubes, whose name derives from caturvedin ('learned in the four Vedas'), have exercised a monopoly over all rituals performed by pilgrims on the ghats at Mathura.16 They identify themselves with the brahmins of Mathura whose wives once fed Krishna and his friends, a legend told to account for their being given the boon that the women descended from them would be fair-skinned, a quality for which the Chaube women are praised.17 The Chaubes of Mathura claim to have no connection with other clans of Chaturvedi brahmins and are described as having two divisions called mitha ('sweet') and karua ('sour'). The term 'sweet' is used for families that have emigrated and settled in Agra, Etawah, and other towns to the east. Those who live in Mathura or claim to have originated there are referred to as mcithur and categorize themselves into two groups referred to as the kulin ('noble, ancestral') and the Pandas. The Chaubes residing in Mathura form a tightly-knit community that has its own variant of the Braj dialect and preserves some peculiar customs. It is usual for wives to spend the afternoons at their mother's house and prepare and eat food there before returning to their marital home in the evening. Formerly brother-sister exchange marriage was current among them, though nowadays the dowry system is practised with increasing regularity. The Chaubes are celebrated for their fair complexion, voracious appetite, voluminous paunches, and predilection for bhang, an intoxicating beverage made from cannabis leaves. Like brahmins at other places of pilgrimage they have a poor reputation among outside observers, especially among those who have an interest in downgrading them and who begrudge their socio-economic position, which is based on their ties with the pilgrims. The habits of a few of them have been used to characterize the clan as a whole. Thornhill, Collector of Mathura in the mid-nineteenth century, formed the opinion that 'by the educated and better classes they are regarded as a set of idle, dissolute beggars'; according to Growse they 'are now ordinarily described by their own countrymen as a low and ignorant horde of rapacious mendicants...they are the recognized local cicerones; and they may always be seen with their portly forms lolling about near the most popular ghats and 16 VP 161.51-2, 163.54-7, R 324-8. For more information on the Chaubes see Growse, pp. 9-10, B. Chaturvedi in Vajpayee 1958, pp.487-9, P. Mital 1966, pt.l pp.75-6, Y. K. Chaturvedi, and Lynch's article on the ideal of the mastram. 17 Lynch, ibid. For the story of the brahmins' wives see below .17. 6

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00022.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:12] temples, ready to bear down upon the first pilgrim that approaches'.18 Thornhill went on to describe their daily routine in the following terms: To the north and west extend gardens. To them each morning the Brahmins repair, and, stupefied with bhang, pass the day lying beneath the shade of the trees, oblivious of all the world beyond. When they wake up they amuse themselves with wrestling and other athletics.' Lynch has given a less biased and more favourable appraisal of their way of life.19 He sees their consumption of bhang, taken more often later in the day than suggested by Thornhill, as an important factor in their typically carefree, spontaneous, extrovert, and boisterous way of life some of the qualities that make them appear to 'epitomize the quintessence of Braj character.' The tradition of resorting to gardens where there was a wrestling arena (akhcird), a practice that has declined in recent years, provided an opportunity for engaging in exercise and other social activities. Young men could learn wrestling, an art for which many Chaubes became famous. The stout and celibate wrestler represented, for the Chaubes, part of the ideal of a carefree and contented life. Nor are the Chaubes as ignorant as their detractors would have us believe. There are several learned pundits among them, they run their own Sanskrit school, and down to the present day there have been many singers and poets of local repute. In the latter part of the eighteenth century they began to invest the income derived from pilgrimage and rose to become one of the prominent trading and money-lending groups in the region.20 Like pilgrimage priests elsewhere, following the decline of the traditional jajmani system, many of them have become engaged in banking, accounting, and various kinds of commercial activity. The Pandas attached to the Balarama temple at Baldeo are all Ahivasis. Elsewhere in Braj members of this caste live as cultivators, and in former times used to supplement their income by 'taking salt from Rajasthan all over West India and bringing back sugar etc.'21 Growse described them as a pseudo-brahminical tribe, having as many as seventy-two sub-divisions, who were hereditary proprietors of several villages west of the Yamuna, chiefly in the vicinity of Chhata, were 'without exception...utterly ignorant and illiterate', were largely employed as general carriers, and had almost a complete monopoly of the trade in salt.22 He records the tradition that they are descended from a brahmin father and Chamar mother and first settled at a village called Sunrakh, which adjoins the place at Vrindaban where Krishna is believed to have defeated Kaliya, the great serpent (ahi) from which their name is supposed to derive. Alternatively they are said to claim descent from a sage named Saubari who did penance in the waters of the Yamuna, near the place where Kaliya dwelt, and later married the daughters of the king of Mandhata.23 The 18 Thornhill, p.91, Growse, ibid. 19 Lynch, ibid. 20 Bayly 1983, p. 139. 21 Whiteway, p.32. 22 Growse, pp.10-11. 23 P. Mital 1966, pt.l pp.76-77. For Saubhari cf. BhP 10.17.9-11. Narahari (BRat p. 301) calls the place Sonarakh Gram and refers to the nearby kpl (hrada) of Kaliya \ and Sundarlal, p.l 1, says that Saubhari did tapas there. 7

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00023.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:13] Pandas of Baldeo claim descent from an Ahivasi who, according to legend, lived at the village of Rirha (now called Baldeo) and was put in charge of the service of the Balarama deity when it was recovered some four hundred years ago. Although the people of Braj, or 'Brajbasis', as they are usually called, appear to have been originally preoccupied with worship of folk deities, Balarama, Shiva, and the Mother Goddess (Devi), they have absorbed the cult of Krishna in the form in which it was promoted by brahmins from other parts of India who settled in Braj in the sixteenth century. They have taken the image of the romantic and pastoral Krishna to their hearts and have made him the central character in their folklore. They are proud to be associated with the land in which Krishna spent his youth and delight in telling visitors stories about the deeds he performed in their neighbourhood. In keeping with their pastoral background, they are lovers of all dairy products and, if they indulge in a feast, prefer to gorge themselves on butter, ghee, and sweets made from milk, rather than any other kind of delicacy. They are also proud of their dialect, usually referred to as 'Braj Bhasha'.24 It is universally admired for its sweetness and is popularly assumed to be the language that Krishna spoke while he lived and played among the rustic people of Braj. Because it was thought to be the dialect most appropriate for describing Krishna's pastoral adventures, it became the most widely used form of literary Hindi from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Throughout this period Braj was a centre of inspiration for anyone concerned with the adventures of Krishna and Radha. 3 The devotional sects Devotees of Krishna usually belong to a particular group, order, or movement which may be referred to for convenience as a 'sect', though, since Hinduism has no established or orthodox 'Church', the term does not have the same connotations as it does in the context of Christianity. Generally devotees of a particular Vaishnava sect have never studied its specific theological doctrine and do not necessarily refrain from visiting temples administered by members of another sect. On the contrary, it is usually the reputation of a particular Krishna idol that attracts them, rather than the sectarian affliation of the priests that run the temple. There is considerable variation in the degree of exclusivity and sectarianism shown by devotees. For many of them initiation into a particular sect is purely a formal matter. Most people are initiated by their parents' guru or another member of his family or sect, but they are free to take initiation again from any qualified person who makes an impression on them. The priest or religious figure who gives initiation usually belongs to a particular sampraday, a term that can best be translated as 'tradition', since this is the nearest English equivalent to its literal meaning. The conventional number of such 'traditions' in Vaishnavism is four: the Shrivaishnava Sampraday, which originated 24 See D. Varma for a study of the language and its dialectal variants, Rawat 1967 for a detailed study of the varieties spoken in and around Mathura, the dictionaries of Bahari and P. Tandan (based on Sur sagar), and 'Suman's' extensive glossary of local terminology. 8

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00024.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:13] about a thousand years ago in Tamil Nadu, where it still has its largest following; the Madhva Sampraday, named after its founder who lived in the thirteenth century at Udipi in Karnataka; the Nimbark (or Sanakadi) Sampraday, named after a teacher from Andhra Pradesh who probably lived at about the same time; the Rudra Sampraday, normally named after its obscure founder Vishnuswami, whose writings have entirely disappeared. All of these Sampradays worship Vishnu or one of his incarnations, perform similar rituals in their temples, and follow the same basic religious observances. Their respective theological systems were all attempts at refuting the monistic doctrine of Shankara, looked upon as a champion of Shaivism, who argued that the phenomenal world is merely the result of illusion (maya), that the supreme being is without attributes (nirguna), and that the path to ultimate liberation is one of intellectual realization (jnana).25 The Vaishnava theologians offered different explanations of the nature of god, individual souls, and the world, maintaining a more or less dualistic position so as to admit the possibility of a devotional relationship between god and his devotees. They all agree that god, as brahman, is the supreme cause of the universe, but emphasize his possession of attributes and his appearance in personified form as Vishnu, Rama, or Krishna. They hold that individual souls and the inanimate world are both as real as brahman and that the distinction between them cannot be completely erased. Only devotion (bhakti) to Vishnu or one of his incarnations can lead to deliverance from the material world and the endless cycle of rebirth. It is claimed to be a more effective means of approaching god in the present age than either reliance on ritual or intellectual apprehension. The ultimate goal is not one of extinction of the self and complete immersion in brahman, but an exalted state of adoration and communion with god in heaven. While these four Sampradays survive in one form or another, the picture has been complicated by the emergence of sub-sects or new religious movements, most of which claim to belong to or even to be the true inheritors of one of the original four. Nearly all the Vaishnava sects of India have some kind of establishment in Braj, but the ones that are most active and have had most influence on developments since the sixteenth century are the Pushtimarg, Gaudiya Sampraday, Nimbark Sampraday, and two more localized groups called the Radhavallabh Sampraday and Sakhi or Haridasi Sampraday. They are all dominated by brahmins, even though in theory a devotee's background and personal circumstances are no bar to spiritual attainment. Low caste devotees may participate in certain aspects of worship, but the brahminical order prevails, with slight modifications of orthodox doctrines and social ethics. We shall have more to say about the origin of these groups and their contribution to the development of Braj, but it will be useful to make a few introductory remarks here before proceeding further. The Pushtimarg, or 'Path of Grace', is often referred to as the Vallabh Sampraday, since it was founded by Vallabha (b. 1478), who was born into a family 25 See Karmarkar for a comparison of Shankara, Ramanuja, and Keshav Kashmiri on the nature of brahman, the world, and the soul (/Tvc/), with reference to their Brahmasutra commentaries. 9

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00025.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:13] of brahmins from Andhra Pradesh, but spent most of his life in North India.26 He and his followers set up the temple of Shrinathji at Govardhan, which housed the main deity of the sect in Braj until it was removed to Nathdwara in Rajasthan in the late seventeenth century. The present gurus of the sect are all descendants of Vallabha and are venerated by their followers. From the very beginning the Pushtimarg appealed to the affluent mercantile castes, especially in western Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Braj their main centres are at Mathura, Jatipura, Gokul, and Kaman. Many of the Chaubes belong to the Pushtimarg and thus act as priests and Pandas for fellow devotees who come to Braj on pilgrimage. Pushtimarg doctrine does not value asceticism, and in fact virtually encourages its followers to indulge in sensual gratification, provided they first make a token dedication of everything to Krishna. This encouragement of material display and feasting was the reason why Growse dubbed them 'the Epicureans of the East'.27 The movement is usually typified as one in which the infant Krishna is worshipped, but the childhood episodes in his mythology and his nature as an infant are given no special emphasis in the theology of Vallabha or any of his successors. It would be more accurate to say that some followers have particular affection for stories and songs about Krishna's infancy, and that in some ways his idols are treated as if they represented him as a child, but there is nothing so striking or peculiar in this to warrant its being cited as an essential characteristic of the Pushtimarg. More notable, in comparison with other Krishna sects, is its relative lack of emphasis on the role of Radha. The Gaudiya Sampraday is so called because its main theologians came from the province of Gauda in Bengal.28 The sect evolved out of the ecstatic devotional movement inspired by Chaitanya (b. 1486), and it is still the most popular form of Vaishnavism in his native Bengal, as well as in Orissa, and Assam. In the third decade of the sixteenth century some of his more intellectual followers settled in Braj and composed treatises which gave the theology and ritual of the movement a formal and theoretical framework. Descendants of the followers of Chaitanya who came to Braj have inherited custody of the Gaudiya temples and have become naturalized 'Brajbasis'. They cater primarily for devotees from Bengal, many of whom have taken up residence in Vrindaban, thus maintaining a strong Bengali community there. An important factor in the mass appeal of the sect has been its emphasis on communal singing and chanting of the names of Krishna. The Nimbark Sampraday has probably been established in Braj the longest, though its presence is somewhat overshadowed by the Pushtimarg and the Gaudiya Sampraday.29 Several of the older, but on the whole less imposing temples and places of pilgrimage are affiliated to the Nimbark Sampraday, and it has a larger 26 For a general account of the Pushtimarg see Barz, D. D. Gupta, and P. Mital 1968. For its theology see Marfatia and Redington. 27 Growsc, p.284. 28 For an account of the sect see studies by De, Dimock, Eidlitz, Kennedy, D. C. Sen, R. Chakravarti (whose article of 1977 summarizes the development of the sect with copious bibliographical references), and (especially for its role in Braj) P. Mital 1968 and Bansal. A. N. Chattcrjee's book is a compendium of traditional hagiographical sources. 29 There are no specific studies of the Nimbark Sampraday in English. Sec N. D. Sharma pt.l, P. Mital 1968, and Brajvallabhsharan (ed.) 1972. 10

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00026.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:13] following among local Brajbasis, including most of the Sanadhya Pandas and some of the Chaubes of Mathura. Followers are also found in other parts of North India, especially in Rajasthan. Two smaller sects are described as rasik because they concentrate exclusively on savouring the emotional experience (ras) generated by contemplation of the love-play of Krishna and Radha. They have both developed out^xhe popular following of sixteenth-century devotional poets, whose lyrics are thought to supersede the standard canonical accounts of Krishna's life, or any theological treatise based upon them. The Radhavallabh Sampraday is named after a deity worshipped in Vrindaban by Hit Harivansh.30 His lyrics deal with the eternal dalliance of Krishna and Radha in the bowers of Vrindaban, a theme that became the essential preoccupation among his followers. They venerate Radha in particular because she represents the ultimate beauty and perfection which attracted the love of Krishna. Swami Haridas also wrote lyrics on the love-play in Vrindaban, and his followers emulated the role played by the Sakhis, Radha's handmaidens.31 Both of these Sampradays are based in Vrindaban and have no important centres outside Braj. The followers of Swami Haridas comprise an order of ascetics, who align themselves with the Nimbark Sampraday, and families of interrelated Goswamis who are custodians of the famous temple of Banke Bihari and claim to belong to the Vishnuswami Sampraday. There are also some establishments of the Ramanandi order, though since its members are primarily devotees of Rama its main centre is at Ayodhya, his place of birth, which lies four hundred and fifty kilometres to the east of Braj. The Ramanandi presence in Braj consists mainly of ascetics belonging to orders whose worship of Rama has been strongly influenced by the emotional devotion to Krishna, especially its stress on his love for Radha.32 Goswamis form something of an elite among the Vaishnavas of Braj since they act as gurus and serve the most prestigious deities. In most cases their number is so large that they now have only a limited share in the service of the deity, and hence of the temple income. Many of them are continually engaged in protracted litigation, contesting their rights to a share of the communal inheritance either with fellow Goswamis, the government, or trustees appointed to regulate the temple administration. As well as receiving disciples at their temples, Goswamis sometimes go on tour visiting their followers. This enables them to propagate their sect, collect donations, and ensure that their followers invite them to initiate their children. While members of the Pushtimarg are all householders and its leadership is restricted to descendants of Vallabha, the other Sampradays have, in addition to the Goswami families, one or more ascetic orders. The head of an order or group of ascetics, usually given the title 'Mahant', is succeeded by a pupil whom he has designated or who is elected from among his followers. Ascetics may wander continually from one pilgrimage centre to another, or settle down ih one place to 30 See Snell, Snatak, Lalitacharan Goswami, and P. Mital 1968. 31 See Haynes, Datt, and S. B. Goswami (who also deals with two more \Sakhf groups called the Pranami and Lalita Sampraday). 32 For the origins of the Ramanandi order see Burghart 1978, B. P. Singh for those orders influenced by Krishna devotion, and van der Veer, ch.4, for their presence in Ayodhya. 11

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00027.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:13] live alone, or in a small or fairly large community. Wherever they go, they are dependent upon the charity of householders, though some of the larger monastic institutions derive considerable income from endowments. Ascetic establishments are referred to as an asram ('hermitage'), math (literally 'hut' or 'cell', but used to refer to an institution resembling a monastery or cloister), or akhara ('arena, wrestling ground') if its residents belong to one of the militant orders set up in the eighteenth century to defend their faith. Ascetics aim at exercising more restraint than Vaishnava householders, as is implied by the use of the terms virakta and hairagJ ('dispassionate') to refer to them. Those who belong to the Gaudiya Sampraday usually shave their head, whereas those of the Nimbark Sampraday, like Ramanandi and Shaiva ascetics, have matted hair and smear their bodies with ashes a sign that they are dead to the world. Even so, ascetics are unlikely to decline an invitation to a feast held in their honour, and will indeed eat heartily. They also indulge in the same kind of sensous emotional fantasies as other devotees of Krishna. Formerly some ascetics, especially those of the Gaudiya Sampraday, lived with nuns, referred to by the term hairagin, who were often their concubines. The practice is no longer maintained, but there are still many Bengali widows who seek refuge in Vrindaban and live the life of a pious ascetic. Krishna devotion is largely a popular and participatory form of religion. Practice consists mainly in visiting temples to look at deities, joining in the chanting of divine names, and listening to songs and plays about Krishna, or to sermons which deal with ethics and exemplary devotion rather than theology. Very few devotees take the trouble to study any of the Sanskrit doctrinal texts, but all of them are fond of the vernacular lyrics and narratives describing the adventures of Krishna. Despite the relative uniformity of practice, some devotees tend to look upon members of other sects as rivals. They claim that certain saints or devotional works belong to their sect rather than another, argue that theirs is the more original or authentic tradition, and criticize some of the practices observed in other sects for being unorthodox or unjustified. Like all Vaishnavas, they tend to be sanctimonious with regard to non-Vaishnavas, priding themselves on their ritual purity and vegetarianism. 4 Varieties of pilgrimage In India pilgrimage is an increasingly popular phenomenon. It combines tourism and acquisition of merit and allows the faithful to participate in a shared experience of the sacred and to offer prayers to deities renown for their beneficence. Hein records that five hundred thousand pilgrims visited Mathura and Vrindaban in 1949-50. According to Klostermaier the annual total had reached two million by the 1960's.33 Mathura and Vrindaban are ideally situated for both the serious pilgrim and casual visitor, since they lie just off the national highway that runs between Agra and Delhi. An ever increasing number of chartered buses and private cars turns off the main road to give passengers a chance to see the famous temples. 33 Hcin, p. 10, Klostermeier, p.l. 12

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00028.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:14] With the growth of India's urban middle class, and its increasing mobility, more and more people are coming for week-end trips. Pilgrims arrive in Braj throughout the year, the busiest times being the spring, when Holi is celebrated, and the rainy season that lasts through the Hindu months of Shravan and Bhadon (July-September). This is when most of the buses arrive that bring pilgrims on organized tours, and when groups of devotees begin the full circumambulation of the sacred places. The second fortnight of Shravan, when the temple deities are placed in a swing, is a particularly hectic period. Other important festivals are the birthdays of Krishna and Radha that fall in the following month. At these peak times the narrow streets of Vrindaban and Mathura are filled with groups of villagers, especially from Rajasthan, who cling to each other as they jostle through the crowds from one temple to another. They may not be the most munificent pilgrims, but for the sharks who lurk at the bus stands, stations, and sacred places they are certainly the most gullible. The biggest fish, of course, are the wealthy merchants and industrialists who come with their families by taxi or private car. In addition there are convoys of politicians and other dignitaries, with police escorts forcing their way through the throng, their blaring jeep horns competing for attention amid the cacophony of loudspeakers. A cursory visit to Braj must include at least Krishna's birthplace and the temple of Dwarkadhish in Mathura, and a trip to Vrindaban to see the temples of Banke Bihari, Rangji, Shahji, and the 'Hare Krishna' movement (ISKCON) an intriguing attraction for Hindus who come to gape at the zealous foreign converts.34 Many of the fine temples that once thrived on royal patronage and endowments are ignored because the service of the deity is no longer maintained in its former splendour. Although most visitors are shown the imposing temple of Govind Dev, it is the newer and more gimmicky temples that attract more attention than the battered relics of the sixteenth century. Rangji, apart from being the largest temple in Braj, is novel in that it is the only one built in Dravidian style and is equipped with a range of vehicles for the deity, a fabled 'golden column', and a gallery of mythological tableaux featuring electrically operated dolls. The italianate temple of Shahji, panned by Growse as resembling 'nothing so much as a disreputable London casino',35 is admired for its colonnade of spiral marble pillars. The new temple founded by Pagal Baba on the approach road to Vrindaban promises to be a regular attraction on account of its tall tower accomodating a variety of deities on its many floors. Connoisseurs of kitsch will be delighted by a recently developed park next to the temple of Lala Babu which contains gaily painted cement statues of all the gods, saints, and sages, and a cow that provides drinking water from a tap attached to one of its teats. A more extensive tour of Braj will include Govardhan, Barsana, Nandgaon, Mahaban, and Gokul. Most of the other pilgrimage sites, being less readily accessible by motorized transport, receive few pilgrims apart from those who make the Cull circuit of Braj. 34 C. R. Brooks carried out a poll in Vrindaban in 1982-3 which showed that 98% of all one-day pilgrims visited the ISKCON temple, and that only 6% of pilgrims who stayed 2 days failed to visit it. See his dissertation, p. 216 35 Growse, p. 263. 13

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00029.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:14] Apart from visits to temples to see the deities, pray to them, and make offerings, an important rite is the circumambulation of a sacred place. The act of walking in a clockwise direction around a sacred object (Skt. pradaksina, parikramci, Hindi parikrama) is a long-established religious practice. It was a fundamental part of the worship of a Buddhist or Jain stupa, and in the late Vedic period sacrifice provided a context for circumambulation. It was interpreted as an act of encompassing or encircling the universe, defending it from evil spirits who roam the outerlying areas of darkness, demarcating the boundary between universe and non-universe, and of identifying the performer with the brahman that pervades and sustains creation.36 Everywhere in India it is customary to circumambulate a sacred tree, a pedestal or mound on which the sacred basil plant grows, and any deity either by walking around the temple itself or by using a passage within the building that encircles the shrine room. Pilgrims should also circumambulate any sacred place that they visit. The precincts of holy towns in India are delineated by a parikrama route, and are sometimes surrounded by another longer circuit that includes many subsidiary sacred places. Such is the case in Braj, where individual towns, villages, and groves have their circumambulatory paths that are all incorporated in an extended parikramci encompassing them all. Local residents may walk around their sacred centre at any time daily if they are particularly devout, on the eleventh day of any lunar fortnight, on the full moon, or every day during the month of Karttik and intercalary months. Circumambulations can usually be started at any point along the route and are not considered complete unless one returns to the point of departure. Some of them are done by large numbers of people, such as the ones called ban bihar performed at night around Mathura (on the full moon ofVaishakh) and Vrindaban (on Jyeshth 1.5, and in the daytime on Jyeshth 1.2). Joint circumambulation of Mathura and Vrindaban, known as jugal jorl parikramd, is performed at the beginning and especially at the end of the four month period when the gods are believed to be asleep (i.e. on Ashadh 11.11 and Karttik 11.11). The route incorporates the normal circuit of Mathura as far as Saraswatikund, then proceeds via Garud Govind to Vrindaban, joining the parikramci path at Raman Reti and following it as far as Akrur Ghat, whence the participants take the old road back to Mathura, a total distance of some forty kilometres. Circumambulation of the Govardhan hill is particularly popular among the people of Braj, especially on new and full moon days, above all the full moons of Ashadh, Karttik, or any intercalary month. Thousands participate on the important days, forming a continual stream of people all along the route, which is about eighteen kilometres long. Some people circulate the hill in a manner called danciaun parikrama. This involves prostrating along the whole length of the sacred circuit at every step, lying flat on the ground with arms outstretched and then moving forwards to prostrate again at the place last touched by one's fingers. This takes between ten and twelve days; but there is an even more arduous form of dcindauti parikramci undertaken by those who wish to repay a boon, acquire merit, or feel that they have a heavy burden of karma to work off. They perform one hundred and eight prostrations on the spot before they move one body-length 36 Burghart 1985, p. 142, citing Satcipcithcibrahnuma. 14

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00030.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:14] forward, counting their prostrations by moving a small stone from a diminishing pile at their feet to a growing one at the point reached by their outstretched hands (see plate 1). This form ofparikramd takes between two and four years, but one will always find a few people engaged in it if one walks around the hill. Sometimes they are sponsored by the guilty rich to perform it vicariously. The full circumambulation of Braj is known as the caurasT kos parikrama, so called because its length is reckoned as being eighty four kos,37 a distance of some three hundred kilometres. Every year different groups of pilgrims undertake this pilgrimage, but they do not follow exactly the same route. Each group of pilgrims is led by, or mainly consists of members of one particular sect, hence they do not show the same degree of reverence for the various sacred places. The first person to draw up a detailed itinerary for the sacred circuit of Braj was Narayan Bhatt. In his Vrajabhaktivildsa, written in 1552, he distinguished between two types of pilgrimage, a vrajaydtra ('Braj pilgrimage') lasting from the beginning of Vaishakh to the end of Shravan that toured the villages of Braj, and a vanayatrd ('forest pilgrimage, see appendix 5), held from Bhadon 1.8 up to the full moon of the same month, that included the forests, groves, lakes, and ponds. The distinction between the two is not made today and may always have been a theoretical one; nowadays hem ydtrd and braj ydtrd, the modern equivalents of the terms used by Narayan Bhatt, are synonymous with caurasT kos parikrama. The nearest modern equivalent to Narayan Bhatt's vanaydtra is a pilgrimage undertaken mainly by ascetics of the Gaudiya Sampraday. They set out from Vrindaban on Bhadon II. 11 and on the following day formally begin their circuit at Bhuteshwar in Mathura, where they return fifteen days later after completing their circuit. This circumambulation is known as the ram dal or lathamar ydtrd, the latter term, meaning 'stick-beating pilgrimage', referring to the fast pace at which the participants cover the route. The term ram dal suggests that it was once performed by a group {dal) of Ramanandi ascetics. The most elaborate circumambulation of Braj is organized annually by the Pushtimarg and lasts between six and seven weeks. On account of its scale it is often referred to as the ban ydtrd, or 'big pilgrimage'. There are always a few thousand participants, some years as many as ten thousand. The majority of them belong to the Gujarati trading community from among whom the sect draws most of its support. They are led by one or more of their spiritual leaders, referred to by the regal title of'Maharaj', who trace their descent back to Vallabha the founder of the sect. A few hundred Chaubes from Mathura accompany the pilgrims in order to provide guidance and ritual services. The number of participants varies according to the popularity of the Maharaj and the amount of publicity and other support that he is able to muster. Sometimes the pilgrims are divided into two separate groups with different leaders, one group following the other a couple of days behind.38 Of all the groups that circumambulate Braj the ban yatra is the one that bears most resemblance to the old Jain type of pilgrimage known as sahgha in which 37 Skt. krosa.Tb.e number eighty-four, conventional in Hindu numerology, is arrived at by multiplying the number of months in the year by the number of days in the week. 38 As in the ban ydtrd held in 1975 (see S. Mital, p. 4). The one held in 1983, in which 2,500 people participated, was reckoned as being very small. 15

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00031.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:14] a religious leader (muni) and his followers were financed and accompanied by rich merchants referred to as sahghapati. A hundred years ago Growse noted that it was usual for the expenses of the whole circumambulation to be borne by a single wealthy individual, 'often a trader from Bombay or other distant part of India', who was accompanied by a large gathering of friends and retainers numbering at least two or three hundred persons.39 Some Pushtimarg temples possess painted wall hangings (calledpichvai) depicting the places visited on the pilgrimage and the incidents in the life of Krishna that are associated with them. They are intended to be hung in the temple shrine while the pilgrimage is in progress.40 The bariyatra begins and ends in Mathura, where most of the participants stay in the type of pilgrims' lodge called 'dharmshala', most of which are controlled by the Chaubes. Outside of Mathura camps are set up for them at some twenty-five places (see plate 2 and appendix 4). They spend seven nights at Jatipura, a village beside Govardhan where a great feast called kunvarau is offered to the sacred hill, three nights at some of the townships along the route (Kaman, Vrindaban, and sometimes Barsana, Nandgaon, and Gokul), and one or two nights at other places. Contractors from Mathura provide porters and watchmen, supply tents and other requisites, including 'tongas' (horse-drawn carts) or litters for the aged and infirm, and arrange for all the equipment and pilgrims' luggage to be transported from one camp site to another by truck, bullock cart, or tractor and trolley. The camp sites are referred to as mukam( Ar. maqcim), a term referring to any kind of halting place or station, though its use in this context may have been inspired by Sufi mysticism in which it refers to the stages of a spiritual journey. The Maharaj escorts his Krishna deity, which is carried in a litter and provided with a tent or mobile wooden and canvas temple, or is installed for worship in certain temples on the pilgrimage route. Tents are also erected to house mobile shops, a clinic, post office, and bank. The pilgrims rise every morning before dawn to attend the first service of the deity, then set off on foot to visit the sacred places featured on the day's itinerary. They arrive at the next camp site in time for an afternoon rest before enjoying an evening of preaching, singing, and a performance of a play (ras lila) dealing with an episode in Krishna mythology. At some places there are special festive celebrations, a re-enactment of an incident in the life of Krishna, or a sponsored feast and entertainment for the deity (mcinorath). A special kind of feast (tapeli) is offered at shrines called baithak which mark places where one of the early leaders of the Pushtimarg is believed to have preached or performed a miracle. A few days before the start of the ban yatra, on the day known as Radhashtami (Bhadon II.8), the Maharaj worships at the baithak shrines of Vallabha and his son Vitthalnath at Gokul and asks them to confer their blessing (asTrvad) on himself and his followers. On Bhadon II. 11 he formally begins the ban yatrd by going to Mathura and, in a ceremony conducted by a Chaube beside the river at Vishram Ghat, proclaims his resolution (samkalp) to undertake the circumambulation of 39 Growsc, p. 80. 40 I.e. daily between bhog and saycm during almost the whole of the month of Ashwin. Some examples arc illustrated in Spink 1971, fig. 17 (and details of same, figs. 13, 14, 18, 33, 39, 41, 46, 50), and in Talwar and Krishna, pi. 23 & 24, pp. 26-7, nos. 16 & 17. 16

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00032.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:14] Braj. All of the pilgrims who are to accompany him must also make their vows under the supervision of one of the Chaubes. After making their samkalp they bathe in the Yamuna, offer milk and sweets at the baithak of Vallabha, and promise to abide by all the rules that apply to a pilgrim (an act known as niyamgralum). On the following day their Panda takes them on a tour of various places, mainly temples on or near the ghats in the quarter known as Chaubiya Para.41 This is referred to as the antargrhTparikramd, a term derived from the Puranic differentiation between two kinds of pilgrimage, an inner circumambulation (antargrhT or antarmandala) and an outer pathway encircling the whole world (bhumandalaydtrd) that is followed by Brahma, and other gods and sages. The outer circumambulation of Mathura, referred to aspcmckoslparikrama because its length is reckoned as five kos (about sixteen kilometres), is done by the ban ydtrd pilgrims on their return to the town after finishing the full tour of Braj (usually on Karttik I. 9 or 10).42 They may then formally renounce their pilgrimage vows, give their Panda his fee (daksind), and return home, or decide to stay for a while longer in order to attend the festivals of Diwali at Govardhan and Yam Dwitiya at Mathura, and even Gopashtami, Kans ka Mela, and Prabodhini Ekadashi, which are celebrated later in the month of Karttik. Another version of the caurcisTkos parikrama is organized under the leadership of y the Mahant of Gore Dauji temple in Vrindaban.43 This circumambulation lasts "TV twenty-five days from Karttik II.3 to Margashirsh 1.13. The ashram and temple of Gore Dauji is a Ramanandi establishment, but both ascetics and householders of other Sampradays participate in the pilgrimage. The daily programme is much the same as that of the ban ydtrd, but the itinerary is not as comprehensive and only one night is spent at each camp site, apart from two nights at Govardhan, Kaman, Barsana, and Kosi. The Mahant and a band of followers walk at the head of the party, leading the others in a devotional chant (kTrtan) that is sung continually as they move along. At the halting places there is a programme of preaching and recitation of verses from Ram card mdnas, the most popular Hindi version of the story of Rama. On the first day the party sets out from Vrindaban and goes to Mathura, where they visit Krishna's birthplace and the nearby sacred places. The next day, after bathing at Vishram Ghat, they leave Mathura and begin the circumambulation of Braj, crossing the Yamuna at Chir Ghat and again at Raman Reti (Mahaban), so as to bring them back to Mathura, from where they return to Vrindaban and conclude their pilgrimage with a circumambulation of the town. A circumambulation of Braj lasting nearly eight weeks is undertaken annually by Nimbarki ascetics of the Kathiya Baba Ashram, situated on Gurukul Road, Vrindaban. Led by their Mahant, they leave Vrindaban on Bhadon 1.10 and begin their circumambulation from Mathura on the following day. Their route follows a 41 Among places visited are Ramji Dwar, Gopalji, Satghara, Gatashram, Adivaraha, the caran caukT of Shrinathji and Dauji, Mathura Devi, Padmanabh, Shatrughna, and Virbhadreshwar. See 'Krishna', p. 56, for a more comprehensive itinerary. 42 The terms antargrhi-and panckosi are also used for inner and outer circumambulations of Varanasi, cf. Eck, pp. 42 & 354-5. 43 See L. P. Purohit for an account of this pilgrimage, and appendix 4 for the schedule. 17

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00033.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:15] sequence that differs from that of other versions of the caurdsT kos parikrama, and includes some places that are not visited by other pilgrims (see appendix 4). This is partly because they stop at villages where local people provide a feast for them. Their visits to Barsana and surrounding places coincide with the series of re-enactments of adventures of Krishna that is called bur hi III a. Their stay at the village of Paigaon coincides with the annual festival of a legendary ascetic named Nagaji. Ascetics belonging to this order wear a distinctive kind of chastity belt known as an cirbcmda thick wooden girdle with a chain attached that passes under the groin. The wearing of such an uncomfortable trapping is said to prevent one from falling into a deep sleep, thus enabling one to keep one's mind pure and fixed on spiritual matters. At each halting place the ascetics are feted by the local people and there is a ras Ula performance. The biggest circumambulation ever organized by the Nimbark Sampraday, held in the spring of 1970, followed a similar pattern to that of the Pushtimarg ban vdtra.44 The spiritual head of the sect, Shriji Maharaj, led over two thousand people on a tour of Braj that lasted thirty-nine days. It began with mass bathing at Vrindaban, after which the participants crossed the Yamuna and followed the standard parikrama circuit, omitting Dahgaon, Kamar, and Rasoli, but including Nimgaon (a place of special importance for the Sampraday), and arriving at Barsana, Nandgaon, and Phalain in time to take part in their respective Holi festivities. They camped at thirty places along the route and were provided with the same kind of facilities laid on for the barlyatra, including a 'Shri Sarveshwar Bank', named after a particular sdlagrcim stone that is especially revered by the sect. In former times kings and princes used to undertake elaborate pilgrimages to Braj. On Vishram Ghat stand arches commemorating the fact that some of them donated their weight in gold to the priests who performed the necessary rituals (see plate 16). Bir Singh Deo, Raja of Orchha, made such an offering in 1614; inscriptions on the arches record others made by the Maharajas of Rewa in 1851, of Kashi in 1891, and by a Seth from Ahmedabad in 1931. The rulers of Datiya were among the most regular aristocratic pilgrims from the time of Bhagwan Rao, son of Bir Singh Deo and founder of Datiya, down to the last Maharaja, Gobind Singh Deo45. One such royal pilgrimage undertaken by Raja Parichhat in 1822 was described by Nawal Singh Pradhan, a poet in the king's service. Throughout his narration the poet mentions his patron's largesse in distributing gifts to priests and temples and in sponsoring feasts. The first place in Braj visited by the royal party was Baldeo, since many of the Bundela nobles looked upon the Balarama idol there as a patron deity. On his arrival the king celebrated the Dashahara festival, and five days later, on the full moon day, had his head ritually shaved, donated accoutrements to the deity, and held a feast for local brahmins, ascetics, and other Vaishnavas. He then proceeded to Mathura, where he bathed at Vishram Ghat, offered eighty-one maunds of gold, and gave money to the priests. On the following day his queen also donated her weight in gold. He performed rites for his ancestors at Dhruv Ghat and then circumambulated Mathura. He proceeded to Vrindaban where, like many other nobles, he had a mansion that served as his official residence 44 Sec Govind Das 'Sanf (ed.) for a full description of this pilgrimage. 45 Babulal Goswami, in his introduction to BBP, p. 104. 18

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00034.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:15] while in Braj. He spent several days in Vrindaban visiting temples and receiving people, including a party of Englishmen and the Collector from Agra, whom he entertained on the day of Sharad Purnima. Although he did not circumambulate Braj, he did attend some of the local festivals. He spent three days at Govardhan during Diwali, and then returned via Shantanukund to Mathura for Yam Dwitiya. In Vrindaban he celebrated Gopashtami and did parikrama on the following day, after which he attended the Kans ka Mela at Mathura and the fairs that used to be held in Vrindaban at Keshi Ghat, Kalidah, and Bhatror. On the first day of the month of Margashirsh he sponsored a wedding ceremony (byahulau) for Krishna and Radha, followed later by a ras lila performance before his return to Datiya. 5 Rules and regulations When a householder sets out on a pilgrimage he becomes a temporary ascetic. He is expected to renounce material comforts and dedicate himself to spiritual ends. He should maintain himself in a state of purity in accordance with the notion that the holy ground is pure, just as the act of pilgrimage itself has a purifying effect. These attitudes are reflected in the regulations that pilgrims agree to observe while engaged in the circumambulation of Braj. They vow to go everywhere barefoot, to sleep on the ground, to bathe and worship regularly, not to shave, cut their hair, or use oil, to wear clean clothes every day, to eat once a day, to remain chaste, to abstain from intoxicants, not to harbour sensual or aggressive thoughts, to show reverence for the land, to do no harm to the trees and plants, and to keep the ponds, tanks, and rivers pure. Once a pilgrimage is begun it must be completed; should any pilgrims have to suspend their circumambulation, as a result of illness or impurity arising from menstruation or the death of a close relative, they are expected to resume it as soon as they are able.46 The attitude devotees visiting Vrindaban are expected to adopt has beed described at length in a booklet recently published in the town.47 Local residents, it says, are not to be regarded as ordinary people because they have been granted the privilege of living in Vrindaban. The visitor should therefore consider himself fortunate to be helped by those who live and work in the ashrams and pilgrims' lodges. During his stay he should not indulge in excessive sleep but rise and bathe in time to attend the earliest temple service, after which he may eat and rest for a couple of hours, then go for a walk along the Yamuna, visit one of the sacred gardens, or attend a sermon or ras lila performance. After observing the customary period of rest and quiet in the early afternoon, he should prepare for the evening visit to the temple. He should go everywhere barefoot (the writer reminds us that Krishna was so fond of the earth of Braj that he even ate it), and have a tolerant and patient attitude towards the pigs, dogs, monkeys, and filth that he encounters. He is not to beat the animals of Vrindaban, and if a monkey snatches a piece of bread 46 There is no definitive listing of these regulations, though most of them are given by Narayan Bhatt in VBV 1.34-66. 47 Cf. 'Madhur'. 19

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00035.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:15] from his tray he should be able to see the funny side of it. Similarly the sweepers are not to be feared or beaten, but simply given a wide berth, for everyone in this world has his appointed function and all those who have earned residence in Vrindaban are in some respect blessed. In view of the sanctity of the cow and its role in the mythology of Braj, milk products are the most appropriate foods to be eaten while in Vrindaban. One should keep the river pure by not entering it with shoes on, and by not urinating, washing clothes, or spitting in it. After washing or gargling the used water should be disposed of on the bank, not in the flowing river. Vrindaban is a 'dry' and ostensibly vegetarian town, but alcohol and meat are openly sold elsewhere in Braj. There is, however, tacit acceptance of the fact that many of the Bengali householders are partial to fish, though few of them will readily admit to their indulgence. Recently eggs have appeared on open sale in Vrindaban, a sight that offends the more pious inhabitants. Many devotees avoid and express strong disapproval of garlic and onions, items that are thought to be too inflammatory for a Vaishnava diet. Conscientious devotees will only consume food that is suitable for offering to Krishna, and so they abstain from carrots, tomatoes, red lentils (masur), and other foods rejected because they are suggestive of blood or flesh. They may even be disqualified because their name has some unfortunate connotation, as is the case with cabbage and cauliflower because the first syllable of the word used to refer to them (gobhT) means 'cow'. Some even say that cheese (panTr) should not be made in Vrindaban since it is an offence to split the ambrosia that the cow produces. Accordingly it is a general rule in temples of the Pushtimarg not to offer sweets that are made with curdled milk. Owing to its exclusively religious character, Vrindaban remains an enclave of orthodoxy. Vaishnava attitudes that are prevalent all over Braj are here found to an intensified degree. The town has a higher proportion of ascetics and others with a vested interest in religious fundamentalism. There are many who support the kind of traditionalism that opponents mockingly refer to as lagotivad, a term derived from a kind of undergarment made from a simple T-shaped piece of cloth that is championed by conservative Hindus in the face of the increasing popularity of the western-style underpants that they consider insanitary and sexually frustrating. In 1982, when suggestions were invited from people interested in restoring the pristine environment of Vrindaban, in order to recapture as far as possible the timeless autumnal and vernal atmosphere described in the scriptures, a handbill was distributed that, in addition to such welcome proposals as planting trees, counteracting pollution and excessive noise, provision of a green belt around the town, restoration of the ghats and the channelling of the Yamuna to make it flow along them, also advocated such retrogressive and intolerant measures as the banishing of hospitals and 'modern educational institutions' from the precincts of the town, and prohibition of meat, intoxicants, smoking, and tea. Although it did not go as far as to suggest a ban on western dress, it is not unheard of for some orthodox Vaishnavas to condemn the wearing of trousers instead of the traditional Hindu dhoti. Some people in Braj have also been affected by the wave of communalism currently sweeping across North India. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, as part of its campaign to 'liberate' holy places that are occupied by Muslims, has formed a committee that aims to reclaim the birthplace of Krishna, believed to lie under a 20

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00036.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:17] mosque built in the late seventeenth century on the orders of Aurangzeb. The campaign is supported by a few local politicians, businessmen, teachers, and sadhus, and is spearheaded by a group of activists called the 'Bajrang Dal' ('the Hanuman party'). Like similar movements elsewhere in India, they attempt to inflame the situation by voicing anti-Muslim slogans and exploiting an emotive issue in order to whip up support among the Hindu majority for right-wing politicians. Fortunately this kind of Hindu chauvinism and the more sanctimonious rules and regulations described above do not have much appeal for the majority of devotees and pilgrims, nor are they the most esteemed aspects of devotion to Krishna. Nearly everyone agrees that a devotee's state of mind and the intensity of his involvement in the pastimes of Krishna are of far greater importance. On the whole the people of Braj are fun-loving and easy-going, in accordance with the playfulness inherent in the mythology of Krishna. Many of the developments that have taken place in Braj and still motivate pilgrims to come there have been inspired by his adventures. Before proceeding further, it would be useful to summarize the basic story of Krishna, noting how it has been revised and supplemented to suit the local topography and culture. 21

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00037.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:17] 2 The Myth 1 The scriptural sources Orthodox Vaishnava scholars generally accept the idea that Krishna lived five thousand years ago at the conjunction of the dvapar and kali ages. They also make unconvincing attempts to show that Krishna, as well as Braj, Vrindaban, and Radha are all somehow mentioned in the Vedas.1 The name Krishna, literally meaning 'black', does indeed occur in the Vedas, but there is no apparent connection with the hero or god of later scriptures.2 In the Rgveda the term krsnam, meaning 'night', is used in opposition to arjunam, meaning 'day' two abstract concepts that had some influence in the formation of Krishna and Arjuna as characters in later epic literature.3 In narratives about Krishna's childhood the role of his fair companion is played by Balarama, his elder brother. Another reference in the Rgveda that might conceivably have some relevance for later developments in the mythology of Braj is a mention of the abundance of cows on the banks of the river Yamuna.4 The oldest narratives of the early years of the gods we now call Krishna and Balarama refer to them more frequently by the names Vasudeva and Sankarshana. A remark made by Panini, a grammarian of the fifth or fourth century BC, to the the effect that Vasudeva was the object of 'adoration' or 'devotion' (if this is what he meant by bhakti) has been the subject of much discussion.5 No less controversial 1 E.g. B. Chaturvedi in Dwivedi (ed.) 1972, pp.14 ff., with reference to Rgveda 1.10.7, 1.31.7, 1.86.3, 1.92.4, 1.101.8-11, 5.45.1-6, 6.10.3-4, 8.41.7, 8.46.9, 8.51.5, 10.25.5, 10.62.7; Brajvallabhsharan in Vmdavanahk, pp.22-44, 47-8, also referring to late Upanishads, Sanhitas, and Tantras. Arguments for c. 3,000 BC are summarized by P. Mital 1966, pt.2 pp.10-11, and A. Goswami, pp.129-144. 2 For discussion of Vedic references cf. Preciado-Solis, pp.11-17, 35-7. 3 Corcoran, p.34. 4 Rgveda 5.52.17, quoted, for example, by Jiv Goswami in Krsnasamdarbha (118) ad 372, p.305. 5 Asthddhyayi 4.3.98. See Dandekar's discussion of references in Panini and Patanjali, and Preciado-Solis, pp. 19-23, 27-9, 36-7, for a survey and assessment of scholarly opinions. 22

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00038.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:17] is Megasthenes' statement that the people of Mathura worshipped 'Herakles'. What he probably meant, though some have argued otherwise, is that Vasudeva (alias Krishna), was deified in the area of Mathura, as is implied by archaeological evidence.6 Patanjali, in his commentary on the work of Panini, refers to Vasudeva's slaying of his maternal uncle Kansa and to some kind of re-enactment or staging of the event, which was already regarded as having taken place long ago.7 From these references, as well as from the Buddhist Jatakas, early Jain literature, and the oldest strata of the Puranas,8 it appears that the story of Krishna/Vasudeva being separated from his parents and growing up in a pastoral community under the care of Nanda was well known by the third or second century BC. In epic literature, however, more attention was given to his role in events surrounding the Kurukshetra battle. Although a couple of passages in the Mahdbhdrata mention Krishna's early adventures,9 they appear to have been of little interest to the bards who compiled and transmitted the epic. Initially the pastoral and epic Krishna may have been separate heroes popular among different groups of people. It was only when Vaishnavism emerged as a coherent and widespread cult that Sanskrit literature began to give a full account of Krishna's childhood. The kernel of the legends told about his childhood is that he was destined to kill Kansa, a tyrant who had usurped the throne of Mathura, and that until he was old enough to do so he grew up in the country as a foster child of Nanda and Yashoda. This pastoral interlude was gradually expanded to incorporate other tales that presumably came from oral folk traditions. Most significant among these additions to the myth were the episodes in which he danced and frolicked with the Gopis the young women of the cattle-herding community. This emphasis is closely related to the emergence of devotionalism (bhakti), a development that required a more human and personal deity. The BhagavadgTta proclaimed that the hero Krishna/ Vasudeva, already idolized by the second century BC (cf. below, .6), was identical with the Supreme Being (purusottama) who incorporated the most abstract form of brahman, yet was also a personal god identified with Vishnu. It also acknowledged worship of him by offering a flower, a leaf, or some water in the spirit of devotion a 6 See Arrian, Indica 7-8 (tr. McCrindle, pp. 198-202), on Dionysos and Herakles, based on the account of Megasthenes, and Preciado-Solis, pp.29 ff., for opinions about 'Herakles'. 7 Mahcibhdsya ad Panini 3.1.26, 3.2.111. These and other references to Krishna/ Vasudeva are discussed by Dandekar and by Preciado-Solis, ibid. See Hein 1972, pp.240-51, for a survey of polemics over the question of whether Patanjali is referring to theatrical performance of the killing of Kansa. Patanjali is normally assigned to the second century BC, but in an introduction to part of their edition of his Mahabhasya S. D. Joshi and J. A. F. Roodbergen argue for his having lived in the first century AD. 8 For Jain and Buddhist sources see E. Hardy, Liiders 1904, and B. C. Law, pp.25-6. For the earliest strata of the Puranas see Kirfefs Purana Pahcalaksana, pp.472-81. Versions of the story from various Puranas are collated by Ruben and Tadapatrikar. 9 Viz. Shishupala's diatribe and Bhishma's mention of some of the places connected with Krishna's youth that later became places of pilgrimage, MBh sabha. app.I pp.402-5, 729-856. 23

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00039.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:17] form of ritual from outside the orthodox tradition that has become an essential part of the worship of images. Such references show us how the mythology gradually conflated the legend of a hero (who was perhaps a historical figure), tales from popular tradition about his pastoral childhood, and concepts and mythical elements derived from Vedic or brahminical tradition that were reworked and made applicable to Krishna as an incarnation (avatara) of Vishnu. The oldest text giving us a continuous narrative of Krishna's childhood and youth is Harivamsa, a supplement to the Mahabharatci, that most scholars accept as having been composed by the fourth century.10 In the Mahabharata Krishna is a martial hero and in the Bhagavadgita he is a rather solemn and aloof preacher, but in the Harivamsa he is a more playful figure, as befits the rustic milieu in which he spent his childhood. His beauty is seductive and his frankly erotic encounters with the Gopis are transgressions of conventional morality. A southern recension of the Harivamsa, in which the eroticism is given greater emphasis, appears to have been the main scriptural source for the Alvar poets of Tamil Nadu.11 A more concise narration of Krishna's early years is given in the Visnupurana, probably composed some time between the fifth and seventh centuries.12 This version gave expression to the kind of devotion propagated in the Bhagavadgita. and served as a literary model for the Bhagavatapurana. It gives a fuller account than the Harivamsa of Krishna's play with the Gopis, but the story is padded out with theological digressions and eulogistic passages. The eroticism is subdued and theologically justified; physical contact with Krishna is reduced to mental identification in a condition of separation; the absent lover is someone whose presence is to be recalled and evoked in song. Thus the Gopis are obliged to withdraw from the world of the senses and meditate in yogic fashion upon Krishna as the Absolute.13 Another text that relates or alludes to many of the adventures of Krishna and Balarama (consistently referring to them as Damodara and Sankarshana) is Bdlacarita, a drama attributed to Bhasa.14 It is a secular work that is substantially derived from folk tradition, though there are similarities in content and wording 10 References here are to the critical edition of P. L. Vaidya, who explains in his introduction, p.xxxvii, that his aim was to present the text as it stood in c. AD 300. Most other editions give the narrative of Krishna's childhood in a second section of the HV entitled Visnupcirvan, but in Vaidya's consecutive edition it constitutes chapters 46-113. Ingalls, p.394, accepts the general consensus that it dates from between the lst-3rd centuries. See also Masson 1974, p.455 fn. 11 F. Hardy 1983/1, pp.77, 459-60, 473. 12 ViP 5.1-31. An almost identical version is contained in Brcihmapurana 181-194. Both relate the same incidents in the same sequence as HV, apart from placing Putana's attack before the overturning of the cart. For bibliography and a survey of opinions regarding these Puranas see Rocher, pp. 154-6, 245-50. 13 As pointed out by F. Hardy, ibid, pp.41, 89-103. 14 F. Hardy, ibid. p.79, cites various scholars who are of the opinion that it was composed some time between the 2nd-4th centuries. Hawley 1983, p.27, correlating it with iconography, favours 7th-9th century, probably in the Deccan. 15 Some of these similarities are noted by U. V. Rao. 24

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00040.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:17] with the Harivamsa, and also the Visnupurdna75 Bdlacarita will be referred to below only in cases where its narrative differs from that of the other sources. The Krishna stories travelled to the south and there became further elaborated by the introduction of Tamil themes.16 The most important cultural centres were the Pallava capital of Kanchipuram and the city of Madurai, 'the southern Mathura \ where Krishna was identified with Mayon, a local deity associated with the Pandya kings. By the sixth century a typically southern variety of Krishna devotion had evolved and the Tamil epic Cilappatikdram had included stories about Mayon/ Krishna's rustic adventures. The Alvar poets, who were probably active from the sixth century onwards, gave expression to their religious ecstasies and love mysticism by borrowing themes from a folk literature in which Krishna was the hero of specifically southern myths. His devotees pined for him as an absent lover and revered him as a transcendent god who was represented on earth by temple images. The theme of love in separation came to the fore in the poems of Tirumangai and Nammalvar, expressed from the point of view of a Gopi and accompanied by all the emotional and physical symptoms of intense love, anxiety, frustration, and yearning. The Bhdgavatapurdna, probably composed in the milieu of the temple of Shrirangam in the ninth or early tenth century, was inspired by the emotional type of devotion propagated by the Alvars. It incorporated some episodes from the Tamil poets that were new to Sanskrit literature, but presented the myth in terms of the northern brahminical tradition and in a style that was deliberately archaic.17 Its many digressions explain the import of the story and the nature of devotion in terms of Vedanta theology and Sankhya ontology. It also makes use of terminology borrowed from poetics and lays stress on Krishna's transcendent beauty and the devotional sentiments felt by Yashoda and the Gopis, especially their ecstasy on meeting him and the pangs of separation they suffered when he abandoned them. Whereas the Visnupurdna had pietized Krishna's adventures, the Bhdgavatapurdna transformed them through its doctrine of mystical love.18 The account of Krishna's adventures in the Harivamsa appears to have been composed primarily to entertain its listeners, but the Visnupuranci and Bhdgavatapurdna were more concerned to edify the m by portraying him as a divine being who bestows salvation on those who adore him. The Bhdgavatapurdna presented the adventures of Krishna as divine play (iTla) performed as a means of bestowing grace. The demons he defeats are granted salvation, whereas in the Harivamsa they are merely disposed of as evil forces. It adapted or justified those incidents which, in earlier sources, place Krishna in a rather dubious light, diminish his divinity, or are morally disconcer16 Adaptation of Krishna myths to the cultural milieu of southern India is explored by F. Hardy in 1983/1, pts.3-4, from which the summary given here is derived. 17 For Shrirangam as the milieu and various proposed datings see F. Hardy, ibid. pp.441-5, 486-8, 525-6, 637 ff. He attributes the admixture of Upanishadic ideas to the increase in immigration of brahmins from the North. For the dating of the BhP sec also Hopkins in Singer (ed.), pp.4-6, who suggests AD 850. For the style of the BhP see van Buitenen's article in the same volume. For bibliography and further references to the BhP cf. Rocher, pp.138 ff. 18 Ingalls, pp.384-5. 25

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00041.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:18] ting.19 Rather than being identified with Vishnu or the transcendent brahman, Krishna is clearly acknowledged as the Supreme Being, of whom all other gods are partial manifestations. Any apparent limitations are simply the result of the maya he employs when he imitates human ways. Having dressed a number of non-orthodox elements in traditional garb, the Bhagavatapurdna became accepted by later devotees as the most authoritative account of Krishna's life on earth. Many later Vaishnava theologians looked upon it as the ultimate scriptural authority that superseded the Vedas, Upanishads, BhagavadgTta, and Brahmasutra. The eventual acceptance of the Bhagavatapurana as a canonical scripture for Vaishnavas all over India is expressed in a short text written to proclaim its glory.20 Here it is eulogized as the scripture that men must resort to for salvation in this age of kaliyuga, which began when Krishna returned to his celestial abode. It tells how the sage Narada later visits the earth, by which time there is decadence in all spheres of human activity and Muslims are in control of the sacred places. On the banks of the Yamuna he encounters Bhakti, a woman personifying devotion. She is in distress and is attempting to revive her two decrepit sons named Jnana ('higher knowledge, gnosis') and Vairagya ('dispassionateness, asceticism'). She tells him that she was born in the south of India, attained maturity in Karnataka, and grew old in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, but was mutilated by heretics and became weak. However, since reaching Vrindaban she has been refreshed and rejuvenated, but is pained and perplexed because her sons have remained old and exhausted. Narada explains that in the present age the paths to spiritual attainment that her sons personify are no longer viable and that they are in decline because men no longer have need of them. Nowadays consolation can come only from contemplating the lotus feet of Krishna. Devotion is the only means of gaining liberation; even pilgrimage, spiritual discipline, rituals, and preaching are of no avail. He makes an unsuccessful attempt to revive Jnana and Vairagya by reciting the Vedas, Upanishads, and the BhagavadgTta, but a voice from above tells him that they will be reinvigorated only if he performs a particular rite. He wanders in search of information about the rite in question, but no one is able to help him. Eventually he meets the sage Sanaka and his three brothers, who tell him that recitation of the Bhagavatapurana will relieve the suffering of Bhakti and her sons. Following their instructions, Narada organizes a seven-day ceremonial recitation of the scripture, as a result of which Bhakti, Jnana, and Vairagya are given a new lease of life. In various parts of India Jain versions of the Krishna story were composed during the first millennium and the centuries that followed, but they remain outside the Vaishnava tradition.21 They relate how Neminatha, the twenty-second 19 This process is examined in detail by Sheth, with reference to HV, ViP, and BhP. See also Spink 1982, for a concise survey of the the emergence of the Krishna cult and the elaboration of his character in classical mythology. 20 Bhagavatcimcihatmya chs. 1-3 (= PP 6.193-5). Chapters with the same title and import are also found in SP, see below 6.8. 21 The most notable are Vasudevahindi, composed in the first half of the first millennium, perhaps by the end of the 3rd century (cf. Jain's introduction to the text, pp.27-8), Jinasena's Harivamsapurcina (AD 783-4), Pushpadanta's Mahapurana (Nemicarita 81-6, completed AD 965), and Hemachandra. For further discussion and references to Jinasena and Pushpadanta see Hawlcy 1983, pp.27-9, and Rocher pp.91-3. 26

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00042.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:18] Tirthankara, was a Yadava and a cousin of Vasudeva/Krishna.22 In addition to the textual tradition, iconographical representations of incidents in Krishna's childhood became increasingly widespread and popular in the course of the first millennium. Depictions of his adventures in Braj far exceed those dealing with his later life, and some themes appeared in iconography long before they were included in brahminical literature.23 Some early verse anthologies in Prakrit also contain poems mentioning the love of Krishna and Radha, a popular theme that was not incorporated in religious texts until several centuries later (cf. below ). 2 The setting All accounts of the early life of Krishna say that he was born in the city of Mathura or Madhupuri. The former name may be related to the root math, in the sense of 'churning', and the latter may simply mean 'charming city'; but in mythology it is said to be named after Madhu, a character who is described as a 'demon' (dsura, daityavamsT, danava), though he is praised for his intellect (huddhi) and reverence for brahmins. His son, Lavana, was a distinctly more demonic figure. According to the Rdmdyana, some sages who were living on the banks of the Yamuna sent a message to Rama, then ruling in Ayodhya, complaining about the depradations of Lavana.24 Rama despatched his younger brother Shatrughna, declaring that after defeating Lavana he should be consecrated as king of Madhu's city. After a fierce battle Shatrughna killed Lavana, became king of Madhupuri, and made the city even more beautiful and populous. Later he divided the kingdom between his two sons and returned to Ayodhya. The inclusion of this episode in the last book of the Rdmdyana may well have resulted from a desire on the part of its Vaishnava author(s) to associate Mathura, a well-known centre of the Bhagavata cult, with Rama, regardless of any historical reality or probability.25 The Harivamsa gives a shorter version of the story in which Madhu is said to have lived not in a city but in a forest called Madhuvana.26 Lavana sent Rama a message reviling him for slaying Ravana and challenging him to battle. Shatrughna was sent to deal with Lavana, after which he cleared the forest and founded the city of Madhura. Although the Harivamsa disagrees with the Ramayana by attributing the foundation of Madhupuri/Madhura/Mathura to Shatrughna rather than Madhu, both versions describe it as a splendid city that stretched in a crescent shape along 22 See Hemachandra (tr. Johnson, vol.5 pp.153 flf.: 8.5, Neminatha carita). 23 For a survey of early Krishna iconography see Hawley 1983, ch.2 and appendices, and Preciad o-Solis, ch.5. The sequence of events in friezes rarely follows that of the literary versions. 24 Rdmayana 7.59-62. The story is also referred to in Agnipurdna 11.6-7, BhP 9.11.13-14, Brahnumdapurana 2.3.63.186-7, Vdyupurdna 88.185, ViP 1.12.2-4, and in Kalidasa's Raghuvamsa, sarga 15. In a Jain version by Vimalasuri (Paiimacariyam 86-89) Madhu is described as king of Mathura and son-in-law of Ravana. This Madhu should not be confused with a demon of the same name who was slain by Vishnu. 25 Goldman 1986, p.478. 26 HV 44.21. See Goldman 1986 for a comparison of the Rdmayana and HV versions. 27

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00043.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:18] the bank of the Yamuna. According to the Mahdbharatcu Mathura was subsequently entrusted to Bhima Satvata, who had two sons called Andhaka and Vrishni. It was their descendants who became the hereditary rulers of Mathura.27 Madhuvana is also named as the place on the bank of the Yamuna where Dhruva performed austerities.28 At the age of five he left home after being repudiated by his father's co-wife. Narada told him that in order to have a vision of Vasudeva he should go to Madhuvana, bathe regularly in the Yamuna, meditate, and practise austerities. After six months Vishnu/Vasudeva appeared before Dhruva and, as a boon, promised him a lasting abode in heaven. Dhruva returned home, eventually succeeded to his father's kingdom, and at the end of his life took a vow of renunciation. On his death he assumed his place in the heavens as the pole star (dhruvatcira, 'fixed star'). Sites in Mathura that derive from this myth are a bathing place and mound named after Dhruva, a nearby mound named after Narada, and another named after Dhruva at Madhuban (Maholi). On the very night that he was born, Krishna was smuggled out of Mathura and placed in the care of the herdsman Nanda. The scriptural sources use various terms for the environment in which Krishna grew up, but none of them refer to the precise geographical locations known to us today. The term vraja occurs frequently, but, unlike the modern 'Braj', it is not used as a name for the region around Mathura. Similarly gokula, another term used for the location of some of his adventures, should not be taken as referring to the modern village of Gokul. Both vraja and gokula are used to refer to the encampment or settlement of cowherds of which Nanda was the headman.29 Monier-Williams, in his Sanskrit-English dictionary, defines vraja as an 'enclosure or station of herdsmen' as well as simply a 'fold, stall, cow pen or cattle shed'. Other synonyms used in the narratives are govraja, nandavraja, nandagokula, and gostha.30 It is clear that no permanent location or settlement is intended since gokula is used for the first encampment to which Krishna was brought for refuge, as well as for the later one established when the community moved to the area of Vrindaban. None of the earlier sources uses the term vraja to refer to an extensive area. An attempt at justifying such a usage is given in a relatively late passage in the Skandapurana. There, in a story interpolated to explain how the sacred places of Braj were reclaimed, the sage Shandilya explains to Vajranabha that the term vraja connotes expansiveness.31 Only relatively modern sources tell us that Nanda moved from a village called Gokul and settled at 27 MBh 2.13.29-30, 5.126.36 ff. 28 BhP 4.9-12, which gives an amplified version of the story of Dhruva that is alluded to in HV 2.8-13, Lihgapurana 1.62, Matsyapurcma 4.35-8, SP 4.1.19-21, and ViP 1.11-12. 29 Corcoran, p. 146, notes that only in H V, where gokula may sometimes refer to the herds of cattle rather than the encampment, is there any discernible difference in meaning. When later Sanskrit sources wish to denote 'Braj' they use compounds such as vrajabhumi and vrajadesa (cf. .40, 6.8, & 6.12). 30 See Amarakosa 3.3.30: gosthadhvaniha vrajdly BC uses ghosa as another synonym. 31 SP 2.6.1.19-20: vrajanam vydptir ityuktya vyapanad vraja ucyate/ gundtltam par am brahma vydpakam vraja ucyate. See also the definition cited above at the beginning of the introduction. 28

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00044.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:18] Nandgaon. Even in the poetry of Surdas, written in the sixteenth century, vraja is most satisfactorily translated in its original sense rather than to mean what we now call Braj. In the earliest narratives it is evident that Nanda is the headman of a nomadic pastoral community. The Harivamsa clearly depicts their contempt for urban life and their complaints about having to pay a yearly tax of bulls, buffaloes, and butter to the king of the city.32 That they had no permanent settlement is evident from Krishna's telling Balarama of the need to change the location of their encampment (vraja) because the present one had become overgrazed. He suggested the area of Vrindaban as a suitable alternative, and it was there that they made a new encampment by arranging their carts in a broad semicircle and surrounding them with wood and thorns.33 In the Vismipurana he declares that the herdsmen are not people who are confined by doors and walls, possess neither fields nor houses, and wander as they please in wagons.34 The Bhagavatapurcma normally refers to carts, but on one occasion implies a more permanent settlement by saying that the houses of the vraja were decorated for the celebration of the birth of Krishna.35 This suggests a tendency to consider Nanda as having a permanent home, which in later literature is described as a sumptuous mansion or palace. It is presumably references to the 'great forest' (maha\mahadvana) surrounding the encampment that gave rise to the name 'Mahaban' for a village near to the modern Gokul.36 The cattle are said to be taken to graze in a 'great forest' near to Nanda's encampment, but no specific location is intended, for subsequently the herdsmen decide that they should move on to another such 'great forest'.37 The name vrndavana refers to the area in which Nanda and his community set up a new encampment. The Yamuna flows there and it is described as having good pasture, many kadamba trees, luxuriant vegetation, plenty of fruits, and sweet water. In older sources, as well as many later ones, it designates the whole area in which Krishna and Balarama graze their cattle.38 The Bhagavatapurana says that it is an area with sacred hills and forests in which Krishna defeated the serpent Kaliya, slew the demon Keshi, and danced with the Gopis.39 Later texts explain that the name derives from vrnda, meaning the tulsi plant (sacred basil) or a goddess who personifies it, but the original meaning is obscure.40 Govardhan is described as a 32 Ingalls, p.386. 33 HV 52, 53.21-22. See also BhP 10.11.35. 34 ViP 5.10.32-3. 35 BhP 10.5.6. Kirfefs Purdna Paiicalaksana, p.473, also refers to nandagopagrha, 'the house of the herdsman Nanda\ 36 Mahaban became the name of a stronghold near Mathura by the 11th century, see .8. 37 HV 52.7, 53.2. See also MBh 2 app.I 785. In BhP the term brhadvana is used. cf. 10.7.33, 10.11.21-9. 38 Later sources say that it is five yojana in extent, e.g. NP 2.80-72. 39 BhP 10.11.28. 40 Corcoran, pp.20 & 27 fn.l, suggests that it is related to vrnda in the sense of 'group', perhaps referring to a grove resorted to by ascetics (yativrnda). Kosambi, p. 116, suggests that vrndavana means 'forest of the group goddess1. 29

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00045.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:18] lofty mountain, located either in Vrindaban or in the vicinity of Vrindaban and the river Yamuna.41 Later Vaishnavas suggested various explanations for why the setting of the scriptures does not conform to modern topography. Vallabha disposed of the problem simply by saying that the description given in the Bhcigcivcitapurdna is different because it refers to another era (kcdpa).42 Sanatan Goswami says that although Nandishwar (i.e. Nandgaon) is now a considerable distance from the Yamuna, it used to appear much closer because in those days people could walk faster.43 Prabodhanand Saraswati reconciles the vrnddvanci of the scriptures and the modern toponym Vrindaban by differentiating between an extended grazing area called gosthavrndcivana and, within it, an inner realm of dhamavmdavana where Krishna's most intimate encounters with the Gopis take place.44 Some say that Braj is like a lotus: when it is open during the daytime the places on its petals are far apart; at night the petals close in on Vrindaban, bringing all the places closer together. A gigantic banyan tree called bhandira is said to grow in the area of Vrindaban or, like Govardhan and the Yamuna, to be visible from there.45 It is described as reaching up to the sky and providing shade in which Krishna and Balarama used to shelter and play while they were out grazing the cattle.46 Here they were once attacked by a demon called Pralamba. A grove with an old banyan tree on the east bank of the Yamuna is now identified as Bhandirban. Another modern toponym derived from early accounts of Krishna's adventures is 'Talban' the 'palmyra forest' where Balarama slew the demon Dhenuka. In the Harivamsa it is said to be north of Govardhan and on the banks of the Yamuna,47 a location that is at variance with that of Talban. 3 The birth of Krishna48 The Bhdgavatapurana begins its narrative of the birth of Krishna with the Earth, in the form of a cow, seeking divine intervention in order to be relieved of demons and tyrants. Vishnu decides to be born as Krishna among the Yadavas, a ksatriya clan named after its founder Yadu. In this incarnation Vishnu is accompanied by Ananta, the cosmic serpent upon which he lies, who becomes incarnate as Balarama. Krishna's father Vasudeva was a Vrishni, while his wife Devaki, her uncle Ugrasena, and her cousin or brother Kansa were Andhakas, another branch 41 HV 49.16, 52.24-27. 42 Subodhim 10.11.35. 43 Commenting on BhP 10.11.36, see B. Majumdar, pp.88-9. Sanatan, like Jiv Goswami in his commentary on the same verse in his Krsnasamdarbha, says that vraja extends from a point south of the Kaliya pool in Vrindaban for a distance of over two yojana. 44 Vmddvanamahimcimrta 1.8. Other writers refer to the latter as nijavrndavana. 45 HV 52.27. 46 HV 55.17-22. MBh 2 app.I 803 ff. 47 HV 57.3 48 HV 47-8, ViP 5.1.3, BhP 10.1.4. 30

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00046.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:19] of the Yadavas.49 The Andhakas were the hereditary rulers of Mathura and the Vrishnis ruled over Dwarka or a town called Shaurapura (identified with the modern Bateshwar). Vasudeva's sister Kunti married Pandu, chief of the Kurus, and gave birth to the five Pandava brothers. This family connection eventually led to the Andhakas and Vrishnis becoming embroiled in the Mahabharata war. Krishna's main task is to overthrow the wicked Kansa, who had deposed his father Ugrasena and usurped control of Mathura. When it was prophesied that Kansa would be slain by the eighth child born to Devaki, he imprisoned both her and Vasudeva and killed their first six children as soon as they were born. Vishnu, by means of his magic power, personified as Yogamaya, caused Ananta to be conceived as the seventh child of Devaki, but had the embryo transferred to the womb of Rohini, a second wife of Vasudeva who lived in the encampment of his friend Nanda. While everyone had the impression that Devaki had miscarried, Ananta was born safely to Rohini in the form of Balarama. The sources explain that because he was drawn out of the womb of Devaki he is also called Sankarshana, but the name can mean 'ploughing' as well as 'extraction' and probably refers to his function as an agricultural deity. He is also referred to by the names Rama, Baladeva, and Haladhara ('plough-holder'). After the birth of Balarama, Vishnu is then conceived as the eighth child of Devaki. The Visnupurana says that Vishnu plucked two hairs from his head, one black and one white, and placed them in the womb of Devaki, where they grew into the dark Krishna and fair Balarama, while Yogamaya was born as a daughter of Nanda's wife Yashoda. Krishna was born in prison, but Vishnu's magic power caused the guards to fall asleep and Vasudeva's fetters to be loosened, allowing him to escape with his son and take him to Nanda's encampment, a place now identified with the township of Gokul. The Harivamsa says nothing about him having to cross the Yamuna to get there, but the other sources describe how the river, then flowing in full spate because of the rains, parted in order to enable Vasudeva to reach the opposite bank. Shesha (another name for Ananta) appeared to protect Vasudeva and the child from the rain by rearing up behind them and sheltering them with his serpent hoods. Vasudeva exchanges Krishna for the apparently still-born daughter of Nanda and returns with her to the prison. On hearing that Devaki has given birth, Kansa goes to her cell, seizes the daughter and dashes her against a stone. She rises up in the form of the goddess Yogamaya and tells Kansa that Krishna will one day return to slay him.50 49 The relationship between Devaki and Kansa is not consistent. In the most authoritative texts she appears to be Kansa's cousin and a niece of Ugrasena, but in the Buddhist Ghatajataka (Jcitaka no. 454) and in PP she is Kansa's sister and daughter of Ugrasena. For further discussion see Luders 1904, p.697 and U. V. Rao. Ghatajataka (cf. E. Hardy, p.32), which Luders (ibid. p.696) suggests was composed in Sri Lanka, says that Upasagara (Vasudeva) lives with his wives Devagabbha (Devaki) and Rohini at Govardhan (govaddhamana). 50 She is called Yoganidra in ViP, Ekadasha in Kirfel's Pur ana Pahcalaksana, p.475, Katyayani by Bhasa in BC 2.20, and Anjani in Ghatajataka. See Hiltebeitel, pp.66-7, for discussion of opinions regarding the name Ekadasha/Ekanansha. 31

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00047.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:19] 4 Krishna overturns a cart (sakatarohana)51 Yashoda wakes to find that she has acquired a son, and the whole community celebrates his birth. The first revelation of Krishna's supernatural power is his overturning of a cart (sakata) under which Yashoda placed him to sleep. He kicks his feet in his sleep and overturns it, an event that in the Bhagavatapurana is related to the celebration of his 'sitting up' (autthanika), a rite that usually takes place three months after birth when the sign under which the child is born is in the ascendant. The incident seems to be no more than a demonstration of Krishna's miraculous power, but the Bhagavatapurana describes how Yashoda felt that some evil spirit or inauspicious force may have been at work. Only Bhasa goes so far as to say that the cart was a form of demon (later known as Shakatasur), though it was depicted as such in iconography in the late seventh century.52 5 Putana {putanavadha)53 The first demon sent by Kansa to attack Krishna is an ogress called Putana. She arrives at the encampment in the guise of a beautiful woman and offers her services as a wet nurse.54 When she places her poisoned nipple in Krishna's mouth he sucks all the life out of her and she reverts to her terrible demonic form. Her gigantic body is then dismembered and burnt. 6 The whirlwind demon (trnavartavadha)55 When Krishna is one year old a servant of Kansa attacks the encampment in the form of a whirlwind (Trinavarta) and whisks Krishna away. Yashoda and the other women are greatly distressed, but Krishna is able to make himself too heavy for the whirlwind to carry. He chokes the whirlwind to death, causing it to revert back to its normal form and its eyes to burst out of their sockets. 7 Garga's visit56 Two of the main sources tell us that Garga, the family priest of the Yadus, visited the encampment in order to officiate in the naming ceremonies of Krishna and 51 HV 50.1-19, ViP 5.6, BhP 10.7.1-17, BC 3. See Herbert, pp.268-72, for a symbolic interpretation of the cart as representing the body. 52 Hawley 1983, p.27 fn. 53 HV 50.20 ff., ViP 5.5, BhP 10.6.1-34. 54 In HV and MBh 2.38.4 & 7 she is said to appear as a bird of prey (sakuni), cf. Ingalls, p.384. 55 BhP 10.7.18-33. 56 ViP 5.6.8, BhP 10.8.1-20. 32

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00048.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:19] Balarama. He predicts that the boys will delight and protect the herding community. 8 Krishna eats dirt57 Balarama and the other boys tell Yashoda that Krishna has been putting dirt into his mouth. Yashoda catches him doing it and scolds him, but he denies the offence and asks her to look in his mouth. When she does so she is amazed to see that it contains the earth and the whole universe, including the encampment and her very own self. The same thing happens some time later when she looks into his mouth after feeding him. These revelations hearken back to the story of the sage Markandeya who, after the dissolution of the world, found himself to be alone and walking on water.58 He came across a child resting on the branch of a banyan tree who, on seeing his confusion, opened his mouth and allowed him to enter it. Inside, Markandeya finds the universe that he has just seen destroyed. This child is none other than Krishna, for he is described as wearing a yellow garment and as having the srlvatsa mark on his chest. Accordingly Krishna is sometimes depicted lying on a banyan leaf and sucking his toe (see plate 8). Both myths may be interpreted as portraying a god who devours the devotee, who simultaneously realizes the god inside him.59 9 Krishna is tied to a mortar (ulukhalabandhcina)60 The mischievous side of Krishna's character shows itself as soon as he is old enough to move about. While Yashoda's back is turned he breaks one of her butter pots and gorges himself on its contents. She chases him with a stick, catches him, and ties him up to a heavy mortar. Her intention is that Krishna should stay put so that she can carry on with her chores without further hindrance, but he is so strong that he manages to crawl away, dragging the mortar behind him. The mortar gets stuck between a pair of teak trees (yamaldrjuna), but Krishna keeps on crawling and uproots them. In the Harivamsa the two trees are said to be the abode of spirits worshipped by the women, and the Bhdgavatapurana states explicitly that the two trees had once been sons of 'the bestower of wealth' (viz. Kubera), named Nalakubera and Manigriva, who had been cursed by Narada for their unseemly behaviour. When Krishna uproots the trees the two spirits are set free and attain salvation. This incident is cited as the origin of Krishna's epithet 'Damodara' 'having a rope round the waist'. The image of Krishna as a butter thief (Hindi mcikhan cor) became a standard theme in iconography from the fifth century onwards and must at the same time have been popular in poetry. In the older narratives Yashoda binds him to the 57 BhP 10.8.32-45. 58 MBh circinya. 3.186.81. ff. 59 O'Flaherty 1984, p.268. 60 HV 51, ViP 5.6, BhP 10.9-11.6. 33

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00049.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:19] mortar because of his ebullience rather than his naughtiness. It is in Bdlacarita and the Bhagavatapurdnci that he is portrayed as an unruly and mischievous stealer of butter.61 10 The encampment is moved to Vrindaban and other demons attack Krishna62 In the Harivamsa Krishna says that the pastureland surrounding the encampment is overgrazed and prompts the herdsmen to move the settlement by causing it to be plagued by a pack of wolves that issue from his body. In the Bhdgavatapurana Upananda, a junior brother of Nanda, suggests that the encampment be moved because of the threatening events that have taken place. At this point in the story it introduces some incidents involving three demons sent by Kansa to attack the boys while they are grazing the cattle. The first demon (Vatsasura) appears in the guise of a calf. Krishna seizes it, swings it around, and hurls it against a tree. The second demon (Bakasura) is a giant heron or crane that tries to swallow Krishna, but he grasps the tips of its beak and tears it apart. The third demon (Aghasura), intent on avenging the death of his sister Putana and his brother Bakasura, adopts the form of an enormous serpent. Krishna's companions inadvertently walk into the open jaws of the serpent, mistaking it for a cave, but he follows them inside and by causing himself to expand manages to choke the monster and split its sides. 11 Brahma spirits away the calves and cowherd boys63 These onslaughts are followed by an account of how Brahma spirited away the calves and the cowherd boys, simply because he wanted to witness Krishna's miraculous power. Krishna creates duplicates of himself and his companions in order to prevent their mothers from becoming distressed. These substitutes stand in for the real boys until their reappearance a year later, upon which Brahma praises Krishna and apologizes for his conceit. 12 The defeat of Kaliya (kaliyadamana)64 In Vrindaban there is a large pool beside the Yamuna where a serpent king named Kaliya dwells. His presence poisons the water and makes the surrounding woodland a frightening place. Krishna jumps into the pool from the branch of a kadamba tree and is dragged down by the serpent, causing panic among the onlookers. After a fierce struggle Krishna eventually resurfaces dancing on the 61 Hawley 1983, pp.30, 37-45, 54 ff., who refers to some of the early Tamil sources. 62 HV 52-53, BhP 10.11.21-12.39. 63 BhP 10.13.12-14.48. 64 HV 55-56, ViP 5.7, BhP 10.15.47-17.19. 34

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00050.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:20] hoods of the subdued serpent. Kaliya's wives plead for his life to be spared, and so Krishna banishes him to the ocean. The water of the pool is now suitable for drinking and the land around it is safe for the cattle and herdsmen. 13 Dhenuka (dhenukasuravadha)65 The boys hear of a large grove where there are palmyras bearing delicious fruit, but dare not go there because it is guarded by Dhenuka, a demon in the form of an ass. The demon charges at Balarama when he begins to gather the fruit, but is killed when Balarama hurls him against one of the palmyras. Thereafter the herdsmen and cattle were able to frequent the grove. 14 Two forest fires (davdnala/davagni)66 A forest fire breaks out while everyone is sleeping somewhere near the Yamuna, but Krishna swallows up all the flames. Later, after the slaying of Pralamba, a second fire breaks out in a clump of rushes (munjatavi) and threatens to burn the cattle. Krishna again swallows the fire and leads the cows safely back to the bhandira tree. These incidents are assumed to have taken place in the dry season, for they are followed by a description of the rainy season and how Krishna began to enchant the Gopis by playing his flute. 15 Pralamba {pralambdsuravadha)67 The boys play a game in which they form two teams and race in pairs, skipping like deer, up to the bhdndira banyan tree. The boy who is last to reach the tree has to carry his rival back to the starting point on his shoulders. Krishna competes against Shridama, and Balarama against Pralamba a demon who has joined them in the guise of a cowherd boy. Balarama reaches the tree first, but when he climbs on Pralamba's shoulders the latter reverts to his huge demonic form and races away with him. Balarama, however, manages to kill him by pounding his head with his fists. 16 Krishna steals the Gopis' clothes (vastra-j ciraharana)68 During the month of Margashirsh the Gopis observe a ritual vow (vrata) in honour 65 HV 57, ViP 5.8, BhP 10.15.20-40. 66 BhP 10.17.20-25, 10.19. 67 HV 58, ViP 5.9, BhP 10.18.17-32. 68 BhP 10.22.1-28. 35

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00051.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:20] of the goddess Katyayani. Every day they go to bathe in the Yamuna, worship an image made of sand, and pray to the goddess that Krishna might become their husband. While they are bathing Krishna steals their clothes and hides with them in a tree, only consenting to hand them back when the Gopis agree to step naked out of the water. He reprimands them for bathing naked in the river and promises that their vow will be rewarded when he meets them in the autumn.69 17 The brahmins' wives (yajnapatni-)70 When the boys tell Krishna that they are hungry he suggests they approach some brahmins engaged in a sacrifice and ask for some cooked rice. Their request is refused, and so Krishna tells the boys to ask the brahmins' wives. These women have all heard about Krishna and are eager to see him. They bring the boys food, despite the protestations of other members of their families. When Krishna blesses the women the brahmins feel ashamed for having at first refused to let the boys have any food. The story serves to illustrate the supremacy of devotion over sacrifice. 18 Krishna lifts up Govardhan (govcirdhanadharana)11 Krishna asks why Nanda and the other herdsmen are preparing for an annual festival in honour of Indra. He is told that Indra is worshipped because he becomes manifest as the rain-giving clouds upon which they all depend for good pastureland and milk. Krishna says that, rather than the Vedic Indra, their gods are the cows, mountains, and forests. He advocates worship of mountains in conjunction with that of cows, saying that mountain spirits wander about in the form of wild beasts in order to protect the forests. Since they are nomadic pastoral folk, mountain worship (giriyajiia) is most appropriate for them, just as furrow worship (sitayajna) is appropriate for cultivators, and the chanting of incantations is appropriate for brahmins. He describes the benefits of autumn, with its abundance of grain, water, and milk, and suggests that they perform the worship at the foot of Govardhan, bringing the cattle together, decorating them, and leading them around the mountain. Impressed by Krishna's words, the herdsmen abandon the worship of a post or flag-staff (dhvctja) erected in honour of Indra and instead collect all the milk produced over three days and make a huge feast of heaps of rice and large quantities of fruit and meat. The Bhagavatapurana, in accordance with orthodox Vaishnava principles, has dropped the reference made in the earlier sources to animal sacrifice and non-vegetarian offerings. Through his magic power (maya) Krishna makes 69 The episode is based on a popular theme in Tamil poetry that originated in the custom of presenting girls with a leaf frock at puberty. For references see F. Hardy 1983/1, pp. 195-6, 419, 499-501, 512-6. 70 BhP 10.23. 71 HV 59-62, ViP 5.10-11, BhP 10.24-28. 36

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00052.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:20] himself identical with the mountain, appears on top of it, and announces that he is pleased with their worship, will be auspicious for them, and take care of them. He then instructs them to lead the cattle around the mountain. Indra is extremely displeased and retaliates by assailing them with wind and rain. Krishna lifts up the mountain in order to provide shelter underneath it for the people and their cattle. The torrential rain continues for seven days until Indra is exhausted. He arrives on his mount, the elephant Airavata, concedes victory to Krishna, confers upon him the epithets Upendra and Govinda, and ceremonially anoints him. The heavenly cow Surabhi appears and bathes Krishna with her milk, and Airavata pours Ganges water over him from his trunk. The Harivamsa account also says that Indra offered Krishna two of the four autumn months reserved for his worship, declaring that people will worship both himself and Krishna ('Upendra') by means of posts. 19 Nanda is abducted72 One night, when Nanda bathes in the Yamuna as part of his observances for the eleventh day of the lunar fortnight, he is abducted by a demon and taken to the realm of Varuna, lord of the waters. When Krishna goes to rescue him, Varuna apologizes for the stupidity of his demon servant and declares how blessed he feels to be honoured with a visit from Krishna. 20 Krishna dances with the Gopis73 On the night of the autumn full moon Krishna is inspired to indulge in love play with the Gopis. The Harivamsa tells how Krishna joins the girls in a type of dance called hallisaka, which Bhasa refers to by the Prakrit form hallisaam. What in these sources is no more than a herdsmen's dance or a conventional interlude in a drama, is described in the Visnupurana as a more sensual rasa dance, endowed with more religious significance.74 The Bhagavatapurana gives an extended account of this episode in five chapters (the celebrated rasapahcadhyayi), presenting it as the most significant encounter between the lord and his devotees. When the Gopis hear the enticing music of Krishna's flute they rush out of the encampment in disarray, abandoning the various household chores that they were engaged in, even if they were busy attending to their husbands or feeding their children. Their meeting begins with Krishna reminding the women of their domestic duties, but they refuse to return home because their devotion for him takes priority over everything else. They all go to the bank of the Yamuna, where Krishna begins 72 BhP 10.28. 73 HV 63, ViP 5.13, BhP 10.29-33, BC 3. 74 For sources and discussion of this episode see F. Hardy, ibid. pp.84-5, 100,499-506, 600 ff. He cites Kamasutra 2.10.25, where both hallisaka and rasa are mentioned as dances of an erotic nature. Bhasa also uses halljsaam for the dance Krishna did on Kaliya's head. 37

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00053.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:20] his dalliance with the Gopis. After a while he suddenly disappears because, it is said, the women were beginning to feel proud at receiving so much attention from him. The Gopis are perplexed and begin to search for him, asking the trees and creepers where he has gone and distractedly imitating his various deeds and mannerisms. They discover the footprints of Krishna and one of the Gopis, whom they take to be his particular favourite. They find evidence that the two of them gathered flowers which he plaited into her hair. However, this Gopi became so arrogant at being singled out by Krishna that she asked him to carry her, saying that she was tired. Krishna began to comply with her request, but disappeared before she had a chance to climb up on his shoulders. The other Gopis come across this woman, who is now as desolate as they are because she too has been abandoned. They all sing a song of despair, expressing the pangs of separation (viraha) that they are suffering. Eventually Krishna reappears and brings them relief by dancing the rasa with them. They form a circle and Krishna multiplies himself so as to appear next to each of the Gopis as her partner. Following this experience the Gopis are able to appreciate that their feeling of love for Krishna is sufficient in itself. They learn how to derive comfort from thinking about him throughout the day, while he is out grazing the cattle, in anticipation of his return home in the evening. 21 The pilgrimage to Ambikavana75 The herdsmen undertake a pilgrimage to a grove sacred to the goddess Ambika. After bathing in the river Saraswati and worshipping Pashupati (Shiva) and the goddess, they settle down for the night on the bank of the river. While they are asleep a gigantic and ravenous serpent appears and proceeds to swallow Nanda, but Krishna frees him by touching the snake with his foot, thereby relieving it of its karma and restoring it to its original form of a supernatural being (vidyadhara). 22 Shankhachuda76 While Krishna, Balarama, and the Gopis are engaged in nocturnal revelry in the forest, a demonic attendant of Kubera named Shankhachuda attempts to abduct the women. Krishna pursues him, cuts off his head, and presents the crest jewel he wore to Balarama. 23 Arishta77 One evening a demon called Arishta charges into the encampment in the form of a ferocious bull. It begins to kill the bulls and assault the cows, making them and the 75 BhP 10.34.1-19. 76 BhP 10.34.20-34. 77 HV 64, ViP 5.14, BhP 10.36.1-15. 38

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00054.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:20] pregnant wives of the herdsmen so frightened that they miscarry. Krishna wrenches out the monster's horn and bludgeons it to death with it. 24 Keshi78 Kansa announces that a 'bow festival' is to be held in Mathura.79 He arranges for the construction of an arena and orders Akrura to fetch Krishna and Balarama. He also begins a final series of attempts to annihilate the two youths. The first demon he sends to Vrindaban takes the form of a horse named Keshi. Krishna thrusts his arm into the beast's mouth, causing it to choke and burst apart. 25 Vyoma80 A demon called Vyoma adopts the guise of a cowherd boy and attacks the other boys while they are playing in the hills. He carries them off to a cave, but Krishna strangles him and rescues his friends. 26 Akrura fetches Krishna and Balarama81 Akrura arrives at the encampment and summons Krishna and Balarama, telling them about the 'bow festival' and the plight of Vasudeva and Devaki. The next morning they set out for Mathura, a parting that causes the Gopis much pain. At noon Akrura suggests that they pause to allow him to bathe in the Yamuna. When he ducks under the water he has a vision of Krishna and Balarama as Vishnu reclining on the serpent Shesha, but when he resurfaces he sees the boys sat as normal in the cart. He ducks into the water and again sees them in the form of Vishnu and Shesha, prompting him to give a eulogy in praise of them. 27 The return to Mathura82 The citizens of Mathura rush out to see the entry of Krishna and Balarama. The boys notice a dyer {rajaka, rahgakara) and demand some of the fine clothes that he is carrying. When the dyer disdainfully refuses, saying that the clothes belong to Kansa, Krishna decapitates him. The boys then choose some garments for themselves and give the rest to their companions from the encampment, who have also arrived in Mathura. The next person they meet is a gardener who gives them 78 HV 67, ViP 5.16, BhP 10.37.1-19. For comments on the incident see O'Flaherty 1980, p.225. 79 dhanuryajna: HV 65, ViP 5.15, BhP 10.36.16 ff. dhanurmaha: BC 4. 80 BhP 10.37.27-34. 81 HV 68-70, ViP 5.17-18, BhP 10.38-40. 82 HV 71-77, ViP 5.20, BhP 10.41-42.25. 39

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00055.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:21] flowers, and then a hunchbacked woman known as Kubja83 who offers them some of the unguent that she is taking to the royal bath house. Krishna shows his gratitude by curing her of her deformity and making her beautiful again. He also promises to visit her after accomplishing his mission. He then goes to the place where the bow is kept, seizes it, breaks it, and slays the men who were guarding it. 28 Kansa is slain84 The next day Krishna and Balarama go to the arena (rahgasala jrahgabhumi) where first Krishna has to dispose of an elephant named Kuvalayapida that Kansa had posted at the gateway to slay him. He rips out the elephant's tusk and uses it as a weapon to kill it. In the arena Krishna and Balarama first have to fight Chanura and Mushtika, Kansa's champion wrestlers. After defeating them Krishna slays Kansa and, according to the Bhagavatapurana, drags him by his hair. Vasudeva and Devaki are released from captivity, Ugrasena is reinstated as king of Mathura, and Nanda returns tearfully to his encampment. Having fulfilled their mission, Krishna and Balarama take their vows of celibacy and become students. They depart for Ujjain in order to study under the guidance of their guru Sandipani. 29 Uddhava's message85 After completing their studies Krishna and Balarama return to Mathura, but instead of going himself to visit Nanda and Yashoda, Krishna sends his counsellor Uddhava with a message for them. His foster parents shed tears of longing when they recall the happy years Krishna spent with them. Uddhava also tries to console the Gopis, one of whom addresses a bee, taking it to be another messenger from Krishna, and complains that they feel deserted. Uddhava praises them for the constancy of their devotion and their undivided attention to Krishna. He explains the ontological reasons for their condition of separation and how Krishna can be reached through remembrance and contemplation of his deeds. He praises them for having developed the supreme form of love through which they have earned the grace of Krishna. His cerebral arguments contrast with the Gopis' spontaneous outbursts of feeling. This episode, which may well be based on the account given in the Visnupurana of Balarama's visit to the Gopis,86 became a popular theme in later literature. The dialogue served as a context for contrasting the passionate devotional path followed by the Gopis with the detached and emotionally cold approach offered by Uddhava, a spokesman for the path of transcendental and and yogic contempla83 BhP also calls her Trivakra; BC 5 calls her Madanika. 84 HV 78, ViP 5.19, BhP 10.42.26-44. 85 BhP 10.46-47. 86 Sec below See F. Hardy, ibid, pp.499, 507-9. 40

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00056.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:21] tion.87 In these later versions the Gopis often accuse him of disregarding feelings and human attachment, reflecting the increasing importance given to emotional experience rather than contemplation or rationalization. This episode, as it is described in the Bhagavatapurdna, earned Uddhava the reputation of being the first pilgrim to Braj. After meeting the Gopis he stayed on for a few months, recollecting Krishna's adventures in the company of the Gopis and seeing the streams, forests, hills, and flowering trees that reminded the local people of Krishna. The Bhdgavatapurdna also tells how, on the banks of the Yamuna, Uddhava is met by Vidura, brother of Dhritarashtra and Pandu, while he is on a pilgrimage to various holy places.88 It was Krishna's wish that Uddhava should be the sole survivor of the annihilation of his clansmen at Dwarka and remain on earth because he was the person best qualified to impart the message of devotion. 30 Krishna and Balarama move to Dwarka Krishna, meanwhile, enters into new spheres of activity. In Mathura he visits Kubja and repays her for the gift of unguent by spending some time with her and making love to her.89 Subsequently he becomes more involved in the conflicts between his kinsmen and between the Kurus and Pandavas. These topics are central to the Mahcibhcirata, but are treated briefly in the narratives referred to above and have had virtually no influence on developments in Braj. Krishna's departure from Mathura is occasioned by the arrival of Jarasandha, a brother-in-law of Kansa and the ruler of Magadha. He and his forces, as well as the foreign troops of a chieftain called Kalayavana, lay siege to Mathura. Krishna decides that the only escape for the Yadavas is to move westwards to Dwarka. There, on the shore of the Indian Ocean, Vishwakarma constructs a citadel for them. Krishna sets up court there and takes sixteen thousand wives, the foremost of whom are Rukmini and Satyabhama, but his relationship with them does not have the same intensity and significance as his earlier romance with the Gopis. His married life is no less erotic, but it does not have the same mystical overtones. Balarama marries Revati, daughter of Revata, whose name means 'wealth' or 'prosperity'.90 In view of Balarama's links with cults relating to the fertility of the soil, it is appropriate that Revati should be associated with the welfare of children. In the Mahdbhdrata she is one of the goddesses who preside over children's diseases and elsewhere she is described as one of the 'seizers of children', identifiable with the goddess Shashthi, or the Bahuputrika and Hariti of Jain and Buddhist texts.91 87 Nandadas' version of Uddhav's visit (tr. McGregor) is the most famous of later versions. 88 BhP 3.1-4. 89 BhP 10.48. 90 HV 58.84, BhP 10.6.28. 91 See U. P. Shah with reference to MBh vana. 129.27-30, Susrutciscimhitci, uttara. 31, and R. N. Mishra, p.75, with reference to Kcisyapasamhitci. 41

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00057.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:21] 31 Balarama visits the Gopis92 The only subsequent episode in the early sources that is relevant for Braj is a visit paid by Balarama to Nanda's encampment. He is welcomed by the Gopis and herdsmen and consoles them with messages from Krishna. He goes to a grove beside the Yamuna and there dallies with the women. He becomes intoxicated after drinking liquor that flows from the hollow of a tree and commands the Yamuna to come near to him so that he can play in her waters. When she refuses, he becomes angry and drags her towards him by making a channel with his plough. He then enters the river and sports with the Gopis. 32 Later sources and developments Gradually the Bhdgavatapurdna gained acceptance all over India as the prime canonical source for the narrative of Krishna's adventures. In Bengal, at least, Sanskrit poems of unknown provenance derived from the Bhdgavatapurdna were known by 1 100.93 An indication that the work as a whole had attained canonical status in the North by about 1400 was the writing of a commentary upon it by Shridhara, a Shaiva ascetic and resident of Varanasi, who tried to explain its message of emotional devotion in terms of the monistic teachings of Shankara.94 Even so, there is no extant Hindi version of the Bhdgavatapurdna earlier than the sixteenth century, and it was not the only source for vernacular poetry dealing with Krishna. Some time between 700 and 900 Swayambhu had written an Apabhransha version of Krishna's life entitled Ritthanemicariu, or Harivamsapurana, that is known to have been recited before a Jain audience in the vicinity of Gwalior in the mid-fifteenth century. This is precisely the period when, under the patronage of the Tomar rulers of Gwalior, the earliest narrative poetry dealing with Krishna in the Braj dialect emerged, though it did not emphasize his early years and the theme of devotion, which were to become the main concerns of sixteenth-century Braj poets.95 What was lacking in the Bhdgavatapurdna was any reference to Radha, a figure who first appeared in poetry that was amatory rather than devotional in tone. Her acceptance as Krishna's divine consort can be explained in the light of religious developments in the medieval period, especially in eastern India. The kind of devotion recommended in the Bhdgavatapurdna had its counterpart in the love mysticism of the Sufi saints, whose teachings had become widespread in the northern half of India by the thirteenth century. The Sufis, like followers of Hindu devotionalism, sought a more intense and emotional contact with god than was offered by their pedantic and orthodox co-religionists. Besides making use of song (in the form of samac and qawwalT) to express their fervour, they were also preoccupied with the symbolism of divine love, particularly the traditional Indian 92 HV 83, ViP 5.24-25, BhP 10.65. 93 F. Hardy 1983/1, pp.547-552. 94 See below .2. 95 McGregor 1984, pp.33-5. 42

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00058.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:21] theme of the yearning felt by a woman in the absence of her lover.96 Also influential in northern India throughout this period were the Nath Yogis, Shaiva inheritors of yogic and Tantric traditions. Against a background of mutual influence between the Nath Yogis and Sufi mystics there arose a current of non-orthodox religious enthusiasm, similar in its emotional intensity to that of the earlier Alvar poets of Tamil Nadu. Hindus attracted to this kind of devotion rejected brahminical ritualism in favour of direct and ecstatic communion with god. Some of them objected to the maintenance of caste distinctions and proclaimed that the spontaneous devotion of an untutored and humble soul was more rewarding than any amount of scholastic learning and expertise in ritual. During the twelfth century the main cultural centre for the development of Vaishnavism in eastern India was the court of the Sena dynasty. Sculpture from the earlier Pala period shows that Krishna had already been locally popular from the eighth century onwards, but as the Senas were of Kanarese origin they may have been instrumental in the propagation of the teachings of southern schools of Vaishnavism.97 People in eastern India would certainly have been receptive to the emotional kind of devotion advocated by the Bhcigavcitapurdna, but the Tantric and Shakta traditions had also had a pervasive influence on their religion and culture. This explains why they were preoccupied with the notion of Krishna having a consort who personifies his creative power (sakti). The most influential work that described the love-play of Krishna and Radha was GTtagovinda, a cycle of songs in polished Sanskrit composed in the latter half of the twelfth century by Jayadeva, a poet at the court of Lakshmana Sena.98 It is the earliest extensive treatment of Radha and, by virtue of its effective combination of the aesthetic and the spiritual, it not only became universally recognized as a classic of Sanskrit erotic literature, but was also used as a devotional text and recited each evening in the temple of Jagannatha at Puri, a tradition that survives to this day. By the sixteenth century the poem was used in religious performances all over India, but it was probably the emotive recitation of it at Puri that inspired Chaitanya and his followers to hold the work in such high esteem. After Jayadeva the theme of the love between Krishna and Radha was further popularized by the vernacular lyrics of Vidyapati, who flourished in Mithila in the latter part of the fourteenth century. While his explicitly devotional verses are directed towards Shiva, he used the theme of Radha and Krishna in amatory verses that continue the tradition of Sanskrit court poetry.99 It was the followers of Chaitanya who gave these lyrics a religious interpretation. Another influential poet was Baru Chandidas, who wrote a long sequence of lyrics in Bengali. The title 'Baru' implies that he was a temple brahmin; his name itself and the dedication of his songs to Basali (or Vasali) suggest that he was primarily devoted to a form of the 96 Ibid., pp.23-8. 97 See S. C. Mukherjee and the first two chapters of R. Chakravarti 1985 for a survey of evidence relating to the emergence of Vaishnavism in Bengal. 98 For a translation and introduction to the work see Miller 1977, and also SandahlForgue. For studies of the poem see R. Sarkar and Siegal. The oldest Braj translation is that of Ramray, composed in 1565, cf. Mital 1962, p.148. 99 McGregor 1984, pp.29-33. 43

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00059.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:21] Goddess.100 His exact date is uncertain, but he probably lived in the fifteenth century and at least some of his songs were known to Chaitanya and his followers. His SrTkrsna klrtan contains over four hundred songs strung together as a narrative of the courtship of Krishna and Radha. Around the beginning of the sixteenth century poets of eastern India developed a literary language that was considered appropriate for dealing with Krishna themes. It is called Brajabuli, 'the speech of Braj \ and is basically the dialect of Mithila with a superstructure of Bengali and a smattering of elements from Hindi and the Braj dialect.101 Outside religious and cultic circles the childhood and loves of Krishna had long been a popular theme in lyric poetry, and have remained so until the present day. Anthologies dating back to the third century present Krishna as the typical lover (nayaka) of traditional amatory literature, and are the earliest sources to name Radha as his beloved.102 In the medieval period collections of Sanskrit verses attributed to Bilvamangala were widely circulated and were drawn upon by many vernacular poets.103 These, along with poems from other Sanskrit anthologies, provided vernacular poets with a set of imagery and poetic devices that could be used to describe the childhood and amorous adventures of Krishna. For many of them the devotional overtones were implicit and did not need to be stressed. The love of Krishna and Radha was a theme exploited by devotees interested in the moods and emotions of love mysticism, as well by court poets who wrote amatory verses with a more scholastic intent. This meant that there is often no clear dividing line between devotional and profane lyrics, between those that aimed at evoking a devotional sentiment and those that were intended to exemplify some traditional poetic conceit in accordance with classical aesthetic theory. The love of Krishna and Radha is not just an allegory for religious passion, it is that passion, and so there is no call for any distinction to be made between the religious and the erotic.104 Devotional theology and aesthetic theory were successfully combined in the works of Rup Goswami, a disciple of Chaitanya and the foremost theologian of the Gaudiya Sampraday. He received a Sanskrit education that gave him a grounding in the Hindu scriptures as well as classical aesthetics. Since he was a native of Bengal and served in a Muslim court, he must have been familiar with both Tantric and Sufi doctrines. In their theoretical writings he and his followers freely adapted Tantric and Agamic sources, works of aesthetic theory, and manuals describing the 100 Klaiman, intro. to Baru Chandidas pp. 16-17. See her introduction for further details about the poet and his work, and also Dimock, pp. 56-67, and Zbavitel, pp. 148-55, 179. 101 See S. Sen 1935. 102 For sources see below n.122. 103 The two anthologies are entitled Krsnakanuunrta and Balcigopcdastuti, sec Wilson's introduction to Bilvamahgalastava. According to CC 2.9.278-82 Chaitanya was impressed by Krsnakamamrta when he found it to be popular among brahmins of southern India and had a copy made to take back to Puri. An anthology of Sanskrit verses by various poets that had a considerable influence on later vernacular poetry was Saduktikarnamrta, compiled by Shridharadasa in 1205. 104 For more discussion of this theme (with reference to Gitagovinda), see Siegel, pp. 178-84. 44

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00060.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:22] established Vaishnava form of ritual. A theologian as well as a poet, he was the foremost representative of a circle of scholars who produced Sanskrit works, either in the scriptural style of a Purana or samhitd, or using such classical poetic forms as the kdvya, campu, and ndtaka, that expressed and gave sanction to developments in the worship of Krishna that had taken place in the preceding centuries. Rup and Jiv Goswami, Krishnadas Kaviraj, Kavikarnapura (Paramanand Sen), and later Vishwanath Chakravarti, were some of the literati of the Gaudiya Sampraday who retold the Krishna story with special emphasis on his sports in Vrindaban. Generally they went in for a stilted, rhetorical, and mannered style that featured prolix and euphuistic descriptions, endless elaboration of minutiae, and classification of sentiments in terms of aesthetic theory.105 Devotional poets familiar with the works of Rup Goswami and his followers conveyed their ideas through the medium of vernacular poetry. This type of literature was the most important medium for the propagation of devotion to Krishna among the masses. Thousands of devotional lyrics were composed in Bengali, and from the sixteenth century onwards poets writing in the Braj dialect proliferated in all sects devoted to Krishna.106 Their works constitute a collective tradition that makes use of stereotyped themes, conceits, and situations in which there is seldom a hint of idiosyncrasy. This does not mean that all the poems are more or less of the same quality, but that there is a relatively small number of outstanding poems amid a vast sea of standard and fairly indifferent versification. The nature of the lyrics themselves, as well as the fact that they were initially transmitted by means of oral performance, gave plenty of scope for improvisation, expansion, and interpolation. A case in point is Sur sugar, the most famous anthology of Braj lyrics. They are all attributed to a poet named Surdas, who flourished in the first half of the sixteenth century. The oldest anthology of his work, compiled in 1582, contains only 241 poems, whereas the standard modern edition of the Sur sugar contains well over four thousand, arranged in such a way as to follow the structure of the Bhdgavatapurdna.107 This kind of inflation can also be observed in Paramdnand sdgar, an anthology of the poems of Paramanandadas. The oldest manuscript, copied in around 1600, contains a mere 150 poems, a later one copied in about 1800 has 1,101, and a modern published edition has almost 1,400.108 In both cases the interpolated poems have been inserted to make the anthologies more comprehensive, more suitable for liturgical use, or to substantiate the notion that the poets were adherents of the Pushtimarg, which in the case of Surdas is highly unlikely. 105 For a summary and appraisal of some of their works see De, pp.577 ff. 106 See McGregor 1984, pp.73 ff., for a survey of relevant authors and further bibliographical references. See also his introduction to Nandadas for an account of literary developments, and Zbavitel, pp. 176-84, for a concise survey of the thousands of Vaishnava poems composed in Bengali between the 15th and 19th centuries. 107 Viz. the edition of Vajpeyi. The 1582 ms. has been published in facsimile with an introduction by G. N. Bahura and K. Bryant. For the evolution of the Sur sdgar sec Hawley 1984, eh.2. 108 Viz. theedn. ofSharma, Shastri, and Tailang, to which reference is made here. Another edition of G. N. Shukla contains 900 poems. 45

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00061.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:22] The lyrics of these and many other devotional poets were sung regularly in the temples as part of the daily worship of Krishna. Most of them are written in the pad form a poem usually consisting of three or four rhyming couplets with an opening line shorter than the rest that serves as a refrain. Anthologies of verse by some devotional poets that are venerated or used as liturgical texts are referred to as vanT, a term implying that they are the product of divine revelation. Many of the poets who lived in Braj described the adventures of Krishna in terms of the world around them, introducing themes and situations drawn from local culture. There are poems in the Sur sagar that describe the first feeding, ear piercing, and other ceremonies surrounding the birth of Krishna.109 Other poems, written to be sung on festive occasions, describe some of the local customs that were incorporated into celebrations held in Vaishnava temples. Hariram Vyas, for example, describes how the birth of Radha was celebrated with dadhikSdau a rite that consists of throwing around curds mixed with turmeric, as is still done in some Braj temples on the birthdays of Krishna, Radha, and Balarama.110 Theological ideas about Radha and her role as Krishna's creative power, or Shakti, were expressed in Sanskrit works belonging to one of the standard scriptural genres, but their influence was much less pervasive than that of the vernacular poetry. Tantric interpretations of the role of Krishna and Radha were particularly popular among Bengalis. In the Mahabhagavatapurana, for example, Shiva and the goddess Kali are said to have been reborn as Krishna and his beloved Radha.111 Tantric adaptations of the Krishna and Radha theme are also found in the DevTbhagavata112 and the Brahmavaivartapurana. The latter, believed by most authorities to have been composed in the sixteenth century, is an extraordinary composition, quite different from an earlier Purana of the same name, or at best an extensively reworked version of it.113 The largely spurious Bhavisyapurana attributes the last part of the Brahmavaivartapurana to Rup Goswami, but the absence of specific topographical references suggests that it was not composed in Braj or by anyone familiar with its sacred places.114 Judging from the content it would appear to be the product of a Bengali author who did not belong to the 109 Sur sagar, sequence of poems dealing with the arrival of Krishna in Gokul, nos. 633 ff. 110 Hariram Vyas, pad nos. 611, 615. 111 Chap. 149. For discussion of the work see Hazra 1958-79, vol. 2 pp.320 ff. 112 For summary and bibliography of the work see Rocher, pp. 167-72. 113 Rawal notes that the oldest listed ms. is dated 1692. See also Rocher, pp. 160-3, Hazra 1975, pp. 166-7, and Farquhar, pp. 240, 271, 376, who thought the Krsnajanmakhanda to be a late interpolation by a Nimbarki author. De, pp.11-12, without adducing any supporting evidence, accepts the suggestion that it pre-dates Jayadeva. Dimock, pp. 210-11, makes the plausible suggestion that it is influenced by the Sahajiyas. Brown, pp. 2-6, refers to catalogued mss. and printed versions, discusses its dating in chapter 2, and its possible milieu in chapter 11. He concludes that the evidence suggests that it was written in the 15th or 16th century. 114 Bhavisyapurana 3.14.19.39. Thirty-three groves or forests named after plants are mentioned in this Purana, including the traditional twelve vana of Braj, 28.160 ff., but there is no further specification of their location. 46

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00062.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:22] Vrindaban circle, since it is not cited by any of the Goswamis who lived there and does not appear to have had any influence on the Braj poets.115 The story of Krishna and Radha is given in the latter part of the work, entitled Krsnajanmakhanda. It is full of repetitive and overblown descriptions of endless sexual encounters and orgies, replete with hyperbolic and tedious descriptions of the Gopis, their orgasms, and the millions of pleasure domes, bowers, and gemencrusted dancing circles in which the participants disport themselves. It amounts to sanctified soft-porn, as relentless as My Secret Life or Les 120 journees de So dome. Another Sanskrit version of the Krishna story, which gives a truer reflection of developments in Braj, is Gargasamhita, probably composed some time after the sixteenth century by a member of the Pushtimarg.116 The narrative begins with an account of the descent to earth of Krishna, Radha, their entourage, and the whole area of Braj ('the eighty-four krosa area around Mathura'). Apart from the usual episodes in the life of Krishna, it contains additional information about Govardhan, stories about groups of Gopis from different parts of India, and a pilgrimage undertaken by Balarama in the course of which he defeats a demon called Kola (an event believed to have taken place at Aligarh). The eighth book describes the adventures of Balarama in some detail, and the tenth book contains a narrative of a return visit made by Krishna to Braj, during which he meets Radha and dances the rasa with her once again. It concludes with an account of the Kurukshetra battle, the annihilation of the Yadavas, the submergence of Dwarka, and the return of all the participants to Goloka.117 33 Radha The acceptance of Radha as the foremost of the Gopis and Krishna's consort is the most significant development in his mythology since the end of the first millennium. The Bhdgavatapurdna only went so far as to say that in the midst of the rasa dance he departed with a favourite Gopi, whom he eventually abandoned just like the others. Later versions of the story show less concern for the 'heroic lover' who dallies with any number of women and turn their attention to the 'romantic lover' who is attracted to a single, irreplacable mistress whom he would rather serve and adore than vanquish and demand.118 Krishna's intimate and exclusive relationship with Radha came to predominate over his more diffuse communion with all of the Gopis. Radha became so important in theology that later commentators, feeling obliged to find a reference to her in the Bhdgavatapurdna, usually identify her with the Gopi that Krishna took with him when he disappeared during the rasa.119 Some 115 Some verses dealing with janmastami are quoted in Gopal Bhatt's Haribhaktivildsa, but they may well derive from an older work on ritual that was incorporated into the Brahmavaivartapurdna. 116 See below .2 for details of date and authorship. 117 Some other treatments of the Krishna story, such as Jiv Goswami's Gopalacampu, also describe the reunion of Krishna and the Gopis at Kurukshetra (2.23-24). 118 Here I have paraphrased Kakar 1985, p.77. 119 Stressing the use of drddhita in BhP 10.30.28. 47

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00063.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:22] even go as far as to trace her name in Vedic occurences of words derived from the root rddh('succeed, be accomplished, propitiate, gratify'), but the most that can be said is that her name means 'perfection' or 'success' (Vedic radhas), and that the use of rddhaspati as an epithet of Indra may be yet another incidence of the transfer of elements of Indra to Krishna, but there is no indication of any personality comparable with Krishna's Radha.120 Early Tamil sources mention Krishna dancing with Pinnai or Nappinnai, a cowherd wife he won after fighting seven bulls, but the theme is either independent from the original Krishna story, an assimilation of the dance described in the Harivamsa, or some variant of the episode retold in terms of southern folk traditions.121 Radha, or Radhika, is first known to us from anthologies of secular verse, mainly in Prakrit and Apabhransha, compiled from the third century onwards.122 Exactly when she became universally acknowledged as his consort is uncertain. Lakshmidhara referred to a pond or tank (kunda) named after her in his mdhdtmya of Mathura, written in the first part of the twelfth century, which may be the same as the modern Radhakund. A few decades later Jayadeva, in his Gitagovinda, brought together elements from secular poetic tradition and the themes of the rasa dance and love in separation, which had been given so much emphasis in the Bhdgavatapurdna. Jayadeva also developed the theme of mdna Radha's becoming offended and temporarily withdrawing herself when she suspects Krishna of infidelity. A Sakhi, one of her companions, is obliged to act as a go-between and effect a reconciliation between them. The imagery and phraseology used by Jayadeva were endlessly paraphrased by later vernacular poets, and his work was probably the main inspiration for the concept of Krishna and Radha retiring to a bower (kunja) in order to make love. The illicit nature of the relationship between Krishna and Radha exercised a particular fascination. The poets dwelt increasingly on Radha as someone swept away by her feelings, regardless of conventional propriety. Baru Chandidas depicts her as a shy and simple twelve year-old who is gradually won over by the tricks and scheming of the wily Krishna. Unable to resist his power, she succumbs to him, but although he is dominant, Krishna has to win her over and cajole her into making love to him. As Radha became more important, so the interdependence between her and Krishna is emphasized. Poems dealing with the theme of mdna describe how distraught and penitent Krishna becomes when Radha refuses to see him. There are also some examples to be found of role reversal, in which Krishna does the kind of things normally expected of a devotee. Jayadeva describes how Krishna asks Radha to place her foot on his head as a sign of his submission to her.123 The poet Dhruvdas describes how Krishna reacts when he comes across Radha's footprints: 'seeing those places where the ground was marked with the maiden's feet, that 120 Sec Miller 1975, pp.668-9, who also refers to Radha as the name of a naksatra. 121 Sec Hudson, Hardy 1983/1, pp.221-5, and Shulman, pp.285-6. 122 Sec Miller 1975 & 1977 (introduction), Hardy ibid., pp.56-65, 104-115, for references. The oldest is Hala's Sattasdi (Gdthdsaptasati), but most references date from the 8th century onwards. 123 Gitagovinda 10.8. 48

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00064.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:22] paragon of lovers rolled in the dust that he knew her feet had touched.'124 Raskhan, in a well-known poem, tells how he searched the scriptures for some account of Krishna's transcendent beauty, but failed to find any adequate description. It was only when he collapsed in exhaustion that he was finally granted a vision of Krishna and saw him secluded in a bower massaging the feet of Radha.125 Poets sometimes refer to Krishna repeating the name of Radha when he longs for her, just as devotees repeat the name of Krishna. Theologically Radha is different from other Hindu goddesses. She is neither a mother, creator, or personification of wifely virtues, nor has she anything to do with fertility. She has no independent function outside of her relationship with Krishna, in which she plays the role of a divine and fair-complexioned mistress with whom the dark Krishna can experience cosmic bliss. As the supreme consort of Krishna, she represents all the other Gopis, and thus the souls of his human devotees. It is claimed that the followers of Nimbarka were the first to worship her in conjunction with Krishna, but the oldest and most definitive theological accounts of her are those of Rup and Jiv Goswami. They describe her as the mistress of Vrindaban (vmddvanesvarT), the eternal consort and Shakti of Krishna, identified specifically with the hlddimmahdsakti of Tantra, the power by means of which Krishna is able to experience his bliss, while the other Gopis are various aspects or emanations of her.126 34 The entourage of Krishna and Radha Texts written from the early part of the sixteenth century onwards give more information about the families of Krishna and Radha. After moving from the neighbourhood of Gokul, Nanda is said to have settled at Nandishwar or Nandagram (modern Nandgaon). Radha, who becomes a participant in some of the episodes in Krishna's childhood, is thought to have lived at nearby Barsana, referred to in the earliest Braj sources as varasdnau and in the Sanskrit ones as vrsabhdmipura, named after her father Vrishabhanu. The devotional poets say that she was born at her mother's native village of Rawal, or in her father's house at Barsana.127 Gopalakelicandrikd, a Sanskrit drama written in the sixteenth century or later by a Gujarati brahmin named Ramakrishna, also mentions Radha's 124 Sri vrnddvan sat Hid 37 (Bay alls Hid, p. 15): kuvari carana amkita dharani, dekhatajf ijhi j[I] Id tjuiura / priyd carana raja jdni kai, luthata rasika siramaura. 125 Raskhan, p. 76. The poem begins brafuna me dhudhyau purdnana gamma...* and ends dekho duryau vaha kumja kutira me, baithau palotata rddhikd pdvana. 126 De, pp.288, 352-3,410-11. The Brahmavaivartapurdna even suggests that she is superior to him, but it holds onto the view that, as prakrti, she is manifested from Krishna and dissolves back into him at the end of an aeon (cf. Brown, p. 139). Sec Brajvallabhsharan (ed.) 1966 for a collection of articles by various devotees on the concept of Radha in different Sampradays. See Hawley 1984, ch.3, esp. pp. 89-91, for Radha as portrayed in Sur sugar. 127 Poets are ambivalent about where her birth actually took place, sec for example Hariram Vyas, pad 609-11,614-115, Paramanandadas pad 46 & 52, Govindswami pad 19-23. 49

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00065.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:23] parents and says that they lived at Rawal. Gargasamhita talks of there being nine Nandas, nine Upanandas ('junior Nandas'), and six Vrishabhanus, all of them herdsmen who graze their cattle in Braj. Some writers of the Gaudiya Sampraday say that Nanda's father was called Parjanya and that he obtained five sons by performing austerities beside a pond near Nandgaon.128 The seventeenth-century poet Hariray relates the visit of Nanda's genealogist (dhSrhi) shortly after the birth of Krishna. He recites the child's supposed lineage, beginning with Abhirabhanu who settled at Mahaban, followed by his descendants Suraj Chand, Bhilakabahu, Kanana Sasi, Kanjanabha, Birabhana, Dharamadhira, Kalinda, his ten sons, and the nine Nandas.129 A different and probably earlier genealogy is given in a Vrnddvancimahatmya ascribed to the Adipurana, according to which Nanda was the youngest son of Chitrasena, who was in turn the youngest son of Kalamedhu, great-grandson of Abhirabhanu, the chief of the herdsmen of Mahaban. The same text also gives the genealogy of Vrishabhanu, naming his father as Mahabhanu and his grandfather as Arshtisenu of Arshtigrama, probably referring to Radhakund. Her mother is here named Manavi, though in most sources, including the earliest Braj poets, she is called Kirti or Kirtida.130 Mukhara is the name given to Radha's maternal grandmother in the dramas of Rup Goswami (Vidagdhamadhava and Lalitamadhava), in Govindalilamrta by Krishnadas Kaviraj, and in some later works. According to Rup Goswami she was once the wet nurse of Yashoda. These same sources also feature Radha's husband Abhimanyu and her mother-in-law Jatila. Here Radha is a married woman, like the other Gopis, and has a mother-in-law who does all she can to stop her from coming into contact with Krishna. These characters make their first appearance in the poems of Baru Chandidas, where Radha (daughter of Sagara and Padma) is married to Aihana (or Abhimanyu) who is a maternal uncle of Krishna. Radha's great-aunt (referred to as barayi, 'grandma') helps to contrive meetings with Krishna, which Aihana's mother is always trying to prevent. Works written by devotees who lived in Braj follow the dramas of Rup Goswami, in which the role of Radha's great-aunt is played by Paurnamasi, who lived near Nandgaon. She is a white-haired old woman who personifies the moonlight, a phenomenon that stimulates the love-play of Krishna and Radha. Sometimes she is assisted in her match-making by her granddaughter Nandimukhi. In the last act of Gopalakelicandrika she appears with another woman called Shardi, the two of them personifying the spring and autumn full moon nights respectively Apart from Nanda and Yashoda, none of the relatives of Krishna and Radha plays an important part in literature or devotional activity, though Radha's parents and grandparents are enshrined in temples at Barsana. More interest is shown in 128 VVS 60, and later by Narahari and Sundarlal, who name the sons as Nanda, Upananda, Abhinanda, Sananda, and Nandana. 129 Hariray, ed. Mital, pp.23-5. 130 AP, Vrnddvanamahatmya ch.12, entitled Rddhakulakathana. Kirti is mentioned, for example, in Shribhatt's Yugcilsatak. In Brahmavaivartapurdna(Krsnajanmakhanda 17) Vrishabhanu is the son of Surabhanu and marries Kalavati. 50

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00066.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:23] some of Krishna's friends, and above all in the close companions of Radha, known as Sakhis. They are daughters of herdsmen, like Radha herself, but they are more important than ordinary Gopis because they help to promote her love-play with Krishna by acting as go-betweens, contriving meetings, and decorating the bowers where they spend the night together. These hand-maidens of Radha represent the most privileged kind of devotee because they witness the most intimate pastimes of Krishna and Radha. Rup Goswami was probably influential in establishing their importance, and their number was considerably expanded by poets and theologians of the sixteenth century.131 The standard number of Sakhis is eight, but their names vary and some texts mention many more besides. The idea probably derives from Tantric conceptions of a deity as occupying the centre of a lotus, surrounded by eight Sakhis on the innermost ring of petals, as in yantra diagrams devised for meditation upon Vishnu and Kama, the god of love.132 In Sanatkumarasamhita the eight Sakhis of Radha are named as Lalita, Vishakha, Vijaya, Nanda, Jayanti, Jaya, Sumukha, and Subhaga,133. A more common enumeration, given by most writers of the Gaudiya Sampraday, is Vishakha, Lalita, Chitra, Indulekha, Champakalata, Rangadevi, Tungavidya (or Tungabhadra), and Sudevi.134 Alternatively, their names are Lalita, Vishakha, Champakalata, Chandrabhaga, Bhama, Padma, Vimala, and Chandrarekha the Sakhis with whom the Pushtimarg identifies its group of eight 'Ashtachhap' poets. Other Sakhi names met with in the literature are Chandravali, Chameli, Shaivya, Shyamala, and Vrinda. Baru Chandidas used the name Chandravali as an epithet of Radha, but in the plays of Rup Goswami she is Krishna's first sweetheart, whom he neglects when he becomes infatuated with the younger Radha. She thus plays the role of a jealous and offended mistress and tries to lure him back with the help of two friends called Padma and Shaivya. Chandravali and Radha are also rivals for Krishna's affection in Kanhavat, a Sufi adaptation of the Krishna story written in 1541-42 and attributed to Muhammad Malik Jayasi.135 In this work Krishna is married to Radha, but is attracted by the younger Chandravali, who is said to dwell in the moon. Krishna sports with Radha by day and with Chandravali by night, but ultimately choses to stay with the former. Some of the Sakhis, in pilgrimage itineraries, are associated with villages in the neighbourhood of Barsana. Some works assign certain colours to them, specify their particular function in promoting the love play of the divine couple, and name 131 Rup Goswami gives the names, forms, colours, nature, and dress of a number of them in Rddhdkrsnagcmoddesadipika. The oldest text to name any of the Gopis is BC, which says that Chandrarekha, Ghoshasundari, Vanamala, and Mrigakshi keep company with Radha. There are Gopis who accompany Radha in the poems of Baru Chandidas and take part in certain incidents, but they are not named and do not act as intermediaries. Several are also mentioned in VVS. 132 See G. C. Tripathi in Eschmann et al. (eds.), pp.42 ff. 133 Sanatkumdrcisamhita 31.69 & 32. 134 E.g. AY 358 ff., naming Gautamiyatantrci as its source. 135 Jayasi, author of the more accomplished and celebrated Padmavat, is said at the beginning of Kanhcivat to have composed it in Hijri 947. 51

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00067.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:23] various subsidiary Sakhis who attend upon the main eight.136 An extremely elaborate listing of Sakhis is given by Harivyasdev in the Siddhdnt sukh section of his Mahdvdm. He begins with Rangadevi, whom he identifies with Nimbarka, and then lists another seven who are said to have become incarnate as other gurus in the poet's sect. Each of these Sakhis has eight others in attendance upon her, and they in turn have eight more in attendance upon them, thus giving a total of five hundred and eighty four Sakhis, each of whom is mentioned by name. The Brhadbrahmasamhitd says that Vrinda is the presiding Shakti of the forest named after her.137 Rup Goswami is believed to have discovered an image of Vrindadevi that was installed in a side chapel of the Govind Dev temple in Vrindaban. He describes her as a messenger of Radha or go-between (dutT) who lived in Vrindaban and was always engrossed in the divine couple.138 He names her parents as Chandrabhanu and Phullara, her husband as Mahipala, and her sister as Manjari. Krishnadas Kaviraj says that Vrinda is one of the most prominent Sakhis and that Vrindaban is named after her because of the efforts she made to establish and cultivate it.139 Other poets refer to her as one who makes the flowers bloom and supplies Vrindaban with foliage in order to provide a pleasant setting for Krishna and Radha. The Brahmavaivartapurana says that she lived in Vrindaban, remained absorbed in meditation there, and eventually became a consort of Krishna in his heavenly abode. It also says that she is equivalent to the sacred basil plant (tulsi), that as a result of a curse uttered by the sage Durvasa she was first obliged to marry Shankhachuda, and that she is a form of Radha who was cursed by Shridama to be born on earth as a forest goddess. In this form she became the daughter of a king called Kedara, who practised austerities in Vrindaban and was later married to Jalandhara.140 This is partly derived from an older myth that appears in two different versions in the Padmaand Sivcipuranci.141 The former tells how Vrinda, a woman who had performed austerities in the forest named after her, immolated herself on the pyre of her demonic husband Jalandhara, an act which pleased Vishnu and inspired him to plant myrobalan, basil, and jasmine on the place where her ashes lay. The other Purana gives a Shaiva version of the story in which Vishnu impersonates first Jalandhara and then Shankhachuda in order to seduce their wives Vrinda in the first instance and Tulasi in the second. Here Shankhachuda is an incarnation of Sudama, a friend of Krishna who had been cursed by Radha. As compensation for her maltreatment by Vishnu, Shiva grants a boon whereby Tulasi becomes the patron goddess of the basil plant and is worshipped in conjunction with the sacred sdlagrdm stone, symbolizing the relationship between her and Vishnu. To go further back in time, there is a remote possibility that she is 136 E.g. AY ibid., Dhruvdas Sabhd mcmdal lild and Rcis muktdvalTtila, nos. 17-18 in Baydlis lila. Some listings are tabulated by Rawat 1977, pp.10, 139-40, 270. See also n.131. above. 137 Brhadbrahmasamhitd 2.4.93-170, 3.1.155, 3.2.12. 138 Rculhdkrsnagcmoddesadipika, pp.64-6. 139 GLA 9.52. 140 Krsnajanmakhanda 2-3, 14.191-209, 17.193-219. 141 PP 6.3-16 & 102-3, Sivapurana 2.5.14.41. 52

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00068.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:23] connected with a Yakshi (female spirit) of Mathura called Vendi who is mentioned in the Gilgit manuscripts.142 Like Radha, Krishna also has a retinue of companions (Sakhas). Rup Goswami assigns a particular duty to each of them,143 but the concept did not have the same appeal as that of the Sakhis. Only two of Krishna's companions appear regularly in popular literature. One of them, called Shridama, first appeared in earlier narratives as one of the boys who played at the Bhandira tree when they were attacked by Pralamba. In an interpolation in the southern recension of the Harivamsa he is the son of Yashoda's brother,144 but in later northern sources he is said to be the brother of Radha. He appears in adventures with Krishna in Padmapurdna and Gargasamhitd, and plays a more important part in Brahmavaivartapurdna, where he is described as a friend of Krishna rather than a brother of Radha. This Purana relates how Radha refused to see Krishna when she learnt that he was having an affair with a woman called Viraja. Shridama, annoyed at her display of pique, began to argue with her. This resulted in them laying a curse on each other to the effect that she would be born on earth as Radha and he as Shankhachuda, the demon who later married Vrinda. This story provides a new motive for Krishna's incarnation: that he wanted to accompany Radha and sport with her during her period of exile from heaven. He therefore descended to earth along with his paradise and retinue, but, owing to Shridama's curse, he eventually had to abandon her and depart for Mathura and Dwarka. Madhumangala, or Mansukha, plays the role of Krishna's accomplice in some of his mischievous escapades. Rup Goswami, in his Vidagdhamddhava, says that he is a grandson of Paurnamasi. In this work and in modern rds lild performances his role is that of the traditional jester or buffoon (vidusaka). 35 Krishna extorts curds from the Gopis Krishna's extortion of curds from the Gopis is the most popular of the episodes added to the narrative by later texts. It is usually called the dan Hid because it describes how Krishna intercepts the girls and demands a toll (dan) on the pots of curd that they are carrying to market. They refuse to give him anything because they know that he is not authorized to make any such demand. A lively exchange ensues, culminating in Krishna attacking the girls, smashing their pots, and stealing the curd. It is a continuation of the theme of Krishna's theft of butter in his infancy, but with more aggression and sexuality, for he usually goes so far as to molest the Gopis, break their necklaces, and rip their bodices.145 In most accounts of this incident he accosts the girls as they enter a gully or narrow passage between two hills, and is usually accompanied by a group of cowherd boys who also take part in the tussle. Several versions of the incident say that it took place at Sankari Khori in Barsana, where it is re-enacted every year; others locate it at Dan Ghati the place 142 3, pt. I pp.2-17 (venuti). 143 See Rup Goswami, op. cit. 144 HV (ed. Vaidya), vol.1 pp.xliii-iv. See Hudson in Hawley and Wulff(eds.), p.241. 145 For further discussion of the theme see Hawley 1983, pp.144-7, 165, 185-190. 53

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00069.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:23] where the Mathura-Dig road crosses the Govardhan hill, and there are some who say that it happened at Vrindaban or between Gokul and Mathura.146 In fact the term Sankari Khori or Gali may refer to any narrow lane in which Krishna meets or intercepts Radha,147 though the place in Barsana bearing the name was known in the sixteenth century. The episode is depicted in iconography from at least the eighth century,148 but the earliest extended literary treatment of the theme is found in a sequence of over a hundred poems by Baru Chandidas.149 The theme is taken up by Rup Goswami in his Ddnakelikaumudi, a drama in one act that was probably composed some time between 1533 and 1541.150 In this version Radha and the Gopis are intercepted by Krishna while they are carrying pots of ghee to be used in a sacrifice to be performed near Govind Kund, a tank beside the hill of Govardhan. Krishna, proclaiming himself lord of the forest and posing as a revenue official, demands that they pay him a toll. He goes on to declare that the girls should also be taxed for their physical charms. A dialogue full of sexual inuendo and punning ensues between Krishna and his companions and Radha and her Sakhis. Eventually Paurnamasi intervenes to suggest that Radha be offered to Krishna as payment, and assures him that Radha will come to meet him that night. In his old age Raghunathdas, to whom Rup dedicated his Ddnakelikaumudi, produced a similar version of the incident entitled Danakelicintamani. He locates the incident at the tank called Dan Nivartan Kund near the Govardhan hill where Krishna and his friends set up an octroi.151 In 1572 Kavikarnapura included a similar version in the third act (called ddnavinoda) of his drama Caitanyacandrodaya.152 More popular versions of the theme were written in the Braj dialect, notable examples being the relevant poems in Sur sagar and compositions entitled 146 The first location, also called Sankari Gali, is mentioned in Sur sagar, pad 945-6, Madhuriji's Dan mddhuri., pad 75 of Surdas Madanmohan, pad 556 of Govindswami, pad 173 & 234 of Paramanandadas. Dan Ghati is specified in the latter's pad 628, and the road between Gokul and Mathura in his pad 605. Hariray (Dan lila, ed. Mital, pp.68 ff.) talks of a Gahwarban at Govardhan. Vrindaban is specified in pad 641 of Paramanandadas and by Dhruvdas (Baydlis lilci no. 42), who says that Krishna waited for Radha at Bansi Bat. 147 E.g. Paramanandadas, pad 443, referring to a sakari gali at Nandgaon, and Vrinda, Yamak satsaiAl 1, p.242: merikcinha nisa kari, naika sd karinahi / milana saka rikunja ki gari sakari main. 148 See Hawley ibid., pp.58-9. A terracotta plaque in the museum at Bikaner, perhaps dating from the 5th century, has been described as representing this incident, but the interpretation is open to doubt, cf. Preciado-Solis, pp. 105-6. 149 The sequence is entitled Dan khand, and is by far the longest section of his SrTkrsna kin an. 150 It may, however, be a revised version of a work written before Rup Goswami met Chaitanya, cf. De, pp. 161-2. 151 ghattipatta, cf. De, pp.121, 123, 616-7 and the Dananivartanakundastaka in the Stavavali of Raghunathdas. A work called Danacarila is also ascribed to him. 152 De, pp.44, 571. There is also a work called Danakhanda attributed to Gopal Bhatt (ibid, pp. 123-4). See B. Majumdar, p. 199, for some discussion of the antiquity of the theme in Vaishnava literature. The theme also appears in Kanhavat, 93 ff. 54

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00070.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:24] Dan Vila by Kumbhandas, and Dhruvdas. There are several variations on the theme of Krishna intercepting Radha while she is on her way to market. Baru Chandidas wrote a sequence of poems on the theme of naukd I7ld, in which Krishna poses as a ferryman and contrives to make love to Radha in a boat as he ferries her across the Yamuna. 36 Lila of the eight watches of the day Several later texts give an account of the various sports or pastimes (lila) of Krishna, Radha, and the Gopis that take place throughout the day. The sequence of events corresponds both to the daily ritual cycle of the temples and to the notion that their play is eternal. Because each of the episodes takes place during one of the eight watches of the day, the cycle is referred to as astayamalila or astakalikalTld. The cycle is summarized in the thirty-sixth chapter of Sanatkumarasamhitd and in a short text by Rup Goswami entitled Smaranamahgala. It is described at length by Krishnadas Kaviraj in his elaborate GovindalTlamrta. Notable examples in the Braj dialect are the Seva sukh section of Harivyasdev's Mahdvanl, Ras muktavalT ITla by Dhruvdas, Gaurahg astayam by Chandragopal (in which it is applied to the worship of images of Chaitanya), and later works entitled Astayam by Vrindabanchandradas, Damodarvar, Chacha Vrindabandas, and Ativallabhji.153 Several anthologies of lyrics by various poets were arranged into sections that could be sung in temples during the different watches. In his GovindalTlamrta Krishnadas Kaviraj declares that the purpose of the work is to inspire devotees to contemplate the various pastimes of Krishna and Radha as they take place throughout the day.154 He begins the cycle with the first watch (pratah) when Vrinda calls upon the birds to wake Krishna and Radha, who have been sleeping together after meeting at night to dance the rasa. They emerge dishevelled from the bower, return to their respective homes, and creep into bed before the rest of the household awakes. During the second watch (purvcihna) Paurnamasi visits Nanda's house in order to see Krishna wake up. She notices the marks caused by his love play with Radha, but assumes that they are the result of his having wrestled playfully with Balarama before falling asleep. Krishna gets up, plays with the other boys, and goes to milk the cows, while Radha is woken by her mother-in-law and begins her daily routine. During the third watch (madhyahna) Krishna goes out into the forest to graze the cattle while Radha and the Sakhis go to worship Surya. Radha's mother-in-law had encouraged the Sakhis to take her with them in order to keep her occupied because she suspected that Krishna would attempt to meet her. Nevertheless, they do meet each other in the forest and during 153 The version by Dhruvdas is in BayalTs lilci, 18.76 ff. Chandragopal's version is referred to by P. Mital 1962 p. 165, and the last three are mentioned by Lalitacharan Goswami, p.493. For Vrindabanchandradas see below (AY). An adaptation of the cycle to the context of Rama worship is attributed to Nabhadas, cf. B. P. Singh, p.385, and in a secular context by Deva, cf. McGregor 1984, p. 178. 154 GLA 23.94: sevasya yogyavapusa'nisam atracasyd ragcidhvasadhakajanmair manasd vidheyd. 55

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00071.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:24] the fourth watch (aparahna) amuse themselves on the banks of Radhakund. After playing in a swing and frolicking in the water of the lake, Radha returns home, and Krishna, during the fifth watch (.sayahna), brings the cattle back to the village while playing his flute. During the sixth watch (pradosa) Krishna and Radha eat their evening meal and look at each other from the gazebos of their respective homes. During the seventh watch (naisajmadhyaratrT) everyone goes to sleep and Krishna and Radha steal away for their tryst in Vrindaban. During the eighth watch (nisanta) they dance on the banks of the Yamuna, frolic in the water, and finally retire to their bower. GovindalTldmrta, like other examples of the genre, intersperses this daily routine with accounts of various apocryphal incidents. Such episodes often form the subject of separate poems or a rds lila performance, and usually revolve around some humorous trick or ploy instigated by one of the Sakhis or by Krishna himself in order to contrive a meeting between him and Radha. The tenth chapter of GovindalTlamrta,, for instance, includes an episode in which Krishna's flute is stolen by one of the girls, in this case Shaivya, a companion of Chandravali. The theft of the flute is a popular theme, the thief in most cases being Radha. It is first found in the poems of Baru Chandidas, in a section entitled VamsTkhand. Here Radha refuses to return the flute unless Krishna promises to remain faithful to her. Raghunathdas wrote a poem called Muktacarita which tells how the Gopis refused to hand over their pearls to Krishna, and so he asked Yashoda to give him some. He sowed them in the soil of Vrindaban, where they grew into pearl-bearing creepers. On seeing this, the Gopis sowed their pearls as well, but the creepers that grew were covered with thorns. Radha and the Gopis then offered to buy Krishna's pearls, but he refused to sell them. This led to an argument in which Krishna declared that the only form of payment acceptable to him would be for the Gopis to let him embrace and fondle them. The dispute is finally settled amicably through the intervention of Nandimukhi. Disguise or exchange of clothes (chadma lila) is another popular theme, often combined with a certain amount of altercation and reconciliation. Sometimes Krishna dresses up as a Yogi in order to trick the girls or convey some message to Radha. In some poems (such as those entitled SSjhT Ida) Krishna manages to infiltrate the company of the Gopis by dressing up as a girl and calling himself Sanvari, a feminine form of his epithet stivaro, meaning 'dark'. In Gopalakelicandrika the Sakhi Lalita encourages Krishna to dress up as a Gopi in order to gain access to Radha's home. There he manages to meet her, draw her portrait, play with her dolls, and meet her mother. Sometimes he and Radha dress up as each other by exchanging clothes, a pastime interpreted theologically as being symbolic of their ultimate unity. The earliest poet to mention this is Bilvamangala, who describes how Krishna and Radha avoid each other after a quarrel. Later on Radha saw Krishna approaching dressed as a girl. Taking him for one of her friends she affectionately embraces him, upon which he tenderly kissed her and she turned into Krishna.155 155 Bilvamahgalastava 2.75. 56

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00072.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:24] 37 The marriage of Krishna and Radha All commentators are faced with the problem of justifying Krishna's relationship with Radha and the Gopis. In all the authoritative sources it is clear that the women are married to the herdsmen. In the Bhdgavatapurdna doubts raised about the propriety of his touching other mens' wives during the rasa dance are answered with the argument that a being as powerful as Krishna, who controls and dwells in all souls, who manifested himself and appeared on earth in order to experience the bliss within himself, bestow his grace, and inspire us with devotion, is not governed by the rules applicable to ordinary people. Furthermore, the herdsmen were not jealous of Krishna because, as a result of his magic power, they were unaware of the fact that their wives were absent.156 Later commentators provide other more or less ingenious excuses for the adulterous behaviour of Krishna and the Gopis. Ultimately their justifications rest on the argument that his divine activity cannot be assessed in terms of our mundane and conventional morality. The nature of Krishna's relationship with the Gopis was of particular concern to theologians of the Gaudiya Sampraday. There are two opposing points of view among them: some argued that Radha and the Gopis belonged to Krishna, that they were in effect his own wives (svakTyd); others defended the notion that they belonged to other men (that they were parakiya).151 Apart from the fact that there is no question of marriage in the scriptural sources, poetic convention, at least until the time of Baru Chandidas, required that they remain unmarried because extra-marital love was regarded as being more intense and spontaneous. Rup Goswami and his successors pursued various lines of argument: that adultery was not in principle committed; that some kind of unmanifested marriage took place; that the Gopis obtained Krishna as if he were their husband, not their lover, and are therefore to be considered as properly belonging to him; that the Gopis had never consummated their marriage with their husbands, and the latter had been deceived by Krishna's magic power into believing the contrary; that the Gopis are manifestations of Krishna's power and therefore belong to him; that the Gopis are in essence always with Krishna, and that their husbands were married only to secondary or illusory manifestations of them. One way of resolving the problem was to effect a marriage between Krishna and Radha, thereby justifying, retrospectively at least, their premarital dalliance. The theologically convenient notion that they were married was accepted by many writers, but there is sometimes inconsistency within sectarian circles, or even in the works of individual authors. Rup Goswami presents Radha as the wife of Abhimanyu in Vidagdhamddhava, and in Lalitamddhava describes her marriage with Krishna at the 'New Vrindaban' in Dwarka.158 Their marriage is also described in the Brahmavaivartapurana and by Jiv Goswami in the latter part of his Gopdlacampu. They are also married in Kanhdvat, but here the theme exemplifies a convention in Sufi literature whereby Radha plays the role of a first wife who must suffer when her husband is attracted to a younger woman. Their marriage is 156 BhP 33.27-40. 157 De, pp.204-5, 348-350, 410-11. Dimock, p.200 ff. 158 Lalitamddhava, act 10. 57

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00073.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:24] mentioned in Gopalakelicandrika, but there is no conventional ceremony. Instead Lalita officiates at an informal gandharva wedding rite. In the fourth act Yashoda recalls how she and Kirti used to play together when they were young, and on one occasion performed a mock wedding with their dolls, promising that one day their children would marry each other. The engagement or wedding ceremony of Krishna and Radha occurs as a theme in the Utsah sukh section of Harivyasdev's Mahavanl, in some of the Sur scigcir poems, and in the works of various poets of the Pushtimarg, including a poem called Syam saga! attributed to Nandadas. In these and other later versions the marriage is usually described in terms of a Braj village wedding, as in a poem by Hariram Vyas dealing with various domestic rites and Krishna's wedding procession (barat) from Nandgaon to Barsana.159 Dhruvdas wrote some verses called byahulau that describe how the Sakhis make arrangements for the wedding. The term byahulau ('wedding') is used to refer to enactments of the marriage ceremony that are periodically performed with much pomp at the Radhavallabh temple in Vrindaban.160 The introduction of the marriage theme had no effect on the ideal of love in separation, for whether married to Radha or not, Krishna still abandons her when he migrates to Dwarka. Basically the question of whether they committed adultery is an ethical and theological problem that has only really bothered the more intellectual devotees. Most people are prepared to accept the ambivalence, being more concerned with the quality of their love rather than whether Radha should be regarded as a legally wedded wife or mistress. 38 Narada and Shiva change sex An earlier myth about Narada becoming a woman was adapted in later texts to fit the Krishna story and underline the need for devotees to emulate the Gopis.161 Originally Narada was ordered by Vishnu to bathe in a tank, as a result of which he turned into a woman. The reason for this penalty was his being so presumptuous as to expect to know the secrets of maya, something that could even delude the gods. The female version of Narada married a king called Taladhvaja and, in the course of many years of sexual indulgence, gave birth to eight sons and many grandsons, but they were all killed in battle. Eventually Vishnu appeared in disguise and told Narada to bathe in another tank, as a result of which he regained his masculinity. Here Narada's becoming female is seen as a punishment for his arrogance, but in the versions relevant for Braj his experience as a woman is seen as a glimpse of a higher reality rather than a delusion, and both sexuality and femininity are 159 pad 721. 160 The poems are appended to BayalTs Ilia, pp. 293-5. Radhavallabh is the main deity of the poet's Sampraday. For mention of other Radhavallabhite poems on the marriage theme see Lalitacharan Goswami, pp.497-8. 161 For references and discussion of the older version of the Narada myth (Devibhagavata, 6.28-30) see O'Flaherty 1984, pp.81 ff., and Shulman, pp.300-301 & 304, citing a Tamil adaptation in which the charioteer of the sun takes the form of a woman in order to watch the dance of Urvashi. 58

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00074.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:24] presented as positive factors. In these versions Narada is told by Vrinda to bathe in a lake called Pushpasaras (i.e. Kusum Sarovar), as a result of which he becomes the female Naradi and is able to join the Sakhis and participate in the erotic sports of Krishna. Later he became male again after bathing in Pushpasaras a second time or in some other lake to the south-east of it (i.e. Narad Kund).162 The story of Shiva wanting to watch the rasa dance, but having to become a woman before he was able to do so, is a variant of the Narada myth that is popular in oral tradition and folk songs. Local people tell it to explain why the most famous Shiva temple in Vrindaban is called Gopishwar, 'Lord of the Gopis' or 'the Lord as a Gopi\ According to Gargasamhitd} 63 there was a sage called Asuri who lived on a mountain where he practised severe austerities, meditated on Krishna, and had visions of him with Radha. One night, however, he was unable to concentrate and felt a strong desire to see Krishna. He searched everywhere but could not find him, even when he went to the Vrindaban bower in heaven (goloka). Eventually he came before Shiva on Mount Kailash and asked if he had any idea where Krishna was to be found. Shiva, praising Asuri for his diligence in seeking Krishna, told him that he could find him dancing the rasa with the Sakhis in the terrestrial Vrindaban. Shiva himself was intending to go there and invited Asuri to accompany him. Together they went to Braj (vrajamandala) and approached the bank of the Yamuna. Their path was blocked by female guardians who explained that Krishna was the only male who could participate in the rasa, and that before going any further they would have to become Gopis by bathing in a pond called Manasarovara. Shiva and Asuri followed their instructions and, in the form of Gopis, were admitted into the area where the rasa is performed. They marvelled at the dance and paid obeisance to Krishna. He explained that they had gained admittance by virtue of their prolonged asceticism and offered them a boon. They asked that they might permanently dwell in Vrindaban, a wish that was duly granted. 39 How Govardhan came to Braj Gargasamhitd provides an explanation of how Govardhan came to Braj.164 Initially it became manifest as a son of the mountain Drona on the western island of Shalmali. When the sage Pulastya saw it, he decided to have it moved to Kashi so that he could perform his austerities on it. Govardhan, however, was reluctant to go and made the excuse that he was too large to be transported. Drona, fearing that he would be cursed by Pulastya, allowed him to take Govardhan away with him. When they got as far as Braj, however, Govardhan remembered that it was his duty to be present there in order to participate in the sports of Krishna, and so he refused to let Pulastya carry him any further. This so annoyed the sage that he pronounced a curse to the effect that Govardhan would decrease in size by an amount equivalent to the size of a sesamum seed every day. The myth does not seem to have had much 162 SP 2.6.2-3, NP 2.80.9-32, PP 4.75.25-46. 163 GS 2.21-2. 164 GS 2.2. 59

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00075.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:25] currency. Narayan Bhatt gives an alternative explanation of Govardhan's arrival, saying that it was brought from the Himalayas by Hanuman.165 40 The reclamation of Braj In order to link modern Braj with the mythological realm, as well as the terrestrial and transcendental planes on which Krishna performs his adventures, a myth was developed on the theme of the reclamation of Braj by Vajranabha. The basis for the myth is the tradition, mentioned in the Mahdbhdrata and Bhagavatapurana,166 that Arjuna, while he was based at Indraprastha (Delhi), rehabilitated the Vrishnis under the leadership of Krishna's great-grandson Vajra. A relatively modern section of the Skandapurdna tells how Arjuna placed Vajranabha, the son of Krishna's grandson Aniruddha, in charge of those Yadavas who had survived the internecine warfare that followed the destruction of Dwarka.167 Vajranabha complained to Parikshit that the domain he had been given control of (referred to as mathurdmandcda or vrajabhumi, i.e. modern Braj) needed to be repopulated. Parikshit summoned the sage Shandilya and asked for his advice. Shandilya, after extolling Krishna's pastimes with Radha and the Gopis, took Vajranabha on a tour of the places where they had occurred. He told Vajranabha that because these places were without guardians, he should establish some villages in the area and take care of the rivers, hills, tanks, and groves. He refers specifically to the establishment of settlements at Govardhan, Dirghapura (i.e. Dig), Mathura, Mahaban, Nandigrama (i.e. Nandgaon), and Brihatsanu (i.e. Barsana). He predicted that Vajranabha would meet Uddhava and learn all the secrets from him. Vajranabha began to rule in Mathura, repopulated the sacred places, and established tanks, wells, Shiva shrines, and images of Krishna, including Govindadeva and Harideva. He spread the message of devotion and people began to take part in singing the praises of Krishna. He met Kalindi and other abandoned wives of Krishna who were suffering from the pangs of love in separation. She told him of their condition and suggested that he consult Uddhava, who was residing in the form of a creeper at Sakhisthala, near Govardhan. They went there together and rejoiced when they saw Uddhava appear beside a tank called Kusumasaras (Kusum Sarovar). Uddhava praised them for their devotion and the depth of their absorption in Krishna, saying that those who reside in Braj are more fortunate than the people of Dwarka because here Krishna continually sports with Radha, just as he is always present in the Bhagavatapurana. He prophesied that the Bhdgavatapurdna would be the subject of inspiration and commentary and that he would continue to reside at Narad Kund in order to convey its message to devotees. Vajranabha also appears in Gargasamhitd, where he is said to be the founder of images of Dirghavishnu and Keshava at Mathura, Govindadeva at Vrindaban, 165 VBV 5.1. 166 MBh sabhd. 14.48 ff., 17.1.9, BhP 11.31.25. 167 Bhdguvcitanuihdtmya, viz. SP 2.61-3. 60

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00076.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:25] Harideva at Govardhan, Gokulesha at Gokul, and Baladeva at Baldeo.168 In a later version of the story, given by Gopal Kavi in the early nineteenth century,169 Vajranabha is said to have been so disconsolate when Krishna returned to his supreme abode that Parikshit took him to Uddhava, who told him that he should excavate four images of Krishna (Keshavadeva, Govindadeva, Harideva, and Baladeva) that had sunk beneath the ground because of the onset of the kali age. 168 GS 10.62.26-8. 169 VDA 24. 61

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00077.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:25] 3 Devotion in theory and practice 1 Emotion and aesthetics In the introductory chapter we described the different types of pilgrimage and the formal regulations that participants are expected to observe, while in the second chapter we summarized the scriptural accounts of the life of Krishna and surveyed later developments in his mythology. His amorous exploits became the dominant theme, especially his love for Radha. The mythology was elaborated in conformity with the increasing importance of the theme of divine love, both in theology and popular devotion. Accordingly, emotional involvement in the pastimes of Krishna was generally accepted as more rewarding than meticulous performance of rituals and other observances. Human sensuality was acknowledged and celebrated, but there was also a tendency to create a theoretical framework that would contain potentially anarchic emotions. Rup Goswami, who flourished in the first half of the sixteenth century, was the most influential theorist of this type of devotion, not only among fellow members of the Gaudiya Sampraday, but also among devotees belonging to other sects. The excessive formalism of his theological system is in strong contrast to the emotional abandon of Chaitanya, the exemplary devotee. Its intricate definitions and categorization can hardly have had much interest for the average worshipper of Krishna. Although his theory and analyses, like those of other scholastic theologians who followed him, constitute a learned world unto themselves, they were an attempt at systematizing popular manifestations of devotion. Some of the terms they use, such as ras (a), bhav(a), and prem(a), have entered into the vocabulary of every devotee of Krishna. Rup Goswami made a distinction between two types of devotion based on external effort, one that consisted of following scriptural injunctions governing religious practice (vaidhibhakti), the other of a more intense and passionate nature (raganugabhakti). The former is the approach followed by those who are still ensnared by delusion (may a) and have no direct relationship with Krishna. It is a kind of preparatory discipline and training that is undergone by those as yet incapable of enjoying the superior and more passionate kind of devotion. Higher than either of these is the kind of devotion that results from spontaneous inward 62

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00078.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:25] emotion (bhdvabhakti), and above all is the kind that ripens into the sentiment of love (premabhakti).1 The intensity of one's devotion ultimately depends on the degree to which one can experience bhava a kind of feeling or emotional identification, rasa a refined mood or sentiment, and prema love. These basic elements were already present in the Bhagavatapurana, composed some seven hundred years earlier, which in turn had borrowed the terminology from classical aesthetic theory. In its opening lines the Bhagavatapurana likens itself to a fruit filled with nectar (rasa) that is to be drunk by those who are connoisseurs (rasika) and have acquired a taste for the beautiful (bhavuka). It points towards a form of devotion that seeks an emotional and aesthetic experience, that cultivates love for god concurrently with that of love for one's fellow men, rather than liberation or solitary enlightenment. Evocation and experience of sentiments by means of poetry, song, and visual display constitute in themselves a means of fulfilment and salvation. They take one further than any form of speculative theology and transcend any reservations one might have about Krishna's unruly behaviour and his flirtations with the Gopis. Ideally the feelings experienced should be spontaneous and unconditioned, but the techniques used to evoke them are almost wholly conventional. In aesthetic theory, for which Bharata is the standard authority, bhciva refers to a basic human mood or sentiment that is transformed by an artist and experienced aesthetically as rasa.2 This rasa is the 'essence' of the qualities that distinguish a work of art. It is something that cannot be explicitly stated because it is more rarefied than any feeling derived from direct sensual perception or experience. It is a sensation evoked in a listener or spectator that is experienced as an impersonalized condition of pure aesthetic enjoyment. In a devotional context the term bhava refers to the appropriate attitude a worshipper adopts when he contemplates an aspect of Krishna. We may develop our emotional responses by dwelling upon an aspect that is best suited to our natural inclinations. In emulation of Yashoda, we may cultivate the emotions associated with motherhood (vcitsalyabhava) and adore Krishna as an infant. Alternatively, if we choose to look upon him as our lord and master, we may place ourselves in the role of his slave (dasyabhava). By identifying with his companions in Braj we may cultivate the emotions associated with friendship 1 The most important theoretical works of Rup Goswami are UjjvalanTlamani and Bhaktirasdmrtasindhu. For a fuller account of Rup's definition of bluikti based on the latter see De, pp.170 ff., who also gives more detailed discussion of the theme of this section, mainly with reference to Rup and Jiv Goswami. An outline of devotion according to the Gaudiya Sampraday is given in CC 2.7 ff., where it is said that Chaitanya learnt the doctrines while in South India from Ramananda Ray. N. N. Law gives a summary of Gaudiya theories on bhakti, based primarily on CC. Other accounts are given by R. Chakravarti 1985, ch.3, S. Dasgupta, vol. 4 chs.21 -3, Dimock 1966, ch. 1, and in Singer (ed.), pp.41-63, Eidlitz 1968, pp.388-96, Kinsley, chs.1-2, Majumdar, Wulff 1984, pp.25-34 (and chs.VII-VIII for application of the theories in Rup Goswami's Vidagdhcimddhava) and Haberman, esp. chs. III-IV. For Vallabha's interpretation of BhP see Redington. 2 Bharata, Ndtyasastra ( rasadhydya ). See Gerow, pp.245 ff, for a concise summary of the aesthetics of Bharata and his successors. 63

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00079.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:25] (sakhyabhdva). The most intimate and powerful emotions, however, are those felt by the Gopis who fell in love with him.3 They give rise to the highest and sweetest kind of sentiment, referred to as srhgaraor madhurarasa, 'the erotic' or 'sweet sentiment'. Identification with the Gopis is the basis for a theology in which the soul is regarded as feminine. The mutual love of Krishna and the Gopis is looked upon as the supreme parable of the relationship between god and the soul. The role to be played by a devotee is thus modelled on the ideal of womanhood meek, self-sacrificing, and devoted to satisfying her partner's needs. The impassioned form of devotion arises from the desire to realize the feelings of the people of Braj who took part in Krishna's sports. It is to be cultivated by living either physically or mentally in Braj and emulating the mental attitude (i.e. bhcivci) of a member of Krishna's entourage, preferably one of the Gopis. This is to be achieved by recalling his pastimes, reliving them in one's imagination, and imitating the associated moods and feelings according to one's predisposition and emotional capacity. It is a form of vicarious participation, a sublimation of erotic and other intimate human feelings in terms of the devotional sentiments felt by the characters who associated with Krishna. When dwelling upon his amorous adventures, catharsis comes not from actual participation or physical enactment of the sexual experience, but by singing emotional and erotic lyrics about it. Rup Goswami, his contemporaries, and successors are sometimes surprisingly frank in their treatment of the erotic elements in the Krishna myth. Even so, they tended to regulate or contain the eroticism by imposing an intellectual system upon it. They applied Bharata's enumeration of all the constituent elements of a work of art to the context of religious devotion, following his exhaustive classification of feelings and all the motifs used in poetry to evoke it. These include, for example, all those elements that serve to excite the emotions and foster the appropriate feeling, such as descriptions of the seasons, various items of luxury, diversions enjoyed in beautiful houses and gardens, and features of the environment of Vrindaban its rivers, seasonal groves, and abundant flora and fauna.4 Such stereotyped motifs recurr again and again in both secular and devotional poetry dealing with the pastimes of Krishna. The tendency is to follow the classical tradition in which intensity of mood is enhanced not by psychological depth, but by an accumulation of sensuous detail. Love is not described as something personal and subjective, but as a depersonalized voluptuous state. The lovers are not particularized individuals, but are stereotyped representations of any handsome youth and beautiful young woman.5 While there were many inspired poets, there were also duller devotees who adopted a more clerical approach, creating works of literary overkill that laboriously reiterate the standard repertoire of imagery, metaphors, and vapid conceits. 3 nuidhuryaor gopibhciva. See Singer in Singer (cd.), pp. 129-36, for an account of how this is envisaged and experienced among devotees in Madras. 4 These elements are termed uddipanavibhdva. Sec De, pp.180, 210-11, with reference to the works of Rup Goswami. For further discussion of the imagery of Vrindaban in Rup Goswami and other writers sec Corcoran, ch.V, pp.195 fif. 5 Kakar 1985, pp.80-81. 64

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00080.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:26] 2 Tantric influence In addition to its use in the field of aesthetics, the term rasa had physiological connotations that were also taken up by the Vaishnava theologians. One of the ways they describe of contemplating Krishna is to visualize him in the centre of a lotus situated in the heart. At the root of this is the older conception, expressed in the Upanishads and BhagavadgTtd, of a microcosmic purusa (male principle) residing in the heart that corresponds to the macrocosmic Supreme Being (purusottama). Although the Vaishnava theologians were primarily influenced by Tantric ideas current in north and east India, their conception of Krishna was already foreshadowed in the Bhagavatapurdna, which proclaimed that he is equivalent to the supreme male principle (purusa) and is radiant amid the Gopis, who represent his female potencies (Shaktis).6 Esoteric yoga physiology, as it was propagated in Buddhist and Hindu schools of Tantra, conceived of there being a series of six centres of power (cakra) in the body that represent different states of consciousness. The lowest cakra is thought to be located at the perineum (or sacrococcygeal plexus) and the highest at the crown of the head. The latter is regarded as the seat of cosmic consciousness and is visualized as a lotus with a thousand petals. In the Hindu Shaiva or Shakta conception it is Shiva, the primordial male and representative of pure and static consciousness, who is envisaged microcosmically as residing in the thousand-petalled lotus. This is the seat of bliss where he unites with his Shakti, the dynamic female power that is conceived of as a coiled serpent (kundaliru) located in the lowest cakra.1 The discipline of Tantric yoga was a way of internalizing sexual intercourse by making the female power rise up the hollow of the cerebrospinal axis. As it moves upwards it energizes the different cakra, causing the lotuses that symbolize them to open out. The union of Shiva and Shakti in the highest lotus represents the recovery of a state of non-duality, the ultimate condition of the macrocosmic absolute. It is a reunion that brings with it liberation from the process of phenomenalization. It is a reversal of the process of becoming that entailed separation and increasing bondage and suffering. One of the terms used to describe this blissful union is samarasa, meaning 'sameness or oneness of emotion'.8 The primary meaning of the word rasa is simply 'juice' or 'sap', but since it can refer to any kind of liquid essence or extraction, it is used in a variety of contexts. In the Vedas it refers to the 'fluid of life', which can be water, milk, or soma, and in the post-Vedic period it was used for both male and female sexual fluids. According to the rasciyana school, whose practitioners developed a form of theological alchemy, it was a substance (generally mercury, and equated with the seed of Shiva) that could be used to render the body immutable. In the Nath Sampraday, a cult closely related to rasciyana, this rasa was envisaged as a kind of nectar that oozed from the moon located in the thousand-petalled lotus at the crown of the head. By resorting to yogic practices this nectar, which is physiologically equal to semen, could be 6 BhP 10.32.10. 7 See Woodrofife, pp.641 ff. 8 Sec Shashibhushan Das Gupta, pp.xxxiv-xxxv. 65

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00081.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:26] transformed so as to make the body perfect and immortal.9 The process is one of raising the rasa from the lowest cakra, the seat of sexual passion, up through the other cakra until it unites with the thousand-petalled lotus in the head. The technique is one of abstracting and transposing sexual power, avoiding seminal discharge in order to store semen in the head, as is believed to be done by yogis. It is said to lead to the realization of absolute truth, a state of supreme bliss that is expressed in terms of the ecstatic union of male and female ontological principles. In the late tenth or early eleventh century Lakshmana Deshika, who came from Kashmir, wrote a work called Saradatilaka that became especially influential in eastern India and was much quoted in Vaishnava ritual manuals.10 It described the Supreme Being (purusottama) as uniting in himself the characteristics of Vishnu as the husband of Lakshmi, Krishna as lover of the Gopis, and Kama, the god of love. This inspired further Vaishnava developments of the theme with relation to Jagannatha, the main deity of Orissa, who was called purusottama and was identified with Krishna. He was visualized as a god of love who could be meditated upon by means of the lotus symbolism. This conception was shared by Vaishnavas of Maharashtra, for whom Krishna was represented by the regional god Vithoba.11 They visualized him in the eight-petalled lotus cakra located in the heart rather than the thousand-petalled one in the head. In traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) the heart is the true location of the mind and the centre of the channels within the body through which the vital fluids flow. Furthermore, Vaishnava devotion was concerned with love felt in the heart rather than with the monistic union that takes place in the highest cakra. Conceptualizations that give precedence to the heart lotus incorporate the lotus of a thousand petals by visualizing the inner ring of eight petals as being surrounded by concentric rings of petals, each having twice as many as the ring it encircles. Such a conception was later applied to Braj, in whjchKrishna \ \ and jladha were visualized as occupying Ihe centre of the lotus^ located aT 'Wrindab.an^ wjJ^acr^ on the surrounding petals.I2 The Vaishnava sect most strongly influenced by Tantric and Shakta cults was that of the Sahajiyas of Bengal, whose name derives from their being concerned with everything that was sahaja ('spontaneous/natural'), a term also used to describe the ultimate state of being. In their system Krishna and Radha replaced Shiva and Shakti, representing absolute reality in a state of union of the enjoyer and the enjoyed.13 Their system was more psychologically orientated than that of the Tantric schools, since their discipline was one of divinization of the emotions felt in human love. The Sahajiya doctrines were presumably known to Rup Goswami and other theologians of the Gaudiya Sampraday, and probably influenced their conception of the love of Krishna and Radha as something abstracted from the physical that could lead the devotee to experience a purely emotional and 9 Ibid., chs.VIII-IX, csp. pp.251-5. 10 G. C. Tripathi in Eschmann ct al. (eds.), pp.42-50. 11 See Kichnlc, who calls them 'Nath-Vaishnavas'and refers specifically to Dnyandev. 12 This yogapith concept is dealt with in more detail below, .13. 13 For an account of Vaishnava Sahajiya doctrines see Shashibhushan Das Gupta and Dimock 1966, pp. 177-80. 66

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00082.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:26] psychological transmutation. In Gaudiya theology, Radha is considered to be a transfiguration of the blissful power (hlddimsakti) that Krishna made manifest in order to be able to realize his nature as the eternal enjoyer. These conceptions found their way into the theology of the other Sampradays and underlie the way in which Krishna and Radha are extolled and worshipped. The state of union of the divine couple is generally referred to as yugala, a term borrowed from esoteric yoga. The term yugala is also used to describe idols of Krishna and Radha when they stand together in a shrine. One icon of Krishna and Radha shows them with their limbs entwined, a quasi-androgynous representation known as 'one soul, two bodies' (ek pran do deh) that recalls Tantric icons showing male and female deities in a sexual embrace, and reflects the Tantric goal of realizing masculinity and femininity in one's own body (see plate 4). 3 The nature of Krishna's love In devotional literature Krishna is described as having the qualities of the typical hero (ndyaka) of amatory literature. Some theologians also equate him with Kama, the god of love. Jiv Goswami says that for the women of Braj, Mathura, and Dwarka he plays the role of Kama and is worshipped by them as such.14 Krishna's greatest quality is his belovedness; he attracts the soul just as love attracts people to each other on earth. The love between Krishna and his devotee is mutual, and both have need of each other. It is through Radha, the Gopis, and thus through his devotees, that Krishna is able to realize his own blissful nature. It was in order to achieve this experience that he caused the Gopis, and above all Radha, to become manifest. The purpose of Krishna and his whole retinue appearing on earth was to reveal to mortals the nature of divine love. The love experienced among ordinary mortals is regarded as a gross transformation of the pure and eternal love that is realized in Krishna's supernal Vrindaban. Love in its carnal form, which is preoccupied with gratification, is known as kama; the higher kind of love that does not seek self-fulfilment is called prema. It can be transposed into an emotion of intense devotion of the soul towards god, seeking the fulfilment of the divine desires in and through the whole being. Even though this kind of love is proclaimed to be pure and transcendent, it is described analogically in theology and literature in terms of human love, using the imagery and terminology of secular love poetry and erotic treatises (kamasbstra). The model chosen is not the relationship between man and wife because, in the Indian social context, such a relationship is a dutiful one in which love is likely to become attenuated due to familiarity and formal obligations to each other and the rest of the family. Krishna enjoyed erotic play with sixteen thousand wives in Dwarka, but it has never received much attention in devotional literature. In erotic treatises it is said that women are more passionate if the love affair is an illicit one. Similarly, classical Sanskrit amatory verse is mainly concerned with the love of an unmarried couple. Devotional poets look upon extra-marital love as something 14 Krsnasanularbha (115), ad 358. 67

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00083.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:26] more intense and romantic because it is maintained for its own sake and dares to transgress normal social conventions. The lovers take more risks and have more to lose, thus their love is a better example of premct. This first emerged as the dominant theme of emotional devotion in Tamil Nadu. Shulman has noted that in ancient Tamil love poems the illicit premarital love of the heroine for a stranger was seen as the supreme and the most fulfilling state of love, and so the total love of man and god is enacted in a dimension of disorder in which conventional limits are shattered and transgressed.15 Although several poets have described the wedding of Krishna and Radha, it remained a secondary development, a marriage of convenience that has never been more than a peripheral theme. Nothing is said about the subsequent married life of the divine couple; their premarital encounters remain the focus of attention. No interest is shown in Radha as a potential mother or daughter-in-law; she retains instead the characteristics of the ndyikci of amatory literature, and is thus portrayed as a deified courtesan rather than a self-effacing and sexless wife. Tantalizing imagery is used to describe the love between Krishna and Radha, but theological commentators attempt to camouflage the physical sensuality by giving an abstract interpretation of the erotic elements. They point out that although the path of emotional devotion is open to all, it is beset with difficulties and pitfalls; relatively few devotees can attain the degree of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-control that is necessary for transposing and transcending the seductive imagery that is used to convey the message of divine love. The prevailing view among sects devoted to Krishna is that the human soul shares some of his infinite qualities, but cannot enjoy them until it is freed from the misperceptions caused by his power to create illusory appearances.16 The way to free oneself from delusion is to follow the path of devotion, but without desiring any selfish reward, for there can be no true devotion if the goal is one's own satisfaction. Krishna's amorous relationship with Radha and the Gopis is the supreme example of reciprocal love, and so emulation of the female role is the best way in which a devotee can enter into a mutual love relationship with Krishna. The devotee should have no desire for material benefit or self-gratification, but must be intent on pleasing the beloved, regardless of social and other worldly constraints. The way of devotion is regarded as superior to the paths of intellectual knowledge (Jjhdna) and ritual practices (karma); it leads to emotional realization and vicarious enjoyment of Krishna's sports as a participant or spectator. The supreme condition of the soul is not one of cessation or extinction of individuality (like yogic samadhi or Buddhist nirvana), but is a state of communion in which one experiences the eternal flow of divine love. This type of devotion is similar to the tradition of Tantric yoga in which sexual union is fantasized, in macrocosmic terms, the purpose being to raise one's consciousness, denying oneself sexual release in order to harness and transpose one's sexual energy. By a gradual process of physical and psychological discipline human love can be dissociated from carnal desire and transformed into a loving communion with the Supreme Being. It is a blissful state of arrest that arises not 15 Shulman, p. 157. 16 I.e. his maydsakti. For the Gaudiya explanation sec Dimock in Singer (cd.), pp.46-7. 68

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00084.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:26] from a denial of the sexual impulse, but from a transposition and purification of it.17 Having renounced physical consummation with the object of their love, the Sakhis are content with a kind of voyeurism, doing all they can to bring Krishna and Radha together, while themselves remaining chaste. Vaishnava poets often use the phrase 'ocean of rasa (rasa samudra) when describing some aspect of the beauty of Krishna or Radha, or the sensations felt when immersing oneself in their love play. This points to a correspondence between oceanic and orgasmic feelings, evoking fantasies of plunging into a sea of unlimited sexual experience, of becoming both man and woman in the mystic process of achieving union with the universe.18 This experience contrasts with the standard yogic goal of sharpening one's consciousness and suppressing distracting sensual thoughts. Devotional literature is full of phrases referring to immersion in joy, swooning, horripilating, forgetting oneself, no longer being responsible for one's behaviour, of being enchanted, stunned, transfixed, or spellbound by Krishna. 4 Love in separation (viraha) Sexual union (sambhoga) is not the only way of experiencing love; it can also be felt intensely in a condition of separation from one's beloved (viraha or viyoga). This type of love, or yearning, is closer to the everyday experience of the devotee, in view of the virtual absence of any opportunity for passionate romantic attachment in real life, and the impossibility of consummating one's love with a god who cannot be realized within the human dimensions of time and space. Love in separation was felt by Radha and the Gopis when Krishna abandoned them, temporarily while they danced the rasa, and definitively when he left for Mathura and Dwarka. The longing felt by a woman in the absence of her beloved is a stock theme in classical and popular literature. It was used in a devotional context by the Alvar poets of Tamil Nadu and was current in vernacular poetry throughout the the medieval period", notably in the rcisau ballads of western India, the mystical romances of the Sufis, and the poems of Vidyapati.19 For the devotional poets of Braj the abandonment of Radha and the Gopis was the most poignant theme in the whole mythology. Tt]r^"gh U (Jre^r^jj^^ emotive pexceplioiL of the^ conditionojjhgj^a^ waslheirequivalent of renimcITfioiT;^"ftrf-fhey1 ikened-fh^pangs of separation to a fire that burns one up (virahanala), jusi as in traditional asceticism austerity generated internal heat (tapas) and sexual restraint was a means of storing up this fiery energy. Although Krishna is said to miss the Gopis, their longing for him is much more intense, in accordance with the theological notion that the soul suffers more than the god from whom it is separated. The desired aim is not union with Lb.e transcendent, for such a state is impossible in the Vaishnava conception of the 17 Shashibhushan Das Gupta, p. 147, with reference to the Vaishnava Sahajiyas. 13 See Masson 1980, p.72, for fuller treatment of 'oceanic feeling' in psychological terms. 19 See F. Hardy 1983/1 for an account of the beginnings of virahabhakti in South India in the 6th or 7th century; McGregor 1984, cf. index under virahf afor medieval Hindi literature; and Hawley 1984, ch.4, for a discussion of the theme in Sur sugar. 69

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00085.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:27] nature of the soul and god. They are viewed as being qualitatively the same, but the individual soul does not ultimately dissolve into the great universal soul, as in the monistic theological systems. Mystical love in separation serves as an ideal substitute for involvement in a human love relationship. It is pure, orgasm is postponed, the state of desire and arousal is prolonged, the beloved is abstracted, there is more scope for idealization, and since the lovers remain apart there is less chance of rejection or disappointment. Xhej^ndition of love iji separation^thus_aD^ndTnJts^ejfLthe intensity of one's longing increases in^propprtion to^the degree of love. Rather than being a form of withdrawrbTadmi^sioTi'of defeat, it i^a^sMtejpT-sustained emotional involvement, the ul.timate^xpeiippcej^ Emotional identification with the Gopis is the only means by which the forlorn soul can relate to the absolute from which it is ontologically separate. The fact that the devotee's emotional drive to unite is frustrated in separation reconfirms, in the words of Friedhelm Hardy, the basic validity of his full human existence, his anthropocentrism, his 'flesh and blood'.20 5 Eschatology The form of dualism expounded by Vaishnava theologians meant that salvation was not seen as a state of total liberation or merging into a monistic absolute. Several passages in the Bhdgavatapurana declare that the ultimate goal is not liberation (mukti).21 Instead, the highest destiny of the soul is to participate in the transcendent play of Krishna. This is reflected in terms for death that are current among his worshippers. When referring to the demise of a fellow devotee they use phrases that denote his proceeding to the eternal realm of Krishna (nitya dham me padhdmd), his entry into the divine play (Iliaproves), his admission into the bower in which it takes place (nikunj gaman, nikunj lild me proves), his taking up residence in the bower (nikunj vas), or his attaining the dust of Braj or Vrindaban (braj/brinddvan raj kT prapti). Devotees hope that they will be granted a permanent place as a Gopi in Krishna's highest heaven. Some have even declared that they will feel blessed if they are reborn as some lower element in the eternal sport of Krishna, a desire expressed in the Bhagavatapurdna by Brahma, in the course of a eulogy to Krishna.22 He hoped that he would have the good fortune to be reborn among the inhabitants of the cowherd settlement or forest frequented by Krishna, in any form whatever, so that he would have the privilege of bathing in the dust of the feet of one of Krishna's entourage. Similarly, when Uddhava returned to Braj to console the Gopis he was so impressed by their devotion to Krishna that he declared his wish to be reincarnated as a shrub, creeper, or herb of Vrindaban so that he might catch the dust kicked up by their feet.23 20 F. Hardy 1983/1, p.546, in the course of his evaluation of virahabhakti, pp.542 ff. 21 E.g. BhP 3.25.34, 9.4.67, 10.83.41-2, 11.14.14, 11.20.34. 22 BhP 10.14.30 ff. 23 BhP 10.47.61-3. 70

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00086.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:27] Reincarnation is not something to be avoided, so long as one is reborn in Braj and has the chance of serving Krishna and participating in his divine play. The poet Raskhan expressed his thoughts concerning his next life in a poem that virtually everyone in Braj has memorized:24 Should I be a man, then let me, Raskhan, mingle there with the herdsmen of Gokul. If as a beast, then how should I live but ever grazing among the cows of Nanda? If a stone, then one of the very hill that he made an umbrella for Braj against the torrents of Indra. If as a bird, then let me dwell for ever in the boughs of a kadamba on the banks of the Yamuna. 6 The ontology of the sacred places To wonder whether Brahma, Uddhava, and Raskhan are referring to a heavenly or earthly realm would be to miss the point that the transcendent is thought to pervade the terrestrial. Devotees believe that the earthly Braj is imbued with the heavenly one and that it is necessary to develop the kind of sensibility that allows one to appreciate this. A fundamental concept underlying the motivation for pilgrimage to Braj is that Krishna's activities, while they once occurred on earth in historical time, are by no means over and done with. They are not remote events that nowadays serve as no more than an allegory of how we should relate to god, but are being enacted eternally on a plane that transcends the world of our blinkered everyday experience. Krishna, who is not just another incarnation of Vishnu but the supreme manifestation of godhead, resides in his highest heaven where he is continually engaged in the sports that he once performed on earth. His dalliance with Radha serves to evoke the experiences of human love, but-theJandscgpe in which Jhey_ disport ijLgEflprous rathe r than_gcographicaJL_the se11ing is neither social no_r j^toricajr-but^gnsuous.25 Krishna's exploits are envisaged as taking place on a different plane, in^rLother dimeriSLon of time_and space. As earthbound mortals we are constrained by rules and obligations, but by worshipping Krishna we can identify with a being who is free from all restrictions of time and place. Because of the correspondence between contemporary Braj and the transcendent realm of Krishna the pilgrims and residents of the sacred centre are encouraged to experience what may be called a place and moment 'in and out of time'.26 Vaishnava theologians differentiate between Krishna's manifest (prakata) and unmanifest (aprakata) play, the former being cognizable in the phenomenal world, 24 Raskhcin-ratncivall, p.73. The poem is usually placed at the beginning of editions of Raskhan's poems. 25 See Kakar 1985, pp.75-6. 26 A phrase borrowed from Turner 1974, p. 197. 71

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00087.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:27] the latter being enacted on a transcendent plane.27 In the manifest play Krishna moves between Mathura, Braj, and Dwarka, but in the unmanifest play he is eternally present in his transcendant Vrindaban. The term used to refer to Krishna's realm is dhanumj\\\r\j& may be definecLas-the-plaee-where divine ; power is located, a 'refraction' or. 'embodiment' of thc-divine, a dwelling place imbtrechwfrh radiance.28/TKcTword dhdm is regularly used to refer to Vrindaban, the earthly counterpart of Krishna's heavenly abode, and is also used for other places of pilgrimage where one of the gods became manifest on earth. There are two heavenly spheres, named Goloka and Vaikuntha. Goloka, 'the world of the cows', is the exclusive abode of Krishna and his entourage where he sports eternally with the Gopis. In comparison, Vaikuntha is a rather staid place where the pleasures indulged in by Vishnu-Narayana do not transgress conventional norms. Sanatan Goswami describes the spiritual quest of a devotee named Gopakumara, who yearns for a vision of Krishna.29 He goes to Vaikuntha, Ayodhya (the realm of Rama), and Dwarka, but learns that his goal can only be realized if he manages to get to Goloka. This is because Vaikuntha, Ayodhya, and Dwarka are realms where the majesty (aisvarya) of Krishna is manifest, which means that in those places he inspires awe rather than love. The feeling of love can only arise in a more 'down to earth' environment in which Krishna can relate to. people on a more human level. Sanatan Goswami makes it clear that the heaven of Goloka is synonymous with the realm of Braj (vrajadhaman) and can only be obtained by devotees who fix their minds on the pastimes that Krishna enacts there. Rup Goswami said that Mathura, because Krishna was born there, is superior to Vaikuntha and Goloka. Residence in Mathura leads not to liberation, as is the case with other sacred places, but to the realization of devotion. Vrindaban is even higher than Mathura because the rasa was danced there, but even higher is Govardhan because Krishna lifted it up with his blessed fingers. Here, he says, the most important place is Radhakund, because the essence of divine love (premarasa) flowed there.30 Jiv Goswami also discourses upon the nature of Dwarka, Mat hura, and Gokul or Vrindaban, the three realms (dhaman) of Krishna, stressing above all the supernal quality of everything in Vrindaban.31 The places on earth where Krishna spent his life are his dhaman, but besides being geographical locations they also have a transcendent nature. Gokul is that part of the Vaikuntha heaven where Krishna and Balarama play, and is ultimately identical with the heavenly realm of Goloka. Vrindaban is defined as being either the same as Goloka or as a region within it. The 27 The terms arc used in Brhadhrahmasamhita, see below 6.13, and were taken up by the Gaudiya theologians. 28 See Gonda and Eck, p.289. 29 In the second part of Brhadbhdgavatdmrta; see 2.5.82-89 for his remarks on aisvarya. 30 Bhaktirasdmrtasindhu 1.2.237 fif. 31 Krsnasamdarbha, anuccheda 105 fT., in the light of Brahma's eulogy in BhP 10.14.30 IT. Jiv Goswami also discusses the nature of Vrindaban and Gokula/Goloka in his Digdarscmitikd. 72

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00088.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:27] heavenly realms are thus considered to be immanent in their terrestrial counterparts. Sanatan Goswami says that all the participants in the play are eternal, just like Krishna himself. His various llld are performed over and over again. Though he goes to Mathura, he never really abandons the people of Braj because his moving from one place to another is just an apparent withdrawl. The earthly region of Mathura (mathurdmgndala) and the pastimes enacted there are the same as those that take place in Goloka.32 Jiv Goswami gives a more subtle definition of the difference between heaven and earth.33 He says that in Goloka only the unmanifest play (apvakrtalila) is performed, whereas in the earthly dhaman both the manifest and unmanifest forms take place. The transcendent play of Goloka cannot be perceived, described, or enactedlnThe phenomenal world. Krishna and his entourage can become manifest on earth, but they are not of it and are not tainted by contact (sparsa) with it. The realm of Krishna is beyond the power of illusion (mayatita), and so it cannot be argued that the earthly dhaman is unreal and no different from any other place on earth, or is nowadays no more than a location where the divine play once took place. Krishna is still immanent in his earthly dhaman, just as he is present in his idols. The process by which the celestial realm appears on earth is similar to that by which Krishna becomes incarnate; in becoming manifest they both became visible to the human eye. All of Krishna's sports are taking place simultaneously and eternally in the transcendent sphere, while on the terrestrial plane they are perceived as occurring sequentially in different earthly locations. His apparent movement from one place to another is a feature of the manifest realm. Vrindaitanr-the teixcstriaLGoloka., is jusp_a^niimpheaamen^a^h Lixj^tial one, but through^ KrishnaVi-nsomtable power it appears as a ternporaLaacLphonomenai mani#sfa^ tion-ef-it ..in order to help benighted mortals comprehend the true nature of reality. Devotees of all Sampradays recognize this kind of distinction betweeen a transcendent and terrestrial realm and regard the difference between them as qualitative and related to the nature of a god who is both immanent and transcendent. Followers of the Pushtimarg regularly distinguish between things that are laukik belonging to the gross material world, and that which is alaukik 'other-worldly' or 'transcendent'.34 Members of the Radhavallabh Sampraday, however, hold that the actual Vrindaban is the real and only one, but that its transcendent nature is imperceptible to those who are entramelled by delusion (may FA A5 -However the^iffkrenre is perceived andjbrmulated. alLagreelhat the phenomenal Vrindaban is a manifestation of an eternal and transcendent realm that can.be experienced by those who have cultivafe^the_a^prop.riate devotional atMude._Ajiyone can go to Braj, but only those with purified and refined senscsxaiL perceive its transcendent dimension. Just as Krishna's amorous sports take place in 32 Sanatan Goswami, ibid., csp. 2.5.54-5 & 165-71, 2.6.352-9 & 372-5. 33 Krsnasamdarhha, ibid. Sanatan simply distinguishes between Goloka and 'earth' (hhurloka) or 'the world of mortals' (martyaloka). 34 See, for example, Dwarkeshji's Bhciv hhdvnci, pp.71-5. 35 As noted by P. Mital 1968, p.390. 73

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00089.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:27] s^cVyrd^d ja^y^ejcs or in the inner recesses of the temple,jsQjhey are perceptible only tp^ the inner eye and are'rh^ditat^ of the devotee. As evidence of the special nature of Vrindaban, Jiv quotes some verses from Rup Goswami's Mathurdmdhdtmya that refer to a kadamba tree beside the pool of Kaliya that astonishes pundits by blossoming and remaining fragrant all the year round, and an asoka tree at Brahmakund that bursts into flower every year on the twelfth day of the bright half of the month of Vaishakh.36 Stories abound of miraculous indications of the transcendant nature of Braj and Krishna's continual presence there. Vaishnava hagiographies and oral tradition tell how Krishna appeared before various devotees in the form of a beautiful child. Among followers of the Pushtimarg there is a belief that Krishna, as represented by the deity of Shrinathji, returns nightly to Braj by an underground tunnel that connects the temple at Nathdwara with its original site at Govardhan, so that he can dance in the groves of Vrindaban. Attachment to Braj among devotees is expressed by their veneration of the dust of Braj (braj raj). Some devotees smear it over their foreheads or use it to make the sectarian tilak mark. Pellets of earth from Brahmand Ghat, a place near Mahaban where the infant Krishna is believed to have put dirt into his mouth, are sold for this purpose under the name of'butter clay' (makhan mattl). The dark-coloured clay from Radhakund is also used for drawing the tilak or to make rosaries. In order to cultivate the emotions essential for participation in the sports of Krishna, it is thought necessary to centre one's heart on the transcendental Vrindaban. The notion that Krishna's heavenly realm is immanent in Braj.has spawned a number of visionSTfyHescriptiolT^ landscapes. Krishnadas Kaviraj, after giving an extravagant description of Radhakund and the jewelled pavilions, bowers, and pools that surround it, says that such a luxuriant environment becomes apparent only to those who manage successfully to attain a state of empathy with the divine sport, while to those who fail to cultivate such an attitude it appears only in its phenomenal form.37 Elsewhere he says that Vrindaban is the crest-jewel of the earth, a forest of wish-granting trees that appears as an illusion to material eyes and manifests its true form only to those who look upon it with the eyes of love.38 Many other devotees composed panegyrics describing the transcendental beauty of Vrindaban and Braj, praising it as a timeless realm where everything remains fresh and green, where Krishna and the Gopis continually enjoy themselves in various seasonal surroundings. While declaring its beauty to be beyond the power of words and the scope of our imagination, they attempt to convey the wonder of it by describing the ground as being like gold, and the pavilions, arbours, and ever-blossoming trees and creepers as being studded with all kinds of precious gems.39 Several works describe the 36 Krsnasamdarbha 105.332-5/R 409-410, 399-400. 37 GLA 7.119: lilcinukulesu janesu cittesutpannabhdvesu ca sddhakdndm / evam vidham sarvamidam cakcisti svarupatah prdkrtavat paresu. 38 Viz. prema, CC 1.5.17-18. 39 The most notable works of this type arc Anandavrnddvanacampu of Kavi Karnapura, Vrnddvanamahinuimrta of Prabodhanand Saraswati, and Vrnddvan sat of Dhruvdas. Later examples of the genre are Ban jan prasamsd of Nagaridas and Vrnddvan jas prakds beli of Chacha Vrindabandas. 74

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00090.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:28] spiritual Vrindaban in terms of a lotus, a meditative visualization derived from Tantric diagrams of the thousand-petalled lotus at the crown of the head.40 Terrestrial Braj, especially Vrindaban, is the place most congenial for the realization of emotional devotion, not only because it is the earthly location of Krishna's manifest play, but also because one can benefit from the company of other devotees who reside there. Many of the devotees who have taken up residence there declare that they have no intention of ever going outside of Braj because bhciv and ras are more readily attainable there than in any other place of pilgrimage. The merits of residing in Mathura, Braj, or Vrindaban are mentioned in some of the Sanskrit mahatmya texts that deal with the sacred area.41 They declare that people who reside in Mathura become godlike and have a better chance of gaining spiritual attainment through the Lord's grace. All creatures who live there, even insects, will attain liberation; the benefits of living there are greater than those earned by someone who does penance by standing on one leg for a thousand ages. The mdhdtmya compiled by Rup Goswami includes verses that warn of the dire consequences of showing disrespect to the inhabitants of Mathura, state that those who live there dwell in close proximity to Hari, those who bathe in the Yamuna are better than all other classes of men, and that even the untouchables of Mathura are to be considered most pure. Hariram Vyas, who lived in Vrindaban in the latter part of the sixteenth century, praises it as a place of eternal erotic play where the devotee may experience the spontaneous love that transcends the barriers of worldly propriety and scriptural injunction (loka and veda).42 Because it is unaffected by time and the web of mciya, the birds continually sing and the flowers are always in bloom. It is the capital of all those who are receptive to sublime aesthetic feelings (rasikana ki rcijadhani), where one may experience the bliss that arises from beholding Krishna and Radha. Residence in Vrindaban offers the best chance of attaining, in the role of a female attendant upon Krishna and Radha, the full experience of the eternal and transcendent dimensions of the environment in which they sported. He even goes so far as to wish that he may be like a dog of Vrindaban that has the privilege of feeding upon the left-over food of the inhabitants of Braj. However, unlike most other poets, he gives us something more than fulsome praise. He was not so idealistic as to ignore the presence of hypocrisy and corruption, a blemish attributed to the degenerate age in which we now live (viz. kali yug). He declares that iL is no use Hvingan Vrindaban if one merely displays outeard-signs-oL religiosity while at heart.one isintep^tedonlyin ^ and sensual.pleasure. TJie ainv-of -re^idejice in Vrindaban should be. to cultivate the right_emotional ..receptivity, not to enrich oneseff by hofdiiyg people in the.thrall of magic and spells. His awareness that competition for clients had already begun to vitiate the atmosphere is apparent from his complaint that religious leaders of different persuasions had become envious and hostile towards each other.43 40 Sec above .2 and below .13 41 VP 150.21-23, 156.5, 163.49-59/R 329-343/VM, pp.416-7/PP 73.46-7. 42 See pad 38-57, 127-147, 253-269 in the edition of Vasudev Goswami. 43 Ibid., pad 142: svdmJ, bhatta, gusCii aganita mati kari gati dear am / priti parasapara karata na kabahii, mitai na hiya kl jar am. 75

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00091.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:28] 7 Manifestations of devotion How and to what extent are the theoretical analyses of the theologians expressed in religious practice? The Bhcigavatapurcma gives a classic enumeration of nine activities that constitute the necessary spiritual discipline for a devotee: hearing about Vishnu's deeds, singing his praises, remembering him, attendance upon his feet, worshipping him, adoring him, servitude, friendship, and surrendering oneself to him.44 These nine activities somewhat overlap and are variously incorporated in different forms of devotional practice. Elsewhere the Bhcigavatapurcma gives a more general description of how devotion should be cultivated by saying that we should begin by resorting to a preceptor under whose guidance the ways of devotion are learnt.45 The devotee should cultivate humility, equanimity, and detachment from worldly things, exercise self-restraint, study and listen to the scriptures, dedicate everything he has to the Lord, and continually remember him so that his devotion turns into a rapturous experience of divine love, expressed by singing and dancing, as well as by peaceful contemplation. Krishnadas Kaviraj enumerates five practical means of cultivating devotion that might serve as headings for classifying religious activity: association with other righteous people (sddhucisahga), singing the names of the Lord, listening to the Bhcigavatapurana, dwelling in Mathura, and serving a deity.46 In all these forms of worship the main concern is with immersing oneself in an appropriate devotional mood, with cultivating hhclv. Such involvement manifests itself when devotees stare at a deity and admire the way it is dressed and decorated. It is also manifested when one of them is inspired to dance or sing in front of the deity, or when he is touched by hearing about an episode in the life of Krishna, or when he becomes convinced or, to view it more cynically, when he wishes to convince others that he can hear Radha's anklets tinkling at night in one of the groves of Vrindaban. Devotees who shed tears when they relate one of the Krishna legends are also showing us the depth of their bhav. The tears may arise from a nostalgic yearning to return to the Arcadian Braj of their fantasy, or from the rapture that flows through the soul when it is overwhelmed by emotional involvement in the activities of Krishna. The delirium, raving, and swooning of Chaitanya serve as a classic example of how a devotee can become possessed by intense emotions. Religious celebrations, enactment of the Krishna legend, temple decoration, and devotional songs have their own kind of aesthetic that is not based on purely artistic criteria. Symbolic and conceptual considerations tend to predominate over purely artisitic ones. The trend in recent years has been for subtle ways of evoking bhav and ras to be replaced by vulgar ostentation. Being seen to be doing the right thing has begun to predominate over doing it well. Expansion and commercialization of the pilgrimage industry, its development as a mass phenomenon, has encouraged the 44 BhP 7.5.23: sravanam kTrtanam visnoh smaranam pddasevanam / arcanam vandanam ddsyam sakhyam dtmanivedanam. See Gail for a detailed account of bhakti in BhP, and Hopkins in Singer (ed.), pp.7 ff., with reference to its social context. 45 BhP 11.3.21-33. 46 CC 2.22.125. 76

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00092.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:28] tendency to be demonstrative. At any religious gathering in India loudspeakers are the most obtrusive symptom of this decline in taste and refinement. It is not merely symptomatic of an obsession with technology, but is done with the intention of attracting peoples' attention, of broadcasting the fact that one is doing something holy. It is generally believed that taking initiation from a guru is a prerequisite for anyone wishing to follow the path of a devotee and become a recipient of Krishna's grace. The guru is regarded as someone who has managed to free himself from the trammels of mciyci and who, by virtue of his contact with the divine, can act as a channel through which grace can pass from god to man. The procedure for initiation is basically the same as for any Hindu sect. The initiate brings the guru offerings of cloth and fruit, is asked to repeat some formulae, after which the guru whispers a secret mantra that he should repeat during his daily prayers and contemplation, then confers upon him a rosary of beads made from the wood of the sacred basil (tulsl), and a picture or small idol that he can worship as his personal deity. Lay devotees are usually householders and take initiation when young from the family of gurus who initiated their father, thus people generally retain their affiliation to the sect to which their forefathers belonged. Later, like ascetics, they may take a second initiation from a religious leader or teacher whose charisma impresses them. By becoming initiated one joins a community of the faithful. Despite the egalitarian attitudes professed in certain texts and in the sayings of various saints, caste barriers are usually rigidly maintained among Vaishnavas. In part this may have been motivated by a desire on the part of brahmins to retain their monopoly over the temples. Vaishnavas are particularly scrupulous in their observance of purity regulations, especially in anything to do with preparation of food and the worship of a deity. Low caste, even Muslim, initiates are mentioned in the Pushtimarg hagiographical vdrtd literature, but in practice their presence is shunned. Statements attributed to Chaitanya say that devotion was more important than caste, but he himself left the question open and took no real reformist position.47 He professed the supremacy of devotion, but maintained conventional purity regulations, with the result that there is no common policy among different groups within the Gaudiya Sampraday. The Vrindaban Goswamis took an anti-caste stance, but in their temples the rituals followed an orthodox pattern, as formulated by Gopal Bhatt in Haribhaktivilasa, though he did allow non-brahmins to act as preceptors to their equals and inferiors.48 Each sect has its own preferred manual giving details of the way Krishna should be worshipped. Such works are based primarily on Pancharatra ritual texts and probably derive from the form of ritual that evolved at Shrirangam and other Vaishnava temples in South India.49 The different manuals cover a similar range of topics, varying only in minor details and, in their description of how a deity should be served, generally include the conventional sixteen acts of homage (sodasopa47 Dimock 1966, pp.78-80. 48 De, p.343. 49 Sec J. Filliozat in his introduction to R. V. Joshi, pp.6-7. 77

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00093.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:28] cdra). They are comprised of quotations attributed to various Puranas, Tantras, smrti texts, and obscure and usually untraceable branches of the Vedas. The earliest manuals of Vaishnava ritual appear to have been composed by Aniruddha Bhatta and Halayudha, and towards the beginning of the fifteenth century Shulapani wrote three works on specific rituals.50 The relatively late Vaishnava Gautanuyatcmtra is frequently quoted by some of the Vrindaban Goswamis of the Gaudiya Sampraday, including Gopal Bhatt.51 His Haribhaktivildsa, perhaps composed under the supervision of Sanatan Goswami, is one of the most comprehensive compilations dealing with the worship of Krishna. It is the authoritative manual for members of the Gaudiya Sampraday, but all other Krishna sects by and large observe similar rituals and practices.52 Among the topics dealt with in such works are the daily ablutions and rituals that should be performed by individual devotees, sectarian marks drawn on the body, initiation, rosaries, the construction and consecration of temples, the making and installation of images, their worship, and the celebration of festivals. 8 Idols and epithets The most central activity in devotion to Krishna is adoration of him in the form of an image. The Bhdgavatapurdna states that devotion consists of worshipping images, celebrating festivals in temples, caring for images and temples in the manner of a servant, and offering the image all the good things that one desires for oneself.53 This form of worship, referred to as 'service' (sevd), requires continual attendance upon the deity. One should be preoccupied not with one's own needs but with ministering to those of the image. It is regarded as a living presence endowed with human feelings. It has to be woken up, bathed, dressed, fed, entertained, and put to sleep; in winter it is given a quilt and gloves, in summer it is scantily clad in light garments and smeared with sandal paste to keep it cool. Though the image is supposed to represent Krishna as a cowherd boy, it is, like other Vaishnava deities, treated as if it were a king or prince. By regaling the deity as if it has human tastes and needs a connection is established between man and god, and between the mundane and the transcendent. Technical terms for the image of a deity are vigraha ('individual form or shape, figure'), murti ('embodiment'), and svarupa ('own form') referring to Krishna's ultimate or real nature rather than his physical form, which is simply rupa. The most popular term in common parlance is thakurjl, meaning 'lord', a term also used to refer to a feudal landlord, master, or chief. Krishna is often called braj raj ('King of 50 Viz. ckddasi-, dolaydtrd-, and rasaydtrdviveka, cf. R. Chakravarti 1977, p. 110. 51 See Goudriaan & Gupta, pp. 105-6, and their discussion of other Vaishnava Tantras in the same chapter. 52 Sec R. V. Joshi for a summary of the contents of Haribhaktivildsa, with occasional reference to other texts, and Entwistle 1982, pp. 11 -12 & bibliography, for manuals used in the different Vaishnava Sampradays. 53 BhP 9.11.34-41, see also 9.27 where procedure for purifying oneself and serving an image is described as a combination of Vedic and Tantric rites. 78

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00094.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:28] Braj'), and in later literature the homes of Nanda and Radha's father Vrishabhanu are described as having all the luxuries that one would expect to find in a princely mansion, and which are appropriate for the courtly hero of classical amatory verse. The most revered images are those which are believed to be 'self-manifested' (svayam prakat). Some of them are said to have been dug out of the ground or discovered in a nearby pond, usually after their presence was revealed to a saint in a dream. It is said that Shrinathji emerged gradually out of the hill of Govardhan, and that a scilagrdm stone worshipped by Gopal Bhatt metamorphosed into the deity of Radharaman. Shrinathji at Govardhan and Govind Dev at Vrindaban came to light because a cow used to shed its milk on the ground beneath which they lay a standard theme in stories told about the discovery of deities. Krishna is represented in various postures or manifestations which are referred to by epithets that usually serve as a name for the temple in which they are enshrined. He is most commonly represented standing in the tribhahga posture, which means that his limbs are 'bent in three places' his head inclines slightly to one side, the upper half of his body is bent in the opposite direction at the waist, and his right calf is crossed in front of his left shin with the ball of his right foot resting on the ground. Since this is the characteristic posture he adopts when playing the flute, his hands are raised beside his right shoulder (see plate 5). The flute is separate from the image and is placed in his hands in the daytime and removed at night. Names for this type of image are Gopal, Sakshi Gopal, Govind, Muralidhar, Muralimanohar, Gopinath, Bihari, Mohan, Madanmohan, and Madangopal all epithets relating to Krishna as playing the flute while grazing the cows or enchanting the Gopis and enticing them to join him for the ras dance. Another name is Murari, meaning 'Enemy of Mura' a demon slain by Vishnu. The flute-playing images are the ones most commonly accompanied by Radha, who stands gracefully at his left side. Epithets that emphasize his relationship with Radha are Radharaman, Radhamadhav, Radhakant, and Radhavallabh; others that denote their interdependence and joint worship are Jugal Kishor, Shyama-Shyam, and Larili-Lal. Three 'self-manifested' deities of Vrindaban, called Banke Bihari, Radhavallabh, and Radharaman, are not accompanied by an image of Radha; instead she is represented by her name or a coronet (mukut) placed on a cushion beside Krishna. Another common type of image shows Krishna standing up straight with his left arm raised in order to lift Mount Govardhan, which may or may not be shown in his hand. This type of image is called Giridhar or Giridhari, though both names are often used for flute-playing images. The most famous example is Shrinathji, an abbreviated form of Shri Govardhan Nathji, the main deity of the Pushtimarg (see plates 12 & 14). Some temples have, as a main or subsidiary idol, an image of Krishna as an infant crawling on his hands and knees with his right hand raised and holding a sweet (laddu) or lump of butter. Images of this type, which first appeared independently (other than in narrative panels) in the eleventh century,54 are called Navanitapriy ('Fond of cream or butter') or Laddu Gopal. 54 Hawley 1983, p.75. 79

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00095.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:29] Some images of Krishna are variations of the standard icon of Vishnu. They depict him standing with four hands, two raised and two hanging down, in which he holds a lotus, discus, conch, and mace. Sometimes the lower hands are shown making the classic iconographical gestures of benediction or giving. Such Krishna images are associated with his regal life at Dwarka and are referred to as Dwarkadhish, Dwarkanath, or Chaturbhuj. This is the type of Vasudeva or Krishna image that is described in older iconographical and ritual texts. Haridev and Keshav, two of the oldest images of Krishna/Vishnu recorded as being worshipped in Mathura, appear to have been of this type.55 After the sixteenth century such images remained popular only in the Pushtimarg, probably because of its connection with Gujarat, where this type of icon was and still is popular.56 The persistence of four-armed images in Gujarat is also evident from illustrated manuscripts of Bilvamangala's Bcilagopdlastuti dating from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. They depict Krishna with four arms, even when playing his flute in the company of the Gopis. In sects other than the Pushtimarg this type of image is regarded as representing the sovereignty (aisvarya) that Krishna assumed after leaving Braj and settling in Dwarka, and so it is considered less appropriate for the emotional type of devotion than the two-armed forms. The flute-playing image, which in Braj eventually superseded the four-armed ones, was probably introduced and popularized by devotees from eastern India, where it appears to have been popular from the fifteenth century.57 Nevertheless, Gopal Bhatt, writing in the sixteenth century, makes only passing reference to the two-armed version but describes the variations of the four-handed type in detail, even though they had become far less current and were less suited to the evocation of Krishna's childhood and youthful adventures.58 This is probably due to his reliance on older texts and his desire to follow orthodox forms of ritual. Radha, who has a few temples in Braj dedicated primarily to her, is often called Shriji (an epithet of Lakshmi), Lariliji ('darling'), and Thakurani or, among members of the Pushtimarg, Swaminiji which both mean 'mistress' (in the non-sexual sense). Sometimes she is referred to as Vrindabaneshwari ('Lady of Vrindaban'), and sometimes as Nagari, counterpart of Krishna as Nagar two epithets that derive from their association with the urbane and sophisticated hero and heroine of amatory literature. Radha and Krishna images may also be 55 See below .6 56 The most famous are Shamlaji in Saba Kantha District and Ranchhor at Dwarka. 57 Vaudeville in Hawlcy and Wulfif (cds.), pp. 10-11. refers to the account in CC 2.4-5 of Chaitanya's visit to images of Gopinath at Remuna and Sakshi Gopal in Cuttack, both of which she says depict a flute-playing Krishna. In the Balasore Gazetteer, however, the Rcmuna figure is described as a crudely-fashioned image with, apparently, no distinct iconographical attributes. 58 The flute-playing Krishna is referred to in HBV 7, and the varieties of four-armed image (including kesava, mddhava, samkarsana, govinda, ndrdyana, padnumdbha, ddmodara, trivikrama, and vdniana) in HBV 52.168-175 and 18. The earliest reference to the epithet govinda appears to be the govindasvdmT mentioned in an inscription dated 448 from Baigram (Bogra Distt.), probably referring to the four-armed type of deity of the Bhagavata cult, cf. EI 21 pp.81 ff. and S. K. Sarasvati in JISOA 8, pp.151 flf. 80

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00096.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:29] accompanied by one or more Sakhis. There are a few temples called Ashtasakhi Mandir in which all eight Sakhis are enshrined together. In Gaudiya temples images of Chaitanya and Nityanand are placed alongside the main deities and, as in Bengal, there are some temples dedicated solely to Chaitanya. Balarama may also be enshrined alongside Krishna, as well as being worshipped in temples dedicated to him alone. He is regularly shown with a seven-hooded serpent rearing over his head and holds either a cup or a plough.59 A popular epithet for him in Braj is Dauji, referring to his status as Krishna's elder brother. Sometimes, because of his fair complexion, images of him are called Gore Dauji. He is usually accompanied by his consort Revati, who is iconographically similar to Radha. Apart from the above deities there are a few other temples in Braj dedicated to particular manifestations of Krishna or to other incarnations of Vishnu, and a few with images of family members of Krishna and Radha. Rituals performed in all Vaishnava temples follow the same basic pattern. At home devotees may tend for their personal household deities, but in public temples only male brahmins who have custody of the image, or other brahmins who are appointed by them, are allowed to enter the shrine. Bathing and dressing the image is always done behind closed doors. Before the attendant priests can enter the shrine and handle the image they have to purify themselves by bathing and putting on clean clothes. In order to preserve their purity they are careful to avoid physical contact with visitors when handing out consecrated food and holy water. Preparation of food and other offerings in adjacent rooms of the temple is also strictly governed by rules for maintaining ritual purity. In some cases, as in temples of the Pushtimarg, lay people may be permitted to lend a hand in the preliminary stages of preparing offerings, but only in tasks that do not result in the transfer of impurity. In addition to the worship of images, Vaishnavas also revere the sdlagrdm, a kind of smooth and rounded black stone, usually marked with fossilized ammonites and other molluscs, that is found in the bed of the Gandak river, which flows through Nepal and joins the Ganges at Patna.60 They are worshipped as representing Vishnu and are often placed in shrines containing an image of him or one of his incarnations. According to their shape, colouring, and distinctive markings they are related to different manifestations of Vishnu and are regarded as having special properties and effects. Worship of them is recommended as a regular part of daily ritual and may be performed by women and low caste people, who are not normally allowed to handle an image of a deity. They are worshipped in conjunction with the tulslor sacred basil plant (Occimum sanctum) that is particularly sacred to Vishnu. Members of the Nimbark Sampraday show special reverence for the sdlagrdm. Their leading guru, who bears the title of Shriji Maharaj, has a particularly sacred one called Shri Sarveshwar that is believed to have been inherited from the founders of the sect. Some devotees also worship stones from the Govardhan hill as embodying Krishna and keep them in their domestic shrines. Most of the Krishna temples of Braj have a pedestal in their courtyard on which grows a tulsT plant, 59 Images in bold relief showing him with a cup arc to be seen at Tarsi, Jikhangaon, Kamai, Baldeo, and in the Assi Khambha temple at Mahaban. 60 For details of how to worship a sdlagrdm sec HBV 5. 81

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00097.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:29] around which is placed one or more such stones. The presence of tulsixs essential for any Krishna temple and at the time of its installation the plant is ceremonially married to him. Vaishnava devotees grow it in the courtyards of their homes, where it is tended by the women of the household. Its worship consists of circumambulation, watering it, and placing a lamp before it in the morning and the evening. Regular service of the temple image incorporates both a daily routine and the cycle of annual festivals. The ordinary daily routine is based on a day in the life of Krishna in Braj, as described above in connection with the astaycim lild (see .36). All temples follow the same basic cycle, though the different Sampradays have their own variations in timing and detail. The most important part of the ritual is aratT, a form of lustration in which a lamp is waved before the image while a gong is beaten or a bell is rung and the spectators sing a hymn. It is done five times a day and a true devotee should be present for every performance, thus making his daily routine synchronize with a day in the life of Krishna. The first one, called mahgal aratT, is held when the deity is woken up shortly before sunrise. Since one has to bathe before entering the temple, it is only the most fervent devotees, mainly ascetics and widows, who are regularly up in time for this early-morning service. The second performance (srhgar aratT) takes place about two hours later after the deity has been fully dressed and decorated. The temple is closed for the first few hours of the afternoon in order to allow the deity to have a nap. He is woken for the third dratl (dhup dratT), which is followed at sunset by samdhya aratT. The final one, usually the most popular because people who work during the day are able to attend, is the sayan aratT, held just before the deity is put to sleep and the temple is closed for the night. It may be held as late as nine thirty, but in temples of the Pushtimarg, in which the deity is considered to represent Krishna at a somewhat younger age, it usually occurs at about five or six o'clock. This basic daily pattern is modified on festival days when special celebrations are organized. 9 Looking at idols (darsan) Service of an image is commonly said to comprise three elements, namely food (bhog), music (rag), and finery (srhgar). The latter is used to refer to the clothes and other accoutrements worn by the idols as well as to the decoration of the shrine as a whole. Different sects, or even individual temples, have their own prescriptions governing the colour and style of dress that the idols should wear. Every temple deity has a wardrobe from which items of clothing and decoration are chosen to suit the requirements of a particular day of the lunar fortnight or a special festival. The style and thickness of the garments vary according to the season; drapery or wall hangings are changed regularly to match the costume of the idols or in accordance with a particular festive motif. Other items may also be placed in the shrine for the enjoyment of the deities, including toy animals, a game called caupar (played with dice on a cross-shaped board or cloth), and a selection of cosmetics for Radha. Devotees are extremely attentive to the deity's dress and overall appearance. They note all the minute variations, register the bhav that is evoked by them, and pass comments about the charm and elegance with which everything has been 82

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00098.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:29] arranged. The act of going to a temple to admire the idol and the setting provided for it in the shrine is called darsan, a word meaning basically 'seeing'. The term is also applied to a visit to any kind of sacred place and to seeing or having an audience with one's guru, a saint, or any august person. Since eye contact and the appearance of a deity are so important, devotional poets emphasize visual imagery and the act of beholding Krishna in some kind of charming situation.61 One genre of poetry is devoted to describing the beauty of every part of Krishna and Radha, from the top of their head to the tips of their toes (nakh sikh varnan). Many devotional poems are concerned with how Krishna 'looked' at a particular moment or the manner in which his glances stole the hearts of the Gopis. His look is devastating: it causes trembling, horripilation, and all the other symptoms of infatuation. The poets employ the standard imagery of classical love poetry, describing his eyes as roving, darting, flashing like lightning, or (using his eyebrows as a bow) firing arrows at the heart.62 The lover's sidelong glance (kataksa), when directed by Krishna at his adorers, is referred to as a 'sidelong glance of grace' (krpakatdksa). Throughout India the addition of eyes to an icon provides the finishing touch that brings it to life, thus it is usually done ceremonially as part of the consecration ritual. One liturgical text says that the sun and the moon should be invoked when marking each of eyes, and that they should be the main objects that shine in the lotus of the heart (of the person who marks them).63 In the section of Haribhaktivilasa that deals with this ritual it is said that the divine presence becomes evident when the image becomes illuminated, trembles, takes on an expression of happiness, or when someone present becomes speechless, swoons, or begins to dance before the image.64 In Pushtimarg temples, on completion of the decoration, the ministrant holds a mirror before the idol so that it can admire itself, and then presses it against his heart as if to implant the reflection of Krishna there. Enamel eyes, with black pupils standing out boldly against the whites, are fixed onto the face of an idol in order to make sure that its gaze can be clearly seen. They serve as the point of contact between the devotee who comes for darsan and the god who looks out at him from within the shrine. 10 Offering food Feeding an image is particularly important because the food that is offered is subsequently distributed among the worshippers. A true devotee will not eat anything that has not first been offered to Krishna, and so they will place a portion of every meal they prepare at home in front of their household deity before they sit 61 See Bryant, pp.72-112, who refers to examples of the genre in Sur scigar as 'verbal icons'. Hawley 1980 discusses how such poems encourage the surrender of the beholder to what is seen and 'abrogate the distance' between the two parties. 62 See translation by Ingalls of poems 465, 468, 482, 520 from Vidyakara's Subhdsitaratncikosa. Other poems in the same sequence contain examples of the type of eye imagery used by later Krishna poets. 63 Mcmciscini 70.69-71 & 111. 64 HBV, as summarized by R, V. Joshi, ch.5. 83

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00099.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:29] down to eat themselves. In temples the food is placed before the deity, then a curtain is drawn or the door of the shrine is closed to give him time to 'consume' it. The belief is that the food offered becomes infused with a divine potency which is subsequently transferred to anyone who partakes of it. Hindus normally regard the remnants of somebody else's meal with revulsion, but when they come from a deity or divine person they are regarded as pure, a kind of spiritual nourishment referred to asprasdd, a word that also means 'grace' or 'favour'. Devotees are able to express their b/ulv through the care with which they prepare the food, by impregnating it with loving feelings, and by anticipating the moment when it will be relished by Krishna. Their feelings are conveyed to him through the offering, and on receiving their share of prasdd they are able to reabsorb his divine qualities, made manifest and augmented by the addition of his happiness and love.65 When visiting a temple devotees may bring some sweets as an offering and take them away once they have been enjoyed by the deity, or they may purchase a package of prasdd that has been prepared and offered by the priests in attendance. Wealthier devotees, as a form of thanksgiving, may sponsor one of the meals provided for a deity, or even his menu for the whole day. In larger temples the cost of such a donation may amount to several thousand rupees. The Pushtimarg pays particular attention to the feeding of Krishna deities and has evolved the most detailed and sophisticated cuisine.66 At the time of mahgal drat! the deity is given milk, curds, fruit, sweets made from condensed milk, and a mixture of butter and sugar; after the srhgdr drat! he is offered a light meal of cereal and vegetable dishes; a couple of hours later he is given some milk sweets, a snack known as gvdl bhog, and later in the morning he receives a meal of cooked food. When he wakes up after his afternoon nap he is given fruits and a preparation of condensed milk; later in the afternoon and again at samdhyd dratlht receives more cooked food, and before he goes to sleep he is offered milk, halwa, and some light sweets. In addition areca nuts wrapped in betel leaves are placed in the shrine for him to chew between meals. The water that is used to bathe the image is also distributed among devotees after the end of an dratiriiwaX, usually with a few leaves of the sacred basil. It is referred to as caranamrt, 'elixir from the feet', and is regarded as being highly beneficial. On special occasions large feasts may be prepared for the enjoyment of the deity, two particularly elaborate kinds being those consisting of thirty-six different dishes (chattTs vyahjan) and of fifty-six preparations made from each type of grain (chappan bhog), ideally consisting of fifty-six baskets of each of the fifty-six items, an offering that costs the sponsor between sixty and a hundred thousand rupees. Visitors to the temple are able to purchase a portion of food from the feast. The largest feasts are held in Pushtimarg temples on the occasion of Krishna's birthday, at the Annakut festival, and when the barl vatrd pilgrims arrive at Jatipura (a type of chappan bhog feast called kunvarau that is offered to the Govardhan hill). When the pilgrims arrive at a baithak shrine of Vallabha or his son Vitthalnath, one of the party sponsors a feast called tapelT (named after a large cooking pot), which r 65 Bennett, p.353. 66 See studies of food in the Pushtimarg by Bennett and Toomey. Several such preparations are mentioned in Sur sdgar, pad 1831. 84

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00100.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:30] features some special dishes for certain places. The sponsor pays about a thousand rupees in order to feed the leading Goswami and his entourage of about a hundred, as well as a few dozen people invited by the sponsor himself, including his Panda. 11 Music, chanting, drama, and preaching The rag or musical element in the service of a deity consists primarily of kirtan or hhajan the singing of devotional poems in the temple. They are sung with instrumental accompaniment by someone who is appointed to be present every day, or by a group of devotees who sing as a chorus, led by a main singer (a kind of performance known as samdj). In addition, as often happens in smaller and private temples, onlookers may be inspired to sing a favourite poem spontaneously and unaccompanied. As with other devotional activities, the aim of the singing is to evoke bhciv. The lyrics usually describe a particular incident in the life of Krishna, conveying the emotions felt at a specific moment by a member of his entourage who is entranced or delighted by a revelation of his beauty or playfulness. Most sects have special anthologies containing lyrics by a number of poets that are arranged into sequences appropriate for a particular moment in the daily ritual or for a festive celebration. Some poets composed complete cycles of poems intended to be sung at different times of the day and at the various annual celebrations. The lyrics are chosen because they deal with an incident in Krishna mythology that is relevant to the time of day and season of the year. They therefore serve to enhance and complement the mood evoked by the decoration of the deity. The importance of song in the spread of devotional cults, especially those related to Krishna, cannot be underestimated. The emotional form of devotion originated under the inspiration of the Alvar poets of Tamil Nadu. By the sixteenth century vernacular lyrics were being sung throughout India by devotional poets of various persuasions, encouraging large numbers of people to participate in a more emotive and spontaneous kind of worship. Many of the poems are stereotyped, but the better examples are among the highest artistic achievements of Hindu devotionalism and continue to retain their popularity. Translation cannot do justice to them because they depend so much on the emotive connotations of the imagery and mythological context. When performed by a talented singer they can have a profoundly moving effect on their audience. Apart from listening to solo performers, devotees also gather to sing and chant together.67 This type of singing is necessarily less ornate and more repetitive than that of the trained vocalist, but is often done with an impressive degree of enthusiasm and involvement. Besides having an emotionally cathartic effect on the participants, this form of worship has always played an important role in creating a feeling of solidarity among devotees. Biographies of Chaitanya tell how he reached the masses by leading groups of his followers through the streets, all of them 67 See Hein 1976 with reference to samklrtan and nagar klrtan by Chaitanya and his followers, and articles by Singer and Venkateswaran in Singer (cd.) for an account of bhajan sessions in South India. 85

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00101.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:30] ecstatically repeating the familiar 'Hare Rama, Hare Krishna' chant. This kind of chanting, known as scimkirtan, has retained its popularity, especially among Bengali devotees, and is performed regularly in celebration of anniversaries connected with saints and deities of the Gaudiya Sampraday. In Vrindaban there are a few charitable institutions known as bhajan cisrcim where widows, mostly from Bengal, spend several hours a day virtually singing for their supper. Whereas other forms of worship depend upon a personal and individual relationship with the deity, even though most of them take place in public, samkirtan is the most communal of devotional activities. It occurs not only at specific gatherings but also among groups of people undertaking a pilgrimage or engaged in a circumambulation. Often there is someone up in front leading the chant (preferably with a megaphone); but it can also break out spontaneously among devotees, for example on a bus taking them to or from a sacred place. Music is also an essential ingredient in a type of drama that originated in Braj called rcis lilci.6S The performance is divided into two parts, the first being a kind of prelude depicting the eternal pastimes of Krishna, Radha, and the Gopis in the celestial Vrindaban, and the second an enactment of an episode in Krishna mythology, usually featuring a few additional characters. Theorists of ras lila say that the first part shows the eternal play in heaven (nitya ras) and the second a specific occasional play (naimittik ras) as it was performed in the manifest Vrindaban, a re-enactment (anukaran) made perceptible for ordinary people.69 Traditionally it is performed in the round on a circular performing area called a ras mcinclal. On one side sit the musicians and the main vocalist, usually the leader of the troupe, who sings lyrics and recites passages that link the narrative. Only boys with unbroken voices are cast in the roles of Krishna, Radha, and the Gopis, but older youths and men may act the parts of other characters in the story. The costumes worn by the boy actors are similar to those used to dress temple images of the characters whose part they play. At the rear edge of the ras mandal is a dais on which Krishna, Radha, and the Gopis are periodically enthroned. Between acts a curtain is either drawn across or held up in front of the dais while the performers prepare for the following scene or tableau. During the performance the boys are thought to embody the deities they represent. They are consequently revered in the same way as an idol and are referred to by the term svarup. Each rcis lila performance culminates in a tableau in which the boys dressed as Krishna and Radha pose on the dais and members of the audience come forward to pay obeisance and make offerings. The same kind of veneration is shown to boys who represent the gods in processions that occur on festive occasions. Performances of ras lila presumably developed as a means of conveying the 68 The most detailed study in English is that of Hein 1972, who investigates its origins, describes performances, and gives text and translation of a play entitled Ucldhav lilci. See also R. N. Agrawal, Govind Das & R. N. Agrawal (eds.), Bansal, pp.427-440, P. Mital 1983 and 1966, ch.8, Hawley 1981 (which concentrates on reception among the audience and gives translation of four scripts), and 1983, pt.III (dealing with plays on the 'butter thief). 69 P. Mital 1983, pp.2-3. Cf. HV 64.26 (krsnalilanukdrinyah), ViP 5.13.28 (krsnalildnukcirini), BhP 10.30.14 (anucakrus). 86

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00102.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:30] stories of Krishna and their spiritual message to illiterate audiences. They are normally sponsored by a wealthy devotee or religious institution and are performed at a rcis mandal, or in the courtyard of a large house or dharmshala. They have always been an integral part of the circumambulation of Braj, being performed at some of the places visited and at the camps where the pilgrims stop overnight. Such performances enact the episode in the life of Krishna that is associated with the place in question. The texts used for the plays consist of lyrics by Braj poets that are linked by passages of prose and other verse composed by the scriptwriter. Most troupes have a repertoire covering the whole of Krishna's life in Braj. The kind of rds lila performed today appears to have developed in the sixteenth century, when the whole process of promoting Braj as a pilgrimage centre began. Various saints are credited by their partisans as having first originated the form, but it is probably based on a dramatic tradition that had been current long before.70 The history of ras lila is closely associated with the village of Karhela, where there are troupes with a long family tradition. At other villages in the vicinity, as well as Vrindaban, there are troupes that have been in existence for several generations.71 Normally all the ras lila troupes are active in Braj during the rainy season, either performing for pilgrims visiting Vrindaban and other sacred centres, or accompanying a group of pilgrims on the circumambulation of holy places. At other times some of the more successful troupes go on tour over the whole of India. Traditionally the plays are performed with a minimum of props, but in recent years the bigger troupes have gone in for a raised stage with proscenium arch, elaborate scenery, plenty of glitter, tinsel, and other eye-catching effects, as well as more slapstick comedy. Concentration on visual display, combined with the use of microphones, has led (if older accounts are anything to go by) to a deterioration in the quality of the singing and dancing, and a general vulgarization of the medium that has had an adverse effect on the bhav. A recent development is the performance of plays on the life of Chaitanya that are called gaurdhg Ula. Attending performances of ras lila, listening to devotional songs, and taking part in communal singing can be considered as aspects of the form of worship that is described in the Bhdgavatapurdna as 'listening to the adventures of the Lord'. Another related practice is attending hatha sermons expounding the meaning of the stories as they are narrated in the scriptures. Sessions for this kind of preaching usually take place late in the afternoon at an ashram or in a temple courtyard. A local or visiting scholar sits on a podium and delivers his sermon to an audience consisting largely of elderly people and young ascetics. Regular attendance at such gatherings is a favourite pastime of people who retire to Vrindaban in order to spend their old age in devotional pursuits. The Bhdgavatapurdna is the most widely used text for katha among Krishna devotees. Occasionally intensive week-long sessions are organized in which the text is recited and passages are commented upon. Other authoritative works by Vaishnava saints are also used for hatha, including the Ram carit manas of Tulsidas and sometimes works dealing with lives of the saints or exemplary devotees, such as Nabhaji's Bhaktamal and the Pushtimarg varta literature. 70 See Hein 1972, pp.223-4. 71 Ibid., pp. 135-6. VDA 7, while dealing with Nagaji Kunj, lists directors of ras ITld active in Vrindaban in the 19th century. 87

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00103.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:30] 12 Individual and solitary practices All the above practices are public and communal manifestations of devotion. Basically Krishna devotion is not a religion of withdrawal, though followers, mainly ascetics and brahmin householders, do observe a certain amount of private ritual. The length of time spent in such observances varies and depends upon the devotee's commitments for the rest of the day. Only 'full-time' devotees will spend long periods engaged in ritual worship, purification, study, and prayer. Individual and solitary rituals are principally concerned with purification, fixing one's mind on Krishna, and caring for one's personal deity. Keeping oneself pure involves bathing in the morning, following all the regulations given in ritual manuals, and at any time of day after coming into contact with some form of pollution or before serving a deity. Committed devotees, after bathing, mark their forehead, and also their body and arms, with the tilak mark peculiar to their Sampraday or sub-sect. It is drawn with a paste made with sandalwood and/or sacred earth and consists of a U-shaped outline, usually with a dot or line in the centre.72 After preparing themselves physically, devotees should meditate on their guru and his predecessors, recite some prayers, and repeat to themselves their personal mantra or names of Krishna while telling their rosary of one hundred and eight beads made from tulsT wood. The rosary should not be seen while it is being used, and so devotees place a kind of bag over their hand while telling it. The names of Krishna are so beneficial that many devotees repeat one or other of them for long periods, even while walking around or engaged in other activities. Sanctimonious devotees like to make sure that they are observed mumbling the name of the Lord incessantly, though strictly speaking it is a practice that should be done discreetly, in silence, and not while standing, lying down, walking, or wearing shoes.73 Apart from being a means of concentrating one's mind on god, communal chanting of his names and repeating them to oneself in private are both manifestations of the belief that divine names have some intrinsic power to bestow spiritual benefits.74 This belief is rooted in the idea that the name represents a primordial and ultimate sound, the phonic body of god, repetition of which has the power to purify and eradicate sin. It is believed that repetition of the names has a cumulative effect, helping one to amass merit; but even calling upon the Lord once can have miraculous results. Many tales are told of devotees who fell into misfortune, or even abject sinners, who were saved merely by exclaiming his name. The names of Krishna and other gods are regarded as their very essence. The belief that the gods are somehow present in their names is similar to the notion that they are immanent in idols, or that sacred places on earth have a transcendent heavenly 72 This contrasts with the horizontal marks drawn by Shaiva devotees. See Entwistle 1982 for further details. 73 See HBV 17, where this aspect of worship, known as japa, and the rosary are dealt with. 74 For the underlying theory see Venkateswaran in Singer (ed.), pp. 168-170 and, with reference to the cull of Rama, Bakker, pt.I ch.7. 88

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00104.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:31] dimension.75 Apart from being repeated as a form of meditation, the divine names are regularly used as greetings and exclamations. Common greetings of this type used in northern India are jay sTtd-ram! and jay ramjikll. Among devotees in Braj epithets relating to Krishna are more common, such as jay srT krsna!, (jay) sri radhe!, or jay basTvale kT!. As well as maintaining a strictly vegetarian diet, devotees are also expected to fast on certain days, including the birth anniversaries of Krishna and Rama and the eleventh day of every lunar fortnight (ekadasT). Proper observance of the latter requires one to eat once on the tenth day, fast throughout the eleventh, and break the fast on the twelfth. One need not starve oneself, however; some fruit may be eaten once on the eleventh day, and a limited range of more solid foods is permissible, including certain kinds of rice, pulse, milk products, and flour made from water chestnuts.76 In addition one should spend the day in prayer or chanting, remain chaste, and sleep on the ground. 13 Cows, milk, and ras One of the fluids referred to by the term ras(a) was soma, an exhilarating sacrificial drink, beloved of the gods, which was pressed from the stalks of an unidentified plant that was gathered by moonlight on certain mountains. Later it was replaced in ritual by ghee, a substance churned from milk just as Soma, the moon as a cup of ambrosia that sustains the gods, was churned from the ocean of milk.77 In ritual and mythology a metaphorical correspondence was established between milk, butter, semen, honey, and soma. In her study of the role of these analogous substances in mythology and ritual, O'Flaherty78 points out that ingestion of them was believed to cause pregnancy. She cites the popular belief that women can become pregnant not only by eating remains of balls of rice (another seed substitute) fed to the ancestors, but also by eating food that is distributed after being offered to a deity.79 She considers milk to be the primary procreative symbol in the Vedas, noting that the semen of the gods was equated with milk, which in turn produces male semen. Whereas ejaculation of male seed was considered debilitating, the flow of milk was welcome since it is a nourishing fluid from which semen is produced. In Braj a fair that takes place at Bhandirban whenever a new moon occurs on a Monday (somdvatT amavasya) serves as a local example of this correspondence between milk, semen, and the moon (viz. Soma, the seed of Shiva, who is especially worshipped on Mondays). Believing that the water of the well at Bhandirban turns to milk during the night of the new moon, hundreds of local people congregate there in order to bathe. The milky colour that the water acquires on such occasions is 75 Hein 1976, pp. 28-31, referring to Jiv Goswami and De. 76 See HBV 13 for regulations regarding the ekadasT. 11 See Bedekaffor references and discussion of various versions of this myth. 78 O'Flaherty 1980, .2, esp. pp.18 ff. dealing with pay as and duhin the Vcdas with reference to bull's semen and cow's milk. 79 Viz. prasdd., ibid., p. 175. 89

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00105.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:31] presumably due to disturbance of the sediment as a result of so many people drawing from the well, or to some other kind of human intervention, yet the people believe that a miraculous transformation has taken place and that bathing in the water is especially beneficial for women who want to become pregnant. The analogy between the moon, milk, and semen was not overlooked by Vaishnava theologians. In Krishna mythology the most striking appearance of the moon is on the autumn night during which he and the Gopis danced the rds their most passionate and fulfilling encounter with their beloved. Commenting on the verses of the Bhagavatapurana that describe the rising of the moon, Vallabha says that it represents the semen of Krishna in the form of Indra. His son Vitthalnath added a passage to the commentary explaining that the moonbeams, which incite passion by suffusing the forest with a red glow, are referred to by the word go-, also meaning 'cow' and 'sense faculty', because they yield the milk of love.80 In popular devotion the seminal connotations of the moon and milk are not as overtly acknowledged or as explicitly stated. In devotional poetry the moon is primarily used as a metaphor for Radha's fair-complexioned face, though it may also be used for the face of the infant Krishna smeared with curd or butter.81 Dairy products are the most highly valued sources of nourishment for Hindus and milk is the main ingredient of the sweetmeats offered to Krishna. Some devotees, such as the celebrated Krishnadas Payahari, may resolve to sustain themselves on milk alone. Milk, butter, and churning, important elements in the economic life of Braj, are also common motifs in its folklore and in Krishna mythology in general. Stories of Krishna stealing butter and curds from his mother and the Gopis are enacted regularly in the form of a play or as part of a festival.82 Hindu interpretations of Krishna's theft of curds and butter generally refer to milk as a symbol of motherly love. Milk is indeed an apt symbol for the primary bond between mother and child, the latter's insatiable appetite for the milk he needs in order to grow, his boundless love for the mother who provides it, and the satisfaction he derives from sucking at the breast. When he grows older and steals from the Gopis the erotic overtones present in accounts of his infantile thieving become more explicit.83 Here the theft of butter and curd are related to his captivating the girls' hearts, based on the analogy of milk with ras in its aesthetic and emotional sense. In his adolescence, as in his infancy, Krishna disregarded conventional standards of propriety in his craving for milk products and the maternal and adult love that they represent. Milk is put to a variety of ritual uses. Being a propitiating and cooling substance it is offered as a libation to snake deities. It is also poured over Shiva lihgas and stones from the Govardhan hill.84 It is a libation that nourishes the deity, but it can 80 iddnltn bhagavdnevendra iti tcisya retorupah..., kirananam rasadogdhrtvam (ad BhP 10.29.2-3). For text and transl. see Redington, pp.52-4, 358-9. See also commentary ad BhP 10.33.19, pp.285-6 & 451. 81 For examples from Sur sagar see Hawley 1983, pp.106 ff. 82 See above 2.35, and, for the 'butter thief ras Hid, Hawley 1983, pt.III. 83 For an extensive study of the development of the butter thief theme see Hawley op.cit., esp. chs.4, 5, 8, & 9 dealing with imagery and interpretation. 84 Sec below 7.3-4 for more examples of milk in connection with worship of Govardhan. 90

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00106.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:31] also be collected and passed back to the worshippers. Some of the more important temples regularly celebrate the birth of Krishna or the anniversary of the discovery or consecration of their deity by an abhiseka ceremony in which it is anointed with milk, curds, sugar, honey, and water from the Yamuna. These substances are mixed together to make the 'five-fold elixir' (pancamrta), a drink that is distributed among the worshippers. It is a variant of pahcagavya, a mixture of five products of the cow (milk, curds, butter, urine, and dung) that has a wider ritual application. On the birthdays of Krishna, Radha, and Balarama visitors to the main temples of these deities celebrate by drenching each other in a mixture of curds and turmeric, a rite known as dadhikadau. At Baldeo, for example, the mixture is thrown out from the shrine, as if the deity within were a source of fertility with which he fecundates his worshippers. The cow is revered not simply because she produces milk, but also because she represents the protective and nourishing mother who is always ready to suckle her child. Cows are revered in Braj, just as they are by Hindus all over India. In and around Vrindaban there are a few charitable institutions of the type known as gosdla that care for cattle. The Panchayati Goshala, founded in 1850, has nearly four hundred cattle and serves as a dairy as well as an animal refuge. Its income derives mainly from donations made by visitors who perform the rite of'gifting a cow' (godcin), or who pay 1,100 rupees to become a supporting member of the committee.85 The patrons are largely from the mercantile community, and it is noteworthy that the cow is especially venerated in the Pushtimarg, which draws the majority of its support from this class. Its temple of Shrinathji, located on the Govardhan hill, is the first one in Braj to be recorded as having maintained a cow shed. The original deity is now in Nathdwara, where devotees maintain a Goshala that has almost a thousand animals, including a cow thought to be descended from Nanda's herd.86 In Braj, as at Nathdwara, the Goshalas participate in the annual celebration of Gopashtami, a cattle festival that has become associated with Krishna. 14 Femininity We have already noted how, in devotional theology, the human soul is regarded as feminine and the attachment felt for Krishna by the Gopis or Sakhis serves as a paradigm for the devotee. In addition to this soteriological formulation, account should also be taken of the way in which Tantra offered an internal resolution of masculinity and femininity. Tantric practices can be interpreted as an attempt to recreate and internalize a primordial androgyny by assimilating the feminine aspect of a goddess. Both the soteriological and Tantric models can be seen as striving towards a kind of bisexual wholeness, and both of them underly the ways in which devotees of Krishna emulate the role of the Sakhis. In order to serve Krisha and Radha they are invited to imagine themselves as female, or to have a female counterpart. It is a form of internal or mental service that is rendered as a kind of 85 See Lodrick, pp. 122-9. 86 Ibid., pp.105-112. 91

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00107.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:31] meditation. Krishnadas Kaviraj distinguishes between external and internal service. The former is performed by the physical body and includes such acts as singing praises; the latter, performed mentally in or through one's 'spiritual body' (siddhadelui), is a more intimate kind of service that can only be carried out in the form of a Sakhi.87 Emulation of the female role, called saklubhciv, is an ideal accepted in all the Sampradays devoted to Krishna, and is acted out with varying degrees of literalness.88 Practically all devotional poems describing Krishna and his activities are written from the standpoint of a woman, be it Yashoda, Radha, a Gopi, or Sakhi. Saints and religious leaders are often extolled as the incarnation of a Sakhi and their portraits tend to show them as dreamy, limp-wristed, and effeminate characters. Chaitanya and Nityanand usually resemble women, or at least androgynes, and Vallabha is sometimes depicted with long flowing hair, mooning on the banks of the Yamuna with a couple of flaccid lotus buds in his hand (see plates 6 & 7). Krishna, though he is endowed with divine and superhuman power and is capable of ripping demons apart and defeating Kansa's prize wrestlers, is not portrayed with the same kind of muscular physique as Hanuman. He is primarily a seductive figure and is usually represented with slender limbs and soft, effeminate features. As is to be expected, psychological interpretations of the type of devotion shown by male devotees to Krishna dwell on its homosexual undertones. Carstairs describes it as revealing a thinly-veiled longing for a homosexual lover, and Spratt characterized it as a 'narcissistic' rather than 'punitive' form of religion.89 Its god is not to be feared and is not the object of unconscious hostility, there is less concern with guilt and self-punishment, and less intense suppression of sexuality. Among the characteristics of Krishna devotion which Spratt regards as typically narcissistic are the belief in an immanent god and assumption of a female role, the result of a passive homosexual attitude to the father and identification with the mother. Kakar describes it as 'the most striking illustration of cultural acceptance and outright encouragement of the passive feminine aspects of identity in Indian men'.90 While he acknowledges that in more 'pathological' cases fantasies of feminine behaviour may well be a manifestation of homosexual libido, he makes a distinction between this and a more universal and 'primordial' yearning on the part of men, who are ensheathed and isolated by their 'phallic' masculinity, to yield their heroic trappings and delight in womanliness, which he suggests is mostly a legacy from our 'prehistoric' experience with our mothers.91 An additional motivation for feminizing oneself may be a desire to acquire the potentially unruly power (sakti) of women. 87 CC 2.8.229. Rup Goswami, in Bhciktircisdmrtasindhu 1.2.295, distinguishes between serving Krishna with a sddhakariipa and a siddharupa. For further discussion of this theme see Haberman, chs. V-VII. 88 Sec S. B. Gosvami for an account of sakhlbhdv among followers of Swami Haridas, Hit Harivansh, Nimbarka, Chaitanya, and the Lalita and Pranami Sampradays. 89 Carstairs, p. 163, Spratt, eh. 14. 90 Kakar 1981, p.lll. 91 Kakar 1985, p.91. 92

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00108.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:31] Feminization of oneself is not a phenomenon restricted to worship of Krishna. Men who are devoted to one of the bloodthirsty Shakta goddesses may perform some kind of symbolic emasculation in order to avert the threat of her sexuality. Here we have the theme of the 'bad mother' who impels the son to identify with her in order to deflect her repressed sexuality and free himself from her domination.92 This may even be taken as far as actual castration, as is done by the Hijras, groups of eunuchs found all over North India who permanently adopt female attire.93 In the Krishna cult the sexual transformation is not a reaction to a feared threat, but is more an adulation of the indivisibility of Krishna and Radha and their identification with each other, whereby she is regarded as an emanation of him. The interchangeability of the divine couple is expressed in apocryphal stories of how Krishna and Radha exchanged clothes, or how Krishna dressed up as a Gopi. While, on the one hand, devotees may identify with Krishna in his amorous encounters, they may also wish that they were Gopis. There is, inevitably, a thin dividing line between spiritual emulation of the Gopis as a devotional meditation and homosexual effeminacy. Emulation of the female role is encouraged and meets with approval when it is done in a restrained and sublimated manner, or takes place in an appropriate context. Maduro, who attended a religious song festival at Nathdwara, describes how men, some of them intoxicated with bhang, took turns to dance, affecting all the graces and mannerisms of Radha.94 If, however, it extends to blatant and provocative transvestism, as is the case with the Hijras, it usually provokes revulsion or ridicule.95 There are a few Krishna devotees who adopt female dress, either temporarily or permanently, and behave in an ostentatious and coquettish manner, like Hijras or drag queens. Transvestism among worshippers of Krishna is nowadays a comparatively rare sight, but a few 'Sakhis' still turn up each year at Barsana to celebrate the birth of Radha. We have already noted mythological precedents for transvestism in the case of Narada and Shiva, who became Gopis in order to be admitted into Vrindaban ( .38). In South India images of the thirteenth-century devotee Vedantadeshika, who imagined himself to be a female lover of Krishna, are dressed as a woman on his festival day.96 Chaitanya used to imagine himself as Radha and (like certain followers of Vallabha) simulated a woman's menstrual retreat.97 At Nabadwip, the home town of Chaitanya, there is temple dedicated to a goddess called Abhayama ('Fearless mother'). The Goswamis of this temple say that it originated when milk flowed miraculously from Chaitanya's breasts while he was playing the part of a woman in a theatrical performance. The Vaishnavas who witnessed this miracle drank a portion of the milk, upon which he proclaimed that they would never experience fear.98 Some of Chaitanya's followers say that he was a dual incarnation 92 Kakar 1981, pp. 102-3, 109-111; also O'Flaherty, 1980. 93 Their main goddess is Bahuchara, whose cult is centered in Gujarat. Their cult is a haven for transexuals, as well as hermaphrodites and androgynes. 94 Maduro, p.31. 95 Carstairs, ibid. 96 In which case he is called Mohini, the name of a feminine form once adopted by Vishnu to tempt Shiva. Sec Singer in Singer (cd.), p. 133. 97 The latter are mentioned by Spratt, pp.193 & 237. 98 Morinis, p. 149, relating the story as told by Goswamis of the temple. 93

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00109.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:32] of Krishna and Radha.99 One explanation offered is that Krishna once fell in love with his own reflection and so, in order to taste his own sweetness, became incarnate as Chaitanya, in whose person he assumed the feelings and beauty of Radha.100 With reference to the androgynous conception of Chaitanya, O'Flaherty remarks that 'the worshipper who imagines himself as female, and dresses like one, in order to be with Krishna, is expressing the explicitly heterosexual (and perhaps implicitly homosexual) erotic relationship with god but that god himself is also imagined as participating in an explicitly homosexual embrace (he, in female disguise, embracing Radha) with his actually heterosexual consort'.101 Gadadhar Pandit, a friend of Chaitanya, is said to have dressed as a woman in order to realize the state of Radha, and some of his later followers claimed that he was an incarnation of her.102 Another celebrated case is that of the nineteenth-century Bengali saint Ramakrishna. He dressed as a woman in his childhood and played the part of Radha and her companions. In his adolescence he believed that if he had been a woman he would have been blessed with the ability to love Krishna and have him for a husband. On such occasions he imagined himself as a child widow, living austerely and waiting for him to return.103 Some Vaishnava authors tend to 'camp up' sexual role-playing by describing scenes with plenty of teasing, licentiousness, dressing up, and role reversal. Characters who try to reassert conventional propriety are sometimes ridiculed, yet their authors tended to adopt a puritanical and normative public image. Devotion to Krishna is more explicitly presented as a sublimation of homosexual desires in a story told about the poet Raskhan.104 According to hagiographical literature he was a Pathan virtually a by-word for a pederast in the popular imagination. He fell in love with the son of a moneylender and became so obsessed that he could think about nothing else and fell into disrepute. One day he met a group of Vaishnavas who told him about Krishna and showed him a picture of Shrinathji. He was so taken by the icon that he vowed to abstain from food until he saw the deity with his own eyes. He went to Govardhan, but was thrown out of the temple by a guard who recognized him. He fasted for three days beside a tank at the foot of the hill, after which Krishna appeared before him in person. Krishna introduced him to Vitthalnath, who duly initiated him and led him into the temple. Raskhan then began to compose his famous poems on the beauty of Krishna, his devastating glance, the entrancing effect of his flute, and the emotions felt by Radha and the Gopis. Among the Sahajiya Vaishnavas of Bengal feminization was seen as a way of purifying oneself, of neutralizing one's masculinity in order to create a balance in oneself between male and female polarities (purusa and prakrti).105 Identification 99 CC 1.4.49-50, 2.8.278-81 & 287-88; De, pp.93-4 fn.2, 425-9. 100 Dc, pp.425-7. 101 O'Flaherty 1980, pp.298-9. 102 Dc, p.94 n. 103 See Singer, ibid. pp. 133-5, and Masson 1980 for a more detailed attempt at psycho-analyzing Ramakrishna. 104 252V 218, pp.309-311. 105 See Dimock, pp. 158-9. 94

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00110.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:32] with the Gopis or Radha may lead to a reduction of one's sexual desire for women, but in the Sahajiya context it also tended to encourage erotic feelings for the body of Krishna. Despite the esteem given to women in Tantra and the manner in which they are emulated by male Vaishnavas, in practice they are so devalued that they are prohibited from serving temple deities. Defensiveness and suspicion of the female sex are characteristic of Hinduism in general, and there are many ascetics who will have nothing to do with women and even refrain from setting eyes upon them. Krishnadas Kaviraj praises Chaitanya for his avoidance of women and declares that it is immoral to associate with them.106 Such attitudes did not prevent a few prominent female devotees from becoming highly respected. The most famous example is Mira Bai, a young widow who, according to legend, was persecuted and hounded out of the palace at Chittaurgarh by her cruel brother-in-law, but found consolation in devotion to Krishna. Tradition has it that Mira Bai visited Vrindaban and wanted to meet Jiv Goswami. He at first refused, saying that he did not look upon women's faces. She cunningly replied that he was being presumptuous by assuming that in Vrindaban anyone but Krishna could regard himself as male.107 Women are not always shunned, or acknowledged only if they become pious widows. In Bengal some women were accepted as gurus, probably as a result of Tantric influence.108 Jahnavi, wife of Nityanand, and thus identified with Balarama's consort Revati, became a guru and figurehead for the Sahajiyas. On her second visit to Vrindaban she was joyfully received by Jiv Goswami and other leaders of the Gaudiya Sampraday.109 While she was in Bengal she is supposed to have had an image made of herself which she said represented Radha and should be installed in the temple of Gopinath at Vrindaban. A disciple named Shrinivas took it there and placed it to the left of the deity, moving the original Radha image to the right. Raja Man Singh, on a visit to the temple, was perplexed when he saw that there were two images of Radha. Jahnavi explained to him in a dream that she was present as the second Radha in order to appease the pique (man) shown by the first one, which was upsetting Gopinath.110 Another respected female devotee was Krishnapriya, who settled in Vrindaban with her sister Vishnupriya. They inherited from their father, Ganganarayan, a Govardhan stone that had once belonged to Chaitanya. Among Bengali devotees the so-called female ascetics (vairaginT) played an ambiguous role, often living as concubines and, especially in the eighteenth century, taking up residence in monasteries and hermitages, in Bengal as well as Vrindaban.111 106 CC 2.22.49, 3.2.115 ff. 107 Myth as given by Rupkala in explanation of a remark made by Priyadas (commentary on Nabhaji's Bhaktamal) kavitt 479. 108 Kennedy, pp.85-6, Dimock, pp.96-102. 109 For Jahnavi (alias Janhava Devi) sec R. Chakravarti 1985, pp. 174-9 & 261 -6. Her visits to Vrindaban are described in Prem vilcis of Nityanandadas, ch. 15-16, Narottam vilcis and BRat by Narahari Chakravarti, and MuralT vilcis by Rajavallabh Goswami, ch.15-17. 110 Shyamdas, p. 143. 111 Kennedy, pp. 170-74, noting that in Bengal the terms vaisnavT or vairaginT had negative connotations. See Tieffenthaler's remarks, as noted below in .33 95

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00111.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:32] 15 Fantasies As devotion to Krishna evolved the stories of his early years became increasingly popular, while his role as a hero who came down to earth to restore law and order, by killing Kansa and by participating in the conflicts narrated in the Mahcibhcirata, receded into the background. It was the element of play (Hid) that became paramount. In his childhood and youth Krishna expresses the divine as something spontaneous, tumultuous, and unconditioned. He is unruly, carefree, and lives a joyous and unhampered life, with no apparent concern for maintaining world order.112. Hindu commentators assert that his bucolic adventures in Braj were performed with a salvific purpose. His intention in sporting with Radha and the Gopis was to shower his grace upon them, realize his own bliss, and convey the message of divine love in terms comprehensible to ordinary mortals. Like all religious myths, the stories about Krishna are open to other levels of interpretation besides the soteriological and theological. Since they have absorbed much from popular traditions and are a source of subject matter for various kinds of 'mass media', they invite analysis as a form of collective fantasy. The foregoing summaries of the Krishna myth and elements of devotion suggest that there is much in them that fits the classic psycho-analytic definitions of narcissism and sublimation.113 It is evident that the appeal of devotion to Krishna is much enhanced by its open invitation to indulge in fantasies. Pilgrimage, visiting temples, attending performances of religious dramas, and listening to recitations of the scriptures are all forms of communal worship that encourage identification with Krishna or those who sport with him. Although the message is a spiritual one, it is expressed in terms of human pleasure and instinctual gratification. The Krishna myths provide his devotees with a range of characters onto whom they can project their emotions and sensual feelings, tempering their impulses by realizing them externally and collectively. Participation in the enactment of Krishna's activities offers some possibility of catharsis. The shared emotional and aesthetic experience provides some kind of substitute for the renunciations demanded by society. The multivalency of Krishna's character baby, boy, gigolo, trickster, hero, and sermonizer allows people of different backgrounds, sexes, and age-groups to select an appropriate mode for their devotion. Ultimately the erotic aspect receives the most emphasis, and was indeed dwelt upon exclusively by many devotees who settled in Braj. This is illustrated in a story told about Nehi Nagaridas, a devotee of the Radhavallabh Sampraday, a sect in which the poems of Hit Harivansh, dealing exclusively with the love of Krishna and Radha, are accorded the role of a canonical text. Nehi Nagaridas, while attending a sermon on the Bhcigavatapurcma, expressed his distaste for the work because of the Dhenuka episode. He could not bear to hear how the hand that had caressed Radha's cheek had grasped the hoof of a donkey.114 There was nothing scandalous in this devotee's adverse reaction to a 112 For further discussion of Krishna's playful aspcct sec Kinsley 1972 and 1975, pp. 15-19, and Sicgcl, pp. 171-7. 113 Cf. Freud 1908, 1914, 1930, chs.2 & 4, and (on love) 1921, eh.8. 114 Bhagwat Mudit, p.81. 96

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00112.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:32] canonical text; rather it is seen as a sign of his overriding commitment to Krishna's amorous adventures. The basic message of Krishna's theft of butter or his adulterous romance with the Gopis is that love is something that cannot be contained within the rigid bounds of conventional morality. The devotee's imagination is stimulated by escapades that transgress social norms, just as the Gopis had to sneak out at night to join Krishna in the rcis dance, or were obliged to step out of the water naked in order to retrieve the clothes that he had stolen from them. The appeal is that of an illicit love affair, but the anti-structural implications of such behaviour are moderated by the need for spiritual discipline, to be regular in serving images of Krishna and transferring to them all that one desires for oneself. Puritanical values, fear of pollution, and the caste hierarchy all persist, notwithstanding the liberalism professed by some of the saints and scriptures. The later invention of a marriage between Krishna and Radha, an attempt to sanction their behaviour, failed to fire the popular imagination simply because it was the anarchy and wantonness of their relationship that had so much fascination. An illicit affair or love in separation had more emotional appeal than a mundane and respectable maTried life. Kakar suggests that this sanctification of extramarital love, like the European romanticization of it, fascinates because it obviates many factors that promote sexual anxiety and consequently inhibit desire.115 He views such a relationship as being relatively free from inhibiting factors in marriage that involve a transference to the spouse of unconscious sexual attitudes and prohibitions entertained earlier towards parents of the opposite sex. Krishna's life in Braj contrasts with the forest exile endured by Rama and the Pandavas. For them the forest was a place of renunciation, but for Krishna it offered plenty of scope for free love, masquerades, and romance by moonlight. In contrast with the Krishna who, in the BhagavadgTtd, preached the necessity of external duty (dharma), the Krishna of Braj had more time for recreation and giving vent to his instinctual impulses. The company of a nomadic pastoral ^ community provided an escape from social obligations; only later, in the cities of Mathura and Dwarka, did he concern himself with the responsibilities of kingship and adulthood. Pilgrimage in particular, and spiritual discipline in general, help to resolve the i opposition between the duties of a householder and the traditional ideal of living as I a chaste ascetic in order to attain final liberation. Braj is seen as an idyllic setting i that holds out the promise of narrowing the gulf between one's desires and the inability or impossibility of their being fulfilled in one's normal environment and social milieu. When he returned to the city, Krishna became a king whose role was to uphold the age-old brahmin-kshatriya alliance. The romantic escape into the countryside has particular appeal for the mercantile classes, but it also attracts a large number of people from higher and lower castes. The aristocrats who retired to mansions in Vrindaban in some ways resemble the courtiers of Versailles playing at shepherds and shepherdesses in Le Petit Trianon. For the wretched and dispossessed, who were only too aware of the harsh realities of peasant life, Krishna's 115 Kakar 1985, p.89. 97

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00113.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:32] adventures in Braj provided a fantasy of escape into Arcadian romance combined with courtly luxury. Although myth and theology present Krishna's activities as an earthly manifestation of something transcendent, they seem more like an apotheosis of mundane human sensuality. An inherent paradox in the Krishna myth is the contrast between his sanctity and the impropriety of much of his behaviour when judged in terms of normal standards of human conduct. This comes to the fore in the depiction of him as an unruly child and lusty adolescent. Krishna's escapades are more human, piquant, and spicy than those of other gods, but they create problems for a theology that wishes to sustain the traditional morality, social hierarchy, and priestly monopoly. Theologians tell us that Krishna's activities are a form of divine play that serves to convey a sublime truth in terms that ordinary people can comprehend. This, however, fails to explain why he needs to perpetuate such activities in heaven. Ultimately all theological and ethical justifications have to resort to the argument that because Krishna and his retinue are divine, his actions are inscrutable and cannot be judged by human standards. When Shuka raises this question in the Bhcigavatapurana, he is told that we should heed the words of the gods, but not imitate their actions.116 While theologians are at pains to make everything Krishna does seem proper, the poets delight in the scandal and paradoxes that appealed to the popular audience.117 For the masses the liberating message of Krishna's self-assertion is more important than the logic and ethics of his conduct. They are happy to revere him as a god with miraculous powers and to delight in the stories told about him without bothering too much about ethical justifications for his behaviour. Morever, they are used to conceiving of spiritual power in terms of material wealth. Krishna deities are pampered in just the same way as a powerful king in a sumptuous court. They are used to the idea that the rich and powerful are able to indulge in hedonistic activities which they can never hope to enjoy themselves. Sublimation and vicariousness are inherent in devotion to Krishna, but the sensuality is not repressed. Devotion is modelled onjium^^ lov -^:H4Ti-41y-pyp1nit<; ah the seductive possibiH-ties of sensuous imagery; yet the poets and theologians often remind us that the path of love is difficult and accessible only to a. privileged few. It presupposes a capacity for self-denial and renunciation. Satisfaction has-to be_ obtained by iden_tifying with something t h
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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00114.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:33] the instincts are directed into an impulse which has an inhibited aim, leading to a state of evenly suspended, steadfast, and affectionate feeling.118 Rather as in the love felt by one human being for another, love for Krishna is thought to be based on his spiritual qualities. He is idealized and placed above criticism; as he comes to be regarded as sublime, so sexual satisfaction is pushed into the background and the devotee becomes increasingly unassuming and modest, allowing the loved one to swamp his being, reducing him to a condition of humility, surrender, and self-sacrifice. In worshipping a temple deity one's own gratification should be renounced and one's energy devoted to serving the god. In dwelling upon Krishna's exploits instinctual aims are deflected in such a way that they cannot come up against the frustration of the external world. They are fixed on something that is 'finer' and 'higher', even though there is less likelihood that it will convulse the physical being in the same way as satisfaction of an untamed instinctual impulse.119 By concentrating upon an imaginary world in pursuit of a transcendent experience, one's love is protected from the possibility of being confronted by reality. The cultivation of this mode of love as a purely mental experience is characteristic of the Hindu tendency to retreat into an inner world rather than strive to change external circumstances. Devotional movements in Hinduism have provided a subjective psychological outlet, but have allowed themselves to become integrated into the social order. The devotees turn their feelings inwards and refrain from directing their subjective resistance towards any kind of active or radical reform of the outside world. Any revolutionary fervour they may feel is dissolved through religious mystification. To some extent the impotent position of Hindus during the long period of Muslim domination may have helped to heighten and prolong this tendency. O'Connell has examined the way in which the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, under Muslim rule, appear to have withdrawn both legitimation and censure from the social and political sphere by confining the area of genuinely sacred activity to the interior devotional life of the individual.120 Hein has suggested that the tendency to turn inward began in the Gupta period, when caste and other social restrictions became more rigid and entrenched.121 There are, however, difficulties in trying to pin the tendency down to specific periods or places. Movements of emotional devotionalism seem to have arisen among people of different backgrounds who were somehow disillusioned with or excluded by orthodox religion or felt oppressed by socio-political circumstances. Once such a movement is underway, it is able to feed on the general psychological orientation of the populace at large. 118 See Freud 1930, ch.4, who cites St. Francis of Assisi as one who 'perhaps...went furthest in thus exploiting love for the benefit of an inner feeling of happiness.' 119 Cf. Freud 1930, eh.2 This is not to say that there is no scope for sexual arousal and gratification: Maduro, p.32, records that many of his male informants at Nathdwara reported sexual fantasies, erections, and seminal discharge while standing before the image of Shrinathji. 120 O'Connell 1976, p.35. 121 Sec Hein 1986, who describes it as a scheme for exploiting sexual energy the more the better in ways harmless to the values and institutions of Hindu society. 99

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00115.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:33] Mythologically the escape is presented as a regression into the world of childhood. Krishna is not the only mythological hero of noble birth who is obliged to spend his early years in exile among peasants. In some respects the account of how Krishna was placed in the care of Nanda is in conformity with Otto Rank's analysis of myths of the birth of heroes.122 The theme of the hero really being of noble birth reflects the child's growing realization that there is nothing unique or exceptional about his parents, and that other parents might be preferable. This gives rise to the fantasy that he is really the child of aristocratic parents and had some kind of miraculous birth. Masson takes up the theme of the need for adults to fantasize a happy childhood, seeing this as the reason why the Krishna myth lays so much emphasis on cows and milk, green pastures, and indulgent mothers. He compares the author of the Hcirivcimsa to parents who 'are inclined to suspend in the child's favour the operation of all the cultural acquisitions which their own narcissism has been forced to respect', to renew on his behalf the claims to privileges which they have been obliged to suppress.123 As a child, Krishna is omnipotent and his infantile exploits prefigure the adolescent sexual activity that is implicit in them. While growing up among the herdsmen Krishna is no remote patriarchal god who demands subservience, but a playful and exuberant child who encourages others to indulge their instincts, regardless of the constraints of society or the super-ego. Removed from this world, on a transcendental plane, Krishna is the lord of his heaven where everyone caters exclusively for his needs. Out of space and time, in the intervals between periods of creation, the infant Krishna lies on a banyan leaf that floats on the cosmic ocean (see plate 8). In this condition of sublime independence he sucks his toe, engrossed in a condition of self-sufficiency and auto-erotism prior to his participation in the world.124 Krishna's narcissism is encouraged by maternal indulgence, and later becomes manifest in his gorging himself on butter and sucking the teats of the cows while pushing the calves away (see plate 9). The oral theme is continued in adolescence by poetry describing the sensuous way in which he places his flute on his lips, or the nectar that can be obtained by kissing them. Underlying Krishna's infantile omnipotence is the paradox of incarnation that arises from his need to conform to the restrictions of a human environment. This irony is expressed by his ambivalent subservience to his mother, as in the episode in which she tied him to a mortar. Hawley points out that his butter thievery can be interpreted as 'a parable of the elusive interdependence that pertains between humans and the divine', expressive both of his power over the Gopis and their power over him.125 Kakar sees Krishna's 'feminine appeal' as lying in his presentation as an ideal son who consolidates and confirms a woman's identity as mother. His becoming a lover of Radha, a married woman older than he is, incorporates the fantasied fulfilment of the mother's sexual desire for her son.126 122 Sec especially Freud's contribution (Family Romances) to Rank's study, and discussion by Preciado-Solis, pp.43 f., of theories of Rank, von Hahn, Raglan, and others. 123 Masson 1974, with reference to HV. 124 Sec Freud 1905, ch.2 (on thumb-sucking). 125 Hawley 1983, pp.50-51. 126 Kakar 1981, pp. 152-3. 100

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00116.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:33] O'Flaherty views the relationship between Krishna and Yashoda, in which the son is dominant, as a positive presentation of the erotic mother, contrasting with the negative presentation of her in the myths surrounding Kali. As an example of the use of the mother-son axis as the basic Hindu affective link between human and divine, the devotee, by imagining god as a child, can simultaneously fulfil love for god and love for a son, and at the same time imagine himself as a child worshipping the mother, reverting back to 'a time before adult tensions intruded upon his life'.127 The demons that attack the infant Krishna may be interpreted simply as projections of unacceptable feelings, as is suggested by Masson. Kakar follows the more tendentious line of seeing them as representative stages in a child's development. He suggests that the Putana, Aghasura, and Kaliya episodes are all 'pre-genital' fantasies. Aghasura is thus a symbolic projection of the child's own hunger for sustenance, while its slaying represents the elimination of infantile needs, marking the end of orality. The defeat of Kaliya represents the ego's taming and control of instinctual drives, as well as the son's grappling with anxieties and affects triggered by the perception of his mother, 'a developmental step forward towards adulthood and 'genitality', relatively free from the 'poisonous' incestuous passions of infancy'. The lifting of Govardhan is seen as representing the oedipal phase: Krishna incites the herdsmen to rebel against the paternal Indra and pay homage instead to the (maternal) fields, rivers, trees, and cows. He withstands Indra's wrath and by lifting the mountain on his finger displays his pride in his 'newly discovered tumescence'.128 One may take or leave such interpretations, according to the rigour and zeal with which one cares to apply the Freudian view of psychological development. There is a remarkable absence of representations of Yashoda suckling Krishna, an icon with considerable potential as a symbol of maternal love. This is not due to any reluctance to depict breast-feeding, but is probably a consequence of the myth's concern with Krishna's assertion of his independence, hence more attention is given to his sucking the life out of the ogress Putana. Agrawala has suggested that Putana and Yashoda reflect an opposition that can be traced back to Vedic mythology.129 While Yashoda represents the illumination of the sun and the release of waters brought about by Indra, Putana is the putrefied and stagnant water that is deprived of sunlight and is pent up by Varuna and Vritra. A similar contrast between the beneficent Yashoda and the threatening Putana is also found in psychological interpretations of the incident. Putana's attempt to kill Krishna by offering him her poisoned breast makes her an ideal candidate for the title of'bad mother'. Herbert appears to have been the first to suggest that Putana represents the possessive maternal instinct. He interprets the story as implying that we should ignore the dangers of this instinct and take full advantage of the sustenance that is offered.130 Others have described it as a projection of the child's anxious feelings about his mother, or a struggle between the voracious infant and the malevolent devouring 127 O'Flaherty 1980, pp.111, 115. 128 Kakar 1981, pp. 150-2. 129 Agrawala, 1960. 130 Herbert, p.276. 101

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00117.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:33] mother who refuses to let go of her son. While nurturing him she also threatens to cripple his individuality, a conflict with undertones of oral sexual violence, a fantasized and vengeful fulfilment of the mother's sexual demands.131 As far as 'bad fathers' are concerned, Goldman sees Kansa (Krishna's maternal uncle) as the villain in an oedipal conflict in which Krishna plays the role of an aggressive and highly eroticized son.132 Jaiswal leans towards a more socio-historical interpretation by seeing it as symbolical of the struggle between mother right and father right, resulting in the triumph of patriarchy.133 Following the developmental line, Krishna's sexual encounter with Kubja, the hunchbacked woman, has been interpreted by Masson as an event that marks the end of his playful childhood, his attainment of sexual autonomy and emotional distance from the parental home, 'his first genital encounter with a woman he has won by himself.134 He frees her from her ties to Kansa ('a thinly disguised father figure') and takes possession of her himself. His encounter with her represents his emergence as a young man, ready to assume a married life and take up his princely duties, having left behind the 'magic and regression that marked his life as a cowherder'. He enters a sphere in which he is concerned more with external and practical questions and becomes responsible for the survival of his kinsmen, emerging into an outer world where there is less scope for self-indulgence, and which therefore has less escapist appeal than his years in Braj. The fantasies underlying the mythology, however they are to be analyzed, are certainly collective. The literature and forms of worship through which they are expressed are a common cultural inheritance. The authors of devotional literature are as lacking in individualism as the lovers they describe. The writings are ascribed to saintly figures, implying that they should be taken as revealed canonical texts, but there is little concern shown for attesting their authorship and authenticity. Even if we do have some reliable biographical information about a particular author, there is little or no reflection of it in the works ascribed to him. As far as authorship is concerned, there is not much scope for deconstruction in this vast ocean of devotional ecriture. There is no moi or ego who presumes to be its inventor; each devotional text is a concatenation of transformational possibilities within a rule-bound grammar. There is rarely a trace of any authorial idiolect; the writing is generated from a 'ready-made' set of aesthetic themes and anticipated responses. In poetry the emphasis tends to be on alliteration and other verbal tricks that can be exploited to artistic effect in sung performance. The depersonalized authors juggle and permutate an assortment of codes that are preordained by aesthetic theory and have fixed and generalized associations. Over and above all the encoded meanings is a conventional belief system and presiding transcendental ideal. The myth provides a context in which everything is donne; the evocations and sentiments are inherent in the programme used by the creator of the text. Aesthetic and emotional 131 Kakar 1981, pp.147-50. See also Masson 1974, p.458, and O'Flaherty 1980, pp.41-2, 101-2, 250 with reference to 'the breast that feeds itself and the fantasy of oral aggression. 132 Goldman 1978, pp.350, 358. 133 Jaiswal, p.66. 134 Masson 1980, ch.6. 102

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00118.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:33] response depends on the devotee being acquainted with the ideal and its particular modes of expression. For the devotee the poems can never be trivial, they are always taken as referring to something infinitely greater than the sum of their parts. The listener has learnt how to respond to all the themes and motifs that are employed. Most of them are cues for evoking emotions associated with fundamental psychological issues, such as the roles of sexes and generations, the nature of love, and the degree to which indulgence of the instincts is permissible. Poetry is not appraised on the basis of whether it expresses something original or uniquely personal; it is a depersonalized rather than idiosyncratic expression of a universal feeling or truth. This is not to deny that there are no outstanding works that are distinguished for particularly subtle and skilful versification, or imaginative juxtaposition of images, but that there is hardly a writer whose works do not contain a large amount of conventional material. 16 Motivations for pilgrimage Before looking for more specific reasons for undertaking a pilgrimage to Braj, we should not dismiss too lightly mere curiosity to see new places and to get away from daily routine; in fact what amounts to the Hindu equivalent of a holiday.135 Like the first Christians who journeyed to the Holy Land, the desire of the pilgrims is to recreate in their imagination the life of the god to whom they are devoted or whose stories appeal to them. They want to visit places mentioned in the scriptures and oral tradition, and to hear the stories retold at the sites where miraculous events took place.136 Unsophisticated devotees, who find it difficult to grasp anything but the literal meaning of myths, are eager to find visible confirmation of their faith. The desire to see material evidence and representations of the gods, saints, and mythical incidents, to follow the footsteps of the gods and great devotees, are important motivating factors. The presentation of wonders, miracles, and religious mysteries in terms of visual images is as typical of popular Hinduism as it was of medieval Christianity. As with the spurious and sometimes absurd relics and miracles that attracted Christian pilgrims, and even draw the faithful to this day, so there is no limit to the credulousness of the Hindu devotee. And, of course, though some saints discovered and promoted sacred places with a view to inspiring devotion, there have always been priests who have been interested in nothing more than extorting money from gullible pilgrims. In view of the strong element of fantasy in devotion to Krishna, and the emphasis given to visible signs of his presence, Braj can be seen as the Hindu equivalent of a 'theme park', the most extensive of its kind in India, a 'Krishnaland' for devotees f seekjng_tang[ble stimulus for their imagination. This was so even in the sixteenth century when devotees came to Braj and mapped everything out, 'inventing' a location for every canonical and apocryphal incident in the life of Krishna. The 135 Curiosity and a desire to escape from the stifling framework of parish life are also some of the motivations cited by Sumption, p. 13, for pilgrimage undertaken by medieval Christians. 136 Ibid., ch.6. 103

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00119.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:34] importance of sight-seeing in the pilgrimage is evident from the increasing tendency to visit Braj by bus on more superficial organized tours. The appeal of Braj is remarkably different from that of more traditional centres of pilgrimage. Kashi (Varanasi) has remained pre-eminent as a place of pilgrimage associated with attaining liberation (moksa) after death, and Gaya is the foremost place for the performance of rites in honour of the ancestors. Braj is, par excellence, a centre for a devotional type of pilgrimage. We shall see in the following chapters how the development of the sacred circuit of Braj reflects the evolution that took place in devotion to Krishna. From the sixteenth century onwards the sacred places were important not as sites at which to perform the traditional rituals, but as places that inspire one to contemplate and become immersed in the activities of Krishna that are associated with them. The circumambulation of Braj entails renunciation and self-deprivation, yet the goal is not to obtain release but to gain some kind of emotional fulfilment in the here and now. This motivation first appeared in South India concurrently with the emergence of an emotional form of devotion.137 Braj is a place that offers a glimpse of the eternal, the paradise that ultimately awaits the faithful devotee, but it has lost the traditional associations that ancient places of pilgrimage have with the afterlife. In this way the pilgrimage enhances life in this world by encouraging the notion that the divine play is perpetually re-enacted in the environment of Braj, offering a foretaste of what can ultimately be enjoyed eternally in the company of Krishna. Many of the oldest sacred sites in Braj are still visited, and there are priests whose ancestors performed the traditional rites at them, but the original function of both the place and its human mediators has been overshadowed by the sight-seeing tour. Rituals, when they are performed, are done so in a perfunctory manner, which tallies with the belief that they automatically generate the merit that is anticipated. Devotional religion sought to free itself from this form of ritual automatism. Propagators of the devotional path criticized the humbug and hypocrisy of such formalized religious performances. In the Pushtimarg the type of religion that strictly follows injunctions (niaryddd) governing religious practice is rated lower than spontaneous and heartfelt participation in the play of Krishna. In practice, however, the temple priests have maintained a rigid formalism in the worship of Krishna images. They have managed to retain their role as intermediaries between the gods and the worshippers. Instead of performing rituals beside the river, the Pandas now spend more time taking parties of pilgrims on a tour of temples and other sites, coercing them to part with their money. The pilgrims are more interested in beholding some sacred object, a relic or token of Krishna's mythical activities, and in hearing some miraculous story. After the guided tour they are free to spend their time listening to sermons, meeting ascetics, mingling with other devotees, and attending aratidt their favourite temples. The sight-seeing element has also become more important in other Hindu places of pilgrimage, but in Braj it is the central activity. Places are visited because they have some kind of visual attraction, regardless of whether or not they are ancient and 'authentic'. This is not to say that the more standard motivations for undertaking a pilgrimage do not apply. While clarsan and related activities are the main purpose, 137 See Shulman, pp.20-21. 104

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00120.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:34] and have special appeal for higher-caste family groups, there are other aspects of the pilgrimage that motivate a smaller but significant number of visitors.138 Pilgrims do not simply stare at the deity; like people who travel a relatively short distance to visit a specific temple, they also ask for blessings. Many will say that the purpose of their pilgrimage is to acquire merit (puny a), fulfil a vow, or be blessed by the deities in order to avert danger and acquire some material benefit or condition of well-being (kcdyan). Generally the concept of merit is diffuse and concerns the determination of both material and spiritual rewards.139 Rites that are motivated by some obligation, such as those in honour of the ancestors or to atone for a breach of conduct, are also performed, but they are a parallel feature of the pilgrimage to Braj and are not integrated into the worship of Krishna. Although pilgrims who follow the sacred circuit of Braj renounce many of the comforts they are used to, the pace is not too arduous and the distances covered each day are moderate. There is plenty of feasting on the way, and periods of rest during which sermons are given and rcis lllci is performed. Penitence is apparent in the form of circumambulation that is performed with repeated prostrations (dcmdautiparikrcima). This is not done by pilgrims who have come primarily to see the sacred places, but by people who decide to undertake it as a means of atonement, purification of the soul, or fulfilling a vow. It is a specific type of circumambulation, restricted to Govardhan and occasionally Vrindaban, that is not performed as part of the tour of Braj as a whole. Several anthropological studies have dealt with pilgrimage in India and elsewhere, but, as pointed out by Morinis in his survey of them, many of the proposed models are inapplicable to Hindu pilgrimage, in view of the diversity of deities and pilgrims involved, as well as the variety of goals and motivations.140 Attempts at formulating a universal definition of the elements of pilgrimage do not get much further than the tautological 'journey through time and space to a sacred place.' L. P. Vidyarthi, in his study of Gaya, came up with the platitudinous conclusions that a 'sacred complex' comprises a sacred centre, performances, and specialists, and that it reflects the continuity, compromise, and combination that are evident in the context of interaction between the 'great' and 'little' cultural traditions. He notes the obvious fact that the sacred specialists at a place of pilgrimage maintain a distinct style of life and transmit elements of the great tradition to the rural population, and that general developments in the larger universe of Hinduism give rise to modifications of the sacred complex. Similar studies by Indian anthropologists of other sacred complexes suggest that they are more interesting for what is particular about them, and that any generalizations that can be formulated do little more than endorse impressions that can be gained by any casual observer. Braj exemplifies the integrative function of pilgrimage in so far as people from diverse regional and cultural backgrounds are brought in touch with a specific tradition. On an all-India level this tradition has been propagated in a standard 138 This seems to be the case in Braj, as was found to be so for Nabadwip by Morinis, pp. 160-4. 139 Ibid., p.270. 140 Ibid., eh.8. 105

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00121.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:34] form by means of Sanskrit scriptures belonging to the 'great tradition'. Braj, however, presents the pilgrim with a particularized variant of this great tradition. It incorporates typically local elements and the Vaishnava theologians have fashioned their own brand of orthodoxy by borrowing elements from a variety of sources. It is even less likely that pilgrimage to Braj helps to promote social cohesion. There is a temporary element of 'communitas' in that devotees participate in liberating or liberated forms of communal worship, but they still stick together in their family or village groups, the caste hierarchy is maintained, and the ultimate aim of participation in different forms of worship is to heighten one's personal experience. Morinis has rightly pointed out that the view that pilgrimage is a form of rite de passage is inapplicable in the context of India.141 Where Braj is concerned, the ideal is not one of entering into and then returning from an experience, but of remaining totally immersed in love for Krishna. The sacred area of Braj is not precisely delineated and there is no one particular area within it that is demarcated and separated off from the mundane environment, thus confining the divine presence within boundaries.142 The sacred circuit is a sprawling and wide-ranging one with no specific omphalos or axis mundi. It comprises several smaller circumambulations and innumerable places of worship, but no single temple is universally acknowledged as supreme and their relative importance depends on a variety of factors. In addition to the temples there are numerous other sacred places and objects with a varying degree of accessibility. Close to the places of worship, and all along the sacred circuits, there are villages, landmarks, and other objects with absolutely no religious association. Braj is an area in which the sacred and profane interpenetrate and in which the various forms of circumambulation do not necessarily serve to delineate the boundaries. Pilgrimage to Braj, rather than being a process of transition from the profane to the sacred, is really one of realizing the sacred within the profane by cultivating the -appropriate sensibility. The whole pilgrimage circuit of Braj, or certain sacred centres within it, can be realized in the heart or recreated_ej.sewhere to generate the same-type oTfe/zflvrTHFjourney is one that can be realized in an interior, exterior, and transcendent sphere. The sacred circuit can be visualized in the heart as having the form of a lotus, thus establishing a correspondence between macrocosmic and microcosmic planes. It can also be transposed to other places, as at Nathdwara where parts of the temple complex, its rooms, courtyards, doors, windows, stairs, and objects in and around the shrine, are identified with locations in Braj, or in the series of powder paintings made in the temple during a festive fortnight that depict the sacred places of Braj.143 Similarly Nabadwip, where Krishna became incarnate as Chaitanya and re-enacted his sports through him, is identified with the terrestrial and heavenly Vrindaban.144 It also has a circumambulation, conceptualized as a lotus, and various shrines constructed to illustrate incidents in the life of 141 See for example Turner 1979, pp.55 ff., 112 ff., citing M. Csikszentmihalyi and others. 142 As is suggested by Morinis, p.279. 143 Jindcl, pp.47 ff. and 169. The powder paintings are called sSjhT, see below .13. 144 Morinis, pp.71, 122-64. Nabadwip is about 65 km north of Calcutta. 106

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00122.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:34] Krishna-Chaitanya. Among them is a a 'secret' (gupt) Vrindaban: a courtyard with models of Radhakund, Govardhan, Vrindaban, and other places in Braj. Rather than being a sacred place that stands out.from the profane, Braj is special heca4ise_.th.e_muxidano antT^ranscenderrt -arre-anore closely integratedthere, than elsewhere. It favours interaction with the sacred by means of communion with a deity, ritual service of a deity, or beholding signs of Krishna's presence. In the temples the deities are placed in sanctuaries that are separated from the general public, but one should not suppose that the divine presence is thereby confined. Krishna is also active outside the temples, in the open air, and within the heart. People are as excited by a ras lila performance as they are by the sight of a deity in a temple. Deities are segregated from the public in the recesses of the temples, but around the shrine the sacred and profane interpenetrate, with the result there is no certainty about what is really profane and what is part of the trickster's play. This allows for an ambivalent attitude that enables people to register signs of squalor and corruption without being in the least deterred from participation. The bhav sought by devotees may be likened to what Turner calls 'flow' the sensation that derives from immersion in an artistic or ritual performance and involves, among other things, concentration on the enactment, surrendering one's ego, making oneself more receptive, and escaping from the past and future by immersing oneself in sacred time, with its daily cycle of rituals and seasonal round of festivals.145 What is prominent in Braj is the playful or 'ludic' aspect of pilgrimage (expressed by Turner in terms of 'communitas' and 'flow'). This 'ludic' element finds its expression in a nostalgia for the lost paradise of childhood and adolescence. Normally the most powerful mode of expression of this nostalgia is the yearning felt during love in separation (viraha). The ludic element comes to the fore on the occasion of festivals and other forms of re-enactment of Krishna's playful adventures. These celebrations take place in a physical space that is in fact neither the mundane world nor an austere heaven, but in what is referred to as a 'realm of play' (Ilia bhumi). While the pilgrimage circuit of Braj does not fully conform to the rite de passage as defined by Turner, the enactments of Krishna's adventures that take place along the route certainly contain that element of'trickster tales told in liminal times and places'.146 This kind of playfulness comes to the fore during the Holi celebrations. They do not occur during the months in which the circumambulation of Braj takes place, but they still attract a large number of pilgrims and visitors. TMioking^and revelry of Holi are comparable to that which takes place at other transitional celebrations, such as a wedding. The conflicts between Krishna and the Gopis, at Holi as well as during other enactments of confrontations between them, represent a devotional reorientation of a type of ritual jesting that originally had more to do with promoting fertility or losing virginity. The joking, though it may be taken to 145 See Morinis, pp.255-61, who cites Turner, Eliade, and others. See also Lynch ('pilgrimage with Krishna1), who, in his analysis of Braj pilgrimage with particular reference to the Pushtimarg bariyatra, also stresses the importance of bhdv and lild. He also takes up some points raised by Turner. 146 Turner 1979, p.25. 107

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00123.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:34] wild extremes, remains within a bounded formal context. The status quo is temporarily inverted, but not subverted. Social norms are commented upon and criticized, while making the point that chaos is the alternative to order.147 Krishna's anarchic behaviour is accepted and condoned because he is a child as well as a god who reveals some transcendent and eternal truth. His adventures are 'liminal' in that identification with them presents a challenge to social norms and suggests a new way of framing reality. Pilgrims are neither compelled nor obliged to go to Braj. The main inspiration for the pilgrimage presumably lies in the attractions of the ideology implicit in the Krishna myth and the manner in which he is worshipped. We have tried to suggest that it is the element of covert fantasy that is more significant than the overt interpretations propounded by theologians^Pj^opje are motiva.ted_ to visit Braj because it provides an atmosphere and environment thaTare more conducive to experiencing bhciv. 147 Ibid., p.36. See also Turner 1969, pp.178 fif., on rituals of status reversal. 108

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00124.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:35] 4 Ancient and Early Medieval Braj 1 The devotee's view of history The nostalgia and idealism that have inspired the Krishna legends do not find much endorsement in archaeology and other historical sources. The devotee, however, does not regard myth and human history as qualitatively different. He believes that the gods are as alive and active today as they have always been, though in previous ages the divine was more apparent on earth than it is today. The fantastic events described in ancient scriptures, medieval hagiography, and oral tradition are thought to be no less historical than factual evidence concerning social developments and the rise and fall of human dynasties. The devotee, being more concerned with mythical events and spiritual traditions, is inclined to dismiss political history whenever it contradicts his beliefs, declaring materially motivated human striving to be futile and illusory. Krishna's early life has been the subject of several extensive narratives and thousands of poems, all of them set in the countryside and containing detailed descriptions of the environment, but with never a word about the real condition of the peasantry and virtually no allusions to political and historical circumstances. The sole purpose of the literature is to charm its audience and awaken devotional sentiment. Reference to 'real' or factual history is avoided because it would detract from the idealism and undermine sectarian claims to antiquity, originality, authenticity, and divine origin. In many cases this must be the real motivation for retreating into eternal and timeless values and condemning objective history for being shallow, earthbound, and for completely missing the point. Archaeology is dry and dull; it is devoid of ras; its broken images are lifeless. Myths and cults, however, are not conjured out of thin air. Some of their core elements and characters are rooted in history. Few Hindus bother to question the historicity of Krishna, there being no inducement to deny that events did not take place precisely as they are narrated in the scriptures. They make no attempt to separate strands that could be historical from those that have their origin in human psychology or the conventions and creative imagination of artists and theologians. For outside observers history helps to explain the way in which the devotional cults have evolved. Devotees themselves may refer to objective history, so long as it is 109

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00125.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:35] compatible with their ideology and can be manipulated in order to justify current circumstances; but when they do refer to historical events, the possibility of socio-political causes is denied and everything is said to be the result of Krishna's inscrutable play (Ilia). It would not do to imply that Krishna was powerless to prevent his temples from being attacked by Muslims at the end of the seventeenth century. A short prose text entitled Kamban vilas says that Muslim oppession was merely a pretext for the removal of the deity called Radhavallabh from Vrindaban to Kaman.1 The real reason was that the deity wanted to enjoy a period of'forest exile' (ban vas), such as was undertaken by Rama and the Pandavas. We are told that Krishna's purpose was to provide his devotees with an illustration of the way in which god becomes alternately manifest and invisible (avirbhav, tirobhdv). Similarly, the sectarian account of the removal of Shrinathji from its temple at Govardhan says that it was done according to the express wish of the deity.2 When he visited the place that is now known as Nathdwara, Vitthalnath predicted that one day Shrinathji would be brought there. Vitthalnath initiated Ajab Kunwari, daughter-in-law of Udai Singh, ruler of Mewar and founder of its capital Udaipur. Thereafter Shrinathji used to come regularly from Govardhan to visit Ajab Kunwari and play the board game called caupar with her. When she said that he must be tired of all the coming and going, the deity replied that one day he would take up residence in Mewar. When the time came for the deity to be removed, he gave instructions to the descendents of Vitthalnath to take him to Mewar. After the deity was removed the Muslims did not actually destroy the temple, rather it became 'absorbed' (lin) into the sacred hill on which it stood 2 Dynasties of ancient Mathura Archaeological explorations carried out to date lead us to suppose that were it possible to excavate all the mounds in Braj on which villages stand, or which lie abandoned in their vicinity, many more of them would prove to have been the sites of ancient settlements, a stupa, or a Buddhist or Jain monastic community.3 The oldest finds in Mathura Museum are palaeoliths dating from about fifty thousand years BC, and the earliest fragments of pottery are Painted Grey Ware dating from about 800 BC. The town itself is of great antiquity, though the exact location of its centre seems to have changed. Archaeological evidence reveals that in the sixth century BC a rural settlement flourished around the mound known as Ambarish Tila and that between the fourth and the second centuries BC a town had developed 1 VRI ms. acc.no. 11545F, dated 1891. 2 SPV, pp.42 ff. This also said with respcct to two earlier occasions on which it was removed to Gantholi and Mathura. 3 For information on finds over the last century see ASI volumes of Cunningham and Fiihrer, museum catalogues of Vogel, Agrawala, Mathur & Zaheer, Srivastava & Misra, Shiv Sharan Lai, and R. C. Sharma 1976 and 1984 (the latter giving maps and bibliographical survey, pp.7-13, and an account of previous excavations, ch.4). For epigraphy see Ltiders (ed. Janert) and Sircar 1965, vol.1. For coins see Allan, pp.cviii-cxvi, 169-91. 110

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00126.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:35] that was large and wealthy enough to have mud fortifications constructed around it.4 These earthworks, enlarged in the Kushana period, partially survive on the north-west side of the modern town and are referred to as the dhiilkot ('dust fort'). In later times they came to be regarded as the defences that Krishna built to protect the town from the attack of Jarasandha. 5 The growth of Mathura can be attributed to its location on the banks of the Yamuna and its being connected by roads radiating from it to the two main highways of ancient India, the 'southern route' (daksinapatha) leading to central India, and the 'northern route' (uttarapatha) leading from the east to Taxila and Bactria in the north-west. It grew into a cosmopolitan centre for trade and administration that was visited and inhabited by merchants and chieftains who were responsible for the introduction of cultural influences from the east and north-west. Their names appear as donors who contributed to the construction and decoration of Buddhist and Jain monuments. 'Secular' elements in the friezes and panels that were incorporated in such structures testify to the standard of living and degree of urban sophistication attained by the wealthy elite. Mathura, as one of the most important towns in the western part of the Mauryan empire, was visited by early Buddhist and Jain monks from Magadha (modern Bihar) who introduced their religions to the local people.6 It was also visited by Greeks who had settled in Gandhara, and thus came to be mentioned in the writings of Megasthenes and Arrian.7 After the decline of the Mauryan power in around 200 BC, and then for a period of about a hundred and fifty years ('the Shunga period'), Mathura was the seat of one of the independent powers that held sway over the 'middle region' (madhyadesa) of northern India. The local rulers were a succession of Hindu kings bearing the name Mitra, followed by others with the name Datta.8 The Mitras were allied to their namesakes in Panchala and maintained contact with the Indo-Greeks further to the north-west. In about 150 BC they combined forces and attacked the cities of Saketa and the Mauryan capital of Pataliputra.9 In about 60 BC Mathura fell into the hands of Shakas (Scythians) who held north and west India for the next few decades under the governorship of a succession of Satraps who maintained close links with Gandhara. The last of them was Shodasa, whose dominion appears to have been more restricted than that of his predecessors, and who ruled in the first few decades of the Christian era.10 4 B. N. Mukherjee, pp.97-8, 104. 5 VGV 29 (dhurikota). 6 See Law, pp.20, 23, 27-8, for references to early Buddhist teachers in Mathura, the wealthy followers who lived there, and the legend of the Buddha's visit. 7 Arrian, Indica 8 (cf. tr. by McCrindle). 8 Allan, pp.cviii-cxi. 9 Narain, pp.89-92, 175-6. 10 V. A. Smith 1906, IX, Allan, pp.cxi-cxvi, van Lohuizen 1949, pp.48, 332-6, B. N. Mukherjee, chs.l & 2, Rosenfield, pp. 133-7 & 263-73 (where he lists inscriptions pertaining to the Indo-Scythian dynasties, both Shaka and Kushana also given in the volume edited by Basham, pp.270-8). Smith, ibid. p. 191, places Rajuvula and Shodasa in the last half of the 2nd century BC. Van Lohuizen 1949, p.336, dates the last evidence of Shakas in Mathura under Shodasa in 57 BC, but later studies generally accept that he flourished between AD 10 and 25. 126

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00127.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:35] After a short period in which Mathura was ruled by Hindu kings, it again fell into the hands of invaders from the north-west, this time the Kushanas, who made it their eastern capital. Kushana dynastic rule in Mathura was consolidated by Kanishka, but the date when his reign began is uncertain.11 He was followed by a succession of Kushana rulers, the last one mentioned in inscriptions bearing the Hindu name of Vasudeva. Mathura was a major centre of Kushana power, in conjunction with Taxila, capital of Gandhara in the north-west, but its character remained fundamentally Indian. Buddhism and Jainism continued to flourish and an important school of sculpture developed in the town. It produced the earliest representations of many Hindu deities, and probably the oldest Jain icons. The sculptors of Mathura and Gandhara were the first to create images of the Buddha. Sculptures from Mathura were sent to places all over northern India, including such major religious centres as Ahichhatra, Bodhgaya, Shravasti, Sanchi, Lumbini, and Kaushambi, then an important city further down the Yamuna.12 The power of the Kushanas appears to have disintegrated by the end of the third century, but the period between them and the Guptas was one of cultural continuity with no evidence of any abrupt hiatus. Numismatic evidence and the Puranas suggest that, after the Kushanas, Mathura was held by a succession of rulers who styled themselves 'Naga'.13 When Mathura became part of the Gupta empire during the reign of Samudragupta (335-76) it was held by a certain Ganapatinaga, and in the following century one of the governors is recorded as having the name Sharvanaga. Early in the sixth century Mathura probably suffered from attacks by the Hunas who invaded from the north-west as the Gupta empire disintegrated. Eventuallythe Vardhanas managed to reclaim territory from the Hunas. Mathura was first controlled from Thaneshwar and then merged into the empire built up by Harsha (606-47), with its capital at Kanauj. In the ninth century the territory of Mathura passed into the hands of the Gurjara-Pratiharas, who controlled most of west and north India. By the end of the tenth century their empire had split up into territories held by Rajput families who, owing to their parochial interests and internal rivalries, failed to unite and defend North India against Mahmud of Ghazni and subsequent Muslim invaders. 3 Buddhism For over a thousand years, up to about AD 600, Buddhism received more patronage from merchants and the ruling classes than any other religion. As 11 Most opinions vary between AD 78 and 144. Van Lohuizen 1949, p.65, concludes that he began to reign after AD 71; Rosenfield, pp.253-58, settles for some time between 110-115, Damstccgt, pp.9-12, 202-3, favours c.AD 200. For further discussion of the date of Kanishka see Basham (ed.), for a general account of the period sec K. Prasad, and for bibliography of the Kushanas and a summary of current scholarship see B. N. Puri. 12 For more information on Mathura's influence as a cultural centre, esp. in relation to Gandhara, see van Lohuizen 1972. 13 For this period see Vajpeyi 1954, pp. 103 ff. Vdyupurcmci 99.383 mentions Naga kings of Mathura, who appear to have been tributaries of the Gupta emperors. 112

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00128.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:35] elsewhere in India, the finest artistic achievements and most extensive architectural complexes were those executed for Buddhist stupa and monasteries. The Chinese pilgrim Fah-Hian, who visited Mathura in about AD 400, describes having seen twenty monasteries and some three thousand monks.14 His compatriot HsuanTsang, who toured India some two hundred years later, refers to the same number of monasteries and over two thousand monks, and also says that there were five temples of the (non-Buddhist) gods and adherents of non-Buddhist sects.15 This suggests that while Buddhism was still predominant it had begun to lose ground to renascent Hinduism. Hsuan Tsang mentions numerous traces left by previous Buddhas, relics of the Buddha's disciples, and three stupa reputed to have been erected by Ashoka (c. 269-232 BC). Whether or not they were actually founded by Ashoka, the oldest known Buddhist establishments do indeed date back to the third century BC.16 His statement that some of the stupa lay some distance from the town is corroborated by archaeological findings at Maholi, Giridharpur, Ganeshra, Ral-Bhadal, and Chaumuhan. Inscriptions record the existence of over two dozen monasteries,17 and, apart from the stupa and monastery complexes in Mathura itself, there were several other religious establishments in the suburbs and environs, a mile or two distant from each other, in a tract of land stretching some fifteen kilometres along the banks of the Yamuna and some ten kilometres to the west of it. In view of the extent of Buddhist remains, Vogel's description of the city as it must have been during the first few centuries of the Christian era is certainly no exaggeration: Thus we can still imagine the ancient city of Mathura, as it revealed itself to the wondering eyes of the pilgrims, with the glittering domes of its stupas enclosed by elaborate railings and surmounted by rows of parasols, with the dazzling splendour of its temples, in which gigantic Buddhas silently received the homage of the faithful, and with its massive convents thronged by hundreds of yellow-robed monks.18 4 Jainism Inscriptions show that both Shwetambara and Digambara schools of Jainism were already established in Mathura in the second century BC.19 Jain tradition holds 14 Fah-Hian (tr. Beal), ch.XVI pp.53-61; also in Beal 1906, vol.1 p.xxxvii. 15 See Beal 1906, vol.1 pp.179-83, and Watters, vol.1 pp.301-13, who suspects that Hsuan Tsang did not visit Mathura but based his account on hearsay. For some discussion of the reports of the Chinese pilgrims see Cunningham, ASI I pp.231 IT., Ill pp.28-9, XX pp.4, 32-3. 16 Cunningham, ASI XX p.3, with reference to a colossal statue with Ashokan characters inscribed on it. 17 Names and epigraphical data are tabulated by R. C. Sharma 1984, pp.52-8. 18 Vogcl 1910, p.27. 19 Biihler in EI II 1894, pp. 195-9. For a survey of Jain Mathura based on textual and epigraphic sources see A. K. Chatterjee, vol.1, esp. eh.5. See also Mehta & Chandra under mahura, bhdmcflra, and devanirmittastupa. 113

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00129.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:36] that the Tirthankaras Parshwanatha and Mahavira visited Mathura, and it was associated with the twenty-second Tirthankara Neminatha.20 Vimala Suri, relates how the Shwetambara school was first brought to Mathura by the same seven saints who had previously established it in Saketa (Ayodhya).21 Jain sources also refer to a park in or near Mathura called Bhandira in which the shrine of a Yaksha called sudamsana (Sudarshana) was a place of pilgrimage. From epigraphical evidence it is clear that although Jains did not enjoy much patronage from local rulers, they received support from traders and the common people as well as from the kshatriya class, especially aristocratic ladies.22 The main Jain centre in Mathura was the stupa complex that stood on the site now known as Kankali Tila. This place, known from inscriptions to have been in existence from the second century BC, is probably the one referred to in later texts as 'the stupci founded by the gods' (devaninnittastupa) and is named as the place where the sixth-century saint Jinabhadragni lived.23 Literary sources tell us that in the fourth century a council was held in Mathura to collect and edit the canon, and that Jainism still flourished in the ninth century. The decreasing frequency of inscriptions during the period 600 to 1,000 implies that its popularity was on the wane.24 Various sources indicate that Jain pilgrims continued to visit Mathura, but that eventually, after successive attacks on their shrines and the general decline of the faith in North India, the only important place that survived was Chaurasi.25 This site, where Parshwanatha (Jambuswami) is believed to have obtained enlightenment, lies on the west of the dlmlkot. Medieval images of Rishabhanatha and of Neminatha with Balarama and Vasudeva have been found there. The site is now occupied by a Digambara temple, largely the work of Seth Maniram, that contains images of Chandraprabhu and Ajitanatha, the latter being a large marble figure brought from a ruined temple at Gwalior. 5 Non-Vaishnava Hindu cults In the period under discussion the deities that appear to have been most popular among humble local people and others who were not devoted exclusively to 20 A. K. Chatterjee, vol.1 p.44, B. N. Mukherjee, p. 152 n.68, Hemachandra, vol.V (book 8: Nemindthacaritra). 21 Vimala Suri, Paiimacariyam 89. Dates proposed for this work range from the 1st to the 8th century (cf. Rocher, p.94). Kulkarni, in his introduction to the (Jacobi) edition, argues that it is not later than the 4th century. 22 A. K. Chatterjee, vol.1 pp.66-7. 23 VTK, p. 19. See below 24 A. K. Chatterjee, vol.1 pp.71-2, 105, 168. 25 See P. Mital 1968, pp.158, 487, for references to texts mentioning Jain pilgrimages undertaken in the 12th, 14th, and 16th century. On p.56 he refers to an article by A. Nahata (in Braj bharatT 11.2) dealing with Sangama Surfs TTrthamala (12th cent.) and Siddhasena Surfs SakalatTrthastotra (13th cent.), which mention a stupa founded by Shridevi and others that was dedicated to Neminatha and Parshwanatha. Chaurasi is referred to in VTK p. 18. 26 Allan, pp.cviii-cxi. 114

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00130.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:36] Buddhism or Jainism were mother goddesses, Nagas (serpent deities), and Yakshas and Yakshis male and female spirits most commonly worshipped as residing in trees and as controllers health, fertility, and prosperity in general. Images of such deities and depictions of sacred trees were included in Buddhist and Jain sacred complexes, sometimes simply as elements in sculptural decoration. The earliest coins from Mathura, issued by the Hindu Mitra rulers, show a tree standing in a railing, and a device that was popular over a long period was the fertility goddess Lakshmi, usually with a tree beside her.26 Yaksha, Naga, and mother goddess cults have remained popular among the people of Braj in some form or another, more or less integrated with brahminical religion. In several cases they have retained ancient images or pieces of stone as objects of worship. The most revealing site for the ancient history of the district is the mound that dominates the village of Sonkh, twenty kilometres south-west of Mathura.27 It gives a more complete picture of the nature of human settlement than any other site in Braj. Systematic excavation of the mound has yielded remains of successive periods of colonization from the Painted Grey Ware period until the time when it was fortified by the Jats in the eighteenth century. In the pre-Kushana and Kushana periods farmsteads at Sonkh were grouped around open spaces and lanes and in the centre of the settlement stood a shrine with a rounded altar niche. This structure, designated 'Apsidal Temple no.1', remained a permanent feature through successive phases of occupation and is the oldest Hinduistic brick temple yet unearthed in the subcontinent. The discovery here of a seated mother goddess (matrka), and the prevalence of heads of goddesses and terracotta female figurines from the Mauryan and Shunga periods, at Sonkh as well as at other sites in the area, indicate the prevalence of a cult of female divinities, especially in groups of seven or eight. On a small area of elevated ground a short distance from the main mound at Sonkh, local women were found to be worshipping an old stone sculpture as Chamar Devi (i.e. the goddess Chamunda). The sculpture itself and excavation at the spot showed that it was the site of a Naga temple, once surrounded by pillars and enclosed by railings with an ornamental gateway, of which the earliest traces date from the first half of the first century BC. Serpents are still worshipped locally in their own right, but as far as later developments in Braj are concerned, the absorption of Naga worship by the cult of Balarama is of more significance. When Cunningham discovered a colossal Yaksha figure at Parkham, dating from the third century BC, he found that it was still being worshipped by the name of'Jakkhaiya'. A colossal female statue at Jhing ka Nagara of the same age and school as the Parkham image, worshipped by local people as Manasa Devi, bears an inscription declaring it to be a Yakshi called Layava.28 Another ancient Yaksha at the village of Noh near Bharatpur is the focus of an annual 'Jakh' fair. Such colossal 27 See Hartel, and Sharma 1984, pp.84-8. 28 Chanda in ASIAR 1922-23, p. 165. The seated female image had a modern head added to it. According to Marshall, p.24 & pl.XVIIIb it was found at Gopalpur, 12m from Mathura along the road to Bharatpur. The same image is discussed by Agrawala, 1933 pp.7 ff., who locates Jhing ka Nagara 13m north of Mathura. At the same place were found a Kushana image of Hariti and an early medieval door jamb with a representation of Ganga, cf. Srivastava & Misra, 49.3508, 72.4. 115

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00131.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:36] figures are representative of a type erected in the last few centuries BC over a wide area of northern India.29 Buddhist texts record that when the Buddha visited Mathura he had to contend with the Yakshas that prevailed there and that the place was inhospitable because of five defects: the uneven roads, the quantity of dust, wild dogs, Yakshas, and the difficulty of obtaining alms.30 Kanishka appears to have favoured Buddhism, but the Kushana rulers issued several coins depicting Shiva, usually standing in front of a bull.31 There is also evidence to suggest that a gallery of royal statues (devakula) erected at Mat contained, besides colossal statues of the Kushana rulers, images of Shiva and Durga.32 Many Shiva lihga and icons have been found in and around Mathura dating from the Kushana period and the centuries following. The abundance of sculptures of Shiva and Parvati from the early medieval period indicates that Shaivism received at least as much patronage at this time as the worship of Vaishnava deities. An inscription dated AD 380 found at the temple of Rangeshwar Mahadev shows that followers of Lakulisha had a centre there during the Gupta period.33 A few images of Brahma and Indra have been discovered, as well as several of Surya, a deity whose cult was promoted under the Shakas and Kushanas and was continued in the Gupta and early medieval periods, as is attested by the discovery of several statues over a metre high that probably served as cult icons.34 The Mathwdmdhatmya refers to a Surya image beside the river at Mathura, presumably in the vicinity of Vishram Ghat, as the patron deity (kulesvara) of the Mathura brahmins,35 but his cult declined after the thirteenth century and today the only indication of its former popularity is the retention of the name 'Suryakunda' for some of the oldest masonry tanks in Braj. The discovery of small statuettes of Skanda, Kubera, and Durga slaying a buffalo show that these deities were also popular in the first centuries of the Christian era. At Isapur, on the east bank of the Yamuna opposite Mathura's Swami Ghat, a sacrificial pillar was discovered that was erected to commemorate a Vedic ritual celebrated by brahmins in AD 102.36 6 The cult of Vasudeva/Krishna From the literary sources referred to at the beginning of our second chapter it is 29 For other Yakshas in Mathura see Agrawala 1933, and for a general survey of the Yaksha cult see Agrawala 1970, ch.15, and R. N. Mishra, esp. pp.68-70, 84, 110-111, where he discusses images from Mathura, Maholi, Kaman, Parkham, Bharatpur, and Palwal. 30 Gilgit Mss. vol.3 pt.l pp. 15-17, Ahguttaranikdya III, Akkosaka-vaga ccxx, p.256. 31 Whitehead, pp. 183-213. 32 Agrawala 1951, pp.26-7, 51, 1952, pp.38-44. 33 See D. R. Bhandarkar 1931-32, and Lorenzen, pp. 179-81. 34 E.g. MM nos.1363 found near Baldeo, 155 near Mahaban, 1220 from Ainch in Chhata tahsil, and 542 pedestal from Jugasna in Mat tahsil. 35 VP 158.75. 36 Viz. a dvcidasarcittra sacrifice. MM no.00.Q.13, cf. Liiders (ed. Janert) 116

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00132.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:36] clear that the figure of Vasudeva or Krishna has from the earliest times been associated with Mathura and the surrounding countryside. However, the form of Krishna worship current today in Braj is a blend of influences from traditions that developed as far away as Tamil Nadu and Bengal. It is probable that the Herakles mentioned by Megasthenes in the fourth century BC as being worshipped by the people of Mathura is the Vasudeva of Hindu sources, the same hero whose defeat of Kansa was enacted there. This probably took the form of a dramatic performance since it is known from an inscription of the first or second century that there were actors in Mathura, and it is probable that it had been a centre of drama long before then.37 Kosambi, citing the Govardhan legend, suggests that the cult of Krishna reflects a change from a pastoral culture, in which sacrifices were offered to Indra, to a settled agricultural one. Balarama or Sankarshana ('the ploughman'), closely associated with the Naga spirits, was the main deity of the pure agriculturalists; underlying the worship of Krishna/Vasudeva and Balarama/Sankarshana there seems to be 'some alliance between the Yadus and the other tribes, combined with a westward scattering of the tribesmen from Mathura, supposedly in flight to escape an invasion from Magadha, which lay to the east'.38 Although the myth may well derive from some kind of change in the nature of the Govardhan cult, it need not have been the Vedic god Indra who was worshipped in conjunction with the mountain. The pastoral folk who fit the bill as being the tribe that roamed around Braj in this early period are the Abhiras. They are first recorded as living in Sind, Panjab, and Rajasthan, and a branch is said to have lived-in Matsya, the name of a region that included Mathura.39 They appear to have been patronized by the Shakas, under whom they held responsible positions and served as soldiers.40 Later, in the first centuries of the Christian era, they moved westwards into Gujarat and Maharashtra, eastwards into Bihar, Bengal, and Orissa, and southwards into the Deccan, where they served as mercenaries. Gradually they declined into scattered communities of backward forest people. In literature they are referred to as cowherds (gopa, gopcila, gvcila) and their settlements as a ghosa, a term equivalent to vraja.41 Although Sanskrit literature does not specify that Nanda and his community were Abhiras, later vernacular writers, such as Raskhan, sometimes refer to them as Ahirs, the name of their modern descendants, i here is a vague possibility that classical mythology reflects the adoption by the Abhiras of the Krishna cult, or even the assimilation of one of their heroes or deities, but declined to name them because they were of low status. What is more likely is that their culture served as a source of inspiration for some of the pastoral and rustic elements 37 See above .1. The inscription is given in Liiders (ed. Janert) 27. See Hein 1972, p.5 and ch.9, who suggests that the actors referred to in the inscription were Vaishnava, though Damsteegt, pp. 167-8, has argued more convincingly that they were Buddhist. 38 Kosambi, pp.117-8. 39 Suryavanshi, pp. 106-9, tabulates the relevant sources. 40 Ibid., p.31. 41 Ibid., pp.18-21. 117

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00133.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:36] in the earliest narratives of Krishna's childhood, since they lived in the area of Mathura at the time these myths developed.42 In Sanskrit literature Mathura is said to have once been the capital of the land of the Shaurasenas, the original home of the Yadavas, and the area inhabited by two of their clans, the Andhakas and the Vrishnis.43 This was before they were ousted by Jarasandha, the ruler of Magadha, which implies that the myth reflects the pre-Mauryan history of Mathura. Panini, the grammarian of the fourth or fifth century BC, associated Mathura with these two clans and their hero Vasudeva.44 Dandekar, in an article on the beginnings of Vaishnavism, suggests that the identification of Vasudeva with Krishna is the result of close ties between the Vrishnis and the Yadavas in the period after Panini, and accepts that the cowherd aspect of Krishna derived from Abhira culture. The earliest archaeological evidence linking the Vrishnis and Vasudeva with Mathura is an inscription dated in the reign of the Satrap Rajuvula, about two thousand years ago.45 It was found on a slab that had been used as part of the terrace of a well near the village of Mora, ten kilometres west of Mathura and three to the north of the road to Govardhan. It records the construction of a shrine, 'the magnificent, matchless stone house of Tosa', containing images of the five heroes (pahcavTra) of the Vrishnis. Further excavation at a nearby mound revealed fragments of a round building, two male torsos, a pedestal, two fragments making the lower half of a female figure, and a number of inscribed bricks bearing the name Yashamata, daughter of Brihatswatimitra, probably a king of Kaushambi in the latter part of the second century BC.46 The male torsos are without doubt the remains of the five images mentioned in the inscription, and the female figure is inscribed as an image of 'Tosa' belonging to the reign of Kanishka. Most authorities agree that she is to be identified with the 'Tosa' of the well inscription, in which case the statue was probably set up to commemorate her. The nearby village of Tos may also have been named after her. The five heroes of the Vrishnis probably belonged to a line of local kings whose historicity was blended and overlaid with myth as they gradually became deified. Their names are given in brahminical literature as Sankarshana, Vasudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, and Samba. In Pancharatra theology the first four of them 42 Goetz, p.53, thinks that a good part of the childhood stories cannot be older than the stay of the Abhiras at Mathura and suggests that they accepted the cult of Krishna-Govinda while they were settled there. 43 Both belonged to the Satvata sept. See Law, pp.24-5, for references to the Andhakas, Vrishnis, and Satvatas. The Buddhist text Ahguttaranikaya, vol.1 p.213 and vol.IV p. 252, includes Shurasena as one of the sixteen provinces (mahajanapada) of northern India. 44 Panini 4.2.34, 3.98, 3.131, 6.2.34, 3.90. 45 Ludcrs (ed. Janert) in EI XXIV 1937-8, pp.194-200. Vogel Q.l, p. 184, Cunningham, ASI XX pp.48-9, Agrawala 1951-52, pp. 130-2. 46 The sculptural fragments are numbered E.20-23. See Liiders (ed. Janert) & 116, and in EI XXIV 1937-8, pp.200-202, Vogel in ASIAR 1911-12, pp.127-8 & pl.LVII, Agrawala 1952, pp.47-8, Sircar, p. 122, Rosenfield, p. 151, and Allan, pp.xcvii-viii (for the identity of Brihatswati-/Brihaspatimitra), B. N. Mukherjee, p. 153, R. C. Sharma 1984 pp.25-6 (giving a suggested chronology of ksatrapa epigraphs). 118

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00134.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:37] were regarded as emanations (vyuha) of Vishnu, and in mythology the last three are said to be descendants of Krishna/Vasudeva. In the course of time Sankarshana and Vasudeva predominated and became popular deities. Their cult was spread and popularized by the Bhagavatas, the precursors of later Vaishnavism in which the idea of incarnations (avatdra) predominated over that of emanations, thus Krishna/Vasudeva gained superiority as an incarnation of Vishnu and Sankarshana took second place as an incarnation of the cosmic serpent Shesha. Another fragmentary inscription on a door jamb from the time of Shodasa testifies to the presence of the Bhagavata cult in Mathura in the early part of the first century.47 It was discovered in Mathura cantonment, but probably came from the Katra site, the place traditionally revered as the birthplace of Krishna and the oldest known location of a temple dedicated to him in Mathura. It records the construction of a shrine, an arched gateway, and railed platform or covered balcony at a spot referred to as the 'great place' (mahdsthcma) sacred to Vasudeva. Although Mathura had been an important centre of the Bhagavata cult from before the Shaka and Kushana periods, it is referred to in a relatively small number of inscriptions. This implies that it received much less patronage from the local elite than Buddhism and Jainism. Nevertheless, there are many statuettes and fragments of Vishnu/ Vasudeva/Krishna images from the Kushana, Gupta, and medieval periods that testify to his popularity throughout the first millennium. Depictions of Krishna's adventures are conspicuously absent in Mathura, even though they form the subject of narrative panels in other parts of India.48 Though closely associated with Mathura, Vasudeva was known over a wide area. The earliest depiction of him, together with Sankarshana, is on Indo-Greek coins of Agathokles found in Afghanistan that were minted in the second century BC.49 A column erected by Heliodorus at Besnagar in about 100 BC and other inscriptions from the western Deccan testify to the spread of the cult of Vasudeva under the auspices of the Bhagavatas.50 Images of Sankarshana, Vasudeva, and their sister Ekanansha were common in the Kushana period and remained popular up to the ninth or tenth century.51 In these Vasudeva/Krishna is usually shown with four arms with which he holds the attributes of Vishnu (discus, conch, lotus, and club). Vasudeva and Sankarshana also appear in Jain icons on either side of Neminatha or 47 See Luders (ed. Janert) and in EI XXIV 1937-8, pp.208-10 (who assumed that the piece came from Mora), Chanda 1920, pp. 169-73, Agrawala 1951-2 pp. 134-6, Sircar 1953. 48 A Kushana panel in Mathura Museum (no. 17.1344) is catalogued as a depiction of Vasudeva carrying Krishna across the Yamuna, but the identification is highly contentious and has been rejected by recent assessments, cf. Preciado-Solis, pp. 103-4, and Srinivasan, p. 127, though Hawley pp.338-9 supports it. He and Srinivasan, p. 132, also refer to some Kushana stones used in weight-lifting that apparently depict Krishna. 49 Cf. Filliozat. 50 See Chanda 1920 and Preciado-Solis, pp.23 & 34-5, for a summary of the archaeological evidence. 51 E.g. at Ellora. The triad survives as an object of worship in the form of Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra at Puri. 119

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00135.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:37] the Yakshi Ambika.52 In narrative panels Vasudeva/Krishna appears in varied postures appropriate for the episode depicted,53 but as an icon for worship he was shown standing in the posture of Vishnu and holding his attributes. The only other icons that seem to have served as a cult image are a few Gupta period depictions of him lifting up Govardhan. The earliest image of this type from Mathura is assigned by most scholars to the sixth or seventh century.54 Another Gupta period example that probably served as a cult image belonged to a large temple that stood in a part of Varanasi which was considered to represent Mathura.55. The Mathuramdluitmya implies that Keshavadeva, the presiding deity of Mathura, is a four-armed image, like most icons of manifestations of Vishnu that were worshipped in the early medieval period.56 The classical iconographic sources list up to twenty-four forms of Vishnu, including those of deities named in the Mathuvamdhdtmya (Keshava, Narayana, Govinda, Vamana, Padmanabha, Vasudeva, Hari), but they are all variations of the same type, differentiated only by the distribution of the four emblems of Vishnu.57 Alberuni, a scholar who spent ten years in India, gave an extensive account of its culture and society as he found it in the first half of the eleventh century. He talks of Vasudeva, rather than Krishna, and uses the same epithet to refer to Vishnu. He says that he was born in Mathura and came from 'a Jatt family, cattle owners, low sudra people' implying that his cult was current in lower as well as higher social spheres.58 He says that the ekddasT iast originated in the commemoration by the people of Mathura of the lifting of Govardhan because it resulted in the transfer of worship from Indra to Vasudeva. Originally they used to worship Indra one day in each month, but Vasudeva induced them to transfer this worship in his name on the eleventh day of each lunar fortnight.59 Most of Alberuni's references to Vasudeva, however, relate to events in the latter part of his life on earth, when he was involved in the Mahdbhdrata war, implying that this aspect of Krishna still predominated in more formal or officially patronized religious circles. 7 Balarama The worship of Balarama, through its close association with the cult of Nagas, is deeply rooted in Braj. In classical mythology he is identified as an incarnation of the cosmic serpent Shesha and in iconography is invariably shown with a seven-hooded 52 E.g. MM no.D.7. 53 Two Gupta period examples from Kans Kila, Mathura, show him slaying the serpent Kaliya, MM nos.47.3374, 49.3461. 54 MM no.D.47, from Gatashram. See plate 10. 55 Eck, pp.66-7, 207-8. 56 VP 156.18-19; also clearly stated in Gopdlottciratcipanyupanisad. Adikeshava at Varanasi is described in SP (Kcisiklumda 58) as jet-black and four-armed (Eck, p.205). 57 Sec Bidyabinod, who collates and tabulates various listings and gives some illustrations. 58 Albcruni, I p.401. 59 Ibid.. II p.175. 120

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00136.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:37] cobra rearing over his head. As additional distinguishing features he holds a plough, club (musala), or cup, wears a long garland hanging down to his knees (vaijayanlimald), and sometimes has a ring in his left ear.60 The earliest identifiable representation of him, made in the second century BC, is a two-armed image holding a plough and club and in a stance similar to that of Yaksha images.61 The plough characterizes him as an agricultural deity, which probably led to his being envisaged as a Naga since serpents, through their association with water, were also worshipped as fertility deities.62 The cup, which first appeared in icons of the Kushana period, became the most frequently depicted of his attributes. Usually he is shown with the cup in his left hand and his right arm raised above his head with the palm open. The cup may initially have been borrowed from representations of Kubera and other Yakshas, though it is appropriate for Balarama in view of references in mythology to his fondness for drink. In classical sources he is said to get drunk on wine or some form of liquor drawn from trees, perhaps toddy in view of his association with the palmyra, a plant that occurs as his emblem. None of these, however, is a traditional drink in Braj. Modern devotees always refer to the cup as containing bhang, a concoction made from the cannabis plant. Balarama is something of a patron deity for regular consumers of bhang, who often invoke him before they partake of it with the words 'Bounteous Dau, King of Braj, drink bhang and become manifest here'.63 Bhang is offered to him and distributed among worshippers present as prasad, either in the form of a paste made from crushed cannabis leaves rolled into pellets, or as a meticulously prepared cocktail (thandai) in which it is combined and flavoured with other ingredients (i.a. milk, yoghurt, crushed raisins, ground almonds, rosewater). Another regular offering made to him consists of butter and sugar candy (makhan misrT). The Naga rulers of Mathura during the Gupta period may have promoted the cult of Balarama, but the subsequent decrease in the number of representations made of him suggests that he became less important as a deity in his own right, being eclipsed in the sphere of higher religion by the rise of Vaishnavism in which Vasudeva/Krishna was the predominant deity. He survived, however, as a Braj folk deity and his iconography has remained the same as it was in the Kushana period. Most images of him are black, though some are white, in accordance with the scriptural tradition in which he is described as the fair counterpart of Krishna. Some Kushana Naga images, when discovered by archaeologists, were being worshipped as 'Dauji', his usual epithet among the people of Braj. The most notable of them is the colossal image in the temple at' Baldeo.64 Revati became 60 See N. P. Joshi 1979 for a survey of the iconography of Balarama. 61 State Museum Lucknow, no.G 215. 62 Visnudharmottarapurdna 118.12-13, 123.12, says that he should be worshipped when beginning cultivation and for success in agriculture. 63 dau daydl, braj ke raja, bhdg pTjai aur nyahT a jd. 64 The Kushana identification was first affirmed by Vogel, 1972 pp.282-3. Other examples were found at Chhargaon (cf. Vogel 1908-9, pp.160-3 and pl.LIII) and beside the Govardhan road at Khamani (both places are in Mathura tahsil), at Kukargawan (Sadabad tahsil), and Itauli (Mat tahsil). 121

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00137.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:37] acknowledged as his consort and is often enshrined alongside him. She first appears in medieval icons in which she is shown holding a wine jar. 8 The end of Hindu power in Braj Disaster struck Mathura with the arrival of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 1017. According to his contemporary Al-Utbi, and the later historians Badauni and Ferishta, he first fell upon Mahaban. There he defeated a Hindu prince called Kulchand, who killed himself and his family to avoid their being captured.65 Mahmud then proceeded to Mathura where he found the city surrounded by stone walls with two gates opening onto the river that flowed beside it. He saw one building 'of exquisite structure, which the inhabitants said had been built, not by men, but by Genii' which may refer to the Jain stupa that was said to have been 'established by the gods'. There were a thousand stone houses with temples attached, and in the middle of the city there was a temple larger than the rest of which the Sultan wrote 'If any should wish to construct a building equal to this, he would not be able to do it without expending an hundred thousand red dinars, and it would occupy two hundred years, even though the most experienced and able workmen were employed'. Five of its idols are described as being five yards high, made of red gold, and studded with precious stones. When broken up these and other idols are said to have yielded ninety-eight thousand three hundred 'miskals' of gold and two hundred of silver. Badauni, writing in around 1600, says that Mahmud razed Mathura to the ground and broke up the idols. Ferishta, writing in the first decade of the seventeenth century and says that, while he burned all the idols, he did not destroy the temples, either because he thought the labour would have been excessive or because, as some say, he was averted from his purpose by their beauty. Ferishta tells us that he stayed in Mathura for twenty days, during which time the city suffered greatly from fire, besides the damage inflicted by pillage. Mahmud went on to sack the city of Kanauj, but after his withdrawal a branch of the Rashtrakutas managed to set themselves up in power there. They were followed by the Gahadwalas who succeeded in gaining control over the area stretching from Kanauj to Varanasi. The Gahadwalas saw themselves as protectors of the Hindu holy places. The foremost of them, Govindchandra (1112-1155), made numerous donations to a temple of Adikeshava in their capital at Varanasi. According to inscriptions they used to bathe in the Ganges beneath this temple, which stood on the northern edge of the Rajghat plateau that was once the heart of the city.66 By this time the Hindus of Mathura had recovered somewhat from the depradations of Mahmud. Alberuni, writing just a few years after Mahmud ransacked Mathura, mentions it as one of the foremost places of pilgrimage in India and says it was crowded with brahmins.67 In the first half of the twelfth century 65 Al-Utbi ( Tarikh Yamlnl), tr. Elliot & Dowson, vol.11 pp.44-5, Badauni, vol 1 pp.24-5, Ferishta, vol.1 pp.58-9. 66 Eck, pp.46, 80-81, 233. 67 Albcruni, vol.11 pp. 146-8. 122

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00138.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:37] Lakshmidhara, who was patronized by Govindchandra, compiled the earliest surviving collection of verses praising the sacred places of Mathura. An inscription of 1150 records the foundation by Jajja, apparently a vassal of the Gahadwalas in charge of Mathura, of a temple dedicated to Vishnu on the Katra site, described as 'brilliantly white and touching the clouds'.68 Local rulers at Kaman who styled themselves Yadavas constructed a Vishnu temple there, the ruins of which are now called Chaurasi Khambha. Another temple built in the twelfth century by another branch of the lineage at M.ahaban may also have been dedicated to Vishnu or Vasudeva.69 These local chiefs were Rajputs, perhaps related to the Kulchand defeated by Mahmud and to other Yadavas (Jadons) whose descendants have long ruled over Jaisalmer. They claim descent from Krishna, but their real history begins with Dharmapal, who, in around AD 800, held control of Bayana, a fort eighty kilometres south-west of Mathura. Among their surviving descendants are the Maharajas of Karauli, the Jadovati of Sabalgarh, and the islamized Meos and Khanzadas.70 Hindu power in the Doab collapsed when forces of Muhammad Ghuri, led by Qutubuddin, defeated Jaichand of Kanauj, sacked Varanasi, and took Bayana and Gwalior.71 The historians make no mention of Mathura or Mahaban, implying that by this time they were no longer places of much consequence, were not worth plundering, and were not the seat of any Hindu power. Growse records a tradition that the fort at Mahaban was built [or rather rebuilt] by a prince of Mewar who took refuge with the Raja of Mahaban (perhaps after Alauddin Khilji sacked Chittaurgarh in 1303), and that his son Kanh Kunwar, married the Raja's daughter and succeeded to his dominions.72 He is reputed to have granted the township of Mahaban to his priests, who were Sanadhya brahmins of the Parashar clan. Their descendants still live in Mahaban and are referred to as 'Chaudhari'. The fort is said to have been recovered for Alauddin by Sayyid Yahya of Mashhad, who, with a party of soldiers, managed to gain entry by disguising themselves as Hindu ladies wishing to visit the shrines of Shyam Lala and Rohini (viz. the Assi Khambha). Sayyid Yahya, whose tomb lies beneath a mm tree near the Nand Bhavan temple, was granted a third of the town by Alauddin. From this time onwards Mahaban, Mathura, and the surrounding district remained under the firm control of the Delhi Sultanate. The Muslim conquest resulted in the destruction of all Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu temples and monuments in and around Mathura. Buddhism, already in decline, never revived, and for the next four hundred years the Jains and Hindus were unable to erect any temples that were not sooner or later demolished. Many of the sites that had been places of religious importance were abandoned and gradually 68 Buhler, EI vol.1, pp.287-93. 69 The temple is now called Nand Bhavan. An inscription found at Mahaban, dated AD 1150, refers to Ajaypal as a king of the Yadava lineage, cf. Cunningham, ASI XX pp.vi, 6, 46. 70 A list of the Yadava rulers of Bayana and Karauli, as recorded in bardic chronicles, is given by Cunningham, ibid. pp.5-8. 71 Ferishta, vol.1 pp. 178-80. 72 Growse, pp.273-4. 123

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00139.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:38] sank beneath the earth. But some of them were not forgotten, owing to the persistence of oral tradition, the refashioning of a temple into a mosque, or the presence of humble shrines, some of which housed sculptural fragments of earlier buildings. Several of them have survived as places of significance in the modern pilgrimage circuit. 9 The location of ancient Mathura As noted above, there were many monastic settlements in and around Mathura. Some of the mounds in the area, apparently of natural formation, were chosen as the site of a settlement, fortification, monastery, or temple. The extensive area of broken ground and earthworks referred as the dhidkot, lying north-west of the modern town between the Delhi-Agra ring road and the road to Vrindaban, probably delineates the limits of the old town, or at least the fortified part of it in which some of the most important buildings stood. Growse suggests that the dhidkot may refer literally to the 'dust heaps' comprised of the refuse that accumulates outside a city, but he considered that some of the mounds are clearly of natural formation and indicate the old course of the Yamuna or one of its tributaries, while others are the remains of the walls of the ancient city.73 Tavernier, who visited Mathura in 1650, records that the Hindus had abandoned their previous veneration for the temple that stood on the Katra site because the Yamuna, 'which used to pass close to it, has changed its course, and now flows half a league away'. He is probably reporting an ancient tradition rather than a relatively recent one, for it is unlikely that the Yamuna ever flowed near the temple in historic times.74 Cunningham has suggested that the deep channel under the walls of the Katra was once the bed of the Yamuna, or a branch of it, that left its present course near Jai Singh Pura and rejoined it south of the modern city.75 10 Mounds outside the modern circumambulation of Mathura Within three kilometres south-west of the dhidkot lies a group of twelve mounds, called Chaubara, that were uncovered when the road to Sonkh was laid through them. Among the finds was a Buddhist stiipa reliquary and an inscription on the pedestal of a seated Buddha image mentioning the locality of'Madhuravanaka', implying that this site was once thought to be within the limits of Madh73 Ibid., p. 122. 74 Tavernier, p. 187, and note added by Crooke, citing Growse, p. 129. 75 Cunningham, ASI XX pp.31-4, a suggestion which he believed to be more compatible with the accounts of Hsuan Tsang, Abu Rihan, and Rashiduddin. On p.31 he equates the Klisobora/Kaisobora of Arrian and Pliny with 'Kesopura', meaning the Katra site on which the temple of Keshava stood and which was then separated from the city of Mathura by the river. Growse, pp.278-9, identifies Klisobora/Kaisobora with Mahaban. See also Cunningham ibid., pp.44-5. 124

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00140.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:38] u(ra)vana.76 Beside the Agra road, in the Cantonment area south of the old town, lies the Jamalpur mound. Inscriptions found here when foundations for the Collector's court-house were laid tell us that it was the site of at least two Buddhist monasteries named Huvishka Vihara, after the Kushana ruler who succeeded to Kanishka, and Kunda-Suka Vihara.77 The latter produced finds dating from the first century BC, and beside the monastery named after Huvishka there stood a shrine of a Naga called Dadhikarna in which a slab was placed by two local actors.78 Recent excavation's at Govindnagar, west of the Katra and within the dhidkot, yielded sculptures and railing pillars of the first century that belonged to a Buddhist monastery called Viradatta Vihara.79 The three Chaurasi mounds further west produced remains of Buddhist door jambs and related fragments.80 11 The Katra For Hindu pilgrims the most important site in Mathura is the Katra ('market place'), now referred to as Krishna Janmasthan ('the birthplace of Krishna'). Excavations here have produced pottery and terracotta from the sixth century BC, evidence of a large Buddhist complex, including a monastery called Yasha Vihara that flourished in the Gupta period, as well as some Jain sculpture from about the same time.81 Cunningham thought that the Buddhists were forcibly expelled from the site and that their buildings were overthrown to furnish materials for a Hindu temple.82 It is possible that the Bhagavatas had a temple here as early as the first century, and there are some inscriptions from the latter half of the eighth century that record some Rashtrakuta contributions to the development of the site.83 The Hindu temple here must have been the original one dedicated to Keshava that was sacked by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1017. A temple built to replace it in 1150 was destroyed by Sikandar Lodi, and another built in the early seventeenth century was demolished on the orders of Aurangzeb and replaced by the mosque that now stands on the site.84 76 Cunningham, ASI III pp.13 & 16-18, EI VIII pp.181-2. 77 Cunningham, ASI I pp.238-9, referring to it as the 'Jail Mound'. 78 Buhler in EI I, pp.380 ffi, Vogel, ASIAR 1908-9 pp. 159-60, Ludcrs (cd. Jancrt) Fleet, pp.262-4 (inscription recording gift of a statue in AD 454-5). 79 R. C. Sharma 1984, ch.5. 80 Ibid., p.65, Cunningham, ASI III pp.18-19. 81 Cunningham, ASI I pp.235-8, III pp. 13-16, Luders (ed. Jancrt), pp.29-30, Vogel 1910, p.7 & ASIAR 1911-12 pp.131-3, Fleet, pp.573-4 (inscriptions of AD 359, 224, and 549-50 respectively), R. C. Sharma 1984, pp.82-3, Agrawala VS 1993, p.9 (Jain find, MM no.268). 82 Cunningham, ASI I p.237. 83 See above n.47, Vajpcyi 1954, p. 129, and Fleet, pp.25-8 with reference to an inscription from the reign of Chandragupta II. 84 Cunningham, ASI I pp.235-6 & pl.XL (ground plan). Sec below .1 & 5.24 125

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00141.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:38] 12 Finds at other places along the circumambulation of Mathura Near the Katra site is a temple dedicated to Shiva as Bhuteshwar, 'the Lord of Ghosts', referred to in mdhdtmya texts as the guardian of Mathura. At the back of it is a mound in which have been discovered female terracotta figurines of the Maurya and Shunga periods, Buddhist railing pillars and an image of Kubera of the Kushana period, a Shunga period lintel showing celestial beings flanking a Shiva lihga, and an early medieval Durga.85 These finds suggest that after the decline of Buddhism it once again became a Hindu site dedicated to the goddess in her own right or in conjunction with Shiva, as it may have been before it was claimed by the Buddhists. South of Bhuteshwar lies the mound known as Kankali Tila, named after a ferocious form of the goddess, which was formerly the site of the main Jain stiipa in Mathura.86 Nearly all the finds here are Jain, the earliest belonging to the first century BC, the latest dated 1 177.87 An inscription in Lucknow Museum records the installation of an image at the Vodva stupci here in AD 157.88 This was probably the one that was referred to as having been 'founded by the gods' and was restored in AD 749.89 Recent excavations on the side of the mound facing the road have brought to light the remains of a Buddhist establishment and a brick-lined tank of the Kushana period.90 There are other sites of comparable antiquity along the circumambulatory route. The mound on which the temple of Mahavidya Devi stands has produced a Kushana pedestal with a depiction of Maitreya and a stone bowl of the Gupta period.91 Further north a Kushana door jamb and a standing figure of Brahma were found at Saraswatikund,92 and some Kushana fragments have been discovered at the Chamunda mound. Beside the Yamuna is a mound at Jai Singh Pura known as Ganesh or Vinayak Tila, from which some Buddhist fragments have been recovered.93 This, and another mound nearby called Anand Tila, were thought by Cunningham to have been the location of the Anand and Upali stiipa mentioned by Hsuan Tsang, Upali having been a Vinayaka or teacher of vinaya (rules of discipline).94 A nearby well was found to contain a Kushana image of Kubera, a fragment of a Yaksha, and later images of Vishnu, Surya, Shiva, and Krishna holding up Govardhan. At Gayatri Tila, a site that has recently come into 85 MM nos.52.3625, 55.3874, 49.3458. 86 V. A. Smith, Cunningham, ASI III pp. 19-21, Vogel 1910, pp.11, 27. 87 Agrawala 1952, p.26 (B.24). 88 Lucknow Museum no.J.20. 89 VTK p.19. 90 R. C. Sharma 1984, pp.60-2. 91 MM nos.49.3507 and 2599. 92 Vogel 1910, 1.40; MM no.D.20. 93 Growse, p. 135 94 Cunningam, ASI I pp.234-5. See also Vogel, ASIAR 1911-12 pp. 130-1. Cunningham's Anand Tila is presumably to be associated with a bathing place known in mdhcitmya texts as Anantatirtha. 126

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00142.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:38] prominence with the foundation of an institution called Gayatri Tapobhumi, were found Buddhist remains of the Kushana and Gupta periods.95 On a rise behind the radio station, at a place where the earthen defences met the river, stands the small temple of Gokarneshwar. The epithet, meaning 'cow-eared lord', is the name of a celebrated Shaiva place of pilgrimage on the west coast, but has here been applied to the image on account of shapes on either side of its head resembling ears. Rosenfield has no doubt that the image is a portrait statue of a Kushana prince and that the .'ears' represent a cloth flap hanging down from a high headdress in the shape of a rounded cone.96 Among Buddhist remains discovered at the site was a miniature stupa of the late Kushana period.97 Some small Kushana and early medieval finds have been unearthed at the nearby Ambarish Tila.98 Cunningham identifies this mound with the hill described by Hsuan Tsang as having a cave filled with spikes or tallies of bamboo deposited by converts of Upagupta, the foremost Buddhist teacher in Mathura who is said to have been Ashoka's guide when he visited the city.99 On the southern side of the modern town the circumambulatory route passes by a series of mounds, one of which is called Saptarishi Tila. In the area south of this mound a lion capital was discovered in the steps of an altar containing sculptures worshipped as the goddess of smallpox.100 It bears an inscription recording donations made in the first century BC by the chief queen of Rajuvula and some of her associates, and a grant of land by Shodasa to a complex called Guha Vihara, which comprised a stupa, monastery, and a relic of the Buddha. A female figure in blue schist thought to represent Hariti and to have been imported from Gandhara was excavated from the mound itself.101 Nearby, in the courtyard of a Hindu temple on Dhruv Tila, was found the base of a miniature stupa. A pillar found near the temple of Rangeshwar bears a carving of a man with matted hair holding a club and has an inscription dated AD 380, in the reign of Chandragupta II. It records the installation in a 'teacher's shrine' (gurvayatana) of two Shiva lihga called Upamiteshwara and Kapileshwara, named after two gurus that they were presumably intended to commemorate.102 The club-bearing figure suggests that this was an establishment of the Pashupata followers of Lakulisha, and the two teachers, Upamita and Kapila, appear to have belonged to a line that 95 MM nos. 1343, 1345-6, 1348. 96 Rosenfield, pp.142-3, 148-9, figs. 11 & 1 la, also illustrated in Growse, 3rd edn. p.133, and discussed and illustrated in Marshall, p.23 & pl.XVIIIa. 97 Agrawala 1951-2, no. 1605. 98 Mathur & Zaheer, nos.4081, 4032, 4034. 99 Cunningham, ASI XVII pp. 110-12, suggesting Kans Kila as the location of Upagupta's monastery. For Hsuan Tsang cf. Watters, vol.1 pp.306-8. 100 F. W. Thomas in EI IX 1907-8, pp. 135-47, and Konow, pp.30-49, referring to an account given of its discovery by Bhagwan Lai Indraji in JRAS 1894, pp.543-4. It is now in the British Museum. 101 MM no.F.42. It has been suggested that it represents the queen mentioned in the lion capital inscription, cf. R. C. Sharma 1984, pp.66-7. The name suggests that the place may have been the location of the cave mentioned by Hsuan Tsang. 102 MM no. 1931, D. R. Bhandarkar in EI XXI pt.I 1931, pp.1-9, Agrawala 1952, pp. 145-6. 127

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00143.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:39] was established in Mathura by Kushika, a pupil of Lakuli. Other finds from Mathura are the remains of a Buddhist caitya from the time of Kanishka, found at Kans Khar, and a variety of small images and other fragments from the Saptasamudri well in the Museum compound. Various fragments have been found in a mound near the temple of Gatashrama, including a tenth-century figure of Vishnu in meditation and a Gupta period figure of Krishna lifting up Govardhan,103 which imply that there was once a Vaishnava temple here. There has been little opportunity of excavating other places in the built-up area of the modern town. 13 Sites in the vicinity of Maholi South-west of Mathura are the sites of Maholi, Pali Khera, and Naroli, lying within a couple of kilometres of each other. They have produced some remarkable 'bacchanalian' sculptures, belonging to one or more Buddhist monuments, that show a pot-bellied figure holding a cup and accompanied by attendants.104 Another nearby site is Giridharpur, where, as at Pali Khera, a variety of pieces of Buddhist and brahminical sculpture have been discovered that belong to the Kushana and Gupta periods. Maholi is the only one of these sites that is included in the circumambulation of Braj. On the east side of the village is a copse or grove, regarded as a remnant of the original Madhuvana, in which a modern Ramanandi temple stands on a mound called Dhruv Tila. The discovery here of Kushana and Gupta period remains, including an inscription, a colossal Bodhisattva image, and a stone canopy implying the existence of a flat-topped shrine, indicates that it was once the location of an important establishment of Pravarika monks and that the name of the monastery on the mound was Khanda Vihara.105 Archaeological evidence shows that Hinduism outlived and probably supplanted Buddhism at this site. Among Hindu finds are a Kushana lihga two metres in height and Shaiva and Vaishnava images of the Gupta period. The lower part of an early medieval image of Shiva and Parvati was recovered from the village.106 14 Sites west and north-west of Maholi There have been several finds at Satoha, five kilometres west of Mathura on the road to Govardhan and a regular halt on the pilgrimage circuit, and at the nearby village of Ganeshra, where there is a Gandharvakund mentioned in some 103 MM nos.D.37-42 & D.47 (see plate 10). The Krishna image might belong to the late Gupta period, but Agrawala, 1949 p.l 19. assigns it to the 7th century. 104 Cunningham, ASI XX pp.47-8. Agrawala 1951, pp.92-7. 105 Agrawala 1948, nos.1316, 2798-9. The siting of the Khanda Vihara here was disputed by Waddington, who (if she is indeed referring to the mound rather than some other site at Maholi) thinks that the place was once a stone-breakers yard to which pieces were brought from other sites in and around Mathura to be broken up into smaller stones. 106 MM nos.652 (Kushana lihga) and 496 (Shiva-Parvati). 128

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00144.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:39] itineraries. Over a hundred small pieces of sculpture were recovered from the two ancient tanks at these villages, all of them brahminical except for a few Buddhist pieces of the Kushana period.107 They include four statuettes of Vishnu, three of them Kushana and the other from the Gupta period, implying that there was at least one Vishnu temple in the vicinity. A fragment of a Buddhist doorjamb was also found at Satoha, and finds from Ganeshra, including a life-size Bodhisattva image, a stone parasol two metres in diameter, an inscription, and inscribed bricks, indicate that there was a stupa complex here dating from the second century BC.108 West of these villages lies Mora, the site of a temple dedicated to the five Vrishni heroes, and Jikhangaon where an early Kushana lintel fragment was discovered.109 There have also been finds at other villages in the neighbourhood, but they are places with little or no importance for the modern pilgrimage circuit. North-west of Ganeshra, near the village of Ral, is the mound at Bhadar (or Bhadal), which was a Buddhist site in the Kushana period and had a tank and garden dedicated to a Naga deity.110 Architectural fragments of the Kushana period were also found at Maghera, a village midway between Ral and Jait.111 Five kilometres north-west of Mathura, beside the road to Delhi, is the village of Kota (referred to as Kutakor Katakban) where pillars of a Buddhist building, presumably taken from the nearby mound, were found to have been incorporated into the masonry causeway of a large tank on the north-east side of the village.112 Further along the road lies Chaumuhan, where there appears to have been a medieval Vaishnava temple.113 The name of the village, which means Tour faces', derives from a broken capital with adorsed lions that was taken as representing the four faces of Brahma but, together with a railing pillar discovered here, probably belonged to a Buddhist establishment.114 To the north east, at Sei, an image of Vishnu lying on Shesha was discovered.115 15 Finds in and around Vrindaban There may have been a Buddhist establishment at Vrindaban in the Kushana period. The largest finds are a frieze carved with a stupa and two railing pillars, each with a sdlabhahjika figure, but since both of them have a tilak carved on their 107 Agrawala 1951-2, IX pp.119-28. 108 P. 14 (doorjamb), A.5 (Bodhisattva, cf. Vogel 1910, p.39). For Ganeshra finds cf. Ludcrs (cd. Jancrt), pp.156 ff. and in EI XXIV 1937-38 p.206, Vogel, ASIAR 1911-12 pp. 128 ff., Fiihrer, p. 100, Agrawala 1952, p.43, 1951 -2 (F. 10), Mathur & Zaheer 4258, s.no.352, MM cat. 1963, p. 153. 109 Agrawala 1951-2, p. 129. For Mora inscription sec above 110 A.71, P. 16-17, 12.211 (Bhuminaga), cf. Ludcrs (cd. Jancrt) 111 Agrawala 1951 -2, nos. 1539-42. 112 Cunningham. ASI XX pp.49-52, Fiihrer, p. 102. 113 Agrawala 1951-2, nos. 1358, 2080. 114 Cunningham, ASI XX p.52. Sec also Growsc, p.373, who thought it was the pedestal of a Jain statue or column. 115 MM no.1206, cf. Agrawala 1949, p. 123 129

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00145.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:39] foreheads, they may have been brought from Mathura in order to adorn a much later Vaishnava establishment.116 Two more Kushana pieces, a female figure and a Buddhist doorjamb, were found at the hamlet near Akrur Ghat and at Gopalgarh, near the temple of Garud Govind.117 The various statuettes and fragments of Hindu deities found at Vrindaban are too small to attest the existence of a medieval temple, though on the basis of some Gupta finds from Dwadashaditya Tila, the mound on which the temple of Madanmohan stands, it could be argued that there was an older temple on the site, probably dedicated to the sun.118 16 Finds in the vicinity of Govardhan Finds at Aring, where the circumambulatory route rejoins the Mathura-Govardhan road, suggest that there might have been Hindu and Jain shrines there in the post-Gupta period.119 A Kushana period figure of a female worshipper that once belonged to a Rosika Vihara at 'Alika' may also have come from Aring.120 At Narad Kund, a tank beside the path leading round the Govardhan hill, an early medieval image of Agni and attendants was discovered. The most important finds in the immediate vicinity of the hill are an image and an inscription attesting the existence of a Buddhist monastery at Anyor in the early Kushana period.121 An assortment of sculptural fragments lying around the temple of Manasi Devi indicates that there was at least one Hindu temple at Govardhan during the medieval period, perhaps a predecessor of the one built in the sixteenth century that was dedicated to Haridev. Jatipura is given as the provenance of a small medieval fragment in grey sandstone showing Krishna holding up Govardhan, but it was purchased at Mathura along with other miscellaneous pieces and could have come from anywhere in the district.122 The existence of a Vaishnava shrine at Gantholi in the medieval period is indicated by the discovery there of an image of Vishnu over a metre high standing on a lotus with attendant figures.123 17 Finds in the north-western part of Mathura District Kushana fragments discovered at Barsana indicate the existence of some kind of building there, but most of the finds are too small to be of much significance, apart 116 MM nos.40.2887-8 (found while digging the foundations for the Basanti Bai Dharmshala in 1941). See Vajpeyi in Vmddvanahk, pp. 173-4, Agrawala 1951-2, no.l 19, and R. C. Sharma 1984, p.68. 117 Agrawala 1951-2, no.463. 118 MM nos.3375-80. 119 MM nos.462, 1292, 1529. 120 Liiders (ed. Janert) R. C. Sharma 1984, p.57 no.32. The piece is now in the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay. 121 A.2, A.32, Cunningham, ASI XX p.49, Luders (ed. Janert) -5. 122 Indian Museum, Calcutta, no.N.S.3723. Sec D. Brainerd Spooner, ASIAR 1921-22 pl.XXXVIe, pp. 103-4. 123 MM no.D.21. 130

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00146.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:39] from an early Jain Tirthankara.124 Sculptures of lions and an adjacent pile of architectural fragments, as well as sculpture embedded in the walls of a nearby Sitala shrine, indicate that a fairly ornate temple once stood at Nandgaon in the vicinity of Yashodakund. Further north, at the village of Dahgaon, is a large Devi sculpture that must have been the central image in a medieval shrine (see plate 24). Near the Delhi road, between Chhata and Kosi, lies the village of Tumola, where a statue over two metres high was discovered that appears to represent a standing Buddha.125 The most notable finds at Kosi are a Kubera image of the Kushana period and a medieval image of Parshwanatha ,126 Further west, at Shergarh, a medieval image of Durga slaying the buffalo demon was found. Growse noted that the walls of the fort there incorporated stones from an earlier Hindu or possibly Buddhist structure.127 18 Finds at Kaman An inscription records the erection here of an image of the Buddha during the Kushana period and a monastery called Mihira Vihara.128 Kaman was also the centre of a school of Jain teachers.129 A medieval image of Rishabhanatha stands against the wall of a Jain temple on the extensive mound on the north side of the town. Kaman abounds in fragments of medieval sculpture, though they have been disappearing rapidly over the past few years. Some examples from Kaman are to be seen in the Bharatpur Museum.130 At one time temples here of Shiva and Vishnu (i.e. the Chaurasi Khambha) were placed in charge of Acharyas of the Pashupata sect. The most famous temple in the medieval period was the one dedicated to Shiva under the name of Kamyakeshwara, which is mentioned in endowments dated from 787 to 906.131 The most notable monument at Kaman is the structure known as Chaurasi Khambha. It is a Hindu temple that has been dismantled and refashioned into a mosque consisting of a cloistered square with rows of pillars forming three aisles on three sides, a raised terrace with a double row of pillars on the north side, and a flight of steps and small balcony in the north-west corner.132 There are over two hundred columns carved with vegetal motifs, grotesque faces, and mutilated figures of deities. Muslim additions are a pulpit and an Arabic inscription around the entrance mentioning Iletmish (AD 1211-1236), successor to Qutubuddin. A Sanskrit inscription, perhaps as old as the eighth century, was found on a pillar built into the inner face of the eastern wall, close to a flight of steps leading up to a raised 124 MM no.1504. For other finds cf. Agrawala 1951-2, nos. 266, 1273. 125 Cunningham, ASI XX pp.53-4. 126 MM nos. 1505-6. 127 Growse, pp.171, 378. 128 Buhler in EI II 1894, p.212. 129 K. C. Jain, p.269. 130 The most notable are figures of Shiva and Parvati (7th/8th cent., 213/64) and Varaha (303/67). 131 K. C. Jain, pp.268-9. 132 Cunningham XX, pp.54 ff., ground plan pi.XI. See also K. C. Jain pp.267-8. 131

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00147.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:39] gallery and the roof above the entrance gateway.133 It gives the genealogy of the Shurasena dynasty extending over seven kings, presumably local rulers at Kaman from about AD 600, and records the construction of a Vishnu temple by a queen called Vachchika. Epigraphical evidence indicates that they had links with the Yadavas of Bayana and must have held the fort or citadel that stood on the extensive area of high ground on the north-west side of the town centre, an area now strewn with rubble. They appear to have been feudatories of the Pratihara ruler Bhoja, and one of them, named Lakshminivasa, is recorded as having ruled here in AD 1032.134 19 Finds east of the Yamuna The mound at Raya appears from archaeological evidence to have been a fairly large settlement from pre-Mauryan through to Gupta times, though nowadays the village is of no special importance. A short distance from Mat, on the eastern side of the road to Raya, is a site known as Tokri Tila, once the location of a hall or gallery (devcikula) housing statues of the Kushana royal family, with a tank and garden nearby.135 It appears to have been an isolated site, with no local function, that served as a dynastic memorial. The lower half of one of the statues bears an inscription referring to a tank that presumably lay where the upper half of the same statue (of Vima Kadphises) was being worshipped as 'Baran' (i.e. Varuna, according to Vogel), and where some Naga images were also found. An inscription records that the site was restored by Huvishka, but evidence suggests that it was vandalized before the Hunas arrived in the fifth century. At the village of Mahaban is series of mounds that are the remains of a fortified settlement. Al-Utbi refers to the place as Mahaban, which implies that it has been associated with the Mahavana of Krishna mythology for at least the last nine hundred years. The Assi Khambha temple here, believed to be the residence of Nanda at the time Krishna and Balarama were born, consists of remnants of a medieval temple that were rearranged to form a mosque, though it has since been reclaimed by Hindus.136 The discovery of Kushana pieces at the site indicates that it was previously a Buddhist establishment.137 The various Hindu sculptures found in and around Mahaban presumably derive from the Assi Khambha temple or others constructed in the period when it was a stronghold of local Hindu rulers. At Baldeo, where a Naga image of the Kushana period is still in worship as Balarama, the head of a colossal Buddha and a headless image of Surya from the Gupta period have been discovered.138 The presence of a Jain temple somewhere in 133 See Bhagwanlal Indraji, and Cunningham, ASI XX pp.58-60, who gives a photograph and transcription. 134 K. C. Jain, p.267. 135 Luders (ed. Janert), p.144, Vogel, ASIAR 1911-12 pp.120-6 (incl. plan and illustrations), Rosenfield, pp. 140-2. 136 For description and illustrations see Cunningham, ASI XX pp.42-6, pl.VII-X. 137 Agrawala 1951-2, nos.258 and 2663. See also Growse, p.277. 138 MM no. 1514 (Buddha). 132

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00148.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:40] the vicinity is indicated by the discovery of a medieval image of Parshwanatha at Bandi and another Tirthankara at Mahaban.139 At Rawal two Kharoshthi inscriptions were found, one of them (on a small stone showing a decorated elephant) referring to a collar-bone relic.140 The piece could easily have been brought from elsewhere, but it may indicate the presence of a stupci at the mound where it was discovered. 139 MM nos.251, 259. 140 Konow, pp.49-50.

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00149.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:40] 5 Braj since the thirteenth century 1 Braj under the Delhi Sultanate (1194-1526) The Assi Khambha at Mahaban and the Chaurasi Khambha at Kaman are the only pre-Mughal Hindu monuments still standing, but only by virtue of their having been refashioned into mosques. Everything else that was built by Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus was either abandoned and left to collapse into ruins, or was destroyed by Muslim iconoclasts. The blame for this destruction cannot be laid wholly at the feet of one particular ruler. We have already noted divergent accounts of the damage inflicted upon Mathura by Mahmud of Ghazni in the eleventh century ( .8). The temple that was rebuilt on the Katra site might have been destroyed by the forces of Qutubuddin, though Firuz Tughlaq (1352-88) is also said to have attacked it, after which it was repaired and survived until the reign of Sikandar Lodi (1488-1517).1 The oldest attestation of a Muslim building in Mathura is an inscription found near Swami Ghat recording the construction of a mosque in about 1300 by Ulagh Khan, who had been deputed by Alauddin Khilji for the conquest of Gujarat.2 It had been placed above the entrance to one of the tombs in an enclosure containing the grave of Makhdum Shah Wilayat, but must have come from the old wall-mosque outside the enclosure that was erected on a former Hindu site beside the river. Sikandar Lodi seems to have been responsible for the destruction of temples that had been recently built or had survived previous attacks. Ferishta records that he was a staunch Muslim who made a point of destroying all heathen temples, and Abdullah reports that idols from the temples were given to butchers to be used as stones for weighing meat.3 This implies that any finds described as 'medieval' could have belonged to temples that were in use any time between the Gupta period and fifteenth century. Somehow Hinduism and Jainism managed to survive in 1 P. Mital 1966, pt.II p.146. 2 Cf. Hasan. 3 Fcrishta, vol.1 p.586. His destruction of temples is also recorded by Abdullah in Tdnkh-i-Daucfi (tr. Elliot & Dowson, vol.4 p.447). Halim, pp.117 ff., gives further details of his oppression of Hinduism. 134

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00150.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:40] Mathura, presumably practised with discretion and lack of ostentation, for fear of attracting the attention of zealous Muslims. Jinaprabha Surfs account of Mathura implies that there was enough to be seen in the early fourteenth century to make Mathura a worthwhile destination for Jain pilgrims. At Sahar the remains of a Jain temple have been discovered with inscriptions dated 1371-2.4 The imposition of a tax on pilgrims is itself evidence that pilgrimages were undertaken and tolerated by the authorities, presumably because they were a source of revenue. It seems that when Father Monserrate visited Mathura, in the period 1580-82, one of the important medieval temples, apparently the one dedicated to Keshavdev, was still in use, or had at least been restored enough for it to serve as a place of worship.5 Sikandar Lodi, besides causing mosques to be built opposite the ghats at Mathura, ordered that no Hindus should be allowed to bathe in the Yamuna and prohibited the shaving of beards and heads, thus preventing visiting pilgrims from following the customary rites.6 The memory of this ban is preserved in an absurd story relating either to Vallabha or Keshav Kashmiri Bhatt, a leader of the Nimbark Sampraday. In the Vallabhite version7 the Muslim authorities are said to have erected a contraption on Vishram Ghat that deprived any Hindu who bathed there of his cotT{ small pigtail at the back of the head) and caused a beard to sprout on his chin. Vallabha wrote an incantation or drew some kind of magic diagram on a piece of paper and gave it to two of his followers, telling them to hang it above one of the main gates of Delhi. The result was that any Muslim who passed under the gate lost his beard and gained a pigtail. Sikandar Lodi was thwarted and duly ordered the removal of the islamizing device at Vishram Ghat. In the other version Keshav Kashmiri Bhatt defeats a Qazi who erected a contraption that caused Hindus who bathed in the Yamuna to be circumcised.8 The emphasis given to the ghats of Mathura in the older version of the Mathuramahatmya, and the fact that many of them have names associated with Shiva and Surya, implies that there was a community of brahmins of an eclectic religious orientation who catered for those who came to perform rites on the banks of the Yamuna. Apart from wandering ascetics, the pilgrims must have been householders who made the journey alone or in small groups. Not only did political circumstances discourage large-scale pilgrimage, the kind of devotion that enjoined public and communal worship and focussed on the childhood and amorous adventures of Krishna was not yet popular in this part of India. The names of some Vaishnava deities are given in the older verses of the Mathuramahatmya, but it is doubtful whether there were any sizeable temples apart from the one dedicated to Keshavdev on the Katra site. The epithets suggest that the deities 4 Agrawala 1951 -2, R. 1 -29, described also by Growse, pp.374-6, referring to inscriptions dated 1072, and Vogel 1910, who took them to be Hindu. 5 For Monserrate's remarks about Mathura see below 6 Ferishta, ibid., and Abdullah, ibid. Some other sources are cited by Tandan, pp.541-2. 7 SPV, pp.10-11. Other versions are found in CBC (story relating to Vishram Ghat, pp. 10-14) and Yadunath's Vallabhcidigvijaya. 8 Nabhadas, chappay 75, and Priyadas, kcivitt 337. 135

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00151.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:40] worshipped were of the four-armed Vishnu/Vasudeva type, or of Vishnu lying on the serpent Shesha, rather than the two-armed Krishna images that were introduced later. The sacred places mentioned are mainly those where pilgrims should bathe. The paucity of sites associated with Krishna's youth and the inclusion of non-Vaishnava deities and places of worship indicate that the nature of pilgrimage to Mathura was quite different from what it later became. Pilgrims may have been attracted to the town because it was famous as the birthplace of Krishna, was included in the standard list of seven liberation-giving cities, and afforded the opportunity of bathing in the Yamuna and other sacred waters. There is no evidence of their having visited other places outside the town apart from the hill of Govardhan. Folk tradition, and the fact that old icons still venerated were worshipped as Yakshas, Balarama, Shiva, Bhairava, Hanuman, or a manifestation of the goddess, imply that the local peasants did not yet regard Krishna as a particularly important deity and had little interest in orthodox brahminical worship of Vasudeva or Vishnu. It was probably wandering ascetics, shamanistic adepts, priests of questionable brahminical status, and Jogis more or less officially connected with the Nath Sampraday, who had more influence and contact with the settled rural people than the advocates of orthodox Vaishnavism. During the Sultanate period Mahaban served as the administrative centre of the district and was the headquarters of a military commander appointed from Delhi. In 1427 it was attacked by Malik Muqbil, a supporter of the rebel officer Muhammad Khan.9 The city of Agra was founded towards the end of the fifteenth century and became a centre of increasing political and cultural importance after Sikander Lodi had made it into an occasional seat of government.10 Previously, from the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Hindu court at Gwalior was the main, if not the only court where literature in the Braj dialect was cultivated.11 During the reign of Man Singh Tomar (1486-1518) the dhrupcid style of singing had evolved there and lyrics on Krishna themes were composed by the poets Gopal, his successor Baiju 'Bawra', and Bakhshu.12 Man Singh was succeeded by his son Vikramjit, but Sikandar captured Gwalior and made him governor of Shamshabad, where he died in 1526. 2 The arrival of a new kind of Krishna worship Ironically, it was during the reign of Sikandar Lodi, a staunch oppressor of Hinduism, that propagators of the emotional variety of devotion to Krishna came in search of the sacred places of Braj. Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Chaitanya are thought to have inspired the reclamation of Braj, but there are conflicting accounts of the period and sequence in which they and their followers arrived on the scene. Sectarian writers claim that the leaders of their particular Sampraday were the main 9 E. B. Joshi, p.55, citing Tdrikh-i-Mubarak Shahi. 10 Halim, pp.83-4. 11 McGregor 1984, pp.35-6. The Tomars were also generous patrons of Jainism, cf. A. K. Chatterjee, vol.2 pp. 176-8. 12 McGregor 1984 p. 119. 136

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00152.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:41] instigators of the profound changes that took place in the course of the sixteenth century. This sort of sectarian rivalry began to colour Hindu histories by the end of the sixteenth century. Before then the differences between the Sampradays active in Braj do not seem to have been as significant, and families of hereditary Goswamis had not yet settled in temples and begun to compete for followers. Nimbarka, founder of one of the four classic Vaishnava Sampradays, is said to have settled first at Dhruv Tila in Mathura, and later at Nimgaon, near Govardhan. According to tradition his pupil Shrinivas lived at Radhakund, and at least two of the twelve Acharyas who came between Nimbarka and Keshav Kashmiri Bhatt were Chaturvedi brahmins of Mathura. Nimbarka probably flourished in the thirteenth century, but there is no contemporary or external evidence to support the claim that he ever came to Braj or even propagated the kind of devotion that is now practised by his followers, even if he did provide a theological basis for it.13 It does, however, seem likely that there was a succession of teachers in Mathura before the sixteenth century, since there are temples traditionally associated with the Nimbark Sampraday at several old sites in and around the town, such as the Dhruv, Narad, Saptarishi, Durvasa, and Satoha mounds. The type of devotion now practised in the Sampraday appears to have developed in a climate of mutual influence between saints and teachers who settled in Braj after the fall of the Delhi Sultanate. Keshav Kashmiri Bhatt is counted as the thirty-third Acharya of the Sampraday and, like Nimbarka, was a Tailang brahmin from Andhra Pradesh. Although sectarian biographies place him earlier, it seems unlikely that he was in Braj much before the end of Sikandar Lodi's reign, which would make him a somewhat older contemporary of Vallabha and Chaitanya.14 He is believed to have earned the epithet 'Kashmiri' as a result of a long period of residence in Kashmir, but he is also said to have lived at Dhruv Tila in Mathura and his samcidhi stands on the nearby Narad Tila. All sources acknowledge the role played by a saint named Madhavendra Puri in the establishment of a Krishna image at Govardhan, but followers of Vallabha and Chaitanya give conflicting accounts of what happened. The dates for the lifetime of Madhavendra Puri are roughly 1420-90.15 Kavikarnapura, writing some time after 1576, says that he belonged to the tradition of Madhva and was the guru of Ishwara Puri, the guru of Chaitanya.16 The link with Madhva was probably fabricated in order to bring Chaitanya and his followers into the tradition of one of the four classic Sampradays. It is more likely that Ishwara and Madhavendra Puri were 13 For the traditional account of Nimbarka and the teachcrs who succeeded him, as well as general information about the sect, see Brajvallabhsharan (ed.) 1972, P. Mital 1968, pp. 153-5, 186 ff., 343 ff., and N. Sharma, pt. 1. Vmdcivancihk, pp. 185-8, refers to a work entitled Svadharmddhvabodha (also mentioned by N. Sharma, pp. 17-18), that purports to describe Nimbarka's ashram near Vrindaban, and Nimbdrkavikrdnti, attributed to Audumbaracharya, which says that he lived with his parents in the vicinity of Vrindaban. 14 Sec N. Sharma, pp.30-6, for the sectarian biography and P. Mital 1968. pp. 191-7, for refutation of sectarian claims that he lived in the 14th century. 15 Hardy 1974, p.40. 16 G a u dag an oddesadip ik a, cited by De, p. 14. 137

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00153.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:41] followers of a movement within monistic Vedanta, most likely one associated with the school of Shankara based at Shringeri in Kerala, that gave greater emphasis to the path of devotion and drew inspiration from the Bhagavatapurdna.17 An earlier representative of this trend was Shridhara Swami (c. 1350-1450), a resident of Varanasi and the author of a commentary on the Bhagavatapurana. Shridhara's monistic interpretation of this text was apparently accepted by a class of ascetics who influenced the development of Vaishnavism in Bengal, and it was highly esteemed by Chaitanya and his circle.18 Some of the main Gaudiya writers of the sixteenth century (Sanatan Goswami, Vrindabandas, Krishnadas Kaviraj, and Kavikarnapura) acknowledge Madhavendra Puri as the progenitor of Vaishnavism in Bengal. He is said to have initiated the scholar Adwaitacharya, an older contemporary and family friend of Chaitanya, who became the leader of a branch of his followers and whose name implies that he was educated in a monistic theological tradition.19 Krishnadas Kaviraj says that when Madhavendra Puri visited Govardhan he walked round the hill and bathed in Govind Kund, where he was approached by a boy who brought him some milk. That night the same boy appeared to Madhavendra Puri in a dream and pointed out the thicket where he lived. He told him that his name was Gopal, the lord of Braj, and that he had been concealed for fear of attacks by Muslims. The next day Madhavendra Puri told some local villagers to extricate the image of Gopal from the thicket that had been revealed to him, where it was found covered with earth and grass. Following the instructions he had been given, Madhavendra Puri arranged for a temple to be built on the hill and had the image washed with water from Govind Kund. He tended the image, bathed and oiled it, and fed it with milk and sweets. The local people offered it an Annakut feast and celebrated the occasion with great rejoicing. The deity 'consumed' the food that was offered and distributed it to all present as prasdd, yet the heaps of food did not seem to diminish in size. Villagers from a wide area came with their offerings, and wealthy residents of Mathura made donations to the temple. Madhavendra Puri appointed some Bengali brahmins to help in the worship. After serving the image for two years he was commanded to go to Nilachal in search of cooling sandalwood from the famed Malaya mountain.20 Tradition has it that while at Govardhan he resided at the foot of the hill and the settlement that grew up there became known as Gopalpur or Jatipura, the latter name deriving from his having been an ascetic (yati). Followers of Vallabha call the deity Shrinathji and say that the epithet yati refers to Giridhar, the eldest grandson of Vallabha. The rival version accepts the tradition that Madhavendra Puri was a leader of Madhva's school and influenced Chaitanya and the development of Vaishnavism in Bengal, but also claims that he taught the young Vallabha while he was at Varanasi.21 The prolonged contact between the two saints implied in this account is 17 Hardy 1974, pp.31-41. 18 Hardy 1974, pp.26-33 and De, pp.17 ff. 19 De, pp. 16-17, 19, 23, 25, 30, 32. 20 CC 2.4. See Bagchi for a fuller account of the Gaudiya tradition. 21 SPV, pp.26-7. See Vaudeville 1980 (partial tr. of SPV), p.31 n.39 & n.44, p.43 n.10. A more distorted account in which Madhavendra Puri comes into contact with Vallabha's son Vitthalnath is given in 252V, vdrtd 251, pp.360-1. 138

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00154.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:41] highly improbable, since the year of Vallabha's birth is unanimously accepted as 1479. When asked what he would like to receive as a fee for educating Vallabha, Madhavendra Puri had a premonition that Vallabha would institute the worship of Shrinathji and so asked if he could have the honour of helping to serve the image. The Pushtimarg account of the manifestation of Shrinathji relates specifically to its main deity, an image carved in bold relief depicting Krishna standing in the mouth of a cave with his left arm raised in order to hold up Govardhan. Whether this was the original image of 'Gopal' that was served by Madhavendra Puri is a matter of doubt. Shrinathji is carved in a black kind of stone, possibly the same as that used for the type of Vishnu images called Nilamadhava that were made in eastern India during the medieval period. Some of the other main deities of the Pushtimarg appear to be made from the same type of stone, and so it remains uncertain whether the image of Shrinathji is the original one installed by Madhavendra Puri, and perhaps brought by him from the east, or a replacement made later when followers of Vallabha wrested control of the temple from the Bengali priests. The Pushtimarg account of the emergence of Shrinathji contains intriguing details that throw light on the way in which worship of the Govardhan hill was adapted by devotees of Krishna. While visitors from outside were attracted to Govardhan because of its association with Krishna, the local people appear to have regarded it in a different light. We are told that the left arm of the image first appeared above the ground on top of the hill in the year 1409. Two days later, on Nag Panchami (the day when snakes are worshipped), a cow drew the attention of a local herdsman to the risen arm. He and some friends immediately began to worship it, assuming that it was a divine manifestation. They offered it milk, flowers, and sandal paste, evidently assuming that it was a Naga deity. The cult became popular among the local people and a fair was held annually on Nag Panchami. Welfare of cattle, good health, and the granting of children are specified as some of the benefits obtained by those who propitiated the 'arm' with milk. Sixty-nine years later, at the very moment that Vallabha was born, the image rose further out of the ground to reveal its 'lotus face' (or 'lotus mouth', mukhdravind). A cow descended from the herd formerly kept by Nanda began to wander up to the image and let its milk flow into its mouth. Eventually the cow's regular feeding of the image was noticed by its owners, Saddu Pande and his brother, who lived beneath the hill at the village of Anyor. Following Shrinathji's instructions, they arranged for the image to be supplied with milk until the arrival of Madhavendra Puri. While he was circumambulating the hill, Madhavendra Puri stopped to rest at Anyor and went with a group of people to see Shrinathji. He was delighted to behold the image and began to worship it. Although Shrinathji was happy to accept a garland and a decoration for his turban (candrikd) from Madhavendra Puri, he told him that he would only take solid food from the hand of Vallabha, and that in the meantime he would continue to accept only milk. As in the version told by followers of the Gaudiya Sampraday, this account also says that Madhavendra Puri was sent away to fetch sandalwood, but died before he was able to return to Govardhan. Pushtimarg history acknowledges Madhavendra Puri's role in the development of the worship of Shrinathji, and implies that it began as a transformation of a folk cult in which the mountain and snakes were worshipped in 139

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00155.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:41] connection with the welfare of cattle and general prosperity, but it reserves the institution of elaborate Vaishnava worship of the image for Vallabha himself. 3 Chaturanaga (Nagaji) Another shadowy figure mentioned in the Pushtimarg account of the discovery of Shrinathji is an ascetic named Chaturanaga, or simply Nagaji.22 He is, at least in retrospect, regarded as a local devotee of Krishna, but his original sectarian affiliation is uncertain. The legend says that he was the guru of an inhabitant of the village of Jamnauta (an uncle of the poet Kumbhandas), did penance in the forest of Tod, and never set foot on the sacred Govardhan hill. In order to reward him with a vision, Shrinathji caused himself to be mounted on a buffalo and brought to the forest by Saddu Pande and his companions. On another occasion the deity came to him and shared his lunch at Govind Kund, a tank at Anyor near which Nagaji's samadhi stands. A later Pushtimarg tradition claims that Vallabha met Chaturanaga at Kokilaban and describes him as a Nimbarki ascetic who was always accompanied by hundreds of Naga (naked) monks.23 The same source gives a version of a popular anecdote concerning him, also current in the Nimbark Sampraday, which tells how one day his long matted hair got caught up in the branches of a tree, but he remained on the spot in an attitude of penance until Krishna appeared and set him free.24 Another tradition is that he became known as braj didah ('the bridegroom of Braj') because of his consistency in circumambulating Braj. Nabhadas says that he used to wander around Braj bringing joy to the people, and Priyadas mentions his having made a daily circumambulation.25 It is said that he used to set out from Vrindaban each morning and return there in the evening to sleep at a temple of Atalbihari on Bihar Ghat.26 The present head of his lineage resides at the Bihariji temple in Bharatpur fort, where there is a panel representing Nagaji with his hair entangled in a tree. The deity, which is claimed to be the Atalbihari that was worshipped by Nagaji at Vrindaban, is looked upon as the guardian (kiledar) of Bharatpur fort, and in former times the Mahant was treated with ceremonial deference by the Maharajas of Bharatpur.27. Among followers of the Nimbark Sampraday he is referred to as Chaturchintamani Nagaji and is said to have been born at Paigaon, where a fair is held annually in his honour on Ashwin 1.7. He is said to have met Paramanandadev while doing penance in a thicket near Paigaon, and to have been initiated by him.28 If this is 22 SPV, pp.6, 16-17, 22. Vaudeville 1980, p.44 n. 17. assumes that he was a generation older than Madhavendra Puri. 23 CBC, story of the baithak at Kokilaban, pp.40-3. 24 Sec also VDA 7, in connection with the temple of Atalbihari, and S. S. Chakra in Vrnda vandiik, pp. 283-3. 25 Nabhadas, chappay 148. and Priyadas, kavitt 535. 26 VDA, ibid., where the temple is also referred to as Nagaji ki Kunj and is said to be the location of his samddhi. It also gives his pupillary succession. 27 Lushington, pp.285-6. 28 Brajvalhibhsharan in Vrnddvammk, p.227, S. S. Chakra, ibid., pp.282-3, N. Sharma, pp.47-9. 140

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00156.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:41] correct, it would mean that Nagaji lived later in the sixteenth century and could not have been present at Govardhan while Madhavendra Puri was there. It is quite possible that, because he was a popular local saint, the Pushtimarg sources back-dated him in order to give him a supplementary role in the development of the cult of Shrinathji. Mital, tending to compromise with the Pushtimarg tradition, suggests that there were two Nagajis who became confused, one a contemporary of Madhavendra Puri and another who was a later Nimbarki ascetic.29 4 Vallabha Sectarian history is unanimous in saying that Vallabha, a Tailang brahmin, was born in 1479 in the forest of Champa, near Raichur in Madhya Pradesh.30 His parents were returning to their home town on the banks of the Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, having left Varanasi because of the threat of an attack by Muslim troops. Shortly after his birth they heard that the situation in Varanasi had improved, so returned there to settle down. The hagiographies tell how Vallabha, while still a child, travelled extensively around India giving sermons on the Bhdgavatapurdna and defeating all opponents in theological debates. He is portrayed as a champion of the Vaishnavas, defending their dualistic philosophy against the Shankarite monists. When he arrived in Braj the goddess Yamuna appeared before him and revealed the forgotten location of Gokul, where Krishna had spent his first years. Vallabha stayed there and began to ponder over the plight of .majikind in this degenerate age. Krishna responded to his desire to show men a straightforward path to salvation by appearing before him and saying that he should preach a religion of grace and devotion, which was to be called the 'Pushtimarg'. The name may be derived from a conventional classification of Vedic rituals according to whether their aim is pacification (sdnti), the casting of spells (abhicdra), or pusti, meaning 'prosperity, opulence, comfort', or 'fulfilment'. The original connotations of the term pusti befit the non-ascetic doctrines of the Sampraday, but its followers use it to mean 'grace', interpreted as Krishna's power to make the devotee thrive. Krishna also revealed to Vallabha the identity of his image on the Govardhan hill and imparted to him the words of the brahmasambandh mantra, a sacred formula that was to be used for initiating disciples.31 The traditional date for this event is 1492, but this seems rather early in relation to his supposed date of birth. It occurs after a description of his winning a great debate at' the court of Krishnadevaray of 29 P. Mital 1968, pp.353-4. 30 His birth is celebrated on Vaishakh 1.11. For his biography see Nijvdrtd, Vitthalnath Bhatt, Yadunath's Vallabhadigvijaya, K. Shastri, pt.2 pp.14 ff., P. Mital 1968, pp.214 ff., Barz (intro.). 31 The revelations at Gokul are narrated in Nijvdrtd, pp. 10-11, at the beginning of CBC, in 84V, pp.5-6 (Damodardas Harsani), and by Vitthalnath Bhatt, 5.24-7. SPV says that the revelation took place in Jharkhand (the jungle area of Central India). Text and translation of the mantra arc given in Growsc. pp.282-8. For initiation procedure and references to other sources see Entwistle 1983/1, p.51. 141

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00157.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:42] Vijayanagar, who did not succeed to the throne until 1509. After initiating his first disciple, Damodardas Harsani, Vallabha proceeded to Govardhan, where he met Saddu Pande and was shown the image of Shrinathji that had appeared on top of the hill. According to the deity's instructions, Vallabha had it placed on a pedestal and explained to the local people how it should be worshipped. Saddu Pande and other inhabitants of Braj became disciples of Vallabha, and Ramdas Chauhan, who lived in a cave beside Apsarakund, was placed in charge of the service of Shrinathji. After offering Shrinathji his first meal of solid food, Vallabha continued on his travels, winning converts in other parts of India. As a result of Vallabha's visit the cult of Shrinathji became more formal, requiring the mediation of brahmins acting as priests and following the traditional brahminical style of worship based on courtly ritual. Nevertheless, the sectarian histories assure us that the people of Braj enthusiastically took to this new style of worship and devotion. The next significant step was the construction of a temple.32 On a subsequent visit to Govardhan Vallabha was met by a merchant from Ambala called Puranmal (or Purnamall) Khatri, who said that he had been told in a dream that he should build a large temple for Shrinathji. We are told that an architect from Agra named Hiramani was asked to design the building and that the foundations were laid in 1499. Puranmal donated most of his money to the construction, investing the remainder in the diamond trade so that the profits could be used to finance its completion. This was eventually achieved in 1519, when the deity was installed on the day of Akshay Tritiya (Vaishakh II.3). Mital has suggested that the delay in completing the temple was due not so much to shortage of funds as to the anti-Hindu policies of Sikandar Lodi, who was in power until 1516.33 This supposition is borne out to some extent by the tradition that for a time Shrinathji had to be taken to a hiding place in a wood near Gantholi called Tod ko Ghano.34 Krishnadas Kaviraj, a Gaudiya writer, also tells us that when Chaitanya visited Braj he saw the deity at Gantholi, where it had been taken for safety.35 Pushtimarg sources say that when the new temple was completed Vallabha had to appoint more people to help in the organization of the worship.36 He does not appear to have been able to find enough qualified people among his own followers, for Saddu Pande told him that members of his own caste had insufficient knowledge of ritual and doctrine and that Vallabha should appoint followers of Chaitanya who had settled at Radhakund. Accordingly, Madhavendra Puri was appointed as head-priest (mukhiyci) and his followers as assistants. Two of Vallabha's own disciples, the poets Krishnadas and Kumbhandas, were appointed as manager (adhikdn) and singer (kirtaniya), and Saddu Pande was given responsibility for organizing the supply of raw materials needed for the offerings. Madhavendra Puri had probably been long dead before the temple was completed, and it seems unlikely that followers of Chaitanya had already settled at Radhakund, but there 32 SPV, pp.17 ff., Nijvdrta pp.43 ff., 84V no.24 (Puranmal Khatri), pp. 152-5. 33 P. Mital 1968, p.226. The dates of the foundation and completion of the temple are given in SPV, pp. 18-19. 34 AV, pp.213 ff. (Kumbhandcis kl vcirtci). 35 CC 2.18.30-31. 36 SPV, pp. 19-20, AV, pp.339-40 (Krsnculcis kT vartci). 142

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00158.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:42] may well have been some Bengali devotees, followers of Madhavendra Puri, living at Gopalpur (Jatipura) or somewhere in the vicinity of Govardhan, in which case the story reflects the way the service of Shrinathji was shared between them and the followers of Vallabha. This arrangement was to last until the expulsion of the Bengalis some time after the death of Vallabha in 1530. In addition to founding the temple of Shrinathji, Vallabha is also said to have circumambulated Braj two times, once before he received the revelation at Gokul and later with his mother after completion of the temple.37 The places where he rested are marked by baithak shrines, but the idea of his having performed such an extensive circumambulation is undoubtedly a retrospective tradition. 5 Chaitanya Chaitanya was born in 1486 at the town of Nabadwip in Bengal, at that time a centre of scholastic learning.38 He received a traditional education and later married, but, according to his biographers, his life changed radically when, in his early twenties, he visited Gaya to perform rites for his late father. While he was there he took initiation from Ishwara Puri, after which he abandoned academic study and began to immerse himself in emotional devotion. This he cultivated primarily by repeatedly chanting the names of Krishna and by attending gatherings at which songs were sung about his deeds. His biographies are filled with exaggerated accounts of his ecstasies, wondrous encounters, and mass conversions. He became so distracted and absorbed in devotion that he would fall into a trance, or swoon with emotion and foam at the mouth when he experienced the feelings evoked by the love of Krishna and Radha. Though he was scorned by traditional pundits, his religious enthusiasm was so contagious that he attracted a large band of followers, who joined him in singing and dancing in the streets of Nabadwip. After a couple of years he declared his intention of becoming an ascetic (scmmyasT), shaved his head, and moved to Puri, where he became a fervent devotee of Jagannath. It was there that he spent the rest of his life, apart from a tour of the great temples of southern India and his pilgrimage to Vrindaban. Before moving to Puri he had already had the idea of going to Braj, but for some reason he postponed his pilgrimage for several years. First he requested Loknath, a former fellow student at Nabadwip, to go there and begin to reclaim the sacred places.39 At first Loknath was reluctant to leave Chaitanya, but eventually agreed to go to Braj. He is said to have arrived there in about 1509, accompanied by 37 See Vitthalnath Bhatt, 5.17, 6.6-8, and notes on CBC below in .21 38 For the life of Chaitanya see Kennedy, chs.2-3, Eidlitz, pt.2 ('Ausziige aus den friihen Quellen') and pp.533-46 (survey of sources), Dimock, pp.30 ff., S. K. De, pp.68 ff. (who discusses the main sources, viz. CC, KCC, Caitanyabhagavata of Vrindabandas, Cciitcinyaccindrodaya and Caitanyacaritamrtamahdkdvya of Paramanand Sen, alias Kavikarnapura), and R. Chakravarti 1985, ch.III, (who mentions some of the people active in Nabadwip at the time of Chaitanya, pp.35-51). 39 De, pp.96-7. The biography of Loknath is given in the first part of BRat and in Narottam caritra (cf. Ghosh). 143

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00159.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:42] another devotee called Bhugarbh.40 Loknath, spent the rest of his life in Braj and is believed to have settled at Khaira, where he began to worship a deity he had discovered called Radhavinod.41 Chaitanya set out for Braj a few years later. While passing through the province of Gauda he met the brothers Rup and Sanatan, who advised him against proceeding on his pilgrimage because he had attracted too many followers. Chaitanya returned to Puri and set out again in 1514 accompanied by only one disciple.42 His biographers tell us that he was shown the sacred places in and around Mathura and then visited some of the more outlying sites, including the twelve forests, Kaman, Nandgaon, and Barsana. The accounts of his itinerary are probably restrospective, based on the pilgrimage circuit as it existed later in the sixteenth century. Krishnadas Kaviraj tells us that he went to Govardhan in order to see the deity that was being worshipped on the hill there by Madhavendra Puri. On the way he rediscovered the twin lakes of Radhaand Krishnakund. When he arrived at Govardhan he spent the night at the temple of Haridev. It was there that he realized that the hill was too sacred to set foot on because it is an embodiment of Krishna. We are told that the deity, aware of his predicament, caused its custodians to become anxious lest Muslims in the neighbourhood attack the shrine. The custodians removed the deity from the temple on the hill and took it to a dense grove at Gantholi. Chaitanya circumambulated the hill and then went to Gantholi to see the deity. Gaudiya sources say that Rup and Sanatan also refrained from walking on the hill, but the tradition may simply have arisen as an expression of resentment and disapproval after the followers of Vallabha had expelled the Bengalis from the temple of Shrinathji.43 On his return to Mathura Chaitanya was disturbed by the crowds of people there, and so retired to Akrur Ghat, a quiet spot on the edge of Vrindaban. He stayed there for a while, but his ecstasies were becoming so exhausting and he attracted so many people that his disciples persuaded him to return to Puri. 6 Political developments from 1516 to 1556 Sikandar Lodi was succeeded by his son Ibrahim, who failed to retain effective control over the empire he inherited, owing to disaffection and restlessness among his feudatories. Babar, a Turkish chief descended from Taimur, began to make raids across the Indus and eventually, in 1526, defeated the forces of Ibrahim at the battle of Panipat, eighty kilometres north of Delhi. Babar advanced to capture Agra, and in the following year defeated a large force of Rajputs led by the Rana of Mewar. Badauni records that a slave of the defeated and executed Ibrahim, named 40 P. Mital 1968, p.305, Bansal pp.63-4. 41 According to P. Mital 1968, p.338, he died in 1588, which gives him a lifetime of about a hundred years and suggests that the date of his arrival in Braj has been brought forward. 42 Dc, pp.97-9. For descriptions of his pilgrimage see below .16 43 The refusal of Chaitanya, Rup, and Sanatan to set foot on the hill is mentioned in CC 2.18.23 ff. 144

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00160.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:42] Marghub, fortified the town of Mahaban and refused to acknowledge Babar as sovereign, obliging him to send a force to subdue him.44. By the time Babar died, in 1530, his hegemony stretched from Kabul and Kandahar to the borders of Bengal. He had laid the foundations for the Mughal empire, but his son Humayun failed to consolidate his hold over the territory. In 1540 he was ousted by Sher Shah (Sher Khan Sur) and was obliged to seek refuge in Iran. Sher Shah, an Afghan who had risen to power in southern Bihar, occupied Delhi and Agra and held control over the region. He constructed a road between the two cities, a fort beside the Yamuna at Shergarh, and a series of sarais, including those at Chhata and Chaumuhan, to provide refuge for travellers from the robbers who haunted the jungles around Mathura.45 Besides linking the twin capitals, the road was a stretch of the highway running from Lahore to the Deccan. The increase in military and commercial traffic along it must have contributed significantly to the revival and growth of Mathura over the ensuing centuries.46 The opportunity it gave for lucrative plunder meant that banditry was to remain a perennial hazard. Sher Shah also began to organize a more efficient administrative system, but after his death in 1545 his successors were unable to retain power in the face of opposition from warring factions. In 1555 Humayun was able to return from exile and regain control of Delhi and Agra, but he died within six months and was succeeded by his thirteen year old son Akbar, under the guardianship of Bairam Khan. These four decades were a period of instability in which attempts to consolidate power at Delhi and Agra were interrupted by bouts of anarchy and lawlessness. There cannot have been any improvement in the lot of the average Hindu and poor peasant, but nevertheless an increasing number of devotees were inspired to come to Braj and create a milieu in which the Krishna cult was to flourish. 7 The Six Goswamis and other contemporary Gaudiya devotees After his return from Braj Chaitanya spent the rest of his life at Puri, where he gradually became yet more distracted and delirious. He regularly received devotees who came to visit him, but does not seem to have made any efforts to organize his followers or establish a spiritual centre for them in Braj. After his death in 1533 his devotees in eastern India grouped themselves around Adwaitacharya and Nityanand. Initially only devotees descended from actual companions of Chaitanya were recognized as gurus, but in the course of time there were a number of Goswamis claiming to be descended from, or to be in pupillary succession of Nityanand, 44 Badauni, vol.1 p.444. 45 Elliott & Dowson, vol.6 p.188. 46 The road and sarais are described by Europeans who travelled along it in the seventeenth century, viz. William Finch (cf. Foster 1921 /1, p. 186), Bcrnier, p.284, van Adrichem, p. 122. 145

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00161.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:42] Adwaitacharya, the six leading Goswamis, eight great poets ('Kaviraj'), and sixty-four Mahants.47 Various opinions arose as to the status of Chaitanya. Some considered him to be an incarnation of Krishna even while he was still alive, others regarded him as a dual incarnation of Krishna and Radha.48 It was also believed that Nityanand was an incarnation of Balarama, and that other members of his entourage had descended to earth from the celestial Vrindaban, where they were members of Krishna's retinue.49 Images of Chaitanya and Nityanand were installed for worship in separate shrines or were placed beside idols of Krishna and Radha.50 Those followers who settled in Braj cultivated a somewhat different type of devotionalism. Led by Rup and Sanatan, they were more scholarly and reclusive than their fellow devotees in Bengal. Until this time the devotionalism of Chaitanya and his followers had been inspired primarily by lyrics composed in Bengali. The theologians at Vrindaban began to compose treatises in Sanskrit with the intention of providing the movement with a systematic theology based upon authoritative scriptures. They incorporated Tantric theories into their system, but remained orthodox in matters of caste, purity, and ritual. Although they acknowledged Chaitanya and invoked him at the beginning of their works, they did not deify him to the same extent as his followers in Bengal. Before they met Chaitanya, the brothers Rup and Sanatan had served as high officials in the court of Husain Shah, the ruler of Gauda.51 The story of their conversion has a certain allegorical value since they can be seen as representing many other Bengalis who had lost a certain degree of status by accepting employment in the Muslim administration. Their conversion shows how such people could be rehabilitated, not by being readmitted into Hindu orthodoxy, but by joining a more dynamic and loosely organized religious movement. According to the standard biographies of Chaitanya, he met Rup at Allahabad while he was returning from Braj to Puri. He directed him to go to Vrindaban and later, when Sanatan visited him at Puri, he sent him there as well.52 If, as is claimed by his biographers, he was looking for scholars who would give his movement some kind of formal doctrine, then he could not have made a wiser choice. It is clear from their writings that Rup and Sanatan had both received a traditional academic education 47 For Nityanand and his following see Kennedy, pp.61-3, Dimock, pp.46-52, and R. Chakravarti 1985, eh.VII; for Adwaitacharya see Kennedy, pp.88-91 and R. Chakravarti 1985, ch.VI. See Kennedy, pp.149-52, and D. C. Sen for further details of Chaitanya's following and R. Chakravarti 1985, ch.X, for the 64 Mahants. 48 See Dimock, pp.32, 52-5. 148-50 for the various opinions that arose on this point. 49 CC 1.5.5, 1.13. 50 Kennedy, pp.64-5, 135 (development of Chaitanya as a cult figure by Vanshivadan and Narahari Sarkar), De, p.41 (thepancatattva doctrine that became popular in Bengal, viz. veneration of Chaitanya, Nityanand, Adwaitacharya, Gadadhar, and Shrivas), Dimock, p. 95 (Narahari Sarkar), and R. Chakravarti 1985, ch.VIII (the 12 'Gopalas' and 'Upagopalas'). 51 Sec O'Connell 1970 and 1976, pp.46-52, for details of Rup, Sanatan, and other Gaudiya Vaishnavas who were associated with the Muslim court. 52 CC 2.1 & 2.19, De, p. 149. 146

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00162.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:43] at Nabadwip. In their commentaries and treatises they refer to a wide range of texts, and Rup in particular was thoroughly schooled in classical aesthetic theory, which he made use of in his dramas and in his elaborate classification of all the moods of devotion. Rup is said to have arrived in Vrindaban in 1517, and Sanatan about two years later, by which time they were then aged about thirty.53 Tradition has it that they first stayed at Dhruv Ghat in Mathura, and later settled in Vrindaban. It was there that they founded temples for Govind Dev and Madanmohan, their respective deities.54 Rup is said to have discovered Govind Dev after a cow was seen shedding its milk on the spot where it had lain buried since the time of Vajranabha.55 The myth told about Madanmohan is less conventional.56 When Sanatan came to Mathura he obtained the deity from the wife of a Chaube who had been worshipping it as Bhairava. He took it to Dwadashaditya Tila in Vrindaban and washed off the vermilion with which it had been coated, thus revealing it to be an image of Krishna. He constructed his hermitage on the mound and installed the deity for worship there. Gopal Kavi tells us that the image had originally been worshipped by the legendary king Ambarisha and later by Kubja, the mythical hunch-backed woman of Mathura. He adds that the Raja of Puri sent two female figures to accompany the deity. The two brothers appear to have spent the rest of their lives in Vrindaban, where they died within a few years of the accession of Akbar. They are commemorated by a samadhi and bhajan kutj beside the temples of Madanmohan and Radhadamodar. There are also bhajan kutT of Sanatan at Radhakund and Manasi Ganga, and of both of them at Nandgaon beside Pan Sarovar. Rup's most important works are dated between 1533 and 1550, and some of his compositions might be somewhat earlier.57 Rup and Sanatan were joined by four other devotees, forming a group that came to be known as the 'Six Goswamis'. Gopal Bhatt is generally acknowledged to be the author of Haribhaktivilasa, a comprehensive work on ritual, though some say that it was written by Sanatan or that he played a large part in the compilation of it.58 There are varying accounts of how he met Chaitanya and was instructed by him to go to Vrindaban. All sources agree that he was born in a village near 53 P. Mital 1962, pp.23-7, giving the traditionally accepted dates of birth of Rup and Sanatan as 1488 and 1489. 54 P. Mital 1968, p.313, says that they began to worship them in 1533 and 1535 respectively. 55 VDA 23. A. K. Roy, p. 161, notes that according to the tradition of the shebait family Rup Goswami discovered Govind Dev at a mound called Goma Tila in 1525. 56 See P. Thakur, who bases his account on Madanmohan caritra, composed by Pt. Madanji at the end of the last century. An account of the discovery of the image is also given in the first part of VDA. 57 De, pp.160-3. Sanatan may have lived a few years longer, for De notes (p.164) that Jiv says that his VaisnavatosinT commentary was completed in 1554. BRat says that they both died in the same year. 58 CC 2.1.30 includes HBV among the works of Gopal Bhatt. For further information about him see CC 2.24-5, Kennedy, pp. 134-137, De, pp. 125-45, P. Mital 1968, pp. 314-5, Nityanand, pp.39-41. 147

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00163.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:43] Shrirangam and usually say that Chaitanya stayed in his father's house when he came to visit the temple there. He presumably arrived in Vrindaban some time before 1541, the date by which Haribhaktivilasa must have been composed.59 It is said that on the full moon day of the month of Vaishakh in 1542 he performed the first abhiseka ceremony of Radharaman, a deity believed to have manifested itself out of a sdlagrcim stone that he had brought from the river Gandak. After his death in 1585 the custody of the deity was entrusted to his younger brother, Damodar, and has remained with his descendants ever since.60 Raghunathdas was a Kayasth, the son of a wealthy Bengali zammddr.61 He lived for many years at Puri in the company of Chaitanya and came to Vrindaban after his death. He settled at Radhakund and composed works dealing with the amorous encounters of Krishna and Radha, some short hymns in praise of Govardhan and some of the ponds around it, and Vrajavilasastava, in which he described the places, elements, and participants in the adventures of Krishna. His most important contribution was the development of Radhakund as a centre for the Bengali devotees. He acquired various properties there and it is recorded that in 1545 he purchased land from the local Panch for the purpose of dumping earth from the digging of the tank,62 which implies that he was responsible for constructing or at least enlarging it. He is commemorated by a bhajan kutj and samddhi on the banks of Radhakund. Raghunath Bhatt, who came from Varanasi, has left no literary works but was noted for his daily sermons on the Bhagavatapurcina before the deity of Govind Dev at Vrindaban.63 The youngest of the Six Goswamis was Jiv, a nephew of Rup and Sanatan, who succeeded them as the highest authority in doctrinal matters. On arriving in Vrindaban he took initiation from Rup, and in the following year is said to have begun worshipping the deity of Radhadamodar.64 His works, of which the dated ones span the period 1555-92,65 include Satsamdarbha, the most comprehensive account of his theology, and some commentaries on the works of his uncles. During the period that followed the death of Sikandar Lodi the Bengali devotees, though they were not yet in a position to arrange for the construction of large temples, managed to continue serving Shrinathji and to set up shrines in Vrindaban and around Radhakund. Besides elaborating their theology, they were also busy integrating their doctrines, ritual, and the mythology of Krishna with the environment of Braj. A new Mathuramahatmya compilation appeared, attributed to Rup Goswami; Vrindaban was conceived of in terms of a yantra in which Krishna was envisaged as standing in the centre of a yogapTtha; Radhakund was 59 De, p. 139. 60 P. Mital 1968, p.315. 61 De, pp.119-23. 62 Wright & Mukherjee, p. 316 n.20. 63 De, p.125, and P. Mital 1968, p.315. 64 P. Mital 1968, p.317, gives the date as 1542, but a document entitled Mahdprabhvddiprdkci tyasam va tsar an i in the City Palace, Jaipur, ace.5171 (cited by Wright & Mukherjee, p. 314) gives 1547. 65 De, p. 164. 148

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00164.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:43] visualized as an area of bowers frequented by Krishna, Radha, and the Sakhis in the course of their transcendent love-play; Krishna mythology was related more closely to local culture and topography by the reworking of old myths and the invention of new ones. Besides the Six Goswamis there were several other notable Gaudiya devotees who contributed to the movement in Braj during this period. Krishnadas Kaviraj joined his close friend Raghunathdas at Radhakund and spent the rest of his life there. He is commemorated by a bhajan kutJbeside the tank in which he is believed to have composed his Caitanya caritdmrt, which came to be accepted as the most authoritative biography of Chaitanya. He was the first to refer to Rup, Sanatan, and the others as the 'Six Goswamis', exaggerated the amount of personal contact they had with Chaitanya, propagated the notion that Chaitanya had suggested to them the framework that they should follow in systematizing the sectarian doctrines, and expressed their teachings in Bengali a language that the majority of Chaitanya's followers could understand.66 Another devotee was Narayan Bhatt, who tells us that he was born in a town on the bank of the Godavari in 1531 and arrived at Radhakund in 1545.67 According to his biographer, a descendant named Janakiprasad Bhatt, his father was named Bhaskar and came from Madurai.68 Narayan Bhatt spent five years at Radhakund after receiving initiation from Krishnadas Brahmachari, a disciple of Sanatan, who entrusted him with the worship of a deity called Madanmohan.69 He says that he received instructions from Krishna to carry out the reclamation of the places in Braj that had been lost for the past four thousand years.70 In 1552 he completed Vrajabhaktivilasa, the most exhaustive listing of the sacred places of Braj ever written. The large number of sites mentioned and the amount of detail it contains imply that he spent a considerable amount of time exploring the area, noting the relics of older sacred places as well as discovering new ones. Later he moved to Unchagaon where he began the life of a householder and founded temples there and in the vicinity. A Goswami named Kashishwar is said to have been sent to Vrindaban by Chaitanya and was put in charge of the worship of Govind Dev.71 Another devotee who appears to have arrived in Vrindaban while Rup and Sanatan were there was Madhu Goswami. He began the worship of a deity named Gopinath,72 for which a temple was eventually provided by Raysal, a senior member of the Shekhawat federation, during the reign of Jahangir. Others who appear to have settled in Braj or to have spent some time there were Madhavdas Jagannathi, Ramray, and his younger brother Chandragopal who are all acknowledged as the earliest Gaudiya devotees to write poetry in the Braj dialect.73 Ramray is mentioned in one of the 66 De, pp.106, 144-5. 67 VOC, pp.228-30, NBC 1.45-54. 68 NBC 1.45-54. Janakiprasad Bhatt was born in 1665 (NBC, intro. p.8). 69 VOC ibid., Priyadas, kcivitt 381. 70 VOC pp.50-52. 71 Priyadas, kavitt 398. 72 Ibid., kavitt 380. 73 Madhavdas Jagannathi: ibid., kavitt 322-6, P. Mital 1962, pp. 132-8. Ramray: Nabhadas, chappav 197, P. Mital 1962, pp. 141-8. 149

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00165.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:43] vdrtd as having been a disciple of Vitthalnath,74 which is probably a way of saying that he was one of the followers of Chaitanya who helped in the worship of Shrinathji. He wrote a collection of verses that have been given the title Adivam, because they are believed to be the first such work composed by a Gaudiya poet. He also translated GTtagovinda, which is probably why he is claimed to be a descendant of Jayadeva. A temple of Radhamadhav in Dusayat Muhalla, Vrindaban, houses an image said to have been worshipped by Ramray that is now in the custody of his descendants, who say that he originally came from Lahore. Two devotees who are believed to have been disciples of Nityanand are Krishnadas Gunjamali and Shyamji (or Shyamdas), the former hailing from Lahore and the latter from a village in the nearby district of Sahiwal.75 It seems that Gunjamali, while he was in Braj, was employed in the service of Shrinathji. Eventually he and Shyamji returned to their homeland, where they established temples and propagated the Gaudiya movement. Prabodhanand Saraswati is thought to have been a follower of Chaitanya and a teacher of Gopal Bhatt, though it is also claimed that he belonged to the Radhavallabh Sampraday.76 He was probably a follower of Chaitanya who was a close friend of Hit Harivansh, long before the latter's followers identified themselves as an independent Sampraday. His main work is Vrnddvanamahimdmrta, a lengthy glorification of Vrindaban. He is sometimes credited with Rddhdsudhdnidhi, a collection of Sanskrit verses in praise of Radha that is usually attributed to Hit Harivansh. His samadhi is at Kalidah Ghat, which some say was his place of residence at Vrindaban. Another poet who arrived in Vrindaban was a Tailang brahmin called Gadadhar Bhatt. He is believed to have taken initiation from Raghunath Bhatt and worshipped a deity called Madanmohan.77 His descendants, known as the Bhatt Parivar, still serve the deity in a temple at Athkhambha. An associate of the Gaudiya Sampraday was Anandghan, a person whom Chaitanya is said to have met when he visited Nandgaon.78 His descendants say that he came from the nearby village of Kharaut and installed images at Nandgaon that now stand in the temple called Nandarayji ka Mandir. The custody of this temple is still with his descendants. According to their genealogy his ancestors were local brahmins of Kharaut and Nandgaon who had served 'Nandababa' for many generations.79 74 252V no.243, pp.346-50 (under the name of Bhagwandas). 75 See Shyamdas, pp. 184-7, Entwistle 1983/1, pp.56-7, for further information and references. 76 Priyadas, kavitt 613, P. Mital 1962, pp.45-7, Bansal, pp. 71-3, Bhagwat Mudit, pp.25-7. Lalitacharan Goswami, pp. 552-7, compromises by suggesting that there were two devotees with the same name who belonged to each of the two Sampradays. CC says that Chaitanya initiated him at Shrirangam. 77 Nabhadas, chappav 138, Priyadas, kavitt 523-30, P. Mital 1962, pp. 154-8, Bansal, p.240. 78 P. Mital 1962, pp.39-40, Bansal, pp.212-4. 79 Bansal, p.212. 150

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00166.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:43] 8 Vitthalnath's succession to leadership of the Pushtimarg Whereas the Bengali devotees had a circle of religious leaders based in Braj, Vallabha did not take up residence there. He is said to have paid several visits to Govardhan, but he made his home at Adail, a place across the river Yamuna from Allahabad, within sight of its confluence with the Ganges. His first son Gopinath was born there in 1510, and five years later he had another son called Vitthalnath, who was born at Chunar, near Varanasi.80 In 1530 Vallabha died at Varanasi at the age of fifty-two, shortly after leaving his family and taking a vow of renunciation.81 Sectarian histories give a confusing account of the sequence of events that occurred between the death of Vallabha and Vitthalnath's assuming the leadership of his followers. Varying dates are given for the death of Gopinath and his son Purushottam, which gives the impression that the facts have been tampered with in an attempt to explain or justify Vitthalnath's taking precedence over his elder brother and nephew. Gopinath is reputed to have been a fine scholar, but there is little evidence of his having done much to influence the development of his father's following, though he is said to have travelled to Puri, Gujarat, and Sind and to have brought over a hundred thousand rupees to be used in the service of Shrinathji.82 His only son Purushottam is said to have been born between 1530 and 1532, or several years later in 1550.83 Dates for the death of Gopinath and his son Purushottam vary from 1533 to 1563, some saying that they both died in the same year.84 All the available sources agree that Gopinath disappeared from this earth when he became absorbed into the image of Balarama that accompanies Jagannath at Puri.85 They suggest that he was a manifestation of Balarama, complementing the notion that Vitthalnath was a partial or even full incarnation of Krishna.86 As if wishing to deprecate him and explain why Vitthalnath was a more worthy successor of Vallabha, they describe him as having been more interested in following the path of Vedic injunctions (maryada) rather than the established doctrines of the Pushti80 Nijvarta, pp.66-7, Vitthalnath Bhatt, 6.11-14. These dates are accepted in other sectarian sources, though some say that Gopinath was born either one or two years later. 81 Vitthalnath Bhatt, 6.50. See also SPV 22, Gharuvartd, pp.27 ff. 82 K. Shastri, pt.2 p.87. 83 The earlier dates are given by K. Shastri, pt.2 pp.85 & 88, and Barz, p.53, the later one by Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7.69, and in Sampradayapradipa, cited by K. Shastri, ibid. 84 Death of Gopinath: cf. SPV pp.22-3 (1533), D. D. Gupta, p.75 (1538), P. Mital 1949, p.21, and Tandan, p.543 (1542), Barz, p.53 (1543), Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7.101 -114, and K. Shastri, pt.2 p.89 (1563). Death of Purushottam: SPV, ibid. ( 1533), Gupta, ibid. (before 1538), Mital ibid., pp.23-6 (1549), Barz, ibid. (1550), Tandan, p.544 (1558), K. Shastri, pt.2 p.88 (before Gopinath in 1563). 85 An idea idea that was presumably modelled on Chaitanya's disappearance into Jagannath, as described by Kavikarnapura, cf. P. Mukherjee, pp.310-11. 86 Gopaldas, 2.23-4, Nijvarta, p.66. 151

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00167.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:44] marg and to have been devoted to Balarama, whereas Vitthalnath showed undivided loyalty for Shrinathji.87 The story that Gopinath, grieved by the death of his son, retired to Puri and duly disappeared avoids the question of there having been any controversy over the leadership of the sect. The fullest account of events that occurred in this period is given in the varta of Krishnadas, a Kunabi Patel from Gujarat whom Vallabha had appointed as manager of the temple of Shrinathji.88 As the temple flourished, so he became an increasingly influential character. He is described as having been accompanied wherever he went by chariots, horses, oxen, camels, wagons, and a hundred and fifty men. Once he fell in love with the daughter of a prostitute whom he saw dancing in the bazaar at Agra. According to the commentary on the story she was in fact a divine soul, a reincarnation of a companion of Lalita who had earned such a low birth as a result of accidentally dribbling on some sugar candy intended for Krishna. Krishnadas, who had been born in order to liberate this unfortunate soul, took her to the temple, where she swooned while dancing in front of Shrinathji and was received into the divine Ula. Krishnadas's next affair was with Gangabai, a wealthy woman without heir who contributed so generously to the worship of Shrinathji that Krishnadas granted her the exceptional privilege of being present when food was offered to the deity. When Vitthalnath learnt that she was being shown such irregular favour, and rumours spread that Krishnadas was having an affair with her, he ordered that she should be banned from the temple. Krishnadas went to Purushottam and told him to challenge his uncle's authority and join him in taking full responsibility for the worship of Shrinathji. Krishnadas then banned Vitthalnath from the temple and said that he would only be readmitted with the permission of Purushottam. Vitthalnath spent the next six months at the nearby village of Parasoli, where he suffered pangs of separation at being deprived of the sight of Shrinathji. Ramdas Chauhan, the priest appointed by Vallabha, is portrayed as a supporter of Vitthalnath, for he is said to have brought him a daily dose of caranamrt and garlands in which messages from Shrinathji were concealed. Vitthalnath's eldest son is said to have reported the matter to Birbal, a sympathetic administrator in Akbar's court, who duly ordered the arrest of Krishnadas. Vitthalnath was distressed when he learnt that Krishnadas was in jail in Mathura, and so he went on hunger strike in order to procure his release. This led to a reconciliation between them, and thereafter Krishnadas remained as manager of the temple for the rest of his life.89 It is difficult to reconcile the account given in the varta of Krishnadas with the dates given in various sources for the lifetime of the participants. Akbar and two of his Hindu courtiers, Birbal and Todar Mai, became stock characters in folk 87 See bhciv prakiis on the vdrtd of Devi Kapur Khatri, Narayandas Bhat, and Prabhudas Jalotu, 84V, pp.123, 133, 307. 88 AV, pp.330 ff., also included in editions of 84V and translated by Barz, pp.217 ff. See also P. Mital 1968, pp. 249-55. 89 Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7.101-114, places the event before the death of Gopinath (dated 1563), and says that Purushottam died shortly after Vitthalnath celebrated his re-entry into the temple, after which Gopinath went to Puri. 152

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00168.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:44] memory and are apt to appear anachronistically or as a convention in stories told by members of the Pushtimarg and other sects. The intervention of Birbal should not lead us to to assume that the events actually did take place during the reign of Akbar. The most likely sequence of events is that Gopinath died while his son was still a minor, and so Vitthalnath assumed full control of the sect.90 Some years later, in about 1548-9, when Purushottam was about eighteen, his mother, with the support of Krishnadas and a few other followers, began to press for her son's right to leadership. This was perhaps the real reason why Vitthalnath was banned from the temple for a while. It was during this period that Purushottam's untimely death occurred, with the result that Vitthalnath became the undisputed leader of the sect and his sister-in-law left for her homeland in Andhra Pradesh. Disagreements with the Bengalis over the worship of Shrinathji began soon after the death of Vallabha. Krishnadas is again a central figure in the dispute and his vcirtci gives the fullest account of what took place.91 He complained that the Bengalis were embezzling money intended for the service of Shrinathji and sending a certain amount of the donations to their gurus in Vrindaban (i.e. Rup and Sanatan). Furthermore, they had installed an image of Vrindadevi alongside that of Shrinathji. Although the Bengalis could happily accomodate worship of the goddess in conjunction with that of Krishna, such a practice was opposed to the Pushtimarg's ideal of unalloyed devotion. Gopinath and Vitthalnath are said to have come from Adail to sort out the dispute. The Bengalis refused to leave the temple and so Krishnadas, while they were busy worshipping Shrinathji, set fire to their huts beneath the hill at Rudrakund. When the Bengalis ran down to put out the fire Krishnadas managed to take possession of the temple with the help of some local people. The Bengalis reported the matter to Rup and Sanatan and a complaint was lodged with the hakim at Mathura. The hakim failed to persuade Krishnadas to allow the Bengalis to return, and so the matter was eventually brought before Akbar. Krishnadas, through the intervention of Todar Mai and Birbal, won the case, and as consolation Vitthalnath gave the Bengalis an image of Madanmohan, which they took to Vrindaban. The discovery of this deity is attributed to a devotee named Narayandas Bhat, who found it at Radha Bagh in Vrindaban and presented it to Gopinath. Vitthalnath then appointed Sanchora brahmins from Gujarat to take care of the service of Shrinathji. It is not clear from the sectarian account whether the expulsion of the Bengalis took place shortly after the death of Vallabha or nearly forty years later during the reign of Akbar.92 Mital is probably right in concluding that the dispute was a drawn out affair that began when Krishnadas, after the death of Vallabha, sought to expand the temple service. After the expulsion of the Bengalis there probably followed some protracted litigation, which was finally settled when Vitthalnath's de facto custodianship was formally recognized during the reign of Akbar. The loss by 90 Here I agree with P. Mital 1968, p.255. 91 The events arc also referred to in SPV, pp.22-3, 84V no.48 (Rdnutds ki vcirtd), Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7.3-10. 92 P. Mital 1968, p.251, discussing the dates 1533 and 1571, as given in sectarian sources. 153

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00169.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:44] the Bengalis of their share in the service of Shrinathji appears to coincide with the expansion of their settlement at Radhakund during the 1540's. Although Vitthalnath became leader of the Pushtimarg and eventually managed to gain control over the temple of Shrinathji, he did not settle in Braj until the reign of Akbar. He continued to use his father's residence at Adail and spent much of his time travelling around the northern half of India visiting places of pilgrimage, calling on his father's followers, and attracting new disciples.93. There exist two collections of stories (vartcl) about eighty-four disciples of Vallabha and two hundred and fifty-two of Vitthalnath. They are edifying tales describing the charisma and miracles of Vallabha and Vitthalnath, the manner in which Krishna intercedes on behalf of his devotees, and the attitude and conduct expected of followers of the Pushtimarg. All the stories are attributed to Gokulnath, the fourth son of Vitthalnath, but many of them appear to have been written or at least revised and expanded by Hariray, a nephew of Gokulnath.94 Being hagiographical tales written down some time after the period in which the events described took place, they are of dubious historicity, but can be taken as throwing some light on the manner in which the Pushtimarg was propagated. The followers described in the stories are from various social groups, ranging from low menial castes to aristocrats, but most belong to the merchant class and a large number of them lived in Gujarat. From 1543 onwards Vitthalnath is said to have made several pilgrimages to Dwarka, staying regularly at Ahmedabad and visiting almost every important town in Gujarat.95 He must have been aware of the financial advantages of converting members of the trading community and their enrolment on such a large scale influenced the manner in which he developed worship and ritual in the temples. The vcirtci literature would have us believe that Vitthalnath initiated untouchables and even Muslims,96 but the intention is probably to illustrate the all-encompassing nature of the type of devotion and salvation that is advertised. Several years passed before Vitthalnath finally decided to settle in Braj, but in the course of his travels he had awakened the interest of a wealthy following in the cult of Shrinathji and encouraged them to look towards Braj for their spiritual inspiration. He himself is purported to have made an extensive circumambulation of the sacred places of Braj in 1543,97 but it was probably only after his taking up residence there that a significant number of followers began to come on pilgrimage. 93 For dates and itineraries of his journeys see Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7 & 8, Srimad vallabhkul ko prcigatya (a short text published with Khat rtu vdrta of Chaturbhujdas), K. Shastri, pt. 3 p.99, P. Mital 1968, pp.261-4. See also remarks on CBC in .21. 94 See below .20. The tales of a few disciples are also given in Bhcivsindhu kT vcirtci, which is also attributed to Gokulnath. 95 See Cohen for discussion of the spread of the Pushtimarg among the merchants of Gujarat. 96 E.g. the vcirtci in 252V of Madhuridas Mali, Meha Dhimar, Rupmanjari Vyadha, Mohan Bhangi, Pirzadi, Dhondi, Raskhan, Tansen, and Alikhan Pathan and his daughter. 97 Described in BYP, see below .22-24. 154

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00170.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:44] 9 Hit Harivansh A contemporary of Rup and Sanatan who took up residence in Vrindaban was the poet Hit Harivansh.98 Sectarian biographers say that he was born in 1502 at the village of Bad, south of Mathura on the road to Agra. His father, a Gaur brahmin by the name of Vyas Mishra, lived at Deoband, lying to the north of Delhi in Saharanpur district. He is described as a wealthy astrologer to the king, which probably means that he was engaged at one of the local Hindu courts. In due course Hit Harivansh married and had three sons and a daughter. Once Radha revealed to him in a dream that an image of Krishna was to be found in a well in his father's garden. The deity, known as Rangililal, was enshrined at Deoband, where it is still in the custody of descendants of Hit Harivansh. When his father died he declined the offer of replacing him at court. He received instructions from.Radha that he should go to Vrindaban. On the way there, according to her prophecy, he met a wealthy brahmin who offered him the hand of his two daughters and presented him with an image of Krishna, which was given the name 'Radhavallabh'. Legend has it that he first settled on a patch of high ground beside the Yamuna. Some local people offered him as much land as he could cover with an arrow. He managed to shoot it as far as Chir Ghat, where he founded a rds mandal. The patch of high ground is said to be the place where the temple of Radhavallabh now stands; between the two is the garden called Seva Kunj, where he first installed Radhavallabh for worship in 1534. He is believed to have spent the rest of his life in Vrindaban and to have frequented the pond called Man Sarovar on the opposite bank of the Yamuna. The only other places outside Vrindaban where he is commemorated are a baithak beside the Radhavallabh temple on the bank of Radhakund and Vyas Bhavan, an ashram run by ascetic followers at Bad, his place of birth. He is described as having immersed himself in the amorous sports of Krishna and Radha and to have had little concern for ritual procedure and scriptural injunctions.99 He was an inspired poet rather than a theologian, and a collection of eighty-four of his poems is cherished by his followers as a canonical text.100 These lyrics express an emotional and aesthetic form of devotion similar to that which was propagated by Rup Goswami. They are largely descriptive and deal more or less exclusively with the amorous pastimes of Krishna, emphasizing the importance of Radha and the role of the Sakhis. They are sung regularly in temples of the Sampraday and are intended to arouse devotional cum sensual emotions (i.e. ras). Theology and other points of doctrine were to be supplied by later commentators on the poems.101 98 For biography and sourccs see Growse, pp.199 ff., Snatak, Lalitacharan Goswami, pp. 17-53, P. Mital 1968, pp.364-73, Snell 1978, 1980, and intro. to his edition of the hymns of Hit Harivansh. The most important sectarian sources are Hit caritra of Uttamdas, Hit kul scikhd of Jayakrishna, and Priyadas Shukla. 99 Viz. bidhi nisedh, cf. Nabhadas, chappay 90, and commentary by Priyadas. 100 Viz. Hit caurasT, cf. editions of Lalitacaran and Snell, and translation by White. See also Growse, pp.208-15, and comments by McGregor 1984, pp.88-90. Other works attributed to him are a Yamundstcika and a collection of Sanskrit couplets entitled Rddhdsudhdnidhi (for text and tr. of some of them see Growse, pp.203-8). 101 See Dvadas yas of Chaturbhujdas for formulation of the doctrines and attitudes of the Radhavallabh Sampraday. 155

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00171.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:45] The organization of the followers of Hit Harivansh into what became known as the Radhavallabh Sampraday was the work of his sons and subsequent descendants. Among his disciples was Naravahan, a landowner from Bhogaon, a village beside the Yamuna to the north of Vrindaban.102 He is described as leader of a band of dacoits who terrorized the people of Braj. After being converted by Hit Harivansh he reformed his ways, donated land to him, and began to do good works for his fellow devotees. 10 Swami Haridas Another devotee who took up residence in Vrindaban at this time was Swami Haridas. Because he is often cited as a great musician, his fame has spread far beyond his relatively small sectarian following. He is traditionally acknowledged as the progenitor of the dhrupad style of singing and is sometimes said to have been the teacher of Tansen, the legendary musician at the court of Akbar. What seems more probable is that they were contemporaries who had, directly or indirectly, learned to sing dhrupad from musicians associated with the court of the Tomar rulers of Gwalior. Another unlikely but celebrated incident in the life of Haridas is his having been visited by Akbar in Vrindaban, a meeting that has often been depicted in miniatures. It is difficult to reconcile the information given about Haridas because, ever since a schism between his ascetic and householder following in the eighteenth century, there have been rival versions of his biography.103 Both factions agree that he lived ninety-five years, but the various dates given for his birth range as far back as 1384. The year 1480, as given by the ascetic Kishordas, is more in keeping with other criteria, though even this date may be at least two decades too early.104 The Goswamis claim that he was born at a village near Aligarh called Haridaspur and that his father came from the area of Multan; the ascetics say that he was born in Rajpur, a settlement on the edge of Vrindaban but there is no substantial evidence to support either of these claims. He may have been initiated into the Nimbark Sampraday, but in practice he followed his own path of devotion and lived as an ascetic in a grove in Vrindaban called Nidhiban.105 It was here that an image of Krishna appeared miraculously before him, to which he gave the name 'Kunjbihari'. This deity, which later became known as 'Banke Bihari' (an epithet used in poems of two disciples named Bithal Vipul and Biharindas), was enshrined in Nidhiban, where it remained at least until the reign of Aurangzeb. 102 Bhagwat Mudit, pp.1 ff., Priyadas, kavitt 419. 103 See Nijmat siddhcmt by Kishordas, VDA 3, 17, 21-22, 38-9., S. B. Goswami 1966,Gopal Datt. P. Mital 1968, pp.434 ff., Haynes, and Upadhyay (who effectively refutes the myths that have arisen about Haridas). 104 See Datt, pp.112-16 & 150, who favours 1480. Upadhyay, after weighing all the evidence, concludes that he must have been born around 1508. On his place of birth see Datt, pp.67-8. 105 Kishordas states that Swami Haridas and all the Acharyas who succeeded him belonged to the Nimbark Sampraday, a claim convincingly supported by Upadhyay, pp.8298. 156

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00172.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:45] 11 Shribhatt The most prominent figure in the Nimbark Sampraday at this time was Shribhatt, a Gaur brahmin of Mathura. He succeeded Keshav Kashmiri as Acharya of the establishment at Dhruv Ghat,106 which implies that he flourished in the middle of the sixteenth century. He has left a work entitled Yugal satak, referred to by followers of the Nimbark Sampraday as AdivdnT because it is their earliest text written in the Braj dialect and the first to emphasize contemplation of the love-play of Krishna and Radha and emulation of the Sakhis.107 The temple at Dhruv Tila is still in the custody of his descendants and his samadhi is thought be one of those beside that of Keshav Kashmiri at Narad Tila. 12 Akbar and his Hindu associates During the reign of Akbar108 circumstances became more conducive to further expansion of Hindu activity in and around Mathura. He made Agra his capital and from 1565 onwards began to rebuild and enlarge the Red Fort there. Between 1569 and 1585 he held court at Fatehpur Sikri, a new citadel thirty-five kilometres west of the city. In the years 1574-75 his forces conquered Bihar and Bengal, but they were little more than nominally part of his empire, since the Afghans and other noble families residing there managed to remain semi-independent in many areas. He admitted more Hindu nobles and other prominent figures into his service than any previous Muslim ruler and allowed them to play a larger role in the government. Most of those appointed were Rajputs, an indication that Akbar needed their support and was concerned to consolidate his hold over the chiefs who had submitted to his rule.109 With few exceptions a career in higher service was restricted to Rajputs, and some of those who became influential were able to contribute towards the restoration of Hindu pilgrimage sites in Braj and elsewhere. Akbar conferred grants of land and other privileges upon Hindu religious leaders, banned consumption of beef, and himself forswore garlic, onions, and the wearing of a beard.110 Abu'l Fazl's list of the singers at Akbar's court includes some Hindu names; several Hindu poets are also said to have received his patronage, though their treatment of Krishna themes was more amatory than devotional.111 Apart from having family ties with Hindus, Akbar appears to have been 106 For further information see Datt, pp.293-5, P. Mital 1968, pp. 197-9, intro. by Brajvallabhsharan to Yugal satak, N. Sharma, pp.36 ff. 107 Some copies end with a couplet giving the date of composition as 1395, which some have interpreted as an alteration for an original date of 1595. 108 For a general account of Akbar's reign sec V. A. Smith 1902 and A. L. Srivastava. 109 Moreland 1962, pp.65-6. Sec Samsam-ud-daulah for biographical details of Hindu officers in Mughal service from the 16th to 18th centuries. 110 AA vol.1 p.202. 111 Sec McGregor 1984, pp. 119 flf., for these poets and various editions and studies of their life and works. 157

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00173.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:45] genuinely interested in all religions. From 1575 diverse religious leaders and scholars, including some Jesuits from Goa, were invited to Fatehpur Sikri to put forward their beliefs and doctrines. Ten years later Akbar launched his own eclectic faith (dtn-i-ilahJ), but it never became popular. In 1563 he lifted the tax that had been imposed on all Hindus who visited places of pilgrimage; in the following year he repealed the jizyah, a poll-tax that had been levied on non-Muslim subjects.112 Abu'l Fazl tells us that while Akbar was on a tiger hunt in the neighbourhood of Mathura it was brought to his notice that it was the custom to levy pilgrimage tax (karma) in proportion to the rank and wealth of the pilgrim. Akbar remitted these taxes throughout his dominions, despite the vast amount of revenue they brought in.113 Hindu traditions claim that he met some of the leading Vaishnavas of Braj, but there is no confirmation of such encounters in non-Hindu sources.114 Many new temples and other buildings were erected in Braj, using the same red sandstone that was employed for the forts and palaces at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri and blending Hindu and Musim elements in their largely abstract decorative carving. A visitor to Mathura was Father Monserrate, one of the Jesuits present at Akbar's court in the years 1580-82. He says that temples of Vishnu (i.e. Krishna), 'elegantly built in the pyramidal style', were to be found in many places in the neighbourhood, built at sites where he was fabled to have performed some action. Noting the presence of ruins of earlier buildings, he says that 'only one Hindu temple is left out of many; for the Musalmans have completely destroyed all except the pyramids. Huge crowds of pilgrims come from all over India to this temple, which is situated on the high bank of the Jomanis'.115 It was not only Vaishnavas who were able to benefit from the more tolerant climate; Jain traders were also able to contribute to the restoration of their shrines in Braj.116 However, the financial benefits that accrued to merchants and zamindars (landowners) during this period did not filter down to the oppressed peasantry. At no time in the Mughal period was there any real improvement in the economic situation of the masses. The highly organized administration was not designed to stimulate production or a more equitable distribution of income, but served to perpetuate the tradition of administrative exploitation that dominated and sterilized the energies of the population.117 Throughout the Mughal empire it was customary to grant land to zamindars and appoint a military commander (fauzdar) to hold them in check and ensure that they did not withhold revenue. So long as they rendered revenue and did not clash with the government, the zamindars 112 AA vol.1 p. 198, AN vol.2 pp.316-7. For definition and explanation of Ihe jizyah see Roy Choudhury, pp.298-310. For these taxes and more detail on Akbar's religious policy see Sri Ram Sharma. 113 AN vol.2, pp.294-5. 114 He is said to have gone to Braj to meet Swami Haridas, Jiv Goswami, and Surdas, cf. Vajpeyi 1954, p. 153, Kishordas vol. 1, VDA 21, Surdas ki vdrtd in AV and 84V, P. Mital 1949, pp.128 & 139, and V. A. Smith 1902, p.445 115 Monserrate, pp.90-3. 116 Among them were Sahu Todar from Aligarh district, Kavivar Dayakushal, and Karmachand, a minister from the state of Bikaner, cf. Vajpeyi 1954, p.61, P. Mital 1966, pt.2 pp.175 & 182, and 1968, pp.488-9. 117 Sec Moreland 1962. 158

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00174.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:45] were left to their own devices. Many of them caused trouble and were quick to take advantage of any signs of weakness on the part of the government. In 1580 the area round Mathura became part of the suba of Agra and was divided into the sarkcirs of Agra, Koil (Aligarh), and Sahar, each of which was divided into smaller administrative units called mahal (later parganah).118 This system, with some readjustment of the smaller divisions, lasted throughout the Mughal period. A brick fort at Mahaban was built as a station for two hundred cavalry and two thousand infantry, and a smaller garrison was maintained at Maholi.119 In the 1580's Shaikh Ibrahim was appointed overseer (karorT) at Mahaban and his men are said to have rooted out theft and robbery from the region.120 If this was the case, it was to be only a temporary respite; the peasants around Agra remained recalcitrant throughout the Mughal period. Abu'l Fazl says that they were notorious for their rebelliousness and courage, and records that Akbar once personally led an attack on a village.121 The Mughal empire basically consisted of a network of trade routes and market towns that allowed for the collection of revenue, even though the hinterlands were rarely under firm control. The empire had no stable frontiers and the emperors were dependent on the loyalty of their feudatories and the landowners. The most prominent Rajputs to join forces with Akbar were the Kachhwaha rulers of Amber. Bihar Mai (1548-74) presented himself before Akbar in the first year of his reign; his daughter was married to Akbar, and his son Bhagwandas (1574-89) also entered his service. A granddaughter of Bhagwandas was married to Prince Salim (Jahangir) and gave birth to Prince Khusrau; his younger (or adopted) son Man Singh (b. 1530) was Raja of Amber from 1589 to 1614 and rose to become the highest ranking officer in the Mughal empire.122 He was governor successively of the districts along the Indus, Kabul, and Bihar, and later annexed Bengal and Orissa. In 1588 he was appointed governor of Bengal and remained in charge of the eastern provinces for the next twenty years. The Kachhwahas made some important contributions to the development of Braj as a religious centre. Bihar Mai's predecessor, Ratan Singh (1537-48) had a 'ten-pillared palace' built in Mathura at Vishram Ghat.123 Bhagwandas, besides erecting a tower beside the Yamuna to commemorate his mother's sati( viz. the Sati Burj), is also credited with the building of the temple of Haridev at Govardhan. Man Singh founded a magnificent temple in Vrindaban for Govind Dev, the deity that had been worshipped by Rup Goswami. He is named in an inscription on the 118 Drake Brockman 1911, p.201, Vajpeyi 1954, p. 171. See AA vol.3 pp. 194-207, for details of revenues, land ownership, irrigation, and garrisons in Mathura district. 119 AA vol.2 p. 194. 120 Rizvi, p.338. 121 AA vol.2 p.163, vol.3 p.231. 122 For details of these Kachhwahas sec A A vol. 1 pp.347-8, 353, 361 -3, and J. Sarkar 1984, chs.IV-VII. The first part of Bihar Mal(l)'s name also occurs as 'Bhar' or 'Bahar'; Bhagwandas is sometimes referred to as Bhagwantdas. For a fuller biography of Man Singh see R. N. Prasad, esp. ch.XI for places that he built or which are named after him. A visit of his to Braj is described in the vcirtci of Kumbhandas, AV pp.236 fif. (also in 84V). 123 A. K. Roy, p.227. 159

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00175.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:45] temple that gives the year of its construction as 1590. He patronized different Hindu sects, but was particularly sympathetic to the Gaudiya Sampraday, perhaps as a result of his long period of residence in eastern India, though it is said that his father Bhagwandas had been initiated by Ramray, a member of the sect.124 Another influential Hindu courtier was Todar Mai (d. 1589), who held the post of finance minister.125 He was also a patron of the Gaudiya Sampraday and is believed to have taken initiation from Raghunath Bhatt.126 It is recorded that, on behalf of Jiv Goswami, he persuaded Akbar to give official recognition to the custodians of the temples of Govind Dev and Madanmohan in Vrindaban.127 He is also said to have given funds to Narayan Bhatt for the construction of a temple dedicated to Balarama at Unchagaon and for the restoration of the other sacred places he had rediscovered.128 The foundation of the temple of Gopinath in Vrindaban is accredited to Raysal Darbari, a chief of the Shekhawat branch of the Kachhwahas, who fought for Akbar and assisted Man Singh on several of his campaigns.129 He had inherited the fiefdom of Lambhi, but was later granted more districts by Akbar and established himself at Khandela, which duly became the principle town of the Shekhawat confederation. He was in Akbar's service for many years and died at an advanced age during the reign of Jahangir. Up to modern times descendants of Raysal remained feudatories of the rulers of Jaipur and continued to revere Gopinath as their main deity. In Khandela and other towns in Shekhawati the main Krishna temples are dedicated to Gopinath. The Naunkaran or Nunkaran who built the temple of Jugal Kishor near Keshi Ghat may have been his elder brother, who had inherited Amritsar and surrounding towns and also served with Akbar's forces.130 13 Vitthalnath's expansion of the Pushtimarg Vitthalnath, after deciding to settle permanently in Braj, proceeded to develop a centre for his following there. Apart from being closer to the seat of power in Agra and somewhat more accessible for his disciples in western India, its attraction as a place of pilgrimage must have been considerably enhanced by the propagation of devotion inspired by Krishna's pastoral adventures. The general increase in trade, especially through ports on the west coast, augmented the wealth and mobility of 124 Bansal, pp.262 ff. For Ramray see above 125 AA vol.1 pp.376-9, AN vol.3 p.861. 126 Nityanand, p.28. 127 Wright & Mukherjcc, p.315, with reference to a document at the Vrindaban Research Institute (scr.9 ace. 1). 128 NBC 3.26-33. Fiihrcr, p.102, says that Todar Mai founded a temple of Gopinath at Khaira. There may be some confusion here with another Narayan Bhatt, the compiler of TristhalTsetu, who was provided with money by Todar Mai for the reconstruction of the Vishwcshwar temple at Varanasi in 1585 (see Eck, p. 134). 129 See AA vol.1 p.462. Tod, vol.3 pp. 1380-85, K. C. Jain, pp.263-4. 130 Growsc, p.254, says that the construction of the temple is referred to the year 1627. A A vol.1 p.554, refers to him as Lon Karan. 160

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00176.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:46] the trading community. After Akbar's annexation of Gujarat in 1573 the province was ruled through local sovereigns and remained prosperous and untroubled during almost the whole of the seventeenth century.131 It has been suggested that unrest in the eastern districts also had some bearing on Vitthalnath's decision to leave Adail.132 It is not certain exactly when he began to make his home at Gokul. It seems that for a while he lived at a house in Mathura called Satghara, said to be so named because he resided there with his seven (sat) sons. Once, while he was on a visit to Gujarat, his eldest son took Shrinathji to Satghara for the Holi celebrations.133 This incident is also referred to by Krishnadas Kaviraj, who says that Rup Goswami, then old and infirm, went with several followers to Mathura to see 'Gopal' in 'the house of Vitthaleshwar'.134 He explains that the deity had caused itself to be taken there for a month by instilling its custodians with the fear that Govardhan would be attacked by Muslims. In Pushtimarg sources this is said to have taken place in 1566 or 1576, of which the earlier date seems more likely, though even that seems a little late if the deity really was visited by Rup Goswami. By about 1570 Vitthalnath had begun to build temples at Gokul for various deities that were in his possession.135 His influence at court was such that in 1577 he secured a firman from Akbar proclaiming his right to live in peace and security at Gokul without any demands being made on him, his family, and retainers. Two firmans issued in 1581 allowed him to graze cattle; another in 1593 acknowledged his purchase of land at Jatipura and the construction of gardens, cowsheds, workshops, and other buildings related to activities for the temple of Shrinathji, and ordered that the settlement or plot (mciuzcrj be granted tax-free (mucif) to Vitthalnath and his descendants. Another firman issued in the same year confirmed that the mauzcr of Gokul and Guzar Ghat in Mahaban parganah were to be entrusted tax-free to Vitthalnath in perpetuity in order to pay for temple expenses. More firmans were issued after Vitthalnath's death conferring these rights upon his descendants.136 Two unattested claims are that the large diamond embedded in the chin of Shrinathji was presented by Akbar after a visit he made to the temple, and that a wife of his named 'Taj Bibi' was initiated by Vitthalnath.137 Among the many aristocrats whom Vitthalnath is supposed to have initiated was Durgawati, who ruled the province of Gondwana from her capital of Garha, on the 131 Thoothi, pp.21-2. 132 K. Shastri, ch.3 p.97, Barz, p.54. 133 Caturbhujdas, Khat rtu vcirtci p.51, SPV pp.33-4, and Vitthalnath Bhatt, 8.51-5. The first two sources give the date as 1566, the latter as 1576. 134 CC 2.18.40-8. 135 Chaturbhujdas, Khat rtu vcirtci p.51, says that he built a havelJ at Gokul in 1570, Vallahhkul ko prcigatya says that he settled there in 1564, Growse, p.284, gives the date as 1565, P. Mital 1968. p.257, as 1570, D. D. Gupta, p.77, as 1571. and Barz, p. 54, as 1572. 136 For text and translation of these documents see Jhavcri, nos. 1 -5. The construction of a cowshed for the temple of Shrinathji is referred to in SPV, p.30. Vallahhkul ko prcigatya, p.60, says that he built a 'bejewelled sleeping chamber' for Shrinathji in 1573. 137 The story of Taj Bibi is in SPV, p.36, and Bhcivsinclhu kl vcirtci, pp.292 IT. The diamond legend is mentioned by Maduro, p.28. 161

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00177.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:46] bank of the Narmada. Legendary for her beauty and heroism, she killed herself rather than face capture when Garha fell to Mughal forces in 1563.138 Pushtimarg sources say that in the same year she arranged Vitthalnath's second marriage, and that she also granted him a large number of villages, and built the Satghara residence for him.139 He is also said to have initiated Askaran, a brother of Bihar Mai, who was the ruler of Narwar and also in Akbar's service.140 The names of other celebrated and less well-known princes and courtiers occur in the vartd, but even though he probably sought favour with some of them, it seems unlikely that they all became his disciples. Whereas his father had been more concerned with theology, Vitthalnath was more responsible for instituting the cult. He did much to embellish the temple ritual, with the result that Pushtimarg deities are provided with a more extensive and varied wardrobe and are treated to a more sophisticated cuisine than those of other sects.141 In 1588, shortly before the birth of his sixth son Yadunath, he organized the first chappcm bhog feast at Govardhan. He also brought the deities worshipped by members of his family together for celebrations in which they were offered elaborate feasts a tradition that was to be observed periodically by his descendants, even after the deities were taken away from Braj.142 The grand and luxurious manner in which the deities are worshipped is in harmony with the Pushtimarg's rejection of asceticism and celibacy and its offering to householders a religion in which they can enjoy their prosperity and indulge in the good things of life, provided they first make a token dedication of them to Krishna. It allowed lower status groups and those engaged in dubious businesses to achieve social status and provided, in the words of David Pocock, 'an arena in which the wealthy merchant classes could display their wealth and earn at once distinction and merit'.143 As well as elaborating the worship and increasing the membership of the Pushtimarg, Vitthalnath also took steps to ensure that control of the sect would remain within the family. Six sons were born to him by his first wife between 1540 and 1558, and a seventh by his second wife in 1571.144 A year or two before his 138 AN vol.2 pp.324-41, Elliot & Dowson, vol.5 pp.169 ( Tdnkh-i-Alfi, which gives the date as 1560) & 288, vol.6 pp.30-4, 118-121. 139 See her vdrtci in 252V, pp.345-6, Bhdvsindhu ki vcirtci, pp.254-67, and Vitthalnath Bhatt, 5.114. 140 See AA vol.1 p.509. His inititiation is mentioned by Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7.36, and in 252V (see also n.417 below), pp. 139-56, but Nabhadas, ehappay 174, says that he was a disciple of a Rama devotee named Kilhaji (see below), and neither he nor Priyadas (cf. kavitt 602-4) make any reference to his having been associated with the Pushtimarg. 141 His elaboration of worhip is referred to in SPV, pp.29 ff., and the vdrtci of Krishnadas (AV, pp.367-71, also in 84V). 142 The chappcm bhog is mentioned by Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7.86-88. Reunions of the deities, the last of which was held in 1966, are mentioned by K. Shastri, ch.7 p. 148 & 278-88, ch.5 pp. 165-6, ch.8 p.61. P. Vairagi, pp.18-29, and Jindel, pp.73-4. 143 Pocock, p. 117. 144 Their dates of birth are given in Vallabhkul ko prdgatya, pp.57-8, Dwarkeshji, pp. 16-18, Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7.29, 40, 64, 74, 79 & 87, 8.19. 162

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00178.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:46] death, which occurred in 1585, he presented each of his sons with a deity, saying that they should worship them independently in their houses.145 He thus established seven branches of the Pushtimarg that have become known as Gaddis (literally 'cushions/seats', also called pith or ghar) and have been maintained by his descendants ever since. It became the custom that only agnatic descendants of Vitthalnath could become leaders of the Pushtimarg and initiate followers with the brahmasambandh mantra that had been revealed to Vallabha at Gokul. The only exception to this rule was made for a branch of the Pushtimarg that became known as the 'Eighth Gaddi'. This was established by Shri Lalji, an orphaned child of two disciples from Sind, who grew up as an adopted son of Vitthalnath. Like the seven sons, he was presented with a deity by Vitthalnath and was told to take it to Sind and cater for the members of the Pushtimarg who lived in the Indus region. He was the only person outside the family who was entitled to impart the brahmasambandh, but it became a requirement that his descendants should first be initiated by a descendant of Vitthalnath in order to be vested with the authority to initiate their own disciples.146 Goswami families in other Krishna sects observe the rule of primogeniture in the appointment of leading gurus, but the Pushtimarg is notable for the degree to which the concept of a spiritually qualified family was developed, and is exceptional in having no parallel ascetic order in which gurus are elected or designated from among the community of devotees on the basis of merit or suitability. Veneration of the dynasty had already begun by the late sixteenth century. Gopaldas, a Gujarati disciple of Vitthalnath, wrote a poem extolling the family of Vallabha, including the seven sons of Vitthalnath.147 The myth arose that Vitthal or Vithoba, the deity at Pandharpur in Maharashtra, had told Vallabha that he should find a wife because he wished to become incarnate as his son.148 Descendants of Vitthalnath came to be regarded as inheritors of this divine nature, and thus as embodiments of Krishna himself. As such they are treated with the same degree of reverence accorded to a temple deity. In accordance with the regal manner in which deities are treated, descendants of Vitthalnath are referred to by the title 'Maharaj', a term appropriate to their pontifical life-style. The buildings where they resided and housed their deities are referred to as havelT, a term used for the mansions of nobles and wealthy merchants upon which they are modelled. The implication was that the havelJ was the courtly residence of a deity and of the descendant of Vitthalnath who had custody of it and was regarded as its representative. Some portraits of Vitthalnath show him wearing the Mughal court dress that was worn only by people of high 145 The distribution of the deities probably took place in 1583, cf. P. Mital 1968, p.276, Entwistle 1983/1, p.44. Vitthalnath Bhatt, 8.107-8, gives the date as 1584, and K. Shastri, eh.3 p. 108, as 1578. The year of Vitthalnath's death is given as 1585 in all sectarian sources, except Vitthalnath Bhatt, 8.168 ff., who implies that he died in the spring following the Annakut festival held for the seven deities in 1587. 146 See the vcirtci of Tulsidas (Shri Lalji) in 252V, pp.252-3, and Entwistle 1983/1, pt.II, for an account of the origins and subsequent history of the Eighth Gaddi, the main temple of which was at Dera Ghazi Khan. 147 Gopaldas, Vallabhcikhycm 9. 148 Ibid., 2.23-4, Vitthalnath Bhatt, 5.81-6, Nijvartd, pp.58-60. 163

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00179.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:46] status a privilege that is supposed to have been granted to him by Akbar.149 The seven deities that Vitthalnath gave to his sons were worshipped in separate havelTtemples at Gokul. They are referred to collectively as sapt svarup and are said to be of supernatural origin, but the stories told about them imply that they were either acquired by Vallabha through his wife and mother, or were donated by disciples or commissioned from them by Vallabha or Vitthalnath.150 The eldest son Giridhar was given a deity called Mathuresh, Mathuranath, or Mathuradhish, which is said to have been discovered by Vallabha near the Yamuna. He entrusted it to a disciple whose family eventually gave it to Vitthalnath.151 The second son, Govindray, was given a deity called Vitthalesh or Vitthalnath, which had been discovered at Chunar by a scidhu who worshipped it for a while and then presented it to Vallabha.152 A deity called Dwarkadhish or Dwarkanath was given to the third son, Balkrishna, whose descendants composed a legend telling how it was worshipped by a succession of sages and other mythological characters until it found its way into the hands of Vallabha.153 A deity called Gokulnath, said to have been worshipped by the family of Vallabha's wife,154 was given to the fourth son, who was also called Gokulnath. The fifth son, Raghunath, was given Gokulchandrama, a deity that had been discovered by a kscitrcim ?l \ Brahmand Ghat and was entrusted by Vallabha to another devotee who lived at Mahaban. The same woman found another image called Navanitapriy at the same place and gave it to Vallabha. He passed it on to a devotee from Agra, who eventually gave it to Vitthalnath.155 Yadunath, the sixth son, received a deity called Balkrishna, which had been found in Karnavedh Kup at Gokul, and the youngest son, Ghanshyam, was given Madanmohan, a deity which Vallabha had inherited from ancestors on his mother's side.156 The descendants of the eldest son, who have also inherited custody of Shrinathji and Navanitapriy, are regarded as the most senior Goswamis of the Pushtimarg. The seven deities remained in their respective temples at Gokul until the latter part of the seventeenth century. There are some later Pushtimarg texts that purport to describe circumambulations of Braj led by Vitthalnath in 1543, 1567 and/or 1571. Chaturbhujdas says that he did the eighty-four kos circumambulation after the birth of his seventh son in 1 551.157 As evidence that he performed the pilgrimage some local scholars quote 149 K. Shastri, ch.3 p. 104. 150 See Dwarkeshji's Bhdv bhcivna, pp.33-47, for description of these images and their bhdvnd. 151 See the bhdv prcikds of the vdrtd of Padmanabhadas, 84V no.4, p. 39. 152 P. Vairagi, p.86. 153 Brajbhushan, pp.2-46. 154 Nijvdrtd, p.65. 155 Sec the vdrtd of Gajjan Dhavan, Narayandas Brahmachari, and Mahdban ki ek ksdtranh 84V nos. 13-15, pp. 107-121. Navanitapriy is now enshrined with Shrinathji at Nathdwara. 156 Vitthalnath Bhatt, 5.110 & 8.113, Nijvdrtd, p.65. 157 Khat rtu vdrtd, pp.51-2. For other texts describing his pilgrimages see below .21-3. 164

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00180.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:46] from a vrttipatra dated 1543, written by Vitthalnath, in which he states that his pilgrimage priest was Ujagar Sharma.158 14 The Ashtachhap poets Vitthalnath is supposed to have increased the importance of music in the temples by appointing eight poets to sing their lyrics before the deities. They are now famous as the Ashtachhap. or 'Eight Seals', the 'seals' being the names used in the last couplet of the poems to identify them as the author. Four of them, Surdas, Paramanandadas, Kumbhandas, and Krishnadas, are said to have been disciples of Vallabha, and the others, Chaturbhujdas, Nandadas, Chhitswami, and Govindswami, to have been disciples of Vitthalnath.159 As a group of eight they correspond to other significant octads, such as the eight companions of Krishna, the eight Sakhis of Radha, the eight periods of daily worship (astavdm sevci), the eight Gaddis of the Pushtimarg, and the eight syllables of the mantra used for primary initiation into the sect.160 Apart from compilations of the works of each individual poet there are also anthologies in which verses attributed to all eight of them are arranged thematically for performance in Pushtimarg temples. It remains uncertain whether Vitthalnath himself was responsible for forming the octad. The earliest source mentioning the eight poets as disciples of Vallabha and Vitthainath is a manuscript of their vcirta dated 1640.161 The Pushtimarg tradition does not find much confirmation in non-sectarian sources. All that Nabhadas tells us is that Krishnadas was a disciple of Vallabha and servant of Shrinathji. Priyadas associates Krishnadas with Surdas and, like the varta legend, says he died when he fell into a well. The only other confirmation of Pushtimarg tradition by Priyadas is a mention of Vitthalnath and Shrinathji in connection with Govindswami.162 The three most famous of the Ashtachhap 158 P. Mital 1966, pt. 1 p.95, D. Parikh in Dwivedi (ed.) 1972, pp.304-5. He is referred to as 'Ujagar Chaube' in accounts of the pilgrimage. The document is in the possession of Ujagar's descendents, Chaubes who still perform rites for the Goswamis leading the ban ycitra. See Lynch's article on mastrdm for legends current among the Chaubes of how Ujagar instituted the jajmcim system and consolidated their relationship with the Pushtimarg. 159 Their vcirtci comprise AV, also included as the last four varta in 84V (see Barz for translation) and the first four in 252V. For studies of the poets and their relationship to the Pushtimarg see P. Mital 1949 and D. D. Gupta. See also comments by McGregor 1984, pp.83-88. 160 Viz. srTkrsna saranam mama. See P. Mital 1968, pp.270-1, for tabulation of the dates of birth and death of the eight poets, the Sakhas and Sakhis with whom they are identified, the period of the day when they sang, their favourite themes, and the places around Govardhan associated with them. 161 Hawley 1984. p.7, expresses doubts about this date and cites Brajeshwar Varma's Silr mimamsa, where it is suggested that the manuscript bears a forged date. The date is accepted by K. Shastri, who used the manuscript for his edition of AV, giving variants from another ms. dated 1695. 162 Nabhadas, chappav 81, Priyadas, kavitt 346-7, 410-14. 165

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00181.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:47] poets, Surdas, Paramanandadas, and Nandadas, are the ones whose association with the Pushtimarg is most tenuous, though this does not exclude the possibility that they sang at the temple of Shrinathji at one time or another. Surdas, the most famous devotional poet in the Braj language, may possibly be identified with one of the singers at Akbar's court listed by Abu'l Fazl, but there can be little doubt that the legend of his having been a disciple of Vallabha and a singer in the service of Shrinathji is a fabrication.163 There is somewhat more likelihood that Nandadas was initiated by Vallabha, but the varta has undoubtedly exaggerated his role in the Pushtimarg.164 A closer association with the Pushtimarg and the cult of Shrinathji is more probable in the case of the remaining five, and considerably minor, poets. Krishnadas was the Gujarati manager of the temple whose role in the development of the worship of Shrinathji has already been mentioned (above ). Kumbhandas, said to have been ten years older than Vallabha, was a farmer from the village of Jamnauta and the father of Chaturbhujdas. Chhitswami is described as a Chaturvedi (Chaube) brahmin who lived at Punchhari. Before his conversion he is said to have been a villain (guda), the leader of a group of delinquent Chaubes who used to sit on Vishram Ghat and make fun of people.165 15 Some Gaudiya devotees of the late sixteenth century After the death of his uncles, Jiv Goswami became the leading authority of the Gaudiya Sampraday in Braj and inherited custodianship of the temples founded by Sanatan, Rup, and Raghunthdas. In 1588 he bought a plot of land from a certain Alikhan Chaudhari on which he built a temple for his deity of Radhadamodar.166 In 1606 he drew up a testamentary document, witnessed by Krishnadas Kaviraj and other leading Gaudiya devotees, which gave provisions for the succession to the custody of the temples, deities, and manuscripts. The worship and all necessary accoutrements were entrusted to one Shrivilasdas, who was given the right to pass them on to a devotee named Krishnadas. The latter was recognized as custodian by Shah Jahan in 1646, and later documents show that the property remained with his descendants for at least a century.167 At about the same time that work was in progress on the temple of Govind Dev, the deity worshipped by Rup Goswami, another temple in red sandstone was built for Madanmohan on the Dwadashaditya mound, where Sanatan is believed to have installed it for worship. The money for its construction is said to have been provided 163 Vaudeville 1971, intro. McGregor 1984, pp.76-80. See Hawley 1984 for a comprehensive account of Surdas and a survey of relevant sources and opinions. 164 Available biographical details are discussed by McGregor, intro. to Nanddas, pp.29-38. 165 AV, p.593 (Chitsvcuni ki varta). 166 Wright & Mukherjee, p.302. His name is given in the document as 4Alisa' he may be the Alikhan Pathan of Pushtimarg source s. 167 See Wright & Mukherjee for a transcription of Jiv's testament and references to other relevant documents. Priyadas, kavitt 381, refers to a Krishnadas 'Panditju', who was entrusted with the worship of Govind Dev. 166

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00182.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:47] as a thanksgiving by a merchant from Multan, called Ramdas Kapur Khatri, after the deity had helped to free a boat loaded with salt that had run aground on a sandbank in the Yamuna. Sanatan entrusted the service of Madanmohan to his disciple Krishnadas Brahmachari, and until the eighteenth century it remained in the custody of a succession of Bengali ascetics.168 A notable devotee of the deity and a disciple of Sanatan was the poet Surdas Madanmohan. Priyadas tells us that he was a revenue officer at Sandila (near Lucknow), but he seems to have left government service and settled in Vrindaban during the reign of Akbar.169 He is commemorated by a red sandstone samadhi beneath the mound on which the temple stands. The writings of the Six Goswamis were not immediately recognized as authoritative by their fellow devotees in eastern India. Jiv Goswami is said to have entrusted this task to three devotees named Shrinivas, Shyamanand, and Narottamdas. Shrinivas probably arrived in Vrindaban some time between 1560 and 1570, took initiation from Gopal Bhatt, and returned to Bengal in about 1580 with copies of the works of the Six Goswamis, accompanied by Shyamanand and Narottamdas.170 Narottamdas is said to have been initiated by Loknath, which implies that he had arrived in Braj many years before.171 On his return to Bengal he founded a temple in 1583 at his native village of Kheturi, where his father had been local Raja. After his death in 1611 his ashes were brought to Vrindaban and interred in a samadhi next to that of Loknath.172 Shyamanand, who studied with Jiv Goswami in Vrindaban, returned to the east, where he propagated the Gaudiya Sampraday in his native Midnapur and in Orissa.173 Eventually his followers established a temple in Vrindaban dedicated to Shyamsundar. Although Vrindaban and Radhakund became the main centres of the Gaudiya Sampraday in Braj, Narayan Bhatt chose to settle at Unchagaon, where he built a temple of Balarama. He also founded temples dedicated to Lariliji (Radha) at Barsana and to Radharaman at Sanket.174 He wrote a work entitled Premahkura which formed the basis for the series of re-enactments called burhi lilci that are 168 Priyadas, ibid. See P. Thakur for the origin myth and (pp.97-9) for the succession of custodians. 169 Priyadas, kavitt 498-502, see also introductions to editions of Surdas Madanmohan's poems by P. Mital and Krishnadas Baba. 170 This is described in Prem vilds of Nityanandadas, composed in the mid-17th century, and in BRat 6-7. For further details of Shrinivas see R. Chakravarti 1985, pp.208-19. 171 His biography is given in Narottam vilds by Naraharidas. See also S. K. Ghos, who bases his account mainly on Prem vilds and Anurdgavalli, and R. Chakravarti 1985, eh.XIV, referring to him as 'Narottama Datta'. 172 P. Mital 1962, p.56. 173 See Rasik mahgal of Gopijanvallabhdas, the later Rasik vilds of Sadhucharan, and R. Chakravarti 1985, ch.XV. 174 NBC 2. 81-157, 3.34-42 & VOC (see below .14). Krishnadas Baba, in his introductions to NBC and VOC, also credits him with establishing other shrines in Braj, including those of Gopinath at Khaira, Praudhanath at Shekhsai, Chaturbhuj at Paintha, and Adibadri. 167

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00183.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:47] performed annually in and around Barsana.175 After his death the service of the deities at Barsana and Unchagaon was shared by his son Damodar and a disciple named Narayandas Shrotri, whose descendants are still in charge of the temples.176 His biographer tells us that he established the ras Ilia tradition and fixed the dates and places of the performances, created the Braj pilgrimage circuit (as described in Vrajabhaktivilasa), and composed fifty-works at Unchagaon, in addition to the seven he had previously written at Radhakund.177 16 The Radhavallabh Sampraday After the death of Hit Harivansh his eldest son Vanchandra (1528-1608) took over the leadership of his following. Three other sons named Krishnachandra (also referred to as Krishnadas or Krishnanand), Gopinath, and Mohanchandra also appear to have played a part in the development of the following into what was to become known as the Radhavallabh Sampraday.178 Krishnachandra is remembered for a poetic work in Sanskrit called Kamananda, which deals primarily with Radha.179 Vanchandra's most significant contribution was the building of a temple for the deity of Radhavallabh, for which funds were provided by a disciple of Gopinath named Sundardas Bhatnagar. According to Bhagwat Mudit he was a Kayasth who served as dlwan for Abdurrahim Khankhana (1556-1627), the son of Akbar's guardian, who, besides being a poet, was a general, statesman, and patron of other poets.180 Legend has it that Man Singh and another officer in the service of Akbar wanted to provide a temple, but they were put off by a prophesy that the builder would die within a year of its completion. This did not deter Sundardas, who duly died a year after the installation of the deity and was commemorated by a samadhi constructed by Vanchandra near the gateway to the temple. It is not clear exactly when the temple of Radhavallabh was built, but Wilson noted an inscription over the gateway, now no longer extant, that was dated 1585, implying that it was constructed at about the same time as the temple of Govind Dev.181 The second son of Vanchandra, called Radhavallabhdas (b. 1553), frequented Man Sarovar, a pool that is believed to have been a favourite spot of his grandfather. A disciple of his from Lohban, named Trilokswami, obtained some land beside Man Sarovar and enshrined a Krishna deity there called Hit Vallabh. 175 Bansal, p.440. 176 NBC 3.44-96. Bansal, pp.311-12, gives the names of descendants from Narayan Bhatt down to Subal Shyam, fl. c.1700. 177 NBC 3.34-42. 178 P. Mital 1968, pp.366, 393. 179 Dated 1578, ed. N. S. Shukla, Pondicherry 1971. Lalitacharan Goswami, p.574, gives his date of birth as 1529. 180 Bhagwat Mudit, pp.44-8 (Sundardas Bhatnagar), McGregor, p. 121-2 (Abdurrahim Khankhana). 181 Growse, p.202, who also refers to another inscription on one of the front pillars dated 1626. See also comments on the date of the temple by Lalitaprasad Purohit in his introduction to Bhagwat Mudit, pp.16-18. 168

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00184.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:47] The establishment became known as Radhavallabh Nirmohi Akhara and is still in the custody of descendants of Radhavallabhdas.182 Hit Harivansh, Swami Haridas, and another poet called Hariram Vyas are believed to have been close friends and are referred to collectively as the Three Hans' (hciri travT). Hariram Vyas, the youngest of them, is said to have been initiated by Hit Harivansh at the age of forty-two and to have spent the latter part of his life at Vrindaban, where he founded a temple dedicated to Jugal Kishor.183 Before then he had lived at Orchha, which some say was his place of birth, though the town was not founded until 1531. In some of his poems he refers to Madhukar Shah, the ruler of Orchha from 1554-92, and some claim that he acted as the king's guru. His verses cover a wide range of topics, some of them referring to contemporary developments in Vrindaban. In one poem he expresses his regret at the passing of Swami Haridas, Hit Harivansh, Rup, Sanatan, and Paramanandadas. Apart from a desire to benefit from the company of fellow devotees, he may also have been motivated to spend his later years at Vrindaban because of disappointment with his family, especially one of his sons. He complains that they resorted to Shakta worship, which he severely criticized.184 However, Priyadas tells us that two of his sons were Vaishnavas and that one of them inherited the custody of Jugal Kishor, and the other, named Kishordas, became a disciple of Swami Haridas.185 The temple of Jugal Kishor continued to receive the patronage of the rulers of Orchha, and later those of Datiya, until the deity was moved to Panna in the mid-eighteenth century. A prominent disciple of Hit Harivansh was Damodardas, usually referred to as Sevakji, who was born in Garha and spent the latter part of the sixteenth century in Vrindaban.186 He wrote a work known as Sevak vein!, which is generally accepted as the most important text of the Radhavallabh Sampraday after the verses of Hit Harivansh. Besides extolling his guru, the work deals with the interdependence of Krishna and Radha, stresses the importance of immersing oneself in their amorous play, and comments upon the conduct expected of a true devotee. A poet and pupil of Vanchandra was Nehi Nagaridas. Bhagwat Mudit tells us that he settled in a hermitage at Barsana called Mor Kuti, where he began to worship Radha and organize celebrations on the anniversary of her birth. He introduced a woman called Bhagmati to Vanchandra, from whom she took initiation. She lived at 182 P. Mital 1968, p.406. 183 Sec Bhagwat Mudit, pp.5-10, Nabhadas, chappay 92, Priyadas, kavitt 368-73. Vasudcv Goswami's introduction to his edition of the works of Hariram Vyas, Lalitacharan Goswami, pp.383 ff., Snatak, pp.354 ff., P. Mital 1968, pp.374-6, and Bansal, pp.244-57 (who argues that he was initiated into the Gaudiya Sampraday). Vasudcv Goswami gives his dates as 1510-C.1612, which arc accepted by other scholars, apart from Lalitacharan Goswami, who suggests 1492-1598. The year of his arrival in Vrindaban is given as 1555 or 1565 (ibid., pp. 391-6), and he is said to have discovered Jugal Kishor in 1563 (Bansal, p.255). 184 Hariram Vyas, pad 282-295. 185 Priyadas, kavitt 373. 186 Bhagwat Mudit, pp.31-35, Snatak, pp.333 ff. 169

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00185.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:47] Orchha and was the wife of a certain Chintamani, an officer in the service of the Mughal court, but after becoming a devotee she settled at Barsana.187 17 Followers of Swami Haridas It appears that after the death of Swami Haridas the service of his deity, Banke Bihari, was largely controlled by descendants of a Saraswat brahmin priest named Jagannath. This resulted in the formation of two factions, one of hereditary Goswamis descended from Meghshyam and Muraridas, two of the three sons of Jagannath, and the other of celibate ascetics who were led by a succession of Acharyas, each of whom designated his successor.188 A schism between the two factions in the eighteenth century led to the creation of divergent histories. The Goswamis' claim that Jagannath was the younger brother of Swami Haridas is denied by the ascetics, who say that he was simply a priest appointed to serve the deity. The Goswamis say that Jagannath came from Panjab and today there is a branch of Goswamis at Haridaspur. While there have been few persons of note among the Goswamis, many of the ascetics are noted for their devotional poetry. The poems of the eight Acharyas who followed in succession after Swami Haridas have been collected together to form a liturgical compilation.189 The ascetics still maintain the tradition of singing them in solo performance and at devotional gatherings. Their Acharya (or Mahant) must be a native of Braj, and the ascetics themselves vow never to leave Braj. They are distinctive by their habit of smearing their face with the dust of Braj (braj raj), carrying a crooked stick (kubari or baki), and wearing garlands of wood from trees of Vrindaban and a white shawl covered with spots of indigo. The first of the Acharyas, Bithal Vipul, died within a week of Swami Haridas and was succeeded by Biharindas.190 It was largely due to the efforts of Biharindas that the following of Swami Haridas developed into a distinct sectarian tradition. According to Kishordas he had been the son of an official in Akbar's government and had been in military service before taking up the life of an ascetic.191 He wrote more poems, both doctrinal and devotional, than any of the other seven Acharyas. Since the poetry of the eight Acharyas emphasizes the role of the Sakhis, and since they 187 Bhagwat Mudit, pp.80 ff. Snatak, pp.460 fi, Lalitacharan Goswami, pp.417 ff., Kishorilal Gupta's introduction to his edition of the works of the later Nagaridas, pp. 18 ff. 188 Datt, pp.43 ff., 49, 97. On pp.44-7 he gives the ancestry and names of descendants of Jagannath. 189 The compilation is called Astacaryd ki mm. Formerly the tradition was not to publish them or circulate them outside Vrindaban, but they were published at Vrindaban in 1971 by Hargulal under the title Sarvopari-nityaviharinTras-sar. VDA 39 gives details of the samaj tradition and Datt, pp.66-7, gives the dates of the most important gatherings. 190 He is also referred to as Biharinidas, Biharidas, or Biharindev. See Nabhadas, chappay 94, Priyadas, kavitt 377, Datt, pp.151-7, 262-71, Haynes, pp.87-95. 191 Kishordas, vol.3 pp.128 ff. 170

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00186.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:48] themselves are identified with the companions of Radha, the sect came to be referred to as the 'Sakhi Sampraday'. 18 Harivyasdev and other devotees of the Nimbark Sampraday Members of the Nimbark Sampraday do not seem to have enjoyed the same degree of patronage from nobles and merchants as Vitthalnath and the spiritual leaders at Vrindaban. Although they did not manage to found new and impressive temples in Braj, they composed a certain amount of devotional literature in the Braj dialect. The most prominent figure in the Sampraday in the early part of Akbar's reign was Harivyasdev, who succeeded Shribhatt as head of the establishment at Dhruv Tila.192 His main lasting contribution to the sect was an elaborate work entitled Mahavani, in which he assimilated aspects of devotion that had been formulated in Sanskrit texts by the leading Bengali Goswamis. It names a multitude of Sakhis and describes how they attend upon Krishna and Radha through the different watches of the day. It also describes the celebration of a number of festivals by Krishna and his entourage. Passages from it are still sung during gatherings of followers of the Nimbark Sampraday. Like his predecessor, Harivyasdev came from Mathura and was a Gaur brahmin, the caste to which his twelve main disciples belonged. They became the founders of twelve branches (dvar) of the Sampraday that have since been maintained by a succession of Acharyas.193 The foremost of the twelve disciples was Parashuram, a prolific poet.194 He founded an establishment at Salemabad, near Jaipur, that is referred to by his followers as Parashurampuri. Harivyasdev presented him with a salagram stone that has remained in the custody of successive Acharyas, who are given the title Shriji Maharaj and are regarded as successors to the Gaddi of Nimbarka. Among their establishments in Braj is the temple and ashram at Nimgaon, supposed to have been the place where Nimbarka resided.195 The claim, that the lineage of Parashuram is the foremost branch of the Nimbark Sampraday is challenged by followers of Swabhuram, another of the twelve disciples. Among establishments in Braj belonging to this branch are temples of Hanuman at Asikund (Mathura), Radhakant at Vishram Ghat, and others in Vrindaban.196 Another disciple of Harivyasdev was Uddhavji, also called Ghamandadev, who is one of the figures credited with establishing the rds Ula 192 Nabhadas, chappay 77, Priyadas, kavitt 338-9. See also P. Mital 1968, pp.347-8, N. Sharma, pp.36-43. 193 P. Mital 1968, pp.348 ff. Sometimes members of the Sampraday are called 'Harivyasis \ 194 Nabhadas, chappay 137, Priyadas, kavitt 522. 195 P. Mital 1968, p.350-1, N. Sharma, pp.50-52. 196 P. Mital 1968, p.348, including the establishment founded by Kathiya Baba. 171

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00187.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:48] tradition.197 Among other disciples of Harivyasdev, apart from the twelve main ones, was the poet Ruprasik. 19 The Sampradays of Ramanuja and Ramanand It is uncertain how long there has been an establishment in Braj of the southern Shrivaishnava Sampraday, which looks upon Ramanuja as its founder. Its oldest establishment there is a temple of Lakshminarayan on the banks of Manasi Ganga at Govardhan. The present building appears to date from the eighteenth century, but Narayan Bhatt refers to 'a place of Lakshminarayan', which suggests that there was already a temple of this name there in the mid-sixteenth century.198 Although the Shrivaishnavas had some influence on liturgical and devotional literature in northern India, they made no concrete contribution to the development of Braj until the nineteenth century. It is possible that the Lakshminarayan establishment was founded by a group of Ramanandis who claimed to represent the original Shrivaishnava Sampraday. It is not certain when the Ramanandis began to establish temples and ashrams in Braj. Their first and more important centres were further to the east, while their most notable establishment in the west was at Galta, a gorge in the hills to the east of Jaipur. Mathura, as an old pilgrimage town and a centre of Vaishnava devotional activity, must have been of some interest to them, though of somewhat secondary importance in that it was associated with Krishna rather than Rama. It presumably became more relevant to them after the late sixteenth century, when the theology and practices of Krishna devotion began to have an influence on the Ramanandi orders. According to their sectarian tradition Anantanand, one of the chief disciples of Ramanand, founded a Sanskrit school at Mathura.199 One of his pupils was Krishnadas Payahari, founder of the establishment at Galta, and he in turn had a pupil named Kilhadev or Kiladas, who, according to Priyadas, visited Mathura and had a meeting with Man Singh.200 In a narrow street near the temple known as Ramji Dwar (on Ram Ghat) is an establishment called Kilamath that is believed to stand on the site where Kiladas had his cell (guphd). Nearby, on Prayag Ghat, is Galta(wali) Kunj, said to have been founded in 1588 and now in the custody of 197 See P. Mital 1984, pp.55-8, who, like R. N. Agrawal, pp. 101-4, rejects claims made relatively recently that he is to be identified with a certain Ghamandi who is said to have begun rds Ida performaces at Karhela, as well as another (?) later Ghamandi, one who is said by Dhruvdas (Bhaktandnuivall, clohd 31) to have lived at Bansi Bat in Vrindaban. His varan pcidakd are worshipped at the village of Likhi (P. Mital 1968, p.349). 198 VBV 2.50, 5.9. Krishnacharyaji, p. 166, and S. S. Chakra in Vrndcivandhk, pp.316-18, say that the first Acharya was called Shathakopa. He is credited with a work called Sahasragltiscira, which deals with the sports of Krishna and describes Govardhan (Vijay, pp. 118-9). 199 P. Mital 1968, pp. 162-3. Sec also B. P. Singh, p.329, referring to a place called Anant Gupha. 200 Priyadas, kavitt 121. See n. 140 above. 172

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00188.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:48] Mahants who claim to belong to the lineage of Kiladas.201 According to another tradition, the old temple of Dirghavishnu was in the custody of Ramanandis from at least the sixteenth century until the reign of Aurangzeb.202 The Ramanandi presence in Vrindaban has never been of much significance. Followers of the Sant Malukdas are said to have founded a Rama temple on Keshi Ghat, and nearby is Ramanandi Nirmohi Akhara, referred to by Gopal Kavi as an akhcird of the Khakhi order. He also mentions a samddhi of Sursuranand in Ram Kunj, an establishment of the Lashkari order near the temple of Radhavallabh.203. Other later Ramanandi establishments in Vrindaban are temples of Rama near Bansi Bat, Kalidah, and Varaha Ghat, a Jagannath temple at Gyan Gudri, and Digambar and Nirvani Akharas.204 20 The reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan (1605-58) Jahangir's reign began with a brief period of disruption when his son Khusrau attempted to usurp the throne, a rebellion that was inspired by Akbar's professed wish that he should be the next emperor, rather than Jahangir, whom Akbar had considered unworthy. The rebellion was put down, though Khusrau's followers managed to indulge in looting when they passed through Mathura. Like his father, Jahangir visited the area around Mathura for tiger hunting. He records that in 1619 he visited the temples in Vrindaban which had been built by the Rajput nobles, but his only comment is that he could not bear to breathe the air because so many bats had made their abode inside.205 The only Hindu religious person he mentions is Jadrup, apparently a Shaiva ascetic (samnydsl) who had moved to Mathura from Ujjain, where they had met once before. Jahangir tells us that he highly valued his discussions with him. Shah Jahan, who succeeded to the throne in 1627/8, seems to have .wavered somewhat in his attitude towards Hinduism. At one stage he revived the pilgrimage tax, but it was soon remitted again at the insistence of influential Hindus. In 1632 he forbade the completion of temples begun in his father's reign and ordered the destruction of those at Varanasi, Allahabad, Orchha, and in Kashmir and Gujarat.206 These decrees stand out as anomalous when considered in the light of his general religious policy, though they are indicative of a decline in Hindu influence in his immediate circle and a re-emergence of the orthodox Sunni clergy. His Hindu mother had died in 1619 and, unlike his father and grandfather, he did not take a Hindu bride. However, he issued no other iconoclastic or anti-Hindu decrees in the later part of his reign, perhaps as a result of the increasing influence of his son Dara Shukoh. The Vaishnava sects of Braj continued to flourish and leaders 201 P. Mital 1968, pp.163, 499. 202 Ibid., pp.499-500. 203 VDA 7 (Lashkari establishment) and 33 (Nirmohi Akhara). 204 P. Mital 1968, pp.574-5. 205 Jahangir, vol.2 pp. 103-5. 206 Roy Choudhury, pp.258-9, Elliot & Dowson, vol.7 p.36. 173

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00189.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:48] of the religious communities in Braj were favoured with firmans granting them villages and revenue. Commerce continued to thrive during both reigns; even Dutch and English merchants managed to establish trade missions at Agra which, among other items, exported saltpetre and indigo, the products most sought after by early European travellers. In return, they were able to supply the local nobility and upper classes with luxury goods and novelties. It is evident from Peter Mundy's account of his travels that neither the benefits of an increase in commercial activity nor the tolerance shown towards Hindu religious leaders did anything to improve the lot of the peasantry.207 At the end of 1631 he visited Koil (Aligarh) in search of indigo, and then, in the new year, went to Shergarh which he thought produced 'the best saltpeter that is transported out of India to Christendome.' He expresses pity for the way in which the Hindu peasants were oppressed and impoverished, comparing their plight to that of Christians under the Turks. He remarks that the authorities were 'takeinge from them all they can gett by their labour, leaveinge them nothinge but their badd mudd walled ill thatched covered howses, and a few Cattell to till the ground, besides other misseries.' The area was plagued by bandits, 'hereabouts beinge the most daungerous place for Robbers that is in all India (by report), as usuall neere to great Citties.' The villagers did not dare to contradict the robbers and were obliged to harbour them, despite the gruesome executions and savage reprisals inflicted by the government. Another English merchant, named William Jesson, wrote in 1656 that a colleague of his had delayed his departure from Agra 'untill now that severall Banian merchants of quallity, which came up to Matra and Gocall to worship, are retourning to Amahdabad, soe well attended with souldiers that it is conceived he may with them travaile safely.'208 At one point there was a revolt among cultivators living on the east bank of the Yamuna, but they were soon quelled by the imperial army. They continually committed highway robbery, lived in rebellion, and did not pay revenue. In 1623 an expedition was sent against them, as a result of which many men were slain, women and children were taken captive, and much booty was acquired.209 Several years later, in 1635, there was a rebellion among Tenwa Jats who had settled in Mathura parganah at the beginning of the century. A certain Murshid Quli Khan was appointed local commander in order to suppress the revolt. Apart from imprisoning many of the men, he also took to collecting beautiful maidens. Once, during Janmashtami celebrations at Gokul, he disguised himself as a Hindu and mingled with the crowds in order to abduct a woman that took his fancy. It was presumably such rapaciousness that led to his assassination by Jats in 1638.210 The Meos living in Mewat, an area that now forms the northern part of Bharatpur District, were also troublesome. They used to rob travellers on the road between Agra and Delhi and raid villages in the western part of Braj, with the result that revenue could not be collected. In 1650 Mirza Raja Jai Singh, a grandson of 207 Mundy, pp.71-7. 208 Foster 1921/2, p.69. 209 Habib, pp.339-42. 210 Samsam-ud-daula, pp.309-314, E. B. Joshi, pp.59-60, (citing Abdul Hamid Lahori, Bculshdhndma 1 pp.71-2. 76, 2 p.425), Irvine, vol.1 p.321. 174

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00190.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:49] Man Singh, was ordered to deal with them. The outcome of his campaign was that many of the Meos were slain, enslaved, or expelled, the jungles of Mewat were cleared, roads were made, land was granted to subjects of Jai Singh, and his second son Kirat Singh was appointed fauzddr of Mewat and given the parganahs of Kaman-Pahari and Khoh.211 21 Bir Singh Deo of Orchha The greatest contribution to the development of Braj during the reign of Jahangir was made by Bir Singh Deo, the Raja of Orchha.212 His grandfather, Rudra Pratap, was a Bundela chief who had managed to extend his territory during the period of disturbance that followed Babar's invasion. He chose Orchha as the site for a new capital and built his first palace there in 1531. He was killed by a tiger later in the same year and was succeeded by his eldest son, who was in turn followed by his younger brother, Madhukar Shah, in 1554. His refusal to submit to Mughal hegemony resulted in Akbar twice sending an army to subdue him, which led to the loss of territory north-west of Orchha (in 1577 and 1588). He was a pious Hindu and a patron of the arts; during his reign Orchha became a notable centre of culture.213 After his death in 1592 he was succeeded by his son Ram Shah, who made amends with Akbar and was acknowledged as ruler of the Orchha territories. Ram Shah was unable to restrain his rebellious brothers, especially Bir Singh Deo, with the result that the state was plunged into civil war. In 1592 Akbar sent a force to arrest Bir Singh Deo, but he soon managed to escape and began to ingratiate himself with Prince Salim. At this time Akbar was showing his displeasure at Salim's recalcitrant behaviour, and the prince suspected that Abu'l Fazl, his father's close friend and advisor, was trying to block his succession to the throne. In 1602 Bir Singh Deo, at the instigation of Salim, murdered Abu'l Fazl in an ambush, after which he was obliged to go into hiding until Akbar's death three years later.214 Soon after Salim succeeded to the throne, taking the title of Jahangir, Bir Singh Deo was made Raja of Orchha after his brother had been ousted. He remained in Jahangir's favour for the rest of his life, extended his dominions, and acquired immense wealth. Eighteen years later Jahangir conferred upon him the title of Maharaja.215 He mellowed as he grew older and became more religious, perhaps a way of atoning for his earlier misdeeds. In 1614 he made a pilgrimage to 211 J. Sarkar 1984, pp. 109-110. 212 He is referred to as Nar Singh by some Muslim historians. For a concise account of his life and ancestry see Luard, pp.17 ff. Some historical detail is given in VTrsimhdev carina, a eulogy of him composed by Keshavdas in 1607. For his father, Madhukar Shah, see AN vol.3 pp.294-5, 324-5, 379, 803. 213 There is a tradition that he once visited Vrindaban and met Swami Haridas (VDA 21). 214 These events are described in AA vol.1 pp.509, 524, 545-6, AN vol.3 pp.1216 ff., by Jahangir, vol.1 pp. 24-5, and in Wikaya'-i Asad Beg (Elliot & Dowson, vol.7, p. 184). 215 Jahangir, vol.2 p.253. 175

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00191.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:49] Mathura where, on Vishram Ghat, he offered his weight in gold plus a further eighty-one maunds which were distributed as charity.216 He founded palaces and temples at Orchha and Datiya and in other parts of his dominions. He also contributed to the restoration and construction of tanks, ghats, temples, and other holy places in Braj.217 At a cost of 3,300,000 rupees he built a magnificent new temple of Keshavdev in red sandstone on the Katra, the site on which earlier temples had stood.218 It was the wonder of Mathura for the next half century. Tavernier, who saw it in around 1650, regarded it as 'one of the most sumptuous buildings in all India' and gave the following description: Although this pagoda, which is very large, is in a hollow, it is visible from more than 5 or 6 coss distance, the building being very elevated and magnificent. The stones which were used in its construction are of a red colour, and are obtained from a large quarry near Agra...it is seated on a great platform of octagonal shape faced with cut stone...Its form...is that of a cross, and in the middle there rises a lofty dome, with two others a little smaller at the sides. On the exterior of the building, from base to summit, there are numerous figures of animals such as rams, monkeys, and elephants, carved in stone, and all round are niches containing different monsters. From the foot of each of the three domes up to their summit, at intervals, there are windows from 5 to 6 feet high, and at each a kind of balcony where four persons can sit...Around these domes there are also niches full of figures which represent demons, one with four arms, another four legs; some of them have heads of men on the bodies of beasts, with horns and long tails which twine round their legs. There are, finally, numerous images of monkeys and it is a terrible thing to have before the eyes so many ugly representations.219 He says that the entrance was flanked by many columns and images of men and monsters, and describes the main deity as being of black marble, with what appeared to be rubies for eyes, and the two deities on either side as being of white, all of them dressed in embroidered robes.220 Another visitor, Bernier, considered it to be the only structure worthy of observation between Delhi and Agra and describes it as an ancient (?) and magnificent temple.221 It also impressed Dircq van Adrichem when he saw it in 216 Luard, p.21. 217 Viz. places on the pilgrimage circuit numbered below as 13(a), 19.3, 26, 37.11, 39.1, 61, 55, 66.1, 10, 11, 19, 26, 29 & 42, 71.2 & 7, mentioned by Pratitray Lakshman Singh (cf. P. Mital 1957). 218 Elliot & Dowson 7, p. 184. 219 Tavcrnier, vol.2 pp. 187-8. 220 He says that these two deities, which must have been marble images of Gopis or Krishna's two main wives (Rukmini and Satyabhama), were called 'Becchor'. Vaudeville 1976, p.204, suggests that they represent Gopis, interpreting 'Bccchor' as meaning 'suffering from separation'. 221 Bcrnier, p.284, who travelled through the Mughal empire between 1656-68. 176

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00192.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:49] 1662, and Manucci says that it was 'of such a height that its gilded pinnacle could be seen from Agra.'222 The main image was called Keshavdev or Keshoray, those on either side were called Mathuramal and Kalyanray, and there were other images, presumably in subsidiary shrines, of Raghunath (Rama), Narasinha, Devaki, Vasudeva, Yashodanandan, and Krishna.223 Some years after its construction, probably in 1655, Dara Shukoh provided it with a stone railing.224 22 The Pushtimarg in the first half of the seventeenth century After the death of Vitthalnath the structure of the Pushtimarg was one of separate but interrelated Gaddis, each with its own temples, disciples, and followers. The first Gaddi, which had custody of the deities Shrinathji, Mathuresh, and Navanitapriy, was acknowledged as the main one and its head was given the title of Tilakayat. The senior Goswami of each Gaddi was regarded as its leader and chief guru, and he was succeeded by his eldest male descendant. For some time this arrangement worked well enough, but conflicts began to arise when a senior Goswami died without heir and a successor had to be chosen from another branch of the family. After the death of Giridhar, Vitthalnath's eldest son, the leadership of the first Gaddi was inherited first by Damodar and then by Vitthalray, who was born in 1600.225 Vitthalray's inheritance of privileges conferred upon his great-grandfather Vitthalnath during the reign of Akbar was confirmed by firmans issued during the reign of Shah Jahan. Two firmans issued by Shah Jahan in 1633 confirmed his right to hold land at Jatipura and Gokul tax-free; another issued by Dara Shukoh in 1643 confirmed his right to live unencumbered at Gokul.226 A firman issued by Ishaq Azam Khan, an official in the service of Shah Jahan, granted Vitthalray the right to collect taxes from the market at Gokul.227 In 1658 Dara Shukoh issued two more firmans, one allowing the cows of the temple of Shrinathji to graze unmolested at Bachhgaon and the other acknowledging the inheritance by Giridhar of the mauzcr of Gokul (presumably referring to the eldest son of Vitthalray, who was born in 1632).228 Although these documents show that Vitthalray was acknowledged by the imperial authorities as leader of the Pushtimarg, his relatives challenged his assumption of the exclusive right to conduct the worship of Shrinathji. The conflict was settled when it was agreed that Vitthalray should conduct the worship on sixty 222 Van Adrichem, p. 122 ('den grooten benjaanse tempcl, die waardigh om zien en een zeer machtig groot gebouw is'), Manucci, vol.2 p. 154. The temple is also described by Mitra Mishra, Ananclakcmclacampu 8.71-94. 223 BYV, naming the last as sdvaro. 224 Vajpcyi 1954, pp. 160-1. 225 Vitthalnath Bhatt, 9.8, where he is referred to as 'Vitthalnath'. 226 Jhaveri, nos.5-8. 227 P. Mital 1968, p.284. 228 Jhaveri, nos. 12 & 13. The date of birth of Giridhar is given by Vitthalnalh Bhatt, 9.27-8.

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00193.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:49] of the annual festival days and that the worship on the other days of the year should be shared out among Goswamis belonging to the six other Gaddis.229 The most respected figure in the Pushtimarg in the early part of the sixteenth was Vitthalnath's fourth son Gokulnath.230 In sectarian sources he is acclaimed as a defender of the faith in a conflict over the right of Vaishnavas to wear their forehead mark (tilak). He is supposed to have been the victor in an incident of dubious historicity involving Jadrup, the Hindu divine who had found favour with Jahangir. In Pushtimarg sources Jadrup is portrayed as a malevolent Tantric ascetic who persuaded Jahangir to ban Vaishnavas from wearing their sectarian marks and garland of tulsT beads. They say that Gokulnath was obliged to leave Braj because he refused to observe the ban, and that he eventually went to Kashmir where he met Jahangir and persuaded him to revoke the order.231 Gokulnath is also the reputed author of the stories (vartd) dealing with the disciples of Vallabha and Vitthalnath. He may well have been the author of some of them, especially those dealing with the disciples of Vallabha, but it seems more likely that they were collected, expanded, and provided with a commentary by Hariray, a grandson of the second son of Vitthalnath.232 According to Pushtimarg tradition he was educated by Gokulnath and succeeded him as the most revered authority in doctrinal matters. His Siksapatrci, a collection of Sanskrit verses with a Braj prose commentary by his younger brother Gopeshwar, is the most widely read doctrinal text in the Pushtimarg. Gokulnath intervened in a dispute that arose between Goswamis of the third and sixth Gaddi. The origins of the conflict lie in the disappointment felt by Vitthalnath's sixth son Yadunath when he was presented with Balkrishna, a deity that was smaller than those given to his brothers. To console him, Vitthalnath's third son, Balkrishna, proposed that they share the worship of their two deities, Balkrishna and Dwarkadhish.233 Vitthalnath agreed to this arrangement, provided that Yadunath or any of his descendants would be allowed to claim exclusive conduct of the worship of Balkrishna if ever they felt so inclined. This is precisely what Yadunath's son Madhusudan demanded, but Balkrishna's son Dwarkeshwar was reluctant to hand over the deity. The matter was taken up with Gokulnath, who had been present when the deities had been distributed by Vitthalnath. He acknowledged Madhusudan's right to take the deity and worship it separately. Within a year, however, he expressed his desire to return the deity to Dwarkeshwar. Gokulnath then proposed that an agreement should be drawn up between the two parties to avoid any further dispute. The result was that the deity of Balkrishna was given to Dwarkeshwar and Madhusudan was given the custody of another deity named Kalyanray, which thenceforth became the main deity of his Gaddi. 229 SPV, pp.39-40. 230 According to Vitthalnath Bhatt, 7.74 & 10.111, he lived from 1551-1647; other sectarian sources say he died in 1640 (P. Mital 1968, p.292). 231 See Tandan, pp.382-7, P. Mital 1968, pp.289-92, Entwistle 1982, pp.41-2. 232 According to Vitthalnath Bhatt, 10.30, Hariray was born in 1590, but the date is probably too early, especially in view of the fact that he is said to have lived until 1715. 233 Vitthalnath Bhatt, 8.111-112 & 145 ff., Brajbhushan, p.47 (and pp.52-4, for what happened later). 178

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00194.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:49] 23 Some devotees in Vrindaban during the first half of the seventeenth century A notable poet of the Gaudiya Sampraday in the first half of the seventeenth century was Madhuri, a name he uses as his 'seal' (chap) in his poems and also in the title of his verse compositions. One of these, Keli madhuri, ends with a couplet giving its date of composition as 1630.234 It appears from his poems that they were written in Vrindaban, but tradition associates him with Madhurikund, a tank south-east of Aring. Although Bhagwat Mudit belonged to the Gaudiya Sampraday he produced a work entitled Rasik ananya mcil that contains stories about the disciples of Hit Harivansh and his sons. According to Priyadas he was once in the service of Shuja ul-Mulk, suhadar of Agra, and was initiated by Haridas, the person then in charge of worship at the temple of of Govind Dev.235 He also wrote a sequence of verses called Vrndavan scitak, a Braj version of part of Prabodhanand Saraswati's Vrndavanamahimamrta, which is dated 1650. A member of the Radhavallabh Sampraday who flourished at the end of the sixteenth and during the first three decades of the following century was Chaturbhujdas who, like Sevakji (a disciple of Hit Harivansh), came from Garha in central India.236 He was initiated by Vanchandra and composed a didactic work entitled Dvadas yas, in which the merits of devotion are illustrated with Puranic and hagiographical stories. Another poet of the Radhavallabh Sampraday at this time was Dhruvdas, the grandson of a disciple of Hit Harivansh who came from his village of Deoband.237 Forty-two of his poems are found together under the title Bay alls lila, some of them bearing dates of composition between 1593 and 1641. They mainly describe various episodes in the love play of Krishna and Radha, a few are on didactic themes, and one of them, entitled BhaktanamavalT lila, gives brief descriptions of a number of Vaishnava devotees, including several of those who had been active in Braj during the previous century. In 1657, after the death of Damodar, the leading Goswami, the custody and worship of the deity named Radhavallabh was inherited by his two sons Rasdas and Vilasdas.238 Their descendents split into two opposing factions called the Rasvansh and Vilasvansh, among whom the right to serve the deity is strictly divided into separate and equal periods. Some time during the seventeenth century the antagonism between the Goswami and ascetic followers of Swami Haridas broke out into an open conflict over 234 Included in the edition of his van! by Krishnadas Baba. He is also discussed by P. Mital 1962, pp. 196-204 (noting that in some colophons he is referred to as Madhavdas), and Bansal, pp. 286-93. 235 Priyadas, kavitt 627. For further information see Lalitacharan Goswami, pp. 18-21, P. Mital 1962, pp.207-12, Lalitaprasad Purohit's introduction to Bhagwat Mudit, p.5, and Bansal, pp.277-86, who suggests that its attribution to him is spurious. 236 Nabhadas, chappay 123, Priyadas, kavitt 493-6, Bhagwat Mudit, pp.35-44, Snatak, pp.39 ff., Lalitacharan Goswami, pp.438-40, McGregor 1984, p. 160. 237 Bhagwat Mudit, pp.77-9, Lalitacharan Goswami, pp.440 ff. 238 P. Mital 1968, pp.409-10. 179

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00195.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:50] custody of the deity of Banke Bihari. The next two Acharyas after Biharindas were Nagaridas and his younger brother Sarasdas, both of whom wrote poems that are included in the collected works of the eight Acharyas.239 A pupil of Nagaridas was a poet known as Nawaldas or Nawal Sakhi, who used to dress up as a Sakhi and had two followers from Barsana named Haldhar and Bhudhar. There are differing accounts of how these two brothers were involved in a conflict over the the deity of Banke Bihari. Kishordas and Gopal Kavi tell us that they gave Nawaldas thirty thousand rupees in order to erect a wall around Nidhiban and build a shrine.240 They also say that Bhudhar sacrificed his life rather than let Muslims cut down the creepers in Nidhiban. Kishordas also tells how Haldhar attempted to abduct Banke Bihari on behalf of the ascetics, as a result of which he was thrown into the Yamuna and drowned. The Goswamis tell another version of this incident according to which both Haldhar and Bhudhar stole the deity at night, but were pursued by the Goswamis, who caught up with them while they were attempting to cross the Yamuna.241 Both brothers were killed in the fight that broke out and the Goswamis managed to reclaim the deity. The Goswamis say that this occurred while Naraharidas (Sarasdas' successor) was Acharya of the ascetics, which would mean that it happened during the reign of Aurangzeb. If this is the case then it is possible that the story of Bhudhar losing his life in defence of Nidhiban relates to an attempt by Muslim soldiers, acting under orders from Aurangzeb, to attack the temples of Vrindaban. This would imply that Haldhar was killed in a subsequent conflict with the Goswamis. At all events, it appears from these differing stories that some time during the seventeenth century there was a violent conflict between the Goswamis and the ascetics, among whom Haldhar was the protagonist, as a result of which blood was spilt and the two factions became even more alienated than they were before. 24 Aurangzeb (1658-1707) The reign of Aurangzeb began with an even more savage struggle for power than was usual for the times. First he deposed his father and confined him within the fort at Agra until his death, then he eliminated Dara Shukoh and his two sons, as well as his two other brothers. At the very beginning of his reign there was renewed trouble among the Tenwa Jats who had settled on the east bank of the Yamuna in the area between Mat and Aligarh. Dara Shukoh, who had been in charge of the area around Mathura district, had been popular among his Hindu subjects. Following his murder and the flight of his troops and officials, the Jats rebelled under the leadership of Nandaram, who encouraged them to withhold their revenue 239 Datt, pp.271-3, P. Mital 1968, pp.467-9, Haynes, pp. 102-8. The former is sometimes referred to as 'Bare Nagaridas', an epithet that helps to distinguish him from the earlier Nehi Nagaridas and the later 'Raja' Nagaridas. 240 Kishordas, vol.4 pp.94-100, VDA 22. According to Gopal Kavi, Bhudar became the next Acharya and adopted the name of Sarasdev, but other sources say that Sarasdas was the youger brother of Nagaridas. 241 Datt, p.38. 180

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00196.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:50] payments. In order to suppress and chastise them Aurangzeb appointed a new military commander named Abdunnabi Khan, who remained in charge of Mathura from 1660-69.242 In 1661-62 Abdunnabi built a mosque (the Jama Masjid) in the centre of Mathura on the site of a Hindu temple that had been demolished by Sikandar Lodi and given over to butchers.243 Aurangzeb retained the services of Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber, who had been in the service of the Mughals since the time of Jahangir.244 He was given the responsibility of dealing with Shivaji, the leader of the Marathas, who had been challenging Mughal power in the south-western part of the empire since the middle of the century. The last couple of years of Jai Singh's life brought him disappointment and humiliation. Aurangzeb became dissatisfied with his conduct of the campaigns in the Deccan, and his son Ram Singh was suspected of being involved in Shivaji's escape from Agra in 1666. After Jai Singh's death in 1667 there seems to have been nobody left at court who was capable of restraining the Emperor's increasing oppression of Hinduism. Although he retained many Hindus in his service, Aurangzeb no longer upheld the customary policy of conciliation towards the Hindu princes of Rajasthan. He projected himself as a devout Sunni Muslim, showing hostility to Shias and Sufis as well as Hindus. In 1665 he banned the celebration of Holi and Diwali and the cremation of the dead on the banks of the Yamuna.245 In the following year he ordered the destruction of the stone railing which Dara Shukoh had presented to the temple of Keshavdev;246 three years later he issued a general order for the demolition of Hindu schools and temples, and in 1670 he specifically ordered the destruction of the temple of Keshavdev. It was razed to the ground, its idols were taken to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque of Jahanara,247 and an Idgah mosque was built over part of the area on which the temple had stood. The names of Mathura and Vrindaban were changed to Islamabad and Muminabad, though in practice their use was restricted to official documents, and the settlement of Chandrasarovar-Parasoli was renamed Muhammadpur a name that is still in use.248 Another anti-Hindu measure was the reimposition of the jizvah tax on all non-Muslims, despite mass protests from Hindus. In 1671 he issued an order disqualifying Hindus from holding revenue posts, but was obliged to revoke it when it proved to be impracticable. Several years 242 Sarkar 1924-30, 3 pp.20, 266, Pande 1970, p.3. 243 Sarkar ibid., pp.292-3. 244 For the career of Mirza Raja Jai Singh see Sarkar 1984, chs.VIII-XI. He was born in 1611 and became Raja of Amber in 1621. 245 Roy Choudhury, p. 263. The ban on celebrating Holi is mentioned by Manucci, vol.2 p. 154. 246 Sarkar 1924-30, p.267, Sri Ram Sharma, p. 139. 247 Sarkar ibid., pp. 265-7, 281-2, Sri Ram Sharma, pp. 141-2. According to Vijay, p. 13. the original deity was taken to a village called Rasdhan in Kanpur District. 248 The alternative names for Mathura and Vrindaban survived and were used on coins issued from local mints during the reign of Shah Alam II in the late 18th century which bear the combined names of Muminabad-Bindraban and Islamabad-Mathura, cf. Whitehead, vol.2 pp.lvii, xl, cv. 181

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00197.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:50] later, in 1695, he forbade all Hindus except Rajputs from carrying arms and riding in litters and on horses and elephants.249 Such oppressive measures served to intensify resistance to Mughal rule in different parts of the empire. Another cause of unrest among the rural populace was the increasing power and autonomy of the zamindars, who were able to take advantage of the lack of firm control by the government. There was an uprising of Satnamis at Narnaul and of Sikhs in the Panjab, while Chhatrasal began to fight for independence in Bundelkhand. In the 1670's there was an uprising of Afghan tribes in the north-western provinces, and in 1678 armed conflict began in Marwar following the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh. Militant resistance in Braj was organized by the Jats, who are referred to in the earliest accounts of their rebellion as simply 'peasants' or 'villagers'. According to Manucci their revolt was motivated by the demands of governors and military commanders for revenue.250 The economic situation had been steadily worsening as the seventeenth century wore on.251 Increasing pressure was placed on the peasantry in order to support the extravagant and luxurious lifestyle of the nobility and town dwellers. Administrative methods deteriorated while demands on production increased, leaving the rural populace on a subsistence level, with no incentive to produce more. The surplus was frittered away unproductively, and there was no sign of any marked alteration in standards of living or of any great increase in the size of cities or armies. The Jats, who have been described as forming the back-bone of the agricultural community in Panjab, Sind, Rajasthan, and Braj, had a long tradition of falling upon the rear of retreating armies, as they had done in the time of Mahmud of Ghazni.2 52 They were not a distinct caste but a broad category of warriorcultivators who had absorbed many outsiders into their ranks. They formed a society in which there were few brahmins and in which male Jats married into the whole range of lower agricultural and entrepreneurial castes.253 The Jats of Braj lived on both sides of the Yamuna in villages defended by mud walls. From time to time the headmen of these villages combined forces in order to resist or harass the imperial government. In the course of their struggle with Mughal power they showed themselves to be as much inspired by opportunities to plunder and seize land as by ideals of independence and religious freedom, as is evident from their internal quarrels and the opportunistic way in which they sided with imperial forces when it suited their interests. Concerted resistance against Aurangzeb began under the leadership of Gokala, an influential landowner of the Tilpat region, about twenty kilometres south of Delhi.254 He encouraged Jat, Gujar, and Ahir cultivators to withhold revenue payments and mustered them into a force of twenty 249 All these measures are detailed in Sarkar, ibid., pp.268-78. 250 Manucci, vol.2 p.319. 251 See Moreland 1923 for an economic history of this period. 252 Qanungo, ch. 1, in which he gives an account of the origin and early history of the Jat tribes. On the origin of the Jats see also Bingley, ch.l, and the article by G. C. Dwivedi. 253 As described by Bayly 1983, pp.22-3. 254 He is also called Gokal Ram or Gokula. See Sarkar 1924-30, ch.35, Qanungo, pp.37-9, Natwar-Singh, p.7, Pande 1970, pp.3-4. 182

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00198.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:50] thousand men. Fighting lasted several months in 1669, in the course of which Sadabad was looted and Abdunnabi was killed. Aurangzeb himself came from Delhi to suppress the revolt with the assistance of Hassan Ali Khan, the new commander at Mathura. The rebels were defeated at Tilpat and Gokala was taken to Agra and dismembered in public, after which we hear no more about the Jats for the next sixteen years. 25 The exodus of deities from Braj Although he took measures to suppress Hindu activity from 1665 onwards, in the early years of his reign Aurangzeb issued some firmans in favour of the devotees in Braj. One of them was Goswami Purnanand of Shringar Bat in Vrindaban, who was granted Sakraya, Jahangirpur, and other villages on the east bank of the Yamuna.25 5 Aurangzeb also took sides in a dispute that began in 1662 over the custody of two deities of the third Gaddi of the Pushtimarg.2 56 Custody of the deities named Dwarkadhish and Balkrishna had been passed on to Giridharlal, a great-grandson of Vitthalnath. However, Giridharlafs father (named Dwarkeshwar) had considered him to be an unworthy successor and had declared that the deities should be entrusted to Brajbhushan, a descendant of a younger brother of his grandfather. Giridharlal died shortly afterwards, and, since Brajbhushan was still a minor, the service of the deities was organized by his daughter Ganga. The young Brajbhushan had an uncle, named Brajray, who considered himself to be senior in line of succession and demanded that he should be given charge of the deities. He pressed his claim at the court of Aurangzeb, who had recently become emperor, but he lost his case and was obliged to sign a declaration acknowledging Brajbhushan as the heir of Giridharlal.257 This did not deter him from hiring a band of dacoits and using them to invade the temple and steal the deities, much of the equipment used in worship, and a pair of sandals that had belonged to Vallabha. Ganga persuaded the authorities to help her retrieve the stolen goods, after which she took the deities away to Rajnagar, near Ahmedabad, where she could rely on the support of a community of devotees. Brajray continued to lobby at court and eventually managed to obtain an order from Aurangzeb addressed to Mahabat Khan, the governor of Ahmedabad, instructing him to ensure that the deity named Balkrishna be handed over to him. It is said that Brajray went to Ahmedabad, found where Ganga was hiding, and, with the help of government troops, and in breach of all rules of purity, seized the deity while it was being rocked in a cradle by Ganga and Brajbhushan. He took the deity to Surat in 1670, where the sixth Gaddi has had its headquarters ever since. In the same year Ganga and Brajbhushan took Dwarkadhish to a village in the hills north of Udaipur that had earlier been granted 255 Shyamdas, p. 174. 256 Related by Vitthalnath Bhatt, 10.72 ff., and by Brajbhushan in Dvcirkddhisjikiprdkatya varta, pp. 52-4. See also K. Shastri, pt.4 pp.132 ff. 257 Reproduced in K. Shastri, pt.5 p. 135. 183

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00199.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:50] to them by the Rana of Mewar. Several years later, in 1719, they moved into a mansion and temple that were built nearby at Kankaroli.258 In this way two of the main deities of the Pushtimarg were taken away from Braj a few years before the demolition of the temple of Keshavdev, an event that was preceded by increasingly repressive ordinances against Hinduism. The Jat uprisings can only have served to exacerbate the feeling of insecurity among the temple priests. In 1669 the custodians of Shrinathji decided that the deity should be removed from the temple at Govardhan.259 It was first taken to Agra, where it was worshipped clandestinely in the house of a prominent devotee. There it was joined by Navanitapriy, the deity that had been provided with a temple at Gokul. Both deitites were taken to Kota, where the Raja offered them his protection. Later they were moved to Kishangarh, where the priests enjoyed the Raja's hospitality for a while, and then on to Chaupasani, on the outskirts of Jodhpur. From there the priests requested permission from Rana Raj Singh to come and settle in Mewar. When this was granted, they set out for Udaipur, but when they reached the village of Sinhad (or Siarh), forty kilometres north of the city, Shrinathji's cart got stuck beneath a pipal tree and could not be moved any further. This was taken as a sign that the deity wished to settle at that spot. It was installed in a hastily constructed shrine, which was later replaced by a larger temple. The journey from Govardhan to Sinhad is said to have taken two years, four months, and seven days. A rational explanation for the choice of the site is that it lay within a few kilometres of the spot where the deity of Dwarkadhish had been brought in the previous year and was securely located amid hills close to the capital of the Rana, who had managed to keep his dealings with the Mughals to a minimum and could be relied upon to afford his protection. The temples of Shrinathji and Dwarkadhish flourished under the patronage of the rulers of Mewar and enjoyed considerable support from devotees in Gujarat and elsewhere in western India. The township that grew up around Shrinathji, known as Nathdwara, became the permanent seat of the Tilakayat (the most senior of the 'Maharajas'), the foremost sacred centre of the Pushtimarg, and an important place of pilgrimage for Hindus as a whole.260 It appears that Vitthalnath, the deity of the second Gaddi, had also arrived in Mewar shortly before Shrinathji and was being worshipped by its custodian, Hariray, at Khamnor, a few kilometres west of Nathdwara.261 It was later taken to Kota, but was finally installed in a temple adjacent to that of Shrinathji in 1821.262 Worship of the deity called Mathuresh was inherited by descendants of the younger son of Giridhar, the 258 Brajbhushan, pp.67-8. 259 The deity's journey from Braj to Mewar is narrated in SPV, pp.42 ff., and by Vitthalnath Bhatt, 9.52 ff. 260 Sec Tod, vol.2 pp. 607-20, 642-3, 647-9, Jindel, and Vairagi for details of endowments and the subsequent history of Nathdwara, and K. Shastri for that of Kankaroli. For an account of modern Nathdwara see Jindel, Maduro, chs.2-3, and Verdia. 261 Sec Vitthalnath Bhatt, 10.30 ff., and K. Shastri, pt.5 p. 148, who records that the deity was taken to Nathdwara for the celebration of Annakut in 1671. 262 Jindel, p.26, P. Vairagi, p.86. See P. Mital 1968, pp.285-7, for the history of the Gaddi. 184

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00200.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:51] eldest son of Vitthalnath. They are said to have taken it to Bundi and then to Kota where, under the patronage of the Maharaja, a mansion was built for the priests and a temple for the deity.263 Gokulnath, Madanmohan, and Gokulchandrama, the deities of the other Gaddis, after being shifted about for several decades, settled in Jaipur in the latter part of the eighteenth century.264 A prominent figure of the fifth Gaddi was Dwarkesh (b.1694), who was given the sobriquet 'Bhavnaware' because he wrote a few works expounding the nature of the affective connotations (hhavnci) of various devotional themes and practices.265 None of the temples in Vrindaban was demolished, but the delapidated state of the original temples of Govind Dev, Gopinath, Madanmohan, and Radhavallabh, and the defacement of some of the figures adorning them, is accredited to attacks made at the behest of Aurangzeb. The Gaudiya priests of the temples of Govind Dev, Gopinath, Radhadamodar, and Radhavinod sought the protection of their long-standing patrons, the rulers of Amber. The deities were first taken to Kaman, a town that had been granted to Kirat Singh, younger son of Mirza Raja Jai Singh, and in 1671 was inherited by his successor, Jait Singh.266 Temples were built at Kaman for the deities, but they did not stay there permanently. Govind Dev was taken to Amber in or shortly before 1714, and Radhadamodar was moved to Jaipur in 1760.267 The deity of Vrindadevi, which had been brought from Vrindaban along with Govind Dev, was left behind in the temple at Kaman, where it remains to this day. Madanmohan was taken to Karauli in 1728 by Raja Gopal Singh, a brother-in-law of Sawai Jai Singh.268 He built a temple for it opposite his palace, in which it is still housed. Oral tradition current in the Radhavallabh Sampraday says that their main deity was removed from its temple during an attack made on the orders of Aurangzeb in which seven devotees were killed. In 1682 it was installed in a new temple built at Kaman, where it remained until 1785.269 It was while the deity was in Kaman that a Goswami named Brajlal composed, in 1698, a manual on devotional practices for members of the Radhavallabh Sampraday entitled Sevcivicara.210 The Mahants of Dhruv Tila moved to the establishment that had been founded at Salemabad by Parashuram and made it the seat of their Gaddi. The deities from the Lariliji temple at Barsana are said to have been taken for a while to Saupur (between Dholpur and Gwalior) where the devotional poet Kishoridas had an estate.271 Gopal Bhatt's deity of Radharaman seems to have remained in Braj, probably because it was small enough to be readily concealed if necessary and there was as yet 263 P. Mital 1968, pp. 281-5, for the transfer and subsequent history of the Gaddi. Descendants of the elder son have custody of Shrinathji. 264 P. Mital 1968, p.302. They were eventually brought back to Braj, cf. .38. 265 E.g. Bhdv bhdvnci. He also wrote a work in praise of Vallabha entitled Mid purus. For more information on Dwarkesh see P. Mital 1968, p.293. 266 Sahai, pp.26-7. Kirat Singh was poisoned in 1671. Some say that his immediate successor was a certain Pratap Singh. 267 A. K. Roy, pp.27-8 & 166. 268 P. Thakur, pp. 102-5. 269 P. Mital 1968, p.411. 270 Lalitacharan Goswami, p.583. 271 Krishnadas Baba, intro. to Kishoridas. Saupurwali Kunj still exists at Barsana. 185

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00201.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:51] no imposing temple to attract the attention of the Muslims. In 1700 Manohardas, a devotee of the deity, wrote a work entitled Radharaman ras sagar in which he describes the way it is served, without making any allusion to the worship being hindered.272 His pupil Priyadas, in his Rasik mohim ( 1737), says that he saw the deities of Govind, Madanmohan, Radhavallabh, and Kunjbihari (Banke Bihari). It is not clear, in the case of those that had evidently been moved out of Vrindaban, whether he is referring to the empty buildings or to deities that had been installed to replace the originals.273 Oral tradition has it that the deity of Banke Bihari remained hidden in Vrindaban during the period when attacks were anticipated, and that it was once necessary to conceal it in the waters of the Yamuna.274 It appears that by this time the Goswamis were in full custody of the deity, for it is said that Naraharidev, the leader of the ascetic followers of Swami Haridas, moved out of Nidhiban and worshipped a deity called Gorelal (or Gorilal) at the site where the temple of Rasikbihari now stands.27 5 In the period when the temples in Vrindaban were under threat he went back to his native Bundelkhand. His successor was Rasikdev, also from Bundelkhand, who served a deity called Rasikbihari.276 When the latter died, in 1701, he left fifty-two disciples who formed themselves into three groups (called Gaddi), one under the leadership of his successor Pitambardev, who was given custody of the deity Rasikbihari, another under Govind Dev, who served Gorelal, and a third under Lalitkishoridev, who took possession of a gourd pot (karuva) and patchwork garment (gudarT) that had belonged to Swami Haridas.277 It is evident that the oppressive measures taken by Aurangzeb did not bring devotional activity in Braj to a complete halt, even though many of the deities were taken elsewhere. Pilgrimage, especially tours organized on a large-scale, probably suffered a decline, but had begun to pick up again by the time Sawai Jai Singh was appointed Governor of Agra in 1722. Jagatanand, for example, towards the end of the first quarter of the century, wrote his detailed itineraries for the pilgrimage in which he named several deities. He does not refer to the exodus of Shrinathji, either because he chose to ignore history, or because worship in the original temple had already been revived, as seems to have been the case elsewhere. As far as lyric poetry is concerned, the initial wave of inspiration had virtually exhausted itself. Poetry describing the antics of Krishna and the environment in which they took place had flowered in the latter part of the sixteenth century, but by the late seventeenth century the genre had become somewhat overblown. The 272 The date of the work is given in the colophon. Dates of some of his other works range from 1696 to 1719, cf. Bansal, pp. 305-9. 273 This is the same Priyadas who, in 1712, wrote Bhaktiras bodhinl, a commentary on Nabhaji's Bhaktamdl, cf. R. D. Gupta. 274 Datt, pp.39-40. 275 Ibid., pp. 158-9. Kishordas, vol.4 p.101, says that he lived from 1583 to 1684. 276 Datt, pp.60, 159-60, Brajvallabhsharan (ed.) 1972, pp.119-120. According to P. Mital 1968, p.471, the deity was taken to Rajasthan and eventually brought back to Vrindaban when a temple was built for it. 277 For their succession up to the present time see Dalt, pp. 61-6, Vrnddvcuuihk, pp.288 fif., Brajvallabhsharan (ed.) 1972, pp.126, 129. 186

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00202.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:51] schematic conception of the moods of devotion and elements of Braj that had been formulated by Rup Goswami and his followers had been more than sufficiently elaborated by such authors as Harivyasdev and Krishnadas Kaviraj. By the time Dhruvdas completed his series of lila poems the poetic potential of the romantic episodes appears to have been exploited to the full. Later devotional poets failed to produce much more than stereotyped repetition of the same themes, with the result that there is hardly anything new in the poems on Ula themes offered by such late seventeenth-century poets as Vallabhrasik,278 Hariray, and Kishoridas, and little to choose between them. 26 Rajaram and Churaman For the last twenty-five years of his reign Aurangzeb was peoccupied with his campaigns in the Deccan. Besides being a drain on resources, the warfare detained him in the south and resulted in a lack of coordinated control in the north. It was the beginning of a long period of decline of Mughal power in which insignificant villages and townships rose into prominence as their chieftains gained control of larger tracts of territory. By this time the motivation appears to have been not so much agrarian unrest as a desire on the part of some zamindars to expand their dominions.279 Between 1685 and 1688 the Jats living west of the Yamuna began to strike out under the leadership of Rajaram, the son of the zamindar of Sinsini (or Sansani, 25 km. north-west of Bharatpur).280 He united his own clan of Sinsinwar Jats with those of Soghar (6 km. north of Bharatpur), under their chieftain Ram Chahara. Operating from a series of mud forts, they carried out raids on imperial convoys, looted Mughal villages, and extorted fees from travellers. During a fair at Govardhan Rajaram managed to kill Lai Begh, an officer in charge of the post at Au (a village lying between Sinsini and Govardhan), in revenge for his abduction of an Ahir bride.281 He even went so far as to attack Akbar's tomb at Sikandra (on the outskirts of Agra), and some report that the Jats took out his bones and cremated them.282 Aurangzeb sent his grandson Bedar Bakht to the north in order to deal with the Jats. He enlisted the help of the young Bishan Singh, Raja of Amber, and in 1688 appointed him military commander at Mathura.283 The Kachhwahas saw in this an opportunity to prevent the Jats from establishing independence on their western boundaries, and even of winning some of their territory.284 In 1690, after a 278 A descendant of Gadadhar Bhatt, cf. P. Mital 1962, pp.223-30, and Bansal, pp.241, 295. 279 Pande 1970, p.5. 280 Wcndel, pp. 10-12, Sarkar 1924-30, vol.5 ch.49, Qanungo, p. 39-42, Pande 1970, pp.6-7. 281 Natwar-Singh, p.9. 282 Manucci, vol.2 pp.319-20, giving the date as 1691. See also V. A. Smith 1902, p.328. 283 Sarkar 1984, pp. 151 -2, Bhatnagar, p. 13. The part of Mathura known as Bisan Ganj or Bisan Pura is named after him, cf. intro. to Atmaram, p. 13. Bishan Singh was born in 1672. 284 Pande 1974, pp.37-41. 187

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00203.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:51] siege and fierce battle, Bishan Singh took Sinsini, which was awarded to him as a jcigTr, and in the following year he managed to capture Soghar. Rajaram had been killed in 1688 in the course of a skirmish between the Shekhawats and Chauhans, in which he had sided with the latter.28 5 A few years later the Jats began another campaign of resistance under the leadership of Churaman.286 Bishan Singh frequently complained to Aurangzeb that he did not have sufficient forces to keep down the Jats. In return Aurangzeb censured him for allowing the Jats to recover their villages, and in 1696 removed him from the post of fauzdcir of Mathura and appointed Itiqad Khan in his stead.287 Churaman continued to plunder caravans and strengthen his fortifications, and by the end of the century commanded an army of ten thousand men and was making the roads from Delhi to Dholpur unsafe for Mughal convoys.288 In 1704 he managed to recover the stronghold of Sinsini, though the Mughals regained it the following year.289 The death of Aurangzeb was followed by a struggle for power between his two sons, in the course of which Churaman managed to loot the forces of both parties. He acquired so much booty that he soon became a force to be reckoned with. By the time Bahadur Shah was on the throne (1707) Churaman was able to pay his troops and extend the fortifications of his stronghold at Thun (40 km. north-west of Bharatpur). Bahadur Shah was obliged to tolerate him as the unofficial ruler of the area west of the Yamuna and Churaman was free to cooperate with the Emperor or loot his armies. In 1708 he helped Mughal forces in an attack on Ajit Singh, zamindar of Kaman, and two years later he joined them in an expedition against the Sikhs.290 The next emperor, Farrukh Siyar (Shah Jahan 11), was obliged to receive him formally in Delhi in 1713 and give him charge of the security of the highway between Delhi and the Chambal river.291 His brigandage thus legalized, Churaman could avoid paying dues himself and was free to extort taxes from travellers and harass local landowners. 27 Sawai Jai Singh It was at this time that Sawai Jai Singh (b.1688), Raja of Amber, began to play a part in events in Braj.292 In 1713 he had been appointed Governor of Malwa, where, like Mirza Raja Jai Singh, he had been responsible for dealing with the Marathas, as well as bands of Afghan soldiers of fortune. Following an unsuccessful attempt by Chabilaram, the Governor of Agra, to subdue Churaman, 285 Sarkar 1924-30, vol.5 p.242, Qanungo, pp.42-3. 286 Wendcl, pp. 13-15, 107-8, Sarkar, ibid. pp.302-3, & 1984, pp. 168-71, Qanungo, pp.45 ff., Pande 1970, pp.11-27. 287 Sarkar 1984, p. 153. 288 Natwar-Singh, p. 14. 289 Sarkar 1924-30, vol.5 p.303. 290 Irvine, p.323. 291 Bhatnagar, p. 122, Ranawat, p.8. 292 Sec Atmaram's contemporary biography, Bhatnagar's account (based largely on Jaipur state archives), and Sarkar 1984, chs.XIII-XVII. 188

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00204.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:52] Jai Singh was appointed to the task. In 1716, with the support of the Rajas of Narwar, Kota, and Bundi, he began a siege of Thun that lasted for two years.293 By this time Farrukh Siyar was a puppet in the hands of two Sayyid brothers, Abdullah and Husain Ali Khan, who were favourable to Churaman. In addition he was receiving help from neighbouring landowners and the local peasantry. Through the intervention of Sayyid Abdullah Khan the siege was called off and a treaty was drawn up between Churaman and the Emperor. In 1717 Farrukh Siyar, under pressure from orthodox advisors, and with the aim of mustering Muslim opinion in his favour, reimposed the pilgrimage tax that had been abolished four years earlier though it was never seriously implemented, perhaps for fear of losing the support of Hindu nobles.294 After deposing Farrukh Siyar and placing Muhammad Shah on the throne, the Sayyid brothers, in order to make the new regime more acceptable to Hindus, repealed the pilgrimage tax and abrogated restrictions that had been placed on their holy places. The Sayyids were also obliged to arrive at an agreement with Sawai Jai Singh, who had earlier been opposed to them.295 Churaman managed to remain on amicable terms with the new Emperor and the Sayyids, even though he attacked and plundered one of their camps near Hodal in 1720.296 He was now behaving as an independent local chief and had sent troops to support the rebellions of Chhatrasal and Raja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur,297 but his leadership came to an abrupt end in 1721 when he committed suicide following an argument with his unruly son Mukham (or Mokham) Singh.298 Following the death of his brother, Churaman had taken care of his two nephews, one of whom was called Badan Singh.299 While his uncle was alive Badan Singh had become the leader of a faction of the Jats who favoured a compromise with the Mughals rather than a life of continuous rebellion. Churaman had Badan Singh arrested and confined to Thun, but he was released on the intervention of several influential Jat leaders. In 1722 Sadat Khan, Governor (subadcir) of Agra, was dismissed for his failure to suppress the Jats and was replaced by Sawai Jai Singh, who undertook a second siege of Thun, supported by Badan Singh and various Hindu chiefs, including Arjun Singh of Orchha. This time he was successful; the defeated Mukham was obliged to take refuge with his ally Ajit Singh of Jodhpur, Badan Singh became chief of the Jats and was acknowledged as zamindar of their territories, and Thun and many smaller fortresses were dismantled.300 Sawai Jai Singh was awarded more regal titles and, as the foremost Hindu in the realm, became a channel for appeals to the Emperor from lesser nobles. His younger son 293 Irvine 1922, vol.1 pp.323-7, Qanungo, p.52, Bhatnagar, pp. 125-8. 294 Bhatnagar, p. 130. 295 Ibid., p. 139. 296 Qanungo, p.56. 297 Ibid., p.57, Sarkar 1984, p. 170. 298 Irvine, ibid. p. 122, Natwar-Singh, pp. 18-19. 299 For an account of Badan Singh see Wendel, pp. 16 ff., Qanungo, ch.3, Natwar-Singh, pp.18 fT," and Pandc 1970, pp.24 ff. 300 For the siege and its aftermath sec Irvine, ibid. pp. 122-3, Qanungo, p. 59-60, Bhatnagar, pp. 162-4, Natwar-Singh, pp. 19-20, Sarkar 1984, pp. 170-1." 189

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00205.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:52] Shiv Singh was appointed fauzddr of Mathura and deputized for his father as Governor of Agra, though he died in 1724 at the age of 22.301 Sawai Jai Singh was a devout person and, besides visiting the holy places between Pushkar and Gaya, did much to improve facilities for pilgrims. In 1720 he persuaded Muhammad Shah to abolish the jizyah permanently; eight years later he managed to get all taxes levied on pilgrims to Gaya abolished, and in about 1730 he requested the Emperor to withdraw the long-standing tax paid by Hindus wishing to bathe at certain holy places.302 A number of documents kept at Jaipur record his purchase of land from private persons at Mathura, Vrindaban, and other holy places, on which he subsequently built dharmshalas or ghats. In 1733 he was appointed military commander of Gaya, and in the same year arranged for the abolition of a tax levied on Gujaratis and Marathas who came to bathe in the Ganges at Allahabad. He also persuaded the Emperor to issue an order forbidding the confiscation of the property of Mahants and other ascetics after their death.303 As regards his devotional activity in Braj, we are told by his biographer Atmaram that, while he was engaged in his campaign against Churaman, he bathed in Radhakund on the full moon of Karttik, went to Mathura in the month of Shravan in 1724, where he performed the marriage of his daughter to Abhai Singh of Jodhpur (son of Ajit Singh) on Janmashtami, after which he undertook a circuit of the sacred forests of Braj, then visited Soron and, on his return to Mathura and Vrindaban, founded religious establishments and celebrated Holi.304 In 1727, the year he founded the new city of Jaipur on the plains below the hills around Amber, he made another visit to Braj during which he offered his weight in gold at Vishram Ghat.305 The headquarters he built at Mathura were at a site between the Vrindaban road and the Yamuna that is now called Jai Singh Pura. His mansion at Vrindaban is known as Jai Singh Ghera and lies between the Yamuna and Nidhiban.306 He constructed some of the ghats at Vrindaban, repaired the fort at Mathura that is now called Kans Kila, and set up an observatory there.307 He built a temple of Sitaram on Vishram Ghat in 1732 and four years later another at Govardhan dedicated to Govardhannath.308 In 1729 he was again deputed to Malwa and for the next few years was busy contending with the Marathas. After being relieved of the governorships of Agra and Malwa in 1737 he returned to Jaipur, where he spent most of his time during his 301 Sarkar 1984, p.202. 302 Ibid., p.225. The jizyah had been abolished by Farrukh Siyar in 1713, but he had been coerced by his diwdn to reinforce it. 303 All these points are mentioned by Bhatnagar, pp. 340-42, with references to the relevant documents. 304 Atmaram, 527-8, 655-68. 305 Ibid., 697-701. 306 The building has now been converted into the Chaitanya Prem Sansthan. 307 The observatory was dismantled in the 19th century. Tieffenthaler, p. 143, described it as a feeble imitation of the one at Jaipur, though it did have the advantage of being on an elevated position. For Sawai Jai Singh's buildings in Braj cf. P. Mital 1966, pt.2 pp.225-7. 308 A. K. Roy, pp.228-9. 190

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00206.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:52] remaining years.309 Despite the rising tension between the Mughals and the Marathas, the Peshwa's mother, Radhabai, made a pilgrimage in 1735 to the holy places of northern India, including Mathura and Vrindaban, during which Jai Singh ensured her safe passage.310 Two years later Bajirao led his forces as far as Delhi, giving decisive proof that the Marathas now had the upper hand.311 At the beginning of 1738 the Mughals and Marathas signed a treaty that acknowledged the Peshwa's sovereignty over the whole of Malwa. The following year Nadir Shah mounted an invasion from Afghanistan and occupied Delhi. He returned to Persia with a vast amount of booty, including the celebrated Koh-i-noor diamond and the peacock throne that had been constructed by Shah Jahan symbols of the heyday of Mughal power that was now irretrievable. 28 Religious activity in the time of Sawai Jai Singh The royal archives kept in the Kappadwara at Jaipur contain correspondence and declarations, mainly dating from the period 1725-35, that Jai Singh sollicited from various religious leaders. They deal with such controversial points of doctrine as the right of low caste people to take part in worship, the relationship between god and the soul, the nature of the personified (scigun) and abstract (nirgun) forms of godhead, and the differences between Shankara's principles and those of Vaishnava teachers, on which Jai Singh sought the opinion of Vrindabandev, who was head of the Salemabad branch of the Nimbark Sampraday. While it is inferred that Jai Singh believed worship should be based on scriptural authority, he emphasized that members of different sects were free to follow their own tenets. However, he was disturbed by the fact that some Vaishnavas, especially armed Ramanandi 'ascetics', had become involved in commerce and with women. He summoned representatives of different sects in order to regulate their conduct, and stipulated that they should not try to accumulate wealth, carry arms, or violate regulations concerning caste distinction. To remove the corruption that had arisen among some of the ascetics who were known to keep women, he induced them to marry and lead the life of a householder. In 1727 he established a colony for them in Mathura that was named (rather ironically) Vairagyapura. He is recorded as having disapproved of the Lai Panthis, followers of Laldas, a Meo who had sought to reconcile Hinduism and Islam. He made the Lai Panthis living in his state undertake in writing that they would follow Vaishnava precepts.312 The archives show that he exercised the right to appoint Mahants and abolish any sects he disapproved of. He was particularly sympathetic towards the Gaudiya Sampraday and used the name of Govind Dev on his seal. In 1735 the deity was brought from Amber and installed in a temple facing his palace at Jaipur. The custody of Govind Dev and management of the temple 309 Bhatnagar, p. 256. Sardesai, vol.2 p. 142, says he was appointed to Malwa in 1732. 310 Sardesai, vol.2 pp. 147-9. 311 Ibid., 152-5. 312 For references to documents dealing with these issues see Bhatnagar, pp.341-2, A. K. Roy, pp.25-7, and Thiel-Horstmann. 191

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00207.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:52] were conferred upon a Goswami named Jagannath. He was the first custodian to marry, and ever since the office of head-priest has been hereditary.313 Although Jai Singh appears to have been more concerned with conduct than doctrine, the correspondence does refer to Ramanuja's Brahmasutra commentary as a standard and authoritative text. Some sectarian sources refer to his summoning representatives of all the Vaishnava sects to Jaipur in order to prove that they were an authentic Sampraday and that their practices were based on Vedic principles.314 The manner in which this conference is reported in sources sympathetic to the Gaudiya standpoint seems to reflect rivalry for Jai Singh's patronage and the resentment felt by other sects, in particular the Ramanandis, at the special favour he showed to the Gaudiya Sampraday. Gopal Kavi says that the dispute arose when members of the Vishnuswami, Ramanandi, and Harivyasi (i.e. Nimbarki) orders claimed the right to serve the Gaudiya deities of Govind Dev, Gopinath, and Madanmohan.315 When Jai Singh asked the Gaudiyas to send a scholar to defend their cause, they recommended Vishwanath Chakravarti, whom they regarded as their most authoritative theologian. Born in Bengal, he had settled in Braj and written commentaries and other devotional works.316 He belonged to the pupillary succession of Loknath and was entrusted with the worship of Gokulanand. This deity had been brought to Radhakund by Sarvabhauma, another celebrated Bengali scholar, who is said to have become Vishwanath's disciple when he realized his superiority in debate.317 Although Gokulanand was worshipped along with Radhavinod at Vrindaban, Vishwanath Chakravarti is said to have lived mainly at Radhakund. He refused to go to Jaipur because he had taken vows of renunciation and no longer wished to leave Braj. Sarvabhauma offered to go instead, and was victorious in the debate that took place between representatives of the four Sampradays. Jai Singh, says Gopal, fell at his feet and declared himself to be his disciple, saying that the four Sampradays were in fact one. This, we are supposed to believe, is how he became a patron of the Gaudiya Sampraday and founded temples for it at Galta. Bansal has suggested that the reason for the conference was a dispute over whether worship of Govinda (Krishna) should take precedence over that of Narayana (Vishnu), whether the worship of Radha alongside Krishna was Vedic, and whether or not the Gopis were married when they made love to Krish313 A. K. Roy, pp.27-8, 160-171. The senior descendants of Jagannath are still the head priests of the temples of Govind Dev in Vrindaban and Jaipur. Roy gives the lineage of ascetic and then hcriditary incumbents from Rup Goswami down to the present day on pp. 164-6. The term used for the function of head-priest/manager is *shcbait \ 314 That this took the form of a great debate or conference is implied by P. Mital 1968, pp.208-11, suggesting the date as c. 1723. 315 VDA 32. 316 Including VRC. cf. .13. Kennedy notes that his commentary on BhP was written in 1704. De says he lived from 1646-1724, but P. Mital 1962, pp.66, 1968, p.339, says he died in 1754. 317 VDA 32, where the succession is given as Loknath. Narottamdas Thakur, Ganganarayan Chakravarti. 318 Vishwanath Chakravarti and his pupils advocated the parakiyd doctrine. See Bansal, p.76. who. like P. Mital 1962. pp. 83-4, proposes a date of c.1718. Mital says that Shaiva opponents of the Vaishnavas had complained that they were non-Vedic. 192

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00208.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:52] Another disciple of Vishwanath Chakravarti was Baldev Vidyabhushan, a native of Orissa, who was the last great theologian among the Bengali devotees in Braj. Some say that it was he who defended the Gaudiya cause before Jai Singh and that he wrote a Brahmasutra commentary entitled Govindabhdsya especially for this purpose.310 Elkman concludes that he did write the commentary for the supposed conference, but his real task was to justify Chaitanya's credentials by strengthening the notion that through pupillary succession he was linked with Madhva.320 He notes that some sources suggest that the dispute arose after the Ramanandis of Galta, claiming to represent the Shrivaishnava tradition, complained that the followers of Chaitanya were not an authentic Sampraday and were not conducting the worship of Govind Dev in a proper manner. This suggests that the real cause of the dispute was rivalry between the Gaudiyas and Ramanandis for the patronage of Sawai Jai Singh. Ramanandi sources tell of some kind of conference held at Galta, the purpose of which was to organize resistance against the threat from orders of Shaiva ascetics with whom there had been violent conflicts at some of the places of pilgrimage. The conference is seen as a turning point in the history of the Ramanandis, for it confirmed their assumed status as the independent northern representatives of the Shrivaishnava Sampraday and resulted in the formation of militant orders of ascetics (cmi, a k heir a), constituting what is referred to as a khalsci of the four Sampradays. A total of fifty-two ascetic orders (dveir) were recognized, thirty six of them comprised of Ramanandis, twelve of ascetics of the Nimbark Sampraday, and four claiming allegiance to the Sampradays founded by Madhva and Vishnuswami.321 The Mahant of a group of armed Ramanandi ascetics in the south-western part of Jaipur city was called Balanand. Some say that he was responsible for first organizing a meeting in Vrindaban of all the Vaishnava sects, but that at this stage only the Ramanandis formed militant groups.322 A second conference, dealing specifically with affiliation to the four Sampradays, was held in the Brahmapuri quarter of Jaipur under the auspices of Jai Singh and under the leadership of Balanand.323 Among those who attended was Vrindabandev, who also organized another meeting in 1734 at Nim ka Thana, a centre of the Nimbark Sampraday north of Jaipur, at which the Rama and Krishna devotees finally agreed on the number and formation of their militant orders.324 Vrindabandev, who was head of the Salemabad Gaddi from 1697 to 1740, was on good terms with Jai Singh as well 319 P. Mital 1962, p. 67. Sec Elkman, ch.III, for further biographical details and his comments on Jiv's theology, and De, p.22, with reference to a conference at Galta. 320 Elkman, pp.26-7, 38-47. The tradition that Chaitanya was a spiritual descendant of Madhva is spurious, cf. Dc, pp.13 ff. and 21 ff, and A. K. Majumdar, pp.260-9. It may simply be based on the name of Madhavendra Puri. 321 Burghart 1978, pp. 130-1. 322 B. P. Singh, p. 120, and P. Mital 1968, p.209, give the year as 1713. For Balanand sec A. K. Roy, pp. 191 ff. 323 P. Milal, ibid., gives the date as c. 1726. In about 1756 another conference was held at Galta during the reign of Madho Singh. 324 P. Mital 1968, pp.358-9, naming the various cmi and aklulrd that were formed. 193

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00209.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:53] as with the rulers of Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Kishangarh.325 He was himself a poet and had other poets among his disciples, including his successor Govind Dev, Ghananand the most notable poet of his time,326 Bankawati, the co-wife of Raj Singh of Kishangarh, and, eventually, her daughter Sundar Kunwari. The cause of the ascetic followers of Swami Haridas at one or other of these conferences is said to have been defended by their leader Pitambardas. In response to the supposed challenge to prove that they belonged to an authentic Vaishnava tradition, he composed a work giving the spiritual descent of the order and linking it with the Nimbark Sampraday.327 This point of view was later endorsed by his disciple Kishordas in a more elaborate history of Swami Haridas and his tradition entitled Nijmat siddhcint. The conference is also said to have motivated the Goswamis who had custody of Banke Bihari to declare themselves members of the Vishnuswami Sampraday.328 Followers of the Radhavallabh Sampraday say that their leading teachers declined to send a representative, produce a theological commentary, or align themselves with one of the four Sampradays. This was because they regarded their devotional practices as being based solely on divine love. According to sectarian tradition, their refusal to cooperate led to persecution of the Sampraday until the death of Jai Singh, after which his successor Ishwari Singh (1743-50) made peace with them and granted them land. This account is certainly exaggerated, to the extent that it is alleged that members of the sect were imprisoned or exiled and that Ruplal, the senior descendant of Hit Harivansh, was obliged to keep away from Vrindaban until the death of Jai Singh.329 29 Badan Singh After becoming the recognized leader of the Jats and inheritor of most of the territory that had been under the control of Churaman, Badan Singh took steps to consolidate his authority over the districts of Agra and Mathura. He increased his influence by marrying daughters of powerful Jat chieftains established at Kamar and Sahar330 and continued to remain on good terms with the emperor Muhammad Shah and Sawai Jai Singh. Although he was not a feudatory of Jai Singh, he accepted a position of subordination under him and, until he became incapacitated by old age, went each year to Jaipur in order to attend the royal Dashahra festival and pay his respects.331 In 1725 he began to build a fort and 325 N. Sharma, p.55, P. Mital 1968, pp.356-9, Brajvallabhsharan (cd.) 1972, pp.237-40. 326 See below, end of .33. 327 Haynes, pp. 120-4. 328 P. Mital 1968, p.464. 329 Lalitacharan Goswami, pp. 70-72, 484-5, P. Mital 1968, pp. 423-4, citing Hari rup caritra beli of Chacha Vrindabandas, written in 1767. 330 Qanungo, pp.60-1. 331 Sarkar 1984, p.253. Qanungo, p.63, says that according to tradition Badan Singh attended a horse sacrifice held by Sawai Jai Singh at Jaipur (held in 1741, according to Bhatnagar, pp.264-5), though according to Pandc 1970, p.33, there is no record of his having attended the darbdr at Jaipur after 1734-35. 194

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00210.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:53] palaces at Dig, the town he chose as his new capital. For a time it seemed that Badan Singh was siding with the troublesome Meos, who lived in the northern part of his territory. To appease him, and to encourage him to subdue the Meos, he was granted land at Sinsini, Thun, and Nagar.332 Suraj Mai, who appears to have been an adopted nephew of Badan Singh, though some say he was his son, showed the kind of capabilities that made him an obvious successor. In 1732 Badan Singh sent him to capture Soghar, an action that led to a reconciliation with the Sogharia Jats. Work was then started on-extensive fortifications south of Soghar that resulted in the creation of the town of Bharatpur, a stronghold that was to become famous throughout India for its impregnability. At the same time the old fortifications at Thun and Sinsini were superseded by stronger ones at Kumher and Wair. Eventually Badan Singh was awarded the title of Raja, and thus became the first mortal to be acknowledged as 'King of Braj' (braj raj), though he generally preferred to use the more modest title of 'Thakur' and declined invitations to the Emperor's court on the grounds that he was unworthy of such an honour.333 He succeeded in reducing the powerful and wealthy Jats, pacifying them by giving them the honour of serving as elders or councillors and providing them with various concessions.334 In his later years he left the task of commanding his forces to Suraj Mai and retired to a mansion he had built at Sahar. Having turned away from the Jat tradition of brigandage, he began to show more concern for religious and cultural pursuits. Dig, and later Bharatpur, acquired fine palaces, a circle of court poets, and other quasi-Mughal and Rajput trappings. Suraj Mai, and later on his successor Jawahar Singh, embellished them with items looted from Delhi and Agra.33 5 Badan Singh also built a mansion at Kamar, and another provided with a temple at Dhir Samir in Vrindaban, and made endowments to religious institutions. He also kept a large number of concubines by whom he had, according to Wendel, more than thirty sons and an untold number of daughters.336 Like other royal households, the Jats began to mythologize their ancestry. They fancied themselves as descendants of the Yadavas, claiming common ancestry with the Jadon Rajas of Karauli and Jaisalmer.337 Although they styled themselves after the Rajputs, they could not lay any convincing claim to descent from the Sun or the Moon. The Rajputs continued to regard them with scorn as a degenerate race;338 everyone knew that, in the words of Thornhill, they had 'no more illustrious ancestors than the leaders of a band of thieves.'339 332 Pande 1970, p.33. 333 Pande 1970, pp.37 & 53, gives the date as 1739. According to Bhatnagar, pp. 165-6, and Natwar-Singh, p.22, ihe title was awarded at the request of Sawai Jai Singh as a reward for the suppression of the Meos. 334 Pande 1970, pp.39-42. 335 Wendcl, p.97, Barbe, p.48. 336 Wendel, p.20. 337 See Drakc-Brockman, pp.29 fif., for origin myths and ancestry of the Jadons. 338 Barbe, p.49, quoting from the memoirs of Madec. 339 Thornhill, p.29. 195

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00211.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:53] 30 Suraj Mai The eighteenth century was a period of political turmoil, but the result was a gradual decentralization and commercialization of power that gave rise to a flourishing and resilient network of moneylenders, stewards, and service gentry, based in small centres of economic vitality away from the imperial capitals, who acted as intermediaries between the state and agrarian society.340 The Marathas came to play an increasingly important role in events in northern India, but they had to compete for supremacy in a complicated series of campaigns, opportunistic double-dealing, and continually shifting alliances involving Mughal factions, Afghans, Rohillas (Afghans based in Rohilkhand), Rajputs, Jats, Sikhs, and Nagas or Gosains. The latter belonged in theory to one of the ten Dashnami orders of Shaiva ascetics established by disciples of Shankara, but they had a long tradition of fighting and were not necessarily celibate.341 Large numbers of them roamed far and wide to attend fairs and take part in military campaigns, sometimes in the pay of Muslim leaders. Others settled down, became landowners, and were prominent in trade and moneylending in Bengal and the domains of the Nawabs of Oudh. Wendel describes them as 'une drole classe de soldats...un detachement de vagabonds...ce sont la plupart de jeunes gaillards gros et gras.' They were so revered that they managed to live off charity, but would readily resort to aggression in order to obtain funds. He says that they could muster an army of more than ten thousand and went about with matted hair, wearing only a thin piece of cloth or nothing at all, smeared with ashes and cow dung, and carrying an assortment of weapons. Though they were celibate in appearance, there were a number of women in their camps, but at the same time they were Tort adonnes a Tabominable vice de sodomie' and abducted young boys to join their ranks.342 The militant orders of Ramanandi ascetics followed their example, and may even have started as an offshoot of them. In the midst of these opposing factions was a succession of increasingly pathetic M ughal emperors who were exploited by persons who sought to abuse their prestige and status as rightful heirs of the throne at Delhi. Meanwhile, the French and British, operating in the South and in the hinterlands of their trading posts around the coast, had begun to annex large tracts of India. Their military successes made the Indian princes aware of European techniques of warfare. Many began to hire the services of European adventurers, some of whom commanded their own force of mercenaries, in order to support and train their armies. The Jats managed to set themselves up as rulers of the territory between Delhi and Agra under the able leadership of Suraj Mai.343 He maintained good relations with Jai Singh so that Jat power could grow under his auspices. He supported Ishwari Singh, son of Jai Singh, in his conflict with his brother over succession to the throne. Suraj Mai strengthened ties with other Jat families by marrying Kishori 340 Bayly 1983, pp.459, 461. 341 See Cohn and Bayly for further information on the Gosains. 342 Wendel, pp.66-7. 343 Sec Sudan Kavi, Wcndel, pp. 27-63, Qanungo, pp. 64-158, Natwar-Singh, and Pande 1970, eh.III. 196

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00212.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:53] (also known as 'Hansiya'), the daughter of the Jat chief at Hodal, and arranging the marriage of his son Nawal Singh to the daughter of Sardar Sitaram, who occupied the fortress at Kotban. He assisted the emperor Muhammad Shah in his campaign against the Rohillas in 1745. Five years later a victory over the Mughal forces resulted in a peace treaty favourable to the Jats, one of the terms of which was that pipal trees and Hindu temples should not be damaged. In 1750-51 he helped Mughal forces led by Safdar Jang against the Rohillas, after which he was appointed military commander of Mathura and awarded a regal title.344 Two years later he seized the opportunity of plundering Delhi while assisting Safdar Jang in a conflict with the Queen Mother (Udham Bai) that followed the murder of her paramour, the eunuch Javid Khan. In 1753 the Maratha leader Khanderao Holkar camped at Hodal and sent detachments to plunder Jat villages, including Barsana and Nandgaon, but in the following year Suraj Mai managed to withstand a siege of Kumher launched by a combined force of eighty thousand Mughal and Maratha troops, which meant that they were obliged to recognize him as the local ruler.345 Over the next couple of years he took control of towns nearer Delhi (Palwal, Ballabhgarh, and Ghasira) and managed to occupy Alwar, ousting the troops that had been stationed there by Madho Singh of Jaipur in an attempt to wrest control of it from the Mughals. After the death of Badan Singh in 1756 Suraj Mai became Raja and his twenty-five surviving brothers were granted lands in the Jat territory. In the following year the people of Mathura and Vrindaban suffered the most appalling massacre in their history.346 Ten years earlier Ahmad Shah Abdali, after assassinating Nadir Shah, had taken over Kabul and lay claim to all the territory in India that his predecessor had conquered during his invasion of 1739. Abdali advanced on Delhi, with the collusion of the Rohillas and Mughal factions who wanted to see the Marathas ousted from northern India and were opposed to Ghazi-ud-din (Imam-ul-mulk), who had been appointed to the post of Mir Bakhshi under Ahmad Shah. On arrival Abdali forced the emperor Alamgir into submission and allowed his troops to spend a month in the city indulging in murder and pillage. Many of the inhabitants fled to Mathura and Agra, some of them only to be robbed by Jats and other bandits on the way. Abdali then moved southwards and, with the support of the Rohillas, ousted Jawahar Singh from the stronghold at Ballabhgarh and considered attacking Dig and Kumher. Suraj Mai sent agents offering a fine in order to be left in peace, while at the same time preparing for battle. Wary of attempting to capture Suraj Mai's forts, Abdali decided to advance on the undefended towns of Mathura and Vrindaban, where Holi celebrations were in progress, and offered his troops a reward of five rupees for every infidel head that was brought in. At Chaumuhan ten thousand Jats made an unsuccessful attempt to check his advance, but they were outnumbered two to one. The Afghans spent two days plundering the villages round about: 344 'Raja Brajcndra Bahadur', according to Sarkar 1984, p.253. Pandc, ibid., says that he was crcatcd 'Kunwar Bahadur' with the title of'Rajendra'. 345 Sarkar 1932-8, pp.513-4, Sardesai, vol 2 pp.375-8, Natwar-Singh, ch.5. 346 Sec the annotated translation by Irwin (1907) of Samin's account, Qanungo, pp.99 ff., Sarkar 1932-8, vol.2 pp.114-26, Natwar-Singh, ch.7, and Sardesai, vol.2 ch.XVII. 197

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00213.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:53] One horseman mounted a horse and took ten to twenty others, each attached to the tail of the horse preceding it, and drove them just like a string of camels. When it was one watch after sunrise I saw them come back. Every horseman had loaded up all his horses with plundered property, and atop of it rode the girl-captives and the slaves. The severed heads were tied up in rugs like bundles of grain and placed on the heads of the captives...an order was given to carry the severed heads to the entrance gate of the chief minister's quarters, where they were to be entered in registers, and then built up into heaps and pillars. Each man, in accordance with the number of heads he had brought in, received, after they had been counted, five rupees a head from the State...It was a marvellous state of things, this slaying and capturing, and no whit inferior to the day of Last Judgement.347 The marauders then set upon Vrindaban, where the days of slaughter were no less horrific: Wherever you gazed you beheld heaps of the slain; you could only pick you way with difficulty, owing to the quantity of bodies lying about and the amount of blood spilt. At one place we reached, we saw about two hundred dead children lying in a heap. Not one of the dead bodies had a head...When I got to the town of Mathura I saw exactly the same state of things. Everywhere in lane and bazar lay the headless trunks of the slain; and the whole city was burning...I saw a number of Bairagi and Sanyasi huts, huddled close together...In each hut lay a severed head with the head of a dead cow applied to its mouth and tied to it with a rope around its neck.348 Abdali moved to Mahaban and encamped at a sarai that had been built there during the reign of Aurangzeb by Abdunnabi Khan. Gokul was defended by a force of four thousand Nagas, half of whom fell after killing an equal number of Afghans.349 He then sent his general on to Agra, which was plundered for the next two weeks, but by this time large numbers of his troops were dying from an outbreak of cholera, and so they went back to Delhi and then on to Afghanistan. After Abdali's withdrawal the Marathas returned to take possession of Delhi and Lahore and advanced as far as Peshawar. In 1759 Ghazi-ud-din engineered the murder of Alamgir and his replacement by Shah Jahan III. Abdali, already outraged by the expulsion of his son from Lahore, returned to drive the Marathas out of Panjab and avenge the murder of Alamgir. He reclaimed Delhi in 1760, while Ghazi-ud-din and many other Hindu and Muslim refugees fled to Dig and other 347 Irvine 1907, p.60. 348 Ibid., p.62. 349 Sarkar 1958, pp. 153-4. 198

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00214.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:54] strongholds in Suraj Mai's territory. Bhau Sahab was nominated to lead a force of Marathas to the north to recover Delhi. On the way he was met by Suraj Mai, who agreed to support them in any actions undertaken in his territory. Abdali made an unsuccessful attempt to attack Dig, after which Suraj Mai helped Ghazi-ud-din and Bhau to recapture Delhi.350 The alliance between the Jats and the Marathas was an uneasy one and eventually Bhau Sahab alienated Suraj Mai, probably by his refusal to put him in charge of Delhi. Abdali, with the support of Shuja-ud-daulah, the Nawab of Oudh, defeated the Marathas at Panipat and placed Ahmad Shah on the throne at Delhi, though real power was in the hands of the Rohilla leader Najib-ud-daulah.351 Among those who fought alongside the Muslims was a force of Nagas led by a Gosain named Anupgiri, better known as Himmat Bahadur a title awarded him by Shujaud-daulah, whom he had earlier helped defend Lucknow against Abdali.352 An estimated seventy-five thousand Marathas perished at Panipat; some of the survivors managed to find refuge with Suraj Mai. Himmat Bahadur obtained permission to retrieve the bodies of Bhau and other Maratha generals and cremate them according to Hindu rites. After the battle Abdali returned to Afghanistan, having confirmed the position of Shah Alam as emperor, who had been installed on the throne by the Marathas the previous year. Abdali was not in a position to confront the Marathas again, should they send an expedition to the north. There was little left worth plundering in the neighbourhood of Delhi and he could find no money to pay his troops, who were unwilling to take on Suraj Mai, the nearest source of wealth, until their arrears were paid. Abdali must have been aware that the Jats could withstand any siege and could outlast the patience of his troops. He was not interested in occupying Delhi, being content to retain control over the fertile plains of the Panjab as far as the Sutlej though in order to do so he had to contend with Sikh opposition. For some years after their defeat at Panipat the Marathas ceased to be active in the north and were preoccupied by their conflict with the Nizam of Hyderabad. To the east, in Bengal and Bihar, the British were in the ascendant, while Shuja-ud-daulah was involved in intrigues with the Nawab of Bengal. Najib-ud-daulah was unable prevent Suraj Mai from taking advantage of the situation. In 1761 he managed to occupy the fort at Agra, restored Ghazi-ud-din to power at Delhi, and instructed his sons, Nahar and Jawahar Singh, to take control of territory to the east of the Yamuna and in the area now called Haryana.353 In December 1763 Najib-ud-daulah, with the support of the Rohillas, confronted Suraj Mai south of Delhi. In the course of the fighting Suraj Mai was killed and the Jats withdrew, unvanquished but demoralized.354 Suraj Mai's body was not recovered, but one of his four queens produced two of his teeth, which were used for 350 These events are described by Qanungo, pp.113-17, and Sardesai, vol.2 pp.417-8. 351 See Sardesai, vol.2 chs.XX-XXI for Panipat and events surrounding it. 352 He was born in 1734. For his biography see Sarkar 1958, pt.II chs.II ff., and Padmakar's Himmat bahadur biruclcivali, with introduction by Bhagwan Din. 353 Qanungo, pp. 145-8. 354 The circumstances in which he died arc uncertain, cf. Qanungo, pp. 152-8 for various accounts. 199

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00215.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:54] a ceremonial cremation at Govardhan.3 55 He is commemorated by an impressive cenotaph built along one side of Kusum Sarovar. At the time of his death his domain extended over the present districts of Agra, Mathura, Bharatpur, Dholpur, Alwar, Gurgaon, Rohtak, Meerut, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Hathras, Etah, and Mainpuri. The Jats remained in control of Agra for several years, giving the Hindus a chance to turn the tables on the Muslims. Public manifestations of Islam were suppressed, butchers' shops were closed, slaughter of animals was prohibited, and the great mosque was used as a market place.356 Suraj Mai's friend, mentor, and troubleshooter was Rup Ram Katara (c. 1710-80).3 57 He came from Barsana and belonged to a family of priests who had connections with the Jat chieftains, as well as with the royal houses of Jaipur, Gwalior, and Karauli. He was first enrolled by Badan Singh as a chaplain (purohit) and financial advisor and remained in the service of the Jats after the death of Suraj Mai. Besides serving as a priest for Suraj Mai, he also acted as an envoy in negotiations with the Marathas and continued to serve Jawahar Singh. The two most significant encounters were negotiation of terms when the Marathas crossed the Chambal and withdrawal of Jat support at the time of their siege of Delhi in 1760. The money he earned in the service of various nobles was spent on the embellishment of Barsana and other places in Braj. It was during the reign of Suraj Mai that various European adventurers became active in northern India. Jean Law de Lauriston, who came to meet Suraj Mai in 1758, notes that he had long wished to have some Europeans in his service.358 He gives a description of how, as an ally of the Marathas, he had to lead his band of sepoys from Agra to Delhi and back. He managed to avoid paying any dues, but had to resist repeated harassment and attempts at plunder by the Jats 'les plus grands voleurs qu'il y ait de ces cotes la'. On his return from Delhi, after his camp was plundered, he received a letter from Suraj Mai apologizing for the earlier attacks his kinsmen had made upon him. 31 Suraj Mai's successors Suraj Mai's five sons were, in order of seniority, Jawahar, Ratan, Nawal, Ranjit, and Nahar Singh. Despite the valour Jawahar Singh had shown in military campaigns, his father favoured Nahar Singh as his successor and groomed him accordingly. Suraj Mai had put Jawahar in charge of Dig, but he showed himself to be extravagant and over-ambitious.359 He gathered around him courtiers of whom Suraj Mai was suspicious and, aspiring to become more independent, led an attack 355 Natwar-Singh, p. 105. 356 Modave, p.385. 357 Growse, p.77, Natwar-Singh, p. 122. 358 See Law de Lauriston, ch.IX pp.303 IT., for an account of his march through Suraj Mai's territory. 359 For Jawahar Singh see Ranawat, Wendel, pp.64 ff., Sahai pp.78-86, Qanungo chs.X-XI, and Pande 1970, ch.IV. He was perhaps an adopted son of Kishori, Suraj Mai's favourite but barren wife. 200

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00216.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:54] on his father's forces. In the course of the fighting Jawahar was wounded and some of his supporters were killed. Jawahar's injury left him lame,360 but father and son were reconciled. After the death of Suraj Mai his chief minister, commander, and other leading figures opposed to Jawahar Singh supported the cause of the younger brother, Nahar Singh, but he fled to Dholpur when Jawahar advanced on Dig to claim the throne. Shortly afterwards, motivated by the desire to avenge his father's death, Jawahar Singh spent a vast amount of money enlisting Maratha and Sikh mercenaries in an attempt to conquer Delhi. It was a costly failure, though he is reputed to have come back with gates that were installed at the north entrance of the fort of Bharatpur and a black marble throne that was brought to Dig.361 He was supported by Gosain Umraogiri, a leader of a force of Nagas who had joined the service of the Jats while Suraj Mai was alive. In 1764 Umraogiri's elder brother, Himmat Bahadur, also joined the service of Jawahar Singh when his former employer, Shuja-ud-daulah, was no longer able to pay him.362 In 1766 Jawahar Singh alienated the two Gosains when he ordered an attack on their camp, in which several Nagas were killed, having been led to believe that they were in collusion with the Marathas. In 1765 Jawahar Singh enlisted the notorious adventurer Walter Reinhardt (called Sombre or Somru), who had also left the service of Shujaud-daulah, and in the following year he was joined by Rene Madec, who had left the Rohillas because they had failed to pay his troops.363 In order to recoup his losses, Jawahar set about extorting payments from vassals and punishing those who had not supported his succession. Some of the Jats whom he alienated joined the cause of Nahar Singh, still waiting in Dholpur, and sought help from the Marathas. They were, however, defeated by Jawahar Singh, and his brother was obliged to seek refuge in Jaipur, where he eventually poisoned himself. In 1767 Jawahar invaded Bundelkhand and wrested some territory from the Marathas.364 He formed an alliance with Bijai Singh of Jodhpur and was at loggerheads with Madho Singh of Jaipur. On his way back from a visit to Jodhpur and Pushkar he was attacked by Madho Singh. Both sides suffered heavy losses, but Jawahar managed to escape to Alwar, thanks to the help of Madec and Somru.365 Perhaps the main reason for Madho Singh's hostility was that Jawahar, unlike his grandfather, had never acknowledged and respected the supremacy of Jaipur. Madho Singh must also have been angered by Suraj Mai's support for his rival, Ishwari Singh, and by his having ordered Jawahar to take control of Alwar. At the beginning of 1768 Jawahar Singh was again worsted in a second encounter with Madho Singh at Kaman, then a border outpost of the Jaipur territory. Shortly 360 Wendel, p. 44 :'il a le bras droit faible et...est encore aujourd'hui boiteux.' 361 For a detailed account of the attack on Delhi see Ranawat, ch.4, and Sarkar 1932-38, vol.2 pp.334 ff. His capture of the gates and throne is mentioned by Sahai and by Pande 1970, p.91. 362 Sarkar 1958, pp. 167-77. 363 Somru's recruitment is mentioned by Qanungo, p. 180. See Barbe, pp.43 ff. for Madec's period of service with the Jats and Modave (index) for details of both adventurers. 364 Sardesai, vol.2 p 509, Ranawat pp.65-8. 365 Barbe, pp.49-50, Ranawat, pp.76-86, and Sarkar 1984, pp.252-8, deal with the intrigues and battles fought between Jawahar and Madho Singh. 201

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00217.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:54] afterwards Jawahar Singh went to Agra, where he was murdered by a disgruntled subject while watching an elephant fight.366 The two defeats suffered by the Jats in their conflict with Jaipur mark the beginning of their decline. Jawahar Singh had set himself up as an autocratic leader. He overruled important Jat headmen and zamindars and failed to make tactful compromises with them. The traditional Jat confederacy was transformed into a centralized state with a standing army and opulent court, but neither Jawahar Singh nor any of his successors managed to form any solid and lasting alliance with the Rajputs, Mughals, or Marathas.367 Wendel, a German Jesuit who was in the service of Jawahar Singh from 1766-69, apparently as a spy for the British, remarked that the Jats, though they had become rich, were no longer as fierce and intrepid as they used to be. They failed to live up to the example set by Suraj Mai, their court lacked majesty, they were 'riches mais sordides, puissans mais paisans.'368 This decadence is typified by Jawahar Singh's successor, Ratan Singh. He had no taste for politics and warfare. Instead, during his brief reign of nine months, he organized extravagant festivities on the banks of the Yamuna at Vrindaban, featuring four thousand dancing girls,369 and is said to have ordered a hundred thousand maunds of red powder to be thrown around in the course of Holi celebrations.370 He was hoodwinked by a Goswami of Banke Bihari temple named Rupanand, who claimed that he could transmute base metals into gold. When the charlatan was pressed to demonstrate his powers, he promptly assassinated Ratan Singh.371 The Goswamis themselves tell a different story.372 They claim that a conflict broke out when Ratan Singh attempted to keep Banke Bihari at Bharatpur after it had been recovered from the Maharaja of Karauli, who had managed to bribe one of the Goswamis to let him abduct the deity. Ratan Singh was survived by his infant son Kehari (or Kesari) Singh, but his two brothers, Nawal and Ranjit Singh, dismissed the child's guardian, Dan Singh, and began to fight each other for power. Among those supporting Nawal Singh was a Gosain named Balanand, leader of a contingent of Nagas, who came from Gohad a territory in Bundelkhand belonging to a different branch of the Jats.373 By this time (1770) the Marathas, under the leadership of Mahadji Sindhiya (1727-94), a survivor of Panipat, were beginning to reassert themselves in the north. They received support from Najaf Khan, acting on behalf of Shah Alam. Ranjit Singh sought the help of the Marathas, who attacked Nawal Singh at Govardhan and carried out a successful assault on Dig. Nawal Singh signed a treaty with the Marathas by which he agreed to pay them six and a half million rupees, while Ranjit 366 Qanungo, pp.216-7, Ranawat pp.88-90. 367 Pande 1970, pp. 101-2. 368 Wendel, p.78. 369 Barbe, p.51^ Sarkar 1932-8, vol.3 p.4, Qanungo, p.224. \370 Sahai, p.46. 371 Madec, cited by Barbe, p.51, Sarkar ibid., Qanungo p.226, and Growse, p. 41, who suggests that an unfinished chatn near the temple of Madanmohan was intended to commemorate him. 372 Datt, p.40. 373 Sec Sarkar 1958, pp. 188-90 for Balanand's services. For the struggle between Nawal and Ranjit Singh see Pande, 1970, pp.108 ff. 202

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00218.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:54] Singh gave up his claim to Jat kingship and accepted part of their territory as a jagir.374 In the same year the Marathas occupied Agra and Mathura, from where they waged a successful campaign to reclaim the Doab. In 1771 Mahadji took possession of Delhi and in the following year reinstated the Emperor, who had been under British protection at Allahabad. Mahadji managed to subdue the Rohillas, but the death of the Peshwa and the murder of his successor led to the withdrawal of the Marathas from the north. The Jats, with the help of Gosain Balanand, attacked the Marathas in the vicinity'of Sonkh and Aring, against the advice of Somru and Madec, but the Marathas prevailed, with heavy losses on both sides.375 Madec, who had been charged by Nawal Singh with the task of recovering the territory he had been forced to yield to his younger brother, went into the service of the Emperor, in accordance with instructions from the French government.376 Nawal Singh, taking advantage of the chaotic situation, advanced towards Delhi, but in the following year (1774) Najaf Khan drove him out of Ballabhgarh and back to Hodal, then on to Kotban, and finally towards Dig. After over a week of skirmishes in the area between Sahar and Barsana, a battle took place near Barsana in which Nawal Singh was supported by Somru with six battalions of musketeers, three battalions armed with flint guns with fuses and commanded by French officers, twelve thousand of Balanand's Nagas, and some ten thousand cavalry and foot soldiers commanded by chiefs who had come to assist him.377 The battle, however, was lost and Barsana was subjected to looting by the imperial troops, in the course of which many of the recently erected mansions were almost destroyed in the search for hidden treasure.378 Nawal Singh's father-in-law, Sitaram, evacuated the fortress at Kotban after a siege of nineteen days. Somru, who had managed to stand firm in the battle at Barsana while Nawal Singh was routed, severed his connections with the Jats and, taking his troops with him, went over to Najaf Khan. Najaf Khan then sent a portion of his army, commanded by Najaf Quli, to lay siege to Kaman, supported by Rohillas under Mullah Rahimdad.379 The fort was captured and Somru was placed in charge of it, an appointment which encouraged the Rohilla chief to defect to the side of Nawal Singh. The loss of Kaman upset the Rajputs of Jaipur, and so they joined forces with Nawal Singh in an attempt to regain it. Eventually it was restored to them in return for a cash payment of eleven hundred thousand rupees and a promise that they would break their alliance with the Jats.380 Najaf Khan attacked Nawal Singh while he was on his way to bathe at Govardhan on the occasion of Ganga Dashahara, and then went on to capture and 374 Sardesai, vol.2, pp. 509-13, Barbe, pp.55-6. For Nawal Singh cf. Sahai, pp.87-95. 375 Sarkar 1932-38, vol.3 pp.8-12. 376 In 1773, cf. Barbe, p.72. 377 For an account of these events see Sarkar 1932-38, vol.3 pp.90 ffi, and Qanungo, pp.257 ff. 378 Growse, p.42. 379 Qanungo, pp.274-8. 380 Modave, pp.382, 412-3. Sarkar, ibid, p.l 14, says that the deal with the Rajputs was negotiated by Somru. 203

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00219.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:55] plunder Dig.381 Shortly afterwards Nawal Singh died, either from dropsy or by poisoning himself. Among those fighting on the side of Najaf Khan was Himmat Bahadur, who had recently joined him after another period of service with Shuja-ud-daulah and his successor.382 Following the death of Nawal Singh, the Rohilla chief, Rahimdad, managed to gain control of Dig and declare himself deputy for Kehari Singh.383 Ranjit Singh set out from his stronghold at Kumher and, with the help of Balanand and two thousand Maratha horse, succeeded in ousting him. Later that year Dig was besieged by Najaf Khan, forcing Ranjit Singh to flee back to Kumher. Those Jats who remained at Dig, following a Rajput tradition, put their wives and children to the sword and rode out to meet their fate. After the fall of Dig, Balanand went to Jaipur and there became an advisor to Madho Singh and his successor Pratap Singh.384 For the next few years Dig remained in the possession of the Emperor, during which time Najaf Khan built a mosque adjoining the Lakshman temple in Jawahar Ganj.385 In 1777, following the death of Kehari Singh from smallpox, Ranjit Singh became Raja of the Jats.386 By this time their dominions had shrunk to Bharatpur and the surrounding parganahs, but, by ingratiating himself with Najaf Khan, Ranjit Singh managed to get some of his lost territory restored to him. 32 The period of Maratha supremacy Mahadji returned to the north in 1782, after the conclusion of the Anglo-Maratha war. Following the death of Najaf Khan, the emperor Shah Alam requested the support of Mahadji, who was then at Gwalior. For the next few years Mahadji was busy subduing the Emperor's troublesome vassals and collecting revenue and tribute from areas that were still nominally a part of the Mughal empire.387 In 1785 he established his camp at Vrindaban, which remained his headquarters for the next six years. He reclaimed the fort of Agra, and was appointed plenipotentiary regent (vakil-i-mutlak), but this was no more than 'an empty dignity conferred upon him by an insolvent Emperor'.388 He faced opposition from Himmat Bahadur and Umraogiri, who had been awarded estates in the Doab for services rendered to Shuja-ud-daulah. For the past few years Himmat Bahadur had been in the service of Najaf Khan and the Emperor and was mainly based at Vrindaban. In 1779 Pratap Singh of Jaipur had asked for his help in resisting Maratha demands for tribute. Himmat Bahadur had helped Pratap Singh rehabilitate Jaipur and make 381 Sarkar, ibid, pp.114-5. 382 Sarkar 1958, pp.191-3. 383 Sarkar 1932-38, vol.3 pp.116 ff., Qanungo, pp.283-5. 384 Sarkar 1958, pp.235-6. For the siege of Dig see Modave, pp.432-9. 385 Sahai, p.94. 386 Ibid., pp.95-125, Pande 1970, pp.122-9, 133-56. 387 For an account of this period see Sardesai, vol.3 chs.V, VII, & VIII (pp.265 fif.), and Sarkar 1932-8, vol.3 chs.33-4. 388 Sardesai, vol.3 p. 147. 204

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00220.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:55] him a paid-up vassal of the Emperor.389 He based himself at Vrindaban until 1790, and was continually embroiled in intrigues with various Maratha and Mughal factions. He became a person of considerable influence at the Mughal court and for a while was Mahadji's chief advisor in administrative affairs, helping him to acquire more territory in the Doab and Bundelkhand. After Mahadji took control of the forts of Agra and Aligarh in 1785 he began to suspect Himmat Bahadur of being in league with their previous Mughal occupants. The ensuing conflict with Himmat Bahadur and Umraogiri-was intensified when he confiscated their estates. Himmat Bahadur, in disgust, announced his retirement from politics, was paid off in cash, and was allowed to remain in control of Vrindaban and keep a hundred horse as his retainers. However, while Umraogiri led an uprising in the Doab against Mahadji, Himmat Bahadur attacked Firuzabad. When Maratha reinforcements arrived, he fled to the protection of the Nawab of Oudh's governor at Etawah. Thereafter the two brothers conspired with all conceivable opponents of the Marathas in northern India. In 1788, as the result of a conspiracy between the Rohillas and the Rajputs, the Emperor withdrew his support from the Marathas and invited Taimur, the son of Abdali, to invade India.390 This compelled Mahadji to withdraw to Malwa and allowed the Mughals to take over Agra and Kumher, and Himmat Bahadur to gain possession of Mathura, Vrindaban, and Sadabad. Ismail Begh and Ghulam Qadir attacked the Jats and Marathas, obliging them to fall back on Bharatpur. They captured Kumher, but made an unsuccessful attempt to take Dig and were repelled with heavy losses. The Jats and Marathas succeeded in routing their forces, driving them back to Vrindaban, where there was a battalion seven-hundred strong. Four hundred were killed there and many others were drowned while attempting to flee across the Yamuna. The Afghans were also driven out of Mat, Mahaban, and Koil, and Ismail Begh was defeated at Agra.391 By the beginning of 1789 the whole conspiracy had collapsed. The Marathas had recovered Agra and arrived in Delhi to rescue the Emperor from the clutches of Ghulam Qadir, the sadistic Rohilla chief, who had blinded him. The lost towns were recovered; Ghulam Qadir was captured while trying to escape and was taken to Mathura, where he was blinded and dismembered in return for his treatment of Shah Alam. Mahadji was rewarded with the charge of Mathura and Vrindaban (August 1790), and, at his request, a firman was issued prohibiting cow slaughter throughout the empire. In the course of the next two years he formed a treaty with Pratap Singh of Jaipur, who agreed to pay his annual tribute. He also came to terms with the Sikhs and Afghans, thereby gaining possession of territory as far north as the Sutlej. Finally, Jodhpur submitted to him after a successful campaign led by De Boigne, a French commander who had been with him since 1784.392 Mahadji achieved these successes despite hindrance from Tukoji Holkar, who 389 For Himmat Bahadur's activities from 1779 onwards see Sardesai, vol.3 pp. 146-9. and Sarkar 1932-38, vol.3 pp.213 ff., & 1958, pp.198 ff. 390 His advance was barred by the Sikhs. For an account of these events see Sardesai, vol.3 pp. 159-67. 391 Sarkar 1932-38, vol.3 pp.283 ff. 392 Sardesai, vol.3 pp.217-19. 205

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file:///W|/Resources/AA/00/00/03/01/00001/00221.txt [21/11/2016 07:19:55] had been sent to assist him in 1789. The long-standing rivalry between the houses of Holkar and Sindhiya began to take its toll on Maratha efficiency and prestige in the north. Tukoji demanded a share of the territory that Mahadji had reclaimed and began to conspire with Himmat Bahadur and Umraogiri.393 Himmat Bahadur tried unsuccessfully to ingratiate himself with Mahadji, in the hope of being awarded a jagTr. When Mahadji began to suffer from boils, a woman of Vrindaban confessed that she had been employed by Himmat Bahadur and Umraogiri to supply materials for sorcery that had been used to cause the affliction.394 Himmat Bahadur escaped arrest and sought refuge with Ali Bahadur, a commander of the Marathas who had been despatched to the north with Tukoji Holkar. For a while the conflict was a source of friction among the Marathas, but eventually Mahadji and Himmat Bahadur were reconciled. Himmat Bahadur lingered on in Vrindaban, but by 1790 he came to realize that there was little chance of regaining his influence, and so he accompanied Ali Bahadur to Bundelkhand. In the course of the remaining fourteen years of his life he managed to become the ruler of a considerable territory in the neighbourhood of Banda, under the suzerainty of the British. In 1791 Mahadji was recalled to Pune and left Bakhshi and De Boigne in command of his forces in the north.395 The previous year he had placed De Boigne in charge of Aligarh so that he could derive his own salary and pay his troops from the revenue. Tukoji began to seize land around Alwar that had been acquired by Mahadji, but lost a battle fought with the forces of Sindhiya at Lakheri (south of Sawai Madhopur) in 1793. The rivalry between the two houses was continued some years later between Daulatrao Sindhiya and Jaswantrao Holkar, further weakening the Maratha confederacy. When he first arrived at Mathur