gä gopakair anu-vanaà nayator udära
veëu-svanaiù kala-padais tanu-bhåtsu sakhyaù
aspandanaà gati-matäà pulakas taruëäà
My dear friends, as Kåñëa and Balaräma pass through the forest with Their cowherd friends, leading Their cows, They carry ropes to bind the cows’ rear legs at the time of milking. When Lord Kåñëa plays on His flute, the sweet music causes the moving living entities to become stunned and the nonmoving trees to tremble with ecstasy. These things are certainly very wonderful. (SB 10.21.19)
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
When Their afternoon of merriment was completed and the cows had eaten to their satisfaction, lotus-faced Krsna and His elder brother Balarama decided to return to Nandagoan. Earlier in the day Their parents had sent two messengers to inquire of their welfare and encourage their speedy return. Like always, mother Yasoda and Nanda Maharaja were tasting the bitter fruit of their sons’ separation, an agony which could only be eased by Their personal presence. As the original adolescents, the boys were absorbed in play and found difficulty in leaving the exquisite playground of Govardhana Hill.
Vraja-bihari was very happy when served by His friends, who were as skilled in the many sports of childhood play as they were eager to be with Him, and as expert in playing horns, flutes, and vims as they were desirous of pleasing Him.
Exhibiting their attractive qualities to Govinda and Balarama, the cowherd boys pleased Them with a variety of speeches that were as diverse as the waves of the Yamuna and more pleasing than the hymns of the Vedas. Kesava and Balarama laughed at their varied talks (alapa), repeated topics (anulapa), nonsense prattle (pralapa), contradictory speech (vipralapa), dialogue (samlapa), beautiful words (su-pralapa), lamentations (vilapa), hidden talks
(apaldpa), discourses with omitted syllables (grasta-vakya), unclear words (avispata), rapid speech (nirasta), meaningless words (avajna), blatant lies (vitatha), complaints such as “You should not have left us for so long!” (sangata), pleasing words (sunrta), loving rebukes (tirdskara), laughter (sahasa), praise on the pretext of criticism (stuti-garbha), critical words (ninda), many jokes (narma), secret poetry (gudha-kavya), riddles (praheli), beautifully ornamented words (dana-bhasa), astonishing poetry (citra-kavya), and speaking . with compound syllables or compound words (samasya-purna).
While in Surya-kunda, Madhumangala had received some special sweets from Jatila and had concealed them from his friends in a corner of his scarf. Coming to know of his deceit, Haladhara approached him and asked, “Madhu, what have you hidden in that cloth?”
Suspicious of Baladeva’s intentions, Madhumangala secured his treasure under his arms and said, “Prasadam of the sun-god! Of what interest is it to You, dear friend?”
Like a white cloud blessing the earth, Balarama, who was dressed in a deep blue dhoti, asked, “Bhato, where did you get such things from?”
Increasingly fearful, Madhumangala replied, “pleased the hearts of the vraja-vasis by performing sacrifices and was rewarded for my brahminical labors.”
“Open up and let Me see what nectar you have!” insisted a smiling Balarama.
Sensing some impending doom, Madhumangala said with determined greed and concealment, “No! You and Your friends are greedy and voracious. Just by glancing at my prasadam You will become lusty and lose control of Your senses.”
Removing the plow from His shoulder and leaning against its ornate handle, Balarama teased him further and said, “Bhato! Why are you so greedy? Divide your prasadam among your friends while keeping an honest portion for yourself. After all, the dharma of brdhmanas is to give charity after having accepted it.”
Raising his head and expanding his chest in pride, Madhumangala said, “Friend, at this time I have no inclination to offer You this heavenly preparation or partake of it myself. When inspired by the Supreme, I shall attend to the needful.”
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
Coming closer and taking him into confidence, Balarama whispered, “The boys are agitated and want to take your prasadam by force. It is better to offer them some and placate their appetites. I do not know what the outcome of their restlessness will be.”
Madhumangala curled his lips and replied with contempt, “I do not consider Your friends to be more important than blades of grass, nor do I think very highly of You, Bala. I am a brahmana, a god on earth, and you ignorant cowherd-boys want to threaten my property despite the many warnings of the Vedas. Do You not know the power of a celibate brahmana like me?”
While Madhumangala spoke, Balarama gave a secret signal and the cowherd boys humbly surrounded him, submissively begging for some of his prasadam. Adamant and uncompromising, Madhu merely kept his silence and thrust his wealth within his dhoti.
Then one boy came from behind and quickly covered his eyes, while another deftly took his prasadam-l&den scarf from his belt. While Madhumangala protested, the boys ran hither and thither, looting the prasadam and making a great show of their pleasure. As he began to rant of the unrefined qualities of the gopas, another boy came from behind and opened the back fold of Madhu’s dhoti. Turning to tuck it in, another boy drew near to open the front fold. With both front and back folds in disarray, his belly protruding generously, and exerting to cover his exposed portions, Madhumangala was embarrassed, enraged, and incoherent.
Lead by Subala, many boys launched a frontal assault against Madhu’s defense of abusive words, dislodged his turban, loosened his hair-knot, and looted his flute and his stick. Madhumangala laughed, cried, growled, scolded, and cursed the boys. While holding his cloth with one hand, he snatched Krsna’s stick from His grasp and began to clumsily run after the boys while cursing them, his face glowing red as a beet.
When some boys stood their ground, they fought him with sticks until Krsna restrained His friends and lovingly embraced Madhumangala. Gopala returned his stick and flute, replaced his turban at a humorous slant, and retied the dhoti about his rotund belly
Seeing his prasadam entirely consumed, Madhumangala angrily
cursed the boys, saying, “You are enjoying the property of a brahmana and stealing prasadam earned as a consequence of my vast learning and purity. You boys are impure, whimsical, and arrogant. I shall now return to Vraja and inform everyone of your boorish impudence!” As Madhumangala was about to leave, Balarama affectionately stopped him.
“You! You are the instigator of these boys’ sins and their rebellion against the established sastric order.” Pursing his lips, Madhu said, “I will not speak with You until they have atoned for their sins, begged my pardon, and changed their ways.”
In this way, Sri Govinda played with His friends. Surrounded by His cows, moving by the foot of ancient trees, treading the sacred dust of Vraja, and giving joy to all creatures, the divine brothers dived further into the ocean of Their loving sports.
Then, eager to bring happiness to the people of Vraja, Sri Krsna decided to return to His village. Seeing His cows wandering at a distance, Hari played His flute. Eager to gather them together, Krsna lovingly called His cows by name, “Padme! Hee! Hee! Harini! Rangini! Kanjagandhe! Rambhe! Hee! Hee!”
Absorbed in divine love, the cows approached Govinda to drink His beauty with their eyes, to smell His fragrance with their noses, and to lick His sweetness with their tongues. Although there were thousands of cows surrounding Hari, by the arrangement of Yogamaya each felt as if she were standing before Him. Every cow believed that He scratched her head and caressed her back to the exclusion of all others.
While they mooed in joy, Sri Krsna, who was overwhelmed with affection, said, “0 mothers, are you satisfied with the sweet grasses and nectarean waters of Govardhana Hill? The day is now over and we must return to Nandagoan to feed your calves. Surely they must be suffering from great hunger! Let us go!”
The gopas carefully separated the lovesick cows and drove them in the direction of Vraja. The ringing of their neck bells, their lowing cries, the thundering of their hooves, and the song of the flute, when combined with dust and the cheering of the boys, created a heavenly symphony of sound. Following their group-leader, the cows walked on Krsna’s right side and the buffaloes
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
wandered on His left side. They appeared like the stream of the Ganges and the waters of the Yamuna flowing about a bluish elephant of joy.
The dust thrown up by the animals’ hooves turned Gopala’s restless locks gray. While great yogis sacrificed the world for the dust of His lotus feet, they never conceived of the cow-dust which daily covers the hair of the Supreme. Sri Hari walked slowly among the herds, and the nectar of His flute rained on them like a shower from a gray cloud of bliss.
There was no road that was not decorated with cowherd boys, there was no cowherd boy who did not engage in play, there was no play without humor, and there was no humor that did not give joy to Krsna. In this way Govinda moved with His friends, always engaged in play, sometimes singing, always smiling, sometimes playing the flute, always dancing, sometimes hiding, and always absorbed in love.
This verse continues with the same affectionate gopis who had participated in the two preceding verses. Absorbed in the ocean of Sri Hari’s transcendental pastimes, the gopis noticed His departure and, gathering before the windows of the moon-tower, they said, “Kim ca, tatra visarana vilambana kan/a! Devis! We must run to Govardhana Hill without a moment’s delay! Sri Krsna is now following the cows on the path to Nandagoan. At any minute He will enter the deep forest of Vrndavana and become invisible to us.”
Crowding before an ornately carved window, Sri Radhika and Her friends happily gazed at the beautiful scene below. Govinda and His cows were moving like liquid streams of nectar, flowing down the slopes of Govardhana Hill to a great river of bliss. That river of happy cows and gopas swelled its tree-lined banks and surged forward in a passionate tide along the road to Maharaja Nanda’s palace.
The gopis appeared like a vase of many-colored flowers decorating the emerald-framed window. Revealing the minds of her friends, one sakhi said, “Kim vaktavyoh hari-dasa-varya tvena yat artanamna asya adri pader mahimna! What to speak of the great King of Mountains known as Giri Govardhana, who revels in the name Hari-dasa-varya and is distinguished from all other creatures by his uncommon glories, in Vrndavana all living entities, both moving and non-moving, are equally fortunate, for they all serve the pleasure pastimes of Govinda and His friends.”
At that time Sri Radhika clearly saw Hari manifest before the pathway of Her eyes. Full of enthusiasm for the good fortune by which She had achieved the vision of Her beloved, Sri Radha said with great excitement, “Aho vicitram idam! Sakhis! Just behold this charming scene, which is truly very wonderful!” Describing what She saw with Her love-laden eyes, Radhika continued:
ga gopakair anu-vanam nayator udara
venu-svanaih kala-padais tanu-bhrtsu sakhyah aspandanam gati-matam pulakas tarunam
“My dear friends, as Krsna and Balarama pass through the forest with Their cowherd friends, leading Their cows. They carry ropes to bind the cows’ rear legs at the time of milking. When Lord Krsna plays on His flute, the sweet music causes the moving living entities to become stunned and the non-moving trees to tremble with ecstasy. These things are certainly very wonderful.” (Bhag. 10.21.19)
The cowherd-boys are commonly referred to with the word gopa. But Sri Radha said “gopakair” to indicate the extraordinary affection, or “anukampakam,” that Sri Krsna’s friends exhibited towards the Life of their lives. As it is natural to protect that which is of great value, the affectionate cowherd boys protected Sri Krsna as they wandered through the fields and forests of Vraja.
Mother Yasoda’s supreme ornament is her unalloyed love for Sri Krsna. Under its influence she remains obsessed with maternal concern and thinks Him to be an ordinary child. She worries that
in the happiness of boyhood play He will neglect His meals and become lean and thin. Over and over she instructs His friends to feed Him, quench His thirst, make Him rest, and dust His body.
When she thought of His tender feet crossing the rough ground of Vrndavana she became overwhelmed with anxiety and took a vow for His protection. When she thought He would be the target of Kamsa’s demonic friends, she instructed the boys to fight, or run at defeat. Although He is the shelter of His friends. His cows, and His creation, Yasoda beseeched Balarama to care for her Gopala, and thus the cowherd boys are known as gopakam.
Gopayati also means “He who is the shelter of all.” In this way, the cowherd boys are known as gopakair by their affectionate protection of Gopala and by Gopala’s affectionate protection of them.
Govinda protected His friends from the many vicious demons who threatened their well-being. After all. He saved His friends from the belly of Aghasura, a raging forest fire, the attack of Dhe-nuka, and the deception of Vyomasura, just to name a few.
When mother Yasoda heard that in the space of a few days Sri Krsna was attacked by Vatsasura, Bakasura, and the terrible Aghasura, she became baffled by anxiety. Seeking to secure His safety by all means, with tear-filled eyes and a voice stammering in anxiety, she called together Kalavati, Rohini, the leaders of the gopas and gopis. Kings Vrsabhanu and Nanda, as well as the nine Upanandas, the Nandas, the Vrsabhanus, and other leaders of Vraja.
Full of emotion, the mother of Sri Krsna spoke as follows: “0 dear friends! Please help me. What shall I do? Where shall I go? How will I ever be happy? Day after day calamities befall my darling son, and there are no adults present to give Him protection.” Casting an angry glance at the men in that gathering, she said, “First we left Mahavana due to the demons’ disturbance, moving all our possessions to Vrndavana forest for shelter. If we leave here, what country is safe for your children and my Gopala?”
Little Krsna sat on the floor playing with His toys, indifferent to the parental concern swirling around Him. Yasoda continued, “All young boys are restless by nature. My boy Krsna, like other boys,
Krsna’s Ropes’of Love
wanders far away. On one such occasion, sharp-beaked Bakasura swallowed Him whole and somehow, by the grace of Visnu, He was rescued.” As she said this, symptoms of fear appeared in Yasoda’s limbs, and she continued only with the reassuring touch of Rohini-devi.
“Another day Aghasura swallowed not only my boy, but all the children of our village. When Vatsasura tried to kill Krsna, he died only as a consequence of his own sinful deeds.” Wringing her hands in anxiety and wiping her tears with her son, Yasoda-devi, who was prepared to give her life a million times to save Sri Krsna from the slightest danger, cried, “Now I do not allow my boy to play outside or care for the calves, but how long shall I contain Him in this way?”
Yasoda-devi embraced her darling son and cried like a cow frightened for her newborn calf. His body was as soft as butter, and it melted into her beautiful form, the personified vessel of parental love.
Nanda Maharaja was the presiding deity of paternal love. Always absorbed in thoughts of his infant son, he glanced at the weeping Yasoda with compassion and, to console his citizens, he said, “0 Yasoda, have you forgotten the words of Garga Muni, who said, ‘Your son will meet with many demons and, by the grace of Lord Narayana, He shall defeat them and remain victorious.’
“The words of great brahmanas are always true; we should never doubt that. Rather than lamenting we should give charity, which has always been and will always be our best source of good fortune and the panacea to dispel all calamities.”
On behalf of her boy and Sri Balarama, who was loved by Yasoda more than by His own mother, Rohini, the Queen of Vraja gave to the brahmanas great wealth, many precious jewels, and even her personal ornaments. Magnanimous Nanda gave in charity ten thousand bulls, one hundred thousand beautiful cows, and two hundred bharas of grain.
Sri Krsna’s parents knew no other happiness than Him. They daily worried for His safety and their only assurance lay in giving charity, praying to the family deity, and engaging brahmanas in the recitation of Vedic hymns.
The gopas did not fear the threats of the demons as much as they trembled at the peril of Sri Krsna’s separation. To mitigate this catastrophe, Sri Krsna remained hidden in their hearts (gop) and appeared via the remembrance of His many pastimes known as bhava-vilasa. When the remembrance of Gopala did not satisfy them. He bestowed full mercy upon His friends (anukampakam) and destroyed the evils of His separation by appearing before them, twirling a lotus flower in His hand and smiling charmingly. Thus, Hari always protected His friends from the suffering born of His separation.
Seen from a distance, the procession of cows and cowherd boys headed by Krsna and Balarama was like a great python making its way from forest to forest, driven by the irresistible desire to swallow the pain of separation consuming Vraja’s inhabitants.
The word anuvanam suggests that Sri Krsna was passing ‘through the forests and sub-forests of Vraja-dhama, one after I another. Why was He, the indwelling guide of all living entities, ^ wandering here and there, appearing in want and in search of 1 something? The answer lies in His insatiable desire for newer exchanges of love. It is this quest which impels Sri Krsna into ever-fresh adventures while remaining fully satisfied by the reciprocation of His cows, friends, gopis, and loving associates.
To lure living entities into His loving network of transcendental pastimes, Sri Krsna takes help from His cunning intermediary, the flute. This instrument is not an impotent agent who merely advertises Krsna’s extraordinary association. Its own influence is of sufficient power to reverse the course of nature and cause wonder among living entities.
The vibration of the flute, known as venu-svanaih, emits a •i shower of sweet tones, kala-padaih, which exert their authority over i; living entities according to their qualification. When the still-‘ distant vraja-vasis heard the comforting song of the flute, they were < reassured that Sri Krsna was returning safe and sound at the end of the day. When the gopa balakais heard the flute calling the cows, their names appearing from its low drawn-out tones, they followed Him on the path back to Nanda-grama.
The word kala also denotes the bija syllable klim, the life of
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
Krsna’s conjugal loving attraction. When the gopis saw the great movement of His herds towards Vraja, Sri Krsna reassured them of His future association and called the name of each and every gopi on His flute. Thus ga gopakair refers to the gopis who watched from the moon-tower, as well as the cows and the cowherd boys who surrounded Him.
Srila Sanatana Gosvami says that Radhika called the flute ltdarakam, very liberal, because by its loud vibration it gave equal happiness to everyone, sarva ananda prada. The cows lowed while following Gopala, the gopas sang while dancing with their friend, and the gopis sighed, resigned to waiting for His association.
In Vrndavana the authority of the flute cannot be limited to any species, sex, race, or category. Some way or another, whether moving or non-moving, conscious or unconscious, everything is affected by its inconceivable vibration. However, the influence of the venu does not act equally on all. Sri Radha said, “Sakhyah! For those who are embodied, tanu-bhrtsu, if their nature is to move, then they will become immovable, aspandanam gati-matam, and if by nature they are unmoving, then they will begin to move, pulakas tarunam.”
The moving things are the deer, rivers, clouds, birds, devis, and creatures of the forest, and the immovable things are the vines, trees, stones, mountains, and dust of Vraja. When the moving are touched by the deep resonance of Sri Krsna’s flute, they become rigid and acquire the sthavara-dharma of the non-moving. In this way the deer became immobile, like sculpted statues, the rivers stopped flowing to become some solid substance, and the birds, unable to fly, stand silently with outspread wings, like creatures in a bewitched land. The only movement of the immobile is the tears of ecstasy flowing from their eyes, as the mystical song of the flute ultimately delivers the vision of Sri Krsna. Sri Krsna, who is possessed of an inconceivably beautiful form, who wanders from tree to tree, sprinkles them with the nectar of His smile and blesses them with the soothing rays of His glance.
Should He stop playing His flute for even a moment, all existence would totter on the brink of total collapse. Such a disaster can be avoided only by the sweet sound of His voice greeting the
living entities or the honeyed melody of His own self-composed songs, which soothes their quivering hearts.
The non-moving experience a transformation of their natures and the jangama-dharma that was possessed by the moving finds shelter in the mountains, stones, and trees. The mountains and stones become fluid and begin to melt, the trees spontaneously blossom with flowers and fruits, the leaves of the vines quiver with ecstasy, and all manner of Vrndavana’s foliage shed tears in the form of honey and dew, saturating the air with their harmonic aroma.
Sri Radhika was enchanted at the wonderful transformation in the immobile beings. They began to cry and manifest horripilation on their bodies, assuming the characteristics of moving beings. She concluded Her song by saying, “Aho vicitram idam—This is indeed wonderful!” The nature of that wonder is in the non-moving entities who move, the moving entities who have become non-moving, and the tears of love they shed at the sound of Sri Krsna’s flute.
Because wonder is the prominent feature of love, the land of love—Vrndavana—is also the land of many wonders. Thus, inert living entities shed tears at the sound of the flute and at the sight of Sri Hari.
One may question how it is that trees that have no eyes can see Krsna and Balarama. To this, Srila Sanatana Gosvami answers, “Yes! Trees have some subtle vision.” He quotes Mahabharata as saying, “Tasmdt pasyanti padapa.” Therefore they see Krsna and experience many types of loving transformations, prema-vikara.
In this way the natural order of the creator is usurped, and the demigods are awed to see the sound of the flute orchestrate its will upon those things which have only prema as its stimulus.
With a bewitching smile that hints at some hidden message in the most sacred of scriptures. Her heart, the foremost of Sri Krsna’s gopis used the word kala-padaih. Is it the artistic meter, tones, and melodies of the flute, manifesting in an intricate pattern of sound, to which She referred? Or is it the nice sounds, kala, that His lotus feet, pada, produce with His charming ankle bells as He wanders over the cintamani network of Vrndavana’s soil and leaves the king of swans speechless in envy?
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
Whichever meaning is understood by Her friends and followers, the statement of Sanatana Gosvami prevails: “Sarvesam visesa prema-udhara.” Everyone is feeling the rise of a special prema; therefore, behold the wonderful transformation along the paths of Vraja taken by the sons of Maharaja Nanda.
There is a special ornament worn by Sri Krsna which acts as a great impetus for the gopis’ love and submerges them in the waves of His remembrance. It is known as the niryoga-pasa. Srila Prabhupada states that Krsna and Balarama carry this rope on Their shoulders and in Their hands “like ordinary cowherd boys.” Its purpose is to bind the hind legs of the cows at the time of milking.
The special attractiveness of these ropes manifests as a consequence of the human-like behavior of Krsna and Balarama, who are in truth the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Like all cowherd boys. They were also obliged to carry such ropes to bind the legs of the cows or their restless calves during the time of milking. But Their ropes are not ordinary!
The niryoga-pasa of Krsna-Balarama are made of yellow cloth and have a decorative cluster of pearls at both ends, which gives them a special beauty, sandurya visesa. Taking these ropes, the boys bind them in Their turbans and create an extraordinary ornament, which bewilders the minds of the gopis and indeed, the minds of all living entities.
There is great jubilation in the minds of everyone as they behold the wonderful dress of Sri Krsna, adbhuta rama vesa, which has reached the summit of wonder in the presence of the niryoga-pasa. The physical characteristics of the rope are but a fraction of its beauty, for the niryoga-pasa is a sign of Sri Krsna’s ultimate pastime, His binding His devotees with the ropes of love.
The niryoga-pasa is the insignia of Krsna’s intent for all living entities, moving or non-moving, conditioned or liberated. As He ties up the cows to take their milk, Sri Krsna desires to tie down His devotees with His love; as He milks the cows, Sri Krsna desires to extract the loving devotion of His bhaktas; and as the milk is the staple of the cowherd community, prema-bhakti is the only means of sustenance for Rasika-sekhara, the insatiable connoisseur of loving exchanges.
The word niryoga means “to tie tightly.” When the gopis and creatures of Vraja see this rope, they understand Sri Krsna’s desire to be always engaged in intense loving pastimes. When it is tightly wound on His turban, it indicates that He has achieved success in firmly binding a devotee to His heart. When the rope is in His hand or loosely draped on His shoulder, it is understood that He is hunting for some fortunate soul upon whom He will throw His noose of love and entice him into its wonderful network.
When they see Krsna’s intent by the use of His niryoga-pasa, the living entities of Vraja experience manifestations of love, like falling unconscious, crying, trembling, and horripilation.
Looking from the moon-tower, the gopis saw Sri Krsna’s ropes of love and became immersed in its wonderful workings. “Who is He looking for now? Who can satisfy His insatiable desires and pacify His mind, which is ever absorbed in a quest for love?” They looked towards Sri Radhika, who strained Her lotus eyes to get one last glimpse of Mukunda before He stepped under the canopy of Vrndavana’s forest.
All the inhabitants of Vraja, the small jasmine creepers that take shelter of the tamala trees, the birds who ply the fragrant skies, and the youngest of the calves who suck their mothers’ milk, know that Srimati Radhika is the one and only one who can fully satisfy the mind and senses of Govinda. As He ties down all living entities with His ropes of love, in the same way the love of Sri Radha binds Krsna and makes Him a helpless servant of Her lotus feet.
Raghunatha dasa Gosvami says, “Although Sri Krsna agitates all the vraja-vasis, the disk-shaped hairpins Radhika wears above Her ears cause Him to spin around like a disk.” Spinning and spinning under the influence of Her love, Sri Krsna comes to Radhika like a beggar for prema.
Everyone in creation turns to Sri Krsna for some unfulfilled desire and says, “Give! Give!” Sri Radha, representing the pinnacle of pure love which, like the air, permeates the ether of Vraja, simply says to Him, “Take! Take!” As the unlimited repository of love. She is the abundant storehouse of His happiness, and as its magnanimous guardian. She continually serves Him what He eternally craves. Govinda is like a hungry man sitting at a feast of
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
unlimited preparations being served by the master chef, Sri Radha.
Consequently, niryoga-pasa also indicates Sri Krsna, who is bound by the fetters of the love of His cows, friends, mother, and gopis. As He binds others with His love, so He is bound by the loving affection of His devotees.
When, during the month of Kartika, mother Yasoda discovered her restless son had broken a pot of yogurt and distributed its contents to the monkeys, she bound Him to a grinding mortar with the ropes of her maternal love. Although He appeared to be a small boy, the entire creation, including Vraja-dhama, was inconceivably situated within the pores of His chubby body. Who can collect sufficient rope to bind His waist? Due to her loving affection, Yasoda considered her son an ordinary mortal, subject to regular correction for His proper upbringing. Thus, Krsna succumbed to her ropes of love and, allowing Himself to be tied at the waist. He became known as the Damodara of mother Yasoda.
On another occasion, Sri Krsna hesitatingly approached Srimati Radharani after spending time with a rival gopl. Unwilling to look in His direction, Sri Radha cast a reproachful glance from the reddish, tearful corners of Her lotus eyes and tied Him up with the intense bonds of Her possessive love. Although there were no visible ropes on His bluish body, Sri Krsna was unable to move and remained firmly rooted to the spot until Radhika, satisfied by His submission, untied the knots of Her loving glances. In this way. He is also known as the Damodara of Sri Radha.
Because it is His veritable life force and the substance of His being, Sri Krsna is bound to follow the love of His devotees, being eternally bound by their affection. Indeed, He even dances according to the love of His devotees, as is shown by a conversation between Radhika and Vrnda one Sunday morning.
Radha: “0 my beloved friend Vrnda, where are you coming from?”
Vmda: “I am coming from the feet of Sri Hari.”
Radha: “Where is He?”
Vmda: “In the forest, on the bank of Radha-kunda.”
Radha: “What is He doing there?”
Vmda: “He is learning dancing.”
Radha: “Who is His master?”
Vmda: “Your image of love, Radha, revealing itself in every tree and creeper in every direction, is roaming like a skillful dancer, making Him dance behind.”
This is Sri Krsna’s transcendental nature. Once He becomes attached to the spontaneous love of His devotees. He will not leave their association, even if they become neglectful of Him. This is shown by Sukadeva Gosvami in Snmad-Bhagavatam (11.2.55):
“Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who destroys everything inauspicious for His devotees, does not leave the hearts of His devotees even if they remember Him and chant about Him inattentively. This is because the rope of love always binds the Lord within the devotees’ hearts. Such devotees should be accepted as most elevated.”
As His herds reached the outskirts of Nandagoan and before He slipped into the arms of His mother Yasoda and out of their sight, Sri Krsna was respectfully worshipped by many demigods. When they disappeared, the cowherd-boys had great fun in mimicking their appearance and mocking their prayers.
Meanwhile, Haripriya was induced to take rest by Her girlfriends. After rising. She prepared His pan and cooked some preparations, like piyusa granthi, ananga gutika, and gangajala laddus, for His meal.
In Nanda’s palace, mother Yasoda was anxious for her son’s return. Her heart drowning in motherly love, she engaged her friend Rohini and the wife of Nanda’s younger brother, Atula-devi, to cook for Krsna. Along with sweets, pies, and savories, they prepared many fruits, salads, and vegetables from the garden of six seasons.
In the garden of six seasons, all the six divisions of the year were simultaneously present to provide any produce at all times. Nanda and Yasoda engaged skilled gardeners, who expertly irrigated these gardens to grow first-class fruits, vegetables, spices, and berries.
The gardeners brought mother Yasoda varied produce in big baskets, which she divided in two: half for the evening and the rest for Krsna’s breakfast. The servants clipped the coconuts and
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
peeled the ripe mangoes, which were brought inside for Krsna and Balarama’s supper.
Out of anxiety for her son, tears flowed from Yasoda’s lotus eyes and milk trickled from her breasts. Undeterred, she continued to supervise the movements of her servants and the cooking of her sisters-in-law. An apron tied about her waist, her face impatient and expectant, Yasoda-devi repeatedly hurried to the city gate and then returned to the house again.
Seeing the sun setting, Nanda Maharaja became eager to see his little son. He looked out from his palace to see Krsna’s face within the clouds of dust and strained his ears to hear His flute among the rumbling sounds. Taking his relatives to the outskirts of the town, they climbed up on a hill, like so many planets greeting the moon in the evening sky.
Merrily making His way to a forest near Nandagoan, Hari blissfully decorated His many friends with flowers, ornamented them with His loving affection, and pleased them with nice words. At a peaceful lake He stopped His cows, divided them according to the necklaces they wore, and made them drink the sweet water.
Driving the cows before Him once again, Sri Krsna entered the village surrounded by His close friends, attracting the ears of the waja-vasis with the dizzying sound of His flute and sprinkling their eyes with the nectarean luster of His form that had become weak from wandering in the forest. His body. His gunja necklace, His forest-flower garland. His dress. His curly locks of hair. His peacock feathers. His rope for binding the cows. His flute. His stick. His horn, and the extended eyelids of His playful reddish eyes were all colored by the beautiful dust thrown up by the cows’ hooves.
During the day, the people of Vraja burned in the forest fire of separation. With Govinda’s return they became pacified by the cooling nectar-song of His flute. His charming smile, and the cloud-blue luster of His form as it illuminated the houses and lanes of Nanda’s capital. Krsna was like a king who had returned with His cowherd-boy soldiers, victoriously blowing their horns, their cows providing their waving banners with the ever-rising clouds of dust. When the dacoit chief of separation saw His appearance,
he became afraid and anxiously left the village along with his accomplices—thinness, humility, thoughtfulness, and anxiety.
King Nanda and his brothers, mother Yasoda and her sisters-in-law, and Rohini along with Atula came forward with outstretched arms, eager to embrace their boys. Nandaraja and Yasoda felt as if they had found the lost jewel of their lives. They kissed Krsna, held Him to their chests, joyfully looked at His face, and smelled His head. In this way, all their desires were fulfilled. Seeing Krsna’s peacock-feathered crown and curly locks grayed by dust, they happily brushed Him with their scarves and moistened Him with their tears.
This meeting of Sri Krsna with His parents is similar to His rising in the morning, but it is free from the fear of His impending sojourn into Vraja. Kesava collected His cows and brought them to / the barns, where He separated those that had newly calved, the / elder cows, ones that were in season, those that had young calves, and those with many calves. He directed the bullocks, the bulls, -and the buffaloes and corralled the calves that were to drink milk.
Nanda and Yasoda were eager to take Krsna home but, despite their repeated requests. He refused to leave without milking the cows. His father said, “Let the cows rest for a while and let the calves drink. I am here with the cowherd men, and we will look after the cows while You are bathed by Your mother. After resting, You may come back and help with the milking. Go now!”
Madhumangala pulled at Krsna and said, “We are hungry and thirsty, Krsna! Come, let us go and save our lives with food and drink.” Being lovingly urged by Rohini and Nanda again and again, Krsna started for home with His brother and His friends, as Yasoda held His hand. When the mothers of Hari’s friends met Yasoda on the pathway, they asked permission to reclaim their boys. Having been the beneficiary of His association all day, it would now be the gopas who would cry themselves to sleep in separation and meet Him in their happy dreams, in the fields of Vraja, along with the cows. As they reluctantly left Sri Krsna, the cowherd boys cried great tears of sorrow and their bodies paled in separation.
Yasoda took Krsna, Balarama, and Madhumangala into the inner apartments, washing their feet, while Rohini and Atula
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
returned to their cooking in the kitchen. The people of Vraja felt the topmost bliss when Hari returned to their midst. It was as if a son was born to a sonless family, poor people were showered with gold, or creatures in a fire were saved by a flood of nectar.
The demigods saw Nandisvara Hill as the form of Lord Siva, effulgent as the capital of Nanda Maharaja and the beautiful crown decorating Vrndavana. The King’s happy subjects reside on all but the western side, while at its summit is Nanda’s palace, which the Puranas describe as existing since ancient times. The entire city of Nandagoan was enclosed by a great wall of sapphire, and the emerald homes of its citizens had coral pillars, golden roofs, and crystal windows.
Nanda Maharaja’s palace was made of glistening sapphires, its roofs were lapis lazuli, and the gates were fashioned from rubies. In the center of the mansion was a courtyard, the treasury was in the western part, Sri Balarama’s dwelling was in the north, and Sri Krsna’s rooms were to the south. In the eastern portion of the palace was the temple of Sri Narayana, who was worshipped by Nanda Maharaja to obtain auspiciousness for his lotus-eyed son.
South of the treasury and west of Sri Krsna’s residence was the kitchen where Sri Radha enjoyed Her daily cooking pastimes. South of that was a secluded garden with a very pleasant lake, hidden courtyards, and decorated cottages. By the arrangement of her sakhis, Radha and Krsna would sometimes meet here before herding His cows.
When Krsna came back to His village, Sri Radhika continued to discretely admire His beauty from Her moon-tower. Her girlfriends encouraged Her, saying, “Sundan pasya milati vanamali, 0 beautiful Radhe, look at Vanamali, who wears a garland of forest flowers and has now appeared to give life to Your thirsty eyes.”
Radhika, whose heart was filled with the pain of separation as Sri Krsna walked beneath the canopy of forest trees and who felt each second to last like a millennium, now stared at Him without blinking, drinking the nectar of His form with the cups of Her eyes. The fire of separation that burned in Her heart became extinguished while gazing at Him standing before the gates of Nandagoan.
Hari was escorted into the palace by His mother, who removed
the niryoga-pasa from His shoulder and handed it to a servant. At His disappearance, Sri Radha’s eyes became bereft of sustenance and, feeling the entire universe as a void. She plunged into a bottomless abyss of sorrow, reaching to the directions for shelter.
Lalita-devi caught her sakhi’s hand and caressed Her reassuringly. While a cascade of tears emerged from Radha’s eyes. She spoke with faltering words. “0 fate, there is indeed great fortune for all moving and non-moving entities, because they see Sri Krsna so nicely dressed with that effulgent rope. But for us, such darsana is very difficult to achieve. Tat darsanam api su-durlabham, tat darsanam api su-durlabham! Aho durbhagyam. Just see our misfortune. Just see our misfortune!”
To elude the sad consequences of Her separation from Her Sri Krsna, Lalita-devi reminded Sri Radha of the many sweets She had prepared earlier, which were waiting to be delivered for His supper. Hearing that Her beloved was in need of Her service, happy Radha immediately placed the sweets on golden plates, covered them with a thin silk cloth, and ordered Tulasi and Kasturi to deliver them to the Queen of Vraja.
When Radhika’s trusted maidservants left for the path to Nandagoan, Lalita-devi arranged for many diversions to sweeten the mind of Her sakhl and keep the gopis engaged in remembrance of Sri Hari. She took the gopis to the main hall of Radha’s residence and, seating their yuthesvan on a golden throne inlaid with brilliant jewels, induced different sakhis to show their skills in singing, dancing, and playing instruments.
When everyone had shown the limits of their expertise, the gopis, who were overflowing with love for Sri Radha, made Her accept the sandhya-arati. By its performance all impediments to Her meeting with Syamasundara would be removed. The sakhis sang auspicious songs, made the ulu-dhvani sound, and Lalita-devi offered a golden lamp with devotion, increasing the effulgence of Radhika’s lotus face.
Krsna’s Ropes of Love
At the conclusion of the arati, Tulasi and her retinue returned from Nandagoan and recounted how Sri Krsna had enjoyed His supper. The gopis heard with happiness the pranks accomplished by His intimate friends in the King’s dining hall, and then Tulasi handed the remnants of Govinda’s meal to Lalita-devi. This rare nectar was mixed with Radhika’s supper, for She would never eat anything untouched by Sri Krsna’s lips.
Sri Radha held Tulasi’s hand and asked, “My dearest sakhl, did you really see My Syamasundara this evening, and did He really enjoy His supper to full satisfaction? Tell me, were you so fortunate as to see the Prince of Vraja with your lovely eyes?”
Feeling shy in the presence of her seniors, Tulasi smiled slightly and lowered her head in affirmation. Radhika gently drew Tulasi to sit on the throne next to Her and, placing the index finger of Her right hand under her chin, she raised her face and said, “Priya-sundarl, 0 beautiful girl, let Me look in your eyes and see if you have actually beheld the vision of My beloved.”
Looking into Tulasi’s dark eyes, which were brimming with tears and overflowing with love, Sri Radhika saw Her own beloved Syamasundara nicely bathed, dressed in fresh clothes, and decorated with a garland of flowers. For a long time She took darsana of Sri Krsna, who had come to visit Her within the heart of Her sakhl and now appeared within Tulasi’s soft doe-like eyes.
Sri Radha pulled Tulasi to Her side, stroked her silky black hair and, turning to Her friends. She spoke in a soft voice. “Sakhl, you have certainly received the great fortune of seeing Sri Krsna; how else could your eyes be so extraordinarily beautiful!” While the other gopis chanted, “Jaya Radhe! Jaya Radhe!” Tulasi bowed her head and the tears from her eyes washed the feet of Sri Radha. These tears were Govinda’s evening offering of puspanjali to His beloved.
Srila Sanatana Gosvami concludes by saying that the gopis are describing this verse as Sri Krsna and Balarama traverse the path to Vraja. As has been found in previous verses, the reference to Hari’s elder brother is an ornament to cover the gopis’ exclusive attachment to Krsna. What they speak is a mysterious expression of the many feelings in their hearts, and their words are to be heard and understood by the mercy of their eternal associates.
This concludes the fifteenth chapter of The Song of the Flute, by a very insignificant disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, which is saturated with the golden effulgence emanating from the silken ropes around Sri Krsna and Balarama’s shoulders, materializing through the nectarean words of the vraja-gopis, who desired to run to Govardhana Hill to see their beloved, for He is equally affectionate to all living entities in Vraja, especially the cowherd boys, who take great care to protect Him, who is the protector of everyone, who while playing an exceptional tune on His flute, causing all moving things like the rivers to become stationary and non-moving things like the mountains to melt, wanders from forest to forest, making one wonder what treasure He seeks, to which the gopis answer that with those yellow silken ropes decorated with pearl tassels, by means of which He binds the legs of milking cows, He seeks to entice some conditioned souls to His service, as well as drawing His eternal associates, whom He ties up with His ropes of love while remaining eternally bound to them, and thus declares boldly to all that the ultimate reality of Vrndavana is love