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Twenty Verses on Gopala, the cowherd boy of Brindavana
by V. Sadagopan
September 10, 1996
Dear Members of the Prapatti group,
Today is the birthday of our Lord Krishna (Sri Jayanti). On this simha SrAvaNa month (AvaNi), when the eighth day of the waning moon is united with the constellation Rohini, our Lord was born. Swami Desikan composed 20 verses (vimSati) in praise of Him and prayed that he should be blessed with thoughts exclusively about HIM during his final moments (antima SmRti) on this earth. Swami composed these twenty verses when he was overcome by the beauty of the arca-murti of Sri Rajagopalan in the divyadesam of Tiruvahindrapuram. For more than 700 years, these verses have been sung prior to Sri Vaishnava tadIyArAdhanams -- group partaking of food presented to the Lord earlier -- to seek the Lord's blessings and, also, during the occasion of marriages to confer the blessings of the Lord on the bride and the bridegroom. On Krishna Jayanti, the murti of Sri Rajagopalan is taken in procession around the streets of Tiruvahindrapuram and the Sri Gopala Vimsati of our acharya is recited.
Swami Desikan paints a word picture of the incomparable beauty of Sri Gopalan. He describes the structure of His mantram and affectionately recalls the many mischievous deeds performed by bAla Gopalan in Gokulam and Brindavanam to the utter delight of the humans and the celestial beings.
Sri Gopala Vimsati must have been very dear to Swami Desikan as indicated by his inclusion of the twelfth verse of this stotram in his esoteric masterpiece Sankalpa Suryodayam. There, he depicts Narada descending from heaven singing joyously the above verse during his journey to meet Purushan and initiate him into the mahAmantram of the Lord .
May our thoughts be blessed with the delectable experience of Swami Desikan! I salute Sri Vedanta Desikan prior to attempting to provide an English translation to these bhakti-laden verses dedicated to Sri Rukmini Satyabhama sameta Raja Venugopalan.
Verse 1vande bRndAvanacaram vallavI janavallabham | jayantisambhavam dhAma vaijayantI vibhUshaNam ||
I salute that divine effulgence named Gopala, who was born on this Sri Jayanthi day and roamed in the forests of Brindavanam wearing the unfading garland, known as Vaijayanti, made of wild flowers of the forest. This garland was his charactrestric decoration. He enchanted the gopis of Brindavanam. I salute this illustrious jyoti.
Verse 2vAcam nijAnkarasikam prasamikshamAno vaktrAravidha vinivesita pAncajanya: | varNatrikoNarucire vara puNDarIke baddAsano jayati vallava cakravartI ||
The Lord of the cowherds, Sri Gopala is seated on a yantra in the shape of a eight-petalled lotus. Inside that yantra is yet another yantra in the shape of a triangle. Gopala-upAsakas seat Him at the center of this inner triangle and enjoy His illustrious beauty. On His lap, they find Sarasvati, the goddess of learning. He blesses Her with His auspicious glances .
He has on His lotus lips the conch known as Panchajanyam, whose sound is that of the holy praNavam symbolizing the essence of the Vedas. (His devotees meditate on Him in this manner and recieve His blessings).
Verse 3amnAyagandhI rudita sphUritAdharoshTam AsrAvilekshaNamanukshaNa mandahAsam | gopAlaDimbhavapuSam kuhanAjananyA: prANasthanandayAmivaimi param pumAmsam ||
I visualize and revere Sri Gopala as the Supreme Lord, who took the form of the child born in the cowherd family. He was not an ordinary baby. As he feigned fear at the sight of the approaching evil Puthana, he alternately cried and smiled. As He cries, his upper and lower lips quivers from the exertion. At that time, his sweet breath carries the fragrance of the Vedas. He also smiled in between his crying spells. His smile was over the thought of what he planned to do next with the deceitful Puthana. He not only helped himself to the poisonous milk from her breast, but also sucked her life through the very same act of responding to her cunning invitation to breast-feed him. He drank at one swoop Puthana's milk and her life force and blessed her this way. This certainly is no ordinary child!
Verse 4AvirbhAvAtvANibhrUtAbharaNam. purastAt Akuncitaika caraNam. nibrUtanyapAdam | dadhnAnimantamukareNa nibaddhatAlam nAthasya nandabhAvane navanItanATyam ||
At the house of his parents, Yasodha was strenously churning milk to produce butter as part of the daily chore. Krishna, the bhAgyam of Yasodha, heard these rhythmical sounds coming from her efforts and began a special dance to amuse her and to receive gobs of butter as a reward. He planted one of his feet firmly and he moved the other foot around in different directions, the gold necklaces, jewelery and the ankle bells on His holy feet producing a most delightful musical sound, which matched the laya patterns emanating from his mother's efforts at churning milk. May that vision of this sweet, butter dance of Lord Gopala appear before my eyes! (navanItam is freshly churned butter mixed with sugar ).
Verse 5hartum. kumbhe vinihita kara: svAdu hayangavInam. dRshTvA dhAmagrahaNacatulAm. mAtaram. jAtaroshAm. | pAyadhISat pracalitapado nApagacchan na tishTan mithyAgopa: sapadi nayane mIlayan visvagoptA ||
Here, Swami Desikan enjoys the scene just before the Lord is caught by his angry mother in the act of stealing butter from a hidden vessel.
May the special pose that this protector of the Universe, who acted like an innocent child born in the family of cowherds of Gokulam, nurture the inhabitants of his world! His mother normally stored freshly churned butter in shallow earthern vessels (chattis). Gopalan routinely raided the kitchen and stole this butter. Yasodha thought that she could hide the butter in deep water pots (kumbha) to mislead her child. Gopalan defeated his mother in her efforts to save the butter and won the game. When his mother stepped out of the kitchen for a moment, he put his hands into the pot and helped himself. As he was enjoying himself, his mother arrived suddenly suspecting something was going on behind her back. She saw Gopalan stealing butter again and ran towards him, rope in her hand, to tie him up as punishment.
Gopalan was bewildered by the sight of his angry mother. For a moment, he wanted to run away to escape his mother. He lifted his foot to run. His (feigned) fright at his mother however made him stop. He stood still pretending that he did not know what to do next. He closed his eyes at the thought of the impending calamity of being caught and punished by his mother. He appeared as though he was averting that danger by closing his eyes. It is common for ordinary human beings to close their eyes, when they face serious danger, out of a sense of utter helplessness. Our Lord, who is the protector of His universe adopted this posture as if he was a mere mortal. May the thought of the simplicity that he adapted for this occasion protect all of us in our daily lives!
Verse 6vraja yoshidapAnga vedhanIyam. mathurAbhAgyam. ananya bhogyamIDe | vasudevavadhU sthanandhayam. tat kimapi brahma kiSorabhava dhRSyam. ||
The young girls of Gokulam look at this lovely child of Yasodha with great affection. Their glances enter him like arrows and makes him subservient to them. He is the great fortune of the city of Northern Madhurai (Mathura). He who was born there is the object of delectable experience for the sages, who do not covet anything else in this world. Right from his infancy, when he was breast fed by his natural mother Devaki in the prison, he has been the essence of beauty in all the three worlds. I salute and offer my tribute to this supreme being known as Gopalan.
Verse 7parivattita kandharam bhayena smita phulladhara pallavam. smarAmi | vitapitva nirAsakam kayoschit vipulolUkala karSakam kumAram ||
I meditate on that child Gopala, who dragged the big mortar to which he was tied by his angry mother Yasodha. She wanted to teach him a lesson for stealing butter. As Yasodha went away, he checked around to make sure that she was out of sight and then pulled the tied mortar to the garden. He smiled with a sense of satisfaction that he duped his mother once again and his lips were rosy with that joy. He dragged the mortar further and went between two Marutha trees. The shock of the collision with the mortar broke the twin trees and the the sons of Kubera, who stood as the trees in the garden of the Lord, got released from their curse and regained their original bodies. I offer my worship to that blessed child, who freed the sons of Kubera from their existence as twin trees.
Verse 8nikaTeshu nisAmayAmi nityam nigamAntai: adhunApi mRkyamAnam | yamalArjuna dRshTa bAlakelim yamunAsAkshika yauvanam yuvAnam ||
Vedas are still searching for Him; His leelas were seen by the twin Marutha trees in His backyard. Even after they were released from their state as trees, the sons of Kubera did not want to get back to their home, since they wanted to enjoy some more of His Bala Leelas. The river Yamuna, the daughter of Surya was a joyous witness to all his playful deeds that took place on her sandy banks. I see that wonderful young Gopala next to me always. (This is a blessing that Swami Desikan earned as a result of his meditation on Rajagopalan. )
Verse 9padavIm. adhavIyasIm. vimukte atavI sam.padam ambhuvAhayantIm. | aruNAdhara sAbhilASa vam.sAm karuNAm. kAraNa mAnushIm. bhajAmi ||
I worship the most merciful Gopala, who is the root cause of the creation, sustenance and destruction of this universe; He is the one, who revealed to us the easy-to-practise route of Prapatti as the short road to Moksham. He is the rejuvenating, rain-bearing cloud that enhanced the wealth and well-being of the citizens of Brindavanam. The flute that rests on His red lips during the time of His playing appears to be deeply eager to taste the sweetness of his mouth. I salute this embodiment of mercy known as Venugopalan.
Verse 10animeSaniSevanIyamakshno: ajahat yauvanam Avirastu chitte | kalahAyita kuntalam kalAbhai: karanonmAdaka vibramam. maho me ||
One should enjoy the unchanging and incomparable beauty of the youth, Gopala, with unblinking eyes. When we blink, we lose that moment of this delectable experience. He is wearing the peacock feathers (peelis) in his dark tresses. The "eyes" at the top of each of the peelis decorating his hair seem to compete for the attention of his youthful beauty. When we think of His many playful deeds/pranks as Balagopala in Gokulum and Brindavanam and his blemishlesss beauty, our minds fall in intense love with Him. Our senses are overpowered. May the overflowing flood of that beauty and its lustre remain steadily in my mind .
Verse 11anuyAyi manojna vam.sanAlai: avatu sparSita vallavI vimohai: | anagasmita SItalai rasau mAm anukampA saritambhujai: apAngai: ||
Venugopalan plays on his flute and creates delightful music and casts his most merciful glances on the Gopis. They are totally captivated by his friendly smile and the divine music originatinig from His flute. At this time, His cool and welcoming eyes resemble a pair of just-blossomed lotuses in the river of His mercy (Dayaa). May this enchanting youth Gopala protect me always!
Verse 12adharAhita cAru vamSa nALA: makuTalambi mayUra pinchamAlA: | harinIla SilAvibhanga-lIlA: pratibhA: santu mamAntima prayANe ||
This is the famous verse sung by Sage Narada in Sankalpa Suryodayam. The beauty of Venugopala and His world-enchanting flute music has been celebrated by Srimad Bhagavatham and Periyazhwaar in particular (Periya Tirumozhi: 3.6)
May the resplendent blue jyoti of Gopala reminding one of an incomparable blue gem stone (indranIla or blue sapphire), with blue peacock feather decorations on His dark black hair and the divine flute on His lips appear before me during the last moments of my life on this earth.
Verse 13akilAnavalaokayAmi kAlAn mahilAdhIna bhujAntarasya yuna: | abhilASapadam. vajrAnganAnAm. abhilAbha krama dhuramAbhirUpyam ||
Even in His incarnaton as Krishna/Gopala, Sri Devi is always united with Him. He has left her His chest region as Her place of special residence and enjoyment. He has the eternal and youthful beauty that qualifies Him to play with Her. We are powerless to describe His full beauty. The Gopis of Gokulam are thirsting to enjoy His beauty. I am blessed to have the vision of this beautiful youth everywhere and at all times .
Verse 14hRdI mugdhasikanda mandana: likhita: kena mamaisha SilpinA | madanAdura vallavAnganA vadanAmbhoja divAkaro yuvA ||
Which (bold) artist has drawn this picture of this unsatiable beauty known as Gopala in my heart? Who etched this embodiment of beauty wearing the charming peacock feathers in His hair? Which painter painted the picture of this beautiful youth in my heart, who is like the morning Sun to the lotus-like faces of the love-sick Gopis ?
Verse 15mahase mahitAya maulinA vinatenanAnjalimanjanatvise | kalayAmi vimugdha vallavI valayAbhAsita manju venave ||
I join my hands in Anjali Mudra and lower my head in salutation of that much revered effulgent, dark-hued Jyothi of Gopala, whose divine flute music joins in conversation as it were with the taaLam of Gopis whose golden bangles that jingle as they keep up with the rhythmic patterns.
Verse 16jayati lalitAvRttIm sikshito vallavInAm. Sitila valaya sincA SItalairhasta tAlai: | akhilabhuvanarakshA gopaveSasya viSno: AdhAra maNi sudhAyAm. amsavAn vam.AsnAla: ||
The incarnation of Vishnu taking the form of a cowherd to protect all the universes has on its coral-red lips the bamboo flute that tastes the nectar of this Gopala's mouth. As he plays the flute on the banks of the Yamuna river during the moon-lit nights, the lovelorn Gopis engage in rAsa krIDa with him. The Gopis beat taaLam to the music of their Lord with their cool hands decorated with golden bangles. Their follow-up with taaLam suggests as though they are teaching the abhinayam step known as LaLitham to the flute of the Lord. [The Abhinaya sastras describe LaLitham as the gesture, where the dancer places her hands on the appropriate portion of the body and change the movement of her eyebrows to mimic the different rasas. The delectable interplay between the bhAvam, rAgam and tALam - Bharatanatyam - is suggested here as the rAsa krIDa progresses.]
Verse 17citrAkalpa: Sravasi kalayan lankalI karNapUram. barhottamsa sphuritacikuro bandhujIvam dadhAna: | gunjA baddhA murasi lalitAm dharayan hArayaStim gopastrInAm. jayati kitava: ko'pi kaumArahAri ||
Gopalan is a roamer of the forest. Hence, he decorates himself with the ornaments appropriate to the dwellers of the forests i.e. natural products available in the forests.
The mischevous Gopalan, who stole the youth of the Gopis appears before them with many decorations that enhance his beauty. On his ears, the Gopis find the flower known as Laangali (flower from the coconut tree's sheaf/ Tennampaalai flower); peacock feathers are found by them on his dark and curly tresses; red hibiscus also decorates those tresses. On his broad chest, they find a beautiful necklace made of yellowish-red seeds known as Gunjaa or Kunrimani strung together . With these and more AbharaNAs made of forest products, Gopala enchants the hearts of the adoring Gopis.
Verse 18lIlayashtIm karakisalaye dakshine nyasya dhanyAm amse devyA: pulakaruchire sannivishTAnya bAhu: | meghaSyAmo jayati lalito megalA datta veNu: gunjApIta sphurita Sikaro gopakanyA bhujanga: ||
Lord Gopalan, showing great affection for the Gopis, stands before them in resplendent attire. He strikes a pose with his tender right hand holding the shepherd's bent stick; his left hand rests on the shoulder of the beautiful Nappinnai; that touch of Gopalan sends shivers of joy over Nappinnai's body. That beautiful Gopalan has tucked his flute inside his waist band and has additional decoration in the form of a chain of Kunrimani beads tied across his own dark hair pulled up in the form of a bun. He shines with his dark blue hue, reminiscent of the clouds in the rainy season and wins over the Gopis with his formidable beauty. He roams around with great desire for union with Gopis.
Verse 19prayAlIta sthitimadigatAm praptagAtAngapAlIm pascAdISan milita nayanAm prayasIm. prekSamAna: | bhastrA yantra pranihita karo bhaktajIvAturavyAt vAri krIDA nibitavasano vallavI vallabho na:
Gopalan desirous of performing water sports with the Gopis tucked tightly his garments. He took in his hands the water pump used in those sports. He approached one of the Gopis, who was standing with one foot forward in the water and the other planted backward on the land. He surprised her from behind and embraced her tightly. That Gopi was overpowered by that delectable experience and partially closed her eyes and looked at Gopalan with half-open eyes. He returned her affectionate glances. Their eyes met.
May that Gopala engaged in water sports with the Gopis as their lover protect us, since he is the medicine for his devotees suffering from the afflictions of Samsaara .
Verse 20vAso hRtvA dinakarasuta sam.nidhau vallavInAm lIlAsmero jayati lalitAm. Asthita: kuntasAkhAm. | savrItAbhi: tadhanu vasane tAbhirabhayArtyamAne kAmi kaScit kara kamalayo anjalIm. yAcamAna: ||
On the banks of the Yamuna river shines the Lord, who is seated on the bow of a kunthaa tree with a smile on his face. He is enjoying the prank that he played on the unsuspecting Gopis, who had left their clothes on the river bank and were engaged in taking morning abolutions. [He wanted to teach them a lesson for breaking the rules of Sastras, which forbid one from taking bath in the river without wearing a cloth.] Gopalan sneaked up on the crowd of Gopis deeply absorbed in water sports and took all of their clothes and climbed up the kuntha tree and sat on one of its branch and waited for them to come out of the water. The unaware Gopis completed their water sports and abolutions and got out of the water and discovered that their clothes were removed by the smiling Gopalan sitting on the adjacent Pinnai (Kuntha) tree. Overcome by modesty, they rushed back into the water and prayed to him to return their clothes. He commanded them to come out of the water with folded hands raised above their hands [as a mark of atonement for the sin of breaking the injunctions of Saastras]. They had no choice, but to obey him to regain their clothes. May that mischievous Gopalan fond of Gopis be victorious!
Verse 21 - Phala Sruti of Gopala VimsatiityanayamanasA vinirmitAm. venkaTesa kavinA stutIm. patan | divyaveNurasikam samIkSate daivatam. kimapi yauvata priyam. ||
This stotram has been created by the poet Venkatesa, who does not consider any God other than Gopala/Narayana .Those who read and recite this eulogy will have the blessings of the darSanam of the God of incomparable beauty, Venugopalan who was the keen object of desire of youthful gopIs .
|| svAmi SrI nigamAnta mahA deSikan tiruvadigale SaraNam ||
Thanks are due to Sri Shrikanth Jagannathan for HTMLizing and editing Sri Sadagopan's original text.
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