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surface of the historic stream ; but I am now, unfortunately, thrown between the horns of a difficult and overwhelming dilemma, as I have still a duty to perform toward my readers, and am aware that the loves of heroes should commonly be buried in their roseate and blissful bowers. True it is (and few will deny that truth, in the face of so many learned authorities), that there must be many and eminent exceptions to this generally prudential rule, of which Krishna's wanderings must be allowed to stand a part.
Lest, however, it should be imagined by those who have not been oriental travellers, that the pastoral maids of Gokal resembled the rosy-cheeked damsels of the delightful plains of Devon, or the herd-spangled vallies of Buckingham, I most emphatically assure them that they have formed supremely erroneous notions of the nymphs in question ; but as proofs are at all times better than assertions, the reader shall have something beyond my simple averment to direct him. Let him, then, if his soul be sensible to the raptures of love, listen to the voice of Jayadeva, whose notes are both sweet and brilliant:
“ Bring home the wanderer (Krishna) to my rustic mansion,” spoke the fortunate herdsman Nanda to the lovely Radha. “ The firmament is obscured by clouds, the woodlands are black with tamala trees: that youth who roves in the forest will be fearful in the gloom of night. Go, my daughter, bring the wanderer home.”
Radha saught him long in vain. She roved among the twining vasantis covered with soft blossoms, when a damsel thus addressed her:-*
" The gale that has wantoned round the beautiful clove plants, breathes now from the hills of Malaya. The full blown cesara gleams like the sceptre of the world's monarch, Love; and the pointed thyrse of the cétaca resembles the darts by which lovers are wounded. See the bunches of patali flowers filled with bees, like the quiver of Smara full of shafts, while the amrita tree, with blooming tresses, is embraced by the gay creeper atimucta, and the blue streams of the Yamuna wind round the groves of
* The addresses of this loquacious young lady were considerably longer than I have given them, as I have merely abstracted a few of the parts.
Vrindhavan. A breeze, like the breath of love from the fragrant flowers of the cétaca, kindles every heart, whilst it perfumes the woods with the dust which it shakes from the mallica with half-opened buds; and the cocila* bursts into song, when he sees the blossoms glistening on the lovely rasála. In this charming season, young Heri (Krishna) dances with a company of dàmsels.”
This agreeable speech was intended, in the true spirit of female kindness, to answer a similar purpose to many made in our modern boudoirs, that is, to give pain to the auditor. The jealous Radha, however, gave no answer; when her amiable friend pointed out Krishna, “with a garland of wild flowers descending even to the yellow mantle that girds his azure limbs ; distinguished by smiling cheeks, and by earrings that sparkle as he plays,” enjoying the rapturous embraces of his fair companions. One presses him to her swelling bosom; another meditates on the lotus of his face; a third points to a vanjula bower. He caresses one, kisses another, and smiles on a third; while a fourth, under the pretext of hymning his divine perfections, whispers in his ear, “ thy lips, my beloved, are nectar.”
Radha remained in the forest lamenting to her confidant the wanderings of her faithless swain. “I saw him,” she exclaimed, “in the grove with happier damsels, yet the sight of him delighted me. Soft is the gale that breathes over yon clear pool and expands the clustering blossoms of the voluble asoca ; soft, yet grievous to me, in the absence of the foe of Madhu. Delightful are the flowers of the amru-trees on the mountain-top, while the murmuring bees pursue their voluptuous toil; delightful, yet afflicting to me, O friend, in the absence of the youthful Césava.” |
Krishna now repented of his levity, and sought a reconciliation with Radha ; who, while she ardently wished for, appeared somewhat coquetishly to shun it. At length she yielded to the plaintive solicitations of her despairing lover, whose messenger tells her, " that the deity, crowned with silver blossoms, mourns in her absence; that even the dewy rays of the moon can bring no relief to the ardent flame which consumes him ; that he
* A bird of sweet song, with green plumage, and red beak and feet.
quits the bower of love to throw himself on the cold clay, and repeat words which he had heard his beloved express : then, having bound his locks with forest flowers, he hastens to yon arbour, when a soft gale breathes over the banks of Yamuna; then again, pronouncing her name, he modulates his divine reed. Oh! with what rapture doth he gaze on the golden dust which the breeze shakes from expanded blossoms; the breeze, which hath kissed her cheek. With a mind languid as a dropping wing, feeble as a trembling leaf, he doubtfully expects her approach.”
Radha was unable to move from her arbour of flowery creepers through debility, but her damsel hastened to Krishna to tell him he was expected. “ The moon had spread a net of beams over the groves of Vrindhavan," but alas he came not; for, in habiliments becoming the war of love, and with traces waving like flowery Bannias, a damsel more alluring than Radha had, pending the negociation, captivated the heart of the fickle god.
Here follows a description, the bare perusal of which might send some of my romantic readers on a pilgrimage to the banks of the Yamuna. I shall therefore pass on to say, that after some varying incidents, described in the most glowing style of oriental imagery, the lovers were reconciled, and Radha sought the blossom-illumined bower of Govinda (Krishna). In the morning she rose disarrayed, and her eyes betrayed a night without slumber; when the yellow-robed god, who gazed on her with transport, thus meditated on her charms in his heavenly mind : “ Though her locks be diffused at random, though the lustre of her lips be faded, though her garland and zone be fallen from their enchanting stations, yet, even though thus disarrayed, she fills me with extatic delight.”
Radha turned from his gaze, and sportively bade him array her. He obeyed her behests, and placed musky spots on her bosom and forehead, dyed her temples with radiant hues, embellished her eyes with additional blackness, decked her braided hair and her neck with fresh garlands, and tied on her wrists the loosened bracelets, on her ankles the beamy rings, and round her waist the zone of bells that sounded with ravishing melody. Thus sang Jayadeva.*
* Translated by the accomplished and learned Sir William Jones. Asiatic Researches, vol. iii.
On another occasion, when Krishna came to Bindreben, the Devatas, in honour of the moon shining in her meridian lustre, had adorned themselves in variegated chains of pearls and rubies, had robed themselves in vestments of rose-colour, and rubbed themselves with saffron, so that the earth received fresh splendour from their appearance, and a warm and sweet air breathed around, when Krishna began to play on his flute. Immediately on hearing it, the Gopias all left their several occupations unfinished, and ran out to listen. Krishna affected to ask them “if all was well at home?" He then proceeded to give them some good advice upon their duties to their husbands, and so forth; when one of them said, “that when frenzy and distraction seized the mind, all duties and all earthly motives were overturned and forgotten; that if he ordered them to go, they were lame; but if he called them to him, they flew.” Krishna perceiving them thus sincerely inflamed would not be too harsh with them, but took each of them in his arms, and treated them with equal tenderness; so that all the happiness and transport which are to be found in the world were collected in one place, in the hearts of the Gopias. Whenever they turned Krishna was close to them; and as women naturally acquiesce in the truth of an idea that pleases them, they concluded Krishna to be equally fond of them.*
Krishna, however, contrived to play them a slippery trick; for after having buoyed them up with hopes, he all on a sudden vanished from their sight, leaving them staring around them in astonishment and despair, and interrogating every tree, flower, and blade of grass, to obtain information of their faithless swain, which they at length effectually discovered him to be, as they too soon ascertained that another damsel had occupied his attentions. They then became frantic with grief; till Krishma, taking pity upon them, again made his appearance, when they worshipped him with flowers, and “caressed him, expressing in different languages, actions, and attitudes, the same passion.”
All this excessive joy terminated in (what is not an unusual event) a rasumandala,f or dance, in which Krishna multiplied his form in proportion
t of this dance Mr. Holwell has given a neat plate in his Historical Events; and Major Moor a very pretty one in his Hindu Pantheon, in which Krishna and a fair companion, playing
to the number of the Gopias, and giving each of them a hand, caused each to believe that he was close to her side. “ In that agitation of the feet, and delicate motion of the limbs and waist, all the refinement of the oriental dance was exhibited. The moisture of perspiration came on the cheeks of the Gopias, their hair was dishevelled, and their jetty tresses trembled over their necks, resembling black snakes feeding on the due of the hyacinth.” The enjoyment of Krishna with the Gopias, and the Gopias with Krishna, is, concludes Mr. Maurice, a mystery, and cannot be described. Sir William Jones also says, they circulate the cup, but no material goblet.
Of the pastoral nymphs just described (of whom see a whimsical story under the head of Nareda), Krishna is said to have possessed sixteen thousand. Sir William Jones, in his Dissertation on the musical Modes of the Hindus, says: “in the literature of the Hindus all nature is animated and personified; every fine art is declared to have been revealed from heaven, and all knowledge, divine and human, is traced to its source in the Vedas.” In their science of music, he adds, that in the days of Krishna there were sixteen thousand ragas, or musical modes, each of the Gopias of Mathura chusing to sing one to captivate the heart of their pastoral god. It has thus been assumed, that the sixteen thousand mistresses of Krishna were nothing else than the sixteen thousand ragas, which delighted the Apollo of the Hindus. The Brahmans aver, that his numerous love adventures were all maya, or illusion; and describe him as a perfect Joseph in regularity and goodness.
After these specimens, I think I may spare the reader a recapitulation of the other love adventures of Krishna. Suffice it, therefore, to say, that, like his victories, they were numerous; and that at length, following the example of other satiated votaries of dissipation, he married, and to prove more effectually his penitence, took unto himself eight wives, of whom Rukmini, an incarnation of Lakshmi, was the principal.* But as the on Autes and dancing, are in the centre ; and eight females, with as many forms of the god, dancing round them; six other females are playing upon various instruments. Krishna has been astronomically considered as the sun, with the planets moving round
* To understand this, and the far larger portion of Hindu Mythology, in the shortest way, it will be well to agree with Vishnu-that it is maya, or illusion.