Awake the Lotus-petals
Open the water lilies droop
The bumblebees have left the creepers
The cock crows and the birds chirp on the trees
The cows are in the byre lowing, they run after their calves
The moon fades before the sun
Men and women arise and joyfully sing their songs
Krishna of hands lotus-like awake
The day is about to dawn.
As children trying to learn the alphabet and numbers, we are taught in tune. In other words, we are taught rhymes and songs. A, b, c, d, e, f, g. Or 1, 2, buckle my shoe. 3, 4, knock on my door…
It is believed that as human beings we find it easier to grasp information if we can put it to a tune. Make a song of it, make it rhyme, make it fun and we will learn from it. I work in an open plan office and share space with very different people. All of us so-called creatives, each with his or her personal taste in music. One of my colleagues happens to be a major fan of Hip Hop and R&B. Genres of music I do not appreciate and would never willing play myself yet thanks to my colleague I know most of the words to many of the songs he plays. The point I am trying to make is that even when you do not set forth to learn something willingly when you listen to it musically your mind somehow just absorbs it with or without your permission. This being the case, isn’t it fitting that Sri Krishna gave us the truth in verse. He did not lecture us on commandments. He gave us the Gita.
I have often heard it said that for every reading of the Bhagavad Gita a new meaning is unearthed. The Bhagavad-Gita, the song of God, the Song of Sri Krishna, is truly immortal. It lives and breathes, and grows with the people. It evolves and communicates directly with the heart for this is the song of God. Lyrics sent down from above to touch the heart and soul of all who read it, sing it, or listen to it. Sri Krishna himself delivered this great song to us. Sri Krishna was truly a beautiful form of God. The Sri Krishna Chalisa offers a vivid image of Sri Krishna. The sweet sounding flute embellishes your hands; your body dark of hue is like the blue lotus. Your crimson lips are like bibma fruit and your eyes are like the pleasing lotuses. Your face is like a fresh blossoming lotus and shines like the full moon. You are beautifully attired in your yellow silken costume.
Gopala, Nandalala, Kanhaiya, Govinda, Murilidhara, Kaanha, Muraliwala, Sham, Madhusudhana, Sri Krishna. The stories associated with Sri Krishna are numerous and mix together courage, conviction, love, justice, and truth in each of them. To capture the stories of Sri Krishna and retell them will take far too long. To grasp the true meaning of the stories, these plays that he performed, is sometimes beyond the expectations of one lifetime. Sri Krishna was a musical incarnation of the Lord. To honour Sri Krishna and his love for music and gaiety I have chosen to look closer into a few of the many Bhajans and Kirtans dedicated to this eternal musician. We sing these songs and cry tears of joy. We clap; we dance and experience the presence of God wherever and whenever these songs are sung. These songs cover the stories and glories of Sri Krishna in his every aspect and in a manner more eloquent than I can hope to muster.
Sri Krishna according to legend was dark, shyam, the colour of night.
There is a beautiful song from the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram that goes as follows:
Yashomathi Maiya se bole nandalala, Radha Kyu Gori Mein kyu Kala
In the first verse the child Sri Krishna, ask his Mother Yashoda.
Why is Radha fair and I dark?
Yashoda Maiya answers lovingly that he, Sri Krishna, is dark because he was born at midnight. In the second verse Yashoda Maiya says, Listen my love Fair Radha with her black kajal and dark eyes has cast a spell of love on you and that is the why you are dark.
This explanation is sweet an innocent. However, there is more to Sri Krishna and his complexion then perhaps Maya Yashoda was willing to offer in this song but for which Sri Ramakrishna provides and answer.
Master, when referring to Mother Kali’s dark complexion said that from afar even the ocean looks dark but when you actually take the water in your hands you see that it is clear. God has no colour but merely reflects that which is in our sight. When we get closer, we realise that God is beyond colour and form and is all that is real.
Another popular theme in songs dedicated to Sri Krishna is that of the Curd Thief. Makhan Chor, Nanda Kishore
I have come across several songs with the line, Maiya Mori, Mein Nahi Makhan khayo.
Sant Surdas writes,
O mother mine, I did not eat the butter
Come dawn, with the herds,
You send me to the jungle,
O, Mother mine, I did not eat the butter.
All day long with my flute in the jungles
At dusk do I return home.
But a child, younger than my friends
How could I reach up to the butter?
All the gopas are against me
On my face they wipe the butter,
You mother, are much too innocent,
You believe all their chatter.
There is a flaw in your behaviour,
You consider me not yours,
Take your herd-stick and the blanket
I’ll dance to your tune no longer.
Mother Yashoda then laughed and took the boy in her arms.
Mother mine I did not eat the butter.
In these songs, the child Sri Krishna tells his mother that he was not the one who ate the makhan or curd. The story goes that, as a child Sri Krishna loved eating curd. In addition, would often raid the storehouse and eat the curd. Despite his actions, he was so adorable that none could help but love him. This behaviour earned him the name Makhan Chor. Is this a promotion of bad behaviour among children? When children misbehave should we say, aw never mind, it’s okay if they so cute. No. The lesson behind the tale of the curd thief is that everything comes from God and everything must go to God, whether we will it or not, and that which God loves he has every right to take when he pleases. When we learn to love God and make him our own then we will not deny him.
The famous Indian poet Surdas, wrote many songs and poems in praise of the divine Sri Krishna. The bhajan Sabse Unchi Prem Sagai is associated with Surdasji. This bhajan celebrates the glories of Sri Krishna. It sings of how Lord Krishna renounced the delicacies offered by Duryodhana and ate the vegetables of Vidhura’s house. How as Ramachandra he ate the love-filled fruit offered by Shabari Bai. Surdasji says Love is indeed the best way to serve the lord. He recounts how Sri Krishna served the Brahmanas at the yajna of Yudhistra. He lovingly guided the chariot of Arjuna. He danced with the gopis in Vrindavan.
The Poet asks, “in what way can I worship this merciful and magnanimous Lord”?
The Sri Krishna Chalisa accounts the many glories of Sri Krishna.
Sri Krishna the one who saved the people by lifting the Govardhan Mountain with the strength of his baby fingernail. This story tells of a Puja, which the people of Vraj performed for Indra, King of Gods, and Heaven. Sri Krishna interrupted the puja. Enraged Indra sent down showers destroying the land to punish the people of Vraj. To protect the people of Vraj, Sri Krishna uprooted the Govardhan Mountain and held it aloft for one week sheltering the people from the heavy rains. Indra realised his defeat and error. Humbled he prostrated to Sri Krishna and stopped the rains. From this we learn that despite ones position, wealth and power know, that pride has no place before God and people. Pride stands in the path of service and obscures your way to the Lord.
The Chalisa speaks of the story of the Putana the demoness sent to kill baby Gopala with poisoned milk. The Baby Krishna suckled but fell not to the poison. He instead drew out the poison and the very life out of the demoness. By this, we learn that there is nothing that can stand in the way of God. No harm can befall him and he has the power to draw forth the vice and the evils if we turn to him.
Another story that speaks of the love of Sri Krishna is that of the Great Krishna bhakt Mira Bai. When Mira Bai was four she witnessed a marriage and innocently asked her mother, “who will I marry?” In jest her mother turned to a statue of Sri Krishna and said that he, the beautiful fellow, Sri Krishna shall be her bridegroom. From that moment, Mira longed for her beloved Krishna. Mira was beautiful and innocent and news of her spread. The King of Mewer approached Mira’s Family to request Mira marry his son. In due course Mira was married to Rana Khumba of Mewar. Despite being married, Mira Bai loved only Sri Krishna. She would visit the temple and in ecstasy, she sang and danced in the presence of her beloved Sri Krishna. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, clearly age-old instigators of ill will, never cared much for Mira Bai and tried many means of harming her. She once received a basket, containing a cobra. She was told it contained a garland. Mira Bai meditated on her Lord. So pure was Mira’s love for Sri Krishna that when she opened the basket the snake did not strike her for in its place was a Murti of Sri Krishna wearing a garland of flowers. The Rana’s family later sent Mira a cup of poison disguised as nectar. Offering everything to Sri Krishna first, when Mira drank the poison, the Prasad, what she consumed was truly nectar. When one offers everything to God, what is there for one to fear? He loves his devotees.
Mira Bai was not the only devotee to experience ecstasy on listening to the glories of Sri Krishna. Once at a devotees home Sri Ramakrishna asked the musicians, “Please sing something about Gauranga.”
One of the songs is as follows:
The beauty of Gauranga’s face, filled with divine love, is brighter than the brightest gold.
His smile, which illumines the whole world, surpasses even the charm of a million moons shining in the autumn sky.
The musician adds: Friend did you see the full moon?
It illumines the devotee’s heart. It does not wane, it does not stain. It illumines the devotee’s heart.
As the musician continued the song, the Master went into Samadhi and after a while, he gained outward consciousness. He stood up and, filled with an intoxicating pure love; he joined the musicians and said:
Friend, is it his beauty or because of some fault of my own?
In the three worlds, I see nothing but Krishna!
The song went on then the Master took his seat. He remained in ecstasy while a song about the meeting of Radha and Krishna was sung. When the song ended, the Master uttered:
Bhagavata – Bhakta – Bhagavan
The Lord, the devotees, and his Word are one.
Swami Vivekananda wrote a poem entitled to Sri Krishna that reads:
O Krishna, my friend, let me go to the water,
O let me go today.
Why play tricks with one who is already thy slave?
O friend, let me go today, let me go.
I have to fill my pitcher in the waters of the Yamuna.
I pray with folded hands, friend let me go today.
A simple enough poem at face value but in it Swamiji encompasses aspects of the divine incarnation so beautifully. He refers to Sri Krishna as friend. The very same Krishna spoke to Arjuna and gave him divine knowledge, to which we are all privy. Sri Krishna the Friend of Man. Swamji talks of the play of Sri Krishna. The are so many tales of the games and pranks that Sri Krishna played on his friends and loved ones. This also refers to the divine play, the Maya that we are all entangled in and which He is the master a wielder of.
Yamuna refers to the Holy river and to devotion and love for God.
He prays to be free from the bonds of Maya.
The Glories of Sri Krishna? All the glory of Sri Krishna can be summed in one word, LOVE. Every act of Sri Krishna was done in the fulfilment of love. Love for his devotees love for humanity, love for all creation. However one chooses to approach God, as friend, child, parent, sibling, partner let it be filled with love. It is Gods love for us that makes him come to us through out the ages as Sri Rama, Sri Krishna and Sri Ramakrishna to set us on the path that will ultimately lead us back to him.
We sing a bhajan at Ashram, Acyutam, Keshavam, Krishna Damoharam Rama, Narayanam Janaki Vallabham
This song is dedicated to Sri Ram and Sri Krishna and asks
Who says God does not eat, sleep, dance, laugh, and come when called? Be like devotees such as Meera Bai, Yashoda Maiya, Shaabri Bai and you will find all of this to be true.
Shakespeare wrote in one of his plays
If music be, the food of Love play on.
A friend approached me the other day with a book containing a collection of trivia on a wide range of topics. Under the section of Hindu Gods is stated that Sri Krishna is the God of Love. Clearly, if we take into account the stories of Sri Krishna it validates such association.
Thus if music be the food of Sri Krishna let us play on.