During the hot season, Krishna regularly plays in the various rivers, lakes, waterfalls, kundas and sarovaras of Vraja, i.e. Radha Kunda, Yamunaji, Pavana Sarovara and Manasi Ganga. Sometimes with the boys and sometimes with the gopis, Krishna thoroughly enjoys swimming, diving, floating, splashing, frolicking, and boating in the refreshingly, cool transcendental waters of Sridhama Vrindavana.
Sri Krishna’s water pastimes (jala-keli) are beautifully described in a variety of scriptures. The following lila comes from Srila Rupa Goswamipada’s Padyavali (269-280)
A Boating Pastime (nauka-lila)
One hot summer day, Nandanandana disguised Himself as a boatman wearing a red gumsha around His hips and another one tied on His head. Then He climbed into an old dilapidated boat tied to the shore of the Yamuna and pretended to sleep.
Radhika and Her sakhis approached that boatman and repeatedly called out, “Hey Nauka! Take us to the other side of Yamunaji!” Krishna, however, ignored their pleas while continuing to feign sleeping. Finally, the nauka-dhari woke up and said, “O My dear young girl, please step into My boat.
Just before Radha stepped into the boat, Lalita-sakhi whispered in Her ear, “Wait a minute sakhi! Look there at the boatman’s gumsha. He’s hiding a vamshi inside. This nauka is none other than that notorious Nauka Bihari Shyama!”
The ruse revealed, Radha said, “O Nauka Bihariji. The river is very deep, this is an old rickety boat, and we are simply helpless girls. It is very dangerous for us to board this boat. But what to do? There are no other naukas available at present who can take us slender girls across the Yamuna.”
Cautiously, the gopis boarded the boat and Krishna began plying the rickety craft across Yamunaji. In the middle of the Yamuna, Krishna suddenly stopped the boat and demanded immediate payment of the fare. Shyama smiled as He gazed at the frightened face of Radha, who had no money to give.
Forgoing the fare, Shyama moved the boat along. Out of nowhere, a powerful wind arose and started violently tossing the boat. Greatly alarmed, Radha said, “This boat is rocking to and fro. The river is deep and this reckless Nandanandana is the captain. Now the sun is setting in the west and the village of Vraja is still far away. And I am a helpless girl. O sakhi, what shall I do now?”
The boat started filling with water and began to sink into the Yamuna. Radha and the gopis tried their best to bail out the water. “O Lalita, said Radha! Alas! Destiny has become My enemy. My hands are exhausted. They can no longer throw out the water.
“The Yamuna is filled with huge waves, and the boat is filling with water. Still, Kåñëa is not afraid. Even in this calamity, lusty-hearted Krishna again and again puts His hand on me!”
Turning Her attention to the nauka-dhari, Radhika said, “O Shyama, all You do is speak joking words and fool around. O Krishna, if I live through this, I will never again place My feet in Your boat.”
Shyama replied to His sweetheart, “O Sundari Radha! Don’t be so harsh. By Your mercy We will live through this. All You need do is pay the boat-fare of a promise to enjoy with Me a festival of amorous pastimes in the cave of Govardhana Hill.”
Sometime later when the gopis came to the Yamuna, Radha remembered this encounter with “the boatman”. At that time, Kishori appealed to Her dear friends: “O sakhis! All of you please bow down before your ishta-devata, and pray that either Yamunaji becomes very shallow, or that we get a boat-captain other than Shyama!”
Remembering this pastime in the mood of maidservant, Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada yearns for Radha’s intimate seva: “When will I serve Sri Radha in Her favorite lake on a warm summer evening? Yearning to enjoy water-pastimes, Radha and Her playful sakhis jubilantly sprinkle the expert Govinda with streams of water from their pitchkaris.” (Utkantha-dashaka 8)
Ananda Khanda Bhagavan Sri Krishna ki jai! Radha-Krishna Nauka-lila ki jai!
Nauka Bihari Shyama ki jai!
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!