Our acharyas advise us that on the path of raganuga-bhakti sadhana one must first read gaura-lila in order to successfully approach and benefit from reading Radha-Krishna’s vraja-lila. If possible, it’s best to read a particular gaura-lila that is analogous to the vraja-lila you intend to read or hear.
For example, first read about Gaura-Gadadhara’s nishanta-lila (3.36-6 a.m.), waking in the flower groves of Srivasa Thakura’s estate before reading Radha-Madhava’s nikunja bhanga lila in Nidhivana during the same time.
This practice is called Gaurachandrika, which means the moonbeams (chandrika) of Lord Gauranga’s most merciful and purifying lilas illuminate the dark forest path within our hearts to show us the way to the brilliantly, blissful keli-nikunjas, wherein Vrindavanachandra forever relishes conjugal intimacies with His dearly beloved Radha.
Before we narrate the beautiful story of Bhagavan Sri Krishna’s appearance, let’s hear the acharyas conclusions regarding the interplay of Gaura and Krishna lila.
Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati said (Sri Chaitanya-chandramrta 88), “As much as you are devoted to the lotus feet Lord Gaura, to that same extent the ocean of nectar at the lotus feet of Sri Radha will automatically arise in your heart” (gaura-padaravinde bhaktim…radha-padambhoja-sudhambu-rasih).”
Sri Narahari dasa an eternal intimate associate of both Gaura and Govinda reveals the essential contribution of Lord Chaitanya to raganuga-bhakti. In one bhajana, “Yadi Gaura Na Hoito”, he said, “If Mahaprabhu had not come to this world, who would have ever understood the glories of Sri Radha’s unlimited prema-rasa? And from whom would one get the power to render ecstatic devotional service that follows in the footsteps of the damsels of Vraja?” (radhar mahima, prema-rasa-sima, jagate janato ke, baraja-yuvati, bhaver bhakati, shakati hoito kar)
Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja (Cc. 2.25.271) wonderfully describes the sweet connection between gaura and krisna-lila: “Krishna lila is the essence of bliss ambrosia flowing in all directions in hundreds of rivers. Chaitanya lila is an imperishable reservoir of nectar, saturated with the pastimes of Krishna. O swanlike mind, please wander in this transcendental lake” (krishna-lila amrta sara, caitanya-lila sarovara).
In Prarthana, Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says, “If you submerge yourself in the rasa-filled ocean of Gaura prema, you will become a confidential servant of Radha-Madhava” (gaura-prema rasarnave se, tarange yeba dube, se radha-madhava antaranga)
Following the principle of Gaurachandrika, we will first narrate from Chaitanya Caritamrta (2.15.17-31) how Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates celebrated Sri Krishna Jayanti. Then we will recount Madhukantaji’s wonderful narration of Krishna’s exciting birthday extracted from Sri Jiva Goswamipada’s Gopala Champu.
Every year, Gauranga’s bhaktas would relish the four months of Chaturmasya in Jagannatha Puri observing various spiritual festivals in the blissful association of Mahaprabhu. One year they celebrated Krishna Janmastami and Nandotsava, the day after. Everyone including Mahaprabhu dressed up as a cowherd boys (prabhu gopa vesh).
Everyone carried pots of milk and yogurt balanced on rods over their shoulders, and walked to the Janmastami festival grounds chanting euphorically, “Hari, Hari!” Kanai Khuntiya dressed as Nanda Maharaja and Jagannatha Mahiti dressed as Vrajeshvari Yasoda. Mahaprabhu danced jubilantly, and all the bhaktas began to throw milk, yogurt and turmeric (haldi) water on each other to celebrate Sri Krishna’s birthday.
At this time, Advaita Acharya jestfully challenged Gaura Gopala, “I’ll believe You’re a cowherd boy only if You can wheel this lagudi (a stick carried by gopas).”
Mahaprabhu then wheeled His lagudi around and around, and repeatedly tossed it into the sky and caught it when it fell. Gaura Gopala threw the rod over His head, behind His back, in front of Him, and between His legs. Gauranga’s display of expertise in this playful art of the Vraja gopas, brought uproarious laughter to one and all. As His grand finale, Gaurasundara astonished everyone by whirling His lagudi so rapidly in a circle that it appeared like a firebrand (alata-cakra).
Entering the deep mood of Gaura’s sakhya-prema (gopa-bhaava gudha), Nitai-Balarama picked up His lagudi and also whirled it about in amazing ways. In this way, Gauranga-sundara experienced the greatest ecstasy observing the Janmastami festival of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who is non-different from Himself.
In Gopal Champu, Sri Jiva Goswamipada describes the appearance of Sri Krishna thus: One night when all his family members had assembled in the palace entertainment hall, Nanda Baba asked Madhukanta, a court pandita and reciter, to narrate the lila of Krishna’s birth, Janmastami.
Thus Madhukanta spoke: One day Nanda Baba said to Vrajeshvari (Yasoda), “O devi! I see very attractive child with a dark complexion and long lotus petal eyes playing on your lap. And milk is profusely flowing from your breasts. O my priya-patni! Tell me the truth. Is this a dream or is this jewel-like child within your womb?”
Then some time later, a middle-aged, saffron-clad yogini arrived in Nandagrama accompanied by a slightly chubby brahmana boy. Introducing herself to Nanda Baba she said, “My name is Paurnamasi and this boy is my grandson, Madhumangala. O Baba, I can predict the future, and I see that you will have a most beautiful and sensational son who fill the universe with bliss.”
After a some months had passed, Yasoda Ma had a vision of a celestial child entering the lotus of her heart and a divine maiden (Yogamaya) entering her womb. The presence of the Bhagavan Sri Krishna within her womb made Yasoda Ma radiant like a thousand suns. Understanding she was pregnant, all the elderly gopis of Nanda Vraja brought gifts and auspicious items to offer Yasoda. As it often happens with pregnant mothers, Yasoda Ma had a craving to eat tulasi decorated rice mixed with camphor and lots of ghee and sugar, a favorite of Gopala.
On Wednesday, Bhadra krishna-astami, as the moon rose in the Rohini star during a harsha-yoga, Krishnachandra, the ocean of surprises, appeared to relish the intense motherly love of Yasoda Ma. Baby Krishna’s tender body was more effulgent than a brilliant blue sapphire. The moon of Nandulala’s face conquered the full moon. Gopala’s eyes resembled astonishing lotuses. Krishna’s lovely hands were more splendorous than the newly unfurled leaves of a celestial desire tree. Gopala cried sweetly while slightly moving His splendid hands and feet.
While gazing lovingly at her newborn, Yasoda thought, “Is He an empire of radiant darkness? Is He the topmost object of beauty for the eyes to see?” When the child cried at this time, Yasoda Ma took it to mean, “Yes, Yes Indeed I am all that and much more!”
When the village ladies came to see the baby, they all became overwhelmed with motherly affection. Gathering around Yasoda’s bed, they gazed at Gopala and started chattering excitedly. One lady said, “Ah! I will caress His darling head.” A second lady said, “I want to offer my very self to His heart and reside there forever.” While looking lovingly upon the Lord of Love, each lady expressed her personal desires.
Although Yasoda Ma gazed continually at her baby Gopala, she could not satiate her thirst. Streams of nectar poured from her breasts and tears of trickled from her loving eyes.
Concluding the story of Krishna’s birth, Madhukanta said, “O Nanda Baba! Your son Gopala bestows extraordinary auspiciousness to the people of Vraja, and gives the highest bliss to the people of the universe.”
Though not speaking this openly to the assembly, Madhukanta thought the following after narrating the pastime of Krishna’s appearance: “These Vrajavasis have a unique perfection, for there is nothing but Krishna in their hearts. All their heart’s affection is for Krishna alone. And Krishna will only reveal Himself to a devotee whose heart is full of love for Him. Thus Sri Krishna is always present in the hearts of these Vrajavasis.
Sri Krishna Jayanti ki jai!
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!