The Swing Festival Pastimes
Ananda Vrindavana Campu of Kavi Karnapura, Chapter 22
The stealing of Krishna’s flute occurred in the middle of the springtime Holi festival. On another day, Krishna performed the swing festival (Jhulana yatra), which is the perfect object of meditation for those desiring a taste of devotion. On that day, the sweet pastimes of Radha and Krishna far surpassed the sporting of the demigods and their wives in the celestial gardens. This chapter describes Krishna’s ecstatic swing festival, which is incomprehensible to the three worlds.
The swing festival was held in a special place in Vrndavana, which was bordered by a line of desire trees of equal height, with round trunks and branches whose ends intertwined, leaving a bare space in the middle. The line of trees appeared like a wall of sapphire jewels. Besides the birds inhabiting those trees, the presiding deities of the forest had placed various items in the trees including camaras, silk cloth, long strands of pearls, jewels, fruits and flowers. A square shaped golden stage stood in the center of the decorated trees. In the middle of the stage was a jeweled kunja with four doors. Four haricandana trees stood as pillars in the corners of the kunja. The intertwining of the tree’s upper branches formed an overhead canopy. The swing hung on thin golden ropes tied to the branches of the haricandana trees. This arena appeared in the center. Each gopi group leader had a personal kunja with a swing in the four directions radiating from this central arena.
The other arenas, lined with pleasant devataru trees, radiated green all around and resonated with the singing of young cooing birds. They served as embodiments of festivity for the entire earth. One swing hung from each pair of trees, and sitting platforms for the gopis encircled the bases of these trees. Golden chains tied securely to the branches of the trees hung down in straight lines. In the center arena four lines of swings belonging to different group leaders faced the four doors of the main kunja. Herds of deer frolicked about joyfully in the flat, open land surrounding the kunjas. The hearts of everyone immediately flooded with joy just by seeing these areas, which were illuminated by cintamani gems and by trees as brilliant as coral. The top branches of the trees joined to form natural, pleasing green canopies. Gazing upward forever one could not find the tops of those tall trees.
The moonlight filtering though the canopies of the trees made small filaments of light on the forest floor that looked like piles of sesame and rice. Thinking it food, the female deer tried to lick it. The four kunja mandapas (raised platforms) were so similar that even the devatas could distinguish them only by their placement in different directions. In those areas, the vanadevis had stretched a canopy in preparation for the swing festival.
The scattered moonlight appeared like pearl belts taken from the deities of the directions, broken by the steady wind, and broadcast on the earth out of respect for the land of Vrndavana. It appeared as if all the stars in the sky, in great bliss, left their positions to come offer respects to the land of Vrndavana. Pieces of rustling silk cloth from the goddess of the sky formed the rooftops of the kunjas and hung down quivering like tongues trying to lick the dust of Vrndavana. The nets of pearls hanging from that cloth were swinging gently in the soft breeze and pleasantly resounding like tinkling ankle-bells.
The forest gods had decorated the canopies with strings of various kinds of fruit, and with fine scented camaras resembling white lotuses born from the sky, or swans flying up from the lake of moonlight. The swing arena carried the celestial scent of aromat
ic aguru fumes, drops of perfume squeezed from the kalpa druma trees, and piles of camphor dust, which made lines of white smoke in the sky. Impatient and anxious to begin the swing festival, the devatas and their wives, the Siddhas, Vidyadharas, Caranas and Kinnaras played their instruments as they arrived in Vrndavana in their innumerable celestial airplanes.
In a jubilant mood the gentle goddesses from different forests, carrying various festival ingredients in their hands, assembled in Vrndavana. With friendship, kindness, and all good qualities they finished decorating the swing arena and built an impressive entrance with the best garlands. From all directions, flocks of joyful birds came fluttering to broadcast the sweetness of the swing festival. They perched peacefully on the twigs and branches of the trees around the arena. Eager to see the wonderful swing festival, the birds sang the glories of Krishna while their own hearts swung in delight. Forgetting all troubles and impelled by curiosity, varieties of deer gathered in the kunjas. They stood as motionless as figures in a painting.
Appearing as if they had not been attracted to the forest by the sound of Krishna’s flute, had not abandoned their household duties, and not opposed their elders, the doe-eyed gopis, like touchstones for pleasurable pastimes, suddenly manifested out of nowhere, as if coming directly from the desire trees. Colored with kunkuma, their loins glistened ready for dancing. They wore fluffy petticoats, covered by fine silk dresses extending to their ankles. Glittering bodices beautified their breasts. Their effulgent bodies were adorned with festive colored sashes and tinkling waist-bells.
The soft rounded shoulders of the gopis rivaled the flower bow of Cupid. The gopis had tucked flower arrows in their girdles and held flower bombs in their hands. In the arena of the artful amusing swing pastimes, the blissful gopis appeared like the incarnation of Rati (the goddess overseeing festive love battles). Some gopis had flower pollen sachets hidden in their golden waist-belts. Those bags of pollen seemed like the accumulated wealth of their skill in lovemaking, collected over a long period of time, for purchasing the jewel of Krishna’s mind.
Some gopis held thousands of flasks filled with fragrant aguru, musk, camphor, and sandalwood ointments. These thin, delicate flasks would break open with a breath. Others carried ingeniously designed syringes filled with flower essences, kunkuma water, sandal water, and musk water. The gopis looked like well-armed soldiers ready for the battle of love.
Anxiously awaiting the arrival of Radhika-Syama to start the festival, each of the gopis, the jewels among women who are more beautiful that the soldiers of Cupid, thought that she would swing first. The gopis entered the four areas around the main arena while discussing this among themselves. Out of excitement they made a din with their loud laughing that resembled the sweet cooing of the cuckoos.
Krishna entered the swing arena with His left arm resting on Radha’s shoulder holding His flute. In His right hand Krishna twirled a lotus flower while His bangles chimed happily. A pleasing peacock feather topped His reddish turban that tilted attractively to one side. Krishna’s elegant earrings and ear lotuses swung in the breeze created by the bees circling His head. Fine cloth kissed His limbs, lit by the jewels of His crown and bracelets. Krishna shone attractively with His pearl necklaces tinged red from the rays of His kaustubha jewel. Light delicate footsteps accented His graceful yet playful gait. Jeweled anklets and bells adorned His lotus feet.
Krishna, His splendid lips shining, appeared somewhat drowsy from chewing betel nut. Yet His effulgence easily defeated the combined radiance of all the jewels adorning the ladies in heaven. Krishna’s effulgence took the shape of a jeweled mace to announce His entrance into the bower of jeweled trees. As Krishna and His servants ascended the dais surrounding the
swing, the birds screeched, “Victory! Victory!”
The trees and creepers felt such rapture that their limbs erupted with tiny bumps and honey streamed down like a torrent of tears. When the peacocks stared at Radha and Krishna they thought they were seeing dark rain clouds flashing lightning. Though knowing Radha and Krishna from before, due to their unprecedented love, the peacocks madly cried out, “Keo? Keo?” (Who are these two persons?)
Different celestial denizens joined Krishna and the gopis to celebrate their jhulana lila. In attendance there were charming Caranas, male and female Kimpurusas, and the wives of the Siddhas beating expertly on madala and panava drums with their delicate hands. The spotless heavenly damsels from Svarga and the Apsaras directed by Urvasi held camaras as radiant as waves in the Mandakini River. They showered fragrant flowers from the Nanda-kanana gardens, which glittered like stars as they fell through the sky.
In this atmosphere, Krishna mounted the attractive, comfortable seat of the swing. Krishna looked like a regal crest jewel sitting on the cotton seat. The cloth covering the seat was whiter than the foam that appeared during the churning of the milk ocean. Shining pillows also adorned the beautiful seat. Seeing that amazingly wonderful swing purified the vision, and empowered the eyes to see other objects in a fresher way. While the devatas played sweet music, Mukunda and Radha marveled at the intricate workmanship of the jeweled lamps illuminating the swing.
Trembling out of ecstatic love, Radhika and Her friends sat beside Krishna, who rested His left arm on Radhika’s shoulder. When the Lord ascended the exquisite swing and displayed His sweet beauty, which defeated the fickle currents of a river of nectarean beauty, the devatas and their wives lost all composure. As the ardent desire of the devatas’ hearts to get a closer view of the Divine Couple moved out of their hearts to express itself, it choked their throats. With that hope they left the middle sky and descended to the more favorable lower borders of the sky.
When lotus-eyed Candravali and other gopi group leaders beheld the especially intimate feature of Krishna sitting upon the swing, their eyes sparkled with blissful love. The gopis, adorned with colorful makeup and tinkling belts, mounted their respective swings and loudly sang sweet songs in the appropriate tempo. Candravali and her group sat facing Murari, Bhadra and her associates sat on His right, Syama and her followers on the left, and Dhanya and her assistants sat behind Murari.
Crowding the four outer yards, other joy-filled gopis sang melodious songs with the finest artistic skill. Their effulgent complexions conquered a garden of golden creepers. As they softly vibrated their seven-stringed vinas, the gopis produced pleasing ambrosial music of unequalled excellence. Holding on with one hand and swinging their bodies, the gopis moved gaily on the swings as swarms of bees followed them.
With their free hands the gopis took fistfuls of powder from the bags tucked in their belts and forcefully threw it into the air while their bangles jingled along. Scattered here and there by the wind, the colored powders spread a red hue through the sky, like a screen of fresh java flowers. The devatas, anguished by this obstruction to seeing Krishna’s pastimcs, repeatedly showered flowers to remove the recurring screen of dust. It appeared the clouds dripped flower-nectar.
As the manjaris gracefully pushed the swings, Vrnda and others shouted, “Jai ho! Jai ho!” While blissfully absorbed in swinging, Radha and Krishna hurled colored powders on the gopis. When Candravali and other sakhis returned the volley with their powders, Radha and Krishna revealed a unique state of fresh beauty. As the powders thrown at Krishna blew away in the wind, the gopis filled their reddened hands with sandalwood powder and other fragrances to bomb Krishna again.
Radha’s friends, who were experts in shooting pichkaris f
ull of sweet smelling colored water, assembled around the swing of Radha and Krishna. Suddenly Candravali and her sakhis attacked Radha and Krishna with pichkaris full of color. With their jeweled-pichkaris loaded with scents and glittering like the moon, Radhika’s sakhis counterattacked Candravali and her group with a fountain spray of color. Aimed mainly at Candravali, that spray of liquid scent did not even once touch the bodies of Radha and Krishna. Gathering their forces, Radha’s sakhis, who were eager to win the battle, shouted, “I am winning! I am winning!” In the pandemonium, a few more gopis picked up pichkaris and wildly squirted other gopis. In the excitement to win, some bottles of liquid fell and broke, releasing thick streams of aguru and sandalwood scented liquid over the ground.
When the flower bombs being forcefully thrown from all directions came too close to the son of the king of Vrndavana, the gopis deflected them. If, however, any bomb happened to hit the dark blue body of Krishna, Radhika happily wiped it off with Her soft hand moistened from perspiration. Feeling disturbed, Krishna lost His composure upon seeing the condition of the gopis. He was afflicted with pride and apprehension.
To increase the pleasure of the doe-eyed gopis who gazed at Him with shy, downcast eyes like cakoras agitated by the moon, Krishna abandoned all rules of formal conduct and followed the whims of Cupid. Witty, humorous, and controlled by His consorts, the brother of Balarama, rolling His eyes in desire, challenged the groups of gopis facing Him on all sides, eager to play Holi with Him.
Skillful at sport, Hari smashed the gopis in the southern direction with a deluge of colors. While moving on their swings and firing red powder at Krishna, the beautiful gopis appeared as victory flags of cleverness. Then Krishna subdued the playful, blissful girls on the northern side. Next He defeated the gopis and their associates in the western direction, who kept swinging the whole time while strongly desiring pastimes of enjoyment. Their eyes and bodies defeated the beauty of lakes full of lotus flowers. Then He conquered the elegant, excited women on the eastern side, who were particularly attractive being seated on swings directly opposite Him. While swinging and throwing ruby-red powder with His lotus hands, Krishna shared a seat with Radhika who possesses the limit of all excellent qualities.
After winning the battle of Holi, Krishna, smiling brilliantly, desired to please the different groups of swinging gopis. Starting in the eastern direction, He faced each group and dexterously moved His swing in two different directions. When Krishna swung east or west, He moved the swing directly towards the gopis in those directions. When He swung to the north or south, those gopis sat next to Him. In the joy of such counter swinging, Krishna’s necklaces, forest garland, and shining earrings all joined in the festival.
Sri Krishna enacts two types of eternal pastimes: manifest and unmanifest. With the description of Radha and Krishna’s swing festival, I, Kavikarnapura, the crest-jewel of rasikas, conclude the book entitled Ananda Vrndavana Campu, which parallels the Vrndavana pastimes of the Lord described in the Srimad Bhagavatam.
From the 1999 English edition of Ananda Vrindavana Campu)