Today I was a little late getting to Jai Singh Ghera. I made the mistake of trying to go through Moti Jheel. That neighborhood has been mistreated by the gods. Up to Akhandananda Ashram, the road which had been nicely paved with interlocking bricks has been dug up again for sewage and the situation is sad, but after Akhandananda Ashram, the road is flooded with a black and putrid water that in many places leaves no walkway or even stepping stones for pedestrians. There are no vehicles, but it is easy to see why. I almost made it as far as the Chauraha before my foot fell in the foul mud and completely covered it up to the ankle with an inky goo.
No matter. I found a roadside tap and cleaned my sandals and soldiered on. If the traffic could have been worse than yesterday, it was. But exercising my own advice to be patient, I snailed through the crowds until I got to Jai Singh Ghera, where proceedings were underway with the opening Rasa scenes.
With the end of the nitya rasa dance, Swami Fateh Krishnaji Maharaj led, as on the previous evening, a rousing kirtan of Govinda jai jai, Gopala jai jai, interspersed with Braj poems glorifying the singing of the Holy Names and their power. Jai Singh Ghera was packed and reverberated again with the sounds of everyone chanting. Unfortunately everyone was so packed in that no one could really get up and dance, though I am sure the feeling was there. Then, again, as yesterday, Shrivatsa Goswami took the floor, on this night glorifying the Hladini Shakti Shrimati Radharani.
I spoke yesterday of how charming I found Krishna’s swaroop. Today, two older boys took the roles of Radha and Krishna. But still, we had the pleasure of seeing the younger boy again, who came on stage and recited a monologue glorifying bhakti. Again, he was very charming, speaking out his “deliberate lines in high childish voices from the stage, just as they have done for centuries in more traditional settings, simple circles cleared away in the forest and town.” (Hawley)
Krishna’s speech concluded with another dance.
Today’s lila was sanjhi, or the flower decoration that is the center of many Vrindavan rituals. The plot is quite simple and needs not much in the way of summary.It begins with Radha and the gopis deciding to go to the forest to collect flowers for the sanjhi. This is followed by Krishna soliloquizing on the beauty of the forest, but how it seems empty without the presence of his beloved Radha, but knowing that they will be coming there, he decides to hide somewhere and observe. While the gopis are picking flowers, they get separated and Radha is left alone. However, her clothes get caught in a thorn bush and she is stuck there, calling out to her friends who do not hear her. Krishna, however, does hear and comes on the stage. Radha and Krishna gaze at each other across the stage and are lost in each other’s eyes. Krishna slowly walks toward Radha and finally their trance breaks and Krishna releases Radha from her bondage.
When the sakhis arrive, they inquire into why Radha has so few flowers when everyone else’s basket is full. She is ashamed to say why, but finally Lalita forces it out of her. Her clothes had been caught in the thornbushes, but it was her mind that had flown away in Krishna’s presence.
Krishna then surges onto the scene again and aggressively asks the girls why they are picking his flowers! He has watered them in the hot season when the gopis were all hiding from the sun. In the rainy season, he weeded while they protected themselves from the rain. In every season while they slept he was working hard to create a beautiful garden and now they were stealing the flowers! Who gave them the right?
Lalita takes the fore and answers by saying, “What is this, yours and mine. The wise have said that only a narrow-minded person thinks like that. The broad-minded consider the world to be their family.” And so the animated argument goes with Lalita gradually gaining the upper hand. Finally, Krishna agrees that they can have all the flowers they want, he only wants one flower… Radha. There is a bit more argument, but it ends with Radha garlanding Krishna and the two embracing.
The sakhis come and announce that the sanjhi is ready, so Radha and Krishna perform puja to “each other’s hearts” by worshiping the sanjhi.