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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Vasanta Pañcamī


Today is Vasanta Pañcamī. Today the deities in India are dressed in yellow, the colour of spring (in some temples the deities are in yellow throughout spring), and goddess Sarasvatī is worshipped (sarasvatī pūjā) - this festival is particularly big in Bengal. In Vraja Sarasvatī Pūjā goes largely unnoticed. In temples where the evening-ārati song is Jayadeva's Śrita-kamalā, the song is changed into Lalita Labaṅga Latā, also from Jayadeva's Gīta Govinda. In temples where other songs or just the mahā-mantra is sung, devotees commence singing a special vasanta tune for them and a vernal appendix song is added (haribolo haribolo haribolo bhāi). In Sādhu Bābā's āśram this continues until Advaita Prabhu's Dola Saptamī, which is one week after Gaur Pūrṇimā, a total of 47 days. Spring celebrations culminate into the colorful Holi festival, which takes place around Gaura Pūrṇimā. In Bengal Holi is celebrated only on the full moon (Gaura Pūrṇimā) day but in Vraja it continues for weeks, both before and after Pūrṇimā.

In my archives I found this charming translation of Gīta Govinda’s spring description by an unknown person:

“Canto I of the Gīta Govinda opens with a delightful description of spring. Rādhā was in search of Kṛṣṇa. Her thoughts were confounded by the fever of desire; she roved in the vernal morning among the twining Vasantis covered with soft blossoms, when a damsel thus addressed her:

Rāga Vasanta, Yatitala

lalita lavaṅga latā pariśīlana komala malaya samīre
madhukara nikara karambita kokila kūjita kuñja kuṭīre
viharati haririha sarasa vasante
nṛtyati yuvati janena samaṁ sakhi virahī janasya durante


"The breeze that has wantoned round the delicate clove plants, breathes from the southern Malaya hills. The arbours resound with the notes of the Koel and the buzzing of bees. In this lovely spring, when love cannot endure separation, Hari is enjoying himself and is dancing with young damsels. Friend Rādhā, go and seek Him."

III
Beautiful Rādhā, jasmine-bosomed Rādhā
All in the Spring-time waited by the wood
For Kṛṣṇa fair, Kṛṣṇa the all-forgetful,
Kṛṣṇa with earthly love's false fire consuming.

Another delightful illustration of the joy of spring from Canto I, it shows Rādhā seated on the bank of the Yamunā, listening to the speech of her female companion. The ground is carpeted with flowers, and the shrubs and trees are laden with blossoms. Every branch upon the Bakula tree droops downwards with a hundred blooms, and in every bloom is a bee. The Tamāla, with leaves dark and odorous, claims a tribute from the musk, which it vanquishes. The full-blown blossoms of Kesara gleam like the sceptre of the world's monarch, Love.

The orange tree, shivering with joy in its full white blossom, seems to laugh at the pain of those who are still pining in love! The pointed leaves of the keora resemble the darts of Kāma, piercing the hearts of lovers. The bunches of pink Patali flowers are filled with bees, like the quiver of Smara full of shafts. The tender blossoms of the Garuna smile to see the whole world laying shame aside, and from white blush modest red. The far-scented Mādhavi beautifies the mango trees round which it twines and pours incense through the grove. And the fresh silken-soft Mallika seduces with rich perfume even the hearts of the hermits. The painting illustrates the following verse:

unmīlan madhu gandha lubdha madhupa vyadhuta chutankura
krīḍat kokila kākalī kala ravair udgīrṇa karṇa jvaraḥ
nīyante pathikaiḥ kathaṁ katham api dhyāna vadha nakṣana
prāpta prāṇa sama samāgama rasollāsair amī vāsaraḥ


The sakhī diverts Rādhā's attention to the mango trees in heavy bloom:

"These spring time days are hard to get through. The ears are in a feverish state, for they are continuously and cruelly struck by the joyful melodies that the Koel trills forth from the blossoming branches of the mango, which are shaken by the bees attracted by their honey and fragrance. Now the hearts of lonely travelers, who are away from their mates, are pierced with anguish, and derive satisfaction from a dreamy vision of embrace with their sweethearts."

1 comment:

  1. Attentive readers may notice that I copy n pasted most of last year's Vasanta Pancami text into this year's. I have just edited it a bit. I will try to create some variety each year (today I did so by adding the Gita Govinda text), but fact is that in transcendental religion naimittika (occasional) is nitya (eternal) and nitya is naimittika. So what was true for last year is true for this year too and so on and so forth.

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