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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Discussing Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Gaṇoddeś Dīpikā p.1

There are currently two English translations available of Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī's 'Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Gaṇoddeśa Dīpikā' (a guidebook to all the associates of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa) - one by the late Kuśakrath Dās and one by Bhūmipati Dās. Initially I discussed Bhūmipati's work with one devotee but I decided to review Kuśakratha's with it too, as I used it to crosscheck Bhūmipati's, along with, of course, Rūpa Goswāmī's original text and a Bengali translation by an unknown person (I lost the front pages of my 1985 Bengali booklet). Bhūmipati's translation seems to be based on the Bengali translation I have. To some the following may seem like nitpicking, but since this deals with all the details of our eternal destination the information cannot be detailed enough.

In the opening verse Kuśakratha says 'and is surrounded by His devotees.' in regard to Mahāprabhu, but it actually applies to Gurudeva (gurupada-dvandvam bhakta-vṛnda samanvitaṁ).

In verse 1.3 Kuśakratha writes: "The celebrated personal associates of the King and Queen of Vrndavana are briefly but truthfully described ..." But the verse means 'This is briefly described by the sādhus (satā) with anurāga (ratyā)..." The word is satā (sādhus), not satya (truthfully).

Bhakta: 'In verse 1.6 it is said that the family of Kṛṣṇa consists of cowherds, artists and brāhmaṇas. How can that be? I thought Kṛṣṇa's family are Vaiśyas only?"

Advaitadas: "The word used in this text is parivāra, which usually means 'family' indeed. But one needs to apply some common sense here. The Cologne Sanskrit Lexicon glosses parivāra as 'dependents' and 'followers' too - I think the best word to use here is 'community'. Kuśakratha describes the third group just as 'others', though Rūpa Goswāmī speaks of bahiṣṭha, which are described later in verse 1.12.

In 1.7 Kuśakratha fails to mention gopa-ballaba, they are cowherds.

In verse 1.8 Bhūmipati says they 'earn their livelihood by dealing in milk products', but milk products are not mentioned, it is a jump to conclusion. go-vṛtti is any livelihood with cows.

Verse 1.9 says 'buffaloes and cows', but Kuśakratha forgets cows. Bhūmipati says their surname is Ghoṣa, but he forgot the word ādi, so they can have other surnames too. Bhūmipati says 'at present they are highly degraded', but the text says pūrvato, which means 'compared to the previous', that is, the vaiśyas, they became (gatā) inferior (in due course of time).”

In Kuśakratha's 1.10 'garjaras' should be 'gurjaras'

The Bahisthas in Kuśakratha's translation of 1.12 are not traders, they make a living (upajīvi) as artists (kāravaḥ). Bhūmipati fails to include 'upajīvi' or livelihood. Kuśakratha says '5 kinds of family members', which should be 'associates'.

In 1.13 Bhūmipati again mistakes 'associates' for 'family'. This makes no sense - how can all these people, with all different professions, be direct relatives of Kṛṣṇa? Bhūmipati calling class 7 ‘elderly people’, is wrong. It should be 'friends' instead. Elderly people are already class nr.1, it would be double. The whole group is mānya or respectable, although mānya is mentioned in the middle of the 8 classes.

In Kuśakratha's 1.21 'Sūrya kuñja' is in the Bengali translation 'Sūrya Kuṇḍa'.

In Kuśakratha's translation of 1.23, the beard is neither 'toasted' nor 'roasted'. It is just sesame.

In verse 1.25 droṇa svarūpa means the perfection Droṇa attained by merging with Nanda Mahārāja. This verse is about Nanda Mahārāja only and all names here apply to him only. Ānakadundubhi means drums were beaten in his praise, which not only applies to Vasudeva but also to Nanda.

In Kuśakratha's translation of 1.28 nāti-sthūla refers not to the size of Yaśodā, but it means she is neither too fat nor too skinny. Her hair is not long, but half-long (kincid-dīrgha). mecaka the colour of her hair could be either grey or black, it is likely to be grey because Yaśodā is a bit older when Kṛṣṇa is 16.

In 1.31, Kuśakratha failed to mention that Rohiṇi is Kṛṣṇa's 'elder mother' (bṛhad ambā, elder co-wife of one's mother). Bhūmipati does mention it, but he fails to mention that she is a rising flood of ānanda.

1.33 Bhakta: “Upananda is the first one or Sannanda?”

Advaitadas: “Adya means first and first on the list of 1.32 is Upananda.”

Bhakta: Is he pink (as Kuśakratha says) or white/bluish/reddish (as Bhūmipati says)?”

Advaitadas: “Rūpa Goswāmī says sitāruṇa, which means white/red, a mixture of which makes pink. There is no precedent for mixed complexions among the associates of Kṛṣṇa.”

Bhakta: "In verse 1.36 Bhūmipati says that Sunanda's wife has two colours of body - one is blue and one is light red. How is that possible?"

Advaitadas: "No, the dress has two colours, blue lotus and red - kuvalayārakta celā - celā means garment. Her complexion is one, blue lotus - kuvalaya-chaviḥ. chavi means complexion."

Bhakta: "Then, next in that verse, it is said that the colour of Nandana is that of a peacock. So that should be a mixed complexion then."

Advaitadas: "The word used here is śitikaṇṭha, which means peacock but usually refers to the colour of its neck (kaṇṭha) which is a deep azure, cerulean blue, colour. So he too has a single complexion."

Bhakta: "In verse 1.38 someone is described as having 'disorderly teeth'. How is that possible in the spiritual world – isn’t everyone perfectly beautiful there?"

Advaitadas: 'Yes but it will be perfectly beautiful in the context of nara-līlā, with seeming imperfections that will enhance the beauty and the charm of the place. Kuśakratha translates it as 'beautiful teeth' but that doesn't seem to be right, as two other translators translate rikka as disorderly. Unfortunately I cannot find the word rikka in any Sanskrit dictionary so the meaning remains unclear."

1.45 Bhūmipati says Gola took birth in a brilliant (ujjvala) family of Braja and Kuśakratha says ‘in the family of (a cowherd named) Ujjvala’ It is not clear to me which one is right, I presume the first option.

1.46 Jaṭilā has the complexion of a crow, not a cow, as Kuśakratha states, because a cow has no fixed complexion and the word dhvaṅka in the text is unlikely to mean cow. Kuśakratha made a typo perhaps.”

Bhakta: “So it could be that Jaṭilā will be able to spot Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in the dead of night without being noticed by Them because her black complexion will merge with the night.”

Advaitadas: “Hahaha yes indeed although such an anecdote was not given by the ācāryas.”

1.50 Kuśakratha forgets to mention that Sucāru is beautiful (śobhanah).

1.59 Bhakta: Kuśakratha here says: ‘Nanda Mahārāja and many other of the cowherds are descended from their families.’ But Bhūmipati says: They kept the names of their sons in such a way that future generations would name their children in a similar manner. That is why there are many persons having similar names in Vṛndāvana.”

Advaitadas: “The latter is more likely. Kuśakratha’s translation seems to be totally invisible in the Sanskrit text. Both translators have forgotten the word vāg-bandha, oral vow. They took a spoken vow of mutual friendship. Also the words nandādi are not translated by either – ‘that is why other cowherds may also be named Nanda (nandādi nāmānās tiṣṭhanty anye’pi ballabāḥ).”

1.64 The first group of brahmins is sheltered by the family, and are most probably Nanda's private family priests, the other group are quite likely community-priests.

1.67 Paurṇamāsī IS Yogamāyā, not an incarnation. Strictly speaking the word Yogamāyā is not in Rūpa Goswāmī's text.

1.79 is probably Kuśakratha's most famous/notorious error: Lalitā is 27 years old. Rūpa Goswāmī, however, says priya sakhyā bhavejjyeṣṭhā sapta-viṁśati vāsaraiḥ  'She is 27 days older than Her dear girlfriend (Rādhā).'

1.82 Viśākhā is called sama-vayaḥ (same aged) as Rādhā in Vilāp Kusumāñjali verse 99. Bhūmipati Dās says that Viśākhā is born almost at the same time as Rādhā, but Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī says in Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Ganoddeśa Dīpikā (1.82) tatraiṣābhyuditā kṣaṇe "Viśākhā is born at the same moment as priya sakhi". Bhūmipati says that Viśākhā is equal to Lalitā in conduct and attributes, but Rāghunātha Dāsa Goswāmī says in the opening of Viśākhānandada Stotram 'bhāva nāma guṇādinam aikyat śrī rādhikaiva yā....śrī viśākhā prasīdatu' "Viśākhā has the same feelings, name and attributes as Śrī Rādhikā." This priya sakhī is not Lalitā, as Bhūmipati says, but Rādhā.

Bhakta: In verse 1.85 it is said: "The dress of Citrā sakhī resembles glass". Is that translation proper? Glass is transparent..."

Advaitadas: "Crystal and quartz are synonyms of the word kāca, too. In no way it should be seen that Citrā devī walks around in Vraj with a see-through dress on. It is shimmering silver-coloured, like crystal."

1.86 Bhakta: ‘How can Citrā’s kunkum complexion be fair too?”

Advaitadas: “The word gauri (golden) is there and kumkum as well, perhaps it means a golden complexion covered with rouge, which many ladies in the material world also apply and which is sometimes used to explain Rādhikā being named kuṅkumāṅgī in Vilāpa Kusumāñjali 49.”

1.89 Bhūmipati's 'Tuṅgavidyā’s dress is the color of blue mixed with yellow', is wrong because it is pāṇḍu, white. Kuśakratha says she is expert in dissimulation (hypocrisy)- I have no idea where he has this from.

1.90 Bhakta: “Kuśakratha says that Indulekhā has a tan complexion – that would be brown-yellowish?”

Advaitadas: ‘Rūpa Goswāmī says haritāla, which the dictionary says means yellowish green, but which I thought was canary/lemon yellow, Rūpa Goswāmī also adds the adjective ujjvala, bright, to haritāla.”

1.101 Bhakta: "Kuśakratha said that Hiraṇyaṅgī's complexion is the color of gold and she appears to be a temple or palace in which all beauty is conserved. She was born from the womb of Hariṇī-devī."

Advaitadas: "In his commentary on Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi [3.51], Śrī Viśvanāth mentions Hiraṇyaṅgī as an ādhunik gopī, who first appeared in Kṛṣṇa's manifest pastimes in the womb of a hariṇa, or doe – hariṇādyāḥ. Not from a mother named Harini, though that would make more sense. By the way, the Gaudiya Grantha Mandir version of this ṭīkā says 'hiraṇyādayaḥ' which is probably a typo, as hiraṇya means gold and not deer. That would not make any sense. Also, there is a dispute about whether Rūpa Goswāmī meant 'harid varṇa or hiraṇyābhā. Which means either Hiranyangi is golden [which makes sense, because Hiranyāṅgī means 'golden-bodied girl'], or she is green [harid varṇa]."

Bhakta: "In verse 1.115 Bhūmipati says that Kandarpa Mañjarī is married to Kṛṣṇa."

Advaitadas: "The translator jumped to conclusions here. It is simply said that her father thought that Kṛṣṇa would be the best match for her. harim varam should be fixed to hṛdi-kṛtya in the next line - Kuśakratha, unlike Bhūmipati, had it right here - 'Within his heart her father had decided that Hari would be her husband.' That is a long shot from her actually marrying Kṛṣṇa. Everybody knows that Kṛṣṇa did not marry anyone in Vraj. In Gopāl Campū it is explained that Kṛṣṇa could not marry in Vraj because He had not received the upanayan saṁskāra (sacred thread ceremony) yet, and only Vasudeva and Devakī could arrange that for Him as soon as He would return to Mathurā. It is just the attitude that counts. Like Kandarpa Mañjarī's father, Yaśodā also wanted a match between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. It is described at the end of chapter 4 of Govinda Līlāmṛta. Of course it was impossible, too, because Rādhā was already married to Abhimanyu. But the desire was there still in Yaśodā."

Bhakta: 'In verse 1.118 it is said that the Vrajabāsī Vidur invites queens."

Advaitadas: "The text says mahiṣīr āhvayati. The word mahiṣī means both queen and female buffalo. Since there are buffaloes in Vraja but no queens it obviously means 'He calls in the buffaloes'.


  1. Thanks for this entry, Advaitaji! What is your opinion on the relationship between the "brihat" and "laghu" RKGD? They don't always agree with each other, the laghu usually following Ujjvala-nilamani. Also, the laghu both starts and ends very abruptly, without any mangalacarana or finishing verse.


  2. Bhrigu,

    1. I am not sure why the RKGD is divided up in brihad and laghu sectors in the first place.
    2. In what way they don't agree with each other?
    3. The laghu section may not have a mangalacarana because it is a continuation of the brihad section.
    4. I have a number of online and offline Sanskrit dictionaries, but still some words can not be found in any of them, like rikka, dhvaGka and kulaTI. Do you have any link to a good lexicon? I have links to Monier Williams, Cologne Lexicon and another, German, site, Or perhaps I can mail you the words I cannot find?

  3. Advaitaji,

    2. I can only remember one example off the top of my head, that Paurnamasi is dressed in white in the one and saffron in the other.

    3. Perhaps, but then again the first part does also have a clear end, something that the second lacks.

    4. I doubt that I would find those words if you haven't. But have you looked at Bengali and Hindi dictionaries? Sometimes you will find vernacular words used in Sanskrit texts.