Ropes of Rapture: The Transcendental Pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara

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“Love is a rope, for it ties and holds us in its yoke.” – Dutch poet Hadwijch, 1235–1265

“Although He is beyond the reach of all senses, His mother endeavored to bind Him to a wooden grinding mortar. But when she tried to tie Him up, she found that the rope was too short – by two inches.”1

For devotees of Krishna, this verse is a key segment of an immediately recognizable narrative popularly known as the Damodara-lila. It arouses a flood of profoundly sweet emotions and philosophical reflection because in its essence it excavates and displays a storehouse of theological gems hidden in a charming story that vividly recounts the complex, loving exchanges between the Supreme Lord Krishna – appearing in His original form as an all-attractive, ever-youthful cowherd – and His mother, Yashoda, one of His most dear and intimate devotees in the spiritual world.

For the nondevotee, the narrative naturally raises a number of challenging questions. To begin with, the scene depicted seems too ordinary, too prosaic. How can an account of bucolic domestic affairs have anything to do with ultimate reality, the Supreme Person, the Absolute Truth? Additionally, one might naturally wonder at a seeming absurdity: Are we to believe that the Supreme Godhead, the source and origin of all that be, has a mother? Isn’t that contradictory? And why would God’s mother try to bind Him with ropes, let alone succeed in doing it? During her attempt to bind Him, He runs away from her in fear. Why would the Lord fear anyone? Such questions are entirely logical, but only from an uninformed point of view.

Even a cursory familiarity with Vaishnava theology prepares the reader for a breathtaking excursion into the inner life of the Supreme. The Damodara episode makes one privy to profound insights, revelation after revelation, about the emotional and psychological life of God. And it simultaneously makes known the character, motivation, and profound emotional and psychological life of His loving devotees as well. In its portrait of village life in Vrindavan, the Damodara-lila ushers the reader into an otherwise hidden realm of divine love, wherein God’s esoteric nature is fully elucidated. And as the recounting unfolds, it simultaneously grants the reader knowledge of just how – and precisely why – the Supreme Person engages with those who love Him in seemingly mundane exchanges that in fact fully nourish His own pleasure while fully delighting His most confidential associates.

Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and although He is the source of everything and the most powerful being in existence, He enjoys having “ordinary” loving exchanges with His dear ones in which He sometimes subordinates Himself to them. This is part of His perfection. How boring or unfulfilling it would be to always be the best or the most powerful, to always have the upper hand in all interactions with others. Therefore Krishna, in His wisdom, arranges reality so that He can experience playful subservience: He allows His trusted and loving devotees to interact with Him as His equals – and sometimes as His superiors.

Our relationships in the material world, the sages tell us, are reflections of prototypical relationships in the spiritual world. Thus, in the kingdom of God one finds interactions like those of master and loving attendant (dasya-rasa); friendly interchange, as found among equals (sakhya-rasa); relationships that include a nurturing dimension, such as those involving parent and child (vatsalya-rasa); and romantic or conjugal exchanges (madhurya-rasa).

Yashoda’s particular relationship is that of a mother (vatsalya), and Krishna, lost in the love of that relationship, allows it to play out as it would in the material world. Her desire to serve Him as His mother is so undeviatingly pure that Krishna, to reciprocate her love, plays the role of her son for all eternity. It is within the context of this transcendental relationship that she attempts to bind Him with rope, and in which He ultimately accommodates her.

The narrative is found in Srimad-Bhagavatam (Tenth Canto, chapters 9, 10, and the beginning of 11), with added nuance gleaned from traditional commentaries. Supplementary details can be found throughout India’s wisdom texts, such as the Padma Purana, the Garga-samhita, the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, the Brihad-bhagavatamrita, the Gopala-campu, and the Ananda-vrindavana-campu. Also significant is Sanatana Goswami’s commentary on Sri Damodarashtakam, written by Satyavrata Muni.2 It is an important part of North Indian Vaishnavism in general and Gaudiya Vaishnavism in particular.

In South India, too, the Damodara-lila resounds: It is found throughout the Divya Prabhandam, or the collected works of the Alvars, the twelve poet-saints who established the philosophical underpinnings of Sri Vaishnavism. For instance, in Nammalvar’s Tiruvaymoli 1.3, it is identified as a prime example of divine accessibility, in that the Lord allows Himself to be bound by His loving devotee. Further, the title of Maturakavi Alvar’s sole work, which is in praise of his guru, Nammalvar, is Kanninun Ciruttampu (“the short knotted string,” or, more fancifully, “the flower-garland rope”), a reference to the rope with which Krishna is bound. The opening words of the poem refer to the story as well. Clearly, the Damodara narrative is ubiquitous in the Vaishnava tradition, enjoying pan-Vaishnava status.3

Mother Yashoda’s Damodara-lila

Damodara, as one of Krishna’s many names,4 is traceable to the incident of Yashoda binding Him with a cord (dama) around the belly (udara) when He was an infant. Damodara thus means “having a rope on the abdomen,” as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.9.19): “Then she bound Him with a rope to the mortar, as if He were an ordinary child.” But there is much more to the narrative than that.

Before I summarize the basic details of the story, it is important to understand the unique position of mother Yashoda, who is glorified as being among Krishna’s greatest devotees, one of the Lord’s paradigmatic associates in the eternal realm of Vraja. The Bhagavatam (10.9.20) is clear: “Neither Lord Brahma, nor Lord Shiva, nor even the goddess of fortune, who is always the better half of the Supreme Lord, can obtain from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the deliverer from this material world, such mercy as received by mother Yashoda.” And Srila Prabhupada, in commenting on this verse, makes it clearer still:

This is a comparative study between mother Yashoda and other devotees of the Lord. As stated in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Adi 5.142), ekale ishvara krishna, ara saba bhritya: the only supreme master is Krishna, and all others are His servants. Krishna has the transcendental quality of bhritya-vashyata, becoming subordinate to His bhritya, or servant. Now, although everyone is bhritya and although Krishna has the quality of becoming subordinate to His bhritya, the position of mother Yashoda is the greatest. Lord Brahma is bhritya, a servant of Krishna, and he is adi-kavi, the original creator of this universe (tene brahma hrida ya adi-kavaye). Nonetheless, even he could not obtain such mercy as mother Yashoda. As for Lord Shiva, he is the topmost Vaishnava (vaishnavanam yatha shambhuh). What to speak of Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, is the Lord’s constant companion in service, since she always associates with His body. But even she could not get such mercy. Therefore Maharaja Parikshit was surprised, thinking, “What did mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja do in their previous lives by which they got such a great opportunity, the opportunity to be the affectionate father and mother of Krishna?”

Yashoda’s closeness to God is rarely articulated as clearly as it is in the Damodara-lila. In truth, few would be allowed to predominate in their interactions with Krishna as she does when she binds Him with her ropes of love.

And now a summary of the basic story from the sources already mentioned.

Krishna as an infant desires to interact with Yashoda by engaging in childlike playful activities, often to the point of being disruptive. While in that mood, He sometimes spoils her stock of butter, breaking pots and distributing the contents to His friends and playmates, including the celebrated monkeys of Vrindavan. On one such occasion, mother Yashoda, wanting to protect her divine child and stop Him from causing further mischief, takes a rope and threatens to tie Him to a large wooden mortar. Seeing the rope in His mother’s hands, He begins to weep like an ordinary child, with tears rolling down His cheeks. This makes His mascara-laden eyes more beautiful than ever before.

Yashoda quickly realizes that the rope isn’t long enough to bind Him, and so she gathers more from other rooms in the house. She exhausts herself finding various kinds of rope, but no matter how many she manages to accumulate, the combined ropes are always too short to do the deed. The neighboring gopis try to help. One woman brings a long piece of rope, but somehow, again, it’s too short. And another brings more. They tie each piece to the next, but still nothing works. “It’s downright mystical,” they think. No matter how much rope they bring, it’s always two inches too short. As long as He doesn’t want to be bound, it seems, He will remain free.

His mother reaches the end of her strength, if not her rope. She has to admit defeat, succumbing to utter exhaustion. Her unswerving devotion, matched by her intense effort, is affectionately noted. Seeing His mother’s nearly relentless endeavor, Krishna finally consents, and she succeeds in binding Him. Somehow, what did not work before is now easily achieved.

As for the version found in the Bhagavatam’s Tenth Canto, the last two verses of chapter nine segue into chapter ten: Krishna is now tied to the mortar, but His ordeal in the courtyard will soon take on new dimensions. He sees twin arjuna trees, which He knows are in fact two yakshas (attendants of Kuvera, the so-called treasurer of the demigods). They had been cursed by the sage Narada to incarnate as trees, which is a long story in itself.

Chapter ten begins by elucidating the yakshas’ background and how they came to be cursed. This includes Narada’s fifteen-verse sermon on their salacious behavior, which he explains as being the reason for their current predicament. After this we witness Krishna scurrying through the courtyard, dragging the mortar behind Him – since it is still tied to His waist. He makes His way past the two trees, lodging the mortar between them. As He keeps moving, He pulls them down, and the yakshas are liberated.5

The whole incident of being tied to the mortar, then, serves an additional purpose, as the heavy wooden mortar aided the Lord in uprooting the trees, thus freeing the yakshas. This scene is followed by a ten-verse prayer addressed to Krishna. The yakshas are repentant, as reflected in their words. Chapter 11 completes the narrative by describing Nanda’s undoing of Krishna’s ropes and how the incident is viewed by neighboring cowherds.

Although in the Damodara-lila it is Yashoda who binds Krishna with ropes of love (niryoga-pasha), it is usually the other way around: Krishna generally binds His devotees with love, but in this instance He wanted to be bound in return, fully relishing His mother’s maternal affection (vatsalya-prema-pasha).6

Two Inches Too Short

The “two inches too short” motif is not arbitrary. There is a profound teaching at the heart of this “dimension” to the story, and it goes back to the very beginnings of the Gaudiya tradition. Several early teachers identify these two inches with “faith and works,” or “grace and endeavor” – the notion that before one can “bind” God, or tie Krishna with ropes of love, one must secure His mercy and make one’s best effort to serve Him. As Yashoda did.

In the sixteenth century, Srinatha Chakravarti, renowned as the guru of Kavi Karnapura, one of Sri Chaitanya’s celebrated associates, offers the “grace and effort” explanation in his Chaitanya-mata-manjusha (10.9.15, or in some editions 10.9.15–17). This book is historically important because it is likely the first Gaudiya commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Srila Jiva Goswami echoes this reading of grace and works in both his commentaries on the Bhagavatam: the Krama-sandarbha (10.9.18) and the Laghu-vaishnava-toshani (10.9.15). When elucidating the two missing inches of Yashoda’s rope, he repeats Srinatha Chakravarti verbatim: “He [Krishna] is bound by two factors – the effort of the devotee and His own mercy.”

The view is reiterated yet again by Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, Bhagavatam commentator par excellence, when illuminating the pertinent text (10.9.18):

“As you cannot tie up His waist even with all the ropes of the house, then it must be concluded that it is His good fortune that it should not be. Listen Yashoda, give up this attempt!”

Though the village women advised in this way, Yashoda was insistent.

“Even if evening comes and I tie together the rope of the whole village, I must find out just once the extent of my son’s waist.”

If Yashoda, with desire to do good to her son, and being stubborn, would not give up her attempt to bind the Lord, then between the Lord and the devotee, the devotee’s stubbornness prevails. Thus, seeing His mother becoming tired, the Lord gave up His own stubbornness, and by His mercy allowed Himself to be tied. His mercy is the king of all shaktis, illuminating all else. It melts the heart of the Lord as if it were butter. Mercy’s appearance made the satya sankalpa and vibhuta shaktis suddenly disappear. The shortage of two fingers was filled by effort (parishrama) and mercy (kripa). The effort and fatigue due to service and worship (the steady faith of the devotee – bhakta nishtha), and the mercy of the Lord arising from seeing that effort and fatigue (the steady quality in the Lord – sva nishtha) – these two caused the Lord to be bound. As long as these are not there, the rope remains two fingers too short. When these two are there, the Lord is bound. The Lord Himself showed to His mother how only love can bind Him. This is what the pastime illustrates. (Translation by Gopiparanadhana Dasa.)

Giriraja Swami, an ISKCON leader and articulate spokesperson for the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, writes in his essay “Damodara-lila: Works and Grace”:

Now, if we look closely at the life of the devotee, yes, ultimately the devotee is picked up by the grace of the Lord, but still the devotee makes every effort to serve the Lord, and then the Lord’s mercy allows the devotee to bind the Lord – the Lord comes under the control of the devotee’s pure love. So if someone thinks he can, as they say, storm the gates of heaven, or reach God by his own endeavor, that is not correct. But then again, if someone says, “Well, I am just going to sit and pray to God to deliver me, and I am not going to make any effort,” that also is not complete. We need both: parishrama [intense effort] and krishna-kripa [the Lord’s mercy].7

The faith and works doctrine is not peculiar to Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Aside from its Christian dimensions, which we will address in a moment, the Vaishnavas of South India known as the Sri Sampradaya, or the Ramanuja tradition, explored it as well, underlining a philosophical tension that resulted in two factions. The Vatakalai branch, championed by Vedanta Deshika (1268–1368), teaches that salvation or self-surrender comes about when there is both divine grace and human effort, yes, but with a special emphasis on effort. This is comparable, says Deshika, to a mother monkey carrying her baby. The mother does most of the work, but the baby must take some initiative to hang on as well, with its arms wrapped around its mother’s neck. On the other hand, the Tenkalai school, represented by Pillai Lokacharya (1264–1369), claims that God’s grace alone saves the soul, much in the way that a cat carries its kitten – the baby kitten is virtually inactive, being propped up in its mother’s mouth and exerting no effort of its own.8

The Vatakalai and the Tenkalai appreciate both works and faith, but the two schools have built entire philosophical systems according to their particular emphases.

The same tension exists in Christianity, where the concern is how the faithful can be saved from sins, enabling them to go to heaven when they die. Early Christian theologians opined that one qualifies for salvation through good deeds and by observing sacred rites and pious traditions – ultimately being obedient to the commandments of the Church. Martin Luther (1484–1546), however, held forth that we attain salvation merely through faith in God. This, of course, gave rise to the dogmatic position, so popular among certain Christian groups today, that simple belief in Jesus is enough for salvation.

The scriptural quotes used by both factions are many, but it comes down to the following. On the one hand: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) And yet: “Faith without works is dead . . .” (James 2:26.) Thus modern Christianity has its own version of the Vatakalai/Tenkalai dichotomy. But in the end most Christians and Vaishnavas would agree: Faith does not exist where it does not manifest itself in works, even though one must attain the grace of God to achieve spiritual perfection.9

One may wonder how all this applies to the Damodara-lila. “Devotional action” (bhakti-seva) manifests in the process of worship. Activities that bring one closer to God, like mother Yashoda’s giving every ounce of strength to binding little Damodara, constitute the effort required to receive God’s mercy. This is referred to as steadiness in worship (bhakta-nistha bhajanottha). The spiritual potency generated from such “works” constitutes the first missing inch of Damodara’s rope.

The second inch is often a consequence of the first. That is to say, Krishna’s mercy, generally evoked when He sees His devotee’s relentless effort (darshanottha svanishtha kripa), takes a practitioner the rest of the way. Yashoda’s effort was not enough, though she gave it all she had. It was ultimately Krishna’s mercy that allowed her to bind Him. It should be understood, too, that while effort is a reliable path in achieving the grace of the Lord, it is, in the end, entirely up to Him. Krishna is independent (svarat), and His grace manifests according to His sweet (and sometimes unpredictable) will.

As leading ISKCON teacher and Sanskrit scholar Bhanu Swami sums up:

It is the bhakta-nishtha, firm faith of the devotee, seen in his tireless endeavors to worship the Lord, and the sva-nishtha, steadiness of the Lord in bestowing His mercy upon seeing the devotee’s effort and fatigue, that caused Krishna to be bound. In the absence of these two, the rope would have remained two fingers too short. But when bhakta-nishtha and sva-nishtha are present, the Lord can be bound. In this pastime, Krishna showed Yashoda and the whole world that only love can bind the Supreme Lord.10

Sri Radha’s Ropes of Love

One may wonder how the Yashoda-Damodara-lila connects to Sri Radha, or the Feminine Divine. After all, the famous Radha-Damodara deities in Vrindavan and Jaipur (and elsewhere) are forms of “Radha”-Damodara, not “Yashoda”-Damodara. Indeed, the focus on Radha speaks to the fundamental predilection of the Gaudiya tradition, which is radha-dasyam. That is to say, love of Krishna is eclipsed by love for Radha. It should be noted that She is considered the female manifestation of God – Krishna’s other half – just as much as She is His greatest devotee and hladini-shakti, His original internal pleasure potency. Krishna’s very existence, say the great Gaudiya teachers, has little meaning without Her. What is the value of the sun, they ask, without sunshine?

Accordingly, the eighth and culminating verse of Satyavrata Muni’s famous Damodarashtakam might serve as a bridge from the Yashoda-Damodara-lila, which is the tenor of the entire poem, to Radha-Damodara, thus subtly connecting Sri Radha to the Damodara-lila.

“O Damodara, I offer my respectful obeisances to the celebrated rope binding Your belly, for it is an abode of brilliant effulgence. I offer my respectful obeisances to Your belly, which supports the entire universe of moving and nonmoving entities. I offer my respectful obeisances again and again to Srimati Radhika, Your most beloved, and I offer my respectful obeisances to You, my divine Lord who performs unlimited transcendental pastimes.” Indeed, there is abundant Gaudiya poetry that makes suggestive links to Sri Radha in terms of the Damodara-lila. For example, in Sri Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi (text 174), Prabodhananda Sarasvati speaks of Radha and Krishna as “tied [to each other] with the knot of deep love.” He further writes that Sri Radha “subdues and binds Krishna, who is like an elephant – Her helpless pet – just by virtue of Her playfully amorous glances.” (text 188).11 But Sri Radha’s place in the Damodara-lila goes beyond figurative speech.

Her more overt connection with the story reaches back to the Uttara-kanda of the Bhavishya Purana: “Once, in the auspicious month of Karttika,12 Krishna came late for a rendezvous with Radharani in Her kunja [bower]. In loving anger, Sri Radha looked at Krishna with frowning eyebrows. Using some golden vines, She then tied a rope around Sri Krishna’s belly to punish Him for not showing up as promised. Krishna said He was late because mother Yashoda had kept Him home for a festival. Seeing Her mistake, Radha quickly untied Her beloved Damodara.”13

Thus mother Yashoda’s pastime of binding Krishna with her love (vatsalya-bhava) has a parallel in the conjugal exchange (madhurya-bhava) of Radha and Krishna, and in this way Gaudiya Vaishnavas cherish an esoteric dimension to the Damodara episode.14

In fact, according to Jiva Goswami, the exchange with Sri Radha is the prototype for the exchange with Yaaoda:

That day (in the spiritual world, before Govardhana-puja) Bhagavan went late at night to meet Sri Radha at her home. [Since He was late], She was angry and bound Him by Her golden girdle belt. Krishna pleaded in front of Her and narrated everything about the great festival at His home (which had caused His late arrival). Thus He placated Her, and She let Him go.

Then Krishna, being pleased at mind, said to Her, “The golden girdle belt which You have offered to Me around My stomach will cause Me to be known as Damodara. There is no name dearer to Me in all the worlds. Those who chant this name always will achieve all perfections. Having obtained the rarest gift of My bhakti, they will achieve My abode.

“Dear Radha! I will manifest this pastime in the material world when I will be bound by My mother to a mortar using various ropes.”15

Vraja tradition further reveals that the gopis sometimes sit near mother Yashoda just to hear her sing Krishna’s glories. In those moments, Radharani, especially, listens closely, particularly when Yashoda recites the Damodara pastime. Enveloped by Damodara’s mood of surrender when He acquiesces to mother Yashoda’s love, Sri Radha feels deep affection, remembering when She too was able to bind Him in this way (as described above by Jiva Goswami). More, She longs to once again bind Krishna with Her love, resolving to do whatever might be necessary to win His affections. The notion of “Radha-Damodara,” then, refers to Radharani’s mood of intense attraction for this totality of loving affection, and how it was achieved by mother Yashoda.

To highlight this mood, Radhika even performs Katyayani-vrata in the month of Karttika, honoring a set of vows usually performed by women who want a particular husband.16 Of course, She has no need to pray for enhanced intimacy with Krishna, but in Her humility – and in Her desperation to do anything for closeness with the Lord of Her life – She says the appropriate prayers and undergoes the standard austerities just to solidify Her loving exchange. To this day, during Karttika the priests of Vrindavan’s Radha-Damodara temple tie a golden rope from Radha’s waist to Krishna’s stomach, indicating the esoteric dimension of the Damodara-lila and the deep love that abides between Radha and Krishna.

Notes

  1. See A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Krishna, chapter 9 (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2008, reprint). Some translations of the Damodara story refer to the two inches as “two fingers,” and Prabhupada, in various instances, does the same. In ancient India small length measurements such as an angula (finger) or a mutthi (fist) were used to determine length and breadth. In fact, one can find the rough equivalent of an inch by measuring from the top knuckle of one’s thumb to the thumb tip. Two of those, of course, will constitute two inches. The “digit” is sometimes referred to as a finger or fingerbreadth because it was originally based on the dimensions of a human finger.
  2. Damodarashtakam is a famous Sanskrit stotra attributed to the Padma Purana and originally written by Satyavrata Muni.
  3. Important modern retellings of the entire Damodara-lila in English include: Shivarama Swami, Sri Damodara Janani, Krishna in Vrindavana series Vol. 4 (Budapest: Lal Publishing, 2016); B. G. Narasingha Maharaja, ed., Sri Damodara Katha (Vrindavan: Gosai Publishers, 2008); Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Goswami Maharaja, Damodara-Lila-Madhuri, Volume One (Singapore & Kuala Lumpur: Sri Chaitanya-Mudrani Publications, 1999); Vaiyasaki dasa Adhikari, Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara Vilasa (The Inner life of Vishnujana Swami & Jayananda Prabhu): Volume One 1967–1972 (Vrindavan: Ras Bihari Lal and Sons; 2009, reprint; original printing, 1999); Mahanidhi Swami, Prabhupada at Radha Damodara (India, n.p., 1990); Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, Chapter 4, “Bound by Love,” in Mathura Meets Vrindavan (Bhubaneswar, Odisha: Gopal Jiu Publications, 2003); and Shubha Vilas, Two Fingers Short (Mumbai: Tulsi Books, 2015). Vallabhacharya’s commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam is available in an English edition with the full Damodara-lila as one separate volume: Sri Subodhini: Commentary On Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Text and English Translation, Canto Ten Chapters 9 To 11 (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications; 2003).
  4. “Damodara” occurs as name 367 in the Vishnu-sahasra-nama (“Thousand Names of Vishnu”).
  5. When the trees were uprooted, the forms of Nalakuvara and Manigriva, the yakshas in question, emerged, offering prayers to the Lord. Receiving Krishna’s benediction, they were reinstated in their previous divine position. Only Krishna and some neighboring children saw them, and when the elders arrived, they were amazed at how the divine infant could knock down two large trees, even with a heavy grinding mortar. The yakshas’ plight as trees was now a thing of the past, and Krishna returned to His usual exploits in Vrindavan, playing with His friends and exchanging pastimes of love with His many devotees.
  6. The term niryoga-pasha is interesting: There is a method in Vrindavan for milking cows in which their legs are tied to protect them from overreacting and hurting themselves during the procedure. Following this technique, when Krishna milks His cows He sometimes ties their hind legs with ornamental rope, which He keeps on His shoulders or places in His turban when His hands are not free. The rope is called niryoga-pasha. Symbolically, this rope is said to represent the ropes of love with which Krishna binds His devotees.
  7. See Giriraj Swami, “Damodara-lila: Works and Grace”: (http://www.girirajswami.com/?p=4949)
  8. See “Balancing Faith and Works: To Whom is God’s Grace Given?” in The Agni and the Ecstasy: The Collected Essays of Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa) (London: Arktos, 2012), 86–88.
  9. Ibid.
  10. See “Short by Two fingers: Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura’s Sarartha Darshini commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.9.18,” translated by Bhanu Swami (taken from http://www.granthamandira.com) and also published in Sri Krishna Katharita Bindu, No. 263 (November 2011).
  11. See Sri Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi 174 and 188.
  12. The month of Karttika – also known as the month of Damodara, and corresponding to the time between mid-October and mid-November – is elucidated in Gopala Bhatta Goswami’s Hari-bhakti-vilasa (chapter 16). For dedicated Vaishnavas, the text recommends that during this month it is particularly effective to recite the Damodarashtakam. Austerities and vows enunciated in this text are considered highly auspicious during this month as well. The name Karttika is derived from that of Radharani’s mother, whose name is Kirttika (or Kirtida). Radharani thus became known as Kartiki, which means “born of Kirttika.” At the beginning of his Dig-darshini-tika on Sri Damodarashtakam, Srila Sanatana Goswami includes the following verse as his mangalacaranam, highlighting Sri Radha’s connection to the Damodara-lila: “Bowing before Sri Damodara-ishvara, who is accompanied by Sri Radha, I now commence my commentary on Sri Damodarashtakam entitled Dig-darshini.” Similarly, he closes his commentary on the last verse (16.206) as follows: “Everything I have I offer to you, Srimad Damodara, Lord of Sri Radha’s life, and I also offer it all to Chaitanya-deva and my guru.”
  13. 13. The Uttara-kanda is sometimes published as a separate book known as the Bhavishyottara Purana. This verse is cited in the commentary on Krishna-karnamrita by Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, verse 110. The English rendering is from Mahanidhi Swami, Radha Kunda Mahima Madhuri (Vrindavan: Ras Bihari Lal and Sons, 2009), 50. Jiva Goswami repeats this story in his Priti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 367).
  14. There are numerous hints of Radhika’s Damodara-lila throughout India’s wisdom texts. Another example occurs in the Narada-pancaratra (chapter five), in a section called the “Sri Radha Sahasra-nama.” There we learn that among Sri Radha’s many names are Damodara-priya (“dear to Damodara”) and Srinkhala (“the shackle that binds Krishna”). Both hint at the madhurya aspect of the Damodara-lila.
  15. See Jiva Goswami, Sri Radha-krishnarcana-dipika, texts 121–126, translated by Hari Parshad Das. Published in Sri Krishna Kathamrita Bindu, No. 263 (November 2011).
  16. It is sometimes suggested that Radha and the gopis worshiped Katyayani in the usual fashion, viewing her as a manifestation of Durga, or Devi, the goddess of the material world. While it is true that they sometimes worshiped both Shiva and the goddess for the sake of their service to Krishna, they did not see these deities in the usual way: The Bhagavatam (12.13.16) says, “Lord Shiva is the best of all devotees” (vaishnavanam yatha shambhuh), and that’s how the gopis viewed him – not as God but as the greatest among the Vaishnavas. Similarly, because they worshiped Katyayani, or Durga, with the intention of attaining the favor of Krishna and not for material benefits, they understood the goddess as an incarnation of Yogamaya. Thus Radha and the gopis worshiped Yogamaya to attain Krishna as their husband. (See Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 8.90, and Madhya 9.360, purport)
About the Author: 

Satyaraja Dasa

Satyaraja Dasa (Steven Rosen) is an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is also founding editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies and associate editor of Back to Godhead magazine.