The sun had completed its journey across the vast expanse of the sky and was ready to call it a day. The reddish glow still shone brilliantly in the western sky. After a day’s wandering in the forest, the gopas had returned home with their cows. The gopis of Vrij were busy tending to the needs of their families. They could still hear the sweet melody of the flute within. Suddenly their trail of thoughts were broken by a sudden, thundering sound outside. They immediately rushed to their windows and peeped outside. A royal chariot drawn by majestic horses was racing on the main road making its way to the home of Nanda Maharaja. The clouds of dust from the hooves of the horses spiralled up and the huge wheels of the chariot made a thundering noise that rode right through the hearts of the gopis, piercing them like a spade as they felt a sense of uneasiness take over their whole beings. An unusual restlessness took over as they ran out to their friends to find out what the matter was. It didn’t take long for the news to reach their ears.
The cruel Kamsa had sent his messenger ‘Akrura’ to take Krishna and Balaram to Mathura to watch a wrestling match. On hearing the news, the gopis were stuck in their places like stone. Their hearts started palpitating, beating fiercely, their faces covered with sweat had turned white, their breath became warm, their hair dropped down loosely and they lost control over themselves. The gopis engaged in household work threw everything aside and felt as if they stood on the verge of death. Some fainted and the minds of others who had some sense left were filled with the thoughts of Krishna. They were overwhelmed thinking of his bewitching smile, his mesmerising flute, his sweet words, his graceful walk, his yellow garment and the peacock feather on his head. They had never imagined of a time when they had to be separated from Krishna. How could it be possible? Tears ran down their eyes as they spoke, cursing their destiny.
“O creator! Writer of our destiny! How could you be so cruel? Why did you bring us close if we had to be separated one day? Is this a child’s play? You have taken the form of Akrura which literally means ‘not cruel’. We used to thank our stars for sending Krishna to us, for giving us eyes to get engrossed in his radiant blue shine, to behold his face outlined by the curly strands of hair beautifying his broad forehead, to forget ourselves when he throws those sidelong glances at us but now, he is trying to grope our eyes out. Krishna is also so mean. How can he even think of leaving us? How can he neglect us, who have completely surrendered ourselves at his lotus feet, for the the maidens of Mathura. They are waiting for his arrival, to enjoy his sweet smiling face and drink up the nectar. We, mere village girls, are no match for the attractive young girls of Mathura. In their company, he will forget us and may not even return to Vrindavan!”
The future was dark without Krishna. How will the inhabitants of Vrij survive even for a moment without laying their eyes on Krishna? Their minds rushed to Mathura as they started visualising Krishna’s welcome ceremony there, thinking how blessed the eyes of the young girls of Mathura would be, who from their balconies would be able to watch the procession as Krishna gracefully passed through their streets. All their anger got directed towards Akrura. How could he even think of taking Krishna away from them, who was dearer to them than their own life, their only joy! He didn’t even have the decency to inform them or empathise with them. He was so ruthless, so inhumane, with no regard for their pain, their sorrow. To make it worse, Krishna had already seated himself in Akrura’s chariot without an iota of feeling for the gopis. He might be very smart but this is not how civilised men behave. Have the men of Vrij lost their mind? Why are they not objecting? Instead, they have started yoking their bulls in their carts in their journey to follow Krishna to Mathura. How could they be so selfish, only thinking about themselves without a care for the women! Even the gods have teamed up against the gopis.
How they wished for a natural disaster to take place right then. Why was the sky so silent? A heavy downpour would help delay Krishna’s departure - a storm, a hurricane, an earthquake, anything! ‘O mother Earth why are you not furious?’ they thought. It seemed like the whole universe was acting against the gopis. Having lost all hope of any help from anyone, the gopis understood it was their time to act. The entire night was so painful that they thought they were losing their sanity, fainting, getting up and wailing loudly, lamenting and cursing their fate.
As soon as the sun rose, the gopis came out of their houses and ran towards Nandagram. Their only mission was to stop Krishna, to plead with him to have mercy on them. Meanwhile, Akrura got into the chariot with Krishna and Balaram, ready to leave for Mathura. Nanda Maharaja and the cowherd men got up into their bullock carts, loading them with milk, yogurt, butter, ghee in big earthen pots and began to follow Akrura’s chariot. The gopis came and stood in front of the chariot, obstructing their path, surrounding them. They looked at Krishna, eyes full of tears, begging him to have pity on them. Krishna’s heart melted. It was not easy for him to close his eyes to the plight of the gopis. He consoled the gopis and promised that he will be back very soon after finishing his job in Mathura.
But the gopis could foresee what would happen. Their feet were tied to the ground and no amount of consolation could make them go back to their homes. They stood there as Krishna’s chariot started to move. The eyes and the minds of the gopis followed the chariot. They kept looking on as the chariot faded away from their sight and only the flag at the top was visible. They looked on till the only thing they could see was the dust from the chariot filling up the entire landscape. They remained still like statues. They knew their Krishna was not coming back.
The Viraha geet (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.39.19-31) is the song of the gopis as they wreathe in pain when Krishna leaves Vridavan and goes to Mathura. There is a village called Bijore Kund which was formed by the tears of the gopis.
Image Courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Krishna_and_Balarama_are_seated_in_a_chariot_driven_by_Akrura.jpg