Updated: Jan 2, 2022
Was there no end to this dark night? Eyes red at the end of a sleepless night, as if there was no end to this waiting. A wrinkled sari draped carelessly on her feeble frame, as if nothing mattered anymore and her messy hair left a strew, as lost as her heart was feeling. Anguished at being separated from her love, Vishnupriya lay on the floor. They say that eyes are the windows to the soul. Her eyes were lifeless, not taking in anything around her, not wanting to understand anything around her. Vishnupriya, the darling daughter of the royal priest Sri Sanatana Mishra and consort of the jewel of Nadiya, Sri Gouranga, was miserable. When the husband embraced Sanyas and left the house, what was left for the wife to accomplish? She had been discarded. The dream of blossoming with her husband’s love had been snatched away from her. Life had lost its meaning the day Gouranga took Sanyas. She had been tied down here in Nadiya to take care of the aged mother. Her tears had dried up in her eyes. Her inner core devastated, her existence rummaged, she kept staring blankly at the walls. Would she ever be able to have a glimpse of that face ever again?
A tiny stream of light had begun to brighten up the dense darkness around and breathe hope into her. News was making its rounds that Gouranga Mahaprabhu had arrived in Nabadwip to behold his mother and his motherland. There is a ritual where every Sanyasi, after taking up Sanyas, has to visit his motherland once. Gouranaga had arrived in Nabadwip to fulfil this obligation and was staying at the house of a devotee. The previous day his mother had already been there to meet her son, the apple of her eyes. She was taken aback. The person in front of her was not her son, not her Nimai. What she saw was a slender, skinny body with deep set eyes, calm gaze and fixed composure that radiated the aura of a glorious Sanyasi. Sachi Mata lost her composure for a moment. She had considered confronting her son and cajoling him to forget all that had transpired and bring him back home. But the brilliance of his face and his deep mellow voice choked her up. Desperate, she cried, “O son! Won’t you visit your home once? Vishnupriya is waiting for you there.” The name ‘Vishnupriya’ created a turbulence in his entire being. He had alienated Vishnupriya to set an example for the people in this world. But she shone brilliantly in the deepest, secluded corner of his heart. How could the most compassionate one forsake his devotee? Vishnupriya is his greatest devotee. How can he leave Nabadwip without meeting his beloved? He turned towards his mother and said, “O mother! I have seen my motherland and met you but I have not yet been to my birth place. You may leave now. I will arrive at your door tomorrow.” Sachi Mata came back home with his assurance. She had a secret desire, for Vishnupriya to get the opportunity to meet him. Vishnupriya heard the news. Her heart was exhilarated. She would get to see his face, even if it was only for a moment.
She couldn’t sleep the whole night. She was running to the door again and again. Sachi Mata also sat down at the door, waiting. When would the sun rise? The heart was racing restlessly. With the first rays of the sun, all their anxiety came to an end. Sri Gouranga arrived at their doorstep, surrounded by his devotees. Sachi Mata went up to him and held his hand, as if she was ready to drag him into the house. But when she looked up at his shinning, intense face, she pulled her hand back.
“No, he was not her Nimai.”
The visit to his mother, his motherland, and his birth place was already over. What else was he waiting for? From her hideout inside the house, a lady in a disheveled dull saree, uncombed hair let loose and downcast eyes, was staring at the lotus feet of Gouranga intently through the veil pulled over her face. Her eyelids hardly blinked.
There is a principle that governs your duties to your loved ones, which is much higher than carrying out the duties of a Sanyasi. The God of love, Sri Goura Sundara had arrived at this doorstep to carry out that responsibility of the doctrines of love. His wish was not to please his beloved but to get a glimpse of her lotus face. The lovelorn heart understood the silent desire. Vishnupriya Devi realised that Gouranga had come for her. She let go of her timidity, threw away her modesty and advanced towards the door, draped in a worn out saree, to face the huge crowd that had gathered in front of her house, and fell down at the feet of her lord.
Such is the relationship between the Lord and his devotee! Love won over fear and reticence. Shocked, Sri Gouranga took two steps back. He had come to the world to lead the distressed souls on the path of pure love. There were sighs and cries all around. Unperturbed, without looking at the figure lying at his feet, he asked, “Who are you?”
“This unfortunate one is your servant, Vishnuriya.”
The name ‘Vishnupriya’ sent a tremor through his body. A shadow of gloom swept over his otherwise calm countenance. Suppressing his agony, he asked, “What do you want?” She answered, “O Lord! You satisfied everyone’s wish by providing them shelter at your feet. Everyone had the fortune of looking at your form. You emancipated so many sinners by distributing your nectar of mercy. The only one who was left out is this Vishnupriya.”
Hearing her heart wrenching words, tears rolled down the faces of the devotees assembled there. But Mahaprabhu stood there unmoved. The feelings that were seen a few moments ago, were gone. His face had a detached look. He spoke out loud, “You are Vishnupriya. Be worthy of your name. Free yourself from this false bondage and surrender yourself at the feet of Sri Krishna. Now I am a Sanyasi. This begging bowl and loin cloth are my only possessions. I am penniless and have nothing to offer you. Since you are begging at my feet, I am handing over these wooden sandals of mine to you. You are devoted. In my absence these sandals will remove your agony of staying away from your husband.”
Vishnupriya Devi raised the sandals and pressed them to her head with reverence. Then she held them tightly on her bosom. The dust of his feet breathed life into her body and soul. Tears ran without any barrier. The air resounded with the ‘Haribol’ cries of the hundreds of devotees present there.
One can attain the highest state only in separation. Without separation, how does one experience the joy of union? Gouranga Mahaprabhu is known as ‘Vipralambha Rasavatar’. He manifested to make us experience the realization of love through separation. He spent his last twelve years in a secluded, lonely, tiny room called ‘Gambhira’ in Puri. Being alone, he was relishing this nectar of love in separation, the pangs of separation in being away from Sri Krishna, ‘Vipralambha Rasa’.
Separation is unavoidable. Union is but for a moment. The shadow of getting separated looms large in the moments of union that arise after ages of separation. But when separated, the heart looks forward to the moments of union. The days and nights are filled with the images of the loved one. Thinking about His attributes floods the heart with joy and brings a smile on the face. The mind keeps playing the exchanges between the lover and the beloved again and again, dreaming of another encounter. Hence, of all Rasas in Rasa Shastra, the Vipralambha Rasa reigns supreme.
Inspired by Krushnapriya Mohanty's essay, 'Vipralambha Rasa'.
Image credit: Shreyan Nayak