Updated: Nov 26, 2021
Madana Mohana Leela
Srimad Bhagavad Mahapurana has twelve cantos. The tenth canto is dearest to all devotees since it not only tells us about the birth of the supreme Lord Sri Krishna but also narrates all his glorious pastimes. The Lord didn’t appear in this world only to destroy the evil forces. His main intention behind taking a human form was to spread love among mankind and to experience and accept their love.
The pastimes described in the tenth canto can be divided into three groups:
1. Brij Leela or Vrindavan Leela
2. Mathura Leela
3. Dwaraka Leela
Brij Leela is the gem of all other pastimes, the most wonderful and the most spectacular. The five chapters of the tenth canto, from the twenty ninth chapter to the thirty third chapter talk about the Raas Leela. These five chapters, called ‘The Rasa Panchadhyayi’’, are the soul of Srimad Bhagavatam.
It was Sharad Poornima. The night was radiant, bathed in silver rays of the full moon. Sri Krishna desired to perform a Raas Leela with the gopis and took the help of the shakti of Maa Yogamaya. Human beings are enveloped by Maya or illusion. But the supreme Lord gets attracted by the power of Yogamaya and comes down to the earth to enact and relish his pastimes. If his divinity is reflected everywhere then his pastimes will lose its unique wonder. So, the one who is desireless, the one who pervades every soul, surrendered to Yogamaya to carry out these pastimes in human form, which are the pinnacle of all his Leelas.
Sri Krishna played his divine flute, calling out to the the gopis. The damsels of Brij attracted by this flute left their work, families, homes, gave up their fear, bondages, shyness and followed the flute.
Sri Krishna plays different tunes in his flute at different times. Sometimes he plays the ‘sammohini’, hypnotic tune. That tune attracts everyone and makes them lose their mind.
When he plays his magical flute, so incredible
The cows, the deer and the birds from the forest
Listen to his flute stunned, motionless like a painting
The world stops and comes to him running
Neither can they swallow their food nor take it out
Their ears alert they turn and look around.
Not only the damsels of Brij, but the birds and the animals, the creepers and the trees, every heart and every being get hypnotised by his flute.
And at other times, he plays the joyful tune, ‘Anandini Vanshi’. The sparkling blue water of Yamuna splashes, flows untamed on hearing the tune. The water erodes its banks and flows to wash the lotus feet of her Lord.
But on the night of Sharad Purnima, he plays the tune of attraction, ‘Akarshani Swar’. Whoever listens to this tune, forgets everything and is attracted towards him. The yogis forget their penance, the saints are distracted and stop meditating. The damsels run to the forest laying aside their composure and shyness. But that call of the flute doesn’t reach everyone’s ears. Krishna, with the flute perched on his lips is constantly playing the captivating melody, but why cannot we, under the influence of Kali Yuga, hear his call? Srimad Bhagavatam has the answer. The ears of the ones drowned in this material world, running after selfish happiness have gone deaf with ignorance. Even the ones who desire liberation will not be able to hear this call. Only those whose heart are filled with love, devoid of desires will be able to hear his flute.
That night he played the ‘Akarshani Swar’ and the damsels of Brij came running. They were immersed in Raas dance with the love of their life. This Raasleela is known as ‘Madan Mohan Leela’. The indisputable Lord of love, Madana, carried an indomitable pride that he had the power to enchant and control the whole world. He had even beguiled the greatest of devas like Brahma, Indra and Chandra. Enchanted by Madana’s arrows, Devraj Indra, the king of the devas, had approached Ahalya, the wife of sage Gautama; Chandra got married to Tara, the wife of Vrihaspati, who was the ‘Guru’ of the devas, and Brahma was attracted to Saraswati. Lord Shiva, angered by Madana’s whims, opened his third eye and Madana was burnt to ashes when he tried to meddle with him. But he was irredeemable. After being burnt to ashes, he became ‘Ananga’, disembodied, and hence even more powerful. When Madana showered his arrows of passion on Lord Shankara, he was unable to arouse desire in him but was successful in distracting him from his meditation and making him blind with rage. In another instance, Lord Shiva, under the influence of Kamadeva, got captivated by Mohini and went after her. Only Hari, the Lord of Golaka was left out. So, Madana was looking for an opportunity to cast his spell on him. Krishna, on the other hand, was determined to crush this pride of Madana.
In Dwapara Yug, Sri Hari appeared in Brij. Madana was deluged watching the various pastimes of the Lord with the ‘Gopa’, cowherd boys and ‘Gopi’, damsels of Brij. He had no interest in the childhood pastimes of Krishna. When Krishna grew up, in his adolescent years, his transcendental beauty and the heavenly tune of the flute that he played while roaming in the forests, attracted the hearts and minds of the women of Brij. The desire to unite with Krishna blossomed in their hearts and every day they envisioned unique ways of meeting him. Madana knew the time was ripe. He was ready with the arrows in his quiver. At last, his desire to charm Krishna will be fulfilled. Then came the day the Gopis who were engaged in praying Maa Katyayini went into the river keeping their clothes outside. Krishna, enacted his Leela. He stole the clothes of the Gopis and tied them on the branches of the kadamba tree that stood n the banks of Yamuna. Madana tried hard at that time to enchant Krishna, but failed in his attempt. Krishna returned the clothes of the gopis and gave them his word that he will fulfil their desire in the night of Sharad Purnima.
The wives of the Vedic brahmins defied their husbands and ran to Krishna surrendering their body, mind and soul at his lotus feet. Madana tried to make most of this opportunity and exercise his charm on Krishna but failed again. Krishna advised the wives to return to their households and take care of their husbands. Madana reasoned that he was not able to get a control over Krishna since brother Balaram and the other cowherd boys were always present with him. He waited patiently for the Purnima when Krishna will meet the damsels of Brij alone.
On the pleasant night of Sharad Purnima, Krishna began to weave magic by playing his heavenly flute on the banks of Yamuna, calling the gopis to unite and fulfil their desire. As soon as the flute reached the ears of the gopis, they were drawn to him. They forgot their world and gathered around him, encircling him. That was the moment Madana was waiting for. Brahma and other devas lost control and were lured under the influence of only one woman. How can Krishna resist the attraction of the beauty of sixteen thousand damsels? It was time for Madana to pull out the five arrows of passion from his quiver and aim at Krishna. He raised his head to have a glimpse of Shyam Sundar shrouded in the midst of the gopis and take his aim. He released the arrows and his quiver became empty. But there was a miraculous change in mood! His heart throbbed, he lost consciousness and fell hard on the ground. He looked upwards and cried, “O God! Why did you give me a man’s body and deprive me of this union? If I had the body of a woman, then I would have surrendered my youth, my life at the feet of Shyama Sundar and considered myself the most fortunate.” Madana was charmed looking at the beautiful form of Shyam Sundar, encircled by the gopis and hence Krishna came to be known as ‘Madana Mohana’.
At the outset, this episode enlightens us of the fact that if man wishes to detach himself from the wants and desires of this material world, then he has to surrender himself at the feet of Madana Mohana, Krishna surrounded by the gopis.
The gopis did not come under the influence of Kamadeva, the god of love because Madana can only frighten people who are intoxicated with happiness of their self. But those who desire Krishna’s happiness, those who love to do all that makes Krishna happy, are not intimidated by Madana’s threats. In the Raasaleela, Krishna mounted on the chariot of the wishes of the gopis and intoxicated the mind of Madana.
“Chadhi Gopi Manorathe, Manmather mana Mathe,
Nama Dhare Madana Mohana.
Jini Panchasara Darpa, Swayam Nava Kandarpa,
Raasa Kare Laiyaa Gopigana”
- Chaitanya Charitamrita
In the words of Sri Jagadananda Thakura, regarded as the jewel among the vaishnavas:
“Tutala Kiye Phula Dhanurguna, Kiba Rati Rane Bhela Tuna Shuna
Samara Maajhe padala laaj, Rati Pati Bhaye Bhaage.”
You were showering the arrows anointed with the flowers of desire for so long. Why did you suddenly become silent? Did the string of your bow break? Did your quiver become empty of arrows? Whatever the case may be, but one thing is for sure, the husband of Rati was ashamed and fled from the warfront.
In his introduction to Raas Leela, Shreedhar Swami has written in his commentary –
Brahmadi – jaya – samrudha – darpa – kandarpa - darpaha jayati shree - patir gopI – raasa – mandala – mandanah
Though Kamadeva had become very proud through his ability to conquer even gods like Brahma, the Lord of Sri (Lakshmi) destroyed his pride when he adorned the Raasa dance, encircled by the gopis. May he be ever victorious!
Madana fled from the Raas place. Punishing himself for the offence committed by his self, he took a pledge never to ever enter the Raasa Mandala of Vrindavan.
Raasa Leela is a play of divine love. Those who listen to this pastime with adoration, become desireless. That is the message of Raasa Leela.
Image Credit: Eila Sahu