The arguments and the counter arguments went on for quite some time. In the end Sri Krishna had to bow down before the resilience of the gopis and led them to the banks of the Yamuna. The sight of the cool rays of the moon shinning on the aquamarine waters was breath-taking. Walking on the cool sand, hand in hand with their beloved sent a chill through their body. The wind welcomed them with the fragrance of lotuses. Every gopi had Krishna to herself. Krishna, showering his undivided attention, laughed, played, teased, joked, sang and danced with them, fulfilling their every desire. The gopis began thinking that there was none in the world comparable to them. Who could ever have the Lord of the Universe completely to herself?! Each gopi considered herself to be the best woman on earth and this pride gained strength with each passing moment and kept growing. Fully aware of what was going on in the minds of the gopis, Krishna smiled and suddenly, in the blink of an eye, he disappeared leaving the gopis aghast.
Like a group of female elephants who have lost their mate, the gopis tormented by this separation, wandered like the insane, searching frantically for Sri Krishna. Every moment spent with the Lord came back to their minds and their hearts were overwhelmed remembering how kind Krishna had been to them. They became immersed in his thoughts as they recounted his playful glances, his mesmerising looks, animated talks, his captivating smiles and attractive moves. Not able to put their minds in anything else, they started talking, smiling, walking and behaving like Sri Krishna. Imitating his movements, one of them became Krishna declaring, “I am Krishna!”, while the others took on different roles and relived the pastimes of Sri Krishna.
The gopis moved from one forest to another, searching for Sri Krishna. They kept asking every animate and inanimate being they passed by if anyone had seen Krishna. Looking at the trees around, they cried, “O Asvattha tree, O Kurabaka, Asoka, and Champaka, have you seen Balarama’s younger brother, whose smile tramples the pride of all women? O Tulasi, you adorn the feet of Govinda. Have you seen him walk by adorning you on his feet and surrounded by bees? O Malati, Mallika, Jati and Yuthika, has our dear Madhava passed by, gracing you with his touch? O Jambu, Arka, Bilva, Bakula Amra, Kadamba and Nipa, and all the plants and trees living by the banks of the Yamuna, who selflessly serve everyone, please help us and lead us to Krishna.” Then their eyes fell on the ground below and they cried, “O Mother Earth! What austerity had you performed that Lord Kesava’s lotus feet tread on you? He stepped on you in the form of Vamana when he subdued Mahabali’s ego and he embraced you as Varaha after rescuing you from the clutches of the wicked demon Hiranaksha”. There after they followed the animals who were moving around wailing and pleading, “O animals of the forest, O dear! Has Krishna charmed your eyes by his presence here? O creepers! Even though you are embracing your husbands, you must have been ecstatic as Krishna touched you when he passed this way. O trees! We see you all bowing down so low. You must have lowered yourselves to touch the lotus feet of Sri Krishna and he must have acknowledged your respect with his affectionate glances.”
The search didn’t stop, with running from one forest to the other, asking everyone they found about the whereabouts of Krishna. They were so absorbed in him that one of the Gopis started imitating Putana the demoness. Seeing her, another Gopi became Krishna and pretended to suck the life out of her. Thus began the role play where another gopi began crying like infant Krishna and kicked another Gopi who had taken up the role of the cart demon Sakatasura. In another part of the forest, one gopi became the Trinavarta demon who came rushing like the wind and carried away another gopi. As they looked on, two of their friends became Krishna and Balaram herding their cows in the midst of cowherd boys. One of them enacted the killing of Vatsasura while another Gopi played the killing of Bakasura. They imitated how Krishna played the sweet notes on his flute to call all the cows together. And thus, all the leelas like lifting up the Govardhan, killing the giant snake Aghasura, swallowing the colossal forest fire to save his friends and cows, subduing the poisonous snake Kaaliya, stealing butter and many more were enacted one after the other.
As the gopis went on and on remembering Krishna and moving around looking for him, they happened to see his footprints in one corner of the forest. The marks of the lotus, thunderbolt, flag and other signs were so clearly visible in these footprints that they had no doubt they belonged to Krishna. The gopis followed the footprints and soon they couldn’t move on and stood still. It wasn’t one pair of footprints but two pairs, thoroughly intermingled. The other pair of footprints clearly belonged to a lady. This must be the footprints of Krishna’s dearest consort. So, Krishna had taken her along with him when he left them. This revelation trouble them and they became more and more anxious to find the Lord and his consort. They thought that this gopi must have worshipped Krishna surrendering everything and hence Krishna was attracted to her. They visualised Krishna putting his arms around the shoulder of the gopi as they walked. At one point they noticed only the toes of Krishna and thought Krishna must have stood on his toes to pluck flowers to decorate his beloved and at yet another place the signs led them to decipher that Krishna must have braided the locks of the gopi there. After a while when they saw only one pair of footprints, they knew Krishna must have carried the gopi on his shoulder. They suffered in pain thinking about Krishna’s beloved and her fortune. But they had to find them and so their search continued.
…to be continued