The Prince Of Vrindavan
Shyama Pyari Kunj Bihari, Jaya Jaya Sri Haridas Dulari
The lush green forests in the heart of Vrindavan become alive with The amorous pastimes ‘Keli Leela’ of the divine couple Shrimati Radharani and Sri Krishna. In one such sacred forest, Nidhivan, the tulsi plants are always found in pairs, entwined around each other like the Gopis around Sri Krishna in Raas Leela. Every day Swami Haridas used to chant and sing bhajans in Nidhivan. Venturing inside a dense lively grove, he would bow down again and again. His disciples marked this strange behavior and were eager to find out the mystery behind it. One day, by Swamiji’s mercy, they were allowed to enter the grove and witnessed the divine couple Bihari and Biharini ji seated in a beautifully bejeweled pedestal inside a heavenly crystal palace. Looking at the eternal loving couple, Swami Haridas started singing:
Mai Ri Sahaj Jori Pragat Bhayi. Ju Rang Ki Gaur Syam Ghan Damini Jaisain. Prathamhun Huti Abahun Aagein Hoon Rahihai Na Tarihai Tai Sain. Ang Ang Ki Ujaraee Sugharaee Chaturaee Sundarata Aisain. Shri Haridas Ke Swami Syama Kunjbihari Sam Baise.
Hey Sakhi! This divine couple manifested as the golden and dark hue interlaced look so beautiful like the lightning in dark clouds.This divine couple is immortal, their form eternally youthful,the essence of nectar, radiance, elegance and beauty, beyond time, space and imagination.
Everyone stood still, like stone statues, unable to even blink, unable to take their eyes off the divine form. Swamiji understood that the world would not be able to withstand this divine beauty and requested the eternal couple to give darshan in a single form and to always stay in front of his eyes. Radharani and Shyamsundar merged into a single deity radiating like the lightning flashing amidst the dark clouds. Swami Haridas Ji’s Kunj Bihari came to be worshipped as Banke Bihari Ji.
Swami Haridas, the renowned mystic-musician was born in 1480 A.D. in Rajpur near Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh. He became an ascetic at a very early age and made his way to Vrindavan. There he built his ashram in Nidhivan and sang his own compositions dedicated to the immortal love of Radharani and Sri Krishna. He was also an ardent follower of 'Nimbarka Sampradaya' and is attributed to writing approximately 128 songs, out of which 110 are devotional known as 'Keli Mala' while the other 18 are philosophical, known as 'Siddhanta Pada'. Swami ji’s outpourings are sheer melody. 'Keli Mala' depicts the eternal love of Radha-Krishna, while 'Siddhanta Pada' illustrates complete devotion to God and detachment from material life. He is also known for creating the Dhrupad style of singing and is the Guru of famous musicians like Tansen (one of the nine jewels in Akbar’s court), Baiju Bawra and many more. It was his melodious voice and soulful language that inspired many people. He also created many tirvats and ragamalas and is known for his work in stringed instruments like Kinnari and Aghouri and drums like Mridanga and Daff.
One of the leading saints of the Bhakti Movement, Swamiji is believed to be an incarnation of Lalitha Sakhi, a close companion of Sri Radha. Swamiji practiced his music and was engrossed in the eternal bliss of meditation in a secluded bower in Nidhivan. All the time, he meditated on the eternal amorous pastimes, Nitya Raas, of Priya and Pritam. While leading his life in this world, he had an unrestricted entry into the eternal realm of Nitya Vihaar and enjoyed the closeness to the divine couple. He sat in the Keli Kunj of Nidhivan, singing, meditating, witness the Leelas of his Kunj Bihari, his Shyam with Shyama Gori, delving into the endless ocean of devotion and bliss. As he witnessed, he sang:
Kasturi Kau Mardan Ang Mein Kiyain Murali Dharain Pitambar Odhen Kahati Radhe Haun Hi Shyam.
Kisor Kumakum Kau Singar Kiyain. Saari Churi Khubhi Netrani Diyen Shyam. Banh Gahi Lai Chalai Chaliyai Ju Kunj Mein Chitai Mukh Hansen Manaun Ie Syam. Shri Haridas Ke Swami Syam Chhati Saun Chhati Lagayen Gaur Syam
Radharani has assumed the form of Shyam by rubbing Her limbs with musk, holding a flute on Her lips, and dressing in yellow garments, and declaring,” I am Shyam.” The ever-youthful Shyamsundar has put on a bindi on His forehead, kohl in His eyes, bangles in hand, dressed like a maiden in a beautiful saree. They exchange glances, and admiring the transformation, walk hand in hand into the grove. In Nidhivan, there is a temple called ‘Bansichor Radha’ where Radharani has stolen the flute of Sri Krishna. This sacred grove also has a Rang Mahal, where it is believed that Radharani and Krishna spend their night after Raas Leela. The temple priest makes the bed, places clothes and ornaments, flowers, neem twigs to brush teeth, betel leaves, sweets, a jar filled with water and locks the door in the evening. No one is allowed inside the premises after the sun sets down. After the final bell of evening aarti, even the monkeys leave. The next morning, they are all found used, partially eaten and disarranged. In Nidhivan, there is also a shrine dedicated to Swami Haridas. We also can have darshan of Sri Banke Bihari Prakatya Sthal, the place where Bihariji appeared infront of Swamiji in Nidhivan. In 1862 A.D the deity was shifted to a temple that we now know as Banke Bihari Temple.
Brijvasis love to tell the stories of their Bihariji. Once a Rajasthani princess was lost in the raptures of divine love while having darshan of Bihariji and refused to be separated from the prince of Vrindavan. Her duties forced her to return to her kingdom but the mesmerizing eyes of Bihariji were always in her thoughts. One day, the priest woke up to find Bihari ji missing from the temple and a frantic search for him commenced. They finally located Him being worshipped in the princesses’ palace. Attracted by sheer magnetism and devotion, he is prone to leave His seat of worship and follows his devotees wherever they go. Since then, a curtain has been placed, which is opened and shut every minute between the deity and the devotees to break the intensity of feelings that arises on both sides.
It is also believed that the curtain is to ward off any evil eye from young Sri Krishna. Loud temple bells are not rung to wake Bihari ji in the morning as it is not proper for a little child to wake up with a start. Instead, He is woken soothingly and gently. It is believed that every night the Lord goes out to Nidhivan for Raas Leela. He plays His flute till the wee hours of the morning and even the Gopis visit Him and dance, losing themselves in the magic of His music. The Brijvasis claim that they hear the notes of His flute in Brijbhumi. Since the Lord returns to the temple in the morning, the temple doesn’t have a Mangala Aarti (the aarti at dawn), allowing the Lord to sleep longer. Mangala Aarti is done only once in a year, on Janmashtami.
Vrindavan ke ho Banke Bihari
Humse purdah karo na Murari!!
Image Courtesy: Shreyan Nayak