Janmastami Lila

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On the first day of the dark lunar quarter of the month of Bhādra an orchestra (playing different drums as well as wind-instruments like Śānāi) sits down in Nanda Mahārāja’s house and starts playing auspicious music. From that day on until the sixth day (ṣaṣṭhī) arrangements are being made to beautify the palace of Nanda Mahārāja and the whole village of Nandīśvara. A wonderful canopy adorned with jewelled strings is hung over the courtyard, each door and gate is flanked by banana-trees and jugs filled with mangoes and flags are flapping here and there. The houses of all the citizens and all the marketplaces are also beautified like this. The royal roads and all the other pathways are sprinkled with fragrant water. Visitors cannot understand in which home the great festival is going on.

In the evening of the sixth lunar day Śrī Nanda Mahārāja sends his invitations  – to the men through Śrī Subhadra (the cousin of Kṛṣṇa and the husband of Kundalatā) and to the women through Dhaniṣṭhā (the daughter of one of Kṛṣṇa’s wet-nurses). Śrī Subhadrajī first goes to Vṛṣabhānupura, or Varsānā, and tells Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu: “The day after tomorrow is Kṛṣṇa’s birthday, and on this occasion Śrī Nanda Mahārāja has invited you, saying: “This abode is yours, enjoy it as if it’s yours, I don’t know anything (in terms of ‘yours’ and ‘mine’)! Please come tomorrow morning to Nandīśvara and make this invitation a success!” In the same way Dhātrī-kanyā Dhaniṣṭhā extends Mother Yaśodā’s invitation to Mother Kīrtidā. The same kind of invitation is announced in Yāvaṭa (the abode of Abhimanyu, Śrī Rādhikā’s husband) and to all other friends and relatives.

(On saptamī, aṣṭamī and navamī, that is, on Janmāṣṭamī and the preceding and following days, Kṛṣṇa does not go out to herd the cows and Śrī Rādhikā dwells in Nandagrāma).


In Navadvīpa, on the seventh day of the dark lunar quarter of the month of Bhādra, Mahāprabhu performs His usual morning-duties and then sits down to listen to the Śrīmad Bhāgavata-discourse with His devotees. Knowing Mahāprabhu’s mind Gadādhara Paṇḍita, the Bhāgavata-lecturer, describes how Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and his relatives come from Varsāna to Nandīśvara to celebrate Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s birthday festival. Upon hearing this Mahāprabhu and His devotees all become absorbed in the mood of Vraja.


On the seventh day of the dark lunar quarter everyone in Vṛṣabhānupura finishes their morning duties, bathes, dresses, ornaments and takes a light breakfast before departing to Nandīśvara, taking garments and ornaments along as presents for Kṛṣṇa’s birthday. Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and his brothers mount elephants and leave Varsānā, accompanied by musicians and soldiers. Śrī Kīrtidā Mātā and her sisters-in-law, wet-nurses and other relatives also depart in topmost bliss, sitting in covered palanquins, carried by four bearers each. Śrīdāma-candra, Śrī Rādhikā’s brother, mounts his own horse and departs for Nandīśvara with his soldiers and musicians, followed by Śrī Rādhikā and Her sakhīs in palanquins and Candrāvalī and the yūtheśvarīs (gopī-groupleaders) in different vehicles. As Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and his brothers gradually approach Nandīśvara town Nanda Mahārāja and his brothers hear their music and come forward to greet them. The guests dismount their elephants and greet Nanda Mahārāja and his brothers by embracing them, addressing them and offering obeisances to them. Nanda Mahārāja keeps the soldiers outside and takes the guests inside, giving each of them a proper place to stay. In the same way Śrī Yaśomatī Mātā and her sisters-in-law greet Śrī Kīrtidā Mātā, Śrī Rādhikā, and the sakhīs and yūtheśvarīs with the proper respect and affection, take them inside the palace and show them their respective guest rooms. Then everyone takes rest in their own abode while the servants and maidservants are engaged in their services.

After this Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, Kīrtidā Mātā, Śrī Rādhikā and all the sakhīs and yūtheśvarīs take a small snack. Then, on the order of Mother Yaśomatī, Śrī Rādhikā and Hersakhīs engage in cooking different sweets, rice and vegetables, that are offered to Nanda Mahārāja’s Nārāyaṇa-deity by Madhumaṅgala. After this offering is done ārati is performed for the deity. Servants are dancing, singing and playing musical instruments and everyone present is very blissfully witnessing this. After ārati everyone offers prostrated obeisances unto the deity and on the order of Mother Yaśodā Madhumaṅgala puts the deity to rest and calls everyone for prasāda. On the large yard Śrī Nanda Mahārāja sits down to eat on the eastern side with his brothers Abhinanda and Upānanda, Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and his four brothers, Śrīdāma, Balarāma, Subhadra and Gobhaṭṭa on his right and Sunanda and Nandana, his other two brothers, Śrī  Kṛṣṇa, Subala, Ujjvala, Kokila and others on his left. Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s maternal uncles sit facing Nanda Mahārāja and Abhimanyu and other cowherders sit facing Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu. On the southern side all the local brāhmaṇas are sitting and all around the inhabitants of Nandīśvara are seated. Śrī Rādhā and Her sakhīs serve the side of Nanda Mahārāja and Śyāmalā, Candrāvalī and other yūtheśvarīs are serving Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja’s side. They diligently serve sweetmeats, rice and vegetables. Everyone present eats with great pleasure, absorbed in joking and laughter, and after eating they wash their mouths, chew betelleaves and retire to their individual bedrooms, where their servants render them all the services that are suitable for the time of the day. Śrī Rādhā washes Her hands and feet and becomes immersed in transcendental bliss by beholding Kṛṣṇa’s beauty through the window as He lays down to rest. After that Yaśomatī Mātā calls Śrī Rādhikā and the yūtheśvarīs and makes them sit down on the courtyard. Śrī Rādhā and Her sakhīs sit in one line, Candrāvalī, Śyāmalā and others sit in another line and Yaśomatī Mātā, Kīrtidā Mātā and other elderly gopīs sit in yet another line while Mother Rohiṇī, Tuṅgī Mātā and Kundalatā are serving. After blissfully eating and washing their mouths all the ladies go to their individual bedrooms and take rest, being served by their maidservants, who fan them and serve them betelleaves. After this the (local) maidservants anhhhhhd the mañjarīs (Śrī Rādhikā’s maidservants) also eat in order. After eating the ambrosial food remnants of all the gopīs the sādhaka dāsī cleans the eating place and the plates and then goes to Śrī Rādhā to massage Her lotus feet and render similar services.

Later Śrī Rādhā gets up from bed, meets Kṛṣṇa for the usual Yogapīṭha Milana in Gupta Kuṇḍa and returns to Nandīśvara Pura again. After taking some rest She prepares some sweets, is dressed and ornamented by Her maidservants and then goes on abhisāra on the pretext of offering sūrya pūjā. After then playing Her usual pastimes with Kṛṣṇa at Rādhākuṇḍa She returns to Nandīśvara in the afternoon. The other pastimes of the day are also as usual (nityavat).


(Mahāprabhu takes His meal and takes rest)

In Navadvīpa Mahāprabhu is absorbed in the bhogārati-kīrtana of the householddeity Lord Nārāyaṇa with His devotees. Then, when Mother Śacī calls Him, He ends the kīrtana and eats and rests as usual. The rest of His pastimes are also as usual.

Thus ends the Saptamī līlā


In Navadvīpa, on the morning of the eighth day of the dark lunar fortnight of the month of Bhādra, Mahāprabhu takes His usual morning bath, sees the āratī-ceremony for Lord Nārāyaṇa and then sits down with His devotees to listen to a Śrīmad Bhāgavata-lecture given by Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita Gosvāmī. As Gadādhara describes the līlā of Kṛṣṇa’s Janmāṣṭamī-abhiṣeka Mahāprabhu and His devotees all become absorbed in Vraja-bhāva.


In Nandīśvara, on the aṣṭamī-day, Śrī Rādhā is bathed, dressed and ornamented by Her maidservants as usual. Then Kundalatā comes and says: “O Rādhe! Come and behold Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s abhiṣeka-ceremony!” Hearing this, Śrī Rādhikā takes Her sakhīs and mañjarīs along and comes to the place of the abhiṣeka. The young and old villagers, men and women and all others who are called also arrive at the spot.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa is also bathed as usual, after which His servants dress Him with a white garment, place a pearl in His nose, hang a golden necklace around His neck, place armlets on His arms, bangles on His wrists, a belt with small bells around His waist and golden anklebells on His feet. Then Kṛṣṇa goes to the bathing platform and sits down on a golden chair studded with jewels. Musicians play different instruments, brāhmaṇas chant Vedic hymns, women chant ‘Jaya Jaya!’ and bards and panegyrists recite different praises. Śrī Bhāgurī Ṛṣi recites the abhiṣeka-mantras and the servant boys perform the abhiṣeka. First of all they bathe Kṛṣṇa with Mahauṣadhi (herbal) water and then gradually with pañcagavya (five kinds of dairy-products) pañcāmṛta (five kinds of nectar), a hundred jugs of water, then with a thousand streams of water and finally with śaṅkhodaka (water from a conchshell). Then they dry Him off and dress Him in His Pītāmbara, after which Kṛṣṇa sits down on a jewelled seat on His śṛṅgāra vedī (altar for ornamentation), where He is ornamented by His servants.


In Navadvīpa Mahāprabhu sits down on the bathing platform, immersed in transcendental bliss. The servant-boys bring the paraphernalia for the abhiṣeka and Śrī Advaita Prabhu performs the abhiṣeka according to the prescribed rules. Then the servants dry Mahāprabhu off and dress Him in His Pītavāsa. Then Mahāprabhu takes His seat on a jewelled throne in His śṛṅgāra-maṇḍapa (pavilion for ornamentation), where the servants arrange His hair, put His tilaka on, adorn Him with sandalwood-pulp, garlands and jewelled ornaments and place a mirror before Him. Then Svarūpa Dāmodara performs the ārati of Mahāprabhu. After this, Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī gradually sings kīrtana-songs about Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s dressing, ornamentation and breakfast. All the devotees who hear it then become absorbed in Vraja-bhāva and relish the mellows of these pastimes.


In Nandālaya Kṛṣṇa sits on His śṛṅgāra maṇḍapa, where His servants decorate His hair and place a golden, jewel-studded crown with peacock-feathers on His head. They make gorocana tilaka on His forehead and leaf pictures on His cheeks, hang a pearl in His nose, Makara-earrings on His ears, a jewelled necklace around His neck, Aṅgada-ornaments on His arms, bangles on His wrists, a sash of small bells around His waist and jewelled anklebells on His feet. Bhāgurī Ṛṣi worships Kṛṣṇa seven times with Durvā-sprouts in his hand and all the brāhmaṇas offer blessings. Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and others bless Kṛṣṇa and offer Him golden trays with clothes and ornaments, Śrī Kīrtidā Mātā and other elderly ladies with motherly love offer their gifts and bless Kṛṣṇa, and Śrī Rādhikā offers Kṛṣṇa a golden tray with garments and ornaments and hangs a jewelled necklace around His neck. In the same way Candrāvalī and the other yūtheśvarīs offer different presents. Then Kṛṣṇa donates a milk cow-with-calf, with gold-plated horns and silver hooves, bedecked with golden cloth and decorated with different ornaments, to Bhāgurī Ṛṣi. Śrī Nanda Mahārāja also gives thousands and thousands of cows in charity to the brāhmaṇas. Then Kṛṣṇa descends from the altar and offers His obeisances to Paurṇamāsī-devī and the other brāhmaṇas. Then He bows down to His mother and father and to Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and Kīrtidā Mātā, as well as to all His other superiors, that are like His father and mother. Then Śrī Kṛṣṇa is called by mother Yaśodā to come to the dining room with His friends to take a snack. Śrī Rādhā and Her girlfriends and yūtheśvarīs also all take a snack, after which mother Yaśodā engages them in cooking. Meanwhile hundreds of brāhmaṇas are engaged elsewhere in cooking large amounts of food.

Yaśomatī comes to inspect all the preparations and then orders Madhumaṅgala to offer them to the household-deity, so Madhumaṅgala comes and offers a little bit of each preparation to Lord Nārāyaṇa. After the bhoga he performs āratī and then puts the deity to rest. Then on different courtyards the Dadhikādāgame[1] commences. On the outer yard Śrī Nanda Mahārāja plays with Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu, his brothers and all the other elderly cowherders and on another yard Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa and other cowherdboys become mad with playing Dadhikādā.

In the inner quarters of the house Vrajeśvarī Mātā, Kīrtidā Mātā and their sisters-in-law are playing, and on another inner yard Śrī Rādhā, Candrāvalī and other yūtheśvarīs are maddened by the Dadhikādā-game, which is accompanied by dancing, singing and the playing of musical instruments. Mukharā and other elderly gopīs are dancing in the middle, wielding sticks. Everyone throws yoghurt, milk, ghī, buttermilk, butter, oil, turmeric, liquid sandalwood, vermilion, water and keśara (pollen tubes) at each other. Out of excitement everyone forgets who is superior and who is junior; everyone tries to pelt everyone else with yoghurt and milk. The thrown yoghurt and milk streams through the drains like a virtual river, and when the pollen-tubes and the butter form balls in the drains and thus cause them to clog, small lakes of milk and yoghurt are being formed on the yards. Later, when these stoppages are removed, the released milk and yoghurt streams away as fast as rivers. When the demigods in the sky see this festival of bliss they shower flowers and some of them assume human forms and dance amongst the cowherders. Other demigods assume the form of birds and eat up the stoppages of butter. The singers, players and the male and female dancers dance in ecstasy and the bards and panegyrists consider themselves blessed by singing the glories of Gokula and Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

After completing the Dadhikādā-game in this way everyone proceeds to Pāvana Sarovara and begins to play in the water of this lake. In the northern Ghāṭa (bathing place) are Vraja Rāja Nanda, Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu and others, in the eastern Ghāṭa Balarāma, Kṛṣṇa and Their cowherd boyfriends, in the southern Ghāṭa Vrajeśvarī Yaśodā, Kīrtidā Mātā and others and in the western Ghāṭa Śrī Rādhā, Candrāvalī and others are playing in the water, splashing each other. When they climb back on the shore their servants and maidservants wipe off their bodies, massage them with oil and give them another bath. After this they dry them off and dress them in dry, fresh clothes. When everyone returns to the palace Nanda Mahārāja presents each person, according to his social status, with clothes and ornaments and Vrajeśvarī does the same with the lady-guests. Everyone is then dressed and decorated with these gifts by their own servants or maidservants. After this, Nanda Mahārāja first seats the brāhmaṇas on the courtyard and feeds them the most exquisite sweets and fried things. After the brāhmaṇas have eaten Mother Yaśodā has the brahmacārīs call everyone for the feast.



Mahāprabhu sits on the śṛṅgāra maṇḍapa with His associates, absorbed in the Vraja-bhāva, while in the inner courtyard Lakṣmīpriyā, Viṣṇupriyā and others are preparing different kinds of sweets, fried things and vegetables for the offering to Lord Nārāyaṇa. Then, on the order of Mother Śacī Īśāna Dāsa comes and says: “O Mahāprabho! The offering for Lord Nārāyaṇa is ready! Mother is calling You to do the offering!” Hearing this, Mahāprabhu roars and returns (from Vraja-bhāva) to external consciousness. The devotees also return to external consciousness and Svarūpa Dāmodara ends his descriptive kīrtana. Then, on Mahāprabhu’s order, Gadādhara Paṇḍita offers the bhoga to Lord Nārāyaṇa. Mahāprabhu and His devotees sit down in the Nārāyaṇa-temple and become absorbed in singing about Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and Their friends eating in Nandīśvara in Vraja.


Vrajeśvarī Mātā orders the brahmacārīs to call everyone for the feast and Vrajeśvara Nanda sits down with Vṛṣabhānu Rājā and his sons, friends and fellow-villagers on the large courtyard and blissfully starts feasting, just like the previous day. After eating they all wash their mouths and chew betelleaves before retiring to their individual rooms to lie down and digest the feast. Everyone is then served by their own servant or maidservant as is required at that time of the day.

Meanwhile Vrajeśvarī Mātā serves Kīrtidā Mātā, Śrī Rādhikā and all the other gopīs a feast on the inner yard of the palace, just like the previous day. The ladies also wash their mouths, chew betelleaves and retire to their individual rooms to lie down and digest the food.

Vrajarāja then offers the brāhmaṇas clothes, ornaments and monetary donations and honours them before they leave. After this he offers clothes, ornaments and monetary donations to the bards, panegyrists, dancers and singers and serves them a great feast, and then he also feeds and honours the beggars and destitutes before they leave. Then he goes to his own room and takes rest. Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and Their sakhīs then perform Their daily midday pastimes just as on the previous day or on any other day.


In Navadvīpa Mahāprabhu and His devotees end their song about the feast in Vraja-līlā. Gadādhara Paṇḍita takes the enjoyed offering from the altar, washes the mouth of the deity and performs āratrika. Mahāprabhu and His devotees then offer prostrated obeisances to the deity and go to the veranda of Mahāprabhu’s bedroom and sit down there. Then, after the usual meeting in the Yogapīṭha they wander through the forests and go to Śrī Advaita Prabhu’s house in the afternoon, where they have been invited. There they have darśana of the ārati of Prabhu Sītānātha’s deity Śrī Madana Gopāla and perform kīrtana. After enjoying fruits and milk-products they all take rest in the house of Śrī Advaita Prabhu. After this they perform their usual nocturnal pastimes such as abhisāra (love-journey) and return to Śrī Advaita Prabhu’s house again at night’s end to take rest.

End of aṣṭamī  līlā



In the morning Mahāprabhu wakes up in Śrī Advaita Prabhu’s house, performs His morning-duties, bathes, is dressed and ornamented and takes a snack before going to hear a discourse on Śrīmad Bhāgavata and becoming absorbed in Vraja-bhāva. After hearing the Bhāgavata-lecture the Lord views the ārati of Śrīman Madana Gopāla and performs kīrtana in front of the deities. After the deity is put to rest the Lord performs the Nandotsava Kīrtana and plays the Dadhikādā-game with His devotees. Then He performs His famous Nagara-bhramana (wandering through the town of Navadvīpa), dances, sings and plays Dadhikādā in the house of each devotee before returning to the house of Śrī Advaita Prabhu. Then all the devotees go to the Gaṅgā for a holy dip and watersports and again return to the house of Advaita Prabhu, who presents Mahāprabhu, Nitāi Cāṅd and all the other devotees with gifts of clothes and ornaments. After taking prasāda all the devotees take a little rest and then they have the usual Yogapīṭha-meeting and wander through the forests of Nadīya. In the afternoon Mahāprabhu returns to His own home. After this all of Mahāprabhu’s pastimes are as usual. In the evening Svarūpa Dāmodara, knowing Mahāprabhu’s mind, describes Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s evening-pastimes in Vraja. Hearing this all the devotees become absorbed in Vraja-bhāva.


In the morning in Nandīśvara Śrī Rādhā and Her sakhīs wake up as usual, perform their morningduties, bathe and are ornamented and dressed before they go to enjoy the remnants of Kṛṣṇa’s breakfast-snack. Then Vrajeśvarī orders them to cook. Madhumaṅgala offers these preparations to the deity of Lord Nārāyaṇa and then puts the deity to rest. Then, as on the previous day, everyone eats, takes rest and has the Yogapīṭha meeting.

In the evening, after Śrī Nanda Mahārāja, Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and Śrī Kṛṣṇa had their snacks Śrī Rādhā and Her sakhīs take their snacks. Then Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja begs permission from Nanda Mahārāja to leave and return home. Nanda Mahārāja then respectfully says goodbye to them while offering them clothes and ornaments once more.

In the same way Śrī Vrajeśvarī Mātā also says goodbye to Śrī Kīrtidā Mātā and the other lady-guests by offering them garments and ornaments. Śrī Rādhā and Her sakhīs and yūtheśvarīsoffer their obeisances to Vrajeśvarī Mātā and she blesses them while embracing them, kissing them and smelling their heads. Thereafter all the guests mount their own vehicles and return to their individual homes, being followed by Mother Yaśodā and Nanda Mahārāja for a while.

After Śrī Rādhikā and Her sakhīs return home they watch from their moontowers how Kṛṣṇa milks His cows in the evening. After that the līlā is nityavat, as usual.



[1] A festivity also mentioned in Śrīmad Bhāgavata, Canto 10, Chapter 5, in which the Vrajavāsīs throw all kinds of dairy products at each other.


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