By Gauranga Darshan Das
The pastime of Rasaräja Kåñëa’s lifting Giriräja Govardhana left some of the most cherished memories in the hearts of the Vrajaväsés who love and serve Kåñëa in different rasas.
Rasa means a particular type of relationship in which a devotee loves and serves the Supreme Lord Kåñëa. Because Kåñëa can simultaneously and perfectly reciprocate with the love of innumerable devotees who serve Him in different rasas, He is called Rasaräja – the king of all rasas.
Giri means a hill, that provides shelter to different kinds of living beings including trees, birds, animals and human beings, either directly or indirectly. The hill named Govardhana in Vraja-dhäma serves Lord Kåñëa, His cows, cowherd friends and His devotees in multifarious ways. Therefore, Govardhana is considered Giriräja – the king of all hills.
Rasaräja Kåñëa – the King of all Rasas
There are five primary rasas. The best examples of all these rasas are amongst the Vrajaväsés or the residents of Kåñëa’s divine abode, Våndävana. Kåñëa’s cows, sticks, horns, flute, kadamba trees etc., are all in çänta-rasa, or the mood of neutrality. Nanda Mahäräja’s house servants Raktaka, Citraka and Patraka are in däsya-rasa or the mood of servitorship. Kåñëa’s cowherd friends like Çrédämä, Sudämä and Madhumaìgala are deeply attached to Him in sakhya-rasa, or mood of friendship. Great personalities like Nanda Mahäräja and Mother Yaçodä serve Kåñëa in vätsalya-rasa or deep parental love. The young Vraja gopés serve Kåñëa in the topmost mädhurya-rasa or conjugal love. Krishna Himself is the object of all rasas and He Himself is rasa (raso vai saù) or the personification of all rasas (akhila-rasämåta-mürti). Hence Krishna is Rasaräja, the King of all rasas.
Giriräja Govardhana – the King of all Hills
The gopés of Våndävana considered Govardhana the chief of all servants of Lord Hari (hari-däsa-varya). To fulfil their desires to meet Kåñëa, the gopés glorified Govardhana in their song of separation, called the Veëu-gétä, as follows:
hantäyam adrir abalä hari-däsa-varyo
mänaà tanoti saha-go-gaëayos tayor yat
“Of all the devotees, this Govardhana Hill is the best! O my friends, this hill supplies Kåñëa and Balaräma, along with Their calves, cows and cowherd friends, with all kinds of necessities—water for drinking, very soft grass, caves, fruits, flowers and vegetables. In this way the hill offers his respects to the Lord. Being touched by the lotus feet of Kåñëa and Balaräma, Govardhana Hill appears very jubilant.” (SB 10.21.18)
Go means cows. Gokula means the cowherd community in Våndävana. Kåñëa is called Govinda because He gives pleasure to the cows. He is called Gopäla as He maintains and protects the cows. ‘Govardhana’ is famous as being most beneficial to the cows (vardhana). The pastime of Rasaräja Kåñëa lifting Giriräja Govardhana is a wonderful testimony of Govardhana’s unparalleled service to Kåñëa and the Vrajaväsis, who are the dearest devotees of Kåñëa.
Rasaräja Inaugurates the Worship of Giriräja
Once, Kåñëa saw the Vrajaväsés making elaborate arrangements for a ceremony, and He inquisitively asked Vrajaräja Nanda about its purpose. Nanda explained that it was Indra-pūja, the traditional worship of Indra, the Lord of rains.
Indra was a demigod and the Vrajaväsés were the eternal associates of Kåñëa. Thus, their position is superior to Indra’s. So, Kåñëa did not want the Vrajaväsés to worship a demigod in His presence. Further, Kåñëa wanted to teach a lesson to Indra, who was puffed up because of his kingly position and heavenly opulence. Therefore, Kåñëa told the Vrajaväsés to forgo Indra-püja and perform Govardhana-püja instead.
For pure devotees like the Vrajavāsīs, the pleasure of Kåñëa is above all other priorities and commitments. So, they all gladly performed Govardhana-püja as per Kåñëa’s directions. They offered thousands of food items (anna-küöa) to Giriräja, circumambulated Giriräja and worshiped the cows and the brähmaëas. Kåñëa Himself assumed a gigantic effulgent form at the top of the hill, and declared Himself to be Giriräja, who appeared to reciprocate with the loving worship of the Vrajaväsés. Everyone was astonished. Giriräja accepted the innumerable offerings of food with his extended arms and grew bigger and bigger as he ate. Everyone including Kåñëa offered obeisances and prayers to Govardhana.
All the Vrajaväsés felt that, all these years, Indra never became visible to them despite receiving their worship, but Giriräja manifested in front of them in a wonderful form, accepted their offerings and even spoke to them. They decided to permanently abandon Indra-püja and perform Govardhanä-püja. Happily celebrating the new and exciting festival of Våndävana, the Vrajaväsés returned to their homes.
Rasaräja Lifts Giriräja, Humbling Suraräja
Suraräja Indra, the king of demigods, became furious at the act of the Vrajaväsés. Forgetting that his position is only due to Kåñëa’s mercy, He proudly criticized Kåñëa and decided to destroy the supposed pride of the Vrajaväsis in abandoning Indra-püja. Intoxicated by power, people like Indra not only expect honor, but also brazenly turn hostile when they are denied that expected honor.
Indra then sent the Säàvartaka clouds, who can destroy the entire world. With wild lightning, thunder and winds, these clouds poured water incessantly in Vṛndāvana like piercing sharp arrows, as thick as pillars, along with heavy pieces of ice. The entire land was filled with water. The cows were severely tormented by cold and took their calves underneath their bodies. The disturbed cowherd community approached Lord Govinda for shelter.
It is Kåñëa’s solemn vow to protect His devotees who exclusively take His shelter in all circumstances. Kåñëa decided to counteract this deliberate exhibition of Indra’s pride and wrath. Then a partial expansion of His yogamäyä potency named Saàhäriké temporarily removed all the rain from the sky and Kåñëa ran swiftly from the porch of His house to the Govardhana Hill. At that time, neither His turban nor garments became wet.
Then, just as a child picks up a mushroom, or an elephant lifts a clump of grass, Kåñëa effortlessly picked up Giriräja which was touching the clouds. Thus, Rasaräja became Giridhäré, the lifter of Giriräja. Giridhäré didn’t even tighten His cloth, showing complete indifference to the mighty power of foolish Indra. The hill rose as if it had wings. All the demigods except Indra became ecstatic. Flowers fell from the trees on Giriräja representing his ecstatic laughter due to being touched by Kåñëa’s lotus hand. Giriräja seemed to celebrate the destruction of Indra’s fame.
A large stone got separated from the middle of lower portion of the hill, and Kåñëa climbed on that stone and held Giriräja up comfortably on the little finger of His left hand. He used His left hand just to assure the Vrajaväsés that he wasn’t exerting Himself, and he called all of them to take shelter under Giriräja.
The Grandeur of Giriräja Touched by Rasaräja
Vrajaräja Nanda, Mothers Yaçoda and Rohiëé, the other gopas and gopés, including the thousands of cows, calves, bulls, buffalos and the entire cowherd community came under Giriräja, Ordinarily, they all could not fit under the base of a medium-sized hill like Govardhana. However, because Giriräja was in ecstasy by Rasaräja’s touch, he acquired inconceivable power and expanded to thirty-two miles, so that all the Vrajaväsis could live comfortably under his shelter.
Giriräja served Gokula as a jewel-bedecked umbrella balanced on the beautiful emerald pole of Kåñëa’s raised arm, and could not be moved by the fierce winds or pierced by the razor-sharp lightning bolts of Indra. Balaräma and all the boys steadied Giriräja with their sticks. Giriräja was like a huge house decorated with jewels, in which Rasaräja was situated as a sapphire pillar.
The rain which poured on all sides of Giriräja seemed like streams of dripping pearls. When Kåñëa lifted Giriräja, huge chunks of earth fell and formed a natural boundary wall around the perimeter of Giriräja, and prevented the water coming under Giriräja. Also, Kåñëa mentally ordered Çeña to coil around Giriräja and stop the water coming under Giriräja. The Sudarçana-cakra, as brilliant as ten million suns, hovered above the hill and drank the falling streams of water. All this was facilitated by Kåñëa’s lélä-çakti (the pastime-potency).
Above Giriräja, there were great rainstorms, roaring wind, hard hail, thunder and dark clouds. Under Giriräja however, the cloud-like Rasaräja and the steady streaks of lightning gopés created another type of storm. Kåñëa’s peacock feather looked like a rainbow, and the stream of His beauty flowed like the constant rain. Kåñna’s brilliant kaustubha gem served as the effulgent sun. There was a celebration, greater than the Govardhana-püja, with sweet voices, pleasant breezes, attractive songs and skillful dances. The children played. Everyone’s prema for Kåñëa increased.
Rasaräja’s Reciprocations with the Vrajaväsés under Giriräja
Before Kåñëa lifted Giriräja, His direct company was available only to some Vrajaväsis, that too, at particular times. In the morning, Mother Yaçodä dresses and decorates Kåñëa with great vätsalya-prema, and sends Him to the forest with the cows and the gopas, who feel separation from Him. Seeing Kåñëa, the gopas and the cows become joyful to get Kåñëa’s loving company for which they have been longing since the previous evening. The whole day Kåñëa performs sporting pastimes with His säkhya-bhaktas who joke with Him, climb on His shoulders and take lunch with Him. Kåñëa also plays His enchanting flute and gives His company to His çänta-bhaktas including the cows, birds, trees and so on. In the evening, when Kåñëa returns home from the pasturing ground, Mother Yaçodä and Nanda Maharäja receive Him in deep parental love, and the house servants like Raktaka, Citraka and Patraka serve Him in various ways in däsya-rasa. Yaçoda feeds Kåñëa and lovingly makes Him sleep. When Kåñëa goes to the forest in the morning and returns in the evening, the younger gopés in mädhurya-rasa get an opportunity to see Him and exchange with Him playful glances in conjugal love.
All the Vrajaväsés in different rasas who attained Rasaräja Kåñëa’s loving company at different times were delighted in His intimate association continuously for seven days, by Giriräja’s mercy. They all tasted endless happiness by being absorbed in uninterrupted loving reciprocations with Kåñëa. They lovingly gazed upon Lord Kåñëacandra like cakora birds. Although the Vrajaväsés were situated in different directions around Giridhäré, they could see His lotus face to their hearts content. Each devotee felt that Kåñëa was looking directly at him or her. Continuously drinking the nectar of Kåñëa’s beauty and sweetness, they didn’t feel hunger, thirst or fatigue. Seeing all His devotees showering their love in different rasas, Rasaräja Kåñëa also forgot about eating, drinking and sleeping. For the Vrajaväsés the seven days passed as if they were one ghaöikä (24 minutes). They did not think of Kåñëa as their protector, but as their only object of service (to be protected).
The cows drank the nectar from the rays of Kåñëa’s moon-like face and the brähmanas and other devotees fixed in neutrality (çänta-rasa) were astonished. Servants in däsya-rasa like Raktaka, Patraka and others constantly served Kåñëa. Säkhya-bhaktas like Madhumangala joked with Kåñëa and Subala enthused and encouraged Him. Mothers Yaçodä and Rohiëé in vätsalya-rasa held Kåñëa on the sides and wiped His lotus face repeatedly. The gopis in mädhurya rasa exhibited their deep love for Kåñëa through their glances and talks.
To lighten Kåñëa’s mood, Batu said, “Kåñëa, You must be tired. You relax for some time. I will hold Giriräja by my brahmanical power, on the tip of my golden stick.” Yaçodä addressed Kåñëa, “You always act impudently. You abruptly stopped Indra-püja and made Indra angry. How can Your soft butter-like hand bear the heavyweight of this mountain? O Giriräja, please become soft and lightweight.” Batu said, “Mother Yaçodä! Had Indra not become angry, then we would not have had the chance to relish this nectar of Giridhäré’s sweetness through our eyes.” Yaçodä said, “O bold one! How can holding a heavy load be a show of sweetness? Its distress. Just see! Kåñëa is perspiring. His face has become pale. How can a mother tolerate seeing this?” Kåñna said, “Mother! Don’t worry! Giriräja is floating on his own in the sky. I am only an instrument of his will.” Yaçodä replied, “My dear son! That may true, but how can You not be tired standing for so long, and holding that mountain? I will believe what you say, if Govardhana gives up Your hand, and then flies around the sky on his own.” Batu said, “O Mother! Don’t you know that Giriräja is sitting on Kåñëa’s hand by the strength of my mantras?” Yaçodä scolded Batu, “What nonsense are you speaking? I am burning in anxiety over my son, and you make jokes?” Nanda pacified Yaçodä, “Why are you scolding Batu? His words are encouraging and our dear son appreciates them.” Meanwhile, the other Vrajaväsés talked among themselves about Kåñëa, His extraordinary beauty, enchanting dress, ankle bells, loving glances and gentle smiles.
While standing in an attractive three-fold bending form, holding Giriräja on His arm, Kåñëa started playing soft tunes on His flute with His other hand. Noticing this, Batu said, “O Kåñëa! Do not play Your flute. Hearing Your sweet melodies, Giriräja may become ecstatic and will fall off Your hand. Your flute song turns rivers into stone and melts mountains into rivers. Then Giriräja himself will inundate us.” Then the gopas said, “O Madhumangala! Don’t be restless. Giriräja has great patience. Although he gets thrilled with ecstasy, he will quickly recover his composure and will continue to protect us. Just relish the nectar of Kåñëa’s flute.”
The mädhurya gopés smiled blissfully looking at Kåñëa with love-laden glances. With unblinking eyes, they took Kåñëa within their hearts and lovingly embraced Him. Admiring Çrématé Rädhäräëé’s infinite beauty, Kåñëa became blissful and he began to tremble, and perspire profusely. Observing these ecstatic symptoms, the cowherd men thought that Giridhäré was feeling tired and compassionately raised their sticks to help Him hold up the hill. Rädhikä then smiled and covered Her head with Her veil and looked shyly at the ground. Then Batu said to the cowherd men, “Don’t think that you are holding up the hill with your sticks. You are just scratching the body of Giriräja. Kåñna is not even a bit tired.” Kåñëa then responded sweetly to His friends, “The cowherd men’s attempt to hold up Giriräja simply shows their parental love for Me.” Then Kåñëa thanked the cowherd men and reassured them that He wasn’t tired even slightly.
Then Mother Yaçodä affectionately said, “O Kåñëa, You are tired and Your belly has caved in. Seeing Your lotus face withered from fasting, even the cows refuse to eat anything. Please stop playing Your flute, and let me feed You these warm soft cakes and tasty creamy yogurt. Take these delicious items along with Balaräma and Your friends.” Batu said, “O Kåñëa! Your mother spoke correctly. You should never go against her. Moreover, I am also upset by hunger.” Krsna, said, “O Mother! I do not feel like a single moment has passed. But I think it is proper for Me to gladly eat from your hand.”
In this way, even amid a terrible devastation, the Vrajaväsés had delightful conversations under Giriräja Govardhana with Rasaräja Kåñëa.
Giriräja, the Chief of Rasaräja’s Servants
After seven days, when the efforts of Indra became futile, the sky became clear and the sun began to shine. While these seven days were like seven yugas of intense pain for Indra, they were like seven joy-filled hours for the Vrajaväsés. Kåñëa then kept Giriräja back in his place. Giriräja’s beauty was enhanced by being washed with the rains. By feeling the sweet breath of Kåñëa, Giriräja felt relieved while relishing the exciting adventures of the Lord.
To completely remove the Vrajaväsis’ anxiety about His fatigue from lifting Giriräja, Kåñëa played sweetly again on His murali. Yaçodä then tenderly pleaded Kåñëa, “O my darling Dämodara! Please stop playing Your melodious murali. The sound of the flute cannot fill Your stomach. You have passed many days without eating, so do not delay any more. Balaräma is also hungry.“ Then the Vrajaväsés returned to their homes, although within their hearts, they desired to continue their loving exchanges with Rasaräja forever as they did during these seven days under Giriräja.
The word hari-däsa occurs thrice in Çrémad–Bhägavatam describing three devotees, namely Yudhiñöira Mahäraja, Uddhava and Govardhana. Yudhiñöira is hari-däsa because he serves Kåñëa in three rasas, namely däsya rasa as a servant, sakhya rasa as a friend and vätsalya rasa as an elder cousin. Uddhava is hari-däsa because his service to Kåñëa is more confidential than Yudhiñöita’s service, as Uddhava also acts as a trustworthy messenger between Kåñëa and the gopés. Govardhana’s service to Kåñëa is superior to even Uddhava’s service because this divine hill facilitates Rasaräja Kåñëa’s pastimes in all rasas with the Vrajaväsés. Thus, Giriräja is considered the best of all servants of Rasaräja.
This article is based on Çrémad Bhägavatam Canto 10 Chapters 24-25, and the commentaries of Çréla Prabhupäda and Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäküra, Änanda Våndävana Campu, Gopäla Campu, Garga saàhita and Hari-vaàça.
Gauranga Darshan Das, a disciple of His Holiness Radhanath Swami, is Dean of the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha at ISKCON GEV, a member of ISKCON Board of Examinations and GEV Administrative council. He has written many books including Gita Subodhini, Bhagavata Subodhini, Caitanya Subodhini, Disapproved but not Disowned, and Bhagavata Pravaha. He teaches sastric courses at several places in India and abroad.