Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 5 - Chapter 13
AFTER Śakra had departed, the cowherds said to Kṛṣṇa, whom they had seen holding up Govardhana:
"We have been preserved, together with our cattle, from a great peril, by your supporting the mountain above us; but this is very astonishing child's play, unsuitable to the condition of a herdsman, and all thy actions are those of a god.
Tell us what is the meaning of all this: Kāliya has been conquered in the lake; Pralamba has been killed; Govardhana has been lifted up: our minds are filled with amazement.
Assuredly we repose at the feet of Hari, O thou of unbounded might! for, having witnessed thy power, we cannot believe thee to be a man.
Thy affection, Keśava, for our women and children, and for Vraja; the deeds that thou hast wrought, which all the gods would have attempted in vain; thy boyhood, and thy prowess; thy humiliating birth amongst us; are contradictions that fill us with doubt, whenever we think of them.
Yet reverence be to thee, whether thou be a god, or a demon, or a Yakṣa, or a Gandharva, or whatever we may deem thee; for thou art our friend."
When they had ended, Kṛṣṇa remained silent for some time, as if hurt and offended, and then replied to them:
"Herdsmen, if you are not ashamed of my relationship; if I have merited your praise; what occasion is there for you to engage in any discussion concerning me?
If you have any regard for me; if I have deserved your praise; then be satisfied to know that I am your kinsman. I am neither god, nor Yakṣa, nor Gandharva, nor Dānava; I have been born your relative, and you must not think differently of me."
Upon receiving this answer, the Gopas held their peace, and went into the woods, leaving Kṛṣṇa apparently displeased.
But Kṛṣṇa, observing the clear sky bright with the autumnal moon, and the air perfumed with the fragrance of the wild water-lily, in whose buds the clustering bees were murmuring their songs, felt inclined to join with the Gopīs in sport.
Accordingly he and Rāma commenced singing sweet low strains in various measures, such as the women loved; and they, as soon as they heard the melody, quitted their homes, and hastened to meet the foe of Madhu.
One damsel gently sang an accompaniment to his song; another attentively listened to his melody:
one calling out upon his name, then shrunk abashed; whilst another, more bold, and instigated by affection, pressed close to his side:
one, as she sallied forth, beheld some of the seniors of the family, and dared not venture, contenting herself with meditating on Kṛṣṇa with closed eyes, and entire devotion, by which immediately all acts of merit were effaced by rapture, and all sin was expiated by regret at not beholding him:
and others, again, reflecting upon the cause of the world, in the form of the supreme Brahma, obtained by their sighing final emancipation.
Thus surrounded by the Gopīs, Kṛṣṇa thought the lovely moonlight night of autumn propitious to the Rasa dance.
Many of the Gopīs imitated the different actions of Kṛṣṇa, and in his absence wandered through Vrindāvana, representing his person:
"I am Kṛṣṇa," cries one; "behold the elegance of my movements." "I am Kṛṣṇa," exclaims another; "listen to my song." "Vile Kāliya, stay away, for I am Kṛṣṇa," is repeated by a third, slapping her arms in defiance.
A fourth calls out, "Herdsmen, fear nothing; be steady; the danger of the storm is over, for, lo, I lift up Govardhana for your shelter." And a fifth proclaims, "Now let the herds graze where they will, for I have destroyed Dhenuka."
Thus in various actions of Kṛṣṇa the Gopīs imitated him, whilst away, and beguiled their sorrow by mimicking his sports.
Looking down upon the ground, one damsel calls to her friend, as the light down upon her body stands erect with joy, and the lotuses of her eyes expand:
"See here are the marks of Kṛṣṇa's feet, as he has gone alone sportively, and left the impressions of the banner, fife, thunderbolt, and the goad.
What lovely maiden has been his companion, inebriate with passion, as her irregular footmarks testify? Here Dāmodara has gathered flowers from on high, for we see alone the impressions of the tips of his feet.
Here a nymph has sat down with him, ornamented with flowers, fortunate in having propitiated Viṣṇu in a prior existence.
Having left her in an arrogant mood, because he had offered her flowers, the son of Nanda has gone by this road; for see, unable to follow him with equal steps,
his associate has here tripped along upon her toes, and, holding his hand, the damsel has passed, as is evident from the uneven and intermingled footsteps.
But the rogue has merely taken her hand, and left her neglected, for here the paces indicate the path of a person in despair. Undoubtedly he promised that he would quickly come again, for here are his own footsteps returning with speed.
Here he has entered the thick forest, impervious to the rays of the moon, and his steps can be traced no farther."
Hopeless then of beholding Kṛṣṇa, the Gopīs returned, and repaired to the banks of the Yamunā, where they sang his songs; and presently they beheld the preserver of the three worlds, with a smiling aspect, hastening towards them:
on which, one exclaimed, "Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!" unable to articulate anything else: another affected to contract her forehead with frowns, as drinking with the bees of her eyes the lotus of the face of Hari: another, closing her eyelids, contemplated internally his form, as if engaged in an act of devotion.
Then Mādhava, coming amongst them, conciliated some with soft speeches, some with gentle looks, and some he took by the hand; and the illustrious deity sported with them in the stations of the dance.
As each of the Gopīs, however, attempted to keep in one place, close to the side of Kṛṣṇa, the circle of the dance could not be constructed, and he therefore took each by the hand, and when their eyelids were shut by the effects of such touch, the circle was formed.
Then proceeded the dance to the music of their clashing bracelets, and songs that celebrated in suitable strain the charms of the autumnal season. Kṛṣṇa sang the moon of autumn, a mine of gentle radiance; but the nymphs repeated the praises of Kṛṣṇa alone.
At times, one of them, wearied by the revolving dance, threw her arms, ornamented with tinkling bracelets, round the neck of the destroyer of Madhu: another, skilled in the art of singing his praises, embraced him.
The drops of perspiration from the arms of Hari were like fertilizing rain, which produced a crop of down upon the temples of the Gopīs. Kṛṣṇa sang the strain that was appropriate to the dance. The Gopīs repeatedly exclaimed, "Bravo, Kṛṣṇa!" to his song.
When leading, they followed him; when returning, they encountered him; and, whether he went forwards or backwards, they ever attended on his steps.
Whilst frolicking thus with the Gopīs, they considered every instant without him a myriad of years; and, prohibited in vain by husbands, fathers, brothers, they went forth at night to sport with Kṛṣṇa, the object of their affection.
Thus the illimitable being, the benevolent remover of all imperfections, assumed the character of a youth amongst the females of the herdsmen of Vraja;
pervading their natures, and that of their lords, by his own essence, all diffusive like the wind: for even as in all creatures the elements of ether, fire, earth, water, and air, are comprehended, so also is he everywhere present, and in all.