About the Book
Krishna has been a part of our lives for millennia, through idols in temples, by being invoked in classical dance and music, representations in painting and sculpture, and in the names given to every other child born in India. Even today, telling tales of Krishna's childhood and reading of the Shrimadbbhagvatam is a ritual in many families.
Krishnnleela and Other Tales from Sbrimabbagavatam is a modern retelling of these stories in English, making them accessible to readers in India and abroad. These tales, starting with the birth of Krishna and continuing through all his exploits, have as much appeal and relevance today, because of the richness of the descriptions of the nature, the flora and fauna of the region, as well as the portrayal of human nature with all its nobility and virtuousness, its failures and foibles.
The text is accompanied by brilliant photographs of paintings from Kangra, Nathdwara, Basohli, as well as sculptures from ancient temples and from modern-day Moradabad.
About the Author
Rajendra Taldon born in 1934 is a Master of Arts in English literature and a Bachelor of Law. He was a member of the Indian Revenue Service. He has studied Sanskrit, Hindi, Panjabi, Urdu, Mathematics, Physics and Law. He takes a keen interest in Indian history, Indian miniature painting, astronomy, fine arts, Indian and Western classical music and Gardening .He lives in Mumbai.
My mother used to read a number of scriptures, but her favourite was the Premasagara, a Hindi translation of the tenth canto of Shrimadbhagavata Purana by Lallu Lal. The translation was in a dialect of Hindi spoken in the Moradabad and Bareilly districts of Uttar Pradesh. As a child, I used to intently listen to the stories of Krishna narrated by my mother. However, when I picked up the Hindi alphabet and learnt to read, I started reading this book on my own.
There was a Krishna mandir next door and another at the entrance to our street. Every year, Krishna Janamashtami was celebrated with great pomp and show in both these temples. As young children, we contributed our bit by helping the pundits decorate the temples with colourful buntings and European chandeliers in varied colours. On the eve of Krishna's birthday, we kept awake, with difficulty, till midnight when the aarti was performed and delicious prasad distributed.The following morning, a celebratory feast marked the birth of a son to Nanda and Yashoda in Gokul.
Every temple had a decorated cradle in which an idol of Bala Krishna was placed. Devotees could rock the cradle by pulling a string attached to it. Tableaus, with dolls and statues artistically arranged, depicted several incidents from Krishna's life. In later years, I found that in cities like Delhi, important temples competed with each other in making this display attractive, innovative and varied. Krishna has been a part of our ethos for millennia. He continues to be so through idols worshipped in temples, invocations in classical dance and music, representations in painting and sculpture and in the names given to every other child born in India. He lives in our hearts as none else.
The credit for Krishna's omnipresence goes to the rishis who wrote the Shrimadbhagavata Purana. As brought out in the Purana itself, spreading Krishna lore was the main purpose of this compilation. The rishis achieved success unsurpassed by any other scripture in fulfilling this objective except, perhaps, for the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, the song of the Lord sung by Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, and the Ramayana. Keeping in mind the importance of Krishna in the overall context of the Shrimadbhagavata Purana, I have taken the liberty of placing the chapters on the life of Krishna ahead of the stories told in the earlier part of the Purana. I am confident that my readers will get lost in the bliss of Krishna contemplation while reading about him, just as I was while translating the text.
Most of the time I have stuck to the original text which in the sheer loveliness of the descriptions of nature, of shringara and viraha rasa, and in describing natural phenomena such as the seasons, the rivers and the mountains, the flora and the fauna of Gokul and Vrindavan, is great literature judged by any standards.
The authors had mastered the art of minute observation, which is evident in the way they described the dresses that the cowherds wore. Look at their ornaments. Read about the food they ate. Notice the children carrying tiffin into the forests and its contents. Observe the adornments worn by the bulls and the cows. It is all so familiar and authentic.
However, I have taken the liberty of adding some more details of trees, plants, flowers and birds in order to enhance the richness of the ashrama in which the story was told and of the surroundings of Vrindavan. I have made sure that all such enhancements are authentic and that they do not violate the original story in any manner whatsoever.
It is amazing how similar the Mathura, Vrindavan and Gokul of the Purana are to, the Mathura, Vrindavan and Gokul of today.
What is it that makes Krishna hold our collective imagination? What makes us so fascinated by him? Read about his pranks as a child, and you will find your own child playing in front of you. Yashoda looking down at her child suckling at her breast is a scene witnessed in every household. Krishna's cowherds returning home from the pastures is a common sight wherever groups of boys go out to play and come home by godhuli time. It is this familiarity of happenings, of characters and the predictability of behaviour that make the legend of Krishna entrancing and unforgettable.
The chapters in the Krishnaleela which describe Krishna's infancy and growing up are among the finest celebration of childhood in world literature. These are followed by detailed and explicit delineation of his romantic association with the Vrajabalas, a world totally different from the earlier narrative, yet captivating and unputdownable.
Visit any Navratri pandal in Mumbai or Ahmedabad or Surat and share the enthusiasm of the dancing couples. It is indeed the maharasa, as described in the Purana, re-enacted year after year with joyful abandon. A glorious remembrance of Krishna and his gopis, it is a recreation of the bliss he imparted to his companions, a time to forget all the tension and strife on this planet in the rhythmic dance and music. The source of this joy, as you will see, is the Shrimadbhagavata Purana.
Great literature is inspired by the lofty ideals of Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram, that is, Truth, the ennobling, the propitious, and the beautiful. The stories in the Shrimadbhagavata Purana reflect these principles.
The authors wrote each story with a message. They described the unsavoury attributes of mankind such as lust, greed, anger, violence, treachery, possessiveness, attachment, unbridled sex, profligacy and uncivil behaviour, and showed a way that would bring about a change for the better in a human being. That is what makes the Purana an inspiring read, over and over again. This explains why in millions of Hindu households, a weeklong non-stop narration of the Shrimadbhagavata Purana is an annual ritual. Certain chapters of Part One, Krishnaleela, have been translated in free verse. The original is all in poetic shlokas. The subject matter of chapters such as The Cycle of Seasons in Vrindavan, A Beloved's Plaint, Maharasa, They Played on the Flute and the World Stood Mesmerised, the Bhramarageeta, and the Krishnaleela in Dwarka compelled my pen to write free verse. I had no control. I am confident that my readers will savour the flow of words and thought.
I have based my translation on the Gita Press (Gorakhpur) edition of the Shrimadbhagavata Purana in Sanskrit. This organisation deserves the thanks of every Hindu for preserving and making available authentic versions of most of the holy texts to the reading public at nominal cost.
No other deity in India has been painted or sculpted as frequently and as variously as Krishna. I have chosen some of the finest paintings and sculptures available to illustrate this book. At times more than one image has been used in a particular context. This is deliberate because each depiction speaks its own language. The painters of Kangra, Nathdwara, Basohli and the sculptors of ancient temples or modem day Moradabad had a divine vision and dexterity. Besides, a darshana of Krishna can bear infinite repetition. Looking at him is pure bliss.
I feel blessed in undertaking this translation.
I pray that everyone who reads it will be equally blessed.
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