It gives me a great pleasure in placing in the hands of Sanskrit readers and scholars, this edition of Lalita Madhava Nataka of Rupa Gosvamin along with the old commentary of Narayana, for the first time critically edited with the help of four manuscripts-two manuscripts with the commentary of Narayana, obtained from Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona and two manuscripts obtained from Vikram Jyoti Prakashana, Calcutta.
Rupa Gosvamin was a scion of the Gosvamin-Iine and was a poet and rhetorician of high order. The previous history of the family of Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamin is given by Sri Jiva Gosvamin as below :- There was a prince of Karnataka, named Sarvajna Jagadguru of the Bharadvaja Gotra. His son Aniruddha was also a renowned prince. Of Aniruddha’s two sons Rupesvara and Harihara, by his two wives, the first became an accomplished scholar, but the second took to evil ways and turned out his elder brother from his principality. Rupesvara, who had somewhere in the east, a son, named Padmanabha, who settled down on the banks of the Ganges at Navahatta Grama performed a sacrifice (Yajna). He had five sons, of whom Mukunda was the youngest. On account of a quarrel with his relatives Mukunda left Navahatta Grama and went to Fateyabad. Mukunda had a son named Srikumara. Srikumara appears to have three sons- Amara, Santosa and Vallabha, to whom Lord Chaitanya Deva gave the names of Sanatana, Rilpa and Anupama respectively.
The eldest Sanatana appears to have learnt Sanskrit from Ratnakara Vidyavachaspati, a scholar of Navadvipa. He became a high official at the Mohammadan Court of Hussain Shah of Gauda and settled with his brothers at the village Ramakeli. Rupa also appears to have held some official position at the same court. By nature of a religious disposition, they were attracted by the Great Reformer Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. They left home to become his disciples.
With regard to the exact dates of Rupa Gosvamin no authentic information is available, but from his relation to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and from the dates of composition recorded at the end of some of his own works, we can approximately fix the period of his literary activity. These dates would make it clear that the most flourishing period of Rupa Gosvamin’s literary activity falls between 1533 and 1550 A. D., but it probably began as early as 1495. A. D.
The list of seventeen works composed by Sri Rupa Gosvamin mentioned by Sri Jiva Gosvamin is as follows :- ( 1 ) HaIpsa Sandesa (Kavya), ( 2 ) Uddhava Sandesa (Kavya), ( 3 ) Astadasa chhandas, ( 4 ) Utkalika Vallari, ( 5 ) Govinda-birudavali, ( 6 ) Premendu Sagara (all stavas and stotras), ( 7 ) Vidagdha madha va (Nataka), ( 8 ) Danakeli- kala alias Danakeli Kaumudi (Bhanika), ( 9 ) Lalita Madhava (Nataka), ( 10 ) Bhakti Rasarr.rta Sindhu, ( 11 ) Ujjvalani- larnani, ( l2 ) Mathura Mahima (now included in the Varahapurana), ( 13 ) Nataka chandrika (Dramaturgy), ( 15 ) Sarpksipta Bhagvatamrita, (16) Ananda Mahodadhi and ( 17 ) Mukunda Muktavali, But the Bhakti-Ratnakara quotes some traditional verses from which four more works are added to the list of Rupa Gosvarnin’s literary efforts. They are :- ( 1 ) Sri Ganoddesa Dipika known as Radhakrsna Ganoddesa Dipika (both Brhat and Laghu), ( 2 ) Prayukta- khyata chandrika, ( 3 ) Krsna janmatithi Vidhi and ( 4 ) Asta Kalikaslokavali. A work entitled as Smarana Mangalaikadasa is also ascribed to Sri Rupa Gosvamin.
In the three dramatic works of Sri Rupa Gosvamin the Lalita Madhava Nataka is more extensive being in ten acts, a more complicated in theme and plot, more narrative than dramatic in conception and execution because there is a great deal of dialouges but little incident. The commentary of Narayana explains that the object of the drama is to illustrate the main features and characteristics of Samrddhimat Sambhogasrngara defined by Rupa Gosvamin himself in his Ujjvalanilamani. It describes not only the episode of Srikrsna’s erotic sports at Vrndavana, but also at Mathura and Dwarika.
Briefly speaking, the plot of the Lalita Madhava Nataka is as follows:- Paurnamasi Mother of Sandipani Muni and disciple of Devarsi Narada muni, reveals the origin of Chandravali and Radhika, who, as two daughters of Vindhya Giri, are related as sisters, a fact of which they themselves were unaware. The infant Chandravali, having been stolen by Putana ( Demoness ), an emissary of Kamsa-Raja fell from her hands in a stream and was found by Bhismaka the king of Vidarbha. She was maintained by him as his own daughter. Rukmini and Radha’s story is ascribed later on to the Sixteen thousand and one hundred Gopis, who worshipped Katyayani Devi and Kamakhya Devi of Kamrupa Desa and received the boon of obtaining Srikrsna as their husband. The other chief Gopis, Padma, Nagnijiti, Bhadra, Laksmana, Saivya, Syamala or Madra and Lalita, were all originally Princesses, while Visakha was the in- carnated river Yamuna, daughter of the Sun God. We are also intimated here that there was regular marriage of Chandravall and Radhika with Srikrsna, who already being the wives of Gopas, Govardhana and Abhimanyu respectively, is described as the effect of Maya. This is also true in the case of other Gopis, when their so called husbands, the Gopas could never look upon them as their wives.
The object of the first act is to describe chiefly with reference to Chandravali and Radhika, It depicts the returning home of Srikrsna in the evening after tending cows all the day, and his meetings, separately with Chandravalt and Radhika, but both the meetings are interrupted by the vigilance of their respective mother-in-laws Bharunda and Jatila.
The next morning opens in act II with reference to srikrsna’s nocturnal sports with the Gopis. It thus gives the poet an opportunity to present Padma and Syamala, the two companions of Chandravali as heroines respectively. In the meantime, the demon Samkhachuda is sent by Kamsa to kidnap Radhika, who is reported to have been married to Srikrsna and who is enthroned as the chief of the Gopis. She goes to worship the Sun God, Srikrsna in disguise appears as a Brahmanakumara, the priest to officiate at the cermony, but the little comedy is upset by the reported arrival of Sarpkhachuda demon, whom Srikrsna duly kills behind the scene. This act is called on account of this incident,
In act III Akrura comes to fetch Srikrsna and Baladeva to Mathura, and the sorrows of the various Gopis at their departure are described, but the main theme of the act, which is called ‘Unmatta Radhika’, consists of Radhika’s wailing and mad search for Srikrsna. She jumps into the river Yamuna and is lost with Visakha, but a voice from divine reveals that she has gone to the other world by passing through the orb of the Sun. Her companion Lalita also jumps from the top of a hill to kill herself. The fourth act changes the scene from the joyless Vrndavana to Mathura, and reveals the corresponding sorrows of Srikrsna due to separation from Chandravali, Radhika and his beloved Gopikas. In the meantime, Chandravali, who is really Rukmini, has been carried away by her brother Rukmin, who is ashamed of her being brought to Vrndavana, in order that she should be suitably married to Sisupala, king of Chedi. The sixteen thousand and one hundred Gopikas were also forcibly abducted by the Narakasura, so that one must imagine that Vrndavana was by this time desolated.
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