Srikrsnakarnamrtam is a lyrical masterpiece. This work by Lilasuka (also known as Bilvamangala Svami) contains three chapters having 328 verses set in different metres. The subject matter of the work is based on the tenth skanda matter of the work is based on the tenth skanda (canto) of Srimad Bhagavatam, which itself is a fruit plucked from the tree of Vedas. In the first chapter the enchanting beauty of Lord Krsna is described vividly. The second chapter deals with the divine sport (lila) of the Lord in His childhood. The final chapter describes the transcendental glory of the Lord.
Sri S. N. Sastri, a sincere student of Sanskrit and an accomplished Vedantin has provided the translation for this magnificent outburst of supreme bhakti towards the Lord.
Krsnakarnamrtam is a lyrical masterpiece. It is unsurpassed by any other work in Sanskrit. The famous work of Jayadeva namely Gita Govinda comes only after this great nectar to the ear. This is a household poetry in South India. Till recently every musician used to sing a verse from this Karnamrtam at the gatherings. Such is the influencer this has in the public.
This work contains three cantos or adhyayas with 328 verses set in different metres. Though the whole poem is simply one wild passionate outpouring of the heart in general, we can still see a structure in the development of the thought of the author. In the first canto the superhuman and enchanting beauty of Lord Krsna is visible clearly. The second chapter (canto) deals with the lilas (Divine sports) in Gokula and Vrindavan. By going through this chapter one is totally enraptured by the lilas of the Lord in His childhood and the great teaching in the form of Bhagavad-gita and Uddhava-gita go to the back of the mind screen. Final adhyaya takes to the transcendental glory and superterrestrial nature of the Lord. Throughout the work the supreme prema bhakti rasa is dominant though here and there other rasas (emotions) too are seen. The subject matter of the work is clearly based on the tenth skanda of Srimad Bhagavata, which itself Bhagavata, which itself is a fruit plucked from the tree of Vedas and sweetened by the nectar of Sri Suka. A reading of this work will remind us of the great works or stotras of Sankara and Vedanta Desika. Still this Krsnakarnamrtam remains unparalleled in sweetness of diction and loftiness of thought. This is one magnificent outburst of supreme bhakti towards the Lord. There appears no effort in the search of words, construction of the verses, artificial shaping and so on. In fact even the childhood pranks and sports of the Lords too are not arranged in any set pattern. It is simply an outpouring. Each verse is a beautiful flower having the fragrance of the Divine. Each verse is a whole one and perfection in itself. Sometimes a combination of verses at random makes matchless perfection like a beautiful bouquet of flowers. As a whole the works is a fantastic garland of flowers offered to the divine Lord.
The popularity of the works can be due to the various factors but these are evident.
(i) The subject matter – The child sports of Lord Krsna. This will ravish the ears of everyone in our country;
(ii) The style of the author – The sweetness, melody, simplicity and purity unparalleled by any other works; and
(iii) The esoteric interpretation of Lord’s deeds.
All the three paths karma, bhakti and jnana find their way in the balalilas of the Lord as portrayed in this work. The author himself says as ‘Upanisadarthamulukhalenibaddham’ (the meaning of the Upanisads-the absolute Truth is seen tied in the mortar).
About the author we do not have much information both internal and external. There is no scope for the reference of any other author since the present author is totally immersed in the subject matter namely the Lord and his childhood actions. Carefully going through the work, we, however, get only the following information about the author.
(i) He was a Brahmana whose nitya karma is to bathe perform sandhya vandana, offer worship to the deities and offer oblations to the manes./ The author says that though he was bound to follow the same, he was unable to perform them as he was totally absorbed in the contemplation of the name of the name of Krsna (sandhyavandana bhadramastu bhavate…..2.106);
(ii) He is a saivaite by birth and was initiated into the great five-lettered mantra of Lord Siva. But Lord Krsna grabbed his mind and soul. ( Isana deva carana 1.110 and Saiva vayam na khalu tatra vicaraniyam 2.24) ;
(iii) He was a poor person and was maintained by small worldly patrons.(Matarnitah param 2.4).
(iv) His spiritual preceptor or Guru is one Somagiri. (Somagirirgurururme 1.1).
Apart from this we find a translation of this work in Telugu by one one Vengagrani who lived in the eleventh century. Only so much information is available about the author. Some commentators in their commentaries refer to the word Cintamani occurring in the very first verse to a courtesan by that name who advised the author who was deeply attached to her to turn that attachment towards the Lord as the she does not deserve such a boundless devotion This transformed him and he paid his respects to her is her book. But there appears no proof for the same.
Lord Krsna is a common subject matter in the works of many poets. Gita Govindam of Jayadeva, te great grammarian in Sanskrit, Krsna Lita Tarangini of Narayana Tirtha, soul stirring Hindi songs of Mirabai, Bengali songs on Lord Krsna, Srimad Bhagavata by Potana in Telugu, Dasapadams in Kannada, Tiruvimozhi of the Alwars in Tamil and so on. Many litanies of Sankara and Vedanta Desika could be added to this list. Each has its own appeal and beauty. But Krsnakarnamrtam excels in simplicity, sweetness, melody, passionate bhakti rasa, suggestion and so on.
Even in the literature of Karnamrtams we have Sivakarnamrtam, Ramakarnamrtam, Subramanyakarnamrtam and so on. But none can equal our present Krsnakarnamrtam. This really is ambrosia to the ear in all respects. The work has no match for the sublimity of thought and beauty of sentiments. Many verbal felicities like alliterations, assonances, rhyme, double entendre (slesa) beautify the work. It is full of figures of speech which make this a great kavya. The rasa-dhvani or emotional suggestiveness and adhyatmika-dhavani or spiritual suggestiveness excel in all of them. According to the author, the best way to forget the body consciousness is to get identified with the Divine by bhakti. Then Lord also will forget his Lordship which will lead to the advaitika Liberation. In verse starting with ‘Vikretukamakilagopakanya’ he says that a cowherd maid going out to sell curd, butter and so on, instead of cryting ‘here is butter, curd and so on,’ being totally absorbed in the Lord, started crying ‘Govinda, Damodara and Madhava’ In another verse he refers to the Lord too engrossed in the bhakti of Radha fastened a bull to milk instead of a cow. (2.25 Radhapunatu).
Though some of the lilas are found in the original text Srimad Bhagavata, we have beautiful episodes like the telling of story of Rama to Lord to make him sleep, giving butter dividing into two, asking Lord to drink milk before Balarama comes so that he can have a long braid, many conversation with gopis and Lord Krsna which are original and are beautiful. Totally this work is one to be pondered over by bhaktas throughout their life time. The work of the writer of the foreword is only to show the way or direction to enter and enjoy the various beauties in the work. Lilasuka the author of the work is ready to receive the reader and Sri Sastri, the translator, is the guide to explain the beauty of each piece. Let us all enjoy the great work bit by bit and attain the bliss.
Sri S.N. Sastri is a sincere student of Sanskrit, a dedicated Vedantin, an ardent bhakta, a great author and a gem of human being. His translation of Narayanniyam is a very fine piece of work for the seekers without the knowledge of Sanskrit. Here is another work perhaps equal or better than that. Even at the advanced age his passion for the language and bhakti remains commendable. May Lord Krsna shower his choicest blessings on him.
In the history of medieval stotra literature, Krsnakarnamrtam holds a high place. The author of this work is a saint by name Bilvamangala. He was popularly known as Lilasuka, because, like the great sage Suka, he revelled in singing about the excellences of Lord Krsna. This work is a remarkable collection of mystic lyrics of high devotional content on the theme of Lord Krsna. The ardent longing of the devotee-poet for a vision of his favourite deity comes out in ringing tones in the verses. The beauty of the work lies in the sound of the words, the alliteration, the rich vocabulary and the employment of so many different metres. It is a veritable feast for the ears and has been aptly named ‘karnamrtam’- nectar for the ears.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1533) is said to have discovered the Krsnakarnamrtam during his pilgrimage in South India and introduced it among his disciples. Caitanya is said to have been so impressed by its high devotional value that it became one of the mainsprings of his own religious experience. It exercised, along with Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, a great influence on the Bengal Vaisnava faith. Several commentaries came to be written on it by the Bengal Vaisnava sect, explaining its esoteric and religious significance. Of these commentaries, the Krsna Vallabha of Gopala Bhatta appears to have been the earliest. Other commentaries are:-
1. The Suvarnacasaka of Pappayallaya Suri.
2. Prapa of Sankara.
3. Suvarnapatri of Brahma Bhatta
4. Krsnanandaprakasini of unknown authorship.
5. Sravanallhadini of another Gopala Bhatta
The large number of commentaries on this work testify to the great prestige it enjoyed. This work abounds in alliteration, rhyme, double entendre, and so on.
Slokas 18, 50 to 52 in canto 1, sloka 91 in canto 2 contain admirable poetic felicities. Slokas 33, 87 to 90 of canto 2 contain charming examples of alliteration, assonance and rhyme.
Information regarding other works of Bilavamangala is very vague.
He lived in kerala during the thirteen century. Legend has it that in his youth, he was very much attached to Cintamani, a courtesan. A turning point came in his life when, one day, Cintamani teased him by saying that he would be better off by devoting to God a fraction of his attachment to her. From being a profligate, Bilvamangala turned an ardent devotee of Sri Krsna. He turned a sannyasi in later life.
In the very first sloka, there is a reference to Cintamani, his first Guru. A commentator says that though the reference is Krsna, the supreme Guru, who redeemed him from Cintamani, the hidden meaning is that Cintamani is acknowledged as the first Guru who turned him to God.
This work consists of three cantos, known as (adhyayas). The first canto has 110 slokas devoted to the description of the beauty of Krsna’s form. The name ‘Krsnakarnamrtam’ appears in the last sloka of the first canto with a prayer by the poet that this work should last for hundreds of kalpas. The slokas in this canto describe the incomparable beauty of Krsna’s form and the exquisite sweetness of the music that flows from his flute. At the same time, in sloka 1.92 the fact that Krsna is the supreme Being who has taken a human form of his own free will and is the refuge of the whole world is also brought out.
In the second canto, some of the slokas speak about the sportive deeds of krsna as a child. Sloka 2.8 describes the incident of Krsna as a collecting the clothes of the gopikas and climbing up a tree. Sloka 2.21 points out that Krsna is none other than the supreme Brahman who is the subject matter of the Upanisads. In sloka 2.24 the poet says that, though he belongs to a saivite lineage, his mind is always attracted towards Krsna. Rasakrida is described beautiful in sloka 2.35. His role as charioteer of Arjuna is refered to in slokas 2.46 and 2.47. His lifting of the Govardhana mountain is mentioned in sloka 2.53.The incident of Yasoda seeing the entire universe in his mouth is described in sloka 2.64.
In the third canto, the superterrestrial and divine transcendental glory and majesty of Krsna are brought out.
Bilvamangala’s flights of imagination take him to ecstatic heights. In one scene, a gopika who goes out to the street to sell milk and curd, goes about shouting ‘Govinda, Madhava, Damodara’ instead of her wares. Another gopika declares to Krsna: You have abandoned my hand and gone away. That is not a matter for wonder. If you can go away from my heart, I shall then acknowledge your manliness.’ Yet another indulges in Krsna in a chat when He comes knocking at her door wherein both use words of double meanings and the gopika emerges the winner!
It is hoped that this English translation will help those who do not have sufficient knowledge of Sanskrit to enjoy this great work in which are combined intense devotion and superb literary quality and which therefore deserves the name ‘stotra-kavya’.
Brahma Sutras (79)
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