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Manipuri Nata Sankritana Mahajyaga
Book : 'Nata Sankritana' by Sanakhya Ibotombi Haorokcham

Yumnam Suren Wangkhei *

   'Nupa Pala' - Nat Sankirtan Wallpaper
'Nupa Pala' - Nat Sankirtan Wallpaper :: Pix - Banti Phurailatpam



A passage from the Manipur book 'Nata Sankritana' by Sanakhya Ibotombi Haorokcham and published by the Gulapi Nata Sankritana Academy

Ashtakal leela kritan

Shri Roop Goswami in his book named 'Vraja Leela Smaran Mangal Stotra' depicted Shri Govinda's playing of Nitya Leela with Vrajanganas (ladies of Vraja Vrindavan) eight time a day (for the purpose a day is divided into eight parts known as Ashtakal ) everyday, and in his book title 'Gouranga Mahaprabhu Nabadwip Leela Smaran Stotra ' he made Gouranga to replay Godinila's Nitya Leela in Nabadwip and the devotees of Gouriya Vaisnavism used to memorise the lines of his book of odes as the best means of performing Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana.

Basing on Shri Roop Goswami's terse Mangal strot as (Blissful odes), Vaisnav Bhakas (devotees) like, Shri Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami and Jadunanda Das etc. rewrote Ashtakal Vraja Leelas and they were memorised and sung as kirtan by devotees. Thus, the performing of Kirtan of Nabadwip Leela and Vraja Leela simultaneously eight times a day has been known as Ashtakal Leela Kirtan in Nata Sankirtan tradition.

The time from sunrise to sunset was divided into four parts as Prata, Purvahna, Madhyahna and Aparahna and similarly the time from sunset to the next sunrise was divided into four parts as Sayang, Pradosh, Nakta (Ratri) and Nishanta and they together formed the eight parts/divisions of a day. By dividing the whole daytime into five parts, the first three parts consisted of Prata and Purvahna, and the remaining two parts made Madhyahna.

Likewise, the whole night-time was divided into five parts and the first three made Sayang and Pradosh and the remaining two formed Nakta (Ratri). Since there were variations in the lengths of day and night and difference of the time 7 sunrise and sunset for every day, consultation of the Panjika(almanac) was needed to define the exact times of Ashtakal.

The times of Suryadaya (sunrise) and Suryanta (sunset) of different places for everyday are given by the O'clock in the Panjika. By looking at the two times, the lengths of Divaman (daytime) and Nishaman (night time) can be found and times of the smaller divisions of time i.e. Prapta, Purvahma, Aparahna etc. of day time and Sayang, Pradosh and Nishant of the night time can be determined.

The Nabadwip Leela of Nishant (late night) in penned in Shri Roop Goswami's Nabadwip Smaran Mangal Statro as Gouranga holding a congregation with his follower at the house of Shrivas spending the night there and when all his men were awakened from the night's sleep by the din and bustle at dawn they saw Gouranga drenched with the tears shedding from his eyes while he remained plunged in the thought of Radha's lying by the side of Shri Hari, and this situation and behaviour of Gouranga depicted by Roop Goswami is sung by devotees as bhajan when they worship him.

A similar scene is depicted in Shri Roop Goswami's 'Vraja Leela Smaran Stotra' of the scene of Vraja Leela at night where in the Sakhis spent the whole night with Shri Krishna, and Vrinda Devi being afraid to know that dawn was setting in, agitated the birds to create a big noise, and all the sakhis were happy for spending the night with Krishna, but though they were joyous at their hearts they were frightened by the shrill shriek of Kakkhati, the female monkey and they ran to their homes, and only Radha and Krishna remained asleep in the sajya (floral bed) and devotees sing this depiction in their bhajan where worshipping Krishna.

In 'Nabadwip Leela Smaram Stotra' Prata Leela is depicted as Gouranga going with his followers to take Bath in the rivers offering Ganga Puja, putting chandan mark on his forehead and changing new cloth after returning from the bath, worshipping Lord Vishnu, dining together with his follower and enjoying a short siesta after food. This description is sung in bhajan devotees in their Gouranga worship at the hour of Prata.

Similarly, in the case of Vraja Leela, the situation is that Radhaji, at the behest of Yashoda Rani, comes to Nandalay and cooks food with her Sakhis and in the meanwhile Krishna milked the cows in the early morning and after taking bath he eats with his friends the meal prepared by Radha, and the story in used in bhajan by devotee in worshipping Radha-Krishna at the hour i.e. Pratakal.

Nabadwip Leela at Purvahna time is described in 'Smaran Mangal Stotra' as Gouranga recalling Shri Hari's going to the woods with his friends to tend a herd of cows and his (Gouranga) regarding of his friends and followers equally as the erstwhile Vraja Gapas of Shri Krishna, being swayed by his imagination, and devotees do remember this situation of Gouranga when they worship him for their Purvahna prayer.

On the other hand, in Vraja Leela, Shri Krishna with his friends went to tend cows is Purvahna time, remained waiting for Radha by the side of a pond (Kunda) with a burning desire to meet her, and Rodha after returning home from Nandalaya sent news to Krishna thought a friend of her about her going for Surya Puja and awaited anxiously for the return of her friend at her home, and Vaisnava devotees remember this incident when they worship Radha-Krishna for their Purvahna prayer.

It is described in 'Nabadwip Leela Smaran Stotra' that Gouranga mused on the various love-plays Shri Krishna performed with Radha and other sakhis in Madhyahma hours and he was enthralled and struck with thrill and he expressed them all to his adherents in emotionally quivered voice, and vaisnava devotees remember him in that disposition when they perform their Modhyahna prayer.

In 'Vraja Leela Smaran Mangal Stotra' these event occurred during Madhyahna time i.e. erotic feelings that came to Krishna, Radha and Sakhis when they met together in the bower, the great yearning for their lord Krishna, behaviours and expressions of beautiful Radha, witticism and repartees of Lalita and other Sakhis, Jalkeli Play, Aranya (forest),Vanshi Haram (stealing of the flute), Rati (libidinous acts), Madhupan (alcohol drinking). Surya Puja (sun Worshipping), and Krishna devotees perform their Madhyahna prayers keeping these in their minds.

In Nabadwip Leela Smaran Mangal Strota it is described that when Gouranga visualized the lord of Vraja with his friend returning home in the evening through the dense forest after tending cows, he was in ecstasies and ran crazily around in joy painting and fell unconscious at last; and this state of lord Gouranga is remembered by his devotee in their Aparahma prayers.

On the other hand, with reference to Vraja Leela, it is described that Radha, after finishing house hold chores went up to the cornice and awaited for seeing Krishna face to face when he returned from the pasture; and on Krishna's homeward journey he was exceeding by happy to see Radha in wait for him, and after reaching home he had a happy re-union with his parents. This scene is kept in the devotee's minds when they do their Aparahma prayers.

'Nabadwip Leela Smaran Mangal Stotra' portrays Gouranga's remembering with his adherents Krishna's having his supper after taking a bath and Vaishnava devotees remember this in their Sayang prayer. On the other hand, in Vraja Leela, it is so depicted that Shri Radha Rani sent sweet-meats to Krishna through a friend of her and the sakhi on errand returned with the food remnants and it was partaken with Radha; and Krishna devotees remember this in their Sayang prayers.

'Nabadwip Leela Smaran Mangal Stotra' portrays the thrill and excitement that surged up in Gouranga's heart and his wandering dancing lachrymose with rapture when he recalled the irresistible desire of meeting each other that came to Radha and Krishna both and their going to the bower for a tryst at the late hours of night (Pradosh). This scene is remembered by Bhaktas (devotees) in their Pradosh prayer.

Similarly in the Vraja Leela, Shri Radha wearing white or black dresses corresponding to the waxing or waning time of the moon, acting on the information given by Vrinda Devi, went with her sakhis for a tryst (Adhivas) with Shri Krishna, again on the other side, Shri Krishna after spending time happily with his friend after spending time happily with his friends (Gopas) and after having lulled to sleep by Jashoda at Nandalay, sneaked out of home and stealthily went to the bower to meet Radhika; and this happy incident is remembered by Krishna Bhakti as in their Pradosh Prayer.

In Nabadwip Nakta (Ratri) Leela, Shri Gouranga is picturised as dancing in the midst of his followers, all putting on namavalis ( a piece of cloth like a dupatta on which Harinam is printed across their shoulders, at the residence of Shrivas, in a thrilled mood and shedding tears always and dancing to exhaustion and reposing in Suratnavilla in the moon lit night after eating some fruits as his night-meal and being attended on by his bhaktas (followers). This son of Sachi is remembered in the form by Gouriya Vaisnavs in their Nakta prayer.

Again, in 'Vraja Leela Smaram Mangal Stotra' the portrayal is that in Nakta, Vrinda Devi and other sakhis astutely arranged the meeting of Radha-Krishna, the two passionate lovers, the duo performed love-plays in Nikunja (bower) with music, singing, dancing, hilarity, exchanges of jokes, inebriation etc. and on completion of the love-play the attendants (Sakhis) offer paan (betel rolls), greetings with flowers- vermilion burned joss-stick and their services to the couple, and the sakhis returned to their own bowers leaving the two lovers to sleep on the floral bed; and Krishna devotees cherish the scene at their Nakta (Ratri) prayer.

Basing mainly on Shri Roop Goswami's two statras of Nabadwip Leela and Vraja Leela, abiding strictly by the rules and codes of Niti Leelas, composing and inserting other beautiful types of leelas and by adapting from Padavatis of various Vaisnav poets we have been performing Ashtakal Leela Kirtans as a tradition of Nata Sankirtan. But, Asthakal Leela Kirtan has been remaining dissociate from the four religious festivals i.e. Shri Krishna Janma Nanda utsave of the next day , Radha Vanma and Vrisha Bhanu utsave of the following day.

Again, during the twenty six day in all, from the day of Shri Panchami to the full-moon day and from the first day of Lamda month (Falgun) to the full-moon day of the month, the kirtan of Gocharan Leela and Surya Puja Leela are abstained. So, devotees take the performing of and listening to Ashtakal Leela Kirtan as the best means of attaining Kam Roopa Raganuga Bhakti Sadhan in the way of Shri Krishna Bhakti Sadhan.


* Yumnam Suren Wangkhei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on October 03 2021.



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