The practice of Shri Krishna devotion in Sankirtan
Book : 'Nata Sankritana' by Sanakhya Ibotombi Haorokcham
- Part 1 -

Yumnam Suren Wangkhei *

  Basanta Ras : performed by Lianda Folk and Classical Academy's Students  at JNMDA :: 12 Oct 2014
Basanta Ras : performed by Lianda Folk Students at JNMDA in Oct 2014 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

A passage from the Manipuri book 'NATA SANKRITAN' by Sanakshya Ibotombi Haorokcham and published by The Guru Gulapi Nata Sankritana Academy

"Anyabhilashilashunyang Gyanakarmalyanavritam
Aanukulyenkrishnanushilanang Bhaktiruttama"

The above is the eleventh sloka of PurvaVibhag Pratham Lahari of the book named Bhakti Rasamritasindhu, and it means that one who having no desire for anything and side-tracking knowledge and activities (Gyana and karma) etc. is thinking of Shri Krishna only is the greatest devotee. Therein, Shrikrishna Bhakti (devotion to Shri Krishna) is divided into three stages i.e Sadhan Bhakti (practice of devotion), Bhav Bhakti (devotion in idea thought ) and Prem Bhakti (devotion with love).

When Sadhan Bhakti is pursued ceaselessly Bhav Bhakti Status will be achieved, and proceeding further without stop the stage of Prem Bhakti will be attained definitely, it is said prem Bhakti (devotion with love) which is the acme of the devotion of Lord Krishna, as said by super Krishna devotees like Bhishma, Prahlad, Dhruv etc. is the devotion pursuing by a devotiee with the foremost idea of taking Shri Krishna as his/her own and the devotion known asRagatmik Bhakti which was prevailing the minds of Vraja Gopas and Gopis (resident of Vraja Vrindavan) is a good form of Prem Bhakti.

The Vraja-vasis Prem Bhakti which is known as Ragatmik Bhakti for having a strong and unflinching desire of attaining Shri Krishna is divided into two types as Sambandh Roopa and Kam Roopa. Taking of their Lord as their child, relative, friend, master and servant relation is called Sambadha Roopa and the thinking of their Lord adoring in their mind & as their beloved husband and having close physical relation is known as Kam Roopa.

To try to worship Shri Krishna reaching this stage of Prem Bhakti is by no means an easy and simple effort. Under Veidhi Bhakti Marg the new entrant has to adhere to the rules prescribed by the Veda, such as, approaching a guru (religions guide/teacher), taking Diksha (initiation by the Guru), Guru Seva (serving the guru), refraining from forbidden food and drink etc. and a list of sixty four items of dos and dont's in all, are put before him to be performed physically and ceaselessly.

Among the sixty four items required under Veidhi Bhakti Sadhana the five items i.e. Krishna Priti (love of Krishna ), Bhagyavata Paath (reading of Bhagavata), Sadhu Sanga (mixing with virtuous men), Sankirtan (hymnals) and Vraja Vrindavan Vas (residing at Vraja Vrindavan) are taken as very powerful and conducive to attainment of Shri Roop Goswami Pada in his book Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, Purvavibhag, Dwitiya Lahari and 238th sloka which runs as-
"Durvhadbhu Tbiryehasmin Shradhadurehastu Panchake Yatra Swalpohapi Sambandha Sandhiyang Bhabjanmane"

It is pointed out that 'Anuraga Bhakti Sadhan is another form (way) of Sadhan Bhakti which an advanced devotee/worshipper (Sidha Deha) should undergo. In the practice system known as Antaranga Seva, the devout Vaisnavite selects one from among the Vraja Gopa- Gopi (Krisna's associates) and make him/her his guru (preceptor/guide) and through the guru he tries to experience Ragatmik Bhakti (Prem Bhakti) which in the heart of the guru (Gopi).

Since it is not simple external physical activities of the devout as is done in Veidhi Bhakti Sadhan, to the beginner devout who is not well trained in Veidhi Bhakti Sadhan and has a little knowledge of Shri Krishna's Vraja Leelas, it will be very difficult for him.

So the devout, before undergoing Anuraga Bhakti Sadhan, he besides knowing Shri Krishna Vraja Leelas well must also know well about the 'Guru Rupa Vraja Gopi' (Krishna's associate who is assumed to be his guru) from his guru (preceptor) who initiated him into Veidhi Bhakti Sadhan. Otherwise, how could the devout participate in Shri Krishna's Vraja Leelas and enjoy them.

As Ragatmik Bhakti (Prem Bhakti) is divided into two types as Sambandha Roop and Kama Roop, Anurag Bhakti Sadhan also has its Sambandha Roop and Kama Roop types. Purva Vibhag, Duritiya Lahari and 95th sloka of 'Bhakti Rasamritu Sindhu' state that in undergoing Anurag Bhakti Sadhan the practicing devotees (in the stages of Sadhak Roop and Sidhak Roop both) should fully absorb their minds in Vraja Gopis and consider themselves as Vrajavasis (citizens of Vraja Vrindavan) really, The relevant sloka is-"Seva Sadhak Roopena Siddhiroopena Chatrahi Tadbhavalipsuna Karya Vrajalokanusarata"

In order to go along the path of Shri Krishna Bhakti Sadhan (pursuance of Krishna devotion), as of tradition, in Nata Sankritana the devotees take refuge in Shrimat Gouranga Mahaprabhu first of all. For this purpose, at the stage of starting Sankrinata Raga (Prelude to Sankirtan), Shri Krishna Cheitanya Mahaprobhu is invoked with worship and adoration to him and after the stage of singing Raga is finished, the sequence of 'Gourachandrika' and 'Gouranga Bhavi' are taken up, and proceeding on it comes to the singing of 'Bhavavesh of Shri Mahaprabhu' (emotional exuberance of Mahaprabhu) and at this point the kirtan is sung by inserting Shri Krishna's Vraja Leelas in various ways.

All Vaisnava devotees who desire to follow the Krishna's Bhakti Sadhana as Shri Mahaprabhu actually and clearly shown to the world, are used to approach him first all. So, the placing of the songs of 'Gourachandrika', 'Gourange Bhavi' etc. before all Vraja Leela Ras Kirtan has been coustomary to Gowriya Vaisnavas from long ago.

Gourachandrika which is known as Nabadwip Leela also, is a kind of kirtan describing the life and activities of Shri Krishna Cheitanya Mahaprabhu and it denotes a combination of various kirtana. As it is considered analogous to the first rate 'Madhur Raskritans' related to Shri Krishna's Vraja Leelas and which is also known as 'Ujaola Ras'(brilliant taste),when a Gourchandrika has been sung the listener easily know before hand about the particular episode of Vraja Leela to be following next.

In this connection, Vaisnava scholors, in the book called Gouranganoddesh Dipika had already drawn a similarity between a Vaisnav Mahanta or Goswami (a Vaisnava religious head or a saint ) and a chief leading Sakhi in the Vraja Leela, one by one. All Gouriya Vaisnavs firmly believe that Shri Krishna along with the principal Sakhis of Vrindavan incarnated as Gaurachandra Mahaprabhau and the Mahantas and Goswamis in Nabadwip and performed the previous leelas i.e the Vraja Leela again in Nabadwip.

Gourangabhavi is a word denoting the state of mind of Shri Krishna Cheitanya when he remained absolutely absorbed in the thought of Vraja Leela unconnected with the surroundings and it is used in the singing Guna Kirtan to describe Gouranga's appearance and behaviour.

The word serves as the dividing line between Nabadwip Leela and Vraja Leela, as well as it brings affinity between the two leelas in Kirtan. The episode of the Vraja Leelas as existing in Gourachandra's mind in his Bhavavesh is expressed first in the singing of Gouranga Bhavi's song and the actual relevant story of the Vraja Leela is then sung in detail in the kritan.

In order to facilitate the pursuance of Shri Krishna Bhakti, Nata Sankirtana tradition divides the various 'Shri Krishna Vraja Leela Ras' as Niti Leelas, Astakal Leelas and Neimitik Leelas pertaining to Shri Hari Parvadin (festivals of Shri Hari falling on fixed days of a year) and kritans are performed accordingly.

Over and above these there are Guna Kirtans such as Manshiksha, Lalsa, Chali Prarthana, Aaratrik and many kinds of Nam Kirtans. When performing a Vraja Leela Ras Kirtan it is unavoidately concluded by a Guna Kirtan as a rule. Niti Leela Kirtan (the paean of Radha Krishna daily love-plays in Vraja i.e. Vrindavan)

Vraja Leela Kirtan is differently classified in the book 'Ujwal Ras Kavya' (Poetry of brilliant tastes) according to the different days (name of the week-days) and 'tithis' (lunar days) of their occurence, the place of the Vraja Leela, the nayika (heroine) and the raga-ragini (lunes and sub-tunes) of the songs etc. and by taking them all together it is known as Niti Leela Kirtan simply. These Kirtans of Niti Leela are mainly based on the sixty four norms and rule of Ujwal Ras Kavya which is generally known as 'Chon Swasthi Rasa' (sixty four tastes).

To be continued.....

* Yumnam Suren Wangkhei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on October 14 2021.

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