Krishna cult in north India

(With special reference to Surdas and Meera) 

Krishna has been a very important hero or deity in Indian mythology. Even though in the Vedic period Krishna worship does not exist, the later Vedic period like Upanishads etc does not give much reference about him as a strong deity but in the age of Puranas it started taking shape as independent deity and hero In Vedas the Vishnu hymns are quite powerful but his nine modes (Nav-Avatara) got independent identification at the time puranas. Later on two grate epics Mahabharata and Ramayana glorified Vishnus two modes namely Krishana and Rama. Irony about these two correctors is that they show two faces of a singular ideology. These both correctors lived in the heart of common man for such a long time that in due course they them self became superior to all deities including the Vishnu whom they belong to.
Now when we see the Krishna, we find multiple correctors in one form. He is a good teacher, a good friend, a good fighter, a lover, and a kindhearted deity but very clever politician, a naughty child grown-up as a loving playboy. Compare to him another important deity Ram was a complete ideal model for society as a polite, brave and disciplined son, grate fighter and king and ideal king for society. Both heroes got their models from two great epics. Later literature had taken main correctors and modify in their own manner. Strangely ideal image of Shree Ram remain same as it was in Ramayana epic except Tulasidas’s Ramcharit manas where childhood of Ram is explained in human nature, but Krishna ‘s multiple corrector became more multiple. A number of literary experiments were done on this great hero. Somewhere he is described as Supreme God as by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and great teacher as in Geeta , sometimes he is described as great lover as by Jaydeva and Meerabai. The poetic eyesight of Krishna bhakta poets like Surdas and Raskhan has seen the Krishna as natural common man who is a sweet child, handsome lover and kind God and who can always remain in reach of common man. May be this is the cause Krishna became the darling deity of every household and became the subject of more and more poetry.
When we talk about Krishna cult in north of India he is still alive in the religion and literature as well. But there was a period when devotion was mainstream in literature. May be this was too difficult period politically and socially so devotion became the ultimate shelter for common man. Naturally when common man handles the bigger thing, he tries to maintain level. Religiously different branches came out from mainstream. They had different way of devotion. Chanting the name satisfied some of them, some were interested in forgetting themselves in trance and some believed in karmakand. Same time some of them imagine their god so close that He became part of their soul. Surdas, meera, raidas, Rasakhan can come in this category. Among these poets one thing was common that they all worshiped Krishna even though their approach was different. Meera has seen krishna as lover and husband, Raidas had devotional view and Surdas has seen him as a naughty child, as a playboy, lover like a boy of neighborhood. They have learned the Krishna devotion from Bhagvat but their Krishna was very much different from Bhagvat. For them Krishna was more human in nature.

If we talk about whole north cult, the subject will be very vast; it will be difficult to focus on the topic positively. That is why I will emphasis on two great poets from Hindi belt, who have not only contribute for manner of krishna devotion but also given a new dimension to poetry. These are – Surdas and Meera bai. These both poets belong to bhakti moment. Their time was also almost same. They belong to 15 century Surdas time is mentioned as 1478 ac to 1581 ac. and Meera bai lived between 1498 ac to 1546 ac. As we know the time of Krishna gatha of Cherusheri also stands almost same time, may be little earliar (1446-1475)
Surdas was a blind devotee of lord Krishna. There are a number of legends for his blindness. Somewhere he is mentioned blind from birth but some argue that how could he give so powerful expressions of Krishna’s childhood if he was blind from childhood? There is no doubt that Surdas added one more Rasa namely Vatsalya Rasa in Indian poetry by celebrating the childhood of Krishna. What Kalidas could not, Surdas has achieved. Surdas’s krishana was a normal as well as a very special child. His behavior was as normal as any child’s could be. Same time Surdas expressions are so much down to earth and natural that every common man can feel closeness to god. As in normal families child’s every moment becomes the source of calibrations like sleep, wakening up of the child, his first walk, his eating habits etc. Including these nomal behavior expressions he is able to give damnations to poetry also. For Example when child sleeps for a long mother Jasoda awakening him-( jago mohan pyare jago)

Awake, Krishna
Awake the lotus-petals
Open the water lilies droop
The bumblebees have left
The creepers cocks crow,
And birds chirp on the trees.
The cows are in the byre lowing;
They run after their calves
The moon fads before the sun
Men and women arise
And joyfully sing their songs
Krishna, of hands lotous-like awake,
For the day is about to dawn.

In this poem one place we can see the love and affection of Yashoda. How gently she is waking up her child, same time the nature beauty is giving a traditional poetic image. As we find in cherushsheri poetry also narration of seasons is described while relating krishna’s childhood.

Them came the season of rains
As infant Krishna,
Adored by sea-born Lakshmi
Embellished the world
Like a radiant jewel.
The clouds shone dark-blue
Rivaling the blue-bodied god.
Their rumblings filled the sky
The sea was adorned with
Rain clouds, and so was the sky.

No doubt that as a poetic beauty later expression is very powerful. It has Kavya Shastra beauty of epics. But poetic beauty has overpowered the innocence of infant, where in the Surdas’s poetry Krishna’s tenderness remain very much intact, every movement in nature is as soft as child for example -waking up, opening of water lily, chirping of birds fading of moon etc. and every expression is related to little krishna. Same way when surdas’s Yashoda lulling Hari to sleep saying-
My darling is sleepy
Why does not sleep come along?
Come sleep, come quickly
Like a naughty child Hari closes his eyes. Thinking he is fallen asleep Yashoda stops her singing. Then Hari suddenly awakes, as likes the singing of mother.
Surdas’s krishnas every development is natural. Yashoda has to teach hari to walk. What a irony. The lord of universe is learning to walk. He is stretches his hands hesitantly. And a put a foot forwards. This makes mother so happy that she calls neighboring gopas to show them. When kanha learn to walk two steps at a time, Yashodas desire is fulfilled. His anklets sing Runak- ghunak, which make more happy to mother, hari sits after two steps but it does not reduce yashoda’s joy. When Krishna begin speaking, mother Yashoda and father Nand are delighted and so is the poet-

Mohan’s begun to say ‘Maiya Maiya’
And ‘Baba Baba “ to Nanda,
Balram he is calling “Bhaiya”
From atop the house Yashoda shouts
Taking the name of Kanhaiya.
Don’t go far to play my darling
Someone’s cow will hit you
The gopas and gopis celebrate boisterously
In each house there is festivity
Surdas for a glimpse of the Lord
My all is surrendered to the Almighty.

How the child’s first speech becomes the cause of celebrations for whole village and how mother yashoda is worried that some cow should not hit the son. These expressions are extremely human. When devotee sings this song, he feels god very near to him. Other place child Krishna complains about his older brother. –

O mother mine, Dau forever teases me.
You never gave birth to me
And I was bought in the market.
This what he tells me.
Fed up of his teasing ways
I do not go out to play
Who is your mother?
And who is your father?
Again and again he says
Yashoda is fair, so also Nands,
How come you are so dark?
Dau provokes, the gopas laugh,
And all have such a lark.
Me, mother you want to beat,
But Dau you never even scold,
Seeing the anger on Mohan’s face
Yashoda’s joy was untold,
Listen kanha, Balbhadra is naughty,
Wicked from his birth,
You’re my son, and I your mother,
I swear by mother cows worth!

Teasing among siblings is very natural phenomenon. But Krishna as complaing boy, who will not like him? Thus surdas’s kanha make place in heart of every common child.
Little kanha crys to take moon he says-“ mother , the moon I want as my toy, I will roll on the floor, not come to your lap” mother’s cleverly replies that I will give you a brand new bride who looks like moon, thus little kanha compromise with mother. Drinking milk was a problem to hari even. He liked butter but not milk. So Yashoda like other mother make him drink milk saying that milk will help in growing the hair-braid. Little Krishna believes his mother and drink milk but complains-( Maiyya kabahu badhegi choti? Kiti bar mohe dhoodh pilayo abahu he choti ki choti)

Mother, when will my hair-braid grow?
Milk you said will make it grow,
But still it remains so short.
Mother, when will my hair-braid grow?
You said like Bal it would be strong,
His braid has grown fat and long
Combing, braiding, bathing, drying,
To the ground like a serpent writhing
For me you say milk is better
Never delicious bread and butter,
Sur, long live the two brothers,
The twosome of hari and haldhar.

Thus Surdas’s imagination has given a new dimension to Hindi belt poetry. It comprises a new Ras-Vatslya rasa in hindi potry. That may be called a big achievement in poetic literature. It has its impact on religion also. Few sumprdaya of religion grew from this approach. Krishna became more darling to common man.

Surdas’s poerty is not limited up to “Vatslya Rasa” he has written including all nav-rasa. He has done new experiment to Shringar rasa. His Krishna is young boy in gokul. So his love with radha is also have boyish colour. They meet; they talk and tease each other. The adolescence love is not much common in traditional Shringar –rasa. These love songs are different than Geetagovind style shringar rasa, but they leave very tender feeling. When Krishna approaches to radha he ask-

Krishana asked, O fair beauty, who are you?
Where do you live? Whose daughter are you?
I never yet saw you in the lanes of Braj!
Radha replied, what need have I to come this way?
I keep playing by my door.
But I hear that some son of Nanda
Is in habit of stealing butter and curds’’

Krishna said, Look, why should I appropriate
Any thing that’s yours? Come let’s play together’.

Dus did Radha and Krishna feel in their hearts the transports of first love. Their eyes spoke to each other the language of deep love and there were no need of words.
Surdas him self was so great devote of lord Krishna that he appreciate every deed fulfilled by God by ages ,and he is able to say that

Lord is the slave
Of his devotees
Age after age.
The tongue can’t relates
His countless deeds.

Says Surdasa, the purana and Vedas
Are witness to these.