The narrative of the Rasa-lila is the cream of the Milk Ocean of Vedic literature. The description of the love between Krsna and the cowherd girls of Vrindavan is unsurpassed because of the nature of their love and because the readers' minds are taken to a high level due to the pure context: bhakti. The esthetes are transported by the language and emotions in these five chapters related to the Rasa dance.
This set of five chapters from the tenth canto of Bhagavata Purana is called the Pancadhyayi. It is an epic poem celebrated as the most romantic text of Sanskrit literature. The Pancadhyayi illustrates the apex of Love of God in the two aspects of srngara-rasa (romantic love): separation and meeting. In short, this sublime text showcases the Sanskrit language in its finest form and hints at the nature of real love.
Sanskrit is the language of a culture that teaches how to be rasika. The Pancadhyayi is the cream of Sanskrit literature because it occasions the direct realization of Rasa in literature (aesthetic delight) and because it sheds light on the path of Rasa (mojo, magical vibe). The commentators selected here are skilled in frothing up the meanings and in bringing out the sweetness. In life, practicing bhakti is not always possible, whereas Rasa is already happening everywhere: It is a question of raising the standards. Sanskrit culture provides a framework for that, by classing the modes of existence in four categories: tamasika (ignorance and lethargy), rajasika (the mode of action / passion), sattvika (peacefulness and goodness), and paramarthika (mode of transcendence).
In that regard, relations between human beings take place either from the outlook of the ego or from the perspective of the soul. The nature of the soul is Rasa in the highest sense (bliss mixed with astonishment). The consciousness of the ego comprises the first three modes and is infused by the consciousness of the soul.' Therefore, Rasa is reflected to some degree on the screen of the mind and thus becomes degraded in nature, until we desire to experience Rasa in its pure form. Raising the standards of Rasa in day-to-day life means increasing the level of appropriateness, because Rasa depends on it, says Ananda-vardhana: anaucityad rte nanyad rasa-bhangasya karanam (Dhvany-aloka 3.14 vrtti), Reading first-class poetry is one of the best methods to realize the true nature of the soul. And the highest level of Rasa is bhakti-rasa, because God is Rasa: raso vai sah (Taittiriya Upanisad 2.7).
In Sanskrit texts prior to the Bhagavatam, the Play of the Rasa is briefly described in Hari-vamsa (2.20.18-35) and in Visnu Purana (5.13.14-62). In the Pancadhyayi, the Rasa dance is depicted in the fifth chapter (10.33). The first four chapters are the buildup to it. Thus, the Pancadhyayi contains both the apex of the vipralambha aspect (separation) of srngara-rasa and the climax of its other aspect, sambhoga (meeting). Not only that, the vipralambha and the sambhoga are eminenty described in alternate sequence.
In the heart of the five chapters of the Pancadhyayi is Gopi-gitam (the gopis' song), the nineteen verse sung by the cowherd girls of Vrindavan who felt the pang of separation from Krsna. Most scholars opine that this chapter (10.31) is the sweetest chapter of the Bhagavatam, by even exceeeding Venu-gitam (10.21) because of embellishments in terms of alliteration, meter, and double if not triple or quadruple meanings. The gopis' mood in Venu-gitam (the song of the flute) was purva-raga (love before ever meeting the lover), whereas in Gopi-gitam the mood is pravasa-vipralambha (separation after meeting). In the Pancadhyayi too, Krsna played the flute to attract the gopis. In that way, He lived up to His name: The verbal root krs means 'to attract'.
In addition, the Bhagavatam cleverly glorifies Sri: Radha with these words, without ever naming Her: anayaradhito nunam bhagavan harih, "For sure, Lord Hari was worshipped (aradhitah) by Her" (10.30.28), whereas the Visnu Purana expresses the same literal meaning, but without an implied sense: visnur abhyarcitas taya (5.13.35).
Sanskrit commentators use the term Rasa-lila (the entertainment called Rasa), but in the Bhagavatam, the words in this regard are rasa-krida (the Play of the Rasa) and rasotsava (the Rasa festival) (10.33.2-3).
Visvanatha Cakravarti derives the word rasa as follows: nrtya-gita-cumbanadinam rasanam samuho rasah, "The term rasa signifies a multitude of rasas such as dancing, singing, kissing, and embracing" (Sarartha-darsini 10.33.2). Usually the term rasa denotes the well-known rasas of poetry, such as srngara-rasa, but Visvanatha Kaviraja says that by the derivation rasyate iti rasah (what is relished is called rasa), a vyabhicari-bhava too, or an anubhava, etc., can be called rasa (aesthetic delight) if it is relished: rasyate iti rasa iti vyutpatti-yogad bhava-tad-abhasadayo 'pi grhyante (Sahitya-darpana 1.3). Kissing, dancing, and so on are anubhavas of srngara-rasa. Thus the Rasa is a multitude of rasas in that sense. Still, transient emotions (vyabhicari-bhavas) also occur. The word rasa is found neither in Hari-vamsa nor in Visnu Purana. Often times the word hallisaka is used as a synonym of the Rasa dance. Bhakti-siddhanta Sarasvati wrote:
In the book named Sangita-sara it is stated: "When a male dancer performs, being surrounded by a circle of many women dancers moving about, it is called a hallisaka. When a hallisaka dance is accompanied by various refined tales (tunes), dance steps, and gestures, it is called a rasa dance.'?
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