Sunday, August 16, 2009




Singapore August 14, 2009 Fri 10 :45 PM

Krishna Janamashtami ! The celebration for the day Lord Krishna was born. An auspicious day for us and one that is always spent in recreating Krishna’s life and singing the joy of his presence and birth. It is perhaps beyond coincidence that just a few days ago, Bhawana Somaaya, journalist and friend of several years, enquires about a book she had sent me to read as a draft. She has done this often during the making of some of her other book releases as well. She has felt, somewhat presumptuously, that I have sufficient qualification to give an opinion on her work and a knowledged guidance on its content. If only she knew !!

I ask for the book to be sent across to me and it arrives duly wrapped in aesthetic Indianess, into my hands. Its titled ‘Krishna, the God who lived as Man’. It is a transcreation of a book written originally by Kaajal Oza-Vaidya in Gujarati which was called Krishnaayan. The book has a predominance of the color blue in its folder, perhaps in keeping with Krishna’s own skin color and it smells good. There is something about a new book that instantly attracts you and invariably it is the smell coming from its freshly printed pages. Krishna, is all that and a little more. The impression on the cover page shows just the feet and toes of the Lord, almost stepping away from a footprint carelessly, by its side. There are some red flowers, a green leaf in offering over the feet and by the edge, a gentle glimpse of peacock feathers - perhaps dislodged from its position of eminence from the golden crown that has always adorned Krishna’s head. I turn the book around to the back. This is where invariably a paragraph from the book is displayed to attract the reader to it. This is what it reads ~

‘The river was in high tide and the footprints of the Yadavas were more or less washed away. Big waves came rushing to the shore and wiped away some more footprints …

Suddenly Rukmini discovered a familiar footprint and sat beside it .. Her eyes brimmed over with tears … These were the footprints her hair locks drooped over when she knelt at her Lord’s feet every morning .. These were the footprints she worshipped with chandan .. The foot prints of her Lord .. ofSri Krishna ..! They were deeply immersed in the sand. The impression engraved in the sand was filled with water.

Rukmini’s streaming tears were making an offering in the water-filled footprints.

Daruk arrived and stood beside her …

He looked startled. He could not believe how the footprints filled to the brim with water could contain Rukmini’s tears without spilling over. What was further surprising was that not a single tear had dropped out of the carved footprint ..

It was not just Krishna … even his footprints were accepting of everyone …’

I am enraptured and keen to see inside the covers and during the coming days I shall read intermittently this semi fictional offering. But for now the Author’s Note draws my attention. It is ironical she says that the Krishna she has always been looking for, she has discovered in this book. At best she would like to describe him as an awesome personality. Born some 20,000 years ago, and if that really happened, then she says he is the biggest miracle of life.

In Mahabharata, he is portrayed as a politician; in the Bhagawat, He is the Lord. In Gita he is the guru, the fountainhead of knowledge. His association with Draupadi so many centuries ago is an ideal example of man-woman friendship. With Rukmini his spouse, it was an equal reciprocation of love and respect; and with Radha, his attachment was so pure and intense that even today so many years later, we go beyond the society norms and revere ‘Radha Krishna’ as deities.

Undisputedly he was an overwhelming persona, but at the end of the day, an individual. Then why cannot we as ordinary mortals perceive and relate to him as a human being ?

The Translator’s Note wishes to discover the presence of the four extraordinary women in Krishna’s life, of the charismatic individual, of wholesome relationship coming with requisite baggage of pathos and pain, of love bringing enrichment and enlightenment, of how the involvement of our dear ones adds hues to our life and concluding, that it includes both the Supreme Entity and us ordinary mortals.

And as I pause to think over what has been expressed, I am taken back to my first and so far the only visit to Mathura, the birth place of Krishna. We had driven down from Delhi in our car, a navy blue Ambassador, yes the very same that still thrives within the avenues of Ministers and Governance, its shape and construct remaining the same through decades. We were, my parents perhaps a friend and I, either just out of School or just entered College. The images of the time and what we saw are now almost a blur. Its been almost 50 years. Thats a lifetime. Through the narrow streets and broken and abandoned structures we had moved, my Mother holding a prayer within her breath at every turn. The main temple which housed the magnetic idol of Krishna had thousands of devotees and visitors waiting in the large courtyard before it. It was still not the appropriate hour to see the Lord, a curtain drawn in front of Him to protect exposure.We had been briefed of stories that spoke of the powerful eyes of the deity and how the priests would never allow the Lord to be seen for too long by the people, there in prayer. Stories of how individuals drawn by the power of His eyes had renounced everything almost instantly and never returned back to their normal lives, had kept us in great wonderment and awe as we waited for the drapes to be parted. And when suddenly they were, a roar of reverence and prayer had gone up from the gathered multitudes. I remember catching a glimpse of Krishna’smurti that early afternoon and almost being mesmerized by His presence. Large, dynamic eyes, with that piercing stare kept appearing and disappearing from behind the curtain that the priests kept moving at rapid speed, giving it all, a most surreal feel. We moved away from there to several other spots within the sanctum and were finally taken to an enclosed area, which was described as Vrindavan, the garden or enclosed forest area, where Krishna still appeared in the late night for His Raas Leela with Radha and the Gopi’s. Every tree within this enclosed space bent downwards in a droop towards the ground, sublimating as it were, we were told, to the Godly presence. Most of the trees were dry and without much foliage on them, but one particular tree stood apart. It stood tall and high, had several green leaves on it, none of them looking very healthy, except one. One leaf on this entire tree flourished in its greenness. And it was as soft and smooth as the belly of the toosh up in the snow covered mountains of the Himalayas in Kashmir. And the legend goes that this was the leaf that Krishna wiped his butter laden hands on.

Further into the garden we were taken to a corner , where under a canopy hung a swing. It is believed that Krishna in the late hours of the night spends time here with His friends. No one is allowed into the premises after a certain hour; the gates being locked and those that have attempted to break this law have suffered greatly. The following morning when the garden is opened to visitors, flowers and petals have been found around the swing, giving ample confirmation of Krishna’s presence the night before.

As we drove away from this most incredible experience there was, for the most part, a silence amongst us. A silence, not because there was nothing to say, but because to say anything would have sounded like nothing.

Several fierce invasions by those that conquered and plundered India and this region, had resulted in the destruction of many temples and places of worship. As we went by them we could see merely the plinth of once majestic and massive structures. Structures that displayed exquisite carvings and murals. Scattered on the road, one found numerous pieces of stone carvings, left overs of the plunder that took place, and my Father stopping to pick a few small pieces lying in the wilderness without any life.

A broken face of a lion nestled among filigree work and a headless legless woman were two of the pieces that my father picked up from the waste lying around and brought them home. A day or two later I saw him decorating the two pieces on a small home made pedestal at the entrance to our main door. I thought it looked aesthetic and cultural and in keeping with fashion and design instruments in modern day home making, but I was terribly wrong. They were symbolic representations of one of WB Yeats’s poem - The Lion and the Virgin. My Father, as most know, did his PhD from Cambridge University in English Literature, his topic for the dissertation being, WB Yeats and Occultism.

Those two pieces have travelled to every house that my father moved to; always displayed at the entrance. They are with me still and elegantly greet every visitor at our Jalsa home.

Krishna, Mathura, Vrindaban, my Father and Yeats’ The Lion and the Virgin !

Without Krishna no form of art is complete,

To write about you is to worship the Divine.

With love and peace ..

Amitabh Bachchan

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