Vrindavan Mahimamrita is a must-read for anyone who aspires to reside in Vrindavan or anyone who wants to get a glimpse of the wonders of Vrindavan. Even for those not particularly devotionally minded, the author’s dedication and loyalty to Vrindavan and the fierceness of his determination to remain in Vrindavan, come what may will certainly prove inspirational even if it remains an enigma.
Vrindavan Today’s Founding Editor, Shri Jagadananda Prabhu has translated the first 100 verses of Vrindavan Mahimamrita, a Grantha that most scholars agree was written by Srila Prabhodananda Saraswati, a Telugu Brahmin from Srirangam of the Sri Sampradaya tradition, who was converted to the path of devotion to Radha Krishna by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
śrī-rādhā-muralī-manohara-padāmbhojaṁ sadā bhāvayan
śrī-caitanya-mahāprabhoḥ pada-rajaḥsv ātmānam evārpayan |
śrīmad-bhāgavatottamān guṇa-nidhīn atyādarād ānaman
śrī-vṛndāvana-divya-vaibhavam ahaṁ stotuṁ mudā prārabhe ||1.1||
Thinking constantly of the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna, who plays his enchanting flute,
offering my soul into the dust of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet,
and most respectfully bowing down to the virtuous great devotees of the Lord,
I take up the composition of this hymn in praise of the transcendental glories of Sri Vrindavan. (1.1)
Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta was written in the first half of the 16th century by Srila Prabodhananda Saraswatipada. This lengthy poem of more than 1700 verses is a celebration of Vrindavan like no other, and often describes it as almost paradise-like even in the real world of his time. Certainly reading it creates a desire, an aspiration, to both see the underlying archetypal reality and to recreate it in the “real” world.
It is my belief that the 17th śataka is the original one and was probably written before 1540, after the Caitanya-candrāmṛta and perhaps before Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, the rest being written afterwards. One of the reasons I consider it to be the first is that four of the seven verses which include direct references to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the VMA are found there: 17.1-3, 17.89. The other references to Chaitanya are in this verse (1.1), 2.95, and 4.29, which is repeated. The Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi circulated amongst the Radhavallabhis has no verses glorifying Shri Chaitanya, whereas that known to the Gaudiyas has extra verses at the beginning and the end dedicating the work to him.
sa jayati gaura-payodhir
yo rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhinā ||
May the Golden Lake be ever glorious, the one who has cooled the sky of my heart, which was burning from the summer heat of the Mayavada sun, with the ocean of nectar that is Rādhā-rasa [or, by revealing the verses of this book, Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi to me]. (RRSN 272)
Another prominent reason for believing that the last chapter of this book is really the first, is that it was circulated as an independent treatise called the Vṛndāvana-śataka, which was translated and published several times, the earliest of which appears to be the translation into Braj Bhasha by Bhagavanta Mudita in around 1650.
There are numerous verses in Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi that glorify Vrindavan, most notably the concluding portions (Verses 261-269), indicating that Prabodhananda’s attention was turning towards the Dham itself at that time and makes it most likely that VMA followed that work. On the other hand, Prabodhananda does not show much niṣṭhā for Radha or Vrindavan in Caitanya-candrāmṛta, so it may be assumed that he had not yet come to visit or stay there when he wrote that work. Nevertheless, there is one verse that highlights the relation of Chaitanya to his Vrindavan [and Radha] niṣṭhā.
premā nāmādbhutārthaḥ śravaṇa-patha-gataḥ kasya nāmnāṁ mahimnaḥ
ko vettā kasya vṛndāvana-vipina-mahā-mādhurīṣu praveśaḥ |
ko vā jānāti rādhāṁ parama-rasa-camatkāra-mādhurya-sīmām
ekaś caitanya-candraḥ parama-karuṇayā sarvam āviścakāra ||
Who’d have heard that the wonderful purpose of life is Prema?
Who would have known the glories of the names (of Krishna)?
Who would have been able to enter into the tremendous sweetness of the forests of Vrindavan?
And who would have known the extent of the amazing glories of the supreme rasa that is Radha?
Chaitanya alone revealed all these things by his supreme mercy. (CCA 130)
The name of Radha only appears 8 times in CCA, mostly to stress that Mahaprabhu is absorbed in Radha’s mood (128, 135), revealing Radha to the world (68, 88, 122, 123, 130), or being the combined form of Radha and Krishna (13, 109).
For the record, I am translating the other verses to Chaitanya from the VMA and we may refer to them again later. Beginning with the first three verses of the 17th century:
namas tasmai kasmaicid api puruṣāyādbhuta-mahā-
mahimne vibhrājat-kanaka-ruci-dhāmne sva-kṛpayā |
asaṅkocenaivāśvapacam akhilebhyaḥ svayam aho
dadau yaḥ sad-bhaktiṁ vimalatara-nānā-rasa-mayīm ||17.1||
I bow down to a Person of miraculous great glories
whose effulgence is glowing with pleasing golden light,
who out of compassion, himself gave pure devotion
in all its most flawless flavours of divine love
to all, even the outcastes, without any inhibition. (17.1)
yasmin na praviśen mano’pi mahatāṁ kā tatra vārtā punaḥ
śāstrāṇāṁ jñapitaṁ ca yad bhagavatā bhaṅgyaiva bhaktoddhave |
tad vṛndāvanam unmadena rasika-dvandvena kenāpy aho
nitya-krīḍatayā gṛhītam iha ke vidur na gaurāśrayāḥ ||17.2||
Who knew that Vrindavan into which the minds of even the greatest souls could not enter,
news of which was never revealed in any of the scriptures, and which the Lord spoke of only indirectly to the devotee Uddhava, and which was accepted by a couple of intoxicated Rasikas as their eternal playground other than those who have taken shelter of Gaura?
guṇaiḥ sarvair hīno’py aham akhila-jīvādhamatamo’py
aśeṣair doṣaiḥ svair api ca valito durmatir api |
prasādād yasyaivāvidam ahaha rādhāṁ vrajapateḥ
kumāraṁ śrī-vṛndāvanam api sa gauro mama gatiḥ ||17.3||
Though I am one without any virtues whatsoever,
though I am the lowest of living beings anywhere,
though I am adorned with unlimited flaws, all my own,
and though my intelligence is corrupt,
I have still come to know of Radha and the prince of Braja
and the holy Dham of Vrindavan.
By the grace of Gauranga alone, that Gaura is my refuge.
Looking at these three verses closely – and noting the similarity of 17.2 to CCA 130 quoted just above, it would support, it seems, the idea that this Vṛndāvana-śataka followed after CCA. The Mangalacharana to the VMA, however, seems to indicate that his was a new and separate treatise.
hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇeti kṛṣṇeti mukhyān
kadābhyasya vṛndāvane syāṁ kṛtārthaḥ ||17.89||
When will I perfect my life in Vrindavan by practising the chanting of Hare Krishna,
the most glorious and perfect mantra consisting of Krishna’s most prominent names,
which was sung by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,
the embodiment of compassion?
Here are the verses from the other śatakas:
śrī-rādhā-kṛṣṇayos tattvam |
nija-tattvaṁ ca sadā smara
yat prakaṭitam asti gauracandreṇa ||2.95||
Always remember the tattva of Shri Vrindavan,
the tattvas of Shri Shri Radha and Krishna
and the tattva of your own svarūpa —
all of which was revealed by Shri Gaurachandra.
dūre caitanya-caraṇāḥ kalir āvirabhūn mahān |
kṛṣṇa-premā kathaṁ prāpyo vinā vṛndāvane ratim ||4.29||
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has disappeared and the powerful forces of Kali have manifested
How will anyone get Krishna Prema now without developing love for Vrindavan?