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  • Krishna Roamed the Forest
  • Translated by Andrew Schelling (bio)

viharati vane rādhā sādhāraṇapraṇaye harau        vigalitanijotkarṣād īrṣyāvaśena gatānyataḥ    kvacid api latākuñje guñjanmadhuvratamaṇḍalī-        mukharaśikhare līnā dīnāpy uvāca rahaḥ sakhīm

  • viharati. (loc. abs.) while wandering

  • vane. in the forest

  • rādhā. Radha

  • sādhāraṇa. around, everywhere

  • praṇaye. showing or making love

  • harau. (loc. abs.) Hari or Krishna

  • vigalita. loosened

  • nija-utkarṣāt. her hold (on him)

  • īrṣya-āvaśena. overcome with envy

  • gata-anyataḥ. went elsewhere

  • kvacid. wherever

  • api. indeed

  • latākuñje. in the vine-grove

  • guñjan. humming, buzzing

  • madhu-vrata. honeybees

  • maṇḍalī. circling

  • mukhara. noisily

  • śikhare. above, overhead

  • līnā. (adj. with Radha) absorbed

  • dīnā. miserable, wretched

  • api. surely

  • uvāca. she spoke, confided

  • rahaḥ. the secret

  • sakhīm. to (her) friend [End Page 106]

Krishna roamed the foresttaking the cowherdesses one afteranother for love.Radha’s hold slackened,jealousy drove her far off.But over each refugein the vine-draped thicketsswarmed a loud circle of bees.Miserableshe confided the secretto her friend—

The Gīta-Govinda contains twenty-four songs, each set in three-line stanzas, meant by Jayadeva to be sung, as well as danced by his wife, Padmāvatī. The model evidently came from folk traditions. Binding the songs into a single story are narrative poems, composed not as song but in kāvya (art-poetry style). Great leaps in the narrative—blanks or gaps—allow for shifts in scene and the altered perspective of principal characters. Barbara Miller, the heroic scholar who dedicated years of travel and research to compiling the best edition of the Gīta-Govinda, points out that the principal point of view throughout is Radha’s. In metaphysical terms, one would say the point of view is the human spirit’s.

Notice how the natural orders—a kuñja (thicket) draped in vines; noisy honey-gatherers—conspire in Radha’s condition, līnā dīnā (absorbed, miserable). The rahaḥ (secret) she confides to her friend echoes the rahaḥ of the first verse, the secret desires that overcame her and Krishna in a different thicket. The vocabulary of this verse restores that first night of lovemaking to her, and to the reader. Bits of echoing vocabulary underscore what’s been lost. A landscape of words torments Radha. [End Page 107]

Andrew Schelling

Andrew Schelling, born in 1953 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C., has written, edited, or translated twenty books. Early opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, plus an encounter with India’s texts, set him on a lifelong engagement with Asian literature. He studied Sanskrit at the University of California at Berkeley, and began to translate from its classical poetry tradition around 1978. His first book, Dropping the Bow: Poems of Ancient India, received the Academy of American Poets translation award in 1992, the first time the Academy had honored work done from an Asian language. Schelling’s own poetry and essays emerge from the Southern Rocky Mountain bioregion in which he lives. Recent books of poetry wrangle with the Arapaho language as a way of reading landscape and the natural cycles; they include From the Arapaho Songbook and A Possible Bag. He has edited The Oxford Anthology of Bhakti Literature and Love and the Turning Seasons: India’s Poetry of Spiritual and Erotic Longing (forthcoming from Counterpoint Press). Living on the Front Range of Colorado, he is active on land-use issues and teaches at Naropa University. He also teaches regularly at Deer Park Institute, in India’s Himalayan foothills.



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pp. 106-107
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