O Devī, while You are on Your way to the home of the king of Vraja, to cook for Mādhava, every hair on Your body stands erect in joy and Your gait falters. Will my eyes ever attain this vision? (Vilapa-kusumanjali)
Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, the most excellent and famous cook in all existence, because of the earnest entreaty of Yaśodā Mātā, daily goes to cook for Kṛṣṇa at Nanda-bhavana.
Once, Durvāsā Ṛṣi came to the palace in Varsānā and said, “Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, I am very hungry.”
“I will quickly arrange whatever you like,” Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja said.
“I don’t desire your cooking or the cooking of your wife. You are not pure. You share your life with everyone.”
“Then what should I do?” “Do you have a daughter?” “Yes.”
“Your daughter will cook.”
“She is only a baby, how can She cook?”
“You are trying to cheat me. Call Her at once!”
Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja brought Rādhārānī in his arms to Durvāsā Ṛṣi.
“O Lāḍlī,” Durvāsā Ṛṣi asked, “I know You are an expert cook. All the demigods including Brahmā know of Your special abilities and glorify Your super-excellent qualities. Won’t You cook something for me?”
Rādhārānī smiled and said, “Yes.”
“Please cook something quickly. I have not eaten for what seems like ages.”
“What would you like?”
“I especially like ksīra,” Durvāsā Ṛṣi replied, “and I also like mālpuā so much.”
Śrīmatī Rādhārānī cooked sweet rice and mālpuā. She didn’t make only one or two pieces of mālpuā. Durvāsā Ṛṣi doesn’t eat one or two grams, a hundred grams, or even a hundred kilos. His appetite is immeasurable. Śrīmatī knew this. She cooked so much sweet rice, it was like the kusuma-sarovara lake, and She made so many mālpuās, they became a mountain like Girirāja Govardhana. How did She cook? All the sakhīs and mañjarīs are like Her expansions; they all know Her desire. They helped arrange everything. If Rādhārānī looks and touches anything, this is enough. So many things are arranged.
Durvāsā Ṛṣi sat down at eleven or twelve o’clock in the night and began eating. From midnight until early morning he ate, saying inbetween platefuls, “Bring more, bring more.” He had more and more desire for this mahā-prasāda. He ate a plate, yawned, and then ate more, without taking any rest. By morning everything was finished. Then he said, “Now I am happy. Now I am satisfied.”
His name is Durvāsā Ṛṣi. He checks if one has good or bad desires, vāsāna. If your desire is good, he will give you a passing certificate, otherwise if you have bad desires and moods, he will destroy you.
After eating, Durvāsā Ṛṣi gave a boon to Rādhikā: “This daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja is siddha, perfect. Anything She touches becomes supremely auspicious and full of nectar. If anyone tastes Her cooking, or hears Her glories, remembers Her, offers anything to Her, and then takes that, he will achieve love for God and bhakti-rasa. By once tasting that rasa, he will have no desire for other rasas. And if anyone is inimical to her, he will be destroyed.”
In this verse, Dāsa Gosvāmī prays to accompany Śrīmatījī on Her way to Nanda-bhavana. All the sakhīs and mañjarīs walk with Śrīmatī Rādhārānī from Varsānā to Nandagrāma. Many sakhīs and mañjarīs come from different places in Vraja to meet with Śrīmatī Rādhārānī at Prema-sarovara, before proceeding to Nandagrāma. None of the gopīs come empty-handed. They bring many items, arranged at their homes for service in Rādhārānī’s cooking.
pārśva-dvaye lalitayātha viśākhayāca
tvāṁ sarvataḥ parijanaiś ca paraiḥ parītām
paścān mayā vibhṛta-bhaṅgura-madhya-bhāgaṁ
kiṁ rūpa-mañjarir iyaṁ pathi neṣyatīha
When will Rūpa Mañjarī lead You on the path with Lalitā and Viśākhā at Your two sides, Your friends all around, and me holding Your delicate waist from behind?
On the way to Nandagrāma, Lalitā and Viśākhā walk alongside Rādhārānī. Here, Dāsa Gosvāmī prays to walk behind holding Śrīmatījī’s waist. Rūpa Mañjarī walks in front with Rādhikā, while carrying many things. Absorbed in his internal form as Rati Mañjarī, Dāsa Gosvāmī sees Rūpa with a heavy load and thinks, “I will go forward and request Rūpa Mañjarī, ‘Please give me something to carry.’ ” Rati Mañjarī doesn’t want Rūpa Mañjarī to feel the slightest disturbance.
Kṛṣṇa understands everything. He is still resting in Nanda-bhavana, but by His desire, many bulls, camels, and elephants come to help bring paraphernalia from Varsānā to Nanda-bhavana. They offer praṇāma to Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, bending down on their knees. The elephants clean the pathway with their tusks and sprinkle the road with flowers. Then the animals carry the items for cooking. The animals of Vraja also have service tendency and don’t merely eat, sleep, and wander about, enjoying the love and affection of Kṛṣṇa. They have pure knowledge and service tendency.
hamvārair iha gavām api ballavānāṁ
kolāhalair vividha-vandi-kalāvatāṁ taiḥ
samrājate priyatayā vraja-rāja-sūnor
govardhanād api gurur vraja-vanditād yaḥ
prāptāṁ nija-praṇayinī-prakaraiḥ parītāṁ
nandīśvaraṁ vraja-mahendra-mahālayaṁ taṁ
dūre nirīkṣya muditā tvaritaṁ dhaniṣṭhā
tvām ānayiṣyati kadā praṇayair mamāgre
Surrounded by Your affectionate gopī friends, You arrive at Nandiśvara, which is filled with the mowing of the cows, the shouts of the cowherders and the different songs of minstrels, and which is dearer to the prince of Vraja than even Govardhana. When will I then see Dhaniṣṭhā, who has seen you coming from afar, quickly and lovingly take You inside, as I follow behind You?
Nandiśvara Hill is extremely dear to Nanda-nandana. The Vrajavāsīs pray and offer respect to Girirāja Govardhana, but an even sweeter and important place is Nandiśvara Hill. Kṛṣṇa dearly loves Nandiśvara and always resides there. Kṛṣṇa sometimes go to Govardhana and performs pastimes there, accepting the service of Girirāja, but Nandiśvara is always able to serve Kṛṣṇa and His associates.
Dāsa Gosvāmī prays, “When will I go to Nandiśvara and pray to him for service. But only service is not enough. If I have no position there, my mind will be disturbed by asat–sāṅga.”
Sat-saṅga doesn’t only mean to stay with sādhus for some time and then go some place else. One must continuously stay with sādhus, with love for them, not by hook or crook. If I have a loving relation with the sādhus, they will give me a place to stay.
Dāsa Gosvāmī prays, “I will not stay for selfish purposes, nor will I try to acquire and possess any place. Any place I am present, I will keep it only for Śrīmatījī and the sakhīs and will endeavor to serve them there.”
Dhanisṭhā is very dear to Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. She is her beloved sakhī. Mother Yaśodā gives her great respect. Dhaniṣṭhā serves in Nanda-bhavana, dividing all responsibilities so that everything can be accomplished properly.
Dāsa Gosvāmī prays, “When will Dhaniṣṭhā take me to Vrajeśvarī Yaśodā, and say, ‘This Lālī has so much love for service.’ ”
On one side Lalitā is present, and Viśākhā is on the other side, but this Rati is waiting behind. Whenever Dhaniṣṭhā calls her forth, she does everything on her instruction.
At the time of smaraṇa–daśā, internally meditating on one’s perfected state and form, and going near one’s worshipable Kṛṣṇa, all Kṛṣṇa’s associates are present there. They will instruct you, “This is your service. This is your place.” There will be no need for any subtle hint or indication. One will understand which direction to go and how to serve. The path will be clear, without any obstacles. Don’t think this is speculation or if you go there you won’t know what to do, or how to engage your time. It is not like this. The flow of inspiration and mercy is very powerful. It will sweep you up.
Many people are in Russia, America, Africa, Australia, Europe, or India. When they meet Gurudeva and join his mission, at first they don’t know what to do or what their service will be. But automatically, by Gurudeva’s inspiration, they take their own places and responsibilities and perform their specific service very seriously. Gradually their taste for service will increase more and more and there will be no need for any permit, permission, advice, instruction, or company officer to give one duty and sign one in, checking if one is performing one’s service properly and doing the proper amount of hours. This is only as an example. In the eternal world, there is a powerful force, inspiring one to serve.
prakṣālya pāda-kamale kuśale praviṣṭā
natvā vrajeśa-mahiṣī-prabhṛtīr gurūs taiḥ
hā kurvatī rasavatīṁ rasa-bhāk kadā tvaṁ
sammajayiṣyatitarāṁ sukha-sāgare mām
O auspicious one, You are an expert cook. After I wash Your lotus feet, You enter the kitchen and offer Your obeisances to the queen of Vraja and the other elder gopīs. When will You plunge me into an ocean of bliss by doing this?
Dāsa Gosvāmī prays, “When will I wash the feet of Śrīmatījī and those of my seniors, like Nanda Mahārāja, Yaśodā Mātā, and others. I will offer them praṇāma, accept their blessings, and then go to cook in the kitchen. By their strength and mercy I will be a perfect assistant to Śrimātījī.”
Yaśodā Mātā and Rohiṇī Mātā are expert cooks. Durvāsā Ṛṣi also came to Yaśodā Mātā and after accepting her cooking, gave her a boon and the name Yaśodā, saying, “Your yaśa, fame, will spread all over the world. Everyone will follow your order and advice. If anyone neglects you, he will lose his strength and life.”
Therefore Yaśodā Mātā is famous and knows how to cook and arrange everything expertly.
How can one enter the flow of service and taste the nectar of Vraja? The sādhaka’s first duty is to go to his elders and seniors—those who are perfected in their service. One should go to one’s Guru-varga and offer them praṇāma, wash their feet, offer flowers and sandal paste at their lotus feet, and pray to them, “How can I be trained to perfectly serve? Please bless me with your love and potency.”
There are thousands of fire pits in the kitchen. As Śrīmatījī cooks in a white dress, pearls of sweat form on Her golden limbs. Rati Mañjarī stands nearby with soft pieces of cotton, with which she dabs Śrīmatī’s skin, removing the moisture so it doesn’t fall in the cooking.
mādhavāya nata-vaktram ādṛtā
tanvatī tvam iha rohiṇī-kare
devi phulla-vadanaṁ kadekṣyase
O Devī, when can I see You, with Your head lowered and Your blushing face looking affectionately at Mādhava, as You collect all the ambrosial foods and drinks and place them in Rohiṇī-devī’s hands?
In Nanda-bhavana, Rohiṇī-devī is senior and perfect at all things. She knows how to make drinks that attract Mādhava’s mind and spark His appetite. He sometimes goes outside to play with His friends and will not return, becoming so absorbed in playing. Rohiṇī Mātā makes a wonderful drink and takes this outside, saying, “Kṛṣṇa, come, come.”
But He will not come. When she went to catch Him, He ran away and would not come to her. Finally she catches Kṛṣṇa and gives Him the drink. Taking it, Kṛṣṇa becomes very hungry! Then He says, “Yes, yes, I will come with you.”
Rohiṇī Mātā perfectly knows how to cook and distribute prasāda. It is not enough simply to cook nicely—the process of distribution must be learnt as well. The preparations must be served in the correct order. In some places, people go and give rasagullas, halava, and mālpuā first, and then give sweet drinks, and then the digestive fire is stopped and you can’t stomach the main courses. When distributing prasāda, one first gives something bitter, like a karela dish. A small amount of something bitter at the beginning of the meal increases the appetite and digestive fire. Then you give rice, dāl, pakoṛās, roti or puris then a dry sabji and other sabjis, like panir-sabji, and then chutney and pappadams. After this you give yogurt, rasagullas, sweet rice, and other sweets. Then you give something salty and sweet. At the end, you give a lemon drink mixed with cumin powder. Otherwise, you give buttermilk with cumin seeds and black pepper, and then the meal will be easily digested. There is a proper process to do everything. But if you don’t know anything, how can you serve in Vraja-maṇḍala?
In Nanda-bhavana, all the elders, like Nanda Mahārāja, his brothers, father, mother and other relatives sit down in line. Kṛṣṇa sits with Nanda Bābā. How can anything special be given just to Kṛṣṇa? Kṛṣṇa’s expression is examined from a distance to see what He desires. Who understands this? Everything reflects into the kitchen room, where Rādhārānī is present. She then sends the proper preparations. But She doesn’t come Herself. She sends Rati Mañjarī or any other mañjarī. She instructs, “Go and give this to Yaśodā Mātā. She will give it to Kṛṣṇa.”
bhojane guru-sabhāsu kathañcin
vīkṣyamānam iha te mukha-padmaṁ
modayiṣyasi kadā madhure mām
O sweet one, when will I see Your joyful and eager lotus face, as Your passionate sidelong glances are seen by Mādhava, while He feasts in the company of His elders?
Dāsa Gosvāmī now prays to see the lotus face of Śrīmatī as She cooks and castes sidelong glances at Kṛṣṇa.
Dāsa Gosvāmī, in his eternal form as Rati Mañjari, assists
Śrīmatī Rādhārānī while She cooks. She places all the paraphernalia close to Śrīmatī with great care. She doesn’t serve out of duty or on any condition. Everything she does is performed out of her heartfelt love. As she serves, her body sweats and undergoes ecstatic symptoms. Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, Kṛṣṇa, Vraja-pati Nanda Mahārāja, and Yaśodā Mātā are very pleased with her.
Kṛṣṇa follows proper etiquette while taking prasāda. He shows by example how juniors should lovingly serve and show respect to their elders. First they distribute the praśāda to all the elders. Then on the elders’ request, the juniors also take.
While eating, beads of perspiration appear on Kṛṣṇa’s body. The mañjarīs immediately begin to fan Him. Nanda Mahārāja is present there. He says, “Oh, you small kiśorīs will become exhausted. Don’t exert yourselves so much.” Yet Rūpa Mañjarī and Rati Mañjarī continue to fan, as Nanda Bābā feeds prasāda to Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva, with one on each side of him. Rati Mañjarī watches Kṛṣṇa’s expression while He eats and reports His reactions to the different items. The mañjarīs serve second helpings of whatever He likes. It is not that they give everything at once; rather, they bring fresh, hot rotis and pūrīs, one at a time, along with other preparations, and then watch from afar how Kṛṣṇa reacts to the different dishes.
There are many mothers who serve Kṛṣṇa with vātsalya-rasa, not only Yaśodā. The mothers request the mañjarīs to help serve out prasādam. Lalitā and the other sakhīs are shy there. They do not go near Kṛṣṇa while He eats. And Kṛṣṇa doesn’t say what He likes. He is silent and takes whatever comes. Even if He desires more of something in particular, He doesn’t mention it to anyone.
From the kitchen, Yaśodā Mātā says, “O Rati, go and give Kṛṣṇa this.” Rati Mañjarī is only three or four years old. Sometimes Yaśodā Mātā says to her, “Ask Kṛṣṇa what He likes. Go sit close to Him and ask Him what He likes most, and He will tell you. Otherwise, just observe what He is eating with extra enthusiasm, then come tell me and I will send more of that.”
The sakhīs want to do this, but they are too shy to go forward in front of Nanda Bābā and all the elders of Vraja.
Yaśodā Mātā is not the only mother with deep love for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa’s aunts and all the mothers of Vraja love Him dearly.
Yaśodā Mātā strokes Rati and tells her, “Go and check what He likes. Also ask Baladeva, Sudāma, Śrīdāma, Stoka-kṛṣṇa, Mahārāja Parjanya, and the others in line what they would like.”
Otherwise some doubt may come, “Why does Rati Mañjarī give Kṛṣṇa particular attention?”
Rati Mañjarī goes and asks Sudāma and Śrīdāma, “What would you like? Do you want another pappadam or some chutney?”
Śrīdāma says, “Yes, bring chutney!”
Then Rati brings some chutney and pakoṛās.
The sakhās are also very clever. They don’t express their own desire. They sit beside Kṛṣṇa and can tell what He would like more of. They indicate in a secret way or whisper very quietly, “Oh, bring this preparation quickly. It is very nice.”
Rati brings it and comes to give some to Sudāma, but he says, “No, I don’t like this. Put it on Kṛṣṇa’s plate.” The sakhās understand Kṛṣṇa’s desire and give indications to the mañjarīs.
Srila Raghunatha das Gosvami ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Vilap-kushmangali”. Available from: [email protected] )