Akṣaya-tritiya is the beginning of Candana-yātrā. Where does this festival come from? How did it begin? Our guru-varga ācāryas give a special understanding and course to follow for Candan-yātrā.
In Vṛndāvana, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī has one very special kuṇḍa named Nandinī-hṛda. This lake is on the bank of the Yamunā, and there Vṛndā-devī is nicely decorating, arranging a very beautiful garden. She is making this kuṇḍa so wonderful and attractive for Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. By Vṛndā-devī’s mercy, anyone who comes to that place automatically realizes and feels Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s eternal love. They receive Rādhā’s blessings of kindness and are able to make relation with Her by taking shelter of Her followers.
Once, the Lord’s dear servant and carrier bird, Garuḍa, was sitting atop a kadamba tree taking darśana of this enchanting Nandinī-kuṇḍa and drinking in the beauty of Vṛndāvana. Gazing down from his lofty perch, he saw some big fish playing with each other in the water. As he observed them more closely, he thought, “They are very proud. They are not showing any respect for this place, for each other, or for the other living entities here. They are careless. They are thinking this place is their own property.”
If anyone is proud, then they do not properly respect or help others. Garuḍa was present there, a great devotee of Śrī Hari, but the big fish didn’t even notice him. By their pride, they were making this water very dirty. They were not shy. They were recklessly breaking the pure lotus stems and licentiously frollicking before Saubhari Ṛṣi who was endeavoring to maintain his yogic trance in dhyāna.
Garuḍa flew down into the water and took one male fish in his beak and swallowed him.
Upset, all the lady-fish in that area of the Yamunā complained to Saubhari Ṛṣi about Garuḍa’s seemingly harsh act. Upon hearing their complaints, Saubhari Ṛṣi cursed Garuḍa, “May you never again come in Nandinī-hṛda. If you come, then you will die.” Respecting the ṛṣī’s curse, Garuḍa immediately left the lake and did not return there again.
Saubhari Ṛṣi offered his help and service to these fish, but really this is called asat-saṅga, bad association. Very soon his nature changed. He forgot all his yoga and austerities. He disobeyed Garuḍa, a great devotee of Śrī Hari, and instead began following his own followers, the fish, who had wanted his protection. Because of this asat-saṅga he could not maintain his practice of yoga. Forgetting his spiritual goal, after some time he abandoned his tapasya and left the Yamunā to pursue married life, seeking to materially enjoy.
After Saubhari Ṛṣi left the Yamunā, who would now protect the fish? The great snake demon, Kāliya, quickly came there. Usually Kāliya fears Garuḍa, but since Garuḍa could no longer come near Nandinī-hṛda, Kāliya settled there with no fear and began eating all the fish and destroying the entire surrounding habitat.
My well-wisher is always thinking about me, but if I am against my own well-wisher and I am going near any other for help and support, then I will be destroyed. The fish of Nandini-hṛda tried taking shelter of Saubhari Ṛṣi for protection, but Saubhari Ṛṣi was not able to protect them, nor was he able to protect even his own self. The fish could not understand or accept that Garuḍa was acting as their well-wishing protector; consequently all the fish were destroyed. If Garuḍa accepts any fish – eats any fish – he is cleaning their anarthas, their pride. Garuḍa is God’s servant, and has been given this post for God’s service. The lady-fish all disobeyed Garuḍa, but Saubhari Ṛṣi could not protect them. All the fish then went into Kāliya’s stomach.
Therefore, who is our well-wisher? Seriously think about this. Are we running for our own destruction, abandoning our true protection? If anyone is in Vṛndāvana and sincerely takes shelter of Vṛndā-devī or Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, then they will have no tension. But if they are going near any others, then there is no protection, only destruction. We may go near so-called sādhus, but really they are destroying us along with our whole generation. Those who pose as sādhus but are not surrendered, who act independently of pure Vaiṣṇavas and Śrī Guru – they have no capacity to protect anyone. Guru-pada-padma is eternal. Externally he may be a little hard and cruel, but this is not cruelty. He is removing our anarthas. This chastisement is not bad; this is good for us, this is our protection.
Afterwards, what happened? Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s Nandinī-hṛda became completely dirty and poisonous. Anyone who would go there would suffer and fall senseless. Many who went there and drank or even touched the water, died. This is called asat-saṅga. This fruit is the result of vaiṣṇava-aparādha. Such a place is very contaminated, very poisonous. Never, never, never go to that place.
That day, Baladeva Prabhu did not go for Kṛṣṇa’s go-caraṇa, cow-herding līlā. Baladeva Prabhu never leaves Kṛṣṇa, but since the following day would be Baladeva Prabhu’s birthday, Rohiṇī Mātā had requested, “Today Baladeva should not go for go-carana. Kṛṣṇa should also not go. Today Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva should instead arrange for puja paraphernalia for tomorrow’s worship of the ṛṣis, mahaṛṣis, brahmaṇas and all other Vrajavāsīs.”
Kṛṣṇa resisted, “No I must go for go-caraṇa, otherwise if I can’t play, my calves and sakhas will not be happy. I will go for a short time and come back.”
Thus on that day Kṛṣṇa entered the forests of Vṛndāvana without Baladeva Prabhu, but accompanied by His other sakhas and calves. Running and running, they arrived to the bank of Kāliya-hṛda (after Kāliya acquired Nandinī-hṛda, then the lake started to be called Kāliya-hṛda) and at once the sakhas and calves fell senseless from the poisonous air. Severely disturbed, Kṛṣṇa called out, “Oh, I lost all my sakhas and calves!”
Immediately He began to search, “There must be some demon here. Where is this demon hiding?” Kṛṣṇa thought. “I will catch him and meet with him, clean him, purify him, and then he will no longer make Vṛndāvana dirty. Vṛndāvana is a service center, not for the purpose of destruction. But this curse is now making this place very contaminated.”
For this reason, Kṛṣṇa jumped into the poisonous water of Kāliya-hṛda and first collected all the poison. After cleaning this water, He looked to see, “Where did this poison come from?” He could now see Kāliya. He could see how Kāliya was always spreading this poison by his body, his mind, and all his senses. He was continuously against Garuḍa and making so many offenses and sins. This is called anartha and poison.
“Ah,” Kṛṣṇa realized, “it is this poisonous snake, Kāliya, who is making this place dirty and contaminated.” Aggrieved to see the condition of His beloved’s lake, Kṛṣṇa lamented, “O Kāliya! You have come and polluted My Vrindāvana, Vṛndā-devī’s garden, Rādhārāṇī’s sweet center?!” Then Kṛṣṇa thought, “I must anyhow go to meet with you, Kāliya, to clean your heart and make you My good friend. But how is this possible? Here there is so much fire, so much deadly fire.”
This fire of Kāliya’s poison has the desire to burn and destroy Kṛṣṇa. But Kāliya doesn’t know how cool Kṛṣṇa is and how much He is full of unlimited nectar.
As Kṛṣṇa approached the imposing serpant, Kāliya darted towards Kṛṣṇa, lifting Him into his massive coils, enfolding and squeezing the delicate Kṛṣṇa. It appeared that with his thousands of horrific hoods, he began biting Kṛṣṇa, in soft places, yet Kṛṣṇa felt as if Kāliya was kissing Him. Kṛṣṇa did not feel Kāliya’s deadly grip, rather He felt He was being embraced by the serpent. Even the stringent dhyāna of great ṛṣis, mahaṛṣis, and brahmaṛṣis does not easily bring Kṛṣṇa inside the heart, so what good fortune does this snake Kāliya possess that today he freely embraces and kisses Kṛṣṇa? Within all the universes, Kṛṣṇa is the Divine Master, God Himself, fully pure and transcendental, and under the control of his most near and dear devotees; so how is it possible for a demon like Kāliya to embrace and kiss Him?
kasyānubhāvo ’sya na deva vidmahe
yad-vāñchayā śrīr lalanācarat tapo
vihāya kāmān su-ciraṁ dhṛta-vratā
O Lord, we do not know how the serpent Kāliya has attained this great opportunity of being touched by the dust of Your lotus feet. For this end, the goddess of fortune performed austerities for centuries, giving up all other desires and observing austere vows. – Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.16.36 (BBT translation)
Kṛṣṇa is simply giving Kāliya a merciful opportunity. Instead of accepting Kāliya’s demonic attack, Kṛṣṇa thinks, “Ok, you touch Me, lick Me, kiss Me, embrace Me, then automatically you will become very pure.” Kṛṣṇa is very kind. Otherwise, in one second Kṛṣṇa can easily kill Kāliya. This is no problem for Him.
But why is Kṛṣṇa showing this special kindness to Kāliya? First of all, Kāliya has come into Vṛṇdāvana, into Nandinī-hṛda, Rādhārāṇī’s own special lake and Vṛndā-devī’s garden. Out of fear of Garuda, He has taken shelter of Śrī Vraja-dhāma and Yamunā-devī, a place that Garuda cannot enter, with the strong intent to never leave. This attitude, this type of saṅkalpā to reside in Vraja, is very helpful. Residing at the Yamunā in Vraja, Kāliya is already very fortunate and blessed. Even though he is unqualified for Krsna’s service, filled with anarthas and poison, Kṛṣṇa desired to personally purify him for taking firm shelter of Vṛṇdāvana. Na tad bhāsayate sūryo na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama – “That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world.” [Bhagavad-gītā, 15.6, BBT translation]
Also, because Kāliya’s many serpant wives, nāga-patnīs, are great sādhus, devotees of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Himself bestowed His special mercy upon Kāliya, who had been in their exalted association. In close proximity to his wives Kāliya had inadvertently heard hari-katha and the glories of Krsna’s līlās. The wives of Kāliya are constantly honoring the prasāda remnants of Kṛṣṇa, the Vraja-devīs, and the sakhas, and they would share this auspicious prasāda with their husband Kāliya. They were always smearing the foot-dust of the Vrajavāsīs on their heads and bodies, and also offering this to Kāliya.
But Kāliya himself is a very dangerous demon and he doesn’t like any of these things. He is forever hating and abusing his own wives. But even still, these wives are at every moment praying to Kṛṣṇa, and to the Vraja-devīs on his behalf. They are at all times the well-wishers of Kāliya, thinking about Kāliya’s welfare. Therefore, today Kṛṣṇa is going directly near Kāliya. Kāliya is repeatedly embracing Kṛṣṇa and kissing Him again and again, offering all his poison to Kṛṣṇa. Good persons have only good qualities to offer; whereas bad persons who have collected so many bad things, this is all they are able to offer.
Regardless of this, Kṛṣṇa tells Kāliya, “Today I am your chief guest. I have come in your house, and therefore anything you have to give Me, I’m certainly accepting. I am accepting everything. Now I am very happy with you.”
With little effort, Kṛṣṇa emerged from the tight, harsh grasp of Kāliya’s knotted coils. Ascending upwards out of the water, He scaled the snake’s body and climbed atop his soaring hoods where He started a most beautiful, artistic dance. Upon Kāliya’s thousands of moving hoods, Kṛṣṇa’s dancing was most refined and charming, captivatingly rhythmic, sweet and cheerful. Even His dancing in rāsa-līlā is not as sweet. The Gandharvas appeared there and started to play many musical instruments to accompany Kṛṣṇa who danced very happily.
Why was Kṛṣṇa so happy? For the first time His friend was inviting Him nearby and giving Him an offering, he was embracing Him, and releasing so much poison as a gift. Kāliya thought, “Krsna – You are black, and I am also black. But You are filled with sweet nectar, while I am filled with poison. No one comes near me – all despise me and run far away. Today I will embrace You, bind you, and receive some sweetness from You.” Therefore, Kṛṣṇa offered His own graceful dancing in reciprocation – He offered all His foot-dust and nectar onto Kāliya’s hoods, cooling his brain and changing his mood, and removing all his anarthas. Kṛṣṇa accepted and transformed all of Kāliya’s poison and filled him with nectar, making him very sweet. In all of Kāliya’s life he had never felt sweetness, but today he was feeling very sweet.
After this dance, Kāliya realized what his wives had been persistently telling him about Kṛṣṇa, all the advice they had been continuously giving him. He finally realized Kṛṣṇa’s glories and sweetness and exclaimed, “Oh, I didn’t know Kṛṣṇa! But now I’m understanding – He is indeed Lord Nārāyaṇa, Śrī Hari.” Now, Kāliya took Kṛṣṇa’s shelter.
Noticing many inauspicious signs in the atmosphere at the onset of Kṛṣṇa meeting with Kāliya, all the Vrajavāsīs ran to find Kṛṣṇa. Baladeva Prabhu, Yaśodā Maiyā, Nanda Bābā, Rohiṇī Mātā, and many more sakhas, gopas, and gopīs all assembled with worry. They observed many ominous signs: fearsome storm clouds were forming and droplets of blood were now falling from the sky; a bitter wind was casting abrasive sand into the air making it difficult to see or breathe; crows were crying loudly in the daytime hours; jackals were howling. Initially, Baladeva Prabhu wanted to protect Kṛṣṇa, but as He looked on He understood, “I mustn’t jump in this lake. Kṛṣṇa is now coming back out.” He cautioned the other sakhas and Vrajavāsīs to also restrain themselves from entering the water. Baladeva is sandhini-śakti, the first expansion from Krsna’s very body, and He manifests Krsna’s dhāma, paraphernalia, and all service tendency. Watching from the shore, Baladeva transferred cit-bala, cit-śakti unto Kṛṣṇa, who then began to dance upon Kāliya’s head, defeating and cleaning him with such charm. By doing this Krsna made Kāliya a śuddha-Vrajavāsī.
In Bṛhad-Bhāgavatāmṛta, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī describes how Kṛṣṇa extends His arms and invites both the sakhas and later the sakhīs to also mount the hoods of Kāliya and dance with Him. Krsna subdues the serpent-king Kāliya with His joyful dance, then with a sweet smile removes the upper garments from the serpent’s wives as they offer prayers. Tying these garments into one single long rope, Krsna pierced the nose of Kāliya and bound him from the nose with this rope. Holding the rope in His left hand, Krsna played His flute with His right hand and rode the serpent just like a horse, making him go here and there throughout the river Yamunā. Sometimes prodding the serpent playfully with His flute, Krsna made Kāliya into a kind of boat-like carrier, engaging Him in the service of the Vrajavasis, and thus showing Him great mercy. Krsna kept Kāliya in the Yamunā tied to a kadamba tree, and would periodically engage him as a boat so that the Vrajavasis could collect flowers, lotus stems, seeds and honey from the Yamunā’s waters for their services and for decorating Vraja.
Meanwhile on another side of the lake, the hearts of the kiśorī-gopīs are burning as they witness Kāliya enwrap Kṛṣṇa. This scene has ignited a big fire inside them. Why? They are feeling transcendental jealousy upon seeing Kāliya able to embrace Kṛṣṇa in such a free and remarkable way. They are amazed how Kāliya can envelop Kṛṣṇa and embrace Him from all sides. When they meet with Kṛṣṇa, they may sweetly embrace Him, but not in such a complete way, from all sides simultaneously, fully enwrapping His body in theirs. “Oh, Kāliya is embracing Kṛṣṇa right in front of us!” They simmered, their heartburn brimming from within. “How lucky is this Kāliya?!”
Śrīla Prabodānanada Sarasvatī-pāda is also sitting on the banks of this Kāliya-hṛda observing this scene, and from there he is writing Rādhā-rasa-sudha-nidhi and explaining how Rādhārāṇī’s nectarful love is flowing there. In the night, after Kṛṣṇa defeated Kāliya, a big fire, davana, ignited in the forest. Immediately, everyone fled from this fire and came near to Kṛṣṇa, taking shelter of Kṛṣṇa, embracing Him out of their fear. Shelter means they hid in Kṛṣṇa’s body. At this time there were no more rules and regulations, everyone was free, because they were scared, thinking “What’s happening? Where can we go?” Now fire was burning from all four sides, from even ten directions. All gopīs and mañjarīs came and embraced Kṛṣṇa from every side – they were no longer shy. This fire arranged for this special meeting program. Kṛṣṇa drank this fire and cooled everyone. Kṛṣṇa Himself was cooled by drinking fire. Only Kṛṣṇa has this capacity. This is called the first meeting, or called pūrva-rāga. This is called Rādhā-rasa-sudha-nidhi. This nectar is the best, most cooling drink for Kṛṣṇa. All of our guru-varga are discovering and sharing this nectar.
Soon after, all Vrajavāsīs went to Nandagram where Nanda Bābā called a big meeting at Nanda bhaithak. Śrī Bhagavatī Pournamāsī Yogamāyā, Bhāguri Ṛṣi, Śāṇḍilya Ṛṣi; Rādhā’s father, Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, and all his brothers and family, Bṛhad Bhānu, Subhānu, Bhānu; Nanda Mahārāja and Upānanda, Sunanada, Abhinanda, and so many Vrajavāsīs came and checked Kṛṣṇa’s body. Kāliya had bitten Him in so many places, and everywhere he had made holes in Kṛṣṇa’s body. Also Kṛṣṇa had become blue from all the poison that was now inside His body. Together the concerned Vrajavāsīs considered how to remove this poison and clean and purify Kṛṣṇa. Many suggestions were given. However, Nanda Bābā and Parjanya Ṛṣi desired to consult Śiva Ṭhākura. They remembered, “Bolanātha has many snakes that he is always wearing around his neck, and he has drunk poison. We will ask him for advice.” Approaching him they inquired, “O Śiva-ji, how can we remove this poison from Kṛṣṇa? How can we cool Him?”
Śiva Ṭhākura replied, “When I drank poison, then Brahmā helped me. He came with his kamandulu and gave Gaṅgā on my head, and I was able to continuously bathe and shower in her pure water. From this, I became clean and all poison was removed. Next, I came to Vraja-dhāma and collected this Vraja-bhūmi dust and smeared it all over my naked body. My whole body then became pure. I suggest you arrange a similar program for Kṛṣṇa. Go to Bhagavatī Pournamāsī and follow her instructions on how to arrange this properly.”
They went to Bhagavatī Pournamāsī and inquired further about how to follow such a program for Kṛṣṇa’s purification. Yogamāyā instructed, “Continue this for one month, starting on Caitya-purnimā until Vaiṣaka-purnimā: from morning to evening continuously perform abhiśeka of Kṛṣṇā with water from all tīrthas. Bathe Him from top to bottom. The kumāri, kiśorī, mañjarī gopīs should arrange this special snāna for Kṛṣṇa using pañca-gavya and pañcāmṛta and with their gṛhta-sneha and madhu-sneha. [footnote: Pañca-gavya means cows’ urine, stool, yogurt, milk, and ghee; and pañcāmṛta is made with milk, yogurt, ghee, honey and sugar.] Sandalwood should be pasted and smeared on Kṛṣṇa’s entire body. Continue this openly for 21 days and for another 21 days in secret. His body should be completely smeared by this sandalwood paste, candana, from morning to evening, and only kiśorī-mañjarīs, not any others, or even family members, should perform this service. Also, give Kṛṣṇa only cooling drinks, liquids – like lassi, milkshake, śatu, or juice. If you follow this program, then all the poison will be removed and Kṛṣṇa will be healed. Otherwise, if you do not follow this program, then, like the first day when Kṛṣṇa came out from the lake and His body was so hot with poison, everything will catch fire and all the Vraja-maṇḍala forests will burn.”
Srila Krsna das Kaviraja Gosvami describes Srimati Radharani’s three types of abhiseka: karunyamrta-dhara snana, tarunyamrta-dhara snana, and lavanyamrta-dhara snana. Just water is not sufficient for abhiseka, nor is honey, sugar, milk, and yogurt. When you understand this properly, you can understand what is pancamrta-abhiseka. By the divine shower of Srimati Radharani’s love and affection, Krsna is cooled, happy, satisfied, and pleased within and without.
What does Srimati Radharani give when She bathes Krsna? In the morning, She arranges for the first bath, karunyamrta-dhara-snana. This is the shower of mercy. Mercy and blessings are not the only karunya. Karunya is pranaya. Love. Prema is not only one thing. Prema has many gradations. There is sneha, mana, pranaya. This pranaya is gadha-anuraga, very deep love. Wherever Srimati Radharani looks, She empowers whatever and whoever She sees with the mood and tendency to serve Krsna. Jaha jaha netra pade taha krsna sphure. Whatever She sees, She wants to engage in Krsna’s service. In the early morning, Srimati Radharani arranges everything in Nanda-bhavan for Krsna’s happiness. Before Krsna comes out of His room, She makes everything very nice, fragrant, and everyone is smiling and joyfully receiving Kṛṣṇa. Srimati Radharani makes everyone very happy, enthusiastic, and ready to please Krsna. All the birds, animals, the atmosphere, weather, all Vrajavasis, everyone, is prepared to please Krsna. This is karunyamrta-dhara-snana.
After this, in the late morning and into the afternoon the tarunyamrta-dhara begins to flow. Tarunyamrta is the nectar and blossoming of fresh youth. A taruni is a very attractive maiden in fresh youth. Rupa Gosvami describes how all the tarunis or beautiful maidens in Vraja glorify Srimati Radharani: gokula taruni mandala mahite. So, at the time of tarunyamrta-dhara-snana, Krsna is bathed with the nectar of the love and affection of all the tarunis combined. The tarunis give nectar to Krsna, and Krsna drinks and showers in this nectar. This is called tarunyamrta-dhara-snana. Taruni is singular and tarunya is plural. So when there are many tarunis or kisoris together giving the nectar of their love to Krsna by kissing and embracing Him, then this is called tarunyamrta-dhara-snana. How is this? Krsna’s body is decorated with so many ornaments made of flowers and these are all tarunis hiding in the form of flowers. Also, the gopīs take the forms of candana, kumkum, pasted minerals, and all this is smeared on Krsna’s body. In this way, the gopīs embrace Krsna and shower Him in the nectar of tarunyamrta-dhara. The gopīs are thus always present with Krsna in a hidden form. They are therefore known as the gopīs, or those who act confidentially.
Krsna is now natavara-nanda-kisora, and Srimati is giving Him tarunyamrta-dhara-snana. If someone has love for another person in this world, simply by hearing the beloved’s name or seeing a picture of the beloved, one becomes happy. When Krsna goes to the forest, He sees pictures of Radharani in all the flowers and leaves of the trees and He hears Her name in all the sounds of the forest. As He passes under the trees, honey drips on His head, flower blossoms shower around Him and ripe fruits fall and offer themselves to Him. All the fruits and flowers in the forest want to touch, embrace, and kiss Krsna. This is tarunyamrta-dhara-snana. The tarunyamrta-dhara-snana is very deep and special. This is explained in sutra form in Raya-ramananda-samvada and Govinda-lilamrta.
After tarunyamrta-dhara-snana comes lavanyamrta-dhara-snana in the evening. Now Srimati Radharani is singing. In Jayadeva Kavi’s poetry we receive a glimpse of this lavanyamrta-dhara-snana in songs like, “Lalita-lavanga-lata” and “Rati-sukha-sare.” The sweet nectar in singing is lavanyamrta-dhara. Krsna floats in the flood of this nectar. When the hearts of the Vraja-devīs’ melt, then their moods inside come out like a flood of song. Krsna swims and floats in this flood. This is lavanyamrta-dhara-snana. This lavanyamrta-dhara-snana is present in Venu-gita, Gopī-gita, Pranaya-gita, Brahmara-gita, and the songs of Jayadeva, Vidyapati, Candidasa, Narottama dasa Thakura, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
These three special abhiṣekas of Kṛṣṇa which are initiated by His most dearly beloved, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī – karunyamrta-dhara snana, tarunyamrta-dhara snana, and lavanyamrta-dhara snana – are increasingly flowing during this time after Kṛṣṇa’s defeat of Kāliya.
In this way, on Bhagavatī Pournamāsī devī’s order, we continue this program for one month, bathing Kṛṣṇa with tīrtha water and offering Him candana. This is called Candana-yātrā-līlā. How can Kṛṣṇa meet with these gopīs and mañjarīs? In facilitating their meeting, this Candana-yātrā is a very special program. Kṛṣṇa also smears His own body with this dust of Vraja-bhūmi. Usually throughout His day, Kṛṣṇa is going with the cows and calves into the forest, but during this month He is accepting this sweet seva. This is bhāva-anukūla seva.
Gaura Premānande Haribol!