Each year, after the holi līlā and vasanti rāsa-līlā that occurs in the spring season of the two months of Madhu and Madhava, the summer season arrives in Vrindavana. With summer’s arrival comes intense, scorching heat. Everything in Vrndavana becomes dry, all kuñja-kutiras bake, and all of Vrndavana becomes restless. This heat of summer first starts within the heart of Sri Radha when She experiences the fire of separation from Krsna after She leaves the arena of the Vasanti-rasa dance.

As soon as Kṛṣṇa realizes Radha has left the rasa-lila, He is plunged into such anxiety, and also burns in separation from Her. With deep yearning, He restlessly searches for Her everywhere along the banks of the Yamuna and surrounding forests, determined and desperate to reunite with Radha, please and pacify Her.

Sata koti gopi madhava mana / rakhite narilo kori jatana
Venu gita dake radhika nama / ‘eso eso radhe!’ Dakaye syama
Bhangiya sri rasa-mandala tabe / radhe anvesane calaye jabe
‘Dekha diya radhe! Rakhaho prana!’/ boliya kadaye kanane kana

Millions of lovely cowherd damsels are unable to keep Madhava’s attention, despite their great endeavor to do so. The flute song calls the name of Radhika. “Come here, come here, Radhe!” petitions Syama.

When He goes in search of Sri Radha, the rasa dance comes to a halt. Exclaiming, “O Radha, please save My life by giving Me Your darsana!” Kana weeps in the forest. [GVP translation]

In order to win Sri Radha’s favor and cool Her mana and separation fire, Krsna enrolls in the school of Visakha-devi after this Vasanti-rasa, during the month of Vaisakha, to learn the art of service to Sri Radha under the tutelage of Her own skillful sakhis and manjaris. Thus the pastimes of Kesava-vrata begin, with Krsna fixing His aim to please and cool Srimati Radhika.

Within Vrindavana during this time, the heat of summer gradually increases more and more, as does this mood of separation fire. Although Radha and Krsna are occasionally meeting during this time of Kesava-vrata, Krsna remains pained in a mood of separation from Sri Radha, to whom He is trying so sincerely to serve and satisfy, yet who’s mana is not so easy to break. For the pleasure of Radharani, Krsna took this vow to surrender to the Vraja-devis and take training on how to serve Srimati during this month of Kesava. Yet as soon as He starts this service to Radharani, His fire of separation only increases. He is very near to Her, yet more and more he feels the fire of separation from Her until He becomes almost senseless.

All of the gopis who were present with Krsna during the Vasanti-rasa feel great anguish in separation from Him after He disappears from the rasa dance. None of the gopis’ moods of separation however can compare to the intensity of Radhika’s viraha. Radhika is very kind, patient and merciful. In Her fire of viraha, She does not freely distribute Her own suffering to the hearts of all, but attempts to tolerate it within Herself, keeping it hidden from the rest of Vraja. Only Radha’s own sakhis and manjaris are affected by the fire of Her viraha from Krsna, and feel this same heat strongly within their own heart and body. But this heat of separation felt by Sri Radha and the gopis does not affect all of Vraja – only those who are intimately linked to Radhika by heart receive the same heat of Her separation mood within themselves. Radhika’s viraha fire reflects into Krsna’s heart also – just as heat rises into the sky. However, when Krsna suffers in the fire of separation from Radha, then He cannot tolerate His own condition with the same forbearance as Radhika tolerates Her viraha, and so all of Vraja becomes affected by the heat in His heart. He distributes His separation fire throughout all of Vraja, to all who are heartily connected to Krsna through the twelve rasas. Thus, summer comes to its peak in Vraja as Krsna experiences the climax of His separation fire from His most beloved Srimati Radharani. He becomes practically senseless from this fervor. During this time, everyone in Vraja is burning in the summer heat, which is emanating from the hearts of Radha-Krsna.

At these times, sometimes Krsna retreats into a cave in the Govardhana hills; sometimes He takes shelter under a big tree; and sometimes He finds cool refuge near a kuṇḍa. Especially in the afternoon time, it is extremely hot as His separation reaches a crescendo.

This candana-yatra is observed as a response to Krsna’s inextinguishable fire of separation. In sweet reciprocation for His cooling service to Srimati Radharani during Kesava-vrata, Radharani and the sakhis and manjaris, with the help of Yogamaya, arrange this nectarean program of candana-yatra to cool and serve Krsna. Assuming the form of the Vana-devata, the god of the forest, Krsna receives service from the Vraja-devis, continuously being massaged and covered with candana and bathed with all paraphernalia of love, maha-abhiseka. Except for this program, there is not any other process by which Krsna can become cooled from the intensity of His burning viraha. Krsna’s fire of separation from Sri Radha, which causes the oppressive heat of the summer, is relieved only through these meetings and intimate exchanges of candana-yatra.

At the conclusion of candana-yatra, in order to continue cooling Krsna, Snana-yatra arrives, and then ultimately Krsna is reunited with His most Beloved Srimati during Ratha-yatra. Finally feeling relieved from the dry, scorching heat of His torturous separation fire, the merciful clouds appear on the horizon and refreshing rain descends in Vraja-mandala, reviving Krsna and giving way to the rebirth of lush, green foliage as the kunja-kutiras become reawakened with the secret meetings of srngara-rasa. Satisfied at last, Krsna goes to sleep on Sayana Ekadasi, at the start of Caturmasya. He leaves all other duties and is brought from the chariot of the gopis’ hearts into a four-month Vrajotsava, festival of Vraja. Within the now abundant, newly-blossoming kunja-kutiras, He drinks the gopis’ seva-rasa, only meeting with His dear-most beloveds in madhurya-rasa.

Vraja-Kumaris worship Vana Devata

One day, the sakhis noticed that Radharani had become overwhelmed in sadness in Her separation from Her beloved Krsna. Among themselves, many sakhis and manjaris were discussing what to do for Her relief, but they could not find any solution. Thus they approached Yogamāyā Pournamasi devī for help.

“O Bhagavati, how can we arrange for Radha to meet with Krsna?” They asked with concern. Bhagavati Pournamasi-devi consulted with Lalitā and Viśākha. She then replied, “Within Vraja-mandala, Giriraja Govardhana fulfills all desires. Every day you should go to Giriraja Govardhana, collect water from Manasi-Ganga and perform abhiseka of Giriraja-ji. You should offer him nice drinks, like lassi, bael juice, mango juice, banana shake, and any other kind of refreshing liquid. Also offer him sandalwood paste, candana; smear this all over his body. When he becomes happy and cool from this sevā of yours, then definitely he will give you good inspiration and instruction. Giriraja will surely arrange for some solution to this separation.”

Thus, at the start of the summer on Sankranti day of Vaiṣaka-masa, by Pournamasi’s order the Vraja-devis started going daily to Manasi-Gaṅgā, collecting water and doing abhiśeka of Giriraja Govardhana. Afterward, they would lovingly offer him candana, a wide variety of tasty, cool drinks and puja for his pleasure. Giriraja became very happy by the sweetness of their worship, and thus divulged a special secret to help them, “Hidden within my heart,” he whispered intimately, “is one big cave. The name of this place is Rati-keli-kuñja. My worshipable Deity is there, and only by His blessings and mercy am I helping everybody. You should offer this candana to my Deity in Rati-keli-kuñja, smearing this cooling paste over His whole body. Offer Him these same delicious drinks that you’ve been offering me. He especially likes butter and drinks. Show Him this love that you have shown me and certainly He will help everyone, and fulfill your desires. His name is Vana-devatā, meaning forest god, and in Vrndavana He is all-in-all. If anybody neglects or avoids Him, then they always suffer. Yet if anybody serves Him and pleases Him, then He gives any boon. He is only truly pleased though with this candana sevā.”

Now following the guidance of Giriraja, every day in Vraja-dhāma millions and millions of gopis came to Manasi-Ganga to collect water. They did abhiseka of Giriraja Govardhana first, then after, by Giriraja’s mercy, they went to Rati-keli-kuñja and served Vana-devatā. They offered Him candana, then fanned Him and decorated Him nicely with many varieties of flowers. Although all of Vraja-bhumi was parched from the excessive heat of summer, after the gopis served Vana-devatā, then suddenly all kunja-kutiras again became green and verdant. Where the heat had seared all vegetation, lush grass grew again. All gopas and gopis now became very happy. From all villages of Vraja-maṇḍala, everybody came to Giriraja Govardhana and group-by-group worshipped Vana-devatā and received His mercy. Only the Vraja-devis could smear candana on Vana-devata’s body however.

As Bhagavati Pournamasi observed the joy of this festival of gopi-candana, she remarked, “By putting candana on Vana-devata’s body, all these gopis are receiving such immense blessings. The homes of these Vraja-devis are flourishing, becoming prosperous, beautiful and effulgent.”

When Jatila and Kutila heard of this, the desire for this same good fortune grew inside them. “We should also bring candana to smear on the body of Vana-devata and receive such blessings for our home,” they remarked. When they next went to Manasi-Ganga, they did not collect water but instead pasted candana. From where did they get this candana?

In Javat, Khadiravana, and Kaira there are several large gardens with many sandalwood trees. These trees are so fragrant and pleasant. Some time before this candana-yatra began, Jatila had expressed her lack of appreciation for these sacred trees. “Why has my son planted these rubbish sandalwood trees?” She griped. “These trees don’t give any fruits or flowers. They are quite useless. Really, I think his intelligence has been defeated. There are so many sandalwood trees here, but there are no mangoes, jackfruits or litchis. We should cut these worthless trees and plant useful, lucrative fruit trees.”

Thinking in this way, Jatila, along with her daughter Kutila, approached Nanda Baba and informed him, “Baba, we want to make a new garden. These sandalwood trees stand very tall and grand, but they don’t give any fruits or flowers. Please take these trees away for us.”

Nanda Baba replied, “Ok, what do you want in return for one tree?”

“I want five cows for each tree,” she said.

“How many trees do you have?” Nanda Baba asked.

“Thousands of trees.”

Before he agreed, Nanda Baba first consulted the sages of Vraja for advice – Bhagura Rsi, Garga Acarya and Sandilya Rsi. They all confirmed that Kamsa’s friends, Govardhana Mala and Abhimanyu, possessed many of these precious sandalwood trees, and they further informed Nanda Maharaja how immeasurably valuable and precious these trees were, and how difficult they were to obtain.

With this knowledge Nanda Maharaja agreed to receive Jatila’s sandalwood garden, and Jatila was very pleased to receive five cows in exchange for each tree. Jatila and Kutila then cut all the sandalwood trees with their own hands, greedy to get every single cow in their exchange. They sent these trees to Nanda Baba who re-planted them in his garden.

When Abhimanyu next came to his garden, he exclaimed in disappointment, “What happened?! O Mother! What have you done?”

“These trees don’t give any fruits or flowers,” she said, “I want a garden like Nanda Baba. I want nice jackfruits, pineapples, pomegranates, litchis, berries. Just see, these sandal trees are so useless.”

“These trees are priceless! Your intelligence is destroyed.”

“You be quiet, you don’t know anything,” Jatila hushed him.

After Nanda Baba had all these sandalwood trees planted in his garden, now these trees began to grow everywhere, especially in the hill stations, in Sundera and near Carana-pahadi. And in Jatila’s and Kutila’s garden only thorny trees grew, like babula trees, neem trees, and others.

Now Jatila and Kutila saw that all the sandalwood trees they had previously given away were actually so priceless, and they plotted, “We shall take some of these sandalwood trees back from Nanda Maharaja, and also paste candana to apply on Vana-devata.” Just see their mood. According to one’s mood, one gets siddhi. What is their mood? They have a very negative, unfavorable mood. They thought, “We shall go and tell Nanda Baba that he must give us this candana.” But after they pasted this sandalwood, Bhagavati Pournamasi said, “Vana-devata will never accept that which is offered by those who are hypocrites or else Vana-devata’s body will be burnt by this candana.”

Actually they did not even paste candana. Do you know how intelligent they are? These days when Candana-yatra comes, then many people actually bring fake gopi-candana. They paste clay and put an artificial fragrance of candana into this clay. They may even mix oil from candana into the clay, and then put this clay on Bhagavan and say, “Now we did candanayatra.” They will not paste real gopicandana from sandalwood because they say, “Oh, our hands are in pain! We cannot paste candana.” There are so many ways to cheat, and so many cheaters who don’t truly want to please God, and thus unfortunately there are many cheating programs currently running on during candana-yatra.

So, thinking themselves to be very clever, Jatila and Kutila said, “We will not paste sandalwood,” and instead they pasted something else. When they came to apply this bogus candana on Krsna, at that time a great fire came in their heart. This fire also rapidly spread to their clothes, surrounding them from outside as well. Why? Because with dishonesty they brought this corrupt, impure thing as an offering for Vana-devata, Lord Sri Hari. They ran in madness screaming, “Save us! Save us!” But still their minds were not purified.

Therefore, any seva you do, do so under the guidance of the Vraja-devis in a very simple way, free of duplicity. Don’t render any seva hypocritically. Don’t be a hypocrite. Render service sincerely. If inside, from within our heart, there is always so much fire of hypocrisy and duplicity, then that fire surrounding us in this material world outside will also easily enter our heart and not let us live. If you are burning like this, where will you go? Yama, the lord of death and reckoning, is always behind you. Whatever kukarma you have done, whatever bad fruits you have collected from your immoral activities, you will have to suffer the bad results. Therefore, don’t take shelter of hypocrisy.

Following this frightful episode, Jatila requested Srimati Radharani, “Please Rādhā, You come with Kutila and I and offer this Vana-devatā some candana and drinks. For the welfare of my only son, please go and receive blessings from this Deity. I will give you some milk, yogurt, and butter from my cows that you can offer. Alas! I have no grandchildren. I will pray for Him to send grandchildren. Alone, myself I cannot go and make these offerings because widowed persons are not allowed to offer this sevā; only kisori, kumaris and manjaris are allowed. I have heard that there are many priests and other guards at the entrance to this Rati-keli-kuñja inside Govardhana. The guards tell all who come there, that only these kisoris, kumaris and manjaris may enter into the kunja without any condition. Because they have absolutely no selfishness, only they can offer this candana sevā. Vana-devatā understands their prayers and automatically gives them any boon. With the manjaris and kisori-gopis, He is never angry and never rejects them. Please Radharani, You come with us to meet this Vana-devatā and You offer Him this candana sevā,” Jatila and Kutila requested.

Srimati Radhika did not agree. Jatila and Kutila then entreated Kundalata, Lalita and Visakha, “Please request your dear sakhi, Rādhā, to come with us to worship and serve this Vana-devatā. From His worship everyone in Vraja-dhāma is now happy and wealthy. Just see, families from all villages in Vraja are continuously offering this candana sevā and becoming so prosperous and content, but no one is going from my house. After performing this candana sevā, all Vrajavāsīs happily glorify this Vana-devatā; everyone has become so joyful from this service. We also want to go, but we need Radharani to accompany us.”

Kundalata, Lalita and Visakha approached Srimati Radharani and very sweetly invited Her, “Radha, please, won’t you come with all of us to meet and serve this Vana-devatā? We want to pray to Him and request Him for a boon.” Hearing the request of her dear sakhis, Radharani agreed to accompany them to Giriraja Govardhana for worship.

When, in a fluster, Jatila had sold all of her sandalwood trees to Nanda Baba, Nanda Baba allowed all Vrajavasis to use that sandalwood for service to Krsna. Each day, following the order of the rsis and maharsis, Yasoda Mata applied candana on Krsna’s forehead and body for His protection before He would go into the forest for cow-grazing. Now, Jatila desired to paste candana for Vana-devata, yet she had no sandalwood. She regretted her rash decision to destroy her sandalwood garden and was now looking everywhere in distress thinking, “Where is this sandalwood tree?” Somehow she managed to find some sandalwood near Nanda Baba’s house, collected this and made it into a paste, which she put inside one clay pot. Together with Radharani and Her sakhis, they all started for Giriraja Govardhana.

When they arrived, Jatila, Kutila, along with Radharani and Her sakhis, first performed abhiseka of Giriraja. Afterward, they tried to enter into this secret cave, Rati-keli-kunja, but there was a problem. While Radharani and Her sakhis easily strode ahead on the path, Jatila and Kutila found that they suddenly could not see anything. For Jatila and Kutila, the whole path into the kunja fell into darkness. Jatila and Kutila realized they had lost Radharani and Her sakhis, and that they had no idea how to enter the kunja or where to go. They began to pray as they waited for any sign of what to do. But for entrance into Giriraja’s heart, the fare is not so easy. How could they go inside? Remembering the special Deity waiting within the kunja, they prayed to that Vana-devata.

Eventually, within the darkness a sound came in response to their prayers, “Your heart is very dirty and black. You have great doubt in Radharani. How can you possibly come near Me? You are not clean. Inside, you are so polluted, and also your own house, son, and cows have all become dirty by the pollution of your constant doubt. I know that sometimes you think about sending Radharani to the market of Kamsa in Mathura to use Her to sell your butter, yogurt, milk and honey. How can you possibly consider exploiting Her for your business? This is your wrong idea and big fault. You are guilty of this doubt and disrespect, so I cannot give you any boon. I cannot accept your candana.

“Every day you are against Radharani and against Krsna. You constantly complain about Them to your son. I know that your son’s friend, Govardhana Mala, and his friend Kamsa, are making a plan to one day steal all the sakhis of Vraja and bring them to Kamsa. But this is not possible. I am protecting everybody. In Vraja-mandala, the vrajagopis are most chaste and honest, but you have doubt in all of them. You are always complaining and giving bad announcements, and thus you contaminate the hearts of many people. Therefore, you cannot see Me.

“After some time, your son will turn against you; he will stay in Mathura and never come back. Now, when he returns back to the house each evening, he repeatedly hears his mother and sister complaining about Radharani, Krsna and the sakhis. This greatly disturbs his mind; he has now become half mad. He is always thinking, ‘Why is my mother complaining about Radharani? I respect Radharani; it is very special that She has come to my house.’ At the time when She came to stay in Javat, Abhimanyu naturally became so happy and his life became successful. Since She’s been there, there is a steady flow of wealth, so many cows and lots of milk. Abhimanyu is very pleased by Her. He always thinks of Radharani with great honor, seeing how She is serving so nicely – cooking, cleaning, and doing everything.”

By the arrangement of Yogamaya, one shadow-form of Radharani’s original svarupa stays constantly in Javat serving Abhimanyu, Jatila and Kutila. With this shadow-form, Radharani continuously serves her family in Javat. At the times when Radharani goes to Nanda Gram each morning, and when She goes to Surya-kunda in the afternoon, Her shadow expansion remains in Javat serving.

The aerial voice of Vana-devata continued, “Your son has this virtuous attitude – he shows the proper regard for Radharani. But you – Jatila and Kutila – never give Radharani the respect She deserves. If this continues, I can never look upon your faces.” Jatila and Kutila stood stunned and silent for some time meditating on the heavy words of Vana-devata.

Unlike his mother and sister, Abhimanyu greatly revered Radharani and genuinely glorified Her everywhere. After some time, he could no longer tolerate his mother’s criticisms, and he began to think, “If my mother is continually disrespecting Radharani, then I will not stay near her any longer. I will go to Mathura and stay there and not come back.” Vana-devata knew the heart and mind of Abhimanyu, and thus cunningly shared this plan with Jatila and Kutila, who became completely disturbed.

“Oh! Never again will we complain about Radharani,” Jatila cried. “Please do not send my son to Mathura! I have only one son and one brother. Please don’t give any curse. How can I make You happy? My son’s wife, Radharani, is very good – I promise I will never again complain about Her. I will not disturb Her anymore – just please return Radharani to my house. I am now going. I will not disturb anyone. I have collected a lot of sandalwood. I will give this to all the Vrajavasis, and they may paste this into candana and offer it to You. I will also send many drinks with them from the fruit trees in our garden. Currently Abhimanyu has been offering all these fruits for Kamsa, but I promise that now every day I will send them all for You, Vana-devata. Oh please forgive me, and just one time give me Your darsana.”

Vana-devata gave no response, but suddenly the darkness covering the eyes of Jatila and Kutila was removed. They could not see the entrance to Rati-keli-kunja, but they could clearly see the pathway leading back toward Javat and they started making their way back home. As promised, Jatila and Kutila began to send candana and drinks for Vana-devata every day with Radharani and Her sakhis. No longer did Jatila or Kutila create disturbances or complaints about Radharani, and also they did not go near the bank of Giriraja Govardhana.

For people who are by nature very cruel and hard-hearted, sometimes this serious chastisement comes. They may even find themselves thrust into danger as part of this chastisement. For some time following these punishments, a little humility may appear within them. Heat can melt rock-hard ice. A volcano’s fire can even melt stone itself. But when the heat diminishes, the stone settles back into its hard nature. To change such cruel-hearted people is extremely difficult. Often this humility that comes to them from heated chastisement is short-lived.

Within Rati-keli-kunja, in the heart of Govardhana, every day candana was lovingly smeared on the body of Vana-devata by Radharani, the sakhis and manjaris. From being covered with this cooling candana, the color of Vana-devata Krsna changed, and He appeared beautifully golden. With pure, unmotivated love, Radha and Her dearest sakhis and manjaris served Vana-devata, increasing His happiness, more and more; and He also showered them with kindness and help, fulfilling all their desires. With such sweet, beautiful pastimes occurring there all the time, Raghunatha das Gosvami has thus glorified the caves of Giriraja Govardhana:

pramada-madana-lilah kandare kandare te
racayati nava-yunor dvadvam asminn amandam
iti kila kalanartham lagnakas tad-dvayor me
nija-nikata-nivasam dehi govardhana! tvam

The youthful Divine Couple perform delightful amorous pastimes within each and every one of your caves. Thus, since you facilitate the witnessing of Their lilas, O Govardhana, please give me residence by your side.

Dasa Gosvami knows how our Gosvamis are serving there in Rati-keli-kunja, within the heart of Govardhana.

Madhavendra Puripada came to Govardhana for this same kind of intimate service. At that time, the Deity of Gopala finally came out from His hiding place within the earth and told to him, “Oh Madhav! I have been waiting only for you! Please, you cook and arrange a big feast. If you do my abhiseka, I will be very, very happy. My body is burning with this separation! If you arrange for candana and smear this on my body, then I can be cooled. I will not accept this service from anyone else – I have been waiting only for you.” Gopala did not give this order to any other person in Govardhana at the time; He knew the sweet mood of Madavendra Puri’s loving service, and He exclusively wanted to taste that special mood to cool his separation. He waited specially for this.

This is the real heat of summer – the heat of the separation moods when Krsna and the Vraja-devis are distant to each other and cannot meet. Feeling very far away from the Vraja-devis and the nectar of their service, Gopala’s heart, and whole body, was ablaze in separation. When Madhavendra Puri cooled the Deity of Khira-Cora Gopinatha in Remuna by massaging Him in candana paste, the Deity of Gopala in Govardhana also received his cooling service, being non-different from Gopinatha. Only this candana-seva rendered by Madavendra Puripada could cool the separation fire of Gopala. Gopala felt the great bliss of reunion upon receiving this seva.

Now also, Lord Jagannath is receiving this most refreshing candana-seva from the Vraja-devis every day in Jagannatha Puri. His whole body is cooled with this paste, and He thus receives some relief from the scorching heat of summer separation. If, under the guidance of the Vraja-devis, anybody offers this candana to Krsna’s Deity, especially anywhere in Vraja-bhumi, then surely Krsna will be very overjoyed and give this vraja-bhava service tendency.

Gaura Premanande Hari Haribol!