Thursday, November 23, 2023

Vrajaisvarya-kadambini Release


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I am glad to announce the release of the Vrajaisvarya-kadambini, “A Bank of Rain Clouds Pouring Vraja’s Opulence,” yet another publication of the Baladeva Vidyabhusana Project.

In this remarkably sweet and simple work, composed at the request of Sri Krsnadeva Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Sri Vidyabhusana presents an epitome of the tenth canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is here recounted in the author’s words with many vivid descriptions not found there. It includes accounts based on other Puranas, tantras, and Gaudiya texts.

The text is further enriched by an extensive and thus far unpublished commentary by Vrndavana Tarkalankara Bhattacarya, one of Sarvabhauma’s leading disciples. Named Sudha-sara, “The Essence of the Nectar,” the commentary is true to its name, bringing out many aspects of each verse that would be often overlooked by the average reader, and the explanations are backed up by quotes from the sruti, smrti, lexica, treatises on philosophy, poetics, music, and so on.


This edition includes the original Sanskrit text critically edited based on multiple manuscripts, its Roman transliteration, the original Sanskrit commentary, a Sanskrit gloss, an English translation of all of these, and ample footnotes clarifying technical terminology. 


               From its very inception, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism has given bountiful and lofty contributions in the field of devotional poetry. Many of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s followers were not only highly accomplished poets, but they also left behind volumes of works that occupy a distinct place in the history of Sanskrit literature. Rūpa Gosvāmī, Sanātana Gosvāmī, Jīva Gosvāmī, Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, and Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja were some of the luminaries in the literary circle of Vṛndāvana in the 16th century, at the height of what was known as the bhakti-kāla, the devotional period.[1] In the same phase, those who remained in Bengal and Odisha, such as Kavi Karṇapūra and Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, also became renowned for their Sanskrit poetry. There were many other Gauḍīyas who engaged in writing in vernacular, prominently in Bengali, Odia, and Vraj-b­hāṣā. Their works were not at all meant to flaunt mundane erudition, although they lack none of it. Rather, these compositions were internally a deep and intense mode of meditation on the pastimes, qualities, and names of Śrī Rādhā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and externally an open glorification to be sung and heard, as emphasised by Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself as the utmost process of spiritual realisation based on the following words of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.3):

jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva

jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām |

sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir

ye prāyaśo’jita jito’py asi tais tri-lokyām ||

               “Even though You are usually unconquerable anywhere within the three worlds, You come under the control of those who, without endeavouring for mere knowledge, remain living amongst devotees while honouring— through body, words, and mind— topics narrated by them, either related to You or related to Your devotees.”[2]

Besides being a prime offering unto Their Lordships, those treatises are also an everlasting legacy to future Vaiṣṇava generations, who can thus closely associate with the authors through their words, in which they share so much of their realisations and ample scriptural knowledge. Indeed, Lord Kṛṣṇa is known as Uttama-śloka, “He Who is praised by choice poetry.” Not to speak of hearing and repeating the words of the scriptures and of the previous ācāryas, Viśvanātha Cakravartī directly endorses the composition of poetry as a process of devotional service: atha varṇayet kīrtayet, sva-kavitayā kāvya-rūpatvena nibadhnīteti vā,[3] “One should also narrate (Lord Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes). Or else, one should write (about His pastimes) in the form of poetry according to one’s poetical skills.” Thus, it is nothing but appalling that some individuals who fancy themselves as Gauḍīyas have been running a campaign to avert others from reading anything written by the previous ācāryas. Such derision is an affront to all of them, particularly to Jīva Gosvāmī, Śyāmānanda Prabhu, Śrīnivāsācārya, and Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura, who so painstakingly strove to distribute the Gauḍīya works far and wide. Their intentions could not have been clearer.

In Gauḍīya texts, readers conversant with Sanskrit will derive a surplus stratum of intricacies and subtleties that are peculiar to the finest poetry, in this case, in the form of bhakti-rasa, a distinct characteristic of the works of Rūpa Gosvāmī and Jīva Gosvāmī, who put their best efforts to establish bhakti as one of the rasas in Sanskrit dramaturgy, which until then were generally considered only eight according to Bharata Muni’s tradition:

śṛṅgāra-hāsya-karuṇā raudra-vīra-bhayānakāḥ |

bībhatsādbhūta-saṁjnau cety aṣṭau nāṭye rasāḥ smṛtāḥ||

               “Conjugal love, humour, sorrow, anger, heroism, terror, disgust, and wonder— these are said to be the eight rasas in dramaturgy.” (Nāṭya-śāstra, 6.15)

Remarkably, such refinement makes Gauḍīya poetry enticing even to scholars who may not be particularly inclined to the devotional genre.

The Text

               Aiśvarya-kādambinī, or Vrajaiśvarya-kādambinī, is the only known work of Gauḍīya Vedāntācārya Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa (c.1700-1793 AD) that is primarily poetical in nature, although he used versification in other of his original compositions, such as the Siddhānta-darpaṇa and the Prameya-ratnāvalī. While he is best known for his commentaries on philosophical works such as the Brahma-sūtra and the Bhagavad-gītā, it is conspicuous that he was thoroughly learned in poetics, as observed in the Sāhitya-kaumudī and Kāvya-kaustubha. Thus, it is quite natural that he would bring forth his own poetry. His command of prosody is also noticeable by the great variety of metres he used here, as seen below. The whole text is an epitome of the tenth canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is here recounted in the author’s words with many vivid descriptions not found there. It includes accounts based on other Purāṇas, tantras, and Gauḍīya texts. In some instances, the author may also have been inspired by the Vraja folklore, which is extremely rich and extensive, comprising countless anecdotes and songs whose motifs are centred around the pastimes of Śrī Rādhā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and the inhabitants of Vraja.

               The word aiśvarya is a derivative noun from the word īśvara, God, the Supreme Lord, and it refers to attributes that exclusively pertain to Him, such as omnipotence and supreme opulence. Here, the focus is His madhuraiśvarya, His sweet omnipotence. In various religious traditions, God is usually portrayed as omnipotent, but this is often illustrated by His ability to create and destroy the universe, to punish the sinful, etc. Although such qualities are certainly encompassed within Kṛṣṇa, while in Vraja, they are mostly withdrawn to give way to an even higher dimension of His omnipotence: His beauty, His sweetness, His attractiveness, His love, His ability to give unlimited happiness to His associates, and so on. All these constitute His sweet omnipotence, which is fully manifest only in His interactions with the inhabitants of Vraja. The word kādambinī means “a bank of rainy clouds.” Through a poetical simile given at the end of the text (7.15), the author explains that the lotus-like hearts of the devotees are drying up due to the feeling of separation from Kṛṣṇa, a distress compared to the scorching heat of the summer sun, which is aggravated by the paucity of narrations about Him. Each chapter of this book is thus compared to a shower (vṛṣṭi) of topics about Kṛṣṇa in the hope that those afflicted devotees will recover their bodily lustre, just like lotus flowers during the monsoon.

               This is one of Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s shortest works, and he concludes the text specifying its extension in the following words:

aiśvarya-pūrveyam apūrva-parvā

kādambinī nanda-sutāvalambā|

bhūyād viyat-sindhu-śaśāṅka-saṁkhyā

satāṁ priyā tac-caraṇāśritānām||

               “This Aiśvarya-kādambinī, whose number of verses is 140, has for its basis Kṛṣṇa, the son of Nanda Mahārāja, and it brings about an unprecedented festival. May it be pleasing to the devotees who have taken shelter at His feet.”[4]

Curiously, the verses in all the manuscripts are numbered, and their aggregate amounts to 137 verses, which is also consistent with the way the commentator analysed, interpreted the text, and numbered his comments. There are two possible solutions for this puzzle: The first guess is that the author used the round number 140 just to give an approximate idea of the extension of the text rather than a precise number. The second possibility is that Vidyābhūṣaṇa deliberately left a riddle to be deciphered by scholarly readers. The problem with the first theory is that it sounds somewhat superfluous to use a round number for a denomination relatively so small, and it would not be an arduous task to find a vocabulary to express the intended exact number and at the same time fit the metre of the verse. The problem with this second theory is that the commentator simply corroborates the number 140 and leaves it there, while it is more than expected that he would have given at least a hint to a possible brainteaser, unless he is with the author in testing the readers. In any case, this puzzle can indeed be solved by dividing the verses in a different way according to the rules of prosody. The following varieties of metres have been used throughout the book:

Even Metres (sama-vṛtta)

Jatu (5 syllables) 7.2, 7.3

Saṁhatikā (10 syllables) 6.3, 6.42, 6.43, 6.44

Bhujagahāriṇī (11 syllables) 4.11

Īhāmṛgī (11 syllables) 2.7, 3.8

Indravajrā (11 syllables) 3.10, 7.5

Kanakamañjarī (11 syllables) 4.5

Rathoddhatā (11 syllables) 4.2, 4.8, 6.50, 7.1

Śālinī (11 syllables) 1.4, 2.3, 2.5, 3.1, 3.6, 3.9, 5.1, 5.6, 5.9, 5.10, 5.17, 5.18, 6.2, 6.5, 6.11, 6.12, 6.16, 6.19, 6.47, 6.48, 6.53, 7.13

Saṁśrayaśrī (11 syllables) 5.2, 6.45

Sīdhu (11 syllables) 6.25

Svāgatā (11 syllables) 3.7, 4.12, 4.13, 6.8, 6.15, 6.18, 6.26, 6.46

Upendravajrā (11 syllables) 4.1, 4.14, 5.22

Vātormī (11 syllables) 1.5, 1.9, 2.8, 3.2, 3.3, 5.3, 5.5

Badhirā (12 syllables) 1.10, 6.33

Bhujāṅgaprayāta (12 syllables) 6.13, 6.22, 6.35, 6.36, 6.38, 6.39, 6.40, 6.41

Drutavilambita (12 syllables) 5.15

Pramitākṣarā (12 syllables) 7.9

Mañjubhāṣiṇī (13 syllables) 6.32

Praharṣiṇī (13 syllables) 6.20, 6.21

Rucirā (13 syllables) 5.7, 6.24

Vasantatilaka (14 syllables) 1.8, 2.1, 4.6, 6.1, 6.14

Pañcacāmara (16 syllables) 5.4

Kokilaka (17 syllables) 6.7, 6.9, 6.29

Śārdūlavikrīḍita (19 syllables) 6.23, 6.49, 7.15

Sarasī (21 syllables) 6.31, 6.51, 6.52

Sragdharā (21 syllables) 3.5

Half Even Metres (ardha-sama-vṛtta)

Ākhyānikī 3.11, 4.3, 4.10, 5.19, 5.23, 7.8

Puṣpitāgrā 5.11, 5.12, 5.13, 5.14, 5.16, 6.54, 6.55

Śiśirā 3.4

Viyoginī 6.30, 7.4, 7.10, 7.11, 7.12

Uneven Metres (viṣama-vṛtta)

Bālā 1.1, 5.20, 5.21, 7.16

Jāyā 7.7

Ṛddhi 2.4, 4.7

Śālā 2.2, 5.8, 7.6

Varāsikā 1.2

Moraic Metres (mātrā-chandaḥ)

Āryā 7.14

Aupacchandasika 4.9, 6.27, 6.28, 6.34, 6.37

Gīti 1.3, 1.6, 6.10

Pathyā 1.6

Moraic Even Metres (mātrā-samaka)

               Pādākula 6.17

In addition to these, verse 1.7 has a half even metre in which the first and third quarters conform to Vātormī, and the second and fourth conform to Śālinī; verse 4.4 has a half even metre in which the first and second quarters conform to Vāsantikā, and the third and fourth conform to Upendravajrā; and verses 6.4 and 6.6 have an unidentified variety of the Triṣṭup metre.[5] After analysing the metre in all these verses, it can be observed that each half of verse 5.4 can be a single verse in the Pramāṇikā metre, as both halves are grammatically independent and make different individual statements. The same applies to verses 6.40-41, which can be similarly divided into four verses in the Somarājī metre. In this way, there are three extra verses, and the total amounts to 140.


               There are scores of important books that are widely read but whose background history is totally unknown. It is therefore a matter of joy that both the author and the commentator of the Aiśvarya-kādambinī have shed light on what motivated its composition. Verse 7.15 states:

teṣāṁ tāpa-vimardanāya vimadā śrī-sārvabhauma-prabhoḥ

kāruṇyād uditeyam āśu bhavatād aiśvarya-kādambinī

               “By the kindness of Śrī Sārvabhauma Prabhu, this bank of rain clouds (kādambinī) has now appeared, pouring forth topics of Kṛṣṇa’s omnipotence (aiśvarya) and crushing the pride of opponent philosophers. May it quickly eradicate the grief of those devotees.”

The commentary further elucidates: “This book was brought into existence by the kindness of Śrī Sārvabhauma. Thus, he is its cause. This also indicates that this book is furnished with evidence that was revealed by his kindness. His designations as ‘Sārvabhauma’ and ‘Prabhu’ are due to his being known and influential (prabhu) in all (sarva) places (bhūmi) by dint of his outstanding proficiency in all scriptures and his being an exalted devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa. This is what should be understood here: Vāsudeva Sārvabhauma, the best amongst logicians, who was very eloquent and was revered by Gajapati Pratāparudra, and whom Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu persuaded to accept devotional service, once again appeared in the holy abode of Navadvīpa, desiring to propagate devotion and to smash all misleading philosophies. Being known as Kṛṣṇadeva Tarkālaṅkāra, he defeated all logicians, retired, and went to Vṛndāvana, where he became submissive at the feet of Viśvanātha Cakravartī. At the palace of King Sawai Jai Singh II, he defeated hundreds of dissident scholars and made the king become exclusively devoted to Govinda. In his assembly hall full of many kings and hosts of scholars, King Jai Singh named him ‘Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya’ and presented him with two pieces of cloth to honour him. This magnificent soul and foremost learned scholar taught the esoteric meanings of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to Vidyābhūṣaṇa and requested him to narrate Lord Hari’s sweet omnipotence. Being thus requested by him, Vidyābhūṣaṇa in due time described the topic in detail.”

               In other words, it appears that Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma was morose because of the scarcity of fresh literature centred around the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa in those days, and thus he requested Vidyābhūṣaṇa to fill this gap, knowing well how capable he was. Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya was a prominent śikṣā disciple of Viśvanātha Cakravartī and a descendant of Jagannātha Cakravartī (Māmu Ṭhākura). Documentary evidence suggests that Bhaṭṭācārya had been initiated in the Advaita-parivāra.[6] According to Gopāla Kavi’s (19th century AD) Vṛndāvana-dhāmānurāgāvalī (chap.62), Sārvabhauma had vowed to take dīkṣā only from someone who could defeat him in a debate, which happened when he met Viśvanātha. Sārvabhauma’s name is mentioned amongst five of Cakravartī’s disciples in a document dated Saṁvat 1769 (1712 AD) in connection with the Gokulānandajī Kuñja at Rādhā-kuṇḍa.[7] Soon after, he settled in Amber (present Jaipur) and was the mahanta of the Rādhā-Vinodī Lāl Temple for over three decades.[8] A document dated Saṁvat 1773 (1716 AD) records a grant he received from King Sawai Jai Singh II (1688-1743 AD) to be used in the service of the deity.[9] He also played an important role in the Jaipur debates, and ample documentation corroborates his relationship with the King, who commissioned him to compose several treatises, such as Bhakti-vivṛti, Karma-vivṛti, Jñāna-vivaraṇa, Bhakti-phala-viveka, and Siddhāntaikya-prakāśikā, all of which are part of the Khasmohor Collection, preserved at the Mahārāja Sawai Mān Singh II Museum in the City Palace in Jaipur. Most of these works seem to have been written between 1719 and 1723 AD. His best known book is the Padāṅka-dūtam, whose earliest known manuscript is dated Śakābda 1645 (1723 AD).[10] Commentaries on various works of Viśvanātha Cakravartī, such as Alaṅkāra-kaustubha, Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, and Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma also have the name “Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma” at the end.[11] Bhaṭṭācārya was a householder, and by 1735 AD, his son Rāmanātha Deva Śarmā was already sharing some of his duties. Kṛṣṇadeva Bhaṭṭācārya passed away either in the mid or late 1740s, as a document[12] dated Saṁvat 1802 (1749 AD) describes that after his demise, his grandson, Vṛndāvana Bhaṭṭācārya, claimed the same grant that had been previously given to his grandfather.

               Based on the above dates, as well as the available manuscripts, the Aiśvarya-kādambinī may have been written in the 1740s. There is no indication that the text was completed in Kṛṣṇadeva’s lifetime, despite his acknowledgement. If it was, it should have been in the early 1740s. Yet in this case, it is very likely that Sawai Jai Singh II would have been given a copy. A manuscript of the text without a commentary is found in the collection of the City Palace Library in Jaipur, but it does not belong to the Khasmohor Collection, Jai Singh’s personal library. This is a hint that the text might have been written after his demise in 1743. Kṛṣṇadeva too passed away shortly, so there is a possibility that the book was a posthumous tribute.

It is worth noting how over a century later, in the Navadvīpa-māhātmya (1.4.63-64), Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura would directly corroborate the previous identity of Vidyābhūṣaṇa, and indirectly, that of Kṛṣṇadeva too: “Being related to Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, Gopīnāthācārya heard Mahāprabhu’s explanation of the Brahma-sūtra along with him. By the Lord’ will, in due course of time, he will take birth as Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa and will then be victorious in Jaipur.”

The Commentator

               Vidyābhūṣaṇa commissioned commentaries on several of his works, and this one is yet another instance. This is substantiated by the fact that Dayānidhi, his personal scribe, wrote notes on manuscript ‘jha’ listed below. At the colophon, the commentator identifies himself as Vṛndāvana Tarkālaṅkāra Bhaṭṭācārya. He ends his commentary by acknowledging Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma as his guru, and Rādhā-Vinodī Lāl as his worshipable Deities:



kādambinīṁ vyavṛṇuta prathitaiśya-vṛṣṭiṁ

vṛndāvanaḥ sakala-sajjana-sammadāya||

               “For the delight of all devotees, Vṛndāvana Tarkālaṅkāra, who has the fortune of serving the lotus feet of Rādhā-Vinoda and of having attained shelter at the feet of Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma, has commented on this cloud-like book that pours out the omnipotence displayed by Kṛṣṇa.”

These Deities belonged to Lokanātha Gosvāmī, and to evade Aurangzeb’s onslaught, They were taken from Vṛndāvana to Rajasthan, where They eventually reached Amber in early 18th century. While Sārvabhauma served as the mahanta of the Rādhā-Vinodī Lāl Temple, he engaged several of his disciples in the service of the Deities, among whom was Tarkālaṅkāra.

If the same Vṛndāvana Tarkālaṅkāra Bhaṭṭācārya was also known as Vṛndāvanacandra and Vṛndāvana Cakravartī, then he is credited with the authorship of several works. A commentary on Kavi Karṇapūra’s Alaṅkāra-kaustubha, named Dīdhiti-prakāśikā and dated Śāka 1662 (1740 AD),[13] is signed by Vṛndāvanacandra Tarkālaṅkāra, who identifies himself as the son of Rādhācaraṇa Cakravartī. A commentary on Kavi Karṇapūra’s Ānanda-vṛndāvana-campū, named Sukha-vartinī and dated Śāka 1709, is also attributed to him, and so is a Sanskrit commentary on Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja’s Caitanya-caritāmṛta, dated Śāka 1667.[14] Under his name, there is also a commentary on Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Stava-mālā and Laghu-bhāgavatāmṛta, as well as a commentary on Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja’s Govinda-līlāmṛta, named Sadānanda-vidhāyinī. A cross-examination of these commentaries may be required to definitely ascertain whether all of them were factually written by the same person, but in principle, there are indications that this might be the case. As by the end of the Sudhā-sāra (7.13) there is a reference to the Siddhānta-ratnam, which was not composed earlier than mid or late 1750s, it is inferred that this commentary was written after the demise of Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma, and possibly years after the Vrajaiśvarya-kādambinī was written.

Needless to say, Vṛndāvana Tarkālaṅkāra was a learned scholar proficient in multiple disciplines, something that is evident from his commentary on the Aiśvarya-kādambinī, named Sudhā-sāra, “The Essence of the Nectar.” True to its name, it brings out many aspects of each verse that would be often overlooked by the average reader, and the explanations are backed up by quotes from the śruti, smṛti, lexica, treatises on philosophy, poetics, music, and so on. It is not clear whether the author intended this to be the full name of the book or it was so named by the commentator, but at the end of the commentary, we find the name Vrajaiśvarya-kādambinī, which was therefore adopted in this edition.

An important highlight in the commentary is yet another corroboration of the link between the Gauḍīya-paramparā and the Mādhva-sampradāya. While glossing the second verse of the author’s invocation, Tarkālaṅkāra says: ānandaḥ śrī-madhvācāryaḥ. sa evātigāmbhīryāt siddhānta-ratna-pūrṇatvāc ca sindhus taṁ paritaḥ pravardhayan. tad-anvaye svayaṁ dīkṣāṁ gṛhītvā gauḍādi-deśeṣu taṁ pracārayann iti bhāvaḥ, “The word ‘ānanda’ refers to Śrī Madhvācārya, who is himself and ocean on account of his great profoundness and his being replete with jewel-like philosophical conclusions. Lord Caitanya spread such an ocean in all directions, which means that after accepting initiation (dīkṣā) in the disciplic line of Madhvācārya, Lord Caitanya propagated the ocean of knowledge of Madhvācārya in many lands starting with Gauḍadeśa.”


[1] Usually considered to have transpired from 1350 to 1650 AD, but some propound earlier and later dates.

[2] The translation here follows the interpretation of Viśvanātha Cakravartī.

[3] Sārārtha-darśinī on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.33.39).

[4] For reasons better known to them, the editors of previous editions changed the reading of this verse and interpreted it in a way that is not even remotely close to what the original says.

[5] As the author used these metres, they must have been featured in some treatise on prosody with their specific names. There are multiple works on the topic, and they substantially differ from one another in the number of metres and their definitions. The author himself used several metres here that are not found in the Chandaḥ-kaustubha, on which he wrote a commentary.

[6] Vide Prof. Monika Horstmann’s Der Zusammenhalt der Welt, 3.3.3.

[7] Vrindavan Research Institute, microfilm T1:25.

[8] Nusukha Puṇya, vol. 19 (Tālukā Havelī) p. 249, Rajasthan State Archives.

[9] Nusukha Puṇya, vol. 17, pg. 811, Rajasthan State Archives.

[10] Dhaka University, call number 200(A).

[11] In the introduction of my edition of the Prameya-ratnāvalī, I have debunked the idea that he was also known as Vedāntavāgīśa, the author of the Kānti-mālā commentary.

[12] Nusukha Puṇya, vol. 19 (Tālukā Havelī) p. 248, and vol.17 p. 813-814, Rajasthan State Archives.

[13] University of Tübingen, accession number Ma I 240.

[14] Sanskrit College of Calcutta, Catalogue of Descriptive Manuscripts, X, 41.

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