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International Journal of Hindu Studies (2018) 22:25–43


Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia:

A Controversy Surrounding the Tenth Book
of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa

Kiyokazu Okita

Published online: 9 March 2018

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Abstract Krsna’s relationships with the Gopı̄s of Vraja, described in texts such as
˙˙ ˙
the Bhāgavata Purāṇa were controversial in the precolonial period. This paper first
summarizes the teachings of Caitanya (1486–1534), the inaugurator of Gaudı̄ya
Vaisnavism who promoted the Purāṇa. The paper then discusses Rūpa’s Ujjvala-
nīlamaṇi (sixteenth century) where he promotes Krsna’s paramourship in relation to
˙˙ ˙
the Gopı̄s. This is followed by an analysis of both Jı̄va’s (sixteenth century) view
on Krsna’s matrimony with the Gopı̄s and the refutation of Jı̄va’s view in the
˙˙ ˙
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra written by Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ (seventeenth century). By
tracing the process of “transcreation” concerning Krsna narratives, the paper
˙˙ ˙
demonstrates the complexity of this controversy, which continues even to the pre-
sent day. In addition, the paper argues that the production of commentaries provided
an intellectual outlet for Hindu theologians in early modern South Asia to express
their own perspectives on controversial topics while remaining faithful within their

Keywords Gaudı̄ya Vaisnavism · Hindu theology · paramourship · matrimony ·

˙ ˙˙
early modern South Asia


Krsna’s extramarital relationships with cowherd women (gopī) are a sensitive topic
˙˙ ˙
within the contemporary Hindu world. In his lawsuit filed in 2010 against Wendy
Doniger concerning The Hindus: An Alternative History, Dina Nath Batra argued
that, among other reasons, the book is offensive because its cover depicts God Krsna
˙˙ ˙
with many naked women. It is also well-known that in the nineteenth century,

& Kiyokazu Okita


Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan

26 Kiyokazu Okita

figures such as Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833), “the father of modern India,” and
Christian missionaries in South Asia criticized the Krsna tradition for being
˙˙ ˙
immoral. Bhaktivinoda Thākura, a prolific Gaudı̄ya Vaisnava author of this period,
˙ ˙ ˙˙
responded to this criticism in works such as the Jaivadharma (Okita 2008: 201–2).
Few realize, however, that Krsna’s relationships with the cowherd women of
˙˙ ˙
Vraja, described in texts such as the tenth book of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (“The
Beautiful Legend of God” [Bryant 2003]), were controversial in the precolonial
period as well. Caitanya Mahāprabhu (1486–1534), the inaugurator of Gaudı̄ya
Vaisnavism, for example, promoted the cowherd women’s extramarital relation-
ships (parakīyā) with Krsna as an embodiment of the highest expression of love. In
˙˙ ˙
the sixteenth century, his disciple, Rūpa Gosvāmı̄ (1489–1564), further expounded
this view in works such as the Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu (The Ambrosial Ocean of
Devotional Aesthetic Sentiment) and the Ujjvalanīlamaṇi (The Sapphire of
Amorous Aesthetic Sentiment). However, Rūpa’s nephew, Jı̄va Gosvāmı̄ (about
1517–1608), while accommodating the parakīyā viewpoint, wrote dramas such as
the Gopālacampū and commentaries that advanced the view that these cowherdess
girlfriends were ultimately married to Krsna (svakīyā). This apparent difference of
˙˙ ˙
opinion among the Gosvāmı̄s, as well as Jı̄va’s ambiguous stance on the issue,
became a source of controversy within the Gaudı̄ya school.
As will be discussed later in this paper, in the late seventeenth century
Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ recognized the presence of proponents of the svakīyā view in
Vrndāvana. An upholder of the parakīyā view, Viśvanātha’s response was to try and
refute their opinion and defend his own. Yet a little later, in the early eighteenth
century, one of his own disciples, Krsnadeva Sārvabhauma Bhattācārya, came to
˙˙ ˙ ˙˙
advocate the svakīyā view primarily under the influence of Jaisingh II, the famous
Kachvāhā king and the founder of Jaipur. The king wanted to establish the svakīyā
position in his realm since he was concerned that the parakīyā doctrine might
negatively affect the moral conduct of his subjects. The king sent Krsnadeva to
˙˙ ˙
Bengal to advance the promotion of the svakīyā view, which gave rise to two public
debates. In both cases Krsnadeva was defeated by Rādhāmohana Thākura, a
˙˙ ˙ ˙
descendant of Śrı̄nivāsa Ācārya, one of Jı̄va’s prominent disciples (Dimock 1966:
200–210; Horstmann 2009: 98–120). In the nineteenth century, Bhaktivinoda
attempted to reconcile these two positions in his commentary on the Brahmasaṃhitā
(Okita, forthcoming).
Since the subject of this special issue of the Journal is “Transcreating the
Bhāgavata Purāṇa,” it may be well to define how I will use the term “transcreation”
in this paper. By transcreation I mean the production of a new body of literature,
which is based on an original text but which at the same time modifies and
transforms it. For example, in his Latin translation of Phaedrus (1424), a Platonic
dialogue filled with homoeroticism, Italian humanist Leonardo Bruni (1370–1444)
exercises extensive censorship and makes significant changes to the original Greek
text (Reeser 2006: 34). Bruni uses a neuter participle amāns (“loving”) instead of a
masculine noun amātor (“a male lover”) to conceal the homosexual nature of the
relationship between the lovers (Hankins 1990: 396–97). His Renaissance
sensitivity towards sexuality meant that “Bruni was simply unable to accept Plato’s
explicit treatment of homosexuality” (Kraye 1994: 76). Thus Bruni’s Latin

Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia 27

Phaedrus is a transcreation of the Greek original because while the former is based
on the latter, it also modifies and transforms it.
One of the reasons why transcreation takes place is because the social norms that
were acceptable at the time of the original text are not acceptable to writers of a later
period. In the case of Bruni, homosexuality in Plato’s work posed a challenge. In the
case of the Gaudı̄ya school, Krsna’s activities described in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
˙ ˙˙ ˙
posed such challenges. In this context Noel Sheth (1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1989–
90, 1993, 1998) has extensively examined Krsna’s “morally embarrassing episodes”
˙˙ ˙
in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, such as his childhood pranks, his
stealing of the cowherd women’s clothes and of Indra’s Pārijāta tree, his rāsa dance
with married cowherd women, and his annihilation of his own Yādava clan. In his
study of these narratives, Sheth points out that not only the commentators, but also
the Purāṇas themselves often offer justifications for Krsna’s antics. For the
˙˙ ˙
followers of the Gaudı̄ya school Krsna’s extramarital relationship with the Gopı̄s
˙ ˙˙ ˙
was an especially sensitive issue because the school deemed these cowherd women
to embody the highest devotional sentiment. While most Gaudı̄ya authors, including
Rūpa and Viśvanātha, emphasized the extramarital relationships described in the
Bhāgatava Purāṇa, some such as Jı̄va found them difficult to advocate. This
emphasis, or lack thereof, on extramarital relationships means that their works can
be viewed as the transcreations of the Purāṇa.
In this paper, I will first summarize Caitanya’s teachings, which are based on the
Bhāgavata Purāṇa. I will then discuss Rūpa’s Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.19–21 where he
addresses Krsna’s paramourship in relation to the Gopı̄s. This is followed by an
˙˙ ˙
analysis of both Jı̄va’s commentary Locanarocanī (The Eye Ointment) on Rūpa’s
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi and the refutation of Jı̄va’s view in the Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (A
Reflection on the Refutation of the View that the Gopı̄s were Married to Krsna)
˙˙ ˙
written by Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄, a representative of the Gaudı̄ya Vaisnava
˙ ˙˙
tradition in the seventeenth century.
By tracing the historical development of the ethical issues involved in Krsna
˙˙ ˙
narratives, I hope to demonstrate the complexity of this controversy, which
continues even to the present day. In addition, I shall argue that the practice of
producing commentaries provided an intellectual outlet for Hindu theologians in
early modern South Asia to express their own perspective on controversial topics
while remaining within their tradition.


Caitanya was born in 1486 as Viśvambhara Miśra, a son of Jagannātha Miśra. His
place of birth was Navadvı̄pa, a town in West Bengal (Gaudadeśa) once famous as a
seat of Navyanyāya learning.1 According to hagiographies, Caitanya grew up to be
an excellent Sanskrit grammarian (vaiyākaraṇa), but he was arrogant and proud of

According to tradition Caitanya was a fellow student of Raghunātha Śiromani (about 1460–1540), a
˙ on the development of
well-known commentator on Gaṅgeśa’s Tattvacintāmaṇi. For a detailed discussion
the Navadvı̄pa school of Navyanyāya and Raghunātha, see Ganeri 2011: 39–59.

28 Kiyokazu Okita

his talent. After meeting with a Vaisnava mendicant called Īśvara Purı̄, however,
Caitanya’s character underwent a complete transformation. He started loudly
chanting the names of God Krsna and is said to have become completely absorbed
˙˙ ˙
in his religious devotion. Soon he renounced his family life, and in 1510, at the age
of twenty-four, he took sannyāsa. After doing so he immediately left his hometown
to go on a pilgrimage to South India. Following his tour he settled in Purı̄, Orissa,
where he remained until the end of his life.
In his teaching, Caitanya emphasized the centrality of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
(about seventh century).2 In the Bhāgavata, especially in its tenth book, we read
about the activities of Krsna during his childhood and youth in Vraja. The Purāṇa
˙˙ ˙
describes Krsna as a mischievous child who was also the recipient of deep parental
˙˙ ˙
affection. As a boy, he worked with his cowherd friends out in the fields. Then, as a
youth, he began to attract the attention of cowherd girls. These narratives describe
young Krsna’s dealings with the residents of Vraja that are considered more
˙˙ ˙
personal and intimate than those described in, for example, the Mahābhārata.
Among the various relationships Krsna has with the people of Vraja, Caitanya
˙˙ ˙
particularly praises his relationship with the Gopı̄s and the Gopı̄s’ exclusive
devotion to Krsna. As Sheth points out (1984: 13–14, 52–53), while the Harivaṃśa
˙˙ ˙
does not explicitly state that these Gopı̄s were married, according to the Viṣṇu
Purāṇa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, many of them were married to other cowherd
men. Therefore by meeting with Krsna, the Gopı̄s risked losing their family or
˙˙ ˙
worse, being ostracized from their native village.3 Notwithstanding, the Gopı̄s’
attachment to Krsna was so strong that they left their homes to see Krsna in the
˙˙ ˙ ˙˙ ˙
middle of the night when Krsna called them with his flute. According to Caitanya,
˙˙ ˙
these Gopı̄s are ideal devotees because they are willing to sacrifice their family,
friends, and social reputation for the sake of their love of God.
Caitanya’s intense devotion, unique teachings, and charisma attracted many
disciples. Over the course of his lifetime he accrued a following which was spread
mainly in three regions: Bengal, his native province; Orissa, where he spent the
latter half of his life; and the area of Vraja, where Krsna is believed to have
˙˙ ˙
descended on earth. Although, as previously mentioned, Caitanya is said to have
been an excellent Sanskrit grammarian in his youth, he did not write down his
teachings. Instead, he instructed his disciples orally and ordered them to systematize
his teachings.

Rūpa Gosvāmī

Rūpa Gosvāmı̄ was born in Bengal in 1489. Prior to meeting Caitanya, Rūpa and his
elder brother, Sanātana, served Alā-uddı̄n Husayn Shāh (ruled 1494–1519), the
Muslim ruler of Bengal at the time. After meeting with Caitanya in Rāmakeli in
Based on the iconographical evidence in the Vaikuntha Perumāl temple in Tamil Nadu discussed by
Dennis Hudson (1995), Bryant (2002) suggests that much of the˙ Purāṇa was formulated prior to the
seventh century.
On the tension between devotion (bhakti) and the moral duty of women (strīdharma), see Coleman

Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia 29

1514, however, the brothers decided to leave their government posts, and at
Caitanya’s instigation, they moved to Vrndāvana around 1516. Caitanya instructed
them to stay in Vraja and write down his teachings in a systematic manner. Thus it
came about that the two brothers produced the writings that later became the
foundation of Gaudı̄ya Vaisnava theology.4
˙ ˙˙
In his work the Ujjvalanīlamaṇi, or the The Sapphire of Amorous Aesthetic
Sentiment, Rūpa analyses the Gopı̄s’ loving sentiment (śṛṅgārarasa) towards Krsna,
˙˙ ˙
applying the terminologies and aesthetic theories developed in the traditions of
Sanskrit rhetoric (alaṅkāraśāstra) and dramaturgy (nāṭyaśāstra). In the first chapter,
Rūpa describes and discusses Krsna as the locus of aesthetic sentiment (ālambana-
˙˙ ˙
vibhāva).5 The chapter identifies Krsna with various types of heroes (nāyaka). In the
˙˙ ˙
tenth verse, Rūpa writes that Krsna can be a hero either as a husband or as a
6 ˙˙ ˙
paramour. Then, in the seventeenth verse, Krsna as a paramour is defined as
˙˙ ˙
follows: “It is traditionally remembered by wise people that a paramour is the object
of intense love that belongs to them [that is, the Gopı̄s]. He transgresses the moral
codes out of the passion that is the longing for a woman married to another
person.”7 This verse defines a paramour based on three elements. First, Krsna as a
˙˙ ˙
paramour transgresses the moral code (dharma). Rūpa acknowledges that
paramourship is considered illicit. Second, this transgression happens because
Krsna desires women who are married to other men. As Rūpa discusses later, the
˙˙ ˙
loving sentiment between Krsna and the Gopı̄s is intense precisely because the
˙˙ ˙
Gopı̄s do not belong to Krsna. Third, it is not only Krsna who desires the Gopı̄s, for
˙˙ ˙ ˙˙ ˙
they reciprocate his love.
In classical South Asian Sanskrit literature there are many dramas and poems that
describe amorous aesthetic sentiment (śṛṅgārarasa) between a hero and a heroine.
However, in the nineteenth verse of the Ujjvalanīlamaṇi, Rūpa argues that the best
amorous aesthetic sentiment exists in Krsna’s dalliance with the Gopı̄s.8 Then, in
˙˙ ˙
the twentieth verse, Rūpa substantiates this claim by citing a verse attributed to
Bharata Muni, the legendary author of the Nāṭyaśāstra, or the Treatise on Drama,
compiled by the third or fourth century: “That from which [the couple] is prevented
many times, in which there is the state of being secret lovers, and which is the
condition of being difficult to mutually obtain, that is the highest sensual pleasure
(rati) related to love.”9 According to this verse, passion becomes intensified when
there are obstacles to the relationship. The greater the challenge, the more intense
the feeling will become. Rūpa’s logic is that the amorous feeling between Krsna and
˙˙ ˙

For a detailed account of the lives of Rūpa and Sanātana, see Delmonico 1993.
tatra vibhāveṣv ālambanāḥ—asminn ālambanāḥ proktāḥ kṛṣṇas tasya ca vallabhāḥ ∥ “Among them, the
substrates in relation to stimuli: In this context the substrates are said to be Krsna and His lovers.”
˙˙ ˙
pūrvoktadhīrodāttādicaturbhedasya tasya tu | patiś copapatiś ceti prabhedāv iha viśrutau ∥ “As for the
four divisions such as Dhı̄rodātta described previously, we hear of two divisions in this text, namely,
husband and paramour.”
rāgenollaṅghayan dharmaṃ parakīyābalārthinā | tadīyapremavasatir budhair upapatiḥ smṛtaḥ ∥
atraiva paramotkarṣaḥ śṛṅgārasya pratiṣṭhitaḥ ∥
bahu vāryate yataḥ khalu yatra pracchannakāmukatvaṃ ca | yā ca mithodurlabhatā sā paramā
manmathasya ratiḥ ∥

30 Kiyokazu Okita

the Gopı̄s is more intense because the Gopı̄s are married to other men. Consequently
their clandestine love presents them with a number of challenges.
Typically, these challenges have to do with members of the Gopı̄s’ families who
are suspicious of their behavior. This is illustrated for example in the following
verse from Rūpa’s Padyāvalī:
My mother-in-law is like a god when it comes to any sign. My sisters-in-law
lick the movement of my eyes. When I just sigh, my husband grumbles.
Cowives suspect my mind. So this is my apology from a distance. What is the
use of that loving gaze of yours? O you who have delight in various
arrangements of skills! This effort [of yours] in this regard is useless.10
Since the Gopı̄s are married and live with their in-laws, they cannot come and go as
they please/desire. This obstacle makes their longing for Krsna more intense.
˙˙ ˙
While Bharata’s formula of passionate love seems to make sense in terms of
emotional intensity, Rūpa’s argument has an obvious ethical drawback. He
surmounts this in the twenty-first verse by saying that the ethical problems
associated with paramourship do not apply to Krsna: “Lowliness11 mentioned in this
˙˙ ˙
regard [in the case of being a paramour], however, is [only] in relation to an
ordinary hero, not in relation to Krsna, who descends [on earth] for the sake of
˙˙ ˙
tasting the juice of aesthetic sentiment.”12 Rūpa acknowledges that in a mundane
context to have an affair with another man’s wife is socially and morally
unacceptable and therefore aesthetically distasteful. However, Rūpa says that the
lowliness and vile nature of paramourship do not apply to Krsna.
˙˙ ˙
Although I believe it is clear that Rūpa supports Krsna’s paramourship (parakīyā)
˙˙ ˙
as embodying the highest sentiment, there are scholars, such as Manindra Mohan
Bose and Edward C. Dimock, who believe otherwise. Therefore, before discussing
Jı̄va Gosvāmı̄’s view, I will examine their view that Rūpa promotes Krsna’s
˙˙ ˙
matrimony (svakīyā). Bose, for example, writes:
The Vaisnavas were quite cognisant [sic] of the fact that Parakı̄yā is a bad
ideal in society, and that when it is admitted as a principle in religion there is
no limit to the harm it can do. So, they have tried to remove the objections that
can be urged against the Parakı̄yā idea in the love of Rādhā and Krsna. They
˙˙ ˙
have advanced various philosophical arguments in justification of the innate
purity of their faith in spite of its apparent Parakı̄yā complexion (1930: 23–

Padyāvalī 204 (Rūpa 1934: 88): śvaśrūr iṅgitadaivataṃ nayanayor īhāliho yātaraḥ svāmī niḥśvasite
’py asūyati manojighraḥ sapatnījanaḥ | tad dūrād ayam añjaliḥ kim adhunā dṛgbhaṅgibhāvena te
vaidagdhīvividhaprabandharasika vyartho ’yam atra śramaḥ ∥
This is a translation of laghutvam. The term literally means light (laghu) -ness (-tva). However, in this
context it is used in the sense of lowliness or baseness, to denote a lack of moral character. Viśvanātha’s
commentary explains that in the case of an ordinary hero, paramourship is associated with lowliness
because it is not in accordance with dharma (atropapatau yal laghutvam uktaṃ pūrvācāryais tat
prākṛtanāyaka eva tatraivaupapatyasya vaidharmyāt).
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 5): laghutvam atra yat proktaṃ tat tu prākṛtanāyake | na kṛṣṇe
rasaniryāsasvādārtham avatāriṇi ∥

Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia 31

Then Bose provides two textual references to suggest that Rūpa supported the
svakīyā position. The first reference is Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.16ab,13 which Bose
translates: “The Gopı̄s were accepted by Krsna according to the Gāndharva mode
˙˙ ˙
(the custom of marriage based on free love) of union, so they were really Svakı̄yās
but not Parakı̄yās” (1930: 24). With regard to the second reference, Bose writes: “It
is also mentioned—‘As Rādhā is the embodiment of the faculty of joy (Ānanda)
which (with sat and cit) is a constituent element of Krsna (Sāc-cid-ānanda [sic]), so
˙˙ ˙
his union with her can never be a Parakı̄yā union’ ” (1930: 24). With these two
references, Bose presents Rūpa as if he supported the svakīyā position. I argue,
however, that his reading of Rūpa is partial and does not present a full picture.
As for the first reference to Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.16, the verse does say that some
Gopı̄s are considered to be Krsna’s own (svīyātvam) wives since they are accepted
˙˙ ˙
as such by the Gāndharva marriage. However, if we understand the structure of the
third chapter of the Ujjvalanīlamaṇi we see that those svakīyā Gopı̄s form only one
group within a much larger circle of Krsna’s lovers. In Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.3, Rūpa
˙˙ ˙
says that Krsna’s lovers are of two kinds, namely, those who belong to him (svakīyā)
˙˙ ˙
and those who belong to others (parakīyā).14 According to Rūpa, the first group,
namely, those belonging to Krsna, are his queens in Dvārakā15 and the Gopı̄s
described in 3.16. However, Rūpa starts his discussion on the parakīyā Gopı̄s in
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.17 as follows:
Now [those] belonging to others:
In contrast, those who offered [themselves to Krsna] only by passion that is
˙˙ ˙
heedless of both worlds [that is, this world and the world after death], and who
are not accepted [by Krsna] through dharma, they belong to others.16
˙˙ ˙
In this definition, the phrase “not accepted [by Krsna] through dharma” means these
˙˙ ˙
Gopı̄s are not married to Krsna. This definition of the parakīyā Gopı̄s nicely
˙˙ ˙
corresponds with the definition of Krsna as paramour (upapati), which we saw
˙˙ ˙
above in Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.17. As shown already, Rūpa explained in Ujjvala-
nīlamaṇi 1.19 that it is in Krsna’s relation to the parakīyā Gopı̄s that we find the
˙˙ ˙
highest expression of amorous aesthetic sentiment. Furthermore, in Ujjvalanīlamaṇi
3.39, Rūpa praises these women as being superior to all others: “These ladies
surpass all [other women] by [their] splendor, excellence, and power, and they are
ornamented by a multitude of loving sentiment and sweetness that is even greater
than that of Laksmı̄ and so on.”17 Based on this evidence, it is clear that when we
examine the third chapter of the Ujjvalanīlamaṇi holistically, Rūpa differentiates the
parakīyā Gopı̄s as superior to the svakīyā ones.
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.1 (Rūpa 1954: 17): gāndharvarītyā svīkārāt svīyātvam iha vastutaḥ | avyaktatvād
vivāhasya suṣṭhu pracchannakāmatā ∥
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.3 (Rūpa 1954: 16): svakīyāḥ parakīyāś ca dvidhā tāḥ parikīrtitāḥ ∥
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.7 (Rūpa 1954: 16): tās tu śrīyaduvīrasya sahasrāṇy asya ṣoḍaśa | aṣṭottaraśatāgrāṇi
dvāravatyāṃ suviśrutāḥ ∥
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.17 (Rūpa 1954: 17): atha parakīyāḥ—rāgeṇaivārpitātmāno lokayugmānapekṣiṇā |
dharmeṇāsvīkṛtā yās tu parakīyā bhavanti tāḥ ∥
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.39 (Rūpa 1954: 20): etāḥ sarvātiśāyinyaḥ śobhāsādguṇyavaibhavaiḥ | ramādibhyo
’py urupremamādhuryabharabhūṣitāḥ ∥

32 Kiyokazu Okita

As for the second reference cited by Bose, this verse is found in Viśvanātha
Cakravartı̄’s commentary titled the Ānandacandrikā on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21. As we
will see later, Viśvanātha supports the parakīyā view. Therefore, initially it might
seem puzzling to find any argument in support of the svakīyā view in Viśvanātha’s
commentary. This confusion is quickly resolved, however, when we realize that the
passage Bose cites is an opponent’s view (pūrvapakṣa), which Viśvanātha rejects.
When we read the section in question together with the conclusive view, it reads as
[Opponent’s view]:
Surely, moreover, glorious Rādhā indeed is nothing but the pleasure giving
power, which is the nature of Kṛṣṇa. It is appropriate that she truly belongs [to
Kṛṣṇa], but not to others.
[Conclusive view]:
The Rādhā and Krsna whom we truly worship are only those characterized by
˙˙ ˙
their sport but not those devoid of their sport. Even though Śuka, Parāśara,
Vyāsa, and so on spoke of their sport, we desire most only [their sport] of
which Śuka spoke. And since we observe that the Gopı̄s belong to others in it
[in the sport spoken by Śuka], it is also the case that she [that is, Rādhā] who is
the best among all Gopı̄s certainly belongs to another.18
The italicized passage corresponds to what is cited by Bose. The expression “Surely
(nanu)” at the beginning, which Bose conveniently omits, indicates that the
italicized passage is the opponent’s view. Viśvanātha rejects this view, arguing that
even though Rādhā as a metaphysical principle belongs to Krsna, on the level of
˙˙ ˙
sport (līlā) she is married to someone else. Therefore, we cannot accept the passage
cited by Bose as evidence for support of the svakīyā position. Based on the above
analysis, it is clear that Bose’s argument is untenable.
Dimock (1966) follows Bose’s view. According to him, both Rūpa and Jı̄va
support the svakīyā position:
The Vaisnava theologians tied themselves into knots because of the stories in
the Bhāgavata of the love between Krsna and the Gopı̄s, for it is said that the
˙˙ ˙
Gopı̄s, at the time when they were involved in love affairs with Krsna, were
˙˙ ˙
parakı̄yā women, women belonging to others. Even though the context was
that of divine lı̄lā, such behavior was against accepted standards of morality.
Ways had to be found in which the Gopı̄s could be made out, in the last
analysis, to be svakı̄yā. This required no little skill, and Rūpa and Jı̄va
Gosvāmin gave it all they had (1966: 201).
I agree with Dimock that Jı̄va supports the svakīyā view. However, as in the case of
Bose, I argue that Dimock is wrong to attribute the svakīyā position to Rūpa.

Viśvanātha, Ānandacandrikā on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Viśvanātha 1954: 11): nanu ca śrı̄rādhā hi
krsnasya svarūpabhūtā hlādinı̄ śaktir eva | tasyā vastutah svı̄yatvam, na tu parakı̄yātvam ghatate | satyam |
˙˙ ˙
rādhākṛṣṇāv ˙
asmābhir upāsyete līlāviśiṣṭāv eva, na tu līlārahitau ˙| līlāyāḥ śukaparāśaravyāsādiproktatve
'pi śrīśukaproktaivāsmākam paramābhīṣṭā | tasyāṃ ca gopīnāṃ parakīyātvadarśanāt sarvagopīśiromaṇiḥ
sāpi parakīyaiva |

Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia 33

Dimock provides textual evidence from Rūpa’s Ujjvalanīlamaṇi, referring to 1.17,

1.21, 3.16, and 3.32. First, referring to Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.17, Dimock writes: “Rūpa,
for example, begins by saying that anyone who loves a parakı̄yā woman
‘transgresses the limits of dharma’; Krsna, because of his nature as God, could
˙˙ ˙
not have done that” (1966: 201–2). As we saw above, however, this is not what 1.17
says. For the sake of comparison, I give my translation of the passage again: “It is
traditionally remembered by wise people that a paramour is the object of intense
love that belongs to them [that is, the Gopı̄s]. He transgresses the moral codes out of
passion, [the passion] which is longing for a woman married to another person.”
Dimock’s paraphrase is wrong on two counts: (i) The agent of transgressing dharma
(ullaṅghayan dharman) is Krsna who is referred to as a paramour (upapati). Since
˙˙ ˙
he is the one expressed in the nominative case in this verse, the agent of the present
participle ullaṅghayan should be Krsna as well. (ii) There is no textual evidence for
˙˙ ˙
Dimock’s statement that Krsna could not have transgressed dharma because he is
˙˙ ˙
God. On the contrary, the verse suggests that the one who transgresses is Krsna.
˙˙ ˙
Then, citing Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21, Dimock writes: “And, he says, even though
critics have ‘spoken lightly of the Upa-pati’ (i.e., the unmarried lover), they have
had in mind not Krsna but the ordinary man” (1966: 202). Dimock’s rendering
˙˙ ˙
makes it sound as though Rūpa does not consider Krsna to be a paramour (upapati).
˙˙ ˙
However, this is not what 1.21 says. Rūpa says that the lowliness (laghutva)
associated with paramourship does not apply to Krsna. Yet, in this verse he does not
˙˙ ˙
reject the idea that Krsna is a paramour.19
˙˙ ˙
Third, referring to Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.16, Dimock says: “Furthermore, he goes on,
the Gopı̄s had been married to Krsna, though not by the generally accepted rites:
˙˙ ˙
‘They were really svakı̄yā, by virtue of the Gandharva rites, though the marriage
was never in manifested form’ ” (1966: 202). We have seen the same argument
already presented by Bose. It was made clear that 3.16 proved insufficient as
evidence of Rūpa’s svakīyā position.
Fourth, based on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.32, Dimock writes: “Or, he says, giving us
another alternative, even though the Gopı̄s were the wives of others, their marriages
had never been consummated; their husbands, the Gopas, had been deceived by the
power (māyā) of Krsna into believing that their wives had been lying with them”
˙˙ ˙
(1966: 202). The verse does not exactly say that the Gopas were “deceived by the
power of Krsna.” It says rather that the husbands of the Gopı̄s were not envious of
˙˙ ˙
Krsna due to the conduct of the women who were created by Krsna’s māyā. This
˙˙ ˙ ˙˙ ˙
means that the Gopas thought their wives were with them although in reality these
wives were illusory. Consequently Rūpa says that the real Gopı̄s did not have sexual
union with their husbands.20 Perhaps this is the strongest statement in support of the
svakīyā position, and as we will see below, Jı̄va exploits this point to uphold his
svakīyā view. Nevertheless, it is important to observe that rejecting the Gopı̄s’
sexual union with the Gopa husbands is different from rejecting the parakīyā
position. One does not necessarily entail the other. As far as 3.32 is concerned, Rūpa

Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21ab (Rūpa 1954: 5): laghutvam atra yat proktaṃ tat tu prākṛtanāyake |
Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 3.32 (Rūpa 1954: 19): māyākalitatādṛkstrīśīlanenānasūyubhiḥ | na jātu vrajadevīnāṃ
patibhiḥ saha saṅgamaḥ ∥

34 Kiyokazu Okita

is not rejecting the parakīyā position. In fact, it is precisely because the Gopı̄s are
married to the Gopas that Krsna creates their illusory counterparts to avoid their
˙˙ ˙
contact with their husbands. The term “husband” (pati) used in the verse also
presupposes that they are married. Although Dimock provides more textual
evidence than Bose, none of their references support the view that Rūpa holds the
svakīyā position. On the contrary, they all suggest that he holds the parakīyā view.
Rūpa’s contribution is that he systematizes for the first time Caitanya’s teaching
of Krsna bhakti, incorporating the terminologies and the ideas of the earlier Sanskrit
˙˙ ˙
tradition. Rūpa tries to articulate Caitanya’s teaching that the Gopı̄s’ devotion to
Krsna is most intense because they are married to other men. However, in terms of
˙˙ ˙
ethical problems that might be associated with such an idea, Rūpa does not provide
any apologetic arguments other than simply stating that Krsna is an exception.
˙˙ ˙

Jīva Gosvāmī

Unlike Rūpa, Jı̄va Gosvāmı̄ offers robust arguments in defense of Krsna bhakti. Jı̄va
˙˙ ˙
was born sometime in the early sixteenth century in the town of Rāmakeli in Bengal.
He was a son of Rūpa’s brother Anupama. Since his father died when Jı̄va was still a
child, he was raised by his uncles Rūpa and Sanātana. When Rūpa and Sanātana
gave up their ministerial positions and moved to Vrndāvana as mendicants, Jı̄va also
moved to Vraja from Vārānası̄ where he had been receiving classical Sanskrit
training. After studying with his uncles, Jı̄va became the most prolific writer in the
school of Gaudı̄ya Vaisnavism.21
˙ ˙˙
In his commentary on Rūpa’s Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21, Jı̄va gives a lengthy
discussion arguing why there is no ethical problem in Krsna’s relation with the
˙˙ ˙
Gopı̄s as described in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. His argument is somewhat difficult to
follow, due to its length and elaborate nature. Given the fact that Jı̄va can be clear
and forceful when he wishes,22 one gets the impression that he is being deliberately
ambiguous about this topic. Although I agree with Jan Brzezinski (1997) that Jı̄va
leans toward the svakīyā view of Krsna’s marriage with the Gopı̄s, I would point out
˙˙ ˙
that Jı̄va also tries to accommodate the view that the Gopı̄s were married to other
men, that is, the parakīyā position. Thus I try to provide a more nuanced view than
that of Brzezinski. In this regard, my position is closer to that of Monika Horstmann,
who states that Jı̄va was unclear on this issue: “Jı̄va Gosvāmı̄ hatte hierzu eine
Position eingenommen, die er selbst—mithilfe einer von anderen später vielfach
zitierten und interpretierten salvatorischen Klausel—uneindeutig gelassen hatte”
(2009: 75).23
In his commentary on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21, Jı̄va first summarizes the opponent’s
view (pūrvapakṣa). According to the imagined opponent, the loving sentiment

For more detailed discussion on Jı̄va’s life, see Brzezinski 1992: 14–25.
For example, Jı̄va’s writing is clear and forceful when he refutes Advaita Vedānta (see Gupta 2007:
80–83; Okita 2014: 70–83).
“Jı̄va Gosvāmı̄ had taken a position in this regard, which he himself had made ambiguous, being a
severability clause which was later cited and interpreted many times by others.”

Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia 35

between Krsna and the Gopı̄s cannot be considered excellent for the following three
˙˙ ˙
reasons, which I categorize as etymological, aesthetic, and textual. First, the
opponent says that amorous aesthetic sentiment (śṛṅgārarasa) is also called ujjvala
(splendid) and śuci (pure),24 while according to a Sanskrit dictionary, a paramour is
synonymous with a sinful husband. Therefore, etymologically speaking, paramour-
ship and amorous aesthetic sentiment are not compatible.25
Second, according to Viśvanātha Kavirāja’s Sāhityadarpaṇa, or The Mirror of
Composition, which was written around the end of the fourteenth century, the term
“paramour” is not appropriate in describing amorous aesthetic sentiment.26 Thus,
according to the older view (vṛddhamata) in the tradition of Sanskrit aesthetic,
paramourship cannot be accepted as the main topic of drama or poetry.27
Third, in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (10.29.26), Krsna himself does not approve of
˙˙ ˙
illicit relationship: “For a woman of good family, the state of being a paramour
leads neither to heaven nor to fame, is worthless, troublesome, risky, and distasteful
in every way.”28
Based on these reasons, the opponent concludes that the citation attributed to
Bharata should not be taken as approval of extramarital relationships. Rather, the
passage praises only those obstacles that are within a marital relationship,29 as

Jı̄va, Locanarocanī on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 5): ujjvalaśuciparyāye rase ’sminn
adharmamayam aupapatyam aṅgitvāya nocitam |
Jı̄va, Locanarocanī on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 5): ‘jāraḥ pāpapatiḥ samau’ iti
trikāṇḍaśeṣādidarśanena nāmāpi tasya nindāgarbham eva labhyate | “ ‘Jāra (a paramour) and pāpapati
(a sinful master) are synonymous.’ Thus, as shown in the Trikāṇḍaśeṣa and so on, it is concluded that
even the name contains a blame for him [that is, paramour].”
Sāhityadarpaṇa 3.263–264 (Viśvanātha Kavirāja 1923: 44): upanāyakasaṃsthāyāṃ muniguru-
patnīgatāyāṃ ca | bahunāyakaviṣayāyāṃ ratau tathānubhayaniṣṭhāyām ∥ pratināyakaniṣṭhatve tadvad
adhamapātratiryagādigate | śṛṅgāre ’nucityaṃ… ∥ “[Inappropriateness is known] with regards to sensual
pleasure that abides in the paramour, relates to the wives of sages and teachers, targets many lovers, and
also, when it is not established in both [members of the pair]. Inappropriateness [is known] in relation to
the amorous sentiment when [it] is related to the counterhero, and likewise when it is related to very low
characters, animals, and so on.”
Jı̄va, Locanarocanī on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 6): yat tu kutrāpy aupapatyavarṇanaṃ
dṛśyate, tat khalu ‘neṣṭā yad aṅgini rase kavibhiḥ paroḍhā’ iti darśayiṣyamāṇavṛddhamat-
aprāmāṇyenāṅgini rase tu na, kintv anaṅgini rase sopahāsam eveti gamyate | “As for the fact that in
some cases we observe the description of the state of being a paramour, that is not in relation to the
primary sentiment, but rather we understand that it [that is, the description of the state of being a
paramour] is only farcical in relation to the nonprimary sentiment. This is because it is evidenced by the
opinion of the elders, which will be shown in the statement, ‘That the poets do not desire another’s wife in
relation to the main sentiment’.”
Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.29.26: asvargyam ayaśasyañ ca phalgu kṛcchraṃ bhayāvaham | jugupsitañ ca
sarvatra hy aupapatyaṃ kulastriyāḥ ∥ This is the scene where Krsna preaches the moral codes of women
˙ ˙ ˙of Yamunā in the middle of the night.
to the ladies of Vraja, after inviting them to meet him at the bank
Jı̄va, Locanarocanī on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 6): ato muninā bharatenāpi ratnāvalīnā-
ṭikāvad yayāticaritavac ca dāmpatya eva sapatnādikṛtavāryamāṇatvādinā dāmpatye ratiḥ praśastā
bhavatīty eva matam, na tv aupapatyaratiḥ praśastā syād iti | “Hence the sage [that is, Bharata]
acknowledged [sensual pleasure] only in the marital relationship, as in the comedy Ratnāvalī and in the
Yayāticarita, precisely because he praises sensual pleasure in the matrimonial relationship through
[conditions] such as the obstructedness created by the cowives and so on, but [Bharata] would not praise
sensual pleasure in the state of being a paramour.”

36 Kiyokazu Okita

shown in dramas such as Harsa’s Ratnāvalī30 and Pratāpa Rudradeva’s

In response, Jı̄va gives his own conclusive view (siddhānta), which is rather
lengthy. As he provides two interpretations of Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21, I will
summarize his position in two parts. In the first interpretation, commenting on the
latter half of the root text, according to which “[Krsna] descends [on earth] for the
˙˙ ˙
sake of tasting the juice of aesthetic sentiment,” Jı̄va argues that the paramourship of
Krsna and the Gopı̄s exists only at the time of their descent on earth.32 What Jı̄va
˙˙ ˙
claims is that in the transcendental realm Krsna is the husband of the Gopı̄s. To
˙˙ ˙
substantiate his argument Jı̄va refers to two passages, one from the Bhāgavata
Purāṇa, another from the Brahmasaṃhitā. The first reference exalts the Gopı̄s
above Laksmı̄.33 The second describes the Gopı̄s as Laksmı̄. Jı̄va’s reasoning is that
˙ ˙
since the Gopı̄s are described as either identical with or superior to Laksmı̄, who is
Visnu’s wife, Krsna and the Gopı̄s must be eternally connected in the transcendental
˙˙ ˙˙ ˙
In addition, referring to Rūpa’s drama titled the Lalitamādhava (The Charming
Mādhava), Jı̄va argues that since the Gopı̄s are eternally married to Krsna, their so-
˙˙ ˙
called marriage with other men at the time of descent is illusory (māyikī).34
According to Jı̄va’s interpretation, in Rūpa’s drama Krsna and the Gopı̄s are not
˙˙ ˙
initially married, thus allowing for the development of aesthetic sentiment.
However, in the end they do get married, and for this reason, in his view, their
relationship presents no ethical problem.

This is a drama consisting of four acts attributed to the king Harsa (seventh century). The drama is
about the romance between Udayana, the king of Kauśāmbı̄, and Ratnāvalı̄, the daughter of Vikramabāhu,
the king of Simhala. Their romance is constantly obstructed by Vāsavadattā, Udayana’s first queen.
This is a drama of seven acts by Pratāpa Rudradeva (ruled 1268–1319), a king of Warangal. The
drama is about the romance betweeān King Yayāti and Śarmisthā, which is obstructed by Devayānı̄, the
daughter of Śukrācārya. Yayāti first marries Devayānı̄, and ˙Śarmis
˙ thā, a friend of Devayānı̄ and the
daughter of King Vrsaparvā, comes with her as her servant. Śarmisthā ˙˙ and Yayāti fall in love with each
other but they have˙˙to meet in secrecy so that Devayānı̄ will not˙˙ notice. Both the Ratnāvalī and the
Yayāticarita seem to describe the relationship of a hero with his second wife, which is obstructed by his
first wife. The point here is that in both dramas, all the romantic relationships are within marriage.
Jı̄va, Locanarocanī on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 6): atrāvatārasamaya evaupapatyarītiḥ
pratyāyitā |
Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.47.60: nāyaṃ śriyo ’ṅga u nitāntarateḥ prasādaḥ svaryoṣitāṃ nalinagandha-
rucāṃ kuto ’nyāḥ | rāsotsave ’sya bhujadaṇḍagṛhītakaṇṭhalabdhāśiṣāṃ ya udagād vrajavallabhīnām ∥
“How wonderful! This favor, that arose for the beloved ladies of Vraja [that is, the Gopı̄s], who obtained
blessings by having their necks embraced by [Krsna’s] long arms during his festival of rāsa dance, did not
˙˙ ˙
[arise] for the goddess of fortune who [enjoys] extraordinary sexual pleasure on [Visnu’s] chest, [nor did it
˙ ˙ How would other
manifest] for the celestial women who have the fragrance and loveliness of lotus flowers.
ladies [enjoy such a favor]?”
Jı̄va, Locanarocanī on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 6–7): Gārgī: ṇūṇaṃ goaḍḍhaṇādigoehiṃ
candāalīpahudīṇaṃ ubbāho māāe ṇibbāhido | Paurṇamāsī: atha kim | patiṃmanyānāṃ vallavānāṃ
mamatāmātrāvaśeṣitā tāsu dāratā yad ebhiḥ prekṣaṇam api tāsāṃ durghaṭam ∥ “Gārgı̄: ‘Surely, the
marriage of Candrāvalı̄ and so on with cowherds such as Govardhana is effected by māyā.’ Paurnamāsı̄:
˙ idea
‘What else? With regard to them [that is, the Gopı̄s], [their] state of being wives is the remnant of the
of mere ownership on the part of the cowherds thinking themselves to be [their] husbands, since these [so-
called husbands such as Govardhana] have difficulty even seeing them’ [that is, the Gopı̄s].”

Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia 37

Then Jı̄va proceeds to take a different approach. He writes that the logic in the
passage attributed to Bharata—the more obstacles you have in your relationship, the
better and more intense the loving sentiment will be—does not apply to the Gopı̄s
because their love for Krsna is innately strong, and the excellence of their devotion
˙˙ ˙
does not depend on the presence or absence of obstacles in their relationship
with him. According to Jı̄va’s view, Rūpa cites Bharata’s passage simply to draw
the interest of those who know aesthetic sentiment in the mundane world (laukika-
rasa).35 Since Bharata is the authority in Sanskrit dramaturgy, citing a passage from
his work might attract the attention of those who are familiar with the tradition of
dramaturgy but who are not necessarily attracted to Krsna.
˙˙ ˙
In the second explanation, Jı̄va further emphasizes that in reality Krsna is married
˙˙ ˙
to the Gopı̄s. Commenting again on the latter half of Ujjvalanīlamaṇi, he says “At
times other than [his] descent, [Krsna] does not accept such a state of being [that is,
˙˙ ˙
being a paramour], but [he] accepts only the state of being married [to the Gopı̄s].”36
He provides three textual references to support his argument. First, the Brah-
masaṃhitā describes the Gopı̄ as Krsna’s own form (nijarūpatayā).37 Second, the
˙˙ ˙
Gautamīyatantra explains that Krsna, as Gopı̄janavallabha, is the husband of the
38 ˙˙ ˙
Gopı̄s. Third, in the Gopālatāpanyupaniṣad the sage Durvāsas states that Krsna is
˙˙ ˙
the Gopı̄s’ husband.39
Then Jı̄va provides a further ontological argument based on a passage from the
Bhāgavata Purāṇa (10.33.35): “He who moves inside40 the Gopı̄s, their husbands,
as well as all the embodied beings, this person is the superintendent, who possesses
a body / bodies for the sake of [his] sport.”41 According to Jı̄va, this passage shows

Jı̄va, Locanarocanī on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 7–8): tasmād “bahu vāryate” ityādi yal
laukikarasavidāṃ matam utthāpitaṃ tat khalu tanmatarāgiṇām apy āpātabodhanāyeti śrīmatāṃ
granthakṛtām abhiprāyaḥ |
Jı̄va, Locanarocanī on Ujjvalanīlamaṇi 1.21 (Rūpa 1954: 8): avatārād anyadā na tādṛśatāyāḥ svīkāraḥ
kintu dāmpatyasyaiveti labhyate |
Brahmasaṃhitā 5.37 (1932: 95): ānandacinmayarasapratibhāvitābhis tābhir ya eva nijarūpatayā
kalābhiḥ | goloka eva nivasaty akhilātmabhūto govindam ādipuruṣaṃ tam ahaṃ bhajāmi ∥ “I worship
Govinda, the primordial person, who is the essence of the entire world, who indeed stays only Goloka,
together with those parts [that is, the Gopı̄s] as his own form, [the Gopı̄s] who are counter suffused with
the sentiment of bliss and consciousness.”
Gautamīyatantra 2.26 (1927: 9): anekajanmasiddhānāṃ gopīnāṃ patir eva vā | nandanandana ity
uktas trailokyānandavardhanaḥ ∥ “Or [Gopı̄janavallabha] means only he is the husband of the Gopı̄s who
accomplished many births. He is [also] called ‘Nandanandana,’ who increases bliss throughout the whole
Gopālatāpanyupaniṣad 2.27 (1943: 41–42): janmajarābhyāṃ bhinnaḥ sthāṇur ayam acchedyo ’yaṃ yo
’sau saurye tiṣṭhati yo ’sau gopiṣu tiṣṭhati yo ’sau gopānāṃ pālayati yo ’sau goṣu tiṣṭhati yo ’sau sarvair
vedair gīyate yo ’sau sarvabhūteṣv āviśya bhūtāni vidadhāti sa vo hi svāmī bhavati | “He [that is, Krsna]
˙˙ ˙
indeed is the husband (svāmī) [of the Gopı̄s], who is devoid of birth and death, immovable, indivisible,
who stands in the solar [orb], who stands among the Gopı̄s, who protects the Gopas, who stands among
cows, who is sung by all the Vedas, [and] who controls the living beings after entering into all beings.”
“He who moves inside” (yo ’ntaś carati): According to Jı̄va’s Bṛhatkramasandarbha on Bhāgavata
Purāṇa 10.33.35, this means Krsna is the internal self (antaryāmī) of the living entities (yo
˙˙ ˙ ca sarvadehināṁ cāntaś caratīti antaryāmī).
nārāyaṇarūpeṇaiva gopīnāṁ tatpatīnāṁ
Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.33.35: gopīnāṃ tatpatīnāṃ ca sarveṣām caiva dehinām | yo ’ntaś carati so
’dhyakṣaḥ eṣa krīḍanadehabhāk ∥

38 Kiyokazu Okita

that Krsna is the Self within (antaryāmin). Therefore, he is the husband of the Gopı̄s
˙˙ ˙
in the real sense of the term.
Jı̄va concludes his lengthy commentary with an enigmatic verse:
[A] svecchayā likhitaṃ kiñcit [B] kiñcic cāpi parecchayā |
[C] yat pūrvāparasambandhaṃ [D] tatpūrvam aparaṃ param ∥
[Pāda A] Something is written according to my will,
[Pāda B] and some other thing is written according to the will of others.
[Pāda D] The latter is the supreme (or other’s) view, which is preceded by
[Pāda C] that which connects the former and the latter.42
In this verse Jı̄va is deliberately ambiguous about his position. To begin with, in the
first half of the verse he does not specify which part of his commentary was written
according to his will and which part was written according to the will of others. He
simply says “something” (kiñcit). The second half of the verse is even more
confusing. When he says “the latter (aparam) is the supreme (param),” it is not clear
what he is referring to by “the latter.” If he is referring to the latter item mentioned
in the first half of the verse (that is, Pāda B), he is referring to what is written
according to the will of others. In that case, however, it is strange for him to state
that what he wrote according to the will of others is better than what he wrote
according to his own will. Rūpakavirāja, in his Sārasaṃgraha, interprets param in
the sense of others’ views (paramatam),43 in which case the verse would mean “the
latter (aparam) is the view of others (param).” In this interpretation, however, it is
redundant to say that what is written according to the will of others is the view of
others. It is possible that “the latter” (aparam) in Pāda D refers to the latter part of
Jı̄va’s commentary where he promotes the svakīyā position. In this case the verse
would mean that the latter part of his commentary, which promotes the svakīyā
position, was written according to the view of others. In this interpretation, then, all
Jı̄va wrote in support of the svakīyā position is not after all his actual opinion.
Whatever Jı̄va’s intention might have been, placing an enigmatic verse at the end
of a lengthy and complicated discussion certainly does not help the reader to
determine whether he actually supported the svakīyā position. We should also
remember that Jı̄va does accommodate the parakīyā position in the manifest realm.
Such was the confusion generated by Jı̄va’s ambiguous writing that it gave rise to
two camps among later Gaudı̄ya followers; namely, those who supported the svakīyā
position of marriage between Krsna and the Gopı̄s, and those who supported the
˙˙ ˙
parakīyā view that the Gopı̄s were married to other cowherds.

I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer for the suggestion to translate svecchā as “my will” rather
than “my desire.” Brzezinski translates this verse as follows: “Some things have been written here by my
own will, / some at the behest of others, / that which matches what I have said before / and shall say again
is the former, / that which is not, the latter.” For his discussion of this verse, see Brzezinski (1997: 92).
Rūpa Kavirāja 1949: 123: ata eva śrīlocanarocanyāṃ pūrvāparasambandhatvaṃ vinā yat kiñcil
likhanaṃ vartate tat khalu paramataṃ na tu svamatam….

Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia 39

Viśvanātha Cakravartī

Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ was perhaps the most prominent Gaudı̄ya author in the
seventeenth century. He was born in Nadı̄yā in the mid-seventeenth century and
later moved to Vrndāvana. In his work titled the Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra, or An
Examination of Rejecting the Notion of Matrimony, Viśvanātha addresses and refutes
the view that Krsna was married to the Gopı̄s. In so doing, he rejects some of the
˙˙ ˙
arguments we saw in Jı̄va’s commentary.
Viśvanātha starts this work with a series of questions regarding when and how
Krsna could have been married to the Gopı̄s:
˙˙ ˙
Here in Vraja, some argue, speaking about glorious Vrsabhānu’s daughter’s
[that is, Rādhā’s] marriage with glorious Nanda’s son [that is, Krsna]. On this
45 ˙˙ ˙
point, we should ask them:
(1) Was [the marriage] before [Krsna’s] departure to Mathurā?
˙˙ ˙
(2) Or was it after living in Mathurā and then in Dvārakā, at the time of
meeting at Kuruksetra?
(3) Perhaps, following the Gadya in the Padma Purāṇa, [it was] after coming
from there [that is, from Kuruksetra] and after killing Dantavakra, when
[Krsna] came again to Vraja?48
˙˙ ˙
(4) Or is [their marriage] eternally established like that of Laksmı̄ and
Paravyomanātha [that is, Visnu]? In that case,
(4.1) Was [Rādhā] given to glorious Krsna by [her] parents from the very
˙˙ ˙
beginning, without having another [husband]?
(4.2) Was she given to another man first, then subsequently after [her parents]
somehow heard that [her] marriage was unreal, was she married again to this
person [that is, to Krsna]?49
˙˙ ˙
Viśvanātha examines each option and demonstrates, mainly on textual grounds, why
none of them are plausible. Rejecting the third option, for example, he points out
that the Padma Purāṇa itself says that Krsna dallied with the wives of [other]
˙˙ ˙
For a detailed discussion of Viśvanātha’s life and works, see Burton 2000: 9–63.
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 1): iha vraje kecana śrīmannandanandanena
saha śrīvṛṣabhānunandinyā udvāhaṃ vadanto vivadante | tatra ta eva praṣṭavyāḥ |
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 1): kiṃ mathurāprasthānāt pūrvam eva?
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 1): uta, mathurāto dvārakāyām uṣitvā tataḥ
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 1): āho svit, tata āgatya dantavakravadhānan-
taraṃ padmapurāṇīyagadyānusāreṇa punar vrajāgamanottarakāle?
The killing of Dantavakra happens in Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.78, whereas the Gopı̄s’ encounter with
Krsna in Kuruksetra is narrated in Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.82.
˙˙ ˙ ˙
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 1): kim uta, lakṣmīparamavyomanāthavan
nityasiddha eveti tatrāpi kiṃ pitṛbhyāṃ śrīkṛṣṇāya prathamata evānanyapūrvaiva dattā utāho, ādau
anyasmai dattā tadanantaraṃ yathā kathaṃcit tadvivāhasya mithyātvena vikhyāpanaṃ śrutvā punar
anenodvāhitā ∥
Padma Purāṇa 13.252.26: kālindyāḥ puline ramye puṇyavṛkṣasamāvṛte | gopanārībhir aniśaṃ
krīḍayāmāsa keśavaḥ ∥

40 Kiyokazu Okita

The fourth option suggests that while Krsna and the Gopı̄s were not married
˙˙ ˙
during their pastime on earth, in the transcendental realm they were married like
Laksmı̄ and Visnu. This is one of the arguments that Jı̄va elaborated in his
˙ ˙˙
commentary. Viśvanātha again refutes this view and says it is not plausible because
Krsna’s manifest pastimes on earth (prakaṭalīlā) and his unmanifest pastimes
˙˙ ˙
(aprakaṭalīlā) should be the same.51
Viśvanātha also addresses the idea found in Jı̄va’s commentary that the marriage
between the Gopı̄s and the cowherds is illusory. Viśvanātha asks how it is possible
for the Gopı̄s to accept a second marriage with Krsna, after deciding somehow that
˙˙ ˙
the first marriage with other cowherds was illusory, even though it was performed in
front of all the residents of Vraja. Viśvanātha adds that even the followers of
Śaṅkara who always proclaim the illusoriness of this creation cannot say that what is
performed according to the scripture is illusory.53 Viśvanātha further states that
even if the idea of Krsna’s paramourship is objectionable, the idea of being the
˙˙ ˙
second husband is itself distasteful and it is not appropriate for Krsna.54
˙˙ ˙
As the main representative of the Gaudı̄ya school in the seventeenth century,
Viśvanātha was familiar with the works of Rūpa, Sanātana, and Jı̄va (Burton 2000:
44; Edelmann 2015). In this regard, it seems Viśvanātha was also aware of Jı̄va’s
somewhat conflicting view on Krsna’s relationship with the Gopı̄s. However,
˙˙ ˙
instead of criticizing Jı̄va, Viśvanātha criticizes those who support the svakīyā view
using Jı̄va’s works. For example, promoting the third option mentioned above, those
who support the svakīyā position argue that their view is based on the
Kṛṣṇasandarbha, the Gopālacampū, and the Locanarocanī, all of which were
written by Jı̄va.55 Later in reply, Viśvanātha writes that these supporters of the
svakīyā position are disrespecting what has been established by the revealed
scriptures and by previous teachers and that the Bhagavatsandarbha is indeed intent
on rejecting their view.56 Like the Kṛṣṇasandarbha, the Bhagavatsandarbha is one
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 3): nāpi caturthaḥ saṃgacchate, prakaṭāpra-
kaṭayor aikyarūpeṇa lokaval līlākaivalyena ca sarvadā sthiteḥ sarvatra nirṇayāt |
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 3–4): kiñca, prathamaniṣpanno vivāhaḥ
sarvasminn eva vraje vikhyātaḥ vidagdhamādhavādāv uktaḥ | …prakṛte gopasundarīsambandhilīlālīr
anyair mithyātve niścīyaikasminn eva grāme prathamānantaradvitīyodvāhaḥ kathaṃ nirvāhaṇīyaḥ |
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 3): na ca śārīrakādau sarvaprapañcajātasya
{-prapañcajātasya] H; -prapañcajñātasya K} mithyātvaṃ pratipādyata eva | …śārīrakamatānusāribhis
tathātve nityaṃ raṭadbhir api niṣpanno vyavahāro brāhmaṇādīnāṃ yathāpravṛttam anyathā kartum
aśakyatvāc cet tair eva siddhaḥ prākṛto vyavahāro bhramatvenāpy ucyamāṇo {bhramatvenāpy ucyamāṇo]
em.; bhramatvenopy uṣyamāṇo K; bhramapvenopy uddhuṣyamāṇo H} ’py asiddhaḥ kartum aśakyaḥ |
(H = Haridāsa Śāstrı̄ edition/Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 2007–8; K = Krsnadāsa Bābā edition/Viśvanātha
Cakravartı̄ 1963; em. = emendation) ˙˙ ˙
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 4): tathāpi yadi kathaṃcit tadvaktavyam eveti
nirbandha eva yauṣmākas tarhi prathamodvāhavādibhyaḥ prācīnebhyo jāravāditve gālipradāya svayaṃ
dvir vivāhaṃ vadan didhiṣuvāditvam api svasyorīkaraṇīyam avaśyam evety alaṃ vicāravilasiteneti |
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 2): nanu kṛṣṇasandarbhagopālacampūloca-
narocanyādiṣu dantavakravadhāt pūrvalīlānām avatāralīlātvenoktvā pratyākhyānād etadanantaralīlānām
eva nityatā sthāpitaiva |
Svakīyātvanirāsavicāra (Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ 1963: 2): śrīkṛṣṇalīlānāṃ śrutismṛtipurāṇāgamanādiṣu
nityatvena pratijñātānāṃ sarvapūrvācāryajīvāturūpopāsanīyatvena saṃmatānāṃ yad anādaraṃ vidhāya
svaracitalīlānām eva nityatāṃ brūtha, tatra śrībhagavatsandarbhādir eva yuṣmannirasane jāgarūko… |

Ethics and Aesthetics in Early Modern South Asia 41

of the six Sandarbhas written by Jı̄va. Thus Viśvanātha presents Jı̄va as a supporter
of the parakīyā view, and then criticizes the supporters of the svakīyā view as
misrepresenting Jı̄va’s position.


In this paper, I have traced the history of the controversy regarding Krsna’s
˙˙ ˙
relationship with the cowherd women of Vraja. In the early sixteenth century, based
on the narratives found in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Caitanya praised as ideal those
women who were willing to risk their family life and social reputation in order to
meet Krsna. Caitanya’s chief disciple Rūpa then gave a theoretical framework to
˙˙ ˙
Caitanya’s teaching. Appealing to the authority of Bharata Muni, Rūpa argued that
the amorous aesthetic sentiment in Krsna’s pastime with the Gopı̄s is excellent
˙˙ ˙
precisely because they were not married to Krsna. In the middle of the sixteenth
˙˙ ˙
century, however, Rūpa’s nephew Jı̄va was concerned about the ethical challenges
associated with Krsna’s paramourship. Consequently, although he accommodated
˙˙ ˙
Krsna’s paramourship at one level, Jı̄va ultimately argued for Krsna’s marriage with
˙˙ ˙ ˙˙ ˙
the Gopı̄s. Then, in the seventeenth century, Viśvanātha Cakravartı̄ argued against
Krsna’s marriage with the Gopı̄s.
˙˙ ˙
Tracing the history of the so-called “svakīyā-parakīyā” debate offers us an insight
into a particular way in which transcreation was realized in a traditional system of
thought in South Asia. In the case of Gaudı̄ya Vaisnavism, Krsna’s extramarital
˙ ˙˙ ˙˙ ˙
relationship with the Gopı̄s as described in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa triggered a
process of transcreation. While Caitanya, the school’s inaugurator, and Rūpa, the
school’s founding father, exalted this extramarital relationship, Jı̄va found it
incompatible with the social norms of his time and promoted the marital
relationship based on his exegesis of the Purāṇa and Rūpa’s works. However,
while emphasizing the svakīyā view, Jı̄va did not reject Rūpa’s view outright.
Instead, he accommodated the parakīyā view to a certain extent. Viśvanātha, writing
after Jı̄va, tried to reestablish the parakīyā position. However, instead of attacking
Jı̄va’s writings directly, he tried to demonstrate, based on his exegetical skill, that
Jı̄va was actually not promoting the svakīyā position. Thus, in the case of Gaudı̄ya
Vaisnavism, scriptural exegesis was an important source of transcreation which
provided an intellectual space for an author to express his own opinion while
remaining faithful to the tradition.

Acknowledgments I thank the following colleagues for their valuable comments on various parts of this
paper: Diwakar Acharya (University of Oxford), David Buchta (Brown University), Bergljot Chiarucci
(Kyoto University), Jonathan Edelmann (University of Florida), Kengo Harimoto (Mahidol University),
Monika Horstmann (University of Heidelberg), Rembert Lutjeharms (Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies),
Yuko Yokochi (Kyoto University), and Somdev Vasudeva (Kyoto University). I am also grateful to two
anonymous reviewers for their comments. I am of course fully responsible for any errors that remain in
this paper. My research has been supported by a JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (15K16726)
and by the Hakubi Centre for Advanced Research, Kyoto University.

42 Kiyokazu Okita


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