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Musings on Vega-set stotra

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Mon Nov 25 1996 - 05:38:57 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear bhAgavatOttamas,

It is not easy to come up with a straight and simple answer to the questions
we saw posed in my earlier postings in relation to the "gathAgathAni" of the
Lord in Verse #6 of the "vega-setu stotra". This "gathAgathAni" is indeed a
very complex affair.It involves explaining a will-o-the-wisp relationship
between Godhead and Man. It is pure philosophy.It requires a very sound and
deep understanding of 'vedic and prabhandh-ic' literature to be able to
lucidly explain the esoteric principle behind "gathAgathAni".

I must confess I do not possess such depth of experience in 'vedic or
prabhandhi-c' literature. With very limited experience in this subject I
still venture to  essay some sort of an intelligible and commonplace
explanation of the "gathAgathAni" principle purely for my own personal

Now bhAgavatOttamas have a choice (a)they would do better in fact to easily
refer to several erudite commentaries of great scholars on this subject. Or
(b) start with me, if they like, and partake a bit of my enjoyment. You are
most welcome. But if you make the second choice please be cautioned of the
Tamil saying:

 "viLainthu kiDakka Udhir-nel porUkki-rAyO ?"

In other words, should you want to follow my essay further on this subject,
you will be picking up "paddy-grains" strewn here and there on the floor
when, instead, you might as well collect a virtual "harvest" already reaped
and heaped by scholars elsewhere in their granary of commentaries. So if
some of you find my postings uninspiring (and I won't blame you at all for
that) when compared to the many  learned "vyAkhyAnams" you are already
familiar with, just ignore these postings of mine, from this point onwards,
in this series; do not waste any more of your precious time. What follows
now is strictly for the "un-initiated" amongst us.
In strictly Vaishnava 'sampradAyi-c' convention one would begin (like my
"manaseega guru",Mukkur Swamy II invariably does) to answer the
"gathAgathAni" question with that famous opening stanza from
Madhura-Kavi-Alwar's one and only immortal "pAsuram" :

"kanninUN siru thAmbinAl 
kattuNa paNiya perUmAyan eNappanin
nannithengUrUgUr nambi enrakAl
annikUm amUdhUrUm eNAvukkE "

That grand opening line with its magnificent phrase, "siru thAmbinAl kattuNa
paNiya perUmAyan", instantly transports one indeed into the Srimad
BhAgavatham and into deep contemplation of the circumstances under which
Lord Krishna was "born" in Mathura and of His boyhood "leelA-s" in Gokulam.

The opening line of Madhura-Kavi captures in the moment when Lord Krishna is
apprehended, "in flagrante delicto", stealing butter from his foster-mother,
Yasodha's kitchen-larder. For several days now the poor harrassed lady has
been at the receiving end of Krishna's pranks and is completely exasperated
by the boy's unabating mischief. Yasodha decides she just cannot take it
anymore and  this act of petty larceny by Krishna is the proverbial "last
straw on the camel's back". 

Yasodha gets hold of Krishna and drags her dear son into the stables in the
back-yard of their large mansion. There she begins to look around for strong
and lengthy cords (siru-thAmbu), the sort used to tether cattle, with which
to tie Krishna (kattUNa) around a large stone-mortar. She then forthwith
proceeds to securely bind the Lord of the Three Worlds to the mortar with a
piece of rope. Having accomplished the task she exclaims, "There now, that
does it! Now you're all tied up, boy ! Now let's see ever you up to mischief
again, Krishna !".

Yasodha turns on her heels and begins to walk back towards her mansion and
into her kitchen when Krishna beckons her,"Hold it, amma, hold it; and come
here, please."

Krishna looks up at his foster-mother with His large, sparkling,lovely and
round eyes ---(the same which TirupANAzhwar in the 'amalanAdipiran' says
drove him crazy with love for the Lord! vide: "nInda ap-pEriya vAya kaNgal
yennai pEthamai seythanuvE !")--- and the Lord cannot help sniggering at the
irony of the whole situation.The Lord is amused no end to see Yasodha
seriously believing she has Him well and truly all tied-up, Trivikraman
Himself ! with nothing but a yard of corded-rope !!

The cute child smiles at Yasodha and asks lispingly with an air of
mock-seriousness, tongue-in-cheek, "Amma, are you sure you've got me tied
now ? Be sure about it, Amma, because it is only when I'm fully bound and
out of the way of mischief can you ever hope to be free to go about doing
your chores in the house. Check again, amma, if you've got me really all
tied-up real tight. Come on, ma, check again,!"

Yasodha, having listened to the cherubic child speak thus, stares at Krishna
and His cute little face and all of a sudden her maternal feelings erupt and
tears well up in her eyes. She turns back and gathers the divine child in
her arms and smothers him with kisses and hugs."Oh, my dear, dear, dear boy,
you darling, my little angel, how could I ever leave you all tied up like
this.... Did you ever think, Krishna, my darling pet... did you think your
mother, this Yasodha, would really have the heart to do this to you, my
darling. Never, never, never will I do it!".

So saying Yasodha unties Krishna and lets him go scot-free. The divine boy
affectionately pecks his mother on the cheek and scampers away.Yasodha
stares after him wistfully for a long while. She cannot simply take her eyes
off her darling son as he disappears from view.

Then she sighs and and shakes her head : she can't believe that she'd just
been about to bind the cute boy all up in the stables alongwith her cows
(the "perUm-passUkal" of the TirUppAvai!). She shakes her head again, angry
at herself. Then rolling up the piece of cord around her fingers, Yasodha
slowly begins to walk back, away from the stables, to her mansion, muttering
to herself, "Oh! how did I ever bring myself to think of doing something as
ghastly as that to my darling, darling Krishna?".

All is quiet again in the great mansion of NandagOpan and Yasodha.

But not for long.

Hardly a quarter of an hour later, comes the shrill cry of a neighbour who
stomps into Yasodha's kitchen, "Yasodha, where is Krishna ? That little
rascal of yours has just overturned my jars and spilt fresh milk all over my
kitchen floor! And he's scooted before I could lay my hands on him! Where is
that little brat of yours, Yasodha, and why don't you, for God's sake ! keep
him away from trouble, trouble and evermore trouble?".

Yasodha rolls up her eyes, throws up her arms,looks at the roof and lets out
a big sigh,"Oh, No, Krishna !,you little devil, not again, please, please,
not again !"

"Why don't you keep that kid of yours locked up with your cows, Yasodha!",
yells the neighbour,"One of these days, I tell you Yasodha, that Krishna of
yours is going to drive all of Gokulam crazy with his pranks and mischief.
And you are going to be real sorry, believe me!!".

"Oh, yes madam, I wish I could keep him under my nose all the time", says
Yasodha,"but then I would have to chain the child up to my doorstep !!". 
(I am no Tamil scholar but the Tamil expression, coined in the MUvAyirappadi
of Periaachan Pillai, "pUghUvArai tthan azhaghAlE kARkattUm kathavu", I feel
has perhaps something to do with this image of the Lord tied to a door-step !!!)

"That's not a bad idea at all, Yasodha, you know," replies the shrill

Then all of a sudden Yasodha freezes. She goes stiff into a sort of trance.

And then she remembers what Krishna had told her a while ago in the stables
when she'd been tying him up. He had told her, hadn't he? "Amma, are you
sure you've got me tied now ? Be sure about it, Amma, because it is only
when "I'm fully bound" that "you can ever hope to be free." "  
Yasodha mulled over those words of Krishna for a while and spoke quietly
more to herself than to the neighbour, "Yes, indeed ! my son, my darling
Krishna! when You are truly bound and secured, it is only then can I ever
hope to be free!"

Yasodha's neighbour who was listening couldn't understand a word of it all
and asked,"Eh, what!? what is it you're saying, Yasodha? What is all this
about ... Krishna bound and you being free!?".

Yasodha looked at her neighbour in the eye and began to smile mischievously.
She told her neigbour, "Never mind, madam, if you don't understand it; the
important thing is, I do." 

So saying Yasodha abruptly went back to her business in the kitchen leaving
behind the neighbour gaping in utter puzzlement and looking like a perfect

And now, dear bhAgavatOttamas, psssst !!! I am going to let you all in on
the mystery that Yasodha didn't want to share with her neighbour !!

Here it is :

Yasodha, in fact, was trying to tell her neighbour that little Krishna's
remarks were indeed a revelation of the principle of "gathAgathAni" quoted
in Swami Desikan's Verse # 6 of the Vega-setu stotra !!!

Now do you all understand, dear bhAgavatOtamas ? 

Or are you all feeling puzzled, confused and foolish, too, like Yasodha's
neighbour !??? 

If you want to really clear your head, stay tuned and wait for my next posting!!

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathIndra maha desikAya namaha

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha