At Play with Krishna

At Play with Krishna: Pilgrimage Dramas from Brindaran

John Stratton Hawley
Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 356
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  • Book Info
    At Play with Krishna
    Book Description:

    Every year thousands of pilgrims travel to Brindavan, the village where Krishna is said to have lived as a child. There, they witness a series of religious dramas called ras lilas, whose central roles are performed by children. By translating four plays that collectively span this cycle, John Hawley provides a lively perspective on the mythology of Krishna as Hindus experience it today.

    Originally published in 1985.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5912-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Transliteration
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Chapter I Pilgrimage to Brindavan
    (pp. 3-51)

    Among the thousands of lanes and alleys of Brindavan one is my favorite. It ties together two sites of the ritual action that makes Brindavan what it is: at one end is a temple and at the other end a place where therās līlāis performed. Symbolically, it forms an axis upon which the life of the town turns.

    This alley has no name. It uncoils from the small square before the temple gate and angles its way down toward the milky, muddy Jumna like a lazy snake in the afternoon sun. At the last moment it turns abruptly...

  7. Chapter II The Birth of Krishna
    (pp. 52-105)

    It is the story of a wondrous birth. Prophets had long foretold it, an evil king rallied all his resources to prevent it, and when the child was born all heaven graced the humblest setting earth had to offer. One would suppose that the prophets were Hebrew, but they might well have been Hindu. Nor need the king have been Herod; he could as well have been a despicable tyrant called Kans. And the child might be Jesus, but might also be Krishna.

    These are just the broadest contours; a myriad of details are shared as well. In both cases...

  8. Chapter III The Theft of the Flute
    (pp. 106-154)

    There are no fixed conventions governing the order in which theslīlās should be presented, besides the obvious fact that in a monsoon sequence the play depicting Kirshna’s birth will fall atjanmāṣṭamī, the festival celebrating the event. In addition, it is likely that themahārās līlā, the Great Circle Dance, will be performed on or about the full moon, since it was a full moon that inspired it; and it is also likely that among the last of thelīlās to be performed will be some version of thedān līlā, thelīlāof the gift (Krishna’s to...

  9. Chapter IV The Great Circle Dance
    (pp. 155-226)

    The greatest symbols are the simplest, and for that reason they are the most difficult. Their simplicity makes them accessible to all and makes it possible for them to magnetize great chunks of meaning. But the breadth they acquire in the process makes them difficult, and the communities who hold them dear find ways to make sure that some of that complexity and subtlety and depth is transmitted along with the symbol itself. The symbol may seem simple, and at bottom it is: no one wants to obscure its communicative power. Yet the community knows that what a novice learns...

  10. Chapter V The Coming of Akrūr
    (pp. 227-274)

    After the dance is done, after every ounce of human energy is roused and consumed in therās, then what?

    It used to be that this was no problem. The entire emphasis of the story was different. Krishna’s dance with thegopīs was, to be sure, recounted in the oldest version of the Krishna story that has come down to us — that contained in theHarivaiṃśa— but it was not given anything like the attention that was to be directed to it later, particularly by the writer of theBhāgavataPurāṇa.¹ In fact, the dance was neither given a...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 275-310)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 311-320)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 321-332)
  14. Index
    (pp. 333-339)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 340-340)