“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who playfully announces Madanotsava (Cupid’s festival) with the melodies from His colorfully decorated flute, and whose pastimes are praised by a multitude of male and female parrots.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 4)
śreṇibhir jayati kuñja-vihārī
It is said that Shri Krishna’s flute is colorfully decorated, which means that it both looks and sounds beautiful. The Supreme Lord is the origin of all sound, and the best sound is that which comes from His flute, for it indicates His presence. A sound of the same potency has been passed on since time immemorial by the parrot-like saints of the Vaishnava tradition. The sound they pass on originally came from the same Krishna, and so it has the same effect as the beautiful melodies produced by His flute.
In the above referenced verse from the Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam of Shrila Rupa Gosvami, it is said that Krishna, who enjoys pastimes in the forest of Vrindavana, plays beautiful melodies on His wonderfully decorated flute to announce the festival of cupid, or Madanotsava. Cupid is known as Kamadeva in the Vedic tradition, and His name indicates that he is the deity in charge of lust or desire. The word kama also is sometimes taken to mean love, but in this context the meaning is the same, as the reference is to intimate relations between members of the opposite sex.
The Madanotsava celebrated by Krishna and His friends is not of the variety of mundane lust or love. To lust after something is not good because it takes you off target. For instance, to lust after an appealing cake is unwise because at the end of the day the cake is just food. And food is necessary to maintain the body. You can maintain the body with something simple like a banana. You can eat grains and some milk and live for a very long time. There is no reason to lust after any specific kind of food, for it is like being driven by a desire to have a specific type of gasoline. The gasoline is the fuel that pumps the engines of the automobile, so to give so much attention to one kind of gasoline from one particular station simply for the purpose of personal enjoyment is not very wise.
The festival of Cupid celebrated by Krishna and the gopis relates to divine love, which is intrinsically part of every spirit soul. It is in our constitution to love, only we’re not sure who to love and for how long. We know that we want to love, though, because love is what gives us the most pleasure. Love for God is ideal, as it does not have to be checked by any condition. In Krishna we see that God is the most attractive, and He is also all-pervading. This means that He can be loved anywhere and everywhere.
The gopis meet with Krishna when He plays His flute because personal contact with the original personality is all the more pleasurable. The gopis don’t have any hint of ordinary lust in them; they are actually the emblem of piety. It is because of this high moral standing that they become ideal candidates to serve the Supreme Lord in a mood of conjugal love, which is what they prefer. The sounds from Krishna’s colorful flute are enchanting to the ears, creating the proper mood for the exchange of transcendental bliss.
The parrots in the Vrindavana forest watch the pastimes of Krishna and the gopis and then discuss them amongst themselves. The pastimes are no different than the teachings of the Lord. Therefore the original Vedas, which are songs glorifying God and His notable associates, are meant to have the same effect as the sounds of Krishna’s flute, which accompany His amorous sports with the gopis. Krishna gave the Vedas to Lord Brahma, and from there Brahma acted as the original parrot, instructing his son Narada Muni and others.
Narada then instructed the exalted sage Vyasa, who then parroted the same message to his son Shuka. Shuka then passed on the same information to a dying king named Parikshit. Their conversation turned into the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which is considered the ripened fruit of Vedic literature. The fruit’s taste is made sweeter by the fact that it has been touched by the parrot Shuka, who behaves no differently than the parrots in the forest of Vrindavana who praise the activities of Krishna and the gopis.
The subliminal message of the melodies from Krishna’s flute is, “Come play with Me. You are happiest when you are in My company, so why not abandon what you are doing and rendezvous with Me in the wonderful setting of the Vrindavana forest.” The message passed on by the Vaishnava saints is exactly the same, except in the beginning it may not be revealed in full. This is because through many births in a material existence, our desires have been tainted, keeping us firmly tied to the pursuit for personal sense enjoyment. In this endeavor there is stiff competition, and so we try to outdo our fellow man in many areas, which serves no viable purpose.
Surrender to the divine, sharanagati, is our ideal destiny, and through immersion into the ancient art of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, we gradually take steps towards meeting it. The beginning is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Service to the devotees, an eagerness to practice devotion, following regulative principles, and developing a firm faith subsequently follow. The culmination of devotion is the reception of the enchanting melodies from Krishna’s flute, which lures us into His web of ecstasy, keeping us anticipated and satisfied at the same time.
Their lives to Krishna they dedicate,
So the festival of Cupid the gopis celebrate.
With His flute Krishna announces the start,
So from their homes the gopis depart.
Not ordinary lust, love of a different face,
The pastimes in devotional surrender take place.
If with humility you hear what the parrot-like saints teach,
One day sounds of Lord’s flute your ears to reach.