“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who has the charming complexion of an Indranila-mani (sapphire), whose ears are decorated with blooming nipa flowers, whose wide chest is decorated with a beautiful garland of gunja.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 1)
kṛṣṇalābhir akṛśorasi hārī
sundaro jayati kuñja-vihārī
Herein Shrila Rupa Gosvami gives us a basic outline of the decorations placed on the transcendental body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. The saint’s collection of prayers is dedicated to Krishna as Kunja-vihari, or one who enjoys pastimes in the forest. The forest refers to Vrindavana, the place where Vrinda Devi, the goddess of devotion, has a strong presence. Through her arrangement, the divine lovers, Radha and Krishna, meet. And the pleasure they feel in each other’s company is indescribable.
Just as one would dress up on their way to an important evening out on the town, so the key players in the transcendental pastimes in Vrindavana’s forest prepare in a certain way. The difference is that the ornaments increase in stature when attached to the body of the Supreme Lord instead of the other way around. It should be noted that Krishna enjoys in a renounced area, where there are few distractions, where He can have a focused association with His dearmost devotees, the gopis. To the mundane observer, Krishna is like a young boy mingling with young girls, but in fact the innocence of the setting makes the exchanges completely pure. The love shared by the parties involved has no hints of lust.
dvandvair vimuktāḥ sukha-duḥkha-saṁjñair
gacchanty amūḍhāḥ padam avyayaṁ tat
“One who is free from illusion, false prestige, and false association, who understands the eternal, who is done with material lust and is freed from the duality of happiness and distress, and who knows how to surrender unto the Supreme Person, attains to that eternal kingdom.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.5)
To know for certain that mundane lust is absent in these dealings one must be familiar with the properties of the spirit soul, the essence of identity. Within every person is a vital force, and it remains intact throughout the changes to the outer covering. Lust is a perverted form of the divine love the soul is constitutionally set to act upon. What we consider to be love is an emotion based on the outward attraction and reciprocation. Should someone we supposedly care for scorn us, we can shift the previous affection to someone else. The same dwindling of affection can occur when the corresponding party’s features cease to be attractive due to the influence of time.
Divine love, on the other hand, is meant to continue uninterrupted and without motivation. The cowherd women in Vrindavana love Krishna despite the reception they receive from Him. They are completely surrendered. And who wouldn’t enjoy the company of such devoted souls? Krishna is God Himself, so He must be the supreme enjoyer. To enjoy, there must be corresponding parties, and so the question remains: who will be eligible to participate in that enjoyment?
Every living entity, as spirit soul, is longing for divine love, but the gopis are considered the topmost candidates because they are Krishna’s direct energy expansions. They are His pleasure potency, and so they never sway from the devotional attitude. If they are not physically in the forest of Vrindavana during the moonlit night, their minds stay there regardless. They think of Krishna, and so they stay with Him.
Rupa Gosvami tells us that Krishna’s complexion is charming and like the indranila-mani, which is the sapphire. This wonderful description reveals what Krishna’s color is. We have never seen someone with a bodily complexion that is blue, but the Vedas nevertheless report on fact. Knowing that others will not be able to properly relate the specific color on a human body, the comparison is made to the sapphire. The sapphire is quite beautiful as well, so we can understand that Krishna’s entire body is exquisite just based on the color alone. No need to look at the other features, just focus your mind on that transcendental form and its unique color.
Krishna wears blooming nipa flowers on His ears. It’s interesting to note that these decorations are not very expensive, and they appear through nature’s arrangement. This means that industry and technological advancement aren’t required for higher living. Nature provides all elements of beautification, and in a forest one can find what they need to look appealing. These flowers were placed on Krishna by His dear mother, Yashoda, the queen of Gokula. Seeing Krishna is one thing, but getting to serve Him takes the devotee to a higher platform of service. Mother Yashoda got the wonderful benediction of daily dressing up her beloved son, who would then show off the wonderful decorations to all the creatures of the forest.
On His wide chest Krishna wears a garland of gunja, which is like wearing a necklace of small conch shells. Though the bone of an animal is considered impure in the Vedas, the conch shell is considered sacred, as it is held in one of the four hands of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu and Krishna are practically identical. They are both the same original God; it’s just that the transcendental features are slightly different to appeal to the varying tastes of the living entities. The conch shell is also blown prior to important religious rituals. Thus for Krishna to wear a necklace of small conch shells shows that He had auspicious signs always around Him.
Of course more important than the decorations was the enjoyment. Just thinking of Krishna walking through Vrindavana puts the mind in a peaceful state. We enjoy walking in the park, visiting natural wonders, and touring through forest areas as a way to break free from the daily grind. Imagine then what the pristine setting of Vrindavana can do for your consciousness. Picture that sweetheart son of Yashoda, the life and soul of Radharani, happily playing about in His favorite area in the world. He always lives in Vrindavana, even though it appears that He sometimes leaves it.
kṛṣṇo 'nyo yadu-sambhūto
yaḥ pūrṇaḥ so 'sty ataḥ paraḥ
sa kvacin naiva gacchati
“The Krishna known as Yadukumara is Vasudeva Krishna. He is different from the Krishna who is the son of Nanda Maharaja. Yadukumara Krishna manifests His pastimes in the cities of Mathura and Dvaraka, but Krishna the son of Nanda Maharaja never at any time leaves Vrindavana.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 1.67)
Know that the Krishna conscious soul ascends to Goloka Vrindavana at the time of death, where they get to enter the eternal pastimes of Kunja-vihari. To bring that consciousness about today, always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and keep the beautiful portrait of the enjoyer of pastimes in the forest within your mind.
Because devotees there He knows,
To the forest of Vrindavana He goes.
Beautiful ornaments on His body are set,
So that enhanced stature they’ll get.
Body the color blue like gem sapphire,
Gazing at such beauty eyes never to tire.
Blooming nipa flowers on ears are found,
Garland of conch shells His neck go around.
From Vrindavana Kunja-vihari never leaves,
Through devotion go there too, this you believe.