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Vraja Vilasa: Krishna’s priya-narma-sakha Subal




I offer my obeisances unto Subala, the embodiment of overwhelming love, who loves Krishna, the moon of Gokula, so much that even in dreams he won’t let go of his hand, afraid he will be separated from him, and whose heart is showered by the stream of Sri Radhika’s love.


gāḍhānurāga-bharato virahasya bhītyā
svapne’pi gokula-vidhor na jahāti hastam
yo rādhikā-praṇaya-nirjhara-sikta-cetās
taṁ prema-vihvala-tanuṁ subalaṁ namāmi

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā : In this verse Raghunath Das Goswami praises Krishna’s priya-narma-sakhā Sri Subala. The priya narma sakhās are Krishna’s greatest friends in Vraja, and of them Subala is the chief.

priya narma vayasyās tu pūrvato’pyabhito varāḥ;
atyantika rahasyeṣu yuktā bhāva viśeṣiṇaḥ;
subalārjuna gandharvās te vasantojjvalādayaḥ.


“The priya narma sakhās are greater even than the suhṛt, sakhās and priya sakhās, because they have a special mood towards Krishna (an absorption of sakhī-bhāva) and are engaged in very intimate services (like secretly assisting Krishna’s sweethearts). Subala, Arjuna, Gandharva, Vasanta, Ujjvala and Madhumangal are some of Krishna’s priya narma-friends.” (


Their intimate friendship is depicted as follows:

rādhā-sandeśa-vṛndaṁ kathayati subalaḥ paśya kṛṣṇasya karṇe
śyāmā kandarpa-lekhaṁ nibhṛtam upaharatyujjvalaḥ pāṇi-padme
pālī tāmbūlam āsye vitarati caturaḥ kokilo mūrdhṇi-dhatte
tārā-dāmeti narma praṇayi sahacarās tanvi tanvanti sevām


One of Krishna’s dūtīs (girl-messenger) told another one: “Look, Subala is whispering news about Radha into Krishna’s ear, Ujjvala places Śyāmā’s love-letter into his lotushand in a secret place, Catura places a pān in his mouth from Pālī and Kokila places a garland made by Tārā on his head. In this way the priya narma sakhās remain engaged in Sri Krishna’s service!” (


priya narma vayasyeṣu prabalau subalojjvalau


Subala and Ujjvala are the greatest of the priya narma sakhās.


Subala’s beauty is extraordinary –

tanu ruci vijita hiraṇyaṁ hari-dayitaṁ hāriṇam harid-vasanam
subalaṁ kuvalaya-nayanaṁ nayanandita bāndhavaṁ vande


I praise Hari’s dear friend Subala, whose bodily luster defeats gold, who wears a necklace and a green dhotī, whose eyes resemble blue lotus flowers and who delights his friends!


Das Goswami says: “…he who loves Krishna, the moon of Gokula, so much that even in dreams he won’t let go of his hand, afraid he will be separated from him.” A great lover cannot tolerate separation from the beloved. In sakhya bhāva the separation from the beloved is naturally felt very strongly.

For a śānta bhakta there is neither meeting nor separation. They know that the Lord, who is the Supreme Brahma, pervades the world warp and woof. Therefore their hearts are peaceful and still like the quiet ocean. The ocean of their hearts is not stirred by waves of meeting and separation. They are always satisfied by seeing the Lord in their hearts.

The dāsya-bhaktas (servant-devotees), however, cannot be satisfied simply by seeing the Lord within the heart; they are anxious to attain the service of his lotus feet. Therefore they experience meeting and separation. Still, under the influence of hesitation and reverence, they think that they cannot remove these feelings of separation by themselves without the grace of the Lord and so they look towards the Lord for his merciful glance and get some peace of mind back.

But the Lord’s friends in Vraja almost die of misery and lamentation when they don’t see Krishna for even a moment. Of them again Subala is called gāḍhānurāgī, which means that he is not only afraid to be separated from Krishna in the daytime when he is awake, but even in his dreams he cannot let go of his hand!

Sri Krishna is called Gokula-vidhu, or the moon of Gokula because like the moon he cools off the senses (go-kula) of Sri Subala, who is afflicted by feelings of separation from him.

When Sri Krishna sports with Sri Radha and other sweethearts the līlā-śakti arranges for him to be separated from his cowherdboyfriends for a while. But the priya narma sakhās like Subala, who have taken shelter of sakhī-bhāva, are not even separated from Sri Krishna when he unites with his sweethearts. Therefore Das Goswami says: yo rādhikā-praṇaya-nirjhara-sikta-cetāḥ: “Subala is always showered by the stream of Sri Radhika’s love.”

Sri Radharani loves Subala even more than her own life-airs, because he is her greatest assistant in meeting Sri Krishna. Sri Subala, who takes shelter of sakhī-bhāva in the ultimate stage, is blessed with the qualification to render many intimate services during Sri Radha and Krishna’s pastimes of meeting, by Srimati’s grace.

pratyāvartayati prasādya lalanāṁ krīḍā kali-prasthitāṁ
śayyāṁ kuñja-gṛhe karotyaghabhidaḥ kandarpa-līlocitām
svinnaṁ vījayati priyā hṛdi parisrastāṅgam uccair amuṁ
kva śrīmān adhikāritāṁ naḥ subalaḥ sevā vidhau vindati


Sri Rūpa Manjari addressed a girlfriend who was very devoted to Subala, saying: “Sakhi! For which services to Sri Krishna is Subala not eligible? When a quarrel arises between Sri Krishna and his beloveds in the course of their pastimes, Subala goes to Krishna’s sweethearts and pacifies them with different humble words, thus convincing them to return to him. He makes a wonderful playbed fit for erotic pastimes for Sri Krishna in the kuñja-cottages, and when Krishna becomes tired of lovemaking and falls exhausted on his beloved’s (Sri Radha’s) breasts, Subala picks up a fan and fans them.”


Another explanation we have already mentioned. the word praṇaya means that the beloved considers his own hands and feet to be nondifferent from those of the beloved. The līlā-śakti works so wonderfully that there is an amazing similarity between Subala’s face, hands and feet and the same limbs of Sri Radharani, so that Subala can wear Radha’s dress and stay in Jatila’s house, while Sri Radha can go out to meet Sri Krishna dressed like Subala without Jatila or Kutila noticing a thing. Because Subala renders such wonderful services, by which he saves virahinī Radha’s life, Sri Radha constantly showers him with the stream of her love. Das Goswami offers his obeisances to this Sri Subala, who is called prema-vihvala-tanu, “the embodiment of ecstatic love for Krishna.”

gāḍha anurāge yei viraha bhayete;
svapne-o govinda hasta nā pāre chāḍite
śrī rādhāra aphuranta praṇaya nirjhare;
citta abhiṣikta yāra śuddha kalevara
kṛṣṇa preṣṭha se subala sakhāya namaskāra


I offer my obeisances unto Krishna’s dear friend Subala, who, out of great loving fear, cannot let go of Govinda’s hand even in dreams, whose heart is constantly showered by the endless stream of Sri Radha’s love and whose pure transcendental body is filled with prema.



Devotional songs in Bengali that follow each commentary were composed by Dr. Haripada Sheel.

More of Ananta Das Pandit’s writings in English translation can be found at Tarun Govinda’s blog, Vraja Vilasa: Krishna’s priya-narma-sakha Subal appeared first on Vrindavan Today.






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