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The fructification of the tale of a tree: the Parijataharana in the Harivamsa and its appendices.


While the principal Sanskrit sources for the Krsna biography--the Mahabharata's (MBh) appendix, the Harivamsa (HV), the Visnu Purana (ViP), and the Bhagavata Purava (BhP)--all relate Krnia's entire life, devoting equal attention to his childhood and adulthood, (1) it is Krsna's youth and adolescence that have always dominated the imagination of the Vaisnava tradition. From the appearance of the earliest evidence of Krsna's life in physical representation, scenes from his biography subsequent to the killing of Kamsa (an act which effectively terminates his adolescence and initiates him into maturity) are extremely rare. (2) There is, however, one scene of Krsna's adult biography that provides a counter-example to the tradition's great preference for the child Krsna: the Parijataharana or episode of Krsna's removal of the magical Parijata tree from Indra's heaven and its transplantation to Dvaraka, the western coastal city of Krsna's mature years. The earliest example of a literary elaboration upon this deed in isolation from Krgia's biography is the Harivijaya (HVj) of Sarvasena, a kavya poem in Maharastri Prakrit dating to the early fifth century C.E. (Harivijaya, v), which took as its subject the Parijataharana. The episode as an adventure isolated from Krsna's biography then remained a popular subject for poetic and dramatic retellings in subsequent literary history. (3) Physical evidence of interest in this episode also begins early on: in the Badami caves of Karnataka (late sixth century c.E.) we find, among several scenes of Krsna's childhood and youth, a single bas-relief of the Parijataharana (Banerji 1998: 47-52; Bhattacharya 1996: 37-41; Burgess 1877: 364-65). To my knowledge, the [Miami portrayal of this deed is the earliest representation of a scene of Krsna's adult life. Later on in the south, the Hoysalesvara temple in Halebid (twelfth-thirteenth centuries) features various scenes of the krsnacarita--again, almost entirely those of his youth--but here as well one finds among them the Parijataharana (Evans 1997: 200). Although my concern in this paper is not with the Parijata's manifestations in kavya or its physical representation, I begin with these examples in order to underline the following point: the theft of the Parijata tree stands out as an anomaly within a tradition that has generally neglected the adult biography of Krsna in its enthusiasm for the child and adolescent Gopala.

The Parijataharana's fame may seem odd at first, given that in the earliest source for it that we have--namely the Critical Edition (CE) text of the Harivamsa (HV), dating between the first and third centuries C.E. (Harivamsa [Couture], 77)--this episode is uneventful and extremely brief. However, the HV's later manuscripts build upon the Critical text of the Parijata episode a large block of seven appendices (App. I. 29-29F) that are among the most extensive in the HV. These HV manuscript developments echo the larger Indian tradition, which assigns to the adventure of the Parijata tree a significance shared by no other episode of Krsna's adult life. Very briefly, the seven appendices relate how Satyabhama (one of Krsna's wives) prompted Krsna to acquire the Parijata, thus giving rise to a war with Indra over the tree; subsequently she performs a ritual with the tree called the Punyaka (App. I 29). This is then followed by a discourse on the Punyaka and related issues concerning pativratas or devoted and faithful wives (App. I 29A); various other adventures and battles then unfold in the following five appendices (App. I 29 B-F), most developing in a tangential manner from the Parijata theft.

The concern of this article is with App. I 29 and 29A, and with their relationship with the Critical HV text of Krsna's biography. I will argue that the author or authors of these manuscript additions sought to elaborate in full two mutually implicated themes--one altogether absent and the second at best minimally articulated in the Critical text of the Parijata scene--that are fundamental to the understanding of Krsna's adult identity: vigorous conflict over the tree and the role of the auspicious feminine. The first of these themes, examined in the paper's first section, requires a short review of early sources of the Parijata episode, but otherwise will not detain us at length. The second theme will demand the bulk of the paper's attention: I will argue that App. I 29A, although at first appearing to lose all interest in the Krsna biography, makes explicit a fundamental dynamic of the auspicious feminine and its association with, indeed identity as, wealth within the Krsna biography. Beginning with Satyabhama and her ritual activity at the Parijata tree, 29A configures the ideal pativrata as a form and guarantor of social and biological wealth, and in so doing brings to the foreground a pattern of association, present even in the earlier HV Critical text of the "post-Karmsavadha" krsnacarita, between Krsna's wives and certain magical treasure-objects that themselves perpetually yield forth more wealth and that must necessarily be fought for. I will argue that the appendices conscript the deed of the ParijAta theft fully into the adult Krsna biography by amplifying the elements of conflict and the auspicious feminine, App. I 29A particularly developing the latter theme in such a way as to greatly illuminate the earlier Critical text's imagery surrounding Krsna's wives and the fabulously valuable objects that invariably accompany them. This sharpened understanding of the HV's imagery will then make it possible to return to the larger issue of why the Parijataharana episode seems to have enjoyed a degree of fame otherwise reserved only for narrative moments of Krsna's childhood and adolescence.


The HV commences its treatment of Krsna's adult life with the slaying of Kamsa (adhyaya 76), the subsequent war with Jarasamdha of Magadha, and the relocation of the Vrsnis from Mathura to Dvaraka (80-86). The dominant theme of the following adhyayas 87-93 is the establishment of Krsna's domestic status as a husband and the development of his opulent new coastal city. Krsna abducts Rukmini (87), defeats her brother Rukmin and marries her (88), and establishes an alliance with the southern kingdom of Vidarbha that lasts for three generations (89). After a hymn of praise to Samkarana (90), we come to the episode of the slaying of the demon Naraka (91), who had stolen Aditi's earrings, Varuna's umbrella, and other items of value, and abducted 16,100 women. (4) Accompanied by his wife Satyabhama and riding upon Garuda, (5) Krsna dispatches the avaricious Naraka, rescues the stolen items, and takes the women for himself. Holding Varuna's gold-producing umbrella aloft (92.18), he and Satyabhsma fly to heaven to return the booty. Some pleasantries are exchanged between Krsna, Satyabhama, Indra, and Saci, and Aditi blesses Satyabhama to remain ever young so long as Krsna retains his human form (92.60).

Krsna and Satyabhama then stroll about in Indra's garden, where they see the Parijata tree. This is described as a divine tree eternally bearing flowers, of extraordinary fragrance, and endowed with the property that those who approach it remember their past lives. Krsna "conquers" (prasahya), uproots, and holds aloft the tree, although it is protected by the gods. There is as yet no hint as to Kpna's motives, except that he looks at Satyabhama (apasyat, 92.66), perhaps making her subtly complicit in the theft. No objections are made to the tree's removal: Indra in fact approves the deed (anumene) either with praise or at least resignation (krtam karmeti cabravit, 92.67), and Krsna is praised by the gods and seers. On their return to Dvaraka, Krsna holds aloft the wish-fulfilling tree, much as he had Vamp's precious umbrella on his ascent. The city is then described in great detail in adhydya 93. Thus the actual Parijata scene in this, the Critical HV text, covers no more than eight verses (92.63-70); with Indra's approval, no battle is necessary for the tree, and although Kma is accompanied by Satyabhama, he takes the tree without her direct prompting.

These two elements--the vigorous battle over the tree and the prompting role of Satyabhama and of women's roles and ritual identities in general--are highly significant factors developed in the first two of the seven appendices that are adjoined here between the HV Critical text of 92 and 93 (App. I 29-29F). The block of appendices becomes extremely popular, being found in all but four (S, M1-3) of the thirty-seven manuscripts consulted in the constitution of the Critical text, with two (S11, SI3) containing 29 and 29A only. The entire sequence of App. I 29-29F appears in the Vulgate (Vu) Harivamsa as II (Visnuparvan) 65-97.

These appendices do not so much extend the Critical text's Parijataharana as provide an elaborate alternative to it. Ignoring the fact that Krsna has just brought the tree from heaven, App. I 29 begins the whole adventure anew, opening with a scene at Mount Raivataka, where Rukmini has just completed a vow and accompanying fast. Narada arrives bearing a flower of the heavenly Parijata tree, praising its superb qualities, and mischievously invites Krsna to offer it to Rukmini. Krsna falls for Narada's trick: Rukmini is now publicly marked by the flower as Krsna's favorite wife and this sends Satyabhama into a jealous rage (App. I 29 lines [11.] 1-120).6 Retreating to her krodhagrha, Satyabhama must be wooed at length by Krsna who promises to obtain the entire tree for her to prove she is his favorite (11. 121-303). Sending Narada as a negotiator, Krsna initially sues Indra for the Parijata, but his requests come to naught and an earth-shattering battle takes place, involving several Vii heroes, divine assistants of Indra, Garuda and Airavata, and others. The battle is so ferocious that the entire universe is threatened (App. I 29 11. 1394-1411). For this reason, Aditi, the mother of the gods, finally pacifies Krpa and Indra, allowing Kona to take possession of the tree temporarily. It is then planted in Dvaraka, where Satyabhama performs a ritual with the tree called the Puriyaka. This terminates App: I 29, and 29A then follows, expanding on the theme of the pativratii or devoted wife. In the following materials we then find a war between the Vrsnis and the demon Nikumbha (App. I 29B); the demon Andhaka's attack on giva's grove of Parijata trees and subsequent slaying (App. I 29C); a scene of the Vrsnis enjoying a feast and seaside entertainment (App. I 29D); the abduction of Bhanumati (App. I 29E); and the conclusion of hostilities with the still-troublesome demons of 29B, principally at the hands of Krsna's son Prabyumna, who enjoys a romance with and marriage to an Asura princess named Prabhavati (App. I 29F). I will offer a rough possible time frame for these appendices below, after a short review of some other early references to the Parijata episode, wherein we consistently find rivalry and conflict associated with the tree's removal.


I shall not commit myself in this paper to a wide-ranging survey of the Parijata's various manifestations in puranic and kavya materials. However, in order to properly identify the first of the two themes developed in the HV appendices--namely the amplification of conflict over the tree's removal--a brief look at the earliest sources of the Parijataharana is needed. Subsequently I will treat more extensively the second and closely related theme of the auspicious feminine.

We have noted already that there is no conflict over the tree in the Critical text of HV 92.63-70; this is in fact entirely anomalous within the larger--and not necessarily later--epic context. That is, almost every other known source of or reference to this deed of Krsna's associates the tree's removal with a battle or rivalry between Krspa and Indra. This includes even passing references to the event elsewhere in the Critical text of the HV itself: HV 93.57ef-58cd does not name Indra specifically but declares that a battle took place for the tree (tatrasid yuddham); HV 105.10 clearly indicates a battle with Indra connected with the Parijata (vasavam ca rane jitva panijato hrto balat); and in HV 109.42-45 Anadhrsti names Indra as a possible suspect in the kidnapping of Krsna's grandson Aniruddha, speculating that Indra must still hold a grudge against Krsna for the bad deed of the Parijata theft. Looking to the Critical text of the MBh, we find it stated that Krsna seized the Parijata and conquered acipati (5.128.48). A second CE MBh passage (7.10.22-23) says only that "Indra forgave the deed (tac ca marsitavan sakrah), but this does not necessarily mean there was no conflict, as we will see confirmed by the ViP version momentarily. (7) Bhasa, normally thought to date roughly to the fourth century C.E., refers to the event in his Urubhanga (v. 35) and hints at the rivalry between Krsna and Indra, calling Krsna the one "equal to Indra in honor (or pride, mana), by whom was seized the Parijataka tree" (yenendrasya sa perijatakatarur manena tulyam hrtah, 35).

The ViP, normally dated just beyond the terminal forms of the CE MBh and HV to the fifth century C.E. (Matchett 2001: 17-18), features both a fight and Indra's forgiveness. In the ViP there is no talk of women's rituals, but Satyabhama does directly prompt Krsna to take the tree, specifically citing her desire to be marked as his favorite wife (5.30.32-36). The guardians of the tree protest, insisting it belongs to Saci, but Satyabhama argues that it is common property, angrily provoking Saci to send her husband against Krsna if she will not part with the Parijata. This is precisely what she does, and the battle for the tree ensues between Indra and Krsna. Just when Indra, defeated, is about to retreat in shame, Satyabhama intervenes and calls off the fighting. As she does not wish to see Indra humiliated, she returns the tree, saying that she does not truly desire it, but had felt slighted by Saci's insufficient hospitality and wished to increase Krsna's fame. The parties quickly reconcile, each praising the other and insisting the other should keep the tree. Indra is not angry. Finally Krsna agrees to house it in Dvaraka so long as he retains his mortal form (5.31.8-9). Thus in the ViP we have it both ways: a battle takes place, but it is resolved in a friendly manner. Again, the above-mentioned MBh passage 7.10.22-23 declaring only that Indra forgave Krsna might nonetheless imply a conflict and its amicable resolution as the ViP configures it.

A final early source--no longer extant, but extremely important--is the Harivijaya (HVj) of Sarvasena. (8) Dating to the early fifth century C.E. (Harivijaya, v), this Maharastri kavya rendering of the theft of the Parijata tree was so popular that it became a regular point of reference for such theorists as Anandavardhana, Abhinavagupta, and, especially, Bhoja in his Srngaraprakasa and Sarasvatikanthabharana (Harivijaya, 1-7). Kulkarni has isolated and collected Bhoja's quotes from the Harivijaya, which leave no doubt that Sarvasena's reworking of the episode involved a rivalry between Krsna and Indra over the tree. Moreover, Sarvasena was likely the first poet to rework the Parijata episode around the jealousy of Satyabhama and her anger at being outshone by her rival wife Rukmini. Sarvasena found in the Parijataharana an episode ripe with potential kavya themes: lush descriptions of the springtime, of the beauty of Satyabhama and of Krsna's other wives, and especially the motif of the jealous lover and her appeasement. It was for his mastery of such subjects that Sarvasena was lauded by Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta, both of whom remark upon the fact that he took liberties with the purdnic text in magnifying the motif of the beautiful, jealous woman (HVj, 4-7). (9) Thus it is entirely possible that the extensive description in App. 129 of Satyabhama's jealous anger and Krsna's solicitous inquiries and subsequent promise to secure for her the entire tree (11. 101-301) ultimately has its basis in the HVj, which seems to have been the first work to reconfigure the epic event according to kavya aesthetics (Mirashi 1975: 14). I will return to this matter below. For the moment we may simply note that in this early kavya rendering of the Parijataharana, conflict with Indra over the tree is simply assumed, and therefore Sarvasena was likely familiar with the ViP account rather than that of the CE HV 92.63-70.

In their treatments of the HV's Parijata episode, both Mirashi (1975: 6-15) and Schmid (1997: 248 nn. 4 and 5) oppose the simpler, non-confrontational version of the Critical text with the appendices and other later sources. (10) However I have argued here that it is not only the appendices and later sources that understand the deed as a battle: even within the Critical texts of the HV and MBh we find passages to this effect, while Bhasa's Urubhanga, the ViP, and the HVj of Sarvasena--these falling only shortly after the period in which the Critical HV text took its final form--equally seem to assume that a battle with Indra took place for the tree. The short and uneventful Critical text of HV 92.63-70 thus seems to have been completely out of step with a far more popular, and not necessarily later, understanding of this adventure centering on conflict with Indra. (11) It was thus inevitable that any later developments of the HV Critical text would amplify the conflict over the tree; this is precisely what App. 129 11. 1028-1451 does--although as we will see, the poets had other motives beyond keeping pacing with the popular understanding of the event.

With a sharper sense of some of the other early sources and references to the Parijataharana, we can now offer at least a rough sense of the period in which these appendices may have emerged. (12) We may observe here first that the language in which Satyabhama's jealous anger is described in HV App. I 29--including a departure from sloka meter--is by no means typical of the CE HV or MBh, but rather reflects the kavya tradition, which loved to dwell at length upon the loveliness of Satyabhama in her jealousy over Krsna's gift of the single Parijata flower to Rukmini. I would argue that App. I 29 must have been incorporated into the HV some time after the development of this popular kavya theme, apparently initiated by Sarvasena in the fifth century. The HVj, based initially on some form of the Critical HV text, or more likely the ViP rendering of the Parijataharaina, elaborated Satyabhama's jealousy; Sarvasena's poem became famous and thereafter the theft of the tree, framed squarely as a romance, became a favorite theme of kavya poets until the HV manuscript tradition itself fed the theme back into its own text in App. I 29. (13)

The work of Horst Brinkhaus can help refine the issues here: Brinkhaus (1987: 92) proposed that the Pradyumna-Prabhavati legend, which appears as 29F in the HV, was already known in Nepal as early as the first half of the eleventh century. Given the fact that the other six appendices (29A--F) are bound together as a unit in the same sequence in all K, V, B, D, T, and G manuscripts (that is to say, in these manuscripts the appendices do not circulate independently or vary in sequence), it is likely that 29, the foundation upon which the other appendices rest, can be placed at least in the eleventh century as well. In any case, we can take as the latest limit the sixteenth-century Telugu poem Pradyumnaprabhavati of Pingali Suranna, which retells the Pradyumna-Prabhavati legend, specifically identified by the poet as derived from the HV (Pradyumnaprabhavati, 83). The HV as known to Pingali Suranna in sixteenth-century Andhra Pradesh thus certainly contained 29F, and, I would argue, almost certainly 29-29E as well. Thus the sixteenth century provides us with the most conservative date for a HV including the entire 29-29F block, but there is good reason to push this back at least to the eleventh century; 29 on its own may be even earlier, insofar as it reflects the influence of a kavya tradition dating back almost as far as the Critical HV text itself.

Although the amplification of conflict in the HV appendices is by itself an entirely natural, if not predictable augmentation of the narrative, in App. I 29 and 29A it comes bound together with a second theme--this one by no means predictable: a conspicuous emphasis on the identity and agency of the auspicious feminine, including all manner of ritual and dietary recipes for the enhancement of beauty and saubhagya or marital felicity. The rescripting of the Parijataharaha as a vigorous battle in 29 and 29A does not simply bring the HV into step with the wider epic, puranic, and kavya tradition, but does so by simultaneously amplifying the traditional pativrata roles and ritual concerns of Kpha's wives and of good wives in general. This, I argue, changes the meaning of the tree, the meaning of Krsna's conflict with Indra, and re-articulates the Parijataharaha in such a way as to conscript it more fully into Krsna's adult biography--indeed does so in such a way as to reflect back meaningfully upon his larger adult biography as we find it in the Critical HV text.


Returning now to the women of App. I 29 and 29A, we must ask why it is that the heroic battle suddenly gives way to a discourse on women's rituals, ideals, and even cosmetics. To begin, we must identify the peculiar properties of the tree that make it so worth fighting for and the ritual activity that takes place around it. Satyabhama's jealousy and desire to outdo Rukmini likely can be traced back to Sarvasena's HVj, and in Appendix 29 these feelings provide the initial impetus for the theft of the tree. However, the various conversations about, and the conflict over, the Parijata in App. I 29 make it clear that the tree's value is rather tied to the ritual concerns of the devoted wives of the gods and the tree's function in a rite called the Punyaka, which Satyabhama wishes to observe (1. 525). Thus whatever debt the authors of Appendix 29 may have owed to Sarvasena for introducing the jealous co-wife, this ritual concern with the tree and its accompanying frame of normative discourse on the ideal wife are entirely unique to Appendix 29 and are crucial to the appendices' shaping of the meaning of the Parijata theft.

When stealing the tree, Krsna specifically cites the Punyaka as the reason for his theft (1. 1059), and likewise when Aditi intervenes and demands an end to the battle, she instructs Krsna to remove the tree to Dvaraka temporarily so that Satyabhama can perform the Punyaka (11. 1448-51). As a ritual requisite the tree is thus much more than a means for Satyabhama to out-favor her rival wife Rukmini, and in fact Krsna even claims that all of his wives desire to use the tree in the Punyaka observance "for the sake of my merit, charity, and favor" (punyartham danadharmartham mama prityartham, 1. 388). This ritual usage of the tree by women is in fact its raison d'etre, for contrary to the better-known origin of the Parijata as a product of the churning of the ocean, (14) we are told in App. I 29 that Kasyapa created the tree so that his wife Aditi could remain ever young, be entertained by the tree's miraculous powers, be pure (possibly, free of menstrual discharge, virajah, 1.354), and above all could acquire saubhagya or marital felicity by performing the Punyaka observance for the benefit of her husband (11. 344-75). This property of the tree--its capacity as "saubhagyada" to bestow and ensure the felicitous state of the married woman whose husband and sons are alive and well--is the fundamental shift made in Appendix 29, which changes the meaning of the tree, of Satyabhama's desire for it, and of the battle Krsna engages in for its acquisition. (15)

By the time Krsna steals it, the tree has passed through several divine hands, allowing various goddesses to observe the Punyaka for their husbands: Aditi did it for Kasyapa, Rohini for Soma, Rddhi for Kubera, and Indrani (Saci) for Indra (11. 364-69). Narada had himself participated in all of these ritual proceedings (HV App. I 29 11. 364-69). When Aditi performed the Punyaka, for example, she tied her husband Kasyapa to the Parijata tree, giving him over into the possession of Narada, who then released Kasyapa upon receiving a niskraya or ransom payment (niskrayena maya muktah kasyapah), producing punya and saubhagya for Aditi thereby. Narada played the same role when the rite was repeated by Indrapi with Indra, by Rohin with Soma, and by Rddhi with Kubera (Dhanada). A little later on (11. 520-25), as he communicates to Indra Krsna's request for the tree, Narada recollects the ritual again, reminding Indra of its purpose of generating punya and requiring on each occasion a nigcraya payment made to Narada by the husband bound to the tree (niskrayai ca yatha dattah kaiyapadyaih).

Once the fight is over and the tree is brought to Dvarald, Satyabhama collects the necessary items for the rite, and Krsna summons Narada to receive lavish hospitality and to play the same ritual role that he has in the past. Satyabhama places a garland on Krsna's neck and ties him to the Parijata tree (11. 1522-23). In so doing she hands Krsna over into Narada's possession along with many precious substances. Narada then unties Krsna and clowns about, making Krsna follow him around and respect every command (11. 1530-35), and finally removes the flowers from Krsna's neck and demands the ritually appropriate (vihita) niskraya or fee by which Krsna is to be ransomed from captivity: a Kapila cow, together with her calf, and a black antelope skin packed full with sesame and gold. Krsna hands these items over and privately (rahite) asks what else he may give to Narada. Krsna's true identity as Visnu shines through here as Narada asks Visnu for various supernatural blessings. Satyabhama terminates the rite by summoning Krsna's 16,000 wives and gives to each one of them a portion of meritorious substance. (16) Finally, friends are invited to behold the magnificent tree, but it is returned to heaven after one year. This concludes App. 129.

From this single figure of the saubhagya-seeking Satyabhama at the end of App. 129, 29A then broadens its focus to married women in general and their relationships with their husbands. Totalling 240 verses, 29A departs altogether from the narrative context of Krsna's life, and the concern with the Punyaka vow gives rise to a wide-ranging discussion of various women's concerns and the ritual procedures for addressing them. Rukmini, speaking on behalf of Krsna's many wives, asks Narada about the origin of the Punyaka vow, whereupon he relates what he had heard from the goddess Uma in the past. Uma's exposition, delivered to Arundhati and several other divine women, constitutes the bulk of App. I 29A (11. 57-425), and can be divided roughly into three sections: the Punyaka vows (11. 57-223), vows and fasts for the acquisition of sons (11. 224-87), and various vows and fasts for improving specific physical attributes (11. 288-425), although these concerns ultimately all bleed together.

Whereas in App. I 29 the Punyaka is spoken of in the singular (11. 1449-50) and always refers to the ritual with the Parijata tree, the term Punvaka in App. I 29A loses its specificity. Although apparently expounding upon the rite just performed by Satyabhama at the end of App. 129, 29A almost always speaks of the Pupyaka in the plural (even in the initial requests for more information on the origin of the Punyakas [1. 1, 1. 16]) and the ritual events surrounding the Parijata tree are not actually discussed in 29A. Here the Punyaka is not one but many, and Uma is the authority because she has performed them all (punyakani ... sarvani, 1.61). These rites are in fact said to have originated with Uma (umaya punyakavidhih ... utpaditah pura, 1. 3), who speaks of having "seen" (dn./a) them through the grace of her husband Siva. App. I 29A thus builds upon Satyabhama's ritual undertaking, turning its attention from the singular Pupyaka to multiple Pupyakas understood as a set of practices that are finally reframed as a single "Umavrataka," and in the course of doing so turns in a much more general way to the religious and ritual lives of virtuous wives, who are referred to throughout by such terms as sati, sadhvi, and pativrata.

The discussion of the vidhi of the Punyakas (29A 11. 57-223) begins with a review of the desirable qualities of married women, with stern admonitions regarding the unsavory fates of unfaithful wives. Uma then explains preliminaries, bathing procedures, what manner of clothes are to be worn, dietary restrictions, pre--and proscriptions upon hygiene, and timing considerations. One performing the vow should invite other women as guests and feed them afterwards; specific mantras are to be recited while bathing; specific gifts are to be made to the husband and to brahmins. Advancing then to a second vrataka for the acquisition of sons (H. 224-87), similar specifications are made as to the types of food that may or may not be consumed, to the gifts to be made to brahmins, and particularly to the offering of the appropriately named Saputra karakas or water-pots. Finally, very particular improvements to a woman's physical appearance are prescribed (11. 288-425), generally following the pattern of a one-year course of calendrically determined fasting, dietary restrictions, and hygiene methods for curling the hair, whitening the teeth, and obtaining fuller breasts, to name a few. All of these fasts, vows, and ritual offerings described by Uma revolve around a tight-knit set of concerns, all essentially inseparable one from the other, which comfortably weave together in 29A: the long and healthy life of the husband, ensuring against widowhood, the birth and long life of sons, wealth, physical beauty, ascendency over co-wives and the retention of the husband's favor and affection, and the property of saubhagya or wifely auspiciousness which implies all of these things, particularly freedom from widowhood.

Despite the multiplicity of fasts discussed by Uma and the absence of any mention of the Parijata tree in her exposition, when concluding his account Narada speaks of this, the Umavrataka, as a single undertaking connected with the Parijata tree: Uma did it, Aditi did it, Savitri did it, making it the Umavrataka, Aditivrataka, and Savitrivrataka by turns. Narada himself adds a few more details, briefly discusses a rite called the Yamaratha, and promises to Rukmini and the other women that they will, like Uma, "see" the vratakas (1. 465). Rukmini does then "see" and perform the Umavrataka, as do Krsna's other wives Jambavati and Satyabhama.

I have suggested above that the amplification of conflict we find in Appendix 29 is in one sense predictable given the wide currency, from early on, of the Parijataharana as a battle; thus one of the functions of App. I 29 is to reconcile the oddly understated text of the Critical HV to this larger tradition. Beginning already with the ViP, we have seen an increased role for Satyabhama and, with Sarvasena's HVj, the theme of her jealousy and Krsna's efforts to woo her by retrieving the entire tree. There is thus plenty of precedent for enhancing in Appendix 29 the role of Satyabhama, her charming jealousy, and Krsna's rivalry with Indra. But it will not suffice to point to such trends if we wish to understand the rationale for the recasting of the Parijata episode in 29 and 29A, for we find these more readily explicable developments bound up with the far more opaque motif of the ritually engaged wife, her quest for saubhagya, and a normative discourse on the ideal conduct and qualities of the perfect woman. In fact, 29A loses the thread of Krsna's biography altogether, giving at first the impression of a misplaced tract on vratas better suited to the nibandha literature of which it is typical. (17) I will argue, however, that 29A's exposition upon the pativrata is fundamental to understanding the values being enacted by Satyabhama in her performance of the Punyaka, and that it changes altogether the meaning of the Parijata tree and of Kona's battle for its acquisition. (18)


The gesture that I believe to be all-important, fundamental to the Punyaka ritual carried out by Satyabhama, and that speaks in the most elemental way to the identity and ideal character of the married women of 29A is the ransoming of the husband from bondage. Above we have seen that Narada requires a niskraya payment before he can restore the husband to the wife partaking of the Punyaka observance (App. I 29 11. 366, 523, 1537-39). The niskraya or ransom motif (nis + [check]krt) hearkens back to the Vedic sacrifice where often the yajamana or sacrificial patron, the true oblation of the sacrifice, is ransomed back (niskrinite) to life through the substitution of the animal victim (e.g., Satapatha Brahmana [S13] Clearly the notion of a niskraya substitution for a victim is fundamental to the logic of Vedic sacrifice, and we find this dynamic at work in the Punyaka ritual. However, the epic character Savitri is perhaps even more important for our understanding of how and why it is that a wife rescues her husband from the bondage of death, for it is precisely this, I believe, that Satyabhama does by means of the Punyaka vow.

Savitri is the ultimate pativrata and is virtually synonymous with wifely devotion. The Savitryopakhyana is told in MBh 3.277-83 when Yudhishira remarks upon Draupadi's extraordinary qualities, crediting his and his brothers' salvation from slavery to her. The sage Markandeya then tells him of another husband, Satyavat, who was saved by his faithful wife Savitri. Savitri chooses as her husband the cursed Satyavat, son of the blind and dispossessed King Dyumatsena, despite knowing full well that Satyavat is destined to die in one year's time. Savitri devotes herself utterly to Satyavat and his parents, living with them in poverty in the forest. She alone knows Satyavat's fate, and undertakes a difficult penance of fasting and standing upright for several days, hoping to ward off the inevitable. On the dreaded day, Satyavat is somewhat taken aback when his wife, emaciated from her austerities and fasting, desires so ardently to follow him into the forest, but she insists on accompanying him. Finally he falls into a sudden and dreadful fatigue at the foot of a tree. Yama, the god of death approaches, snare (pasa, MBh 3.281.9) in hand, as Satyavat sleeps with his head on Savitri's lap. Yama declares he has come to bind her husband (baddhva, 3.281.13) and take him to the world of the dead. Yama ensnares Satyavat's soul, binding it and taking it south with the protesting Savitri in tow. A much celebrated dialogue then ensues, wherein Savitri's wit, virtue, wifely devotion, and knowledge of dharma impress Yama, who offers her various boons, with the exception of the life of her husband. She wins as boons the return of her father-in-law's eyesight, his kingdom, and a hundred sons for him, and finally outsmarts Yama by asking for the boon of one hundred sons for herself. This he grants, realizing too late that he will have to return Savitri's husband to her in order for the boon to be granted. He loosens the snares (padan muktva, 3.281.54) and returns him to her alive.

Savitri literally follows her husband in death, but her quick wit, fasting, and devotion save him. She is a symbol of wifely devotion and piety, evoked frequently in women's vrat traditions, and indeed is still remembered today in the Vat Savitri Vrat, which is performed by married women to ensure they are never widowed, and involves, like the Punyaka, tying string around a tree.20 Returning to our HV appendices, it should be clear that both the old Vedic notion of the niskraya and the salvific role of the devoted wife are central to the Punyaka vow with the Parijata tree. Satyabhama, like Aditi, Indrani, Rddhi, and Rohini before her, desires to enact physically the loss and binding of her husband, to rehearse, intervene in, and cancel out his death. Partaking of the Vedic language of the niskraya, of the imagery of the MBh's Savitryopakhyana, and even of the Vat Savitri Vrat still practiced today, the Punyaka rite portrays the husband bound and given over into the possession of a third party, with the act of binding taking place at a tree. The devoted wife is the ritual agent empowered to ransom her husband back from captivity; she dramatizes in the Punyaka vow precisely the salvific quality of the saubheigya-endowed woman, epitomized by Sal/An, which she ideally cultivates towards her husband as a pativrata.

But it is vital for our purposes to note precisely how it is that Savitri saves her husband from death: it is particularly her request to bear a hundred sons that stumps Yama and tricks him into releasing Satyavat back to her. This is not mere cleverness on the part of Savitri, but enacts narratively precisely what a good wife does: by bearing him sons she saves her husband from the snare of death. I would argue that death in the MBh's Savitryopakhyana, and indeed within the larger discourse of the pativrata, is not simply the extinction of the individual male, but the collapse of his patriline and the irreversible state of oblivion befalling a male who dies with no son to perform the graddha rites necessary for his incorporation into the world of the ancestors. For this reason the Brahmanas extol the virtues of sons: Aitareya Brahmana 7.13 declares: "A debt he pays in him, / And immortality he gains, / The father who sees the face / Of his son born and alive ... By means of sons have fathers ever / Crossed over the mighty darkness; / For one is born from oneself, / A ferry laden with food" (Olivelle 1995: 535). The lamentable fates that befall the lost souls for whom no graddha has been performed consequently become a puranic trope, best exemplified perhaps by the Uttara Khanda (2) of the Garuda Purana. Thus, to paraphrase Wendy Doniger and an Apastambha Dharmasatra verse she cites (Doniger 1980: 4 / ADS, it is a kind of physical immortality, "immortality below the navel," that a man secures with the birth of a son to perform his graddha; thereby he enters the pitrloka and enjoys continued existence in the form of the son. Savitri, and indeed every good pativrata, does not simply save or lengthen her husband's mortal life through her ritual ministrations, vows, and penances: she "saves him by bearing him sons"--that is, imparts to him immortal life in the form of a healthy patriline and sons to perform the all-important graddha ceremonies for him and his ancestors.

Finally, the pativrata who saves her husband and bears him sons saves herself. While clearly a conservative brahminical patriarchy looms large behind this traditional sail paradigm, we must appreciate the dynamic of mutual benefit implicit in all such vrata observances whereby the devoted wife guards and advances her own interests even as she protects her husband, home, and children. This can certainly be confirmed in the case of contemporary women's vrata observances: on the basis of her fieldwork in Maharashtra, Mary McGee (1992: 84) argues that the pativrata who saves her husband saves herself as well,
  [f]or a woman who maintains a happy household, whose husband is
  content, who has healthy children (and at least one male child), is
  accorded great respect in Hindu society. If a man dies before his
  wife, the woman can be blamed, so the reverse should also be
  expected: if a man lives a long and healthy life, it is attributed to
  his wife's good fortune and devotion ... When a woman succeeds in
  maintaining the health and well-being of her household, she fulfills
  her stridharma, and is rewarded with personal satisfaction, respect
  and praise.

Moreover, we must remember that, as much as a long-lived husband may constitute a woman's wealth and social security, this must be safeguarded through the birth of sons, for worst of all is the fate of the sonless widow who, with no son to care for her, is as lost and homeless in this world as the deceased man in the afterlife whose sraddha has been never been performed. (21) The husband in the world beyond and his surviving widow in this world are both saved through the birth of sons.

Satyabhama, Rukmini, and the many women gathered to listen to Uma's exposition on the Punyakas in 29A desire the high social standing enjoyed by the wife of a long-lived and healthy husband; they desire wealth and prosperity for themselves; they desire their husband's favor and their own ascendancy over co-wives through beauty, youthfulness, and auspiciousness; and they desire to protect themselves from the terrible fate of widowhood (bhavaty avidhava, 29A 11. 255, 302). Two verses from 29A underline this crucial dynamic of mutual benefit to both husband and wife in the mechanics of women's vrata traditions:
akaryakarinam vapi patitam vapi nirgunam I
stri patim tarayaty eva tathatmanam subhanane II
App. I 29A II. 75-76
lovely-faced one, a woman saves her husband and
herself as well, even if he be one who does what
should not be done, or who is fallen, or
lacking in good qualities.

savitrya vratakam krtva tathaditya vratam sari I
bhartuh kulam pitrkulam tathatmanam ca tarayet II App.
I 29A 11. 436-3
The good woman, having performed the vrataka of Savitri
and the vrata of Aditi, saves the family of her husband,
of his pitrs, and herself as well.

When a pativrata like Savitri, endowed with life-preserving saubhagya, secures the long life and health of her husband, she saves him just as she saves herself by winning a secure home and high esteem in the world. When she brings forth sons, she saves her husband from the otherworldly fate of preta-hood which befalls the sonless, wins for herself esteem in the world as a mother of sons, and shields herself against the fate, so much like that of the preta or wandering ghost, of a sonless widow.

Perhaps it is now clearer why we find that Satyabhama's fairly brief ritual gesture of ransoming back Krsna from captivity at the end of App. I 29 gives rise to the wider-ranging discussion of the qualities, observances, and fasts of the sail in 29A. 29A comfortably pluralizes the single Punyaka vow, dissolving it out amidst the other rites and concerns that all form part of the same complex of saubhagya ideals of the sail that are enacted in Satyabhama's Punyaka gesture with the Parijata tree, Whatever their stated purpose, the rites described by Uma in 29A always involve the same set of purposes: the long life of the husband (more often than not expressed as freedom from widowhood), physical beauty, superiority over co-wives, material prosperity, and of course the birth of sons and the securing of their long lives. Even when the ritual prescriptions turn to the simple cosmetic concerns of hair-curling (11. 290-99) and eyebrow beautification (11. 309-13), a good woman's other less tangible qualities are also improved: a diet and cosmetic prescription for improving the appearance of one's forehead (29A 11. 300-308) also ensures against widowhood (bhavaty avidhava, 1. 302); a diet for whitening the teeth (11. 334-39) also brings saubhagya and sons (saputratva); while she follows a program for getting breasts like coconuts (stanau ... tanarajaphalopamau), she obtains the highest saubhagya and likewise many sons (saubhagyam param apnoti bahun putt-Cups tathaiva ca, 1. 350). Any one of the sail's good qualities is always tied to others. 29A thus makes explicit to us that the pativrata who undertakes the observances detailed by Uma saves her husband, his patriline, and herself all at once and becomes, like the wish-fulfilling Parijata tree, a source of perpetual wealth and auspiciousness.

Returning to the Parijata tree itself, the observation is perhaps now overdue that the tree and the women who worship it in App. I 29 and 29A may call to mind the ancient yakya cult attested in some of the earliest examples of Indian art which depict the worship of trees, particularly by women. Women's worship of the kalpavrksa or wish-granting tree for the sake of blessings and children seems at least to predate the epic period, and indeed Coomaraswamy (1993: 83) states that "[t]here is no motif more fundamentally characteristic of Indian art from the first to last than is that of the Woman and Tree." (22) The Parijata clearly partakes of this old yakya imagery, and is celebrated as a caitya or wish-granting tree, a form of wealth that generates more wealth. Even its individual flowers are magical and yield further riches and blessings. (23) Such objects as the caitya tree of old and the Parijata are what might be called gifts that keep on giving.

This fecundity of the Parijata in App. I 29 and 29A is framed against the social and biological concerns of married women, who desire it for the accomplishment of a vow that allows them ritually and physically to enact the paradigm role of the savior-preserver wife and to become, like the tree itself, perpetual bestowers of fortune. In case we have missed the larger set of values implicit in Satyabhama's Punyaka enactment at the end of App. I29, 29A unpacks in detail a variety of prescribed behaviors for optimizing a married woman's auspiciousness and capacity to bear the most important kind of fruit, namely the sons who will save her husband from the eternal death of preta-hood. The Parijata, it turns out, is more than a symbol of Krsna's preference for Satyabhama over Rukmini, and more than a yaksa tree to be worshipped by women desirous of children. It is rather a cipher for and means of realizing fully an ideal of womanhood that makes of the devoted wife a savior-figure, source of riches, prosperity, and auspiciousness in this world, and a guarantor of eternal life--"immortality below the navel"--by bearing sons to her husband. She becomes a kind of caitya or Parikata tree, continually bringing forth renewed wealth for the benefit of her husband and herself. Satyabhama goads Kisna into battle for this tree, for she knows what is best for her husband and what is best for her. (24)

We find in the Critical text of the Parijataharana neither conflict nor any significant role for Satyabhamd; both these elements occur piecemeal in the developing variations on the episode elsewhere in epic and kavya literature, and thus not surprisingly become part of the HV appendix revision of 92.63-70. But the inclusion of 29A changes the meaning of the tree and thus of the entire adventure, aligning squarely the paradigm of the ever-fruitful Parijata to the figure of the devoted wife and the social and biological wealth she ideally constitutes and ensures. In the paper's final section, I will turn to the poets' motivation for this re-visioning of the Parijata theft: in binding together the elements of vigorous conflict with a fully articulated discourse on the auspicious feminine, the poets of 29 and 29A conscripted more fully and completely the Parijata adventure into the adult biography of Krsna. Moreover, as they reconciled this episode to others of Krsna's mature life, they made conspicuous thereby a pattern present already in the HV Critical text.


If we look back to the earlier Critical HV text, we will find that there have been other treasures like the Parijata that emit or produce more riches, and these are fought for and likewise associated with Krsna's wives. The first of these is the Syamantaka gem, a precious object which "emits" gold (sa manih syandate rukmam, HV 28,13). This gem is tied directly to Krna's wives Satyabhama and Jambavati. In the Critical HV text (HV 28-29), the Syamantaka gem is discovered by Krsna's clansman Prasena, lost to a lion who kills him for it, thence to the bear Jambavat who kills the lion. Krsna battles at length with Jambavat in order to regain the gem, but obtains in addition as wife Jambavat's daughter Jambavati, who will go on eventually to bear his son Samba. Krsna returns to Dvaraka and gives the Syamantaka to Prasena's brother Satrajit, who in return gives Krsna his daughter Satyabhama (and also Vratini and Padmavati, who are otherwise minor and little-known wives of Krsna); Satyabhama eventually bears him his son Bhanu. The gem continues thereafter to change hands amidst much bloodshed (HV 29). Thus the gold-oozing Syamantaka is worth fighting for; it is part and parcel of Krsna's acquisition of Satyabhama, Jambavati, and two other wives, who are transacted to him like currency in the exchanges of the much-coveted jewel. Although the story's principal significance lies, as I have argued elsewhere, in the way it dramatizes Krana's conciliatory leadership role within the larger Vrsni clan (Austin 2011), it is vital to note here the jewel's dowry-like function and immediate association with Krsna's wives Jambavati and Satyabhama. The story of Krsna's acquisition of these valuable women--who eventually bear him sons--is the story of conflict over a precious object that emits wealth continually.

A second example of this pattern occurs in the CE HV text just prior to the Parijata episode, wherein Krsna fights violently for another wealth-creating object: Varuna's umbrella, which "showers gold" (varunam chatram ... hiranyavaryam varyantam, HV 92.18). After an epic battle with the demon Naraka, he takes possession of this treasure at the same moment that he rescues and claims as his wives the group of 16,100 kidnapped and imprisoned women, all of whom of course go on to bear him thousands of sons (HV 88.44). Like the Syamantaka and the Parijata tree, Krsna does not possess the umbrella permanently, but fights for it and seizes it together with the 16,100 women. In fact a certain symmetry marks the umbrella and the tree, the umbrella being held aloft as Krsna and Satyabhama rise to heaven and the uprooted tree likewise balanced on Garuda's back as the pair return to earth. Once again we find a miraculous wealth-producing object transacted in the course of Krsna's encounter with and his taking possession of women as his son-bearing wives, all following a scene of violent conflict.

There is admittedly no transaction of a gem or treasure on the occasion of Krsna's acquisition of his chief wife Rukmini (HV 87-89). Rukmini, however, is famously a woman worth fighting for, and I have argued elsewhere (Austin forthcoming) that her value to Krsna and the entire Vrsni clan lies precisely in her capacity to produce the biological and, in her case, political wealth of sons to ensure over three succeeding generations the diplomatic stability without which Krsna and the Vrsnis would have perished. A contested bride, desired by Sigupala as the basis of an alliance between Cedi and Vidarbha, Rukmini is snatched away by Kona, and the Vrsni-Vidarbha alliance is thus forced, protecting the clan against Sisupala and his uncle Jarasamdha, who had pushed Krspa out of Mathura all the way to the Arabian Sea. Krsna's entire adult life as a prosperous resident of Dvaraka depends upon the alliance forged with Vidarbha through his marriage to Rukmini, whose son Pradyumna marries a daughter of Rukmin, thus preserving the alliance into a second generation. Not surprisingly, it is Rukmini, who arranges the marriage of Pradyumna's son Aniruddha to a granddaughter of Rukmin (rukminah pautrim rukmini ... patny artham varayam asa, HV 89.10), thus engineering yet another generation of alliance. Rukmini is herself initially an object of great value for which Krsna and the Vrsnis go to battle; she proves to be every bit worth the endeavor and becomes a source of perpetual worldly prosperity by the son she bears to Kona and grandson whose nuptials she arranges in the interest of the Vrsnis.

For those familiar with this pattern whereby Krsna fights epic battles for the acquisition of worldly goods, for treasures that yield more wealth, and for women who are forms of wealth in and of themselves and who also generate further the all-important wealth of sons, the short Critical HV account of the Parijataharana at 92.63-70 was simply incomplete. In the words of the great Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn, "nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight"--but there is no fight over the tree in the Critical HV text of 92.63-70, nor is it yet sufficiently clear there why the Parijata is worth having. Certainly external factors such as Sarvasena's HVj played a role in the reshaping of the Parijataharana in Appendix 29 and 29A; but for those intimately familiar with other moments of Krsna's adult biogra-phy--with the Syamantaka episode, with the vital role played by Rukmini, and with the Narakavadha and recuperation of Varuna's umbrella--the value of the tree, its intimate association with the auspicious feminine, and the narrative imperative that a vigorous battle must be waged over so precious an object, all clearly needed to be articulated in a transparent way. These elements are therefore amplified and developed in App. I 29 and 29A, which together conscript the Parijataharana episode fully into the narrative frame of Krspa's adult life and in so doing reflect back upon the pattern that so vitally characterizes Krspa's adult biography in the basic Critical HV krsnacarita: this prosperous man of the world established domestic felicity and auspiciousness only by fighting for women who, as forms of wealth themselves, are appropriately tied to fabulous treasure-objects of ever-renewed fecundity. Thus as incongruous as it may seem to follow an epic war with a discourse on cosmetics, without these appendices we would overlook the larger set of pativrata values felt to be implicit in all of the HV's imagery surrounding the women in Krsna's adult life.


I began this article with the observation that within a tradition otherwise preoccupied with the young Krsna, the Parijataharana has enjoyed a unique fame and popularity. Why this episode of his adult years and not another? Why not Krsna's war with Jarasamdha? Why not the recovery of the hostage Aniruddha or indeed even the slaying of Kamsa? Here it will be helpful to note how and why it is that certain episodes of Krsna's youth also rose out of their narrative context and received special attention.

John Stratton Hawley (1979: 208-9) offered a hypothesis as to why, among the scenes of Krsna's childhood and adolescence, two in particular--the Govardhanadhara (Krsna's uplifting of the Govardhana mountain) and the Kaliyadamana (defeat of the serpent Kaliya)--enjoy such popularity in physical representation across the period of roughly 500 to 1500 C.E. This is because
  these were the episodes in which people perceived Krishna as
  a cosmic victor, the guarantor of order. Because the Kaliya
  and Govardhana stories replicated both universal and
  specifically Indian scenarios about how order establishes
  itself in the midst of chaos, they could both be excerpted
  from their narrative contexts in the krspacarita without
  losing either their force or their intelligibility. And
  because they carried these broader resonances, they were
  very often given special billing.

These scenes became popular, according to Hawley, not simply because they are favorite moments of the biography, but precisely because they can and do speak to a larger theme well beyond the particular narrative moment in which these scenes take place. Krsna's identity as a regulator of order and a savior figure is communicated powerfully in the elegant gestures of lifting the mountain and dancing on the head of Kaliya; they seem to say more about who Krsna is and why he is worthy of adoration than any other moment in his early biography.

Charlotte Schmid (2010: 464) has also argued that the Kaliyadamana and Govardhana scenes carry a special power to communicate a truth about Krsna far beyond the immediate context of the biography: it is in these two scenes particularly that the whole mythic complex of Krsna's life and indeed the entire Vaisnava system of the avatara is played out "en abyme":
  Pour Visnu, les avatara offrent l'occasion d'adopter une forme
  particuliere, geante ou animale. De meme Krsna subit, pendant
  l'episode du Govardhanadhara, une transformation physique. II
  se fait gdant et montagne. ... Le schema narratif du
  Kaliyadamana semble en outre construit sur la symbolique meme
  de 1'incarnation du dieu en tant qu'avatara. ... Dans les deux
  episodes-clefs de la legende de Krsna, le parallelisme avec les
  avatara vishnouites est donc clair. Maisc'est en fait l'ensemble
  de la geste de Krsna telle qu'elle se presente dans le HV qui
  reproduit, ou annonce, la structure de la mythologie vishnouite.

Like Hawley, Schmid sees in the Govardhanadhara, where Krsna uplifts and takes the form of the mountain for the protection of his devotees, and in the Kaliyadamana, where Krsna dives down into the water to defeat chaos, a meaning that passes beyond the basic krsnacarita--in her reading, passes outward to the larger framework of the entire Vaisnava avatara theology. Both Hawley and Schmid thus can help us understand why these scenes were so favored over others of Krsna's youth: they have a unique ability to communicate truths about the identity of Krsna as Visnu and the salvation that Visnu offers.

I propose that the Parijataharana had a similar hold on the imagination with respect to Kona's adulthood, that it received "special billing" as a moment capable of communicating in its own way "l'ensemble de la geste de Krsna." This scene of Krsna's post-Kamsavadha life encoded better than any other the set of values and narrative motifs characteristic of the latter krsnacarita: not the lila of an adorable child who delights in revealing and concealing his divinity, but the mature vigor of Visnu-Krsna establishing worldly prosperity through conquest and the acquisition of precious objects--objects indissociable from the feminine figures upon whom Krsna's and the Vrsnis' prosperity depend. For the authors of 29 and 29A the Krsna's account of this all-important deed did not sufficiently communicate their vision of Krsna's adult identity--a vision shaped by other episodes of the earlier Critical text. In their enrichment of the Parijataharana, these poets not only aligned the episode with these other moments of Krsna's adult life, but have back-lit the images of perpetual wealth and the feminine in them. Thus while Krsna's identity as Visnu, the regulator of cosmic order and matrix of avatara forms, is most transparent in the Govardhanadhara and Kaliyadamana scenes of Krsna's youth, in his adult life it is above all the image of Krsna mounted upon Garuda and battling Indra for the Parijata tree that communicates his identity as Visnu--as the powerful securer of auspiciousness, domestic felicity, and worldly prosperity.



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A short draft of this paper was presented at the 222nd Meeting of the American Oriental Society, Boston, MA, March 16-19, 2012. This article forms part of a research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

(1.) The Critical Edition (CE) HV devotes thirty-one chapters (48-78) to Krsna's birth, childhood, and adolescence, and thirty-five (79-113) to his adult life; the ViP twenty (5.1-20) and eighteen (5.21-38) chapters, and the BhP forty-four (10.1-44) and forty-six (10.45-90) chapters.

(2.) As important as the Bhagavadgita is thought to be, it is strictly speaking not a scene of Krsna's biography as such, and more importantly is seldom graphically represented: "In the past century, both in India and the West, a great deal of interest has been focused on the Krishna whom we meet as the teacher of the Bhagavad Gita. We are given to understand that for some two millennia the Gird has been India's most influential scripture. Yet of some 800 panels of Krishna sculpture to have survived from the period before 1500 A.D., only three refer with any clarity to the Gita ... on the whole it is remarkable how indifferent sculptors were to this aspect of Krishna's adult life. As for its other phase, his reign as king of the Western city of Dvaraka, which is storied at length in the puranic texts, there is scarcely a hint of it in stone" (Hawley 1979: 202).

(3.) The Parijataharana of Umapatidhara (contemporary of Jayadeva in the court of Laksmanasena, late twelfth century), the Parijataharana of Narayaba Panditacarya (biographer and student of Madhvacarya, late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries), and the Parijataharana of Sankaradeva (sixteenth century Assam) are a few examples.

(4.) The figure here in the CE HV is 16,100 (caturdasa sahasrani ekavimsacchatani ca, 91.13), although a more popular tally is 16,008 (ViP 5.28.5; BhP 10.61.1-19)--that is to say, Krsna's eight principal wives, of whom Satyabhama, and Jambavati are the three best known, and the anonymous group of 16,000 women.

(5.) The Parijata theft itself might be seen as a variation on Garuda's famous theft of the amrtakalasa or pot of the nectar of immortality, which appears to extend back to the Rgveda where the hawk (syena) steals the Soma (RV 1.80.2; 1.93.6; 3.43.7; 4.18.13:4.26-27, etc.). Apparently identified with the hawk of the RV, Visnu's mount Garuda is in the epics credited with the theft from heaven of the Soma or amrta (MBh 1.14-30; Ram. 3.33.33-34). In both this set of myths and the Parijata episode, Garuda steals (or participates in stealing) from heaven an object of great value from the gods and returns to earth with it. In both cases Indra is intimately involved as the benefactor or victim of the deed, and the divine object eventually finds its way back to its rightful place.

(6.) Appendix materials are enumerated by line (1.) and not verse couplets.

(7.) A few MBh apparatus passages also speak of a conflict over the tree: [1.2.233] * 178 1.12; [2.35.39] App. 21 1.1562. At 15.128.171 App. 7 1.6 we find an assertion that Indra was not angry (nabhyavartata samrabdho vrtraha) interposed in front of the Critical MBh text of 5.28.48 to qualify the statement that "Krsna seized the Parijata and conquered Sacipati."

(8.) I thank Andre Couture for referring me to the Harivijaya, to Kulkarni's partial but extremely valuable reconstitution thereof, and to Schmid 1997.

(9.) "Sarvasena takes a cue from the earlier motivation found in the Itihasa works, and elaborates it. He centres the entire story round the rivalry of the two wives of Hari. This human element that he has introduced in his version has not only earned him the praise of Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta but of every succeeding generation of audiences and readers" (Harivijaya, 98-99). I would add that the northerner Abhinavagupta would also likely have had at hand manuscripts of the HV from which the keystone Critical text manuscript descended, and these would have featured only the brief rendering of the episode. Sarvasena's variations on the event would therefore have appeared all the more novel to Abhinavagupta.

(10.) Sohnen-Thieme (2009: 360-61) addresses this problem very briefly while Dange (1970) offers very little on this point in her short note on the scene.

(11.) Mention may be made here of the later Bharatamanjari (BhM) of Ksemendra (early eleventh century), which seems to preserve the CE HV's short and non-confrontational rendering; in the BhM (Harivamsaparvan 1136) when Krsna takes the tree, Indra simply looks on and approves of the deed (tac camanyata vrtraha). Ksemendra likely based his synopsis on northern materials from which the single extant Sarada manuscript, the keystone of the HV Critical text, has descended.

(12.) I shall forego a hypothesis on the geographic origins of these appendices. Arriving at a rough dating is difficult enough, and in any case App. I 29-29F find their way into every manuscript family across the subcontinent except for S11, 1C13, and M1-3. Charlotte Schmid proposes that App. 1 29 and 29A originate in the south: citing David Shulman (Shulman 1980: 283 nn. 76, 78), she points out that the rivalry between Rukmini and Satyabhama in App. 1 29 evokes many Tamil myths of the double marriage (Schmid 1997: 247-48 nn. 2 and 4; 273). However this motif, at least as a literary feature of the Parijataharana, seems to originate with Sarvasena in the west.

(13.) P. L. Vaidya, the editor of the HV CE, proposed for App. I 29 a date of the eleventh century or later, based on the fact that Ksemendra does not know any elaborated account of the adventure (HV CE, vol. 1: xxxiii). However, Ksemendra's ignorance of the confrontational account is neither here nor there--we have seen above that this theme had already emerged even in the fourth and fifth centuries C.E., but clearly was never incorporated into the manuscript tradition that was known to Ksemendra and that ultimately survived as the manuscript in the north, and as M1-3 in the south.

(14.) The Parijata tree figures among the precious objects produced by the churning of the ocean in some popular accounts such as ViP 1.9.93. In others, the Parijata does not emerge (e.g., MBh 1.16.33-37). See ViP [Wilson]. 146-48 n. 1. HV App. I 29 is comfortable multiplying the origins of the tree, on the one hand crediting Kasyapa with its creation (II. 346-47), while on the other seeming to remember the better-known churning of the ocean myth (11. 400-401), and developing in addition a distinctly Saivite origin for the tree involving the production of an entire forest of Parijatas, created for Uma's pleasure (11. 402-35).

(15.) On the subject of saubhagya and auspiciousness see Carman and Marglin 1985, McGee 1992, Rhodes 2010: 15-45; on women's vrats and their relation to saubhagya Pearson 1996; more broadly on women's ritual responsibilities Leslie 1989 and Leslie 1992.

(16.) Satyabhamii gives them each a samniyoga: the Vulgate (Vu) HV's seventeenth-century commentator Nilakaigha understands this to mean portions of the divine garments and ornaments sent to Satyabharna by gad (sanniyogcup divyavastraharanadikam indranipresitarp vibhajya dadau, Vu HV II. 76.20).

(17.) On the nibandha literature see Pearson 1996: 63-65 and McGee 1992: 72 n. 2.

(18.) One answer to the role of women in 29 and 29A is offered by Charlotte Schmid, who sees the scenes of Kpna's rivalry with Indra in terms of the assumption or appropriation of Indra's role and identity as king of gods by the new avalara who supercedes the Vedic power. For Schmid, the Parijata theft, the battle, the Punyaka observance, and the exposition of Uma are to be understood in large part as dramatizing a conflict between Krsna-avatara and Indra-as-displaced-Vedic-power. She thus sees Kma's theft of the tree as creating a link between heaven and earth, with the feminine functioning as the means by which Kma blesses humanity. For Schmid this larger goal of blessing all of humanity with heavenly prosperity is equally as if not more important than the more immediate concern to allay Satyabhama's jealousy and provide her the means of perfoming the Punyaka vrata (Schmid 1997: 249, 251, 255). I agree with Schmid in part, and certainly with the emphasis she places on Krsna's function as a god who blesses his devotees with abundance; this important theme has been underlined as well by Couture (2008). However, in framing the Punyaka vow and Appendix 29A against the broad avatara theme we lose sight of the very worldly and quotidien preoccupations of the pativrata, without which, as I argue here, we cannot understand the imagery of the tree and the meaning of the ritual gestures which take place around it.

(19.) Illustrative elsewhere in the SB is the story of Kadru and Suparni, wherein the latter, losing herself in a wager to Kadru, is told she must bring the Soma in order to regain her freedom (atmanam niykrinisva []; atmanam nirakrinita []). In case we have missed the larger significance of this tale, a few later passages remind us that all men inherit a debt to death at birth; the sacrificer ransoms himself back to life from death (mrtyor atmarutm niskrinite). Perhaps clearest of all is SB 11.7.1, where we are told that the sacrificer's fires desire to consume him, but the animal substitutions ransom him back to life (asyaisa atmaniykrayano bhavati) and indeed to immortal life (evaitad amrtam atman dhatte).

(20.) "On the full moon day of Jyestha women whose husbands are living perform even now in many parts of India the Savitrivrata or Vatsavitrivrata. ... The worship of the Vata tree comes in probably because Satyavat when the moment of death approached took shelter under the shade of the Vata tree and supported himself by a branch of it and spoke in a choked voice to Savitri that he had pain in the head. The procedure of this vrata as set out in the Vratarka (folios 312-20) and other late medieval works is briefly as follows--The woman should make a sankalpa in the form 'I shall perform Savitrivrata for securing long life and health to my husband and my sons and for securing freedom from widowhood in this and subsequent lives.' She should then sprinkle water at the root of the Vata tree and surround it with cotton threads and should perform its worship with the upacaras and then offer worship to Savitri (with image or mentally) from her feet upwards and pray to her to bestow on her beauty, good name, prosperity, and freedom from widowhood. Then she should worship Yama and Narada and give presents (vayana) to the priest and break her fast next day" (Kane 1958: 91-93).

(21.) In the MBh's Savitryopakhyana Savitri's own father tells her that a son who does not protect his mother when the husband dies is to be censured (mrte bhartari putras ca vacyo matur araksita, MBh 3.277.35). The protection of a widow is a son's and not a daughter's responsibility, and of course a widow in need of care is far less welcome in the home of her daughter's husband than in that of her own son.

(22.) Coomaraswamy (1993: 84) cites, for example, the Hatthipala Jataka (Jataka no. 509), wherein a woman wins seven sons from the worship of a yaksini in an old banyan tree.

(23.) As Narada explains to Rukmini, even a single flower of the tree functions not only as a beautiful ornament, but also remains fresh for one year without wilting; nor will its fragrance fade; can heat or cool the body; emits juices as one wishes; bestows good fortune (saubhagya); emits perfume as one wishes; fixes one's mind upon dharma and prevents unwholesome thoughts; can shrink, grow, become lighter or heavier; functions as a flashlight at night and removes unpleasant odors; can even become or produce any other flower (single or in garlands); can yield splendid clothes or ornaments; can prevent hunger, thirst, tiredness, and old age; and can play any music one desires! (App. I 29 II. 39-60).

(24.) Thus Satyabhama in the HV is passive and silent, barely complicit in the tree's removal, while App. I 29 makes of her a prompting figure who goads Krsna into fighting for the desirable object. Precisely the same narrative enhancement of the wife's role takes place with Rukmini: she is passive and silent in the HV (87.39-41), and is seized rather violently by Krsna without speaking a word. However, in the BhP (10.52.37-43) she engineers her own abduction, sending a secret message to Krsna and prompting him to come get her (see Pauwels 2007). There is clearly a larger epic pattern at work behind these revisions of the auspicious and increasingly active wife who prompts her husband into activity that is beneficial to him. Hiltebeitel (1985: 44-45) offers an example from the Ramayana: When Sita', being carried away by Ravana, drops her jewels and upper garment for Rama to find, she "uses the symbols of auspiciousness to stimulate Rama ... Moreover, it is with her last jewel that she lets Rama know of her whereabouts by sending it back with Hanuman for Rama to see it. It is no accident that this jewel is her cudamani, the 'crest jewel' with which she fastens her hair and thus indicates what remains of her still auspicious virahini status (Ram. 5.26.17; 36.52; 63.31; 65.30. etc.)."



BhM    Bharatamanjari of Ksemendra
BhP    Bhagavata Purana
CE     Critical Edition
HV     Harivamsa
HVj    Harivijaya of Sarvasena
MBh    Mahabharata
Ram.   Ramayana
SB     Satapatha Brahmana
ViP    Visnu Purana
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Author:Austin, Christopher
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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