Shankaracharya’s Govindastakam

Some snippets.. Exquisite weave of Opposites and Visuals

Sujatha R
3 min readMar 15, 2023

I was listening to one of my favorite teachers.. Dr Gauri Mahulikar in her blissful style, reveals the elements of this beautiful composition.

Such a delightful repetition of sounds.. And a lovely play of opposites and paradoxes. And Streaks of Advaita amidst picturesque descriptions of Bala Gopala. That is GovindAstakam in a gist.

And ‘Go’ has a spectrum of meanings. That which moves.. The Cows.. The Earth.. The Vedas and Knowledge.. The Sense organs, as it pulls us into the experience of this world.. And hence Govinda can be seen with many meanings.

The Dance of Opposites and Paradoxes

Without a teacher like Dr. Gauri, it is not easy to discern the opposite pair of words. Just noticing the pairs makes the understanding so much simpler..

anāyāsaṃ paramāyāsam
He who is tireless, like the energetic crawling baby Krishna.. And yet it is an arduous tiring job for us to reach him..

kṣmāmā-nātham anāthaṃ
He is the Lord of the Earth, and yet does not have anyone to claim Lordship over him..

anāhāraṃ navanīt-āhāram
He who does not feed on food, and yet relishes butter when he decides to enjoy..

anākāśaṃ paramākāśam
anābhāsam bhāsam
He who is unillumined, unprojected.. And yet he illumines the whole sky

nanākāram anākāraṃ
He who takes many shapes and yet is without a shape

bhēdāvastham abhēdābham
He who divided into many forms, and yet is undivided himself

lōk ālōka
He who is seen, and yet not seen.. like the twinkling of the stars.

kāraṇ akāraṇa
He who is the reason, and yet does have a reason

Achintya chintya and so on..

Signature Phrase

Every verse ends with praṇamata gōvindaṃ paramānanda
प्रणमत (प्र + नम्) “You all should worship” Govindam.. Govindam who is Satyaṃ jñānam anantaṃ nityam anākāśaṃ paramākāśam..

Visuals from Krishna Leela

With the magic of words, Shankaracharya sketches vibrant images of Bala Krishna

gōṣṭha-prāṅgaṇa-riṅkhaṇa-lōlam
And there he crawls at the courtyard of Goshala

mṛtsnā-matsī.. yaśōdā-tāḍana.. śaiśava santrāsam
The mud-eating episode.. Yashoda scolds.. Krishna in fear

vyādita-vaktrā.. caturdaśa-lōk
He opens his mouth.. She sees the line of 14 worlds

gōpālaṃ prabhu-līlā-vigraha-gōpālaṃ
And the Lord takes the form of Gopala

gōpī-khēlana.. gōvardhana-dhṛti
playing with the gopis.. holding the govardana mountain

dhūḻī-dhūsara-saubhāgyam
The dusty dusk time look.. Such a fortune to see it

kāḻindī-gata.. kāliya-śirasi.. sunṛtyantam
His grooving dance on the crown of kaaliya serpent at kaalindi river

Style in vocabulary

These phrases seemed nice to me..

He decimates the brave enemies (ripu-vīr) of the Gods
He decimates the agony and load on the Earth
He decimates the disease of Sorrow.

traiviṣṭapa-ripu-vīr-aghnaṃ
kṣiti-bhār-aghnaṃ
bhavarōg-
aghnam

He is right inside our buddhi.. His body is only Satta.

buddhēr-antastham
sattā-mātra-śarīraṃ

He is far away from the senses and sense objects
gōpī-gōcara-dūraṃ

References

In the voice of Ravindra Sathe https://youtu.be/fWCB6hPVzhk
Lyrics: https://vignanam.org/english/govindaashtakam.html
Dr Gauri Mahulikar’s talk https://youtu.be/sf-EBQWdrhU

Saadar PraNaaMs to Gauri Ma’am 🙏

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Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns