India Design Motifs, Part 8

BY: SUN STAFF - 28.6 2017

The Gopis Adoring Krsna's Footprints and Radha's Beauty

A study of the historical, spiritual and cultural elements of Vedic design.

In Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Gita-mala (2.30), we find the prayer of Sri Rupa Manjaari, a personal maidservant of Srimati Radharani. She refers to nineteen most auspicious marks that manifest on Sri Sri Radha-Krsna's feet, including the wheel, conch, lotus, etc.:

"[these auspicious marks are] … unique to both of Your lotus feet, are visible on the ground all throughout the forests of Vrndavana. Whenever this maidservant sees those marks, she becomes overflooded and immersed in a festival of bliss, due to secretly receiving the mercy of You Both in this way."

In various works of Vaisnava literature we read the pastimes of the Gopis, who in the mood of separation from Krsna are wandering around the forests and groves of Vrindavan, searching the ground for telltale markings of Krsna's lotus feet. This is mentioned in the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, which describes the symbolic markings (bhagavat-laksanaih) found in the Lord's footprints (padaih).

Srimad Bhagavatam 10.16.17: 

te 'nvesamana dayitam 
krsnam sucitaya padaih
bhagaval-laksanair jagmuh
padavya yamuna-tatam

te -- they; anvesamanah -- searching out; dayitam -- their dearmost; krsnam -- Krsna; sucitaya -- (along the path) which was marked; padaih -- by His footprints; bhagavat-laksanaih -- the symbolic markings of the Personality of Godhead; jagmuh -- they went; padavya -- along the path; yamuna-tatam -- to the bank of the Yamuna.


"The residents hurried toward the banks of the Yamuna in search of their dearmost Krsna, following the path marked by His footprints, which bore the unique signs of the Personality of Godhead."

In the previous segment, we listed 58 different symbols, divided into six categories of auspicious marks that appear on the hands and feet of Sri Krsna, Sri Radha, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, or the Pancha-tattva personalities. Today, we'll describe the meanings of some of the auspicious markings on Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, as they are enumerated in various literatures previously mentioned.

The Transcendental Meanings Of The Most Auspicious Marks

Barleycorn - This mark signifies that the devotees of Their Lordships receive all enjoyable opulences of prosperity by serving Their feet. It also means that once one finds shelter at Their feet and Holy Name, then the devotee's former journey through many births and deaths is actually very tiny, just like a single grain of barley. It further demonstrates that just as the barley grains are the sustenance of life for living beings, similarly it is widely celebrated that Their glorious feet are the nourishment for all souls.

Blackberry Fruit or Rose Apple (jambu-phala) - This mark is indicative that The lotus feet of Their Lordships are the only worshipable objects for all those who are residents of this region of Jambudvipa (Island of the Blackberry Fruits, according to Vedic cosmography).

Chariot (ratha) - This mark symbolizes the universe as a chariot and The lotus feet of Their Lordships show in which direction all souls should travel. It further indicates that the Lord is so merciful to His devotees that He even becomes the chariot driver for them. It also shows that the supreme goal may be easily attained, just as there is no trouble when one rides on a chariot to visit the forest. Whoever sits upon the chariot of Their feet emerges victorious in the battle with maya or the illusory energy.

Club (gada) - This mark is to show that The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga are capable of chastising the elephant of sinful lust. It further indicates that for whoever takes shelter of Their feet all their ancestors will also receive benefit.

Conch (shankha) - This auspicious mark indicates that those who take shelter of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga's lotus feet are always rescued from all sorts of distress. Just as during the arati ceremony the conch shell is used to hold water that is offered directly after the fire of the ghee-lamp, similarly Their feet hold transcendental water that soothes Their devotees from the blazing fire of material miseries. Also, this symbol proclaims ultimate victory for the devotees of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga, since the conch shell mark on Their feet contains the entire ocean of material existence that may now be easily crossed. This mark also shows that those who resort to Their feet become completely fearless. The mark is also symbolic of the jala-tattva or principle of water, since from Gauranga's feet has manifested the river Ganga, purifier of all the worlds. On Gauranga's foot, this mark also indicates the water-principle that soothes Krishna so that He feels no burning pain whenever He is separated from Radha's company or while feeling the mood of separation.

Cow Hoofprint (gospada) - This mark signifies that for those who have taken full shelter of uninterrupted meditation on the lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga, the great ocean of material worldly existence becomes very small and insignificant like the water held in a calf's hoof-print, and thus is easily crossed over.

Disc (chakra) - This mark cuts down the six enemies of the devotees - lust, anger, greed, illusion, envy and bewilderment. It indicates teja-tattva or the principle of brilliance by which He destroys the darkness of sins from within His devotee's hearts. Furthermore, this mark on Gauranga's feet shows that He is the ruler of His own kingdoms formed by the circle of Navadvipa-mandala and Vraja-mandala.

Elephant Goad (ankusha) - This mark indicates that meditation on The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga brings the elephants of Their devotees' minds under control and keeps them on the right path. It also shows that those who thus stay on the path toward Their feet and Holy Names become superior among men, just as one riding on top of an elephant travels far above the rest. This mark when on Gauranga's foot, indicates that even though Krishna's elephant-like mind attempts to have like many different kinds of heroines, the lotus feet of Radha are still powerful enough to easily conquer Him and bring Him under control and force Him to assume the golden complexion of Radha to become Gauranga.

Fish (matsya) - This mark shows that just as a fish cannot live without water, similarly the surrendered devotees cannot live a moment without directly associating with His feet. It also shows that all the most cherished desires and longings of those who resort to Nitai's feet will be truly fulfilled. It also means that the mind is very fickle, just like a fish who wavers this way and that, and so only after much meditation do His feet finally come into the heart. It also indicates that Nitai's feet will come to live in one's heart only if the heart has been liquefied by soft loving emotions; His feet do not thrive where it is dry. Further, it shows that Lord Gauranga's foot bears this mark of the fish, which is the emblem flying on the banner of Kamadeva.

Flag (dhvaja) - This mark announces that for the devotees meditating on the feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nitai Gauranga, the Lords give full security and safe protection from all sorts of fear. Furthermore, this mark on Gauranga's foot indicates that there will be supreme victory for all the associates of the Lord who are aware of the glories of His lotus feet.

Flower (pushpa) - This mark shows that the divine fame of His feet spreads everywhere just like the fragrance of a flower. It also shows that His feet are not hard, but soft as flower petals. And it means that just as every fruit comes into being after the plant blooms, similarly all spiritual fruits come into being after first blossoming at the soles of His lotus feet.

Flowery Twig (valli) - This mark symbolizes how intelligent persons hold on to the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda firmly just as a creeper firmly grasps whatever it is ascending.

Half Moon (ardha-chandra) - This mark symbolizes how The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga truly accomplish the desired objectives of the devotees. It signifies that even gods like Lord Shiva have decorated their own heads with the soles of Their feet and their mouths by Their Holy Name. It also shows that devotees who likewise decorate their own heads with Their feet can become exalted like Shiva. Just as the moon showers nectar with its cooling rays, similarly Their feet shower nectar upon Their devotees, extinguishing the three-fold material miseries. So that the minds of the devotees may reside at Their feet. They bear the symbol of the moon (which is the devata or presiding deity of the mind) upon Their feet. Just as the moon is one, yet destroys the darkness seen by many people simultaneously, similarly the Lord Gauranga is one and yet by His cleverness can deliver many souls at the same time. The half-moon also indicates that since Their toenails appear like ten splendrously full moons, the real moon has shriveled up in shame and appears in half-form

Jeweled Bangle (valaya) - This mark, unique to Gauranga's feet indicates that His feet are always present on the hands of His devotees who are massaging His feet after His sankirtana dancing pastimes, just as a bracelet always accompanies the hand.

Kunda Earrings (kundala) - Gauranga's lotus feet hold this emblem to indicate how Krishna's ear is always listening for the tinkling sound of the charming ankle bells of Radha's lotus feet; thus Lord Krishna lives for the shelter of Her feet, which give Him all happiness. It also shows that Lord Gauranga's two lotus feet are the theorem that is proven by the system of sankhya.

Lotus (kamala) - This mark indicates greed for nectar in the minds of the beelike devotees who meditate on Nitai's feet. The lotus also signifies that just as a lotus grows out of the water, similarly those whose eyes swell with tears upon holding the Divine lotus feet of Srila Nityananda Prabhu to their heart receive the highest benefit. This mark also shows that the goddess of fortune, Sri Lakshmi Devi always resides at His feet rendering humble service. It signifies that His feet are so soft that they can only be compared to lotus petals; indeed, upon first glancing at His lotus feet you would think you are directly seeing fresh lotus blossoms. It also reveals that just as a lotus blooms by day and contracts by night, similarly those who remain steeped in meditation on Their feet always feel blossoming unfoldment of brilliant sattvika ecstasies that dispel the darkness of ignorance. It also means that the bee of the devotee's mind cannot fly beyond the bondage of dry jnana (knowledge) and vairagya (renunciation) without the temptation offered by the superior nectar of Their lotus feet.

Mountain (parvata) - This mark on the lotus feet of Lord Gauranga reveals that even though Giri Govardhana is worshiped by all of Vraja as the best of mountains, still Govardhana Hill in turn serves the feet of the Divine Couple in the form of Lord Gauranga in Navadvipa.

Octagon (ashta-kona) - This mark symbolizes that those who worship The lotus feet of Their Lordships are well-protected in the eight directions. It also shows that nothing within the kingdom of eight directions is unattainable for the devotees. Further, Their devotees automatically and easily achieve the use of the eight mystic perfections in the course of performing service to Their feet and Their Holy Names.

Plough (hala) - Lord Balarama, being the original spiritual master, cultivates the field of our heart with his golden plow and makes it fertile for planting the seed of pure devotional service to Lord Gauranga and Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. He also removes the unwanted weeds of material desires in this process and thus grants us qualification for chanting Gauranga's Holy Name.

Sacrificial Altar (vedi) - This mark proclaims that the sins of those who meditate upon The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga are burned up as if on the altar of sacrifice. Further-more, it indicates that just as the universe is nourished by the brahmanas offering fire-sacrifices, similarly those who offer their minds in sacrifice to Their lotus feet stimulate universal nourishment that affects all of creation.

Sky (ambara) - This mark of two circles, one within the other indicates that the lotus feet of Their Lordships Nityananda Gauranga are all-pervading throughout the entire creation, both within and without all manifestations. It also shows that even though Their feet are everywhere, they are unattached just like the sky.

Spear (shakti) - This mark assures those who wish to have the miserable bonds of the mundane sphere cut, and who take shelter of The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga immediately slash all entanglements and difficulties. It also indicates that They are shaktimana or the natural possessors of all divine potencies, whereas Their servants are not endowed with separate, independent power but are completely dependent on Them.

Swastika - This mark signifies that for those who resort to The lotus feet of Their Lordships, all is well. It also shows that nothing inauspicious could possibly remain for one who holds Their feet to their heart.

Thunderbolt (vajra) - This mark reveals that meditation on The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga smashes to pieces the mountain of Their devotees' karmic reactions to past sins. It also indicates that whoever holds on to Their feet becomes as exalted as Lord Indra, whose weapon is the thunderbolt. This mark also shows that the glories of Krishna's dynasty were established by His own grandson named Vajranabha, who preserved the many places of His pastimes, built shrines, installed various Deities and initiated regular festival celebrations.

Triangle (tri-kona) - The meanings of this mark are: that the devotees who resort to The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga will be saved from the snares of the three-fold modes of maya; that Their feet are the first and last refuge for the inhabitants of the three worlds; that Their feet are the safest sanctuary for demigods, human beings and animals as well; that Their feet are the sole desired object of the muktas (liberated), mumukshas (those desirous of liberation) as well as vishayi (sense-gratifiers); and that Their feet should be resorted to by everyone with full concentration of their body, mind and speech.

Umbrella (chatra) - This mark proves that those who take shelter of The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga are shielded from the incessant rainfall of material miseries. Furthermore, this mark on Lord Gauranga's feet indicates that His feet provide relief to His devotees from the scorching heat felt in His separation. It also refers to Gauranga in His form of Krishna holding Govardhana Hill up like an umbrella to protect Vraja from the devastating rainfall caused by the anger of Indra. It also denotes that those who sit in the shade of Their feet becomes exalted just like maharajas (great kings), who usually have umbrellas held over their heads.

Unstrung Bow (dhanu) - This mark reveals that those who take shelter of the lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga will perpetually be freed from all worries and difficulties. It also shows that those who are stupefied in the material world remain motionless like a target and do not come to Their feet and Their Holy Name; whereas those who come to the ultimate goal of Their feet and Holy Name remain there and never go back to the material world. Further. when the mind of the devotee meets the target of Their feet, then pure love condenses as a result and overflows as the tears showering from their eyes.

Upcurving-line (urdhva-rekha) - This mark signifies that the devotees who cling to The lotus feet of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nityananda Gauranga and Their Holy Names, as if holding on to a life-line, will be transported to the higher realms. Indeed, they will not fall down. It shows that such devotees need never be doubtful of their upward passage; they cannot be held captive within the small egg-like material universe. It also indicates that the path to Their feet, being free of external designations, is very direct. It also reveals that Their feet can reach down to the lowest of fallen souls and deliver those who have taken shelter of Them.

Water pot (kalasa) - This mark shows that Nitai's feet hold the golden pitcher full of purely nectarean ambrosia to be freely consumed by the surrendered souls; indeed, they will never be bereft of nectar for his pitcher always remains full. This mark also indicates that His feet can pour out nectar that extinguishes the blazing three-fold miseries of the separated devotees. The full pitcher is a symbol to show that no inauspiciousness can come near His devotees. Rather His feet bring ripples of happiness emanating from divine auspiciousness.