Jhulan Yatra

jhula jhule radha damodara vrndavana men
kaisi cchayi hariyali ali kunjan men

“Radha-Damodara are swinging on the swing in Vrndavana. O friend, how very green the kunja is!”

After the excruciating heat of the summer, when the monsoon clouds gather in the sky and the thunder heralds the arrival of the rainy season, everyone’s hearts fill with joy, to be at last relieved of the heat. The peacocks start dancing, the birds start singing and all the animals frolic in anticipation of the cool showers from the sky. And when the rains finally arrive, the forests are brought back to life after the dry summer, with fresh colors everywhere, presenting a beautiful scene which is soothing to the eyes. The trees become lush with new sprouting leaves and flowers, and the honey bees hover over the blooms to drink the nectar from them, the lakes fill up with fresh cool water and lotuses bloom in every pond and lake, filling the air with a sweet aroma. The nectarian honey oozing from the beehives intoxicates those who drink it and fresh fruits as sweet as honey hang from the trees in abundance. In this way the most enchanting forest of Vrindavan, which is the pastime place of Radhika Raman, looks breathtakingly beautiful in the monsoon season, making all the gopis and Krishna eager to enjoy beautiful pastimes in the flowering groves of Vraja.

In India, traditionally, at this time of the year, the married girls go to the houses of their parents with their brothers, who come to pick them up. Hoping to meet Krishna, without the interference of the ever suspicious and crooked Jatila and Kutila, Srimati Radharani eagerly waits for Shridam to come and take her to Barsana. But when he does not come at the beginning of the rainy season, she gets anxious and expectantly gazes at the path coming from Barsana hopping that Shridam would come any time to get her. When he at last comes to pick her up, bringing various gifts for Jatila and Kutila to please them, radharani expresses her sorrow to her brother, asking him as to why he came so late, and then happily goes to her parents house where she meets them, filling the hearts of Vrishabhanu maharaj and Kirtida devi with tremendous joy.

After Shrimati Radhika’s arrival in Vrishabhanupur, all the sakhis make arrangements for the swing festival, by hanging a beautiful swing on a kadamba tree in the forests surrounding the palace. There are descriptions of various swings given in the bhakti shastras, such as, there is the normal swing in which Radha Shyamsundar sit together, then there is another in which they sit opposite each other and are facing one another and a special lotus shaped swing is also described with 8 petals on which all the ashtasakhis sit with Radha Krishna in the middle. In this way they make various preparations for the festival. Then when Shyamsundar comes to the designated place of rendezvous, the sakhis implore Shrimati Radhika to sit on the swing. There is a famous brijwasi bhajan for this:

Radhe jhulana padharo jhuka aye badara
Jhuka aye badara, ghir aye badara

O radha, go and sit on the swing. Low rain clouds have come and filled the sky.

Being thus requested by her gopi friends, Raseshwari Shri Radha ascends the jewel studded swing decorated with flowers, and Rasaraj Shri Krishna starts swinging her. With a desire to be embraced by the most enchantingly sweet Radha, Shri Krishna starts pushing the swing really forcefully and getting scared of the speed of the swing Shrimati Radhika calls out to Krishna and when he climbs the swing she tightly embraces him, making him drown in the ocean transcendental bliss, and all the sakhis take pleasure in seeing the tricks that hari uses to be favored by his beloved’s embrace.

Remembering all these transcendental pastimes of the ever youthful divine couple of Vrindavan, all the temples in Vrindavan set up a beautiful jhulan for the pleasure of the deities and the devotees come and get the opportunity to render service to the divine couple by swinging them. In Jagannath puri also, the utsav murti of the temple, Madanmohan, is brought out and is swinged on a beautiful, decorated swing.

In Iskcon Vrindavan, this festival is celebrated for five days ending on Balaram purnima in the month of shravan. The deities’ beautiful swing is brought out in the courtyard and various gorgeous decorations are made around it, upon which their lordships Shri Shri Radha Shyam Sundar, Lalita and Vishakha come and enjoy being swinged by the devotees eager to serve them. The devotees also prepare various delicious food stuffs for their pleasure and arati is also offered to them while they are comfortably seated on the jhulan. The devotees take turns to come and swing the deities and even the visitors are given an opportunity to participate in the festival, while simultaneously constant kirtan is performed, making the overall experience unethereal and the whole scene a window into the spiritual world.