(Hinduism: Vaishnavism, Sanskrit)

According to the traditions of Chaitanyite Vaishnavas (or Gaudiya Vaishnavas), the eternal pastimes of Srimate Radharani and Sri Krishna divide twenty-four hours into eight periods, better known by its sanskrit name: ashta-kaliya-lila. In days of yore disciples would actually memorise these pastimes, including the most detailed information regarding the pastimes (e.g. the layout of heavenly Vrindavana, the locations of Srimate Radharani's house, etc.) in order to participate as a handmaiden (manjari) to Radha after death, and thus serve God by helping Him to fulfil His conjugal pastimes in Vrindavana.

The ashta-kaliya-lila, or "eightfold pastimes" were presented by Srila Rupa Gosvami, a sixteenth century philosopher in his Ashta kaliya lila smarana mangala stotram ("Auspicious Praise of the Remembrance of Divine Activity Divided into Eight Time Periods"), and was directly based on the "Patala khanda" of the Padma Purana. They were also enumerated in Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's Govinda-lilamrita. The "watches" as they are also known are thus:

  1. nishanta - the cycle actually begins at its end, with Radha and Krishna dancing on the banks of the Yamuna, in the middle of the night, frolicking in the water. They finally retire to a bower in the forest;
  2. pratah - the second watch begins when Vrinda (a prominent gopi) calls upon the birds to wake Krishna and Radha, who have been sleeping together after meeting at night to dance the rasa-lila. They emerge dishevelled from the bower, return to their respective homes, and creep into bed before the rest of the household awakes;
  3. purvahna - during the third watch, Paurnamasi (a saintly go-between and the grandmother of Madhu-mangal, Krishna's brahamana friend, and confidante) visits Nanda's house in order to see Krishna wake up. Krishna's mother Yashoda notices the marks caused by his love-play eith Radha, but assumes that they are the result of his having wrestled playfully with Balarama (Krishna's elder brother) before falling asleep. Krishna gets up, plays with the other boys, and goes to milk the cows, while Radharani is woken by her mother-in-law(*) (Jatila, Abhimanyu's mother) and begins her routine;
  4. madhyahna - Next Krishna goes out into the forest to graze the cattle, while Radha and the sakhis go to worship Surya (the Sun-God);
  5. aparhna - Radha's mother-in-law had encouraged the sakhis to take Her with them and to keep Her occupied because she suspected that Krishna would attempt to meet her. Nevertheless, they do meet, and during the fifth watch, or aparahna amuse themselves on the banks of the Radha-kunda;
  6. syahna - After playing in a swing (the Jhulan-Yatra) and frolicking in the water of the lake, Radha returns home, and Krishna during the sixth watch, brings the cattle back to the village while playing his flute;
  7. pradosha - During the seventh watch, Krishna and Radha eat their evening meal and look at each other from the gazebos of their respective homes;
  8. naisha/madhyarati - During the eighth and last watch, everyone goes to sleep and Krishna and Radha steal away for their tryst in Vrindavana, and thus the cycle begins again...
There is also a direct correlation between the "eight-times-of-the-day" concept and the Eight aratis, or Deity worship ceremonies, which should be studied.


(*) Remember that Radharani like all the other gopis is married to someone else, and has Krishna as Her lover, instead. It is always stressed within Gaudiya Vaishnavism, however, that these pastimes of Krishna and Radha cannot be used to excuse or condone adultery. If the Lord is all-powerful and full of all opulences, He may engage in such activities in order to fulfil some specific destiny, however, we as mere jivas, or living entities, may not.

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