Govardhana GiridharVallabhacharya (1479-1531) was born in Champaran near Raipur.  His family was Telugu speaking and came from Andhra Pradesh. He was a scholar, philosopher and a great devotee of Lord Krishna and wrote stotras and commentaries on Bhagawata Purana. There is a good article on Vallabhacharya here.

One of his most beautiful poetry is Madhurashtakam, the sweetest of prayers for the sweetest of Gods. I have always loved this prayer, in fact I associate the word Madhura (sweet) with Lord Krishna because of this stotra. Of all the Hindu Gods, Krishna is perhaps the most captivating, especially to a woman. From time immemorial, he has been depicted with his Gopis (cowherdesses), enchanting one and all with his amorous play. If one needs a reason for worshipping a Saguna Brahman (The Absolute with qualities, the definable Absolute), surely this prayer gives you one? How can one say nay to a so irresistible Lord of Sweetness?

I have poured over many translations and dictionaries. I am quite convinced that the translations are watered-down, taking away the sheer erotic imagery of the poet. I can understand that; Hinduism, which once did not hesitate to associate eroticism with divinity, has put on a mantle of Victorian morality for a long time now. We still sing Jayadeva’s verses but not the most explicit ones. We look blankly past erotic sculptures on hallowed grounds. And this, Vallabhacharya’s Madhurastkam has developed a cloak of middle-class ‘respectability’. Pouring over the words, it seems to me that the poet describes not only the sweetness of Krishna but also the sweetness of his love-making. I give the first verse below, for the whole stotra and translation see footnote.

अधरं मधुरं वदनं मधुरं
नयनं मधुरं हसितं मधुरं |
हृदयं मधुरं गमनं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||१||

His lower lips are sweet, His face is sweet,
His eyes are sweet, His smile is sweet,
His heart is sweet, His gait is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

Listen to this beautiful stotra sung by Ashiwini Bhide in her inimitable style.

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation):

अधरं मधुरं वदनं मधुरं
नयनं मधुरं हसितं मधुरं |
हृदयं मधुरं गमनं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||१||

His lower lips are sweet, His face is sweet,
His eyes are sweet, His smile is sweet,
His heart is sweet, His gait is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

वचनं मधुरं चरितं मधुरं
वसनं मधुरं वलितं मधुरं |
चलितं मधुरं भ्रमितं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||२||

His words are sweet, His character is sweet,
His clothing is sweet, His posture is sweet,
His movements are sweet, His wandering is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

वेणुर्मधुरो रेणुर्मधुरः
पाणिर्मधुरः पादौ मधुरौ ||
नृत्यं मधुरं सख्यं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||३||

His flute-playing is sweet, His foot-dust is sweet,
His hands are sweet, His feet are sweet,
His dancing is sweet, His friendship is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

गीतं मधुरं पीतं मधुरं
भुक्तं मधुरं सुप्तं मधुरं |
रूपं मधुरं तिलकं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||४||

His song is sweet, His drinking is sweet,
His eating is sweet, His sleeping is sweet,
His form is sweet, His Tilakam is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

करणं मधुरं तरणं मधुरं
हरणं मधुरं रमणं मधुरं |
वमितं मधुरं शमितं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||५||

His deeds are sweet, His conquest is sweet,
His seizing  is sweet, His loving is sweet,
His ejecting is sweet, His appeasement is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness

गुञ्जा मधुरा माला मधुरा
यमुना मधुरा वीचि मधुरा |
सलिलं मधुरं कमलं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||६||

His posy is sweet, His garland is sweet,
The river is sweet, the ripples are sweet,
the surge is sweet, the desire is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

गोपी मधुरा लीला मधुरा
युक्तं मधुरं मुक्तं मधुरं |
दृष्टं मधुरं शिष्टं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||७||

His gopis (cowherd girls) are sweet, His play is sweet,
His union is sweet, His release is sweet,
To be seen by him is sweet, His courtesy is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.

गोपा मधुरा गावो मधुरा
यष्टिर्मधुरा सृष्टिर्मधुरा |
दलितं मधुरं फलितं मधुरं
मधुराधिपते अखिलं मधुरं ||८||

His herdsmen are sweet, His cows are sweet,
His staff is sweet, His creation is sweet,
His crushing  is sweet, To be fruitful is sweet,
All is sweet about the Lord of Sweetness.


Filed under Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Bhajan, Religious

10 responses to “Madhurashtakam

  1. Wow, you’re right Suja, what a wonderful poem. So simple and so moving.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the poetry Yves. It is indeed very moving!
    Cheers. Suja

  3. Rumi

    Krishna is one of the reasons why an Indian woman never ceases to be romantic at heart…

  4. Jyothsna Adury

    I love this and ofcourse I have M.S. Subbalakshmi’s voice ringing in my ears. For the translation of ‘salilam madhuram kamalam madhuram’ did you use any implied meaning? salilam means water (surge is also appropriate), but, for ‘kamalam’ you used ‘desire’ instead of ‘Lotus’. Was this some derived meaning?

    • Hi Jyothsna, Firstly let me say that this particular translation/interpretation is my own and that I am not a Sanskrit scholar! I referred to a number of translations which all seemed very unconvincing in a poetic sense, even disjointed. When I interpretated the verses in a love-making sense, everything fell into place and the words made sense if one used secondary/alternate meanings. Kamalam can mean desirous, lustful or ready for love-making if interpreted as कम् + अलम् – seee Monier-Williams
      cheers. Suja

  5. Gautam

    Namaskara Sujadevi,

    SriKrishna and SriRadhika are open to endless interpretation, and it is
    always dangerous to stop at “this” and “nothing beyond this”. There is intense symbolism which might be revealed in very slow, painful drops, upon personal sadhana, and what one gets could be unique to that person, and not communicable. That is WHY Indian spirituality depends so much on symbols, non-verbal elements like form, manadala, color, lines, natural objects like peacock feathers, water, etc. Some of these speak to the primal layers within our consciousness and evoke thought in ways words cannot.

    Please take the peacock feather waving on the TOP of SriKrishna’s head; pray focus on that symbol and its placement. The Lord becoming tribhanga, almost triangular in shape, in the presence of SriRadhikaji, is also a profound rahasya, and entering this will help you resolve issues of eros versus agape, in extreme degree, and what is happening when someone says that SriKrishna is worshipping the profound voidness, Maha Shunya, within SriRadhika. What is the meaning of the Madhura-bhava, the absolute abnegation of the “self” that has shallow roots on the term “asmitA” used in a very specific technical sense?

    When you speak of release, SriKrishna repeatedly is characterized by the epithet “Acyuta”, “not-released” !! Why is that so? “Vamana” has very profound meanings, for example, in Kashmir Shaivism. Likewise, SURGE, udyama, and also in the Rksamhita.

    Examples can be multiplied, and great saints have written profoundly on the Madhurabhava after having meditated on the Adirasa. There is much room for personal investigation, as I am sure you will agree. As Sri Ramakrishna would relate in a parable, Go forward; and the woodcutter, going deeper into the jungle, finds a grove of sandalwood, but always heeding the itinerant sadhu’s injunctions, presses in deeper, discovering silver, gold, and finally inexhaustible treasure troves.

    Thank you for your kShanti in dealing with this long post. You have created a most amazing site, a true labor of love, erudition and devotion, a shraddhanjali, for the benefit of world. May all the merit that arises be multiplied infinitely and reside with you and yours.

    Dandavata pranam.

    • Namaskara and thank you for your thoughtful comments. I fear you have misunderstood my post and my comments if you think that I suggest anyone stop at seeking deeper meaning beyond the obvious. I hesitated a long time before putting up this post, especially because it is open to misinterpretation. I think of myself as a devout, middle-aged and rather conservative person and subjects such as this make me a bit uncomfortable. But I do object to the many misleading translations that abound on the internet and my object was only to offer a translation which seemed more meaningful, without adding value-judgements of my own. Hindu ideas are almost always symbolic and there are deep meanings to be found, in multiple layers as you rightly point out. But is it not also important to understand the literal meaning of a piece of writing? For me it is so. Having said that, I openly admit to not being a scholar or knowledgeable in any way; I merely try to understand as well as I can and share my understanding with others in case it may of any meagre use to them.
      Pranams. Suja.

  6. Though I have heard this one in MS’s voice n number of times, I knew the essence but not a word by word translation, never made an attempt to know! Thank you for making me realize that knowing the meaning and listening to it is more meaningful.

    • Hi Padmaja, I learnt to love Carnatic Music much before I knew anything about it. Its only for the past so many years that I have taken an interest in lyrics and I find that it has made it all the more interesting for me.
      Cheers. Suja

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