Our celebrations are so often about food, decoration and socialising that we forget to be prayerful, do we not? Though I start each day with prayers, I am not very religious, I confess. Even in those few moments of prayers, I sadly lack concentration. My mouth mumbles one prayer after another and often my mind wanders off to planning the day or reflecting on one matter or the other. I try to focus my mind but I fail most of the time. Is it not pathetic? What use prayers then?
Today I wanted to recite some special ones for Lord Krishna. But knowing my sad deficiencies, I decided instead to spend some time just translating one stotra and thinking about it’s meaning. It is a beautiful one by Adi Shankaracharya (8th century AD) which I learnt in my childhood. I love these old hymns which have passed through so many centuries, sung by so many over time, each adding to the power of the hymn by their own belief in it. I too join the long line and, for a moment, I feel as if I am holding hands with an unending line of worshippers of Sri Krishna.
So here I am with the fruits of my labour. The stotra is about Lord Krishna and by the many names by which he is invoked, we remember the many stories from his life. It also reminds us that he is an avatar of Narayana; we invoke Lord Rama as well. It goes beyond that, naming Him as Infinite, thus reminding us of the ultimate Brahman.
To present this stotra, I have chosen a beautiful version by Yesudas with good pronunciation (except for the word pAtu which he pronounces as pAdu), a good reference for those who wish to learn this hymn.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
अच्युतं केशवं राम नारायणं कृष्ण दामोदरं वासुदेवं हरिम् ।
श्रीधरं माधवं गोपिकावल्लभं जानकी नायकं रामचंद्रं भजे ॥१॥
अच्युतं केशवं सत्यभामाधवं माधवं श्रीधरं राधिकाराधितम् ।
इन्दिरामन्दिरं चेतसा सुन्दरं देवकी नन्दनं नन्दजं सन्दधे ॥२॥
विष्णवे जिष्णवे शङ्खिने चक्रिणे रुक्मिणि रागिने जानकी जानये ।
बल्लवी वल्लभायार्चितायात्मने कंस विध्वंसिने वंशिने ते नमः ॥३॥
कृष्ण गोविन्द हे राम नारायण श्रीपते वासुदेवाजित श्रीनिधे ।
अच्युतानन्त हे माधवाधोक्षज द्वारकानायक द्रौपदीरक्षक ॥४॥
राक्षस क्षोभितः सीतया शोभितो दण्डकारण्य भू पुण्यता कारणः ।
लक्ष्मणेनान्वितो वानरौः सेवितोऽगस्तसम्पूजितो राघव पातु माम् ॥५॥
धेनुकारिष्टकोऽनिष्टकृद्द्वेषिणां केशिहा कंस हृद्वंशिका वादकः ।
पूतना कोपकः सूरजा खेलनो बाल गोपालकः पातु मां सर्वदा ॥६॥
विद्युदुद्योतवानप्रस्फुरद्वाससं प्रावृडम्भोदवत्प्रोल्लसद्विग्रहम् ।
वन्यया मालया शोभितोरःस्थलं लोहिताङ्घ्रिद्वयं वारिजाक्षं भजे ॥७॥
कुञ्चितैः कुन्तलैर्भ्राजमानाननं रत्न मौलिं लसत्कुण्डलं गण्डयोः ।
हार केयूरकं कङ्कणप्रोज्ज्वलं किङ्किणीमञ्जुलं श्यामलं तं भजे ॥८॥
अच्युतस्याष्टकं यः पठेदिष्टदं प्रेमतः प्रत्यहं पूरुषः सस्पृहम् ।
वृत्ततः सुन्दरं कर्तृ विश्वंभरं तस्य वश्यो हरिर्जायते सत्वरम् ॥९॥
achyutam kEshavam rAma nArAyaNam
kRshNa dAmOdaram vAsudEvam harim
shrIdharam mAdhavam gOpikA vallabham
jAnakI nAyakam rAmachandram bhajE 
achyutam kEshavam satyabhAmAdhavam
mAdhavam shrIdharam rAdhikA rAdhitam
indirA mandiram chEtasA sundaram
dEvakI nandanam nandajam sandadhE 
vishNavE jishNavE shangkhinE chakriNE
rukmiNi rAginE jAnakI jAnayE
kamsa vidhvamsinE vanshinE tE namah 
kRshNa gOvinda hE rAma nArAyaNa
shrIpatE vAsudEvAjita shrInidhE
achyutAnanta hE mAdhavA-adhOkshaja
dvArakA nAyaka draupadI rakshaka 
rAkshasa kshObhita sItayA shobhitO
danDakAraNya bhU puNyatA kAraNa
lakshmaNEnAnvitO vAnarau sEvitO
agastasampUjitO rAghava pAtu mAm 
kEshihA kansa-hrud vanshikA vAdakah
pUtanA kOpakah sUrajA khElanO
bAla gOpAlakah pAtu mAm sarvadA 
vanyayA mAlayA shObhitOrahsthalam
lOhitAnghri-dvayam vArijAksham bhajE 
ratna maulim lasat-kuNDalam gaNDayOh
hAra kEyUrakam kangkaNa prOjjvalam
kngkiNI manjulam shyAmalam tam bhajE 
achyutAshTakam yah paTHEt prEmatah
pratyaham pUrushah saspRham
vRttatah sundaram kartR vishvambharas-tasya
vashyO harirjAyatE satvaram
I revere (bhaj) the dark-hued (krshNa) One called Damodara (refers to being tied at the waist by his mother Yashoda) who is imperishable (achyutam), with beautiful hair (kEshavam) (alternate: who killed the demon kEsI), who is Rama the incarnation of Nayarana, the son of vasudEva (vAsudEva), the one who will steal away our sins (harIm). I salute the descendent of Madhu (mAdhavam) who holds Lakshmi in his chest (srIdharam), beloved (mAdhavam) of the cowgirls of Brindavan (gOpikA), the husband (nAyakam) of Janaki, Ramachandra.
I fix my mind (sandadhE) on the imperishable (achyutam) one with beautiful hair (kEshavam) (alternate: who killed the demon kEsI), who is adored (mAdhavam) by Satyabhama, the beloved (mAdhavam) who holds Lakshmi in his chest (srIdharam), who is revered by (ArAdhitam) by Radhika, the dwelling (mandiram) of beauty (indirA), who is intelligent (chEtasA) and beautiful (sundaram), son (nandanam) of Devaki, son of Nanda (nandajam).
Salutations (tE namah) to Vishnu, the victorious (jishNu), the one who holds the conch (shankha) and discus (chakra), beloved (rAgiNE) of Rukmini, the reason for the birth (jAnayE) of Sita, the daughter of Janaka (jAnakI), beloved (vallabhA) to the cowherdesses (ballavI) and worshipped (archita) by their souls (AtmanE), destroyer (vidhvansinE) of Kamsa, player of the flute (vansha=flute).
O Krishna, the chief cowherd (gOvinda), O Rama the incarnation (implied) of Narayana, O Consort of Lakshmi (srIpatE), son of Vasudeva (vAsudeva), unconquerable (ajita), O receptacle of beauty (or Lakshmi) (srInidhE), O Imperishable One (achyuta), O Infinite (ananta), O descendent of Madhu (mAdhava), the one born in the month of Shravana (adhOkshaja), O Lord of Dwaraka, O Protector (rakshaka) of Draupadi.
Protect me (pAtu mAm) O Raghava (of the Raghu clan), who makes the demons (rAkshasa) tremble (kshobita), who is adorned by (shObhita) by Sita, the One who caused (kAraka) the land (bhU) of Dandakaranya to be sanctified (puNyatA), the One who is accompanied by (Anvita) by Lakshmana, who is served by (sEvita) apes (vAnara), who is greatly honoured by (sampUjita) by Agastya.
Protect me (pAtu mAm) always (sarvadA) O Young (bAla) cowherd (gOpalaka), O enemy of (dvEshiNa) of the evil-doing (anishTa krit) Dhenuka and Arishtaka, O Destroyer of Keshi (kEshihA), who trapped (hrut) Kansa, player (vAdaka) of a flute (vanshikA), who shook (khElana) the angry Putana who was pretending to be (implied) born of the Devas (sUrajA) (unsure of this last line).
I revere (bhajE) the lotus-eyed One (vArija akshi) with clothing (vAsasam) which shine (prasfurat) like the rising (udyOta) lightning (vidyut), with a body (vigraha) like (vat) the cloud (ambhOda) after the rainy season (prAvrD) which shines brightly (prOllas), with the chest (urahsthalam) adorned by (shObhita) garlands (mAla) of wild flowers (vanya), with a pair (dvaya) of red (lOhita) feet (anGri).
I revere (bhajE) that dark-hued One (shyAmala) who has curly (kunchita) locks of hair (kuntala), a shining (bhrAja) face (Anana), a jewel (ratna) on the topknot (mauli), whose sides of the face (gaNDa) glitter (lasat) with earrings (kuNDala), and who glitters with garlands (hAra), armlets (kEyUra), bangles (kangkaNa) and pleasing (manjula) small-bells (kingkiNI).
Rewards of reciting the hymn:
He will give (da) that which is wished for (ishTa) to those people (purusha) who, filled with longing (sasprha), recite (paTHEt) this hymn (achyutAshtakam) everyday (pratyaha) with love (prEma). They will quickly (satvaram) become (jAyatE) obedient to Hari, the (beautiful (sundara) all-sustaining (vishvambara) creator of the world (kartR).