Why we remember Sri Krishna at a funeral

Ramachandra Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma, was found dead in his intellectual watering hole, the India International Centre in Delhi, four days ago. In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Arindam Chakrabarti of the University of Hawaii, pays a fine tribute to a friend and philosopher.

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“My father had just died. Seeing me clean-shaven in the scorching Delhi sun, Ramuda first offers a khadi-towel to protect my scalp, and then inquires with sympathy how my dad died and how the shraaddha ceremony went.

“I told him, among other things, that I was very struck by one ritual during the shraaddha. Apart from the Bhagavadgita and the Katha Upanishad story of young Nachiketa’s tryst with Death, they recommended that someone recite the Rasa Lila section of Srimadbhagavatam during the funeral rituals.

“Isn’t is weird, I asked Ramuda, that during the solemn commemoration of one’s just-deceased parent, the bereaved should have to listen to the erotic narration of the love-sport of Sri Krishna with his gopi-girlfriends? He frowned for a while, pursed his lips, and said: “Let me think about this a bit.”

“After a few minutes, he got back to me. “How did you miss this allusion, Arindam? Don’t you recall the famous thumri sung in the background in the film Shatranj ke Khilari, ‘Baabul mora naihar chhuto hi jaay’?” There he goes, I thought, explaining one obscure thing with something obscurer.

“In the antara of that song, you will hear of four carriers— chaar kahaar—lifting up the doli, to take the girl to the house of the beloved. Man’s last journey to the cremation ground is always identified with the grown-up girl’s leaving her ‘parents’ home’ to get united with her loved one at her own true home.

“Your father’s soul lived gratefully in this ‘parental home’ of his body, but it was always betrothed to a beloved with whom the consummation of his union must be celebrated with the story of divine love. And of course, the world will never approve of this union, because the body thinks it is the legitimate site for your father’s consciousness, and leaving it to enjoy some other union is illicit love, as was the gopis’ dying to dance with Krishna.”

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Read the full tribute: The philosopher’s funeral