pīta: the color of Śrī Caitanya

As we saw in a previous post, Śrī Viśvanātha does considerable work in trying to establish the need for an explanation for the pīta or yellow colored avatāra mentioned by Gargācārya in the tenth canto of the Bhāgavata, and the discrepancy with the color śyāma mentioned in the eleventh canto of the Bhāgavata. After examining and rejecting multiple proposals, Śrī Viśvanātha provides his own explanation, which we examine here.

The pīta avatāra appears in the Kali yuga which follows the Dvāpara yuga in which Śrī Kṛṣṇa manifests

As a reminder, the verse in question is:

āsan varṇās trayo hy asya gṛhṇato’nuyugaṁ tanūḥ |śuklo raktas tathā pīta idānīṁ kṛṣṇatāṁ gataḥ ||

This boy certainly manifests different forms in every yuga. Previously He had assumed three distinct colors- white, red and yellow. At present, He has manifested a blackish complexion. (SB 10.8.13)

Śrī Viśvanātha notes that the verse contains the word “tathā”. As this word always follows the word “yathā” (yat tador nitya-sambandhāt), he supplies the word yathā in the verse as follows.

yathā idānīṁ dvāparānte kṛṣṇatāṁ gataḥ svayam avatārī – Just as now, at the end of dvāpara, the svayam avatārī has acquired the kṛṣṇa color,

tathā tenaiva prakāreṇa idānīṁ kali-yugādi-bhāge pīta iti – in the same manner, [the svayam avatārī] [will be] pīta or yellow color in the beginning part of kali-yuga

Śrī Viśvanātha suggests that the word idānīm (now) should be applied not only to the manifestation of the avatāra with kṛṣṇa color at the end of dvāpara, i.e. when Garga is speaking, but it is also to be applied to the manifestation of the pīta avatāra. This is to be accomplished by extending the meaning of ‘now’ to the few thousand years at the start of kali-yuga (Śrī Caitanya manifested about 4500 years after dvāpara).

Śrī Viśvanātha notes that there are unlimited avatāras of Bhagavān, they are eternal, and have manifested from beginningless time in different yugas. According to the eleventh canto, the yuga-avatāra is śukla or white in Satya-yuga, rakta or red in Tretā-yuga, śyāma or black in Dvāpara-yuga and kṛṣṇa or black in Kali-yuga. These manifest for 999 of the 1000 catur-yugas in a day of Brahma. But in the one catur-yuga, which is the 28th catur-yuga of the Vaivasta manvantara, Śrī Kṛṣṇa manifests in the place of the śyāma avatāra in Dvāpara, and Śrī Caitanya manifests in Kali-yuga. In these yugas, the śyāma and kṛṣṇa avatāras become subsumed in Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Caitanya respectively.

Is there any evidence for the pīta avatāra? Śrī Viśvanātha cites the following verse from the Mahabhārata:

suvarṇa-varṇo hemāṅgo varāṅgaś candanāṅgadī |

saṁnyāsa-kṛt samaḥ śānto niṣṭhā-śāntiparāyaṇaḥ || iti ||

[He is] golden in color with golden limbs. His beautiful limbs are anointed with sandalwood paste. He accepts sannyasa. He is equal to all, peaceful, and focused on devotion and peace.

Śrī Viśvanātha poses the following question:

spaṣṭatayā’nyatra kāpy anuktir iti rahasyatvāt – Why is Śrī Caitanya not mentioned anywhere else clearly? Because His manifestation is a secret.

He explains further:

channaḥ kalau yad bhavas tri-yugo’tha sa tvam iti saptama-skandhe śrī-prahlādenāpi channatvenaivoktatvāt – this is clear from Śrī Prahlada’s statement in the seventh canto: You appear in Kaliyuga in a hidden way, therefore you are called triyuga.

channatvaṁ ca svīya-varṇa-bhāvayor anyadīya-varṇa-bhāvābhyām āvṛtatvena tadānīntana-janaiḥ prāyo durlakṣyatvam eveti – Channatva here means being unknown to contemporary people due to covering one’s own color and mood with another’s color and mood. [Sri Caitanya is golden on the outside, which hides His black color on the inside, and He covers His mood with the mood of a devotee]

In this way, Śrī Viśvanātha uncovers Śrī Caitanya on the basis of a discrepancy between two colors!

Understanding the kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣā kṛṣṇaṁ verse in terms of the pīta avatāra

Śrī Viśvanātha now explains the famous verse kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣā kṛṣṇaṁ from the eleventh canto, which we discuss below. The verse is preceded by an apparently simple-looking sentence which is quite significant in interpreting it. The sentence is:

nānā tantra-vidhānena kalāv api tayā śṛṇu

Śrī Viśvanātha first takes pains to explain this sentence. According to him, the word ‘nānā’ in the sentence goes with kalau. The meaning of the two juxtaposed words is:

nānā-kalau = sarva-kali-yuge – in all kali yugas

What is the purpose of the word ‘api’ in the sentence?

api kārāt vaivasvatāṣṭāviṁśa-catur yugīya-kalāv api – the word ‘api’ implies that the verse applies also to the kali-yuga of the twenty-eighth catur-yuga of the Vaivasta manvantara.

The word tantra-vidhānena in the sentence is to be understood as follows:

tantra-vidhānena = tantrākhya-nyāya-vidhinā – by the vidhi or method, which involves the nyāya called tantra

If this seems cryptic, have no fear! He hastens to add:

śveto dhāvatīty ādivat eka-prayatnoccāreṇa ekadaivārtha-dvaya-bodhakena śabdenety arthaḥ – the sense [of tantra vidhāna’] is that by uttering a word once, two meanings are simultaneously conveyed. When it is said, ‘the white runs’, what is actually meant is that ‘the white horse runs’.

In other words, tantra-vidhi is similar to a pun, which conveys two different meanings.

Śrī Viśvanātha astutely notes that the word ‘śṛṇu’ or ‘hear’ is used in the sentence. Considering that the dialogue has commenced long before this sentence, the word seems redundant, but it is not, because the speaker wishes the hearer to pay close attention. Parīkṣit is the hearer, and Śrī Caitanya is to come after Parīkṣit’s departure; he would not be able to witness Śrī Caitanya’s līlās, which is why it was important for him to hear closely.

So the sentence means:

nānā tantra-vidhānena kalāv api tayā śṛṇu – hear carefully about His manifestation in different Kali-yugas, by the method of tantra-nyāya [a method of speaking which convey two different meanings]

There are two separate meanings to the verse which follows this sentence. The verse is as follows:

kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣā kṛṣṇaṁ sāṅgopāṅgāstra-pārṣadam |

yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ ||

The first meaning is the meaning to be applied to all kali-yugas. In this meaning,

kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ = kṛṣṇa-varṇa-dehaṁ – having a body of black color

tviṣā = kāntyā akṛṣṇam = indra-nīla-maṇi-vad ujvalam – [His color is not dull but] with luster that is similar to that of a blue sapphire

Here, the meaning of the word ‘tantra’ in the preceding sentence refers to the method of worship in the tantras.

In the second meaning to be applied to only one kali-yuga,

kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ kintu tviṣā kāntyā akṛṣṇaṁ – He is black in color but His luster is not black,

śukla-rakta-śyāmānām uktatvāt pariśeṣyeṇa pītam – His luster is pīta, because śukla-rakta-śyāma appear in other yugas and what remains [of Gargacārya’s list] is pīta.

antaḥ kṛṣṇaṁ bahir gauram ity artha – The sense is that He is black inside, and golden outside.

Śrī Viśvanātha says that alternatively,

kṛṣṇāvatāra-līlādi-varṇanāt kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ – because He describes Kṛṣṇa and His āvatāra-līlās [constantly], He is kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ or one who describes Kṛṣṇa [or utters Kṛṣṇa’s name].

In other kali-yugas also, the yuga-avatāra is worshipped by saṅkīrtana

Finally, he notes:

sāṅgopāṅgety-ādikam iti ubhaya-pakṣepi spaṣṭa-pracchannatvābhyāṁ tulya evārthaḥ – the rest of the verse applies with the same meaning to both meanings- the clear meaning and the hidden meaning.

The rest of the verse is:

[the yuga-avatara] descends with His aṅgas (limbs), upāṅgās (ornaments), astras (weapons) and pārṣadas (associates). He is mainly worshipped by the service of saṅkīrtana by the wise.

In the first meaning, this part of the verse applies to the black-colored avatāra in every kali-yuga, which means He is worshipped by saṅkīrtana in every kali-yuga. In the second meaning, this part applies to one particular kali-yuga when Śrī Caitanya descends with a golden luster.

Thus everything is reconciled!

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3 replies »

  1. What about Lord Venkatesha even he is said to be appeared in Kaliyuga ? Then how is lord Triyugi !!!

    • That He is triyugi is directly stated in shastra. How to explain that is up to the Acharyas of specific traditions. So you should ask this to question to the priests at Tirupati. Let me know what you find .

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