I’m getting ready to go up to Hudson to paint a mural at Sadhana Yoga. I’ve only done a few murals so I’m a little nervous, but excited too. Any large canvas is a freeing experience to create on, and walls are as good as any. Body parts even better!
The theme of the mural is the sacred grafitti found in the holy town of Vrindavan. The divine names of Radha and Krishna are painted there on almost every wall, tree trunk, lamp post and rickshaw hood. For many renunciates that spend their days there, the main service that they perform is to paint and repaint these names with coarse brushes and a small steel tiffin of paint. Sometimes they are painted in English, more often in Sanskrit.
In Hudson, I’ve been asked to paint them in Sanskrit, even though most people that see it won’t be able to read it. Sanskrit is written in a script called Devanagari, said to originate in the heavens. For this reason, the lines themselves are considered to be purifying to look at, even if they are nothing but pretty curves to the beholder. A sacred word, like ‘om’ is considered to be the same in quality, whether written, heard, spoken or just seen.
Aside from divine names, I’m also planning to incorporate another touch of Vrindavan – green parrots! These beautiful birds used to be present everywhere there – screeching and twittering on every branch and phone line. I remember a book I used to read as a little girl – ‘But Where Is Green Parrot?’ These days they hide in real life too, but you can still see the telltale flashes of of electric lime in the trees in the less inhabited areas of Vrindavan. In the stories of Radha and Krishna, they often act as messengers, carrying secrets between friends and lovers or acting as confidantes.
Parrots have the wonderful ability to remember language and repeat it, something that is both celebrated and looked down upon in bhakti yoga teachings. Sukadeva (literally, best of the parrots), the reciter of one of the most important bhakti texts, the Srimad Bhagavatam, is praised for his feat of speaking the text for seven days and nights continuously, imparting the wisdom just as he received it from his teachers. But the same teachings also warn us not to become parrot-like and repeat things that we hear without deeply understanding and internalising them.