18 Aug A playful meditation on Krishna’s pastimes
A narrative pantomime is a wonderful form of dramatic art for young children of nursery and preschool age, and for children who are shy by nature because it is much easier to perform it than traditional drama. Children need to follow the story by acting out the movements of the characters without talking. This kind of activity helps children to develop concentration by connecting hearing with the movement, and to deeper feel the flow of a story by participating in it. And it often turns out to be great fun! Because it is not a dramatic presentation for the public there is no proper or improper way to act it out. Think of it as a group meditation on Krishna’s pastimes in the playful mood of a child… and stay relaxed. It should be narrated slowly, giving children enough time to imagine and act out. You should lead the rhythm of a story according to children’s level of involvement – if they enjoy some parts more give them more time to imitate. Keep in mind that slowing down your voice and movements after more dynamic parts of a story is very important because it keeps children grounded and turns their focus from action back to hear the narration.
In this particular story, children can divide roles among them – someone can play the role of Krishna, someone can play the role of Balarama, and others can play the roles of cowherd boys. Children can dress up like Krishna, Balarama, and cowherd boys, or just wear symbols like a peacock feather, flute, something like plow and horns, lunch bags. I suggest using some props at some points of the story, but you can skip it and leave it fully to the kid’s imagination. It is great if you have a group of children to perform it, but you can do it with two children only and have the same fun (I have only two children in my homeschooling classroom and they enjoy this kind of activity a lot). In that case, you can play Krishna or Balarama and narrate the story at the same time, and children can play cowherd boys (or vice-versa). You can repeat the story and change the roles every time.
The story is based on descriptions from Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), canto 10, chapters 12 and 18, translation and commentary by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.
Krishna, Balarama, and cowherd boys in the forest
Krishna, Balarama, and cowherd boys every day go to the forest of Vrindavan, taking their calves in front of them. Cowherd boys jump for joy while Krishna and Balarama play on their flutes. (If you know to play on school flute or recorder it would be wonderful that you play it while children are acting out this part.) The boys begin to blow into their horns out of joy. They were playing like this all the way into the forest.
While entering the forest they feel a sweet smell of blooming flowers all around them. The boys begin to pick up the flowers and leaves to decorate the hair of Krishna and Balarama with it. Some boys climb on the trees and sprinkle Krishna and Balarama with the petals of the flowers. (You can give the children real flowers at this point).
Balarama has noticed a soft red clay on the ground and all the boys begin to decorate their bodies with the clay. They are drawing beautiful designs on faces and arms of each other with the clay. Then Krishna has found a handful of amalaki fruits nearby and the boys begin to play with the fruits, passing them to each other. It is giving them a lot of fun! (Children can use small balls or bean bags to pass them to each other.)
After some time monkeys come and join the party. (Some children can play the roles of monkeys.) The boys begin to tease the monkeys and chase them through the trees. Some boys begin to imitate monkeys and make faces as monkeys are accustomed to do. Some boys begin to jump around like frogs, and some dance like peacocks. Others begin to imitate flying birds by running after the bird’s shadows on the ground, and some imitate the beautiful movements of the swans. While the boys play, jump, and dance, Krishna and Balarama beat the drums to encourage them.
One boy has stolen the lunch bag of another boy and has thrown it further away. When a boy noticed that his bag had been taken away, he is trying to take it back, but the boys are throwing it further and further away to the boys who are standing in a distant place. After some time of trying to get his bag back, the boy begins to cry, and the bag is returned to him.
Sometimes Krishna would go to a somewhat distant place to see the beauty of the forest. The trees would bend down their branches to offer Krishna their most sweet fruits and flowers, and Krishna would happily take them. All the other boys would run to accompany Him, trying to touch Krishna first. In this way, they enjoy life by repeatedly touching Krishna. (Children can run the race and compete who will touch the boy who plays Krishna first)
After playing the whole morning the boys feel hungry. They sit down to eat their lunch. Krishna and Balarama sit in the middle, and the boys sit around them in the circle. All the boys open their lunch bags, to see what their mothers had prepared for them. „Look, I have samosas filled with cheese!“ – says one boy, offering samosas to Krishna and Balarama. „Look, I have the mango chutney!“ – says another boy, offering the mango chutney to Krishna and Balarama. „Look, I have sabji and chapati!“- says another boy, offering sabji and chapati to Krishna and Balarama. „Look, I have sandesh and ladhus!“- says another boy, offering sandesh and ladhus to Krishna and Balarama. Krishna and Balrama happily accept all the foodstuff that the boys have offered to them with love and give the foodstuff from their lunch bags to the boys in exchange. (To make more fun children can continue to talk about what else more they have to offer to Krishna and Balarama)
After having their lunch Krishna and Balarama lay down on the soft grass to take some rest. One boy offers his lap to Krishna, to put his head on it. Another boy offers his lap to Balarama. One boy fans Krishna and Balarama with the big palm leaf. Two other boys massage the gentle lotus feet of Krishna and Balarama. One boy sings a melodious song for the pleasure of Krishna and Balrama. Numerous birds of colorful feathers join in with their chirping.
In that way, the cowherd boys spend their happy days in the company of Lord Krishna and Lord Balrama, who are both the dearest heart treasure of residents of Vrindavan.