The birthday of our Lord Krishna (Sri Jayanthi) is on Simha SraavaNa month (AavaNi). When Ashtami of Krishna Paksham is united with the constellation RohiNi, our Lord was born. Swami Desikan composed 20 verses in praise of him and prayed that he should be blessed with thoughts exclusively about HIM during his final moments (Anthima Smrithi) on this earth. Swami composed these twenty verses, when he was overcome by the beauty of the Archa Murthy of Sri Rajagopalan in the Divya Desam at Thiruvahindrapuram. The Sanskrit name for twenty is Vimsathi and hence these twenty verses in praise of Sri Gopala are celebrated as Sri Gopala Vimsathi. For more than 700 years, these verses have been sung prior to Sri Vaishnava TadhiyAraadhanams (Group partaking of food presented to the Lord earlier) to seek the Lord’s blessings and during the occasion of marriages to confer the blessings of the Lord on the bride and the bridegroom.
Swami Desikan paints a word picture of the incomparable beauty of Sri Gopalan, describes the structure of His mantram and affectionately recalls the many mischievous deeds performed by Bala Gopalan in Gokulam and BrindhAvanam to the utter delight of the humans and the celestial beings.
Sri Gopala Vimsathi must have been very dear to Swami Desikan as indicated by his inclusion of the twelfth verse of this stotram in his esoteric master piece known as Sankalpa Suryodhayam. There, he depicts Narada descending from heaven singing joyously the above verse during his journey to meet Purushan and initiate him into the Maha Mantram of the Lord.
On Krishna Jayanthi days, the Archa Murthy of Rajagopalan is taken in procession around the streets of Thiruvahindrapuram and Sri Gopala Vimsathi slokams of our Acharya is recited. May our thoughts be blessed with the delectable experience of Swami Desikan! I salute Sri Vedantha Desikan prior to attempting to provide an English translation to these bhakthi-laden verses dedicated to Sri RukmiNi Satyabhama Sametha Raaja VeNugopalan.