Goddess of Love, Beauty and Devotion
Krishna and Radha at Mayapur temple
|Affiliation||Lakshmi, Madhavpriya, Vrindavaneshwari, Vaishnavism, Raseshwari form of Krishna's love and Bhakti|
|Abode||Goloka, Barsana, Vrindavan, Braj Dham, Vaikuntha|
|Texts||Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa, Devi-Bhagavata Purana, Padma Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Narada Panchratra, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Shree Krishna Karnamrutam,Jagannath Vallabha Natakam, Tartam Sagar, Gita Govinda and many others|
Radha (Sanskrit: राधा, IAST: Rādhā), also called Radhika, Radharani, Radhe, Shyama, and Priya, is a goddess popular in Hinduism, especially in the Vaishnavism tradition. She was born in Rawal and then moved to Barsana. She is said to be the head of the milkmaids as Pradhan Gopika (chief amongst all gopis) (also called the gopis or Braj Gopikas) who resided in Braj Dham. She is the power potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Para Brahman, who is Shri Krishna according to Vaishnavite, and some specific translations of Bhagawatam and Padma Purana. She is Shri Krishna’s first chief and eternal consort. She is the personification of pure devotional service unto Sri Krishna (Bhakti Devi). She is thought of as the supreme Goddess in her own right and celebrated on the festive day of Radhastami.
She is also called Vrindavaneshwari (Queen of the Sri Vrindavan Dham). She appeared as queen of milkmaids and queen of Vrindavan-Barsana. She taught selfless love and surrender to Bhagavan Shri Krishna. She is the supreme goddess in Vaishnavism. Rasik sants have mentioned her as a descension of the Supreme Goddess, Source of the Infinite Lakshmi and the original form of Yogamaya and hladini Shakti (Power of Divine Love) which is main power of the Godhead Shree Krishna. She and her consort Krishna are collectively known as Radha Krishna, the combined form of feminine as well as the masculine realities of God. Lord Krishna enacts leelas with Her.
Radha is worshipped in some regions of India, particularly by Gaudiya Vaishnavas, Vaishnavas in West Bengal, Bangladesh Manipur, and Odisha. Elsewhere, she is revered in the Nimbarka Sampradaya and movements linked to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Shrimati Radharani is considered by some as a metaphor for the human spirit (aatma), her love and longing for Prabhu Shree Krishna is theologically viewed as symbolic of the human quest for spiritual growth and union with the divine. She has inspired numerous literary works, and her Rasa lila dance with Krishna has inspired many types of performance arts. She is said to be incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and Krishna is her husband Lord Vishnu's incarnation as per some texts.
Hit Harivansh's and Swami Haridas' books consider Radha the main deity. Here, Radha is not an avatar of Laxmi but a form of Bhagavan Shri Krishna Himself. In the Devi Bhagavat and Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Radha is given as the source of infinite Laxmis, Gopis, and the mother of infinite souls.
The Narada-pancaratra states, "Radha is Gokulesvari, the full embodiment of spontaneous love and the personification of mahabhava [the highest spiritual state]. Bhagavan Sri Krsna, who is the supreme Isvara of all existence and the God among gods, is attained by Her mercy. Sri Radha is Krsna’s internal potency, and She performs worship of Her most beloved Sri Krsna with the entire wealth of Her devotion and service."
In Sammohana-tantra, Durga Devi says, "The name Durga, by which I am known, is Her name. The qualities for which I am famous are Her qualities. The majesty with which I am resplendent is Her majesty. That Maha-Laksmi, Sri Radha, is nondifferent from Sri Krsna. She is His dearmost sweetheart and the crest-jewel of His beloveds."
Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj elaborately described the virtue of Radha and has given a brief description of Shri Radha in his lectures and Kirtans. He has said, "She is the Supreme Goddess and is worshipped by everyone including Godhead Shri Krishna himself and that's why she is called Radha, which means "one who is the form of worship."
The term is related to Rādha (Sanskrit: राध), which means "kindness, any gift but particularly the gift of affection, success, wealth". The word appears in the Vedic literature as well as the Epics, but is elusive.
Rādhikā refers to an endearing form of gopi Radha.
Radha is an important goddess in the Vaishnavism traditions of Hinduism. Her traits, manifestations, descriptions, and roles vary by region. Since the earliest times, she has been associated with the cowherd Krishna, who is the speaker of the Bhagavad Gita. In the early Indian literature, mentions of her are elusive. The traditions that venerate her explain this is because she is the secret treasure hidden within the Upanishads, Puranas, and Tantra. During the Bhakti movement era she became more well known as her extraordinary love for Krsna was highlighted.
According to Jaya Chemburkar, there are at least two significant and different aspects of Radha in the literature associated with her, such as Sriradhika namasahasram. One aspect is she is a milkmaid (gopi), another as a female deity similar to those found in the Hindu goddess traditions. She also appears in Hindu arts as ardhanari with Krishna, that is an iconography where half of the image is Radha and the other half is Krishna. This is found in sculpture such as those discovered in Maharashtra, and in texts such as Shiva Purana and Brahmavaivarta Purana. In these texts, this ardhanari is sometimes referred to as Ardharadhavenudhara murti, and it symbolizes the complete union and inseparability of Radha and Krishna.
Radha's depictions vary from being an already married woman who becomes a devotee of Krishna in a secondary role, to being dual divinity equal to Krishna in Jayadeva's Gita Govinda, to being a supreme object of devotional love for both Krishna and devotees in Rupa Goswami's tradition (i.e. the Gaudiya Vaishnavism of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu).
Radha is conceptualized by some (though not the adherents of the traditions that worship her) as a goddess who breaks social norms by leaving her marriage, and entering into a relationship with Krishna to pursue her love. According to Heidi Pauwels, it is a "hotly debated issue" whether Radha was already married or had remembered Krishna while she remained married. Radha asked Krishna why he can't marry her, the reply came “Marriage is a union of two souls. You and I are one soul, how can I marry myself?”  Several Hindu texts allude to these circumstances.
According to David Kinsley, a professor of Religious Studies known for his studies on Hindu goddesses, the Radha-Krishna love story is a metaphor for divine-human relationship, where Radha is the human devotee or soul who is frustrated with the past, obligations to social expectations and the ideas she inherited, who then longs for real meaning, the true love, the divine (Krishna). This metaphoric Radha (soul) finds new liberation in learning more about Krishna, bonding in devotion and with passion.
Shrimati Radharani is the source of all Lakshmis in Vaikuntha and other goddesses throughout creation. Just as Krishna changes his appearance by holding a bow and arrow rather than flute and becomes Shri Ramchandra, similarly Shrimati Radharani assumes the form of Shrimati Sita devi in the Ramayana pastime. The popular Itihasas and other legendary literature of the Hindu traditions present two major Lakshmi avatars – Radha and Sita, and two major Vishnu avatars as their respective companions – Krishna in the Mahabharata and Rama in the Ramayana. The Radha-Krishna and Sita-Rama pairs represent two different personality sets, two perspectives on dharma and lifestyles, both cherished in the way of life called Hinduism. Sita is traditionally wedded: the dedicated and virtuous wife of Rama, an introspective temperate paragon of a serious, virtuous man. Radha is a power potency of Krishna, who is a playful adventurer.
Radha and Sita offer two templates within the Hindu tradition. If "Sita is a queen, aware of her social responsibilities", states Pauwels, then "Radha is exclusively focused on her romantic relationship with her lover", giving two contrasting role models from two ends of the moral universe. Yet they share common elements as well. Both face life challenges and are committed to their true love. They are both influential, adored and beloved goddesses in the Hindu culture.
In some devotional (bhakti) traditions of Vaishnavism that focus on Krishna, Radha represents "the feeling of love towards Krishna". For some of the adherents of these traditions, her importance approaches or even exceeds that of Krishna. Radha is worshipped along with Krishna in Bengal, Assam and Odisha by Vaishnava Hindus. Elsewhere, such as with Visnusvamins, she is a revered deity. She is considered to be Krishna's original shakti, the supreme goddess in both the Nimbarka Sampradaya and following the advent of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.
Radha Chalisa mentions that Krishna accompanies one who chants " Radha" with pure heart. Other gopis are usually considered to be self willing maidservants (Sevika) of Radha. Radharani's superiority is seen in Krishna's flute, which repeats the name Radha. Between Radha and Rukmini, Radha is superior.
Radha's connection to Krishna is of two types: svakiya-rasa (married relationship) and parakiya-rasa (a relationship signified with eternal mental "love"). The Gaudiya tradition focuses upon parakiya-rasa as the highest form of love, wherein Radha and Krishna share thoughts even through separation. The love the gopis feel for Krishna is also described in this esoteric manner as the highest platform of spontaneous love of God, and not of a sexual nature.
Radha and Krishna are the focus of temples in the Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Chandidas and other traditions of Vaishnavism. She is typically shown standing immediately next to Krishna. Some important Radha temples are:
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