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Radha (Devanagari: राधा, IAST: Rādhā), also called Radhika, Radharani and Radhikarani, is almost always depicted alongside Krishna and features prominently within the theology of today's Vallabha and Gaudiya Vaishnava sects, which regards Radha as the original Goddess or Shakti. Radha is also the principal god of worship in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, as Nimbarka, the founder of the tradition, declared that Radha and Krishna together constitute the absolute truth. Radha is not mentioned anywhere in books like Bhagavata Purana,Vishnu Purana, Harivamsha or Mahabharata. This has led many to believe that character of Radha was added later into the story of Krishna. Radha's relationship with Krishna is given in detail within texts such as the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Garga Samhita and Brihad Gautamiya Tantra. Radha is the most important gopi in Raas (Special kind of dance) with Lord Krishna. Radha is often referred to as Rādhārānī or "Radhika" in speech, prefixed with the respectful term 'Srimati' by devout followers.  Gaudiya Vaishnavas, believe that, in fact Radha is the original source from whom Lakshmiji emanated.
In the story of Krishna, as told in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana, he spends much of his childhood in the company of young cow-herd girls, called Gopis in the village of Madhuvan. Krishna left his native place at the age of twelve for study at gurukul .The Mahabharata does not describe Krishna's earlier life in Vrindavan in much detail, and focuses more on the later battle of Kurukshetra but within the Bhagavata Purana the child-hood pastimes of Krishna are described very vividly. Within the Bhagavata Purana, Radha is not mentioned by name but is alluded to within the tenth chapter of the text as one of the gopis whom Krishna plays with during his upbringing as a young boy. Krishna left Vrindavan for Mathura at the age of 10 years and 7 months according to Bhagavata Purana. Radha was 12 years older than Krishna. It is in later texts such as the Gita Govinda where we find the story of Radha given in more detail. Krishna is never recorded in any text to return to Vrindavan or there is no reference that he married Radha, though the names of his other wives Rukmani and Satyabhama are often mentioned in texts. Infact there is no mention of Radha in any ancient scripture. Not in Shrimad Bhagavatam nor in Mahabharata nor in Harivansham. Just as the Mahabharat is about the Kuru dynasty, Harivansham is about the Yadu dynasty. It too does not mention Radha or any "girlfriend" of Krishna in any direct or indirect way. All three of these were written at about the same time and cover the life and work of Shri Krishna.Radha is only mentioned in medieval scriptures after Acharya Nimbark and poet Jayadeva wrote about her in their works. There is certainly a lot written in medieval literature from that point on. But none of this is based on any historical or original Indian scriptures or Vedas. Their revelations are the devotional revelations of their journey into their bhav. There is no real evidence nor historical authenticity about what they say. It is their sakhi-bhav and their feelings of love for Krishna that are expressed in their writings. This does not negate or denigrate their experience. Their sadhana and their experiences are unique in the realm of Bhakti.
In the Vaishnava devotional or bhakti traditions of Hinduism that focus on Krishna, Radha is Krishna's friend and advisor. For some of the adherents of these traditions, her importance approaches or even exceeds that of Krishna. She is considered to be his original shakti, the supreme goddess in both the Nimbarka Sampradaya and following the advent of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. Other gopis are usually considered to be her maidservants, with Radha having the prominent position of Krishna's favour. It has been mentioned in the narration of the Skanda Purana that out of a billion of gopis, 16,000 are prominent. Out of these, 108 are important, and out of 108, eight are principal. Out of eight gopis, Radha and Chandravali are chief, and out of these two Radha is superior. Between Radha and Rukmini, Radha is superior. All the gopis are reincarnation of goddess Lakshmi.
Her 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.
Proponents of the Gaudiya and Nimbarka schools of Vaishnavism give the highly esoteric nature of Radha's relationship to Krishna as the reason why her story is not mentioned in detail in the other Puranic texts.
Radha was the daughter of Vrishbhanu who was king Suchandra in his previous life. Suchandra and his wife had acquired a boon from Brahma that in the Dwapar age, the goddess Lakshmi will be born as a daughter to them in the form of Radha. King Suchendra and Queen Kalavati were reborn as Vrishbhanu and Kirtikumari and Lakshmi was incarnated as Radha.
It is said that at Radha’s birth, Narad himself went and met Vrishbhanu and informed him, “This girl’s beauty and nature is divine. All the houses, wherever her footprints are, Lord Narayan with all other deities will reside. Nurture this girl thinking her to be a Goddess.” According to Narad’s advice, Vrishbhanu nurtured Radha with great love and care. Nand who lived in the nearby village was friends with Vrishbanu. Once during the festival of Holi; Vrishbanu went to Gokul to meet Nandrai. At Nandrai and Yashoda’s house Krishna (who was growing up as their son) met Radha. Their union was divine, phenomenal and incessant. This meeting was Radha and Krishna’s first meeting.
Radha’s love towards Krishna in the terrestrial or customary meaning is not just the relation between a man and woman. The feeling of this love is divine and phenomenal which gives this love a pious form. The philosophical side of this reduces the distance of the support and supportive, also the difference between the worshipper and worshipful is not there. Krishna is the life of Vraj; Radha is the soul of Krishna. That is why, it is said, “Atma Tu Radhika Tasya” (Radha, you are His soul). One form of Radha is, she is a devotee, worshipper of Krishna and in the second form she is the worshipful, devoted by Krishna. ‘Aradhyate Asau itii Radha.’ Radha – Krishna’s love is the symbol of the feeling of being united. Vrishbhanu was a partial incarnation of Vishnu while her mother Kalavati was a partial incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi.
Her worship is especially prominent in Vrindavan, the place where Krishna is said to have lived.Radha's love for Krishna is held within Gaudiya Vaishnavism as the most perfect primarily because of its endless and unconditional nature. Thus she is the most important friend of Krishna, 'His heart and soul', and His 'hladini-shakti' (mental companion potency).
In the Brihad-Gautamiya Tantra, Radha is described as follows: "The transcendental goddess Srimati Radharani is the direct counterpart of Lord Sri Krishna. She is the central figure for all the goddesses of fortune. She possesses all the attractiveness to attract the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. She is the primeval internal potency of the Lord.
The Bengali saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534) is believed by many (especially by the modern-day ISKCON movement) to be an incarnation of both Radha and Krishna, simultaneously in one form. Throughout his life, Chaitanya lived as a devotee of Vaishnava tradition, not openly claiming to be any form of Avatar, but in his biographies it is claimed that he revealed his divine form to some of his closer associates.
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Radha has many epithets describing her qualities and characteristics.
One of her names, Hara (mentioned in Narada-pancaratra 5.5.59), in vocative Hare, forms a part of the Hare Krishna 'Maha-Mantra', one of the most popular Vedic mantras, especially among certain sects of Gaudiya Vaishnavas (some other sects among Gaudiya Vaishnavas explain that the word "Hare" in the mantra is the vocative form of "Hari", which is also a name of God). Radharani's names hold a place of prime importance within Gaudiya Vaishnava religious practices.
View Complete Namavali with essence of each name of Radharani -100 auspicious names in IPA Sanskrit.
Temple Deities in India and abroad are generally named in order of Radharani first and then Krishna. Krishna is approachable through the mercy of Srimati Radharani and no one else. So for example, if one were to enter the Govindaji temple in Vrindavan the Deities are named Radha Govinda and devotees of Krishna would pray to Radha and Govinda not just Krishna. This is because Krishna is controlled by Radharani's love.
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