Goddess of Love, Compassion and Devotion
19th century painting of Radha, Rajasthan.
|Other names||Radhika, Madhavi, Keshavi, Radharani, Kishori|
|Affiliation||Radha Krishna, Devi, hladini shakti of Krishna, avatar of Lakshmi|
|Abode||Goloka, Vrindavan, Barsana|
|Texts||Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Padma Purana, Devi-Bhagavata Purana, Gita Govinda|
|Festivals||Radhastami, Holi, Kartik Purnima, Gopashtami, Sharad Purnima|
Radha (Sanskrit: राधा, IAST: Rādhā), also called Radhika, is a Hindu goddess and a consort of the god Krishna. She is worshipped as the goddess of love, tenderness, compassion and devotion. She is described as the chief of gopis (milkmaids). During Krishna's youth, she appears as his lover and companion, though he is not married to her. In contrast, some traditions accord Radha the status of the primary consort and wife of Krishna. Radha, as a supreme goddess in these traditions, is considered as the eternal female counterpart and the internal potency (hladini shakti) of Krishna, who resides with him in their abode Goloka.
Radha is venerated particularly by Gaudiya Vaishnavas in West Bengal, Bangladesh, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Elsewhere, she is revered in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, Swaminarayan Sampradaya and movements linked to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Radha-vallabha (lit. "consort of Radha") sect also focusses on Radha as a central figure of reverence with Krishna. Radha is sometimes considered as an avatar of goddess Lakshmi as in the Nimbarka Sampradaya and by some, as the feminine form of Krishna himself. Radha's birthday is celebrated annually as Radhashtami.
Radha is considered as a metaphor for the human spirit (atma), her love and longing for Krishna is theologically viewed as symbolic of the human quest for spiritual growth and union with the divine (brahman). She has inspired numerous literary works, and her Rasa lila dance with Krishna has inspired many types of performance arts.
The Sanskrit term Rādhā (Sanskrit: राधा, राधा) means "prosperity, success". It is a common word and name found in various contexts in the ancient and medieval texts of India. The word appears in the Vedic literature as well as the Hindu epics, but is elusive. The name also appears for a character in the epic Mahabharata.
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. Radha is intrinsical with Krishna. In 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 sacred scriptures. During the Bhakti movement era in the sixteenth century, she became more well known as her extraordinary love for Krishna was highlighted.
Radha's first major appearance in the 12th century Gita Govinda by Jayadeva. She also appears in the late Puranic scriptures namely the Padma Purana, the Brahmavaivarta Purana and the Devi Bhagavata Purana. Though not named in the Bhagavata Purana, Visvanatha Chakravarti (c. 1626–1708) interprets an unnamed favourite gopi in the scripture as Radha. She makes brief appearances in Gaha Sattasai (dated between 3rd-7th century CE), Venisamhara by Bhatta Narayana (c. 800 CE), Dhvanyaloka by Anandavardhana (c. 820–890 CE) and its commentary Dhvanyalokalocana by Abhinavagupta (c. 950 – 1016 CE), Dashavatara-charita (1066 CE) by Kshemendra and Siddhahemasabdanusana by Hemachandra (c. 1088–1172). In most of these, Radha is depicted as someone who is deeply in love with Krishna and is deeply saddened when Krishna leaves her.
Charlotte Vaudeville theorizes that Radha may have inspired by the pairing of the goddess Ekanamsha (associated with Durga) with Jagannatha (who is identified with Krishna) of Puri in Eastern India. Though Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15th century, the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism) is not known to have worshipped the deity couple of Radha-Krishna, his disciples around the Vrindavan region, affirmed Radha as the hladini shakti ("energy of bliss") of Krishna, associating her with the Primordial Divine Mother. While the poetry of Jayadeva and Vidyapati from Bengal treat Radha as Krishna's "mistress", the Gaudiya poetry elevates her to a divine consort. In Western India, Vallabhacharya's Krishna-centric sect Pushtimarg was initially and preferred Swaminiji as the consort, who is identified variously with Radha or Krishna's first wife Rukmini. Modern Pushtimarg followers acknowledge Radha as a consort. Popular forms of Krishna in the temples of Dwarka and Pandharpur have Rukmini as the chief consort.
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 Ardha Nari 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 Ardha Nari is sometimes referred to as Ardharadhavenudhara murti, and it symbolizes the complete union and inseparability of Radha and Krishna.
The birthplace of Radha is Raval which is near to Gokul but is often said to be Barsana. It is in Barsana that the Lathmar Holi is practiced depicting the episode of Krishna going to Barsana and then running away escaping the beating from the womenfolk of Barsana. Radha and Krishna share two kinds of relationships, Parakiya (Love without any social limitation) and Svakiya (married relationship). 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. The Brahmavaivarta Purana and the Garg Samhita mention that Krishna secretly married Radha after Brahma's guidance in the Bhandirvan forest. But to give importance to Parakiya relationship (love without any social foundation) over Svakiya's (married relationship), this marriage was never publicized and kept hidden.
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 a 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.
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. Nimbarka was the first well known Vaishnava scholar whose theology centered on goddess Radha.
Radha Chalisa mentions that Krishna accompanies one who chants "Radha" with a 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.
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:
- Barsana and Vrindavan in Mathura District, Northern India contain many temples dedicated to both Radha and Krishna, including the Radhavallabh Temple. Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathi Mandir in Delhi is also the Radha krishna Temple.
- The Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple at Radha Madhav Dham in Austin, Texas, USA, established by Kripalu Maharaj, is one of the largest Hindu Temple complexes in the Western Hemisphere, and the largest in North America.
- Kinsley 1988, p. 82.
- Jackie Menzies (2006). Goddess: divine energy. Art Gallery of New South Wales. p. 54.
- "Radha – Hindu mythology". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
- Kinsley 1988, p. 81.
- James G. Lochtefeld (2002). "Radha". The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N–Z. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 542. ISBN 978-0-8239-3180-4.
- Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2007). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase. p. 341. ISBN 978-0-8160-5458-9.
- John Stratton Hawley; Donna Marie Wulff (1982). The Divine Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. xiii–xviii. ISBN 978-0-89581-102-8.
- Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. pp. 321–322. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
- Guy L. Beck (2006). Alternative Krishnas: Regional And Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity. State University of New York Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-0-7914-6416-8.
- Monier Monier-Williams, Rādhā, Sanskrit-English Dictionary with Etymology, Oxford University Press, page 876
- Sukumar Sen (1943), "Etymology of the name Radha-Krishana," Indian Linguistics, Vol. 8, pp. 434–435
- Miller, Barbara Stoler (1975). "Rādhā: Consort of Kṛṣṇa's Vernal Passion". Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. 95 (4): 655–671. doi:10.2307/601022. JSTOR 601022.
- Heidi R. M. Pauwels (1996), The Great Goddess and Fulfilment in Love: Rādhā Seen Through a Sixteenth-Century Lens, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Cambridge University Press, Vol. 59, No. 1 (1996), pp. 29–43
- Vaudeville, Charlotte in Hawley & Wulff 1982, p. 2
- Miller, Barbara Stoler in Hawley & Wulff 1982, p. 13
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- Miller, Barbara Stoler in Hawley & Wulff 1982, p. 14
- Vaudeville, Charlotte in Hawley & Wulff 1982, pp. 9-12
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- Jaya Chemburkar (1976), ŚRĪRĀDHIKĀNĀMASAHASRAM, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 57, No. 1/4 (1976), pp. 107–116
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- Heidi R.M. Pauwels (2008). The Goddess as Role Model: Sita and Radha in Scripture and on Screen. Oxford University Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-19-970857-4.
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- Beck, Guy L. (1 February 2012). Alternative Krishnas: Regional And Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-8341-1.
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- Kinsley 1988, p. 89.
- Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
- Heidi R.M. Pauwels (2008). The Goddess as Role Model: Sita and Radha in Scripture and on Screen. Oxford University Press. pp. 12–15, 497–517. ISBN 978-0-19-970857-4.
- Vālmīki; Robert P Goldman (Translator) (1990). The Ramayana of Valmiki: Balakanda. Princeton University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-4008-8455-1.
- Dimock Jr, E.C. (1963). "Doctrine and Practice among the Vaisnavas of Bengal". History of Religions. 3 (1): 106–127. doi:10.1086/462474. JSTOR 1062079. S2CID 162027021.
- Marijke J. Klokke (2000). Narrative Sculpture and Literary Traditions in South and Southeast Asia. BRILL. pp. 51–57. ISBN 90-04-11865-9.
- Asoke Kumar Majumdar (1955), A Note on the Development of Radha Cult, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 36, No. 3/4 (July – October 1955), pp. 231–257
- Singh, K.B. (2004). "Manipur Vaishnavism: A Sociological Interpretat1on". Sociology of Religion in India. ISBN 978-0-7619-9781-8. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
- Kinsley, D. (2010). "Without Krsna There Is No Song". History of Religions. 12 (2): 149. doi:10.1086/462672. S2CID 161297914. Retrieved 3 May 2008. "Nimbarka seems to have been the first well-known religious leader to regard Radha as central to his worship (thirteenth century)"
- Beck, Guy L. (1 February 2012). Alternative Krishnas: Regional And Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-8341-1.
- Radhavallabh Temple
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- Hawley, John Stratton; Wulff, Donna Marie, eds. (1982). The Divine Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-0-89581-102-8.
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