Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the Supreme enjoyer and the master of all. He is ‘Isvara’ and the cause of all causes (sarva karana karanam). Srimati Radharani is the manifestation of His Hladini shakti (internal potency). Sri Radhika is the most excellent of all His devotees and the most confidential servant of the Supreme Lord. Though Krishna is the supreme enjoyer, Radharani experiences a greater degree of ecstasy by serving Sri Krishna. This is something that puzzles even the Supreme Lord and He hankers to experience Her ecstasy first hand, to properly appreciate Srimati Radharani’s position. Hence taking up the mood (bhava) and the golden bodily complexion (kanti) of Srimati Radharani, Sri Krishna descended as Lord Chaitanya in the age of Kali. Sri Chaitanya’s heart was an image of Srimati Radhika’s emotions – greatly turbulent with the feelings of union (sambhoga) and separation (vipralambha) from Krishna. Hence, it is stated that there is no difference between Lord Chaitanya and the unification of Radha and Krishna (Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Radha Krishna Nahe anya). Sri Radhika loves and worships Krishna as a simple cowherd boy of Vrindavana. Her love does not recognize Her beloved as the mighty king of the Yadus or the majestic Supreme Personality of Godhead. She is maddened by Krishna’s sweetness (madhurya) and is willing to sacrifice anything, even Her existence, to please Her beloved. Her love for Krishna defies the boundaries of conventional logic, the frontiers of sacrifice, and the abysses of emotional turbulence.
Radharani – the Queen of Vrindavana
Devi Krishnamayi prokta radhika para-devata
Srva lakshmi-mayi sarva kantih sammohini para
Radhika, filled with love for Krishna, is the devata of the mantra. She is the personification of all Lakshmis. She is the most beautiful and the most attractive.
Sri Krishna is the life and soul of the Vraja Gopis. These girls of Vrindavana knew very well that their relationship with Krishna would cause them to be rejected by their relatives and authorities, a situation far worse than the pain of meeting with fire or death. Yet they disregarded all apprehensions and chose Sri Krishna over their greatest fears. Serving Krishna became the very reason for them to live. This is the highest level of ‘Raga’ and those who possess this mood and are ready to sacrifice everything for Krishna are considered to be ‘anuragi’. The Gopis of Vrindavana are the very form of devotional ecstasy. However Srimati Radharani, is the embodiment of all devotional qualities and the swarupa (personification) of ‘Mahabhava’, the highest stage of devotional ecstasy. The Gopis of Vrindavana are the expansions of Radhika and She excels all of the others in Her devotion towards the Lord. That is why Narada describes Her as the ‘Supreme’ (uditam) in the Radha-Mahatmya of Padma Purana. Likewise, in the Gopala Tapani Upanishad, it is mentioned how Srimati Radharani (also known as Gandharva) was the best amongst the Gopis. Amongst all the gopis, Radha’s bhava is the most astonishing.
Tasam madhye srestha gandharva hy uvaca (Gopala Tapani Upanishad 2.6) – The best amongst the Gopis, Radha spoke.
Tam hi mukhyam vidhaya purvam anukrtva tusnim asuh (Gopala Tapani Upanishad 2.13) – Putting their chief Gopi in front, the other Gopis then fell silent.
Rk parsista says ‘radhaya madhavo devo madhavenaiva radhika vibhrajante janesv a’ – Madhava resides with Radha and Radha resides with Madhava. In order to single her out as the dearest amongst the Gopis, Sri Radhika is described as ‘eka advitiya’ (one without an equal).
‘Madana, the essence of Hladini shakti (internal potency of Krishna), superior to Mohana, making all other bhavas shine, is continually present in Radha – Ujjvala Nilamani 15.219
Hladini is the best of the infinite potencies possessed by Lord Krishna. Srimati Radharani is the very essence of Hladini Shakti. Its essence, the peak of Mahabhava (highest devotional ecstasy) is called ‘Madana’. It is non-different and takes the form of Radharani.
Glories of Radharani
Sri Radhika, the very form of highest beauty, shines brightly with sixteen accouterments – She has a freshly bathed body, a pearl sparkles at the tip of Her nose, She adorns a colored cloth, a sash around Her waist, She has a tied-up braid, ear ornaments, anointed limbs, hairs decorated with flowers, garlands around Her neck, lotus in Her hand, betel nut in Her mouth, musk dot on Her chin, mascara upon Her eyes, patterns on Her cheeks, lac on Her feet and Tilaka upon Her forehead.
Radha shines like the sun with Her twelve ornaments – Her shining crown jewel, two gold earrings, a gold belt, a medallion, Her two Chakri-salakas (ear ornament with a small wheel design and a pin which pierces the ear hole), Her two bracelets, a throat ornament, rings, necklace, armbands glowing like stars, anklets made from jewels and Her dazzling effulgent toe rings.
Sri Radhika’s beautiful eyes defeat the splendor of blooming lotus; the luster of Her body defeats gold. She possesses the freshness of early youth (Kaisora); Her fickle glance is as unsteady as lightning, Her dazzling smile attracts the Cakora birds who live on moonlight, She is endowed with beautiful lines of fortune (crescent moon, bracelet, flower, vine, and earring, etc). She possesses a fragrance that frenzies Krishna and sings enchantingly on the fifth note. Her pleasant voice eclipses that of a cuckoo. She is an expert in joking, She is humble, sly, and clever. She is a master of all arts, an authority in painting with minerals and skillful at cooking. She defeats Krishna in battles of words and dice. She is skillful in stringing garlands, understanding the sari, and parrot. She has a very sharp intelligence when it comes to music. She is so merciful that She weeps on seeing a calf whose mouth had been pierced with a straw. She is shy, respects proper conduct, is patient, inscrutable, and coy. She manifests a thirst for Krishna exhibiting the highest state of devotional ecstasy (Mahabhava). On seeing Her, all inhabitants of Gokula become filled with affection. Her fame dazzles the whole universe and She is an object of great affection for the elders. She is controlled by the affection of Her friends. She is chief of Krishna’s beloved’s and She constantly controls Lord Krishna.
Lord Krishna who is eternally bound by Radhika’s love says, ‘O Radhika! I have plucked a mass of flowers uncrushed by the bees and have brought numerous undamaged peacock feathers following your desires. Now give up making the garland with fresh leaves that are as bright as the rising sun. A person like Me should act under Your control. Please give Me another order’ (Ujjvala Nilamani, 4.48).
At the beginning of the Rasa dance, Krishna hid Himself at a bower in the forest of Pravistaka (also known as Petha). This place is situated at the foot of the Govardhana Hills, in Parasauli. Thereafter Krishna decided to display His four-handed form in order to hide Himself from the Vraja Gopis, who had surrounded Him in all directions. On seeing Him the Gopis exclaimed, “Oh! That is not Krishna. He is Narayana with four arms!”. All the Gopis offered Him their respects and petitioned Him to show them where Krishna had hidden. But when Radharani approached, the greatness of Radha’s love was so astonishing, that due to the effulgence of Her glory, Krishna could not maintain His four-armed form. Consequently, Krishna revealed Himself as two-handed Shyamasundara once again. Such is the power of Radharani’s love. Therefore, the Lord voluntarily surrenders and becomes controlled by Prema (bhakti), His own energy. Radharani is the manifestation of this internal energy (Hladini shakti) and the reservoir of the greatest amount of Prema.
Sakhis (Friends) of Radharani
There are hundreds of groups of Vraja Gopis and in each group there are hundreds of thousands of women. Radharani and Chandravali are the foremost of the group leaders and of the two Radhika is far superior, being the very form of Mahabhava and excelling in all qualities (tayor apy ubhayor madhye radhika sarvathadika, maha bhava svarupeyam gunair ativariyasi – Ujjvala Nilamani, 4.3)
Sakhis (friends) of Radharani are attractive women endowed with all good qualities. Radharani is their leader and they assist Her in manifesting Her wonderful enchanting pastimes. Her companions can be further divided into five groups as follows :
- Sakhis – This group includes Vraja Gopis like Kusumika, Vindhya and Dhanistha.
- Nitya sakhis – This group includes women like Kasturi and Mani-manjarika
- Prana sakhis – The prana sakhis include Sasimukhi, Vasanti and Lasika.
- Priya Sakhis – This group includes Kurangaksi, Sumadhya, Madanalasa, Kamala, Madhuri, Manjukesi, Kandarpa-sundari, Madhavi, Malati, Kama-lata and Sasikala
- Parama Prestha Sakhis – This group includes women like Lalita, Visakha, Citra, Campaka lata, Tungavidya, Indulekha, Rangadevi and Sudevi
Sakhis, Nitya-sakhis, and Prana-sakhis are almost parallel to Radha in terms of Prema (love), beauty, and good qualities. However, the women in these three groups are not completely equal and are in fact inferior to Her. The Gopis in the other two groups (Priya Sakhis and Parama Prestha Sakhis) however, are equal to Her. Due to their intense love for both Radha and Krishna, the women belonging to Priya Sakhis and Parama Prestha Sakhis, sometimes show more affection towards Krishna and sometimes more affection towards Radharani. When they cannot tolerate Radha’s sufferings following Krishna’s actions, they side with Radha. However, when they see Krishna suffering and withering away in separation from Radhika, caused by Her tough pride, they side with Krishna.
Sri Radhikastakam – Bhaktivinoda Thakura glorifies Radharani and the importance of worshiping Her lotus feet
radhika-carana-padma, sakala sreyera sadma,
jatane je nahi aradhilo
radha-padmankita dhama, Vrindavana jar nama,
taha je na ashroy korilo
radhika-bhava-gambhir, citta jeba mahadhir,
gana-sanga na koilo jivane
kemone se Shyamananda, rasa-sindhu-snanananda,
labhibe bujhoha eka-mane
radhika ujjvala-raser acharya
je dharilo radha-pada parama jatane
se pailo Krishna-pada amulya-ratane
radha-pada vina kabhu Krishna nahi mile
radhar dasir Krishna sarva-vede bole
chodata dhana-jan, kalatra-suta-mita,
chodata karama geyan
radha-pada-pankaja, madhurata sevan,
(1) He who has failed to carefully worship the lotus feet of Srimati Radhika, which are the abode of all auspiciousness; he who has not taken shelter in the transcendental abode known as Vrindavana, which is decorated with the beautiful lotus like Radha
(2) He who in this life has not associated with the devotees of Radhika, who are very wise and whose devotion for Radha is exceedingly deep – how will such a person ever experience the bliss of bathing in the ocean of Lord Shyama’s sublime mellows? Please understand this most attentively.
(3) Srimati Radhika is the exemplary teacher of the brilliant mellows of conjugal love. This pure love between Radha and Madhava is worthy of discussion and contemplation.
(4) He who has grasped hold of the lotus feet of Radha with great care obtains the lotus feet of Krishna, which are like priceless jewels.
(5) Without taking shelter of the lotus feet of Radha, one can never obtain Lord Krishna. The Vedic scriptures declare that Krishna is the property of the maidservants of Sri Radhika.
(6) So Abandon wealth, followers, wife, sons, and friends, and giving up materialistic activities and intellectual knowledge, and become absorbed in the sweetness of service unto the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani – this is Bhaktivinoda’s conviction.