Radha (right) - Krishna (left), surrounded by gopis, in Mayapur Chandradoya Mandir, 2005
Krishna is an Avatar of Vishnu
Radha Krishna (IAST rādhā-kṛṣṇa, Sanskrit राधा कृष्ण) is a Hindu deity. Krishna is often referred as svayam bhagavan in Gaudiya Vaishnavism theology and Radha is a young woman, a gopi who is Krishna's supreme beloved. With Krishna, Radha is acknowledged as the Supreme Goddess, for it is said that she controls Krishna with Her love. It is believed that Krishna enchants the world, but Radha "enchants even Him. Therefore She is the supreme goddess of all. Radha Krishna".
While there are much earlier references to the worship of this form of God, it is since Jayadeva Goswami wrote a famous poem Gita Govinda in the twelfth century of the Common Era, that the topic of the spiritual love affair between the divine Krishna and his devotee Radha, became a theme celebrated throughout India. It is believed that Krishna has left the circle of the rasa dance to search for Radha. The Chaitanya school believes that the name and identity of Radha are both revealed and concealed in the verse describing this incident in Bhagavata Purana. It is also believed that Radha is not just one cowherd maiden, but is the origin of all the gopis, or divine personalities that participate in the rasa dance.
RadhaKrishna can be broken into two – Krishna (Devanagari:कृष्ण), the eighth incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu., and his consort Radha (Devanagari: राधा). Krishna in Vrindavana is sometimes depicted with Radha standing on his left, on whose bosom sits Laksmi.
Sakti and Saktiman
The common derivation of Shakti and saktiman, i.e. Female and Male principle in god implies that Shakti and saktiman are the same. Each and every god has its partner, 'betterhalf' or Shakti and without this Shakti, is sometimes viewed being without essential power.It is a not uncommon feature of Hinduism when worship of a pair rather than one personality constitutes worship of God, such is worship of Radha Krishna. Traditions worshiping Krishna, as svayam bhagavan, who is male, include reference and veneration to his Radha, who is worshiped as supreme. It's an accepted view that union of Radha and Krishna may indicate the union of Sakti with the Saktiman, and this view exists well outside of orthodox Vaishnavism or Krishnaism.
From the Vaishnava point of view the divine feminine energy (shakti) implies a divine source of energy, God or shaktiman. "Sita relates to Rama; Lakshmi belongs to Narayana; Radha has Her Krishna." As Krishna is believed to be the source of all manifestations of God, "Shri Radha, His consort, is the original source of all shaktis" or feminine manifestation of divine energy.
A number of interpretations according to traditions possess a common root of personalism in the understanding of worship. Specifically Caitanyaite Gaudiya Vaishnava doctrine and mission is fiercely "personalistic," proclaiming the supremacy of Krishna, the identification of Caitanya as Radha-Krishna, the reality and eternality of individual selves, and a method for approaching the absolute reality and the Deity as a person first and foremost.
Jiva Goswami in his Priti Sandarbha states that each of the Gopis exhibits a different level of intensity of passion, among which Radha's is the greatest.
In his famous dialogs Ramananda Raya describes Radha to Caitanya and quotes, among other texts, a verse from Chaitanya Charitamrta2.8.100, before he goes on to describe her role in the pastimes of Vrindavana.
The central pivot point of the theology is related to the word rasa. The theological use of the word can be found very early, about two thousand years before the Nimbarka or Caitanya school, in a phrase that the tradition frequently quotes: "Truly, the Lord is rasa" (raso vai sah) of Brahma sutras. This statement expresses the view that God is the one who enjoys the ultimate rasa or spiritual rapture, emotions.
Radha Krishna are worshiped in the following traditions of Hinduism:
Bisnupriya Manipuri Vaishnavas
Vaishnavism in Manipur
King Gareeb Nivaz ruled from 1709 to 1748 and was initiated into Vaishnavism of the Chaitanya tradition, which worships Krishna as the supreme deity, Svayam bhagavan. He practiced this religion for nearly twenty years. Preachers and pilgrims used to arrive in large numbers and cultural contact with Assam was maintained.
The Manipuri Vaishnavas do not worship Krishna alone, but Radha-Krishna. With the spread of Vaishnavism the worship of Krishna and Radha became the dominant form in the Manipur region. Every village there has a Thakur-ghat and a temple. Rasa and other dances are a feature of the regional folk and religious tradition and often, for example, a female dancer will portray both Krishna and his consort, Radha, in the same piece.
In Vedic and Puranic literature, Radhas and other forms of the root >rAdh have meaning of ‘perfection’, ‘success’ and even ‘wealth’.Lord of Success, Indra was referred to as Radhaspati. In references to Mahavishnu as the Lord of Fortune and freely used by Jayadeva as Jaya Jayadeva Hare – the victorious Hari, and ‘Radhaspati’ all found in many places. The word Radha occurs in the Atharva Veda, Taittiriya BrAhmana and Taittiriya Samhita.
Charlotte Vaudeville, in the article Evolution of Love Symbolism in Bhagavatism draws some parallel to Nappinnai, appearing in Godha’s magnum opus Thiruppavai and in Nammalwar’s references to Nappinnani, the daughter-in-law of Nandagopa. Nappinnai is believed to be the source of Radha’s conception in Prakrit and Sanskrit literature although their characteristic relations with Krishna are different. In the ritual dance called Kuravai, Krishna dances with his wife Nappinnai.
"It is a complex relationship, for the devotee is the `same as and yet different from' the Lord, and so even in the joy of union there is the pain of separation. Indeed, the highest form of devotion, according to Yamunacarya, comes not in union but after the union, in the `fear of new separation'."
Yasastilaka Champukavya (AD 959) all make references to Radha and Krishna well before Jayadeva's period. There are elaborate references to Radha in Brahma vaivarta and Padma Puranas.
Gaudiya Vaishnava, as the name suggests, usually refers to the region of Bengal. Early Bengali literature gives a vivid description of the depiction and evolution of understanding of Radha and Krishna. It is believed, however, that the source of Jayadeva Goswamis heroine in his poem Gita Govinda remains a puzzle of the Sanskrit Literature. At the same time there are well documented references to works earlier than Gita Govinda, which some count to be more than twenty. The figure of Radha is one of the most elusive in the literature of Sanskrit; she is described only in a few selected passages of Prakrit or Sanskrit poetry, a few inscriptions and a few works on grammar, poetry and drama. Jayadeva has referred to them and created an exquisite lyrical poem of passionate devotion in the twelfth century, and from this poetic beginning a huge movement specific to Bengal began.
Baru Chandidas is a poet notable for being a prominent Early Middle Bengal historical figure; the date of his poem Srikrsnakirtana is still under question however the text remains one of the most important evidences of early portrayal of the popular story of "Lord Krishna's love for the cowherd girl Radha" in Bangla literature and religion. The 412 songs of Srikrsnakirtana are divided into thirteen sections that represent the core of the Radha-Krishna legendary cycle, with many variants providing excellent comparative material. The manuscript clearly suggests that the songs were meant to be song, and implies particular ragas for the recitation. There is considerable debate as to the authenticity of the text that has significant religious meaning. In this Bengali tradition of Caitanya Vaishnavism metaphysical status and Radha-worship is considered to be established by Krsnadasa in his Chaitanya Charitamrta where he represents the doctrine that prevailed among the Vrindavan Caitanyaites following Caitanya's demise in 1533. It is believed that Krishna, desiring to experience fully what it is like to love Krishna as Radha does, has appeared as Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And what Radha (appearing as Caitanya) does in her longing for Krishna is to chant his names. One of the self manifested Deities established by Gopala Bhatta Goswami is called Radha Ramana, it is not surprising that Radha Ramana is seen as not only Krishna but also as Radha-Krishna. And worship in his temple, located in the centre of Vrindavana is a perpetual daily affair, involving several prescribed events throughout the day, with the goal of being theoretical and remote, but with aspiration of the possibility to attend and associate directly with Radha and Krishna.
The Nimbarka sampradaya worship of the youthful Krishna, alone or with his consort Radha, is one of the earliest dating at least to the 12th century, just as Rudra Sampradaya does. According to Nimbarka, Radha was the eternal consort of Vishnu-Krishna and there is also a suggestion, though not a clear statement, that she became the wife of her beloved Krishna. It should be noted that Nimbarka rescues Radha from the presumed immoral implication of much of the literature, and gives to her a dignity unattained elsewhere.
The Nimbarka Sampradaya founded by Nimbarka is one of the four bonafide Vaishnava traditions. Lack of evidence due to the destruction of Mathura and Vrindavan in the 13th Century and 14th Century has meant that the true dates and origins of this tradition are shrouded in mystery and await investigation.
Nimbarka, who is widely held by scholars such as Satyanand Joseph, Prof. Rasik Bihari Joshi, Prof. M. M. Aggrawal etc., to be at least of the same time or before the appearance of Shankaracharya, was the first acharya to worship Radha along with Krishna in Sakhi Bhava Upasana method of worship. In his Vedanta Kamadhenu Dashashloki, it is clearly stated that:-
ange tu vaame vrishabhaanujaam mudaa viraajamaanaam anuruupasaubhagaam. sakhiisahasraih parisevitaam sadaa smarema deviim sakalestakaamadaam. verse 6. The left portion of the body of the Supreme Lord is Shrimati Radha, seated blissfully, as beautiful as the Lord Himself; who is served by thousands of gopis: we meditate on the Supreme Goddess, the fulfiller of all desires.
This theme was taken up by Jayadeva Goswami and other poets of the time who saw the inherent beauty and bliss which constitute this philosophy.
In this sampradaya, the significance of Radha is not less than the significance of Sri Krsna. Both are conjointly the object to be worshiped in this school of Nimbarka, who is also one of the first commentators on Brahma Sutras under the name Vedanta-Parijata-Saurabha. The later acharyas of the Nimbarka Sampradaya in the 13th and 14th centuries in Vrindavana composed much literature on the Divine Couple. Swami Sri Sribhatta, the elder god-brother of Jayadeva composed the Yugala Shataka for the Dhrupada style of musical presentation like Jayadeva, however unlike Jayadeva who composed his work in Sanskrit, Swami Shribhatta's compositions are in Vraja Bhasha, a Hindi vernacular which was understood by all inhabitants of Vraja. Indeed the rest of the acharyas of this tradition wrote in Vraja Bhasha and due to the lack of prevalence of this language in modern times, very little research has been done, even though these Acharyas predate the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan by centuries.
In any case, the sole object of worship in the Nimbarka Sampradaya is the unified Divine Couple of Shri Radha Krishna. According to the 15th century Mahavani written by Jagadguru Swami Sri Harivyasa Devacharya
radhaamkrsnasvaroopaam vai, krishnam raadhaasvarupinam; kalaatmaanam nikunjastham gururoopam sadaa bhaje I ceaselessly praise Radha who is none other than Krishna, and Sri Krishna who is none other than Radha, whose unity is represented by the Kaamabeeja and who are forever resident in Nikunja Goloka Vrndavana.
The contribution from the Nimbarka Sampradaya to the philosophy of Radha Krishna is undeniable, as the philosophy and theology originate in it.
Murti of RadhaKrishna Dev (Center and Right) at the Swaminarayan Temple in Cleveland.
Radha-Krishna Dev has a special place in the Swaminarayan Sampraday as Swaminarayan himself referred to Radha Krishna in the Shikshapatri he wrote.Further, he himself ordered the construction of temples in which Radha Krishna have been installed as deities. Swaminarayan "explained that Krishna appears in many forms. When he is together with Radha, he is regarded as supreme lord under the name of Radha-Krishna; with Rukmini he is known as Lakshmi-Narayana." The first temple constructed in the sect, built in Ahmedabad in AD 1822, houses the images of Nara Narayana, forms of Arjuna and Krishna, in the central shrine. The shrine on the left of the hall has murtis of Radha Krishna. According to the philosophy of the tradition there were many female companions of Krishna, gopis, but out of all of them Radha was considered to be the perfect devotee. Those who wish to come close to Krishna must cultivate the devotional qualities of Radha. According to theory the sect has set aside Goloka as the supreme heaven or abode (in fact, in some of their temples, such as the Mumbai Temple, the murtis installed are those of Shri Gaulokvihari and Radhikaji), because there Krishna is supposed to be enjoying himself with his Gopis, who according to the Swaminarayana sampradaya the milkmaids with whom Krishna danced; his relations with them symbolize the relation of God with the devotee in reciprocation.
Vallabhacharya, founder of Pustimarga even before Chaitanya, worshipped Radha, where according to some sects, the devotees identify mainly with the female companion (sakhis) of Radha who are privileged to arrange intimate pastimes for RadhaKrishna.
One of the prominent poets of this tradition, which also called Radhavallabhi, named Dhruvadasa was notable for being principally concerned with the private relationships of Radha and Krishna. In his poetry Caurasi Pad and in the commentaries of his followers, the concentration is in meditation on the unique benefits of constant reflection on the eternal lila.
Radhavallabhis share with their Vaishnava co-religionists a great regard for Bhagavata Purana, but some of the pastimes that are outside the scope of relationships with Radha and gopis do not feature in the concept of this school. Emphasis is placed on the sweetness of the relationship, or rasa.
In opinion of some Hindu scholars as well as scholars of Hinduism, a golden age existed when Muslims and Hindus created a common culture mainly because some Muslim rulers patronized Sanskrit and translations from Sanskrit into Persian, while there were poets with Muslim names who wrote about Krishna and Radha.
Vrindavan and Mathura are considered to be the centers of Radha-Krishna worship. The most important temples of Vrindavana are
Shree Radha Ras Bihari Ashta Sakhi Mandir (http://www.ashtasakhimandir.org ) In Vrindavan, the “Leela Sthan” (the place of the divine passion play) of Lord Krishna, lies the temple that is a must visit destination for devotees completing the 84 kosh Vraj Parikrama Yatra. The temple is centuries old and is the first Indian temple that is dedicated to the divine couple and their Ashta Sakhi’s - the eight “companions” of Radha who were intimately involved in her love play with the Lord Krishna. The Ashta Sakhis are mentioned in the ancient texts of Veda Puranas and the Srimad Bhagvat. The temple is called – Shree Radha Ras Bihari Ashta Sakhi Mandir and it is home to the divine Ras Leela of Lord Krishna and Radharani. It is located near the Shree Banke Behari Mandir. Legend has it that the Shree Radha Ras Bihari Ashta Sakhi Mandir is one of the two places in Mathura, Vrindavan where the Lord Krishna indulges in the Ras Leela with his beloved Radha and her sakhis. On these nights, devotees have reported hearing the sound of the anklets, beating in tune to a divine melody.
Madan-mohan, Govindadev, Radha-Raman, Radha-Gokulananda, Radha-Damodar, Banki-behari, Radhavallabha, Jugal Kishor, Radha-Gopinath, Radha Shyamasundar, and Krishna-Balaram temples where Radha and Krishna are worshiped in their murti forms.
There are number of traditions that spread the worship of Radha-Krishna in many countries, be it associated with migration or preaching activities of sadhus. One such prominent adept, Prabhupada opened a number of centers himself wherein he could train mleccha-turned-brahmin students to worship Radha-Krishna murtis and become "devoted to the service of Godhead".
Popular songs and prayers
The Shri Radhika Krishnastaka (also called the Radhashtak) is a hymn. It is said that the reciter can get to Krishna via Radha by chanting it.