Sri Radha-ashtami is on 7th September in the year 2008. Sri Radha descended in Barsana, a village of India some 5000 years ago. The most revered occasion of the year for the people of Barsana, the joyous celebration begins with chanting of the leelas or divine play of Sri Radha with thousands of padas being sung in her honor.
The manifestation day of Sri Radha is celebrated as Radha-ashtami throughout the country, particularly in the north with dedicated devotion and joyous abandon. The festive occasion is observed 15 days after Janmashtami of Lord Krishna, on the sacred eighth day of the Bhadrapada month of the Hindu calendar, in the waxing phase of the moon somewhere between (August-September). Sri Radha was born in Barsana, a suburb of Mathura as the daughter of Vrashabhanu and Kirti.
On the day of Radha-ashtami, devotees acquire special sanctions which are not allowed generally. Radharani's name is not chanted overly due to the possibility of committing errors towards her. Neither are people allowed to enter Radha Kunda which is considered sacred. On the festival of Radha-ashtami, people ardently wait for midnight to bathe here.
The maha-mantra is a prayer to Shri Radha. By chanting Hare we beseech Hara or Radha to please engage us in Lord Krishna’s service. As Krishna is the source of all manifestations of God, Sri Radha his consort is the source of all shaktis or feminine manifestations of cosmic energy. She is thus the supreme deity in Gaudiya tradition, for it is said that she controls Krishna with her love and that perfect spiritual life is unattainable without her grace.
The relationship between Radha and Krishna is that of inconceivable identity in difference or acintya bheda abheda. Krishna enchants the world but Sri Radha enchants even him.
The 'Brahmavaivarta Purana' describes Radha as a consort of Krishna’s in the heavenly sphere called golok who due to a curse was destined to come to earth reborn as a milkmaid and be re-united with Krishna.
Other interpretations reveal, just as Vishnu appeared in the incarnation of the human hero Krishna to save the earth, his consort Laxmi also came with him in the incarnation of Radha. In the sensuous lyrics of ‘Gita Govinda’ by Jayadeva, she is exalted as Krishna’s hladini shakti or blissful energy. In this position it is Radha who is the principal idol of devotion and the symbol of divine love.
Devotees are required to savour the shrinagara rasa of Radha by smarana or living through the countless legends of the playful dalliance of Radha and Krishna. Lord Krishna is conceived as the sole purusha, the supreme male and the human soul striving for spiritual evolution is therefore conceived as a woman, a celestial energy of the divine.
Shringara bhakti whether of the pushit maris or the Gaudiyas is suffused with madhurya or sweet love, the key to understanding and celebrating the love of Shri Radha-Krishna and in doing so get a glimpse of one’s own transcendental self. As madhurya translates into ananda comes the realization that everyone is ultimately a nayika searching for Krishna.