Lalita Devi is the main ashtasakhi of the eight primary sakhis. The most exalted, she is 27 days older than Srimati Radharani. According to astrological calculation, Shri Lalita Chath or manifestation day falls on the day before Sri Radhaashtami or appearance day.
Shri Radha feels that her love for Krishna can always expand to greater heights, and therefore she manifests herself as the many gopis, her kaya-vyuhas (replications) of Braj, who fulfill Krishna’s desire for a loving relationship in a variety of ways, with different moods and emotions. As Radha and Krishna’s sole purpose is to engage in a loving exchange, the gopis exist to assist them in their love-play in the isolated nikunjas.
Basically the gopis are divided into five groups. The most important is the parama-preshtha-sakhis or the eight primary gopis named, Lalita, Vishaka, Chitra, Indulekha, Champaklata, Tungavidya, Rangadevi and Sudevi. The love of the gopis is transcendental love of the highest order, said to be the zenith of spiritual awareness.
Inevitably the leader, Shri Lalita is the eldest of Krishna’s gopis. Though a close confidante of the divine couple, she is more inclined to Shrimati Radhika.
An intimate companion of Radharani, she is the khandita with a contradictory and hot-tempered nature. Her complexion is bright yellow and garments the color of peacock feathers. Shri Lalita has adept expertise in arranging the rendezvous of Radha and Krishna and their conjugal fights.
Her mother is Saradi Devi and her father is Vishoka. Her husband is Bhairava, who is a close friend of Govardhana Malla, the husband of Candravali.
There are two types of services in madhurya (sweet love) the watchword of shringara rasa which takes us to the very heart of the love of Radha-Krishna. One is the manjaris’ bhava (love flowing towards the Lord) and the other is of the sakhis. Lalita always serves in the bhava of a sakhi. The sakhi or the love messenger’s only concern is to see Radha and Krishna united and joyous in love.
To this end she not only carries messages but comforts and even admonishes them. Jayadeva’s ‘Gita Govinda’ leaves no doubt that the sakhi is not just a literary device but an indispensable persona in the dynamics of love and in our celebration of that love. Not mere voyeurs, by identifying with the sakhi we raise the celebration of shringara rasa (sensual and spiritual love) to aesthetic heights, which takes us to the very heart of the love of Radha-Krishna.
There are four types of sakhis: svapaksa, vipaksa, tatastha and suhrt. Lalita Devi and Visakha Devi are examples of gopis who are svapaksa to Srimati Radhika, their love for Radha stands supreme with their prime concern being Radhika’s pleasure
Shri Lalitaji was born in the village of Karhala. This is the site of Dadhi Daan (a ritual celebration of Krishna’s birthday involving the throwing of dahi mixed with turmeric). It is said that the Raas Leela was inaugarated here by Shri Ghamand Devji. Karhala is considered the navel of Braj.
Her father later on brought her to Oonchagaon. Shri Lalitaji is the predominant of Shri Krishna’s chief sakhis. When Shri Radha-Krishna are engaged in their most intimate transcendtal exchanges she is allowed to stay on. This is Lalitaji’s birthplace and she is blessed with worldly naivete and purity making her temple worth a visit. Her devotion to Shri Radha-Krishna makes her the most fortunate of all gopis when she serves the needs of the divine couple in their private moments.
Her only concern is to see Shri Radha and Shri Krishna united and joyous in love. Overcome by her dedicated devotion, Lord Krishna always has her by his side. Lalitaji is very sharp-witted and also well-versed in illusion. Shri Baldev temple lies to its east and the Samadhi of Narayan Bhattji is closeby.
Chitra Vichitra Shila:
This shila or boulder is planted next to the phislani shila. An excellent example of painting done by sakhis, it is worth a visit. The workmanship colored in various hues has a distinctive pattern. Rain, sunshine and cold waves have not impacted the pieces of art, appearing the same since ages. When the sakhis did shangara of the lover and his beloved, organizing Shri Lalitaji’s wedding with Shyam Sunder; her palms adorned with henna rested on this shila or boulder. In anticipation of witnessing this miracle once again, the shila imprinted the love-soaked coloured palmprints of Shri Lalitaji on its heart and is very proud of the fact.
Shri Lalitaji’s Wedding Site:
At the age of seven Shri Krishna fulfilled Lalitaji’s heart’s desire and married her. Till date the site resounds with the celabrations of their marriage on Bhadra’s Shukla Dwadashi which falls after Shri Radha Ashtami. An enchanting and isolated site it captivates us.
Shri Lalita Kund:
Establised by Shri Lalita this great teerth is tough to attain even by deities. Shri Lalita, an intimate close sakhi of the Lord is the prime ashtasakhi (eight primary sakhis who by their pure zenith of spiritual awareness, make us gradually develop prema or love for Krishna) Though all sakhis strive for the Lord’s joy, she is very tender and sharp-witted, having an entry to every romantic dalliance of Shri Radha-Krishna.
Adept at interpreting each gesture of the Lord, she takes action accordingly. Figuring out the Lord’s mindset she got Shri Radha to him in this lovely foliage. The two were soon engrossed in their amorous frolics with Lalitaji captivated by their madhurya or sweet love. A group of sakhis gathered here, enchanted by the scenario. Situated to the east of Nandgram it has the Surya Kund nearby where the Sun God was ecstatic on sighting Lord Krishna.
Shri Lalitaji arranges for the union of Shri Radha-Krishna here to see them united and joyous in love. It is on the western side of the Pawan Kund.
All the asta-sakhis have many excellent qualities, and therefore Srila Rupa Gosvami writes, "Of all the gopis, the asta-sakhis are the topmost." For example, Srimati Tungavidya-devi can speak with all types of birds and animals. Srila Rupa Gosvami prays, "I offer pranama again and again unto Srimati Lalita-devi."
Asth Sakhi Kunj:
Unsurpassed in beauty, embellished with fragrant lotuses, the dalliance of Lord Krishna and Radha abounds in these bowers. Mesmerized by the dense foliage are Shri Lalitananda and Vishakhaji’s Madan-Sukhad Kunjs. Bejewelled pillars, enchanting stairs, chirping birds and blossoming flowers adorn these sites. The six seasons bloom in all their glory wherever Lord Krishna ventures.
The Lord dallies on this heaven called earth, sometimes during the Jhoolna Utsav and at times engrossed in the twinkling anklets during Raas (rapturuous dance). Enraptured, Shri Radha is focused on Lord Krishna as she clings to him with endearing gestures. Chitrananda, Puranendu, Hem, Manohar, Arun and Hari Kunjs dot the ambience. At Hem Kunj there is a kitchenette where Champkalaji cooks for Shri Radha-Krishna.
Shri Lalita on hearing even the slightest crafty word from Krishna to Radhika is immediately angry, cutting Him off with sarcastic words that make even Krishna lose face. Love is predominant in the realm of Shri Radha-Krishna. Whatever the Lord does pleases Shri Radha and he does whatever she fancies. Saying so, Shri Manmahaprabhu Hit Harivanshji has thrown light on the subject. Striving for the happiness of the lover, the zenith of spiritual awareness is worth calling love.
This is the same Prem Sarovar where Shri Radha-Krishna and their kaya-vyuha gopikas have savored several charming episodes of love. Beneath the canopy of fragrant kadamba trees they are engaged in love talk, as they fix their tryst. During the rainy season this site comes to life with the merriment of swings and at times resounds with the sound of tinkling anklets. Fragments of these dalliances scattered around are woven around this site known as Prem Sarovar.
Gahar Van as the name indicates is a dense forest. It is the idyllic landscape for the romantic escapades of Shri Radha-Krishna, the longing of the gopikas, and the unfolding of their madhurya or sweet love. Dearly loved by Shri Radha, a site where gopikas giggle and the place resounds with their tinkling anklets as they wander around the trees.
Highly revered Ushaji Bahinji visited the place, expressing the ambience beautifully. Shri Hit Harivanshji Maharaj said that if Shri Radha is graceful in love’s fulfillment and dignified in love’s separation, Shri Lalita Sakhi is the love messenger. The sakhis’ sole concern is to see Shri Radha-Krishna united and joyous in love. Till date these divine dalliances are prevalent in Gahar Van. Only the very fortunate of devotees are able to sight them.
Anjnauk (Anjan Van):
Shri Lalita has acquired the rare distinction of being an expert in adorning Radharani. While applying kajal, she reminds Radhika of the time she forgot to darken her eyes and Krishna applied it himself. One day sitting in her chamber, Shri Radha was doing shringara. A parrot named Vichshan narrated the scenario to Shri Krishna. Suddenly the Lord playing the flute which is the breath of their love; drew Shri Radha and her sakhis and they headed to this forest. Making Shri Radha sit on the front boulder, he absorbed her ravishing beauty.
Seeing her eyes not darkened enough, he applied collyrium and purposely smeared it right upto the eyebrows. Soon after with a mirror he went upto her and holding her hand, wiped it neatly to make up for his error. He repeated this incidence several times which led to an unprecedented dalliance. The sakhis planned to shower them with flowers and after plucking them savoured their romantic escapade which gave them divine joy. Renowned as Anjnauk (Anjan Van) it recounts those pleasurable efforts.
When Shri Lalita approaches a young maiden in Vrindavan, and finds out after clever interrogation that she is inclined toward her devotional ideal Radhika, she immediately fulfills her desires. The festival of Holi leads to Shri Radha-Krishna along with their sakhis being enthralled by a riot of colours. Red and other hues of gulal gather in the sky. Loaded with pichkaris, the Brajbalas invite Radha for the celabrations.
The sakhis are ecstatic on being captivated by the madhurya of Shri Krishna exuded by his gestures and loving tenderness. Shri Nanddasji reveals that now the whole lot drenched with colour entered the kund and splashed water to wash it off. During Phaag (celebration of Holi) the colorful passion awash here enchants all devotees.
The flute in the hands of Krishna is more than a musical instrument; it is the breath of love. Its melody attracts the cows and draws the gopis out of their homes for a romantic dalliance with the Lord. Hearing its mellifluous sound the enraptured village girls yearn for a glimpse of him. Priyaji Shri Radha on hearing this call to eternity came to a nikunja.
Shri Lalita instructs Srimati Radhika by saying, ‘O unchaste Radha! Do not be so generous and soft with that cunning son of Nanda Maharaja.” The greed of sighting her beloved Lord unnerved Shri Radha every moment. Not able to bear her delicious anguish Lord Krishna soon came close to her. Vihval Kund narrates the ethereal intimacy of their union. The kunds or ponds of Shyam, Lalita, Vishakha, Maan, Mohini and Bhalbhadra are close by.
Shri Lalita is the preceptor for all the girlfriends or sakhis of Radharani, teaching them all about sisterly affection. The delights of Paradise are reflected as if by a cosmic mirror onto the Kam Sarovar, a site of the gopikas amorous dalliance with Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is the focus of the ardour of the gopis, the object of their longing and love which is expressed in the cry of the enraptured gopikas for union with their paramour.
Their passion is pious and love is pristine, with not a trace of self-gratification or sensual pleasure. Embodiments of love, their longing for him is in fact the cry of the enraptured soul for union with the Lord who acclaims their love as pure and greatly admires it. Kam Sarovar is famed as the site of celestial passion.
Shri Lalit Mohan Sthal:
Hey Shri Krishna immersed in love! Hey Lalita Mohan! I make obeisance to you, the bestower of love.
Without the mercy of Shri Lalita, Giriraja or Yamuna, it is not possible to sight the Raas Lila. The first and greatest is Shri Lalita, the second is Giriraja Govardhana and the third is Yamuna or Visakha-Devi.
I salute you hey Raas Mandala made for the Raas or pleasure of the Lord! If there is one aspect to Shri Krishna’s enigmatic persona which distinguishes him from all other deities it is his leela. This divine play which is both real and illusionary makes him both human and divine at the same time. Delighting in play, he endears himself and brings delight to all his devotees. Who can possibly describe the good fortune of Braj Bhoomi where every site has been touched by the feet of Shri Radha- Krishna and their group of sakhis, thereby making it even highly honored for saints.
Shri Lalita is most expert in arranging secret trysts between Radha and Gopinatha. The ethereal kadamba trees on the banks of the Pavan Sarovarform form a sort of canopy beneath which Shri Radha-Krishna fix their rendezvous. The great merit of the kadamba flowers is unique. Their pride on becoming the shringara of the Lord’s mukut, beautifully adorning his ears, serene sensuality on being strung in his vanamala makes their joy know no bounds. When they grace Shri Radha’s neck, the Lord is jealous of their closeness with his beloved.
Caressing their bodies, these kadamba flowers make the sakhis experience the playful dalliances. At times when the Lord frolics on the Pawan Sarovar with his sakhis, the drenched flowers exude a fragrance making water play all the more charming. Kadamba khandi on the banks of Pawan Sarovar, the site of several rasiks’ experiences, is very dear to all Vaishnavas.
Sri Lalita-Astakam: composed by Srila Rupa Gosvami.
“I make obeisance to Srimati Lalita Devi whose beautiful face puts to shame the brilliance of the full moon, whose doe-like eyes are ever restless, and who has acquired the rare distinction of being expert in dressing Radharani. She is the reservoir of all good feminine qualities.” [Srila Rupa Goswami]
Srila Rupa Goswami writes:
“I make obeisance to Srimati Lalita Devi, who is always engaged in serving the Divine Couple Sri-Sri Radha and Mukunda She dries up the perspiration that dampens Their lotus feet. She is intoxicated with the highest intimate mellows, and she is the enchanting repository of qualities like exquisite grace, silent gravity, and simple directness of speech. “I offer my obeisances to Srimati Lalita-devi, whose beautiful face puts to shame the brilliance of the full moon, whose doe-like eyes are ever restless, and who has acquired the rare distinction of being expert in dressing Radharani. She is the reservoir of all good feminine qualities.
“I make obeisance to Srimati Lalita Devi, whose ecstatic dancing is a pleasure to the eyes, whose exquisite form is covered by a shimmering silk dress, and whose blouse resembles the color of a peacock. Her golden complexion overshadows even the rising sun, and she is adorned with innumerable spiritual qualities.
“I make obeisance to Srimati Lalita Devi, who is a treasure-house of all excellences, who instructs Srimati Radhika by saying, ‘O unchaste Radha! Do not be so generous and soft with that cunning son of Nanda Maharaja. Such timidity befits the mood of a conservative gopi, daksina-bhavi. You should be nonchalant, like the liberal gopi, bamya-bhavi and thus please Him. Please hear my words, for they are for Your benefit’.
“I make obeisance to Srimati Lalita Devi, who is an unlimited ocean of all good qualities, who when hearing even the slightest crafty word from Krishna to Radhika is immediately angry, cutting Him off with sarcastic words that make even Krishna lose face: ‘Oh, You are so truthful! Just a nice, simple-hearted and chaste lover!’
“Srimati Lalita Devi is a reservoir of divine qualities, on whom mother Yasoda showers her parental love. She is the preceptor for all the girlfriends, sakhis, of Radharani, teaching them all about sisterly affection. Her life and soul is Krishna, the younger brother of Balarama, and she is junior also to Srimati Radhika. May Lalita-Devi give me the opportunity to worship her”.
“I make obeisance to Srimati Lalita Devi, who is the embodiment of all sublime qualities, who when she approaches every young maiden upon seeing her in the vicinity of Vrindavana, and finds out after some clever interrogation that she is inclined toward her mistress Radhika, immediately fulfills her desires and satisfies her completely.
“I make obeisance to Srimati Lalita Devi, who is most expert in arranging secret trysts between Radha and Gopinatha, so that the Divine Couple may engage in pleasurable pastimes. She is not interested in any other festival, for she is the chief among all the intimate sakhis of Gokula”
When our passion is pious and love is pristine, on reciting this astakam in praise of Lalita Devi we are invariably brought into Shri Radha’s group of sakhis. Emulating the gopis’ love for Shri Radha-Krishna, whose longing for him is in fact the cry of the enraptured soul for union with the Lord, we come close to the divine. Srimati Lalita Devi is the wish-fulfilling tree of the prema-seva of Shri Radha- Krishna. Whoever chants the Lalita-Astakam will certainly delight them.