Sri Radha is the most baffling among all the female deities in the Hindu pantheon. The Godhead in female form, she is the divine feminine energy or shakti implying a divine energetic source or shaktiman. The maha-mantra is a prayer to Shri Radha, to 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.Shri Radha-Krishna are in essence single entity who manifest as two distinct individuals for the sake of interpersonal romantic exchange. Krishna tells Radha, "Know that prakriti, the power of the earth, and purusha, the power of heaven are the same. We have two bodies but the soul is identical...I created you for the sake of joy."
Her origins are obscure; she neither features in the Shrimad Bhagavatam nor in the Mahabharata. The Brahmavaivarta Purana, composed later, 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. Radha is foremost of the gopis able to please Krishna with little more than a glance. 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.
We can not savour the romantic sentiment without the beloved as love requires not only the self but equally the object of love for its expression, which is Kishori Radha. Lord Krishna enchants the world but she enchants even him. Radha is acknowledged as the supreme deity for she controls Krishna with her love and perfect spiritual life is unattainable without her grace.
In the sensuous lyrics of ‘Gita Govinda’ by Jayadeva, Sri Radha is exalted as Lord Krishna’s hladini shakti or blissful energy. In this position it is Sri Radha who is the principal idol of devotion and the symbol of divine love. There is no greater symbol to denote the longing of the soul in its quest for the divine than the characterization of Sri Radha. Her sentiment expresses the longing of the nayika for her beloved; experienced through madhura rasa or sweet romance.
Sri Radha becomes the goddess of love in Bengali folklore, religious rituals and kirtans. Of course worshipped along with Sri Krishna, Sri Radha is remembered more in her role as a romantic lover all over Bengal.
Devotees are required to savour the shrinagara rasa of Sri Radha by smarana or living through the countless legends of the playful dalliance of Sri Radha-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 Pushti Margis 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.
Sri Radha was born in Barsana, a suburb of Mathura as the daughter of Vrashbhanu and Kirti, some 5000 years ago. The festive occasion is celebrated as Radha-Ashtami throughout the country with dedicated devotion and joyous abandon; 15 days after Lord Krishna's Janmashtami, on the sacred eighth day of the Bhadrapada month of the Hindu calendar, in the waxing phase of the moon somewhere between (August-September).
Sites of Braj Bhoomi closely related to Sri Radha are mentioned below:
Lord Krishna and Sri Radha are in essence a single entity who manifest as two distinct individuals for the sake of interpersonal romantic exchange. To express his charm as an amorous lover, Shri Krishna manifested himself in the Radha form. Two bodies and one soul are Sri Radha-Krishna and Surdas sings ecstatically of their passionate union. Shri Radha is Lord Krishna’s power of pleasure, delighted in her beloved’s joy. Radha above all the other cowherdesses and all other souls of the world, ultimately emerges as the supreme object of Krishna’s passionate love. Braj’s highly revered Shri Usha Bahenji’s experiences throw light on the pivotal concept of madhurya or sweet love, taking us to the very heart of the love of Radha and Krishna.
Raja Suchendra born as Vrashbhanu, the cowherd in Braj and his wife Kalavati born as Kirtida, the cowherdess, in Vrashbhanupur were blessed with Shri Radha as their daughter. On her incarnation a wave of rejoicing swept the place with auspicious songs being sung. The site of her manifestation is famed as Rawal with a temple on the banks of the Yamuna citing this miracle. Born at her grandparents’ house, she later came to Vrashbhanupur. Baba Vrashbhanu came to Vrashbhanu Sarovar on ashtami of the Bhadra month and spotted a small girl atop a lotus flower, swimming in the pond and attracting his gaze. It is said she was Sri Radha herself.
Shri Radha Kund and Shri Krishna Kund:
Shri Radha and Krishna Kunds absolve all sins and bless us with the worship of Lord Krishna. On reading certain stotras (hymns of praise) religiously on the banks of Radha Kund one benefits with the grace of Lord Radha-Krishna. In the same fashion as Shri Radhaji is the supreme beloved of Lord Krishna the pond is extremely dear to her. Bathing in Krishna and Radha Kunds on Krishanashtami of the Kartik month, one attains the same fruits as performing the Rajsuya and Ashvamegha sacrifices. Hordes of Vaishnavas throng this site in the Kartik (eighth month of the Hindu lunar year, October-November) month and on the festival of Diwali.
The Puranas authenticate their appearance. Motivated by the Lord, Shri Radhika along with her sakhis inaugurated the enchanting Shri Radha Kund which blesses us with all joys and worship of Lord Radha-Krishna. All pilgrimage sites merged and stepped into Shri Krishna Kund and since its waters filled the Radha Kund they resided in both of them.
Actually these kunds arose from Gaulok where Lord Krishna and Shri Radha reside in its enchanting nikunjas amidst the loving service of their sakhis. All of a sudden overcome by Shri Radha Bhava, Krishna assumed that he was Radha. Overwhelmed by Shri Krishna Bhava, Shri Radha was forlorn at their separation and tears streamed down her cheeks. On Shri Krishna’s reciting the Radha Mantra, Shri Radha along with her sakhis was drawn to him. He stated that the kund filled with her tears of anguish will be known as Shri Radha Kund and his will be famed as Shri Krishna Kund. They playfully frolicked in both the ponds and returned to their respective forms. By the grace of Shri Radha-Krishna Kunds in Gaulok, the two ponds were incarnated in Vrindavan.
The Twin Kunds as a pilgrimage site:
Shri Radha Kund is suffused with divine love. Shri Radha-Krishna, divine incarnations as human lover and his beloved along with their many sakhis are forever engrossed in the sheer sensuality and serene spirituality of their romantic dalliance. Sitting on its banks, playing the melodious flute, the breath of his love, Lord Krishna draws the cows and attracts the gopis, captivating all.
Shri Krishna Kund:
Shri Radha, the female Godhead, bathes here daily. The site is extremely dear to her; very much like she is the most beloved of Lord Krishna. To its north is Madhu Manglananda Kund which is shaped by Shri Lalitaji. To its north-east is Ujvala Nanda Kund belonging to Ujvala Sakha and adorned by Vishakaji.
Shri Radha Kund:
Close to Krishna Kund, Shri Radhikaji inaugurated this kund by embracing Shri Krishna. Bathing in Shri Radha and Sri Krishna Kunds one is freed from the grave sins of killing Brahma, cows and men thus attaining the fruits of Rajsuya and Ashvamegha sacrifices.
Shri Radha-Krishna Temple:
Bathing in the kunds, sighting Kundeshwar Bhagwan Shankar and worshipping Shri Radha-Krishna one fulfills all desires. Goswami Vithal Nathji handed over the service of the twin idols to Baba Gopaldas. Deities Shri Radha-Krishna are resplendent in this temple.
Nauka Leela (In Mansi Ganga):
Lord Krishna and his beloved Sri Radha were keen for boating. Ferrying the boat in Mansi Ganga, the Lord rocked it purposely and Priyaji clung to him in fear. The incidence led to an unprecedented dalliance with the Lord captivated by the sheer sensuality of his beloved Sri Radha. Sri Gangaji, a witness to these amorous frolics, destroys all earthly drawbacks and blesses us with the worship of Lord Krishna.
(Spiritual Bliss showered on Barsana)
Nature reflects the delights of Paradise onto the environs; with the peacocks dancing in ecstasy and birds singing passionately. The site is extremely dear to the Vaishnavas since it weaves the divine play, the mazes and mysteries of Shri Radha-Krishna romantic dalliances, their pathos and pleasure in its womb. The fields, forests and streams are resplendent with the dark-hued Krishna fluting in the blossoming pastures, an idyllic landscape where madhurya unfolds.
Shri Radha-Krishna are in essence a single entity who manifest as two distinct individuals for the sake of interpersonal romantic exchange. Every site of Braj is related to the various divine plays of the Lord. Vrindavan, Madhupuri, Varsana and Nandgaon are the duo’s lovable sites.
Now doting mother Kirtida and Vrashbhanu Baba are delighted by Shri Radha’s prattle, the tinkling of her anklets, the sweet sound of her dangling earrings as she roams in their courtyard and now she is the Godhead in female form, with her male counterpart Nandnandan who rules her heart. Several times Shri Radha interacts with her sakhis and at times bursts out laughing. At times she waves the anchal of her saree and attracted by the glittering work on her lehenga is delighted. Brajwasis dote on her and child Radha is radiant as she cuddles in the lap of her parents. Shri Krishna often ventures from Nandgaon to Vrashbhanupur, Kirtidaji fusses over him and soon enough both Shri Radha-Krishna are engrossed in love sports. Vrashbhanupur resonates with the innocent prattle of Shri Radha and on growing up she romantically dallies with her beloved Brajraj Nandnandan in Gaharvan, Sankrikhor, Vilasgarh, Mangarh, Dangarh and other sites. Villages of the ashtasakihs or the eight primary sakhis namely Shri Lalita, Vishakha, Chitra, Indulekha, Champakalata, Tungavidya, Rangadevi and Sudevi are located nearby.
Shri Vishnu and Brahma Mountains face each other. On the southern side is Brahma Mountain and opposite to it is Mount Vishnu. Radha-Krishna temple is on top of the Brahma Mount. The Vrashbhanu temple below enshrines the idols of Vrashbhanuji, Kirtidaji and Shridama. Close to it is the temple of Shri Priyaji along with Shri Lalitaji.Dan Mandir, Hindola Sthan, Mayur kuti and RaasMandala are on Mount Brahma.The site of Sankhri Khor is nestled between both the mountains. Shri Radha Mandir is on Mount Brahma with the site of Leela Nritya Mandal ahead. Vilas Mandir is close by, with Gahvar Van next to it. The region below has the Raas Mandala and Shri Radha Sarovar and Dohni Kund. Mayur Sarovar created by Shri Chitralekhaji is near it. Herein we have Bhanu Sarovar, Brajeshwari the idol of Maha Rudra and opposite is Kirti Sarovar.
As of now the region’s name is Barsana. Shri Bhanusur in its eastern portion, Kirtida Kund in the northern corner, Vihar Kund is in its south-western corner. Chaksauli Village and other pilgrimage sites are near the Sankri Khor.
Sri Radha Krishna Darshan:
The love of Shri Radha-Krishna is renowned the world over. Shri Vrashbhanuji and Kirtidaji coupled with Nand Baba and Yashodaji always participate in this divine tale. Occurring every day, the divine play of the Lord and his beloved is eternal. Rasiks (persons moved by passionate religious devotion) have expressed Sri Radha-Krishna as one soul and two bodies with Radhaji being compared to the moon beams and Krishnaji to the moon.
Enraptured, the two of them meet daily. Sometimes Kishoriji venures to Nandgaon and at times Shr Krishna arrives at Vrashbhanupur. Love makes even a moment of separation unbearable. Once innocently Shri Radha requested her beloved Shri Krishna to stay on with her at her father’s town which would make the place lovable. Unable to refuse, he gladly accepted her entreaty. The temple is resplendent with the idols of Shri Radha-Krishna. Another Shri Radha Krishna temple made by a king of Jaipur is close by.
Gahar Van as the name indicates is a dense forest. It is the idyllic landscape for the romantic escapades of Sri Radha-Krishna, the longing of the gopikas, and the unfolding of their madhurya or sweet love. Dearly loved by Sri 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 Sri Radha is graceful in love’s fulfillment and dignified in love’s separation the 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.
Located in the upper segment of Brahmachal Mount the Mayur Kuti is an enchanting place. Belonging and longing are the essential parts of madhurya rasa. Belonging imparts pleasure and desire for more and more of the sweet love. Shri Radha-Krishna who are one soul, one mind can not even dream of separation for a moment. Even so at times Shri Radha is somewhat offended and Lord Krishna has a tough time placating her. He came up with a new gimmick and acquiring the form of a peacock danced ecstatically in front of her. She could not make out it was the Lord and forgot her pride. In glee she called out ‘Mor Mor’ which also means ‘Mera’ in the Braj dialect. Hearing this Shri Krishna came close to her and assuming his original form, exulted that he was hers forever. Weaving this divine union in its ethereal environs the site is famed as Mayur Kuti.
Reaching the zenith of love is easily attainable for the innocent Braj Gopikas and Sri Radha, their swamini or devotional ideal because of their selfless devotion .Belonging and longing are two different aspects of love. The gopikas who are always expressing and experiencing their love for Krishna can not possibly think of self gratification, eternally striving for the Lord’s joy but distraught at times by his disappearance.
Once Sri Radha sulked when Shri Krishna did not turn up even after assuring that he would. He tried hard to appease her but in vain. The sakhis made an effort to placate her but it was of no use. Finally Shri Krishna in connivance with the sakhis, disguised as one of them came close to Sri Radha. Observing a new sakhi she was amused and began questioning her. The moment she knew that the sakhi was adept at singing she give her a warm hug. The touch enlightened Sri Radha that it was the Lord himself and she cooled down. In a unique manner Shri Krishna blessed the sight known as Mangarh, located on the top of Mount Brahmachal. It is picturesque during the rainy season. Hindola, Raas Mandala and Ratnakar Sarovar are close by.
Shri Radha Sarovar:
Kishori Shri Radhika along with her sakhis used to frolick with water in this pond, resulting in its name. A fascinating place it gratifies all deities and grants moksha or salvation in all the three worlds.
Vilas Garh is a site of Shri Krishna’s romantic dalliance with the gopis. As Sri Radha and Lord Krishna’ sole purpose is to engage in a loving exchange the gopis, considered the kaya-vyuha (replications) of Shri Radha exist to assist them in the love-play in these isolated nikunjas. Sri Radha feels that her love for Krishna can always expand to greater heights and therefore manifests herself as the many gopis of Braj. Though Sri-Radha Krishna meet daily, their longing and yearning always desires more and more of their union. Once all of a sudden, Shri Krishna with his beloved Sri Radha came to this isolated bower where the pathos of their longing and the pleasure of belonging converged. When the Braj Gopikas came by they saw the duo’s dishevelled appearance, ruffled hair, loose necklaces, clothes out of place, musky spots on their bodies and faces awash with langour. Situated on Mount Vishnu the site recounts their passionate love.
Expiating all sins, the site was created by Gopraj Vrashbhanu. His daughter Sri Radha and Shri Krishna dearly loved the place. Frolicking here, the two of them were often enchanted with each other as they sported in its water. Situated in the east of Barsana is Vrashbhanu Sarovar. It is believed that when Vrashbhanu Baba in the month of Bhadra on the eighth day of Shuklapaksh came here; he spotted a small girl cradled in a lotus flower floating in this sarovar. Baba got her to the palace; she was Sri Radha, the Godhead in female form.
The gopikas expert at doing shringara, beautifully adorned Sri Radha for a dalliance with the Lord and brought her here. It is the village of Chitra Sakhi, adjacent to Sankri Khor.
Showing the path to the three worlds the site blesses us with moksha or salvation. The dancing of peacocks is very dear to Shri Chitraji who ventures here daily. Flocks of peacocks inevitably swarm the place surrounding her as she plays with them at times. Flirtatiously loitering around, occasionally Sri-Radha Krishna arrive and are welcomed by the peacocks’ delighted cries. Forever dancing in ecstasy the birds go to Sri Radha and at times hover around Shri Krishna. Shri Chitraji is joyous on observing their madhurya. The site has carefully treasured the mysterious dalliances for its devotees.
Shri Krishna and Sri Radha had an amusing argument once. Whereas Lord Krishna is the God of the entire universe, his most beloved Sri Radha is the embodiment of Shakti and the gratifier of his love. During this dispute Sri Radha sowed some pearls in a field and they blossomed. Both the lover and his beloved adorned themselves with these gems, an outward expression of their love-play which resulted in its name.
Sunehra Gram (Swaran Haar) and Kadamba Khandi:
Shri Vallabhacharyaji also ventured to the golden mountain and the ethereal Kadamba Khandi, a site of Raas abounding with swings and an expanse of water. This isolated place of Raas is surrounded by kadamba trees wherein its cool environs incapacitate the sweltering heat. The fragrance of its flowers bathed in rain; enchant us as they blossom with the touch of madhurya or sweet love. The trees form a sort of canopy beneath which Sri Radha-Krishna fix their tryst. The Ratan Kund is nearby. Sunehra Gram is the birthplace of both the sakhis, Sudevi and Rangdevi. Sudevi is adept at applying mahavar on Shri Radha’s feet and Rangdevi is skilled at decking Shri Radha’s hair with veni or a string of flowers.
Love has a uniique trait. The pathos of separation though very painful somehow enlightens the mind. Forgetting the self in belonging due to the gush of love, sometimes leads to separation. Shri Krishna who daily undergoes the pathos of longing and the pleasure of belonging was ecstatic and turned dewy-eyed on spotting his beloved, Sri Radha, as he gave her a flirtatious glance. With such an idyllic setting it was but natural for their love to reach its zenith at this site.
Anjnauk (Anjan Van):
What delights the Lord is unique, an eternal desire for a romantic dalliance. His love refuses to get into any saintly straitjacket. One day sitting in her chamber, Shri Radha was doing shringara. A parrot named Vichshan narrated the scenario to Shri Krishna. Suddenly an idea struck the Lord and taking out the flute from his waistband he began to play it melodiously. The sound of 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.
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, transcendental love or 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 savoured 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.
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. Raas Mandala has a distinct significance since it weaves the lovable escapades of the Lord and his beloved.
Arisen from the rejoicing of the Shravan month, the site blesses us with joys and strives for the well-being of mankind. The Jhoolna Utsav in Shravan enhances the beauty of Braj. Merriment all around, rustling creepers embracing tree trunks, ecstatic dance of the peacocks, passionate singing of the black cuckoos, glistening expanse of greenery, rising waves in the sarovars, fragrance of the kadamba trees and melodious songs resounding from gathered crowds, all add up to an event of magical time, a nostalgia for a lost paradise. The elements of nature are entranced by the magic of Shri Radha-Krishna and their Braj Gopikas. Herein is an excerpt from revered Usha Bahinji’s experience from a Jhoolna incidence. Sri Radha arrived to swing at the Prem Sarovar where a dark-complexioned sakhi was already present. Sighting her, the sakhi was delighted and the two of them began conversing as they enjoyed the swings. Shri Radha asked the sakhis to move her and this new friend. With the rocking of the swing the new sakhi’s anchal slipped and Sri Radha was stunned on sighting her body, it was none other than Lord Krishna himself. The environs of this site are bathed with such delightful memories.
Vihval Van (Vihval Kund):
The nature of love is strange. Sometimes overwhelming restlessness makes us experience the pathos of longing even on being close to one’s beloved, as the Raas Shastra explains. Once sitting in a garden of Vihval Kund, Shri Krishna was anxiously waiting for Sri Radha. A mynah began singing her glories which further aggravated his longing. When soft-hearted sakha Subal came to know of this scenario, he figured out a way for their rendezvous. Soon after, moving the creepers in front, Sri Radha arrived with her sakhis. The Lord was delighted but his yearning knew no bounds. Even on being so near to his beloved, he was unable to savour the proximity and remained perturbed. This led to the place being named Vihval which means restless.