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 or replications in Braj. They fulfill Krishna’s desire for a loving relationship in a variety of ways. As Radha and Krishna’s sole purpose is to engage in a loving exchange, the cowherdesses 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.
Manjari Bhava & Sakhi Bhava
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 bhakti (a certain spirituality that can only arise by indulging in love) to aesthetic heights.
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.
Sites in Braj Bhoomi Centred Around Lalita Sakhi
Shri Lalitaji was born in the village of Karhala. This is the site of Dadhi Daan (tribute of dahi as paid by the herdgirls to Krishna). It is said that the Raas Leela was inaugarated here by Shri Ghamand Devji. Karhala is considered the navel of Braj.
During revered Bobo's lifespan we used to visit Unnchgaon, the birthplace of Lalitaji and delight in her abhishek (ceremonial bathing of an idol) and relish the halwa and puri served lovingly.It was situated about five to six kilometres from Barsana.At times on not getting a tempo we would all start off on foot.The temple of Lalita Sakhi is posited on a hill and revered Bobo would invariably be absorbed in a divine realm on reaching there.
Shri Lalita is the predominant of Shri Krishna’s chief sakhis and her father brought her to Oonchgaon later on. When Shri Radha-Krishna are engaged in their most intimate transcendental 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 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 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 specimen of painting done by sakhis, it is worth a visit. Rain, sunshine and cold waves have not impacted the pieces of art, appearing the same since ages. When the sakhis decked the supreme lover and his beloved, organizing Shri Lalitaji’s wedding with Shyam Sunder; her palms adorned with henna rested on this shila or boulder.
At the age of seven Shri Krishna fulfilled Lalitaji’s heart’s desire and married her on Bhadra’s Shukla Dwadashi which falls after Shri Radha Ashtami.
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 (who 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,gaining 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 scene. 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.
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."
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 Vishakha’s Madan-Sukhad Kunjas. Bejewelled pillars, enchanting stairs, chirping birds and blossoming flowers adorn these sites. The six seasons bloom in all their glory when Lord Krishna dallies on this heaven called earth, sometimes during the Jhoolna Utsav and at times during Raas.
Shri Lalita on hearing even the slightest crafty word from Krishna to Radhika gets angry instantly, 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.
This is the same Prem Sarovar where Shri Radha-Krishna and their kaya-vyuhas are engaged in love talk, as they fix their tryst beneath the canopy of fragrant kadamba trees. During the rainy season this site comes to life with the merriment of swings and at times resounds with the sound of tinkling anklets.
Gahar Van as the name indicates is a dense forest. It is the idyllic landscape for the romantic escapades of Shri Radha-Krishna and the unfolding of their sweet love.
Highly revered Ushaji Bahinji visited the place, expressing the scene 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.
When Shri Lalita approaches a young maiden in Vrindavan, and finds out after interrogating that she is inclined towards Radhika, her devotional ideal, she immediately fulfills her desires. The festival of Holi leads to Shri Radha-Krishna along with their sakhis using red and other hues of gulal which gather in the sky. Loaded with pichkaris, the Brajbalas invite Radha for the celebrations.
Shri Lalita is the preceptor for all the 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 romantic dalliance with 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 cowherdesses for union with their paramour.
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 divine play which is both real and illusionary. 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.
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. Shri Radha on hearing this call to eternity came to a nikunja.
Shri Lalita instructs Srimati Radhika, ‘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 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 meeting.The pride of the kadamba flowers 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.
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 it, the Lalita-Astakam will certainly delight them.