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Goddess of Love, Compassion and Devotion
19th century painting of Radha, Rajasthan.
Other namesRadhika, Madhavi, Keshavi, Shreeji, Kishori, Shyama, Radharani
Sanskrit transliterationRādhā
AffiliationRadha Krishna, Devi, hladini shakti of Krishna, avatar of Lakshmi
AbodeGoloka, Vrindavan, Barsana, Vaikuntha
Mantra|| ॐ ह्नीं राधिकायै नम: ||
(Om hreem Radhike namah)
SymbolGolden Lotus
TextsBrahma Vaivarta Purana, Padma Purana, Devi-Bhagavata Purana, Gita Govinda, Gopala Tapani Upanishad, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Naradiya Purana
TemplesRadha Rani Temple, Rangeeli Mahal Barsana, Radha Raman Temple
FestivalsRadhastami, Holi, Kartik Purnima, Gopashtami, Lathmar Holi, Sharad Purnima
Personal information

Radha (Sanskrit: राधा, IAST: Rādhā), also called Radhika, is a Hindu goddess and a consort of the god Krishna. She is worshiped as the goddess of love, tenderness, compassion and devotion. She is considered as an avatar of Lakshmi [2] and is also described as the chief of gopis (milkmaids). During Krishna's youth, she appears as his lover and companion, though he is not married to her.[3][2] In contrast, some traditions and scriptures accord Radha the status of the eternal consort and wife of Krishna.[4][2][5] Radha, as a supreme goddess, is considered as the female counterpart and the internal potency (hladini shakti) of Krishna, who resides in Goloka, the celestial abode of Radha Krishna.[6] Radha is said to accompany Krishna in all his incarnations.[4]

In Radha-Vallabha Sampradaya, which is a Radha centric tradition, only Radha is worshiped as the supreme deity.[7] Elsewhere, Radha is venerated particularly in the Krishnaite Nimbarka Sampradaya, Pushtimarg tradition, Swaminarayan Sampradaya, Vaishnava-Sahajiya, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism movements linked to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.[8][9][10] Radha is also described as the feminine form of Krishna himself.[11] Radha's birthday is celebrated annually as Radhashtami.[12]

Radha is also considered as a metaphor for the human spirit (atma), her love and longing for Krishna is theologically viewed as symbolic of the human quest for spiritual growth and union with the divine (brahman). She has inspired numerous literary works,[13][8] and her Rasa lila dance with Krishna has inspired many types of performance arts.[3][14]

Etymology and epithets[edit]

14th-century fresco of Radha (right) and Krishna (left, playing flute) in Udaipur, Rajasthan.

The Sanskrit term Rādhā (Sanskrit: राधा) means "prosperity, success, perfection and wealth".[15][16][17] It is a common word and name found in various contexts in the ancient and medieval texts of India. The word appears in the Vedic literature as well as the Hindu epics, but is elusive.[17] The name also appears for a character in the epic Mahabharata.[15]

Rādhikā refers to an endearing form of gopi Radha[15] and also means greatest worshiper of Krishna.[18]

The 5th chapter of Sanskrit scripture Narada Pancharatra mentioned more than 1000 names of Radha under the title Shri Radha Saharsnama Strotam. [19][20] Some of the significant names are -

  • Radha, Radhe, Radhika - Greatest worshipper of Krishna.
  • Sri, Shreeji, Shriji - Goddess of radiance, splendor and wealth; Lakshmi.
  • Madhavi - Feminine counterpart of Madhava.
  • Keshavi - Beloved of Keshava.
  • Aparajita - She who is unconquerable.
  • Kishori - Youthful.
  • Nitya - She is eternal.
  • Nitya-gehinī - Krishna's eternal wife.
  • Gopi - Cowherd girl.
  • Shyama - Beloved of Shyam Sundar.
  • Gaurangi - Shri Radha whose complexion is as bright as that of lustrous polished gold.
  • Prakriti - The Goddess of material nature.
  • Raseshvari and Rasa-priya - Queen of Raslila and she who is fond of rasa dance.
  • Krishna-kanta, Krishna-vallabha and Krishna-priya - Beloved of Krishna.
  • Hari-kanta and Hari-priya - Beloved of Hari.
  • Manoharā - Beautiful.
  • Trilokya Sundari - Most beautiful girl in all the three worlds.
  • Kameshi - Krishna's amorous queen.
  • Krishna-Samyukta - Krishna's constant companion
  • Vrindavaneshvari - Queen of Vrindavan.
  • Venu-Rati - She who enjoys playing flute.
  • Madhava-Manoharini- She charms Krishna's heart.

Radha's other names include [21] - Madan mohini, Srimati, Apurva, Pavitra, Ananda, Subhangi, Subha, Vaishnavi, Rasika, Radharani, Ishvari, Venu-vadya, Mahalakshmi, Vrinda, Kalindi, Hrdaya, Gopa-kanya, Gopika, Yashodanandan-vallabha, Krishnangvasini, Abhistada, Devi, Vishnu-priya, Vishnu-kanta, Jaya, Jiva, Veda-priya, Veda-garbha, Subhankari, Deva-mata, Bharati, Kamalā, Annuttara, Dhriti, Jagannatha-priya, Laadli, Amoha, Srida, Sri-hara, Sri-garbha, Vilasini, Janani, Kamala-padma, Gati-prada, Mati, Vrindavan-viharini, Brajeshvari, Nikunjeshvari, Niraloka, Yogeśī, Govinda-rāja-gṛhinī, Vimala, Ekanga, Achyuta-priya, Vrishbhanu-suta, Nandnandan-patni, Gopīnātheśvarī and Sarvanga.[18]

Literature and symbolism[edit]

Jayadeva recites the mantra to Radha Krishna by Manaku.

Radha is an important goddess in the Vaishnavite traditions of Hinduism. Her traits, manifestations, descriptions, and roles vary by region. Radha is intrinsic with Krishna. In early Indian literature, mentions of her are elusive. The traditions that venerate her explain this is because she is the secret treasure hidden within the sacred scriptures. During the Bhakti movement era in the sixteenth century, she became more well known as her extraordinary love for Krishna was highlighted.[22][23]

Radha's first major appearance in the 12th-century Gita Govinda in Sanskrit by Jayadeva,[24][25][26][27] as well as Nimbarkacharya's philosophical works.[28] Thus in the Gita Govinda Krishna speaks to Radha:

O woman with desire, place on this patch of flower-strewn floor your lotus foot,
And let your foot through beauty win,
To me who am the Lord of All, O be attached, now always yours.
O follow me, my little Radha.

— Jayadeva, Gita Govinda[25]

However, the source of Jayadeva's heroine in his poem remains a puzzle of the Sanskrit literature. A possible explanation is Jayadeva's friendship with Nimbarkacharya,[29] the first acharya to establish the worship of Radha-Krishna[30] Nimbarka, in accordance with the Sahitya Akademi's Encyclopaedia, more than any other acharyas gave Radha a place as a deity.[31]

Prior to Gita Govinda, Radha was also mentioned in text Gatha Saptasati which is a collection of 700 verses composed in Prakrit language by King Hāla.[32] The text was written around 1st-2nd century AD. Gatha Saptasati mentioned Radha explicitly in its verse [17][33][34] -

Mukhamarutena tvam krsna gorajo radhikaya apanayan |
Etasam ballavinam anyasam api gauravam harasi ||

"O Krishna, by the puff of breath from your mouth, as you blow the dust from Radha's face, you take away the glories of other milkmaids."

Radha also appears in the Puranas namely the Padma Purana (as an avatar of Lakshmi), the Devi-Bhagavata Purana (as a form of Mahadevi), the Brahma Vaivarta Purana (as Radha-Krishna supreme deity), the Matsya Purana (as form of Devi), the Linga Purana (as form of Lakshmi), the Varaha Purana (as consort of Krishna), the Narada Purana (as goddess of love), the Skanda Purana and the Shiva Purana.[35][36][37] The 15th and 16th century Krishnaite Bhakti poet-saints Vidyapati, Chandidas, Meera Bai, Surdas, Swami Haridas, as well as Narsinh Mehta (1350–1450), who preceded all of them, wrote about the romance of Krishna and Radha too.[38] Thus, Chandidas in his Bengali-language Shri Krishna Kirtana, a poem of Bhakti, depicts Radha and Krishna as divine, but in human love.[39][40] Though not named in the Bhagavata Purana, Visvanatha Chakravarti (c. 1626–1708) interprets an unnamed favourite gopi in the scripture as Radha. [41][42] She makes appearances in Venisamhara by Bhatta Narayana (c. 800 CE), Dhvanyaloka by Anandavardhana (c. 820–890 CE) and its commentary Dhvanyalokalocana by Abhinavagupta (c. 950 – 1016 CE), Rajasekhara’s (late ninth-early tenth century) Kāvyamīmāṃsā, Dashavatara-charita (1066 CE) by Kshemendra and Siddhahemasabdanusana by Hemachandra (c. 1088–1172).[43] In most of these, Radha is depicted as someone who is deeply in love with Krishna and is deeply saddened when Krishna leaves her.[44][45] But, on contrary, Radha of the Rādhātantram is portrayed as audacious, sassy, confident, omniscient and divine personality who is in full control at all times. In Rādhātantram, Radha is not merely the consort but is treated as the independent goddess. Here, Krishna is portrayed as her disciple and Radha as his guru.[43]

Painting of Radha with Krishna, by M. V. Dhurandhar, 1915.

Charlotte Vaudeville theorizes that Radha may have inspired by the pairing of the goddess Ekanamsha (associated with Durga) with Jagannatha (who is identified with Krishna) of Puri in Eastern India. Though Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15th century, the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism) is not known to have worshiped the deity couple of Radha-Krishna, his disciples around the Vrindavan region, affirmed Radha as the hladini shakti ("energy of bliss") of Krishna, associating her with the Primordial Divine Mother. While the poetry of Jayadeva and Vidyapati from Bengal treat Radha as Krishna's "mistress", the Gaudiya poetry elevates her to a divine consort.[46] In Western India, Vallabhacharya's Krishna-centric sampradaya Pushtimarg had initially preferred Swaminiji as the consort, who was identified variously with Radha or Krishna's first wife Rukmini. Modern Pushtimarg followers acknowledge Radha as the consort.[47]

According to Jaya Chemburkar, there are at least two significant and different aspects of Radha in the literature associated with her, such as Sri Radhika namasahasram. One aspect is she is a milkmaid (gopi), another as a female deity similar to those found in the Hindu goddess traditions.[48] She also appears in Hindu arts as Ardhanari with Krishna, that is an iconography where half of the image is Radha and the other half is Krishna. This is found in sculpture such as those discovered in Maharashtra, and in texts such as Shiva Purana and Brahma Vaivarta Purana.[49] In these texts, this Ardha Nari is sometimes referred to as Ardharadhavenudhara murti, and it symbolizes the complete union and inseparability of Radha and Krishna.[49]

D.M. Wulff demonstrates through a close study of her Sanskrit and Bengali sources that Radha is both the "consort" and "conqueror" of Krishna and that "metaphysically Radha is understood as co-substantial and co-eternal with Krishna." Indeed, the more popular vernacular traditions prefer to worship the couple and often tilt the balance of power towards Radha.[50]

Graham M. Schweig in his work "The divine feminine theology of Krishna" in context with Radha Krishna stated that, "The divine couple, Radha and Krishna, comprise the essence of godhead. Radha is therefore acknowledged by Chaitanyaite Vaishnavas to be part of very center of their theological doctrine. Sacred images of the forms of Radha Krishna, standing together side by side, are elaborately worshiped in the Indian temples. Through her image, her divine character and her amorous and passionate relations with Krishna, Radha is the constant meditation of practitioners.[51]

According to William Archer and David Kinsley, a professor of Religious Studies known for his studies on Hindu goddesses, the Radha-Krishna love story is a metaphor for a divine-human relationship, where Radha is the human devotee or soul who is frustrated with the past, obligations to social expectations, and the ideas she inherited, who then longs for real meaning, the true love, the divine (Krishna). This metaphoric Radha (soul) finds new liberation in learning more about Krishna, bonding in devotion, and with passion.[52][53][45]

An image of Radha has inspired numerous literary works.[8] For modern instance, the Shri Radhacharita Mahakavyam—the 1980s epic poem of Dr. Kalika Prasad Shukla that focuses on Radha's devotion to Krishna as the universal lover—"one of the rare, high-quality works in Sanskrit in the twentieth century."[54]

Radha and Sita[edit]

The Radha-Krishna and Sita-Rama pairs represent two different personality sets, two perspectives on dharma and lifestyles, both cherished in the way of life called Hinduism.[55] Sita is traditionally wedded: the dedicated and virtuous wife of Rama, an introspective temperate paragon of a serious, virtuous man.[56][57][58] Radha is a power potency of Krishna, who is a playful adventurer.[56][55]

Radha and Sita offer two templates within the Hindu tradition. If "Sita is a queen, aware of her social responsibilities", states Pauwels, then "Radha is exclusively focused on her romantic relationship with her lover", giving two contrasting role models from two ends of the moral universe. Yet they share common elements as well. Both face life challenges and are committed to their true love. They are both influential, adored and beloved goddesses in the Hindu culture.[55]

In worship of Rama, Sita is represented as a dutiful and loving wife. She holds a position entirely subordinate to Rama while in worship of Radha Krishna, Radha is often preferred over to Krishna and in certain traditions, her name is also elevated to a higher position compared to the name of Krishna.[59]

Life and Legends[edit]

Radha in her human form is revered as the milkmaid (gopi) of Vrindavan who became the beloved of Krishna. One of the basic traits of Radha is her unconditional love for Krishna and her sufferings that forms the basis for Radha's exaltation as a model of devotion.[60]

Birth and early life[edit]

A statue of Radha as a child in Raval temple.

Radha was born to Vrishbhanu, a Yadava ruler of Barsana and to his wife Kirtida.[61][62][63]Her birthplace is Raval which is a small town near to Gokul in Uttar pradesh, but is often said to be Barsana where she grew up. According to popular legend, Radha was discovered by Vrishbhanu on a effulgent lotus floating in Yamuna river. She didn't open her eyes until Krishna himself in his child form appeared in front of her.[64][65][66]

"Ashtasakhis" (translated to eight friends) are the integral part of Radha's childhood and youth. It is believed that all the Ashtasakhis are the intimate friends of Radha Krishna and also have descended from Goloka in Braj region. Out of all the eight sakhis - Lalita Sakhi and Vishakha sakhis are the prominent ones.[67] According to Caitanya Charitamrita's Antya Lila (2:6:116), Radha also received a boon from sage Durvasa in her childhood that that whatever she cooked would be better than nectar.[68]


Radha Krishna's Raslila with gopis.

Youth phase of Radha's life is filled with her divine pastimes with Krishna.[69] Some of the popular pastimes of Radha Krishna includes :- Raslila, pastimes of Radha kund, Gopashtami lila,[70] Lathmar Holi, Seva Kunj lila in which Krishna did sringara of Radha,[71] Maan lila ( A special stage in divine love in which the devotee develops so much love for God as to even attain the right of getting angry with him),[72] Mor Kutir lila in which Krishna performed a dance lila by dressing himself as a peacock to please Radha,[73] Gopadevi lila (Krishna took form of female to meet Radha) and Lilahava in which Radha Krishna dressed in each other clothes.[74]

Relationship with Krishna[edit]

Radha and Krishna share two kinds of relationships, Parakiya (Love without any social limitation) and Svakiya (married relationship).[lower-alpha 1] Radha asked Krishna why he can't marry her, the reply came “Marriage is a union of two souls. You and I are one soul, how can I marry myself?”[75] Several Hindu texts allude to these circumstances.[45]

Some traditions state that Radha was married to another gopa named Rayan (also called Abhimanyu or Ayan), but she still used to love Krishna.[45] Many interpreted it as a person's love and devotion towards god which is not bounded by social limitations.[76]

Contradictory to the above versions, the Sanskrit texts, Brahma Vaivarta Purana and the Garg Samhita mention that Krishna secretly married Radha in the presence of Lord Brahma in the Bhandirvan forest, long before any of their other marriages. The place where Radha Krishna's marriage was conducted is still present in the outskirts of Vrindavan, called Radha Krishna Vivah Sthali, Bhandirvan. The story mentioned in Braham Vaivarta Purana indicates that Radha has always been Krishna's divine consort. It was not Radha but her shadow who later married Rayan.[77] But to give importance to Parakiya relationship (love without any social foundation) over Svakiya's (married relationship), Radha Krishna's marriage was never publicized and kept hidden.[78][79][80][81]

Life after Krishna left Vrindavan[edit]

There is limited information about the life of Radha and gopis after Krishna left Vrindavan. According to Garga Samhita and Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Radha also left her home post Krishna's departure and went to Kadli vann (forest) leaving behind her illusionary form (also called Chaya Radha, her shadow) in Barsana. Radha with her friends also met Uddhava in this forest who delivered them Krishna's message.[82][83]

Reuniting with Krishna[edit]

Radha and Gopis meeting Krishna in forest.

It is mentioned in Braham Vaivarta Purana (Krishnajanam khand, chapter 125)[84] and Garga Samhita (Ashwamedh Khand, chapter 41)[85] that after the curse of 100 years of separation got over,[lower-alpha 2] Krishna revisited Braj and met Radha and gopis. After performing the divine pastimes for sometime, Krishna called a huge divine chariot which took the residents of Braj along with Radha and gopis back to their celestial abode Goloka where the final reunion of Radha Krishna was happened. [86][87]

As Supreme Goddess[edit]

In Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Radha (or Rādhikā), who is inseparable from Krishna, appears as the main goddess. She is mentioned as the personification of the Mūlaprakriti, the "Root nature", that original seed from which all material forms evolved. In the company of the Purusha ("Man", "Spirit", "Universal soul") Krishna, she is said to inhabit the Goloka, which is a world of cows and cowherds far above the Vishnu's Vaikuntha. In this divine world, Krishna and Radha relate to one another in the way body relates to the soul. (4.6.216) [88][89]

Radha depicted as Supreme goddess while Krishna humbly stands in front of her.

According to Krishnaism, Radha is the chief female deity and is associated with Krishna's maya ( material energy) and prakriti (feminine energy). At highest level Goloka, Radha is said to be united with Krishna and abiding with him in the same body. The relationship between Radha Krishna is that of substance and attribute : they are as inseparable as milk and its whiteness or earth and its smell. This level of Radha's identity transcends her material nature as prakriti and exits in the form of pure consciousness (Narada Purana, Uttara Khana - 59.8). While Radha is identical to Krishna at this highest level, this merger of identities seems to end when she separates from him. After separation she manifest herself as the goddess Primordial prakriti (Mūlaprakriti) who is called the "Maker of Universe" or "Mother of All" (Narada Purana, Purva-Khanda, 83.10-11, 83.44, 82.214).[90]

In Nimbarkacharya's Vedanta Kamadhenu Dashashloki (verse 6), it is clearly stated that:

Ange tu vaame vrishabhaanujaam mudaa viraajamaanaam anuruupasaubhagaam |
Sakhiisahasraih parisevitaam sadaa smarema deviim sakalestakaamadaam ||

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.

In the hymnal Hita-Caurasi of Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu, the 16th-century bhakti poet-saint, founder of Radha-vallabha Sampradaya, Radharani is exalted to the status of the only ultimate deity, while her consort Krishna is just her most intimate subordinate.[91] As a precursor to this view can be understand Jayadeva, in whose Gita Govinda (10.9) Krishna beneath Radha.[92]

Radha is also considered as the personification of Krishna's love. According to doctrines attributed to Vaishnavite saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, It is said that, Krishna has three powers: the internal which is intelligence, the external which generates appearances and the differentiated which forms the individual soul. His chief power is that which creates dilatation of the heart or joy. This appears to be the power of love. When this love becomes settled in the heart of the devotee, it constitutes Mahabhava, or the best feeling. When love attains to the highest pitch, it constitutes itself into Radha, who is the most lovable of all and full of all qualities. She was the object of the highest love of Krishna and being idealized as love, some of the agreeable feelings of the heart are considered her ornaments.[93]

In Narada Pancharatra Samhita, Radha is mentioned as the feminine form of Krishna. It is described that, the one single lord is represented to have become two - one a woman and the other a man. Krishna retained his form of man while the female form became Radha. Radha is said to have come out from primordial body of Krishna, forming his left side, and is eternally associated with him in his amorous sports in this world as well as the world of cows (Goloka).[59][11]

Radha is often identified with the "sweet" aspect of goddess Lakshmi's essence and thus also worshiped as an avatara of Lakshmi. In Shri Daivakrita Lakshmi Strotam, Lakshmi is praised and glorified in her form of Radha [94] -

In Goloka, you are the goddess more dear to Krishna than life itself, His own Radhika.
Deep in the Vrinda forest, you are the mistress of mesmerizing rasa dance.

— Shri Daivakrita Lakshmi Strotam

According to the Garga Samhita (Canto 2, chapter 22, verse 26-29), during the rasa pastime, on the request of gopis, Radha and Krishna showed them their eight armed forms and turned into their Lakshmi Narayan forms. (2.22.26)[95][96]


As Krishna's lover consort (Parakiya rasa)[edit]

Radha is admired as an ideal of perfect lover. In Gita Govinda, it is not certain whether Radha was married or if she was an unmarried maiden. But, the relationship between Radha Krishna was unfolded in the secrecy of Vrindavan forest hinting at the Parakiya rasa. This can be understood from the verse where Nanda, the father of Krishna, who represents social authority and ideal of dharma ordered Radha Krishna to go home as storm was approaching Vrindavan but the order was defied by the couple. The translation of first verse of Gita Govinda is as follows :-

Radha, you alone must take him home. This is Nanda's command. But, Radha and Madhava (Krishna) stray to a tree in the grove by the path and on the bank of the Yamuna their secret love games prevail.

— Jayadev, Gita Govinda

In the Gita govinda, Radha stands in relation to Krishna as his consort. She is neither a wife nor a devoted rustic playmate. She is an intense, solitary, proud figure who is addressed as Sri, Candi, Manini, Bhamini and Kaamini. She is portrayed as Krishna's partner in a mature and exclusive love.[17]

In Vidyapati's work, Radha is depicted as a young girl barely twelve years old, while Krishna is depicted slightly older than her and as an aggressive lover. In the work of poet Chandidas, Radha is depicted as a bold woman who is unafraid of social consequences. Radha abandons all social propriety in the name of her love for Krishna. Excerpts of Chandidas's work showing Radha's boldness :-

Casting away all the ethics of caste, my heart dotes on Krishna day and night. The custom of the clan is far away cry, and now I know that love adheres wholly to its own laws.
I have blackened my golden skin longing for him. As the fire encircled me, my life begins to wilt. And my heart brooding eternally, parched for my dark darling, My Krishna.

— Chandidas

In loving Krishna, Radha violates the basis of caste, showing no care for the realities of social structures. Love consumed her to extent that once having fair complexion, Radha turned herself into Krishna's dark color. Chandidas used the word "fire" as synonym for Radha's love towards Krishna. The Radha of Chandidas is favored by Gaudiya Vaishnavas.[6]

As Krishna's married consort (Svakiya rasa)[edit]

Krishna painting feet of Radha, 1760 art form based on Braj's Rasikapriya text.

Rasikapriya, a Braj text on poetics depicts Radha as the married consort of Krishna. It is a frequently illustrated text that deals with the Radha Krishna's romance and is written by one of the most prominent writers of the Riti kavya tradition, Kesavdas. Changes in the portrayal of Radha, as articulated in the Rasikapriya, have significant implications for later literary traditions. In the Riti kavya literature, especially the Rasikapriya, Radha is depicted as the archetypal heroine and is used to exemplify the ideal form of connection to Krishna. Rather than depicting her as a parakiya heroine, Kesavdas, on the whole, presents her as a svakiya heroine, the one to whom Krishna belongs wholeheartedly. If she is separated from him, it is only temporarily, for as archetypal lovers they are connected forever. The suggestion that Radha is Krishna's rightful wife is clearly articulated in the first chapter in the exemplary verse for the manifest form of union. Here, Kesavdas compares the union of Radha and Krishna with that of Sita and Rama :-

Once Krishna sat with Radha on the same couch with pleasure, and in the mirror held, as he looked to watch the splendor of her face, his eyes filled with tears. In her reflections he saw the red gem on her forehead which seemed to glow like fire, reminding him of Sita sitting in fire, adorned, with her husband's leave.

— Kesavdas, Rasikapriya (I,22)

In this verse, Kesavdas connects Radha with Krishna as his legitimate wife not only in this lifetime but even in the previous one. Chapter 3 and verse 34 of Rasikapriya, depicted Radha as Madhya arudhayovana nayika and is described as a beautiful woman who looks like a heavenly damsel, with perfect features (forehead like the half moon, arches like a perfect bow, etc.), golden body, and a beautiful body fragrance. In chapter 3, verse 38, one attendant talks to another :-

I have seen such an amazingly beautiful gopi, that I wonder if she really is a cowherdess ! Such splendor shone from her body that my eyes remained transfixed on her! No other beautiful women appeal any more; having seen her delicate walk once, I see the beauty of all three worlds. Who could be the husband of such a beauty, Kamadeva or Kalanidhi [moon]? No, Krishna himself.

— Kesavdasa, Rasikapriya (III, 38)

Here, Radha is very specifically described as the wife of Krishna. In most of the verses, whenever she is mentioned by name, she is usually seen as a virtuous court lady with utmost beauty and charm. Her husband Krishna is said to be in control of her love. The poet mentioned that while it is common to see women devoted to their husbands but it is not as common to see a husband as Krishna who is so devoted to his wife Radha and considering her as goddess. (VII, 6) [97] In Sanskrit scripture Brahma Vaivarta Purana also, Radha and Krishna are understood to be eternally related to each other as husband and wife (or as god and goddess) validating their Svakiya relationship.[45] The celebrated poets of Radha-vallabha tradition, Dhruva Dasa and Rupalji composed "Vyahulau Utsav ke Pad" or "Marriage Festival songs" which describe the eternal wedding of Radha and Krishna with praise and adulation.[98]


Radha Krishna devotion
Worship of Radha Krishna at Bankey Bihari Temple, Vrindavan
A devotee reading inside dedicated to Radha-Krishna Lalji Temple, Kalna, West Bengal

Friedhelm Hardy singles out such an offshoot of Krishnaism as Radha-centered stream Radhaism.[99] The main representative of which is the Radha-vallabha Sampradaya (lit. "consort of Radha"), where goddess Radha is worshiped as the supreme deity, and Krishna is in a subordinate position.[7][2]

During the 18th century at Kolkata existed the Sakhībhāvakas community, whose members used to wear female dresses in order to identify themselves with the gopis, companions of Radha.[99]

In some devotional (bhakti) Krishnaite traditions of Vaishnavism that focus on Krishna, Radha represents "the feeling of love towards Krishna".[8] For some of the adherents of these traditions, her importance approaches or even exceeds that of Krishna. Radha is worshipped along with Krishna in Bengal, Assam and Odisha by Vaishnava Hindus. Elsewhere, such as with Visnusvamins, she is a revered deity.[100] She is considered to be Krishna's original shakti, the supreme goddess in both the Nimbarka Sampradaya and following the advent of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.[8][9] Nimbarka was the first well known Vaishnava scholar whose theology centered on goddess Radha.[28][101][102]

Since 15th century in Bengal and Assam flourished Tantric Vaishnava-Sahajiya tradition with related to it Bauls, where Krishna is the inner divine aspect of man and Radha is the aspect of woman, what incorporated into their specific sexual Maithuna ritual.[103][10]

Radha Chalisa mentions that Krishna accompanies one who chants "Radha" with a pure heart. Other gopis are usually considered to be self-willing maidservants (Sevika) of Radha. Radharani's superiority is seen in Krishna's flute, which repeats the name Radha.

Radha's connection to Krishna is of two types: svakiya-rasa (married relationship) and parakiya-rasa (a relationship signified with eternal mental "love"). The Gaudiya tradition focuses upon parakiya-rasa as the highest form of love, wherein Radha and Krishna share thoughts even through separation. The love the gopis feel for Krishna is also described in this esoteric manner as the highest platform of spontaneous love of God, and not of a sexual nature.[104]


Radha Krishna painting inspired by Gita Govinda

List of prayers and hymns dedicated to Radha are:

Rādhe Kṛṣṇa Rādhe Kṛṣṇa
Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Rādhe Rādhe
Rādhe Shyām Rādhe Shyām
Shyām Shyām Rādhe Rādhe

  • Radha Gayatri Mantra — "Om Vrashbhanujaye Vidmahe, Krishnapriyaye Dhimahi , Tanno Radha Prachodayat."
  • Lakshmi Gayatri Mantra — " Samuddhrtayai vidmahe Vishnunaikena dhimahi | tan no Radha prachodaydt || " (We think about her whom Vishnu himself supports, we meditate on her. Then, let Radha inspire us). The mantra is mentioned in Linga Purana (48.13) and invokes Lakshmi through Radha. [17]
  • Shri Radhika Krishnashtaka — it is also called Radhashtak. The prayer is composed of eight verses and is popular in Swaminarayan Sampradaya.
  • Shri Radha Saharsnama Strotam — the prayer has more than 1000 names of Radha and is part of the of Sanskrit scripture Narada Panchratra.[19]
  • Radha Kripa Kataksh Strotam — this is the most famous stotra in Vrindavana. It is written in Ūrdhvāmnāya-tantra and is believed to be spoken by Śiva to Parvati. The prayer is dedicated to Radha and has total 19 verses.[106][107]
  • Yugalashtakam — this prayer is dedicated to Yugal (combined) form of Radha Krishna. It is popular in Gaudiya Vaishnavism and was written by Jiva Goswami.[108]
  • Radha Chalisa — it is a devotional hymn in praise of Radha. The prayer has 40 verses.[109]
  • Hare Krishna Mahamantra — In this mantra, “Hare” is the vocative form of both “Hari” (Krishna) and “Hara” (Radha).[110] The mantra is mentioned in Kali Santarana Upanishad.[111]

Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa
Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma
Rāma Rāma Hare Hare


Radha is one of the major and celebrated goddess in Hinduism. Following is the list of festivals associated with her -


Radha Krishna on Radhashtami

Radhashtami, also called Radha Jayanti is celebrated as the appearance anniversary of Radha. In the Hindu calendar, Radhashtami is observed annually in the month of the Bhadra, 15 days after Krishna Janmashtami, the birth anniversary of Krishna, which suggests that Radha is very much an aspect of the cultural-religious faith system governing social life.[12] The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor especially in the Braj region. The festivities include fasting till afternoon (12 pm), abhishek and aarti of Radharani, offering her flowers, sweets and food items, singing songs, dancing and prayers dedicated to Radha.[113] The Radha Rani Temple in Barsana host this festival in a grand manner as Basana is also considered as the birthplace of Radha. Apart from Barsana, this festival is celebrated in nearly all the temples of Vrindavan and ISKCON temples across the world as it is one of the major festival for many Vaishnavism sections.[114]


Painting depicting Holi of Radha Krishna and gopis

Holi, one of the major Hindu festival, also called festival of love and festival of colors also celebrates the divine and eternal love of Radha and Krishna. Mathura and Vrindavan are known for their Holi celebrations. According to popular legend associated with Radha Krishna, as a child, Krishna would cry to his mother Yashoda about Radha being fair while he had a dark complexion. His mother then advised him to smear colour of his choice on Radha's face, thus giving birth to Braj ki Holi. It is said that every year, Lord Krishna would travel from his village Nandgaon to Goddess Radha’s village Barsana, where Radha and the gopis would playfully beat him with sticks. In present times, Holi celebrations in Barsana begin one week before the actual date of the festival, moving to Nandgaon the next day. In Mathura and Vrindavan, the festival is celebrated in different forms like Lathmar Holi in Barsana and Nandgaon, where sticks are used to create playful beats, to which young men and women dance; Phoolon wali Holi in Gulaal Kund near the Govardhan Hill, during which Ras Leela is performed and Holi is played with colourful flowers and Widow’s Holi in Vrindavan.[115]

Sharad Purnima[edit]

Sharad Purnima refers to the full moon of the autumn season. On this day, devotees celebrate Krishna performing a beautiful dance called "rasa lila" with Radha and the gopis - the cowherd damsels of Vrindavan.[116] On this day, Radha Krishna in temples are dressed in white outfits and are adorned with flower garlands and glittering ornaments.[117]


Radha's story has inspired many paintings. Above: Radha waiting for Krishna by Raja Ravi Varma.


Radha and Krishna have inspired many forms of performance arts and literary works.[13][3] Over the centuries, their love has been portrayed in thousands of exquisite paintings which depicts the lover in separation and union, longing and abandonment.[13][118]

Patta chitra, is one of the typical regional arts of the coastal state of Orissa. In this type of painting, Krishna is depicted in blue or black color and is usually accompanied by his fiancee Radha.[119] Rajasthani art emerged as an amalgamation of folk art with conventional and canonical ethos. Krishna and Radha have been the pivotal characters in Rajasthani miniature paintings. Their love has been delineated aesthetically in this composition.[120] In Pahari paintings, often the nayaka (hero) is depicted as Krishna and the nayika (heroine) is depicted as Radha. The legend of Krishna and Radha and their love provided rich material to Pahari painters in general and to the artists of Garhwal in particular.[121] The central theme of Kangra painting is love. A closely related theme of this art is lover looking at his beloved who is unaware of his presence. Thus, Krishna is shown watching Radha who is unaware of his presence.[122] Madhubani paintings are charismatic art of Bihar. Madhubani paintings are mostly based on religion and mythology. In the paintings, Hindu Gods like Radha-Krishna and Shiva-Parvati are in center.[123] Krishna and Radha are one of the favorite subject in Rajput paintings because they portrayed a theme that symbolized the desire of the soul to be united by god. In these paintings, Radha is always seemed to be dressed in more elegant way. She was adorned with ornaments and is often depicted holding a white garland when enthroned next to Krishna.[123]

Dance forms[edit]

The most famous Indian classical dance Manipuri Raas Leela was first introduced by King Bhagyachandra around 1779. Inspired by Radha Krishna's raslila, the king introduced three forms of rasa dance — Maha rasa, Kunj rasa and Basant rasa. Later two more forms of rasa — Nitya rasa and Deba rasa was added by successive kings in the art and culture of Manipur. In these dance forms, the dancers portray the role of Radha, Krishna and gopis. The dance forms are still prevalent in the state of Manipur and are performed on stage as well as on the auspicious occasions like Kartik Purnima and Sharad Purnima (full moon nights).[124][125]

Artists depicting Radha Krishna's love story through Manipuri classical dance Raslila.

Another Indian classical dance form, Kathakali was also influenced by Vaishnavism and Radha Krishna based Gita Govinda tradition which along with other factors contributed in the evolution of this dance form.[126] The predominant theme of North Indian Kathak dancing lies in the fleeting appearances and longer stories of Radha and Krishna. The sacred love of Krishna and his beloved Radha, are woven into all aspects of the Kathak dance and is clearly visible during the discussions of the music, costumes and finally the role of the Kathak dancer.[127]

Ashtapadis of Gita Govinda are also enacted in contemporary classical Odissi dance form.[128] This dance form was originated in the temples. It is centered on the celestial love of Krishna and Radha. At one time, it was performed by the Devadasis but now it has spread out to the homes and cultural institutions.[129]


The residents of Braj region still greet each other with salutations like "Radhe Radhe", "Jai Shri Radhe" and "Radhe Shyam", directing their mind to Radha and ultimate relationship she shares with Krishna. The image of Krishna rarely appears without Radha by his side in the temples of Vrindavan. It is not the Krishna who is worshiped, but Radha and Krishna together are worshiped.[130]

In culture of Odisha, Krishna is the cultural hero and his form Jagannath, is the symbol of Oriya pride. His consort Radha is celebrated as the energy of Krishna and symbolically the energy of the cosmos. She is considered as the power of joy, the hladini shakti of Krishna and is often identified with both Durga and Kali, the bright and dark forms of the cosmic energy. Krishna and Radha have entered the Oriya psyche and have inspired the mythic imagination of the Oriya poets in a big way. For the conscious and the informed, Krishna and Radha are the Universe and its harmony, the Energy and its joyful articulation, the cosmic dance and its rhythmic balance.[12]

In Indian culture, Radha serve as an exemplary model of female-neutral subjectivity for all persons—an active, non-substantial, shared and strong self that rationally embrace their (religious) passions.[131]


Radha-Krishna Prem Mandir (Love Temple) in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

Radha and Krishna are the focus of temples in the Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Chandidas, and other traditions of Vaishnavism.[9] Radha is typically shown standing immediately next to Krishna.[9] Some of the important Radha Krishna temples are :-

Outside Hinduism[edit]

Guru Gobind Singh, in his Dasam Grantha, describes Radha the, sukl bhis rika, thus : "Radhika went out in the light of the white soft moon, wearing a white robe to meet her Lord. It was white everywhere and hidden in it, she appeared like the light itself in search of Him".[122]

Radha is mentioned in many Jain commentaries including the popular Venisamhara by Narayana Bhatta and Dhvanyaloka by Anandavardhana written in 7th century. Jain scholars like Somadeva Suri and Vikram Bhatta continued mentioning Radha between 9th-12th century in their literary works.[34] [17]

See also[edit]


  1. Parakiya rasa depicts the relationship which is free from any kind of favors, expectations, rules and social recognisation. It is only based on the selfless form of love and is often said to be the highest kind of relationship one can have with God. Svakiya rasa depicts the marital relationship which works according to the social rules and norms.
  2. According to Garga Samhita and Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Radha was cursed by Sridama in Goloka to bear 100 years of separation from Krishna when they descended on Earth.



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