Is Radha for Real?
The question was genuine. Krishna’s name is always paired with Radha (Radharani). You can see most of the new generation Krishna temple with Radha. A large section of Vaishnavites (who considers Vishnu as the Supreme Lord) worship Radha. And is some Vaishanava traditions, Radha has even a greater significance than Krishna himself.
Though we have 33 crore Gods in Hinduism, most popular Gods worshipped are Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, Shiv, Ganesha, Muruga, Durga, Ayyappa etc. Among them, some are historical character while many others are concepts or imaginary characters.
For instance, Rama, Krishna, Ayyappa etc are historical characters whereas Vishnu, Shiva, Ganaesh, Durga etc are concepts of god.
“Now, why do you worship Rama and Krishna?” I asked.
“Udayji, quoting from your articles, we are worshipping them because they have elevated to the status of Avatar or the Cosmos (Vishnu) by their deeds,” Mahesh said.
“Right. We worship the idealism behind them. Ram is worshiped because he was considered “Maryada purshottam”. Krishna is worshiped because he is said to have mastered all “16 kalas” and hence was the Poorna (complete) Avatar.”
“Radha is a divine symbolism of extreme love devotion and complete surrender. She represents the pure love and devotion that humans possess. So isn’t she worthy of worship?”
“Yes, she is definitely worth worship. But that doesn’t answer my question. Was she a historical character?”
“My first answer would be NO. But then, probably I would add, probably.”
“What do you mean by that? Why would you say NO?”
“There are three contemporary literature related to Krishna. All three of these were written at about the same time and cover the life and work of Krishna. They are Shrimad Bhagvatam, Mahabharata and Harivansham. Radha is NOT mentioned any of these scriptures.”
“So, historically, it is ruled out?”
“Yes. Historical Krishna is documented as having married Rukmini and Satyabhama. And this is how he is typically worshiped and remembered: ‘Rukmani Satyabhamabhyam Sahitham Krishnamasraye’ (I seek refuge in Lord Krishna, Who is with Rukhmani and Satyabhama)”
“Oh, what about other Puranas?” Mahesh asked.
“Vishnu Purana is the oldest one among this segment and Radha’s name is not mentioned even in that…”
“Nowhere in any Puranas?” he asked again as if he has read something to argue.
“Yes, her name is mentioned in Brahmavaivarta Purana, which is not considered as authentic by scholars. To put it mildly, it may be an unscrupulous book like Bhavishya Purana, which is reportedly adultered during Akbar’s time to insults legends like Krishna and Ram. So both these Puranas cannot be taken seriously. What’s more, Brahmavaivarta Purana says Krishna is the creator of Vishnu and all other gods, which appears illogical to me as the idea of creator doesn’t have a scientific base. ”
“Hmmm. What about Vaishnava traditions?”
“In most schools of Vaishnavism, Radha isn’t really mentioned. For example, in Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita, or Srivaishnavism, or Sri Sampradaya, the primary deities are Narayana and Lakshmi. There is NO Radha anywhere…Radha is not among the Ashtalakshmi (Eight forms of Lakshmi).”
“So why do Vaishnavas follow Radha-Krishna concept?”
“To best of my knowledge, among many prominent Vaishanava Paramparas, only the followers of Chaitanaya Mahaprabhu (a branch of Madhwa Parampara) exclusively worship Krishna with Radha,”
“Incidentally, Udayji, you also belong to Madhwa Parampara, right?” Mahesh asked.
“Traditionally yes. But we don’t have any Radha-Krishna temple. As I said, only one section among Madhwa Parampara worships Radha. Present day Iskcon is also a branch of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Parampara (also known as Goudiya Parampara)”
“If she is NOT mentioned in authentic Puranas and history, how come you gave her a benefit of doubt by saying ‘probably’ ?”
“There is no mention of the name ‘Lord Ayyappa’ in any of the authentic18 Puranas. The name of Harihara Suta, the son of Hari and Hara, is nowhere found as a deity admitted in the Purnaic pantheon. But Ayyappa was a historical character who became one with the concept of Dharma Sastra in Sabarimala.”
“Oh, that’s confusing…”
“Many characters from the history or legends may not have found places in Epics or authentic literatures. Or such people could have lived in different time zone or different place. Ayyappa was one among those who do not appear in mainstream Puranas – he was born some 800 years ago, thousands of years after Puranic times. Similarly there could be a possibility that Radha’s name was not mentioned in those scriptures as she might have lived somewhere else. Also, most of our libraries and records were burned or destroyed by the barbaric invaders. So it is very difficult to cross-check too.”
“So, why and when do people start worshipping her?”
“Factually, Radha could have been a poetic imagination. My understanding is that, the origin of Radha concept has its root in Tamil Nadu. The 5th Tamil epic, Shilapadikaram mentions about Nalppinnai who in turn found to be Neela Devi (Radha). According to many scholars, she represents an early form of Radha”
“Wow! So she was a South Indian like our many beautiful actresses?” Mahesh winked his eyes.
“I don’t know for sure. Later in 12th century AD great poet Jayadeva wrote “Gita Govinda” in Sanskrit which took all of India by storm. Inspired by Jayadeva, in the 14th and 15th century, poets such as Vidypati and Chandidas further elaborated the relationship of Radha and Krishna. She became the supreme goddess in both the Nimbarka Sampradaya (named after Acharya Nimbark) and the following of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.”
“How did she become so prominent?”
“The Bhakti movement gained prominence after Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, Radha as a character with prominence. A large section of Vaishanava Hindus started worshipping Radha as Krishna’s consort. The purity of eternal love between Krishna and Radha was highlighted in mainstream with an inner philosophical understanding. Radha became most important in the Chaitanya school of Vaishnavism which focuses on the ‘Madhurya Rasa Bhakti’ (Conjugal love devotion). Iskcon (the Hare Krishna Movement) and like those organization are seen propogating Radha Krishna love story. In its Krishna consciousness movement, devotees worship Radharani as the bestower of devotional service to Krishna, by attentively chanting her name in the maha-mantra, by worshiping her deity form”
“So they built temples for her?”
“Yes, all the teaching, Mutts and temples of these organization worships Krishna along with Radha mushrooming everywhere and celebrating Divine love of Radha.”
“Can I worship her then?”
“It is a personal choice. In our religion, we are free to choose from 330 million gods. If you don’t find any Or you see divine presence in anything or anybody, you can worship it too. The meaning of Radha is fortunate or successful. Radha represents the pure love and devotion that humans possess. True love seeks nothing and is truly unconditional. So what’s wrong in worshipping her?”
“But some people say she was Krishna’s mistress…”
“As a historical character Krishna was not a freaky character or a playboy as depicted by English translators. He has never chased women but always helped them in distress. He respected women and treated them equally. Did you know that Krishna was so strictly disciplined that he observed complete Brahmacharya for 12 years before planning to be a father. That is why Krishna is such a role model for entire society.”
“But most of the Krishna stories are unbelievable in a logical world…”
“Puranas tend to exxaggerate. Doesn’t it happen to today too? Look at media – how do they project film or sports stars? Devoids of all the supernatural deeds attributed to him, Krishna is a historical character and an an extraordinary human being. He acted as a great moderator between the Kauravas and Pandavas. He successfully brought dharma back into politics through his diplomacy and yogic strength.”
“Radha-Krishna was totally misunderstood and misquoted…”
“When a South Indian film actress filed a case for live-in relationships and pre-maritial sex, a court quoted Radha Krishna relationship. Supreme Court opined that a man and woman living together without marriage (live-in-relationship) cannot be construed as an offence, because even Lord Krishna and Radha lived together according to mythology. (Mar 23, 2010)”
“That’s what newspaper reports said. There is something we fail to understand. Radha was NOT Aadhibaudhikam (= NOT in Physical body). Radha is the love energy of Krishna. Krishna is Purush and Radha is Prakriti.”
“A personal question, Udayji – do you worship Radha?”
“It doesn’t really matter whether Radha is historical or not. Why should we miss any opportunity to celebrate the ecstatic joy of pure and unconditional love?” I asked him. (This is from my new book “The Secret of Krishna: Deciphering the Krishna Code)
Epilogue: Radha: “We never got married”
Krishna: “There are 2 distinct people required for a marriage. We are essentially one”
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