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Srimati Radha-Rani, the eternal, transcendental expansion of Sri Krsna Govinda is none other than Sri Krsna himself. But how to believe on it. People in today’s age of the Kali-Yuga need an assured evidence of the existence of any entity. They believe on Krsna because they can find Krsna in the texts. We, the devotees don’t do that. For us our spiritual master, their experiences, their teachings, their philosophy is the base of knowing to the truth. For example, if you are chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare; blissfully enjoying the pastimes of the Supreme God, in the sweetest way possible on this material planet and some lost souls who dissipate time, come to you saying, “Don’t chant all this non-sense. Be mature and modern. Hah, see you are just wasting your time by believing on fictitious entities and singing upon their names. Such characters do not exist.” A perfect devotee won’t even notice them. Why? Because there will be two kinds of devotees who’ll be facing such lost souls. Firstly those who are perfect devotees and secondly those who are struggling to be a devotee and are longing for knowledge. A perfect devotee will not notice them as such a devotee doesn’t matter for anyone’s thinking of him. For him Krsna only matters. So imagine if you are eating rasogullas and have an unlimited supply of them. You are lost in their bliss. And then some bitter gourds are kept by your side, will you even notice them? No. Because at that time, rasogullas will be the one mattering to you.
But the struggling devotee will think and conclude to move away the bitter gourds. So, he will try to liberate such souls but one must understand that liberation can’t be provided until and unless one allows himself to be liberated. So, every devotee must not engage with any materialist, impersonals or mayavadis. He must continue chanting Hare Krsna. Therefore for devotees who instead of chanting Hare Krsna Maha Mantra, give more importance to Shastra Sangh, Adi Guru Shankaracharya has said:
भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं,
गोविन्दं भज मूढ़मते।
संप्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले,
न हि न हि रक्षति डुकृञ् करणे॥१॥
हे मोह से ग्रसित बुद्धि वाले मित्र, गोविंद को भजो, गोविन्द का नाम लो, गोविन्द से प्रेम करो क्योंकि मृत्यु के समय व्याकरण के नियम याद रखने से आपकी रक्षा नहीं हो सकती है॥१॥
We must therefore always keep chanting the Holy Names of The Lord. But still, sometimes these bitter gourds are so powerful that they can affect the struggling devotee. They can influence his thinking and because of this it is necessary for such non-realized devotees to understand the existence of Srimati Radha-Rani.
Now coming to the question, definitely Srimati Radha-Rani is not a fictitious character. But why do such questions arise? Such questions arise because of the diminished thinking of the people in today’s age. Also a devotee can never feel bliss on remembering Srimati Radha-Rani if she was fictitious. And most importantly such questions arise as they cannot find the evidence of Her existence in the Vedic Texts. But being the devotees, we can find the evidence of existence of Srimati Radha-Rani. So, primarily let’s find her in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Well it has been a mystery that Shukadeva Gosvami who has spoken the 18000 verses and 12 Cantos of SB for this divya-yuga, hasn’t spoken the name of Srimati Radha-Rani even once. But now we know the answer to this mystery because of the divine grace of the previous Acharyas.
The main speaker of Srimad Bhagavatam is Shukadeva Gosvami, the son of Vyasa dev. Shukadeva Gosvami is a parama-hamsa, maha-bhagavat devotee of the Lord. His intense love for Sri Sri Radha-Krishna is simply inconceivable. He is incarnation of Srimati Radharani’s favorite parrot in Goloka Vrindavan known as Lila Shuka, who sings the sweet glories of Sri Krishna to Srimati Radha for Her pleasure, especially when She feels intense separation from Her beloved, Krishna.
When Lord Shiva, in Kailash, was narrating Srimad Bhagavatam to his dear wife Parvati, at one point she fell asleep but whenever Lord Shiva asked if she was listening, he would get a “yes” in reply. Later on Lord Shiva realized that the “yes” was coming from a parrot sitting on a nearby tree, who was attentively listening to Lord Shiva’s narration, not from Parvati. This made Lord Shiva angry. He chased the parrot who fled in fear and took shelter of Vyasa dev’s ashram in Badrinath. In order to hide, the parrot entered the mouth of Vatika, the wife of Vyasa dev, and after remaining for 16 years in her stomach, he took birth as Shukadeva. There are other stories as well regarding the identity of Shukadev Gosvami and varying opinions too but the central point is, he was a highly elevated, spontaneous devotee of Lord Krishna from the very birth.
It is explained that when Shukvadeva Gosvami was speaking Srimad Bhagavatam to King Parikshit, the king had only seven days to live. Shukadeva knew well that if he spoke of Srimati Radha-Rani, even uttered Her name once, he would go into trance, samadhi, for months remembering his eternal loving service to Srimati Radha-Rani and wouldn’t be able to complete the narration. For this reason he didn’t speak about Radha directly although he did mention the words “aradhana”, aradhitah, and “gopi” indicating Her name.
anayaradhito nunaṁ bhagavan harir isvaraḥ
yan no vihaya govindaḥ prito yam anayad rahah
TRANSLATION: Certainly this particular gopi has perfectly worshiped the all-powerful Personality of Godhead, Govinda, since He was so pleased with Her that He abandoned the rest of us and brought Her to a secluded place. (S.B. 10.30.28)
Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur explains that the word aradhitah refers to Srimati Radha. He comments, “The sage Shukadeva Gosvamī has tried with all endeavor to keep Her name hidden, but now it automatically shines forth from the moon of his mouth. That he has spoken Her name is indeed Her mercy, and thus the word aradhitah is like the rumbling of a kettledrum sounded to announce Her great good fortune.”
Srimati Radharani is Lord Krishna’s pleasure potency, or hladini shakti. What this means is She cannot be separated from Krishna because energy cannot be separated from the energetic. Her another name is Madana-mohana-mohini because She attracts Krishna, who is known as Madana-mohana. The mystery of Srimad Bhagavatam remains a mystery to those who do not learn from Vaishnava acharyas like the Gosvamis of Vrindavan, who appeared when Lord Chaitanya descended to freely distribute the transcendental love Lord Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada says: “To perform devotional service means to follow in the footsteps of Radharani, and the devotees in Vrndavana put themselves under the care of Radharani in order to achieve perfection in their devotional service. In other words, devotional service is not an activity of the material world; it is directly under the control of Radharani. In Bhagavad Gita it is confirmed that the mahatmas or great souls, are under the protection of daivi prakrti, the internal energy—Radharani. So, being directly under the control of the internal potency of Krishna, devotional service attracts even Krishna Himself.” (Nectar of Devotion pg. 16).
In the Padma Purana, her worship is mentioned in the 7th as well as 20th Chapters of the Bhumikanda (Volume 5 of Translation), in The Radhashtami and Radhadamodara Vrata.
Further, the Patalakhanda (Volume 6), Chapter 71 is about the greatness of Radhakrishna, and the subsequent few chapters describe the various Leelas of the divine couple, including one Leela where the Pandava Arjuna is transported to Vrindavana, where he becomes a Gopika called Arjuni and is blessed with the darshan of Radhakrishna.
In the Narada Purana, (Volume 3), the 89th chapter describes the Yugala Sahasranama or 1000 names of both Radha and Krishna, where the first 500 names are Krishna's and the second 500 are Radharani’s names. It also includes, in its Uttarabhaga, a chapter about Vrindavana Mahatmya (Volume 5, Chapter 80), where Sage Narada becomes a gopi in Vrindavana to take part in Srimati Radha-Rani’s Leelas.
In the Skanda Purana, Vaishnava Khanda, Bhagavata Mahatmya talks about Srimati Radha-Rani. The 1st chapter (Volume 6) contains the famous statement, “Atma Tu Radhika Tasya” – Radharani is Krishna's soul. The Vasudeva Mahatmya (Volume 7), Chapters 16 and 17 describe Goloka and the manifestation of Radhakrishna for Narada.
In the Brahmanda Purana, Upodghata Parva, the last few chapters tell the story of Parashurama. In these chapters, Parashurama receives the hymn called Krishna Prema-Amrta from Rishi Agastya. He goes to Kailasa to meet Lord Shiva, where he chops off Lord Ganesha’s tusk. When Parvati Devi is furious with Parashurama, Lord Krishna and Radharani arrive from Goloka to appease Parvati. Their arrival and subsequent stotra is described in the 42nd and 43rd chapters of the Upodghata Parva (Volume 2 of Brahmanda Purana). The Stotra ‘Grhe Radha Vane Radha’ is also said to be from this Purana.
The Matsya Purana, when listing the goddesses of various cities, says, “Rukmini Dvaravatyam Tu Radha Vrindavane Vane.”
The Brahmavaivarta Purana is completely about Radhakrishna, though owing to a considerable number of interpolations in this Purana, and it's being well known.
The Devi Bhagavata Purana dedicates its entire Navama Skandha (Ninth Canto) to the glories of Radhakrishna and their Leelas in Goloka and the rest of the universe.
Apart from these references, the sloka Anayaradhito Nunam gives her name in the phrase Aaradhito - as purported by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarti.
It is Radharani who delivers the famous 'Bhramara Gita' where she talks to a bee thinking it to be Krishna's messenger when Uddhava visits Vrindavana.
Also, the Second Canto, Fourth Chapter, when Shukadeva Gosvami says the Dhyana Slokas, he meditates upon Lord Hari in his Eternal Abode with all his Shaktis and Opulences. The name he gives to Vishnu’s Energy is ‘Raadhas’.
Apart from that, the Brihad Brahma Samhita, Narada Pancaratra, Sanatkumara-samhita, Garga Samhita, Brihad-gautamiya-tantra, Urdhvamnaya-tantra and the Purusa-bodhini Upanishad give references to Srimati Radharani.
The Narada Pancharatra gives the Radha Kavacha and the Radha Sahasranama Stotra as told by Lord Shiva to Devi Parvati.
The Garga Samhita is also devoted to the story of Radhakrishna, and how the divine couple performed their Leelas in Vrindavana, and also describes their separation and eventual reunion in Siddhashrama, after the elapse of the hundred-year curse of separation.
In the Vishnu Purana, during the description of Rasa Leela in Chapter 13 of Book 5, there are seven slokas (slokas 32-38) describing Krishna leaving the Rasa Mandala and going off with a special Gopi into the forest. The other Gopis also describe their footprints, and Krishna's adorning her with flowers and leaving her some distance away. This is almost the same as in the Bhagavatam. The word used here (where there it is Anayaradhito) is Vishnur Abhyarchito Yaya - Vishnu was worshipped extensively by her. Therefore we can infer that this Gopika is Srimati Radha-Rani.
Her transcendental knowledge is so deep that it can only be perceived by the true devotees of Govinda.
Even Brahma Samhita, the transcendental songs sung by Lord Brahma directly references about Srimati Radha-Rani. (BS 5.37)
tābhir ya eva nija-rūpatayā kalābhiḥ
goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūto
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, residing in His own realm, Goloka, with Rädhä, resembling His own spiritual figure, the embodiment of the ecstatic potency possessed of the sixty-four artistic activities, in the company of Her confidantes [sakhés], embodiments of the extensions of Her bodily form, permeated and vitalized by His ever-blissful spiritual rasa.
Another interesting conclusion:
The great poet and devotee of Sri Krsna, Sri Jaidev Gosvami, known for composing the greatest poem on Earth ‘Gita Govinda’, has written in Verse 8 of Act 10 –
“My beloved! Offer the fresh buds of your enchanting feet as an ornament upon my head, so the devastating effect of Cupid’s poison may be alleviated and the harsh fire of amorous desires may also be relieved.”
This is actually not written by Jaidev Gosvami. When Jaidev Gosvami was composing ‘Gita Govinda’, he hesitated on writing this particular line as he was afraid of people not accepting this and turn away from Krsna Consciousness. He asked Govinda to help him and then went for gayatri informing his wife ‘Padmavati’. After a few minutes Jaidev Gosvami arrived, but now with a garland of flowers around his neck. He sat there on his table and wrote that Sri Krsna offers Srimati Radha-Rani to keep Her transcendental feet on His head. After writing, when he got up, Padmavati offered him with the prasadam. He respectfully ate the prasadam and went out of the house. Later, Jaidev Gosvami returned without the garland of flowers. He kindly asked her wife for prasadam. His wife replied that he had just came, sat on his table, had the prasadam and went out. Sri Jaidev Gosvami looked astonished. He went to his table and found the verse written with golden letters. He then inquired his wife that, was I looking more effulgent and with the garland of flowers. When his wife replied yes, he said that his wife was so blessed that Krsna himself came, wrote it and ate the prasadam offered by her. So Krsna Himself assured the existence of Radha Rani with His offering of keeping Her lotus enchanted feet upon His head.
Therefore from all these conclusions we can proudly deny the fictitiousness of Srimati Radha-Rani.