Radhakrishna, the symbol of divine love
Radhakrishna represents the unique union of the Goddess-gopi Radha and her beloved Krishna, two highly revered deities in the Hindu Vaishnavite tradition. Radhakrishna is not any romantic relationship or simply the combination of the feminine and the masculine: it symbolizes the soul seeking the Divine Love.
Who is Radha ?
For unknown reasons, Radha is hardly mentioned in the founding texts of Hinduism. The story of her life remains blurred.
It is said that Radha appeared on earth, 5000 years ago. This special day is known as ‘Radha Ashtami’, celebrated 15 days after Lord Krishna’s birthday, during the month of ‘Bhadrapada’ in the Hindu calendar (August or September in the Gregorian calendar). Hindus believe that fasting and praying the goddess that day brings a prosperous and happy life.
Radha is said to be an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi, the female energy or ‘shakti’ of the god Vishnu. Lakshmi reincarnated on earth as a ‘gopi’ (cow herding girl) in the village of Barsana near Vrindavan in present-day Uttar Pradesh.
The legend has that King Vrishabhanu went to bathe in the Yamuna River and found a baby girl lying on a lotus with a thousand petals shining in the sunlight. He was enchanted by the energy of love that emanated from this little girl and brought her back to his palace. The baby girl also charmed the Queen Kirtida and although she thought the baby was blind, she immediately regarded her as her own daughter.
The adoptive mother of Lord Krishna, Yashoda, heard about this divine baby and came to visit her friend Queen Kirtida accompanied by Krishna. When Krishna bent over the baby’s cradle, Radha’s eyes finally opened and flourished like beautiful lotus flowers.
Who is Krishna ?
Unlike Radha, the history of Krishna’s life is well detailed in the Puranas (Hindu mythological texts), the famous epic of the Mahabaratha and the Harivamsha considered as an index of the Mahabaratha.
Krishna (‘dark’ or ‘dark-blue’ in sanscrit) is the son of King Vasudeva and Queen Devaki, who was the sister of Kamsa, the tyrant of Mathura in present-day Uttar Pradesh. Kamsa, hearing a prophecy that he would be assassinated by the child of Devaki, killed the first seven children of his sister, but the eighth child, Krishna, was saved by Lord Vishnu and brought to the village of Gokul where he was raised by the chief of the shepherds, Nanda, and his wife Yashoda.
Krishna loved to make pranks and was also known for captivating the gopis of Vrindavan to the sound of his flute, sometimes inciting them to go out of their home in secret to perform with ecstasy the ‘dance of divine love’ known as ‘Rasa Leela’. Radha was one of those gopis and became the beloved of Krishna.
Krishna eventually returned to Mathura to kill the tyrant Kamsa. Subsequently, Krishna, continuing his divine mission, left Vrindavan and erected his kingdom at Dwarka (in present-day Gujarat) where he married Princess Rukmini.
Krishna was involved in the Kurukshetra war reported in the famous epic of the Mahabharata. This war opposed two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, who disputed the throne of Hastinapura in a kingdom called Kuru.
When the belligerents asked Krishna for help, he replied that he refused to carry arms, but offered the choice of his personal participation in the battle to one of the opponents or the loan of his army to the other. The Pandavas, who emerged victorious from this war, made the first choice, and thus Krishna found himself the charioteer of Arjuna’s chariot, one of the Pandavas brothers.
The battle of Kurukshetra is symbolic and for this reason it is also known as “Dharmakshetra” (the field of Dharma) or the field of righteousness.
It is during this symbolic war that Krishna became Arjuna’s Guruji teaching him about the meaning of life, ethics, the impermanence of matter and the permanence of the soul, true inner peace and different types of yoga to achieve this state of happiness and inner liberation. This conversation between Krishna and Arjuna is called ‘Bhagavad Gita’ (the Song of the Lord) in the Mahabaratha.
After the Great War, which almost destroyed mankind, Krishna was cursed by Gandhari, the mother of the Kauravas : Krishna would perish like all the members of his dynasty, the Yadus. Krishna accepted the curse because Gandhari was a fervent devotee of Lord Vishnu.
In Dwarka, during a feast, a fight broke out among the Yadavas, during which Krishna’s brother and son were killed. While Krishna was asleep in the forest, a hunter named Jara, confusing him with a deer, fired an arrow on his heel, his weak spot, which fatally injured Krishna.
Krishna give his forgiveness to Jara and abandoned his body to return to his transcendental home. The pilgrimage site of Bhalka Tirth in Gujarat marks the place where Krishna is said to have died.
The symbolic union of Radhakrishna
All legends in India have a deep spiritual significance: the war of Kurukshetra symbolizes the inner battle against our dark side; The same applies to the relationship between Radha and Krishna, which can not be reduced to a romantic relationship between a man and a woman: Radhakrishna relationship is considered the highest form of love, the divine love.
Also, the relationship between Krishna and the gopis is not a sexual one but the feeling of the highest love. Krishna was not a ‘playboy’ but the incarnation of Pure Love.
The devotion and unconditional love of Radha for Krishna can be seen as the symbol of the soul longing from the divine and merging with it; it is the unique relationship between man and God.
When Krishna left Vrindavan to built up his kingdom at Dwarka (Gujarat) and marry Rukmini, Radha knew she would never be separated from Krishna because her soul had united with her beloved’s one.