Radha (Sanskrit: राधा, IAST: Rādhā), also called Radhika, Keshavi, Madhavi and Radharani, is a popular Hindu goddess who is worshipped as the goddess of love, tenderness, compassion and devotion. She is the eternal consort of Lord Krishna, who resides with him in their supreme abode, Goloka. She is regarded as the hladini shakti (blissful energy) of Krishna and is also described as the chief of the Braj gopis (milkmaids), who are known for their unconditional love for Krishna. She is also considered by some as the feminine form of Krishna himself. Every year, Radharani's birthday is celebrated as Radhastami.
Radha is venerated particularly by Gaudiya Vaishnavas in West Bengal, Bangladesh, Manipur, and Odisha. Elsewhere, she is revered in the Nimbarka Sampradaya and movements linked to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Radha is 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, and her Rasa lila dance with Krishna has inspired many types of performance arts.
The term is related to Rādha (Sanskrit: राध), which means "kindness, any gift but particularly the gift of affection, success, wealth". The word appears in the Vedic literature as well as the Epics, but is elusive.
Radha is an important goddess in the Vaishnavism traditions of Hinduism. Her traits, manifestations, descriptions, and roles vary by region. Since the earliest times, she has been associated with the cowherd Krishna, who is the speaker of the Bhagavad Gita. In the 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, she became more well known as her extraordinary love for Krishna was highlighted.
According to Jaya Chemburkar, there are at least two significant and different aspects of Radha in the literature associated with her, such as Sriradhika namasahasram. One aspect is she is a milkmaid (gopi), another as a female deity similar to those found in the Hindu goddess traditions. 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 Brahmavaivarta Purana. In these texts, this ardhanari is sometimes referred to as Ardharadhavenudhara murti, and it symbolizes the complete union and inseparability of Radha and Krishna.
Birthplace of Radharani is Raval which is near to Gokul but is often said to be Barsana. It is in Barsana that the Lathmar Holi is practised depicting the episode of Krishna going to Barsana and then running away escaping the beating from the womenfolk of Barsana. Radha and Krishna shares two kind of relationships, Parakiya (Love without any social limitation) and Svakiya (married relationship). 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?” Several Hindu texts allude to these circumstances. Though, according to scriptures like Bhrahmavaivarta Puran and Garg Sanhita, it is mentioned that Radharani and Lord Krishna got married in the place called Bhandirvan which is near to Vrindavan in the presence of Lord Bhrama. But to give importance to Parakiya relationship (love without any social boundation) over Svakiya (married relationship),this marriage was never publicized and kept hidden.
According to David Kinsley, a professor of Religious Studies known for his studies on Hindu goddesses, the Radha-Krishna love story is a metaphor for 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.
Certainly this particular gopī 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
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. Sita is traditionally wedded: the dedicated and virtuous wife of Rama, an introspective temperate paragon of a serious, virtuous man. Radha is a power potency of Krishna, who is a playful adventurer.
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.
In some devotional (bhakti) traditions of Vaishnavism that focus on Krishna, Radha represents "the feeling of love towards Krishna". 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. 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. Nimbarka was the first well known Vaishnava scholar whose theology centered on goddess Radha.
Radha Chalisa mentions that Krishna accompanies one who chants "Radha" with 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.
Radha and Krishna are the focus of temples in the Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Chandidas and other traditions of Vaishnavism. She is typically shown standing immediately next to Krishna. Some important Radha temples are: