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Encyclopedia of Hindu Gods


RADHA


Image by permission.

Basic Description:  Radha is the Gopi (milkmaid) whom Krishna loved more than any other.  Their love for one another is often used as a symbol for our love with the Divine.  

History/Practices:  Lord Krishna is the 8th and most popular incarnation of Vishnu.  As a child he played with Gopis (cowherd girls) and Gopas (cowherd boys).  Radha, one of the Gopis, loved Krishna more than any other Gopi.  Radha is the loving and redemptive goddess of the Gopis.  Radha is often pictured with Krishna.  She symbolizes the individual soul that is awakened to the love of God and becomes absorbed in that love.  The devotion between Krishna and Radha symbolizes the perfect relation of love between the soul and god. Others view Radha’s love for Krishna as our quest for union with the divine. This highest love and devotion is represented as the union of a husband and wife in marriage (even though Radha and Krishna were not married). Others compare their relationship to that between Father-God and Mother-Nature.

Iconography:  Radha is normally pictured alongside Krishna who is playing the flute.

Mythology:  Radha was the mistress of Krishna during that period of his life when he lived among the cowherds.  Since childhood they were close to each other and they wanted to be together forever, but the world pulled them apart.  Krishna departed to safeguard the virtues of truth, and Radha waited for Him.  He defeated His enemies, became the king, and came to be worshiped as a Lord of the universe.  Still Radha waited for Him.  In the meantime Krishna married Rukmini and eight other women, raised a family, and fought in the Kurukshetra war.  Others believe that early on in their relationship Radha was so angered by Krishna’s countless affairs that she left him.  They still both loved each other, so after a while, Krishna begged Radha to forgive him.  She forgave him and came back. In any event, by that time Radha also had a husband of her own.

Consort:  She is one of Krishna's consorts.

Sources:

Moor, Edward.  The Hindu Pantheon.  Los Angeles: Philosophical research society, 1976.

Thomas, P.  Epics, Myths and Legends of India.  Bombay, India: D. B. Taraporevala Sons & Co. Private Ltd, 1961.


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