Category Archives: Radha


India is a patriarchal society in which men are considered more important than women; wives are often ranked based on their husband’s social status. However, goddesses are an exception and challenge this notion, as they hold power (Sakti) over all humans and often hold presidency over male gods in the Hindu religion (Vaudeville 1). Radha is an inspirational goddess in the Hindu religion, due to her everlasting love and unbreakable devotion (Bhakti) for the god Krsna, who is one of the eight incarnations of Visnu (Mukhhopadhyay 4). Unfortunately there is no record of Radha’s individual identity before she met Krsna; therefore, they are often considered one entity with the name Radha-Krsna (Miller 13). Radha’s story is unique because it reinforces love between human and the divine (Dimock and Levertov 9).  Together, their story constitutes the attainment of the highest level of connection, passion, and love that two beings can share, which is known as Rasa.

The Gitagovinda describes the love relationship of Radha and Krsna through poetry and song, and was written in the 12th Century by Jayadeva (Miller 14). Jayadeva reveals that Radha and Krsna first encountered one another in the country Braj. This was Radha’s birth town where she was well known and often called Lali, which means darling (Vaudeville 11). Krsna was married to sixteen thousand wives, and had sixteen thousand Gopis, which are cow-herding women. Krsna’s flute had the power to make women drop whatever they were doing and join him in listening to beautiful melodies, thus attracting Radha (Dimock and Levertov 8).

Krsna and Radha knew and longed for each other before they had any first encounters, leading to the notion that they are not, and never were, separate entities at all. Rather, Radha is Krsna’s characteristic of power and strength (Sakti), and everything that he wants out of a partner; she is said to be his reason for coming into the world (Wulff 111). Radha evolved from Krsna to bring nature (Prakrti), Maya (mysterious power), and Sakti (energy) into existence (Brown 62).  This alludes to the idea that Krsna needs Radha because she is the energy and power that he transmits to all of the other Gopis when he loves them. When Radha and Krsna are apart he longs to feel the stability he encounters in her presence.

One crucial concept of importance when surveying Radha and Krsnas love is the importance of memory. It is highly recognized that both Radha and Krsna remembered each others’ encounters and the way they made each other feel, most of their relationship was spent lovingly devoting themselves to each other through their connection of memories, and the hope that they would one day reunite after huge bouts of separation. Krsna is absent for long periods of time as he goes away to the Mahabharata war, in hopes of finding his lost identity (Miller and Goswami 14, 89). Radha becomes so obsessed with the idea of Krsna that she sees him everywhere she goes, even in the trees, almost as a hallucination (Wulff 31). Radha remembers miniscule details about Krsna, and fantasizes about making love to him. Through this, Krsna can sense her love and they share a connection through wanting each other; this desire is known as Kama (Miller 20). The foundation of their relationship is that they love each other so deeply that they will do anything to stay devoted, even after great amounts of time pass without contact. Their love is eternal and they both never feel the strength of that bond with any of their other significant partners.

Radha is often perceived as Krsna’s mistress because Krsna never married her but always admired her. Radha and Krsna never marry because they desire a love without constraints and one of spontaneity (Wulff 41). Radha’s biggest insecurity is that she is forced to overcome the jealousy she experiences when she imagines Krsna participating in sexual acts with other Gopis (Dimock and Levertov 7). Radha feels intensely conflicted in her own mind, as she is aware that Krsna is attracted and involved with other women, but this does not stop her from giving Krsna all she has (even though she is also married). She is aware that she appears mad to everyone else around her, but she does not care because her feelings of love are so deep that no object, or human could change the way she feels (Wulff 38).

Radha’s love is Krsna’s Sakti; without it he would be incomplete and lost. She energizes Krsna providing him with the means to carry on as a friend, master, child, or lover (Brown 69). Because Radha is Krsna’s favourite, she becomes one with him; alone she is just a normal cow herding Gopi, but in combination with him she is considered to be a powerful mother figure who Krsna needs and desires. Sometimes she is even regarded as more important than he in the Hindu religion. The image in which Radha forces Krsna to let her put her feet on top of his head, demonstrates the power that she had over him (Miller and Brown 23,71). The two complement and complete each other; something is taken away from one being without the presence of the other.

Radha submits her complete self to Krsna in a variety of ways. First, she listens and sings with Krsna, which proves that they are emotionally surrendered to each other. Radha and Krsna can mediate and be on the same level with one another, through this they achieve Samarana, which means spontaneity, in which all expectations are lost and they are able to love each other freely without restraints of other people (Goswami 80). Radha and Krsna are trying to achieve Rasa, which is the highest level of love, in which they will no longer feel like separate entities; rather, their love will be so powerful that it joins two individuals into one being (Goswami 80).

Today Radha and Krsna are still very important deities in Hindu worship; the Hindu calendar allows them both to be praised on separate days. Radha Ashtami is celebrated in August or September, and it is to commemorate the day of her birth. On this day people fast from food and worship her (Bellenir 1). All goddesses are seen in the Hindu calendar to have both a dark (Kali) and a bright (Durga) side, to represent the waxing and waning of the moon. The light side is said to take on human form, which carries weapons, and the dark represents a cosmic mother figure (Vaudeville 3). One also finds renounced paintings of Radha and Krsna; these represent their deep love and bond. Most original paintings show Krsna alone playing his flute, although later on Radha is also shown playing. This represents that Radha is most definitely Krsna’s favourite, and therefore receives special privileges over the other Gopis (Goswami 87).

Radha and Krsna’s relationship illustrates that not only humans can attain extreme love connections for one another, but the love between a human and God is also possible. The Radha-Krsna relationship proves that the highest Bhakti, Rasa, is possible for these two as they remember every characteristic and devote their entire being to another; even when jealousy and anger take over, their devotion for one another prevails (Dimock and Levertov 13). Krsna proves his love by making Radha his favourite out of all of the women he has encountered, and Radha devotes every action to loving Krsna and being his power to continue loving her and all of his wives and Gopis (Brown 63).



Bellenir, K (2004) Religious Holidays & Calendars. Detroit: Omnigraphics, Inc.

Brown, Mackenzie. (1982) “The Theology of Radha in the Puranas.” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of india, p.57-72. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dimock, Edward and Levertov, Denise (1967) In praise of Krishna: songs from the Bengali. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goswami, Shrivatsa. (1982) “The Play and Perfection of Rasa”  In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of india, p.72-89. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Miller, Barbara. (1982) “The Divine Duality of Radha and Krishna” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of india, p.13-27. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mukhoradhyay, Durgadas (1990) In Praise of Krishna. Delhi: Br Publishing Corporation.

Vaudeville, Charlotte. (1982) “Krishna Gopala, Radha, and The Great Goddess.” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of India, p.1-13. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wulff, Donna. (1996) “Radha: Consort and Conquerer of Krishna” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. Devi: Goddesses of India, P. 109-112. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wulff, Donna. (1982) “A Sanskrit Portrait: Radha in the plays of Rupa Gosvami” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of india, p.27-42. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Related Research Topics

  • Braj
  • Durga
  • Devi
  • Gitagovinda
  • Gopi
  • Jayadeva
  • Kali
  • Lali
  • Maya
  • Prakrti
  • Rasa
  • Sakti
  • Samarana


Related Websites


Article written by: Cassandra Poch (April 2016), who is solely responsible for its content.


 /* Style Definitions */
 {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
 mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
 font-family:”Times New Roman”;
 mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
 mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;


Radha has been recognized in direct association with the Hindu god Krsna. Known as one of the Gopi cow-herd milkmaids of Vraja, Radha’s strong and passionate love for Krsna is the main story of this goddess. Radha becomes a primary example of love for the lord that followers to relate to. For many devotees, the strength and unconditional love that Radha has for Krsna is one to be imitated. “The love affair of Radha and Krsna in the devotional context becomes a metaphor for the divine/human relationship”(Kinsley 82).

Early History

The character of Radha is not fully developed until relatively quite late in the Hindu tradition. Before Jayadeva’s Gitogovinda, Radha is only referred to briefly. Although the references are short, they are unquestionably clear in the fact that they are referring to Radha. The Padma-, Brahma-vaivarta and Devi-bhagavata-puranas give in-depth descriptions of Radha and Krsna’s relationship (Kinsley 82). Although the adulterous aspect of Radha is not addressed in any of the earlier references, the theme of love in separation is a central one in all of the references. For example in the Venisamhara of Bhatta Narayana (date to around 800 CE), Radha is described as becoming angered while making love to Krsna and choking on her tears as she leaves him. In the Dhvanyalokalo-cana (early 10th century), Radha is saddened because Krsna must leave Vraja to go to the village of Mathura to begin his adult life, and is described as weeping pitifully. She is also mentioned in Ksemendra’s Dasavataracarita (1066 CE) as barely able to speak as Krsna is leaving for Mathura (Kinsley 82). Another notable characteristic that is uniform in all of the early references to Radha, is that they are always in direct connection with Krsna. The passages do not refer to her strictly individually and it is only her love for Krsna or his love for her that is talked about. Because Radha is known as the young girl who is passionately in love with Krsna, and mainly their love is described in separation, there is room for speculation that their affair was an illicit one. There is evidence that she belonged to another, was already married, and went against societal norms and risked being judged by the community by entering this illicit relationship.


Before any mention of Radha, Krsna is described as being the subject of irresistible beauty and charm to the village women of Vraja. They are described as married women who have household duties, but when they hear the flute of Krsna calling them to the woods, they cannot resist.They run to Krsna in such frenzy, that they abandon their household duties and their husbands to rush to his side. The woods of Vraja, where the women run to, to meet Krsna, are described as beautiful, forever spring and considered to be heaven residing on earth. It is important to understand the relationship between these women and Krsna before seeing how his relationship with Radha develops. It is clear that the message portrayed in these passages is that his love is not exclusive, in that he loves all of the women, and encourages them all to love him in return.The correlation from this theme to religious devotees is that those who are truly devoted to the lord are encouraged to act like the Gopis. When they hear his call, they should abandon all their duties to be with him and let nothing come in between their relationship. An aspect of Radha’s relationship with Krsna that is discussed, is the jealousy that escalates when Radha is aware of Krsna spreading his love with others.

Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda

It is in this twelfth century text that Radha is first presented as a central character. She is singled out as Krsna’s favorite, but the text mainly deals with Radha searching for Krsna and the emotions of longing, jealousy and sorrow she feels. Where previous texts about Krsna have a more joyous, playful tone, the Gitagovinda is written in a sad and distressed voice, with Radha expressing the pain caused from her separation from Krsna, painting images of obsessive love. The following is a translated excerpt from Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda, exemplifying Radha’s distress and sorrow that comes hand in hand with her devotional love for Krsna:

My heart values his vulgar ways,
Refuses to admit my rage,
Feels strangely elated,
And keeps denying his guilt.
When he steals away without me
To indulge his craving
For more young women,
My perverse heart
Only wants Krisna back.
What can I do? (Olson 255)

Although it is not clearly stated, it is hinted that Radha is married to another man. When the two lovers meet, their meeting is in surrounded by secrecy, in dark woods, and with an implied eye of disapproval by society. It is, however, very clear that Krsna is not married to Radha, as she speaks in jealousy of the love he gives to all the other women. Despite her jealousy, she risks the chance that she may be socially ostracized from the community and the “dangers of the night, the woods and public censure” (Kinsley 86) to be with Krsna.

Even though Radha’s affair with Krsna seems improper, the love she has for Krsna is appropriate as a “devotional metaphor” (Kinsley 89). Some theologians argue that illicit love is given freely, without a sense of obligation. In comparison, being married to someone has a sense of legal obligation and those in a marriage are constrained within the parameters of a marriage. The common view is that married love can be mundane or dull and in contrast, illicit love is filled with excitement and ecstasy. Therefore the relationship between Radha and Krsna serves as comparable to the human-divine relationship. The obstacles that are faced by Radha, so that she can love Krsna, prove to strengthen and increase her love for him. She gives him the selfless love that he desires. For devotees, love for Lord Krsna is held to be irresistible, extraordinarily beautiful and overpowering.


The earliest evidence of worship for Radha can be found sometime between 1486 to 1533 (Wulff 196). Her earliest images can be found in temples in Bengal and Vrndavana, but are not restricted to these areas. Images of Radha usually include her as being paired with Krsna. It is considered that when a devotee is worshipping Krsna, he is also worshipping Radha at the same time. “Devotees can share in the blissful experience of Radha and Krishna in sexual union by playing the role of friends of the divine couple” (Olson 232). The high degree of Radha’s importance can be verified in Vrndavana, where the use of the vocative form of her name is used as a standard greeting (Wulff 196). Radha’s love “symbolizes the religious ideal of selfless, unswerving devotion to God” (Wulff 196). Today she is worshipped through images, her name, and performances that tell the love story of Radha and Krsna.

Works Cited

Wulff, Donna Marie (1986) “Radha.” The Encyclopedia of Religion V.12. New York: Edited by Eliade, Mircea.

Kinsley, David (1986) Hindu Goddesses. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Olson, Carl (2007) Hindu Primary Sources: A Sectarian Reader. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Related Topics

Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda
Gopis of Vraja


Related Websites