Radha’s many Avatars

Radha’s divine love for Krishna has inspired and influenced Indian art in all forms. In spite of these copious creative manifestations, Her avatar as such has no precision, there are numerous version’s to Her character in Indian literature and art. The number of role’s assigned to Her are astonishing- a devotional milkmaid, personification of Kundalini shakti, Mother nature (Prakriti), Supreme Goddess (Devi), Krishna’s favorite gopi and more.

Illustration by Baani Sekhon (myartpoint)

Gita Govinda, a devotional song composed by Jayadeva (12th century poet), illustrates Radha as the central character. The poet elaborates on how Her love has unmanageable control on Lord Krishna, who is miserable in Radha’s absence. Both of them are vulnerable victims of an irrepressible passion. Jayadeva highlights Radha’s jealousy over Krishna’s flirtatious nature, who goes astray very easily. Many experts believe that the mini-epic metaphorically describes how an individual soul separates from the Supreme soul but eventually they have a blissful union.

Jayadeva worshipping Radha and Krishna

Sur Das the blind saint of 15th century, in his masterpiece Sur-Sagar personifies Radha as a human soul in love with the Creator. Her thoughts, affection and distress are described with elaborate details starting from childhood. However unlike Jayadeva, Radha’s love as expressed by Sur Das has more bhakti and devotion than passion.

Tansen (left) watches as Sur Das (Center) & Haridas (right) sing their devotional song

Rupa Goswami a 16th century poet and philosopher, portrayed Radha as a married women who’s passionate and devotional love for Krishna is far more spiritual than the other gopi’s. For Rupa she is not just a devotee with exceeding affection, he projects Her as a celestial Shakti in form of a human being, who ought to be worshiped alongside Lord Krishna. In his writings he even compared Vishnu’s 10 incarnations to Radharani’s body parts.

Rupa Goswami – Poet and Philosopher

Radha’s appearance is not just limited to literature, most extraordinary manifestation is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself, a notable saint from 16th century who is considered by his devotees as the reincarnation of Radha or by some as:- ‘Krishna in union with Radha’. The purity and intensity of Chaitanya’s love for Krishna is said to have been parallel to that of Radharani. His sudden divine experiences and blissful transformations were termed as- Mahaprabhu possessed by Radha’s moods.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in trance

Brahma Vaivarta Purana, (one of the eighteen Puranas), describes Her as the Goddess Shakti (Rasesvari) in the eternal abode and as Krishna’s wife in human form (Radha). As per the scripture, unification of the celestial couple created the universe. When they incarnated as Krishna and Radha, Lord Brahma performs a secret marriage for the pair. There are many other manifestations of Radhas in our ancient scriptures, epics, literature, and art, each has its own significance. Ultimately the only common factor in all the appearances has been Her limitless Love for Krishna which has been used as an expression for blissful devotional.