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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Śrī Rādhāṣṭamī 2009

As on Janmāṣṭami, on this Rādhāṣṭamī I would like to post some of the many rather complicated Janma-līlās of Śrī Rādhikā.

First of all there is the popular story that Śrī Rādhikā was found on a lotus flower by Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and that she was blind until Kṛṣṇa gave Her His darśan. Eager as always to check everything in śāstra I discovered that the lotus-story is going around among the Brajabāsīs only and appears to have no scriptural source, but the blindness-story seems to exist in the Padma Purāṇa, at least Iskcon's Dānavir Goswāmī quotes some texts to that extent in his Garga Saṁhitā-rendering. The Garga Saṁhitā, whose authority is somewhat in doubt because it was never quoted in the Goswāmīs' books, carries one chapter on Rādhā's Janma Rahasya too. In it, Dānavir Goswāmī  quotes a book named Govinda Vṛndāvanam in regards to Śrī Rādhikā's 'creation' -

(Kṛṣṇa says:) "0 Balarāma, please listen and I will tell You something. One day, taking My flute, My heart full of bliss and My form bending in three places, I went under a Kadamba tree and, seeing My own form reflected in a splendid golden platform studded with jewels, I became enchanted. At that moment, My heart became filled with the sweet happiness known as conjugal love, which charms the entire world. My heart now desires to become a woman. I yearn to enjoy Myself as a woman. As the Lord thought in this way, His heart approached itself. From the sweetness of His heart came bliss and from the bliss came Himself, manifested in a second form, a female form of transcendental bliss that could experience the direct perception of Himself. At that time a goddess, whose form was nectar, whose fair complexion was like a host of lightning flashes, and who was decorated with glittering ornaments, appeared from the Lord's left side. She is known as Rādhā, who is half of Kṛṣṇa's body, and who is the mistress of all potencies."

One must presume this is either not śāstra, it is a metaphor or a poetic and devotional glorification. After all, how was the eternal and beginningless Kṛṣṇa enjoying Himself before this then? Is there a beginning to an eternal goddess?

Garga Saṁhitā (8.7) speaks thus of Śrī Rādhikā's time of birth -

ghanāvrte vyomni dinasya madhye
bhādre site nāga-tithau ca some
avākiran deva-ganāh sphuradbhis
tan-mandire nandanajaih prasūnaih

'On Monday, at midday, when the sky was covered with clouds, in the bright fortnight of Bhādra-month, devatās showered flowers from the celestial Nandana Garden."

A pada by Ghanaśyām Dās I posted on Rādhāṣṭamī 2007 says it was a sunny day, but this may not necessarily be a contradiction - Bhādra is in the middle of the rainy season and a delivery takes time. During the delivery it may have been occasionally sunny and occasionally cloudy.

Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmīpāda's Lalit Mādhava-drama starts right away with the Rādhā Janma Rahasya -

In it, Paurṇamāsī explains to Gārgī that Brahmā blessed Mount Vindhyā with two daughters that would bring him a son-in-law who would defeat Shiva, the son-in-law of Vindhyā's rival Himālaya (the father of Pārvatī). Gārgī asked Paurṇamāsī: "How did Rādhā come from Vindhyā to Gokula?" 
Paurṇamāsī: 'She was brought there by Pūtanā, the Rākṣasī." 
Gārgī fearfully replied: "Normally Rākṣasīs eat the babies they kidnap. This girl was then very lucky to escape!" 
Paurṇamāsī: "Pūtanā was engaged by Kaṁsa in destroying all extraordinary boys and abducting the maidens. Devakī's daughter Devī (the 8-armed Yogamāyā) warned Kaṁsa that Devakī's son would kill him - 'One of these days eight very sweet śaktis will take birth here. After defeating Shiva (in Bāṇāsur's battle) He will eventually marry two sisters among these eight śaktis, that are temples of great qualities." 
Gārgī: "What happened to the second sister?" 
Paurṇamāsī: "When Vindhyā's main priest pronounced witch-killing mantras Pūtanā panicked and ran away, dropping the baby in a river in Vidarbha." 
Gārgī: "My father is omniscient. Why then does he claim that the maiden Rādhā was born from Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu, by the blessing of Durvāsā Muni?" 
Paurṇamāsī: "Petitioned by Brahmā, Hari-māyā (Yogamāyā) withdrew these two maidens from the wombs of Candrabhānu and Vṛṣabhānu's wives and placed them in the womb of Vindhyā's wife." 
Gārgī: "Did you only save Śrī Rādhikā from the lap of that witch?" 
Paurṇamāsī: "No there were moon-faced Lalitā, Candrāvalī's beautiful sakhī Padmā, gentle Bhadrā, auspicious Śaibyā and cheerful Śyāmā too." 
Gārgī: "Who gave these girls to the gopī-mothers?" 
Paurṇamāsī: "I myself quickly and discretely distributed these baby girls to different gopī mothers. Finally I approached Mukharā and told her: "This Śrī Rādhikā is the most qualified of all these girls - she will be the daughter of your son-in-law Vṛṣabhānu."

There seems to be a similarity between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa's birth-pastimes in the sense that They were both born inside and outside of Vraja and both of Them have original forms that never enter or leave Vraja at the same time.

Śrī Jīva Goswāmī's Gopāl-campū describes Śrī Rādhikā's birth as follows-

satyaṁ bahu suta ratnākaratāṁ sa prāpa gopa dugdhābdhiḥ
kintvamṛta-dyuti rādhā lakṣmī-jana nādagāt pūrtim
sa khalu śrī kṛṣṇa janma- varṣānantara varṣe(ka) sarva-sukha-satre
rādhā nāmni nakṣatre jāteti rādhābhidhīyate

"This Vṛṣabhānu is truly a Milkocean in the form of a cowherd. Certainly he was a vessel filled with many jewel-like sons already, but that had all become fulfilled by this goddess of fortune filled with the prowess of nectar named Rādhā. This baby girl had certainly taken birth in the year following Śrī Kṛṣṇa's birth-festival, during the all-delightful constellation named Anurādhā. Hence everyone called Her Rādhikā."

Here it is confirmed that Śrī Rādhikā is one year and 15 days younger than Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Actually Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja has only one son, Śrīdāma, so this bahu suta, many sons, is a glorification of Rādhikā as the goddess of fortune - one goddess of fortune is better than so many sons, after all....

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