"Each one prays to God according to his own light. " ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Festivals of India


Radhasthami, celebrated for the birth of Sri Radha is closely associated with the divine mystery of Sri Radha-Krishna. Romola Butalia explains the context and spiritual significance of some of the associated legends.

Sri Radhashtami is a joyous occasion in memory of Sri Radha and the Divine Mystery that is revealed through her birth and her life, which devotees worship, particularly in Braj Dham, where her sacred memory remains enshrined in the very air one breathes here, in the whisper of the wind, in the dust of this land, all of which is revered and worshipped by countless devotees of Sri Radha Krishna. It is celebrated as the observance of the birth of Sri Radha on the Shukla paksha Ashtami in the Tamizh month of Aavani or the eighth day of the bright half of the month of Bhadrapada (August-September). In 2016 it is on 9th September, and in 2017, it will be on 29th August.

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Braj Dham holds the secret to the ancient spiritual legend of Sri Radha, who belongs here. It is said that some 5,000 years ago, at Barsana, 30 Km from Mathura, Radha-ji was born as the daughter of Vrishabhanu Maharaj and Mata Kirati. Soon after this, Lord Krishna descended to earth as an avatar in Mathura of Braj Dham.

At Braj, Radhe-Radhe is the divine reverberation heard everywhere. A visit to Braj Dham Vrindavan will amply reveal this truth. In atman bhava, yoga bhav and Advaita bhav there is no difference between Radha and Krishna - Sri Krishna is Radha indeed and Radha is Sri Krishna - the very name of Sri Krishna holds this secret with Sri referring to Radha.


Their divine relationship, spiritual and mystical, is difficult for the human mind to grasp because God, infinite in nature, cannot, even logically, be comprehended by the finite process of the reasoning mind. The significance that is attached to the relationship between Sri Krishna and Radha is the supernal love that operates in the mysterious relation between God and the manifest world.

Spiritual Truths cannot be known through reasoning, they cannot be understood by engaging the mind. The legends and folklore are for the devotional in nature. Through devotion, faith and belief, they transcend the mind to glimpse the true nature of the Divine Spirit. Gyanis seek that Truth through words to reach that state beyond words where realisation dawns. For them the nature of divinity is revealed in the essence of Advaita Bhav ,or non-duality. In terms of the One becoming Many, to manifest in the universe of duality, all are but forms of the eternal Devi. Sita, Radha, Rukmini are all aspects of Lakshmi, eternal consort of Lord Vishnu. In truth, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati and Mahakali are the divine aspects of the primordial Shakti or feminine principle which manifests in all creation.

The divinity of Sri Radha Krishna is manifest through the ras lila that devotees worship, that is nowhere more apparent than at Braj Dham, where it is believed that the lila continues and that with the purity of inner vision, this can be witnessed.

Historically, 5,000 years ago, when the ras lila was manifest in the physical world, in the explanation of this spiritual phenomenon, it can be suggested as folklore that Radharani invited Mata Parvati for the ras leela. Mata Parvati requested permission from Lord Shiva to go for the Braj Yatra, and explained to him about the ras leela. Giving his permission, Lord Shiva added that he would like to go with her to witness the ras leela. Mata Parvati was faced with the dilemma that no man was allowed to witness the ras leela. She tired to explain to Mahadeva that he should remain at Kailash while she went on behalf of them both. Currently, this bhav is maintained through bhajans:

"Parvati ji manake Hari,
na mane Tripurari
ek din Bhole Bhandari
ban ke Braj ki nari
Gokul mein aa gaye"

("Parvati-ji failed to persuade Tripurari (Mahadeva), and he arrived at Gokul, in the form of a woman of Braj")

Mahadeva manifested himself as a strikingly beautiful Braj nari and along with Ma Parvati, entered the maha-rasa. He was no longer the ash-smeared ascetic with matted locks but a triloka sundari whose beauty exceeded the beauty of all three worlds. Lord Shiva is present in all that manifests. He is ever-existent, present, Being of all beings. This Shaivi Maya is known in truth by Lord Vishnu and is revealed through the grace of Lord Shiva and Narayana alone.

Radha-ji having recognised Parvati Ma, welcomed her with unbounded love, respect and grace. Bhole Baba's form remained undetected, all that was seen was the veil of maya and through it, the unspeakably lovely gopi, who had arrived. The rasa lila was at its fullness. Shaivi Maya cannot affect Lord Vishnu, for it is mahamaya indeed, and Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, unchanging and eternal, remain one through all. Lord Krishna was with Radha ji, at the time, surrounded by gopis. Seeing Lord Shiva, transformed by maya, he left Radha-ji to welcome the lithe beauty, saying, "Welcome Gopinath Gopeshwar, I am graced by your presence in this form." Veiled by maya, what was seen was Lord Krishna embracing a beautiful gopi. In truth, known to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, the self greeted the self in reality.

Sri Radha, saddened by Sri Krishna's seeming betrayal of her and affection for another, went into deep tapasya here. It is said that Lord Shiva then gave Radharani his darshan.

Bhagwan Sri Krishna worshipped Mahadeva Gopinath Gopeshwar in divine respect and abiding love of Lord Shiva. At the temple devoted to Gopinath, every morning the aspect of Lord Shiva as a lingam is worshipped. Every evening, in memory of this divine play, Mahadeva is worshipped in his form as Gopi.

Visitors to Vrindavan may initially think this is another ordinary town of Uttar Pradesh. Referred to as the Town of Temples, Vrindavan is a dham or spiritual center, with over 5,000 temples. Thousands of sadhus, priests and devotees live here in worship. Vrindavan, in the heart of Braj Dham is on the banks of the sacred Yamuna river, and here Radhasthami is celebrated, as Krishna Janamasthami and other festivals like Holi are celebrated, with emotional fervour and a spirit of unequivocal devotion. Braj Dham contains the cherished history of Sri Radha-Krishna and it is believed to be eternally connected with the manifestation of supreme consciousness.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.