How Real is Radha ?
Issue of Radha Krishna and their relationship is in the news this week (March 2010)
An eminent SC judge has remarked that its OK for Indians to have a live-in partnership before marriage and pre-marital sex because Radha and Krishna used to have the same in ancient India !
In this case, we need to ask, "Is this ancient relationship real ?"
Question is - is RADHA real ?
Lets be objective about this and lets not get emotional.
There is no mention of Radha in any ancient scripture. None !!
Not in ShriMaad Bhagvatam.
Not in Mahabharat.
Not in Harivansham.
All three of these were written at about the same time and cover the life and work of Shri Krushna.
Radha is only mentioned in medieval scriptures after Acharya Nimbark and poet Jayadeva wrote about her in their works.
There is certainly a lot, quiet a lot, written in medieval literature from that point on. But, none of this is based on any historic or original scripture.Radh
Shri Maad Bhagvatam was written around the time of Shri Krushna. It is totally silent on the subject of Radha. It does not mention any gopi by name and mentions none of the many pranks Shri Kruishna is famous for. The SM Bhagvatam is very detailed about various aspects of Shri Krushna's life. Its unlikely for it to be silent on a subject as important as Krushna's girlfriend(s) - had there been any to mention ! Besides, Krushna left Vraj at the age of 11. How was he suppose to have a "relationship" - sexual or otherwise - with Radha ? Its an absurd notion that Shri Krushna could have had an affair of any sort at that tender age !
Fact is, there is no mention of Radha in any scripture or Itihas written at the time of Shri Krushna. Let us remember, the SM Bhagvatam we have at present is what Sutaji narrated to the sages in Naimisharanya. If he wanted to, he could / would have added Radhaji’s name as the mukhy sakhi. He didn’t. There is no reason for Vyasji to be teary eyed at the mention of Shri Radha, as he never “met her”. If she had been a historical person, he would have done so. Shri Uddhavji is also silent on this matter and he visited Vraj on numerous occasions. He would know of Shri Radhaji if she had been there at the time.
Shri Vallabhacharya is also silent on the subject. Of the main six acharyas, his pramans are the Vedas, Vedant, Brahma Sutra, SM Bhagvatam, SMB Gita. In his own commentary on SM Bhagvatam – Subodhiniji, he does not mention Radha at all. Writings of Astachap are the experiences of those poet saints. They are authentic versions of their own spiritual experiences, but can not be substituted for SMB for authenticity. The 84 and 252 Vaishnav vartas of the Pushti Marg are the historical and allegorical stories of vaishnavs that lived at the time of Shri Vallabh / Gosaiji – not at the time of Shri Krushna. After the time of Shri Vallabh, his decendants started to live in Vraj and they adopted the festivals, ideas and philosophies of people around them. Shri Radhaji and a whole host of sakhis were integral to that.
Read the original SM Bhagvatam. Translations in regional languages are available from
publications. They give each shloka and than its translation next to it. Commentaries by saints, no matter how great, will always show their bias towards a particular philosophy (dvaita, advaita, shuddhadvait, bhedabhed etc). So if you want to explore the original as a scholarly pursuit, you have to read the original. Gorakhpur
Mahabharat, the other scripture that deals with the life and times of Shri Krushna, is also totally devoid of any mention of any gopi by name. Mahabharat is an “itihas”, a historical document written by Shri Veda Vyas to “educate” the Kuru kings about their legacy. This being a historical document, would have mentioned Shri Radha if she had been there at the time. Even Shishupal who does not stint on mentioning every little aspect of Shri Krushna’s life in negative light, does not mention Krushna’s girlfriend(s). If Shri Radha (or the other sakhis) had been there, Shishupal would have mentioned them to slight Shri Krushna for sure.
Just as the Mahabhart is about the Kuru dynasty, Harivansham is about the Yadu dynasty. It too does not mention Radha or any "girlfriend" of Krushna in any direct or indirect way.
The entire cast of gopies and the lilas (daan, hori, pana ghat etc) we ascribe to them was written later by various saints like Shri Nimbakacharya, Jayadev, Shri Chaitanya etc. Their revelations are the devotional revelations of their journey into their bhav. There is no “real evidence” nor “historical authenticity” about what they say. It is their "sakhi-bhav" and their feelings of "Krushna-prem" that are expressed in their writings.
This does not negate or denigrate their experience. Their sadhana and their experiences are unique in the realm of Bhakti.
However, there is no “historical evidence” for Shri Radha or any such gopi(es) in the original scriptures. So search of any such nature is bound to come up empty handed. We can read about what gopies mean to the Gaudia sect, or what Meerabai sings or what the Astachaps have sung about them in later times, but, none of this is based on the SM Bhagvatam or any other scripture that is considered tobe a “praman” by Shri Vallabhacharya or any great philosopher before Nimbark. Later Goswami balaks adopted the raas-lilas they saw being celebrated in Vraj at the time (from 15th century onwards) and adopted them for their own sect.
Purans, like the Brahmavivarta, were written in the Medieval times. We can deduce this from the language, grammar etc. These later puranas are totally based on Radha and lilas of various gopies in her group. Fact that they mention Radha is a matter of their author's poetic fantasies. Its like trying to compare Valamiki Ramayan with Tulsi Ramayan and saying Valamikiji is wrong not to have mentioned certain episodes in his original because Tulsi has ! There is only one Authentic Ramayan – that of Valmikiji. All 330 others are based on the original and hence show the bias of the their authors who have not witnessed the actual events. Similarly, apart from SM Bhagvatam, all the others scriptures on the life of Shri Krushna use the SM Bhagvatam as their seed idea and than create a wonderful picture of their authors’ imagination.
EXCUSES made as to why Radha is not in the original scriptures.
Claims of authenticity are often made by using older / original data to claim legitimacy for the new theories. Just see how all the new sects claim to go back to the "original" / "back to basics" to gain credence. This is a human trait and so you can see this in all walks of life - teaching techniques, health foods, social advise, religion. Even the taliban and RSS (Rama sena etc) claim to go back to "basics" without explaining which basics are being discussed.
Similarly, most "new Vaishnava sects" in medieval times used Vyasji and Sukdevji as source of their new theories. To explain why these ideas / theories were not there in the original, they claimed that -
1) original authors of SMB were disciples of Radhaji / sakhis and hence it was unacceptable for them to mention her / them in the original.&nbs (Which than begs the question, so how did "you" find out than ? Especially 1000 years after the event !)
2) These new theories were "revealed" to them by the God. (So, why were they not revealed before ?)
3) These new theories were so highly secret that none were allowed to know this till now (So why now ?
4) In the Kali Yug, these are the new and only ways to get to God !! These are somehow better than previous methods and though easier, are superior !!!! (Everyone believes they live in a time worse than previous generations - hence easy to get emotional response on this one !)
5) God's lila is eternal and these new lilas are the visions from that eternal lila. Others before them did not have the access to these lilas due to their impurity !! (How comes the saints of Kali Yug are better and more refined that the saints of previous "purer" Yugas ?)
6) These new people are kinder than previous gurus and sharing their experiences with the masses. (Impossible to authenticate, but easy to argue)
7) These gods / goddesses were previously under a curse and hence could not be worshipped before, but now the curse has been lifted and they are ready to be worshipped. (Lots of "new gods and goddesses come under this umbrella - biggest example being "Santoshi maa" - she was non-existent before the film in the 1970's !!)
So, when you hear or read authors, famous gurus / katha-kars say they are revealing new facts or previously hidden facts, you really do have to take their word with a huge pot of salt (pinch of salt would not be enough) Katha-kars are often the worst culprits as they have to find new material to keep the interest of their audiences month after month and so often indulge in a lot of speculative theories to keep their material "fresh".
Poets and artists are equally bad at adding their own imagination to the original and coming up with new material that is totally alien to the source.
Use your own powers of discrimination - vivek - to reason what is and what is not "authentic". For this though, you do have to read the original scriptures. And you should read widely to get to know the source of various ideas. You can than see where ideas come from, why and how they are spread.
This is essential if we are to argue against misuse of our religious icons to lead a licentious life style. To give the youth of today carte blanche to live as they please "because Radha and Krishna did" is wrong. We can only say that though if we know the facts.Premarital sex has always existed in the world and always will. BUT, it is against the social cohesion and well being of the society and hence, the law givers the world over have rightly sanctioned against it. It isn't right for anyone, let alone the Supreme Court of India, to use a poetic figure of Radha to approve premarital sex in the name of Hinduism. (Indian SC used this line of argument in a case that came up 2009-2010)
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