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Radha Ashtami: Things One Must Know About the Festival

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Radha Ashtami: 26th August 2020

Shri Radha was born or rather it is believed that she was found lying on a Lotus leaf in a pond of Barsana. She was picked up from there and brought up by a couple with the name of Vrishbhanu and Keerti.


Radha Ashtami: Things One Must Know About the Festival:

The Hindu festival of Radha Ashtami is celebrated every year with great energy and enthusiasm to mark the birth anniversary of Shri Radha Rani, the consort of Lord Krishna. It is believed that she was an avatar of Goddess Lakshmi. Radha Ashtami is celebrated on the ‘Ashtami’(8th day) of the Shukla Paksha (the bright fortnight of the moon) during the month of ‘Bhadrapada’ as per the Hindu calendar. As per the Gregorian calendar, it is usually celebrated in the month of August-September. Radha Ashtami is also known as ‘Radha Jayanti’, or ‘Radhashtami’ and on this auspicious day, devotees of Hindu religion worship Goddess Radha with utmost devotion and sincerity. This day is also celebrated grandly as an honor to the selfless bond that existed between Sri Krishna and Radha, a unique relationship between God and a human.

Radha Ashtami is celebrated 15 days after the celebration of ‘Janmashtami’ which is a festival that is observed to celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. On the special occasion of Radha Ashtami, special prayers and pujas are organized in Lord Krishna temples all around. Radha Ashtami is celebrated with much flair and energy in all the ISCKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temples all over the country as well as in the abroad locations. The celebrations of Radha Ashtami is done in a much grander way in places like Mathura, Vrindavan, and Barsana, which is the birthplace of Shri Radha.

Legends of the Festival:

As per the mythological stories, it is believed that Shri Radha did not open her eyes till Shri Krishna was born. This is the reason why the divine love of Shri Radha and Shri Krishna surpasses all human concepts and it is still considered spiritually significant. 

Shri Radha or Radha Rani has been described as Lord Krishna’s spiritual energy in many Hindu scriptures. It is believed that whenever Lord Krishna takes an incarnation, His spiritual energy is born in a female form to complement Him. Hence, people from different parts believe that one needs to worship Lord Krishna’s spiritual energy, Radha if they intend to attain the grace of Lord Krishna.

Importance of Radha Ashtami:

The festival of Radha Ashtami is the most-awaited festival for all the Krishna devotees. Devotees in a large number observe fast on this special day in the honor of Shri Radha. The love between Radha and Krishna is eternal and it can only be understood when someone overcomes all the worldly impurities. This unique unison of Lord Krishna and Shri Radha symbolizes how an individual soul can merge with that of the Supreme Soul. Radha signifies individual soul and Lord Krishna is considered as the Universal soul. 

It is a ritual that the idols of Shri Radha should be cleaned with milk and then other decorations happen. Varieties of sweets are offered to the idols of Radha Rani and people even perform ‘aarti’ along with singing various bhajans and devotional songs. 

It is believed in many parts of the country that if one observes fast on the occasion of Radha Ashtami and if he/she worships the Goddess with utmost devotion and sincerity, the person gets freed from all his/her sins that he/she might have committed knowingly or unknowingly during their lifetime. And furthermore, the person also attains spiritual bliss which is immensely satisfying, to say the least. They say that the mind of a person gets cleared of all the evil and negative thoughts which enables them to look at life with a much better perception. 

The celebration of Radha Ashtami means a lot to the people of Vrindavan and its adjacent areas. On any other day other then Radha Ashtami, people are not permitted to even chant Shri Radha’s name or take a dip in the holy Radha Kund because it is considered as disrespectful to the Goddess. However, on the occasion of Radha Ashtami, the devotees are allowed to take dips in the Radha Kund and chant Shri Radha’s name post-midnight. Hence, every year during the festival of Radha Ashtami, a large number of devotees gather and take bath in the Radha Kund and seek blessings from Radha Rani. Devotional songs like bhajan and kirtan are sung and played throughout the day in honor of Shri Radha.

Rituals Observed During Radha Ashtami :

  • On the occasion of Radha Ashtami, devotees from all around get up early in the morning, preferably before sunrise and they spend the entire day worshipping Goddess Radha with sheer devotion and dedication. Some devotees even observe fast to show their devotion and gratitude towards Goddess Radha on the occasion of Radha Ashtami. Devotees offer prayers to Radha Rani along with Lord Krishna. It is a common belief among devotees that the worship of Lord Krishna is incomplete with the worship of Shri Radha.
  • The idol of Goddess Radha is bathed in the Radha Kund and an Abhishek is conducted using the ‘Panchamrit’ during the noontime on an auspicious day. The idol then gets adorned with new clothes and a variety of flowers are used to decorate Shri Radha. The devotees in huge numbers offer shringar (makeup) items, dhoop, and bhog to Goddess Radha. Once the aarti that is sung in the honor of Goddess Radha, the bhoga or prasad gets distributed among the devotees. On the auspicious occasion of Radha Ashtami, devotees recite different names of Shri Radha and keep on chanting the ‘Radha Gayatri Mantra’ throughout the day.

Radha’s Eternal Love for Lord Krishna :

As per one legend, Srila Prabhupada used to be quite preserved whenever he used to talk about Radha Rani. He believed that Radha is so special and all happiness expands in her and Lord Krishna expands Himself in her. She is considered as the prime source of all the energy and she is the original angel. Lord Krishna never used to tolerate any offenses against her.

Another legend describes how Srimati Radha Rani appeared. She had come just to serve Lord Krishna. She had the intention of making devotees for Him. When king Vrishbhanu offered his beautiful, blind, baby girl to Narada Muni for His blessings, Narada Muni was ecstatic, there was a twinkle in His eyes, His body began shivering and tears were flowing from His eyes. Narada Muni took the baby girl in His lap and began to think, 'I have gone to all the places in the entire universe, nowhere I had found such a beautiful girl like this’. Nowhere!! He considered Himself fortunate and told king Vrishbhanu that he is indeed very fortunate to have this girl as his daughter.

He enlightened him by saying that this baby girl is the Goddess of fortune and he needs to be well taken care of and nothing else. Narada Muni offered His sincere prayers to Radharani with contentment in His eyes and requested Radharani to provide him the privilege of giving him a darshan of her youthful Kishori avatar. Radharani obliged as per the request of Narada Muni and appeared in front of Him with all her sakhis around her. She asked Narada Muni to meet her at the Kusum Sarovar. And, this how Narada Muni got to witness the Kishori avatar of Radharani. 

It has been elaborately explained in the Skanda Purana that out of thousands of Gopis, sixteen thousand were predominant, and out of 108 Gopis, eight were still prominent; out of eight Gopis, Radharani and Chandravalli were prominent, and out of the two Gopis, Radharani was the most prominent(KB Chapter.31). “Because Radha possesses all the charm and sweetness, She is the better of the two. In the Sruti-Sastra Radharani is known by the name Gandharva-Devi. Srimati Radharani considers Sri Krishna millions and millions of times dearer than Her own life’s breath”(RKG). When the Gopis were compared, it was quite evident that Srimati Radharani is the most important among all as her persona expressed the real ecstasy of the emotion called love.

The Mahabhava or the ecstasy of love experienced by other Gopis should never be compared to that of Radharani’s. Radharani is the original form of ecstatic love for Lord Krishna who said, “The happiness I feel when meeting Radharani is a hundred times greater than the happiness I get from meeting others”. (CC Adi 4.258) “Srimati Radharani is the beloved consort of Krishna, and She is the wealth of Krishna’s life. Without Radharani surpasses all in beauty, good qualities, in good fortune, and, above all, in love”. (CC Adi 4.214).

Being the greatest devotee of Lord Krishna, Radharani possessed an exemplary mentality. Srimati Radharani said, ‘I do not mind My personal distress. I only wish for the happiness of Krishna, for His happiness is the goal of My life. However, if He feels great happiness in giving me distress, that distress is the best of my happiness.’ This statement testifies to how much Radharani actually loved Lord Krishna and her love for Him was selfless. She never wanted anything from Him but wanted Him to be happy, not caring for her happiness, the distress attached to it. If causing distress gives Krishna happiness, so be it. She was a true devotee of Lord Krishna and she loved Him so much that she accepted the unhappiness as the greatest of all happiness.

Thanks to festivals like Radhashtami, we get to remember what eternal love is like the one between Lord Krishna and Radharani and restore our faith in it.

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