Gods + Goddesses - Get to Know: Radha + Krishna, A Love Story

Happy Valentine's Day, yogis. This week, we've got an extra special love story edition to our Gods and Goddesses series, featuring the myth of Radha and Krishna's, with a little help from our resident expert on all things mythology, Alanna Kaivalya

Who are Radha and Krisha? 

Wikipedia: Radha, also called Radhika, Radharani and Radhikarani, is almost always depicted alongside Krishna and features prominently within the theology of today's Vallabha and Gaudiya Vaishnava sects, which regards Radha as the original Goddess or Shakti. Radha is also the principal god of worship in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, as Nimbarka, the founder of the tradition, declared that Radha and Krishna together constitute the absolute truth.

Wikipedia: Krishna, is a deity, worshipped across many traditions of Hinduism in a variety of different perspectives. While many Vaishnava groups recognize him as an avatar of Lord Vishnu; some traditions within Krishnaism, consider Krishna to be Svayam Bhagavan, or the Supreme Being.

What's Radha and Krisna's love story?

Krisna and his beautiful cowgirl love interest, Radha, pursue each other around the forested hills of Vrindavan. Though Krisna continuously escapes Radha's grasp, she calls out from her heart to have him stand still, if even for a moment. Then the moment shifts, and the lovely Radha becomes the pursued. Krisna turns toward her and follows her around the hills. Though each loves the other deeply, their love is complicated. They barely spend any actual time with each other — maybe a fleeting moment here, or a few wee hours of the morning there. Their love is never consummated by the fires of marriage. It always remains in this early romantic stage, where each is perpetually consumed by the other, in thought, word, and action. 

The divine play (lila) between Krishna and Radha is very playful. Like a great game of cat and mouse, the anticipation is what makes the game exciting, not the conclusion. 

It is this sweet separation of lover and beloved that is cultivated in the tradition known as bhakti yoga. 

Krishna's and Radha's relationship has its challenges — despite their love, they eventually both marry other people. In Krishna's case, thousands of others. What they represent, then, is not some idealized romance. Rather, they represent the steadfastness of our desire to experience the divine. They embody the unquenchable devotion that persists even when what we most want remains elusive, just beyond our grasp. 

Name Meanings:

Krisna's name comes from the Sanskrit word Kṛṣṇa, which means "black", "dark" or "dark blue". The waning moon is called Krishna Paksha in the Vedic tradition, relating to the adjective meaning "darkening". Sometimes it is also translated as "all-attractive", according to members of the Hare Krishna movement. He's also commonly called Mohan "enchanter", Govinda, "Finder of the cows" or Gopala, "Protector of the cows".

Radha's most common name variation, Radhika, means she whose worship of the Krishna is all powerful. She embodies supreme focus and mental clarity and is the incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. She's the embodiment of beauty, intelligence and good fortune.

Significance of their Love:

Radha Krishna are collectively known within Hinduism as the combination of both the feminine as well as the masculine aspects of God. Krishna is often referred as svayam bhagavan in Gaudiya Vaishnavism theology and Radha is Krishna's supreme beloved. With Krishna, Radha is acknowledged as the Supreme Goddess. It is said that she controls Krishna with Her love, and it is believed that Krishna enchants the world, but Radha "enchants even Him. Therefore She is the supreme goddess of all. Radha Krishna".

Who Worships the God/Goddess:

Hindus often worship a pair, rather than just a god or goddess. This is the case in the worship of Radha Krishna. Traditions worshiping Krishna, as svayam bhagavan, who is male, include reference and veneration to his Radha, who is worshiped as supreme. Throughout time, certain leaders and customs spread the worship of Radha Krishna. 

Fun Fact: 

In India, temples of Sri Sri Radha Krsna are prevalent and the world though Braja Mandala including Vrindavan and Mathura are considered to be the centers of Radha-Krishna worship. The most important temples of Vrindavana are Prem Mandir Vrindavan, Madan-mohan, Govindadev, Radha-Raman, Radha-Gokulananda, Radha-Damodar, Banki-behari, Jugal Kishor, Radha-Gopinath, Radha Shyamasundar, and Iskcon temple.