If Radha And Krishna Were Living Today, We WOULDN’T Have Let Them Fall In Love

Few things can be said about Radha and Krishna that has not been said before. Entire bodies of literature have been composed in honour of their love. Across centuries and languages, poets like Jayadev, Vidyapati, Chaitanya, Surdas and Eknath have sung about this ultimate relationship. But divine mysteries are seldom solved. The enigma of this love, that is human yet not, continues to mystify and inspire us. So entrenched is this legend in our collective consciousness, that we think nothing of a Radha-Krishna reference in a Bollywood song (Radha on the dance floor?) even in this Netflix-and-Chill milieu. But no matter how we perceive their relationship the Radha-Krishna love story has intrigued people over the ages.

Radha-Krishna Love Story

The funny thing is that Radha, who we take so much for granted, didn’t always exist. Her character is a late entrant in Indian mythology as compared to her eternal paramour, Krishna. Not many know that Radha is nowhere to be found in the Mahabharata, where we meet Krishna fairly extensively. In the Bhagavata Purana too, which was composed a few centuries after the epic, we only find the mention of a ‘special gopi’.

Radha is not named in this text, which is one of the most exhaustive eulogies to Krishna. Barring some passing references, Radha does not blossom in our imaginations entirely until Jayadev’s 12th century CE magnum opus, ‘Gita Govind’. This path-breaking Sanskrit kavya text became pivotal in fixing Radha’s place in popular culture and there has been no looking back. Since then the romance of Radha and Krishna’s love became ingrained in our consciousness.

The Bhakti movement of medieval India readily embraced the figure of Radha, because she spoke the essential language of love.

Radha was witness to and part of many of Krishna’s Vrindavan adventures.
Radha was witness to and part of many of Krishna’s Vrindavan adventures.

A love that transcended time, space, and social mores. As Vaishnava literature around the Radha lore grew, we came to know her as the most beautiful gopi of Vrindavan. Born in Barsana to Vrishbhanu and Kirtida, Radha charmed her way into Krishna’s life, and became a major fixture in the narrative of Krishna’s childhood and youth. Accompanied by her two closest sakhis, Lalita and Vishakha, Radha was witness to and part of many of Krishna’s Vrindavan adventures. She became the paradigm of shringara bhakti (roughly, romantic devotion) to the extent that we cannot imagine Krishna without Radha today. But what makes the Radha- Krishna love story the greatest of all?

Love lessons modern couples can learn from Radha and Krishna

What makes Krishna and Radha’s romance the epitome of all romances is the fact that it features all the DO NOTs. Two most popular tropes about Radha that make this affair so interesting are:

– Radha was an older woman

– Radha was a married woman

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But for Krishna’s divinity, which explains all transgressions as leela, everything about this relationship is wrong…at least by regular standards. A patriarchal, monogamous (and often hypocritical) society has drilled it into our heads that it is not okay for a man to have romantic liaisons with older women and it is definitely not okay to do so if she is married to another.

Love lessons modern couples can learn from Radha and Krishna
Radha and Krishna were perfect in their devotion and attraction to each other

But the Vaishnava authors of yore made no bones about the ‘illegitimacy’ of this divine dalliance. This bold relationship was designed to challenge every social norm and yet Krishna emerged on the other side as the ‘purnavataar’ – the god who was a perfect man. What of Radha? She had to bear the weight of many labels – kalankini being one of them. But that was a small price to pay for having a place by Krishna’s side forever after.

When Krishna stole the clothes of naked gopis or broke their pots; or when Radha left her marital bed to dally with Krishna in the forest at midnight, it was simple and clear defiance of every moral code.

These acts were inspired by a love so pure and true that social contexts and laws become minor details. Radha and Krishna were perfect in their devotion and attraction to each other, and one complemented and completed the other. This sensual, emotional and intellectual chemistry is demonstrated in story after story and this is what makes their love extraordinary. However, it is the essential separation of the two lovers and the ensuing heartbreak at the end that makes the story paradigmatic.

Related reading: The uncomfortable love of Brahma and Saraswati

Two bodies, one spirit

Of the many themes and tales about Radha and Krishna, one stands out most poignantly in this author’s mind. Here, the couple cross dress – Radha as Krishna and Krishna as Radha – to please each other. This seemingly quaint equation is vaguely reflected in old texts like the Vishnu and Padma Puranas, and more clearly in a modern Thumri composition called ‘Tum Radhe Bano Shyam’. “Dressing up as a gopi is the Dark Lord’s pastime called dan leela or matuki leela,” explains Srila Rupa Goswami in his famous Vaishnava work, ‘The Nectar of Devotion’.

A small cult in Eastern India – the Sakhi Bekhis – still practices such as emulative cross-dressing as an act of bhakti. Here, male Krishna bhakts dress up like women to fully experience the ‘Radha bhaav’ of devotion – much like Lord Chaitanya in the 16th century CE Bengal.

Related reading: The story of Ahalya and Indra: Was it really adultery?

What is the relationship between Radha and Krishna? It is the kind of love that transcends every inhibition, all shame. It is embracing one’s lover in every sense of the word – their gender, their identity, their very soul. Nothing is held back, there are no holds barred. Witnessed in the context of loving devotion, this act of cross-dressing seems odd no more. Women in the 21st century also routinely hijack their boyfriends’ jeans and flaunt them with pride, don’t they?

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Readers Comments On “If Radha And Krishna Were Living Today, We WOULDN’T Have Let Them Fall In Love”

  1. idiots radha husband was a neuter ,and this was done by lord vishnu as he didnot want his wife to be with other.Ayan has demanded laxmi as wife in her previous birth to which lord vishnu said that you will get her in next birth but you have to remain neuter as he didnot want to share her ,link for this– https://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/radhas-real-husband ++justifying affair by using these mythological(fake story ) and by using the concept of god can be done only by garbage people (the writer here is).There is a limit to imperfection ,you cannot justify cheating in name of imperfect its a emotional torturee for someone letting them to believe that they are not good enough.if you are not getting something in a relationship you should get out of it ,what is love for you need not to be same for other.maybe one can put effort for but you are still not impressed and say that he don’t love me.so if you don’t get it just get out of it.there are open relationship or casual relation or go for other to fullfill your desire.why you will snatch other right to be loved.love is not only about being together in happy time having sex and romance and get out or go for other during tough time or when you are not together,just because he/she is not more attractive or situation are tough (i don’t have problem if someone left during tough time,when one is not that much attractive or not being available all the time ,if done by consent but don,t call it love it was just that you just feed on attraction for sometime and when attraction over you left,you just treated someone as toy use and when get old throw it),love is more of a mindset .
    “It is our imagination that is responsible for love, not the other person.”― Marcel Proust
    there are peoples who choose to love one who has hurt them a lot (its stupidity but they call it love)and there are
    one don’t love those who put a lot of effort for them.so if a person is good means not violent treat with you respect ,but not being able to love you by your definition of love,doe not mean he/she deserve to be not loved enough or as the way they want to be loved.you both are just incompatible for each other ,you can be complete for some other.why to cheat,not allow to get them to know about the situation and deprived them of the love they deserved,not proving them enough love .get out of the situation and find other.after commitment ,if someone don,t choose to love you or make effort for you or communicate or even go for divorce respectfully, but choose to go for other by cheating,even if you are respectful toward them they don,t love you.love is a choice .
    saying that finding attraction in other than the partner which you have given commitment then cheating ,not letting them to know the situation(so they cannot even find out why they are feeling incomplete ,not loved enough) should be ok and acceptable is garbage.If you are not being able to get love ,don’t snatch their get out and find yours and let them to find theirs

  2. Thought provoking insight..
    But I wonder why people changed their perception of loyalty and love, to the extent that the concept of loving someone else other than the spouse, has become vile and unacceptable. Was it their karma that they got accepted in that time ? Is it our time or our karma that we cannot accept such a situation ? But one thing is clear; that extra marital affairs were as rampant then as they are now. People have only corrupted the concept to a hideous extent now.
    Even I cannot accept the thought of my spouse straying. Values change with time ??? What do others think ?

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