Radha Ashtami, an Introduction
Radha Ashtami is the day of advent or birth of Sri Radha. Also referred to as Radha Rani, she is believed to be the incarnation of none other than Goddess Mahalakshmi, who came down to earth to continue her companionship with her consort Lord Vishnu, who himself took Avatar as Krishna. Also known as Radha Jayanthi, this birth anniversary of Radha falls on the 8th thithi or day of Shukla Paksha, the waxing phase of the Moon in the month of Bhadrapadha, which corresponds to August–September. This day celebrates the eternal love of the divine couple Radha and Krishna.
Greatness of Radha
Radha is regarded as the personification of Jeevathma, the individual soul, that longed for remaining united with Krishna, the Paramathma, the divine soul. The merging of the two into a single unified entity is referred to as Radhakrishna. Scriptures also call Radha simply as Krishna Vallabh, the beloved of Krishna. There cannot be a truer statement as Radha has always remained Krishna’s greatest love. She is even regarded as the one who guides and controls Krishna’s life, and hence, Krishna remains incomplete without her and so is Krishna’s worship.
Importance of Radha Ashtami
Radha Ashtami remains to be an occasion of both, religious observance and joyous celebration. The devout observe Radha Ashtami Vrat that involves complete fasting on that day and offering worship to Radha and Krishna with faith and devotion. They also undertake Goddess Durga worship. It is believed that this can help them overcome all difficulties, clear the negative thoughts, get their honest desires fulfilled, lead a prosperous life and attain spiritual bliss. This can also help to wipe out their sins and lead them towards the ultimate salvation.
Legend of Radha
Radha was born in the village of Barsana, near the town of Mathura, as the daughter of Vrishbhanu Gop and Kirti. It is said that she was actually found when Vrishbhanu was preparing the ground for organizing a sacrifice and was brought up by him as his own dear daughter. As per mythology, Radha was none other than Goddess Lakshmi, who incarnated on earth so as to remain inseparable from her divine consort Vishnu, who came down to this world as Krishna.
Radha Ashtami Celebrations
People spend the Radha Ashtami day by offering fervent prayers to the divine couple Radha and Krishna. They install the Radha–Krishna images at home, decorate them with new clothing, ornaments and flowers, offer items like shringar and dhoop, make food offerings, read scriptures, recite hymns in their praise and chant Radha Gayathri Mantra. Some do abhishekams, the scared bath to their idols. Many also observe fast on that day, which is believed to relieve them of all the sins. People also visit Lord Krishna temples in large numbers and offer prayers. Special pujas are organized in the Krishna temples all over the country, while grand celebrations take place all over the Braj Bhoomi, where Radha–Krishna love blossomed. Temples in places like Mathura, Brindavan, Barsana and Rawal come alive with intense religious fervor.
Perhaps the biggest Radha Ashtami celebration takes place at Radha’s birthplace Barsana, where a very large number of people take holy dip in the scared tank of Radha Kund and offer worship at the temples there. A mixture of turmeric and curd is also thrown on the devotees as part of the celebrations. The Goswami community celebrates this day in the Radha Vallabh temple, where bhajans and kirtans are sung, Bhog, the food offerings are made to the deities and Aarti is performed.