Navaratri is a celebration for women – the celebration of Shakti / strength and knowledge culmination of the victory (Vijayadasami) of good over evil. In Bengal, a Durga deity is sculpted on the auspicious Mahalaya Amavasya day and the Mother is worshipped across the nine days.
Ramayana Navaha is read over the nine days and Dusshera is celebrated as the victory of Rama over Ravana. For Krishna Bhaktas, it is the celebration of Krishna – his love and compassion – which is verily the form of Radha Devi. Thus Navaratri is also a celebration of Radha Devi.
The shakti of the Lord cannot be separated from the Lord – as the Upanishad says ‘shakti-shaktimatorabhedah’ – ‘the power and possessor of the power cannot be separated.’ Thus the Lord cannot be separated from his consort – as Vishnu Purana says that the Universe was created not by Narayana but by Sri Lakshmi Narayana. This power has three dimensions – wealth/’aishwarya’ – in the physical dimension, compassion and patience – in the mental dimension and the happiness (‘hlaadini’), which is beyond physical and mental planes, which are Sri Devi, Bhu Devi and Neela Devi respectively. The Vedas speak of the three Devis as also speaks Dravida Veda – Sri Devi, Bhu Devi and Nappinai Piratti (Andal).
Lord Rama was an ‘ekapatnivrata’ and hence couldn’t afford to have the three dimensions separately, and hence had Sita Devi as an embodiment of all the three forms as our Guru Maharaj sings ‘Porumaiyum karunaiyum thavamum serndhu’. Only the Divine Mother can recommend us to the Lord no matter how many sins we may have committed.
Ramayana is a ‘Sharanagati Shastra’ and the Lord accepts the ‘Prapanna’ (one who has surrendered). The worst kind of sinner – Kakasura, gets the grace of Lord Rama only after being recommended by Sita Devi, although he had tormented her. The greatest Sharanagati spoken about in Ramayana – Vibhishana Sharanagati – happens when the divine Mother was separated from the Lord. Valmiki says that Vibhishana came with a mace in his hand through the sky – ‘antarisksha gatah srimaan braataavai raakshasaadipam’ along with other Rakshasas. Interesting is the adjective he uses to denote Vibhishana – ‘Sriman’. Periyavachan Pillai gives a beautiful commentary on Valmiki’s choice of this adjective. While Vibhishana sailed through the clouds, Sita Devi in Ashoka Vana, looked up in the sky and asked Trijata who that was, and the latter said that it was her father – Vibhishana, going to the Feet of Lord Rama to seek refuge, after having fought with his brother Ravana. The Divine Mother’s compassion springs up and prays, ‘Oh God! Hope Lord Rama accepts this surrender and grants refuge to Vibhishana.’ – she recommended to the Lord through her prayers!
The eight Mahishis of Krishna – embody one specific quality each, but the embodiment of pure love is none but Radha Devi – our Madhuri Sakhi, but for whom, we wouldn’t be enjoying Krishna. And Krishna’s heart houses Radha Devi all the time. And she gives Krishna to us, thus taking the ‘Guru Sthana’ – ‘rAdhikAm mama gurum sharaNam prapadye’ – uniting us with Bhagavan out of compassion.
Bhagavatam deals Krishna’s Lilas in detail, and Mahans like Surdas, Meera, Oothukaadu Venkata Kavi have enjoyed Lilas even beyond those found in Bhagavatam. But not many speak about Radha Devi. In fact Sri Shuka does not even dare to mention her name! The reason is, one cannot understand the greatness of Radha Devi’s if we become a Vrajavasi / Gopi ourselves. Unless we shed the base qualities and get elevated to that supreme state of the Gopis, it is hard to write/sing about Radha Devi and any mundane composition would only end up demeaning Her greatness.
All we can do is read, sing and enjoy compositions that Mahans may have performed, without even trying to interpret its meaning.
Vrushabhanu Maharaja and Nanda were friends, so were their spouses – Kalavati and Yashoda. Krishna arrived at Nanda’s house and Kalavati longed to have a child like Krishna, but as Krishna was unique, she prayed for a baby girl who would marry Krishna. Back in Goloka, Radha Devi questioned the Lord if there was a place filled with pure love and the Lord pointed down to Vrajabhoomi – Brindavan and Radha Devi wished to experience this love – through ‘Viraha’ – separation, and chose to be born down. Meera, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were born to experience the same ‘viraha’.
Thus Radha Devi was born to Kalavati (Keerthirani) in the Shukla Ashtami of Bhadrapada month, a fortnight after Krishna was born. Puranas say that Radha Devi, after she was born, did not speak a word – just like Nammazhwar, Jatabharata, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And Narada Bhagavan came down, chanted Krishna Nama and immediately, the baby smiled.
Mahans have sung how Radha Devi grew up. Our Guru Maharaj sings how she learnt to walk – ‘thalar nadai nadakkindraal sri radhai…’. She would wear blue colored clothes all the time, because Krishna was blue-hued! When she slept, she would reserve the other half of the bed for Krishna, for He would come to her in her dreams. She was in Krishna bhaava all the time. – His very Name attracted her.
The mothers have a very unique way of teaching their children. They show different things around them and teach words and objects. – a moon, the stars, the crow, cow, peacock or a parrot for example.
Mahatmas have done various compositions on Krishna, and many a time, they use objects to draw comparisons to Krishna – Krishna’s lips are compared to ruby, Krishna’s cheeks being compared to a mirror and so on. That is because all of us know only the world and hence we take worldly examples to understand how Krishna was. But here, it is the other way round! Radha knew only Krishna and hence everything in the world, she relates to Krishna!
‘shikshati kalaavati nijasutaam udhyaana vane…’
‘Kathamasti chandrah bruhi radhe’ – how is the moon, my dear Radhe!
‘krushna mukham iva…’ – it is like Krishna’s face, mom!
‘kokilah katam koojati radhe’ – how does the cuckoo sing, Radhe?
‘krishna kantadwaniriva madhuram…’ – the cuckoo sings as sweet as Krishna’s voice!
How is the color of the sky, Kalavati asks, and Radha says, that is like Krishna.
Pointing to the lotus in the pond, Radha Devi asks what that is, and instantly, Radha says it is like Krishna’s feet.
Pointing to a nest where a bird is nursing its chickens, Kalavati asks, what it is, and Radhe replies, ‘Amma, Itis like Krishna taking care of His Bhaktas!’.
An elephant reminds of Krishna’s walk and a peacock feather reminds her of Krishna’s hair dressing. Pointing to a creeper of clover, the mother asks what it was, and Radha Devi says that it was as tender as Krishna’s hands. The darkness of the night reminds her of the heart that does not have devotion to Lord Krishna. The mirror reminds her of Krishna’s reflective cheeks.
Eventually, the mother asks, ‘Oh Radha, where do you live?’ and pat came the reply, ‘muralidhara nayana yugale maatah’ – ‘I live in the eyes of Muralidhara!
That is how Radha Devi grew up, eventually to wed Krishna – the divine Radha Kalyanam signifies this union.
How do we celebrate Radha Devi? How does one become recipient of the Lord’s grace – by verily chanting ‘Radhe’ ‘Radhe’ – that is the only way to get devotion to Krishna.
‘Radhe Radhe endraal thithikkude naakku’
thenum paalum andha draakshai pazhamum karumbum karkkandum samamagumo idharkku’
Sings our Guru Maharaj. Verily chanting the Radhe Nama sweetens our tongue – a sweetness that cannot be compared the sweetness of sugar, milk, honey, sugarcane or the grapefruit.
‘Kanakkattra piravigalil thavam seithor naavil oru kanam ival irundhiduvaale
kannanin bhaktargalin naavinilo thinnamaai ivalum irundhiduvaale’
Even if one performs penances for a million years, they may not have the fortune of Radha Devi residing in their lips (uttering Radha Nama), but for Krishna bhaktas, she resides in their lips forever!
When we go in front of Madhuri Sakhi, this is the prayer we can make unto her – ‘Gopi Bhaava bhaktim dehime sri radhe’ – Oh Radhe! Give me the Bhakti that is as pure as that of the Gopis!
‘raasa mandala pradaaneshwari; rasikajana bhakata hrudayeshwari
madhumati veena vaadana priya; madhura muralidhara shriye..’
Sings our Guru Maharaj.
The satsang ended with prayers and Nama Sankirtan.