Valentine’s Day has evolved from a Christian feast in honour of St. Valentine to a universal celebration of romantic love that is commemorated by individuals of all faiths and those who practise no religion at all.
There have long been tales about love in other religions. As a researcher of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, I have noticed that there are many tales of heavenly couples in Hindu traditions. These deities represent the ideal of love, and their tales frequently hold lessons for the rest of us. Radha and Krishna are one duo who has always captivated the attention of Hindu worshippers.
About Lord Krishna
The Bhagavata Purana, a literature that academics date to a period between the fifth and tenth centuries, is where the tale of Radha and Krishna is first told. In the Sanskrit devotional poetry “Gitagovinda,” written by Jayadeva in the 12th century in Eastern India, their tale is further described.
Depending on whose scriptural tradition you read, Krishna, a very well-known and revered Hindu deity, is either viewed as an avatar or incarnation of the god Vishnu or as the Supreme Being himself. According to Hindu mythology, Vishnu protects the cosmos’ order by frequently assuming an earthly form to rectify a mistake and steer the universe back towards its intended direction when chaos threatens to engulf it.
Krishna’s life story is intriguing and filled with both sorrow and adventure. Similar to King Herod in the New Testament, Krishna’s malevolent uncle, King Kamsa, orders the execution of all the male children born that night in the realm. This was because it was predicted that one of those kids would overthrow him and destroy his rule. However, when Krishna’s parents are informed of the coming disaster, the child is whisked away to safety.
So although though Krishna is sprung from royalty, he was raised in the rural village of Vrindavan among cowherds and cowherdesses, or gopis. Particularly treasured by Krishna’s followers are tales of his adolescence. During this relatively carefree period of his life, Krishna played with the gopis and got up to all sorts of mischievous mischief as he strolled around the forests of Vrindavan while playing his flute. All of the gopis, as well as Krishna, fell in love with them, but Radha was the one with whom he had the most intense feelings.
There is a tragic undertone to the tale of Radha and Krishna’s love. Since Radha is already married and Krishna has a tremendous future ahead of him, the two cannot be together. When the time comes, Krishna must depart from Vrindavan, depose his evil uncle, and take an important part in the conflict between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, two families of rival brothers.
The very theological relevance of this tragic narrative in the Vaishnava tradition—the Hindu religion in which it appears most prominently makes it precious to believers in addition to the very genuine human emotions it provokes.
Given that Radha is married, some people may view their relationship as illicit or scandalous. The tradition, however, focuses more on the profound, spontaneous, and sincere love that it demonstrates than it does on this controversy. Radha’s devotion to Krishna is so intense that she is prepared to defy societal norms in order to be with him.
For this love, she is prepared to take a chance on earning the ire of her neighbourhood. And in accordance with Vaishnava theology, this is how people should adore God. True devotion to God, also known as bhakti, is supposed to be characterised by wild abandonment. It ought to be unplanned and unrestrained.
According to Vaishnava mythology, Krishna is Ishvara, the Lord, the Supreme Being, and the gopis stand in for the myriad jivas, or souls, who reside in the cosmos. The “Ras Lila” is a well-known and exquisite artistic representation of the bond between Krishna and the gopis. It shows a circle of gopis dancing. Krishna is the companion of everyone of them. He multiplied himself using his supernatural abilities so that he could dance with each gopi separately.
Radha experiences such excruciating separation anguish as Krishna must ultimately depart Vrindavan. When she asks Krishna why she must experience such suffering, he responds that she must learn to recognise him in all creatures since he resides in their hearts. Similar to physical agony, the individual soul’s experience of separation from God is seen to be a particularly potent manifestation of bhakti. But by acknowledging God in all creation and in one another, this alienation may be transcended.
“I am never lost to one who sees all creatures in me and who sees me in all beings, nor am I ever lost to that person,” states Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
Thus, the narrative of Radha and Krishna may be appreciated on Valentine’s Day on two levels: as a tragic and moving account of a former young love that was lovingly remembered but left behind by the call of maturity, as well as an invitation to be open to love in all its forms.