By Mahant (Dr.) Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji
Question: Why is Rādhā’s name not mentioned in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa?
Answer: This is a big mystery. Śrīmad Bhāgavata is primarily a book about Śrī Kṛṣṇa. There is no other book that describes Kṛṣṇa-līlā in such detail. Out of 335 chapters, the Tenth Canto contains 90 chapters that are only about Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The Eleventh Canto contains 31 chapters related to Him or spoken by Him. Similarly, the First Canto includes 18 chapters that are directly or indirectly related to Him. There is also a reference to Kṛṣṇa in a dialogue between the sage Nārada and King Yudhiṣṭhira in the Seventh Canto and the last chapter of the Ninth Canto while describing the dynasty of King Yadu. Thus, we see that about 45 percent of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is about Kṛṣṇa. Rādhā is the hlādinī-śakti of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, She is never separated from Him. Śakti and śaktimān cannot be separated. Kṛṣṇa is not separate from Rādhā, and Rādhā is not separate from Kṛṣṇa, but for the sake of līlā, they become separate. Therefore, a description of Kṛṣṇa is also a description of Rādhā. Yet, surprisingly, Śrīmatī Rādhā’s name is not mentioned even once.
One of the common explanations given is that the speaker of Bhāgavata Purāṇa, in his previous life, was a parrot in the palace of Śrī Rādhā. Therefore, he was very much attached to her. As the speaker of the Bhāgavata, he did not utter Rādhā’s name because he would go into a state of samādhi for six months merely by speaking her name. King Parīkṣit had only seven days to live. Śukadeva was conscious of this and wanted him to hear the complete Bhāgavata. Therefore, he did not utter Rādhā’s name directly but mentioned her only indirectly. There is a verse from an unknown source to this effect:
śrī-rādhā-nāma-mātreṇa mūrcchā ṣāṇmāsikī bhavet
noccāritam ataḥ spaṣṭaṁ prīkṣid-hit-kṛn-muniḥ
“Some also explain that Rādhā was the guru of Śukadeva, and according to smṛti-śāstra, it is improper for a disciple to pronounce the guru’s name. Thus, he referred to Rādhā indirectly.”
That Rādhā’s name is not mentioned can also be understood from the rasa point of view. At the very beginning of the book (SB 1.1.3), Vyāsa exhorts rasikas to drink or relish the rasa of the Bhāgavata for the rest of their lives, pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayam. The basis of relishing rasa is the sthāyi-bhāva of a rasika—sahṛdaya or sāmājika. Sthāyi-bhāva combined with vibhāva, anubhāva, and sañcāri-bhāvas becomes rasa—vibhāvanubhāva-sañcāri-saṁyogād rasa-niṣpattih. Therefore, the key factor in rasa is the bhāva. The highest state of bhāva is called mahā-bhāva. Śrī Rādhā is mahā-bhāva-svarūpiṇī i.e., Her essential nature is mahā-bhāva. She is made of love for Kṛṣṇa.
The emphasis of the Bhāgavata, therefore, is not on the name or form of Rādhā but on Her bhāva, which is Her svarūpa. The true description of Rādhā is to describe Her bhāva. Therefore, Vyāsa did not mention Her name. Not only Her name, but he did not mention the name of any other gopī. He wants the reader first to understand the bhāva. He did not want to divert attention away from the bhāva. Once the bhāva is understood, then the reader can search for the name, which is found in other Purāṇas such as the Padma, Brahma-vaivarta, Brahmāṇda, Nārada, Ādi, etc.
On the basis of bhāva, our ācāryas have traced Śrī Rādhā in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Here are a few examples. Verses 7 to 18 of the twenty-second Chapter of the Tenth Canto are called the Veṇu Gītam and are sung by different gopīs in praise of Kṛṣṇa’s flute. According to Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti, verse seventeen is spoken by Śrī Rādhā. The verse is as follows:
pūrṇāḥ pulindya urugāya-padābja-rāga-śrī-kuṅkumena dayitā-stana-maṇḍitena
tad-darśana-smara-rujastṛṇa-rūṣitena limpantya ānana-kuceṣujahustadādhim
“The Pulindī women attained perfection because they were smitten with pangs of love at the sight of the kuṅkuma from the bosom of Kṛṣṇa’s beloved, which contacted the reddish hue of His lotus feet and was transferred to the blades of grass, and they relieved themselves of their suffering by smearing their faces and breasts with it. “(SB 10.21.17)
Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti comments that this verse describes the intimate union between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa because only Radhā’s feet have the power to transport a person who comes in contact with them, even indirectly, to the seventh state of prema, called mādana. Śri Rūpa Gosvāmī has cited this verse in Ujjvala Nīlamaṇi as an example of an anubhāva of mādana mahābhāva. The characteristic of this anubhāva is that although Śri Rādhā always relishes the sweetness of Kṛṣṇa, if She even gets a little whiff of this relish in anyone else, then She praises that person. Therefore, this verse has been spoken only by Śrī Rādhā and not by any other gopī because such a state of mahābhāva is experienced only by Her.
Another mention of Rādhā in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is in the words of the queens of Kṛṣṇa when they met Draupadī at Kurukṣetra. They said:
“O saintly lady, we do not hanker after sovereignty over earth, dominion over heaven or the pleasures available in them, the eight yogic perfections, the position of Brahmā, infinitude, or even Bhagavān Śrī Hari’s abode. We simply desire to carry on our heads the glorious dust of the feet of Kṛṣṇa, the Wielder of the disc, which are enriched by the fragrance of kuṅkuma from the bosom of Śrī. The gopīs,the gopas, the Pulinda women, and even the creepers and grass, all craved for the touch of the feet of that great soul while He tended the cows, and we too yearn for the same.” (SB 10.83.41–43)
While commenting on these verses, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that it is the husband of Śrī, whose feet are smeared with the kuṅkuma of Śrī. If the word Śrī is taken here to mean Rukmiṇī, then that is already available to the queens as she is their co-wife. Therefore, it is understood that this dust is enriched by the fragrance of kuṅkuma of some other Śrī. To clarify who this Śrī is, the queens give Her a distinctive feature. She is the Śrī whose dust is desired by Vraja women (vraja-striyo yad vāñchanti). Therefore, the Śrī referred to by the queens of Kṛṣṇa is none other than Śrī Rādhā. Rukmiṇī was not present in Vraja, nor did the Vraja women have knowledge or contact with her. Moreover, Śrī herself did penance to be part of the Vraja-līlā of Kṛṣṇa, as stated by Nāgapatnīs in 10.16.36. Furthermore, it is not reasonable for the Vraja damsels to crave a relation with Śrī or Rukmiṇī because they have already been described as superior to Śrī in SB 10.47.60.
Another reference to Rādhā in the Bhāgavata is the well-known verse spoken by the gopīs who were searching for Kṛṣṇa after He left the Rāsa dance. The gopīs said:
“Surely the all-powerful Bhagavān Govinda Hari has been perfectly worshiped by this [particular gopī]. He must have been pleased with Her, for He left us behind and took Her to a secluded place.” (SB 10.30.28)
In this verse, the etymological meaning of Rādhā’s name is included in the first sentence, anayā ārādhitaḥ. The gopīs further speak about Rādhā in two verses cited below:
“O friend, lady deer, did Acyuta come here along with His sweetheart while spreading bliss to your eyes with His bodily limbs? [We infer this] from the wafting fragrance of the garland of kunda flowers, which was smeared with the kuṅkuma from the breasts of His sweetheart when He embraced Her.
O trees, did Kṛṣṇa, the younger brother of Balarāma, respond to your obeisances with His love-laden glances while wandering here, holding a lotus in one hand, and keeping the other on the shoulder of His sweetheart, being followed by a swarm of bees who were attracted and maddened by the Tulasī [in His garland]?” (SB 10.30.11–12)
When Kṛṣna disappeared from the Rāsa dance along with Rādhā, then Rādhā felt very special and asked Kṛṣṇa to carry her. Kṛṣṇa agreed and bent low to Rādhā. But when She tried to climb onto Kṛṣṇa’s shoulder, He disappeared. Not seeing Him, Rādhā wailed in separation, “O My Lord, O My beloved, O the Dearmost with long arms, where are you? Where are you? I am your humble servant. Please be present here.” (SB 10.30.40)
A further reference to Rādhā is found in the following verse that describes her māna towards Kṛṣṇa after He rejoined them in Rāsa dance:
“Some gopī, being agitated with anger out of love, looked at Kṛṣṇa as though to kill Him with an array of Her sidelong glances while straining Her eyebrows and biting Her lower lip.” (SB 10.32.6)
In verses 10.32.4 through 10.32.8, Śri Jīva Gosvāmī identifies the eight principal gopīs on the basis of their bhāva. The important point to be noted is the description of the bhāva of the various gopīs; there is no mention of their names.
The Bhramara Gītam, in verses 10.47.12 through 10.47–21, is sung by Śrī Rādhā Herself in a state of love-frenzy out of separation.
In this way, we see that although in Bhāgavata Purāṇa Śrī Rādhā is not mentioned by name, She is referred to by Her bhāva. Not only that, even Her own words are included in the text, such as in Bhramara Gītam and early in the rāsa-pañcādhyāya, Her calling out for Kṛṣṇa when He left Her alone.
About the author
Dr. Shri Satyanaraya Dasa Babaji is the President of ‘Vrindavan Today‘. He is a Vaishnava scholar and practitioner of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya and is based in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. He is the founder, Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies that promotes Vedic culture, philosophy and Ayurveda through education.Widely published in international journals, he is the author of more than fifteen books including the recent widely acclaimed Sanskrit Non-translatables.Dr. Dasa is visiting professor at the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers, and the American Hindu University. He was honored by the former President late Dr. Shri Pranab Mukherjee for his extraordinary contribution towards presenting Vedic culture across the world.