Radha

The consort of the Hindu god Krishna and, in some traditions, a goddess in her own right. Radha was one of the gopis, or cowherdesses, among whom Krishna cavorts in one of the most famous Krishna stories, where he entertains and seduces the gopis in an allegory of divine love. The secular literary tradition, rather than any religious one, depicted her as Krishna’s favorite lover in Hinduism’s developmental centuries (i.e., before A.D. 1000). By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, however, Radha began to achieve a higher status in both secular and religious lore. For some, her love for Krishna was an allegory of the human love for the divine. More abstract theology focused on Krishnaworship held that she, like Krishna, was an embodiment of the ultimate reality, or Brahman. Her rise in status is attributed, at least in part, to a popular epic poem known as the Gitagovinda, written by Jayadeva in the twelfth century. The Gitagovinda is an erotically charged love poem that some choose to interpret, again, as an allegory of divine love. Adding to Radha’s popularity is her frequent depiction at the side of Krishna in Hindu religious and popular art, making her a commonly known figure in popular Hinduism.

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