devi krsna-mayi prokta
kantih sammohini para
Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi-lila 4.83)
The transcendental goddess Srimati Radharani is the direct counterpart of Lord Sri Krsna. She is the central figure for all the goddesses of fortune. She possesses all the attractiveness to attract the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. She is the primeval internal potency of the Lord.
What pious deeds must the Sukla-astami-tithi in the month of Bhadrapada have performed to be blessed with the good fortune of being the appearance day of Srimati Radhika, the original goddess of fortune and the direct counterpart of Sri Krishna? In order to accompany Sri Krishna in his pastimes in this material world, which He performs to attract the conditioned living entities so that they may be able to give up their attachment to this temporary world and relish eternal transcendental bliss in the spiritual realm in service to Radha Syamasundara, Srimati Radhika descended to this earthly planet in Raval, on this most auspicious day.
One day when Sri Vrishabhanu Maharaj, the king of Raval, went to the Yamuna river to take his daily morning bath, he was struck with wonder upon seeing a glorious golden lotus flower endowed with an unearthly beauty and radiating a divine effulgence. Being mesmerized by the transcendental thousand petaled lotus flower, he approached it. Looking inside, he saw a most amazing, gorgeous, delicate, divine baby girl, lying on the flower’s whorl. Since he had been praying to his worshipable Lord, the Sun god, for a daughter he immediately took the baby girl in his lap and accepted her as the blessing of the Sun God. Taking her home, he joyously told his wife, Devi Kirtida, about the incident. They bathed the child with the tears of love that flowed incessantly from their eyes. Oblivious to the fact that they had received as their daughter the original Laksmi, the consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, they simply thought of her as their very dear child and showered her with all their parental affection.
Although their happiness was without limit, they were greatly saddened by that their daughter was not opening Her eyes. For this reason, they did not celebrate her birth with the residents of Raval. Narada Muni, however, having anticipated Srimati Radhika’s appearance in this world, soon came to the house of Vrshabhanu Maharaja. After the initial pleasantries, he inquired from Vrshabhanu Maharaja about his children.
Maharaja Vrshabhanu then called Sridama forward and submitted him to the lotus feet of the sage. Narad Muni was eager to know about their newly born daughter. Because She was being blind, however, they did not inform him about Her. Upon their insistence and repeated requests, he finally told sage Narada about Srimati Radhika. Simply upon hearing about Her filled the heart of Narad Muni with great ecstasy and he asked to see the child. He instructed them to make arrangements for a ceremony that he would perform for Her, and after they left to do so, he worshiped Her with the choicest of prayers. In order to fulfil the desire of the great devotee, Srimati Radhika appeared before him in her kishori form (as a sweet, young girl) and blessed Narada Muni.
Thereafter, Narada Muni instructed them to arrange for a big festival to celebrate Her birth, to which they were to invite Nanda Maharaja and Krshna. Maharaja Vrishabhanu thus arranged for an elaborate festival, during which Sri Krishna crawled to the cot Sri Radha, and peered inside. Realising that Her dear most beloved was present before Her, she opened Her lotus like eyes and took darsaana of Syamasundara. Seeing this miraculous event, all the Vrajavasis were overjoyed and celebrated the occasion in great ecstasy. In this way, Srimati Radhika appeared in this world to perform pastimes with Syamasundara and attract all the living entities.
In Iskcon Vrindavan, as soon as caturmasya begins, all the devotees eagerly wait for Sri Radastami, the biggest festival of the year, for Srimati Radhika is the most worshipable queen of the hearts of all the Vaisnavas. Janmashtami and other festivals are but the preparation for the real festival which is the holy appearance day of our Pranesvari, the goddess of our lives. On the said glorious day, all the devotees come to take darshan of Her lotus feet, which one can see only on the occasion of Her appearance day and on Gopastami in Karitka. Taking darsana ofHher two lotus feet, which are more cooling than sandalwood paste and are the reservoir of all mercy, the devotees feel great satisfaction. After taking darshan of the Lords at the time of mangalarati, the devotees gather again to take darsana of Sri Radha Syamasundara during darsana arati. The deities, now dressed in a gorgeous new outfit and splendid ornaments are covered in fabulous, fragrant flowers. Sending forth an ocean of mercy with Her doe like eyes, Srimati Radhika smiles sweetly upon seeing all the assembled devotees gathered to celebrate Her appearance day. The devotees listen to discourses glorifying the limitless qualities of Gandharva Sri Radha, which is followed by a blissful abhiseka ceremony, in which their Lordships are bathed with milk, yoghurt, ghee, honey, sugar water and various fruit juices, to the accompaniment of tumultuous kirtana. The Lords are offered a sumptuous bhoga offering comprising innumerable palatable dishes that devotees have prepared with great love and devotion. Each and every preparation is perfectly spiced and tastes delicious. After noon arati, the devotees relish a feast.
The festivities do not stop here. The evening brings more celebrations with the deities being offered another new outfit at 4:30. There are cultural presentations that depict the pastimes of Srimati Radhika. The cherry on the cake is the 10 P.M darsaana. The devotees gather for kirtana and receive a very special darsana of the Lords. In this way the festival of Radhastami is celebrated with great enthusiasm by all the Vaisnavas.
On this most auspicious day, we shall pray at the lotus feet of Srimati Radhika to please bestow upon us her causeless mercy and grant us service to her lotus feet, counting us among Her own dear maidservants.