Roundabout: Let the Radha myth live on | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Roundabout: Let the Radha myth live on

chandigarh Updated: Sep 06, 2015 10:02 IST
Nirupama Dutt

The word from a lady running an innovative playschool in the city was that my granddaughter should come dressed as Radha for the Janmashtami celebrations for the children.

My daughter ever ready to keep up with the Junejas when it comes to dressing her child, not yet two, rushed to Palika Bazaar in Sector 19 to get a spangled Rajasthani lehnga-choli ensemble complete with a little chunari. For the accessories, she brought some plastic bangles and a string of beads to go round the neck.

So the little baby went all decked up parroting her mother's words, "Main Radha", and rather thrilled about the new role she had been called upon to play, rather than just going around on her paws pretending she was a dog or meowing like a cat. To her surprise, her best friend, a little boy who has just turned two, had come dressed as baby Krishna complete with peacock-feather band round his forehead. The lady at the playschool exclaimed seeing them together, "Kya Radha-Krishna ki jodhi hai."

So the Radha-Krishna myth lives on and we nurture it right from early childhood , even though there are many scholars of Indian mythology who hold that Radha is a figment of the collective Indian imagination as there is no mention of her in the ancient Puranas. There are those who hold that the story of Radha was born in the Vaishnava cult to popularise the story of Krishna among people. Well, everyone loves a love story and the myth not just lives on but is one of the most loved. Otherwise Krishna's period was one of war and losses what with the Mahabharata.

It was Jayadeva, a 12th Century Bengali Sanskrit poet, who took this legend to great heights in his famous epic poem "Gita Govinda" that celebrates the love of Radha and Krishna. This poem is a major text of the Bhakti movement in the country and forms the spiritual source f the Gaudia Vaishnava movement of Bengal in which Radha is considered higher even than the Lord, for such is the strength of love and longing.

Since then the Radha-Krishna legend has been a great inspirational force for painters, poets, lyricists and dancers that it has harvested rich art. As far as folklore goes, there are ever so many stories that have been passed in the oral tradition on the purity of their attachment, and thus the glory of platonic love. One which I recall having heard from my mother was that Radha visited Krishna in her old age. The wives of Krishna were jealous of their bond and took out their spite by giving her a goblet of boiling hot milk at night. To their surprise, Krishna's feet broke out in blisters for as he explained that his feet were encased in Radha's heart!

There is no point debating this myth because when it gives so much of creative joy and gets enmeshed in the old wives' tales it is there to stay. So let little girls go about in their finery saying "Main Radha".