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Radha-Krsna and the Sakti cult

The Sakti cult occupies a significant place in Indian religion. Goddess
Durga and other Divine Mothers represent Sakti or the Power of the
Supreme Person, or Visnu, Siva and other gods.
The word sakti in the religious literature deserves an appropriate
interpretation. In the Brawhavaivartapuram, the word sakti has been derived
from sak and ti, which denote Supremacy and Prowess. Hence, the
word Sakti means the Supreme Power of the Supreme Brahman, without
which the Supreme Brahman becomes totally inactive like a dead body. All
gods have their own Sakti, an inherent special power or potentiality with the
help of which alone they can perform their own activities.
The relation between the Sakti and Saktiman is inseparable like the
heat in the fire, beauty in Moon and lotus, and radiance in Sun.1
We find a good deal of such discussions on the Doctrine of Sakti in
the various religious texts, like the Puranas, the Agama texts like the Naradapancaratra and in the Tantric texts also. The Doctrine of Sakti has been
frilly developed in the puranas like the Visnupurana, the Bhagavatapurana,
the Kalikapurana, the Markandeyapurana, the DevTbbagavata, the Vamanapurana, the Brhamaradlya-mahapurana, the Brahmavaivartapurma, etc.


Though the Doctrine of Sakti has folly bloomed in the Puranic literature
and in the Tantras specially, the source of Sakti can be traced back to the
Vedic literature.
The Vedic seers (Rsis) or the philosophers of the Vedic age were
conversant to the concept of Sakti. It becomes clear from the Devl-Sukta2
and the Ratri-Sukta3 of the Rgveda and also the Prthvf-Sukta4 of the
The deity of this Devl-Sukta is Adisakti or the Primal Energy. The
seer of this hymn is Vak, the daughter of the Great sage Ambhrna. After
realising the Brahman and being assimilated to Him, she declares in an

unambiguous bold terms

aham rudrebhirvasubhiscaramyahamadityaimta visvadevaib /

aham mitravarunobha vibharmyahamindragnl ahamasvinobha / /

aham rastii samgamanl vasunam

cikitusiprathama yajniyanam /
tarn ma deva vyadadhuh purutra
bhuristhatram bhuryavesayantSm / /
aham rudraya dhanuratanomi
brahmadvise sarave bantavS u /
aham janaya samadam kmomyaham.
dyavaprthivi avivesa / /
It is the Adya Sakti or the Inherent power of the Supreme Brahman
which remains manifested in all powerful Gods like Rudra, Vasu and Aditya


and makes them function properly. She is one, manifested as many forms.
She is the Energy both static and dynamic. In the Durgasaptasati, it has been
stated by Goddess Candlabam vibbutya bahuviriha rupairyada sthita. ' 6
Adya Sakti is the highest Goddess of the world, who bestows wealth
and prowess to a ll. Being propitiated, she gives everything, remains in all
creations and in all phenomena. In the Durgasaptasati she is called as
aradbita saiva nrnam bbogasvargapavargada. 1 In the DevT-sukta, it
has been clearly declared by the Goddess that She Herself pulls the bow
of the mighty god Rudra, who is powerless without Her. She alone
pervades the Universe. She remains as both transcendent and immanent.
Realising the glory and essentiality of Sakti, in another hymn of the
Rgveda, the Vedic seer prays to the Fire-god to make the gods endowed
with their wives . 8
In the Ratri-sukta, Ratri or Night is extolled as the Goddess, as the
Mother of the world. She is the resort of all. At the nightfall, the universe
is covered with darkness at the outset, afterwards the darkness is removed by
the twinkling light of stars and Moon. Likewise, the goddess (Ratri) with her
divine power fascinates the world, and also kindles the light of knowlede in
every mind afterwards.
In the Prthvl-sukta o f the Atharvaveda, the goddess Earth
is eulogised as the Mother o f the Universe. In one hymn, it has
been clearly said, Lmata bhumih putra abam p rthivy a hf

The suprem acy o f the all-pervading prow ess o f this Prim al Pow er
(Adya-Sakti) is beautifully illustrated and established in the parable o f Indra
and the celestial damsel o f the Kenopanisad. Once there was a great battle
between the gods and the demons in which the gods were victorious. A t this,
the gods became very proud and thought that the success was entirely due to
their own prowess. They forgot that their pow er was only a manifestation o f
the Inherent Supreme Power o f Brahman in them. Knowing this, the Brahman
appeared before them, but the gods were greatly wonder-struck not knowing
what it was. Then they sent forth the Fire-god to this Brahman with the
mission to know the real nature o f that great manifestation o f the Brahman.
The Fire-god went in pride to Brahman. Being asked by the Brahman who he
was, he answered that he was Jatavedas who has the power o f burning the
whole earth if so desired. Then Brahman gave him one small blade o f grass
and asked Agni to bum it. The Fire-god was not able to bum it with all his
m ig h t.


becam e

d is h e a rte n e d


r e tu r n e d


th e

g o d s.

Then the gods sent Vayu, the god o f wind for the same purpose. Vayu
also went in pride to Brahman. W hen Brahman asked him who he was, he
said that he was M atarisvan, who possesses the pow er o f blowing away
everything from the surface o f the earth. To him also, Brahman gave a blade
o f grass and asked him to blow it off from the surface o f the earth. Bijt the


god o f wind also was not able even to move the blade o f grass from its place.

He also became disconcerted and returned to the gods. .Both the gods o f Fire
a n d W in d fa ile d to k n o w th e R e a l N a tu re o f th e B ra h m a n .
Then the gods sent Indra with the mission to know the Real
Nature o f the Brahman. In comparison to Agni or Vayu, Indra was more modest.
But when he went to Brahman to know its real nature, Brahman disappeared
from his sight. Then suddenly, one very beautiful resplendent celestial damsel
appeared in the sky before him : sa tasminnevakase srlyamajagama

vahusobbamanamumam baimavaffm tam hovaca kimetadyaksamiti/ 10

Being asked by Indra, Uma H aim avatf, the celestial damsel explained
to him that it was Brahman which made its sudden disappearance from his
sight. She, further, explained that it was due to the prowess o f Brahman
that the gods were able to overpower the demons. It was not their individual
pow er for which they could overpower the demons. The pow er o f the gods
was only a manifestation o f the Pow er o f Supreme Brahman. This pow er is
verily the Sakti o f Brahman which flashed forth in the lightning and which
manifests itself as the power o f the mind in us and bethinks itself again and again.
Kali is another form o f the Adya-sakti. The earliest reference to this
form o f Sakti is found in the Mundakopanisad. Among the names o f the
seven flames o f the sacrificial fire, the name o f Kali has been cited by the
Vedic s a g e :

kali karallca manojava ca spbbitB ya ca sudhumravama /

spbulingim visvarucl ca devi lelSyamana iti sapta jih v a h //n

The m anifold functioning o f the Sakti is also delineated in the
Svetasvetaropanisad The Supreme Brahman is immanent in all these creations.
Brahman has no activity nor any organ. Brahman has no equal nor any superior.
But the Inherent Supreme Energy in H im manifests in m any forms o f
knowledge and power :
na tasya karyam karananca vidyate /
m tatsamascabhyadhikasca drsyate / /
parasya saktirvividhaiva sruyate /
svabbavikijnanavalakiiya ca / /


This hymn and some other hymns o f the Svetasvetaropanisad are

occasionaly referred to in the V aisnava Philosophy in context w ith the
discussion on Visnu-Sakti.
It m ay be noted in this context that the concept o f Sakti has been
recognised by the Naiyayikas, the Buddhas and the grammarians as in other
form s. The B uddhist concept o f Sakti is m anifested in the theory o f
In the Brbadaranyakopanisad also, the story o f creation narrates that
ihe Supreme person or Atman existed at the beginning. Brahman had a joyless
existence, as Brahman had no companion to live with, Brahman desired to be
manifold. Brahman, thereupon, split H im self into two partsmale and female,
each one like h alf the shell o f a sea animals body.

W ith the help o f this

second form (female), the Supreme Soul fashioned the whole universe. This

myth emphasises the dual concept of creation that man and woman are each
of them like half a shell, they together consitute a whole. This theory of the
dual aspect of creation is also expressed in other upanisads.
In the treatment of the Radha-Krsna legend in the Naradapancaratra
or in the puranas, like the Brahmavaivartapurana, the DevTbhagavata, a similar
theory of the dual aspect of creation is met by us. Radha emerged from the
left part of Krsna. Radha and Krsna, female and male, played the role of
creators. They both fashioned the whole universe. In the Bible, the religious
text of the Christians, also, there is a reference to the dual power of Adam
and Eve. Eve, the wife of Adam, who is called as the mother of all Living
was created with the ribs of Adam. Adam and Eve, the male and female, also
played the role of the creators. 14
In the DevTbhagavata, the greatness of this Doctrine of Sakti is explained
in details. Sakti is the root of all activities of the universe. The function of
this Sakti is all-pervasive. This Adya Sakti manifests in Brahma as the Power
of creation, in Hari or Visnu as the Power of preservation, in Hara or Rudra
as the Power of annihilation. She also manifests as the Power of holding the
Earth in Ananta or Kurma, heat in the Fire, as radiance in Sun. In fine, all
activities of this universe are but the different manifestations of this
Prime Sakti. 15 Siva or Mahadeva also cannot function without Sakti and
becomes totally inactive like a dead body. The DevTbhagavata thus reveals :

druhine srstisaktisca harau palana saktita /
hare samharasaktisca surye saktih prakasika / /
dharadharanasaktisca sese k u n n m e tathaiva ca /
sadya saktih parinata sarvasmin y a pratisthita / /
daha saktistatha vahnau samlre preranatmika /
s iv o p i savatam y a ti &z/ndalinya vivarjitah / /
saktihmastu yah kascidasamarthah smrto budhaih

/ 15

That the relation between the Sakti and Saktiman is quite inseparable,
is variously described with instances in the varioi^ religious texts, like the
puranas, the tantras and the Naradapaficaratra. In the Devlbhagavata, it has
been related that the Supreme Brahman and this Adya-sakti are identical.
Practically, there is no difference between them. It says in unambiguous
terms as :
sadaikatvam na bhedosti sarvadaiva mamasya ca /
y o sau sahamaham yasau bhedosti m ativibhramat / /
ekam evadvitiyam vai brahma nityam sanatanam /
dvaidhabhavam p m a ry a ti kala utpatsusanjake / /


The same idea is found in the Todalatantra. Ramacandras performing

the worship of this Adyasakti before his war with Ravana for the rescue of
Sita has been narrated in the Devlbhagavata, though no such reference is
found in Valmlkis Ramayana. 17
In the Mahabharata, Aijuna, being instructed by Lord Rrsna (parSjayaya
satrunaih durgastotramudTraya)'n had eulogised Goddess Durga just before

the great war of Kuruksetra, and he was granted the boon by her that he
would be victorious in the ensuing war within a short time.

On critical examination of this doctrine of Sakti, in the Vaisnava
religion and philosophy, we shall find that this Sakti or Goddess has first
appeared as Sri or LaksmI in the Vaisnava religion. Like Devl-Sukta, there is
also a Sri-Sukta at the end of the Mandala V of the Rgveda. The seers of this
Sukta are Ananda, Kardama, Srida etc. The presiding deity of this Sukta is
Sri or LaksmI, the consort of Visnu. Here the devotee prays to the Fire God
to bring hiranyavarna LaksmI to the place of sacrifice. The hymn is as follows:
hiranyavarnath harinlm suvarnarajata srajam /
candram hirapmaylm laksmim jatavedo ma avaha / /
tam ma avaha jatavedo laksmlmanapagaminlm /
yasyam hiranyam vindeyam gamasvam purusanaham / / 19
In the Padmapurana, the Kurmapurana, the Agnipurana and the
Garudapurana also this goddess LaksmI is described as Sridevl. Krsna is also
another form of Visnu. He is the incarnation of Visnu.
Visnu, the great God, appears in a few verses of the Rgveda and the
Yajurveda. The Vedic seers describe Visnu in the verses as :
visnumu kam viryani pra vocam parthivani vimabhe rajamsi /
yo askabhayaduttaram sadhastham vicakramanastredhorugaya /



Sayana explains the word Visnu here as vyapanasIla, or all-pervasive

God. According to Sayana and Mahldhara, Visnu created different regions of
the universe. In another hymn of the Rgveda, Visnu extends His three feet
and thereby covers the entire umverse.


In the Purusa-Sukta of the Rgveda,23the Supreme Purasa as possessing
one thousand heads and feet, covers the whole Universe with His body. This
Parama Purasa is the Parama Brahman, Supreme Brahman of the Upanisads.
He remains universally present everywhere.
Now, coming to the Vismupurana, we find that Visnu is that Lord
who possesses all the attributes of Brahman. He has been eulogised in the
purana in the same manner as in the Upanisad as the Smallest of the smallest,
biggest o f the biggest (anoranlyan mahatomablyan). In fact, the four hands
of Visnu and His Serpent Bed prepared on Ananta Naga are suggestive of
his all-pervading character.
This mighty Visnu also possesses a Sakti or a Special Power of
potentiality with the help of which He can operate. According to the
Markandeyapuma, the goddess Durga or Candi is the Vaisnavi- Sakti or the

Divine Power of Lord Visnu. This Purana eulogises this Sakti, as :

tvam vaismvfsaktbmantavuya /
visvasya vljam paramasi may a / /
sammobitam devi samastametat /
tvam vaiprasannS bhuvi muktibetub / / u
ya devi sarvabbutesu visnumayeti sabdita /
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namah / /


In this Markandeyapurana, the Sakti of Lord Visnu has been termed

as Durga, Mahamaya. According to one commentary of the Durgasaptasatl,
Durga means, dubkbena gantum sakyatesyam durga." (Santanavl
commentary, of Durgasaptasatl).

According to the Guptavaficommentary of Bhaskara Roy Diksita, Candl is
parama brahmanah pattamahisldevata. In the Bhagavatapurana (SkandhaX) and the Kurmapurana also, the goddess known as the Sakti of Visnu or
Rudra has been appropriately extolled. Sahkaracarya described in the first
verse of his Saundaryalahari, that in the absence of this all pervading Sakti of
the Lord, Siva or the Lord will be instantly reduced to a corpse.26 The
Todalatantra also recognises the Power {sakti) of the Lord. It says,
yasmin vyakta mahakll saktihinah
sadasivah saktya yukto yada devl
tadaiva savarupakab / saktihlne savah
saksatpurusatvam na muncatl/ 27
The Visnu-sakti or the Power of Visnu has been variously described
in various words. In the Visnupurana, she is LaksmI, popularly known as the
Goddess of Fortune. Lord Visnu discends to the earth in a new form as
Lord Krsna. Krsna appears in the 10th Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana. The
cowherd m aidens with whom Krsna plays his R asa-krlda in the
Bhagavatapurana, are also the representatives of Sakti. However, in the
Dualistic Vaisnava religion, where Radha receives her due prominence, she
is not an ordinary beloved of the Lord, nor she is a Goddess. In the poetical
works mentioned by us, Radha appears as a lady-love of Krsna. But the
puranas and also Vaisnava preachers of Bengal are not ready to dismiss the
role of Radha so lightly. They have treated Radha as the Sakti of the Lord.

The Padmapurana discusses the philosophical significance of Radha
or Radhika quite adequately. It defines the word Gop! as gopanaducyate


Then it says :
gopanaducyate gopl radhika krsna- vallabha /
devi krsnamaylprokta radhika paradevata / /
sarva-iaksmisvarupa sa krsnahladasvarupini/
tatah sS procyate vipra hladimti manlsibhih / /
tatkalakotikotyaihsa durgadyastrigunatmikah /
sa tu saksanmahalaksmlh krsno narayanah prabhuh / /
naitayorvidyate bhedah svalpop i munisattama /


In the above verses, there are some striking philosophical points

regarding Radha. Radha is Krsnamayi, non-different from Krsna. She is the
Supreme Deity (paradevata). She has been described as sarva- Laksmlsvarupa,
MahalaksmI and Hladinl-Sakti. The last point is most important in the
discussion of the character of Radha. The neo-Vaisnavas of Bengal, like


have referred to the Hladinl-sakti of Visnu. In the

Markandeyapurana, Candika or Durga is described as the creator, preserver

and annihilator of the universe.

According to the author of SantanavF

commentary, the Goddess is identical with Brahmi-sakti, Vaisnavl-sakti and

Raudri-sakti. These three Sakti-s or Powers are, however, not three different
entities, but one. The concept of Hladini-sakti is comparatively new. The
word HladinI means the Store-House of Bliss. In the Taittinyopanisad,
Brahman has been described as Mnando Brahma?1 Sankaracarya also refers


to Brahman as ' anandamayam brahma, where the suffix mayaf denotes svarupa
or 'identity'. Now, the sakti of Brahman assuming the qualified form of
Krsna is logically the 'Store-House of Bliss and, thus, the name Hladinlsakti is quite appropriate in this context. The word ananda does not, however,
refer to the worldy joy or happiness which are inseparably related to the
material objects. It is Pure and 'Non-related Bliss'. Sankara describes it as
antaratamamanandam.n It is worthnoting in the present context that even
Durga is no match for Radha. In the verses quoted above, we find a significant
statement namely, tatkalakotikotyamsa durgadyastrigunatmikah.
Thus in the Padmapurana, Radha stands superior to all other 'saktis .
The concept of Hladini as one of the powers of Visnu finds its expresssion in
the Visnupurana also where it has been said as :
hladini sandhinl sarhvittvayyeka san'asamsthitau
hladatapakarl misra tvayi no gunavarjjite //
But this purana does not give any interpretation of the word hladini.
Rupa Goswami describes 'Hladini in his Uj j valanllamani as
hiadinl ya mahasaktih sarva saktivarlyasi /
tatsarabhavarupeyamiti tantre pratisthita //


which means that this particular sakti or Power of Visnu is the 'Supreme
Power' which excels all other Power-s of the Lord. Rupa Goswami remarks
that the concept of'Hladinl-Sakti' has been borrowed from the Tantra literature
The commentators of the Ujjvalaniiamani pointedly refer to the following
verse from the Gautamlyatantra in this context:


devf krsnamayi prokta radhika paradevata

sarvalaksmlmayl sarvakarttih sammohanl para
In the Sarvajnasukta also there is a reference to Hladinl-sakti in the
following passage :
hladinya samvida sistah saccidanandah Isvarah
It means that Lord who is 'Real Conscious and Blissful' remains inseparable
associated with the 'Power* HladinI and Sarhvit also. The author of the
UjjvalanllamanT however, lays more emphasis on the treatment of the
distinctive characters of different types of lovers, rather than the significance
o f HladinI Sakti" in his Ujjvalanllamani. In this context, he frequently refer-'
to Radha. For example, while describing a ramyavak or 'sweet-voiced lady'
the writer gives the following poem %
suvadane vadane tava radhike sphurati keyamihaksaramadhuri
viphalatam labhate kila kokilah sakhi yayadya sudhapi mudhrthatam
But, however, SrTkrsnadas Kaviraj GoswamI, in his work Caitanya
caritamrta has adequately explained the term HladinI in the following mannei.
Lord Krsna is the Supreme Brahman, Lord Krsnas body is eternal (sat), full
of knowledge (cit) and full of bliss (ananda). 'Real Conscious Blissful
(saccidananda). as He is. His only spiritual 'Power' manfests in three forms

These three powers are HladinI, SandhinI and Samvit. HladinI is his aspect of
Bliss, SandhinI is of His eternal existence and Sarhvit is His aspect of
cognizence which is also accepted as knowledge. The quintessence of the


Power of Sandhini is Suddha-Sattva. The very existence of Lord Krsna rests

upon it.
The knowledge that the supreme personality of the Supreme God is Lord
Krsna, is the quintessence of the Power of Samvit. All other kinds of
knowledge, such as knowledge o f Brahman are its component. The
quintessence of the potency of Hladinl is love for God, the essence of love of
God is indeed emotion or bhava and the ultimate development of emotion is
mababhava. Thus, the mahabhava is the highest consummate state of the
love for God. This is disinterested love or love for loves sake.


Radha is the embodiment of this mababhava. Hence, she is also called

the repository of all good qualities and best among all the lovely consorts of
Lord Krsna. Thus Shri Krsnadasa Kaviraja explains explicitly that the essence
of Hladinl Sakti is the love for the Lord, the essence of love for the Lord is
bhava or the transcendental sentiment and the highest state of that bhava is
called mahabhava. Radha is the personified embodiment of these three aspects
of transcendental consciousness, and she is the Supreme beloved of Lord
The verse of the Brhatgautamlyatantra (quoted already) also is
explained explicitly by Krsnadasa Kaviraja. While explaining the word
Krsnamayf, he says

krsnamayl-krsna yarn bhitare vabire/
yanha yanha netra pade tanha tanha krsna spbure//


Here, he explains the epithet of krsnam ayl as One whose within and
without is Lord Krsna. She sees Lord Krsna everywhere she casts her glances.
He further says :
radha purnasakti krsna purnasaktiman /
dui vastu bheda nai, sastra paraman / /
mrgamada, tara gandba yaicbe avicched /
agni jvalate-yaicbe kabbu nahi bheda / /
radha krsna aicbe sadM ekai svarupa /
lilarasa asvadite dhare duirupa / /


Thus, we can conclude here in the words of Krsnadasa Kaviraja that

Radha is the fall power of potency of Krsna and Lord Krsna is the possessor
of that fall power. They two are not different in any way. They two are the
same indeed and inseparable like musk and its scent or fire and its heat.
Though Radha and Krsna are one, they have assumed two different forms
just to enjoy the mellows of pastimes. Radha represents the Hladini Sakti of
the Lord.

Brvp.,Prakrti-khanda, 2. 10, 7, p. 63


R.V., X. 125




A V ., XII. 1.




X. 125. 1,3, 6


6., Dss., X. 8,p. 219

7. ibid, XIII. 5
8. RV., 1. 14. 7
9. AV, XH. I. 12, p. 471
10. KU, III. 12, p. 32
11. MU., I. 2. 4, p. 149
12. SU VI. 8.
13. BU., I. 4. 3, p. 649
14. The Bible, genesis 2. 20-25.
15. D. Bbag, I. 8. 28-31
16. ibid, HI. 6. 2, 4
17. ibid, IH. 30
18. Mbb., Bhismaparva, 23
19. RV, V, Khila-sukta
20. ibid, I. 154. 1
21. SYV., V. 18
idam visnu vicakrame tredha nu adhama padathi
RV., I. 22.17
23. R V., X. 90
24. Dss., XI. 4, p. 230
25. ibid,- V. 12, p. 130

siva-saktya yukto yadi bhavati saktah prabbavitum /

m cedevain devo na khalu kusalah spanditumapi //

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