“(Therefore) Radha is parama-devata, the supreme goddess, and She is worshipable for everyone. She is the protectress of all, and She is the mother of the entire universe.”
– Caitanya Caritamrita, Adi 4.89
Sri Navadvipa Mayapur Dhama is worshiped all over the creation as the holiest of holy dhamas, and the place from which pure love of Godhead is mercifully distributed throughout the whole world. But who is the creator of Navadvipa Dhama?
In the Ananta-samhita the creation of Navadvipa Dhama is described by Lord Siva to Parvati. He describes that Navadvipa Dhama was created for the specific purpose of enchanting and enticing Krishna. Indeed, after entering Navadvipa Dhama and admiring its qualities, Lord Krishna declared that He would eternally remain there and bestow His mercy upon those who reside there and worship the Divine Couple. Sri Navadvipa Mayapur Dhama is most dear to Lord Krishna because it was created for Him by His most dear Srimati Radharani.
Is it any wonder then that Sri Radhastami, the appearance day of Srimati Radharani, is celebrated in Mayapur Dhama with great enthusiasm?
For any Vaishnava, Radhastami is a special opportunity to meditate upon the best devotee of the Lord. Without the mercy of Srimati Radharani, how can we attain Krishna?
Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.23,
“In Vrndavana all the pure devotees pray for the mercy of Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of Lord Krsna. Srimati Radharani is a tenderhearted feminine counterpart of the supreme whole, resembling the perfectional stage of the worldly feminine nature. Therefore, the mercy of Radharani is available very readily to the sincere devotees, and once She recommends such a devotee to Lord Krsna, the Lord at once accepts the devotee’s admittance into His association. The conclusion is, therefore, that one should be more serious about seeking the mercy of the devotee than that of the Lord directly, and by one’s doing so (by the good will of the devotee) the natural attraction for the service of the Lord will be revived.”
Srimati Radharani mercifully engages sincere devotees in the service of Lord Krishna. Her compassion and mercy manifest in unlimited ways, one of which is the holy dhama of Sri Mayapur.
At the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, Radhastami is celebrated with great opulence. The day before Radhastami, the Radhastami celebrations have already begun. The Radha Premdan Kirtan Utsav commences, and ecstatic kirtan is performed all day as devotees make preparations for the next day’s festival. The climax of the day’s Radha Premdan Kirtan Utsav is during the adhivas ceremony that evening. At that time, Sri Sri Radha Madhava are honored with 26 auspicious items and the devotees are encouraged to prepare their consciousness for Sri Radhastami the next day.
On Radhastami day itself, senior devotees speak about the glories of Srimati Radharani and Sri Radhastami during Srimad Bhagavatam class. This takes place before Darshan Arati, which is one hour later than usual in order to allow Sri Sri Radha Madhava’s pujaris to exquisitely adorn the Deities in a new dress and to transform Their altar with elaborate decorations. Devotees crowd into Radha Madhava’s temple hall and call out to Sri Sri Radha Madhava as they wait to see Srimati Radhika and Her Lord Madhava. As the curtains of the altar are drawn back and Sri Sri Radha Madhava are revealed, the beauty of Srimati Radharani stuns all who are assembled.
Srimati Radharani is glorified and served in many ways in Sridhama Mayapur on Her divine appearance day. The Radha Premdan Kirtan Utsav continues throughout the day as devotees glorify Srimati Radharani with Her holy name. A booth is set up in the temple where devotees can sponsor gifts to offer to Srimati Radharani, and hundreds of these gifts are offered. Srimati Radharani is given new cloth and jewelry, such as shawls, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, nose rings, and anklets. She is given many varieties of foodstuffs – numerous types of fruits, vegetables, and sweets, and honey, ghee, and other auspicious items. Throughout the day, the devotees bring these gifts onto the altar and offer them to Srimati Radharani.
A special dance drama is performed for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha Madhava and the assembled devotees, in which devotees play the parts of Vrajavasis and demonstrate the happiness the Vrajavasis felt upon hearing about the appearance of Srimati Radharani.
A maha-abhiseka is performed for Radha Madhava and They are bathed with a variety of auspicious substances – panca gavya, pancamrita, various fruit juices, scented sugar syrups, and flower waters. Radha Madhava are also given two kinds of showers: sarva-aushadi and maha-aushadi, in which natural medicinal and herbal substances are used to bathe the Lord. After being bathed in these various substances, sandalwood paste is applied and then washed off of Radha Madhava’s forms with a steady shower of Ganga water known as sahastradhara. The abhiseka finishes with a puspa-abhiseka in which Radha Madhava are showered with flower petals until They are almost completely covered by what resembles a hill of petals, and only Their lotus faces can be seen.
Hundreds of bhoga preparations are cooked by the devotees of the community and offered to Radha Madhava and Their Asta-sakhis. Among these offerings are two birthday cakes for Srimati Radharani, but these cakes are not like most cakes. The double layer cakes are massive, with one measuring 3 feet by 7 feet (21 square feet) and the other measuring 3 feet by 9 feet (27 square feet).
A maha-arati is performed for Radha Madhava and then a feast is served to all of the devotees, in various venues. Devotees then return to the temple to again take darshan of Sri Sri Radha Madhava and to engage in the kirtan which has been going on continuously, and which continues until late in the evening. At this time, all of the devotees offer ghee lamps to the Deities, illuminating the temple with the flickering light of their offerings, and Srimati Radharani is glorified through the singing of Sri Radhikastakam. This ecstatic kirtan concludes the festivities.
tapta-kancana-gaurangi radhe vrindavanesvari
vrishabhanu-sute devi pranamami hari-priye
“I offer my respects to Radharani, whose bodily complexion is like molten gold and who is the Queen of Vrindavana. You are the daughter of King Vrisabhanu, and You are very dear to Lord Krishna.”