Mahabharat, Ramayan and other epics have been a great influence on Indian society for centuries or perhaps thousands of years.
There is something weird about India. We have plenty of old retired people constantly lamenting as how the youth of this country is spoiled. We have lessons in matters of love but the society frowns upon the display of love or the love itself. We sing the bhajans of Radha and Mira and yet sometimes kill our daughter for choosing a boy of her choice.
I wont comment on other religions but it hurts when I hear that being in love with someone is against the Hindu Culture. The self proclaimed guardians of culture roam around intimidating young couples and setting moral standards for the public.
Why do these things came in my mind ? Because I came across a article on Eklavyaa and his life after his thumb was cut. He supported Pandavas in the war but was later killed by Shri Krishna in some battle. I am not more influenced by any other character than that of Shri Krishna. The roles he played we so different and apparently had intentions that we learn only later.
One role that is more prominent in Indian Art was that of a “Lover”. He loved Radha. We have marvellous songs like ‘Madhuban mein radhika nache re’ to ‘Bajav bajav teri muraliya oh kanha’. There are wall paintings, murals, temples, saree designs and what not influence by the love of Radha-Krishna.
Radha is nowhere present in the original text of Mahabharata. Some ‘Saviours of Culture’ feel bad(!) about Krishna’s love at that time and claim that no Radha ever existed but was just some local poet’s imagination. It is something that they see as a blot on his life, an aberration.
Nepolian when attacked france told his soldiers “One Night in Paris will compensate for the all Horors of the battle your are going to face”. It may not be appropriate to quote this line here but my point is “Courage and strength goes well only with love of a woman”. No man can be complete without a feminine component in his life.
Gopis in Mathura were in love with the strong and intelligent Kanhaa. His bravery as well as charming nature is what they loved. Besides his makhanchor image he also had an image of an eve-teaser. Socially the makhanchor image had a meaning. All the milk based products in mathura were consumed by Kansa’s people so the kids were malnourished. Besides Krishna wanted to build an army of strong man. One way these games that he played brought in new episode in the Bhagvad Purana. Who wont fall in love with krishna the Go-palak. He took care of animals, he played with fellow Gop, his handicapped friend ‘Pendyaa’, flirted with the young women and acted as a protector when needed. Krishna formed a brotherhood that connected all these people.
[Krishna’s achievement are important because Krishna belonged to a community Ahira which was otherwise not considered on par with rest of the mainstream Hindu communities of those time. In fact it is said that Ahira people were considered Mlecchas and yet rest of the communities had to keep contact with them because they had a near monopoly in breeding high quality cattle and horses.]
He roamed freely with the Gopis in the Kunjavan. Taught them to love. Imagine a society based on labor. Krishna showed them a new way. If you notice the folksongs you understand the intimacy and intricacy in the Radha-Krishna’s love. The way she gets jealous when he talks to other Gopis (Remember the song from Lagaan?) . She is proud of her fairness and teases him because he is dark (Radha kyon gori mein kyun kalaa). In their adolescent exploration of love they even crossdress. All we see there is unconditional love and poetic intimacy. It is not the intimacy portrayed by soem great rishi but your average local smartypant poet. It is different from the heavy text of Mahabhrata.
But what happened to Radha after Krishna left Mathura?? When he married 16k women hostages of Narakasura why couldn’t he give a honourable place to Radha? Shri Krishna had 8 special wives (called AstaNayika in Sankrit literature) why there is no mention of Radha? Vyaas did not mention Radha in Mahabharat; was there any special reason for her exclusion?
When the Gopis go to Dwarka to meet Krishna, Akroor (krshna’ political adviser and a warrior) convinces them back to mathura. He tells them the message Krishna has for them. This message elaborated in detail about Brahma, Akshar-Satyaa etc etc. To go in detail it is actually the same Gita that Krisha tells arjuna in future. But this message is known as Akroor-Gita in oriental philosophy.
Radha might not have got the place alongside Rukmini and Satyabhama but she was more than immortalised by the ordinary people. Radha-Krishna temples dot the landscape of India. Their stories and songs continue to appear in modern day bollywood. Radha continues to be associated with the concept of unconditional love even today.
There are three stories as what happened to Radha.
She married Krishna Secretly to Krishna in Vrindavan Forest. Though she dint see Krishna later in her life again she remained aunmarried.
She married abhimanyu son of Jatila a Yadav. What forced her to marry him remains unexplained.
She married to a god fearing person called Chandrasena.
Whatever it may be but Krishna’s romance with her gave a new aspect to whole Indian art and music and our notions of love and romance.
EDIT: I have edited this post to do some basic spell/grammar check. I had written this several years ago when my understanding of english was limited.
Reflecting back on this article today; I feel that the culture often has two parallel currents. One that is patronised by kings and enjoyed by intellectuals such as Ramayan Mahabhrat, second is the one patronised by ordinary people. There were singers like Tansen but only the King and ministers could enjoy his singing. The folksingers on other hand entertained the masses. Their names might be forgotten but their words are likely to have outlived that of Tansen.
In modern times these currents are mixing together as technology makes it possible for rich and poor enjoy the same kind of art and culture. Except for things like Win and Paintings only few things remain truly elitist where as theatre, literature, movies, tv and everything else now caters to all people instead of few.
Story of Radha-Krishna is likely to be of people’s story. Like a wikipedia article it was modified by many over time telling us more about the people’s notion of love than anything else.