radha-pada-damodarBy Swami BG Narasingha

On the Sukla-paksa Trayodasi during the month of Kartika, devotees celebrate the day that Srimati Radharani dressed in Subala-vesa—the dress of the cowherd boy Subala. In the dress of a cowherd boy, the lotus feet of Radharani were visible during darsana. This is called radha-pada-darsana and only happens one day in a year. Indeed, it is a rare occasion. Thousands of devotees packed the courtyard of the Radha-Damodara Mandir from morning to night with great expectations of glimpsing the lotus feet of Sri Radha.

The pastime of Radha accepting Subala-vesa (Subala-milana) is described in the book Sankirtanamrta, written by a recognized Vaishnava named Dina Bandhu Dasa who followed after the time of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami summarizes Subala-milana as follows:

Sometimes Subala played proxy for Radharani. One day in the pasture ground, Krishna suddenly felt extreme separation for Radhika. Krishna sent for Subala, “Oh, my Radha—please go and fetch her, I can’t live without her. Suddenly I have so much earnestness for her union that I can’t stand it. Somehow you must manage.”

Subala replied, “But how is it possible to take her in the jungle in broad daylight?”

“Anyhow,” Krishna said, “You must manage.”

Subala came and proposed to the sakhis of Radharani that “such is the condition, Krishna can’t stand; he can’t tolerate the separation of Radharani. He is so eager, He is going mad.”

“You have to manage somehow.”

“How is it possible?”

A meeting was to be arranged nearby in the jungle. This is known as Subala-milana. They discussed amongst themselves. Subala was a boy, fair looking and the brother of Radharani. His figure, face, and color resembled something like Radharani. So Subala was sent to Radharani’s house and he took the dress of Radharani. The other party, anti-party [Jatila] approached, “Subala, why have you come here?”

Subala replied, “One calf is missing and its mother is roaring, so I have come to find out if the calf has come here.” In this way Subala managed to escape detection. Then Subala interchanged the dress of Radharani and Radharani was converted into Subala. Subala took the dress of Radharani and remained there in the room. One calf was also given to Radharani on her breast. Taking the small calf [in her arms], she was given a hint where Krishna was waiting at the edge of the jungle.

She approached in the garb of Subala. Krishna was mad and beside himself. He could not detect that Radharani had come. “Oh, Subala, you have come back? You could not bring her?” Radharani began cutting jokes, “No, it is not very easy to get Radharani in the daytime.”

Then Krsna could not tolerate, “What to do, I can’t tolerate my life any longer!”

Radharani said, “If you say, I will bring Candravalli.”

“No, no,” said Krishna, “Curd cannot satisfy the thirst of milk. It is not possible. Oh, you could not manage.” Being disappointed, Krishna fainted. Then Radharani embraced Krishna.

“My Lord, you can’t recognize your maidservant. You failed to recognize me? You have such little liking for me in you that you could not recognize me?” Then Krishna was again pacified and regained consciousness.

In Vrindavana, to commemorate this pastime, on the Sukla-paksa Trayodasi, all the major temples dress Radharani as Subala. Due to her wearing a cowherd boy’s dhoti, Radharani’s feet are visible at that time (radha-pada-darsana). During all other times of the year the feet of Srimati Radharani are not visible to the devotees. One can thus imagine what intensity arises in the devotees when the day of radha-pada-darsana arrives—very, very intense indeed.

It is worthy to note that when radha-pada-darsana is given, it happens in an indirect way and not directly. In the dress of Radha the pada-darsana is never given, but in the dress of Subala, it happens indirectly. Such is the way of those things that are most sacred in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

The understanding of Subala-milana is possibly deeper than most of us are prepared to recognize. Krishna can only be approached through Radharani, and Radharani is also not to be approached directly. Only by approaching her representative can one approach that plane of divinity. Also, we must consider that even in the matter of the darsana of sri murti, the darsana of Radha’s lotus feet is available only indirectly and only once a year—a rare occasion. When such a darsana of the Deity is considered so rare, then what can be said of the darsana of Radharani directly? If such a connection with the Deity is rare, then how much higher and rarer is the direct darsana of Sri Radha?

Yet, every so often, we find that the concept of radha-dasyam (becoming Radha’s servant) is dealt with rather casually, when in fact one should hold the desire of such exalted service above one’s head with the greatest reverence. Reverence for that highest plane of spiritual attainment is in great demand and thus one should treat such with the greatest respect, abandoning familiarity. For the neophyte, familiarity in that arena will lead not to success but to ruin. The aspiration for the service of Sri Radha and the darsana of her lotus feet is always to be kept above our heads as our greatest aspiration and the ultimate goal of life. We should not think that it is such an easy attainment, nor should we make it the topic of public lectures and pamphlets in the name of attracting many followers or disciples.

Failure to heed such warnings, as given by our previous acaryas, leads not to the darsana of Srimati Radharani but to the inspiration to live in a fool’s paradise: fools rush in where angels fear to tread!

Those that approach the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani through the prescribed method of worshiping Lord Gauranga in sankirtana are indeed engaged in the proper approach, not those who think they can approach her directly by performing various concocted gopi and manjari meditations. As Prabodhananda Sarasvati assures us:

yatha yatha gaura-padaravinde
vindeta bhaktim krta-punya-rasih
tatha tathotsarpati hrdy-akasmad

“One who is extremely fortunate may get the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As much as one can devote his full attention to the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu, to that extent he will be able to taste the nectarine service of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani in Vrindavana. The more one engages in the service of Sri Caitanya, the more one finds oneself in Vrindavana, tasting the nectar of the service of Sri Radha.” (Caitanya-candramrta 88)

Purporting this verse Srila Sridhara Deva Gosvami spoke as follows:

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has also said, “Stick to the rulings of the class you are fit for, then you will see automatically.” Strictly stick to Gaura lila, Mahaprabhu, and you will automatically find within your heart that radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi is flowing. Don’t attempt directly to have it. It will come automatically, spontaneously. Not intellectually you shall approach that, for that will give you a bad prejudice. Not only that, but it will be harmful prejudice and you will have to expend more energy to do away with that layer of misunderstanding. So our Srila Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura] did not allow these things. Do your duty in your plane, according to what you deserve, and that will come naturally. That is his instruction all through, not only temporarily, but all through. Don’t do like that, for then you will get maya instead of Yogamaya.

He knows fully well, she knows fully well—when you are to be taken into the confidential area—and that cannot be acquired by any other thing but his sweet will, the flow of her sweet will, or his sweet will. Try to have the natural thing, not any thing of imitation or any reflection. Reflection and shadow, these two kinds of misconception may come there. Reflection is more dangerous.

Those who are actually wise will consider the above instructions of Prabodhananda Sarasvati, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and Sridhara Deva Gosvami not as an admonishment, but as a blessing, an indirect benediction. Gaura Haribol!

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11 Responses to Radha-pada-darsana

  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful pastime treasure, Maharaja! Although I am most unqualified, I will try to honor it carefully in the way you have cautioned above.

  2. From what you have said here, I’m wondering if the tradition of Radha-pada-darsana in ISKCON occuring only on Radhastami (once per year) is practiced at any other temples/missions that you know of – or is it only on this Subala-milana day? If so, do you know how the tradition started in ISKCON for this darsana on Radhastami?

    This pastime is wonderful and so many sweet meanings can be drawn from it. Thank you so much for sharing it Maharaj- such a great balance of lila and tattva, I am fully satisfied!

    • Do some ISKCON temples do this now on Radhastami? I remember in the mid-’70s, one of our pujaris from Wash.D.C. went to India during Kartika and saw how Radharani’s feet were exposed (presumaby on the Subala-milana day). She then began dressing our temple Deities like this, exposing Sri Radha’s lotus feet almost daily!

  3. Indeed, this is an amazing article, and the deities are unbelievably charming. All murtis are beautiful, but Sri Sri Radha-Damodara have something additional, something special, which I for one am unable to properly put in words. After all, these were the personal deities of Srila Jiva Gosvami, who in my opinion, was/is THE greatest philosopher and theologian to have walked the face of this earth.

    This aside, Maharaja’s words of caution are wise, to say the least, and very much in line with the mood and preaching of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. They ought to, in my humble opinion, be embraced and followed by one and all. Ultimately, the mercy of the Divine Couple and grace of our gurus are our ONLY chance of ever attaining the parama-pada, or supreme destination.

  4. I have a question regarding Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s statement that Subala is a brother of Radha since I never heard this before. Mostly I have heard that Sridama is the elder brother of Radha (as mentioned in the “Radha Krishna Ganodesa Dipika” of Srila Rupa Goswami) and Srila Narayana Maharaja specifically states in his book “Going Beyond Vaikuntha” that Subala is not a brother of Radha. Now I’m a little confused… Is there any scriptural reference mentioning Subala as a brother of Radha?

  5. Dandavats.

    Can you please tell us more about who Sri Narasingha Dev-Gosai is? Thank you! Gopastami ki jaya!

    • Nila Madhava,

      You can find information about Swami BG Narasingha at gosai.com

    • Nila Madhava,

      You can find information on Swami BG Narasingha at gosai.com

    • He is Sripad Bhakti Gaurava Narasimha Maharaj (the former Jagad Guru das, disciple of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada). His “Dev-Gosai” title surprised me when I first heard it, as I had understood it to be a caste-based title associated with high-born Brahmanas in India. In Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, only Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja and Srila B.S. Govinda Maharaja took this title; the current generation of SCSM gurus has not adopted it for themselves. Perhaps Narasimha Maharaja stopped using the title so people would not misunderstand him as incorrectly claiming a seminal distinction that he does not possess?

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