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Ashta Sakha – Eight Male Friends of Krishna in Vrindavan – Different Names

Ashta Sakha literally means eight male friends and refers to the eight favorite friends of Bhagavan Sri Krishna at Vrindavan and Gokul, where he spent his childhood and boyhood days. It is actually seven friends and the eighth being Sri Krishna. The names and number of friends are not the same with different sects.

Ashta Sakha is of great importance in the Vallabha Sampradaya (a Vaishnavite tradition of worship).

Names of Ashta Sakha
  1. Suradasa
  2. Toke
  3. Arjuna
  4. Rishabha
  5. Subala
  6. Sridama
  7. Vishala
  8. Bhoja
Friendship has been recognized in other devotional sects as an acceptable form of worship of Krishna. This is known as the Sakhya Bhava and is considered the same as the friendship of Krishna’s childhood and teenage playmates.

Devotional texts classify Krishna’s friends into three groups, namely, seniors like Balarama, his juniors, and those who shared his habits and interests and are closest to him.
Ashta Sakha is of great significance to those devotees who find bhakti and spiritual solace in Krishna’s miraculous and mischievous deeds as boy. The eight friends are part of the Krishna leela.

The activities of Krishna and his friends are remembered during daily puja especially in those homes where Harivamsa and Srimad Bhagavata Purana is read.

In the sylvan surroundings of Nabadwip (a place in Bengal associated with Sri Chaitanya) and in some temples of Vrindavan, the image of Krishna is taken to the place where the images of his eight friends are kept.

In the Pushtimarg (the way of Pushti or god’s grace) of the Vallabha Sampradaya the eight friends, including Krishna, who formed the group are – Krishna, Toke, Arjuna, Rishabha, Subala, Sridama, Vishala and Bhoja.

In the path of Pushti, it is believed that eight famous poets of Vrindavan are incarnations of Krishna and his friends –
  1. Suradasa was Krishna incarnate
  2. Paramananda Dasa was Toke
  3. Kumbhandasa was Arjuna
  4. Krishnadasa was Rishabha
  5. Chitswami was Subala
  6. Govinda Swami was Sudama
  7. Chaturbhujadasa was Vishala
  8. Nandadasa was Bhoja
In Ujjvalanilamani of Rupa Goswami, Radha’s friends are similarly called Ashtasakhi.