--> Skip to main content

Role Of Gopis In Vrindavan As Per Gaudiya Sect

Esoteric Vaishnava literature of Gaudiya sect contains detailed analysis of the role of gopis, the daily companions or favorites of Bhagavan Sri Krishna and Radha Rani. The female companions or gopis are considered as the personification of the god’s blissful aspect (Hladini shakti) and basically, non-different from him.

In Gaudiya exegetical texts, the eight main groups of favorite gopis of Radha move together in unison and are divided in five groups

  1. Sakhi (friend)
  2. Nitya Sakhi (daily companion)
  3. Prana Sakhi (best friend)
  4. Priya Sakhi (a favorite companion)
  5. Parama Sreshta Sakhi (the very best friend).

The very best friends of Radha are eight (ashta) in number, known as ashta sakhi. They are Lalita, Visakha, Campakalata, Chitra, Tungavidya, Indulekha, Rangadevi and Sudevi. Alternatively, the names of Sumitra, Sundari, Tungadevi, and Indurekha are mentioned instead of Chitra, Sudevi, Tungavidya and Indulekha.

These eight women are considered foremost among the gopis of Radha’s entourage. In Vaishnava thought, they are almost as esteemed as the deities themselves, as they are considered to be spiritually evolved beings (or states of mind for the more evolved seekers), capable of granting special audiences and favors.

Each of them has a helper called Manjari. They are Rupa Manjari, Jiva Manjari, Ananga Manjari, Rasa Manjari, Vilasa Manjari, Lila Manjari and Kasturi Manjari. The helpers, in turn, have groups of associates who all delight in the daily dalliance of Radha and Krishna.

Their function is to facilitate the permanent play (leela) of Radha and Krishna in an unearthly dimension of sacred space and time. Sometimes, when Radha is in her Khandita (cheated) mode, they fight for her rights with Krishna; at other times, when Radha takes too long to forgive Krishna (manabhimana), they speak ill of Radha, for somehow they have to bring about the perennial union which they seek to revel in and which is the play of atman (self) and paramatman (God) in whom they delight. It is the same self dividing and uniting perennially, just for the sake of experiencing this eternal bliss. They are not jealous of Radha’s union with Krishna, but in fact desire it all the time.