राधा (rādhā) means various things and people
- prosperity and success and refers to the completion of karma related to birth thereby becoming eligible for mokṣa which marks the real success
- it refers to the 21st Nakṣatra Uttara Āsāḍha which houses 14/15 parts of the intercalary nakṣatra Abhijit which is the seat of Hari (Nārāyaṇa, Jagannāth). The two nakṣatra 20th Pūrva Āsāḍha and 21st Uttara Āsāḍha are parts of the dharma bhāva along with Mūla nakṣatra in Dhanus (Sagittarius) Rāśi. In the lunar month of Āsāḍha, Jagannāth leaves his abode at the temple and travels to the Guṇḍichā (Rādhā) temple in the chariot – the famous Ratha Yatra festival.
- The 19th nakṣatra Mūla represents the pitṛs and shows root (mūla) dharma coming from father. If father is Hindu then child shall be Hindu at birth; if Christian then child shall also become Christian. This is mūla dharma.
- The 20th nakṣatra represents the śreṇi-guru i.e. all the teachers and professors of the university where we train for professional life as well as the boss at work who teaches us to become proficient in our karma. This brings professional success.
- Finally the 21st nakṣatra determines the dīkṣa guru who guides us in the spiritual path to mokṣa.
- It also refers to the nakṣatra Viśākhā (containing 4 stars in the form of a curve marking the meeting of Libra and Scorpio). It is the power of purity and chastity of a lady.
- of the foster-mother of Karṇa, the first son of Kunti who was not a Pāṇḍava, the king of Aṅga (modern Bihar). She was the wife of Adhiratha, who was Sūta or charioteer of king Śūra. Karṇa was also called Rādhā-suta.
- Finally, a celebrated cowherdess or Gopi (beloved by Kṛṣṇa, and a principal personage in Jaya-deva’s poem Gita-Govinda who was worshipped as a goddess at the time of Parāśara and later again after the medieval period. She is occasionally regarded as an avatāra of Lakṣmī although the prime avatāra is Rukmiṇī. In order to ensure that the prayers are addressed to this Rādhā and none of the others above, Parāśara teaches the powerful dasākṣarī mantra गोपीजन वल्लभाय स्वाहा (gopījana vallabhāya svāhā) with the lupta bīja which is given only to the initiated for learning jyotiṣa. Similarly the name Rādhikā is used instead of just Rādhā as in the aṣṭākṣarī mantra राधिकायै श्रेयं नमः (rādhikāyai śreyaṁ namaḥ) has the power to remove the debility of Venus and every kind of skin affliction. Later add the name of Kṛṣṇa to this mantra and it becomes the 13 syllable mantra resembling the 13 petal lotus at the door of the Jagannāth garbha griha. ॐ क्लीं कृष्णाय राधिकायै श्रेयं नमः (om klīṁ kṛṣṇāya rādhikāyai śreyaṁ namaḥ)
Now we can understand why Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu laid so much importance to this Rādhā-Dāmodara Veśa of Lord Jagannāth and was instrumental in reinstalling this veśa as a part of the annual ritual of the Lord. During his expedition to Śrī Kṣetra (Jagannāth Puri) in Odisha in the 16th Century, Śrī Caitanya had this powerful month long ceremony initiated. For an entire ‘Vaiṣṇava’ lunar month, starting from śukla ekādaśī (the 11th day of the bright fortnight) of Aśvina māsa to the śukla daśamī (10th day of the bright fortnight) of Kārtika māsa, the Deities are dressed in this Rādhā-Dāmodara veśa. Dāmodara refers to Bāla-Gopāla (baby Kṛṣṇa) with a rope tied around His waist to prevent the baby from straying (Kṛṣṇa childhood pastimes with Mother Yashoda). It was in this veśa that Kṛṣṇa gave mokṣa to the Arjuna trees as baby Kṛṣṇa was so strong that He pulled at the rope tying Him to the two trees and they fell down!
One mythological belief reveals that while Akrura the emissary of Kansa, while taking Kṛṣṇa and Balaram to Mathura, took a bath in River Yamuna, he saw this veśa of Jagannāth.
The deities wear three-crossed dress materials in this veśa. They are adorned with Golden hands, Crowns made of bamboo plates and velvet cloth.
Māsa is the period of a month and represents the entire living phase from birth to death. At the beginning of the month, the deities are like babies and then grow to adolescence and emerge as youth. Finally old age (vṛddha) and death like stage (mṛta) avasthā envelopes them. What amāvāsya is to the Moon and saṅkrānti is to the Sun, śukla ekādaśī is to Kṛṣṇa. On amāvāsya the Moon is naked and hides inside the trees; the Sun god is changing his clothes on saṅkrānti (implying being without clothes) while Kṛṣṇa is a baby on śukla ekādaśī. Those who worship the Kali fast on amāvāsya and sing the 22 syllable mantra; the brāhmaṇa seeking self-realisation fast on saṅkrānti and sing the 24 syllable gāyatrī mantra; the bhakta seeking union with Kṛṣṇa fast on ekādaśī and sing the 32 syllable mahā-mantra.