7. Divisions of Radharani’s sakhi

The general division of sakhi-bhava has been further subdivided into five in the Ujjvala-nilamani(UN 4.50). There it is said that Radharani, queen of Vrindavan, has five kinds of sakhi, know respectively as:
1. sakhi (friends)-
2. priya-sakhi (dear friends)
3. paramaprestha-sakhi (dearmost friends)
4. prana-sakhi (life-companions)
5. nitya-sakhi (constant companions).

In this classification, sakhis are those inclined primarily toward Krsna; they include Dhanistha and Vindhya. Priya-sakhis and parama-prestha-sakhis are equal in their affections to both the lover and the beloved; Kurangaksi and Sumadhyama belong to the former grouping, while Radha’s closest companions Lalita, Visakha, Campakalata, Sucitra, Indulekha, Tungavidya, Rangadevi and Sudevi (often known as the eight friends, or asta-sakhi) belong to the latter. Their title of parama-prestha-sakhi would indicate that they are the dearest of all to Radha.

The last two categories, which include the manjaris, are Radha-snehadhika, i.e., they have stronger feelings of love for Radha than for Krsna. Kasturi and Mani Manjaris names are specifically mentioned in the Ujjvala-nilamani as nitya-sakhis, while sasimukhi, Vasanti and Lasika are the names of some prana-sakhis.

Visvanatha has discussed raganuga bhakti and the different categories of sakhi in his ananda-candrika commentary to Ujjvala-nilamani:
In the opinion of those devoted to the raganuga path, one must follow a specific gopi with a feeling of submission at least equal to the one with which one worships Krsna. Therefore, if one follows with less affection for the devotee, then there is no distinction between the vaidha and raganuga paths, for one cannot attain the desired result of raganuga-bhakti without following in the footsteps of one of the Vrindavan devotees. In this case, though, if one adores a girlfriend of Radha’s whose affections lean proportionately somewhat more towards Krsna, then Radha’s prominence is diminished; she takes a position inferior to that of her own girlfriend. This is a great breach of protocol, for Radharani is the greatest of all
the yuthesvaris or nayikas.(ananda-candrika to UN 8.137)

The conclusion is that Dhanistha and other sakhis of her category are NOT to be followed by one who wishes perfection on the raganuga path and attainment of spiritual handmaidenhood.

Priya-sakhis have exactly the same measure of love for Krsna as they do for their dear friend, the yuthesvari. That love is simultaneously, inexplicably great and yet always clearly expressed. Their numbers are greater than the other types of girlfriend. Rupa gives the following example of the actions of a sakhi of this type:
One day, when srimati Radharani and Krsna were separated as a result of some misdeed of his, syama’s friend Bakulamali came and revealed her mind to Campakalata,
“Dear friend, when Radha is separated from Krsna, then to see her gives me a pain in
the heart. And when I see Krsna without Radha, I truly feel great suffering. What misery! O beautiful one, I pray therefore that I shall never take any birth in which I shall not be able to drink with my eyes the beauty of Radha and Krsna’s moon-like faces, creating a joyful festival, together.”(UN 8.128)

The parama-prestha-sakhis like Lalita and Visakha are also sama-sneha like the priya-sakhis, with the distinction that, although they love both Radha and Krsna equally, they definitely feel themselves to be Radha’s. These eight sakhis (Lalita, Visakha, Sudevi, Rangadevi, Campakalata, Citra, Tungavidya and Indulekha) have reached such heights of love for both members of the Divine Couple that they sometimes appear to feel more affection for either the one or the other, but this distinction is slight and manifests only briefly. For example, when Radharani is in one of her sulking moods, then their sympathies might sway toward Krsna, the spurned and forlorn lover. On the other hand, when Krsna breaks his promise or fails to appear for an assignation, they will take Radha’s side.


The prana-sakhis and nitya-sakhis are more affectionate toward Radha. Of these two groups of sakhis, the first category is more prominent. In his Ujjvala-nilamani-kirana, Visvanatha states that the prana-sakhis are chief amongst the nitya-sakhis
who include all those who are Radha-snehadhika.

In his commentary on Ujjvala-nilamani 8.129 already partially quoted above, Visvanatha makes the following further distinction between these two types of manjari:

Those devotees who are to be followed for the attainment of spiritual perfection should be nitya-siddha or eternally perfected souls. Those who are labdha-siddha, having become perfected either through grace or long practice, are seen in a slightly lesser light. This difference has existed since time immemorial and is here expressed in this verse by making a division between the prana-sakhis and the nitya-sakhis, the latter(nitya-sakhis) being followers of the former(prana-sakhis).

From Manjari swarupa Nirupana by Srila Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaj


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