From the first day of the bright lunar quarter of the month of Bhādra, a band is sitting down at the Lion Gate of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja’s town, making it as beautiful as Nandīśvara (at the time of Kṛṣṇa’s birthday).
On the third day of the light lunar quarter of Bhādra is the birthday of Tungavidyā Sakhī. That night there will be Rāsa-līlā and Śayan līlā (taking rest) in her Kunja. The same thing happens on Aṣṭamī (the eight lunar day) in the Kunja of Śrī Rādhā and Viśākhā, on Navamī (the ninth day) in the Kunja of Campakalatā, on Ekādaśī in the Kunja of Indurekhā, on Pūrṇimā (fullmoon night) in the Kunja of Rangadevī and Sudevī and on the third bright lunar day in Āśvina in the Kunja of Citrā Sakhī.
Two days before Rādhāṣṭamī, on the sixth day of the light quarter of the month of Bhādra, father Vṛṣabhānu sends an invitation to Nanda Mahārāja (Kṛṣṇa’s father) at Nandīśvara to come and celebrate Śrī Rādhikā’s birthday. Śrīdāma, Śrī Rādhikā’s elder brother, and Ṛṣikanyā deliver the invitation.
The next day, after performing their daily morning-duties, Nanda Mahārāja and his entire entourage, including Goṣṭha Candra Śrī Kṛṣṇa, come to Vṛṣabhānupura (Varṣānā) on foot, with bullock-carts or in palanquins. Hearing the musical instruments of their approaching guests resounding, Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and his brothers and Mother Kīrtidā and her sisters-in-law are awaiting them. They show the guests their quarters and take a meal with them. Śrī Rādhikā and Her Yūtheśvarīs (group-leaders) cook rice, vegetables, purīs, kṣīra (sweet rice) and many other delicious dishes, and the pūjārī offers everything to Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu’s Nārāyaṇa-deity. After the pūjārī puts the deity to rest Śrīdāma arranges for prasāda to be served on the courtyard of the palace and Śrī Rādhikā starts quarreling with Her Yūtheśvarīs about who can serve first. Externally angry Śyāmā-sakhī says to Śrī Rādhikā: “It’s Your father’s invitation! What’s it to us? You can serve first or not, whatever You like!”
Hearing this loving quarrel Mother Kīrtidā decides to make lines for serving, and every sakhī can serve her own line of guests. After eating, chewing betel leaves and washing the mouth, everyone lies down in his own guestroom. On the pretext of picking flowers Śrī Rādhikā then goes to Vilāsa Kuṇḍa, which is situated west of Varsānā, where She secretly meets Śrī Śyāmasundara. After a brief meeting everyone returns to their own rooms. Then Śrī Rādhikā cooks something and takes that along for Her usual noontime meeting with Kṛṣṇa at Śrī Rādhākuṇḍa.
On the morning of Rādhāṣṭamī-day, after performing their morning-duties, everyone assembles to witness Śrī Rādhikā’s abhiṣeka (bathing ceremony). Śrī Rādhikā wears a thin, white dress along with all Her usual ornaments for the abhiṣeka. Musicians start playing their instruments (like Vīṇā, Upāṅga, Pakhowāj, Mṛdaṅga, Dundubhīs, Bherīs and Dolaks) and the maidservants come in to bring all the paraphernalia for the bathing-ceremony. Paurṇamāsī-devī chants the mantras and Gargī (the daughter of the priest Gargamuni) starts the abhiṣeka. First she pours Mahauṣadhi-water, water that contains many auspicious herbs, over Śrī Rādhikā’s delectable limbs, then Panca-Gavya, five kinds of dairy-products, like milk, yoghurt, buttermilk, clarified butter and cow’s urine, then a hundred jugs of clear water and finally She bathes Her with a conchshell that makes a thousand streams. The maidservants dry Śrī Rādhikā off with soft white towels and anoint Her with fragrant oils and Catuḥ-Sama (a blend of sandalpaste, vermilion, camphor and musk). Then they take Her to Her Śṛṅgāra Vedī (dais for ornamentation), dress Her in Her usual splendid blue sārī and decorate Her with Her shimmering ornaments, the sixteen śṛṅgāras and twelve ābharaṇas. Gargī worships Śrī Rādhikā with Dūrva-grass (bright green grass which is highly auspicious) and wheat in her hand, and Paurṇamāsī offers Her brahminical blessings. After a maidservant has offered ārati to Śrī Rādhikā, mother Yaśodā blesses Her and presents Her with a jeweled necklace, clothes and ornaments. She also gives such presents to the Yūtheśvarīs. Then Śrī Rādhā gives ornamented cows in charity. Father Vṛṣabhānu also gives thousands of cows and calves. Śrī Rādhikā offers Her obeisances unto all these superiors.
After this Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His friends take a snack and Śrī Rādhā and Her girlfriends and groupleaders also take a snack. Śrī Rādhikā then takes off Her ornaments and cooks Her own birthday-feast together with mother Rohiṇī – sweet rice, savouries, rice and vegetables. Hundreds of brāhmaṇas are cooking another feast for all the villagers outside. Compassionate Yaśodā says to her friend Kīrtidā: “Sakhi! Your heart is so hard! You make Śrī Rādhikā, who is as tender as a Śirīṣa-flower, cook so much! You don’t have any love and affection! Just see how warm She feels of this hard labour on Her very birthday!” Mother Kīrtidā replies: “Because Śrī Rādhikā got the blessing that whatever She cooks would be more delicious than nectar, Vṛṣabhānu-Mahārāja wanted Nanda Mahārāja and his family to savour this once. That’s why Śrī Rādhikā is cooking on this special occasion! O Queen of Vraja! Just see how nice Her preparations are!” Mother Rohiṇī then shows mother Yaśodā all the preparations Śrī Rādhikā had cooked. Śrī Rādhikā offers Her obeisances unto Queen Yaśodā’s feet and Yaśodā blesses Her, saying: “O Rādhe! Your preparations please my eyes with their form and my nose with their fragrance!” Then Lalitā and Śyāmalā come and offer their obeisances to mother Yaśodā’s lotus feet and she then also affectionately praises and blesses them. Mother Rohiṇī then says: “O Kṛṣṇa-Janani, mother of Kṛṣṇa! This Śrī Rādhikā is a golden gem and Śrī Kṛṣṇa is a sapphire gem-stone! They are just like a couple of necklaces for the Vraja-Lakṣmī (the goddess of Vraja’s pastoral beauty)!” Śrī Rādhikā’s nostrils bloom of shyness when She hears this. When Lalitā and the other sakhīs see this they rejoice. Śrī Yaśodā then orders some maidservants to prepare the offering for the deities and to fan Śrī Rādhā to remove Her fatigue. After this the pūjārī offers the bhoga and puts the deities to rest. (Meanwhile outside hundreds of brahmins have also completed their enormous cooking work)
After this everyone dresses properly and, like on Kṛṣṇa-Janmāṣṭamī in Pāvan Sarovara, proceed to Bhānukhora, the pond that lies east of Varsānā, to play Dadhikādā, a game of throwing butter, yoghurt and other dairy-products at each other, and splashing each other with water from different corners of the Khora – one ghāṭa (bathing place) is reserved for men, one for women, one for girls and one for boys. After this Mahārāja Vṛṣabhānu and Kīrtidā Mahārāṇī present all ladies and gentlemen present with proper gifts of clothes and ornaments. Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja first sumptuously feeds all the brāhmaṇas and then all other people, on a large courtyard. Everyone eats in supreme ecstasy, and after flushing their mouths they take betelleaves and take rest in their individual abodes.
In the inner chambers of the palace mother Kīrtidā and mother Śrī Yaśodā also feed all the ladies, after which they too take rest in their individual quarters. After this he generously gives clothes, ornaments and dakṣiṇā (monetary donations). Then everyone takes rest in their own rooms.
After taking some rest Śrī Rādhikā goes picking flowers with Her girlfriends on the bank of Vilāsa Kunda in the west of Barsana. While they depart the sakhīs give a hint to Śrī Kṛṣṇa through the window. Śrī Kṛṣṇa then joins them at Vilāsa Kuṇḍa, performs His amorous pastimes with Śrī Rādhā there, performs Yogapīṭha pastimes and then everyone returns to their own bedroom for taking some rest. After this Śrī Rādhā’s pastimes of cooking offerings for the Sun-god and going on abhisāra are the same as on the Saptamī. At night They dance the Rāsa and recline in the kunja of Viśākhā-sakhī, because it is also her birthday on this day.
Source: “Śrī-Śrī Gaura Govinda Līlāmṛta Guṭikā”, by Siddha Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Bābājī, presented by Rādhākuṇḍa Mahānta Paṇḍita Śrī Ananta Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja.
Translation: Advaita das Ji