Is “Manjari-bhava” “Bona-fide”?

Where is the term “mañjarī-bhāva” defined or mentioned in the works of the Goswāmīs or their important disciples and contemporaries? Is it anywhere in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu? No. Is it anywhere in Bhakti-sandarbha? Not as far as I know. This lack of mention in the two most important books defining the practice of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sādhana should not be taken lightly, and thus the prominence and importance given to the “mañjarī-bhāva” theory should be subject to doubt and scrutiny.

Some say that 1.2.298 of Bhaktirasāmṛta Sindhu refers to mañjarī-bhāva. If this is the case, why don’t the two most important commentators (Śrī Jīva and Śrī Viśvanātha) mention anything about it in their comment on that text? Instead they both explain the text to mean that kāmānugā-sādhana has two aspects: the desire to please Krishna’s senses (sombhoga-icchā), and the desire to experience the sweet mood of the gopī’s love for Krishna (tat-tad-bhāva-icchā). They say that the second aspect is primary and the first is secondary. They distinguish the first as being useless if not having some mixture with the second, as was the case with Kubja of Mathurā.

If it doesn’t come from Śrī Rūpa or Śrī Jīva, the concept of “mañjarī-bhāva” must come from somewhere else. Where? I don’t know. Great contemporary scholars and practitioners of Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavism such as Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and Paṇḍit Śrīla Haridās Śāstrī indicate (directly or indirectly) that it developed under some influence from the sahaja tradition born from a mating of Buddhism and Tantra. All I personally know for sure is that even Śrī Viśvanātha did not mention it as far as I know, which indicates to me that even several generations after Śrī Jīva, Śrī Viśvanātha either did not approve of the idea or it did not yet exist.

The word mañjarī is certainly used often by the Goswāmī’s of Vṛndāvana (but not as the compound “mañjarī-bhāva,” and not a denotation of a specific ideological package). The word mañjarī simply means “new flower.” The specific connotation is a girl who has newly become a woman. Any beautiful young lady may be referred to by the term mañjarī.

In Rādhā Krishna Gaṇodeśa Dīpika, Śrī Rūpa uses the term mañjarī several times. It is a suffix for the names of several gopīs. In texts 179-181 of the laghu section, he names several people defining a group he calls Rādhā’s Mañjarī. This is in a section where he defines Śrī Rādhā’s main friends. In 175 he names the [primary] parama-preṣṭha-sakhīs, in 176 he names the priya-sakhīs, in 177 he names the jīvita-sakhīs, in 178 he names the nitya-sakhīs. Then we come to to 179-181 where he names “rādhā-mañjarī” (“Rādhārāṇī’s new flowers”).

The names all end with “-mañjarī”. The list begins with anaṅga, and proceeds to rūpa, rati, lavaṅga, rāga, rasa, vilāsa, prema, maṇi, suvarṇa, kāma, ratna, kastūrī, gandha, netra, śrīpadma, līlā, hema. The name bhānumati is a synonym for Prema and Rati Mañjarī. We should also note that: (a) the suffix mañjarī is used for several gopīs who are not named here. And (b) anaṅga-mañjarī is listed here, even before Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī. (Some proponents of “mañjari-bhāva” claim that she is not truly among the group of “Rādhā’s Mañjarī,” because she obviously has direct relations with Krishna).

In 183, Śrī Rūpa says that all the categories of Rādhā’s friends listed above possess forms and qualities very, very similar to her own. He makes no further stipulation about what a “mañjarī” is, so far as I know.

Śrī Raghunātha dās Goswāmī’s Vilāp Kuśmañjalī also doesn’t explicitly define mañjarī-bhāva, although most of the current concept of it is based on this book, which shows Śrī Raghunātha to be more dedicated to Śrī Rādhā than directly to Śrī Krishna. But all of Rādhārāṇī’s friends, not just the mañjarī, are primarily dedicated to her, and serve Krishna through her. She is their divine conduit, much as a telescope or microscope is the conduit for the human eye to observe the universe.

The mañjari-bhāva theory, as it exists today, is not entirely disagreeable to me, but some of the portions I disagree with (not all of which are held by all proponents) are: (a) The idea that jīva can become a mañjarī, but not any other type of gopī. (b) The idea that mañjarī do not interact with Krishna directly. (c) The idea that mañjarī are very young (below puberty). And (d) The idea that mañjarī-bhāva is essential to the Rūpānuga conception of Bhakti-yoga. Some of the principles held by the mañjarī-bhāva theory are indeed important to Śrī Rūpa’s conception, but the idea that mañjarī-bhāva is a discrete philosophical entity of central importance is, in my estimation, untrue.

The opening verse of Vilāpa-Kuśmāñjali is exquisite. It is a part of 6 poems that form a maṅgalācarana by glorifying the author’s benefactors, inspirations, and exemplars. The first 2 glorify Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī. The 3rd glorifies Śrī Rati Mañjarī. These are the author’s gurus in the siddha-deha. The next three glorify the author’s gurus in the sādhaka-deha. The 4th glorifies his mantra-guru Śrī Yadunandana. The 5th glorifies his śikṣā-guru, Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara, who instructed him on behalf of Śrī Krishna Caitanya. The 6th glorifies his śikṣa-guru especially in the path of renunciation, Śrī Sanātana. At the 7th verse, the introduction ends and the main subject begins.

The opening verse is

tvaṁ rūpa-mañjari sakhi prathitā pure’smin
puṁsaḥ parasya vadanaṁ na hi paśyasīti
bimbādhare kṣatam anāgate-bhartṛkāyā
yat te vyadhāyi kim u tac chuka-puṅgavena?

You, Rūpa Mañjari, are the most famous Sakhī in this city (Vraja-maṇḍala). [You say] you certainly have not even seen the mouth of the Supreme Male, yet the Bimba-fruits of your lips have bite marks, and your husband is nowhere to be found. So what really happened? Did some great parrot try to eat your lips?

Ananta dās Bābājī suggests in his commentary that the answer is that Krishna has bitten Śrī Rādhā’s lips, and that Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī’s unity with Śrī Rādhā is so extensive that the bite mark shows on her own lips. As beautiful as that explanation is, the verse itself clearly shows that Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī does not lack anything to be had from direct interaction with Krishna. Whether Krishna directly kissed her, or whether she experienced Krishna’s kiss by him kissing Śrī Rādhā, in either case, she experiences Krishna’s kiss, as the evidence (the bite mark on her lips) clearly demonstrates. This certainly calls into doubt the mañjarī-bhāva theory that aspiration of a kāmānugā-sādhaka should exclude any direct interaction with Krishna.

The second verse also clarifies that Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Krishna have one-to-one interaction (against the idea held by the modern mañjari-bhāva theory). Here it is. It is extremely beautiful.

sthala-kamalini yuktaṁ garvitā kānane’smin
praṇayasi vara-hāsyaṁ puṣpa-guccha-cchalena
api nikhila-latās tāḥ saurabhāktaḥ sa muñcan
mṛgayati tava mārgaṁ kṛṣṇa-bhṛṅgo yad adya

[Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī] is as proud as a magnolia tree in full bloom amidst the trees of this [Vṛndāvana] forest. She hides her beautiful smile of pride by causing [that Magnolia tree] to erupt in blossoms. [Why is she so joyfully proud?] The Krishna bee ignores all the other fragrant vines just to constantly search for her.

This doesn’t uphold the idea that the only reason she has bite marks on her lip is because Krishna has kissed Śrī Rādhā. Instead it clearly shows that Krishna personally comes to kiss her.

I do not mean to pretend that I realize or fully understand such things. But I would like my approach to understanding and realizing them to be free from obstacles and directly in the footsteps of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s most important followers, particularly Śrī Rūpa, Śrī Raghunātha, and Śrī Jīva.

I am warmly open to discussion with learned persons on this subject.

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  1. I completely agree with you. I always thought and knew this, although I don’t have the scholar qualifications to research and state it so well as you just did. But its something I was extremely tired of reading – all the nonsense like jiva can only be manjari – not gopi etc. It was a huge pack of balderdash – fragile house of cards – and thank Krishna you just pulled it down. Well done. Couldn’t agree more.


  2. QUESTION: Jiva Goswami and other Goswamis and Vishwanath Chakravati Thakur- all are manjaris in spiritual world and usually in spiritual circle devotees usually avoid to mention about themselves. As they themselves are manjaris, so they did not stress much on Manajari Bhava.

    i heard above statements in SB class, don’t remember the speaker exactly.


    (A) So Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Jīva and Śrī Viśvanātha left out this most important detail, yet clearly and exact defined everything else? That is a strange idea. That is not how parampara works. Not that we can make up things and say, “our Gurus didn’t say this because they were too humble.”

    (B) One who reads the Goswami’s writings sees that they told everything, they did not hide anything intimate.

    (C) Śrī Caitanya, Śrī Rāmananda… neither is a manjari. They discussed the highest limit of truth, they explored every exalted subject in detail. it is recorded by Śrī Krishnadas Kavirāja in Caitanya Caritamrta. Why didn’t they mention mañjarī bhāva, if it is so important?


  3. COMMENT: Check Gaura-Govinda Smarana Paddhati of Dhyānacandra Goswāmī

    MY REPLY: In GauraGovinda Arcana-Smarana Paddhati, Śrī Dhyancandra Goswāmī promotes Gopī-bhāva. He doesn’t use the term mañjarī-bhāva (see section beginning from 145 of part II, beginning “gopī-bhāvena ye bhaktā”) In a few places he highlights the importance of mañjarī…

    He defines Ekādaśa-bhāva from text 92 of part I. He constantly uses “Gopī” there, not “mañjarī.” (There is “mañjarī” in the translation I have, but it is NOT in the original sanskrit.) [As a side note, his definition of Ekādaśa-bhāva is not identical to how it seems to be implemented at Rādhā-kuṇḍa today.]

    In section 105-108 he does bring up the topic of Mañjarī. He names 9 Mañjarī, starting with Śrīmatī Anaṅa Mañjarī. He says [109] to envision their names and forms and then envision performing some seva in Radha’s home having [as the portion of the day this section is {in terms of aṣṭa-kāla} in is relevant to when Śrī Rādhā is at home] recieved the order from them. Then [110] he says, that the bhāva to cultivate in this is, “I am a saṅginī-sakhī” [lit. associate of {Radha’s} friends]

    In a section beginning from 294 of section II, the author gives more detailed visual descriptions of 8 mañjarī (Rūpa, Rati, Lavaṅga, Rasa, Guṇa, Mañjulālī, Vilāsa, and Kaustūrī Mañjarīs – The siddha forms of the Six Goswamis, Lokanātha Goswāmī and Krishnadās Kavirāja) and gives a simple mantra for each.


  4. Manjaris are not prepubescent, Bhaktivinoda writes “manjarider bayas das hoite sevanotkrame caudda” which means manjaris increase in age from 10 to 14, basically the age of puberty. I mean Radha is said to be 15, and other sakhis are said to be 14 (I believe the concept is more metaphorical than literal).

    As for when does it come from, it seems to have been a general trend that was attached to siddha-pranali and the fact that the founders of Gaudiya V. were called manjaris, ergo, if they are the highest level of devotion, then by following them and your guru pranali from them, you can attain to be like them. So it happened organically from that line of thought. Does that mean it is bonafide siddhanta?

    Well, the truth is that whatever you learn about rasa and bhava before you reach the stage of bhava-bhakti, whereupon you can speak directly with Radha-Krishna 24/7, (you become fully awakened to Krishna as antaryami/paramatma as the mind and all around), at that stage all the truths are directly experienced and revealed to you by Radha-Krishna. So whatever you thought you knew up to that point becomes totally clarified, all misconceptions are abandoned, and you enter into the full truth of your nitya-bhava. Point being, it doesn’t really matter if it is wrong or right, whatever helps you attain the stage of bhava-bhakti is all that matters. Then everything becomes perfectly known and experienced.


  5. In Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Viśvanātha Cakravartī provides an analysis of the relative positions among the five types of Rādhā’s sakhīs:

    In Rādhā’s group, which is the best of all, there are beautiful women decorated with all good qualities, who completely attract Kṛṣṇa. The sakhīs of Rādhā are of five types: sakhī, nityasakhī, prāṇa-sakhī, priya-sakhī and parama-preṣṭha-sakhī. UN, 4.49-50

    The sakhīs are women like Kusumikā, Vindhyā, and Dhaniṣṭhā. The nitya-sakhīs include Kastūrī and Maṇi-mañjarikā.. UN, 4.51

    The prāṇa-sakhīs include Śaśimukhī, Vāsanti, and Lāsikā. All these three types generally have the same qualities as Rādhā. UN, 4.52

    From Śrī Viśvanātha’s commentary:

    Imāḥ means the sakhīs, nitya-sakhīs and prāṇa-sakhīs. They are generally almost equal to Rādhā in terms of prema, beauty and good qualities. This means that they are not completely equal to Her. Those who are truly equal (to Rādhā) are the priya-sakhīs, and parama-preṣṭha-sakhīs.

    Though there are five types, one should understand that there are also two types, those with equal affection (sama-snehā) and those with unequal affection (asama-snehā). This will be explained later.

    “If you say they are almost equal, then the sakhīs, nitya-sakhīs and prāṇa-sakhīs are
    somewhat inferior to Rādhā. This would mean they are servants as defined by the phrase “tulya-rūpa-guṇā sakhyaḥ kiñcin nyūnās tu dāsikāḥ: the servants are slightly less in qualities than the friends, whose qualities and form equal the queens.” (UN, 3.8)

    That is not so. This statement concerning servants says they are somewhat equal or similar. This means that they are somewhat less than leaders. Thus, “being less” is of two grades. Similarity of qualities may be suitable or unsuitable for gaining respect. Those whose qualities are suitable, who have equal qualities by their nature are sakhīs. Those whose qualities are unsuitable, and have fewer qualities by their nature are servants. Thus, there is no fault. UN, 4.52, Commentary

    In Chapter 8 of Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, additional differences are explained in relation to the grades of prema of these five groups of Rādhā’s sakhīs, as well as their relationships to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. The knowledge presented is invaluable and is best comprehended in its entirety. It also provides a look into the complexities and inner workings of mādhurya-rasa as presented in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi.

    Those who have equal love (sama-snehā) for Kṛṣṇa and the group leader (Rādhā), who identify themselves as belonging to Rādhā, are parama-preṣṭha-sakhīs and priya-sakhīs. UN, 8.137

    From Śrī Viśvanātha’s commentary:

    …”If there are three types of sakhīs – with more affection for Kṛṣṇa, more affection for Rādhā and equal affection for both – then why was it explained previously that there are five types? There are two varieties corresponding to their amount of love for those with more affection for the group leader (prāṇa-sakhī and nitya-sakhī) and for those with equal affection (parama-preṣṭha-sakhī and priya sakhī).

    Why is there only one variety (sakhī) for those with more affection for Kṛṣṇa? There should be two varieties also for those with more affection for Kṛṣṇa. Do those sakhīs also not have grades of prema? And if those with equal affection are the best, then those with more affection either for the group leader or for Kṛṣṇa should be equally inferior.

    Why are those with more affection for Kṛṣṇa, such as Kusumikā and Vindhyā, placed at the bottom? If you say that Kṛṣṇa is attracted to those who have more affection for the group leader, because She is dear to Him, then Rādhā should be attracted to those who have more attraction for Kṛṣṇa, because He is dearest to Her. If you say that the names (i.e., the five types of sakhīs) are given by Kṛṣṇa because He is satisfied with them, why cannot Rādhā give the names?”

    One should understand the conclusion to these points. Sakhīs, nitya-sakhīs, prāṇa-sakhīs, priya-sakhīs, and priya-narma-sakhīs actually all have successively greater prema for both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. This is the significance of those names (i.e., the five types of sakhīs).

    Those who have more affection for Kṛṣṇa are the sakhīs. The nitya-sakhīs (mañjarīs) have more affection than them for both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa but they are called sakhīs with more affection for the group leader because they have slightly more affection for Rādhā than for Kṛṣṇa (asama-snehā).

    The prāṇa-sakhīs (principal mañjarīs) have more affection for both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa than the nitya-sakhīs, and slightly more affection for Rādhā. They are also called sakhīs with more affection for the group leader.

    Those who have more affection for both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa than the prāṇa-sakhīs but also have equal affection for both are the priya-sakhīs. They are called sakhīs with equal affection (sama-snehā).

    The priya-narma-sakhīs (parama-preṣṭha-sakhīs, i.e., aṣta-sakhīs) have even more affection than the priya-sakhīs for both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, but equal affection for both. They are also called sakhīs with equal affection.

    “Let that be. I do not object to the successively higher statuses. But just as those with more affection for the sakhī (Rādhā) have two varieties – nitya-sakhīs and prāṇa-sakhīs, so those with more affection for Kṛṣṇa should have two varieties – sakhī and snigdha-sakhī. Why not? Because of this, I am bewildered.”

    That is true. It has previously been explained in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu that attaining the position of a gopī cannot take place without rāgānugā-bhakti. And without following after the nitya-siddha gopīs, rāgānugā cannot be perfected. Rāgānugā means to follow after those gopīs who have rāga. Those three types who follow the nitya-siddhas attain perfection like the nitya-siddha gopīs but they exist eternally in a slightly lesser position than the nityasiddha gopīs that they follow.

    Having loyalty to the group leaders and their sakhīs, according to their own desires, the three types who follow the parama-preṣṭha-sakhīs with equal affection for Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa become priya-sakhīs with a similar type of affection.

    The three types who follow the prāṇa-sakhīs (principal mañjarīs) with more affection for Rādhā become situated eternally as nitya-sakhīs (mañjarīs) with more affection for Rādhā. UN, 8.137, Commentary


      1. Yes I added the parenthesis based on VCT’s Ujjvala-nilamani-kirana, where he identifies the nitya-sakhis as manjaris (which is also stated/confirmed in other books) and the prana-sakhis as the principal manjaris. Plus, we know that the manjaris have asama-sneha with more affection for Radha, so the nitya-sakhis and prana-sakhis must be manjaris by that definition.

        And we can see clearly from VCT’s commentary what the actual hierarchy is among these five types of sakhis in Radha’s group, based on increasing prema for both Radha and Krsna. The facts speak for themselves. And in UN, which is over 1,100 pages with both commentaries, there is no particular focus on manjaris as being the exclusive goal of all Gaudiya Vaisnavas. One must follow one’s natural inclinations which have developed from impressions over many lifetimes.


  6. Would you direct me to the 6 poems you reference above where you say “The opening verse of Vilāpa-Kuśmāñjali is exquisite. It is a part of 6 poems that form a maṅgalācarana by glorifying the author’s benefactors, inspirations, and exemplars”? I’m really enjoying poetry that relates to the whole spiritual philosophy… thanks!


  7. Dear Vraja Kishor and respected Prabhu’s, what is your comment on
    Narottama Dasa Thakur’s Sri Rupa Manjari Pada Sei Mora Sampada (Lalasa Song), verse 2:
    sei mora rasa-nidhi, sei mora vāñchā-siddhi,
    sei mor vedera dharama
    sei brata, sei tapa, sei mora mantra-japa,
    sei mor dharama-karama

    “They are the perfection of rasa, and they are perfection worthy of attainment. They are the very law of the Vedlc scriptures for me. They are the meaning of all my fasts and penances and my silent uttering of my mantras. They are the basis of religion and activities.”


      1. Hm… Looks like you’ve done a quick reply through your smartphone 🙂
        Including those words: sei mora rasa-nidhi – the perfection of rasa can indicate exclusiveness of mañjarī-bhāva. Just guessing…


          1. Not all acarya’s poems (or inspirational writings) are sentimental and only expressing the bhava. Śrī Bṛhad-bhagavatāmrta is expressing sentiments to establish philosophical conclusions and instructions.


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