Krishna Raslila is part of Indian tradition. It is mentioned in Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana and literature such as the Gita Govinda, where he dances with Radha and gopis. The Raslila takes place in the night, when gopis on hearing, Krishna’s soothing flute, sneak out of their homes to dance with Krishna. In the Krishna Bhakti traditions, the rasa-lila is considered to be one of the highest and most esoteric of Krishna’s pastimes. In these traditions, romantic love between human beings in the material world is seen as a reflection of the soul’s original, ecstatic spiritual love of Krishna, God, in the spiritual world. The divine dance is born out of pure love and devotion.
The Nidhivan temple houses a beautiful idol of Radha Krishna and is surrounded by a sacred ‘Kunj’ or forest, where Lord Krishna and Radha rest after the raslila is over. Nearby, there is a small temple called Rang Mahal where it is believed that Shri Krishna embellishes Radha with his own hands. Priests at Rang Mahal temple place toothbrushes, a saree, bangles, paan leaves, sweets, and water before closing the gates after night aarti. However, everything- is found scattered in the morning as if somebody has used them.
Krishna Raslila was started by Swami Sri Uddhavaghamanda Devacharya in the early 15th Century CE at Vamshivata in Vrindavan, Mathura. He was a prominent saint of the Nimbarka sampradya, and disciple of the world-renowned Swami Sri Harivyasa Devacarya. The Vani literature of Vraja is the transcription of the songs that were heard by Swami Harivyasa Devacarya and his Guru, Swami Shri Shribhatta as they meditated on the Nitya Lila of Shri Radha Krishna. These songs describe the eternal spiritual abode of Shri Radha Krishna, the Sakhis and Nitya Vrindavana Dham – or Nikunj Dham.
Raslila in Contemporary Times
Krishna Raslila is a popular theme in classical dances like Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Manipuri. Raslila is admired during the festival of Krishna Janmashtami, Holi, and among others like Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The Krishna Raslila is being popularized to new music style, from its traditional form nowadays, but there a few devotees who still preserve and praise the traditional art of Raslila.