File:RassLeelabyBenchu.jpg Gopi is a word of Sanskrit (गोपी) originating from the word Gopala referring to a person in charge of a herd of cows. In Hinduism especially the name gopika (feminine form of Gopi) is used more commonly to refer to the group of cow herding girls famous within Vaishnava Theology for their unconditional devotion (Bhakti) to Krishna as described in the stories of Bhagavata Purana and other Puranic literatures. Of this group, one gopika known as Radha (or Radhika) holds a place of particularly high reverence and importance in a number of religious traditions, especially within Gaudiya Vaishnavism. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, there are 108 gopikas of Vrindavan.
The gopis of Vrindavan total 108 in number; Krishna charit describes the number as 16,000. They are generally divided into three groups: Gopi friends of the same age as Krishna; maidservants; and gopi messengers. The first group are the most exalted (Varistha), Krishna's contemporary gopi friends, the second group are the maidservants and are the next most exalted (Vara), and the gopi messengers come after them. The varistha gopis are more famous than all the others. They are eternally the intimate friends of Radha and Krishna. No one can equal or exceed the love they bear for the divine couple. The primary eight gopis are considered the foremost of Krishna's devotees after Srimati Radharani. Their names are as follows :
- Lalita (gopi) Sakhi
- Vishakha Sakhi
- Campakalata Sakhi
- Citra Sakhi
- Tungavidya Sakhi
- Indulekha Sakhi
- Rangadevi Sakhi
- Sudevi Sakhi
According to Hindu Vaishnava theology the stories concerning the gopis are said to exemplify Suddha-bhakti which is described as 'the highest form of unconditional love for God' (Krishna). Their spontaneous and unwavering devotion is described in depth in the later chapters of the Bhagavata Purana, within Krishna's Vrindavan pastimes and also in the stories of the sage Uddhava.
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