In the entire Hindu literature Sri Krishna is a complex figure. He appears under many names, and has more than a thousand stories extolling his exploits, his virtues, his lilaas, and is a divine persona in various cultures, and in different traditions which may not be mutually exclusive but certainly not similar. They contradict each other, sometimes in the crux of the stories, but there is a common predominant core that is central to most Indian's perception of the persona of Krishna.
Even though most Hindus consider him as the 8th avatara of Mahavishnu, the Gaudiya Vaishnavites consider HIM as the only true God, or the source of all avataras.
It is my submission, that a number of local traditions and regional deities would have been colligated into the different stories of Sri Krishna, as well as in the persona of Lord Krishna. We have amongst us a number of ballads, accounts of exploits of Sri Krishna, in philosophical, religious and poetical works. As already explained they include the Mahabharatha, The Bhagavad Gita, the Bhagavata Purana and the Gita Govinda. In the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana there are thousands of lines that are dedicated solely to extolling His life and philosophy.
Some of the Stories in which Sri Krishna is the lead player.
1. Krishna the butter-thief. Krishna the child stealing freshly made butter from his mother.
2. Krishna the killer of Putana, who delivered her a death blow, by suckling Putana's poison coated breasts.
3. Krishna the Govardhana Giridhari. As a boy, he raised the hill to protect villagers from rain and flood sent by Indra.
4. Govinda Krishna, the seducer of the Gopis. These stories were developed to form the basis of Gita Govinda of Jayadeva, The Erotic Love Song of the Dark Lord, more commonly known as the Ashtapathis in South India. There are numerous other works from different parts of India. Devotees of Sri Krishna subscribe to the concept of LILAA, or divine play as the central principle of the universe. This contradicts another avatara of Mahavishnu : Sri Rama, "He of the straight and narrow path of maryada, or rules and regulations."
5. Krishna the incarnation of God and the divine Guru, who teaches Arjuna how to take right action, in the Bhagavad Gita.
6. Krishna the focus of devotion. He is frequently shown playing the flute, attracting and bewitching the gopis of Vrindavan.
7. Krishna Vaasudeva, the prince of the Yadavas at Mathura and later at Dwaraka.
8. Krishna, as the lawful husband of Rukmini, daughter of King Bhishmaka of Vidarbha.
9. Krishna, as the cousin of both the Pandavas and Kauravas. He counsels and guides the Pandavas and goes against the wishes of Balarama, his brother.
10. Krishna as the protector of Draupadi, when Dushasana tries to unrobe her in the court. [Subramanya Bharathi's take on this incident is a tour-de-force - Panchali Sabadam]
11. Krishna the Paartha - sarathy to the Sabyasatchin Arjuna, where in the midst of the great battle He shows Arjuna his Viswa Rooa or the Virat Darshan by which Arjuna realises that the battle that he is going to fight has already been fought by the Universal Lord, and what he is doing is nothing but killing people who have already been killed in action by the Lord.
12. In this role, he teaches and instructs Arjuna in dharma and yoga in the Bhagavad Gita. And most important He teaches Arjuna the eternal truth :
Paritranaya sadhoonam, vinasaya cha dushkritaam..
Dharmasampsthapanaarthay, sambhavami yuge yuge”
“To protect the good, to destroy evil, to establish justice, I shall take form in Age after Age”.
13. After the war, Krishna rules the Yadavas at Dwaraka with his wife Rukmini. In the end, the Yadavas kill themselves in in-fighting, and Krishna is killed accidentally by a hunter. His death marked the end of Dvapara Yuga and the beginning of the Kali Yuga.
"Bakthi, meaning devotion, is not confined to any one deity of Hinduism. However Krishna has become the most important and popular focus of the devotional and ecstatic aspects of Hindu Religion. Those bhakti movements devoted to Krishna first developed in Southern India in the late 1st millennium AD. Earlier works included those of the Alvar saints of the Tamil country. A major collection of their works is the Divya Prabandham."
"Gita Govinda of Jayadeva - The Love Song of the Dark Lord was important to later development of the bhakti traditions. This work was composed by Jayadeva Goswami in Eastern India, in the 12th century AD. It elaborated part of the story of Krishna, and of one particular Gopi, called Radha who had been a minor character in the Mahabharata. According to one interpretation of this work, Radha represented humanity, and Krishna represented divinity. The desire of Radha for Krishna can be seen as an allegory of the desire of humanity for union with the Godhead. Later derivatives of the earlier bhakti traditions include those promoted by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (16th century in Bengal).Gauranga the poet saint of Bengal."
The name Krishna means the Dark One. The Sanskrit word "Krishna" transliterated into English means "Black". The name also means "all-attractive" and still later on it takes the form of "Neela Megha Shyamala Varnan".
Apart from these, he has numerous other names, which are work specific or honorific titles such as :
1. Chakradhari - The bearer of a discus (chakra).
2. Giridhari - He who lifted a hill or giri (Govardhana hill).
3. Gopala - Cowherd, protector of cows.
4. Gopinath - Lord of the the gopis.
5. Govinda - Protector of cows; also connected to the Govardhana Hill.
6. Hari - The yellow one (the colour of the sun).
7. Hrshikesha - Master of the senses.
8. Jagannatha - Lord of the Universe.
9. Keshava – Long haired.
10. Madhava - Harbinger of springtime.
11. Partha Sarathy - Charioteer, to Arjuna the ambidextrous Sabyasatchin in the great battle.
12. Shyamasundara - The beautiful, dark one.
13. Vaasudeva, Krishna Vaasudeva - Son of Vasudeva.
14. Yadunandan - Son of the Yadu dynasty.
15. Yogeshwara - The Lord of the Yogis.
16. Radha Vallabha - The consort of Radha Rani.
- And many more. According to the Vishnu Sahasranamam, Krishna is the 57th name of Mahavishnu and means the Existence of Knowledge and Bliss.
We have numerous stories about the 16,000 gopis, and the Lord's playful deceit of taking away the clothes of the gopis who were taking a bath in the river. Likewise we have the story of Satyabhama and the Parijatha flower, which are incident specific meant to teach us some morals. When seen in the right prespective in the metaphysical plane it loses its vulgarity, and portrays the conditions of ordinary mortals, who are subject to raw emotions brought about by Avidya: ignorance. In other words it is a warning as well as an instruction that we should shed avidya and renounce the World of Maya which comprises Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada & Maathsarya.
A tough task? I do not know. When I am on the horns of a dilemma, and the situation needs super human efforts to come to a conclusion, I take recourse to the Kaliyuga Varadhan, The Little Rascal "Ende Unnikrishnan" at Guruvayoor, and he comes to my succour and helps me to resolve the problems.
SARVAM KRISHNARPANAM JAGAT.
Inputs from various sources.
My dear Dr. Arun:
Thank you for your exhaustive reply. What you say is true. The original Ramayana (Chakravarthi Thirumagan) and Mahabharata ( Vyasar Virundhu) were written by Rajaji as serials in the Tamil weekly ‘Kalki’ specifically for children and when Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan published the translation in English he had mentioned this fact in the introduction. Meant for children, he had to simplify the matter and not lose sight of the children's perspective. So, he telescoped the end of the Mahabharata War and the beginning of the Kali Yuga. There is another school of thought which after taking into consideration the actual occurrence of the war, say categorically that the Kali Yuga began 36 years after the end of the Mahabharata war. When reading the Puranas it gives a different perspective. The Brahmavaivarta Purana does not say that
It is a great pleasure to exchange thoughts with friends who know what they are talking about. And this is an endearing trait in your character, which I admire.
Dear VP Sir,
I am referred to this article from your reply to my comments on your article entitled “Draupadi”.
Well, this is a good introduction to the varied personalities of Krishna, as he is depicted in mythology (whether he is a single person, or several people woven into a single personality through tradition).
Maybe this depiction of Krishna, across the ages, was an attempt to express the qualities that an ideal person (or, perhaps, an ideal ruler or manager) should have, that led to so many shades of character being depicted in one single individual.
Regarding Krishna, the King of Dwaraka (the Krishna we would most likely associate with the historical Krishna, who has been one the most influential persons on the evolution of the civilization of this ancient land), he seems to be a man endowed with immense mental and psychological strength, and also with a colossal (almost superhuman) willpower. It is to him alone that Gandhari says “You could have stopped the war, if you had wanted to”, to which he quietly (almost meekly) agrees. So, he was able to change the course of history, and establish a new society which is free from the vices and corruption that had crept in, across time (this is the stated purpose he gives in his reply to Gandhari, in B.R. Chopra’s TV serial “Mahabharata”). Whatever the reason, he changed the flow of history and preached strength and taught managerial skills to the nation (toady, management gurus are looking into his character in different phases of his life, into his actions in the Mahabharata, and into his preachings in the Gita, to search out practical management lessons; Swami Vivekananda, on his part, says that Krishna was a man who knew what to do in every situation).
I would like to point out one thing. You have mentioned that the Dwapara Yuga ended with Krishna’s death, and Kali Yuga began. Actually, C. Rajagopalachari, in his English translation of the Mahahbharata (published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan), mentions Kali Yuga as starting with the end of the Mahabharata war. Well, I guess these differences of opinion will persist. Of course, there is general agreement that the Kali Yuga started at that point in history, which is a difference of just a few years (in five thousand).
I really enjoyed this article, Sir.
With warm regards,
i enjoyed reading it . i can make out how much you love lord krishna. beautiful picture of udupi krishna. regards.
thank you. i shall do so forthwith.
thank you for the double treat. it is great to be recognised as a writer of some merit and the fact that the writing merits a recommendation.
yes, krishna is god and above holy trinity,
pls read blogs i have posted.
thanks for that mind blowing photo of udippi krishna and the article, plese keep updating as we know him as guruvayoorappa and very little is my knowledge though i am a devotee of krishna from my childhood days. krishna has been my friend, philosopher guide in my thick and thins.
thank you for visiting my blog site, and recommending krishna to others.
thanks, that was an excellent presentation, in a simple way for the common man to undertand and enjoy. please continue sending such messages