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|Abode||Goloka Vrindavana, Gokula, Dwarka|
|Mantra||Hare Krishna, Jai Shri Krishna|
|Consort||Radha, Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra, Lakshmana and other 16,000 or 16,100 junior queens|
|Parents||Devaki, Vasudeva, Yashoda (foster mother) and Nanda Baba (foster father)|
|Texts||Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita|
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Krishna (//; Sanskrit: कृष्ण, Kṛṣṇa in IAST, pronounced [ˈkr̩ʂɳə] ( listen)) is a major Hindu deity worshiped in a variety of different perspectives. Krishna is recognised as the Svayam Bhagavan in his own right or as the complete/absolute incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Krishna is one of the most widely revered and popular of all Hindu deities. Krishna's birthday is celebrated every year by Hindus on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Shraavana in the Hindu calendar.
Krishna is also known as Govinda, Mukunda, Madhusudhana and Vasudeva. Krishna is often described and portrayed as an infant eating butter, a young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, a young man along with Radha, a young man surrounded by women or as an elder giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita. The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, and the Supreme Being. The principal scriptures discussing Krishna's story are the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu Purana. The anecdotes and narratives of Krishna, in topic, are generally titled as Krishna Leela.
Worship of the deity Krishna, either in the form of deity Krishna or in the form of Vasudeva, Bala Krishna or Gopala can be traced to as early as the 4th century BC. Worship of Krishna as Svayam Bhagavan, or the supreme being, known as Krishnaism, arose in the Middle Ages in the context of the Bhakti movement. From the 10th century AD, Krishna became a favourite subject in performing arts and regional traditions of devotion developed for forms of Krishna such as Jagannatha in Odisha, Vithoba in Maharashtra and Shrinathji in Rajasthan. Since the 1960s the worship of Krishna has also spread in the Western world and in Africa largely due to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Gaudia Math is also a leading proponent of Krishna worship.
Some religiously oriented scholars have tried to calculate dates for the birth of Krishna, some believing that Krishna, under the name of 'Vasudeva Govinda Krishna Shauri', flourished as the ruler of Shuraseni and Vrishni tribes on the now-submerged island of Dwaraka (off the coast of Gujarat, India) sometime between 3200 and 3100 BC.
- 1 Names and epithets
- 2 Iconography
- 3 Literary sources
- 4 Life
- 5 Proposed datings
- 6 Worship
- 7 References
Names and epithets
The name originates from the Sanskrit word Kṛṣṇa, which is primarily an adjective meaning "black", "dark" or "dark blue". The waning moon is called Krishna Paksha, relating to the adjective meaning "darkening". Sometimes it is also translated as "all-attractive", according to members of the Hare Krishna movement.
As a name of Vishnu, Krishna is listed as the 57th name in the Vishnu Sahasranama. Based on his name, Krishna is often depicted in murtis as black or blue-skinned. Krishna is also known by various other names, epithets and titles, which reflect his many associations and attributes. Among the most common names are Mohnish "Attractive God", Mohan "enchanter", Govinda, "Finder of 'Go' - Veda or the cows" or Gopala, "Protector of the 'Go' - "Soul" or the cows" as 'Govinda' (like cowherds who protect cows, the Lord protect the souls of the living beings)which refer to Krishna's childhood in Braj (in present-day Uttar Pradesh). Some of the distinct names may be regionally important; for instance, Jagannatha, a popular incarnation of Puri, Odisha in eastern India.
Krishna is easily recognised by his representations. Though his skin colour may be depicted as black or dark in some representations, particularly in murtis, in other images such as modern pictorial representations, Krishna is usually shown with a blue skin. He has been described as having skin the colour of Jambul (Jamun, a purple-coloured fruit). He is also known to have four symbols of the jambu fruit on his right foot as mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam commentary (verse 10.30.25), "Sri Rupa Cintamani" and "Ananda Candrika" by Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura.
A steatite (soapstone) tablet unearthed from Mohenjo-daro, Larkana district, Sindh depicting a young boy uprooting two trees from which are emerging two human figures is an interesting archaeological find for fixing dates associated with Krishna. This image recalls the Yamalarjuna episode of Bhagavata and Harivamsa Purana. In this image, the young boy is Krishna, and the two human beings emerging from the trees are the two cursed gandharvas, identified as Nalakubara and Manigriva. Dr. E.J.H. Mackay, who did the excavation at Mohanjodaro, compares this image with the Yamalarjuna episode. Prof. V.S. Agrawal has also accepted this identification. Thus, it seems that the Indus valley people knew stories related to Krishna. This lone find may not establish Krishna as contemporary with Pre-Indus or Indus times, but, likewise, it cannot be ignored.
He is often shown wearing a silk golden yellow dhoti and a peacock feather crown. Common depictions show him as a little boy, or as a young man in a characteristically relaxed pose, playing the flute. In this form, he usually stands with one leg bent in front of the other with a flute raised to his lips, in the Tribhanga posture, accompanied by cows, emphasising his position as the divine herdsman, Govinda, or with the gopis (milkmaids) i.e. Gopikrishna, stealing butter from neighbouring houses i.e. Navneet Chora or Gokulakrishna, defeating the vicious serpent i.e. Kaliya Damana Krishna, lifting the hill i.e. Giridhara Krishna ..so on and so forth from his childhood / youth events.
The scene on the battlefield of the epic Mahabharata, notably where he addresses pandav prince Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, is another common subject for representation. In these popular depictions, he is shown as the charioteer in the battle-field of Kurukshetra. In Vishvaroopa Darshana(Universal form) to Arjuna, Lord Krishna resumes the role of the often with supreme God's characteristics of Hindu religious art, such as multiple arms or heads, denoting power, and with attributes of Vishnu, such as the chakra or in his two-armed form as a charioteer. Cave paintings dated to 800 BCE in Mirzapur, Mirzapur district, Uttar Pradesh, show raiding horse-charioteers, one of whom is about to hurl a wheel, and who could potentially be identified as Krishna.
Representations in temples often show Krishna as a man standing in an upright, formal pose. He may be alone, or with associated figures: his brother Balarama and sister Subhadra, or his main queens Rukmini and Satyabhama.
Often, Krishna is pictured with his gopi-consort Radha. Manipuri Vaishnavas do not worship Krishna alone, but as Radha Krishna, a combined image of Krishna and Radha. This is also a characteristic of the schools Rudra and Nimbarka sampradaya, as well as that of Swaminarayan sect. The traditions celebrate Radha Ramana murti, who is viewed by Gaudiyas as a form of Radha Krishna.
Krishna is also depicted and worshipped as a small child (Bala Krishna, Bāla Kṛṣṇa the child Krishna), crawling on his hands and knees or dancing, often with butter or Laddu in his hand being Laddu Gopal. Regional variations in the iconography of Krishna are seen in his different forms, such as Jaganatha of Odisha, Vithoba of Maharashtra, Venkateswara (also Srinivasa or Balaji) in Andhra Pradesh, and Shrinathji in Rajasthan.
Krishna is also depicted as a new born floating on a leaf of a banyan tree during the Pralaya ( the great flood ) at the end of the Dvapara Yuga.
The earliest text to explicitly provide detailed descriptions of Krishna as a personality is the epic Mahabharata which depicts Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu. Krishna is central to many of the main stories of the epic. The eighteen chapters of the sixth book (Bhishma Parva) of the epic that constitute the Bhagavad Gita contain the advice of Krishna to Arjuna, on the battlefield. Krishna is already an adult in the epic, although there are allusions to his earlier exploits. The Harivamsa, a later appendix to this epic, contains the earliest detailed version of Krishna's childhood and youth.
The Rig Veda 1.22.164 sukta 31 mentions a herdsman "who never stumbles". Some Vaishnavite scholars, such as Bhaktivinoda Thakura, claim that this herdsman refers to Krishna. Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar also attempted to show that "the very same Krishna" made an appearance, e.g. as the drapsa ... krishna "black drop" of RV 8.96.13. Some authors have also likened prehistoric depictions of deities to Krishna.
Chandogya Upanishad (3.17.6), dated between 8th and 6th century BCE, mentions Vasudeva Krishna as the son of Devaki and the disciple of Ghora Angirasa, the seer who preached his disciple the philosophy of ‘Chhandogya.’ Having been influenced by the philosophy of ‘Chhandogya’ Krishna in the Bhagavadgita while delivering the discourse to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra discussed about sacrifice, which can be compared to purusha or the individual.
Yāska's Nirukta, an etymological dictionary around 6th century BC, contains a reference to the Shyamantaka jewel in the possession of Akrura, a motif from well known Puranic story about Krishna. Shatapatha Brahmana and Aitareya-Aranyaka, associate Krishna with his Vrishni origins.
Pāṇini, the ancient grammarian and author of Asthadhyayi (probably belonged to 5th century or 6th century BC) mentions a character called Vāsudeva, son of Vasudeva, and also mentions Kaurava and Arjuna which testifies to Vasudeva Krishna, Arjuna and Kauravas being contemporaries.
Megasthenes (350 – 290 BC) a Greek ethnographer and an ambassador of Seleucus I to the court of Chandragupta Maurya made reference to Herakles in his famous work Indica. Many scholars have suggested that the deity identified as Herakles was Krishna. According to Arrian, Diodorus, and Strabo, Megasthenes described an Indian tribe called Sourasenoi, who especially worshipped Herakles in their land, and this land had two cities, Methora and Kleisobora, and a navigable river, the Jobares. As was common in the ancient period, the Greeks sometimes described foreign gods in terms of their own divinities, and there is a little doubt that the Sourasenoi refers to the Shurasenas, a branch of the Yadu dynasty to which Krishna belonged; Herakles to Krishna, or Hari-Krishna: Methora to Mathura, where Krishna was born; Kleisobora to Krishnapura, meaning "the city of Krishna"; and the Jobares to the Yamuna, the famous river in the Krishna story. Quintus Curtius also mentions that when Alexander the Great confronted Porus, Porus's soldiers were carrying an image of Herakles in their vanguard.
The name Krishna occurs in Buddhist writings in the form Kānha, phonetically equivalent to Krishna.
The Ghata-Jâtaka (No. 454) gives an account of Krishna's childhood and subsequent exploits which in many points corresponds with the Brahmanic legends of his life and contains several familiar incidents and names, such as Vâsudeva, Baladeva, Kaṃsa. Yet it presents many peculiarities and is either an independent version or a misrepresentation of a popular story that had wandered far from its home.
Jain tradition also shows that these tales were popular and were worked up into different forms, for the Jains have an elaborate system of ancient patriarchs which includes Vâsudevas and Baladevas. Krishna is the ninth of the Black Vâsudevas and is connected with Dvâravatî or Dvârakâ. He will become the twelfth tîrthankara of the next world-period and a similar position will be attained by Devakî, Rohinî, Baladeva and Javakumâra, all members of his family. This is a striking proof of the popularity of the Krishna legend outside the Brahmanic religion.
Around 150 BC, Patanjali in his Mahabhashya quotes a verse: "May the might of Krishna accompanied by Samkarshana increase!" Other verses are mentioned. One verse speaks of "Janardhana with himself as fourth" (Krishna with three companions, the three possibly being Samkarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha). Another verse mentions musical instruments being played at meetings in the temples of Rama (Balarama) and Kesava (Krishna). Patanjali also describes dramatic and mimetic performances (Krishna-Kamsopacharam) representing the killing of Kansa by Vasudeva.
In the 1st century BC, there seems to be evidence for a worship of five Vrishni heroes (Balarama, Krishna, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Samba) for an inscription has been found at Mora near Mathura, which apparently mentions a son of the great satrap Rajuvula, probably the satrap Sodasa, and an image of Vrishni, "probably Vasudeva, and of the "Five Warriors". Brahmi inscription on the Mora stone slab, now in the Mathura Museum.
Many Puranas tell Krishna's life-story or some highlights from it. Two Puranas, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana, that contain the most elaborate telling of Krishna's story and teachings are the most theologically venerated by the Vaishnava schools. Roughly one quarter of the Bhagavata Purana is spent extolling his life and philosophy.
This summary is a historical account, based on literary details from the Mahābhārata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana. The scenes from the narrative are set in ancient India mostly in the present states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi and Gujarat.
Krishna was born to Devaki and her husband, Vasudeva. Mother Bhudevi (goddess Earth) became upset by the sin being committed on Earth, she sought help from Lord Vishnu. She went to visit Lord Vishnu and ask for help. Lord Vishnu agreed to help her and promised her that he would be born on Earth. The other deities like Indra, Bhudevi, Bramha (the god of creation), prayed to the supreme deity Lord Vishnu in Vaikunta (Abode of the lord). Lord Vishnu agreed to help them. "Whenever there is crisis on the earth and human beings are tortured, the lord himself has to incarnate each epoch on earth"-(Bhagavat Gita). During the wedding ceremony of Kansa's sister Devaki to his childhood friend Vasudev, a divine prophecy (loud voice from the sky- Akasha Vani in Samskrutam) prophesied that the 8th son of Kansa's sister Devaki would kill Kansa.
Out of affection for Devaki, Kansa did not kill her outright. He did, however, send his sister and her husband (Vasudeva) and his father King Ugrasen to prison. Lord Vishnu himself later appeared to Devaki and Vasudeva and told them that he himself would be their eighth son and kill Kansa and destroy sin in the world. In the story of Krishna, the deity is the agent of conception and also the offspring. Because of his sympathy for the earth, the almighty lord Vishnu himself descended into the womb of Devaki and was born as her son, Vaasudeva (i.e., Krishna). The incarnation of Sri Krishna is a virgin conception. This is similar to the case of the virgin Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas referenced contemporaneously with the story of Krishna in the Mahabharata. She also has a divine conception and virgin birth of warrior-hero Karna and the Pandavas. Devaki was married to Vasudeva and had already gave birth to 7 children. Brahmarishi Narad created confusion about which child would kill Kansa when he said "who knows what form the end might take"(i.e.). He was referring to Kansa's death and insinuated that the 8th son could be the first of 8 or the last of eight. He also said that the act of the God cannot be understand by humans and left the prophecy up to interpretation. Because Kansa was uncertain of which of the 8 newphews would kill him, Kansa brutally murdered all six of Devaki's children often bashing their heads in .This indeed forced kansa to slain all the previous six children's brutually, born to Devaki and Vasudeva. When the 8th child is born, it is the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna. Vasudeva secretly carries the infant Krishna out of the prison and trades him with Nanda, a kinsman of Vasudeva for his daughter(this daughter was yog maya (durga)incarnated herself who warned kans that his death is arrived in his kingdom and she disappears) . Subsequently Krishna is adopted by Nanda and his wife Yasoda in Gokula (in present-day Mathura district). Two of his other siblings also survived, Balarama (Devaki's seventh child, miraculously transferred to the womb of Rohini, Vasudeva's first wife) and Subhadra (daughter of Vasudeva and Rohini, born much later than Balarama and Krishna).
Childhood and youth
Nanda was the head of a community of cow-herders in Gokul.Due to the countinous threat by the demons sent by Kansa,Lord Krishna gave idea to his father and the villagers that they can leave Gokul and go to Vrindavan.Later with the help of Vrishabanu (who was both Radha's father and Nand 'friend) helped Nand and his villagers to settle in Vridavan.Finally they settled in Vrindavana. Although, the rampage of demons continued in vrindavan,in the lord's presence they were reduced to dust.The stories of Krishna's childhood and youth tell how he became a cow herder, his mischievous pranks as Makhan Chor (butter thief), his foiling of attempts to take his life, and his role as a protector who robbed the hearts of the people in both Gokul and Vrindavana.
Krishna killed the demoness Putana, disguised as a wet nurse, shaktasur, and the tornado demon Trinavarta both sent by Kansa to kill krishna in Gokul. The other miracles like changing a basket of fruit into precious stones and jewels of a fruit vendor due to her offering of fruit to the Lord for her love for the godchild is well known.He later in Vrindavan, tamed the serpent Kāliyā, who previously poisoned the waters of Yamuna river, thus leading to the death of the cowherds. In Hindu art, Krishna is often depicted dancing on the multi-hooded Kāliyā. He also defeated demons like Dhenukasura, Vatsasura, Keshi, Aghasura, Arishtasura, Bakasura, Vyomasura, Pralambasura and many others in Vrindavan.
Krishna lifted the Govardhana hill and taught Indra, the king of the devas, a lesson to protect the native people of Vrindavana from persecution by Indra and prevent the devastation of the pasture land of Govardhan. Indra had too much pride and was angry when Krishna advised the people of Vrindavana to take care of their animals and their environment that provide them with all their necessities, instead of worshipping Indra annually by spending their resources. In the view of some, the spiritual movement started by Krishna had something in it which went against the orthodox forms of worship of the Vedas. In Bhagavat Purana, Krishna says that the rain came from the nearby hill Govardhana, and advised that the people worshiped the hill instead of Indra. This made Indra furious, so he punished them by sending out a great storm and rain which lasted for seven days and seven nights. Krishna then lifted Govardhan and held it over the people like an umbrella.This reduced Indra's pride and he felt guilt of his act and sought forgivness from the lord in the form of a sage.
The stories of his play with the gopis (milkmaids) of Vrindavana, especially Radha (daughter of Vrishbhanu, one of the original residents of Vrindavan) became known as the Rasa lila and were romanticised in the poetry of Jayadeva, author of the Gita Govinda. These became important as part of the development of the Krishna bhakti traditions worshiping Radha Krishna.
Krishna's childhood reinforces the Hindu concept of lila, playing for fun and enjoyment and not for sport or gain. His interaction with the gopis at the rasa dance or Rasa-lila is a great example of this. Krishna played his flute and the gopis came immediately from whatever they were doing, to the banks of the Yamuna River, and joined him in singing and dancing. Even those who could not physically be there joined him through meditation. The story of Krishna's battle with Kāliyā also supports this idea in the sense of him dancing on Kāliyā's many hoods. Even though he is doing battle with the serpent, he is in no real danger and treats it like a game. He is a protector, but he only appears to be a young boy having fun. With his supreme powers, Krishna killed innumerable powerful demons (who had been born as demons because of curses or fate) so he could help them to attain salvation. This idea of having a playful god is very important in Hinduism. The playfulness of Krishna has inspired many celebrations like the Rasa-lila and the Janmashtami : where they make human pyramids to break open handis (clay pots) hung high in the air that spill buttermilk all over the group after being broken by the person at the top. This is meant to be a fun celebration and it gives the participants a sense of unity. Many believe that lila being connected with Krishna gives Hindus a deeper connection to him and thus a deeper connection to Vishnu also; seeing as Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu. Theologists, like Kristin Johnston Largen, believe that Krishna's childhood can even inspire other religions to look for lila in deities so that they have a chance to experience a part of their faith that they may not have previously seen.
On his return to Mathura as a young man, Krishna overthrew and killed his maternal uncle, Kansa, after quelling several assassination attempts from Kansa's followers. He reinstated Kansa's father, Ugrasena, as the king of the Yadavas and became a leading prince at the court. During this period, he became a friend of Arjuna and the other Pandava princes of the Kuru kingdom, who were his cousins. Later, he took his Yadava subjects to the city of Dwaraka (in modern Gujarat) and established a new kingdom there. Krishna was the prince and commander of the Armies of Dwaraka, while Balarama was crown prince and de facto administrator as King Ugrasena was still the emperor of Dwaraka but reigned over Mathura. According to the legends,the marriage of sri Krishna is for the sake of the souls who sincerely devoted to the lord sought his help to attain moksha(Salvation).accepting there prayers the lord himself agreed to be their protector.Thus,the marriage of the lord is not to do anything for physical union, but,it is only for the union of soul of the living(jeevaathma) with the superior creator(parmaathma)
Krishna married Rukmini, the Vidarbha princess, by abducting her, at her request, from her proposed wedding with Shishupala. He married eight queens—collectively called the Ashtabharya—including Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshmana. Krishna subsequently married 16,000 or 16,100 maidens who were held captive by the demon Narakasura, to save their honour. Krishna killed the demon and released them all. According to social custom of the time, all of the captive women were degraded, and would be unable to marry, as they had been under the Narakasura's control. However Krishna married them to reinstate their status in the society. This symbolic wedding with 16,100 abandoned daughters was more of a mass rehabilitation. In Vaishnava traditions, Krishna's wives are forms of the goddess Lakshmi — consort of Vishnu, or special souls who attained this qualification after many lifetimes of austerity, while his two queens, Rukmani and Satyabhama, are expansions of Lakshmi.
When Yudhishthira was assuming the title of emperor, he had invited all the great kings to the ceremony and while paying his respects to them, he started with Krishna because he considered Krishna to be the greatest of them all. While it was a unanimous feeling amongst most present at the ceremony that Krishna should get the first honours, his cousin Shishupala felt otherwise and started berating Krishna. Due to a vow given to Shishupal's mother, Krishna forgave a hundred verbal abuses by Shishupal, and upon the one hundred and first, he assumed his Virat (universal) form and killed Shishupal with his Chakra. The blind king Dhritarashtra also obtained divine vision to be able to see this form of Krishna during the time when Duryodana tried to capture Krishna when he came as a peace bearer before the great Mahabharat War. Essentially, Shishupala and Dantavakra were both re-incarnations of Vishnu's gate-keepers Jaya and Vijaya, who were cursed to be born on Earth, to be delivered by the Vishnu back to Vaikuntha.
Kurukshetra War and Bhagavad Gita
Lord Krishna was a mighty Maha Maharathi greater than any past, present or future warrior. He possessed all three ultimate weapons of the Trimurthi, the Brahma Danda, the Pashupatastra and the Vaishnavastra. He also possessed the Narayanastra, NagaPasha and the Vasavi Shakti and all other divine astras. He was one of the very few people who knew the secret of both entering in to and coming out of Chakra Vyuha. Lord krishna is considered as the greatest warrior in all of Hindu mythology. He never lost any battle that he fought and was uniformly successful in all his wars. Once battle seemed inevitable, Krishna offered both sides the opportunity to choose between having either his army called Narayani Sena or himself alone, but on the condition that he personally would not raise any weapon. Arjuna, on behalf of the Pandavas, chose to have Krishna on their side, and Duryodhana, Kaurava prince, chose Krishna's army. At the time of the great battle, Krishna acted as Arjuna's charioteer, since this position did not require the wielding of weapons.
Upon arrival at the battlefield, and seeing that the enemies are his family, his grandfather, his cousins and loved ones, Arjuna is moved and says his heart does not allow him to fight and he would rather prefer to renounce the kingdom and put down his Gandiv (Arjuna's bow). Krishna then advises him about the battle, with the conversation soon extending into a discourse which was later compiled as the Bhagavad Gita.
Krishna asked Arjuna, "Have you within no time, forgotten the Kauravas' evil deeds such as not accepting the eldest brother Yudhishtira as King, usurping the entire Kingdom without yielding any portion to the Pandavas, meting out insults and difficulties to Pandavas, attempt to murder the Pandavas in the Barnava lac guest house, publicly attempting to disrobe and disgracing Draupadi. Krishna further exhorted in his famous Bhagavad Gita, "Arjuna, do not engage in philosophical analyses at this point of time like a Pundit. You are aware that Duryodhana particularly have long harboured jealousy and hatred for you Pandavas and badly want to prove their hegemony. You are aware that Bhishmacharya and your Teachers are tied down to their dharma of protecting the unitarian power of the Kuru throne. Moreover, you Arjuna, are only a mortal appointee to carry out my divine will, since the Kauravas are destined to die either way, due to their heap of sins. Open your eyes O Bhaarata and know that I encompass the Karta, Karma and Kriya, all in myself. There is no scope for contemplation now or remorse later, it is indeed time for war and the world will remember your might and immense powers for time to come. So rise O Arjuna!, tighten up your Gandiva and let all directions shiver till their farthest horizons, by the reverberation of its string."
Krishna had a profound effect on the Mahabharata war and its consequences. He had considered the Kurukshetra war to be a last resort after voluntarily acting as a messenger in order to establish peace between the Pandavas and Kauravas. But, once these peace negotiations failed and was embarked into the war, then he became a clever strategist. During the war, upon becoming angry with Arjuna for not fighting in true spirit against his ancestors, Krishna once picked up a carriage wheel in order to use it as a weapon to challenge Bhishma. Upon seeing this, Bhishma dropped his weapons and asked Krishna to kill him. However, Arjuna apologised to Krishna, promising that he would fight with full dedication here/after, and the battle continued. Krishna had directed Yudhishthira and Arjuna to return to Bhishma the boon of "victory" which he had given to Yudhishthira before the war commenced, since he himself was standing in their way to victory. Bhishma understood the message and told them the means through which he would drop his weapons—which was if a woman entered the battlefield. Next day, upon Krishna's directions, Shikhandi (Amba reborn) accompanied Arjuna to the battlefield and thus, Bhishma laid down his arms. This was a decisive moment in the war because Bhishma was the chief commander of the Kaurava army and the most formidable warrior on the battlefield. Krishna aided Arjuna in killing Jayadratha, who had held the other four Pandava brothers at bay while Arjuna's son Abhimanyu entered Drona's Chakravyuha formation—an effort in which he was killed by the simultaneous attack of eight Kaurava warriors. Krishna also caused the downfall of Drona, when he signalled Bhima to kill an elephant called Ashwatthama, the namesake of Drona's son. Pandavas started shouting that Ashwatthama was dead but Drona refused to believe them saying he would believe it only if he heard it from Yudhishthira. Krishna knew that Yudhishthira would never tell a lie, so he devised a clever ploy so that Yudhishthira wouldn't lie and at the same time Drona would be convinced of his son's death. On asked by Drona, Yudhishthira proclaimed
Ashwathama Hatahath, naro va Kunjaro va
i.e. Ashwathama had died but he was nor sure whether it was a Drona's son or an elephant. But as soon as Yudhishthira had uttered the first line, Pandava army on Krishna's direction broke into celebration with drums and conchs, in the din of which Drona could not hear the second part of the Yudhishthira's declaration and assumed that his son indeed was dead. Overcome with grief he laid down his arms, and on Krishna's instruction Dhrishtadyumna beheaded Drona.
When Arjuna was fighting Karna, the latter's chariot's wheels sank into the ground. While Karna was trying to take out the chariot from the grip of the Earth,unarmed, Krishna reminded Arjuna how Karna and the other Kauravas had broken all rules of battle while simultaneously attacking and killing Abhimanyu, and he convinced Arjuna to do the same in revenge in order to kill Karna.Thus Arjuna broke all the rules of the battle too. During the final stage of the war, when Duryodhana was going to meet his mother Gandhari for taking her blessings which would convert all parts of his body on which her sight falls to diamond, Krishna tricks him to wearing banana leaves to hide his groin. When Duryodhana meets Gandhari, her vision and blessings fall on his entire body except his groin and thighs, and she becomes unhappy about it because she was not able to convert his entire body to diamond. When Duryodhana was in a mace-fight with Bhima, Bhima's blows had no effect on Duryodhana. Upon this, Krishna reminded Bhima of his vow to kill Duryodhana by hitting him on the thigh, and Bhima did the same to win the war despite it being against the rules of mace-fight (since Duryodhana had himself broken Dharma in all his past acts). Thus, Krishna's unparalleled strategy helped the Pandavas win the Mahabharata war by bringing the downfall of all the chief Kaurava warriors, without lifting any weapon. He also brought back to life Arjuna's grandson Parikshit, who had been attacked by a Brahmastra weapon from Ashwatthama while he was in his mother's womb. Parikshit became the Pandavas' successor.
Krishna had eight principal wives, also known as Ashtabharya: Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Nagnajiti, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Bhadra and Lakshmana. Besides them Krishna married 16,100 more women (number varies in scriptures), whom he had rescued from Narakasura's palace after killing Narakasura. He married them all to save them from destruction and notoriety. He gave them shelter in his new palace and a respectful place in society.
The Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, and Harivamsa list the children of Krishna from the Ashtabharya with some variation, while Rohini's sons are interpreted to represent the unnumbered children of his junior wives. Most well-known among his sons are Pradyumna, the eldest son of Krishna (and Rukmini). Pradyumna is one in 24 Keshava Namas (names), praised in all pujas. and Samba, the son of Jambavati, whose actions led to the destruction of Krishna's clan.
According to Mahabharata, the Kurukshetra war resulted in the death of all the hundred sons of Gandhari. On the night before Duryodhana's death, Krishna visited Gandhari to offer his condolences. Gandhari felt that Krishna knowingly did not put an end to the war, and in a fit of rage and sorrow, Gandhari cursed that Krishna, along with everyone else from the Yadu dynasty, would perish after 36 years. Krishna himself knew and wanted this to happen as he felt that the Yadavas had become very haughty and arrogant (adharmi), so he ended Gandhari's speech by saying "tathastu" (so be it). According to Srimad Bhagavatham, Rishi Vyas cursed yadavas (due to a tactful play by Yadavas with Rishi Vyas) saying, your entire community will die.
Thirty-six years later, a fight broke out between the Yadavas at a festival, who killed each other. Krishna's elder brother, Balarama, then gave up his body using Yoga. Krishna retired into the forest and started meditating under a tree. The Mahabharata also narrates the story of a hunter who becomes an instrument for Krishna's departure from the world. The hunter Jara, mistook Krishna's partly visible left foot for that of a deer, and shot an arrow, wounding him mortally. Krishna told Jara, "O Jara, you were Bali in your previous birth, killed by myself as Rama in Tretayuga. Here you had a chance to even it and since all acts in this world are done as desired by me, you need not worry for this". Then Krishna, with four handed form ascended to his abode. The news was conveyed to Hastinapur and Dwaraka by eyewitnesses to this event. The place of this incident is believed to be Bhalka, near Somnath temple.
According to Puranic sources, Krishna's departure marks the end of Dvapara Yuga and the start of Kali Yuga, which is dated to 17/18 February 3102 BCE. Vaishnava teachers such as Ramanujacharya and Gaudiya Vaishnavas held the view that the body of Krishna is completely spiritual and never decays (Achyuta) as this appears to be the perspective of the Bhagavata Purana. Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (an incarnation of Lord Sri Krishna according to the Bhavishya Purana) exhorted, "Krishna Naama Sankirtan" i.e. the constant chanting of the Krishna's name is the supreme healer in Kali Yuga. It destroys sins and purifies the hearts through Bhakti and ensures universal peace.
Krishna never appears to grow old or age at all in the historical depictions of the Puranas despite passing of several decades, but there are grounds for a debate whether this indicates that he has no material body, since battles and other descriptions of the Mahabhārata epic show clear indications that he seems to be subject to the limitations of nature. While battles apparently seem to indicate limitations, Mahabharata also shows in many places where Krishna is not subject to any limitations through episodes Duryodhana trying to arrest Krishna where his body burst into fire showing all creation within him. Krishna is also explicitly described as without deterioration elsewhere.
Some religiously oriented scholars have tried to assign dates to Krishna himself and to the Kurukshetra war:
- Astrologer Bangalore Venkata Raman states that Sri Krishna was born on 19 July 3228 BCE.
- According to drikpanchang.com, the date of Krishna's birth, known as Janmashtami, is 21 February 3228 BCE.
- Dr. P. V. Holay suggests 13 November 3143 BCE as the beginning of the Kurukshetra war.
- Dr. Narhari Achar states that Krishna lived sometime between 3200 BC and 3112 BCE. Achar's findings were based on the interpretation of the constellations, star positions and thithis mentioned in the Mahabharata. He also stated that the Kurukshetra war took place in 3139 BCE.
- A. K. Bansal calculated 21 July 3228 BCE as the birth date of Sri Krishna.
- Dr. Manish Pandit's 2009 study places Krishna's life in the 31st century BC
- Dr. P.V. Vartak places Lord Krishna's birth year as 5561 BCE.
- Jain tradition consider Krishna to be cousin of Neminatha, who is believed to be born 84000 years before Parshvanatha (i.e. 85th millennium BC).
A paper presented in a conference in 2004 by a group of archaeologists, religious scholars and astronomers from Somnath Trust of Gujarat, which was organised at Prabhas Patan, the supposed location of the death of Sri Krishna, fixes the death of Sri Krishna on 18 February 3102 BC at the age of 125 years and 7 months. The death date was deduced from Puranic hints such as the Matsya Purana mention which says Krishna was 89 years old when the Kurukshetran War was fought and the verses from Mahabharata which states that Sri Krishna lived 36 years after the Kurukshetra war. Despite skepticism from some parts of the scientific fraternity these findings found immense popular support in India.
The worship of Krishna is part of Vaishnavism, which regards Vishnu as the supreme God and venerates his associated avatars, their consorts, and related saints and teachers. Krishna is especially looked upon as a full manifestation of Vishnu, and as one with Vishnu himself. However the exact relationship between Krishna and Vishnu is complex and diverse, where Krishna is sometimes considered an independent deity, supreme in his own right. Out of many deities, Krishna is particularly important, and traditions of Vaishnava lines are generally centred either on Vishnu or on Krishna as supreme. The term Krishnaism has been used to describe the sects of Krishna, reserving the term "Vaishnavism" for sects focusing on Vishnu in which Krishna is an avatar, rather than as a transcendent Supreme Being.
All Vaishnava traditions recognise Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu; others identify Krishna with Vishnu; while traditions, such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Vallabha Sampradaya and the Nimbarka Sampradaya, regard Krishna as the Svayam Bhagavan, original form of God. Swaminarayan, the founder of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, also worshipped Krishna as God himself. "Greater Krishnaism" corresponds to the second and dominant phase of Vaishnavism, revolving around the cults of the Vasudeva, Krishna, and Gopala of the late Vedic period. Today the faith has a significant following outside of India as well.
The deity Krishna-Vasudeva (kṛṣṇa vāsudeva "Krishna, the son of Vasudeva") is historically one of the earliest forms of worship in Krishnaism and Vaishnavism. It is believed to be a significant tradition of the early history of the worship of Krishna in antiquity. This tradition is considered as earliest to other traditions that led to amalgamation at a later stage of the historical development. Other traditions are Bhagavatism and the cult of Gopala, that along with the cult of Bala Krishna form the basis of current tradition of monotheistic religion of Krishna. Some early scholars would equate it with Bhagavatism, and the founder of this religious tradition is believed to be Krishna, who is the son of Vasudeva, thus his name is Vāsudeva; he is said to be historically part of the Satvata tribe, and according to them his followers called themselves Bhagavatas and this religion had formed by the 2nd century BC (the time of Patanjali), or as early as the 4th century BC according to evidence in Megasthenes and in the Arthasastra of Kautilya, when Vāsudeva was worshiped as supreme deity in a strongly monotheistic format, where the supreme being was perfect, eternal and full of grace. In many sources outside of the cult, the devotee or bhakta is defined as Vāsudevaka. The Harivamsa describes intricate relationships between Krishna Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha that would later form a Vaishnava concept of primary quadrupled expansion, or avatar."
Bhakti, meaning devotion, is not confined to any one deity. However Krishna is an important and popular focus of the devotional and ecstatic aspects of Hindu religion, particularly among the Vaishnava sects. Devotees of Krishna subscribe to the concept of lila, meaning 'divine play', as the central principle of the Universe. The lilas of Krishna, with their expressions of personal love that transcend the boundaries of formal reverence, serve as a counterpoint to the actions of another avatar of Vishnu: Rama, "He of the straight and narrow path of maryada, or rules and regulations."
The bhakti movements devoted to Krishna became prominent in southern India in the 7th to 9th centuries AD. The earliest works included those of the Alvar saints of the Tamil country. A major collection of their works is the Divya Prabandham. The Alvar Andal's popular collection of songs Tiruppavai, in which she conceives of herself as a gopi, is the most famous of the oldest works in this genre.  Kulasekaraazhvaar's Mukundamala was another notable work of this early stage.
Spread of the Krishna-bhakti movement
The movement, which started in the 6th-7th century A.D. in the Tamil-speaking region of South India, with twelve Alvar (one immersed in God) saint-poets, who wrote devotional songs. The religion of Alvar poets, which included a woman poet, Andal, was devotion to God through love (bhakti), and in the ecstasy of such devotions they sang hundreds of songs which embodied both depth of feeling and felicity of expressions. The movement originated in South India during the seventh-century CE, spreading northwards from Tamil Nadu through Karnataka and Maharashtra; by the fifteenth century, it was established in Bengal and northern India
While the learned sections of the society well versed in Sanskrit could enjoy works like Gita Govinda or Bilvamangala's Krishna-Karnamritam, the masses sang the songs of the devotee-poets, who composed in the regional languages of India. These songs expressing intense personal devotion were
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For his worshippers he is not an avatara in the usual sense, but Svayam Bhagavan, the Lord himself.
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Present day Krishna worship is an amalgam of various elements. According to historical testimonies Krishna-Vasudeva worship already flourished in and around Mathura several centuries before Christ. A second important element is the cult of Krishna Govinda. Still later is the worship of Bala-Krishna, the Child Krishna—a quite prominent feature of modern Krishnaism. The last element seems to have been Krishna Gopijanavallabha, Krishna the lover of the Gopis, among whom Radha occupies a special position. In some books Krishna is presented as the founder and first teacher of the Bhagavata religion.
- Basham, A. L. "Review:Krishna: Myths, Rites, and Attitudes. by Milton Singer; Daniel H. H. Ingalls, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3 (May, 1968 ), pp. 667-670". 27. www.jstor.org: 667–670. JSTOR 2051211.
- Singh, R.R. (2007). Bhakti And Philosophy. Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-1424-7.
- p. 10: "[Panini's] term Vāsudevaka, explained by the second century B.C commentator Patanjali, as referring to "the follower of Vasudeva, God of gods."
- Couture, André (2006). "The emergence of a group of four characters (Vasudeva, Samkarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha) in the Harivamsa: points for consideration". Journal of Indian Philosophy. 34 (6): 571–585. doi:10.1007/s10781-006-9009-x.
- Klostermaier, K. (1974). "The Bhaktirasamrtasindhubindu of Visvanatha Cakravartin". Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. 94 (1): 96–107. doi:10.2307/599733. JSTOR 599733.
- Vaudeville, C. (1962). "Evolution of Love-Symbolism in Bhagavatism". Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. 82 (1): 31–40. doi:10.2307/595976. JSTOR 595976.
- Bowen, Paul (1998). Themes and issues in Hinduism. London: Cassell. pp. 64–65. ISBN 0-304-33851-6.
- Radhakrisnasarma, C. (1975). Landmarks in Telugu Literature: A Short Survey of Telugu Literature. Lakshminarayana Granthamala.
- Sisir Kumar Das (2005). A History of Indian Literature, 500-1399: From Courtly to the Popular. Sahitya Akademi. p. 49. ISBN 81-260-2171-3.
- Schomer & McLeod (1987), pp. 1-2