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Krishna Janmashtami [birth] - Hindu** (Local or regional customs may use a variation of this date.)

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Tue, 15/08/2017 (All day)

15th Aug.

Krishna Janmashtami - Hindu** (Local or regional customs may use a variation of this date.)

by Subhamoy Das

As an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, Lord Krishna is one of the faith's most revered divinities. The story of how the Hindu god of love and compassion was born is one woven through many of Hinduism's most sacred texts, and it inspires faithful throughout India and beyond.

Background And History

References to Lord Krishna can be found in several important Hindu texts, most notably the epic poem the  Mahabharata.

Krishna also is a principal figure in the Bhagavata Purana, another Hindu text that dates to the 10th century B.C. It follows the adult Krishna's exploits as he confronts evil and restores justice to earth. He also plays a prominent role in the Bhagavad Gita, which dates to the 9th century B.C. In that text, Krishna is the charioteer for the warrior Arjuna, offering moral and military counsel to the Hindu leader.

Krishna is typically depicted as having blue, blue-black or black skin, holding his bansuri (flute) and sometimes accompanied by a cow or a female cowherd. One of the most widely revered of the Hindu deities, Krishna is known by many other names, among them Govinda, Mukunda, Madhusudhana, and Vasudeva. He may also be depicted as an infant or child engaging in playful pranks, such as stealing butter.

Synopsis Of Krishna's Birth

Mother Earth, unable to bear the burden of sins committed by evil kings and rulers, appeals to Brahma the Creator for help.

Brahma, in turn, prays to the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who assures Brahma that Vishnu will soon return earth to annihilate tyrannical forces.

Kamsa, the ruler of Mathura (in northern India) is one such tyrant, inspiring fear among all the rules. On the day Kamsa's sister Devaki is married to Vasudeva, a voice from the sky prophesies that Devaki's eighth son will destroy Kamsa.

Frightened, Kamsa jails the couple and vows to kill any child Devaki gives birth to. He makes good on his word, killing the first seven infants Devaki bears Vasudeva, and the imprisoned couple fear their eighth child will meet the same fate.

Lord Vishnu appears before them, telling them he will return to earth in the guise of their son and rescue them from Kamsa's tyranny. When the divine baby is born, Vasudeva finds himself magically freed from prison, and he flees with the infant to a safe house. Along the way, Vishnu removes obstacles like snakes and floods from Vasudeva's path.

Vasudeva gives the infant Krishna to a family of cowherds, exchanging him for a newborn girl. Vasudeva returns to the prison with the girl. When Kamsa learns of the birth, he rushes to the prison to kill the child. But when he arrives, the infant ascends to the heavens and is transformed into the goddess Yogamaya. She tells Kamsa, "O foolish! What will you get by killing me? Your nemesis is already born somewhere else."

Meanwhile, Krishna is raised as a cowherd, leading an idyllic childhood. As he matures, he becomes a skillful musician, wooing the women of his village with his flute-playing. Eventually, he returns to Mathura, where he slays Kamsa and his henchmen, restores his father to power and becomes friendly with many of Hinduism's heroes, including the warrior Arjuna.

Primary Theme

As one of the principal gods of Hinduism, Krishna represents mankind's aspiration to embody all that is divine. Amorous and loyal, he is seen as the ideal husband, and his playful nature is a gentle admonition to remain good-natured in the face of life's challenges.

As counsel to the warrior Arjuna, Krishna serves as a moral compass the faithful. His exploits in the Bhagavad Gita and other holy scripture are ethical models of behavior for Hindus, particularly on the nature of personal choice and responsibility to others.

Impact On Popular Culture

As the god of love, compassion, music, and dance, Krishna has been closely associated with the arts in Hindu culture since its beginnings. The story of Krishna's birth and childhood, called Ras and Leela, are a staple of classical Indian drama, and many of India's classical dances pay homage to him.

Krishna's birthday, called Janmashtami, is one of Hinduism's most popular holidays and is celebrated throughout the Hindu world. It takes place in August or September, depending on when the date falls on the Hindu lunisolar calendar. During the festival, the faithful engage in prayer, song, fasting, and feasting to honor Krishna's birth.

In the West, followers of Lord Krishna are often associated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Formed in New York City in the mid-1960s, it soon became known as the Hare Krishna movement, and its chanting followers could often be seen in parks and other public spaces. George Harrison included portions of the Hare Krishna chant on his 1971 hit, "My Sweet Lord."


Krishna Janmashtami (Devanagari कृष्ण जन्माष्टमी, IAST: Kṛṣṇa Janmāṣṭamī), also known simply as Janmashtami, is an annual Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu [3].  It is observed according to Hindu luni-solar calendar, on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Bhadrapada, which overlaps with August and September of the Gregorian calendar [3]. 

It is an important festival particularly to the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism [4].  Dance-drama enactments of the life of Krishna according to the Bhagavata Purana (such as Rasa lila or Krishna Lila), devotional singing through the midnight when Krishna is believed to have been born, fasting (upavasa), a night vigil (jagarana), and a festival (mahotsava) on the following day are a part of the Janmashtami celebrations [5].  It is celebrated particularly in Mathura and Brindavan, along with major Vaishnava communities found in Manipur, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other regions [3] [6]. 

Krishna Janmashtami is followed by the festival Nandotsav, which celebrates the occasion when Nanda Baba distributed gifts to the community in honour of the birth [7]. 

Significance [edit]. 

Krishna being carried across the river by Vasudeva

Krishna was the son of Devaki and Vasudeva and his birthday is celebrated by Hindus as Janmashtami, particularly those of the Vaishnavism tradition as he is considered the eighth avatar of Vishnu [8] [9].  Janmashtami is celebrated when Krishna is believed to have been born according to Hindu tradition, which is in Mathura, at midnight on the eighth day of Bhadrapada month (overlaps with August and September in the Gregorian calendar) [3] [10]. 

Krishna was born in an era of chaos, persecution was rampant, freedoms were denied, evil was everywhere, and when there was a threat to his life by his uncle King Kansa [11].  Immediately following the birth, his father Vasudeva took Krishna across Yamuna, to foster parents in Gokul, named Nanda and Yashoda [12].  This legend is celebrated on Janmashtami by people keeping fast, singing devotional songs of love for Krishna, and keeping a vigil into the night [13].  After Krishna's midnight hour birth, statues of baby Krishna are washed and clothed, then placed in a cradle. The devotees then break their fast, by sharing food and sweets. Women draw tiny foot prints outside their house doors and kitchen, walking towards their house, a symbolism for Krishna's journey into their homes and hearts [13]. 

Celebrations [edit]. 

Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting, singing, praying together, preparing and sharing special food, night vigils and visiting Krishna or Vishnu temples. Major Krishna temples organize recitation of Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita [14].  Many communities organize dance-drama events called Rasa Lila or Krishna Lila [13].  The tradition of Rasa Lila is particularly popular in Mathura region, in northeastern states of India such as Manipur and Assam, and in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is acted out by numerous teams of amateur artists, cheered on by their local communities, and these drama-dance plays begin a few days before each Janmashtami [15] [16]. 

Maharashtra [edit]. 

Janmashtami (popularly known as "Gokulashtami" as in Maharashtra) is celebrated in cities such as Mumbai and Pune, as Dahi Handi [17].  The term literally means "earthen pot of yoghurt". The festival gets this popular regional name from legend of baby Krishna. According to it, he would seek and steal milk products such as yoghurt and butter and people would hide their supplies high up out of the baby's reach. Krishna would try all sorts of creative ideas in his pursuit, such as making human pyramids with his friends to break these high hanging pots [18].  This story is the theme of numerous reliefs on Hindu temples across India, as well as literature and dance-drama repertoire, symbolizing the joyful innocence of children, that love and life's play is the manifestation of god [19] [20]. 

In Maharashtra, and other western states India, this Krishna legend is played out as a community tradition on Janmashtami, where pots of yoghurt are hung high up, sometimes with tall poles or from ropes hanging from second or third level of a building [13].  Per the annual tradition, teams of youth and boys called the "Govindas" go around to these hanging pots, climb one over another and form a human pyramid, then break the pot [17].  Girls surround these boys, cheer and tease them while dancing and singing. The spilled contents are considered as Prasada (celebratory offering). It is a public spectacle, cheered and welcomed as a community event [17] [21]. 

In contemporary times, many Indian cities celebrate this annual Hindu ritual. Youth groups form Govinda pathaks, which compete with each other, especially for prize money on Janamashtami. These groups are called mandals or handis and they go around the local areas, attempting to break as many pots as possible every August. Social celebrities and media attends the festivities, while corporations sponsor parts of the event [22] [23].  Cash and gifts are offered for Govinda teams, and according to The Times of India, in 2014 over 4,000 handis in Mumbai alone were high hung with prizes, and numerous Govinda teams participated [22]. 

Gujarat and Rajasthan [edit]. 

People in the city of Dwarka in Gujarat – where Krishna is believed to have established his kingdom – celebrate the festival with a tradition similar to Dahi Handi, called Makhan Handi (pot with freshly churned butter). Others perform folk dances at temples, sing bhajans, visit the Krishna temples such as at the Dwarkadhish Temple or Nathdwara. In Kutch district region, farmers decorate their bullock carts and take out Krishna processions, with group singing and dancing [24]. 

The carnival-style and playful poetry and works of Dayaram, a scholar of the Pushtimarg of Vaishnavism, is particularly popular during Janmashtami in Gujarat and Rajasthan [25]. 

Northern India [edit]. 

Janmashtami is the largest festival in the Braj region of north India, in cities such as Mathura where Hindu tradition states Krishna was born, and in Vrindavan where he grew up [13].  Vaishnava communities in these cities in Uttar Pradesh, as well as others in the state, as well locations in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himalayan north celebrate Janmashtami. Krishna temples are decorated and lighted up, they attract numerous visitors on the day, while Krishna devotees hold bhakti events and keep night vigil [26]. 

The festival typically falls as the monsoons in north India have begun retreating, fields laden with crops and rural communities have time to play. In the northern states, Janmashtami is celebrated with the Raslila tradition, which literally means "play (lila) of delight, essence (rasa)". This is expressed as solo or group dance and drama events at Janmashtami, wherein Krishna related compositions are sung, music accompanies the performance, while actors and audience share and celebrate the performance by clapping hands to mark the beat [17].  The childhood pranks of Krishna, and love affairs of Radha-Krishna are particularly popular. According to Christian Roy and other scholars, these Radha-Krishna love stories are Hindu symbolism for the longing and love of human soul for the divine principle and reality it calls Brahman [18] [17]. 

In Jammu, kite flying from roof tops is a part of the celebration on Krishna Janmashtami [27]. 

Eastern and Northeastern India [edit]. 

Janmashtami is widely celebrated in the Hindu Vaishnava communities of eastern and northeastern India. The widespread tradition of celebrating Krishna in these regions is credited to the efforts and teachings of 15th and 16th century Sankardev and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. They developed philosophical ideas, as well as new forms of performance arts to celebrate the Hindu god Krishna such as Borgeet, Ankia Naat, Sattriya and Bhakti yoga now popular in West Bengal and Assam. Further east, Manipur people developed Manipuri dance form, a classical dance form known for its Hindu Vaishnavism themes, and which like Sattriya includes love-inspired dance drama arts of Radha-Krishna called Raslila [28] [29] [30].  These dance drama arts are a part of Janmashtami tradition in these regions, and as with all classical Indian dances, there contextual roots are in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text Natya Shastra, but with influences from the culture fusion between India and southeast Asia [31] [32] [33]. 

On Janmashtami, parents dress up their children as characters in the legends of Krishna, such as gopis (cow maids) and as Krishna. Temples and community centers are decorated with regional flowers and leaves, while groups recite or listen to the tenth chapter of Bhagavata Purana, and the Bhagavata Gita [17]. 

Janmashtami is a major festival celebrated with fasts, vigil, recitation of scriptures and Krishna prayers in Manipur. Raslila performances (also referred to as Rasleela or Manipuri Ras) are a notable annual tradition around Janmashtami [34].  Children play the Likol Sannaba game in the Meetei Vaishnava community [35]. 

The Shree Govindajee Temple and the ISKCON temples particularly mark the Janmashtami festival [36].  Janmashtami is celebrated in Assam at homes, in community centers called Namghars (Assamese: নামঘৰ), and the temples usually though Janmaashtami. According to the tradition, the devotees sing the Nam, perform pujas and sharing food and Prasada [36]. 

Odisha and West Bengal [edit]. 

 Dressing up babies as Krishna or Gopis on Janmashtami festival is a popular Hindu tradition.

In the eastern state of Odisha, in the region around Puri and in Nabadwip, West Bengal, the festival is also referred to as Sri Krishna Jayanti or simply Sri Jayanti [37] [38].  People celebrate Janmashtami by fasting and worship until midnight. The Bhagavata Purana is recited from the 10th chapter, a section dedicated to the life of Krishna. The next day is called "Nanda Utsav" or the joyous celebration of Krishna's foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. On this day, people break their fast and offer various cooked sweets after midnight [citation needed]. 

South India [edit]. 

Gokulashtami or Gokula Ashtami (Janmashtami or Sri Krishna Jayanti) celebrates the birthday of Krishna. Gokulashtami is celebrated with great fervor in South India [citation needed]. 

In Tamil Nadu, the people decorate the floor with kolams (decorative pattern drawn with rice batter). Geetha Govindam and other such devotional songs are sung in praise of Krishna. Then they draw the footprints of Krishna from the threshold of the house till the pooja room, which depicts the arrival of Krishna into the house [39].  A recitation of Bhagwadgita is also a popular practise. The offerings made to Krishna include fruits, betel and butter. Savories believed to be Krishna's favorites are prepared with great care. The most important of them are Seedai, Sweet Seedai, Verkadalai Urundai. The festival is celebrated in the evening as Krishna was born at midnight. Most people observe a strict fast on this day and eat only after the midnight puja. They also dress the youngest of male child in their family like Krishna and perform oonjal, or swing, which is rocked gently and prasadam offered first to them [citation needed]. 

 Toddler dressed like Krishna

In Andhra Pradesh, recitation of shlokas and devotional songs are the characteristics of this festival. Another unique feature of this festival is that young boys are dress up as Krishna and they visit neighbors and friends. Different varieties of fruits and sweets are first offered to Krishna and after the puja, these sweets are distributed among the visitors. The people of Andhra Pradesh observe a fast too.Various kinds of sweets are made to offer Gokulnandan on this day. Eatables along with milk and curd are prepared to make offerings to Krishna. Joyful chanting of 's name takes place in quite a few temples of the state. The number of temples dedicated to Sri Krishna are few. The reason being that people have taken to worship him through paintings and not idols [citation needed]. 

Popular south Indian temples dedicated for Krishna are Rajagopalaswami Temple in Mannargudi in the Tiruvarur district, Pandavadhoothar temple in Kanchivaram and Krishna temple at Guruvayur are dedicated to the memory of Vishnu's incarnation as Sri Krishna. Legend says that the Sree Krishna Idol installed in Guruvayur is from Dwarka which is believed to be submerged in the sea [40]. 

Outside India [edit]. 

Nepal [edit]. 

About eighty percent of the population of Nepal identify themselves as Hindus and celebrate Krishna Janmashtami. They observe Janmashtami by fasting until midnight. The devotees recite the Bhagavad Gita and sing religious songs called bhajans and kirtans. The temples of Krishna are decorated. Shops, posters and houses carry Krishna motifs [17]. 

Bangladesh [edit]. 

Janmashthami is a national holiday in Bangladesh [41].  On Janmashthami, a procession starts from Dhakeshwari Temple in Dhaka, the National Temple of Bangladesh, and then proceeds through the streets of Old Dhaka. The procession dates back to 1902, but was stopped in 1948 following the establishment of Pakistan and subsequent attacks by Muslim mobs in Dhaka. The procession was resumed in 1989 [42]. 

Fiji [edit]. 

At least a quarter of the population in Fiji practices Hinduism, and this holiday has been celebrated in Fiji since the first Indian indentured labourers landed there. Janmastami in Fiji is known as "Krishna Ashtami". Most Hindus in Fiji have ancestors that originated from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu, making this an especially important festival for them. Fiji's Janmastami celebrations are unique in that they last for eight days, leading up to the eighth day, the day Krishna was born. During these eight days, Hindus gather at homes and at temples with their 'mandalis,' or devotional groups at evenings and night, and recite the Bhagavat Purana, sing devotional songs for Krishna, and distribute Prasadam [43]. 

Pakistan [edit]. 

Janmashthami is celebrated by Pakistani Hindus in the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Karachi with the singing of bhajans and delivering of sermons on Krishna [44]. 

Others [edit]. 

In Arizona, United States, Governor Janet Napolitano was the first American leader to greet a message on Janmashtami, while acknowledging ISKCON [45].  The festival is also celebrated widely by Hindus in Caribbean in the countries of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and the former British colony Fiji as well as the former Dutch colony of Suriname. The Hindus in these countries originated from Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh and are the descendants of indentured immigrants from Tamil Nadu, UP, Bihar, Bengal and Orissa.

This article is about the Hindu deity.  For other uses, see Krishna (disambiguation).

Krishna (/ˈkrɪʃnə/; [ˈkr̩ʂɳə].  (About this sound listen); Sanskrit: कृष्ण, IAST: Kṛṣṇa) is a major deity in Hinduism.  He is the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu and is also worshipped as the supreme God in his own right [8].

He is the god of compassion, tenderness, and love in Hinduism [1] [2].  and is one of the most popular and widely revered among Indian divinities [9].  Krishna's birthday is celebrated every year by Hindus on Janmashtami according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar, which falls in late August or early September of the Gregorian calendar [10].

Krishna is also known by numerous names, such as Govinda, Mukunda, Madhusudhana, Vasudeva, and Makhan chor in affection.  The anecdotes and narratives of Krishna's life are generally titled as Krishna Leela.  He is a central character in the Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana and the Bhagavad Gita, and is mentioned in many Hindu philosophical, theological, and mythological texts [11].  They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, and as the supreme power [12].  His iconography reflects these legends, and show him in different stages of his life, such as an infant eating butter, a young boy playing a flute, a young man with Radha or surrounded by women devotees, or a friendly charioteer giving counsel to Arjuna [13].

The synonyms of Krishna have been traced to 1st millennium BCE literature [14].  In some sub-traditions, Krishna is worshipped as Svayam Bhagavan, and this is sometimes referred to as Krishnaism.  These sub-traditions arose in the medieval era Bhakti movement context [15].  Krishna-related literature has inspired numerous performance arts such as Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Manipuri dance [16] [17] [18].  He is a pan-Hindu god, but is particularly revered in some locations such as Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, Jagannatha in Odisha, Mayapur in West Bengal,[19].  Dwarka and Junagadh in Gujarat, Pandharpur in Maharashtra, Udupi in Karnataka, and Nathdwara in Rajasthan [20].  Since the 1960s the worship of Krishna has also spread to the Western world and to Africa, largely due to the work of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) [21].

The name "Krishna" originates from the Sanskrit word Kṛṣṇa, which is primarily an adjective meaning "black", "dark", or "dark blue" [22].  The waning moon is called Krishna Paksha, relating to the adjective meaning "darkening" [22].  The name is also interpreted sometimes as "all-attractive" [23].

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 idols as black- or blue-skinned.  Krishna is also known by various other names, epithets, and titles that reflect his many associations and attributes.  Among the most common names are Mohan "enchanter", Govinda, "chief herdsman",[24].  Gopala, "Protector of the 'Go' – "Soul" or the cows" [25] [26].  Some of the names may be regionally important as, for example, Jagannatha, a popular incarnation of Puri, in Odisha in eastern India [27].  [28].

Krishna is represented in the Indian traditions in many ways, but with some common features.  His iconography typically depicts him with black, dark, or blue skin, like Vishnu [29].  However, ancient and medieval reliefs and stone-based arts depict him in the natural color of the material out of which he is formed, both in India and in southeast Asia [30] [31].  In some texts, his skin is poetically described as the color of Jambul (Jamun, a purple-colored fruit) [32].

Krishna is often depicted wearing a peacock-feather wreath or crown, and playing the bansuri (Indian flute) [33] [34].  In this form, he is usually shown standing with one leg bent in front of the other in the Tribhanga posture.  He is sometimes accompanied by cows or a calf, which symbolise the divine herdsman Govinda.  Alternatively, he is shown as an amorous man with the gopis (milkmaids), often making music or playing pranks [35].

In other icons he is a part of battlefield scenes of the epic Mahabharata.  He is shown as a charioteer, notably when he is addressing the Pandava prince Arjuna character, symbolically reflecting the events that led to the Bhagavad Gita – a scripture of Hinduism.  In these popular depictions, Krishna appears in the front as the charioteer, either as a counsel listening to Arjuna, or as the driver of the chariot while Arjuna aims his arrows in the battlefield of Kurukshetra [37] [38].

Alternate icons of Krishna show him as a baby (Bala Krishna, Bāla Kṛṣṇa the child Krishna), a toddler crawling on his hands and knees, a dancing child, or an innocent-looking child playfully stealing or consuming butter (Makkan Chor)[39].  or holding Laddu in his hand (Laddu Gopal) [40] [41].  Regional variations in the iconography of Krishna are seen in his different forms, such as Jaganatha in Odisha, Vithoba in Maharashtra,[42].  Venkateswara (also Srinivasa or Balaji) in Andhra Pradesh,[43].  and Shrinathji in Rajasthan [44] [45].

Guidelines for the preparation of Krishna icons in design and architecture are described in medieval-era Sanskrit texts on Hindu temple arts such as Vaikhanasa agama, Vishnu dharmottara, Brihat samhita, and Agni Purana [46].  Similarly, early medieval-era Tamil texts also contain guidelines for sculpting Krishna and Rukmini Devi (she is sometimes referred to as Sauriraja-pperumal in Tamil).  Several statues made according to these guidelines are in the collections of the Government Museum, Chennai [47].

The earliest text containing detailed descriptions of Krishna as a personality is the epic Mahabharata, which depicts Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu [48].  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.  The Harivamsa, a later appendix to the Mahabharata contains a detailed version of Krishna's childhood and youth [49].

The Chandogya Upanishad, estimated to have been composed sometime between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE, has been another source of speculation regarding Krishna in ancient India.  Verse 3.17.6 mentions Krishna Devakiputra (Sanskrit: कृष्णाय देवकीपुत्रा) as a student of the sage Ghora Angirasa.  This phrase, which means "Krishna the son of Devaki", has been mentioned by scholars such as Max Muller[50].  as a potential source of fables and Vedic lore about Krishna in the Mahabharata and other ancient literature – only potential because this verse could have been interpolated into the text,[50].  or the Krishna Devikaputra could be different from the deity Krishna [51].  These doubts are supported by the fact that the much later age Sandilya Bhakti Sutras, a treatise on Krishna,[52].  cites later age compilations such as the Narayana Upanishad but never cites this verse of the Chandogya Upanishad.  Other scholars disagree that the Krishna mentioned along with Devika in the ancient Upanishad is unrelated to the later Hindu god of the Bhagavad Gita fame.  For example, Archer states that the coincidence of the two names appearing together in the same Upanishad verse cannot be dismissed easily [53].

Yāska's Nirukta, an etymological dictionary published around the 6th century BCE, contains a reference to the Shyamantaka jewel in the possession of Akrura, a motif from the well-known Puranic story about Krishna [54].  Shatapatha Brahmana and Aitareya-Aranyaka associate Krishna with his Vrishni origins [55].

Pāṇini, the ancient grammarian and author of Asthadhyayi (probably belonged to the 5th or 6th century BCE), mentions a character called Vāsudeva, son of Vasudeva [56] [57].

Megasthenes, a Greek ethnographer and an ambassador of Seleucus I to the court of Chandragupta Maurya towards the end of 4th century BCE, made reference to Herakles in his famous work Indica.  This text is now lost to history, but was quoted in secondary literature by later Greeks such as Arrian, Diodorus, and Strabo [58].  According to these texts, Megasthenes mentioned that the Sourasenoi tribe of India, who worshipped Herakles, had two major cities named Methora and Kleisobora, and a navigable river named the Jobares.  According to Edwin Bryant, a professor of Indian religions known for his publications on Krishna, "there is little doubt that the Sourasenoi refers to the Shurasenas, a branch of the Yadu dynasty to which Krishna belonged" [58].  The word Herakles, states Bryant, is likely a Greek phonetic equivalent of Hari-Krishna, as is Methora of Mathura, Kleisobora of Krishnapura, and the Jobares of Jamuna.  Later, when Alexander the Great launched his campaign in the northwest Indian subcontinent, his associates recalled that the soldiers of Porus were carrying an image of Herakles [58].

The Buddhist Pali canon and the Ghata-Jâtaka (No.  454) polemically mention the devotees of Vâsudeva and Baladeva.  These texts have many peculiarities and may be a garbled and confused version of the Krishna legends [59].  The texts of Jainism mention these tales as well, also with many peculiarities and different versions, in their legends about Tirthankaras.  This inclusion of Krishna-related legends in ancient Buddhist and Jaina literature suggests that Krishna theology was existent and important in the religious landscape observed by non-Hindu traditions of ancient India [60] [61].

Indo-Greek coinage [edit].

Krishna as Vasudeva on a coin of Agathocles of Bactria, c.  180 BCE[62].

Around 180 BCE the Indo-Greek king Agathocles issued some coinage bearing images of deities that are now interpreted as being related to Vaisnava imagery in India [63] [64].  The deities displayed on the coins appear to be Vishnu's avatars Balarama-Sankarshana with attributes consisting of the Gada mace and the plow, and Vasudeva-Krishna with attributes of the Shankha (conch) and the Sudarshana Chakra wheel [65] [63].  According to Bopearachchi, the headdress on top of the deity is actually a misrepresentation of a shaft with

The ancient Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali in his Mahabhashya makes several references to Krishna and his associates found in later Indian texts.  In his commentary on Panini's verse 3.1.26, he also uses the word Kamsavadha or the "killing of Kamsa", an important part of the legends surrounding Krishna [68] [69].

Heliodorus pillar and other inscriptions [edit].

A pillar with a Brahmi script inscription was discovered by colonial era archaeologists in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.  Using modern techniques, it has been dated to between 125 and 100 BCE, and traced to an Indo-Greek who served as an ambassador of the Greek king Antialcidas to a regional Indian king [63] [66].  Named after the Indo-Greek, it is now known as the Heliodorus pillar.  Its inscription is a dedication to "Vasudeva", another name for Krishna in the Indian tradition.  Scholars consider the "Vasudeva" to be referring to a deity, because the inscription states that it was constructed by "the Bhagavata Heliodorus" and that it is a "Garuda pillar" (both are Vishnu-Krishna-related terms).  Additionally, the inscription includes a Krishna-related verse from chapter 11.7 of the Mahabharata stating that the path to immortality and heaven is to correctly live a life of three virtues: self-temperance (damah), generosity (cagah or tyaga), and vigilance (apramadah) [66] [70] [71].

The Heliodorus inscription is not an isolated evidence.  For example, three Hathibada inscriptions and one Ghosundi inscription, all located in the state of Rajasthan and dated by modern methodology to the 1st century BCE, mention Samkarsana and Vasudeva, also mention that the structure was built for their worship.  These four inscriptions are notable for being some of the oldest-known Sanskrit inscriptions [72].

A Mora stone slab found at the Mathura-Vrindavan archaeological site in Uttar Pradesh, held now in the Mathura Museum, has a Brahmi inscription.  It is dated to the 1st century CE and lists five Vrishni heroes: Balarama, Krishna, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, and Samba [73] [74] [75].  Another terracotta plaque from the same site shows an infant being carried by an adult over his head, similar to the legend about Krishna's birth [73].

Many Puranas tell Krishna's life story or some highlights from it.  Two Puranas, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana, contain the most elaborate telling of Krishna's story,[76].  but the life stories of Krishna in these and other texts vary, and contain significant inconsistencies [77] [78].  The Bhagavata Purana consists of twelve books subdivided into 332 chapters, with a cumulative total of between 16,000 and 18,000 verses depending on the version [79] [80].  The tenth book of the text, with about 4,000 verses (~25%) and dedicated to legends about Krishna, has been the most popular and widely studied part of this text [81] [82].

Life and legends [edit].

This summary is a mythological 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, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, and Gujarat.  The legends about Krishna's life are called Krishna charitas (IAST: Kṛṣṇacaritas) [83].

Birth [edit].

In Krishna charitas, Krishna is born to Devaki and her husband, Vasudeva of the Chandravanshi clan [84].  Devaki's brother is a tyrant named Kamsa.  At Devaki's wedding, according to Puranic legends, Kamsa is told by fortune tellers that a child of Devaki would kill him.  Kamsa arranges to kill all of Devaki's children.  When Krishna is born, Vasudeva secretly carries the infant Krishna away across the Yamuna and exchanges him.  When Kamsa tries to kill the newborn, the exchanged baby appears as the Hindu goddess Durga, warning him that his death has arrived in his kingdom, and then disappears, according to the legends in the Puranas.  Krishna grows up with Nanda and his wife Yasoda near modern-day Mathura [85] [86] [87].  Two of Krishna's siblings also survive, namely Balarama and Subhadra, according to these legends [88].

Childhood and youth [edit].

The legends of Krishna's childhood and youth describe him as a cow herder, a mischievous boy whose pranks earns him the nickname a Makhan Chor (butter thief), and a protector who steals the hearts of the people in both Gokul and Vrindavana.  The texts state, for example, that Krishna lifts the Govardhana hill to protect the inhabitants of Vrindavana from devastating rains and floods [89].

Other legends describe him as an enchanter and playful lover of the gopis (milkmaids) of Vrindavana, especially Radha.  These metaphor-filled love stories are known as the Rasa lila and were romanticised in the poetry of Jayadeva, author of the Gita Govinda.  They are also central to the development of the Krishna bhakti traditions worshiping Radha Krishna [90].

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 an example.  Krishna plays his flute and the gopis come immediately, from whatever they were doing, to the banks of the Yamuna River, and join him in singing and dancing.  Even those who could not physically be there join him through meditation.  He is the spiritual essence and the love-eternal in existence, the gopis metaphorically represent the prakṛti matter and the impermanent body [91].

This lila is a constant theme in the legends of Krishna's childhood and youth.  Even when he is battling with a serpent to protect others, he is described in Hindu texts as if he were playing a game [92].  This quality of playfulness in Krishna is celebrated during festivals as Rasa-lila and Janmashtami, where Hindus in some regions such as Maharashtra playfully mimic his legends, such as by making human gymnastic pyramids to break open handis (clay pots) hung high in the air to "steal" butter or buttermilk, spilling it all over the group [93].

Adulthood [edit].

Krishna legends then describe his return to Mathura.  He overthrows and kills the tyrant king and uncle Kamsa after quelling several assassination attempts by Kamsa.  He reinstates Kamsa's father, Ugrasena, as the king of the Yadavas and becomes a leading prince at the court [95].  During this period, he becomes a friend of Arjuna and the other Pandava princes of the Kuru kingdom.  Krishna plays a key role in the Mahabharata.  After the war is over, he leads his Yadava subjects to the city of Dwaraka (in modern Gujarat) [96].

In Hindu traditions, Krishna is considered the eighth avatar of Vishnu.  Krishna marries the Ashtabharyas or the eight principle queens (Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra, and Lakshmana) [97].  He also marries about 16,000-16,100 women known as his junior queens, he accepted them as his wives upon their insistence to save their dignity and honor because society who saw them as slaves of the demon king Narakasura.  The chief wife among these junior wives is Rohini [98] [99] [100].  His lover, who he is most commonly seen with in images and idols is Radha.  All of his wives and his lover Radha are considered in the Hindu tradition to be the avatars of the goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu [101] [7].  Gopis are considered as Radha's many forms and manifestations [7].

Kurukshetra War and Bhagavad Gita [edit].

Main articles: Kurukshetra War and Bhagavad Gita

According to the epic poem Mahabharata, Krishna becomes Arjuna's charioteer for the Kurukshetra War, but on the condition that he personally will not raise any weapon.  Upon arrival at the battlefield, and seeing that the enemies are his family, his grandfather, and his cousins and loved ones, Arjuna is moved and says his heart will not allow him to fight and kill others.  He would rather renounce the kingdom and put down his Gandiv (Arjuna's bow).  Krishna then advises him about the nature of life, ethics, and morality when one is faced with a war between good and evil, the impermanence of matter, the permanence of the soul and the good, duties and responsibilities, the nature of true peace and bliss and the different types of yoga to reach this state of bliss and inner liberation.  This conversation between Krishna and Arjuna is presented as a discourse called the Bhagavad Gita [102] [103] [104].

Death [edit].

Main article: Mausala Parva

It is stated in the Indian texts that the legendary Kurukshetra War leads to the death of all the hundred sons of Gandhari.  On the night before Duryodhana's death, Krishna visits Gandhari to offer his condolences.  Feeling that Krishna deliberately did not put an end to the war, in a fit of rage and sorrow Gandhari places a curse on Krishna that he, along with everyone else from his Yadu dynasty, will perish.  According to the Mahabharata, an internecine fight breaks out at a festival among the Yadavas, who end up killing each other.  Mistaking the sleeping Krishna for a deer, a hunter named Jara shoots an arrow that fatally injures him.  Krishna forgives Jara and dies [105] [106] [107].  The pilgrimage (tirtha) site of Bhalka in Gujarat marks the location where Krishna is believed to have died.  It is also known as Dehotsarga, states Diana L.  Eck, a term that literally means the place where Krishna "gave up his body" [106].

Inconsistencies [edit].

There are numerous versions of Krishna's life story, of which three are most studied: the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu Purana [108].  They share the basic storyline but vary significantly in their specifics, details, and styles [109].  The most original composition, the Harivamsa is told in a realistic style that describes Krishna's life as a poor herder but weaves in poetic and allusive fantasy.  It ends on a triumphal note, not with the death of Krishna [110].  Differing in some details, the fifth book of the Vishnu Purana moves away from Harivamsa realism and embeds Krishna in mystical terms and eulogies [111].  The Vishnu Purana manuscripts exist in many versions [112].

The tenth and eleventh books of the Bhagavata Purana are a poetic masterpiece, full of imagination and metaphors, with no relation to the realism of pastoral life found in the Harivamsa.  Krishna's life is presented as a cosmic play (lila), where his youth is set as a princely life with his foster father Nanda portrayed as a king [113].  Krishna's life is closer to that of a human being in Harivamsa, but is a symbolic universe in the Bhagavata Purana, where Krishna is within the universe and beyond it, as well as the universe itself, always [114].  The Bhagavata Purana manuscripts also exist in many versions, in numerous Indian languages [115] [81].

Proposed datings [edit].

See also: Vedic-Puranic chronology and History of Hinduism

The date of Krishna's birth is celebrated every year as Janmashtami [116].  According to mythologies in the Jain tradition, Krishna was a cousin of Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara of the Jains [117].  Neminatha is believed in the Jain tradition to have been born 84,000 years before the 9th-century BCE Parshvanatha [118].  Based on interpreting the events and circumstances described in the Puranas, several Indian sources place Krishna as an actual historic person and to a much later period, about 3100 BCE [119].

Other scholars such as Hazra and Rocher state that the Puranas are not a reliable source for dating Krishna or Indian history, because the content therein about kings, various peoples, sages, and kingdoms is highly inconsistent across the manuscripts.  They state that these stories are probably based in part on real events, in part on hagiography, and in part embellished by expansive imagination [120] [121].  A high degree of inconsistency and manuscript corruption occurred particularly from the 12th century onwards, evidenced by cross referencing the texts; Matsya Purana, for example, stated that Kurma Purana has 18,000 verses, while Agni Purana asserts the same text has 8,000 verses, and Naradiya attests that the Kurma manuscript has 17,000 verses [122] [123].  The Puranic literature has gone through slow redaction and text corruption over time, as well as sudden deletion of numerous chapters and its replacement with new content to an extent that the currently circulating Puranas are completely different from those that existed before the 11th century, or 16th century [124].  For example, a newly discovered palm-leaf manuscript in Nepal has been dated to be from 810 CE, but is quite different from versions of the same Purana text that have been circulating in South Asia since the colonial era [124] [125].

Philosophy and theology [edit].

A wide range of theological and philosophical ideas are presented through Krishna in Hindu texts.  Ramanuja presented him in terms of qualified monism (Vishishtadvaita) [126].  Madhvacharya presented Krishna in the framework of dualism (Dvaita) [127].  Jiva Goswami described Krishna theology in terms of Bhakti yoga and Achintya Bheda Abheda [128].  Krishna theology is presented in a pure monism (advaita, called shuddhadvaita) framework by Vallabha Acharya [129].  Madhusudana Sarasvati presented Krishna theology in nondualism-monism framework (Advaita Vedanta), while Adi Shankara in the early 8th century mentioned Krishna in his discussions on Panchayatana puja [130].

The Bhagavata Purana, a popular text on Krishna considered to be like a scripture in Assam, synthesizes an Advaita, Samkhya, and Yoga framework for Krishna but one that proceeds through loving devotion to Krishna [131] [132] [133].  Bryant describes the synthesis of ideas in Bhagavata Purana as,

The philosophy of the Bhagavata is a mixture of Vedanta terminology, Samkhyan metaphysics and devotionalized Yoga praxis.  (...) The tenth book promotes Krishna as the highest absolute personal aspect of godhead – the personality behind the term Ishvara and the ultimate aspect of Brahman.

 Edwin Bryant, Krishna: A Sourcebook[3].

While Sheridan and Pintchman both affirm Bryant's view, the latter adds that the Vedantic view emphasized in the Bhagavata is non-dualist with a difference.  In conventional nondual Vedanta all reality is an interconnected and one, the Bhagavata posits that the reality is interconnected and plural [134] [135].

Across the various theologies and philosophies, the common theme presents Krishna as the essence and symbol of divine love, with human life and love as a reflection of the divine.  The longing and love-filled legends of Krishna and the gopis, his playful pranks as a baby,[136].  as well as his later dialogues with other characters, are philosophically treated as metaphors for the human longing for the divine and for meaning, and the play between the universals and the human soul [137] [138] [139].  Krishna's lila is a theology of love-play.  According to John Koller, "love is presented not simply as a means to salvation, it is the highest life".  Human love is God's love [140].

Other texts that include Krishna such as the Bhagavad Gita have attracted numerous bhasya (commentaries) in the Hindu traditions [141].  Though only a part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, it has functioned as an independent spiritual guide.  It allegorically raises through Krishna and Arjuna the ethical and moral dilemmas of human life, then presents a spectrum of answers, weighing in on the ideological questions on human freedoms, choices, and responsibilities towards self and towards others [141] [142].  This Krishna dialogue has attracted numerous interpretations, from being a metaphor of inner human struggle teaching non-violence, to being a metaphor of outer human struggle teaching a rejection of quietism to persecution [141] [143] [142].

The worship of Krishna is part of Vaishnavism, a major tradition within Hinduism.  Krishna is considered a full avatar of Vishnu, or one with Vishnu himself [144].  However, the exact relationship between Krishna and Vishnu is complex and diverse,[145].  with Krishna sometimes considered an independent deity and supreme [146].  Vaishnavas accept many incarnations of Vishnu, but Krishna is particularly important.  Their theologies are generally centered either on Vishnu or an avatar such as Krishna as supreme.  The terms Krishnaism and Vishnuism have sometimes been used to distinguish the two, the former implying that Krishna is the transcendent Supreme Being [147].

Rasa Lila in Manipuri dance style

All Vaishnava traditions recognise Krishna as the eighth avatar of Vishnu; others identify Krishna with Vishnu, while traditions such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism,[148] [149].  Vallabha Sampradaya and the Nimbarka Sampradaya regard Krishna as the Svayam Bhagavan, the original form of Lord or the same as the concept of Brahman in Hinduism [4] [150] [151] [152] [153].  Gitagovinda of Jayadeva considers Krishna to be the supreme lord while the ten incarnations are his forms.  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 [154].  Today the faith has a significant following outside of India as well [155].

Early traditions [edit].

The deity Krishna-Vasudeva (kṛṣṇa vāsudeva "Krishna, the son of Vasudeva") is historically one of the earliest forms of worship in Krishnaism and Vaishnavism [14] [54].  It is believed to be a significant tradition of the early history of Krishna religion in antiquity [156].  Thereafter, there was an amalgamation of various similar traditions.  These include ancient Bhagavatism, the cult of Gopala, of "Krishna Govinda" (cow-finding Krishna), of Balakrishna (baby Krishna) and of "Krishna Gopivallabha" (Krishna the lover) [157] [158].  According to Andre Couture, the Harivamsa contributed to the synthesis of various characters as aspects of Krishna [159].

Bhakti tradition [edit].

Main articles: Bhakti movement and Bhakti yoga

The use of the term bhakti, meaning devotion, is not confined to any one deity.  However, Krishna is an important and popular focus of the devotionalism tradition within Hinduism, particularly among the Vaishnava sects [148] [160].  Devotees of Krishna subscribe to the concept of lila, meaning 'divine play', as the central principle of the universe.  It is a form of bhakti yoga, one of three types of yoga discussed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita [149] [161] [162].

Indian subcontinent [edit].

The bhakti movements devoted to Krishna became prominent in southern India in the 7th to 9th centuries CE.  The earliest works included those of the Alvar saints of the Tamil country [163].  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 [164] [165] [166].

The movement originated in South India during the 7th CE, spreading northwards from Tamil Nadu through Karnataka and Maharashtra; by the 15th century, it was established in Bengal and northern India [167].  Early Bhakti pioneers include Nimbarka (12th or 13th century CE),[168].  but most emerged later, including Vallabhacharya (15th century CE) and (Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  They started their own schools, namely Nimbarka Sampradaya, Vallabha Sampradaya, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism, with Krishna as the supreme god.

In the Deccan, particularly in Maharashtra, saint poets of the Varkari sect such as Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Janabai, Eknath, and Tukaram promoted the worship of Vithoba,[42].  a local form of Krishna, from the beginning of the 13th century until the late 18th century [12].  In southern India, Purandara Dasa and Kanakadasa of Karnataka composed songs devoted to the Krishna image of Udupi.  Rupa Goswami of Gaudiya Vaishnavism has compiled a comprehensive summary of bhakti called Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu [160].

In South India, the acharyas of the Sri Sampradaya have written reverentially about Krishna in most of their works, including the Thiruppavai by Andal[169].  and Gopala Vimshati by Vedanta Desika [170].

Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala states have many major Krishna temples, and Janmashtami is one of the widely celebrated festivals in South India [citation needed].

Outside Asia [edit].

By 1965 the Krishna-bhakti movement had spread outside India after Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (as instructed by his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura) traveled from his homeland in West Bengal to New York City.  A year later in 1966, after gaining many followers, he was able to form the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement.  The purpose of this movement was to write about Krishna in English and to share the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy with people in the Western world by spreading the teachings of the saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  In the biographies of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the mantra he received when he was given diksha or initiation in Gaya was the six-word verse of the Kali-Santarana Upanishad, namely "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare; Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare".  In Gaudiya tradition, it is the maha-mantra, or great mantra, about Krishna bhakti [171] [172].  Its chanting was known as hari-nama sankirtana [173].

The maha-mantra gained the attention of George Harrison and John Lennon of the Beatles fame,[174].  and Harrison produced a 1969 recording of the mantra by devotees from the London Radha Krishna Temple [175].  Titled "Hare Krishna Mantra", the song reached the top twenty on the UK music charts and was also successful in West Germany and Czechoslovakia [174] [176].  The mantra of the Upanishad thus helped bring Bhaktivedanta and ISKCON ideas about Krishna into the West [174].  ISCKON has built many Krishna temples in the West, as well as other locations such as South Africa [177].

Southeast Asia [edit].

Krishna lifts "Govardhan" mountain, a 7th-century artwork from a Da Nang, Vietnam, archaeological site[178] [179].

Krishna is found in southeast Asian history and art, but to a far less extent than Shiva, Durga, Nandi, Agastya, and Buddha.  In temples (candi) of the archaeological sites in hilly volcanic Java, Indonesia, temple reliefs do not portray his pastoral life or his role as the erotic lover, nor do the historic Javanese Hindu texts [180].  Rather, either his childhood or the life as a king and Arjuna's companion have been more favored.  The most elaborate temple arts of Krishna are found in a series of Krsnayana reliefs in the Prambanan Hindu temple complex near Yogyakarta.  These are dated to the 9th century CE [180] [181] [182].  Krishna remained a part of the Javanese cultural and theological fabric through the 14th century, as evidenced by the 14th-century Penataran reliefs along with those of the Hindu god Rama in east Java, before Islam replaced Buddhism and Hinduism on the island [183].

The medieval era arts of Vietnam and Cambodia feature Krishna.  The earliest surviving sculptures and reliefs are from the 6th and 7th century, and these include Vaishnavism iconography [178].  According to John Guy, the curator and director of southeast Asian arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Krishna Govardhana art from 6th/7th-century Vietnam at Danang, and 7th-century Cambodia at Phnom Da cave in Angkor Borei, are some of the most sophisticated of this era [178].

Krishna iconography has also been found in Thailand, along with those of Surya and Vishnu.  For example, a large number of sculptures and icons have been found in the Si Thep and Klangnai sites in the Phetchabun region of northern Thailand.  These are dated to about the 7th and 8th century, from both the Funan and Zhenla periods archaeological sites [184].

Performance arts [edit].


The Krishna legends in the Bhagavata Purana have inspired many performance arts repertoire, such as Kathak (left), Kuchipudi (middle) and Odissi (right) [17] [18] [185].

Indian dance and music theatre traces its origins and techniques to the ancient Sama Veda and Natyasastra texts [186] [187].  The stories enacted and the numerous choreographic themes are inspired by the mythologies and legends in Hindu texts, including Krishna-related literature such as Harivamsa and Bhagavata Purana [188].

The Krishna stories have played a key role in the history of Indian theatre, music, and dance, particularly through the tradition of Ras and Leela.  These are dramatic enactments of Krishna's childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.  The themes range from his innocent frolics as a child, to his expressing his confusion and doubts about approaching girls, to him wooing and romancing gopis (girls in the cow herding community), who meet him secretly thus getting in trouble with their parents, to his intimacy with his beloved Radha, to his playing the flute while saving the world from all sorts of troubles and thus preserving the dharma [18].  Some of the text's legends have inspired secondary theatre literature such as the eroticism in Gita Govinda [189].

Krishna-related literature such as the Bhagavata Purana accords a metaphysical significance to the performances and treats them as religious ritual, infusing daily life with spiritual meaning, thus representing a good, honest, happy life.  Similarly, Krishna-inspired performances aim to cleanse the hearts of faithful actors and listeners.  Singing, dancing, and performance of any part of Krishna Lila is an act of remembering the dharma in the text, as a form of para bhakti (supreme devotion).  To remember Krishna at any time and in any art, asserts the text, is to worship the good and the divine [190].

Classical dance styles such as Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam in particular are known for their Krishna-related performances [191].  Krisnattam (Krishnattam) traces its origins to Krishna legends, and is linked to another major classical Indian dance form called Kathakali [192].  Bryant summarizes the influence of Krishna stories in the Bhagavata Purana as, "[it].  has inspired more derivative literature, poetry, drama, dance, theatre and art than any other text in the history of Sanskrit literature, with the possible exception of the Ramayana [16].

Other religions [edit].

Jainism [edit].

The Jainism tradition lists 63 Śalākāpuruṣa or notable figures which, amongst others, includes the twenty-four Tirthankaras and nine sets of triads.  One of these triads is Krishna as the Vasudeva, Balarama as the Baladeva, and Jarasandha as the Prati-Vasudeva.  In each age of the Jain cyclic time is born a Vasudeva with an elder brother termed the Baladeva.  Between the triads, Baladeva upholds the principle of non-violence, a central idea of Jainism.  The villain is the Prati-vasudeva, who attempts to destroy the world.  To save the world, Vasudeva-Krishna has to forsake the non-violence principle and kill the Prati-Vasudeva [193].  The stories of these triads can be found in the Harivamsa Purana (8th century CE) of Jinasena (not be confused with its namesake, the addendum to Mahābhārata) and the Trishashti-shalakapurusha-charita of Hemachandra [194] [195].

The story of Krishna's life in the Puranas of Jainism follows the same general outline as those in the Hindu texts, but in details they are very different: they include Jain Tirthankaras as characters in the story, and generally are polemically critical of Krishna, unlike the versions found in the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu Purana [196].  For example, Krishna loses battles in the Jain versions, and his gopis and his clan of Yadavas die in a fire created by an ascetic named Dvaipayana.  Similarly, after dying from the hunter Jara's arrow, the Jaina texts state Krishna goes to the third hell in Jain cosmology, while his brother is said to go to the sixth heaven [197].

Vimalasuri is attributed to be the author of the Jain version of the Harivamsa Purana, but no manuscripts have been found that confirm this.  It is likely that later Jain scholars, probably Jinasena of the 8th century, wrote a complete version of Krishna legends in the Jain tradition and credited it to the ancient Vimalasuri [198].  Partial and older versions of the Krishna story are available in Jain literature, such as in the Antagata Dasao of the Svetambara Agama tradition [198].

In other Jain texts, Krishna is stated to be a cousin of the twenty-second Tirthankara, Neminatha.  The Jain texts state that Naminatha taught Krishna all the wisdom that he later gave to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.  According to Jeffery D.  Long, a professor of Religion known for his publications on Jainism, this connection between Krishna and Neminatha has been a historic reason for Jains to accept, read, and cite the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritually important text, celebrate Krishna-related festivals, and intermingle with Hindus as spiritual cousins [199].

Buddhism [edit].

The story of Krishna occurs in the Jataka tales in Buddhism [200].  The Vidhurapandita Jataka mentions Madhura (Sanskrit: Mathura), the Ghata Jataka mentions Kamsa, Devagabbha (Sk: Devaki), Upasagara or Vasudeva, Govaddhana (Sk: Govardhana), Baladeva (Balarama), and Kanha or Kesava (Sk: Krishna, Keshava) [201] [202].

Like the Jaina versions of the Krishna legends, the Buddhist versions such as one in Ghata Jataka follow the general outline of the story,[203].  but are different from the Hindu versions as well [201] [60].  For example, the Buddhist legend describes Devagabbha (Devaki) to have been isolated in a palace built upon a pole, after she is born, so no future husband could reach her.  Krishna's father similarly is described as a powerful king, but who meets up with Devagabbha anyway, and to whom Kamsa gives away his sister Devagabbha in marriage.  The siblings of Krishna are not killed by Kamsa, though he tries.  In the Buddhist version of the legend, all of Krishna's siblings grow to maturity [204].

Krishna and his siblings' capital becomes Dvaravati.  The Arjuna and Krishna interaction is missing in the Jataka version.  A new legend is included, wherein Krishna laments in uncontrollable sorrow when his son dies, and a Ghatapandita feigns madness to teach Krishna a lesson [205].  The Jataka tale also includes an internecine destruction among his siblings after they all get drunk.  Krishna also dies in the Buddhist legend by the hand of a hunter named Jara, but while he is traveling to a frontier city.  Mistaking Krishna for a pig, Jara throws a spear that fatally pierces his feet, causing Krishna great pain and then his death [204].

At the end of this Ghata-Jataka discourse, the Buddhist text declares that Sariputta, one of the revered disciples of the Buddha in the Buddhist tradition, was incarnated as Krishna in his previous life to learn lessons on grief from the Buddha in his prior rebirth:

Then he [Master].  declared the Truths, and identified the Birth: 'At that time, Ananda was Rohineyya, Sariputta was Vasudeva [Krishna]., the followers of the Buddha were the other persons, and I myself was Ghatapandita."

 Jataka Tale No.  454, Translator: W.  H.  D.  Rouse[206].

While the Buddhist Jataka texts co-opt Krishna-Vasudeva and make him a student of the Buddha in his previous life,[206].  the Hindu texts co-opt the Buddha and make him an avatar of Vishnu [207] [208].  The 'divine boy' Krishna as an embodiment of wisdom and endearing prankster forms a part of the pantheon of gods in Japanese Buddhism [209].

Bahá'í Faith [edit].

Bahá'ís believe that Krishna was a "Manifestation of God", or one in a line of prophets who have revealed the Word of God progressively for a gradually maturing humanity.  In this way, Krishna shares an exalted station with Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus, the Báb, and the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh [210] [211].

Ahmadiyya [edit].

Ahmadiyya, a modern-era movement, consider Krishna as one of their ancient prophets.  Ahmadi's consider themselves to be Muslims, but they are rejected as apostates of Islam by mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims, because Ahmadis consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of Ahmadiyya, as a modern-day prophet [212] [213] [214].

Ghulam Ahmad stated that he was himself a prophet in the likeness of prophets such as Krishna, Jesus, and Muhammad, who had come to earth as a latter-day reviver of religion and morality  [215].

Other [edit].

Krishna worship or reverence has been adopted by several new religious movements since the 19th century, and he is sometimes a member of an eclectic pantheon in occult texts, along with Greek, Buddhist, biblical, and even historical figures [216].  For instance, Édouard Schuré, an influential figure in perennial philosophy and occult movements, considered Krishna a Great Initiate, while Theosophists regard Krishna as an incarnation of Maitreya (one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom), the most important spiritual teacher for humanity along with Buddha [217] [218].

Krishna ... is recognised as a saint of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica in the Gnostic Mass of Ordo Templi Orientis [219] [220].


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