10 incarnations of Vishnu: Shri Krishna Avatar | The Hindu FAQs

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Dashavatara the 10 incarnations of Vishnu – Part VIII : Shri Krishna Avatar

Shri Krishna | Hindu FAQs

Krishna (कृष्ण) is a deity, worshipped across many traditions of Hinduism in a variety of different perspectives. While many Vaishnava groups recognize him as an avatar of Lord Vishnu; some traditions within Krishnaism, consider Krishna to be Svayam Bhagavan, or the Supreme Being.

Krishna is often described and portrayed as an infant or young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, or as a youthful prince 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 Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu Purana. He is also known as Govinda and Gopala.

Shri Krishna | Hindu FAQs
Shri Krishna

Krishna’s disappearance marks the end of Dvapara Yuga and the start of Kali Yuga (present age), which is dated to February 17/18, 3102 BCE. 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 4th century BC

The name originates from the Sanskrit word Krsna, which is primarily an adjective meaning “black”, “dark” or “dark blue”. The waning moon is called Krishna Paksha in the Vedic tradition, 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 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 Mohan “enchanter”, Govinda, “Finder of the cows” or Gopala, “Protector of the cows”, which refer to Krishna’s Childhood in Braj (in present day Uttar Pradesh).

Shri Krishna with Flute and his blue coloured skin | Hindu FAQs
Shri Krishna with Flute

Krishna is easily recognized 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 blue skin. He is often shown wearing a yellow silk 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, emphasizing 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.

Krishna was born to Devaki and her husband, Vasudeva, When Mother Earth became upset by the sin being committed on Earth, she thought of seeking help from Lord Vishnu. She went in the form of a cow to visit Lord Vishnu and ask for help. Lord Vishnu agreed to help her and promised her that he would be born on Earth.

Nanda was the head of a community of cow-herders, and he settled in Vrindavana. 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 of the people of Vrindavana.

Krishna killed the demoness Putana, disguised as a wet nurse, and the tornado demon Trinavarta both sent by Kansa for Krishna’s life. He tamed the serpent Kaliya, 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 Kaliya.
Krishna Conquers the Serpent Kaliya
Krishna lifted the Govardhana hill and taught Indra, the king of the devas, a lesson to protect native people of Brindavana 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 Brindavana 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 Vedic gods such as Indra. 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. Krishna then lifted Govardhan and held it over the people like an umbrella.

Krishna lifts Govardhan Parvat
Krishna lifts Govardhan Parvat

Kurukshetra War (The Mahabharata) :
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.

Krishna as saarthi in mahabharata
Krishna as saarthi in mahabharata

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.

Shri Krishna Vishwaroop
Shri Krishna Vishwaroop

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 and Karna 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 apologized to Krishna, promising that he would fight with full dedication here/after, and the battle continued. Krishna had directed Yudhisthira and Arjuna to return to Bhishma the boon of “victory” which he had given to Yudhisthira 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 Yudhisthira. Krishna knew that Yudhisthira would never tell a lie, so he devised a clever ploy so that Yudhisthira wouldn’t lie and at the same time Drona would be convinced of his son’s death. On asked by Drona, Yudhisthira 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 Yudhisthira 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 Yudhisthira’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, 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. 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 princely wives, also known as Ashtabharya: Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Nagnajiti, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Bhadra, Lakshmana) and the other 16,100 or 16,000 (number varies in scriptures) were rescued from Narakasura. They had been forcibly kept in his palace and after Krishna had killed Narakasura he rescued these women and freed them. Krishna married them all to save them from destruction and infamity. He gave them shelter in his new palace and a respectful place in society. The chief amongst them is sometimes called Rohini.

The Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, 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) and Samba, the son of Jambavati, whose actions led to the destruction of Krishna’s clan.

Long after the Mahabharat war was over, Krishna was sitting in a jungle, when a hunter took the mani in his feet as eye of an animal and shot an arrow. when he came and saw krishna he was shocked and asked for forgiveness.
Krishna smiled and said – you need not repent, because you were Bali in your last birth and I as Rama had killed you from behind a tree. I had to leave this body and waiting for an opportunity to end the life and was waiting for you so that the karmic debt between you and me and finished.
After Krishna’s leaving body, Dwarka sank in the sea . Most of Yadus had already died in the war of Prabhas. Gandhari had cursed Krishna that his clan would also finish like Kauravas.
After Dwarka sank, the left of Yadus came back to Mathura.

Krishna as per Darwin’s Theory of Evolution:
A close friend prompts Krishna as the complete modern man. The theory of survival of fittest comes into play and now humans have become much smarter and has started enjoying music, dance and festivals. There have been war around and feuds within the family. Society has become shrewd and a devious attribute is the need of the time. He was smart, devious and a skillfull manager. More like a modern day man.

Some beautiful and famous temples:
Prem Mandir:
Prem Mandir, built in the holy town of Vrindavan is one of the newest temples dedicated to Shri Krishna. The temple structure was established by spiritual guru Kripalu Maharaj.

Prem mandir | Hindu FAQs
Prem mandir

The main structure built in marble looks incredibly beautiful and is an educational monument that reflects the true history of Sanatana Dharma. Figures of Shri Krishna and his followers depicting important events surrounding the Lord’s existence cover the main temple.

Credits: To the original photographers and artists

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