I am their beginning, their being, their end
I am the mind of the senses,
I am the radiant sun among lights
I am the song in sacred lore,
I am the king of deities
I am the priest of great seers…"
This is how Lord Krishna describes God in the Holy Gita. And to most Hindus he is the God himself, the Supreme Being or the Purna Purushotam.
The Most Powerful Incarnation of Vishnu
The great exponent of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is one of the most powerful incarnations of Vishnu, the Godhead of the Hindu Trinity of deities. Of all the Vishnu avataras he is the most popular, and perhaps of all Hindu gods the one closest to the heart of the masses. Krishna was dark and extremely handsome. The word Krishna literally means 'black', and black also connotes mysteriousness.
The Importance of Being Krishna
For generations, Krishna has been an enigma to some, but God to millions, who go ecstatic even as they hear his name. People consider Krishna their leader, hero, protector, philosopher, teacher and friend all rolled into one. Krishna has influenced the Indian thought, life and culture in myriad ways. He has influenced not only its religion and philosophy, but also into its mysticism and literature, painting and sculpture, dance and music, and all aspects of Indian folklore.
The Time of the Lord
Indian as well as Western scholars have now accepted the period between 3200 and 3100 BC as the period in which Lord Krishna lived on earth. Krishna took birth at midnight on the ashtami or the 8th day of the Krishnapaksha or dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Shravan (August-September). The birthday of Krishna is called Janmashthami, a special occasion for Hindus that is celebrated around the world. The birth of Krishna is in itself a transcendental phenomenon that generates awe among the Hindus and overwhelms one and all with its supra mundane happenings.
Baby Krishna: Killer of Evils
Stories about Krishna's exploits abound. Legends have it that on the very sixth day of his birth, Krishna killed lady demon Putna by sucking on her breasts. In his childhood, he also killed many other mighty demons, such as Trunavarta, Keshi, Aristhasur, Bakasur, Pralambasur et al. During the same period he also killed Kali Nag (cobra de capello) and made the holy water of river Yamuna poison free.
Krishna's Childhood Days
Krishna made cowherdesses happy by the bliss of his cosmic dances and the soulful music of his flute. He stayed in Gokul, the legendary 'cow-village' in Northern India for 3 years and 4 months. As a child he was reputed to be very mischievous, stealing curd and butter and playing pranks with his girl friends or gopis. Having completed his Lila or exploits at Gokul, he went to Vrindavan and stayed until he was 6 years and 8 months old.
According to a famous legend, Krishn drove away the monsterous serpent Kaliya from the river to the sea. Krishna, according to another popular myth, lifted the Govardhana hill up with his little finger and held it like an umbrella to protect the people of Vrindavana from the torrential rain caused by Lord Indra, who had been annoyed by Krishna. Then he lived in Nandagram till he was 10.
Krishna's Youth and Education
Krishna then returned to Mathura, his birthplace, and killed his wicked maternal uncle King Kamsa along with all his cruel associates and liberated his parents from jail. He also reinstated Ugrasen as the King of Mathura. He completed his education and mastered the 64 sciences and arts in 64 days at Avantipura under his preceptor Sandipani. As gurudaksina or tuition fees, he restored Sandipani's dead son to him. He stayed in Mathura till he was 28.
Krishna, the King of Dwarka
Krishna then came to the rescue of a clan of Yadava chiefs, who were ousted by the king Jarasandha of Magadha. He easily triumphed over the multi-million army of Jarasandha by building an impregnable capital Dwarka, "the many-gated" city in an island in the sea. The city located on the western point of Gujarat, is now submerged in the sea according to the epic Mahabharata. Krishna shifted, as the story goes, all his sleeping relatives and natives to Dwarka by the power of his yoga. In Dwarka, he married Rukmini, then Jambavati, and Satyabhama. He also saved his kingdom from Nakasura, the demon king of Pragjyotisapura, had abducted 16,000 princesses. Krishna freed them and married them since they had nowhere else to go.
Krishna, the Hero of the Mahabharata
For many years, Krishna lived with the Pandava and Kaurava kings who ruled over Hastinapur. When a war was about to break oput between the Pandavas and Kauravas, Krishna was sent to mediate, but failed. War became inevitable, and Krishna offered his forces to the Kauravs and himself agreed to join the Panadavas as the charioteer of the master warrior Arjuna. This epic battle of Kurukshetra described in the Mahabharata, was fought in about 3000 BC. In the middle of the war, Krishna delivered his famous advice, which forms the crux of the Bhagavad Gita, in which he put forward the theory of 'Nishkam Karma' or action without attachment.
Krishna's Final Days on Earth
After the great war, Krishna returned to Dwarka. In his final days on earth, he taught spiritual wisdom to Uddhava, his friend and disciple, and ascended to his abode after casting off his body, which was shot at by a hunter named Jara. He is believed to have lived for 125 years. Whether he was a human being or a God-incarnate, there is no gainsaying the fact that he has been ruling the hearts of millions for over three millennia. In the words of Swami Harshananda, "If a person can affect such a profound impact on the Hindu race affecting its psyche and ethos and all aspects of its life for centuries, he is no less than God."