What You Need To Know About Lord Krishna
“I am the conscience in the heart
of all creatures
I am their beginning, their being,
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 Bhagavad Gita. And to most Hindus he is the God himself, the Supreme Being, the Absolute, the Brahman, the Purna Purushotam. The great exponent of the Gita, Krishna is the ninth and the complete incarnate of Vishnu, the Godhead of the Hindu Trinity of deities. Of all the Vishnu avatars he is the most popular, and perhaps of all Hindu gods the one closest to the heart of the masses.
The Importance of Being Krishna
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 birthday of such a favourite deity is bound to be a special occasion for the Hindus, who consider Krishna their leader, hero, protector, philosopher, teacher and friend all rolled into one.
The Time of the Lord
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). This auspicious day is called Janmashthami.
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.
The Story of His Birth
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.
Mother Earth, unable to bear the burden of sins committed by evil kings and rulers, appealed to Brahma, the Creator for help. Brahma prayed to the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who assured him that he would soon be born on earth to annihilate tyrannical forces.
One such evil force was Kamsa, the ruler of Mathura (in northern India) and his people were utterly terrified of him. On the day Kamsa’s sister Devaki was married off to Vasudeva, an akashvani or voice from the sky was heard prophesying that Devaki’s 8th son would be the destroyer of Kamsa. The frightened Kamsa immediately unsheathed his sword to kill his sister but Vasudeva intervened and implored Kamsa to spare his bride, and promised to hand over every new born child to him. Kamsa relented but imprisoned both Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.
When Devaki gave birth to her first child, Kamsa came to the prison cell and slaughtered the newborn. In this way, he killed the first six sons of Devaki. Even before her 8th child was born, Devaki and Vasudeva started lamenting its fate and theirs. Then suddenly Lord Vishnu appeared before them and said he himself was coming to rescue them and the people of Mathura. He asked Vasudeva to carry him to the house of his friend, the cowherd chief Nanda in Gokula right after his birth, where Nanda’s wife Yashoda had given birth to a daughter. He was to exchange his boy and bring Yashoda’s baby daughter back to the prison. Vishnu assured them that “nothing shall bar your path”.
At midnight on ashtami, the divine baby was born in Kamsa’s prison. Remembering the divine instructions, Vasudeva clasped the child to his bosom and started for Gokula, but found that his legs were in chains. He jerked his legs and was unfettered! The massive iron-barred doors unlocked and opened up.
While crossing river Yamuna, Vasudeva held his baby high over his head. The rain fell in torrents and the river was in spate. But the water made way for Vasudeva and miraculously a five-mouthed snake followed him from behind and provided shelter over the baby.
When Vasudeva reached Gokula, he found the door of Nanda’s house open. He exchanged the babies and hurried back to the prison of Kamsa with the baby girl. Early in the morning, all the people at Gokula rejoiced the birth of Nanda’s beautiful male child. Vasudeva came back to Mathura and as he entered, the doors of the prison closed themselves.
When Kamsa came to know about the birth, he rushed inside the prison and tried to kill the baby. But this time it skipped from his hand and reaching the sky. She was transformed into the goddess Yogamaya, who told Kansa: “O foolish! What will you get by killing me? Your nemesis is already born somewhere else.”
In his youth Krishna killed Kansa along with all his cruel associates, liberated his parents from prison, and reinstated Ugrasen as the King of Mathura.
The Enigma of Krishna
Krishna was dark and extremely handsome. The word Krishna literally means ‘black’, and black also connotes mysteriousness. For generations if Krishna has been an agonising enigma to some, he has put millions into ecstasies.
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.”