Krishna … who is He?
He is Balakrishna, the chubby infant, He is Gopala, the humble cowherd, He is Nandlala, the delightfully naughty son of Nanda who steals butter on one day and the clothes of bathing gopikas on the next, He is Murlidhar, the divine flautist who mesmerises women, He is Vithala, the god who stands on a brick and patiently waits for His devotees, He is Parthasarathy, the charioteer of Partha and the sage-philosopher who reveals the Bhagavad Gita to mankind.
As Keshava and Murari, He is the ruthless destructor of evil. Yet, he is also Ranchodrai, the peace-loving king who eschewed war. He is Sudama’s loyal friend and Meerabai’s sakha.
He is Vishwaroopa, the terrifying cosmic being that embodies all of creation.
Prankster, lover, friend, sage, warrior, avatar – no other deity in India is worshipped in so many forms.
And it’s His birthday this week. According to the scriptures, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu was born in the Yadu race, to Devaki and Vasudeva, on the midnight of the eighth day (asthami) of the second half of Shraavan. Hence, it is called Krishnasthami. The second half of Shraavan, i.e. Krishnapaksha, is the fortnight after Shraavan Purnima. This year, we had Raksha Bandhan on Shraavan Purnima (Aug 29). Krishnasthami is eight days after that full moon, i.e. on Sept 5.
Across India and through the year, people celebrate several festivals that commemorate the events of Krishna’s life. The one event the entire country collectively celebrates is His birthday. Traditionally, Janmashtami is celebrated over two days. Since Krishna loved milk products, people make special dishes like pedha, shrikhand and kalakand. It is believed that fasting till midnight on the first day will cleanse all sins.
There is little doubt that Krishna actually existed, although there is considerable debate about the actual date. Depictions of a deity that strongly resembles Krishna have been found in Indus valley sites, that date back to about 3300 BC.
According to some historians and astrological data, Krishna was born during July 3200 BC and left the world during 3138 BC. The accepted period for the 14-day Kurukshetra War is the month of July 3102 BC. Krishna’s departure marked the beginning of Kaliyuga, the age of Darkness.
The actual dates are not important to us. And equally unimportant are vehement arguments about the divinity of Krishna. Let us leave such pedantic debates to the “learned scholars” and the “rationalists”.
What is important is what Krishna left behind for us – the Bhagavad Gita. Profoundly spiritual, yet practical and simple, the Bhagavad Gita has something for everyone.
It doesn’t matter, Krishna says, if you choose not to worship Him with rituals and mantras, or not worship Him at all. Worship your work and your duty, with all your devotion. And that is more than enough.
“As they approach me, so I receive them. All paths, Arjuna, lead to Me”.
That is Krishna.
Cheers … Srini.