In the older framework of the M ahabharata he appears as a great chieftain and ally of the Pandava brothers; and it is only in the interpolated episode of the Bhagavad-gita that he is identified with Vishnu and becomes the revealer of the doctrine of bhakti or religious devotion.
Having married in due time, and a second time after the death of his first wife, he lived as a "householder" (grihastha) till the age of 24, when he renounced his family ties and set out as a religious mendicant (vairagin), visiting during the next six years the principal places of pilgrimage in northern India, and preaching with remarkable success his doctrine of Bhakti, or passionate devotion to Krishna, as the Supreme Deity.
His doctrine of Bhakti distinguishes five grades of devotional feeling in the Bhaktas, or faithful adherents: viz.
The Lord is to be approached by faith (bhakti) - dis- interested devotion and surrender of self in perfect love, and all actions are to be purified of self-interest in contemplation of Him.
But the practical end of all his writings is to inculcate bhakti addressed to Rama as the great means of salvation - emancipation from the chain of births and deaths - a salvation which is as free and open to men of the lowest caste as to Brahmans.