KRISHNA (the Dark One), an incarnation of Vishnu, or rather the form in which Vishnu himself is the most popular object of worship throughout northern India.
Of still later date are the popular developments of the modern cult of Krishna associated with Radha, as found in the Vishnu Purana.
The two most famous preachers of Krishna-worship and founders of sects in his honour were Vallabha and Chaitanya, both born towards the close of the 15th century.
A third influential Krishna-preacher of the 10th century was Swami Narayan, who was encountered by Bishop Heber in Gujarat, where his followers at this day are numerous and wealthy.
Brindaban is one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in India, being associated with the cult of Krishna as a shepherd.
It is an important centre of trade, especially in raw cotton, and has cotton presses and the Krishna cotton mills.
The Kailas temple at Ellora was built in the reign of Krishna I.
Ser- the golden apples of the Hesperides, and the Egyptian pents' gods Kneph and Osiris, and the Indian Krishna and wealth and Indra.
Though Siva, too, assumes various forms, the incarnation theory is peculiarly characteristic of Vaishnavism; and the fact that the principal hero of the Ramayana (Rama), and one of the prominent warriors of the Mahabharata (Krishna) become in this way identified with the supreme god, and remain to this day the chief objects of the adoration of Vaishnava sectaries, naturally imparts to these creeds a human interest and sympathetic aspect which is wholly wanting in the worship of Siva.
Possibly the growth of the legend of Krishna - his being reared at Go-kula (cow-station); his tender relations to the gopis, or cowherdesses, of Vrindavana; his epithets Gopala," the cowherd,"and Govinda," cow-finder,"actually explained as" recoverer of the earth "in the great epic, and the go-loka, or" cow-world,"assigned to him as his heavenly abode - may have some connexion with the sacred character ascribed to the cow from early times.
12); the Ganesa-caturthi, or 4th day of the light fortnight of Bhadra (August - September), considered the birthday of Ganesa, the god of wisdom; and the Holi, the Indian Saturnalia in the month of Phalguna (February to March) - have nothing of a sectarian tendency about them; others again, which are of a distinctly sectarian character - such as the Krishna janmashtami, the birthday of Krishna on the 8th day of the dark half of Bhadra, or (in the south) of Sravana (July-August), the Durgapuja and the Dipavali, or lamp feast, celebrating Krishna's victory over the demon Narakasura, on the last two days of Asvina (September-October) - are likewise observed and heartily joined in by the whole community irrespective of sect.
Those of Rama (or Ramachandra) and Krishna, the favourite heroes of epic romance.
But, on the other hand, the essentially human nature of these two gods 1 As in the case of Siva's traditional white complexion, it may not be without significance, from a racial point of view, that Vishnu, Rama and Krishna have various darker shades of colour attributed to them, viz.
And accordingly it is exactly in connexion with these two incarnations of Vishnu, especially that of Krishna, that a new spirit was infused into the religious life of the people by the sentiment of fervent devotion to the deity, as it found expression in certain portions of the epic poems, especially the Bhagavadgita, and in the Bhagavatapurana (as against the more orthodox Vaishnava works of this class such as the Vishnupurana), and was formulated into a regular doctrine of faith in the Sandilya-sutra, and ultimately translated into practice by the Vaishnava reformers.
His followers, the Ramanujas, or Sri-Vaishnavas as they are usually called, worship Y Y, P Vishnu (Narayana) with his consort Sri or Lakshmi (the goddess of beauty and fortune), or their incarnations Rama with Sita and Krishna with Rukmini.
Ramanuja's doctrine, which is especially directed against the Linga-worship, is essentially based on the tenets of an old Vaishnava sect, the Bhagavatas or Pancharatras, who worshipped the Supreme Being under the name of Vasudeva (subsequently identified with Krishna, as the son of Vasudeva, who indeed is credited by some scholars with the foundation of that monotheistic creed).
Their most important shrines are those of Srirangam near Trichinopoly, Mailkote in Mysore, Dvaraka (the city of Krishna) on the Kathiawar coast, and Jagannath in Orissa; all of them decorated with Vishnu's emblems, the tulasi plant and salagram stone.
1199, was less intolerant of the Linga cult than Ramanuja, but seems rather to have aimed at a reconciliation of the Saiva and Vaishnava forms of worship. The Madhvas or Madhvacharis favour Krishna and his consort as their special objects of adoration, whilst images of Siva, Parvati, and their son Ganesa are, however, likewise admitted and worshipped in some of their temples, the most important of which is at Udipi in South Kanara, with eight monasteries connected with it.
This shrine contains an image of Krishna which is said to have been rescued from the wreck of a ship which brought it from Dvaraka, where it was supposed to have been set up of old by no other than Krishna's friend Arjuna, one of the five Pandava princes.
Although the Vaishnava sects hitherto noticed, in their adoration of Vishnu and his incarnations, Krishna and Ramachandra, usually associate with these gods their Brot wives, as their saktis, or female energies, the sexual element is, as a rule, only just allowed sufficient scope to enhance the emotional character of the rites of worship. In some of the later Vaishnava creeds, on the other hand, this element is far from being kept within the bounds of moderation and decency.
The favourite object of adoration with adherents of these sects is Krishna with his mate - but not the devoted friend and counsellor of the Pandavas and deified hero of epic song, nor the ruler of Dvaraka and wedded lord of Rukmini, but the juvenile Krishna, Govinda or Bala Gopala, "the cowherd lad," the foster son of the cowherd Nanda of Gokula, taken up with his amorous sports with the Gopis, or wives of the cowherds of Vrindavana (Brindaban,near Mathura on the Yamuna), especially his favourite mistress Radha or Radhika.
This episode in the legendary life of Krishna has every appearance of being a later accretion.
The earliest of the sects which associate Radha with Krishna in their worship is that of the Nimavats, founded by Nimbaditya or Nimbarka (i.e.
Vallabha, the son of a Telinga Brahman, after extensive journeyings all over India, settled at Gokula near Mathura, and set up a shrine with an image of Krishna Gopala.
The followers of his creed, amongst whom there are many wealthy merchants and bankers, direct their worship chiefly to Gopal Lal, the boyish Krishna of Vrindavana, whose image is sedulously attended like a revered living person eight times a day - from its early rising from its couch up to its retiring to repose at night.
In this sect, children are solemnly admitted to full membership at the early age of four, and even two, years of age, when a rosary, or necklace, of 108 beads of basil (tulsi) wood is passed round their necks, and they are taught the use of the octo-syllabic formula Sri-Krishnah saranam mama, " Holy Krishna is my refuge."
Vishnu, as the Supreme Being, together with Lakshmi, as well as to Krishna and Radha.
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.
Chaitanya also seems to have done much to promote the celebration on an imposing scale of the great Puri festival of the Ratha-yatra, or "car-procession," in the month of Ashadha, when, amidst multitudes of pilgrims, the image of Krishna, together with those of his brother Balarama and his sister Subhadra, is drawn along, in a huge car, by the devotees.
Whilst numerous observances are recommended as more or less meritorious, the ordinary form of worship is a very simple one, consisting as it does mainly of the constant repetition of names of Krishna, or Krishna and Radha, which of itself is considered sufficient to ensure future bliss.
Indeed, Chaitanya himself, as well as his immediate disciples, have come to be regarded as complete or partial incarnations of the deity to whom adoration is due, as to Krishna himself; and their modern successors, the Gosains, share to the fullest extent in the devout attentions of the worshippers.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale >>
The former are (I) the Dohabali, consisting of 573 miscellaneous doha and soratha verses; of this there is a duplicate in the Reim-satsai, an arrangement of seven centuries of verses, the great majority of which occur also in the Dohabali and in other works of Tulsi; (2) the Kabitta Ramayan or Kabittabali, which is a history of Rama in the kabitta, ghanakshari, chhappai and sawaiya metres; like the Ram-charitmanas, it is divided into seven kands or cantos, and is devoted to setting forth the majestic side of Rama's character; (3) the GitRamayan, or Gitabali, also in seven kands, aiming at the illustration of the tender aspect of the Lord's life; the metres are adapted for singing; (4) the Krishnawali or Krishna gitabali, a collection of 61 songs in honour of Krishna, in the Kanauji dialect: the authenticity of this is doubtful; and (5) the Binay Pattrika, or "Book of petitions," a series of hymns and prayers of which the first 43 are addressed to the lower gods, forming Rama's court and attendants, and the remainder, Nos.
As the birthplace and residence of Krishna, it is the most sacred spot in this part of India, and its principal temple is visited annually by many thousand pilgrims. The approach from the sea is by a fine flight of stone steps, and the great spire rises to a height of 150 ft.
The Hindus believe he has appeared (I) as a fish, (2) as a tortoise, (3) as a hog, (4) as a monster, half man half lion, to destroy the giant Iranian, (5) as a dwarf, (6) as Rama, (7) again as Rama for the purpose of killing the thousand-armed giant Cartasuciriargunan, (8) as Krishna, (9) as Buddha.
It seems to have been originally included, along with the greater part of north-eastern Bengal, in the old Hindu territory of Kamrup. Its early legends point to great religious revolutions between the rival rites of Krishna and Siva as a source of dynastic changes.
Whilst in Chaitanya's creed, Krishna, in his relations to Radha, remains at least theoretically the chief partner, an almost inevitable step was taken by some minor sects in attaching the greater importance to the female element, and making Krishna's love for his mistress the guiding sentiment of their faith.
Of these sects, it will suffice to mention that of the Radha-Vallabhis, started in the latter part of the 16th century, who worship Krishna as Radhavallabha, "the darling of Radha."
To a certain extent this is indeed the case; but though Vaishnavism, and especially the Krishna creed, with its luxuriant growth of erotic legends, might have seemed peculiarly favourable to a development in this direction, it is practically only in connexion with the Saiva system that an independent cult of the female principle has been developed; whilst in other sects - and, indeed, in the ordinary Saiva cult as well - such worship, even where it is at all prominent, is combined with, and subordinated to, that of the male principle.
In the Vaishnava camp, on the other hand, the cult of Krishna, and more especially that of the youthful Krishna, can scarcely fail to exert an influence which, if of a subtler and more insinuating, is not on that account of a less demoralizing kind.
The banks of the great rivers such as the Ganga (Ganges), the Yamuna (Jumna), the Narbada, the Krishna (Kistna), are studded with them, and the water of these rivers is supposed to be imbued with the essence of sanctity capable of cleansing the pious bather of all sin and moral taint.
In origin, Krishna, like Rama, was undoubtedly a deified hero of the Kshatriya caste.