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Puranic world picture

ICON Having attained certainty as to the real purport of the Veda, and gained direct knowledge by experience, you will be supremely content in the realization of the Self, and then . . . you will no longer be frustrated by obstacles. There [will be] peace in [your] heart and goodwill. [Srimad Bhagavatam, Book 11, Chap. 7 (Sh)]
Sri Krishna teachings highlighted
At the centre of an egg -

The Puranic world picture is that the earth, Bhurloka, is the level of existence where humankind lives at the centre of a cosmic egg.

The holy mountain Meru rises in the centre also. It is wider at its top than at its base. There is no mountain that is like that - but Meru is "the calyx of the lotus flower that is this world", the old story goes. What is more, "Vishnu's navel-lotus here becomes the earth itself, Mt. Meru its central seed-cup, and the surround lands its petals." [Clh 27; 30].

These are pictorial, delicate and very symbolic teachings.

Krishna, a Summing-Up

Krishna in Sanskrit literature may well contain elements of a historical personality, but from what has come down to us he is regarded as mythical character:

First, In the ancient epic Mahabharata he is portrayed as a young prince and warrior, a model of courage, determination and selfless action.

Second, in a later works, notably the Bhagavata Purana, there are stories of his childhood and youth. The Purana says he was born in the city of Mathura (south of New Delhi), then grew up among shepherds in the woods of Vrindavan.

As a small child Krishna is full of pranks, and at the same time shows his mettle by subjugating various demonic beings. Devotion (bhakti) to Krishna in the form of a divine child is central in the religious life of very many Hindus. As a young man Krishna wins the hearts of the shepherds' daughters and wives (gopis, dairy maids, dairy women). They leave their homes in the village to dance with Krishna in the forest on moonlit nights, lured by the notes of Krishna's flute, but their husbands not . . . Krishna's relation to his chosen lover, Radha, is often depicted in erotic pictures, and taken to symbolise union with God.

Third, Krishna in general is a symbol of divine love and beauty, and his close association with cattle is good for Indian cows still. He has inspired numerous poets and artists and is celebrated with great festivals and plays.

Fourth, Krishna is vital to the Hindu tradition since the teaching poems of Bhagavadgita and Uddhava Gita are put in his mouth.

[Source: Per Kværne's article "Krishna" in Store norske leksikon]

"Black, black-blue, dark, dark blue, blue" and with a Harem

In Vishnuvism, Krishna is worshipped as the Supreme Being descending into a human form. Krishna as a manifestation of the supreme deity is also thought to be God Vishnu descended into human form. Vishnu stands for Narayana (Brahman) or God Vishnu, and both in different ancient teachings.

'Krishna' in Sanskrit has many meanings, including "black, black-blue, dark, dark blue and blue". On that basis he is at times depicted as black and blue. Professors Dimmitt and van Buitenen explain the word 'krishna' as "black", but there are other options too, as "black-blue, dark, dark blue, blue", and they are expressed in depictions of him as well. In some he is blue - [Clh 101; [◦A wider range of meanings]

In the ancient lore, Krishna lets dynasties go into battle and giant annihilations - and his own family is wiped out too. They all die in the end. [Clh 102-5]

A conundrum: In the light of that, why seek Krishna's protection? Even the few friends he had left after the war, felt empty, and then started for Himalaya to die there, the last chapters of the Mahabharata tell. Well, the Mahabharata portrayal of Krishna differs from later, very idealised tales of him.

Now, if a set up ideal is not all pleasing upon inspection, you have your Self or the other way round, really. Let us hope that. [Why it is good to know]


Krishna and Dionysos Compared

An ancient reference that the Dionysos cult reached India

The Latin writer Ovid (43 BC - AD 17) writes in his Metamorphoses that the god Dionysos (later Bacchus) appears both with and without horns. Quote:

He has conquered the East as far as the land where swarthy India is watered by remote Ganges' stream" [Met 94; Compare also the third paragraph of book 4 here, if you like]

He describes the virile Bacchus cult in several places, such as this one:

Wherever you go, young men's voices are raised in cheering, and women's voices join in the chorus ... hollow cymbals clash to the sound of the ... flute's shrill pipe.

The Theban women offered up their prayer to Bacchus, saying: "May your gracious and gentle presence be with us now!" [Met 95]

Here Dionysos
Now this gentle presence appears without his own horns in an orgy of gladness

Ovid writes that the Dionysos cult reached India. In India many writers composed books that became the sources of one of the greatest changeling stories: The Bhagavatam. The changeling was Krishna.

There are orgies in the woods, and he blows his flute and brings rapture - like Dionysos - or the other way round.

Interestingly, like Achilles, Krishna has the heel as his week spot too.

The Danish Leo Hjortsoe takes us into the ritual ecstasy of Bacchus in a book on Greek gods and heros. The pre-Greek wine-god won adherents by his wine in the first rounds - He seems to be a glad giver, like Krishna, in a dreamlike or quite unreal peace, often worshipped by ecstatic dance. Dionysos shows up as coming from Mediterranean islands where vines were cultivated. He represents calm in the midst of anger, but not only that. [Gh 78-85]

What this amounts to, is to hint at some overlooked details for comparison.

Krishna and Gopis. Scene from a Bhagavata Purana manuscript. 1760/65. Detail.
Krishna and Gopis (women)


Sri Krishna, Krsna, Bhagavan Krishna, Hare Krishna, Sri Krisna, Literature  

Clh: Dimmitt, Cornelia, ed., and J. A. B. van Buitenen, tr. Classical Hindu Mythology. Philadelphia: Temple University, 1978.

Gh: Hjortsø, Leo. Græske guder og helte. (Greek Gods and Heroes) 2. utg. Copenhagen: Politiken, 1984.

Met: Ovid. The Metamorphoses. Translated by Mary Innes. London: Penguin, 1955.

Sh: Raghunathan, N., tr. Srimad Bhagavatam, Vols 1-2. Madras: Vighneswara, 1976.

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