I am going to be writing a series of posts on Krishna the enigma who has defied all conventional efforts at definition and description. Who was he? Was he a real person? How could one man be so many people?
Lover, Husband, Brother, Father, Son, Yogi, King, Politician, Wrestler par excellence, Flautist extraordinaire, Prophet, Guru, Charioteer, Wielder of the Sudarshana-Chakra (Discus), Milkman, Cowherd, Philosopher, Alchemist, God, Atman/Soul… the list is endless.
The word कृष्ण (Krishna / kRSNa) means “Black” “Dark” “Dark-blue” For example, the dark half of a lunar month (from Full Moon to New Moon – waning phase) is called the Krishna Paksha. The word is also sometimes used to refer to the Kali Yuga. The end of the Krishna avatar/life is also the beginning of the age of Kali or Kali Yuga (432,000 years) – We are in the Prathama Pada (first quarter) of Kali Yuga now.
It is extremely distressing to see some people like Zakir Naik for example, talk disparagingly about Krishna and his 16,000 wives and what is even more discouraging and disappointing is to see Hindus squirm and struggle to come up with a logical/rational explanation for this – I will attempt to answer this and several other questions by making an interpretative, allegorical, and contextual examination of the facts, myths, and stories scattered across the vast landscape of Sanatana Dharma literature.
There is also the question of why Krishna and so many of our Gods are blue in colour. Sri Ramakrishna answered this question that was posed by a Britisher in the most simple but profound way possible – He said:
“Look at the sea, it is blue in colour. Take the water in your cupped-palms and it shall be colourless. The sea is formless but there are places where the water is solidified into ice – so also our Gods are both colourless and with colour, formless and also with form. God comes to the seeker in whatever form the seeker imagines him/her to be…”
Then there is also the question of his androgynous (part-male/part-female; of indeterminate sex) form as depicted in most paintings – be it the long slender arms, the “peak-shift-effect” (exaggerated) of the waist/hips, the diadem of peacock feathers, the gossamer fabric of his dress, the smooth, hairlessness of his skin, and then the contradictory broadness of his shoulders, the muscular arms… Why is he shown like this? Are the scriptures/artists referring to the universal truth that the souls is sexless, neither male or female?
The book that details Krishna’s tumultuous life, The Srimad Bhagavata is by far the most popular of the 18 Mahapuranas. Krishna dominates this purana and strides across it like a colossus. Most of the stories will be taken from here and interpreted with the caveat that there shall be no distortion of the original.
More in the subsequent posts.