Tracy Coleman

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:


Arguably the most popular god in the Hindu pantheon, both in India and beyond, Krishna makes a dramatic appearance in the epic Mahābhārata and its famous philosophical discourse, the Bhagavad Gita, but his historical origins in ancient India are obscure and debated among scholars. Whether a mythological figure or a historical hero eventually deified, Krishna is now known and loved as a heroic prince, a playful child, and an alluring lover who is also the supreme God incarnate in human form. Stories about Krishna’s childhood and youth appear early in the first millennium of the common era and then become even more popular subsequent to their depiction in the medieval Puranas, where Krishna’s boyhood play in the cowherd community of Vraja endears him to all his devotees, who attain salvation through their exclusive devotion expressed variously in affection and passion. Although stories of Krishna Vāsudeva, the virile warrior and chivalrous husband who establishes his kingdom in Dvārakā, remain important and well known throughout India, it is Krishna Gopāla who captivates devotees’ hearts, especially in his role as the lover of Rādhā, their passionate romance famously portrayed in the 12th-century Gītagovinda. Such tales then form the basis for diverse iconographic traditions that display Krishna’s līlā (divine play) in various media ubiquitously in India, providing devotees their salvific darśana (vision) of Vishnu’s most beloved avatāra (incarnation). Krishna is the object of worship in countless temples worldwide, but his special place on earth nevertheless remains Vṛndāvana, the celebrated forest in Vraja where he danced with the amorous gopīs under the moonlight and thereby offered his grace to simple cowherding women who loved him without knowing his true nature as God. Likewise known in the West since the founding in the 1960s of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Krishna is also a beloved figure in the popular Indian comic book series Amar Chitra Katha. From ancient epics to modern comics, then, the Hindu god Krishna continues to engage the imagination and inspire fervent devotion among devotees worldwide.

Article.  11763 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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