Krishna

Krishna is one of the most beloved gods in the Hindu pantheon.  Much of his attractiveness comes from his differing personae, which all  share the quality of a god in play with the world, and yet the people closest too him are seemingly unaware that god is in their midst.  This bronze statue comes from the 15th century Vijayanagar Dynasty, and is now in India's National Museum. 

The museum identified it as a sculpture of the dancing child Krishna, but a Dutch colleague suggests that it in fact represents the Shaiva saint Sambandhar.  The key clue here is the right hand--whereas figures of Krishna show him holding a small round ball of butter, images of Sambandhar have an upraised finger, referring to an incident in the saint's life.  My thanks to him for this observation. 


 
As Krishna grew older his deed grew more heroic; this carving over a temple doorway (the Durgiana temple in Amritsar) shows Krishna subduing the venomous serpent Kaliya, who had poisoned the Yamuna all the way to the sea.  In modern times this myth has been given a "green" interpretation; click here for the link.  
This sculpture, from 10th century Cambodia, show Krishna holding up Mount Govardhana, to protect the local Brajvasis against Indra's wrath.

According to the story, Krishna had persuaded the villagers to make offerings to Mount Govardhan (a local mountain locally identified as a symbol of Krishna himself) rather than to the storm-god Indra.  Indra was furious and poured rain down on the village for a week, but Krishna lifted up Mount Govardhan, and held it over the village like a giant umbrella.  After a week Indra had to accept defeat, and the rains ended.

As in most of Krishna's exploits, the notion of "play" is important here.  Krishna knows he will defeat Indra, and so the whole thing has elements of a drama.  Some people also interpret this story as showing an important transition in Hindu religious life: the eclipse of the older Vedic gods by other deities (Shiva, the Goddess, and Krishna among them).

This image is at the Art Institute of Chicago (which has a small but very impressive South Asian art collection).

 

 

As Krishna grew older, his playful activities took on a more erotic nature.  This shows him with his flute, which he would use to call his devotees (the cowherd girls) tao dance with him on the banks of the Yamuna.. 
Here's Krishna and Radha, his special devotee.

 

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Last modified 24 December 2003