Are there any equivalents of Adam & Eve in Hindu mythology?

In Hinduism, multiple theories exist about creation. Different Puranas give different ideas about creation and procreation. Upanishads give a different perspective. According to Jnanis, the whole creation is a product of our mind only.

If you are looking for some equivalent to Adam and Eve, then Brahma Puranam gives it. Lord Brahma gave birth to a man and a woman from his own body. The man was named Svayambhuva Manu and the woman was named Shatarupa. Humans are descended from Manu.The word manava to represent man came from ‘Manu’. For that matter, linguists may claim the word Man in English indeed came from Manu.

The statement that Manu and Satarupa were the first created human species appear in several other puranas too and there are different versions of how they were created. For example, Padma Purana says Manu and Satarupa are the first of several males and females that came from Lord Rudra’s Artanari swarupa (Half female form) when he split the body into two as per demand from Lord Brahma — the male half of the body producing 11 males and the other half producing females.

Why did Krishna do so many unethical practices to win Kurukshetra war in favour of Pandavas? Is it not adharma? How can an Avatar practice adharma?

Krishna was an avatar — God descending to earth in human form and his mission was to restore dharma. The dharmas expected to be followed and ensured by the kings — the kshatriyas — at that historic time was at its lowest ebb. It was so hopelessly worse that it was virtually beyond correction by any other diplomatic means.

Krishna, with his role as a Raja Tantri, had already exhausted three of the four political means – Sama-dhana-bedha in trying to avert the war and finally, only dhanda was left in the form of Kurukshetra war; it was the massive punishment and annihilation of most of the kshatriya clan that ruled the various countries in Bhartavarsha at that time.

It must also be taken into note that Krishna’s avatar was triggered by Mother Earth (Bhooma Devi)’s request to Lord Vishnu to reduce bhubhaaram – the dead weight over earth on account of excessive presence of evil doers. And Krishnavatar happened with an agenda of massive destruction.

The world is such that when practitioners of adharma happily go on doing evil acts with no qualms, no one would have the guts to question them; but if people who follow dharma were to resort to any deviations in dharma on account of a higher purpose (restoring dharma) they will be flooded with criticism.

But an Avatara Purusha is nothing but God and God is beyond dharma and adharma. By virtue of this status, Krishna was not like any other ordinary sensitive person who tries to uphold dharma by patiently bowing down to evil (like Yudhishthira) ; naturally he played his divine lila with his head held high to annihilate the adharma by bending and breaking dharma too here and there when it was so needed for the grander purpose.

We must also take due note of two more happenings.

  • Dharma won finally, alright, but it did cause great casualties to Pandavas’ side too. Krishna saved just a future offspring of pandavas — the fetus in Uttaraa’s womb (later born as Parikshit). All the 5 children born off Pandavas to Draupati got killed in the post war ambush executed by Ashwatthama. Except perhaps Bhima, the Pandavas were not really very happy lot after the war was over. It took yeoman effort to elders and wisemen to persuade the grief-stricken Yudhshthira to ascend to the throne.
  • Krishna’s own clan of kshatriyas — the Yadavas, Vrishnis and Andhakas too were not any better when it came to following dharma. Their deterioration was already happening and it took some 40 years more for Krishna to ‘wind up his show’. Time came to annihilate all his clan too and he stood in the forefront to execute one of the bloodiest mutiny in Dwaraka. Finally, the whole city of Dwaraka was consumed by a tsunami and Krishna ended his avatar by allowing a lowly hunter to hit him with an arrow at his toe. What an anticlimax to the grandest story of an avatar!

 

Had Karna supported Pandavas, would Pandavas have still needed the help of Lord Krishna in Kurukshetra war?

Krishna was an avatar of God; the whole drama of Kurukshetra war enfolded right under his nose and he was both a witness to is as well as a mastermind behind it to ensure the victory of dharma and also a massive destruction of warriers of kshatriya clan which too was the need of those times.

Karna was just the son of the celestial God Sun. He was not an avatar. He was a very arrogant, boastful, head heavy and a skilled archer. He had a larger-than-life self image about him. He possessed powerful weapons, but on account of his outright arrogance and egotism, he could not substantially reap benefits  through his possessions. But he was indeed a powerful archer and warrior who had the guts to challenge Arjuna.

If at all Karna were to come around to support Pandavas, such a thing could have happened if he got convinced of the diplomatic luring moves made by Krishna prior to war. Kunti had already failed to convince him. Krishna smartly promised to make him the king of Hastinapur (instead of Yudhisthira) after the war, if he switched sides.

Had Karna accepted the offer, he would have got terribly demeaned by the Kauravas and other kings. Perhaps Yudhishtra might have accepted him and would have even agreed to make him the king, but it is unlikely that Arjuna or Bhima would agree to it. Their enmity to Karna was too well deep rooted, considering the insult he had meted out to Panchali. Panchali for sure would oppose any such move to make him a king and the Pandavas would never have the capacity to overrule Panchali!

Thus, perhaps Karna could at best switch sides only with a big scar on his face – as a traitor of Kauravas. Assuming that he switched sides, he could never be equated to Vibhishan of Ramayanam, since Vibhishan’s moral and ethical calibre was of the highest order.

As far Duryodhan, his friendship with Karna was based on a single selfish agenda — Karna as a potential opponent to defeat Arjuna. If Karna switched sides, it will surely whip up lots of emotions in him and he might turn to Bhishma (since Bhishma never ever had any good opinion about Karna and at every opportune moment cut him to size) to cut Karna to size. He might even extract a promise from Bhishma to personally kill the traitor Karna. In all likelihood Bhishma, considering the open dislike he always carried on Karna and his his convictions on kshatriya dharma, he would never accept Karna’s action, despite all his soft corner for Pandavas.

Thus Karna would end up in Pandava’s camp with lots of negativities and drawbacks, considerably affecting his self confidence and pride. His contribution in the war in aiding Pandavas itself would be a big question.

Hence, Krishna’s presence would be still inevitable for Pandavas and definitely Arjuna would ensure that Krishna was with him as per original plans.

Why do some people do hero-worship of Karna and Ravana? Is it the effect of Kali yuga?

Eulogizing villainous characters like Karna and Ravana is a reflection of existence of villainous tendency or mentality in us either openly or subtly. If we find a character’s behavior, taste, looks, action, speech and so on creating a positive resonance in us, we tend to love the character.

No one is cent percent good or cent percent bad. In Karna and Ravana, the evil tendencies were very predominant. No questions about it. They also happened to have some good qualities and tendencies. The great itihas keep both the aspects open and clear. You will find that when it comes to acknowledging the great qualities of these villainous characters, there is no dilution in the narratives.

Hence, if we tend to appreciate them only for their goodness and ignore their negativeness, it is only a reflection of our own psychological status.

It is not just the effect of Kaliyuga. Even in Mahabharat period, there were people appreciating Karna. Almost for all the 100 Kauravas, Karna was a Hero! But, for the Pandavas, Karna was anything but a despicable character — a warrior who thought too much of himself without proportionate merit. Bhishma, one of the grandest personalities of Mahabharat had the least regard for Karna. He considered Karna to be boastful, shallow, arrogant, and not possessing enough capability or prowess to the extent of his self-image.

So, it is quite obvious that only people with villainous tendencies tend to worship villains as heroes.

IF Krishna was an Avatar of God (Vishnu) how come he did so much adharma in Kurukshetra war?

Krishna was an avatar — God descending to earth in human form and his mission was to restore dharma. The dharmas expected to be followed and ensured by the kings — the kshatriyas — at that historic time was at its lowest ebb. It was so hopelessly worse that it was virtually beyond correction by any other diplomatic means.

Krishna, with his role as a Raja Tantri, had already exhausted three of the four political means – Sama-dhana-bedha in trying to avert the war and finally, only dhanda was left in the form of Kurukshetra war; it was the massive punishment and annihilation of most of the kshatriya clan that ruled the various countries in Bhartavarsha at that time.

It must also be taken into note that Krishna’s avatar was triggered by Mother Earth (Bhooma Devi)’s request to Lord Vishnu to reduce bhubhaaram – the dead weight over earth on account of excessive presence of evil doers. And Krishnavatar happened with an agenda of massive destruction.

The world is such that when practitioners of adharma happily go on doing evil acts with no qualms, no one would have the guts to question them; but if people who follow dharma were to resort to any deviations in dharma on account of a higher purpose (restoring dharma) they will be flooded with criticism.

But an Avatara Purusha is nothing but God and God is beyond dharma and adharma. By virtue of this status, Krishna was not like any other ordinary sensitive person who tries to uphold dharma by patiently bowing down to evil (like Yudhishthira) ; naturally he played his divine lila with his head held high to annihilate the adharma by bending and breaking dharma too here and there when it was so needed for the grander purpose.

Deaths, destruction and annihilation of kshatriyas – Kurukshetra war

We must also take due note of two more happenings.

  • Dharma won finally, alright, but it did cause great casualties to Pandavas’ side too. Krishna saved just a future offspring of pandavas — the fetus in Uttaraa’s womb (later born as Parikshit). All the 5 children born off Pandavas to Draupati got killed in the post war ambush executed by Ashwatthama. Except perhaps Bhima, the Pandavas were not really very happy lot after the war was over. It took yeoman effort to elders and wisemen to persuade the grief-stricken Yudhshthira to ascend to the throne.
  • Krishna’s own clan of kshatriyas — the Yadavas, Vrishnis and Andhakas too were not any better when it came to following dharma. Their deterioration was already happening and it took some 40 years more for Krishna to ‘wind up his show’. Time came to annihilate all his clan too and he stood in the forefront to execute one of the bloodiest mutiny in Dwaraka. Finally, the whole city of Dwaraka was consumed by a tsunami and Krishna ended his avatar by allowing a lowly hunter to hit him with an arrow at his toe. What an anticlimax to the grandest story of an avatar!

It is outright foolish to imagine that Gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma or Avatars like Rama and his ardent devotee Hanuman are similar to some independent misguided kshatriya kings who would come and fight against Lord Krishna to frustrate the “unethical games” played by Krishna!

If Lord Krishna had 14000+ wives, how did he manage to satisfy all of them?

I have heard that in some Purana this is mentioned (I don’t know which Purana). Once Narada had the same doubt. So, he decided to visit the homes of every one of Krishna’s 16K+ wives on a whirlwind tour without giving any advance notice.

He knocked at one of the doors; there Krishna and his wife were there; Krishna was doing Sandhya Vandhanam when Narada visited. The couple received him with respect and offered refreshments. Narada then instantly traveled to another house of Krishna’s wives and there Krishna was very much there, eating breakfast! When Narada instantly traveled to the 3rd house, Krishna was there, playing with his child!

Now Narada understood. Is it a big deal for Krishna to take thousands of forms and be with each of his wives simultaneously?

Another point of view — given by Amma:

Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi in her satsang on 4/4/18 incidentally talked about the same subject and her explanation was briefly in the following lines:

  • The love Gopis had on Krishna was not a mere man-woman love. It is the attraction towards the divinity of Krishna — attraction of jivatmas to the Paramatma. Krishna was a chitta chora (stealer of the hearts) of the Gopis, through his act of stealing butter. He stole the butter to feed the poor cowherd boys and in that process, made the hearts of Gopis to long for him by always thinking about him — “Will Krishna come to my house and steal butter?” Thus he killed two birds in one stone.
  • Like Christian Kanya Sthrees (nuns) who remain unmarried in life in order to lead a spiritual life of prayer, service and sacrifice saying that they are wedded to Jesus Christ, the umpteen wives of Krishna too were in a similar mental make up of dedicating their lives to God by symbolically being the wives of Krishna.
  • Even assuming that Krishna was really wedded to thousands of wives, it only shows his divinity and greatness because ordinary people cannot even manage to live in peace with just one wife!

Why did Krishna choose Arjuna instead of any other Pandava to teach Bhagavad Gita at the war front?

Nakula and Sahadeva were less significant characters amidst the Pandavas. They were not shown to be too aggressive nor too inquisitive; they were rather duty minded and content to do whatever Yudhishtra ordained them to do. So, we can say, Krishna perhaps discounted them.

Now, we are left with Yudhishtira, Arjuna and Bhima.

Late Swami Chibhavananda (Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Thiruparaithurai) in his book on Bhagavad Gita, at the introductory chapter, gives the reason for Krishna choosing Arjuna for delivering Gita in the following way:

Swami Chitbhavananda, Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Tiruparaithurai.(Disciple of Swami Shivananda who was a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa)

As regards Yudhshitira, we was already a knower of dharma. He was basically satvic, knew pretty well about what is dharma and adharma and he was spiritually quite evolved. He does not really need a sermon.

As regards Bhima, he was thirsting for the war. He was just waiting for the time to plunge headlong into the war. Animal impetuosity was still dominant in him. Such a man was not not fit for receiving the teaching of or practicing any form of yoga.

But Arjuna’s personality stood somewhat in between these two characters. He was more evolved from animal tendencies but not to the level of knowing the higher realms of spirituality and dharma. He is like a normal man where both virtue and vice are intermingled, who has nagging doubts about what is right or dharma and what is wrong or adharma. Thus Arjuna represented the normal man who is fit for receiving the evolved subject of the Yoga for his spiritual betterment.


From another point of View…

An Avatara Purusha, Mahatma or Satguru is interested in the welfare of all, but they would rather exchange pleasantries with you and take care of your needs when your purpose of going to them is just for mundane existential needs. Only when someone genuinely surrenders and seeks sincere guidance and advice from them on the matters of dharma, God or spirituality, they would opt to teach them by donning the role of a guru.

All along, Arjuna had more of a friendly relationship with Krishna; but when he saw the potential destruction the impending war was going to cause by way of annihilating his own blood relations and teachers, he got scared and jittery. It was at that point that he surrendered with humility to Krishna as his guru and sought his guidance. None of the other pandavas were in such a mental turmoil or confusion as Arjuna was. That’s how Krishna took up His Guru bhava to teach Arjuna the Bhagavad Gita.

Unlike Krishna, Rama did not show any extraordinary powers or miracles. He was more of a human being. In that case, why can’t we all possess characteristics like Rama?

According to Valmiki Ramayana, Rama was an avatar of Vishnu and he came to earth with the prime purpose of annihilating Ravana, based on the requests of devas and sages who suffered immensely under Ravana’s mighty power.

His very birth was unnatural because he was born by divine blessing that came in the form of a sweet pudding brought by a divine messenger at the end of Putra Kameshti yaga conducted by Dasaratha. Only after drinking the pudding, Dasaratha’s wives could become pregnant and Rama was born as Vishnu’s avatar to Kousalya.

Unlike Krishnavatar of the next yuga where Krishna demonstrated His divinity at every opportune moment, Rama always underplayed his divinity and was content to show just a perfect human face. That was his greatness.

According to Yoga Vashita, Young prince Rama attained Brahma Gnyana, was gripped with extreme vairagya (dispassion) and became disinterested in leading a life of a royal prince. Sage Vashita advised him that one can remain in whatever status one is living already and a Gnyani is never affected by his external worldly activities; there was absolutely no need to relinquish royal life and Rama agreed.

Only because he was a gnyani possessing total mental equanimity, he could accept the life of a forest-dweller at the behest of Kaikeyi without batting an eyelid, despite enjoying all royal comforts. At the same time, in Ramayana, he has been portrayed as a person easily succumbing to emotional depression too (like when he found Sita abducted by Ravana).

On many occasions, Rama indirectly displayed his divinity. Being a divine, he was above dharma and adharma. He displayed this divine aspect when he killed Vali, because he could boldly face criticism of acting in adharmic way in killing Vali by hiding behind a tree.

He showed his mighty power to Samudra Raja, when his prayers to the lord of Seas was not responded initially. Only when he stood up with his Brahmastra with an intent of drying up the seas, the lord of the seas came and surrendered.

During Lanka war, when Rama fell unconscious due to the attack of Nagastra, Lord Vishnu’s vehicle – Garuda came and removed the poisonous effects of the serpant astra. This is another indication of Rama’s divinity and his status as an avatar of Vishnu.

During the final stages of battle with Ravana, Lord Indira sent his chariot along with the charioteer Madhali to assist Rama. It was Madhali who reminded Rama to use the Brahmastra to kill Ravana. Ordinary human beings don’t get such privileges!

Coming to your second part of question: Why can’t we possess similar characteristics like Rama?

The Vedanta says all of us are potentially divine. In Bhagavad Gita, lord Krishna says He is the in-dweller in all. The only problem is that we are totally unaware of our true status, as we are deluded by Maya and ego.

If only, we can get totally rid off maya and discard our ego, we too become God. That’s is precisely Self-realization or God realization.

But still, do we become equal to Rama? Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa explains that while as Brahman (God) we may all be fundamentally same, the expression of divine Shakti in each of us is quite different. An ant and an elephant are God in essence alright, but the power of an elephant is not same as an ant!

An Avatara Purusha is one where God’s power gets expressed in a massive scale. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that an Avatar is like a huge steamer that can carry lots of people to cross the sea of samsara. On the other hand, a normal Jivan Mukta (a person who attained God realization through lots of effort and sadhana) will not have so much power to save many others from samsara. He is at the best like a small boat that can fetch a couple of persons across the river.

When Rama’s avatar came to an end, he took the entire populace of Ayodhya along with him to immerse in the Sarayu river and gave Moksha to all of them. Now you know the difference!

The concept of Avatar in Hinduism

A fundamental belief in Hinduism is that God descends to earth to take birth as human (or other) forms whenever the good and pious people suffer and the evil ones have an upper hand. The word Avatar means descending (to earth). God descends to earth based on the needs of time, protects the good, destroy the evil and restore dharma (righteousness). Such a person/ being is known as an avatar. An Avatar of God takes birth in earth in some form (human form and also other forms) and carry out a specific mission and then return to the heavenly abode.

At the core of Hinduism, God is only one. He is called Brahman in Upanishads. Brahman is beyond name and form, all pervading, all encompassing and all knowing. Everything living and non-living are verily different expressions of Brahman. The entire cosmos is an expression of Brahman. Brahman is smaller than the atom and yet bigger than the cosmos.

Since Brahman encompasses everything, any concept of God with name and form is also within the scope of Brahman only. In Hinduism God with name and form is also real and such a God is known as Ishwara.

Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer) and Shiva (the destroyer) are the three prime forms of God conceived in Hinduism. In Hinduism’s Vaishnava tradition, Vishnu is considered the one and only prime God and he is verily the Brahman. In this tradition, Brahma was created by Vishnu for the purpose of creating the entire universe. In Shaiva tradition, Shiva is considered the one and only prime God and He is verily the Brahman. He is the Supreme Reality; He is the one who creates, sustains and destroys.

We also have Shakta tradition where Divine mother Parashakti is considered the Prime God and she is the one who creates, sustains and destroys.

As per the above concept, the Prime Gods (be it Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or Shakti) are NOT really avatars (even though some scriptures call them Gunaavatars (Brahma representing Satva Guna, Vishnu, the Rajo Guna and Shiva, the Tamo Guna). They are eternal Gods, not subjected to birth cycle.

Interestingly,  in the 4 Vedas inclusive of  Vedanta (Upanishads) which are the earliest sources of spiritual scriptures, there is no concept of Avatar being mentioned! The concept of Avatars came into vogue only in later historic periods of Itihas and Puranas (scriptural mythologies).

In Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Itihas Mahabharata (that is like a Purana containing historical cum mythological story), the concept of God arriving from time to time to protect the righteous people and punish the evil doers gets mentioned. It comes through the statement of Lord Krishna, who is considered the Avatar of Vishnu:

Whenever there is decay of righteousness, O Bharata,
And there is exaltation of unrighteousness, then I Myself come forth ;

For the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers,
For the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age
.”

                                                                                              –  Bhagavad Gita 4-7&8

Avatars Of Vishnu

In Puranas primarily, Lord Vishnu has been attributed to taking Avatars. His 10 Avatars are considered to be important which are listed below:

(You can click on the respective names to know more details)

1) Matsya  2) Kurma  3) Varaha    4) Narasimha   5) Vamana 6) Parashurama  7) Rama  8) Krishna   9) Balarama  10) Kalki.

Kalki Avatar is yet to happen and is expected to take place in this yuga (Kali Yuga).

However, Srimad Bhagavatam which is one of the most widely accepted Puranas as an important reference book in the matters of Hinduism’s mythologies associated with practical  teaching of devotion, dharmas and philosophies, Vishnu’s avatars are not restricted to 10, but the following 14 more are also included.

(You can click on the respective names to know more details)

11) Sanaka 12) Sananda 13) Sanatana 14) Sanatkumara, 15) Narada, 16) Nara, 17) Narayana 18) Kapila, 19) Dattatreya, 20) Yajna, 21) Rshabha, 22) Prthu, 23)  Mohini, 24) Garuda, 25) Dhanvantri, 26) Vyasa, 27) Buddha

Scope of divine expression in Avatar – Purna, Amsa and Kala

In scriptures it is said that divine/spiritual power (Chaitanya Shakti)  in the various creations gets expressed in different measures. They are expressed in kalas. As per this concept, plants have 2 kalas, animals 2 to3 kalas, human beings 5 to 6 kalas, saints and sages 7 to 8 kalas and so on. Sri Rama Avatar is said to have taken place with 12 kalas. Sri Krishnavatar is hailed as a Purna Avatar  where the highest measure of 16 kalas got expressed through this avatar.

An Amsa Avatar is where a partial divinity gets expressed. Thus Kapila, Kurma, Balarama etc are considered to be Amsa Avatars.

Then there is also a mention of Shaktiavesha Avatar where in God’s ferocious aspect gets expressed in an Avatar that engages in large scale destruction of evil forces. Parashurama Avatar is stated to be such.

Avatars are countless

Srimad Bhagavatam also states that Avatars are countless. Such a statement too is logical considering the fact that Puranas were written thousands of years ago. Naturally, more Avatars coming to earth is quite in order because Avatars, by definition come to earth whenever dharma is in danger and the wicked and evil forces are in the rise. Avatars do come to show the right path of dharma suited to changing times.

Avatara Purushas

Thus in Hinduism, ardent devotees hail several Mahatma’s of later periods as Avatara Purushas. Their lives and teachings too become extremely important as puranas and scriptures. Unlike old puranas and shastras that are in Sanskrit language, the Avatara Purushas give teachings in their local languages and their teachings are far more simpler to comprehend and to put to practice in life because they are in tune with the needs of the time. Invariably, their teachings are totally in resonance with the different aspects of scriptures.

  • Shri Shankaracharya is hailed as an Avatar of Lord Shiva
  • Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is hailed as an Avatar of Radha.
  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is considered a divine Avatar with Devi’s amsa.
  • Shirdi Saibaba is considered an Avatar of God, whose appeal broke the barriers of Hindus and Muslims
  • Sri Satya Saibaba is considered an Avatar of Shiva-Shakti
  • Swami Vivekananda is hailed as an Avatar of Shiva by some of his guru bhais and devotees.
  • Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi – though he is a Purna Jnani (who is beyond the concept of Avatars) , there are some devotees who consider him an Avatar of Lord Subrahmanya.
  • Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) is considered an the Avatar of Devi Parashakti.

One commonly observed feature amidst these Avatara Purushas is that even though they may appear to follow a specific religious path, practice or worship during their evolving stages, their demeanor as realized mahatmas will not get cocooned to any limited school, sect or traditional compartments. Their  appeal and attraction towards earnest devotees will cut across all barriers; their level of spiritual knowledge will be so elevated and all pervading that they would be able to drive away doubts from the minds of different seekers with different tastes, temperaments and affinity to philosophies and concepts. Their appeal is universal. They attract people from other religious faith too.

Most of these Avatara Purushas are in fact swayambus — meaning, they were self-made, born with wisdom (not acquired through the teachings of a guru).

Please Note

It is quite natural in a vast and complicated religion like Hinduism (that has so many facets, tenets and schools) that there will be conflicts and disputes in accepting some great saints who are hailed as Avatara Purushas by one group of devotees, by the followers of other saints or people belonging to different other sects or schools of philosophies.

Instead of breaking our heads about these disputes, it is always better to focus on the core teachings of these great Mahatmas and see whether they are in tune with Sanatana Dharma’s time tested truths given in the various  scriptures and whether they are elevating their respective followers towards the higher goal of life — God realization/ self-realization.

 

The story of Krishna – Krishna Avatar – The enchanting avatar of Vishnu

One of the very basic and important aspects of Hinduism is the concept of Avatar. It is the fundamental belief in Hinduism that God descends to earth from time to time to take birth as Human or other forms; it happens whenever good and pious people suffer and evil ones have an upper hand. God protects the good, destroy the evil and restore dharma (righteousness). Such a divine being / person is known as an Avatar.

The 10 Avatars

In Hinduism, Lord Vishnu is the “God who protects”. He is attributed with taking 10 such avatars. They are Matsya, Varaha, Koorma, Vamana, Narasimha, Rama, Parasurama, Krishna, Balarama and Kalki. Rama and Krisha Avatars are considered to be the two greatest Avatars of Vishnu in human form.

The Greatness Of Krishna

The Avatar of Krishna is said to have taken place in Dwapara Yuga (a time period dating back to thousands of years). Very elaborate holy mythologies (Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahma Vaivarta Purana and Mahabharata) are available in Hindu scripture which contain the wonderful life history and details of the divine play enacted by Lord Krishna. Plenty of folklores and wonderful literary works too are available practically in all languages of India eulogizing Lord Krishna’s divine play, particularly His enthralling childhood pranks.

The avatar of Krishna is considered a “Poornavatar” — an avatar in which Godly qualities were found manifested in full. Lord Krishna is perhaps the most widely loved, adored and worshiped Avatar by Vaishnavaites (devotees of Vishnu) across the length and breadth of India. In fact, worship of Krishna has even transcended the boundaries of India, considering the global appeal of the ISKCON movement (International Society of Krishna Consciousness), spearheaded by Swami Prabhupada. It has happened because he is personification of love; Krishna is sweetness personified.

His attraction to devotees is magnetic. He is ever joyful; He is the preacher of Karma Yoga (the path for unification with God through work without attachment) and he is a perfect Karma Yogi himself, performing work ceaselessly all through his life with joyous detachment and abandonment, seeking no fruits of his actions for himself. It is with this practical authority that he delivered discourse to his disciple and close friend Arjuna on the eve of a grand Mahabharata war is Bhagavat Gita — one of the greatest scriptures of Hinduism; it is a philosophical treasure very widely read and adored by people across the world, cutting across religious barriers.

Unlike Rama, a greatly revered Avatar of the previous Yuga, Krishna was fully conscious of his divinity and he never tried to hide his divine prowess. At every right and opportune occasion, Krishna demonstrated his divinely attributes and super-human powers. He utilized them to humble his opponents, destroy the evil doers and to instantly come to the rescue of his devotees in distress.

He was all at once the player by the rules and also the lord of the rules — and by virtue of this lordship, a breaker of the rules too, for the goodness of the world.

The divine play of Krishna is something that can not be written across a few pages. It is extremely difficult to comprehend Krishna by a mere intellectual study of his life or through analysis of his speeches and actions. Krishna is more amenable for comprehension to those who love and surrender to him rather than to those who analyze him.

Krishna’s Birth

Let us now see very briefly, the life history of Lord Krishna:

In DwaparaYuga, the demon-like king Kamsa ruled the kingdom of Mathura (that belonged to the Yadava clan) by overthrowing his father and the king Ugrasena. He became too powerful and people on earth as well as Devas (the celestial beings) suffered immeasurably under his tyrannical rule. Moved by the earnest prayers of the sufferers, Lord Vishnu decided to take birth in human form and annihilate the evil forces headed by Kamsa.

Another reason for the descent of God as avatar was the problem of excessive population at that period (particularly accentuated by higher proportions of the wicked and evil ones over the righteous ones) and the Mother Earth suffered on account of it. God came to earth as Lord Krishna and one of his roles was to initiate large scale destruction of human race, in order to bring a manageable balance to the earthly resources and establish dharma.

The King Kamsa was forewarned by his astrologers that his death would be caused by the eighth son who would be born to his cousin Devaki. To prevent such a happening, Kamsa arrested Devaki and her husband Vasudeva and incarcerated them in his prison.

Immediately on birth, Krishna was carried stealthily by his father Vasudeva to Gokulam. It was a stormy night. The divine snake Adhisesha was there to act as an umbrella to protect the lord.

As and when a child was born to the couple, he would go to the jail and kill the child then and there. When the eighth child was born, it was Lord Krishna. By a dramatic divine play, at the midnight when the birth took place, the child was miraculously and secretively transported to Gokula (a community of cow herds belonging to Yadava clan at the banks of river Yamuna) to become the foster son of mother Yasoda and King Nanda. A female child born to them (Maya) at the same time was transported back to the prisons. It was Vasudev, Krishna’s father, who did the exchange of the babies at the behest of a divine command. All these took place without the knowledge of Devaki and Yasoda.

When Kamsa came to know of the birth of the eighth child, he came to the prison as usual and as he lifted the child to kill it, the girl child (Maya) got freed from his clutches and flew away laughing aloud that the king was cheated squarely and the child meant to kill him was safe and alive elsewhere. Kamsa was shell shocked.

 

The Child Krishna Brought up at Gokula

The baby Lord Krishna grew up joyfully in the company of cow herds at Gokula. He was dark skinned and was the most beautiful and charming boy of the community. Whoever came across him fell in instant love with him. He was full of childhood pranks. He loved to steal butter and eat it in the company of fellow cow herd boys. He became the prince charming for all the young girls and women folk (Gopis) of the community.

 

Little Krishna, so calm and charming in the affectionate embrace of Yasoda…

In the meanwhile, Kamsa sent several powerful demons in varying disguises to search for, locate and kill the boy-who-escaped from the prison. Little Krishna encountered all of them (Putana, Sakatasura, Bakasura, Trinavarta, Vatsasura, Aghasura etc) and killed them all as a matter of child play.

Child Krishna kills Putana, a woman demon sent by Kamsa to kill him by feeding him her breast milk. But Krishna suckled and sucked her life!

 

Krishna is not all that nice boy after all! He loved butter and never hesitated to steal it from the house of Gopies…

 

at times, he gets shocked when he is noticed…

 

and when the Gopis complain to Yasoda about Krishna’s behavior, can she afford to leave him scot free?

 

Krishna kills Bakasura

Further, little Krishna killed a very ferocious and poisonous Snake Kaliya who lived in the river Yamuna. He extracted the snake from the river and danced at his hood to the awe of one and all. When the celestial lord Indra created heavy rains at Gokula because a worship due to him was denied at the behest of Krishna, Krishna protected the entire community by lifting up the hill Govardhan by holding it like an umbrella at his little finger.

He killed the most dreaded poisonous snake Kaliya who lived in Yamuna.

 

Liffting Govardhan Hill is just a child play for him.

Krishna and Gopis

Right from his boyhood, Krishna started playing flute. His music was exremely captivating. Not only human beings, but animals too were attracted by his flute.

When the young boy Krishna played his flute, none can resist his musical charm.

When Krishna was in his early teens, his attraction to the womenfolk of Gokula (Gopis) was divine. Their love towards Krishna was so intense that they even ignored their duty and allegiance to their husbands and went madly behind Krishna. Hindu spiritual masters interpret that this love of Gopis towards Krishna was never carnal, but it was the spiritual longing of the individual souls (jivatmas) towards the divine soul (paramatma).

Krishna and Radha 

It was during this phase that Radha (or Radhika) of Brindavan developed a deep rooted love for Krishna. The divine love between Radha and Krishna (which was never consummated in a marriage), though not found mentioned in Srimad Bhagavata, is dealt with elaborately in Brahma Vaivartha Purana and several folklore and Sanskrit literary works. Radha-Krishna love has always been a source of inspiration for the Bhakti movement of Vaishnavaites (worshipers of Vishnu) of eastern India as this love symbolically represents the longing for “yoga” (union) of the individual soul with the Supreme soul.

According to Brahma Vaivartha Purana, Krishna is considered the Paramatma (Chidatma) and Radha his Chit Sakthi.  He is the creator-Sustainer-Distructor of the Universe and he is verily tha Brahman (Ultimate God).  He is not considered as an Avatar of Vishnu unlike other Purnas.

No wonder the Gopis were mad after him.

 

But it was Radha who stole the heart of Krishna. Radha-Krishna love transcends human love. On this unique painting, at the right side, is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Gouranga, who spread bhava bakthi on Krishna) and at the left, Sri Prabhupada (ISKCON movement).

Krishna Returns to Mathura

When Krishna became a matured boy, it was time for him to go to Mathura and take the bull by its horns — to face his uncle Kamsa and destroy him for all his vengeful deeds. Krishna overcame several obstacles at Mathura and finally killed his uncle in a ferocious combat. He released his parents from the jail and re-throned Ugrasena as the king.

Krishna killed Kamsa in a ferocious battle.

Over a period of time he got married to Bhama and Rukmini. The story goes that Krishna later got married to 6 more women. At later period of his story, he killed a demon king by name Bhaumasura and he had to marry 14000 women who were earlier abducted by the demon king. This he did at the behest of the women, who would otherwise lose their honor in society for having been in the custody of the demon king. The story goes that Krishna used his divine maya to be simultaneously present with all his wives in their respective homes and lead happy life with all of them.

 

Rukmini lovesKrishna; Krishna abducts Rukmini against stiff opposition from her brother and warriors.

Krishna with his consorts – Bhama & Rukmini

Krishna And The Pandavas

In the meanwhile, his maternal cousins — the Pandavas (5 sons of the kind Pandu headed by Yudhishtira) of the Kuru clan at the kingdom of Hastinapur were facing lots of difficulty in claiming their rightful share to their kingdom. It was due to certain acts of omissions and commissions done by themselves as well as due to the vengeful and treacherous acts of their unrighteous cousins — the Kouravas headed by Duriyodhan (who too claimed the throne of Hastinapur) that the peace-loving Pandavas were facing insurmountable difficulties in life.

Krishna and Arjuna developed close friendship. Krishna later became his spiritual guru at the battle field.

Krishna developed a bosom friendship with Arjuna the most powerful archer and the younger brother of Yudhishtra. Whenever they found time, they spent time together and enjoyed the friendly company of each other. Arjuna fell in love with Krishna’s sister Subhadra and Krishna arranged their marriage secretively against stiff resistence from his clan.

The Pandavas were fairly knowledgeable of the divinely nature of Krishna;  The Pandavas surrendered to Krishna and sought his help and guidance in overcoming their problems. Krishna intervened frequently in the lives of Pandavas to protect them from innumerable personal problems. He also used his diplomatic skills and tried his best to bring in a truce between the Pandavas and Kouravas. But Kouravas had neither respect for Dharma nor for Krishna’s counseling.

The Kurukshetra War And The Birth Of Bhagawad Gita

Finally a grand war erupted between Padndavas and Kouravas. Numerous kings of the entire subcontinent virtually sidelined and supported either Pandavas or Kauravas according to their relationships and temperament and took part in the great Mahabharata war. Dharma was obviously on the side of Pandavas. Krishna, as the king of Mathura and a blood relative of both Pandavas and Kouravas, offered his entire army to take part in the war on one side and he himself without taking-up arms on the other side. He left the choice to Arjuna (of the Pandavas) and Duryodanan (of Kouravas) to choose any one between the two. While Arjuna instantly and gladly opted to have Krishna on their side as a non-fighting companion, Duryodanan was too happy to accept the huge and powerful army of Krishna. Krishna offered his services to be the charioteer of Arjuna during the war.

Just before the beginning of the war at Kurukshetra, Arjuna became jittery. He felt it was futile to wage war against his own blood relations and other seniors, respectable elders and teachers and masters in the opposite camp. It was at this juncture, that Lord Krishna gave one of the greatest sermons to Arjuna. His utterances form the holy scripture Bhagavat Gita. In this great spiritual discourse, Lord Krishna predominantly teaches Karma Yoga – the path of attaining the greatest goal of life though self-less action by surrendering all the fruits of actions at the feet of lord. In Bhagavad Gita, he also elaborates the other spiritual paths — Bhakti Yoga and Gnyana Yoga.

Krishna’s discourse to Arjuna at war front – Bhagavad Gita

 

Vishwarupa Darshanam – Krishna revealing his cosmic form.

Krishna, as part of his effort to teach Arjuna during his discourse, gave a divine vision to Arjuna an revealed his Vishwarupa (his cosmic form that transcended the creation, births deaths and time, space and causation) and Arjuna was overwhelmed with awe to see this form of the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Krishna acted as a charioteer to Arjuna and saved his life under many tricky situations. In a couple of occasions Krishna even used dubious means (that his enemies accused him as acts of adharma) in order to tilt victory in favor of the righteous Pandavas. The war ended with the annihilation of Kouravas and the rule of the Pandavas was established.

Krishna – the overseer of massive destruction

The Kurukshetra war, though ended as a victory to Padnavas, in fact turned to be a divine act supervised by Krishna without his direct participation to result in the destruction of millions and millions of soldiers and warriors, thousands of kings / people of ruling class, and countless numbers of horses and elephants.

Despite the win, Pandavas too were virtually emotionally wrecked, as practically all their offspring (5 children born to their wife Draupati) and several other children born to them from other wedlock got annihilated. Arjuna’s brave young son and a wonderful archer Abhimanyu (born to Arjuna-Subhadra)  too got killed in the war.  Lord Krishna ensured that the progeny of Pandava’s clan was not cut, by using his divine power to protect a fetus in the womb of Arjuna’s daughter-in-law Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu. Later in history, her son Parikshit became the king.

Krishna And Dwaraka

At his own Kingdom at Mathura ruled by Ugrasena, Krishna had to face a very tough war against Jarasandha, the father-in-law of the slain king Kamsa. The war was waged 18 times by the extremely powerful king Jarasandha and Krishna had to play hide and seek with the king.

After the last attack, Krishna convinced King Ugrasena and his father, Crown-Prince Vasudeva to rescind the land and establish a new Kingdom at Dwaraka, due to strategic reasons. All the Yadava subjects were shifted to Dwaraka and Krishna lived and ruled there for about 38 years. Krishna utilized the services of Bhimasena (one of the Pandavas, who was extremely strong and powerful) to finally kill Jarasandha.

Bhima kills Jarasandha with Krishna’s tactical support.

The End Of Krishna

Yadavas fight with each other in line with a curse they received from a sage and the entire clan gets annihilated.

As Krishna advanced in age, the Yadava clan grew too arrogant, morally weak and got in the grip of vices. By an act of mischief, Krishna’s descendants and their clan got a curse from sages that paved for their annihilation. Lots of bickering happened between the members of families and the ruling class and they grew out of control of Krishna’s divine and moral influence. Time soon came when they were destined to get wiped out entirely on account of a verbal dual that started between two drunken relatives of Krishna. It grew into a bloody fight and Krishna took up the role of a destroyer now and he personally killed many yadavas using pestles that grew out of wild grass near seashore.

Krishna knew that it was time to draw curtains to his divine plays in his present Avatar. He retired to forest and was engaged in deep meditation. He was finally slain by an arrow which was mistakenly aimed at his foot by a hunter who thought it was a deer.

 

 

Krishna was attacked unknowingly by a hunter. The hunter gets blessed by Krishna before he leaves the earth.

Soon a great tsunami came and the surging sea waters submerged the entire city of Dwaraka.

Krishna’s entire life was one of an exuberant display of divine play. Krishna’s childhood life at Gokula and Vrindavan where he became the very soul of all the lives of Gopas and Gopis and his divine love with Radha continues to be the source of inspiration of Bhakti movment for the Vaishnavites.

Krishna’s Bhagavat Gita reins as a supreme reference book of all the various paths of Yoga (Karma, Bhakti, Gnyana and Raja Yoga) for earnest seekers of Hinduism for guidance and enlightenment.

 

A note of thanks:

The beautiful pictures appearing in this article are all sourced from various websites and since all of them appear to belong to public domain and found freely used in several sites, I too have used them accordingly. I sincerely thank the various websites that have posted these pictures.