Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
My daughter asked me mummy Krishna was the kingpin of Mahabharata war, he let so much of destruction happen. Why is he worshipped? The child had a point; I was forced to ponder upon this reality. The character of Krishna loomed large in my thoughts.
The Bhagwat Puran vividly describes the delightful childhood of Krishna. Yashoda and other women of Nand’s family brought him up, they took delight in daily tasks of childrearing. He was naughty, stole butter; broke their pitchers but they loved him. Krishna rid the Yamuna of Kaliya nag without killing the serpent, demonstrating not to fear nature but coexist with it. He protected the cows, gardens and lifted the Govardhan to protect cattle and residents from the fury of Indra. The weather God was forced to realize Krishna’s true identity and begged for forgiveness.
With Radha he was the lover, tender caring, defying social norms. They harboured tender feelings for each other and became an epitome of love. With her he played the flute that made all milkmaids forget their work and flee. He danced in the Maharaas with them all at night in the groves.
Krishna stayed in the soft realm of heart, women, and true loyal friends. There his mischief was pleasing to their heart and was forgiven. He had symbols of love and nourishment around him, cows, milk, butter and love. Krishna killed Kansa and ended that phase. Akrur fetched the two brothers to Mathura, breaking the heart of all his friends he left behind. To his Radha he handed over his murali that symbolised the end of pleasure in his life.
In Mahabharata emerged the other face of Krishna, who was forced to follow norms just like the others but to re establish order he had to beat the system. He joined the world of men, the realm of mind. Where enemies were not outsiders or demons, they were next of kin. Yet they were more ruthless, scheming and unjust. He moved from nature to urbanization a complex society, from the love of milkmaids to responsibility of 16,106 destitute women he liberated from Narakasura. He accepted them as wives besides Rukmani and Satyabhama to save them from social ostracism.
In his new world, greedy kings fought over land and territory, without bothering about welfare of people. The women were let down by husbands and gambled away, the relatives abused them. He then rode not cows but horses that symbolize the control of senses. His murali was replaced by the Chakra with which he beheaded Shishupal, the cow whip became Kaumudi, the mace that killed Dantavakra. The milk and butter were replaced by blood and manslaughter. From the loving God of simple people he becomes the punitive God of rotting mankind.
In Mahabharata he prevented Draupadi and Subhadra marrying Duryodhan to keep his allegiance clear of an impending war. He ploted plans to eliminate Shalva, Jarasandha, Bheeshma, Dronacharya and Karna.
He was loved by women in his childhood but cursed by Gandhari to helplessly watch the city of Dwarika engulfed by fire and water. Cursed to see destruction of his clan and die alone hit by an arrow on the back. It is said the only misdeed Vishnu did as Ramchandra, was killing Bali unaware. Bali is said to have reincarnated as Jara the hunter whose arrow killed Krishna to balance his Karma.
I began to explain both the faces of Krishna to my daughter-
He did what the need of the times called for. As is the state of the humanity, so is the God. When the society decays and there are people promoting hate and selfishness for their vested interests, the innocent get swayed and fight the righteous. The order of the world is disturbed. Violence and destruction establish the rule of might. Material things are valued more than people. The benevolent God changes to nemesis. Just like a soldier who can be a loving father and a ruthless killer both. Krishna does both the jobs equally well. In both roles he is to be revered alike.
When Krishna exposed his Vishwa roopam to Arjun and gave the Geeta discourse he chanted one of the most important shloka of Geeta and reiterated his promise:
"Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya Glanirva Bhavathi Bharatha,
Abhyuthanam Adharmaysya Tadatmanam Srijami Aham'.
Praritranaya Sadhunam Vinashaya Cha Dushkritam
Dharamasansthapnaya Sambhavami Yuge-Yuge."
"Whenever there is decay of righteousness,O! Bharatha,
And a rise of unrighteousness then I manifest myself!
For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and
For the establishment of righteousness, I am born in every age."
-Bhagavad Gita (Chapter IV-7, 8)