Krishna is usually regarded as the eight incarnation of lord Vishnu and was born in the Dvarpara Yuga as the "dark one". Lord Krishna is the embodiment of love and divine joy, that destroys all pain and sin. He is the protector of sacred utterances and cows. Krishna is an instigator of all forms of knowledge and born to establish the religion of love.
Krishna was born as the 8th child of Devaki, sister of the cruel demon king Kamsa. The sage Narada had predicted that Kamsa would be killed by his nephew, so the king killed Devaki´s first six children. The 7th, Balarama escaped and the 8th, Krishna, was secretly exchanged for a cowherds daughter.
The demon king Kansa send many demons to kill Krishna, but all were defeated. Among them were the whrilwind demon Trinavata, Vatasura disguised as a calf, the enormous crane Bakasura, Aghasura the demon snake and the monstrous horse Keshisura. Lord Krishna also mastered the five-headed demon snake Kaliya, to stop it from poisoning the holy river Yamuna and send it back to the ocean. He jumped on the snake from a big Kadamba tree and then defeated him by dancing on his heads.
Krishna was brought up in a cowherds family and loved to play the flute to entertain the other cowherds, the milkmaids, and the cows. As a child, Krishna had great love for his foster-mother Yashoda and their relationship stands as a great exemple for the love between a mother and her child. Krishna also became very famous for teasing the milkmaids of Vrindavan as well as Yashoda. He and his friends would steal milk and butter, let the cows go free at milking time, hide the clothes of bathing girls or even break the water pots the milkmaids were carrying on their heads. Little Krishna was not just teasing purely for the fun of it. He wanted to destroy the ignorance of his devotees, teaching them not to be attached to matter and forms and only focus on him.
As such, Lord Krishna is the deity of Hasya or Humour and a messenger of peace.
Krishna, Radha and Leela
Radha and Krishna are the divine couple that rules love, romance and the aesthetic sense. Radha was foremost among the milkmaids of Vrindavan, as the incarnation of Lakshmi, Vishnu's spouse and Krishna's obvious favorite.
Love and devotion may also find beautiful expression in the relationship between lovers. In India, women often see their husbands as Krishna, while men see their wives as Radha, the beloved. When men become gods and women goddesses, then we do not see the imperfections, and see only perfection, divinity. Surrender and serving each other are the keys to any good relationship, which becomes a rehearsal of surrender to the universe and the divine.
While Krishna's love was truly universal, Radha sometimes expressed feelings of jealousy. Like it is shown in the painting here, one day Radha became jealous of Lord Krishna' flute, because it was allowed to touch his lips and because he would breath his prana into it. Thus she took it from Krishna and then did not want to return it. Some thus see the relationship between Krishna and Radha as the love between god and man, between self and ego.
One moonlit night, Krishna multiplied his body into many to dance with all the milkmaids and fulfill their desire for union with him. The love between Krishna and the milkmaids represents the divine play (Leela) between reality (consciousness) and illusion (form), purusha (soul) and prakriti (primordial nature), divinity and humanity. The maidens dance around Krishna as electrons dance around the nucleus of every atom, and as body molecules and energies dance around the soul of every being.
Lord Krishna was only eight years old when he left Vrindavan and and his beloved Radha to study in the ashram of the saint Sandeepani. Therefore, everything that happened between Krishna and Radha or Krishna and the milkmaids took place when they were children. They were all very conscious of being incarnations of divine beings and saints. Whatever happened between them can only have been very romantic and spiritual. A lot of it was child-play.
Krishna and Bhakti in the Mahabharata
After Krishna killed Kansa, he became king. In the great Mahabharata epic, Krishna spoke memorable words on the essence of Bhakti Yoga or the yoga of pure spiritual devotion. During the battle of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna revealed to Arjuna the essence of Bhakti Yoga, of love for God which is love. This revelation is found in the famous Hindu scripture called the Bhagavad Gita. The Deity is the beloved and the devotee is the lover. When the Bhakta is blessed by divine grace he feels undivided union and non-dual consciousness.
Bhakti Yoga is regarded as the most direct method to merge in cosmic consciousness. Food, sex, sleep, attachments, responsibilities - all are no longer important in Bhakti Yoga : only worship is. Paintings and sculptures of deities are an essential part of the Hindu worship known as Puja. In temples or home shrines, one finds images of many gods and goddesses that are worshipped on a daily basis, decorated with flowers and offered food and incense, such as this Krishna statue.
See also "Little Krishna" and Krishna Pictures.
Click to hear the Krishna mantra online.