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Encyclopedia of Hindu Gods


Image by permission.

Basic Description:  Krishna is the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu.  In the Bhagavad-Gita he appears as a profound teacher. Furthermore, he is often depicted as a  young cowherd who loves the cow maidens.  Other descriptions include Krishna as a mischievous child, a heroic slayer of demons, and a king.

Alternate Names:  Govinda

Inography:  He is usually depicted as being dark blue or black and as playing a flute.  Often he is shown with his mistress Radha.

Mythology:  The following are some of the central myths concerning Krisha:

Krishna growing up: Krishna was born into the Yadava clan.  His uncle Kamsa (sometimes written Kansa), the evil king of Mathura, heard that he would be would be slain by one of his sister’s children.  He therefore tried to kill them all.  However, Krishna was given to a peasant couple to be raised.  As a child Krishna played many pranks, especially on the gopis.  He was also known for being a lover and for playing his flute.  After Kansa found that having ordered all children to be killed hadn’t gotten rid of Krishna, he sent a demon to kill the boy.  When Krishna was walking in the woods, it came to him. However, the boy caught its leg and smashed it against a rock, killing it.  The demon then tried to turn into a bird and fly away with him. However, he made himself hot and the bird dropped him.  Finally, the demon tried to eat his as a snake.  Krishna was nonetheless not defeated. He swelled until the beast’s stomach burst.  As an adult, Krishna and his brother Balarama killed Kamsa.  Then, he led the Yadavas to another area and there became king of Dvaraka .

Krishna as charioteer/ Krishna's death: When war broke out between the Kauravas and Pandavas clans Krishna would not fight. However, he gave stayed with the Pandavas and gave the Kauravas his army. During the war Krishna served as charioteer of the fighter Arjuna. When he got home, a fight broke out and Krishna’s son and brother were killed. He went to the woods to grieve and there, sitting in the woods, a hunter mistook him for a deer and fatally wounded him.

Consort:  Even though Krishna had nine wives, including Rukmini, who was an avatar of Lakshmi, his true love was Radha, who also was married to someone else. Nevertheless, it is Radha who is always pictured with Krishna, and they are usually referred to as "Radhakrishna."

Other References on the Karma-to-Grace website:


Corduan, Winfried.  Neighboring Faiths.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity, 1998.

Knipe, David M.  Hinduism: Experiments in the Sacred. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc., 1991.

“Krishna”  New Encyclopedia Britannica.  Micropaedia Vol. 7. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2002.

Thomas, P.  Epics, Myths and Legends of India.  Bombay: D.B. Taraporevala Sons and Co. Private. Ltd., 1989.

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