Online Encyclopedia

KRISHNA (the Dark One)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 927 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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KRISHNA (the Dark One), an incarnation of Vishnu, or rather the form in which Vishnu himself is the most popular object of worship throughout northern India. In origin, Krishna, like Rama, was undoubtedly a deified hero of the Kshatriya caste. In the older framework of the Mahabharata he appears as a great chieftain and ally of the Pandava brothers; and it is only in the interpolated episode of the Bhagavad-gita that he is identified with Vishnu and becomes the revealer of the doctrine of bhakti or religious devotion. Of still later date are the popular developments of the modern cult of Krishna associated with Radha, as found in the Vishnu Purana. Here he is represented as the son of a king saved from a slaughter of the innocents, brought up by a cowherd, sporting with the milk-maids, and performing miraculous feats in his childhood. The scene is laid in the neighbourhood of Muttra, on the right bank of the Jumna, where the whole country to the present day is holy ground. Another place associated with incidents of his later life is Dwarka, the westernmost point in the peninsula of Kathiawar. The two most famous preachers of Krishna-worship and founders of sects in his honour were Vallabha and Chaitanya, both born towards the close of the 15th century. The followers of the former are now found chiefly in Rajputana and Gujarat. They are known as Vallabhacharyas, and their gosains or high priests as maharajas, to whom semi-divine honours are paid. The licentious practices of this sect were exposed in a lawsuit before the high court at Bombay in 1862. Chaitanya was the Vaishnav reformer of Bengal, with his home at Nadiya. A third influential Krishna-preacher of the loth century was Swami Narayan, who was encountered by Bishop Heber in Gujarat, where his followers at this day are numerous and wealthy. Among the names of Krishna are Go pal, the cow-herd; Gopinath, the lord of the milkmaids; and Mathuranalh, the lord of Muttra. His legitimate consort was Rukmini, daughter of the king of Berar; but Radha is always associated with him in his temples. (See HINDUISM.)
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