Krishna was the eighth and most celebrated of the ten chief incarnations of the god Vishnu, who. together with Brahma and Siva, constituted the divine triad of the Hindu mythology. SEE TRIMURTI. The term Krishna is a Sanscrit word signifying black, and was given to the incarnation either because the body assumed was of a black complexion, or, more properly, because of the relation of the avatar to a deity whose distinguishing color was black, as that of Brahma was red, and Siva was white; or for a reason implied in the citation from Porphyry (Eusebius, De Prcepar. Evang.), that the ancients represented the Deity by a black stone because his nature is obscure and impenetrable by man. See further, Maurice, Indian Antiquities, ii, 364-368; Prichard's Egypt. Mythol. p. 285; Maurice, History of Hindostan, ii, 351.
Krishna is the most renowned demigod of the Indian mythology, and most famous hero of Indian history. It is probable that when the story of his life is stripped of its mythological accidents it will be found that he was a historical personage belonging to the Aryan race when they were making their gradual inroads south and east in the peninsula of India. It is presumable that the enemies whom he attacked and subdued were the Turanian races who constituted the aborigines of the country, SEE KHONDS, and who, fighting fiercely and mercilessly in their primeval forests, were soon magnified into gods and demigods. SEE MYTHOLOGY.
I. Theory of the Incarnation.- Krishnaism, with all its imperfections, may be accounted as a necessary and the extreme revolt of the human heart against the unsatisfying vagaries of the godless philosophy into which Brahmanism and Buddhism had alike degenerated. The speculations of the six schools of philosophy, as enumerated by native writers, served only to bewilder the mind until the word maya, "illusion," was evolved as the exponent of all that belongs to the present life, while the awful mysteriousness of Nirvana overshadowed the life to come. Man's nature asks for light upon the perplexed questions of mortal existence, but at the same time demands that which is of more moment, an anchorage for the soul in the near and tangible. The ages had been preparing the Hindu mind for the dogma of Krishna-an upheaving of something more substantial from the great deep of human hope and fear than the unstable elements of a life transitory and void. Consult Max Muller's Chips, i, 242; Biblioth. Sacra, 18:543-568.
The avatars preceding that of Krishna were mere emanations of the god Vishnu, but this embodied the deity in the entirety of his nature. In those he brought only an ansa, or portion of his divinity, "a part of a part;" in this he descended in all the fulness of the godhead, so much so that Vishnu is sometimes confounded with Brahma, the latter becoming incarnate in Krishna as "the very supreme Brahma." See Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, i, 280, 291, note; also Sir Wm. Jones, in Maurice's Hindostan, ii, 256. In the Bhagavat Gita, that wonderful episode of the Mahabharata, Arjuna asks of Krishna that he may be favored with the view of the divine countenance. As, in response, the deity bestows upon him a heavenly eye that he may contemplate the divine glory, he indulges in a rhapsody which describes the incarnate god as comprising the entire godhead in all its functions. Again, Krishna says of himself " I am the cause of the production and dissolution of the whole universe," etc. (Thomson's edition, p. 51).
One object of this incarnation was " the destruction of Kansa, an oppressive monarch, and, in fact, an incarnate Daitya or Titan, the natural enemy of the gods" (H. H. Wilson, Religion of the Hindus, ii, 66). A more satisfactory object is disclosed by Krishna in the Bhaghavat Gita: " Even though I am unborn, of changeless essence, and the lord of all which exist, yet in presiding over nature (prakriti), which is mine, I am born by my own mystic power (maya). For, whenever there is a relaxation of duty, 0 son of Bharata! and an increase of impiety, I then reproduce myself for the protection of the good and the destruction of evil-doers. I am produced in every age for the purpose of establishing duty" (Thomson's ed. p. 30). The incarnations of Vishnu, which were multiplied to infinitude, assuming diversified forms of man, fish, and beast, because physical life has in it nothing real, nothing individual, nothing of lasting worth, we may believe contemplated even yet a more ennobling end, an antidote to the essential evil of nature as declared in one of the Puranas: " The uncreated being abandons the body that he used in order to disencumber the earth of the burden that overwhelmed it, as we use one thorn to draw out another" (Burnouf, quoted by Pressense, Religions before Christ, p. 63). " The thorn is material life, which Vishnu apparently takes on himself that he may the more effectually destroy it' (Pressense, ibidem). " Crude matter and the five elements are also made to issue from Krishna, and then all the divine beings. Naravana or Vishnu proceeds from his right side, Mahadeva from his left, Brahma from his hand, Dharma from his breath, Saraswati from his mouth, Lakshmi from his mind, Durga from his understanding, Radha from his left side. Three hundred millions of gopis, or female companions of Radha, exude from the pores of her skin, and a like number of gopas, or companions of Krishna, from the pores of his skin; the very cows and their calves, properly the tenants of Goloka, but destined to inhabit the groves of Brindavan, are produced from the same exalted source" (H. H. Wilson, Religion of the Hindus, i, 123).
On the other hand, the Puranas disclose with regard to Krishna a human life, when considered from the most favorable stand-point, discreditable to the name and nature of man. It is a tissue of puerilities and licentiousness. The miraculous deeds of Krishna were rarely for an object commensurate with the idea of a divine interposition. His associations as a cowherd (gopala) with the gopis-in which capacity he is most popular as an object of adoration-are no better than the amours of classic mythology. The splendid creation of the Gita, not unlike the human head in the Ars Poetica,
finds in the Puranas an unsightly complement. In his infancy he is represented as destroying in a wonderful manner the false nurse Putana; playing his tricks upon the cowherds-spilling their milk, stealing their cream, and always making cunning escapes; and rooting up trees the fall of which made the three worlds to resound. In his childhood swallowed by an alligator, he burns his way out from the entrails of the monster, and on another occasion contends with and overcomes the dragon, one of whose jaws touched the ground while the other stretched up to the clouds; checkmates Brahma, whose mind had been led by evil suggestions to steal away the cattle and the attendant boys, by creating others which were perfect facsimiles of those that had been stolen. Still a child, he dances in triumph on the great black serpent Kali-naja, and then, in compassion, assigns him to the abyss; hides and restores the clothes of the gopis while bathing; lifts the mountain Govarddhana on his little finger with as much ease as if it had been a lotus, that its inhabitants might be protected from the storm; and plays blind-man's buff, assuming the form of a wolf, that he might find and restore the boys who had been abducted by another wolf. In his more mature manhood we behold him promoting his love intrigues by miraculously corrupting the hearts of the gopis, or accomplishing that most astounding miracle with respect to his 16,000 wives, " quas omnes una nocte invisebat et replebat" (Paulinus, Systema Brahmanicum, p. 150), in order that Nared might be convinced of his divine nature. Now he careers in triumph over battle-fields, with a blade of grass or with a single arrow shot from the all-conquering bow discomfiting entire armies; and now he yields himself to scenes of sumptuous revelry in the gardens of golden earth, through which flowed " the river whose banks were all gold and jewels, the water of which, from the reflection of rubies, appeared red, though perfectly white"-in all the license of joy sporting with his 16,000 wives, by whom he was surrounded " as lightning with a cloud"-they and he pelting each other with flowers, thousands of lotuses floating on the surface of the river-whose water was the water of life -among which innumerable bees were humming and seeking their food (Bhagavat Purana, in Maurice, Hist. of Hindostan, ii, 327-458). Sir Wm. Jones, however, with enlarged charity, takes a modified and more pleasing view of the darker phases of a life the worst scenes of which are not fit to be told, " that he was pure and chaste in reality, but exhibited an appearance of excessive libertinism, and had wives or mistresses too numerous to be counted; he was benevolent and tender, yet fomented and conducted a terrible war." See farther Maurice, Hindostan, ii, 258.
II. Life of Krishna.-" The king of the Daityas or aborigines, Ahuka, had two sons, Devaka and Ugrasena. The former had a daughter named Devaki, the latter a son called Kansa. Devaki (the divine) was married to a nobleman of the Aryan race named Vasudeva, the son of Sura, a descendant of Yadu, and by him had eight sons. Vasudeva had also another wife named Rohini. Kansa, the cousin of Devaki, was informed by the saint and prophet Narada that his cousin would bear a son who would kill him and overthrow his kingdom. Kansa was king of Mathura, and he captured Vasudeva and his wife Devaki, imprisoned them in his own palace, set guards over them, and slew the six children whom Devaki had already borne. She was about to give birth to the seventh, who was Balarama, the playfellow of Krishna, and, like him, supposed to be an incarnation of Vishnu; but, by divine agency, the child was transferred before birth to the womb of Vasudeva's other wife, Rohini, who was still at liberty, and was thus saved" (Thomson's summary in Bhagavad Gita, p. 134). Her eighth child was Krishna, who was produced from one of the hairs of Vishnu (Muir's Sanscrit Texts, ch. ii, sec. 5), and was born at midnight in Mathura, " the celestial phenomenon." The moment Vasudeva saw the infant he recognised it to be the Almighty, and at once presented his adoration. The room was brilliantly illuminated, and the faces of both parents emitted rays of glory. The child was of the hue of a cloud with four arms, dressed in a yellow garb, and bearing the weapons, the jewels, and the diadem of Vishnu (H. H. Wilson, ut sup. i, 122). The clouds breathed forth pleasing sounds, and poured down a rain of flowers; the strong winds were hushed, the rivers glided tranquilly, and the virtuous experienced new delight. The infant, however, soon encountered the most formidable dangers, for Kansa left no means unemployed to compass the child's destruction. The gods interposed for his deliverance; lulled the guards of the palace to a supernatural slumber; its seven doors opened of their own accord, and the father escaped with his child. As they came to the Yamuna, the child gave command to the river, and a way was opened that they might pass over, a serpent meanwhile holding her head over the child in place of an umbrella. The child was surreptitiously exchanged for another, of which the wife of an Aryan cowherd, Nanda by name, had been delivered. Krishna was left with the cowherd, while Vasudeva returned with the other to the palace. Not long after, Kansa discovered the imposture, and in anger gave command for the indiscriminate slaughter of all male children. To escape the impending danger, Krishna was removed by Nanda to the village Gokula. Here his youth was passed in the care of the flocks and herds. The young gopas and gopis, cowherds and milkmaids, flocked to his side from the surrounding country, won by his matchless beauty and the display of his miraculous powers. He selected from the fascinated gopis a bevy of beauties, of whom he married several, Radha enjoying the honor of being his favorite mistress, and subsequently of being associated with him as a joint object of worship. He beguiled the hours with them in the gay revelries of dance and song. A second Apollo, he wielded the power of music, and at the sweet sounds of flute or vina the waters stood still to listen, and the birds lost the power of flight. The Puranas dwell upon his repeated exploits with serpents, daemons, and other monsters, each one of whom was eventually crushed or conquered, for the unequal contest was waged with one who embodied " the strength of the world." An impostor arose, pretending to be the true son of Vasudeva or Krishna himself, but he also was defeated and slain (Johnson's Selections from the Mahabharata, third section, note). Krishna participated in the family feud between the Kurus, or hundred sons of Dhritarasthra, and their cousins, the five sons of Pandu. One of the battles is fabled to have lasted eighteen days, and to have been attended with incredible slaughter. The varied fortunes of this protracted strife, interspersed with a vast number of legends and traditions, constitute the subject of the great epic the Mahabharata. For the protection of the people of Yadu against the invasion of a foreign king, Krishna built and fortified the town of Dvaraka, in Guzerat, all the walls of which were so studded with jewels that there was no need of lamps by night. To Rukmini is accorded the pre-eminence as his wife, though his harem numbered 16,000 others, each one of whom bore him ten sons (comp. The Dabistan, ii, 31,183, and Bhagavat Purana, ibid, ii, 408). Many were his notable deeds, some of them embracing the regions of the dead, and others India's heaven, from which he stole the famous Parijatatree, produced at the churning of the ocean, and at that time thriving in the gardens of Indra. The mighty tyrant Kansa, and the mightier daemons Chanura and Mushtika, fell beneath his prowess, and even his own tribe, the Yadavas, was exterminated through his agency (H. H. Wilson, Vishnu Purana, 5, passim). His death at last took place in a wonderful manner, and is supposed by some to illustrate the prophecy of the Garden. Durvasa had once warned him, " Oh, Krishna, take care of the sole of thyfoot; for if any evil come upon thee it will happen in that place" (as is related in the Maeahabharata in Maurice, ibid, ii, 472). As he sat one day in the forest meditating upon the fearful destruction of Kuru and Yadava alike, he inadvertently exposed his foot. A hunter, Jara (old age), mistook him for a beast, and with his arrow pierced the sole of his foot. In his death so great a light proceeded from Krishna that it enveloped the whole compass of the earth, and illuminated the entire expanse of heaven. He abandoned his mortal body and " the condition of the threefold qualities." According to the Purana, "he n he united himself with his own pure, spiritual, inexhaustible, inconceivable, unborn, undecaying, imperishable, and universal spirit." He returned to his own heaven, denominated Golokathe sphere or heaven of cows-a region far above the three worlds, and indestructible, while all else is subject to annihilation. "There, in the centre of it, abides Krishna, of the color of a dark cloud, in the bloom of youth, clad in yellow raiment, splendidly adorned with celestial gems, and holding a flute" (Wilson, Religion of the Hindus, i, 123).
In this entire life we find no high moral purpose to elicit our admiration or command our faith. Now and then there appear in the Puranas suggestions of relief from individual burdens of oppression and woe, but they are as void and dissevered as flashes of lightning, which serve but to intensify the gloom. Like Buddha, our divinity bewails the evils of existence. Whatever may be the recognition of human need, the idea of succor is most limited, and only proves that the religion feels itself inadequate to the emergency of man's mortal estate (comp. the opening of the Bhagavat Purana). Its sublimest thought is a method of escape from the necessity of repeated births, but even this it fails to elaborate. With our eye upon the balance in which Krishnaism is weighed, the confession of Porphyry still presses painfully upon us that " there was wanting some universal method of delivering men's souls which no sect of philosophy had ever yet found out" (Augustine, De Civitate Dei, lib. 10:ch. xxxii). SEE INCARNATION, vol. 4:p. 530.
III. The Worship of Krishna. — The worship of this divinity is so blended with that of Vishnu and Rama, another of the incarnations of Vishnu, that it is difficult to treat of the one without trenching on that of the others. These are all generally considered under the (denomination Vaishnavas, or worshippers of Vishnu, who are usually distinguished into four Sampraddyas, or sects, designated in the Padma Purana as Sri, Madhwi, Rudra, and Sanaka (comp. Wilson, Relig. of Hindus, i, 34). The worshippers of Krishna have been subdivided into, 1. those who worship him alone; 2. those who worship his mistress Radha alone; and, 3. those who worship both conjointly (see Vollmer, Worterb. d. Mythol. p. 1093). According to H. H. Wilson, throughout India the opulent and luxurious among the men, and by far the greater portion of the women, attach themselves to the worship of Krishna and Radha either singly or together. In Bengal the worshippers of Krishna constitute from one fifth to one third of the entire population (Ward, On the Hindus, ii, 175, 448). The temples and establishments devoted to this divinity are numerous all over India, particularly at Mathura and Brindavan, the latter of which is said to contain many hundreds, among them three of great opulence (Wilson, ut supra, i, 135). For the controversy on the extent of Krishna worship, see Wilson's Vishnu Purana, vol. 5:Appendix.
We shall have to content ourselves with glancing at some of the more notable sects or Sampradayas. The Rudra Sampradayis or Vallabhacharis adore Krishna as an infant. This form of worship is widely diffused among all ranks of Hindu society. In their temples and houses are images, not unfrequently of gold, in the form of a chubby boy of a dark hue, and with a mischievous face, in some cases holding butter in both hands, by which is perpetuated one of his boyish pranks (Caullinus, Systema Brahmanicum , n. 146, and plate 15). This image eight times a day receives the homage of its votaries with most punctilious ceremony. At the first ceremony, being washed and dressed, it is taken from its couch, where it has slept for the night, and placed upon a seat, about half an hour after sunrise. Lamps are kept burning, while refreshments are presented, with betel and Pan (see Wilson, Relig. of Hindus, i, 126-128). The Sanakadi, who are scattered throughout the whole of Upper India, the Sakhi Bhavas, the Raddha Vallabhis, and the Charan Dasis differ in minor particulars of creed and ritualism, but all worship Radha in union with Krishna. The Chaitanyas are schismatics. They believe in the incarnation of Krishna in Chaitanya their teacher, who on this account is elevated to joint adoration. With them the momentary repetition of the name of their divinity is a guarantee of salvation.
Festivals in commemoration of Krishna are annually observed throughout India, and still maintain a most powerful hold of the popular heart. The third day of the Uttaravana, a festival held about the middle of January, is sacred to Krishna as gopala or cowherd. In the afternoon the cows and bulls are washed and fed with sacred food, then decorated with chaplets of flowers. Thereupon the Hindus, with joined hands, walk around the herds as well as around the Brahmans, and prostrate themselves before them (Wilson, ibid, ii, 171). The Holi festival is observed about the middle of March. It may be not improperly described as an older and more crazy sister of our April Fools' Day, and is mostly devoted to Krishna. His image enjoys a swing several times during the day, is besmeared with red powder, and dashed with water colored red. It the mean time unbounded license reigns through the streets. " It would be impossible to describe the depths of wickedness resorted to in celebration of the licentious intrigues of this popular god" (Trevor's India, p. 97). The festival of Jaggernaut (" Lord of the world"), in whose magnificent temple a bone of Krishna is most sacredly preserved, commemorates the departure of Krishna from his native land. SEE JAGGERNAUT. This also takes place in the month of March. Those who are so highly favored as to assist in the drawing of his car are sure of going to the heaven of Krishna when they die (see Gangooly, in Clark's Ten Great Religions, p. 134; Dubois, Manners and Customs of India, p. 418). The nativity of Krishna is celebrated on the eighth day of August. This is the most popular of all the festivals at Benares. The Rasa Yatra falls on the full moon in October, and perpetuates the dance of the frolicsome deity with the 16,000 gopis. Though it is universally observed in Himndostan, the details are such that it will not be seemly to treat either of the occasion or the observance of this festival (see Holwell's Indian Festivals, pt. ii, p. 132; Maurice, Indian Antiquities, 5:159).
The Hindu sects are distinguished from each other by various fantastical streaks, in different colors, upon their faces, breasts, and arms. The followers of Krishna bear upon their forehead two white marks perpendicular to the eyebrows, between which a red spot is perceptible, in token, says Vollmer, that Krishna bore a sun upon his brow (Worterb. d. Mythol. p. 1093; also Wilson's Rel. of Hind. i, 41; Dubois, Manners of India, ch. 8, and p. 214; Trevor's India, p. 101).
Unquestionably the influence of the worship of this divinity upon the morals of the people is evil. On the one hand, it embraces the hideous barbarity of Jaggernaut; and, on the other, excepting a festival of Siva, it is responsible for the most licentious of all the annual feasts (comp. Dabistan, i, 183). Entire dependence upon Krishna, or any other form of this heathen deity, says H. H. Wilson, not only obviates the necessity of virtue, but sanctifies vice. Conduct is wholly immaterial. It matters not how atrocious a sinner a man may be if he paints his face, his breast, his arms with certain sectarial marks; or, what is better, if he brands them permanently upon his skin with a hot iron stamp; if he is constantly chanting hymns in honor of Vishnu; or, what is equally efficacious, if he spends hours in the simple reiteration of his name or names; if he die with the word Hari, Rama, or Krishna on his lips, and one thought of him in his mind, he may have lived a monster of iniquity, but he is certain of heaven ('Wilson, Relig. of Hindus, ii, 75; see also i, 161). On the subject of the sects and worship of Krishna, consult Asiatic Researches, 16:1, and 17:169; Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 9:60-110; H. H. Wilson, Select Works, vol. i, ii, passim; Penny Cyclop. 26:389.
IV. Resemblances between Krishnaism and Revealed Religion.- Efforts have been made in the interest of scepticism to establish a philological similarity between the words Krishna and Christ. Such speculations belong to a past rather than to the present age, as it is now conceded by philologists that the two words have nothing in common. The curious are referred to Hickson's Time and Faith, ii, 377; Volney's Ruins, p. 165 (Am. ed. 1828); and for refutation to Maurice, Hindostan, ii, 268-271. The readiness with which the sceptical mind of our own age seizes upon and magnifies even fancied resemblances is evinced by Inman, who in his first volume (Ancient Faith, p. 402) gives an engraving of Krishna strikingly like those attributed to Christ, but which in the second volume, on farther acquaintance with the subject, he admits to be " of European and not of Indian origin, and consequently that it is worthless as illustrating the life of Krishna" (p. xxxii).
There are correspondences, however, some of which have already appeared in the summary of the life of Krishna, that deserve more than a passing notice. It is sufficient to adduce the more striking ones, without their correlatives in the Bible, as these will readily occur to the reader. These are as follows: that he was miraculously born at midnight of a human mother, and saluted by a chorus of Devatas; that he was cradled among cowherds, during which period of life he was persecuted by the giant Kansa, and saved by his mother's flight; the miracles with which his life abounds, among which were the raising of the dead and the cleansing of the leprous, perhaps the only ones which particularly resembled those of Christ, for the rest were either puerile or monstrous; his contests with serpents, which he crushed with his foot; his descent to the regions of the dead, and his final ascent to the paradise Goloka (comp. Kleuker, Abhandlung d. Kalk. Gesellsch. i, 235; Stirm, Apologie des Christenthums, p. 181, 2d ed.)
1. The consideration of the interesting questions involved in these correspondences will be facilitated by bearing in mind that India, from the earliest recorded period, had sustained intimate mercantile relations with Shemitic races. " Before merchants sailed from India to Egypt, and from Egypt to India" (that is, as the context shows, before the period of the Ptolemies), "Arabia Felix was the staple (mart) both for Egyptian and Indian goods, much as Alexandria is now for the commodities of Egypt and foreign merchandise" (Arrian, Peripl. Mar. Erythr. in Heeren's African Researches, p. 228). " If," says Heeren, " the explicit testimony here brought forward proves a commercial intercourse between India and Arabia, it proves at the same time its high antiquity, and that it must have been in active operation for many centuries" (ibid, p. 229). A caravan trade also extended from India to Meroe, in Ethiopia, which was its grand emporium (ibid, p. 211). Taking its rise beyond the horizon of history, it was yet in its zenith during the times of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (see also Vincent's Periplus, p. 57, etc.). It could not be otherwise than that there should have been an interchange of religious knowledge as well as an exchange of wares; for commerce was promoted by religion, and, to a great extent, controlled by the priesthood; even its temples were stations and marts for caravans (see further, Heeren, ibid, p. 219, 225, 232). The striking resemblance existing between the Egyptian and Hindu mythologies, which has been unfolded by many writers, illustrates the fact of an interchange of religious light; and that these extremes of the known world should thus have met remarkably confirms the views of Heeren just adduced (see further, Prichard, Egyptian Mythology, p. 227-301; Maurice, Indian Antiquities, 3:56-124; Bunsen, God in History, bk. 3:ch. ii). The annexed figures were copied by Sonnerat from sculptures in one of the oldest of the Hindu pagodas. No Vishnuite of distinction, Sonnerat tells us, is without these images in his house, either of gold, silver, or copper (see also Prichard's Egypt. Myth. p.261). For a glowing description of Krishna's person, see the Purana in Maurice, Hindost. ii, 363.
2. On the supposition of the oneness of our race there is no reason to exclude the Hindu from an original participation in the patriarchal knowledge of the promised Redeemer, as transmitted by Noah and his family. Suetonius (Vespas. iv) and Tacitus (Hist. 5:4,13) unite in the thought of" an ancient and permanent belief having spread itself over the whole East" to this effect. (See farther Gray's Connection, i, chap. xxv; Hengstenberg, Christology, 4, Appendix ii; Tholuck, Lehre v. d. Sinde, p. 220-229; Stolberg's Religions Geschichte i, Beilage iv; Faber's Prooph. Diss. i, 57-114; Faber's Hortc Mosaicce, i, ch. iii.) All Hindu traditions connected with the origin of their religion and their people point but one way, and that to the recognised birthplace of our race the lofty watershed from which in every direction human faiths and mythologies have flowed forth. (See Max Miller on the relations of the Veda and Zend-Avesta, Chips, i, 81-86.) Though these traditions in themselves may be as inconsequential as falling stars, still they reflect a light kindred with that which shines forth from fixed stars in the firmament of true faith. Krishna, as seen in the monuments of the Hindu, stands a striking exponent of primeval traditions, that, having sprung from the promise of the Garden, have more or less modified most distant and varied mythologies. He is a crude though not inartistic painting of a hope preserved to us in the Word of God, but otherwise hopelessly lost. He is one of a brotherhood that embraces an Apollo triumphant over the python; a Hercules, burying the immortal and burning out the mortal heads of the hydra; a Sigurd, a descendant of Odin, slaying the serpent Fafnir, and rescuing priceless treasure; a Thor, styled " the eldest of the sons of God," who, in his contest with the serpent, though brought upon his knee, yet bruised his enemy's head with the mace and finally slew him; an Oshanderbegha, predicted by Zoroaster, who contends twenty long years with a malignant daemon, whom he eventually conquers; and even the less renowned Algonquin conqueror Michabo, destroying with his dart the shining prince of serpents who flooded the earth with the waters of a lake. For other instances, consult the authorities referred to. immediately above, and Brinton's Myths of the New World, p. 116, with his interpretations. On the other hand, Major Moor states that among a numerous collection of pictures and images of Krishna he had not one original in which the serpent is represented as biting Krishna's foot (Hindu Pantheon). For an account of this, see above.
3. It is not to be questioned that India was a field of evangelical effort not long after the death of Christ, which, taken in connection with the generally accepted view that Krishnaism is of comparatively recent origin, suggests that its more palpable features of resemblance have been more or less directly derived from the Scriptures themselves. If doubt be cast upon the extent of country comprehended under the term India in this connection, it is to be borne in mind that those parts of the world which are supposed by some to be confounded with India proper maintained by trade thus early a lively intercourse with India, and could thus furnish a channel for the propagation of Christianity throughout the field where Krishnaism subsequently prevailed.
According to Eusebius, " Pantaenus was constituted a herald of the Gospel of Christ to the nations of the East, and advanced even as far as India." He found himself anticipated by some who were acquainted with the Gospel of Matthew, to whom Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached, leaving with them the same Gospel in Hebrew which was preserved until his time (Eccles. Hist. bk. 5, ch. x; see Jerome, Catal. Script. cap. xxxvi; and for comparison of their views consult Mosheim, Commentaries, cent. ii, sec. ii, note 1; see also Neande. Ch. Hist., Clark's ed., i, 112). Tradition tells us that St. Thomas preached to the Indians, which is confirmed by Gregory of Nazianzum. Jerome, however, makes the field of labor to have been Ethiopia. There seems to be little doubt that copies both of the apocryphal and of the genuine Gospels circulated early through portions of Southern India. Silly miracles, resembling those of the former almost to the letter, have been incorporated into the sacred writings of Krishnaism. Theophilus, surnamed Indicus, visited India as a missionary in the time of Constantine, and found Christianity already planted and flourishing, though isolated from Christianity at large. Both Bardesanes and Mani, heresiarchs of the early Church, in their travels came into close and prolonged contact with Buddhism, from which they drew much of the virus that they strove to infuse into Christian belief. The former of them certainly visited India as early as the latter part of the 2d century (see Kurtz, Hist. of Ch. p. 109, sec. 50; Neander, ii, 198). Weber and Lassen agree in this respect in their interpretation of a passage of the Mahabharata, that at an early period in the history of the Church three Brahmans visited some community of Christians either in Alexandria, Asia Minor, or Parthia, and that on their return they " were enabled to introduce improvements into the hereditary creed, and more especially to make the worship of Krishna the most prominent feature of their system." See farther Hardwick, Christ, i, 246- 258,284-293; Carwithen, Brahminical Religion, p. 98-104, 320-322; Faber's Prophetical Dissertation, i, 64; Origin of Pagan Idol. bk. 6, chap. vi; Treatise on three Dispensations, bk. i, chap. vi; Wuttke, Geschichte des
Heidenthumes, ii, 339; also authorities referred to by Hardwick, 1. c. SEE INDIA, MODERN.
4. It was the fashion early in the present century to search out astronomical allusions in Krishna, and resemblances to Apollo, the mythological counterpart to the sun, but these have given place to sounder criticism. Recent researches favor the view that no great antiquity is to be attributed to Krishna as an object of religious regard. That some one bearing that name may have figured as a local hero in the early history of India, and even as far back as the period preceding the war of the Mahabharata, is not improbable (comp. Wilson, Religion of the Hindus, ii, 65,66). The allusions on classical pages serve to justify such a conclusion.
5. But it is important to remember that Krishnaism nowhere appears in the Vedas, the most ancient scriptures of the Hindu. "Krishna worship is the most modern of all the philosophical and religious systems which have divided India into rival sects. Founded upon the theory of successive incarnations which neither the Vedas nor the legislators of the first Brahmanical epoch admitted, Krishnaism differs in so many points from the faiths peculiar to India that we are tempted to regard it as borrowed from foreign philosophies and religions" (M. Pavie, Bhagavat Dasan Askcnd, Pref. p. xi; in like manner Lassen, Indische AIterthumsk. i, 488; ii, 1107; Prichard, Egypt. Mythology, p. 259. with citations from Colebrooke; Max Muller, Chips, ii, 75, Amer. edit.; Asiatic Researches, 8:494). " It is believed," says H. H. Wilson cautiously, that Rama and Krishna "are unnoticed in authentic passages of the Sanhita or collected prayers, and there is no mention of the latter as Govinda or Gopala, the infant cowherd, or as the uncouth and anomalous Jaggernaut. They are mentioned in some of the Upanishads, supplementary treatises of the Vedas, but these compositions are evidently, from their style, of later date than the Vedas, and some of them, especially those referring to Rama and Krishna, are of very questionable authenticity" (ibid, ii, 65). Compare Wilson's Transl. of the Rig Veda Sanhita, i, 260, 313, 315; ii, 35, note b; 3:148, note 7.
At the time of its first translation into English by Wilkins, an immense antiquity was claimed for the Bhagavat Gita (see above, sec. i), but this is now generally admitted to be an interpolation in the Mahabharata, and to have been produced subsequently to the rise not only of Christianity, but of Krishnaism itself. Lassen accords it a place in the later history of Hindu religions, when "the Vishnuites broke up into sects and sought to bring their religious dogmas into harmony with the theories of philosophy" (Indische .- It. ii, 494; Hardwick, i, 241).
As to the Puranas, which are almost the sole authorities for those events in the life of Krishna (exclusive of his victorious contest with the serpent) that most resemble the life of Christ, they are, in their present form, unquestionably of modern origin. They abound in legends that may properly be regarded as purana (ancient), but bear upon their face sectarian marks, which betray both their animus and their age. They are eighteen in number, and some of them are voluminnum. The Puranas themselves in many cases ascribe their authorship to others than Vyasa, " and they offer many internal proofs that they are the work of various hands and of different dates, none of which are of very high antiquity. I believe the oldest of them not to be anterior to the 8th or 9th century, and the most recent to be not above three or four centuries old.... The determination of their modern and unauthenticated composition deprives them of the sacred character which they have usurped, destroys their credit, impairs their influence, and strikes away the main prop on which at present the great mass of Hindu idolatry and superstition relies" (H. H. Wilson, Relis. of the Hindus, ii, 68). There is but little doubt that the Brahmans are right in referring the authorship of the Bhagavata, the most popular of the Purnlias (from which we have quoted so freely in the summary of Krishna's life), to Vopadeva, who flourished in the 12th century (ibid, p. 69; see also preface to Wilson's Vishnu Puranaz). Bentley (View of Ancient Astronomy, i, bk. ii, chap. ii) informs us that he obtained access to the Janampatra, or horoscope of Krishna, and was enabled to discover from it that he is reputed to have been born on the 23d of the moon of Sravana, in the lunar mansion Rohini, at midnight, the positions of the sun, and moon, and five planets being at the same time assigned; from which he deduced the date of the pretended nativity to be Aug. 7, A.D. 600. In Mr. Bentley's opinion, perhaps a fanciful one, Krishna himself was one of the Hindu personifications of time, which view he supports by Krishna's own declaration, " I am time, the destroyer of mankind matured, come hither to seize at once on all these who stand before us." See farther, on the astronomical view, Greswell's Fasti Catholici, 4:88; Cardinal Wiseman's Lect. ii, 1-28; Tomkins's Hulsean Prize Lectures, p. 35-41; W. A. Butler's Ancient Philos. i, 247.
From considerations like these, not to speak of others that might be urged, we are. led to conclude that Krishnaisll proper was post-Christian, an outcropping of human and possibly of diabolic nature, that was illustrated at the foot of Sinai, but which no more resembled its divine original than the lifeless golden calf resembled the living Apis of Egypt. As in the pitiable blur of a palimpsest, Krishnaism has replaced or obscured that which was more precious-the religion of Christ, founded no less in impregnable truth than in the undying necessities of men. For at the rise of this false religion it is plain to us that the light of Christianity was reflected already on the sky of India-light that was sadly perverted to set forth a feeble caricature of the incarnation and life of Christ.
6. As the tenor of our argument has indicated, the criticism of the present age is disposed to assign a recent origin to Krishnaism, though, at the same time, it does not ignore the existence of a hero bearing the name of Krishna conspicuous in the early and fabulous history of India. It may be of interest to the reader to have presented somewhat more in detail the views of some of the scholars of the present century, conflicting and confused though they be, upon the general subject of the relations of Krishnaism to Christianity as well as profane religions. Archdeacon Hardwick thinks that the resemblances are no greater than the outward and fortuitous resemblances between other heathen deities, or between some of them and Christ. He illustrates by the incident of the persecution of Hercules in his infancy by Juno; the dancing of the milkmaids and satyrs of Bacchus, which compares with that of Krishna; the concealing of Apollo in the household of Admetus. He says further, " If Krishna is to be regarded as a purely human and historical hero, doomed to death in childhood from forebodings that his life would prove the ruin of another, we can find his parallel in the elder Cyrus, who had also been intrusted to the care of herdsmen to preserve him from the vengeance of his royal grandfather, whose death it was foretold he should ultimately accomplish" (i, 285, 286). Colonel Wilford supposes Krishna to have lived about B.C. 1300. Sir William Jones says the story of his birth is long anterior to the birth of Christ, and traces it probably to the time of Homer. He thinks it likely that the spurious gospels of the early age of Christianity were brought to India, and the wildest parts of them repeated to the Hindus, who ingrafted them on the old fable of Kesava, the Apollo of India (Asiatic Researches, i, 274). Mr. Bentley (Hindu Astronomy), in contradiction to Mr. H. Colebrooke, Sir William Jones, major Moor, and others, boldly charges the whole history of the incarnation of Krishna as a "modern invention" and "fabrication" of the Brahmans, who, alarmed at the progress of Christianity, invented a story not unlike that of Christ, and affixed a name somewhat similar to the hero of it; all of which they threw back to a very remote age, that it might be impossible successfully to contradict it, and then represented that Christ and Krishna were the same person, of whose history the Christians had an incorrect version. Mr. J. C. Thompson thinks that Krishna antedates the Brahmanical triad-Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva -and that his great exploits occasioned him later in Aryan history to be identified with Vishnu (p. 134). Lassen, an eminent Oriental scholar, refers the origin of the system of avatars, as disclosed in Vishnu, to a period of time at least three centuries before Christ; while Weber, equally distinguished as a critic, controverts his views, and argues that Krishna, the hero or demigod, was no incarnation, and differed vastly from the Krishna of later times. (See farther Hardwick, ibid, i, 288, note.)
V. Literature. — The "Mahabharata," translated into French by Fauche (Paris, 1863), book 10:which is appropriated to the life of Krishna; the "Bhagavad Gita," episode of the preceding (Wilkins's, 1785, and Thomson's, 1855, transl. into English, and Wm. Schlegel's translation into Latin, 1823) ; the " Vishnu Purana" (translated by H. H. Wilson, 1842 and 1866, 6 vols.); the "Bhagavata Purnsa" (translated into French by Burnouf, Paris, 1840); the "Hari Vansa" (transl. into French by Langlois, Paris, 1842); "Analysis of the Agni Purana," in the Journ. of As. Soc. of Bengal, i, 81; "Analysis of the Brahma Vaivartha Purana," ibid, p. 217; also Asiatic Researches, passim, especially vol. xv and xvi; Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, i, 246-258, 277-293-a valuable and easily accessible resume of the whole subject; H. H. Wilson, Religion of the Hindus, vol. ii, passim; Hoefer, Biographie Generale, art. Crichnie; J. D. Guigniaut, Religions de Antiquite, vol. i, bk. i, ch. iii; P. F. Stuhr, Religions systeme der heidnischen Vilker des Orients (Berlin, 1836-38, 2 vols. 8vo); M.Pavie, Bhagavat Dasam Askanzd (Paris, 1852); W. von Humboldt, Ueber die unter dem Nanaen Bhagavad Gita bekannte Episode des Mahabharata (Berlin, 1826); A. Remusat, Melanges Asiatiques (Paris, 1825-1829, 4 vols.); P. von Bohlen, Das Alte Indien (2 vols., 1830-31); Christ. Lassen, Indische Alterthumskunde (4 vols., 1844-46, chiefly vol. ii); A. F. Weber, Indischen Studien (10 vols., 184967, especially the two first vols.); Indische Skitzzen (Berlin, 1857), particularly the essay Die Verbindunen Indiens mit den Landern im Westen; Coleman, Mythology of the Hindus (1832), art. Krishna; Edward Moor, Hindu Pantheon (1810): H. T. Colebrooke, Religion of the Hindus (London, 1858); Wm. Ward,
Account of' the Writings, Religion, etc., of the Hindus (4 vols., 1817-20); G. Haslam, The Cross and the Serpent (London, 1849); G. W. F. Hegel, in the Jahrbiicher Jfr wisseschafiliche Kritik (Berlin, 1827) J. A. Dorner, Lehre von d. Per-son Christi (Stuttgardt, 1845), i, 7 sq.; Theo. Benfey, Indien, in Ersch und Gruber's Encyklop., sec. ii, vol. 17 (Leipsic, 1840); Biographie Universelle (Partie Mythologique, supplement, ii, 545-550); K. F. Staiudlin, Magazin, 3:2, 99 sq.; Muir, Original Sanscrit Extracts (5 vols., 1858 -1870), vols. i and iv. See VISHNU. (J. K. B.)