Krishna: A Sourcebook

Krishna: A Sourcebook

Krishna: A Sourcebook

Krishna: A Sourcebook

Synopsis

Krishna is one of the most important deities in the Hindu pantheon, judging by the themes that have emerged in Hindu drama, poetry, dance, painting, song, literature, iconography and temple worship over the last millennium and more. Although for most people outside of India the Bhagavad Gitacomes to mind when thinking of Krishna, there is also an abundance of other popular, sectarian and scholastic literary genres focused on this deity that is not readily available, which has had as much influence as the Bhagavad Gita, if not more. In this collection, leading scholars of Hinduism offer new translations of the most popular and prominent samples of Krishna religious literature spanning over two thousand years from a variety of genres -- epic, poetic, literary, philosophical, hagiographical and more - and from geographicallydiverse regions of the Indian subcontinent. By bringing together for the first time a broad range of primary texts about Krishna, this book offers fresh material and approaches to the study of this popular god.

Excerpt

Edwin F. Bryant

Krishna is undoubtedly one of the most beloved deities of Hindu India. As a pan-Indian deity, his worship takes on distinctive forms and unique flavors that today dominate entire regions all over the subcontinent—Radha Krishna of Braj in North India, Jagannath in Orissa to the east, Shrinathji in Rajasthan and Ranchor in Gujarat to the west, Vitobha in Maharashtra in central India, Udupi Krishna in Karnataka and Guruvayor in Kerala in the South, to name but a few. Even in the West, one need only visit an art museum with a decent collection of Indian art and iconography to encounter representations of this deity in a variety of media, or attend a performance of classical Indian dance, where there is every chance that a scene from Krishna’s life will be enacted, or browse the selections of devotional songs in any Indian grocery store to gain a sense of how embedded this deity is in the religious landscape of South Asia. His presence there can be attested for at least two and a half millennia.

Considered to be an incarnation of the Vedic deity Vishnu, who emerges in the later Vedic period as the supreme being, or, for some sects, as the supreme source being himself, Krishna is most readily encountered in the literary traditions of South Asia. The two great epics of India both feature incarnations of Vishnu—Rama in the Ramayana, and Krishna in the Mahabharata. While he is not the protagonist of the Mahabharata, the epic highlights a divine Krishna throughout its narrative at pivotal moments (see Hiltebeitel, chapter 1 here), and includes a sizeable appendix, the Harivamsha, dedicated exclusively to his life and incarnation (see Lorenz, chapter 3 here). Within the Mahabharata is embedded the famous Bhagavad . . .

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