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Kṛṣṇa or Krishna (Skt., ‘black’, ‘dark’). A composite figure in Hinduism, becoming eventually the eighth and most celebrated avatāra (incarnation) of Viṣṇu. In the Ṛg Veda, the name appears, but is not connected with divinity. The transformation of Kṛṣṇa appears to have been a part of a longing (expressed in Bhāgavata Purāṇa) for a more personal than philosophical focus for religious devotion and progress: according to 1. 3. 27, Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam, ‘Kṛṣṇa is Bhagavan himself.’ He is prominent in the Mahābhārata, and it is he who instructs Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā. The many legends told about him make him one of the most popular and accessible figures of Hindu devotion (bhakti).

Initially, Kṛṣṇa was closely associated with Viṣṇu. His involvement with the gopīs in amorous dance (rasa līlā) becomes the model of passionate union with God; as the adviser to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā, he transcends the action and evokes a comparable transcendence in those who attend to him. He is represented iconographically in sinuous dance, playing his irresistible flute to summon the gopīs (and his lovers); but he is also shown in images of power, raising Mount Govardhana above the floods unleashed by Indra, or destroying the malevolent snake, Kāliya, who has poisoned the life-giving waters of the river Yamunā. Kṛṣṇa is devoted especially to Rādhā, and the two are often worshipped together.

See also VAIṢṆAVA;.


views updated May 23 2018


(fl. 1653 at Taṭāstra, Mahārāṣṭra, India)


Kṛṣṇa, the son of Mahādeva of the Kāśyapagotra and his wife Barvāī, lived at an unidentified town called Tatāka in the Kon̄kana, that is, the coastal region north and south of the city of Bombay. Krsna wrote the karanakaustubha at the command of the bhūpati Śiva (presumably thios is Śivājī the Marātha monarch whose career began in 1646 though his coronation took place only in 1674; he died in 1680). The epoch of the Karanakaustubha is 1653. Though Śivājī occupied Kalyāna in the Kon̄kana in 1652, he was forced by his father’s imprisonment to be inactive for five years thereafter; he acquired the rest of the Kon̄kana only between 1657 and 1662. If Krsna wrote in 1653, then Tatāka is most probably near Kalyāna, but it is also possible that he wrote elsewhere between 1657 and 1680 but used an earlier epoch.

The Karanakaustubha (see essay in Supplement) is based oin the Grahalāghava of Ganeśa and contains fourteen chapters, accompanied by numerous tables:

1. On the mean motions of the planets.

2. On the true longitudes of the Sun and Moon.

3. On the true longitudes of the five “star planets.”

4. On the three problems relating to diurnal motion.

5. On lunar eclipses.

6. On solar eclipses.

7. On the two eclipses from a table of tithis.

8. On heliacal risings and settings.

9. On planetary latitudes.

10. On the lunar crescent.

11. On planetary conjunctions.

12. On the fixed stars.

13. On the pātas of the Sun and Moon.

14. Conclusion.

The text was edited by V. G. Āpṭe, Ānandāśrama Sanskrit Series 96 (Poona, 1927).


The only articles on Krsna are by Ś. B. Dikṣtita, Bhāratiya Jyotihśāstra (Poona, 1931; reprint of the first edition, Poona, 1896), pp. 290–291, and by D. Pingree, Census of the Exact Sciences in Sanskrit, A, 2 (Philadelphia 1971), 55–56.

David Pingree


views updated May 29 2018

Kṛṣṇā (heroine of Mahābhārata): see DRAUPADĪ.