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The Power of Myth

by Dr. Sushil Fotedar

Did Krishna exist ?

As a historical person, the answer would, perhaps, be yes.

There is a reasonable wealth of evidence, both archaeological and historical, suggesting that there did exist a prince of the Vrishni clan known by this name who participated in a war in and around Kurukshetra. This guy is supposed to have achieved a popularity of sorts for his good deeds and that is why he has stayed in the collective memory of our race. Beyond this nothing very significant is known about the man and whatever happened to his progeny and clan (Majumdar, Bimanbihari. Krishna in the History and Legend. University of Calcutta. 1969, pp. 5; Majumdar, R. C. The History and Culture of the Indian people, vol. I, pp. 303; Wilson, Horace H. The Visnu Purana. Nag Publishers. 1989, pp. ii). But then our curious
, rational minds automatically ask the next question :

Did “Bhagvan” Krishna exist ?

He was the eighth “Avatar” of Vishnu, the killer of evil “Asuras” like Kansa, Pootna, Bakasur—the list is endless; the ultimate idol of love who is supposed to have danced with umpteen number of Gopis simultaneously
, filling their hearts with intense bliss alternating with excruciatingly painful bouts of “virah”, of spiritual separation; He is the one who gave the knowledge of the Bhagvad Gita to Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra and also blessed him with the “darshan” of his divine “Virat” form. We can go on and on with the endless exploits of this beloved God. But then did this “Giridhar” Gopal actually exist and perform all His miracles the way they are mentioned in our Puranas?

The theologians, our respectable priests, would like us to accept all of this literally. Yes, Krishna, the Avatar of Love, the performer of innumerable miracles did exist and do all that is mentioned
, very, very literally. He still resides in “Go-loka” with His bhaktas all around. If we are His true devotees, we may be lucky to be despatched by Lord Yama to this beautiful Loka of His abounding in wonderful milk-yielding cows and buildings studded with gems in whichever direction you see—the ultimate paradise where we will then live happily ever after. We may also have the good fortune of participating in the highly secretive, “gopneeya” group dance called the “Maha-raasa” which is supposed to be the ultimate form of spiritual realization, understood by the lucky few, the “Gopas” and the “Gopis” only..All this happens literally of course, to the last minutest detail in the spiritual Vrindavan in some province of Go-loka. Well, well… ??!!

With the advent of the scientific age
, it became more and more difficult for believers to defend their understanding of this phenomenon. The intellectually sophisticated among them now started to interpret this metaphorically. So, the Kauravas and the Pandavas are nothing but your own evil and good tendencies deep inside the recesses of your consciousness, ever at war with each other. Spiritual progress occurs when the Parmatman, Krishna, the spiritual light residing in the cavern of your heart, guides you through this war; ultimately the good vasanas are victorious over the evil ones and you live happily ever after.

This interpretation does sound effective up to a certain point. It does definitely do away with the apparent irrationality of the theologian’s view but then at certain points it becomes too tedious and one has to stretch his imagination to lend credibility to such expositions. More importantly
, it does not explain the tremendous hold these so-called metaphorical stories have on the collective psyche. If they were simply feel-good stories, they would stay that way, in libraries and homes, to be brought out once in a while, read like good novels and kept back on the shelves. Obviously, it is not that way. So, this brings me to the last query of mine:

DOES Krishna exist?

What happens when a Surdas is held by Balkrishna and guided to his home on a dark wintry night after having been deserted on the wayside by the heartless trader who earlier in the day had ironically beseeched him to be a guest at his home--and moved immensely by the intensity of the experience writes one of the most beautiful poems of his life?

What happens when an Aandal or a Meera sees, plays with, and ultimately "marries" a Giridhar Naagar?

What happens when a Tukaram runs after a dog who has snatched his only piece of bread, imploring Him,” Dear Vitthal
the bread is dry; let me at least apply some butter on it.” ?

Are they mad, hallucinating psychotics?

Or does the “Metaphor” which resides as an archetype in the collective unconscious become an actual entity in the world of select individuals ?

Does the intensity of longing for the Ultimate Unknown Transubstantiate the world ?

Does a Myth get transmuted into "Reality" ?

 

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