Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Hinduism Krishna
by
Tracy Coleman

Introduction

Arguably the most popular god in the Hindu pantheon, both in India and beyond, Krishna makes a dramatic appearance in the epic Mahābhārata and its famous philosophical discourse, the Bhagavad Gita, but his historical origins in ancient India are obscure and debated among scholars. Whether a mythological figure or a historical hero eventually deified, Krishna is now known and loved as a heroic prince, a playful child, and an alluring lover who is also the supreme God incarnate in human form. Stories about Krishna’s childhood and youth appear early in the first millennium of the common era and then become even more popular subsequent to their depiction in the medieval Puranas, where Krishna’s boyhood play in the cowherd community of Vraja endears him to all his devotees, who attain salvation through their exclusive devotion expressed variously in affection and passion. Although stories of Krishna Vāsudeva, the virile warrior and chivalrous husband who establishes his kingdom in Dvārakā, remain important and well known throughout India, it is Krishna Gopāla who captivates devotees’ hearts, especially in his role as the lover of Rādhā, their passionate romance famously portrayed in the 12th-century Gītagovinda. Such tales then form the basis for diverse iconographic traditions that display Krishna’s līlā (divine play) in various media ubiquitously in India, providing devotees their salvific darśana (vision) of Vishnu’s most beloved avatāra (incarnation). Krishna is the object of worship in countless temples worldwide, but his special place on earth nevertheless remains Vṛndāvana, the celebrated forest in Vraja where he danced with the amorous gopīs under the moonlight and thereby offered his grace to simple cowherding women who loved him without knowing his true nature as God. Likewise known in the West since the founding in the 1960s of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Krishna is also a beloved figure in the popular Indian comic book series Amar Chitra Katha. From ancient epics to modern comics, then, the Hindu god Krishna continues to engage the imagination and inspire fervent devotion among devotees worldwide.

General Overviews

Varying in scope, length, and content, summary studies of Krishna and his significance in Indian culture present selective historical overviews of diverse textual and artistic traditions. Spink 1971 and Archer 1957 offer illustrated histories of the Krishna narrative: Archer 1957 includes only monochrome plates, but Spink 1971 displays a greater diversity of images, many in color. Encyclopedia articles, some available online, provide concise but useful reviews of Krishna and Krishnaite traditions. Hawley 2005 considers iconography, Sanskrit and vernacular literature, and performance traditions. Coleman 2007 treats epic, Puranic, and poetic literature and contemporary practice. Malinar 2009 addresses early history, epic and Puranic literature, and modern developments. Hardy 2005 discusses regional traditions, with some attention to Krishnaite sampradāyas (sects). Mani 1975 offers a detailed outline of Krishna’s mythology sometimes with reference to specific verses from the epic Mahābhārata and the Puranas.

  • Archer, W. G. The Loves of Krishna in Indian Painting and Poetry. New York: Macmillan, 1957.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A summary of the Krishna narrative and its artistic representations, with a focus on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and later poetry featuring Rādhā. Monochrome plates display paintings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, each with detailed descriptions, including style, region, approximate date, and 20th-century location.

    Find this resource:

  • Coleman, Tracy. “Kṛṣṇa.” In Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by Denise Cush, Catherine Robinson, and Michael York, 425–434. New York: Routledge, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Treats epic and Puranic literature, vernacular poetry, icons and rituals, festivals, and pilgrimage, with some discussion of women devotees.

    Find this resource:

  • Hardy, Friedhelm. “Kṛṣṇaism.” In Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol. 8. Edited by Lindsay Jones, 5251–5255. Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses textual and regional developments in Krishnaism, in contrast to Vaishnavism, from the Bhagavad Gita to the modern era, with attention to Nimbārka, Caitanya, and Vallabha, and to Vṛndāvana.

    Find this resource:

  • Hawley, John Stratton. “Kṛṣṇa.” In Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol. 8. Edited by Lindsay Jones, 5248–5251. Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gives attention to iconographic representations in a discussion of Krishna’s early history as the epic prince Vāsudeva, his Puranic supremacy, and his intimate accessibility as Gopāla, the playful child and youthful lover.

    Find this resource:

  • Malinar, Angelika. “Kṛṣṇa.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. 1, Regions, Pilgrimage, Deities. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, 605–619. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses early history and epic literature in detail, Puranic texts, and regional traditions, with some attention to contemporary mass media productions.

    Find this resource:

  • Mani, Vettam. “Kṛṣṇa.” In Purāṇic Encyclopaedia: A Comprehensive Work with Special Reference to the Epic and Purāṇic Literature. By Vettam Mani, 420–429. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A detailed overview in outline form, often with reference to specific verses, along with a genealogy and a list of Krishna’s names and epithets. Discusses Krishna’s deeds in Vraja, Mathurā, and Dvārakā, including significant events in the Mahābhārata.

    Find this resource:

  • Spink, Walter M. Krishnamandala: A Devotional Theme in Indian Art. Ann Arbor: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1971.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A richly illustrated synopsis of Krishna’s deeds as portrayed in Sanskrit and vernacular literature from various regions and periods, with reference to historical developments in the practice of bhakti based on popular stories. Some attention to musical traditions. Image descriptions include style, date, medium, size, and 20th-century location.

    Find this resource:

History

Questions about Krishna’s historical origins and the connections among the epic prince Vāsudeva, the cowherd Gopāla, and the Vedic god Vishnu have long puzzled scholars. Some speculate that different ancient myths eventually coalesced in the character now generally identified as Krishna; some contend that Krishna was a historical figure, perhaps divine, perhaps deified over time. Tadapatrikar 1931 identifies the problem, surveys the literature, and shows that even if epic and Puranic accounts were originally distinct, no conclusive evidence supports scholarly claims that different figures finally became one Krishna. Brockington 1998 discusses various scholarly positions and suggests that Krishna’s deification was a later stage in the myths. Kosambi 1965 associates Krishna with various semilegendary heroes, eventually fused and deified as the Bhāgavata cult moved eastward and displaced other deities. Majumdar 1969, by contrast, argues that Krishna was a historical person who lived in roughly 1000 BCE. Vaudeville 1996 explores later legends of Krishna Gopāla and his association with the Mount Govardhana stories. Srinivasan 1981 and Banerjee 1978 discuss iconographic history, Srinivasan 1981 looks at Kuṣāṇa icons in Mathurā, and Banerjee 1978 offers a richly illustrated art-historical survey of the Krishna myths, including specific regional developments, from the ancient period to the modern era. Spink 1983 provides a brief history of the Krishna stories, from ancient sources to medieval accounts featuring Rādhā.

  • Banerjee, P. The Life of Krishna in Indian Art. New Delhi: National Museum, 1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An art-historical survey drawing on a wide range of evidence, including epigraphical and sculptural, from the ancient period to the modern era. Offers brief regional histories (Uttar Pradesh, eastern India, central and South India, western India, and northern India). Includes numerous color and monochrome plates with detailed descriptions.

    Find this resource:

  • Brockington, John. The Sanskrit Epics. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Surveys various scholarly positions on the problem of Krishna’s identity and on the historical connections between three main aspects of Krishna’s character: the epic prince, the nomadic hero, and the supreme God. Suggests that Krishna was originally considered a human hero and only later deified.

    Find this resource:

  • Kosambi, D. D. “The Historical Krishna.” Times of India Annual (1965): 27–36.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A remarkably brief but totalizing (and illustrated) history of Krishna, dating elements of the legend to roughly 800 BCE and relating mythical stories to historical events as Bhāgavatas moved eastward and eventually became agriculturalists and Krishna—not a “single historical figure” but rather a fusion of “many semi-legendary heroes” (p. 36)—displaced various gods and goddesses, including Indra, in a process leading eventually to supreme deification.

    Find this resource:

  • Majumdar, Bimanbehari. Kṛṣṇa in History and Legend. Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1969.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Krishna was a historical person who lived circa 1000 BCE in a broad-ranging study that treats materials from the ancient period to the modern era, including sculpture and literature depicting Rādhā. Debatable conclusions, valuable survey overall.

    Find this resource:

  • Spink, W. M. “The Elaboration of the Myth.” In Krishna, the Divine Lover: Myth and Legend through Indian Art. Edited by Enrico Isacco and Anna L. Dallapiccola, 103–121. Boston: David R. Godine, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the historical elaboration of the Krishna myth in literature, from the ancient period to the medieval sources prominently featuring Rādhā.

    Find this resource:

  • Srinivasan, Doris. “Early Kṛishṇa Icons: The Case at Mathurā.” In Kalādarśana: American Studies in the Art of India. Edited by Joanna G. Williams, 127–136. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that while worship of Krishna Gopāla was not prominent in Mathurā until the post-Gupta era, worship of Krishna Vāsudeva, connected with the Bhāgavatas, existed in Mathurā before the common era and was associated with Vedic rites and traditions. Krishna Vāsudeva thus emerges as a major deity in a Brahmanical milieu.

    Find this resource:

  • Tadapatrikar, S. N. “The Kṛṣṇa Problem.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 10 (1931): 269–344.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Surveys passages in the Mahābhārata and the Puranas to address questions about Krishna’s identity as Vāsudeva, Nārāyaṇa, and Vishnu and about the connection between the epic adult Krishna and the Puranic cowherd boy Krishna Gopāla. No conclusive evidence shows that distinct characters were fused into one divine Krishna.

    Find this resource:

  • Vaudeville, Charlotte. Myths, Saints, and Legends in Medieval India. Compiled by Vasudha Dalmia. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of previously published essays, several dealing with the history of Krishna Gopāla, the cowherd god, and the legends of Mount Govardhana.

    Find this resource:

Edited Volumes

Collections of essays present brief but specialized portraits of Krishna and his devotees in diverse sources and contexts. Singer 1966 offers studies of both texts and social behaviors in several essays by historians and social anthropologists, who reflect variously on issues of equality, hierarchy, orthodoxy, and power. Bryant 2007 provides a selection of primary readings from Sanskrit and vernacular sources spanning the ages, whereas the essays in Beck 2005 move altogether beyond the Sanskrit canon into the realm of ritual, regional, and folk culture to present alternative views of Krishna, including Jain. Rosen 1996 collects essays on women devotees from the medieval to the modern periods, most of which explore various tensions between bhakti and strīdharma (women’s social obligations).

  • Beck, Guy L., ed. Alternative Krishnas: Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collection is strong on praxis and ritual traditions and provides good regional coverage. Includes a chapter on Krishna’s relationship with Balarāma and two chapters comparing Hindu and Jain conceptions of Krishna.

    Find this resource:

  • Bryant, Edwin F., ed. Krishna: A Sourcebook. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excerpts of primary texts in translation, both familiar classical Sanskrit texts, and lesser known and rarely seen vernacular sources. A section on philosophy and theology includes chapters on Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja, and Madhva. Volume on the whole privileges the textual tradition over the ritual and iconographic.

    Find this resource:

  • Rosen, Steven J., ed. Vaiṣṇavī: Women and the Worship of Krishna. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Essays on the famous Āṇṭāḷ, Mīrābāī, and Bahiṇābāī; on less familiar women in Gauḍīya Vaishnavism; and on contemporary women in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) offer reflections on feminism and liberation in Krishna bhakti within diverse social and religious contexts.

    Find this resource:

  • Singer, Milton, ed. Krishna: Myths, Rites, and Attitudes. Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1966.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An older but still useful collection with essays on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (including J. A. B. van Buitenen’s influential “On the Archaism of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa”), Hindi and Bengali literature, and devotional rites and festivals in North and South India, and one essay on Vaishnavism and tribal culture.

    Find this resource:

Comparative Studies

Comparative works that examine classical Sanskrit sources remain important in the overall history of Krishna, despite the more recent scholarly focus on regional and vernacular traditions. The studies in this section consider Krishna in the Sanskrit epics and Puranas, though one also compares South Indian material and one situates Krishna in a larger context of epic heroes beyond Hinduism and beyond India. Matchett 2001 explores the question of Krishna’s divinity by means of the avatāra (incarnation) theory sometimes used to explain Krishna’s relation to Vishnu. Sheth 1984 offers a theological study of Krishna’s divinity in the Harivaṃśa, the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Hardy 1983 investigates the prominent theme of devotion in separation (viraha-bhakti) in North and South Indian literature, with a special focus on the possible connection between Āḻvār poetry and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Preciado-Solis 1984 employs literary and iconographic sources through the 10th century CE to offer a portrait of Krishna’s heroic character, which he also compares to Heracles.

  • Hardy, Friedhelm. Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Kṛṣṇa Devotion in South India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A detailed study of North and South Indian literature that convinced many scholars of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s South Indian provenance and post-Āḻvār periodization. Focuses especially on viraha-bhakti, emotional devotion in separation, as experienced by Krishna’s lovers. Argues for a South Indian origin of viraha-bhakti but thereby neglects early northern epic and Buddhist sources.

    Find this resource:

  • Matchett, Freda. Kṛṣṇa: Lord or Avatāra? The Relationship between Kṛṣṇa and Viṣṇu. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A careful and balanced examination of Krishna’s divinity in the Harivaṃśa, the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, arguing for Krishna’s supremacy in the Bhāgavata.

    Find this resource:

  • Preciado-Solis, Benjamin. The Kṛṣṇa Cycle in the Purāṇas: Themes and Motifs in a Heroic Saga. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Studies the development of Krishna as hero in Vedic, epic, and Puranic sources, tracing themes in iconography as well and examining patterns in the heroic genre more generally by comparing Krishna to Indra and to Heracles and thus reflecting broadly on Indo-European mythological motifs.

    Find this resource:

  • Sheth, Noel. The Divinity of Krishna. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A detailed study of various narratives in the Sanskrit texts but marred by Sheth’s own presuppositions regarding “divinity,” which prompt him to discuss narrative changes in terms of “evolution” and in terms of believers becoming “more enlightened and refined” over time (p. xiv). Sheth thus passes judgment on Krishna and his deeds in the texts instead of simply analyzing the narratives objectively.

    Find this resource:

Jain Krishnas

Krishna is a significant figure not only in Hindu history and myth but also in Jainism. Cort 1993 surveys the Jain Puranas, demonstrating the central importance of Krishna in major Jain texts and discussing Jain categories of eminent heroes. Bai and Zydenbos 1991 discusses adaptations of the Jain Harivaṃśa in various languages, including Sanskrit and Kannada. Jaini 1993 argues that Krishna and Rāma were originally human heroes celebrated widely in India, irrespective of religious affiliation, and were only later claimed as Hindu gods by Brahmanical ideologues, thus provoking Jains to respond in kind. Bauer 2005 explores Krishna’s role in Jain myths as a worldly hero in contrast to the Tīrthaṅkaras, who are presented as soteriological heroes offering a path to salvation. Geen 2009 compares Krishna and his rivals in Hindu and Jain mythologies, and Geen 2011 examines Hindu and Jain depictions of Krishna and Mahāvīra.

  • Bai, B. N. Sumitra, and Robert J. Zydenbos. “The Jaina Mahābhārata.” In Essays on the Mahābhārata. Edited by Arvind Sharma, 251–273. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the historical development of Jain Harivaṃśa literature and compares Jain and Hindu narratives; includes a brief bibliographical essay of Sanskrit, Prākrit, and Apabhramsa works. Second part of the article treats the Jain Mahābhārata in Kannada.

    Find this resource:

  • Bauer, Jerome H. “Hero of Wonders, Hero in Deeds: Vāsudeva Krishna in Jaina Cosmohistory.” In Alternative Krishnas: Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity. Edited by Guy L. Beck, 151–176. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses Krishna’s role in Jain mythology as an action hero and a wonder hero, in contrast to a dharma hero, the latter role being unique to the Tīrthaṅkaras, who were also soteriological heroes.

    Find this resource:

  • Cort, John E. “An Overview of the Jaina Purāṇas.” In Purāṇa Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts. Edited by Wendy Doniger, 185–206. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A survey of the Jain Puranas, with attention to the Krishna story as found in the 8th-century Harivaṃśa Purāṇa by Punnāṭa Jinasena. Shows how Hindu gods, such as Krishna and Rama, were incorporated into Jain mythologies and reflects on the mutual influences among various South Asian traditions.

    Find this resource:

  • Geen, Jonathan. “Kṛṣṇa and His Rivals in the Hindu and Jaina Traditions.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 72.1 (2009): 63–99.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0041977X09000044Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares Krishna’s rivalry with Jarāsandha as depicted in a 12th-century Jain text by Hemacandra to Krishna’s rivalries with Jarāsandha, Śiśupāla, and Pauṇḍraka in the Mahābhārata and select Hindu Puranas in an effort to show how Jain and Hindu mythologies were mutually influential throughout the medieval period.

    Find this resource:

  • Geen, Jonathan. “Fair Trade and Reversal of Fortune: Kṛṣṇa and Mahāvīra in the Hindu and Jaina Traditions.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79.1 (March 2011): 58-89.

    DOI: 10.1093/jaarel/lfq059Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores how Krishna was polemically incorporated into Jain mythology and associated with Mahāvīra, thus legitimated as a significant historical and religious figure, but stripped of the divine status he holds in Hindu traditions and therefore de-legitimated as an object of popular bhakti.

    Find this resource:

  • Jaini, Padmanabh S. “Jaina Purāṇas: A Purāṇic Counter Tradition.” In Purāṇa Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts. Edited by Wendy Doniger, 207–249. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contends that Rama and Krishna were originally human heroes, later appropriated within Brahmanical texts and divinized by association with Vishnu, thus prompting Jains to incorporate the erstwhile universal heroes into Jainism and subordinate them to the Jinas.

    Find this resource:

Mahābhārata

Although missing from the Vedic pantheon and the earliest strata of Indian mythology and history, Krishna makes a dramatic entry in the epic Mahābhārata, appearing as a warrior prince and simultaneously the supreme God, cousin of the five Pāṇḍava brothers and their military counselor, who ultimately orchestrates a tragic battle of cosmic proportions. Given this significant epic role despite his obscure history, scholars have long speculated that Krishna represents a fusion of characters that coalesced over time: martial and pastoral heroes eventually associated with significant Vedic deities, such as Vishnu and Indra, and the cosmic god Nārāyaṇa. Hiltebeitel 1979 discusses the history of such theories in epic studies, and Hiltebeitel 1976 proposes that Krishna’s presence is key to the epic story and cosmology and profoundly connected to earlier Vedic and Upanishadic mythologies, a connection further elaborated in Hiltebeitel 1984. Biardeau 2002 likewise posits Krishna’s pivotal import in the epic, which Biardeau says marks a transition from a Vedic worldview to a worldview informed by bhakti. Brockington 1998, by contrast, reads Krishna as a hero deified over time in successive epic layers and also provides a detailed history of epic studies, thus updating the Hiltebeitel 1979 overview. Matilal 1991 and Ganeri 2007 both discuss Krishna’s epic ethics in light of his manipulative and deceitful conduct, each thus speculating on Krishna’s specific role in the bewildering moral universe the Mahābhārata so richly describes. Matilal 1989 likewise presents an edited collection of essays on moral dilemmas in the epic.

  • Biardeau, Madeleine. Le Mahābhārata: Un récit fondateur du brahmanisme et son interprétation. 2 vols. Paris: Seuil, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interprets the Mahābhārata through the lens of Krishna and thus sees the epic as swerving (écart) from Vedic tradition via bhakti. Discusses most scenes in which Krishna figures and reads many of his key epithets as situationally significant.

    Find this resource:

  • Brockington, John. The Sanskrit Epics. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive guide to the Sanskrit epics, with chapters on the history of epic studies, the Mahābhārata, the Harivaṃśa, and the Rāmāyaṇa. Interprets Krishna as a deified hero, according to historical layers in epic and Puranic narrative. Incomparable in scope and detail but more suitable for scholars and graduate students than for undergraduates.

    Find this resource:

  • Ganeri, Jonardon. “A Cloak of Clever Words: The Deconstruction of Deceit in the Mahābhārata.” In The Concealed Art of the Soul: Theories of Self and Practices of Truth in Indian Ethics and Epistemology. By Jonardon Ganeri, 61–93. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Builds on Matilal 1991 in a reflection on truthfulness in the killing of Droṇa and suggests that the Mahābhārata deliberately engages the ambiguity and subtlety of dharma in order to portray the complexity of moral deliberation and the necessity of critical reasoning for dharmic agency and moral responsibility.

    Find this resource:

  • Hiltebeitel, Alf. The Ritual of Battle: Krishna in the Mahābhārata. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A structuralist study of the epic in the context of Indo-European mythology. Posits Krishna’s centrality to the story, as he orchestrates a sacrificial battle in defense of dharma and within a cosmology of bhakti. Draws on evidence from numerous manuscripts. Reissued in 1990 by the State University of New York Press.

    Find this resource:

  • Hiltebeitel, Alf. “Kṛṣṇa and the Mahābhārata: A Bibliographical Essay.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 60 (1979): 65–107.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Evaluates previous interpretive approaches (including those of Joseph Dahlmann, Edward Washburn Hopkins, Walter Ruben, and Vishnu S. Sukthankar), with a special focus on Krishna. Rejects analyses that relegate Krishna to the periphery (via theories of interpolation, for example) and argues that Krishna is central to the epic and deeply connected to the Vedic Vishnu.

    Find this resource:

  • Hiltebeitel, Alf. “The Two Kṛṣṇas on One Chariot: Upaniṣadic Imagery and Epic Mythology.” History of Religions 24.1 (August 1984): 1–26.

    DOI: 10.1086/462971Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contends that the epic’s narrative imagery allows for new interpretations of Upanishadic mythology and soteriology within the realm of bhakti; explores the epic’s identification not only of Krishna and Arjuna but also of Arjuna and Shiva and of Shiva and Vishnu.

    Find this resource:

  • Matilal, Bimal Krishna, ed. Moral Dilemmas in the Mahābhārata. Shimla, India: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays exploring ethical issues in the epic from historical, philosophical, and literary perspectives. Essays by Bimal Krishna Matilal, Amiya Dev, Peter Della Santina, and M.M. Agrawal consider Krishna centrally, either in the epic generally or in the Bhagavad Gita specifically.

    Find this resource:

  • Matilal, Bimal Krishna. “Kṛṣṇa: In Defence of a Devious Divinity.” In Essays on the Mahābhārata. Edited by Arvind Sharma, 401–418. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores Krishna’s deviant behavior in relation to his ethical teachings and argues that Krishna legitimately employs adharmic means to establish the best possible form of justice in an imperfect world. Krishna is thus an extraordinary moral agent who effects a “paradigm shift” in dharma for the sake of salvaging justice in a world otherwise gone bad.

    Find this resource:

Editions, Translations, and Abridgments

The critical edition of the Sanskrit is Sukthankar 1927–1966, while Ganguli 1972–1976 offers a full English translation that was first published in the 19th century. A partial translation is available at the Clay Sanskrit Library, and Buitenen 1973–1978 offers the first five books in English, following the critical edition. Narasimhan 1998 and Narayan 2000 are manageable English abridgments in paperback editions that make the epic available to general readers and thus provide context for studies of the Bhagavad Gita in introductory Hinduism courses. Chopra and Chopra 2002 is a collector’s edition DVD of the Indian television serial version of the Mahābhārata that aired in the late 1980s.

  • Buitenen, J. A. B. van, ed. and trans. The Mahābhārata. 3 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973–1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent annotated translation with a helpful introduction; includes a glossary of names and a concordance of the critical and Bombay editions.

    Find this resource:

  • Clay Sanskrit Library. Mahābhārata. New York University Press and the Joliet Junior College Foundation, 2005–2010.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a multivolume translation by numerous translators. Hardcover, pocket-sized texts include the transliterated Sanskrit facing the English translation. Copublished by New York University Press and the Joliet Junior College Foundation.

    Find this resource:

    • Chopra, B. R., prod., and Ravi Chopra, dir. Mahabharat. DVD. Harrison, NJ: Indo American Video, 2002.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The deluxe collector’s edition of the 1989 Indian television serial that aired on Doordarshan. Sixteen-disc set, running time approximately 3,230 minutes. In Hindi with English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

      Find this resource:

    • Ganguli, Kisari Mohan, trans. The Mahabharata of Krishna–Dwaipayana Vyasa. 12 vols. 3d improved ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1972–1976.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An old but eminently readable English translation based primarily on Bengal and Bombay editions. Translator attempted to offer “as literal a rendering as possible” (p. vii), with some reliance on the commentator Nīlakaṇṭha tha (p. ix). Originally published in 1883–1896 by P. C. Roy.

      Find this resource:

    • Narasimhan, Chakravarthi V. The Mahābhārata: An English Version Based on Selected Verses. Rev. ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An abridged version of the main narrative based on a liberal translation of select verses taken primarily from the critical edition. Useful in introductory courses, though somewhat more challenging for beginning students than Narayan 2000. Includes an index of verses. Originally published in 1965.

      Find this resource:

    • Narayan, R. K. The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A highly engaging and accessible abridgment focused on the main narrative. Useful in introductory courses, especially when time is limited. Originally published in 1978 (New York: Viking).

      Find this resource:

    • Sukthankar, V. S., ed. The Mahābhārata. 25 vols. Pune, India: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1927–1966.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Critical edition of the Sanskrit text, widely used by scholars, though some prefer northern or southern “vulgate” editions. Some hold that passages excised from the critical edition are important to the Mahābhārata tradition. Others hold that the critical edition reconstitutes a baseline text far vaster than its editors anticipated and that can take us close to the epic as it was first written.

      Find this resource:

    Bhagavad Gita

    The critical edition of the Mahābhārata supplies the Sanskrit text of the Bhagavad Gita, but for readers less skilled in Sanskrit, Sargeant 1984 parses each verse and provides the text in Devanagari and in transliteration. Larson 1981 discusses the history and practice of the text’s translation into English, and Miller 1986 offers a pocket translation suitable for the general reader and for use in undergraduate classes. The Patton 2008 translation includes a lengthy bibliography of secondary studies, commentaries, and earlier translations. With respect to critical studies, Malinar 2007 offers a comprehensive reading of the Bhagavad Gita in its epic context; in a brief piece Deshpande 1991 suggests that the notion of Krishna’s divinity was a later addition to the epic and thus to the Bhagavad Gita; and Minor 1995 argues that Krishna stands at the very center of the Bhagavad Gita’s ethical teachings. Malinar 1995 analyzes the 1989 Indian television serial of the epic and shows how the Bhagavad Gita becomes political propaganda, as the serial neglects historical context and Krishna uncritically counsels Arjuna to destroy the enemy, ostensibly for the good of society. Chopra and Chopra 2002 is the Indian television serial.

    • Chopra, B. R., prod., and Ravi Chopra, dir. Mahabharat. DVD. Harrison, NJ: Indo American Video, 2002.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The deluxe collector’s edition of the 1989 Indian television serial that aired on Doordarshan. Sixteen-disc set, running time approximately 3,230 minutes. In Hindi with English, French, and Spanish subtitles

      Find this resource:

    • Deshpande, Madhav M. “The Epic Context of the Bhagavadgītā.” In Essays on the Mahābhārata. Edited by Arvind Sharma, 334–348. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1991.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Situates Krishna’s revelation of his own divinity to Arjuna within the larger epic context to show that in the oldest strata of the epic and its most famous philosophical discourse Krishna was not yet considered a divine figure. Krishna’s divinity and thus Krishna bhakti were later additions.

      Find this resource:

    • Larson, Gerald James. “The Song Celestial: Two Centuries of the Bhagavad Gītā in English.” Philosophy East and West 31.4 (October 1981): 513–541.

      DOI: 10.2307/1398797Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the theory and practice of translation and reviews several examples closely, comparing issues of style, pedagogy, interpretation, and translator’s motivation, resulting in a cautionary but hopeful reflection on the possibility of rendering the text into English.

      Find this resource:

    • Malinar, Angelika. “The Bhagavadgītā in the Mahābhārata TV Serial: Domestic Drama and Dharmic Solutions.” In Representing Hinduism: The Construction of Religious Traditions and National Identity. Edited by Vasudha Dalmia and Heinrich von Stietencron, 442–467. New Delhi: Sage, 1995.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Contends that the Chopra and Chopra 2002 television serial serves as political propaganda in only vaguely defining dharma but identifying adharma as the failure to wage war against the enemies of the social order. Krishna’s message in the Sanskrit text is thus reduced to a lesson on good versus evil, and martial solutions support the social status quo.

      Find this resource:

    • Malinar, Angelika. The Bhagavadgītā: Doctrines and Contexts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A study of the Bhagavad Gita in its epic context with a chapter-by-chapter analysis of key doctrines and attention to the history of scholarly research. Addresses the historical process of Krishna’s deification and finds in the Bhagavad Gita’s “monotheism,” with Krishna as the highest god, a theological innovation that influences the development of Hinduism.

      Find this resource:

    • Miller, Barbara Stoler, trans. The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. New York: Bantam, 1986.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Pocket edition that includes an introduction suitable for general readers, a consistent translation, and a useful glossary of key terms. Works well in undergraduate courses.

      Find this resource:

    • Minor, Robert N. “Krishna and the Ethics of the Bhagavadgītā.” In The Contemporary Essays on the Bhagavad Gītā. Edited by Braj M. Sinha, 141–155. New Delhi: Siddharth, 1995.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      States that Krishna is central to the ethics of the text, as the guru of ethics or the teacher of dharma, the ultimate performer of all ethical actions, and the foundational paradigm of all that is good. One cannot therefore consider the ethics of the text without Krishna.

      Find this resource:

    • Patton, Laurie L., trans. The Bhagavad Gita. London: Penguin, 2008.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Paperback edition with a good introduction that addresses the history of the text’s reception and translation as well as its artistic and performative representations in addition to a discussion of key concepts. Includes a lengthy list of further reading, both critical and commentarial.

      Find this resource:

    • Sargeant, Winthrop, trans. The Bhagavad Gītā. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Includes a helpful introduction and a synopsis of the epic as well as a list of Krishna’s names and epithets in addition to a verse-by-verse parsing of the original text. Not error free but very useful nonetheless, especially for beginners.

      Find this resource:

    Harivaṃśa

    Although stories of Krishna’s childhood and youth appear for the first time in the Harivaṃśa, the text, often called a supplement or an appendix to the Mahābhārata, has been relatively neglected by scholars in comparison to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Brockington 1998 serves as a comprehensive guide for studies of Krishna in the Mahābhārata and the Harivaṃśa. Ingalls 1968 reflects on the narrative’s literary genre, referring to the Harivaṃśa as mahākāvya, great poetry. Hein 1986 offers a theory of religion that accounts for the historical appearance and great popularity of Krishna Gopāla, the playful child and adolescent lover, and Masson 1974 offers a Freudian approach to the tales of Krishna’s childhood. Drawing on Vedic mythology and sacrificial ritual, Couture 2002, by contrast, finds in the Sanskrit texts themselves the connection between Krishna’s pastoral childhood and his kshatriya adulthood involving the weaponry and power to destroy the entire world. Coleman 2010 offers a close reading of the gopī narratives in the Harivaṃśa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, showing how the Bhāgavata transforms Krishna the adolescent lover into the supreme God.

    • Brockington, John. The Sanskrit Epics. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Includes a chapter on the Harivaṃśa in the detailed survey of the Sanskrit epics. Provides an overview of various scholarly positions on the text and its presentation of Krishna and considers the historical context of its production.

      Find this resource:

    • Coleman, Tracy. “Viraha-Bhakti and Strīdharma: Re-Reading the Story of Kṛṣṇa and the Gopīs in the Harivaṃśa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 130.3 (July-September 2010): 385-412.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Contends that the Harivaṃśa’s gopī narrative, in sharp contrast to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s, presents a potentially subversive story of adolescent desire and pleasure, wherein the unmarried gopīs (cowherd girls in Vraja) enjoy Krishna as their adolescent lover, without their passionate desire (kāma) being construed as bhakti (religious devotion).

      Find this resource:

    • Couture, André. “Kṛṣṇa’s Initiation at Sāndīpani’s Hermitage.” Numen 49.1 (2002): 37–60.

      DOI: 10.1163/15685270252772768Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Shows that the initiation episode (in the Harivaṃśa and three Puranas) connects Krishna’s and Balarāma’s childhoods with their adult lives as kshatriya by portraying a traditional saṃskāra ritual that draws on Vedic sacrificial themes and narratively elaborates the necessity of reproducing sons.

      Find this resource:

    • Hein, Norvin. “A Revolution in Kṛṣṇaism: The Cult of Gopāla.” History of Religions 25.4 (1986): 296–317.

      DOI: 10.1086/463051Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explores the question of why religions change and argues that the cult of Krishna Gopāla, in contrast to that of Krishna Vāsudeva of the epic Mahābhārata, flourished in Gupta and post-Gupta periods in response to orthodoxy and repression, which made the youthful Krishna’s erotic freedom and careless play widely appealing.

      Find this resource:

    • Ingalls, Daniel H. H. “The Harivaṃśa as a Mahākāvya.” In Mélanges d’indianisme à la mémoire de Louis Renou. Edited by Hans Peter Schmidt, 381–394. Paris: Boccard, 1968.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Calls the Harivaṃśa the “root” of the later Krishna tradition and a successful poem (kāvya) with literary unity and dramatic force, despite (and perhaps because of) its theological simplicity compared to the later and better-known Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Compares the Harivaṃśa’s poetry with the Rāmāyaṇa’s.

      Find this resource:

    • Masson, J. L. “The Childhood of Kṛṣṇa: Some Psychoanalytic Observations.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 94.4 (1974): 454–459.

      DOI: 10.2307/600588Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A brief and preliminary psychoanalytic reading of myths focused on Krishna’s childhood. Speculates on the psychological needs that produced the myth based on assumptions about the similarity of human “feelings” irrespective of time and place.

      Find this resource:

    Editions and Translations

    Vaidya 1969–1971 is the critical edition. Dutt 1897 provides a full translation in somewhat antiquated English. Along with a detailed introductory study, Couture 1991 offers an annotated French translation of chapters 30–78, focused on Krishna’s (Kṛṣṇa’s) childhood.

    • Couture, André. L’enfance de Krishna: Traduction des chapitres 30 à 78 (éd. cr.). Quebec: Presses de l’Université Laval, 1991.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A careful, annotated French translation, including passages from the appendices of the critical edition. A lengthy introduction treats major leitmotifs, previous scholarship on Krishna’s childhood, and contemporary research.

      Find this resource:

    • Dutt, Manmatha Nath, ed. and trans. A Prose English Translation of Harivamsha. Calcutta: Dass, 1897.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An old but readable translation. In introducing the text, Dutt contends that Krishna was a historical person, a politician and a prophet, not simply a mythical figure.

      Find this resource:

    • Vaidya, P. L., ed. Harivaṃśa. 2 vols. Pune, India: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1969–1971.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Critical edition of the Sanskrit text with appendices. Introduction refers to the text as the first Purana, primarily intended to describe the Vṛṣṇi lineage, with Krishna featured most prominently.

      Find this resource:

    Viṣṇu Purāṇa

    Like the Harivaṃśa, the Viṣṇu Purāṇa devotes considerable space to Krishna’s life story (Book 5), including his childhood and youth, but this version has also been infrequently studied by comparison to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Pathak 1997–1999 is the critical edition, and Wilson 1980 provides a full-length, annotated English translation. Hardy 1983 offers a provisional critical text of the gopī story (based on printed manuscripts of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and the Brahma Purāṇa) in Hardy’s larger analysis of the text in comparison to other representations of the gopīs, including South Indian versions. Matchett 2001 includes two chapters on Krishna and Vishnu in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa. Sheth 1984 compares Krishna narratives in the Harivaṃśa, the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.

    • Hardy, Friedhelm. Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Kṛṣṇa Devotion in South India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Focus is specifically on Krishna and the gopīs in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and other Sanskrit texts, which Hardy then compares with South Indian material. Provisional critical edition and translation of verses pertaining to the gopīs followed by a brief analysis.

      Find this resource:

    • Matchett, Freda. Kṛṣṇa: Lord or Avatāra? The Relationship between Kṛṣṇa and Viṣṇu. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2001.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the relationship between Vishnu and Krishna and compares the Krishna narrative in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa to those in the Harivaṃśa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, with a special focus on the avatāra theory.

      Find this resource:

    • Pathak, M. M., ed. The Critical Edition of the Viṣṇupurāṇam. 2 vols. With a pāda index by Peter Schreiner. Vadodara, India: Oriental Institute, 1997–1999.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Critical edition of the Sanskrit based on twenty-seven manuscripts, with detailed descriptions of each. Includes a thorough introduction in English; a concordance with the Bombay, Pune, Gorakhpur, and Bengali editions; and a pāda index.

      Find this resource:

    • Sheth, Noel. The Divinity of Krishna. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1984.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Offers a detailed comparison of numerous narratives from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, juxtaposing these with the Harivaṃśa, which Sheth says paints a more heroic than divine portrait of Krishna than the two Puranas. Much useful material but to be used with caution (see Sheth 1984, cited under Comparative Studies).

      Find this resource:

    • Wilson, H. H., trans. The Viṣṇu Purāṇa: A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition. 2 vols. Delhi: Nag, 1980.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An old but readable English translation including the Devanagari. Useful and learned footnotes provide information on many related texts. Includes an index. Originally published in 1840 in London by J. Murray.

      Find this resource:

    Bhāgavata Purāṇa

    Among countless texts and traditions focused on Krishna in Sanskrit and vernacular languages, the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa have proved the most influential and the most popular throughout India and beyond its geographical borders. The stories of Krishna’s childhood and youth as depicted in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa have become the pan-Indian version of the tales, despite textual and regional variations that continue to flourish. Matchett 2001 presents a balanced comparative study of Krishna’s divinity in epic and Puranic contexts. Gail 1969 provides a general study of bhakti in the text, while Hardy 1983 situates the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in a South Indian milieu in his detailed analysis of emotional bhakti specifically. Schweig 2005 examines Krishna’s līlā (divine play) with the gopīs in a study informed by the northern interpretive tradition of Caitanya Vaishnavism, while Redington 1983 offers a translation of Vallabha’s commentary on the rāsa līlā, Krishna’s celebrated moonlit dance with the gopīs. Coleman 2010 likewise focuses on Krishna’s līlā (divine play) with the gopīs, closely comparing the narratives in the Harivaṃśa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Pauwels 2007 looks at Krishna’s interactions with his first and foremost wife, Rukmiṇī, exploring the question of women’s agency in a comparison of three versions of the abduction narrative. Randhawa 1960 provides a series of lovely Kangra paintings illustrating Krishna’s early deeds.

    • Coleman, Tracy. “Viraha-Bhakti and Strīdharma: Re-Reading the Story of Kṛṣṇa and the Gopīs in the Harivaṃśa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 130.3 (July-September 2010): 385-412.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Shows how the Bhāgavata transforms Krishna into an exemplar of dharma (orthodox duty, religion), a desireless yogi, and the supreme God simultaneously, thereby presenting the gopīs’ passion as bhakti (religious devotion) in contrast to the Harivaṃśa’s portrayal of an adolescent desire potentially subversive of strīdharma (women’s dharma, duty).

      Find this resource:

    • Gail, Adalbert J. Bhakti im Bhāgavatapurāṇa: Religionsgeschichtliche Studie zur Idee der Gottesliebe in Kult und Mystik des Viṣṇuismus. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1969.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A thorough study of bhakti and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s construction of divinity with some attention to women and emotional bhakti and to the relation between bhakti and kama. Includes glossary and indices.

      Find this resource:

    • Hardy, Friedhelm. Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Kṛṣṇa Devotion in South India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An extremely important study of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in relation to South Indian literature. Argues that the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is a post-Āḻvār, South Indian production. Formulates a debatable theory of “emotional” bhakti and specifically viraha-bhakti (devotion in separation) on the basis of the popular gopī narrative, studied in various versions.

      Find this resource:

    • Matchett, Freda. Kṛṣṇa: Lord or Avatāra? The Relationship between Kṛṣṇa and Viṣṇu. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2001.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explores the construction of Krishna’s divinity and the avatāra myth in the Harivaṃśa, the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, with a detailed treatment of līlā (divine play) in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.

      Find this resource:

    • Pauwels, Heidi. “Stealing a Willing Bride: Women’s Agency in the Myth of Rukmiṇī’s Elopement.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 17 (2007): 407-441.

      DOI: 10.1017/S1356186307007523Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Reflects on the issue of Rukmiṇī’s agency as a woman by comparing three versions of the abduction or elopement narrative: the Sanskrit Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which Pauwels takes as the “source story”; the sixteenth-century Rukmiṇī Maṅgala written by the poet Nanddās in Old Braj; and the Old Rajasthānī Kisan Rukmiṇī rī Velī by Pṛthvīrāj Rāṭhauṛ.

      Find this resource:

    • Randhawa, M. S. Kangra Paintings of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. New Delhi: National Museum of India, 1960.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      With introductory chapters on Krishna bhakti, Vaishnava literature, and Kangra painting in relation to other styles. Includes ten monochrome illustrations (mostly sketches) and twenty color plates, with lovely gold details, from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries. Color reproductions are roughly the original size; 20th-century location is noted.

      Find this resource:

    • Redington, James D., trans. Vallabhācārya on the Love Games of Kṛṣṇa. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An English translation of Vallabha’s commentary on Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.29–33 and 10.35. Includes a detailed introduction, the commentary in Devanagari, and an index.

      Find this resource:

    • Schweig, Graham M. Dance of Divine Love: The Rāsa Līlā of Krishna from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, India’s Classic Sacred Love Story. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Offers a different perspective from that of Hardy 1983 on the gopī narrative, with a detailed interpretation drawing on numerous Gauḍīya commentators. Includes a translation of Bhāgavata Purāṇa 10.21 and 10.29–33 and select verses from 10.47 along with the Devanagari and transliteration. Removes the gopī narrative from its original context and treats the rāsa līlā’ as an independent poem, likened to the biblical Song of Songs.

      Find this resource:

    Editions and Translations

    Shastri, et al. 1996–2002 is a four-volume critical edition, while the Shastri 1983 single-volume edition in remains useful and includes Śrīdhara’s commentary. No English translation is perfectly accurate, but each is helpful overall. Tagare 1976–1978 translates individual verses, while Sanyal 1984 offers a prose version that privileges ease of reading over direct translation. The Bryant 2003 translation of the famous Book 10 is likewise enjoyable and the most suitable for beginning students.

    • Bryant, Edwin F., trans. Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God; Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Book X. London: Penguin, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Lengthy introduction, highly readable translation of Book 10 in its entirety along with chapters 1, 6, and 29–31 of Book 11. No index. Works well in undergraduate courses.

      Find this resource:

    • Sanyal, J. M., trans. The Srimad-Bhagvatam of Krishna–Dwaipayana Vyasa. 3d ed. 2 vols. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1984.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A readable prose translation that groups series of verses together, making identification of individual verses more difficult, but gives a good sense of the Purana overall for nonscholars. No commentarial insertions or references. Includes an index. Originally published in 1970.

      Find this resource:

    • Shastri, H. G., B. K. Shelat, and K. K. Shastri, eds. Śrībhāgavatam: Śrīmad Bhāgavata-Mahāpurāṇam. 4 vols. Ahmadabad, India: B. J. Institute of Learning and Research, 1996–2002.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Critical edition of the Sanskrit based on numerous manuscripts, commentaries, printed editions, and epitomes, all described in detail. Includes concordance, critical notes, and an introduction and an epilogue (both in English), the latter discussing various aspects of the text and its history.

      Find this resource:

    • Shastri, J. L., ed. Bhāgavata Purāṇa of Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa, with Sanskrit Commentary Bhāvārthabodhinī of Śrīdharasvāmin. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A good edition of the Sanskrit that includes Śrīdhara’s influential commentary, with a brief introduction and a table of contents in English and Sanskrit and (in Sanskrit only) an alphabetical index of verses.

      Find this resource:

    • Tagare, Ganesh Vasudeo, trans. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Vols. 7–11 of Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology. Edited by J. L. Shastri. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1976–1978.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Helpful, annotated verse-by-verse translation, heavily dependent on Śrīdhara’s commentary, with reference to other commentators as well. Introduction discusses the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s genre as Purana and its date, authorship, theology, and briefly the commentarial traditions. Includes an index.

      Find this resource:

    Gītagovinda

    Composed in eastern India by the poet Jayadeva in the 12th century, the Sanskrit Gītagovinda glorifies Krishna’s intimate relations with his leading lover Rādhā and thereby presents the first lengthy and detailed depiction of their amorous relationship. The work’s sensuous kāvya (poetry) portrays the lovers’ mutual pleasure and pain in union and separation, revealing Krishna’s seeming vulnerability despite his celebrated cosmic supremacy. Highly influential on subsequent traditions, the poem has endeared Rādhā to generations of Vaishnavas across India. Miller 1977 delivers a superb English translation, while Sandahl-Forgue 1977 closely analyzes Jayadeva’s unique employment of Sanskrit kāvya. Siegel 1978 also provides a translation in a larger study of love in Jayadeva and beyond. Kakar 1986 offers a psychoanalytic interpretation of the poem within a brief history of love in various Indian contexts, and Randhawa 1963 presents a series of exquisite 18th-century Kangra paintings illustrating the lyric.

    • Kakar, Sudhir. “Erotic Fantasy: The Secret Passion of Radha and Krishna.” In The Word and the World: Fantasy, Symbol, and Record. Edited by Veena Das, 75–94. Contributions to Indian Sociology Series. New Delhi: SAGE, 1986.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A psychoanalytic reading of Jayadeva’s lyric. Argues that the literary and religious celebration of adultery represents fantasies about love, desire, and pleasure beyond social convention and that the reversals of hierarchy in the Gītagovinda and in later cult praxis represent men’s fantasies about becoming women.

      Find this resource:

    • Miller, Barbara Stoler, ed. and trans. Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A beautiful translation prefaced by a detailed introduction with sections on Jayadeva and his kāvya, Krishna’s daśarūpa (ten incarnate) forms, and Rādhā’s brief literary appearances preceding the Gītagovinda. Includes the text in Devanagari. Excellent primary text for graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

      Find this resource:

    • Randhawa, M. S. Kangra Paintings of the Gīta Govinda. Introduction by W. G. Archer. New Delhi: National Museum, 1963.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Textual study illustrated by monochrome images sets the poet, the poem, and the paintings in historical context. Twenty color plates depicting the amorous drama, including Krishna adorning Rādhā and arranging her tresses. Indices present the inscriptions and the Gītagovinda in Devanagari.

      Find this resource:

    • Sandahl-Forgue, Stella. Le Gītagovinda: Tradition et innovation dans le kāvya. Stockholm Oriental Studies 11. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1977.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A careful philological study of Jayadeva’s poem, analyzing innovations in Sanskrit kāvya related to language, meter, and style. Proposes that the meters were composed for music and that Jayadeva incorporates vernacular traditions into a Sanskrit literary form. Includes a critical text.

      Find this resource:

    • Siegel, Lee. Sacred and Profane Dimensions of Love in Indian Traditions, as Exemplified in The Gītagovinda of Jayadeva. South Asian Studies Series. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1978.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Loosely treats the theme of love and its literary expressions as universal while examining Jayadeva’s poem in its specific Indian contexts. Discusses various Indian notions of love and desire in terms of rasa, the “taste” or religio-aesthetic experience arising from a relatively detached enjoyment of emotion. Includes an annotated translation.

      Find this resource:

    Regional Poets and Saints

    Beyond the Sanskrit corpus, Krishna (Kṛṣṇa) bhakti flourished throughout the Indian subcontinent in numerous popular languages, allowing devotees of all castes and classes direct access to devotional songs, stories, and a variety of performance traditions. Beginning in southern India in the late 1st millennium CE with poets composing lyrics in Tamil, the bhakti movement spread through northern and eastern India, influencing all subsequent expressions of religious literature and practice.

    South India

    Although Śrī Vaishnavas in South India often venerate Vishnu specifically, along with his consort Śrī, Krishna is nonetheless popular, as the songs of celebrated devotees amply testify. The Tamil works of the Āḻvārs date roughly from the 6th to the 9th centuries CE. Dehejia 1990 translates the poetry of Āṇṭāḷ, a famous 9th-century woman enamored of Krishna, and Hudson 1980 further elaborates the meaning of Āṇṭāḷ’s’ songs and their significance in the tradition. Ramanujan 1981 provides translations from a slightly later collection by the śūdra saint Nammāḻvār, some of them in the voice of a girl captivated by the alluring but elusive Krishna. Jackson 1998 offers songs from three 16th-century bhakti lyricists, including Kanakadāsa, whose devotion to Krishna has become legendary in Udupi, Karnataka, India.

    • Dehejia, Vidya. Āṇṭāḷ and Her Path of Love: Poems of a Woman Saint from South India. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Translations of Āṇṭāḷ’s’ two well-known songs, “Tiruppāvai” and “Nācciyār Tirumoḻi,” with detailed introduction and helpful notes. Useful as a course text but most successful with beginning students when used with supplementary materials, such as Hudson 1980.

      Find this resource:

    • Hudson, Dennis. “Bathing in Krishna: A Study in Vaiṣṇava Hindu Theology.” Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980): 539–566.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A study of Āṇṭāḷ’s’ “Tiruppāvai” within the context of Śrī Vaishnava theology and the 13th-century commentary of Periyavāccāṉ Piḷḷai. Elucidates the sense and broader significance of the poem. Indispensable as supplementary material.

      Find this resource:

    • Jackson, William J. Songs of Three Great South Indian Saints. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Translations of 16th-century songs from three bhakti saints who composed lyrics in Kannada and Telugu, including the celebrated Kanakadāsa, the low-caste devotee fondly associated with the Krishna temple in Udupi, Karnataka, India.

      Find this resource:

    • Ramanujan, A. K. Hymns for the Drowning: Poems for Viṣṇu by Nammāḻvār. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981. ’

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Exquisite translations from Nammāḻvār’s collection of songs, including a lengthy afterword on the history and poetry of bhakti and the community of devotees. Not entirely accessible to beginning students unfamiliar with Vaishnava mythology but very useful in more advanced courses.

      Find this resource:

    North India

    Among the North Indian bhakti saints writing in Hindi, the 16th-century poets Sūrdās and Mīrābāī are widely revered for their songs to Krishna. Hawley and Juergensmeyer 1988 is an anthology of poems by North Indian bhaktas, among them selections by Sūrdās and Mīrābāī. Alston 1980 offers a larger collection of Mīrābāī’s poetry, and Hawley 2009 provides numerous poems from the Sūrsāgar, Sūr’s “ocean” of devotional songs.

    • Alston, A. J., trans. The Devotional Poems of Mīrābāi. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Translations of two hundred poems preceded by an introduction treating Mīrā’s life, her place in the bhakti movement, and her poetry.

      Find this resource:

    • Hawley, John Stratton, trans. The Memory of Love: Sūrdās Sings to Krishna. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Beautiful translations of songs known in the 16th century with copious notes and a lengthy, detailed introduction historically situating Sūrdās within a school of North Indian poets and explaining Sūr’s sources, his poetry, and his legacy.

      Find this resource:

    • Hawley, John Stratton, and Mark Juergensmeyer, trans. Songs of the Saints of India. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An excellent anthology, useful in undergraduate and graduate courses, with helpful introductions to each poet and notes on the poems. Includes a glossary and a bibliography of further sources.

      Find this resource:

    East India

    Following the Gītagovinda, Vaishnava literature in Bengal and Orissa frequently depicts the romance of Rādhā and Krishna, with highly expressive songs dramatizing the lovers’ sorrowful separations and passionate trysts. Dimock and Levertov 1981 delivers superb translations of Bengali lyrics composed by a select group of late-medieval poets, while Bhattacharya 1987 translates Vidyāpati’s poems exclusively. The life of the 15th- to 16th-century Bengali saint Caitanya is portrayed in Dimock 1999, the definitive English translation of the Caitanya Caritāmṛta, which presents Caitanya as an avatāra of Krishna and Rādhā in one body.

    • Bhattacharya, Deben, trans. Love Songs of Vidyāpati. Edited by W. G. Archer. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Translations of one hundred songs with helpful notes and an informative historical introduction. Numerous black-and-white illustrations, each identified by style, approximate date, and 20th-century location. Originally published in 1963 (London: Allen and Unwin).

      Find this resource:

    • Dimock, Edward C., Jr., trans. Caitanya Caritāmṛta of Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja: A Translation and Commentary. Edited by Tony K. Stewart. Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. 56. Cambridge, MA: Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University, 1999.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The standard scholarly translation of this central text of Bengal or Gauḍīya Vaishnavism, with comprehensive introductory and commentarial material. Includes śloka (verse) and subject indices as well as detailed bibliographies on biographical and related literatures in Indic and European languages.

      Find this resource:

    • Dimock, Edward C., Jr., and Denise Levertov, trans. In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Brilliant translations of a short selection of poems written roughly between the 15th and 17th centuries, primarily in Bengali. Pocket paperback, excellent for class use with both graduates and undergraduates. Originally published in 1967 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).

      Find this resource:

    Vraja (Braj)

    The heart of Krishna devotion in India lies in Vraja, the land of Gopāla’s childhood days in the forests and his līlā (divine play) with the gopīs. Two works separated by more than a century provide comprehensive studies of the region and its history, sacred spaces, and traditions: Growse 1883 and Entwistle 1987. Vaudeville 1976 shows that the region became a significant place of pilgrimage only after its “discovery” in the 16th century. Pauwels 2003 explores how the hagiographies of the 16th-century Harirām Vyās contribute to the delineation of specifically sectarian sacred space. Haberman 1994 offers the perspective of a scholar and pilgrim simultaneously in a lively and informative account of the arduous pilgrimage called Ban-Yatra. Goswami 2001 provides a resident devotee’s perspective on the region and its rituals, illustrated by numerous colorful photographs. Packert 2010 describes the ornamental arts at two Vṛndāvana temples, Rādhāramaṇa and Rādhāvallabha, and the first issue of Journal of Vaishnava Studies focuses exclusively on Vraja, with essays from a variety of perspectives.

    • Entwistle, A. W. Braj: Centre of Krishna Pilgrimage. Groningen Oriental Studies, Vol. 3. Groningen, The Netherlands: Egbert Forsten, 1987.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A comprehensive study of Vraja with attention to Krishna myths; devotional theory and practice; ancient, medieval, and modern history; texts on pilgrimage sites; varieties of sacred space (mountains, rivers, forests, and so forth); the pilgrimage itinerary; and various maps, monochrome plates, and appendices. Extensive bibliography.

      Find this resource:

    • Goswami, Shrivatsa. Celebrating Krishna. Vrindavan, India: Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana, 2001.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Beautiful, dynamic color photographs of Krishna icons, temple rituals, rās līlās (dramatic performances of Krishna’s most popular exploits), performances, and popular festivals. Brief but informative text provides sufficient context without detracting from the visual splendor and joyful exuberance of the devotional life in Vraja.

      Find this resource:

    • Growse, F. S. Mathurā: A District Memoir. Ahmedabad, India: New Order, 1883.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An old but valuable chronicle spanning the ages from the ancient Buddhist city of Mathurā to the modern era. Describes political history and Krishnaite traditions in detail (temples, festivals, and the Vaishnava sampradāyas, or sects). Some monochrome photos; reprinted in a third revised edition.

      Find this resource:

    • Haberman, David L. Journey through the Twelve Forests: An Encounter with Krishna. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Personal reflections interspersed with detailed cultural and religious histories in an ethnographic study of Vraja grounded in broad textual knowledge. Useful as a course text, suitable for (and much enjoyed by) undergraduate students.

      Find this resource:

    • Packert, Cynthia. The Art of Loving Krishna: Ornamentation and Devotion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines darshan in relation to the devotional arts of ornamentation, exploring the various meanings of image embellishment at two prominent Vṛndāvana temples situated in detailed historical contexts. Numerous photos, both color and black and white.

      Find this resource:

    • Pauwels, Heidi. “Paradise Found, Paradise Lost: Harirām Vyās’s Love for Vrindāban and What Hagiographers Made of It.” In Pilgrims, Patrons, and Place: Localizing Sanctity in Asian Religions. Edited by Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara, 124–180. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2003.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A thoughtful reflection on the intersections of hagiography, community formation, and sacred space through a profile of the 16th-century bhakta Harirām Vyās, his views on Vṛndāvana, and his hagiographers’ sectarian interpretations, despite Vyās’s own antisectarianism.

      Find this resource:

    • Special Issue on Vraja. Journal of Vaishnava Studies 1.1 (Fall 1992).

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Ten essays explore Vraja from various perspectives in the premiere issue of the journal.

      Find this resource:

    • Vaudeville, Charlotte. “Braj, Lost and Found.” Indo-Iranian Journal 18.3–4 (1976): 195–213.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explores the history of Mathurā and the region of Vraja and argues that prior to the 16th century (when the great Vaishnava scholars arrived) the area was little developed as a pilgrimage site or as a significant center of Krishnaism more generally. Reprinted in Vaudeville’s Myths, Saints, and Legends in Medieval India (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

      Find this resource:

    Līlā

    By the time of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Krishna’s heroic deeds and his incarnations more generally are understood in terms of līlā (divine play). A concept that clearly appealed to the popular imagination, līlā later describes a variety of devotional practices as well, by means of which devotees can experience Krishna’s grace. As Couture 2001 notes, however, the concept may have ancient roots in epic conceptions of the world as Vishnu Krishna’s stage, onto which the god descends disguised in order to play a purposeful role in earthly affairs. Hospital 1995 likewise explores antecedents to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s prominent representation of līlā, and Matchett 2001 briefly considers the compatibility of purpose and play in Matchett’s treatment of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s notion of the līlāvatāra (play-incarnation). With respect to devotional practice, Haberman 1988 examines how advanced devotees enter into Krishna’s eternal līlā by following dramatic techniques prescribed by Gauḍīya Vaishnavism (Vaiṣṇavism), while Hawley and Goswami 1981 shows how performers and audience alike experience Krishna’s playful world through popular dramatic performances called rās līlās. Goswami 1972 provides a detailed history of such dramas, and Goswami 1995 describes yet another form of devotional drama, līlākīrtan, in modern Bengal. Haberman 1994 offers a pilgrim’s perspective on Krishna’s līlā as experienced in a journey through Vraja. Kinsley 1979 presents a broad survey of play in Hinduism and beyond with a focus on Krishna.

    • Couture, André. “From Viṣṇu’s Deeds to Viṣṇu’s Play, or Observations on the Word Avatāra as a Designation for the Manifestations of Viṣṇu.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 29.3 (June 2001): 313–326.

      DOI: 10.1023/A:1017540311388Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Considers the theatrical connotations of the terms avatāra and avataraṇa (both referring to “descent”) in the Mahābhārata and the Harivaṃśa and suggests that all of Vishnu Krishna’s descents to earth, and his acts on earth, are also dramatic entrances onto a stage, raṅga, where the play of līlā thus takes place.

      Find this resource:

    • Haberman, David L. Acting as a Way of Salvation: A Study of Rāgānugā Bhakti Sādhana. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the religio-dramatic practices, elaborated by Rūpa Gosvāmin in the Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu, by which devotees identify with exemplary characters from Vaishnava stories and then enter into Krishna’s Vraja līlā, thereby attaining salvation.

      Find this resource:

    • Haberman, David L. Journey through the Twelve Forests: An Encounter with Krishna. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Suggests that what pilgrims learn on their arduous journeys through Vraja is that all of life is līlā, because the entire world is Krishna. Useful as a course text, much enjoyed by students.

      Find this resource:

    • Hawley, John Stratton, with Shrivatsa Goswami. At Play with Krishna: Pilgrimage Dramas from Brindavan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Introduces and translates the performance scripts of four rās līlās, dramatizations of popular episodes from Krishna’s mythology, in which Brahmana boys play the parts of Krishna and his entourage in Vraja and by which spectators enjoy the freedom of Krishna’s eternal play.

      Find this resource:

    • Hein, Norvin. The Miracle Plays of Mathurā. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A study of five North Indian dramatic forms, including the rām līlā and the rās līlā, in their social, historical, and religious contexts.

      Find this resource:

    • Hospital, Clifford. “Līlā in Early Vaiṣṇava Thought.” In The Gods at Play: Līlā in South Asia. Edited by William S. Sax, 21–34. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explores antecedents to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s focus on līlā and suggests that stories about God as a playful child had profound effects on subsequent theologies of līlā and later Vaishnava practices.

      Find this resource:

    • Kinsley, David R. The Divine Player: A Study of Kṛṣṇa Līlā. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A broad survey of play as a religious theme with attention to Krishna’s līlā, to play as devotional practice, and briefly to play in non-Hindu traditions.

      Find this resource:

    • Matchett, Freda. Kṛṣṇa: Lord or Avatāra? The Relationship between Kṛṣṇa and Viṣṇu. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2001.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s conception of līlāvatāra (play-incarnation) within the context of the specific purposes of the avatāra in earlier epic and Puranic texts. Argues that play and purpose can coexist, as the avatāra fulfills any given end in a spirit of joyful play, which devotees can then emulate.

      Find this resource:

    • Wulff, Donna. “The Play of Emotion: Līlākīrtan in Bengal.” In The Gods at Play: Līlā in South Asia. Edited by William S. Sax, 99–114. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A brief study of Bengali performances dramatizing Krishna’s romance with Rādhā, allowing performers and audience alike to experience the divine līlā through the play of emotions in bhakti.

      Find this resource:

    Art

    Images of Krishna are ubiquitous in India and ever more common in the West. The Internet now offers countless contemporary illustrations but often without detail and context. Several books, however, provide significant background. Banerjee 1978 argues that Krishna was originally a human hero and was later deified, and he draws broadly on art-historical, epigraphical, and literary evidence to depict Krishna’s long history in South Asia. The scholarly essays on Krishna’s mythical history and visual representations in Isacco and Dallapiccola 1983 are richly illustrated by diverse images. Ambalal 1987 portrays both the paintings and the painters of Nathdvara, Rajasthan, within the context of the Vallabha sampradāya (sect) and the Puṣṭi Mārga. Tripurari 2005 is a full-color volume showcasing the Krishna art of the popular B. G. Sharma, modern master of Rajasthani miniature painting. Stadtner 1987 explores a little-known sculptural tradition of pillars depicting Krishna’s deeds, and the online database ARTstor grants subscribers access to numerous digital images of Indian art.

    • Ambalal, Amit. Krishna as Shrinathji: Rajasthani Paintings from Nathdvara. Ahmedabad, India: Mapin International, 1987.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Numerous color images of Shrinathji and his haveli (palace), and other forms of Krishna beloved in the Puṣṭi Mārga. Paintings date mostly from the mid–18th to the mid–20th centuries; some photographs. Text provides details about daily darśanas (ritual viewings of Shrinathji), the ritual year, and artists. Image descriptions include size, approximate date, and sometimes artist.

      Find this resource:

    • ARTstor.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Digital imagery with descriptive information representing diverse media, periods, and regions in India.

      Find this resource:

      • Banerjee, P. The Life of Krishna in Indian Art. New Delhi: National Museum, 1978.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Provides an overview of the Krishna narrative and a brief history of Vaishnava developments in five regions. Color plates illustrate stories from the epics and Puranas; monochrome plates display Krishna and his entourage in various media from the 2nd century BCE to the 19th century CE. Image descriptions include medium, region or style, approximate date, and 20th-century location.

        Find this resource:

      • Isacco, Enrico, and Anna L. Dallapiccola, eds. Krishna, the Divine Lover: Myth and Legend through Indian Art. Boston: David R. Godine, 1983.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A rich variety of well-contextualized images in both mono- and polychrome reproductions. Extensive illustration of the Krishna narrative from his descent to his death; essays on ritual, festival, and select sampradāyas (sects) and on the performing and visual arts. Image descriptions include medium, region or style, approximate date, size, and 20th-century location.

        Find this resource:

      • Stadtner, Donald M. “The Tradition of Kṛṣṇa Pillars in North India.” Archives of Asian Art 40 (1987): 56–68.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Examines a sculptural tradition from medieval North India in which scenes from Krishna’s mythology are carved on four-sided pillars, the original context and function of which remain uncertain, though the proliferation of such columns in the 13th and 14th centuries and beyond may suggest the increasing popularity of Krishna bhakti.

        Find this resource:

      • Tripurari, B. V. Form of Beauty: The Krishna Art of B. G. Sharma. San Rafael, CA: Mandala, 2005.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Minimal text; beautiful, glossy color reproductions of Sharma’s paintings, including Krishna’s daśāvatāra (ten-incarnate) forms; images from the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa; numerous illustrations of Krishna with cows, with Rādhā and the gopīs, and as a baby, alone and with Yaśodā. Title, medium, and size are given for each painting but no dates.

        Find this resource:

      Temple, Ritual, and Festival

      Hindu temples provide sacred space for daily worship and seasonal festivals. Each Krishna (Kṛṣṇa) temple has a unique architectural style and ritual practice, and each prizes its own special image of Krishna in a particularly beloved form, which sometimes attracts pilgrims from afar. Packert 2010 offers a rich comparative study of the ornamental arts at three North Indian temples, while Krishna and Talwar 2007 focuses specifically on pichhwais, the tapestries hanging behind Shrinathji in Nathdvara. Hudson 2008 offers an intricate analysis of an 8th-century South Indian temple and Starza 1993 an art-historical study of the Jagannātha temple in eastern India. Goswamy 1983 includes pūjā and festival schedules in a larger discussion of ritual in temples and beyond. Marriott 1966 offers a social anthropologist’s first-person account of the festival of Holi, and Pintchman 2005 presents an ethnographic study of women’s pūjā traditions centered on Krishna in the month of Kartik.

      • Goswamy, K. “The Cult.” In Krishna, the Divine Lover: Myth and Legend through Indian Art. Edited by Enrico Isacco and Anna L. Dallapiccola, 123–142. Boston: David R. Godine, 1983.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Detailed discussion of rituals and festivals, including pūjā and festival schedules, with specific reference to Nathdvara, Guruvayur, and Jagannātha, followed by a description of the major Vaishnava sampradāyas (sects) and several smaller groups.

        Find this resource:

      • Hudson, D. Dennis. The Body of God: An Emperor’s Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram. Edited by Margaret H. Case. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A monumental study offering an innovative interpretation of the Vaikuṇṭha Perumāḷ Temple in Tamilnadu. Reads the temple commissioned by Nandivarman as an expression of Bhāgavata tradition—an architectural and sculptural embodiment of Pāñcarātra Āgama, Āḻvār poetry, and texts such as the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Some illustration.

        Find this resource:

      • Krishna, Kalyan, and Kay Talwar. In Adoration of Krishna: Pichhwais of Shrinathji, Tapi Collection. Introductory essay by B. N. Goswamy. Surat, India: Garden Silk Mills, 2007.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Explores a textile tradition unique to the Puṣṭi Mārga, with extraordinarily beautiful color images of the devotional tapestries that hang behind Shrinathji (pichhwai) and contribute to the beauty and bhāva experienced by devotees during darshan. Detailed descriptions of each pichhwai, including the specific occasions for its ritual display.

        Find this resource:

      • Marriott, McKim. “The Feast of Love.” In Krishna: Myths, Rites, and Attitudes. Edited by Milton Singer, 200–212. Honolulu: East-West Center, 1966.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A social anthropologist’s perspective on the North Indian festival of Holi, which he sees as inverting conventional social roles, codes, and rituals in a riotous celebration of love and renewal.

        Find this resource:

      • Packert, Cynthia. The Art of Loving Krishna: Ornamentation and Devotion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A unique study of decorative art as devotional practice at the Rādhāramaṇa and the Rādhāvallabha temples in Vṛndāvana and the Govindadeva temple in Jaipur. Argues that Krishna’s iconic body and his ornamentation represent the convergence of multiple discourses (on history, art, and religion). With numerous illustrations, both mono- and polychrome.

        Find this resource:

      • Pintchman, Tracy. Guests at God’s Wedding: Celebrating Kartik among the Women of Benares. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A study of the sacred month of Kartik (October–November) from the perspective of Benarsi women and their distinctive traditions of pūjā centered on Krishna. Contrasts women’s practices with normative Sanskritic culture and explores questions related to women’s interpretations of tradition and women’s ritual empowerment through Kartik.

        Find this resource:

      • Starza, O. M. The Jagannatha Temple at Puri: Its Architecture, Art, and Cult. Studies in South Asian Culture. Vol. 15. Edited by Janice Stargardt. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1993.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A detailed art-historical study of the Orissan temple and its paintings with attention to various theories on the origins of the Jagannātha cult; presents speculative conclusions. Numerous monochrome plates with detailed descriptions.

        Find this resource:

      International Society for Krishna Consciousness

      Founded by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami in 1965, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) brought bhakti to the West, and its first US temple, in New York City, was followed by numerous others. Also known as the Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON looks to the Bengali saint Caitanya, and to Gauḍīya Vaishnavism more generally, for its foundational theologies and practices, including the lively chanting of Krishna’s names, heard at ISKCON’s temples in the popular “Hare Krishna” mantra. Eck 2001 offers a brief history of the movement in a chapter on Hinduism in the United States. Bhaktivedanta’s own writings are voluminous; a detailed summary of his perspective on Krishna is in Bhaktivedanta 1970, and his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita is in Bhaktivedanta 1986. Further information about ISKCON temples in the United States is on the website of the Pluralism Project. The ISKCON website and its many links describe the movement and its centers internationally. Valpey 2006 offers a portrayal of Krishna bhakti as expressed in contemporary image worship at an ISKCON temple in the United Kingdom.

      Amar Chitra Katha

      Established 1967, Amar Chitra Katha is a wildly successful comic book series, offering illustrated tales of Hinduism’s many gods and mythological heroes, and many of India’s famous historical figures as well. The English-language series includes more than four hundred titles that provide not only entertainment for readers worldwide but also religious education, as the stories depicted are largely drawn from sacred literature. McLain 2009 offers a detailed study of the Amar Chitra Katha series, its history, and its role in both religious education and identity formation in contemporary India. Stories of Krishna is a hardback edition featuring five classic titles, including the original Krishna. The Amar Chitra Katha website offers a catalogue of further titles, sales, and other information on the series.

      • Amar Chitra Katha.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Offers other titles devoted to Krishna, including Krishna and Shishupala, Krishna and the False Vaasudeva, The Gita, and Bhagawat: The Krishna Avatar.

        Find this resource:

      • McLain, Karline. India’s Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A prize-winning study of the series offering insight into its founding and its continuing popularity. Addresses the common reception of the series as religious literature and its history as related to nationalist movements. Includes chapters on women and goddesses, historical heroes, and Mahatma Gandhi.

        Find this resource:

      • Stories of Krishna. Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha, 1997.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Includes five classic titles: “Krishna,” “Krishna and Rukmini,” “The Syamantaka Gem,” “Krishna and Jarasandha,” and “Krishna and Narakasura.” Reprinted in December 2007.

        Find this resource:

        LAST MODIFIED: 07/27/2011

        DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195399318-0032

        back to top

        Article

        Up

        Down