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Krishna killing the horse demon(Guptan Empire, 400s AD,now in Metropolitan Museum, NYC)

The god Krishna killing the horse demon (Guptan Empire, 400s AD,now in Metropolitan Museum, NYC)

Who is Krishna?

Krishna is one of the Hindu gods. He was actually just one of the many forms of the god Vishnu. People thought of Krishna as one reincarnation of Vishnu. He’s a god of kindness and love, and being strong enough to fight for what is right.

Who was Vishnu?
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A newer god

He doesn’t appear in Indian stories before about 300 BC. Probably he and Vishnu were both newer gods that came into Hinduism around the time of the Mauryan Empire. About this time, the older gods like Indra, with their demands for animal sacrifice, started to seem old-fashioned.

The Mauryan Empire
The end of sacrifice
Empires timeline

Arjuna fighting Karna, with Krishna as his charioteer (Duttapara Temple, ca. 1500s AD)

Arjuna fighting Karna, with Krishna as his charioteer (Duttapara Temple, ca. 1500s AD)

Krishna appears in many stories in different forms. Sometimes he is a child. Sometimes he’s a flute-player who calls people’s souls. Other times he is involved in love affairs with other Hindu gods, or he’s a great leader.

Sita and Rama

Because Vishnu often took the form of Rama, and Krishna is a form of Vishnu, he and Rama are also in some ways the same. Rama’s wife was Sita, and she’s sometimes thought of as a form of the god Lakshmi, so Lakshmi is also sometimes Krishna’s partner.

The Ramayana
The god Lakshmi

The Bhagavad Gita

Krishna’s most famous story is in the Bhagavad Gita, written about 300 BC. In the Bhagavad Gita, he is disguised as a charioteer. He tells the young prince Arjuna how to act according to his dharma, and generally what is good and what is bad.

What is dharma?
What is the Bhagavad Gita?
The Mahabharata

Learn by doing: visit an art museum and look at Indian art about Krishna
More about the Bhagavad Gita
More about Vishnu

Bibliography and further reading about Krishna:

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