This is the image of Krishna that sat on my host family’s home shrine. One day, I was sitting on the floor of this room, having tea with my host mother who was laying on a futon mattress, recovering from a long day of work. When I had finished my tea I asked her if I should leave to let her get some rest and she said that it was ok, and she didn’t mind talking. So, after a lull in conversation, which would tend to happen when I lacked the questions to facilitate cultural exchange, I pointed at the picture and asked her to tell me a story about Krishna.
She told me that once upon a time there was a cruel king who received a prophecy that the seventh son of his wife would birth a child that would one day kill him. So, the king imprisoned his wife. But one day there was a terrible rain that washed out all of the prision roads, and somehow allowed the woman to escape. She was impregnated by god and gave birth to Krishna. But she knew that her husband would find the child and kill him, so she sent Krishna across the river, where he was raised by cowherds.
My host mother described Krishna as a “very naughty child” who was always playing pranks on the cowherdesses, stealing their butter and milk and such. As he grew up, he acquired many girlfriends, but his most loving relationship was with Rada. This has made Krishna a symbol of love. According to My host mother, Krishna’s tendency to sleep around makes him resemble the “modern boys” who she thinks try to emulate him.
At this point, she skipped a section in the narrative of Krishna’s maturation and told me that he is a prominent character in the Mahabarata, where he serves as the advisor, friend, and aid to the Pundavas. The Gita is Krishna’s “greatest philosophy”. It depicts a scene where Krishna gives council to Arjuna, who is afraid to go into battle, but is ultimately convinced to do so by Krishna’s wisdom regarding Dharma. The Gita is the only part of the Mahabarata that is allowed to be brought into a household. This is because the epic is mostly about a violent war, but the Gita contains good advice on how to live one’s life. Still, I wonder how the boy who stole curd grew to be the greatest philosopher of Dharma.
– Nicholas Schessl, Fall 2013