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Alternative Krishnas

Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity

Guy L. Beck

Publication Year: 2005

Krishna—widely venerated and adored in the Hindu tradition—is a deity of many aspects. An ancient manifestation of the Supreme God Vishnu, or the Godhead itself, Krishna is the bringer of Yoga philosophy and the creator of the universe, the destroyer of evil tyrants, and the hero of the epic Mahaµbhaµrata. He is also described in classical Sanskrit texts as having human characteristics and enjoying very human pursuits: Krishna is the butter thief, cowherd, philanderer, and flute player. Yet even these playful depictions are based upon descriptions found in the Sanskrit canon, and mostly reflect familiar, classical Pan-Indian images. In this book, contributors examine the alternative, or unconventional, Krishnas, offering examples from more localized Krishna traditions found in different regions among various ethnic groups, vernacular language traditions, and remote branches of Indian religions. These wide-ranging, alternative visions of Krishna include the Tantric Krishna of Bengal, Krishna in urban women’s rituals, Krishna as monogamous husband and younger brother in Braj, Krishna in Jainism, Krishna in Maraµthiµ tradition, Krishna in South India, and the Krishna of nineteenth-century reformed Hinduism.

Published by: State University of New York Press

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pp. i-iv

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoeverwithout written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval systemor transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic,magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwiseAlternative Krishnas : regional and vernacular variations on a Hindu deity / Guy L....


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book represents a joint effort that began with the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Boston. First I would like to thank Tracy Pintchman, the organizer, for so kindly inviting me to preside over a panel session held there on “Alternative Krishnas.” After the session, the members of the panel gathered for lunch at a nearby In-...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-18

Krishna is the name of one of the most popular and beloved deities in the Hindu pantheon. The many intriguing and delightful features of this divine character match with one of the literal meanings of his name,“all-attractive.” Whether known as an incarnation of the god Vishnu orworshiped himself as the Supreme Deity, Lord Krishna has found the...

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2. Contemporary Metaphor Theory and Alternative Views of Krishna and Radha in Vaishnava Sahajiya Tantric Traditions

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pp. 19-32

In this chapter I would like to consider how recent advances in the study of metaphor can help us to appreciate alternative views of Krishna among the Vaishnava Sahajiyas of medieval Bengal, a Tantric Yogic movement that flourished from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries CE.1 Information gleaned from their wonderful if challeng-...

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3. Folk Vaishnavism and the Thakur Pa

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pp. 33-42

In West Bengal, Krishna is understood by Vaishnava devotees to be a living presence in his various statue forms. In some villages, the meeting of deities in the form of statues. The statues are carried inprocession, feasted, and left to discuss the village budget and future celebrations. This chapter will examine assumptions inherent in this...

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4. Domesticating Krishna: Friendship, Marriage, and Women’s Experience in a Hindu Women’s Ritual Tradition

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pp. 43-64

In his well-known book on Krishna, The Divine Player: A Study of KrsnaLŒla, David Kinsley emphasizes the nature of Krishna as a playful deity who remains eternally unbound by the social and moral norms that condition the human realm. As a mischievous child, Krishna lies, steals,and bucks authority, all in the name of play. His childish world is play,...

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5. Krishna as Loving Husband of God: The Alternative Krishnology of the Radhavallabha Sampradaya

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pp. 65-90

The broad category suggested by the term “Vaishnava” has been acknowledged by most scholars to encompass the majority of Hindu believers. This includes the veneration of Vishnu, Narayaša, LakshmŒ,Krishna, Radha, Rama, SŒta, and the remaining avataras (incarnations) with their female consorts, saints, and sectarian leaders and followers....

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6. Holi through Dauji's Eyes: Alternate Views of Krishna and Balarama in Daui

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pp. 91-112

Every year, on the second day after the full moon of Caitra, busloads of pilgrims arrive at the DaujΠTemple in Baldeo, Uttar Pradesh. DaujΠ(orDaubaba), meaning elder brother in Braj Bhasha, is both the local popular address for Balarama and his dhama, or place.1 Although Braj is primarily known for its emphasis on Krishna devotion, Balarama reigns...

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7. A Family Affair Krishna Comes to Pandharpur and Makes Himself at Home

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pp. 113-138

Krishna came to Pandharpur from Dvaraka to make amends with his wife, RukminOE. RukminOE had spied her rival Radha sitting on Krishna’s lap and she was not happy. RukminOE ran to what seemed to her a secure hiding place: the remote town of Pandharpur where the BhOEma River curves into the shape of a crescent moon and is called the...

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8. Dance before Doom: Krishna in the Non-Hindu Literature of Early Medieval South India

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pp. 139-150

Krishna shows up in the strangest of places in the early medieval narrative poetry of Tamil-speaking South India. Perhaps most striking is the fact that none of this literature is explicitly Hindu, much less devoted to Krishna. In the Cilappatikaram, a long and beautiful poetic narrative composed perhaps in the fourth or fifth century, a text often assumed to be Jain...

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9. Hero of Wonders, Hero in Deeds: Vasudeva Krishna in Jaina Cosmohistory

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pp. 151-176

Jaina teachers have masterfully adapted the Hindu Krishna stories popular among their laity, retelling them to conform to Jaina orthodoxy and to promote orthopraxis. As such, Jaina Krishna mythology presents an “alternative” Krishna, which stands alongside the well known Hindu stories that are simultaneously popular among the Jaina laity. Krishna in the Jaina tradition is no more a god than any...

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10. Epiphany in Radha’s Arbor Nature and the Reform of Bhakti in Hariaudh’s Priyapravas

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pp. 177-208

In 1914, Ayodhyasimh Upadhyay ’Hariaudh,’ a tax officer in a districtnear Varanasi, and well-known Braj Bhasha poet, published an epic-length poem entitled Priyapravas (The Sojourn of the Beloved). It was named for the episode in Krishna’s biography when he left his home in Vrindavana for Mathura at the evil king Kamsa’s invitation, and re-...


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pp. 209-212


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pp. 213-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780791483411
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791464151
Print-ISBN-10: 0791464156

Page Count: 226
Publication Year: 2005