Many A Krishna

Meaning of the word Krishna

The term Krishna means dark, dark hued.

Krishna, the central character to our book, is often in poetry and songs, referred to as Megha Shyama, meaning “dark as the rain bearing cloud”.

There were many a Krishna during Krishna’s time itself.

The prominent Krishnas

 Three Krishnas at the same Time

There have been many a dark hued persons through the times in this land and since the word “Krishna” denotes dark hued, more than a few of them have been called Krishna.

To avoid confusion, the central character of this book Krishna, the Yadava Prince, is often referred to as “Devakiputra Krishna” meaning “Krishna, the son of Devaki”.

The author of the epic Mahabharata, whom we reverentially call Veda Vyasa, was named Krishna at birth, for he was also dark. He was called Krishna Dwaipayana meaning “Krishna, the island born” as he was born on an island in the middle of a river, to Satyavati who was a boat woman.

Veda Vyasa is a title given to him, as he had also compiled the four Veda and organized them in a format which is in vogue to this day. The word Vyasa means “a compiler”.

Draupadi, the wife of the Pandava princes, was also named Krishnaa at birth. She was also dark hued in colour.
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Why only people? Even rivers were named Krishna.

Krishna is the name of a mighty river flowing in Andhra Pradesh. Many think that this river was named after Devakiputra Krishna. But this river is also referred to as the elder sister of Ganga, which means that this river and its name are treated as feminine gender. The original name of this river is actually Krishnaveni, meaning “dark plaited”.

Blue not Black

In Samskrt, the word “Neela” is used to denote any dark substance.

In northern parts of India, until a few years ago, the local way of commenting that someone has tanned or become dark, was by using the word “Neela”.

Neela also means “dark blue”. So, in Indian imagery we find the colour dark blue associated with dark and not black. This can be seen in visual representations in the form of a blue coloured Devakiputra Krishna, Draupadi and so on.

It can also be seen from some of the ancillary names given to Krishna such as Neelamegha Shyama, meaning “dark as the dark cloud”.

Usage of the word Krishna

Krishna Paksha

The moon, every month, goes through two cyclical phases of a fortnight each, called Paksha in Samskrt.

The waxing phase, in which the moon grows brighter day by day is called Shukla Paksha. Shukla means “white”, “fair”.

The other phase of the moon, where the moon grows darker day by day is called Krishna Paksha. Clearly the term Krishna Paksha has come about due to its association with darkening and not due to its association with an individual by name Krishna, as many are wont to think today.

Krishnamayam Jagat

There is an ancient popular phrase – “Krishnamayam Jagat.” This has been simply expressed by those who eulogize Krishna, to say that Lord Krishna fills this entire world, Jagat.

When we look at this same phrase from a scientific level, it offers us a completely new meaning.

 Krishna, we now know, means “dark”.

Mayam as a suffix, qualifies the word preceding it. Mayam denotes “being possessed of ”, “being encapsulated” in the quality denoted by the preceding word.

Jagat at a basic level means “this world”. It also means “anything that is moving”, “that, which is moving with good speed”, “moving with life”. All these are true for this world. Hence it is called Jagat and also

Jag in Hindi.

The universe is also called Jagat, as everything in this universe is also moving. The word Jagannath, Lord of the Universe, Lord of that which is constantly in motion, comes from this word Jagat. It is from Jagannath of Puri and His famous large Rath, chariots, that came the English word “Juggernaut” to denote an overwhelming and moving object or force.

 What is further scientifically relevant to us today, from the phrase, Krishnamayam jagat, is that, everything in this universe is encapsulated in darkness. Darkness pervades everywhere.

 Modern science states that, only 4% of the universe is made of matter that can be seen. The rest, 96 % of the universe is in the form of dark energy and dark matter. This dark energy, dark matter, is dark and unseen through known forms of vision, natural or otherwise, because of which it is called “dark”.

So this world is indeed prevailing in darkness. Suddenly this phrase Krishnamayam jagat, throws new light.

Is this our own interpretation, taking cue from modern scientific findings and trying to give a new meaning to an old phrase?

Our earlier works Creation – Srishti Vignana and Understanding Shiva, in the Bharath Gyan series, on the traditional description from the Veda and the Purana, on how this Universe was created, show that this meaning of Krishnamayam jagat, does not seem incredulous, but indeed eminently possible.

This universe is indeed Krishnamayam.

More on Krishna and the historicity of Krishna in our book Historical Krishna – Vol-1 – Dating of Krishna.

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Parting of Yamuna – A Miracle?

Yamuna Crossing

It was midnight when baby Krishna arrived on earth inside the prison of His wicked uncle Kamsa.

As though aware of the gravity of the situation, the new born baby lay quietly by the side of His mother Devaki. Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, was anxiously shifting his gaze between his newborn son and the prison doors, afraid that the guards may arrive any moment and see the child. To his surprise, he found that the guards had all fallen asleep as though in a state of stupor. The chains at his feet had come loose and the prison doors too had come ajar. He immediately read the signs that he was being shown the way to save his child. He decided to take Krishna and leave Him with his friend Nandagopa on the other side of the Yamuna.

Making haste, he quickly bundled baby Krishna into a basket and walked out of the prison with the child, hoping to make it to his friend Nandagopa’s house and back before daybreak, before the prison guards could find out anything amiss.

It was raining heavily that night and the winds were howling at a feverish pitch. Reaching the banks of the Yamuna, he wondered how he would manage to cross her safely with the child in such weather. Alone, he could have swum across. But he now had a baby.

Yet surprisingly, when he stepped into the waters, he found Yamuna parting and making way for them to cross over. The waters seemed to be leaping, wanting to touch the feet of Krishna but not daring to go any higher.

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Krishna being carried by Vasudeva across the Yamuna River in spate

Vasudeva had a feeling that a hooded snake was following him, spreading his hood as an umbrella for Krishna. Overawed, he dared not to turn and look. He kept walking till he reached the other bank. He left Krishna with Nandagopa and returned to the prison just in time before the guards woke up.

Yamuna returned to flowing in her usual manner as though she had seen nothing, she knew nothing and she had done nothing.

If Krishna is historical and not a myth, how can this be explained? Was it a miracle, an exaggeration or an imagination?

The Red Sea Crossing from the Bible

On similar lines, various teams have been working to understand and solve the Biblical mysteries, one of them being the parting of the Red Sea when Moses led his people, the Hebrews, out of Egypt.

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Moses

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Parting of Red Sea

One of the theories that has been put up to explain this as a natural, but rare phenomenon, is based on the principle of Wind Set Down.

A Wind Set Down

One of the experts who has been working on this theory, is scientist Prof. Doran Nof, Oceanography Department, Florida State University.                4

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University Logo

According to the Wind Set Down theory, when winds blow continuously for a sustained duration, from the shores of a water body, towards the inside of the water body, at speeds around 100 mph and if the water depths happen to be shallow in that region, the winds can succeed in pushing the waters further inside, away from the shore.

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If the land under the water body also contains undulating ridges, then the receding waters could get contained within the troughs and can create stretches of dry areas within the water body, especially on top of the ridges.

Once the winds die down, the waters will gush back into that land at a much higher speed.

The time period for the event of the Red Sea crossing is estimated to have been around 1500 BCE.

Based on this Wind Set Down theory, the sea levels then, the Biblical descriptions and other logical analysis, Prof. Nof and Nathan Paldor of the Institute of Earth Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have identified the route that must have been taken by Moses. They have zeroed in on the place where Moses must have crossed the Red Sea safely and how once the winds died down, all the soldiers of the Pharoah would have got trapped and drowned by the parted waters gushing back.

Miracle on Yamuna

Similarly on the night of Krishna’s birth, there was heavy rain, accompanied by gusty winds, thunder and lightning. The Yamuna was also in spate. The gusty winds accompanied by the other conditions described, could well have been an ideal condition for a ‘wind set down’ phenomenon to have occurred there in the Yamuna river too making it possible for Vasudeva to carry the just born Krishna, in a basket, and walk across the Yamuna.

Yamuna, a smaller river then

It is to be borne in mind that Yamuna was a smaller and shallower river then. Sarasvati was a much larger, flowing river then.

Tamas was then a tributary of the Sarasvati, before it turned east to join the Yamuna much later in time.

Even now in the Mathura Agra belt, Yamuna is a shallow river. This is noticeable before summer, when the water is lowest in the river. It is sometimes easy to ford the river then, on foot.

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Dry Bed of Yamuna River

Mystifying Miracles

Krishna is eulogized for the miracles He performed during His childhood as well as later in life. The list is long and the parting of the Yamuna is one of the first few miracles to find place in this list.

From the Red Sea parting study, we see that the parting of Yamuna too has a scientific explanation.

It is possible that over time, with increasing popularity of Krishna as divine, some incidents could have found their way into the epic or other allied texts, legends and practices of the land, in the form of miracles to convey awe of the divine.

It is also possible that over time, in future, as science advances, it could stretch into understanding some of the subtler aspects as well. This in turn could lead to a better understanding of Krishna’s miracles, acts.

Time alone can tell what really happened!

Time alone can tell what will happen!

(The above is an extract from our book – “Historical Krishna”)

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Did Mandodari Marry Vibhishana?

Ravana had many wives amongst whom, Queen Mandodari, was the chief Queen, a virtuous, beautiful lady. She was the daughter of Mayasura, a great mathematician, a great architect and an engineer par excellence. As his name Mayasura suggests he was from the Asura clan.

It was Mayasura who built Lanka, one of the greatest cities.

Ravana and Mandodari – Great Devotees of Shiva

Ravana and Mandodari were great devotees of Lord Shiva.

In response to the prayer of Mandodari, Lord Shiva visited the island of Lankapuri at Thiruketheeswaram, in the form of a child and blessed Queen Mandodari and Ravana.

It is in commemoration of this visit of Lord Shiva to Lanka, that Queen Mandodari’s father, Mayasura, the architect par excellence, built the Thiruketheeswaram temple, as per the rules of the Agama sastra for temple construction.

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Way back in 1864 itself, the famous Galle Face Hotel of Colombo chose for its logo, the Dandu Monara Vimana. This goes to show that, Ravana flying in Dandu Monara Vimana was a popular and widely accepted theme, even 150 years ago during colonial rule.

In the logo of the hotel, it shows Ravana and Mandodari flying in the Dandu Monara Vimana.

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Ravana and Mandodari in the Vimana

Galle Face Hotel Logo,

Dandu Monara Vimana, 1864

Mandodari Counsels Ravana

When Ravana kidnapped Sita, Mandodari counselled him many times on the inappropriateness of this action.

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Sita in Ashok Vatika

But Ravana, for all his gifted qualities of being well educated, a good administrator, possessing varied skills, met his downfall when he coveted somebody else’s chaste wife against her own wishes.

He refused to see reason, despite the good counsel of Mandodari his wife and Vibhishana his brother and refused to release Sita back to Rama.

Ravana eventually met his end at the hands of Rama.

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Rama slaying Ravana

Did Mandodari marry Vibhishana?

Now, there are some who question the character of Rama and Vibhishana, stating a few sources which seem to suggest that Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother, coveted Mandodari, on the advice of Rama, after Ravana’s death. And that, Sita was a mute onlooker to this.

Kelaniya – Vibhishana’s Palace

To the north of Colombo is the Kelaniya Buddhist temple.

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This temple has been identified as the site of the ancient palace of Vibhishana. Carvings to this effect are found on the outer wall of this temple.

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Kelaniya temple

Is it Mandodari in this Sculpture?

On the back side wall of this temple, is a rock cut, sculptured panel depicting the coronation or Pattabhishekam of Vibhishana.

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Vibhishana coronation panel in Kelaniya temple

Lakshmana is depicted to be conducting the coronation of Vibhishana in this panel.

This sculpture is in  line with the description of this event in the Ramayana epic because Rama was still undergoing His 14 years of Vanavasa, exile in the forest and hence did not enter the city to conduct the coronation but instead, had deputed Lakshmana to do so on His behalf.

In the coronation sculpture, the queen of Lanka sitting beside Vibhishana is identified by some observers now, as Mandodari.

No reference in Valmiki Ramayana

For an accurate picture, we need to look at Valmiki Ramayana, the original source of Rama’s story; an itihasa, which means, “It thus happened”.

Valmiki Ramayana is a biography of Rama, chronicled by Valmiki!

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Valmiki, the author of Ramayana

It should be noted here that, as per Valmiki Ramayana, Mandodari did not occupy the throne of Lanka with Vibhishana. After Ravana’s death, Mandodari went into mourning.

Vibhishana was a married man, whose wife was Ammani and he also had a daughter called Trijata. She was known as Trijata because she had three Jata of long hair, Jata meaning plait. Since she had dressed her hair in three plates, she was called Trijata. Trijata had earlier been deputed to attend to Sita’s needs, when Sita was held captive by Ravana at Ashoka Vatika.

So it should have been Vibhishana’s wife, Trijata’s mother, who occupied the throne along with Vibhishana at the time of the coronation and not Mandodari as is held by some.

More on this in our book, Ramayana in Lanka.

In Ramacharitamanas

The source that some quote to suggest that Mandodari married Vibhishana, comes from an indirect reference in the Ramacharitamana, by Tulsidas. In this poetic work, Tulsidas, while speaking of the compassion of Rama on His devotees, states, in the first chapter, Doha– 28.

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In this sloka, there is no reference to Vibhishana forcefully coveting Mandodari. When the misdemeanor is not fully expressed, one cannot assume without reason that it relates to Mandodari.

Case of Tara and Sugreeva

There is another incident in the Ramayana, where, Tara, the wife of Bali, offers to marry Sugreeva on the death of Bali, on the promise that after the time of Sugreeva, her son Angad will be the king. She did this to ensure the safety of her son.

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Tara supporting Bali, after he was wounded by Rama

An Understanding needed

We need to understand that only the act of forcing a woman to marrying someone, is immoral and illegal. But, if a married woman wanted to marry someone else, it was not considered illegal or immoral. Women enjoyed that unique right in this land.

Mandodari – A Woman par Excellence

Mandodari did not marry Vibhishana. After the death of Ravana, she went into mourning and oblivion.

Mandodari was no ordinary lady. She was the daughter of the renowned Mayasura, the great architect, mathematician, astronomer and skilled engineer.

Pancha Kanya

Mandodari was such an illustrious woman that she figures as one of the 5, in India’s Panchakanya list of “all time great” women. Pancha is 5 and kanya is a lady.

In the Indian tradition 5 women have been given the title of Panchakanya for their ideal lives. They are Ahalya, Sita, Mandodari, Draupadi and Tara.

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The Samskrt hymn on Panchakanya is as follows:

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Need to present factual opposition

Thus we need not cast aspersions on the character of Mandodari and Vibhshana, or for that matter Rama, and need to give a factual opposition to any malicious theories put forth by vested interests.

More on Rama and other characters of the Ramayana in our Rama Trilogy,

  1. Historical Ram
  2. Ayodhya – War and Peace
  3. Ramayana in Lanka

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and film Historical Rama in

  1. English
  2. Hindi
  3. Kannada
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