Lies, half-facts and twisting have always been the tools in the hands of Left Liberals to misconstrue the history of India, especially ancient history. The recent article on Scroll.in by Ms Ruchika Sharma talks of the ‘tribal’ origins of Krishna and how they got assimilated over time. This article discusses the flaws and lacunae in the arguments of the author.
The reader might observe that the Scroll author has based the entire article on an assumption that Krishna is a mythical character and that he owes his existence to some kind of hypothetical assimilation of folklores of different tribes and clans. While the marine explorations at Dwarka have established beyond doubt the veracity of the Mahabharata as a war around 3000BCE and Krishna as an individual, the in-depth analysis of that is beyond the scope of this article. For this rebuttal, let us rely on the same chronology and timeline of events put forth by these Leftists, assuming the mythical Aryans invaded India in 1500BCE, Vedas and later Vedic texts were composed from 1200-600 BCE, Buddha was born in 6thcentury, so on and so forth. Let us assume Krishna to be a mythical character for a moment.
Obsession with tribes
If one counts the number of times the word “tribe” and it derivatives have been used in the entire article, perhaps it will have the highest frequency amongst all. It is as if the author wants to stress on the tribal origins of a mythical Krishna, although it is not surprising. It has been a leftist fantasy of breaking down societies into cults, tribes and communities and to hypothesize the conflicts between them. If such divisions don’t exist, they will create hypothetical divisions to prove their point.
This article has multiple references to “tribes” like Vrishnis, Satvattas and their “cults” of gods like Narayana cult, Vasudeva cult, Bhagvata cult, etc. Any layman will understand that the names like Narayana, Vasudeva, Vishnu, Virat Purusha deal with the same entity in Hinduism. It has been a Hindu practice of having different names for a single God. Thus, Lord Shiva is called Mahadeva, Kapila, Shankara, Bhairava, Gangadhara, etc. Lord Ganesha is called as Lambodara, Vighneshwara, Gajanana, Vakratunda, etc. Does it mean all were different cults that amalgamated into a “coherent whole”? Should I conclude that Tathagata, Shakya, Gautama and Siddhartha were different tribes who joined together to form the Buddhist doctrine? The very dissemination of a single entity based on its different names reflects a poor understanding of Hinduism.
Moreover, logic is defied when Vrishnis and Satvattas are called “tribes”. The 10th-6th century BCE marked the beginning of the 16 Mahajanapadas. Basic knowledge of these Mahajanapadas will tell us that Shurasena was one of them with its capital at Mathura. Yadava clan ruled in Mathura with even the Puranas attesting to the fact that Vrishnis, Satvattas belonged to the same clan but as secondary royal lineages. How can a clan, living in a big Nagara like Mathura be even fit to be called as “tribe”? Unless, the intentions are to distort facts to present a perverted version of history.
Thus, the intentions of deliberately proving it as a multi-tribal and multi-cult creation reek of mischief.
The scientific doctrine of history requires the author to back up his assertions by evidences either from literature, archaeology, epigraphy or numismatics. Unfortunately, the entire article is filled with random assertions without any concrete proof.
The first basic assumption itself is problematic when the author claims that Krishna-Vasudeva were heroes of Vrishni and Satvatta clan which means the “birth” of Krishna-Vasudeva took place in Mathura. The stories of Vrindavana, Braja, Govardhana, Dwarka mentioned in the Puranas and Harivamsha are conveniently dubbed as later interpolations! However, the author does not clarify that if all major incidents of Krishna life like his childhood, killing of Kamsa, his help to the Pandavas, his preaching in the Bhagvad Geeta were later interpolations, then exactly what for was Krishna-Vasudeva famous amongst the “tribes” of Mathura?
Fusion of Krishna-Vasudeva with Narayana-Vishnu
The author wants to prove that the cult of Krishna-Vasudeva existed as a tribal cult while the concept of Narayana-Vishnu was a “Brahminical” and the Brahmins tried to merge the two for their benefit.
The author mentions two time frames regarding this issue-
A reference from Taittiriya Aranyaka goes contrary to the above argument. The Taittiriya Aranyaka has been composed around 10th century BCE, well before the hypothetical fusion of the above cults. Within the text, there exists a Narayana Suktam which describes Narayana.
Let’s look at the 14th verse –
ॐ नारायणाय विद्महे वासुदेवाय धीमहि । तन्नो विष्णुः प्रचोदयात् ||
Translation – We commune ourselves with Narayana and meditate on Vasudeva, may Vishnu guide us.
Thus, the composers as old as 10th century BCE were aware that Vasudeva, Narayana, Vishnu were one and the same, while it’s a sad story that some people in 21st century CE aren’t ! These entire names were used interchangeably in multiple texts but meant the same. I reiterate my earlier point that our ancestors were never in confusion about these concepts, they just called that single entity with different names.
Moreover, the quote from Suvira Jaiswal’s book that the Brahmins were feeling insecure because-
The very basic points mentioned above are on a weak footing. There is no doubt that Buddhism was at is pinnacle due to Ashoka. It is a historical fact that invaders were adopting Buddhism. However, one must remember the reverses Buddhism faced due to collapse of Mauryan Empire in 2nd century BCE when Pushyamitra Shunga killed the last Mauryan emperor Brihadratha. Moreover, north India began to be ruled by small kingdoms like Kanvas, Yaudheyas, Audumbaras, Trigartas, Agastyas, Shibis who were not necessarily Buddhist. Peninsular India began to be ruled by Satavahanas who had equal respect for Buddhism and Hinduism. The invaders which Jaiswal talks about i.e Shakas, Pahalvis, Indo-Greeks had their presence limited up to north-western part of India and to some extent in Malwa. Thus, in spite of being a major sect, the political situation in India was such that Buddhism did not pose any major threat to Brahminism (To be read as Hinduism by common people). Thus, the fantasies of forced acculturation of Krishna-Vasudeva cult with the Narayana-Vishnu cult have a weak foundation.
The author says “Yet, the Mahabharata, in several places, reveals a hesitancy to accept a non-Aryan tribal deity (Krishna) as a higher god”. Non-Aryan? So Yadavas are non-Aryans? Perhaps the author needs a better reading of Rigveda. A plain reading of Rigveda (1.108.8) will do the job. Such loose usage of words like tribes, cults and non-Aryan is unbecoming of an article based on history.
Childhood of Krishna
Thus, after successfully dictating proving that the Brahmins forced a merger of Narayana-Vishnu cult with the Krishna-Vasudeva cult, the author has to somehow fit the stories of Krishna’s childhood into the broad picture.
The author claims that Krishna was worshipped in his adult-form. What were missing from the grand narrative were his childhood stories. Thus, in the early centuries CE, stories of his childhood were added through the Harivamsha, a late addition to Mahabharata in 4th century CE.
Author says that the Mahabharata “makes no mention of Krishna’s childhood” and hence in the later ages the Harivamsha which describes the childhood of Krishna was appended to it. This is half the fact. Mahabharata does not coherently mention any stories of Krishna’s childhood. That does not mean it is unaware of it altogether. Thus, Mahabharata (13.149) refers to Yashoda tying up Krishna as punishment, (2.66) mentions about Krishna being a cowherd at Vrindavana, (5.130) mentions the feat of Krishna at Govardhana, etc. The only point is that Mahabharata’s mandate is to tell the story of Pandavas and Kauravas and not of Krishna. It is precisely because of this reason that Ved Vyasa felt like writing the Harivamsha which is dedicated exclusively to Krishna. Thus, the existence of a later-age and a separate Harivamsha does not prove that the stories of Krishna’s childhood were later interpolations.
To attach an origin to the childhood stories, the hilarious relation of Krishna’s childhood with Abhira tribes was made. The author believes that Krishna as a shepherd or Gopala was inspired from the cowherd deity of the Abhiras.
Perhaps, the author herself didn’t understand a big problem in her claims. She rightfully states that the Abhiras were tribes living in lower Indus valley and Saurashtra. Isn’t it strange that a cult that originated from Mathura took stories from a tribe living in Saurashtra and weaved childhood stories in locations in Yamuna valley like Vrindavana, Braja and Govardhana? Moreover, if at all mythologies are to be invented for feeding the people; stories are picked up from popular folklore, not from tribes living in one corner of India and called as Mlechhas by Mahabharata.
Being leftist, it is as compulsory to drink scotch and wine as it is to denigrate Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It takes no effort for someone to draw nude paintings of Saraswati or write a ‘300 Ramayanas’ essay. The issue of Krishna asking Arjuna to acquire Subhadra “by force” and the “amorous dalliances” (to be read as sexual flirting by us vernacular Indians) of Krishna with the Gopis was deliberately raked up and connected to the Abhiras.
The last part of the Scroll article deals with the process of making Krishna a “coherent whole”. The lies and the distortions presented earlier are now to be piled up to form the final propaganda. Thus, the final conclusion is that Puranic Hinduism went about assimilating the tribal deities and coalesced them into one jumbo God called Krishna.
One must remember my arguments were based on the assumptions of Krishna being a mythical character. The timeline of events was also the same used by Leftists. In spite of that, the arguments of the author don’t stand. If we rightfully consider Krishna as a real-time individual, the entire arguments of author are invalidated right at the start.
The Ideal Way
The correct way of looking at Vaishnavism is through the lens of faith. One should understand the Vedas became increasingly ritualistic which forced the enlightened to look beyond and reach the larger truth. Thus, the questions came- Who created the Universe? Who is responsible for its smooth functioning? If it is created, will it also be destroyed? Thus were born the triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh with Vishnu being regarded as Satvika, his navel giving birth to Brahma, his resting place being deep underwater on the Shesha Naga.
He became Narayana = Nara + Ayana or whose resting place is in the waters.
He became Vasudeva = Vasu + Deva or where all Gods exist.
He became Vishnu = root word “Vish” which means all pervading.
These were no cults or tribes but the description of the same almighty. You will find multiple such names in various texts composed in different times. The meaning remained the same.
Since Vishnu’s work was to ensure smooth functioning, the individuals who corrected the imbalances in the society soon came to be called his incarnates. This gave rise to the concept of Avataras of Vishnu. This was the time when a real-time individual called Krishna came to be symbolized as an incarnate of Vishnu. Thus, Krishna became another name for Narayana and is still worshipped by millions. Spare the Lord from your propaganda, at least on his birthday!
Happy Janmashtami. Chant Hari, Be Merry, Don’t Worry.