Who Is Krishna? Historical Perspectives

Some notable personalities from Vedic history—kings, queens, spiritual leaders—give their view on Krishna's identity.

Arjuna—a key military commander during the time of Krishna's appearance at the Battle of Kurukshetra. He asked Krishna all the questions in the Bhagavad-gita.

Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala and Vyasa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me. (Bhagavad-gita 10.12-13)

O great one, greater even than Brahma, You are the original creator. Why then should they not offer their respectful obeisances unto You? O limitless one, God of gods, refuge of the universe! You are the invincible source, the cause of all causes, transcendental to this material manifestation. (Bhagavad-gita 11.37)

Queen Kunti—wife of world emperor Pandu and mother of emperor Yudhisthira, as well as the commanders Bhima and Arjuna. One of the most influential and highly principled people of her time.

Srimati Kunti said: O Krishna, I offer my obeisances unto You because You are the original personality and are unaffected by the qualities of the material world. You are existing both within and without everything, yet You are invisible to all. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.18)

Being beyond the range of limited sense perception, You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.19)

Let me therefore offer my respectful obeisances unto the Lord, who has become the son of Vasudeva, the pleasure of Devaki, the boy of Nanda and the other cowherd men of Vrindavana, and the enlivener of the cows and the senses. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.21)

My respectful obeisances are unto You, O Lord, whose abdomen is marked with a depression like a lotus flower, who are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, whose glance is as cool as the lotus and whose feet are engraved with lotuses. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.18.22)

Sukadeva Goswami—the son of Vyasadeva— editor of the Vedas—who spoke the Srimad-Bhagavatam to Emperor Pariksit:

Shukadeva Goswami said: Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead who, for the creation of the material world, accepts the three modes of nature. He is the complete whole residing within the body of everyone, and His ways are inconceivable (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.4.12)

Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the all-auspicious Lord Sri Krishna, about whom glorification, remembrances, audience, prayers, hearing and worship can at once cleanse the effects of all sins of the performer (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.4.15)

Let me offer my respectful obeisances again and again unto the all-auspicious Lord Sri Krishna. The highly intellectual, simply by surrendering unto His lotus feet, are relieved of all attachments to present and future existences and without difficulty progress toward spiritual existence. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.4.16)

Bharata Maharaja—A saintly king who gave up his kingdom to meditate on Krishna:

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is situated in pure goodness. He illuminates the entire universe and bestows all benedictions upon His devotees. The Lord has created this universe from His own spiritual potency. According to His desire, the Lord entered this universe as the Supersoul, and by virtue of His different potencies, He is maintaining all living entities desiring material enjoyment. Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Lord, who is the giver of intelligence. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.7.13)

Prajapati Daksha—one of the original beings within the universe, responsible for increasing universal population. His name appears in many places in the Srimad-Bhagavatam in connection with various pastimes of Shiva.

Prajapati Daksha said: The Supreme Personality of Godhead is transcendental to the illusory energy and the physical categories it produces. He possesses the potency for unfailing knowledge and supreme willpower, and He is the controller of the living entities and the illusory energy. The conditioned souls who have accepted this material manifestation as everything cannot see Him, for He is above the evidence of experimental knowledge. Self-evident and self-sufficient, He is not caused by any superior cause. Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Him. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.4.23)

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna appearing as His own devotee to set the example for how to best practice Krishna consciousness.

O Krishna, beloved son of Nanda Maharaja, I am Your eternal servant but somehow or other I have fallen into this ocean of nescience, and although I am struggling very hard, there is no way I can save myself. If You kindly pick me up and fix me as one of the particles of dust at Your lotus feet, that will save me. (Shikshashtaka 5)

I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly in His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my Worshipful Lord unconditionally. (Shikshashtaka 8)

Narada Muni—a devotee of Krishna who frequently appears many times in the Srimad Bhagavatam and other Vedic literature. He can travel at will anywhere within (or even outside of) the universe, and is the spiritual master of many kings and other spiritual authorities, such as Vyasadeva, Prahlad Maharaja, Dhruva Maharaja, and others.

[Narada Muni said:] O Krishna, Krishna, unlimited Lord, source of all mystic power, Lord of the universe! O Vasudeva, shelter of all beings and best of the Yadus ! O master, You are the Supreme Soul of all created beings, sitting unseen within the cave of the heart like the fire dormant within kindling wood. You are the witness within everyone, the Supreme Personality and the ultimate controlling Deity. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.37.10-11)

Yamunacharya—a prominent acharya (spiritual leader) of Shri Vaishnavism in South India, around the time of the 10th century. At an early age, he was given rule of a kingdom due to his skill in philosophy and debate. He later became a great renounced teacher and the spiritual master of Ramanuja.

By serving You constantly, one is freed from all material desires and is completely pacified. When shall I engage as Your permanent eternal servant and always feel joyful to have such a fitting master? (Stotra-ratna 43)

As the minds of young girls take pleasure in thinking of a young boy, and those of young boys take pleasure in thinking of a young girl, may my mind take pleasure in You, O my Lord. (quoted by Rupa Goswami)

King Kulashekhar—an 8th century Indian emperor and mystic poet of great renown who left his kingdom to wander in search of the Absolute Truth. He later became the author of Mukunda-mala Stotra, a famous collection of poems in praise of Krishna. (image courtesy of Kula Shaker)

O enemy of Madhu and Kaitabha, O Lord of the universe, the perfection of my life and the most cherished mercy You could show me would be for You to consider me the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Your servant. (Mukunda Mala Stotra 25)

All glories unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is known as the son of Devaki! All glories to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is known as the light of the dynasty of Vrishni! All glories to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose bodily luster is like that of a new cloud, and whose body is as soft as a lotus flower! All glories to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appeared on this
planet to deliver the world from the burden of demons, and who can offer liberation to everyone! (Mukunda Mala Stotra 3)