Hindus consider Lord Krishn as the eighth Avatar or Divine Incarnation who took on an earthly appearance in order to destroy wickedness and re-establish Dharma or righteousness.
Krishn’s life story, narrated and sung in the temples of India, in street theatre and public parks still enthrals. The Krishn legends unite, inspire, excite, enchant, motivate and console, touching all aspects of Hindu cultural life, from philosophy, religion and mysticism to music, painting, sculpture, poetry and drama.
However, there is controversy about Krishn’s historicity. Some Indian as well as Western historians believe Krishn is merely a mythical, fictional character of the Puranas, a body of popular, ancient literature sacred to Hindus. But an increasing number of modern Hindu scholars hotly contest this view. Based on literary research and recent archaeological discoveries, they believe that Krishn was no mythical figure but actually existed.
The literary evidence of the historical Krishn’s existence- as depicted in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharat- is being linked with archaeological findings in the state of Gujarat. It was here, in the early eighties, that archaeologists found the submerged remains of a lost city, about 120 feet underwater on the coastline.
According to the Mahabharat, Krishn ruled over the city of Dwarika, which was said to have been submerged by the rising ocean. This has been regarded as no more than a poetic end to a great tale. However, according to David Frawley of the American Vedic Institute, the lost city sits on the same site of the original Dwarika, described in the Mahabharat, and could well be the legendary city ruled over by Krishn.
Dr. S.R Rao and his pioneering team of marine archaeologists made 12 expeditions off the coast of modern Dwarika. Among the artefacts recovered from the underwater excavation sites were pottery with inscriptions in old Indo-Aryan script, and were found to be 3,528 years old. This date is close to the time that the Puranas appear to date Krishn, about 1,400 BC.
Professor Bhagwant Josh of Jawahar Lal University, Delhi, suggests “Krishn must have been both historical as well as mythical. Much before the historical Krishn was born, the mythical Krishn must have existed (there is a reference to a Krishn in the Rig-Veda); the historical Krishn would have been named after the mythical one.”
Historian A.L. Basham, in The Wonder That Was India, points out “a krsn [Krishn] son of Deviki is mentioned in one of the early Upanishad as studying the new doctrines of the soul, and it seems that there is some historical basis for the legend of the hero-god ….”
Although a lot more research still needs to be done on this issue, in the light of the literary evidence and archaeological findings in Dwarika, the historians who still consider Krishn a mythical character and the Mahabharat a poetic expression stand on shaky ground. They need to reconsider.
This debate, however, seems to be restricted to scholars. Hindus of all spiritual persuasions have never had any doubts about Krishn being a historical personality and a divine incarnation.
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Article By: Ajit Adhopia