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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 1 New Delhi December 23, 2017 - Annual Number

Hindu Rama and Indian Krishna

Sunday 24 December 2017

by Bheenaveni Ram Shepherd

It is a known fact that Ram is politically owned by the Sangh Parivar whereas Krishna is owned by the Yadavs across the country as their divine and political legacy. In North India the Yadavs remained as an opposite political and social block to the Hindutva block. In this context, I want to examine two opposite streams of thought that emerged around Rama and Krishna. The main difference is that Rama represented war and violence, whereas Krisha represented the cattle-herding production and creativity.

The existing history of the downtrodden in India cannot be deliberated as an objective factual account as every archaeological, historical and mythological research of India is directed by a definite set of explanations. Those explanations and interpretations are in favour of a particular ethos. Racial prejudice, cultural hegemony and political inclinations are the undercurrents that tend to disguise the realistic history. The dialectical process I attempt is to explore the unknown facts in order to construct or reconstruct the genuine antiquity of India. Everybody is aware that India is a textbook example of the caste system; many of the anthropologists and sociologists believed that caste was evolved on the basis of occupation. We also live with a misconception that all castes were created by Manu on a fine day that Brahmins came from the head, Kshatriyas came from the shoulders, Vysyas came from the thighs and the Sudras were from the foot of the Hindu God. In fact, all castes were not created on one day but the Varna system transformed into major four caste groups. Further, those four caste groups fragmented into many. The reasons are several and the context specific. For instance, some castes originated from the vanquished, some from occupation and others by conversion of pantheism and religion.

The paramount purpose for construction of the Varna system is racial superiority or ethno-centrism. When the Harappa (Indus-Valley) civilisation was flourishing with wealth and peace, the Aryans migrated from Central Asia, probably from Iran, to India to conquer it, thus settling-down in the Indian subcontinent. The horse played a commanding role to offer victory to the Aryans. The structure of the horse hooves allows the war animal (horse) and its rider to move faster and freely so that the enemy will be attacked quite easily and within a brief span of time. This war strategy stripped the indigenous Indians to lose everything and forced them to move towards Central and South India. In this connection, we have to examine the figures like Rama and Krishna who are usually considered as incarnations of Vishnu vis-à-vis the ancestral and linguistic roots and productive ethics.

The term ‘Rama’ means ‘sweet’ and the very existence of similar terms can be seen in the Sumerian civilisation where a king called ‘Ram-Sin’ ruled for a long time in Sumeria.1 In case of Krishna, the term conveys the meaning ‘darkness’ and it can be seen in the Rig-Veda. Krishna of the Rig-Veda was also a leader whose wife and children were assassinated by Indra, the chief of Suras or Aryans. It is clear that the term Rama is associated with the Aryan culture while Krishna indicated the native Indian culture that is widely referred to as ‘Dravidas’. One can see the difference from their lineage: Rama belongs to Suryavamsha and Krishna represents Chandravamsha. Both of them were born in royal families but Rama led a totally princely life. Krishna was born in a prison and later shifted to gokulam, a place of cattle-herders. He was brought up by his socio-logical parents Nanda and Yashoda as a cow and buffalo grazer. Raja Ravivarma has shown only white cows around him. But Yadavs, being in the post-Harappa period, grazed both animals and Krishna represents all cattle herding, not just the cow.

The childhood of Rama was very pathetic, despite having three siblings. Rama used to weep all the time and his sorrows were curtailed through the lessons taught by Vasishta who was a family priest. Later, Vasishta took Rama to elevate him as a warrior to perform the Kshatriya dharma. At the age of 17, Rama killed Tataki, the destroyer of yagnas. Thus, began the legacy of Rama’s killing the Asuras.

Krishna, on the whole, led a blissful childhood even though his biological parents were not with him. He was joyful by playing flute and rearing the cattle on the banks of rivulets and in the forest. During his infancy, Krishna killed Putana, the sister of Kamsa, who was sent to Vrindavan by Kamsa to kill baby Krishna. Putana, disguised as a gopi, tried to lull Krishna and fed him poison but Krishna sucked life out of Putana and killed her. It is a stunning astonishment for us that a small baby could kill a big lady like Putana who planned to murder him. This latently reveals that somebody killed Putana and ascribed the murder to baby Krishna. The other killings of Shatakasura, Trunasura, Vatschasura, Bakasura, and Kakasura happened on the same lines. At the age of 12, Krishna and his brother Balarama visited Kamsa’s city and killed his unbeatable uncle without deploying any armed force. This is also an unbelievable story in the historical sense. Rama did not kill his own people but Krishna was said to have killed Kamsa who was also a Yadav. However, the story of the killings by Krishna in the texts tries to project Rama as a historic legendary personality and Krishna as a negative person. Moreover, there was an underpinning attribution of God for every act as a reason throughout the text, which confines the human mind not to seek alternative ways of exploration of history. Consequently, the traditionalist and structural-functionalist under-standings are responsible for analysing the Indological texts but one ought to demystify the reading of Krishna.

As Ambedkar and Kosambi mentioned, Nagas were aboriginal inhabitants of India and ‘peaceful food gatherers’ living in central and eastern India. Many Indians worship Nagaraja, the snake-god, even today. The Naga tribe used to pray so that the snakes do not to bite the humans and their cattle. However, the fear of snake-bite and venom is central in worshiping the snakes. The tribes, who worship snakes, are usually denoted as Nagas, and later it transformed as a lineage or descent. Mahabharat also conveys another interesting fact of Krishna’s fight with Nagas in Kaliya Lake and Takshaka, another snake king, who was also killed by both Krishna and Arjuna. Nagas were considered as enemies by the Aryans but not by Abhirs. Here they cleverly constructed a story that Nagas were the enemies of both Aryans and Abhirs. In fact, this is not true. The historical animosity between Aryans and Nagas had continued up to Parikshit and Janamejaya. No evidence was there in Mahabharat or Bagavat regarding the conflict between Nagas and Abhirs (Yadavs). This mythological history was a contribution of Brahminism.

Vasista strictly counselled Rama to persist the Manu dharma and made him a warrior to protect the yagnas. Vasista himself took Rama to Janaka’s court to break the Shiva Dhanas. Rama did it and married Sita. Though Krishna was trained under Sandipani, he never followed the conventional culture of Manu to control him.

 Krishna-Rukmini fell in love and wished to marry but the marriage was seriously objected to by Rukmi’s brother. Rukmi was willing to have Sishupala as the brother-in-law. Both Sishupala and Rukmi put their maximum effort to ensure the elopement of the lovers. Krishna won the battle and left Rukmi alive. Rama always followed the advice of Vasista but Krishna himself took decisions. Rama was dependent and loyal to the Manu dharma whereas Krishna was independent and possessed the courage to disturb the orthodoxical structures. This is why, the Sangh Parivar took Rama as their icon and they made Krishna as a playboy and love-hero. This image of Krishna has been deliberately constructed.

The Brahminic forces wrote extensively to misinterpret Krishna’s personality. In fact, there is no mention of Radha’s character in the Mahabharat or Harivansham (a supplement to the Mahabharat) which, according to experts, was added to the Mahabharat sometime between 1st century BCE and 1st century CE. It is also believed that Radha as a character first appears in literature only in the 12th century in Jayadeva’s seminal work, “Geet Govinda”. Today, Radha-Madhav are idols and many temples are full of their paintings and idols. This is how the Dravidian stories are manipulated to be negated and the Aryan stories are painted to be great and positive.

At Brundhavan, the drought-prone situation instigated the Gopals (cowherds) to perform Govardhan Puja in favour of Lord Indra who was the chieftain among the Devas (Aryans). The main intention of performing the said ritual was to appease Indra to get sufficient rains. Krishna negated the ritual and emphasised that ‘the true devotee of Krishna should not perform any ritual mentioned in Vedas’. Further, he stated that ‘practising Vedic rituals or wor-shipping any other God would never culminate to enhance the devotion towards me (Krishna)’. He also asked his father Nanda: ‘What purpose is behind performing this yagna? What is the result of this yagna? How do you proceed into this?’ And so on. The reply of Nanda was that the rituals were of long-lasting tradition from the ancient times to please Indra in order to get good rains. Nanda also endorsed Indra as the authority over rain and natural resources.

However, Krishna outrightly rejected Indra’s mystical powers and authority. Eventually, he stopped the ritual. This act annoyed Indra and led to a battle between them. Indra is considered to be a representative of the Aryan God (usually kings also claim this). A myth was constructed much before the creation of the concept of God. God or the representative of God embraces many supernatural powers, namely, immortality, invincibility, capable of non-thrusty use of heavy and mystical weapons and so on. In fact, this was a strategic trick of the Aryans to defeat their enemies. Krishna found the hidden strategy of enslavement in the name of God and exquisitely countered them by claiming that he was God Almighty himself. When Krishna used this tactic, all the Dravidians became very confident, proud, and self-assuring. It was a real paradigm shift in the life-worlds of indigenous Indians and Krishna boosted their indomitable spirit.

Krishna emerged as the Almighty and established a huge following. The kings of his contemporary times were jealous of him and some of them planned to kill Krishna. One among them was Poundraka who also claimed himself to be a true God—Vasudeva, but his strategy was smashed by Krishna to uphold his claim. In case of Rama, he never said or claimed that he is God but the Rushis had ascribed the divine powers to him. Even within the postulates of modern-day science, there is no scope for God or supernatural forces at all. The reality was known to Krishna that there was no God but he claimed it to break the shackles of Aryan divine myth in order to free his own people.

This strategy was wise and phenomenal. The organic intellectuals can only design such strategies to protect the innocent suppressed majority. The traditionalists like Rama can never acclaim innovative strategies and they just follow their kulagurus.

The most important contribution of Krishna is Gita. It is not merely a song but an advice or rather a discourse. It is a philosophical document that has influence across all the religions. D.D. Kosambi pointed out that Gita was an evolved text and included the thought and philosophies of pre-Aryanism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Gita is the text of rejection of Manu dharma as it declares that “chaturvarnam maya srishtam guna karma vibhagash” (the four-fold varna system is created by me on the basis of individual qualities and deeds).2 “The fourfold order was created by Me according to the divisions of quality and work. Though I am its creator, know Me to be incapable of action or change.” (Gita:4-13, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, The Bhagavadgita, London, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1948)

The birth-based Varna system was seriously rejected by Krishna which is quite contradictory to the Manusmriti. Manu says that the Varnas are ascribed status assigned through human birth and those are not flexible to change one to another. However, Survepalli Radhakrishnan also described that ‘this is not a declaration of Varna based on birth, but on guna (aptitude) and karma (deed)’.3

On the battlefront, Arjuna wanted to withdraw from the war for the simple reason that the killing of his own kith and kin in order to protect their racial purity by avoiding inter-marriages or the mix of Varnas as the war would result in massive deaths of warriors. Krishna never dwelt in the traditional understanding of Varnadharma and provoked Arjuna to proceed further to fulfil his duty. Thus, he wanted to create conditions of inter-racial marriages.

Krishna crossed the boundaries of Varna and married Jambavati, the only daughter of the bear-king Jambava who is considered as a Dalit, according to modern understanding. An Asura princess, named Usha, daughter of Bana and grand-daughter of King Bali, fell in love with Aniruddha, the grandson of Krishna. Banasura seized Aniruddh as he was reluctant to perform their marriage. Krishna along with Balarama and Pradyumna went to rescue him. Bana and Shiva together faced them in a battle. At the end, Krishna won the battle and left Bana alive on the request of Shiva. It is crystal-clear that Krishna was not a strict follower of Varnadharma as he himself married a Kshatriya (Rukmini), Adivasi mountaineer (Jambavati), Naga (Nagajithni), and Ahir/Yadav (Satyabhama).

When Rama was dejected his Guru Vasishta gives him moral advice in the form of “Yoga Vasishta”. Whereas Krishna advises the dejected Arjuna by teaching him “Bhagavad Gita”. Vasishta was a think-tank for Rama to design his planning and programme and Hanuman was the executor of those. Rama was only a nexus-point between Vasishta’s thought and Hanuman’s implementation. Sometimes Lakshmana also indulged in execution. Without them, Rama was worthless.

In case of Krishna, he was the designer of his own strategies, either war or socio-political, and was less dependent on others. He took the initiative to fight against Sishupala, Paundraka, Banasura, Indra, Shiva and so on. These so that Krishna himself was a brave, efficient strategist and visionary, unlike Rama. Rama never displayed any divine powers while Krishna claimed it on many occasions like lifting the Manthara mountain, sending clothes to Draupadi, gifting akshayapatra etc.

In terms of attitude and personality, Krishna always kept smiling and one could hardly see him crying. Whereas there were many occasions wherein Rama cried. For example, when Sita was abducted or Lakshmana was nearly killed in the war, he cried. During his childhood, Rama was known for sorrowfulness and he used to be confined to his bedroom most of the time. Rama never had a happy married life while Krishna celebrated his married life equally with his wives.

Kuchela was a very intimate childhood friend of Krishna from Mathura belonging to a poor Brahmin family but the difference in social status did not come in the way of their true friendship. However, Rama did not cherish any similar and equal friendship during his life.

Rama was notorious for misogynist behaviour. He ordered his brother Lakshmana to mutilate Surpanakha’s nose, nipples, and ears. In a state of shock, she left the place humiliated.

Let’s not forget Rama’s excuse when Ahalya got turned into a boulder for messing around with a god. This excuse may be due to the same race. Since Surpanakha was Asura, Rama disfigured her. It was Rama who doubted Sita’s character. The question of Sita’s performing agnipariksha (test of fire) shouldn’t have come to Rama’s mind. A person who doesn’t trust his better half cannot claim that he loves her. The question of mistrust can only arise in the absence of love. If there’s love, there’s trust, faith, and respect too. However, the character of Sita has subconsciously infiltrated our collective psyche and forced the Indian women into servitude over centuries.

During the insult by Duryodhana and his entourage, it was Krishna, who had no claim upon Draupadi and technically no responsibility towards her, but protected her dignity with that unending supply of sari. It may be a poetic description of a miracle but conveyed man’s ability to see a woman as a human being rather than an object or possession. Krishna did not blame Draupadi as the fault lay with the Kauravas for thinking of and attempting rape.

There are many instances which draw clear differences between Rama and Krishna; Rama kills Rakshasas as Guru Dakshina while Krishna brings back to life the dead children of his Guru as his Dakshina. Rama lived a king’s life and ruled the kingdom for many years while Krishna was never the king but always the kingmaker. Rama is depicted generally with a bow and arrow indicating that he is a king while Krishna is generally depicted as a cattle herdsman.

No incarnation of Lord Vishnu was involved in any production or engaged with cattle rearing but Krishna grazed, decorated and looked after the animals. He acted as a charioteer of Arjuna in the Kurukshetra war and he used to wash the war-horses everyday after the conclusion of war. It was absolutely the epitome of an animal lover. Living merely simple is a lifestyle of soberness but being involved in production is definitely to be seen from a different set of value-systems where the dignity of labour is classified on the basis of choice, free-will, equality and so on. Rama was not entitled for choice-based selection as he embodied the Varnadharma value-system as preached by his ancestors but Krishna had an open choice to become anything.

Thus, Krishna’s role can be seen from cattle-herding to a lovable man to a warrior to a king to a kingmaker to a philosopher to God. This is possible only for an aboriginal Indian, not for a person with the Hinduvta ethos. That is the reason Krishna is a God of cultured Yadavs and Rama is a God of uncultured social forces who hate production.


1. The Cambridge Ancient History contains priceless information relevant to Indian ancient history. The Sumerian records furnish the first date of the Indus era—the war with Ravana took place in 1794 BC. The significance of the fact Ram-Sin’s reign (60 years) was the longest in Sumerian history has been lost on most writers. There are two Ram-Sins in Sumerian history.

2. Ranajit Pal in his blog http://www.ranajitpal.com/rama.htm retrieved on 9/11/2017.

3. https://rohitdhankar.com/2015/04/22/bhagavad-gita-2-varna-based-on-birth-or-individual-qualities retrieved on 9/11/2017.

Dr Bheenaveni Ram Shepherd is an Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Osmania University, Hyderabad.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62