Why is Krishna blue? Have you ever wondered? More importantly, why do I ask?
Today at the V&A I found some rather beautiful paintings, hidden away in the South-east Asia gallery. They are all about A4 in size and some of them depict various legends in the life of Krishna. Naturally, Krishna is painted blue in all of them.
That’s Krishna with Radha, his once upon a time, human consort. She was a simple gopi. A gopi is a cow-herd girl. The Boy of Blue spotted her and, like all gods everywhere, decided he must have her. It was love that knew no bounds. Eventually, they were united and became Radha Krishna.
This gets a bit complicated but bear with me for a bit.
There are one billion gopis (which makes for an awful lot of cows) but most of them are instantly forgetable. 16,000 of them are prominent and therefore, deserve some mention. Of these, only 108 are Important and eight are Principal. We then whittle them down to the final two who are Chief. These two chiefs are Chandravali and Radha. And Radha is the boss of them all.
Krishna is all powerful except in his love for Radha. Radha has no power at all except for her control over Krishna because of his love. Therefore, together they are the supremest supreme being imaginable. While Krishna might decide to do something awful (like start a flood or turn people into salt) Radha can stop him by reminding him of her love. Not that he can easily forget. He has a flute that when he blows it, rather than notes, recites her name.
They have come to symbolise the feminine and masculine aspects of god, which seems a lot healthier than all the other ones who are, generally, awful old white bearded males with huge chips on their shoulders. Radha Krishna, on the other hand, seems to be nothing but happy and kind.
The picture above depicts the Festival of Holi in which Krishna paints Radhi’s face. Apparently, Krishna was a bit jealous of Radhi’s fair complexion (I guess it isn’t easy being blue) and cried to his mother (yes, Krishna had a mother). She suggested he go and paint Radhi’s face some other colour. So he did. And that’s the Holi festival.
Well, not exactly. That’s sort of how it started. These days the Holi Festival is a chance for people to have a mad party and throw coloured water at each other. Children, in particular, throw water balloons at people and laugh at their dismay. There’s also lots of singing and frenzied dancing. It sounds like a lot of fun.
Another couple from the Far East, is Shiva and Parvati. Shiva is the supreme Hindu god. To quote Wikipedia, he is ‘…the destroyer, recycler and regenerator of the universe and all life.’ And Parvati is his lady love. She is the goddess of love, devotion and fertility. She’s the Hindu version of Aphrodite.
Here’s the happy couple going for a Sunday ride on Nandi.
Nandi is a bull and is normally depicted outside temples to Shiva. Nandi wasn’t always a bull though. This has been a development over the last few centuries. Originally he was one of two gate keepers working for Shiva – a sort of Bouncer to the Gods, if you like. His name, Nandi, in some dialects, means happy person. His origin is quite original.
His father (I think) was a chap called Shilada who wanted an immortal child. He decided to pray to Shiva. This meant sitting still for 1,000 years. In this time, termites built a nest around him and ate away his flesh and his bones. Shiva noticed his great sacrifice and decided to grant his wish for the immortal son. This son was Nandi.
He wasn’t exactly born but emerged from a fire in a suit of diamonds. Shilada, of course, was returned to his normal form after a mere touch from Shiva.
And, finally, the answer to the burning question of today: Why is Krishna blue? It seems that “…blue is the colour of all-inclusiveness…” Also, very big things that are beyond normal comprehension, like the sky and the sea, are blue. It stands to reason then that Kirshna, a being who is vast and beyond comprehension, should also be blue.
Or, and I prefer this explanation, when Krishna was very young, a demon tried to kill him with poison but, when Krishna drank it, it merely turned him blue and turned the demon to ashes.
This reminds me of the question around the Easter bunny laying eggs. Or what the Tooth Fairy does with all the teeth. Or why Catholics think that drinking blood and eating flesh makes any sense whatsoever?
Anyway, that’s the peek inside the V&A for this week.