Myths and Folklore Wiki
Myths and Folklore Wiki

Krishna as a cowherd

Krishna is the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu. He was born the eighth child of Vasudeva and Devaki. He was the nephew of Kunti, wife of Pandu and queen of Hastinapura, and thus was cousin to the Pandavas, who he aided in the Kurukshetra War


Devaki's brother was king Kansa of Mathura. Kansa became king by imprisoning his father, Ugrasena, and both killed Devaki's first six children, and locked her and Vasudeva in a cell due to a prophecy that Devaki's eighth child would prove his downfall.

Devaki's seventh child, Balarama, was transferred by Vishnu to the womb of Rohini, Vasudeva's first wife, and disguised as a miscarriage to Kansa. After Krishna was born, Vasudeva smuggled him out to be raised as a cowherd with Yasoda and Nanda, his foster-parents.


Krishna was raised in Vrindavan, India as the adopted son of Yasoda and Nanda and as the younger step-brother of Balrama. He was known for his insatiable love for ghee ( liquified butter)  since he was a toddler. In fact, the residents of Vrindavan used to tie pots on the ceiling to keep it away from Krishna. However, Krishna and his friends made a " human mountain" to break the pot which the ghee was in and ate the spilled ghee. One of the best-known myths from Krishna's infancy was when Balrama, after trying to keep  Krishna from eating dirt complained to Yasoda, who asked Krishna to open his mouth to see if he had eaten dirt. Krishna opened his mouth and Yasoda saw the universe inside of Krishna's mouth and became shocked and told the whole town. Krishna was a cowherd as a boy, which gave him the name Gopal, which means cow-shepherd. He also used to play the flute, which became one of his symbols and defining features. Krishna's childhood is immortalized due to the stories of him teasing and playing with the gopis ( milkmaids) of Vrindavan. The leader of the gopis, Radha,  was originally annoyed at Krishna but grew to love him and become one of his greatest devotees. So much so that in most Hindu temples, there are idols of Krishna and Radha together. It is also important to note that Radha and some of the stories involving gopis only appeared after Krishna's death and never appeared in the original texts regarding Krishna's life. Krishna's childhood ends when he comes back to his kingdom of Mathura and liberates it from his uncle Kansa. He then begins to get involved in the dispute between the Pandavas and Kauravas, beginning the Mahabharata. 


Krishna's adulthood is told in the Indian epic Mahabharata. Krishna is known for is dialogue with Arjuna, one of the Pandavas. Here, he tells Arjuna about morality, ethics, religion, dharma, duty and many other things in a dialogue called the Bhagavad Gita ( song of God). the Bhagavad Gita is one of the most sacred and popular texts in Hinduism and has been quoted by scientists and influential people all over the world. 


Vasudeva- Father
Devaki- Mother
Nanda and Yashoda- adoptive parents
Balaram- brother
Rukmini and Sathyabama- consorts
Kunti- aunt
Pandavas- cousins