Eighth avatar (incarnation) of the Hindu god Vishnu. The devotion of the bhakti movement is usually directed towards Krishna; an example of this is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Many tales are told of Krishna's mischievous youth; he appears in the epic Mahābhārata and the Puranas, and he is the charioteer of Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gītā.
He is celebrated as ‘Jagannath in State’ at the festival of Ratha Yatra, or Jagannatha.
Stories of Krishna as a child, playful friend, lover, and defender of the people are often shown in images. The image of god as a child encourages deep and spontaneous devotion among Krishna worshippers. Popular and affectionate tales include his stealing of butter and the time he ate clay – when his stepmother Yasoda looked in his mouth, she saw, to her amazement, the whole universe.
As a young cowherd and lover, Krishna played a flute and flirted with and teased the gopis (cowherd girls) so that they all fell in love with him. Their desire to be with him symbolizes the longing of the worshipper for god. Krishna also stole the gopis' clothes while they bathed in the river, a story that was intended to be both erotic and devotional, emphasizing the need to be spiritually naked before god.
As a defender of the people Krishna lifted a mountain to hold above the inhabitants of a village and protect them from Indra's angry thunderbolts.
Krishna is also the spiritual advisor of Arjuna in the epic battle described in the Bhagavad-Gītā. Arjuna is fighting against his cousins, and cannot decide whether to attack his own relatives. Krishna is Arjuna's charioteer and points out that it is his duty to fight. He finally reveals himself to Arjuna as a manifestation of Vishnu, the personal and infinite, both the ground and the seed of all things. The story is a source of support for Hindus when making difficult moral decisions.
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