Thursday, March 18, 2010

Episode 14 - Krishna and the Gopis

Episode 14 - Things get hot and heavy this episode, when Krishna plays a tune on his magic flute and all the girls come running.  The association of religious devotion with carnal love is found in Sikhism, Sufi Islam and even mystical Christianity.  I've always suspected that the idea was born in India as Bhakti and then gradually made its way westward through the Islamic world and finally into Western Christianity.  It would be an interesting study-- the timelines certainly fit!  Next episode, we'll get back to the bloodletting and chopping of heads, so never fear, this sexy stuff is nearly behind us!


  1. Hi, Lawrence. I think you should look up Krishna Book - by His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for the podcast on Krishna's back story - It is summarized version of the 10th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam and puts all of Krishna's actions in their proper mood of understanding. Of course Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada has translated the entire Bhagavatam but Krishna book is a very good summary of the 10th canto. A worthwhile read. You might even consider revising these podcasts on Krishna's back story after reading Krishna Book! I can't say the same for the version of Srimad Bhagavatam your reading!

    Also check out Mahabharata by Krishna Dharma. He has done a fantastic job and you might find it worthwhile to pick up some stuff from it.

  2. Thanks. I've got that guy's book, "The Bhagavad-Gita as it is". I think I've got a good idea of the "traditional" take on Krishna. In fact, I've always been a fan of the Krishna as he comes across in the Bhagavad Gita. But for the sake of the podcast, I used the Bhagavata Purana, since it was the most complete, and is possibly the oldest source.

    The Krishna in that source is not so sympathetic, however. Please hang on until I get to the Gita, and hopefully you'll feel better about my presentation!

    As for the Krishna Dharma abridgement, I've got that. It is actually the first version of the Mahabharata I ever read. I remember reading that, then watching the TV series, and wondering which one was closer to the original. It was that question that led me to creating this podcast.

    Thanks for the comments!

  3. Hi Lawrence, I was actually refering to Bhaktivedanta Swami's Krsna book and not the Gita! please check

  4. Right, thank you. If I were to do anything with the Krishna episodes, it would probably be to just remove them.

    This podcast is about the original, unabridged Mahabharata, as translated by van Buitenen & Ganguli. I started doing the Krishna episodes thinking that it was a necessary back-story for understanding the epic.

    Following the approach I used with the Mahabharata, I went for the translation of the oldest source I could get my hands on, which was the Bhagavata Purana. I was already deep into it when I found that the Bhagavata Purana is kind of a strange book, and its version of Krishna is not very sympathetic to modern ears.

    To keep in the spirit of the rest of the podcast, I felt I should simply present those stories as I read them. The problem is that the Bhagavata Purana, even though it is ascribed to the same author (Vyasa), is quite different in style and in details from the Mahabharata.

    By the end of the Krishna episodes, I was wondering whether I should have even gone there. Maybe I should have just used the details provided in the Mahabharata, and left it at that! Of course, you could always skip these episodes. Maybe I should add a disclaimer to that effect!

    Finally, I worry that I might be stepping on the toes of the more religious. If I had done a similar job on Jesus's biography, I would be in trouble by now!!! Either the hardcore Hindus haven't found my podcast yet, or they are simply more tolerant. After all, there is no Sanskrit equivalent to the word "Crusade", is there?

    Thanks for sticking with me. I apologize if anyone's religious sensibilities were trodden upon. I really do admire the Krishna as described by Swamiji, but my podcast is about the ancient source material, not religion.


  5. Hi Lawrence, I love your podcast. I've only listened to the first 14 so far. But it's the best retelling of the Mahabharat I've seen/read. Like a lot of Indians who grew up in the 80s, I watched the cheesy television serials. This is way way better!

    I absolutely loved this episode on Krishna and his sexual dalliances. If I were you, I wouldn't change a thing. You can't please everyone, especially folks with rigid religious views. So I wouldn't even try.

    Btw, have you read Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni? It's the story of the Mahabharat from Panchaali's perspective. Pretty good stuff. Check it out, if you haven't already.

    Thanks again for your great work. You should consider charging for this. It's too good to be fr**!

  6. Hi Lawrence - I have been following you since beginning and its been a while since new episode came out i was scanning through old ones. I have something to say about this. Though I don't consider Lord Rama or Lord Krishna as GOD but as most illustrious men of Indian culture and this mutilation of Krishna's character was done around 12th-16th century around Mughal Period in India. If you look at original Mahabharata there is no reference to Radha and all this Rasslila stuff. And as you know most of old Indian Literature is of Oral Tradition but Ramanayana & Mahabaharata is not that strong & rigid in its grammatical structure that it can be kept pure and any addition/adulteration can easily be identified and corrected, People with low level intentions and sensual impulses took the liberty to add such fantasies in the books called Puranas, but if you see these Puranas are considered most unreliable, adulterated books in Indian Literature and posses very low value against most reliable books like Vedas, Upnishads, Brahmans & Aaranyaks. There was a guy with name Jaydev who wrote GeetGovinda ( in which he created this character of Radha and other Gopis before that there was no existence of it in any Puranic work but after that People found their way to hide their low level intentions and sensual impulses under the guise of divine love & name of Krishna then these stories started to appear in Purana's as well specially Bhagvad Purana and this type of activities also suited to invader & rulars of that time Mughals also. In your spare-time have a look at this article as well. (

  7. Thanks for the feedback!
    You make an interesting point. I read the "Lord Krishna" article, and I must say I'm not sure I agree completely. I haven't read ALL the sources, so I may be wrong of course, but the layers of the Krishna story are definitely more complex than presented in that article. I agree that the Radha story must be quite late, since there is no sign of her in either the MBh nor the Bhagavata Purana. That presumably places the Bhagavata Purana at an earlier date.
    But the author of that article wants to pick and choose which stories from the Bhagavata Purana he wants to believe, and which ones are false. For instance, the "Jail Break" scene is NOT in the Mahabharat. It is in the Bhagavata Purana. Radha is NOT in the Bhagavata Purana, but Krishna is a real horn-dog nevertheless!! So he likes the jail break and the battle with Kamsa, but he doesn't like the 16,000 wives or the fucking in the Brindaban, but all three come from one source, the Bhagavata Purana.
    So who are we to pick and choose what we want to believe or not about these ancient sources? If we had a prior source that shows Krishna as monogamous, but still having his adventures in Gokula, then maybe we could accept that as the older and more reliable source. But instead these stories are all mixed together.
    It seems to me that if we accept anything about Krishna that is not in the Mahabhata, such as the Bhagavata Purana, we either take it all, or leave it all. That is basically the problem I had with whether I should have included these Krishna stories or not. I'm still not sure about it!