Primary Source

Child Re-enacting Krishna Story [Still Image]

Annotation

Krishna is known in the stories of the Bhagavata-Purana as the eighth incarnation, or avatar, of the god Vishnu. He is a very popular deity, a divine hero who personifies superhuman powers as well as human hopes and failings. According to the narrative, he comes into the world as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki to destroy the foes of human beings and is threatened by many tyrants and monsters, beginning with the cruel King Kans, who tried to kill him based on an omen. Krishna's mother and father were thus imprisoned, but my miraculous intervention Krishna was saved, carried across the river Yamuna and placed with foster-parents, Nand and Yashoda. Stories of Krishna's childhood with his loving foster-mother Yashoda are much beloved in this village of cow-herders. Representations have been illustrated in courtly artistic paintings and sculptures and in contemporary popular media, such as calendars, posters, and statuettes. A combination of super-human powers and child-like behavior endears Krishna to the characters in the narrative, and are what makes him an especially popular figure. One of Krishna's most famous pranks as a child was to find any possible way to steal sweet butter and curds from the storage jars that were suspended from the ceiling with ropes. Lighting his way in the dark room by the jewels he wore, climbing on mortars or on the backs of his playmates, or enlisting the help of agile monkeys, he gave vent to the irresistible urge to eat the butter and feed it to his partners in crime.

The holiday of Krishna's birthday is called Janmashtami in northern India and is celebrated as Sri Krishnajanmashtami, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami in southern India. In celebration, devotees fast, bathe, perform prayers and rites, and re-enact parts of the story of Krishna's birth and rescue from King Kansa. In this photograph, a young child is adorned with jewelry, eye-liner and a headdress, and prompted to re-enact the prank of stealing butter. Sweets made with butter, honey, and other delicacies are also part of the celebration, which falls in late summer or early autumn.

Source

"Krishna's mischievous pranks such as stealing sweet butter are reenacted by this child on Krishna's birthday," India, ARTstor Collection, Image Gallery ©University of California, San Diego. Annotated by Susan Douglass.

How to Cite This Source

"Child Re-enacting Krishna Story [Still Image]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #435, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/435 (accessed September 19, 2014).