First and foremost, both Shree Ram & Shree Krishna are deeply sacred to us. They are two Avatar of Vishnu. So they are not different but two aspects of the same Divine Entity. Both achieved the fundamental purpose of their Avatar and annihilated the great evil that lived on earth. So both Shree Ram & Shree Krishna fulfilled the promise of Verses 7 & 8 of Chapter 4 of the Bhagwat Geeta:
Whenever Dharma goes into a decline & Anti-Dharma arises, Then I Create Myself.
For the Protection of Good & For the Destruction of Evil-Doers, For the Establishment of Dharma, I Create Myself in Era after Era
The Avatar of Ram & Krishna came to earth in different times and under different conditions. As a result, the way in which Ram & Krishna fulfilled their purpose on earth was different. In this article, we explore whether the approach of Ram is more relevant to today’s India or the approach of Krishna.
Acceptance as Unquestioned Leader of Arya-Vart*
Ram was the eldest scion of the greatest Arya-Vart kingdom. His great-great grandfather Dileep had established the primacy of the Sun Dynasty or Ikshvaku Vamsh by conquering the earth 99 times. Dileep’s son Raghu was the greatest scion of the Ikshvaku Vamsh, so great that the dynasty was thereafter called Raghu-Vamsh. This is why Ram is also called Raghav or the primary scion of Raghu. Ram was also the eldest son of King Dasha-Rath, the grandson of Raghu.
So as the eldest son of the greatest Arya-Vart Kingdom, Ram was accepted as the unquestioned leader by all kingdoms. As a result, Ram had the right and the freedom to act on behalf of all of Arya-Vart.
Krishna’s case was very different. The Yadav in his Krishna’s youth were neither dominant nor rich. They were essentially cowherds and their leader Vasudev was weak. The dominant empire of that time was that of Jara-Sandh and the most respected kingdom of that time was the Kuru Dynasty of Hastinapur. So Krishna had no establishment status in Bhaarat* and no one would have accepted his leadership.
Even within the Yadav, Krishna could not claim leadership. Unlike Ram, Krishna was the younger brother of Balram. So Krishna himself helped anoint Balram as the Chief of the Yadav. This was a brilliant tactical move by Krishna to unite all the Yadav clans into a single cohesive force.
The Greatest Warrior and the Commanding General
Ram was the greatest warrior of his time. His valor was ultimate and he had the most powerful of celestial weapons. As the eldest son, as the unquestioned leader and as the greatest warrior, Ram was the Commander of the army. So it was Ram who killed the great Raavan and fulfilled the purpose of his Avatar.
Krishna was also the greatest warrior of his time. That was one reason he was called Vaasudev. But as the younger brother of a relatively minor clan, Krishna could never become a Commander of the army. So the only role Krishna could play was that of a counselor to Arjun and the Pandav.
How did Ram achieve the purpose of his Avatar?
Ram had a clear cut purpose for his Avatar. The Arya-Vart Kingdoms were in relative harmony in his time. The only danger to Arya-Vart was from the rich & powerful empire of the great Raavan. No King in Arya-Vart could cope with Raavan. No one knew where Raavan’s capital was. In any case, the Arya-Vart armies could not go in to the deep south because of the dense and impenetrable forests.
In contrast, Raavan could go anywhere in Arya-Vart. With his Pushpak plane, Raavan could visit any Aryan kingdom at will. He was also considered unbeatable in battle. So Raavan humiliated and terrorized Arya-Vart.
The clean and simple purpose of Ram’s Avatar was to kill Raavan and end his empire. We all know how Ram accomplished it. The end result was the unification of Bhaarat, from Gandhar (today’s Afghanistan) in the north to Lanka in the south (today’s Sri Lanka).
How did Krishna achieve the purpose of his Avatar?
The purpose of Krishna’s Avatar was different and complex. The old order in Bhaarat had broken down. Older dynasties and kingdoms had become weak. The empire of Jara-Sandh had captured many kingdoms, imprisoned their kings and put the queens in his harem. Kamsa, the son-in-law of Jara-Sandh, had imprisoned Vasudev, the leader of the Yadav. Kamsa had given orders to find and kill young Krishna, Vasudev’ son. So Krishna had to spend his childhood in the remote village with the Gokul chief Nand and his wife Yashoda.
When Krishna came of age, he, with his brother Balram, found the right opportunity and killed Kamsa. The leadership of the Yadav was restored to Vasudev. But by killing Kamsa, Krishna and the Yadav had incurred the wrath of Jara-Sandh. Kamsa was killed in single combat but it was impossible to reach Jara-Sandh in that manner. Jara-Sandh’s military was too vast and powerful. In contrast, the Yadav were weak and unskilled in battle.
So Krishna in a brilliant move persuaded the Yadav to leave their homeland of Mathura and migrate to the island of Dwaarka in remote Gujrat. There the Yadav found trading opportunities and became rich. The Yadav were now recognized as the richest kingdom in Bhaarat. Now Krishna and Balram could make a triumphant entry into Bhaarat at the (स्वयंवर) Sva-Yam-Var (or wedding competition) of Draupadi.
But the Yadav had no heritage of royalty. They were not among the historically respected Aryan dynasties or Vamsh. So despite their wealth and success, the Yadav and Krishna could not play a central or leadership role in Bhaarat.
In contrast, the Pandav were the scions of the most respected, the most storied dynasty of all, the Kuru Vamsh. Their eldest brother Yudhishtir was respected by all as the embodiment of Dharma. The younger brothers Bhim & Arjun were respected as great warriors. Their mother, Kunti, was the aunt of Krishna. A little later, Krishna arranged the marriage of his half-sister Subhadra with Arjun.
The alliance of the Yadav and the Pandav created the opportunity for Krishna to become the central figure in Bhaarat. Krishna took Bhim and Arjun to Jara-Sandh’s capital and challenged Jara-Sandh to a duel. This was a brilliant tactic that negated the powerful army of Jara-Sandh. Bhim killed Jara-Sandh. Krishna freed the kings imprisoned by Jara-Sandh and restored their old kingdoms to them. Krishna placed Saha-Dev, the son of Jara-Sandh on the throne of Magadh.
Krishna then directed the Pandav to conquer all directions, the pre-requisite of the Raj-Suya Yadnya. At the Raj-Suya Yadnya, Yudhishtir was crowned the Sam-Raat or Just Emperor and Krishna was universally accepted as the VaasuDev.
Krishna had restored the old Dhaarmic order of Bhaarat. He had united Bhaarat from Dwaarka in the west to the traditional boundaries of Bhaarat in the east. Krishna had fulfilled the purpose of his Avatar.
Ram, as the unquestioned leader of Arya-Vart, could ensure the stability of Arya-Vart. But Krishna, as merely the counselor of Yudhishtir, could not. When Krishna returned to Dwaarka after the Raj-Suya Yadnya, Sam-Raat Yudhishtir fell victim to his own weakness and gambled away his kingdom to his enemies, the Kaurav. He also accepted his banishment to the forest for 14 years.
By one act of weakness, Yudhishtir destroyed what Krishna had achieved. The rest we know. The event
ual result of this was the great and destructive Mahaa-Bhaarat war. Krishna was utterly brilliant as the counselor to the Pandav in that war. Through his tactics, the Pandav managed to defeat and kill the Kaurav. Yudhishtir was once again the Sam-Raat of all Bhaarat.
So Krishna re-achieved his central purpose of destroying the kings that were evil and of restoring the central, Dhaarmic order to Bhaarat.
Which Approach has Greater Relevance to India today?
India is expected to be the world’s largest economy by 2050. It will also be the world’s most populous country by then. It might also become the world’s most powerful military at that time. This could make India the most respected nation in the world. That India would be a perfect parallel to the Raghu-Vamsh kingdom of Arya-Vart. That India could follow the approach of Shree Ram in global affairs.
But today, India is not an advanced economy. Its military is still weak and unable to assert its will over its neighbors, China and Pakistan. No one in the world would accept any leadership initiatives from India. China stands to the north, menacing India as Jara-Sandh did to the Yadav. China acts as a protector of Pakistan, supplies nuclear technology and military hardware to Pakistan. Pakistan continues to attack India in a covert manner.
Today’s India seems like the Yadav led by the old VasuDev, widely respected for his good nature but completely ineffective in leading the Yadav. Like the Yadav of Krishna, India is already becoming wealthier. But Krishna did not simply make the Yadav rich. He united the various clans of the Yadav and instilled a single-mindedness of purpose. This is totally lacking in today’s India.
Unlike Ram, Krishna did not intially achieve his purpose by waging war. Krishna achieved his success by tactical brilliance, by finding the weaknesses of his enemies and exploiting the weaknesses. Ram already had the greatest weapons. Krishna kept instructing Arjun to acquire powerful weapons from those who possessed them. Krishna built an extensive spy network to understand the strategies of his enemies and to find out their strengths & weaknesses.
Today, India does not wish to wage war with China. It is simply not ready and there is no need to do so. China understands this and so China has no fear in providing nuclear and military hardware to Pakistan. Pakistan is not afraid because it knows India would not dare risk a nuclear confrontation. So Pakistan continues to attack India in a covert manner. And India suffers silently because it has no solution, no strategy.
This reminds us of the story of Khandav-Van(खांडव वन) in the Mahaa-Bhaarat. King Takshak was a sworn enemy of the Pandav. And Takshak was an ally of Indra, the lord protector of Heaven. Indra provided protection to Takshak and the Pandav were helpless. When it was time, Krishna decided to attack Takshak with Arjun. But before attacking Takshak, Krishna warned Indra in words that have become immortal:
Takshkaaya Swahah; Indraaya Swahah (तक्षकाय स्वाहाः इंद्राय स्वाहाः)
We are going to burn Takshak; We can burn Indra as well.
Indra had no desire to get into a conflict with Krishna-Arjun. So Indra withdrew his support of Takshak. Then Krishna-Arjun destroyed the kingdom of Takshak. In its place, Krishna helped the Pandav build their capital.
It is vital for today’s India to break the nuclear alliance between Pakistan and China. The only way it can be done is by raising the stakes for China. Like Krishna, India could warn China that any nuclear attack on an Indian city by Pakistan would immediately result in a a nuclear attack by India on a corresponding Chinese city. So if Delhi is hit, then Beijing will be destroyed; if Mumbai is hit, then Shanghai will be destroyed.
But to make this a credible threat, India will have to be single-minded in its determination to build a sizable nuclear arsenal. And then, India will have to summon the great will and courage to make this threat real. But if India can do both, then we have no doubt that China will withdraw from its alliance with Pakistan. In this manner, India could achieve its objective without war.
This is only one illustration of how understanding Krishna’s tactics could help today’s India. But to do so, India needs to understand and accept Krishna as the brilliant Vaasu-Dev and not bemoan Krishna’s guile as Gurcharan Das does.
* Editor’s Note: In Ramaayan, the country is commonly refered to as Arya-Vart or the land of the Aryan. In Mahaa-Bhaarat, this term seems absent. Instead we find reference to the more modern term Bhaarat. So we followed the same terminology in the above article.
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