Krishna Charitra: A Critical Study of the Life and Legend of Krishna
Krishna Charitra is a famous Bengali classic where Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay endeavors to discover Sri Krishna, the real person, behind centuries of myths and legends. Written in 1886, this was the first instance where the character of Krishna is studied from a pragmatic and questioning perspective.
Bankim Chandra was a prominent Bengali poet, novelist, essayist and journalist, most famous as the author of Vande Mataram or Bande Mataram, that inspired the freedom fighters of India, and was later declared the National Song of India. He was also a scholar of Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures, and had a deep interest in the philosophy and history of India.
In Krishna Charitra, Bankim Chandra analyzes various sources of Krishna’s life, such as the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita, the Harivamsa, the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata Purana. He tries to separate the historical facts from the mythical embellishments, and presents a rational and humanistic portrait of Krishna. He also explores the significance of Krishna’s teachings and actions for the contemporary society.
Krishna Charitra is not only a biographical work, but also a philosophical and cultural one. Bankim Chandra shows how Krishna represents the ideal Indian character, who combines strength and wisdom, courage and compassion, action and detachment. He also shows how Krishna’s message of dharma, karma and bhakti is relevant for all times and situations.
Krishna Charitra is a masterpiece of Bengali literature that has influenced many writers and thinkers across India. It is also a valuable contribution to the understanding of one of the most popular and revered figures in Hinduism.
In the second part of Krishna Charitra, Bankim Chandra focuses on the role of Krishna in the Kurukshetra war, where he acts as the charioteer and guide of Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers. Bankim Chandra examines the moral and political dilemmas that Krishna and Arjuna face, and how they resolve them through the dialogue of the Bhagavad Gita.
Bankim Chandra interprets the Bhagavad Gita as a synthesis of various schools of Indian thought, such as Vedanta, Sankhya, Yoga and Karma. He argues that Krishna teaches Arjuna a practical and universal way of living, based on the principles of duty, action and devotion. He also shows how Krishna’s teachings are compatible with modern science and rationality.
Bankim Chandra also compares Krishna with other historical and mythical figures, such as Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Rama and Napoleon. He highlights the similarities and differences between them, and evaluates their impact on human history and civilization. He concludes that Krishna is the most complete and perfect embodiment of humanity, who transcends all limitations and contradictions.
Krishna Charitra is a remarkable work that challenges the conventional views on Krishna and Hinduism. It is a testament to Bankim Chandra’s intellectual curiosity and creativity, as well as his patriotic spirit and vision. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about Krishna and his relevance for today’s world.