Krishna and Rama (and Hanuman)

Avatars of Vishnu

Hinduism is full of stories. In a sense it does not matter whether the stories are true or not. That has been a Western modernist fixation. What matters is whether the stories provide rich material for understanding and improving the human condition, in Hinduism being the practice of the yogas.

Krishna's and Rama's skins are usually shown as sky blue, being the colour of infinity because the sky is deemed to go on forever. They often wear yellow which is the colour to signify earth. Thus they are as of God and upon earth.


The story of Rama comes from the Ramayana, a 25000 verses poem.

Rama's father Dasharatha (king of Ayodhya) promises his youngest wife two wishes. She says her own son should become king rather than the heir Rama. For her second wish she says Rama, Sita his wife and his brother Lakshmana should be banished to the forest for fourteen years.

Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and HanumanIt gets worse because in the forest Sita is kidnapped by Ravana the demon king and made prisoner on an island called Lanka. In an alternative story, Rama was already king in Ayodha but was forced to leave to the island of Lanka in exile, and then Ravana appears.

This is where Hanuman the monkey god comes in. He helps Rama to find Sita. Lakshmana helps too. Then monkeys build a bridge across the sea to Lanka before the battle. Hanuman's monkey army assists Rama in beating Ravana in battle. Many animals are killed. It is Rama's magic bow and arrow (of fire and sunlight) that kills Ravana.

Hanuman Ravana

Sita is rescued and Rama is restored to his throne. Peace and happiness is restored. The message is Good wins over evil and this is celebrated in Divali.


Krishna's parents were robbed of being King and Queen. As a result, Krishna was born in a prison cell. He was miraculously rescued.

Krishna is brought up by rural peasants. As a child, and perhaps strange for a god, Krishna is often playful and naughty. Once he gets chastised for eating some mud. Forced to open his mouth to reveal the mud, the person looking in sees the whole universe. Holi is a festival which has pranks in it that celebrate Krishna's naughtiness as a child.

Brahma meets Krishna (manifestation of Vishnu; Krishna has blue skin)

As Krishna grows up he takes the clothes to a tree from the ground adjacent to a river left by young women bathing in the water. He enchants the local milkmaids who dance around him. When Krishna leaves the village devoted followers chant his name repeatedly. This is like, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna," chanted by groups today.

Radha develops a relationship with Krishna. Their inseparable love for each other is a metaphor of divine love.

In the Bhagavad Gita, part of the 100,000 verses Mahabharata, Krishna appears to Arjuna who is facing a civil war and not wishing to fight. He seeks guidance, but perhaps surprisingly Krishna tells Arjuna to fight and do his duty. He also teaches about yoga. Doing duty is, incidentally, the yoga of the Kshatriya varna (caste), as well as among many of those Hindus who mix and match their yogas.

Adrian Worsfold