Krishna straddles mythology (or history) like no other personality. As a historical figure, he is mentioned in so many books of literature that it is hard to keep track.
He is famous for his Bhagavad Gita (Song Celestial), for his linchpin role in the Mahabharata and the story of his life is well addressed in the Bhagavata.
What is less known is his appearance in the mythology of other people. Shocking as it may seem, scholars are pointing out the Heracles of Greek mythology (Hercules) is no other than Krishna (remember this is a Greek mythology timeframe and not their recorded history which starts from 8th century BC).
As I have pointed out in two previous articles, Krishna’s existence is pinpointed to the Harappan Civilisation where his death predicated at around 3012 BC (give or take a 125 years). The Greek Civilisation, on the other hand, flourished circa 700 BC to 146 BC, a long time after.
Greeks record Heracles (some say it is a derivative of Hare Krishna) as having lived 138 generations before the time of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) which take Krishna’s/Heracles’ existence back to 3100 BC or thereabouts. Writes Megasthene: "This Herakles is held in especial honour by Sourasenoi, an Indian tribe who possess two large cities Mathora and Cleisobora and through whose country flows a navigable river called Iobares."
Another Greek myth suggests out that Balarama, Krishna’s brother may have been to Greece itself and may have taken part in a battle.
Balarama is known for fighting with his plough, an agricultural device he used with devastating effect on the battlefield. Athenians have myths of a man, unknown to them, taking part in the Battle of Marathon who looked and was dressed like a farmer. He slaughtered many of the Persians with his ‘ploughshare’, and when everything was over he disappeared.
When the Athenians consulted the oracle, the (Delphic) god would not tell them anything except to “honour 'Echetlaeus' [i.e. the man with the ploughshare] as a hero." - Michael Hamilton Jameson (London 15 October 1924 — 15 August 2004) Jameson, a classicist, was at the time of his death Crossett Professor of Humanistic Studies Emeritus at Stanford University.
Let’s put Krishna’s tasks into perspective – after all, they are Herculean in their achievement.
As a baby, he milked out the life from the breastfeeding demon Putana, kicked the donkey demon over several furlongs, and put to end others demons like Trunavarta, Keshi, Aristhasur, Bakasur, Pralambasur, etc. As a child, he uprooted two trees without effort when they got in his way, hoisted the Govardhan hill aloft on his little finger and danced into submission the giant serpent Kaliya.
He had made mincemeat of wrestlers, killed a rogue elephant with his bare hands and put an end to the unrighteous rule of his uncle Kamsa before his teens. Of course, Balarama was there with Krishna when these daring exploits took place. Krishna’s exploits as a man are also phenomenal and includes the stage direction of the internecine war of the Mahabharata.
So when Megasthene the Greek traveller and geographer who came to India in around 300 BC, the legendary deeds of Krishna were already widespread, and Krishna worship was extensive. Krishna had lived almost 3000 years before the time Megasthene (ca. 350 – 290 BC) became an ambassador in the court of Sandrocottus
, as Chandragupta Maurya of India was known to the Greeks. The Mauryas, as I have mentioned, were monarchs of Krishna’s own royal line. They would have had a better grasp of Krishna than most others of their time.
Megasthenes is said to have taken the tale of Krishna, whom he called Heracles, back to Greece. Heracles’ tales then becomes part of the Greek mythology, with appropriate regional, language and cultural changes to adapt Krishna’s tale into a Greek environment.
There is a track record of Greeks incorporating deities from other cultures and changing their names and feats to suit the Greek temperament. Several gods of the Egyptian pantheon were adopted, for the simple reason there was much to be admired about the Egyptian culture of that time. There is similar Greek adoption of the Indian culture of that time, and even before. The Greek god Dionysus has been variously aligned to Indra and Shiva.
The superman-like exploits of Krishna would have really impressed Megasthene. Some say that Achilles of the Greek mythology was also modeled on an element of Krishna’s life - the method his death, in which a hunter shot an arrow at Krishna’s heel which was exposed from amidst a bushy growth he was resting in. Achilles, as the world knows, had only two vulnerable points on his body, his heels.
More intriguing than the Heracles/Achilles connection is the reported connection Krishna has with Judaism.
In the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New, there are references to Melchizedek, the most high Priest King to whom Abraham, the father of the Hebrews, gave obeisance, including a tithe of his spoils from a great war.
"And Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought forth bread and wine and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, saying, "Blessed be Abraham of the most high God ... and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies unto thy hand.“ And he (Abraham) gave him (Melchizedek) tithes of all.“ (Gen. 14:18-20)
Apostle Paul describes who this Melchizedek was (please note how close the second verse is to Krishna’s explanation of God in the Bhagavat Gita)
"For this Melchizedek, King of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him: To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace;
"Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this Man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.“ (Heb. 7:1-4)
The mention of a ‘Son of God’ shows the existence of a Son of God - an Avatar - that predates the arrival of Jesus Christwith whom the patriarch of the Jews, Abraham had contact and to whom he paid homage as well as a tithe.
The slaughter of kings in the above passages is too close to the Mahabharata episode of the Pandavas and the Kurukshetra war for it to be two diverse stories (see note at bottom for a description of the war). And Melchizedek is seen as a distortion of Malik Sadhaka (King of Ascetics or Master Ascetic), an apt but little-used epithet for Krishna.
The time frames also align well: Abraham takes leave of Melchizedek at the end of the ‘slaughter of the kings’ sometime around 3000 BC (though some say Abraham was born in 2000 BC) before leaving to set up his own tribe. He is the only patriarch in the Bible to have talked to God.
There exists in South India a place that bears the name of Salem, the history of which is lost in time. It is at Salem where the priest of the Most High God, Melchizedek greets Abraham after the Battle of the Kings and blesses him. There is another town in India, called Haran, in Kashmir which is now whispered to be the hometown of Abraham himself.
Might this Salem and Haran, both of India, mean the great Priest-King Melchizedek - the Son of God of the period of Abraham - was not from the Middle East at all, but from India itself?
Apart from the continuation of the line to Jesus Christ – who, the Bible proclaims, was made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20.) - there is scant little else about Melchizedek.
The early Christians were convinced that Melchizedek was just a prior incarnation of Jesus Christ while some scholars now contend that Jesus Christ is either an ‘incarnation of Krishna’ or a holy man modelled on the life of Krishna.
Let us look at the similarities:
Krishna did not have an earthly father as such but a protector, named Vasudeva.
Jesus did not have an earthly father as such but a mortal protector named Joseph.
An evil king tried to kill Christ and Krishna when they were both infants.
To protect the infant Jesus, Joseph and Mary took him to Egypt, some say to a place called Maturai although this name is not mentioned in the Bible.
To protect the infant Krishna, his father Vasudeva took him to Mathura, India.
In Anacalypsis, the 17th century British orientalist and iconoclast, Godfrey Higgins, insisted that Christianity was already firmly in place in both the West and the East, many centuries before Jesus Christ was born. He said the Crestians or Christians of the West probably descended directly from the Buddhists, rather than from the Brahmins. (Vol. 2, pp 438, 439.) (Please note Anacalypsi was derided as anti-Christianity by the Church at that time).
The existence of the Christians both in Europe and India, (existed) long anterior to the Christian era... (Vol 2, p. 202.) I think the most blind and credulous of devotees must allow that we have the existence of the Cristna of the Brahmins in Thrace, many hundred years before the Christian era - the birth of Jesus Christ. (Book X, p. 593.) (Thrace is the old name for Turkey, and is thought to be a hub of Hinduism/Brahmanism well before the Christian Era) .
"Melito (a Christian bishop of Sardis) in the year 170 AD, claims the patronage of the emperor, for the now so-called Christian religion, which he calls "our philosophy," on account of its high antiquity, has having been imported from countries lying beyond the limits of the Roman empire, in the region of his ancestor Augustus, who found the importation ominous of good fortune to his government." This is an absolute demonstration that Christianity did not originate in Judea, which was a Roman province, but really was an exotic oriental fable, imported from India, and that Paul was doing as he claimed, viz: preaching a God manifest in the flesh who had been "believed in the world" centuries before his time, and a doctrine which had already been preached "unto every creature under heaven." (Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions; T. W. Doane, p. 409.)
I leave off here with this thought: the mythologies of our times were passed down orally, from father to son, from teacher to pupil for millennia. Changes, embellishments, and varying opinions crept through the woodwork over time. And philosophical, moral, and eventually allegorical overlays came to be applied to superhuman exploits behind their outer, literal meaning, in which mythological figures came to represent an inner mystical tradition where their exploits could be interpreted in terms of the spiritual path.
Is it not possible that one ancient people, when divided by language and regional barriers, chose to represent that same mythology variously, and that we are but one people with different interpretation of our history?
The Slaughter of the Kings incident in the Bible
The Bible records a great Battle of the Kings. Initially Chedarlaomer, the wicked king of Elam (Elam was an area located east of Mesopotamia or the Iraq/Western Iran area; i.e., the area of Eastern Persia and what was the Northwestern section of ancient India) along with some compatriots wage war with five other kings, defeating them in the process. Thence onward, for 12 years, these five defeated kings have to do the bidding of Chedarlaomer. But during the 13th year, the five kings rebel, and during the 14th year, the great Battle of the Kings occurs. It is after the slaughter of the kings (which Abraham takes part in) during which the evil king and his allies are defeated and killed, that Abraham is met and blessed by the priest-king Melchizedek.
Points to ponder: from the Internet
Here are some quotes that say ‘Christianity’ existed before the Christian Era.
"This, in our day, is the Christian religion, not as having been unknown in former times, but as having recently received that name" - St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)
"The religion of Jesus Christ is neither new nor strange" - Eusebius of Caesarea (circa 283-371 AD)
The lawgivers of our mythology and their similarities
The name of the man who laid down the social and religious laws in ancient India was Manu.
The lawgiver of the Egyptians was called Manes.
The Cretan who codified the laws of the ancient Greeks (laws that he had learnt in Egypt) was called Minos.
The leader of the Hebrew tribes and the promulgator of the Ten Commandments was called Moses.
Manu, Manes, Minos and Moses all belonged to the same archetypal pattern. All four laid down laws and instituted a theocratic priestly society. In Sanskrit, manu signifies a man of excellence, a lawgiver.
* Nalinesh Arun is a former Fiji journalist who lived in India for many years. He is now based in Christchurch.