Krishna as avatarin?

Martin Gansten Martin.Gansten at TEOL.LU.SE
Thu Jun 15 07:39:07 UTC 2000

>Since the Bhagavatha p. was written in the Tamil south, a look
>into the Alvars' poetry will prove fruitful.

The Bhagavata does not support this particular Krishnaite claim (despite
strained exegeses on 1.3.28); nor, to my knowledge, do any other Puranas.
Bhagavata 1.3.3-5 describes the source of all avataras
(naanaavataaraa.naa.m nidhaanam) -- including Krishna -- as a particular
form (bhagavato ruupa.m vizuddha.m sattvam) endowed with thousands of
limbs, etc (sahasrapaadorubhujaananaadbhutam). The 10th skandha dealing
with Krishna's life also explicitly portrays him as an avatara of Vishnu
(10.1.2: a.mzenaavatiir.nasya, etc).

I can't say for sure about the Alvar writings as such, but the tradition
which has perpetuated them -- Sri Vaishnavism -- does not regard Krishna as
avatarin. To my present knowledge, such Krishnaite theology appears to be a
North Indian phenomenon. As mentioned by Shrisha Rao (thank you, SR),
Madhva -- another southern Vaishnava theologian -- explicitly rejects the
doctrine. Interesting, that, considering that certain Gaudiyas trace their
succession back to Madhva!

Martin Gansten

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