Archeological Evidence has Revealed that Krishna Worship is much more Ancient than Believed
According to mainstream Academia, Krishna Worship is a fairly recent entry into the world of religion and spirituality. With a date of a mere 2300 years many theories have been bandied about that classify Krishna-centered Vaishnavism as an off-shoot of animist Sun-worship. At other times it is classified as a regional expression originating in quaint folklore and tradition. For a time it was held that Krishna worship was rooted in West Asian Christianity. It was classified as merely a localized version of the story of Jesus with a philosophy borrowed from the Bible.
In other words the theory held that like the Aryans themselves, the entire Krishna tradition was imported from the West. Krishna worship itself was categorized as yet another Aryan imposition upon native India. This ‘Aryan’ theory is taught to this very day throughout India and the world. Yet the late date and Christian origin theory of the Krishna tradition have long ago been discarded.
However even this development did not occur based upon indigenous discoveries. In fact it required evidence based upon Western sources before it was accepted by mainstream academia. The discovery of the famous Heliodorus Column indeed added new insight into the history of Krishna worship. The column, dated to a period nearly 300 years before the advent of Jesus Christ, confirmed that Krishna was worshiped many centuries earlier than previously thought. On this column, Heliodorus, a Greek Ambassador identifies himself as a ‘Devotee of Vasudeva’ (Krishna).
Only once this discovery of a Greek adherent of Vaishnavism was made did it became accepted that Krishna worship was undoubtedly a pre-Christian development. Any similarities in philosophy or legend were attributed to other sources. The fact is because both traditions are rooted in devotion to the same God-the focus of both religions, there are indeed many commonalities between the two faiths.
In fact they are verily different expressions of the same faith. And Heliodorus himself clearly recognized his God, Helios, as Hari (Krishna). This is evident by the fact that he kept his Greek name rooted in Helios despite having become an initiate of the Vaishnava faith.
Based upon the discovery of the Heliodorus Column new dates were posited for the origins and era in which Krishna worship developed. However one date and location of this development has never been recognized by mainstream academia. That date is anything prior to 1500 BC and the place is India.
According to the non-traditional outlook Vedic religion is foreign to India and Krishna is part of the alleged ‘Aryan Imposition’ upon the native Dravidian culture of India. Thus worship of Krishna within India can never be accepted as being more than 3500 years old. This coincides with the invented date of the “Aryan Invasion or Migration” into India. In other words since Vaishnavism is part of the Caucasian Aryan culture there could be no Vishnu or Krishna worship in India until after the Aryan arrival. That is the theory still taught in schools and universities throughout the world.
Another theory, quite popular even amongst many Hindu traditionalists holds that Krishna worship is based upon the Puranas. They hold that, unlike the Vedas, the Puranas are recent inventions and are merely the artificial impositions of various Kings and Scholars bent upon the socio-political control of their societies .
The various stories regarding Lord Krishna found within the Bhagavat Purana are classified as “Pious Myths” and as very late fabrications. However the work of the scholar Horacio Arganis has clearly identified many key elements found within the text that date the Bhagavat Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam) to the Pre-Christian era. Full thesis can be found HERE
Regardless of the traditional perspective mainstream scholars hold that the text was completed around 1000 AD, when it is mentioned by al Biruni and quoted by Abhinavagupta; the earliest suggestions for its composition are dated to after 500 AD. Again we find that a date is assigned and accepted only when it is in connection to a foreign observer.
However solid archeological evidence has indeed been discovered which proves that the worship of Lord Krishna pre-dates both the alleged Aryan arrival into India and the very late dates given for the composition of the Bhagavat Purana. Though this evidence has long been ignored it does not change the historical reality that Krishna was known and worshiped within India for many thousands of years.
Cave paintings dated to 800 BC in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, North India, show raiding horse-charioteers, one of whom is about to hurl a wheel, and who could potentially be identified as Krishna.” D. D. Kosambi (1962), Myth and Reality: Studies in the Formation of Indian Culture, New Delhi, CHAPTER I: SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, paragraph 1.16
This date above of 800 BC still places Krishna worship to a time after the 1500 BC date of the alleged Aryan arrival yet it does predate the very late date (1000 AD) of the Krishna of the Bhagavat Purana.
Another discovery made in 1931 provides a very ancient date the precedes the alleged Aryan arrival into India and significantly represents an episode from Krishna’s Vrindavan Lila.
The scholar Jayasreesaranathan writes: “The interesting information from the Indus civilization is that Dr E.J.H Mackay who excavated Mohanjodaro between 1927 and 1931 discovered a steatite tablet depicting two persons holding a tree and a tree god extending his hands towards them. He considered this as the famous Krishna in yamalarjuna-lila. If this tablet depicts Krishna, it is a strong proof of IVC (Indian Vedic Civilization) as post Mahabharata or post- Krishna.”
“A steatite tablet unearthed from Mohenjo-daro (2600~1800 BCE) depicting a young boy uprooting two trees from which are emerging two human figures is an interesting archaeological find for fixing dates associated with Krishna. This image recalls the Yamalarjuna episode of Bhagavata and Harivamsa Purana. In this image, the young boy is undoubtedly Krishna, and the two human beings emerging from the trees are the two cursed Gandharvas, identified as Nalkuvera & Manigriva. Dr. E.J.H. Mackay, who did the excavation at Mohanjodaro, compares this image with the Yamalarjuna episode. Prof. V.S. Agrawal has also accepted this identification.
Excerpt from Age of Bhārata War by G.C. AGARWALA and K.L VERMA page.81, Vidur Sewa Ashram (Bijnor, India) this is a drawing based upon the ancient Indian cave art depicting a chariot riding warrior wielding a wheel identified as Krishna.
Thus, it seems that the Indus valley people knew stories related to Krishna. This lone find may not establish Krishna as contemporary with Pre-Indus or Indus times, but, likewise, it cannot be ignored.” Mackay’s report part 1,pp.344–45,Part 2,plate no.90,object no.D.K.10237
Thus we find that not only is Krishna worship indigenous to India it is much more ancient than believed. The many theories that ignore the traditional perspective are based upon a denial of the authenticity of the Vedic texts and traditions. The fact is these indigenous sources are not merely based upon belief but are based upon scientific evidence combined with the traditions of India.
This knowledge is validated by an unbroken Disciplic Succession of Teachers and Students that has preserved the history of India through a system based primarily upon the oral tradition.
These evidences and proofs also shatter the many myths classifying Krishna worship as a late borrowing from other traditions. They reveal that the worship of Krishna as a young boy in Vrindavan, as described within the Bhagavat Purana, is very ancient and authentically Vedic in nature. In fact as evidenced in the book “The Serpent, The Eagle, The Lion and The Disk” the worship of Lord Krishna along with Srimati Radharani and Lord Balarama is at the very heart of not only ancient Indian civilization but it is the primal root religion of all humanity.
Ancient Rock Painting from Mirzpur, India Depicts Warriors in Battle (Kurukshetra?)