Srimad-Bhagavatam and other scriptures reveal the unsurpassed beauty of Krishna’s form and character.
By Gauranga Darshana Dasa
The enchanting beauty of Krishna’s form and character is the source of relish and refuge for all.
God is always joyful, and so is the living entity, a part of Him. Each of us is naturally characterized by our pleasure-seeking propensity (anandamayo ’bhyasat, Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12). In their attempts to pursue pleasure in this world, most people try to bring their senses in contact with enjoyable sense objects. Thus naturally our eyes look for beautiful things and people, our nose searches for sweet smells, our ears chase enchanting music, and our tongue yearns to taste delicious food. Of these, the urge of the eyes to see beauty is especially powerful.
Two Kinds of Beauty
In this world we certainly see beauty in nature, objects, and people. However, nature has its ugly side, objects become less attractive with repeated viewing, and people lose their physical beauty with age. All beauty in the material world is inherently temporary.
Is there a permanent beauty by which one never becomes satiated? Yes. The scriptures inform us of an eternal spiritual world where the people and objects are eternally fresh and beautiful. Srila Prabhupada writes, “The law of satiation acts materially, but there is no scope for it in the spiritual realm.” (Bhagavatam 1.11.25, Purport) Never will the passage of time deteriorate the beauty of the spiritual realm, because time has no influence there.
The prime example of spiritual beauty is Krishna.
“The inhabitants of Dvaraka were regularly accustomed to look upon the reservoir of all beauty, the infallible Lord, yet they were never satiated.” (Bhagavatam 1.11.25)
Elsewhere Srila Prabhupada writes, “The most beautiful object in the material world may be compared to the blue lotus flower or the full moon in the sky, but even the lotus flower and the moon were defeated by the beauty of the bodily features of Lord Krishna. . . .” (Bhagavatam 3.2.13, Purport)
Entangling Beauty vs. Elevating Beauty
Things that appear beautiful in this world are not necessarily beneficial for us. To believe that a temporary thing can give us permanent happiness is unfavorable to our wellbeing. Therefore the scriptures repeatedly mention that attachment to the temporary beauty in this world is entangling, binding one to the cycle of repeated birth and death.
The beauty of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, however, is eternal, as are His other main opulences: strength, fame, wealth, knowledge, and renunciation (Vishnu Purana 6.5.47). All living entities in their pure state are attracted to that eternally beautiful person – Krishna. In our impure state that attraction is diverted to material beauty, a reflection of spiritual beauty. Temporary, material beauty satiates and entangles us, while permanent, spiritual beauty elevate us and never satiates us. Bhakti-yoga consists of worshiping the transcendentally beautiful Krishna and thus elevating oneself from the material realm to the spiritual realm.
Krishna, the Embodiment of Beauty
The very word krishna means “the all-attractive one.” Krishna is the origin of everything and is thus the source of all beauty in both the material and spiritual worlds. Being the ultimate origin of all beauty, Krishna is supremely beautiful. All the beauties we may experience in the entire cosmos put together are manifest in Him.
Krishna is the collection of all beauties (sarva-saundarya-sangraham, Bhagavatam 4.24.45). His unparalleled spiritual beauty is repeatedly and elaborately described in Vaishnava scriptures like Srimad-Bhagavatam. The beauty of Krishna’s form enchants men, women, animals, demigods, His incarnations, and everyone else, including Himself (atma-paryanta-sarva-chitta-hara, Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 8.143).
Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.26, “And those who are artists, overtaken by the beautiful creation, should better see to the beautiful face of the Lord for complete satisfaction. The face of the Lord is the embodiment of beauty. What they call beautiful nature is but His smile, and what they call the sweet songs of the birds are but specimens of the whispering voice of the Lord.” Furthermore, in Krishna, Chapter Fourteen, Srila Prabhupada writes, “Without being an expansion of Krishna, nothing can be attractive. Whatever is attractive within the cosmic manifestation is due to Krishna. Krishna is therefore the reservoir of all pleasure.”
Lord Shiva adores the transcendental form of Krishna, whose sight satisfies all the senses. He prays,
“My dear Lord, I wish to see You exactly in the form that Your very dear devotees worship. You have many other forms, but I wish to see Your form that is especially liked by the devotees. Please be merciful upon me and show me that form, for only that form worshiped by the devotees can perfectly satisfy all the demands of the senses.” (Bhagavatam 4.24.44)
Lord Krishna is always youthful, and every limb of His body is properly formed, free from defect (tarunam ramaniyangam, Bhagavatam 4.8.46). Many devotees in the Bhagavatam praise His beauty while offering prayers. For instance, Srimati Kunti Devi compares Krishna’s limbs to beautiful lotuses:
“My respectful obeisances are unto You, O Lord, whose abdomen is marked with a depression like a lotus flower, who are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, whose glance is as cool as the lotus and whose feet are engraved with lotuses.” (Bhagavatam 1.8.22)
Different Forms for Different Devotees
Srila Prabhupada writes:
There are millions of forms of the Lord, but they are one Absolute. As stated in the Brahma-samhita, advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam: all the different forms of the Lord are one, but some devotees want to see Him in the form of Radha and Krishna, others prefer Him as Sita and Ramachandra, others would see Him as Lakshmi-Narayana, and others want to see Him as four-handed Narayana, Vasudeva. The Lord has innumerable forms, and He appears in a particular form as preferred by a particular type of devotee. (Bhagavatam 3.28.29, Purport)
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.55 states, “When a devotee surrenders to Lord Krishna and becomes a lover of the Lord by direct realization of Krishna’s all-attractive nature, the Lord makes His residence in the clean heart and mind of such a pure devotee.”
Furthermore, Srila Prabhupada writes, “When one is attracted by the transcendental beauty of Radha and Krishna, he is no longer attracted by material feminine beauty. That is the special significance of Radha-Krishna worship.” (Bhagavatam 3.31.38, Purport)
Krishna’s Form in Vrindavana
All the forms of the incarnations of Krishna are beautiful, but Krishna in Vrindavana is the most enchanting of all the vishnu-tattva forms. This is confirmed by great authorities like Lord Brahma, Shukadeva Goswami, and many acharyas.
The attire and attitude of Krishna as a cowherd boy in Vrindavana are characterized by simplicity and innocence. In Bhagavatam 10.21.5 the gopis describe Krishna as wearing a yellow garment as brilliant as gold, a peacock feather on His head, flowers on His ears, a garland made of different types of forest flowers, and a necklace of guñja berries. Thus He appears like the greatest of dancers as He enters the forest of Vrindavana, beautifying it with the marks of His footprints.
Krishna footprints are everywhere in Vrindavana because He doesn’t wear shoes there. Once His mother, Yashoda, asked Him to wear shoes to herd the cows, but He said He couldn’t wear them as long as His cows were walking barefoot. No human being, animal, or bird in Vrindavana disturbs Krishna’s footprints, considering them its greatest ornament.
As Krishna goes into the forest with His cows and cowherd friends, He plays His divine flute, enchanting all moving and nonmoving living entities, including those in the higher planets. Carrying a yogurt-and-rice dish packed by Mother Yashoda for His lunch, He holds a small stick with which He herds the cows and calves. The scriptures proclaim that this Gopala form of Krishna in Vrindavana is the topmost manifestation of the Absolute Truth, the fountainhead of all expansions and incarnations, and the source of everything.
Even though Krishna is all of these, He is ever youthful. Even when He was on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, nearly a hundred years after His appearance, He looked like young man.
Six Aspects of Krishna’s Beauty
As Krishna entered the city of Mathura (at age ten years, seven months), the women there described His beauty in six ways while praising the fortune of the gopis of Vrindavana, who regularly see that beauty:
“What austerities must the gopis have performed! With their eyes they always drink the nectar of Lord Krishna’s form, which is the essence of loveliness and is not to be equaled or surpassed. That form is the only abode of beauty, fame and opulence. It is self-perfect, ever fresh and extremely rare.” (Bhagavatam 10.44.14)
- lavanya-saram – the essence of all loveliness. Krishna’s moonlike face is the drinking vessel for eyes that hanker after all that is beautiful (pana-patram mukham drisham, Bhagavatam 1.11.26).
- asamordhvam – unequalled or unsurpassed. Even the Narayana expansions in the Vaikuntha planets and other incarnations of the Lord are not as beautiful as Krishna.
- ananya-siddham – self-perfect. Krishna doesn’t acquire His beauty from another source, but it is innate eternally in Him.
- drigbhih pibanty anusavabhinavam – ever fresh. When one drinks His beauty with one’s eyes, it constantly appears new.
- durapam – difficult to obtain. Krishna’s beauty is accessible not by any substandard religious paths, but only by pure devotion (bhakti) unto Him.
- ekanta-dhama yashasah shriya aishvarasya – the only abode of beauty, fame, and opulence.
The Beauty of Krishna’s Character
Beautiful forms inspire attraction, but attachment and affection develop more because of beautiful characteristics. Although physically attractive, if someone doesn’t have good qualities and a good attitude, people are not inclined to maintain a relationship with that person. But a relationship with someone beautiful in both form and character is most enlivening. Krishna’s form is exquisitely beautiful, and so is His divine character. Silam sarva-jananurañjanam: Krishna’s character is satisfying to all kinds of living entities (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 17.210).
Studying Krishna’s features from the Bhagavatam inspires both awe and hope in spiritual seekers. Krishna’s character is filled with the divine qualities of compassion, truthfulness, tolerance, gentleness, humility, and so on. Narada Muni describes the beauty of Krishna’s form and qualities in the following manner:
“The Lord’s form is always youthful. Every limb and every part of His body is properly formed, free from defect. His eyes and lips are pinkish like the rising sun. He is always prepared to give shelter to the surrendered soul, and anyone so fortunate as to look upon Him feels all satisfaction. The Lord is always worthy to be the master of the surrendered soul, for He is the ocean of mercy.” (Bhagavatam 4.8.46)
Krishna’s Compassionate Descents
Although Krishna punishes the miscreants and reestablishes religion, the main purpose of His descent is to reciprocate with His devotees. All the forms that Krishna manifests in this world are filled with compassion for His devotees (bhrityanukampita-dhiyeha grihita-murteh, Bhagavatam 3.28.29).
Krishna’s Merciful Glance and Smile
Krishna’s beautiful eyes are always accompanied by His merciful glances and reassuring smiles, enlivening His devotees who seek His shelter.
“The yogis should contemplate with full devotion the compassionate glances frequently cast by the Lord’s eyes, for they soothe the most fearful threefold agonies of His devotees. His glances, accompanied by loving smiles, are full of abundant grace.” (Bhagavatam 3.28.31)
Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to this verse: “As long as one is in conditional life, in the material body, it is natural that he will suffer from anxieties and agonies. Sometimes disturbances come, but the agonies and anxieties of the devotees are at once mitigated when they think of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His beautiful form or the smiling face of the Lord. The Lord bestows innumerable favors upon His devotee, and the greatest manifestation of His grace is His smiling face, which is full of compassion for His pure devotees.”
Lord Kapiladeva also speaks about the Lord’s smile:
hasam harer avanatakhila-loka-tivra-
“A yogi should similarly meditate on the most benevolent smile of Lord Sri Hari, a smile which, for all those who bow to Him, dries away the ocean of tears caused by intense grief.” (Bhagavatam 3.28.32)
Giving Credit to Devotees
Another wonderful aspect of Krishna’s character is that He gives more credit to His devotees than He takes for Himself. Therefore Krishna is described as bhaktanam mana-vardhanah, “One who increases the fame of His devotees” (Bhagavatam 3.24.30), and prabhave sarva-satvatam, “One who expands the influence of devotees” (Bhagavatam 4.30.24).
While elaborating on the phrase sarva-saundarya-sangraham in Bhagavatam 4.24.45, Srila Prabhupada comments:
Both materialists and spiritualists can enjoy the beauty of the Lord. Because the Supreme Lord attracts everyone, including demons and devotees, materialists and spiritualists, He is called Krishna. Similarly, His devotees also attract everyone. As mentioned in the Shad-goswami-stotra: dhiradhira-jana-priyau – the Goswamis are equally dear to the dhira (devotees) and adhira (demons). Lord Krishna was not very pleasing to the demons when He was present in Vrindavana, but the Six Goswamis were pleasing to the demons when they were present in Vrindavana. That is the beauty of the Lord’s dealings with His devotees; sometimes the Lord gives more credit to His devotees than He takes for Himself. For instance, on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna fought simply by giving directions. Yet it was Arjuna who took the credit for fighting. Nimitta-matram bhava savyasacin: “You, O Savyasaci [Arjuna], can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Gita 11.33) Everything was arranged by the Lord, but the credit of victory was given to Arjuna. Similarly, in the Krishna consciousness movement, everything is happening according to the predictions of Lord Chaitanya, but the credit goes to Lord Chaitanya’s sincere servants. Thus the Lord is described herein as sarva-saundarya-sangraham.
Krishna defeated the demoniac ruler Jarasandha and his millions of soldiers seventeen times. However, Krishna gave the credit of killing Jarasandha to Bhima, one of His dear devotees, by allowing Bhima to kill Jarasandha rather than doing it Himself. Lord Rama made a bridge to reach Lanka, but His devotee Hanuman just jumped across the ocean. Although Lord Rama, being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was very much aware of Sita Devi’s whereabouts, He depended on Hanuman to find Her, as described in the beautiful section of the Ramayana called the Sundara-kanda. Thus Hanuman’s glories are declared to the whole world. The Supreme Lord is always very eager to give more credit to His devotees than He takes for Himself.
Pleasing to the Mind and Senses
Thus the beauty of Krishna’s transcendental form and character attracts the hearts of everyone. Srila Prabhupada comments, “By His personal features and transcendental attributes, the Lord attracts all psychological activities of a pure devotee. Such is the attractive power of Lord Krishna.” (Bhagavatam 1.7.10, Purport) The subject of Krishna’s beauty is very expansive, and in this short article only a few glimpses are mentioned. Knowing about Krishna’s forms and character and meditating on them are pleasing to the mind and senses and therefore spiritually uplifting and enlivening.