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Background 1

Sri Aandal in Kali yuga wanted to emulate Krishna Bhakthi which Gopika women had enjoyed in his presence.She was inspired and chose the practice of pavai nombu or vratha followed by Gopika women who prayed to Goddess Karthiyayini for them to attain Krishna.

question 1:

Why did the Gopika women not pray to Krishna to attain Krishna? Did they not know he was God?

Background 2

When Draupathi was insulted in public by the Kauravas. She called to Krishna for help. Assuming if she had believed in some other God, she would have called that God's name or atleast shouted Amma. But she chose to call Krishna for help

Key Question

Did people in Krishna's time know that he was God?

  • Don't know about other person's but Kunti,Arjun & Drapadi were aware about Krishna as God. – Kedarnath Oct 15 '14 at 4:51
  • @Kedarnath: Thanks for your comment. Arjuna confided in krishna as he is his maternal cousin. Think this way if he knew that he was God. Even after Krishna saying " mam ekam saranam vraja", Arjuna did not do Saranagathi(complete surrender) to Krishna, but instead fought the battle. – karthikbharadwaj Oct 15 '14 at 5:24
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    there is a difference between 'knowing' that Krishna is God and actually knowing that Krishna is God. Analogy: We all 'know' that every object is made of atoms. How do we 'know'? We 'know' because many experts (scientists) have performed research and have told us so, and we believe them. However we have not directly conducted those experiments and arrived at those conclusions. On the other side, there is another kind of knowing - direct knowledge. For example, we all know that sugar is sweet because of direct experience, not because someone else told us, but because of direct experience. – Sai Oct 15 '14 at 14:44
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    that is why many people who 'knew' that Sri Krishna was God, did not actually 'surrender' to Him, because their knowledge was more of an indirect knowledge, through Rishis and other people who have directly experienced. Thus while there were many who 'knew' He was God, only a handful actually experienced it. – Sai Oct 15 '14 at 15:01
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    @Sai yes, they are known as sabda praman and pratakshya praman. You say such nice and meaningful things in your comments. I have become a fan of yours! – Be Happy Oct 15 '14 at 15:33
4

The answer is both yes and no. Some people were aware about His divinity and some were not. Hence not even all the Gopis were aware that He is God and loved Him as an ordinary boy. There were various categories of Gopis out of which some were sages in previous lives, some were manifested form of Veda richas. They knew that Krishna was God, both other Gopis didn't.

Background 1
Out of all the gopis that loved Krishna some were married and some were unmarried. It is the unmarried girls who performed the Katyayani vrat because gods and goddesses when pleased grant boons. So because all the gopis in their heart loved Krishna they performed that vrat as it was customary and usual in those days for unmarried girls to perform vrat to get good husbands. This type of vrat is still present today in some form where girls perform kumara purnima puja to get good grooms.

Background 2
Draupadi knew the divinity of Krishna and hence called Him for help. Because it is only God who delivers the devotee from immediate danger. Gods and goddesses generally has to be pleased and many puja and rituals may be required for them. But Draupadi was in no situation for worshipping or keeping a vrat to please any god hence after being unable to defend herself with her own power she remembered Krishna for help as she knew his divinity.

Background 3
Arjuna didn't know that Krishna was God. He always considered Him as his friend who was mighty, intelligent and powerful. But he never ever thought that He could be God Himself. He was in doubt until Krishna showed Him His viswa rupa (universal form). Then only he realized Krishna as God and told as below:

sakheti matvā prasabhaṁ yad uktaṁ he kṛṣṇa he yādava he sakheti
ajānatā mahimānaṁ tavedaṁ mayā pramādāt praṇayena vāpi
yac cāvahāsārtham asat-kṛto ’si vihāra-śayyāsana-bhojaneṣu
eko ’tha vāpy acyuta tat-samakṣaṁ tat kṣāmaye tvām aham aprameyam
[BG - 11.41,42]

Meaning
Thinking of You as my friend, I have rashly addressed You “O Kṛṣṇa,” “O Yādava,” “O my friend,” not knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love. I have dishonored You many times, jesting as we relaxed, lay on the same bed, or sat or ate together, sometimes alone and sometimes in front of many friends. O infallible one, please excuse me for all those offenses.

So not everyone was aware that Krishna was God. Some knew, some didn't know, and some came to know later. Due to lord's maya not everyone is able to know His divinity when He takes birth as a human [BG - 7.25,9.11]. (nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ)

  • Thanks for your answer. I have a follow up question. If Arjuna came to know that he was God. Why he did not do saranagathi?. I think your idea of some came to know that he is God does exist. Like those who saw the Vishwaroopam. – karthikbharadwaj Oct 15 '14 at 6:05
  • Also think of this: An ordinary boy lifts a mountain. If I were there I have three options to think - a) Magician , b) Divinity, c) Satanic. I would rule out satanic as his motive is not intended to do bad. a) Would also be ruled as Magicians would have a motive behind their acts -fame,money etc, as I see his act is unconditional love I would think only of his divine nature. Would they still think he is ordinary after this act? – karthikbharadwaj Oct 15 '14 at 6:10
  • @karthikbharadwaj Arjuna actually did surrender to Krishna. Krishna said in BG 18.66 to mamekam saranam vraj and in reply to that Arjuna said in BG 18.73 that karisye vachanam tava and that's exactly what saranagati is - to do what the lord says. And Krishna from beginning wanted Arjuna to kill all the evil Karuava's in the battle. After saranagati Arjuna did exactly that which he earlier hesitated. – Be Happy Oct 15 '14 at 6:15
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    @karthikbharadwaj yes, your thinking is right. But it's lord's yogamaya working all the time. If every body knew he was God, he couldn't live the required life to fulfill his purpose. So just like his mother forgot krishna was divine after seeing viswarupa in his mouth, people only took for granted all the child time miracles. I have also heard a funny thing about the mountain... you might have seen in pictures krishna's friends holding sticks to support the mountain... – Be Happy Oct 15 '14 at 6:20
  • @karthikbharadwaj ... his friends told others we are supporting the mountain with our sticks with so much effort but see that Kanhuwa ... he is not doing anything and only standing in style touching his little finger. So people in that time think of him at most as a demigod or something taken birth but not as the God Himself. – Be Happy Oct 15 '14 at 6:23
8

As a child, Krishna kept his divinity a secret, so that Kamsa wouldn't know that Vishnu had been born on Earth to kill him. When Krishna was born, he had four arms and all the ornaments of Vishnu, but Devaki asked him to appear like an ordinary human child so Kamsa wouldn't know his true identity, as described in the Srimad Bhagavatam:

Your form as Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is appreciated by yogīs in meditation. Please make this form invisible to those who see with material eyes. O Madhusūdana, because of Your appearance, I am becoming more and more anxious in fear of Kaṁsa. Therefore, please arrange for that sinful Kaṁsa to be unable to understand that You have taken birth from my womb. O my Lord, You are the all-pervading Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Your transcendental four-armed form, holding conchshell, disc, club and lotus, is unnatural for this world. Please withdraw this form.

So Krishna took various measures in his childhood to hide his divinity, for instance making his foster mother Yashoda forget about seeing the Universe in Krishna's mouth, as described later on in the Srimad Bhagavatam:

Mother Yaśodā, by the grace of the Lord, could understand the real truth. But then again, the supreme master, by the influence of the internal potency, Yoga-māyā, inspired her to become absorbed in intense maternal affection for her son. Immediately forgetting Yoga-māyā’s illusion that Kṛṣṇa had shown the universal form within His mouth, mother Yaśodā took her son on her lap as before, feeling increased affection in her heart for her transcendental child.

And a later chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam describes how Krishna told his friends to close their eyes before he swallowed up a forest fire.

It's only after Krishna went back to Mathura and killed Kamsa that people started to learn that Krishna was an incarnation (avatara) of Vishnu, mainly through the words of famous sages who openly declared this fact to the world; in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna mentions four sages who have proclaimed Krishna's divinity:

You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Nārada, Asita, Devala and Vyāsa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.

As a result, a great many people accepted Krishna's divinity during his lifetime. For instance, in the Sabha Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma tells Yudishthira to make Krishna the chief guest of his Rajasuya Yagna, giving this as his justification:

He that approveth not the worship offered unto Krishna, the oldest one in the universe, deserveth neither soft words nor conciliation.... This one (meaning Krishna) here, of undefiled glory, deserveth to be worshipped not by ourselves alone, but being of mighty arms, he deserveth to be worshipped by the three worlds also.... The whole universe without limit is established in him of the Vrishni race. Therefore do we worship Krishna amongst the best and the oldest, and not others.... Krishna is the origin of the universe and that in which the universe is to dissolve. Indeed, this universe of mobile and immobile creatures hath sprung into existence from Krishna only. He is the unmanifest primal cause (Avyakta Prakriti), the creator, the eternal, and beyond the ken of all creatures. Therefore doth he of unfading glory deserve highest worship. The intellect, the seat of sensibility, the five elements, air, heat, water, ether, earth, and the four species of beings (oviparous, viviparous, born of filthy damp and vegetal) are all established in Krishna. The sun, the moon, the constellations, the planets, all the principal directions, the intermediate directions, are all established in Krishna.

And since you asked about Draupadi, her plea to Krishna acknowledges the fact that he is Vishnu:

O Govinda, O thou who dwellest in Dwaraka, O Krishna, O thou who art fond of cow-herdesses (of Vrindavana). O Kesava, seest thou not that the Kauravas are humiliating me. O Lord, O husband of Lakshmi, O Lord of Vraja (Vrindavana), O destroyer of all afflictions, O Janarddana, rescue me who am sinking in the Kaurava Ocean. O Krishna, O Krishna, O thou great yogin, thou soul of the universe, Thou creator of all things, O Govinda, save me who am distressed,--who am losing my senses in the midst of the Kurus.

And in the Udyoga Parva of the Mahabharata, when Krishna goes to Duryodhana's court as an envoy of the Pandavas, the Kauravas remain silent after Krishna's offer of peace, so Vishnu's incarnation Parashurama (who happens to be in the court at the time) admonishes them, telling them that Krishna is a reincarnation of Vishnu's incarnation sage Narayana, as I discuss in this answer. Sage Kanva makes a similar statement to Duryodhana.

And to top it all off, Krishna revealed his divine Vishwarupa form to everyone in the court before he left:

And as the high-souled Sauri laughed, from his body, that resembled a blazing fire, issued myriads of gods, each of lightning effulgence, and not bigger than the thumb. And on his forehead appeared Brahman, and on his breast Rudra. And on his arms appeared the regents of the world, and from his mouth issued Agni, the Adityas, the Sadhyas, the Vasus, the Aswins, the Marutas, with Indra, and the Viswedevas. And myriads of Yakshas, and the Gandharvas, and Rakshasas also, of the same measure and form, issued thence.... And on his diverse arms were seen the conch, the discus, the mace, the bow called Saranga, the plough, the javelin, the Nandaka, and every other weapon, all shining with effulgence, and upraised for striking.... And beholding that awful form of the high-souled Kesava, all the kings closed their eyes with affrighted hearts, except Drona, and Bhishma, and Vidura, endued with great intelligence, greatly blessed Sanjaya, and the Rishis, possessed of wealth of asceticism, for the divine Janardana gave unto them this divine sight on the occasion.

It's amazing that despite all of this, Duryodhana still refused to accept Krishna's divinity even after seeing it with his own eyes! It's only at some point during the Mahabharata war that Duryodhana finally admits to himself something along the lines of "Perhaps the sages are right, and Krishna really is Vishnu."

  • Thanks for your answer. I am convinced it is both yes and now from both the answers. – karthikbharadwaj Oct 15 '14 at 7:41
  • @karthikbharadwaj Well, after he killed Kamsa, the proclamations of sages at least made it public knowledge that Krishna was believed to be Vishnu. It's just that some people refused to believe those claims. But it was never a Devarahasyam (divine secret) like in the case of Rama. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 15 '14 at 7:59
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    Do you happen to have more details on Duryondhana's realization of Krishna's divinity by chance? I always thought that he never truly accepted it at all. – Akshay Oct 15 '14 at 20:40
  • @Akshay I'll try to find the quote. It's in one of the Parvas describing the Kurukshetra war. I think Krishna does something amazing, and then Duryodhana thinks to himself something along the lines of "Perhaps the sages are right in their declarations that Krishna is the supreme being" or words to that effect. It's somewhat difficult to search for, because I don't remember the exact words. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 15 '14 at 23:05
  • @KeshavSrinivasan Who are the parents of Sage Kanva? – user9554 Jun 24 '17 at 13:04

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