Why Lord Krishna Appeared on Earth?

As we prepare to celebrate Krishna Janmastami with gaiety and piety all over the world, a question often comes across our mind- why did Krishna, the Supreme Lord, appear on Earth?

We all know the story of Kamsa, the cruel king of Mathura, don’t we?
The extremely powerful demon king who had ruthlessly dethroned his own father, mercilessly imprisoned his own sister and brother-in-law and then brutally murdered their first six children, for the eighth one was predicted to be the cause of his death.

Sure enough, 14 years later and after having decimated hundreds of ferocious demons, Krishna still a teenager along with his elder brother Balaram, not only defeated all the powerful wrestlers of Kamsa but also slayed him with one strong punch to his chest, putting an end to all his tyranny.
But then the question is, did He really need to come on His own to kill a mere demon – however powerful he may have become? Krishna, is considered the supreme God. As Srimad Bhagavatam describes – the whole of universe came into existence from Him and therefore, needless to say, He could have destroyed any evil force – at any time and location, by the blink of an eye, and as effortlessly as you can imagine!

But then why did He appear on this earth?
The purpose has to be much bigger than that and Krishna himself explains it to the warrior prince Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita, right in the middle of the battlefield where the forces of good (Pandavas) were standing vis-a-vis the forces of evil (Kauravas), about to engage in a war of righteousness (Mahabharat war) at a place called Kurukshetra in India, about 150 kilometers from New Delhi!

You perhaps know the verse and the declaration in it:

Bhagavad Gita 4.7-8

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत ।
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ॥
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् ।
धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ॥

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself.
To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium. ”

And therefore, even though He created the entire material world for us to live and thrive as per our free will; whenever He sees the world in disarray, He himself, as our loving father, appears on earth, from time to time – to protect the good, uplift the fallen, vanquish evil and to re-establish the seeds of righteousness firmly in the core of our heart.

So He did slay Kamsa as Lord Krishna; He did devour Hiranyakashapu as Lord Narasimha and He did squash the pride of Bali Maharaj in His Vamana incarnation. But the main mission throughout was the same – to prevent the fundamentals of dharma (or religion) from getting destroyed by fear, greed and hypocrisy and establish the principles of righteousness, morality and ethics.

And as the form of demons, tormenting the followers of dharma, kept changing in different yugas (ages); incarnations of Krishna evolved accordingly to best establish the principles of dharma as per the requirement of that age and to lead people to God consciousness.
For example, when materialism was rampant and materialists were misusing the authority of the Vedas, Lord Buddha, an incarnation of Krishna, appeared in order to kill the demon of ‘materialism’, ritualistic animal sacrifices and to establish the Vedic principles of nonviolence and universal empathy.
Interestingly, each and every incarnation of Krishna, speaks as much about religion as can be understood by the particular people of that time, under their particular circumstances and so as to lead them to God in the most appropriate way!

And so, He, being the Supreme Lord of the universe, appears from time to time.

Having said that, it is important to understand that He is not created or born, as we are, for He is always present everywhere and at all time. It might appear that He is taking birth as an ordinary person would, but unlike us, He transcends time and age. He is always present just like the Sun, but based on our own position on the earth we may see a cycle of sunrise (birth) and sunset (death).

Krishna explains this to Arjuna in the previous verse of Bhagavad Gita (4.6):

अजः अपि सन् अव्ययात्मा भूतानाम् ईश्वरःअपि सन् |
प्रकृतिम् स्वाम् अधिष्ठाय सम्भवामि आत्ममायया ||

“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.”

The verse also tells us another important purpose of Krishna’s arrival on earth – to show us His original eternal and transcendental form – which is that of Him as a cowherd boy with his two hands holding a flute. He appears exactly in this eternal form of His, uncontaminated by this material world – so that we can concentrate on Him as He is, and not on some mental concoctions or imaginations about His form.

Now we might ask that what is the significance of His original transcendental form, after all we too have our own form. But unlike Him our form varies from birth to birth. We have no fixed body or form, we just transmigrate as living soul, from one body to another and just as water we take the shape of the container we are in. However, our Supreme Lord, appears in the same transcendental body – which is that of the simple cowherd boy – Krishna – who is timeless, ageless and full of youthfulness!

But can we also get rid of this eternal cycle of birth and death and be with Him forever? Yes we can, because we inherently are also an integral part of Him and as He assures in the verse 4.9 of Bhagavad Gita:

जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम् एवम् यः वेत्ति तत्त्वतः |
त्यक्त्वा देहम् पुनः जन्म न एति माम् एति सः अर्जुन ||

One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”

One who can understand Krishna, the transcendental nature of His body and His various activities, can very easily come out of the material bondages of one’s existence and attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death. But then, given the volatile nature of our mind, it is not easy to understand this simple eternal truth with conviction and to get rid of all our mental and philosophical speculations.

So now we know why Krishna came on earth. As we prepare to celebrate Krishna Janmastami perhaps the best thing to do in our own interest is to cultivate Krishna Consciousness with faith and conviction, and actually take control of our life by surrendering it all to the one it truly belongs – Krishna!