Perhaps one of the most beloved Gods of the Hindu Dharma is Lord Krishna. His childhood Leela has been praised and cherished by all. His names have been derived from various incidents that occurred in his life on earth, be it Baal Kanda (childhood) till the event of Mahabharata. Here are 15 beautiful names of Shri Krishna and their meaning.

Sri Krishna Govinda Gopal

1. Govinda

In Sanskrit “GO” has a lot of meaning, if we simply go by the meaning Govinda could mean:

  • As in cow – Then Govinda means one who takes care of the cows [Krishna]
  • As in earth – Then Govinda means protector of the world or one who visits the world by taking avatars [Vishnu]
  • As in speech – Then Govinda means the producer of speech or produced of intelligence. This is Vishnu. This could also mean Brihaspati.
  • As in movement – Then Govinda means the seeker of Movement – meaning one who is responsible for life movement. This is again Vishnu one who pervades everything and makes life possible
  • As in food – Then Govinda means the producer of food or giver of energy. This is again Vishnu who sustains life.

Some say is the story of Krishna Vs Indra when he was eventually got the name Govinda, coined by Indra himself.  Overcome by vanity, Indra was taught a lesson by Krishna when he asked people of his village not to worship Lord Indra. Indra, in turn, shed his wrath on the tiny village almost flooding it. Sri Krishna is said to have lifted the entire Govardhan hill atop his little finger and sheltered the village, animals and the cows. Ashamed of his behavior upon recognizing Krishna as Vishnu, Indra hailed him as Govinda, Lord of everything even the cows.

2. Banwari

This name refers to one of the most popular names of Lord Krishna, the term means the resident of the groves of Vrindavan. Situated on the banks of Yamuna River, Vrindavan (meaning the forest of Tulsi plants) was the seat of Krishna’s childhood life replete with a lot of divine plays and miracles.

The term Banwari paints a picture of a cute little Krishna wandering in the forests, stealing butter in the households, slaughtering the demons, lifting the hill of Govardhan, dancing on the hoods of serpent Kalia, charming the village lads and ladies, and playing in the waters of river Yamuna.

3. Hari

The most common meaning attributed to the word Hari is the forgiver of all sins. Hari is one of the most famous names of Lord Krishna used interchangeably with Vishnu and Narayana.

4. Banke Bihari

Banke Bihari is one of the most popular and charming one. The term Banke Bihari literally translates as Banke (the bent) and Bihari or Vihari (the enjoyer or the indweller). Krishna seems to have got this name since his most popular standing posture playing the flute is typically seen bent in three places.

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A very old reference to the bent posture of Krishna occurs in Śrī Brahmasaḿhitā (verse 5.31) in which Lord Brahma praises Krishna thus, “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, round whose neck is swinging a garland of flowers beautified with the moon-locket, whose two hands are adorned with the flute and jeweled ornaments, who always revels in pastimes of love, whose graceful threefold-bending form of Śyāmasundara is eternally manifest.

5. Shyam

Krishna is called Shyam due to his dark complexion (the word Shyam means dark). The word is often used in conjunction with other names-   Radheshyam, Ghanshyam, Shyamsundar, Shyamgopal, etc.

6. Keshav

Keshav is one of the most prominent titles attributed to Lord Vishnu and very fondly used by the devotees. Here are some meanings of the word Keshav as given by Adi Shankara in his commentary of Vishnu Sahasranam Stotram.

  • One who has a long, shiny and uncut hair (also this reference is found in Padma Purana)
  • The Lord of creation, sustenance, and destruction – all put in one
  • One who destroyed the demon Keshi in Krishnavatar
  • One who is more effulgent than that of the sun god
  • One who assumes the three roles of Brahma (Kah), Vishnu (ah) and Shiva (isa)

Another story goes as this- When little Krishna was growing up in Gokul, Kamsa had come to know that his impending death was in the hands of Krishna. Therefore he sent several demons to kill Krishna. One such demon was Keshi who attacked Krishna in the form of a horse. Krishna kicked the horse with his little foot and tore it into pieces. The name Keshav applies to Krishna as he had slain the demon Keshi.

7. Madhusudan

Madhusudan is one of the most popular titles of Krishna. It literally means the one who slayed the demon Madhu (Madhu – the name of the Rakshasas or demon; Sudan – one who slayed).

Very long ago before the start of creations, Lord Vishnu was in Yoganidra – engrossed into himself on his serpent couch. From his navel came out Lord Brahma seated on a lotus and started the creations as Vishnu’s representative. From the ear wax of Lord Vishnu, came out two demons called Madhu and Kaitabh. They started troubling all the three worlds and even snatched the Vedas of Lord Brahma which helped him with the creative process. Lord Brahma approached Mother Lakshmi and she, in turn, woke up Vishnu from his deeply engrossed state. Lord Vishnu found the two demons and listened to all the complaints from Brahma. First, the Lord took the form of Hayagriva (Haya – horse; Griva – neck) and rescued the Vedas. There was a stiff fight between the demons and the Lord.

In the end, though defeated, the demons would not die as a result of the boon they received from Brahma which said they will face their death only when they wished to die. Hayagriva asked the demons for a boon. In all their arrogance, they granted him whatever he wanted. Vishnu sought their death as the boon and caused the death of Madhu and Kaitab in a witty manner. Therefore as the slayer of Madhu, Lord Vishnu is called Madhusudan.

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8. Yogeshwar

The purport of this term is the master of senses. Lord Krishna chose to descend on the earth to redeem humankind from its slumber and ignorance. As Poornavatar (complete incarnation), he always remained in a blissful state of existence far removed from any bondage to the material world. This is one of the reasons why Krishna is called Yogeshwar.

9. Vasudeva

Krishna is also known as Vasudeva (वासुदेव). It refers to the fact that Krishna was the son of Vasudeva. Other versions state that after Krishna slayed the oppressive ruler, Kamsa, he was appointed to this title. Krishna ruled the hearts of the Yadavas by saving them from many perilous situations, by bringing an end to the oppressive rule & by reinstating the old Republican order (gana sangh) among the Yadavas.

Thus with the help of Maharshi Garg, Rishi Kadam & others, he was almost unanimously chosen as “Vasudeva”.

10. Pundarikaksha

He is called Pundarikaksha from Pundarika implying his high and eternal abode.

11. Achyuta

In Sanatana Dharma, Achyuta is another name of Lord Vishnu and appears as the 100th and 318th names in the Vishnu Sahasranama. It is also often used in the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Puranas a personal name of Krishna.

Achyuta means “one who will never lose his inherent nature and powers”. The name also means “immovable”, “unchangeable”, and as such is used for “the One who is without the six transformations, beginning with birth”.

12. Vrishabhakshana

He is called Vrishabhakshana from Vrishabha implying the ‘Vedas’ and ikshana implying ‘eye’, the union of the two signifying that the Vedas are his eyes, or the Vedas are the eyes through which he may be seen.

13. Parthasarathi

The meaning of this name is ‘the charioteer of Partha’. Partha was another name of Arjuna because he was the son of Pritha, which again was the name of his mother, Kunti.

Lord Krishna was approached by both Duryodhana and Arjuna both for help in the Mahabharata war. Arjuna being younger of the two was asked to make the first choice – options being they could either choose Lord Krishna( who would not play an active part in the war) or his Narayani Sena ( army ). Arjuna without hesitation chose Lord Krishna. His reason being that since Pandavas were on the side of Dharma, having Lord Krishna on their side meant the Lord was on their side and even if he never wielded a weapon, it would suffice. So Lord Krishna agreed to be Arjuna’s charioteer.

A parallel story of Sahstrakavacha, who had escaped Nara and Narayana with 999 of his thousand armors destroyed by them. Now Sahstrakavacha was reborn as Karna with this remaining divine armor while Nara and Narayana were reborn as Arjuna and Lord Krishna respectively. So in the war, they combined together to defeat Karna. Lord Krishna’s decision not to take up arms but just be Arjuna’s charioteer may also have something to do with the sequence of who, from Nara and Narayana would have to do battle with Sahstrakavacha one final time to defeat and vanquish him.

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14. Gudakesha

Gudaka means sleep, and one who conquers sleep is called gudäkesha. Sleep also means ignorance. So Arjuna conquered both sleep and ignorance because of his friendship with Krishna. As a great devotee of Sri Krishna, he could not forget Krishna even for a moment, because that is the nature of a devotee. Either in waking or in sleep, a devotee of the Lord can never be free from thinking of Krishna’s name, form, quality, and pastimes. Thus a devotee of Shri Krishna can conquer both sleep and ignorance simply by thinking of Krishna constantly. This is called Krishna consciousness, or samadhi. As Hrisikesha or the director of the senses and mind of every living entity, Krishna could understand Arjuna’s purpose in placing the chariot in the midst of the armies.

15. Jagannath

Jagannath is considered a form of Vishnu. He is a part of a triad along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. To most Vaishnava Hindus, Jagannath is an abstract representation of Krishna. In hymn 10.155 of the Rig Veda, there is mention of a Daru (wooden log) floating in the ocean as apurusham. Acharya Sayana interpreted the term apurusham as same as Purushottama and this Dara wood log being an inspiration for Jagannath, thus placing the origin of Jagannath in the 2nd millennium BCE.

(Last Updated On: May 14, 2020)
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