In the famous 1978 movie Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Lata Mangeshkar sings, “Yashomati maiyaa se bole Nandlaala, Radha kyun gori mai kyun kaala?” (“Little Krishna asks mother Yashoda, why is Radha fair and I am black?“). But wait… isn’t Lord Krishna blue? In paintings, in statues, in movies – everywhere, Lord Krishna can be seen with his two identifying characteristics: the golden flute in his hand, and his deep blue-colored skin.
1. Lord Vishnu’s Connection
Before we go into the reason as to why Krishna is blue, let’s see who Krishna is. Lord Krishna is one of the most important and revered deities in Hinduism. He is the eighth incarnation (avatar) of Lord Vishnu, who is one of the principal gods in Hinduism and is part of the holy triad of Hinduism (Trimutri) along with Brahma and Shiva.
As a part of the Trimurti, Vishnu is considered to be the preserver. He represents the fundamental force (guna) of Sattva, which is the quality of goodness, positivity, calm, and balance.
As can be seen, even Lord Vishnu has blue-colored skin. The blue colour of Krishna’s skin is invariably linked to Vishnu’s blue color! But why is Lord Vishnu, for that matter, blue-skinned? And is it because of Vishnu that Krishna is blue? The answer is complicated, mired in mythology and philosophy, but very interesting, so read on.
Hinduism is a very philosophical and sublime religion and heavily relies on metaphors in its tales. Sanatana Dharma, which represents the universal duties that every person needs to carry out, propagates its teachings through metaphorical representations of material things and events.
On the same lines, the blue color of Lord Vishnu’s skin is considered to be a metaphor. Lord Vishnu, as the “protector” of the universe, is omnipresent. Vishnu, being a part of the holy Trimurti, is a form of the Supreme Being, and thus, he is formless. The color blue is associated with infiniteness and homelessness.
“The God of Infinite Love and the object of Love sublime and infinite are painted blue. Krishna is painted blue…It is a natural law that anything sublime and infinite is associated with the color blue. Take a handful of water, it is absolutely colorless. But look at the deep wide ocean; it is as blue as anything. Examine the space near you; it is colorless. But look at the infinite expanse of the blue sky.”
The blue color is also a reference between the link between Lord Vishnu and Lord Indra (the Vedic god of thunder and rain). In Rig Veda 7.99, Vishnu and Indra have been treated as one and equivalent. In other Rig Veda verses, Vishnu and Indra have been established as close friends. In Gita Mahatmya Chapter 1, Lord Shiva says that Vishnu’s skin
“…is the color of a dark rain cloud“.
There is another reason Vishnu’s skin colour has a bluish tinge. Vishnu’s original abode is the celestial realm of Vaikuntha. The Bhagavata Purana, in verse 2.9.11, says that “the inhabitants of the Vaikuṇṭha planets are described as having a glowing sky-bluish complexion.”
In verse 2.9.11, it means that
“…all these combined together appear just like the sky decorated with both clouds and lightning”.
For this reason, all Vishnu’s incarnations (avatars) are said to inherit the blue skin to represent the vastness of their knowledge and power. For this reason, the avatars of Vishnu, like Krishna and Rama, have blue colored hide.
However, there is much confusion about this, as well. For example, Balarama (the ninth avatar and Krishna’s elder brother) is described in various texts as being extremely fair-skinned.
‘In Garga Samhita verse 8.13.6 refers to him as “Sveta-Varno” (fair-skinned), and in Sri Balabhadra-stava-raja verse 6, he is referred to as “gauraya” (fair-skinned). However, there have been paintings where Balarama has been portrayed as having blue-colored skin like Krishna.
Another controversial case is Lord Narasimha, the fourth avatar of Vishnu. Having a lion’s head and a human body, Narasimha is usually portrayed with yellowish skin; however, there have been rare instances of him being portrayed with blue skin as well.
Now coming specifically to why Krishna is blue, the connection with Vishnu is considered to be the reason for his blue skin. There is definite textual evidence of Krishna’s blue-colored skin. In Bhagavata Purana verse 3.28.13, Krishna’s appearance is compared to a “nilotpala-dala,” which refers to a blue lotus.
There is also textual evidence of Krishna’s infinite consciousness. In Bhagavad Gita verse 10.20, Krishna himself declares to Arjuna:
“O arjuna, I am the ultimate consciousness situated within the heart of all living entities and I am the beginning, the middle and the end as well of all living entities.”
There are several other verses in the Bhagavad Gita which showcase the infinite nature of Krishna’s power and consciousness. The blue color is a representation of the depth of the conscious mind of Krishna. This may be another answer for: why is Lord Krishna’s skin blue?
2. Other Explanations
Of course, as with any religious question that requires a fair deal of interpretation of the scriptures and use of imagination, there have been numerous explanations and theories trying to justify the blue color of Krishna’s skin.
The most famous of these alternative explanations is related to Krishna’s aura. The “Aura” explanation was given by the famous religious author Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. He said that the blue color denotes a sign of all-inclusiveness. Often, blue denotes something that is as vast as the eyes can see, and even beyond, like the ocean and the sky.
Aura refers to the mythical concept of a visible energy field around a person’s body tissues. Scientific laws say that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can merely be transformed from one form to another. However, when power is unable to or refuses to manifest itself into a physical form, it is termed as “aura.” While science is yet to find any conclusive proof of the existence of aura, it is an essential part of Hindu philosophy.
This explanation says that while Krishna indeed appeared blue to people’s eyes, it does not necessarily mean that he was blue-skinned. While his skin may have been of a different color, the blue aura that his body emitted overshadowed it. Therefore, people’s eyes could only perceive that color, giving Krishna a blue appearance.
The blue color of his skin was a representation of his character. Krishna has been described as being extremely attractive in his form. In Brahma Samhita, Lord Brahma says that he worships Krishna.
This level of attractiveness is attributed to the pure blue aura emitted by Krishna. He charmed even his most sworn enemies with his sight. The demoness Putana, who was sent to assassinate an infant Krishna, was taken aback by his view. In many iterations of the story, Pootana became enchanted by Krishna and asked him to liberate her from her sins, which Krishna did by sucking the life out of her mortal body.
In the color wheel, blue is considered the “coolest” color. According to psychologists, blue has a calming and soothing effect on people. Therefore, the blue color of Krishna denotes his composed and serene character.
The word Krishna in itself means “black,” “dark,” or “dark blue” in Sanskrit. Another name of Krishna is Shyama, which also means “black,” “dark,” or “blue.” In Chandogaya Upanishad verse 6.5, it is said that Rig Veda is akin to the white light of the Sun, and Sama Veda is the blackish-blue (dark) light of the sun. In Bhagavad Gita verse 10.22, Krishna declares that “Of the Vedas, I am the Sama Veda” (Vedanam Sama-Veda ‘smi). This can be seen as a direct admission by Krishna himself as to why Krishna is blue.
2.1. What Science Would Say
The modern answer would say it is a Syndrome of the Blue Baby Methemoglobinemia that can run in families or be caused by exposure to certain medicines and substances. Uranium toxicity caused by contaminated water is also suspected of causing ‘blue baby syndrome‘ a rare disorder.
In 2009, the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers in Punjab communities resulted in an increase in blue baby syndrome. Cases of blue baby syndrome have been documented in communities in Romania and Bulgaria where there is a lack of sanitation and a high level of nitrates in the groundwater. Hopefully, Lord Krishna did not become a victim.
3. Where Is the Controversy?
Answering “Why is Lord Krishna’s skin blue?” has a little problem: it is not concrete that Krishna is a blue color. Little in Hinduism has absolute coherence, and the same is true for Krishna’s complexion as well. The paintings and statues of Krishna depict him in varying shades of blue and white, with no semblance of conformity to any one single complexion. Moreover, there are also paintings and models which variedly portray Krishna as fair-skinned.
However, it is essential to note that Hinduism is a very fluid religion, and very little in it has any absoluteness. The same seems to hold for Krishna’s complexion as well. Myriads of interpretations and artistic imaginations have been applied over the centuries, and as a result, we have thousands of portraits and models of different versions of Krishna. There are no verses nor stories which answer the question as to why Sri Krishna is blue. It is a matter of debate if his complexion even the actual color of his skin or just a visual illusion caused by his supreme aura.
Now that we know why Krishna is blue, we can move on to the next god; after all, we have a pool of 33 million gods!
Still curious and want to read more? Well, here are some resources for further reading…
- Struggles of Seeking Recognition in the Land of a Million Gods
- Gita Mahatmya: Chapter One
- Srimad Bhagavat (Bhagavat Purana)
- The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda by Swami Vivekananda
-Edited by Steffy Michael|21/7/22