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Krishna Crucified?

by Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

Krishna Crucified image

The following article is excerpted from:

Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled 

suns of god cover image

(This chapter from Suns of God is 46 pages long, with 142 footnotes and 4 pages of illustrations comprising 12 images. This article represents reportage of a debate and does not draw any firm conclusion as to whether or not Krishna was ever depicted as "crucified" in the Christian sense.)

Blood sacrifice is the oldest and most universal act of piety. The offering of animals, including the human animal, dates back at least twenty thousand years, and, depending on how you read the scanty archaeological evidence, arguably back to the earliest appearance of humanity. Many religions recount the creation of man through the bloody sacrifice of a God-man—a divinity who is torn apart to sow the seeds of humanity.

Patrick Tierney, The Highest Altar: The Story of Human Sacrifice

[A] peculiarity noticed in some of the Irish Pre-Christian illustrations of the Crucifix is the absence of nails; the legs being bound with cords at the ankles It is singular that the dress of one crucified figure, as worn about the loins, corresponds with that of the fabled crucified Christna.

James Bonwick, Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions

The orthodox depiction of Krishna's death relates that he was shot in the foot by a hunter's arrow while under a tree. As is true with so much in mythology, and as we have seen abundantly, there are variances in Krishna's tale, including the account of his death. In The Bible in India, citing as his sources the Bagaveda-Gita and Brahminical traditions, French scholar and Indianist Jacolliot recounts the death of Christna as presciently understood by the godman, who, without his disciples, went to the Ganges to work out stains. After thrice plunging into the sacred river, Krishna knelt and prayed as he awaited death, which was ultimately caused by multiple arrows shot by a criminal whose offenses had been exposed by Krishna. The executioner, named Angada, was thereafter condemned to wander the banks of the Ganges for eternity, subsisting off the dead. Jacolliot proceeds to describe Krishna's death thus:

The body of the God-man was suspended to the branches of a tree by his murderer, that it might become the prey of the vultures.

News of the death having spread, the people came in a crowd conducted by Ardjouna, the dearest disciple of Christna, to recover his sacred remains. But the mortal frame of the Redeemer had disappeared—no doubt it had regained the celestial abodes and the tree to which it had been attached had become suddenly covered with great red flowers and diffused around it the sweetest perfumes.

Jacolliot's description includes a number of arrows, instead of just one, which, along with the suspension in the tree branches, resembles the pinning of the god to Medieval European image of Archers Shooting into Victim Tied to Treea tree using multiple nails. Krishna's subsequent disappearance has been considered an ascension. Moreover, this legend is evidently but a variant of the orthodox tale, constituting an apparently esoteric tradition recognizing Krishna's death as a crucifixion. Indeed, as John Remsburg says in The Christ:

There is a tradition, though not to be found in the Hindoo scriptures, that Krishna, like Christ, was crucified.

In Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, Doane elaborates upon the varying legends concerning Krishna's death:

The accounts of the deaths of most of all virgin-born Saviours of whom we shall speak, are conflicting. It is stated in one place that such an one died in such a manner, and in another place we may find it stated altogether differently. Even the accounts of the death of Jesus are conflicting

The Vishnu Purana speaks of Crishna being shot in the foot with an arrow, and states that this was the cause of his death. Other accounts, however, state that he was suspended on a tree, or in other words, crucified.

Doane then cites M. Guigniaut's Religion de l'Antiquité, which states:

The death of Crishna is very differently related. One remarkable and convincing tradition makes him perish on a tree, to which he was nailed by the stroke of an arrow.

Doane further relates that the pious Christian Rev. Lundy refers to Guigniaut's statement, translating the original French un bois fatal as a cross. Doane next comments:

Although we do not think he is justified in doing this, as M. Guigniaut has distinctly stated that this bois fatal (which is applied to a gibbet, a cross, a scaffold, etc.) was un arbre (a tree), yet, he is justified in doing so on other accounts, for we find that Crishna is represented hanging on a cross, and we know that a cross was frequently called the so cursed tree. It was an ancient custom to use trees as gibbets for crucifixion, or, if artificial, to call the cross a tree.

To wit, the legend of Krishna's death has been interpreted to mean that he was pinned to a tree, essentially representing a crucifixion. However, it is not just tradition but artifacts that have led to the conclusion that Krishna was crucified. Indeed, there have been found in India numerous images of crucified gods, one of whom apparently is Krishna, important information not to be encountered in mainstream resources such as encyclopedias.

Moreover, it appears that Krishna is not the first Indian god depicted as crucified. Prior to him was another incarnation of Vishnu, the avatar named Wittoba or Vithoba, who has often been identified with Krishna. As Doane further relates:

It is evident that to be hung on a cross was anciently called hanging on a tree, and to be hung on a tree was called crucifixion. We may therefore conclude from this, and from what we shall now see, that Crishna was said to have been crucified.

In the earlier copies of Moor's Hindu Pantheon , is to be seen representations of Crishna (as Wittoba ), with marks of holes in both feet, and in others, of holes in the hands. In Figures 4 and 5 of Plate 11 (Moor's work), the figures have nail-holes in both feet . Plate 6 has a round hole in the side ; to his collar or shirt hangs the emblem of a heart (which we often see in pictures of Christ Jesus)

Rev. J. P. Lundy, speaking of the Christian crucifix, says:

I object to the crucifix because it is an image, and liable to gross abuse, just as the old Hindoo crucifix was an idol.

And Dr. Inman says:

Crishna, whose history so closely resembles our Lord's, was also like him in his being crucified.

Thus, we discover from some of the more erudite Christian writers, admitting against interest, that images of a Indian god crucified, with nail holes in the feet, had been discovered in India, and that this god was considered to be Krishna, as Wittoba . As we have seen, Moor's book was mutilated, with plates and an entire chapter removed, which have luckily been restored in a recent edition of the original text. Fortunately, Higgins preserved for posterity some of Moor's statements and plates, recounting and commenting upon the missionary's remarkable discovery:

Mr. Moor describes an Avatar called Wittoba, who has his foot pierced.

This incarnation of Vishnu or CRISTNA is called Wittoba or Ballaji. He has a splendid temple erected to him at Punderpoor. Little respecting this incarnation is known. A story of him is detailed by Mr. Moor, which he observes reminds him of the doctrine of turning the unsmote cheek to an assailant. This God is represented by Moor with a hole on the top of one foot just above the toes, where the nail of a person crucified might be supposed to be placed. And, in another print, he is represented exactly in the form of a Romish crucifix, but not fixed to a piece of wood, though the legs and feet are put together in the usual way, with a nail-hole in the latter. There appears to be a glory over it coming from above . Generally the glory shines from the figure. It has a pointed Parthian coronet instead of a crown of thorns....

In the images provided by Moor we possess representations of an Indian god, Wittoba/Krishna, in cruciform, with nail Indian Crucifixion in Spaceholes. The image of the godman crucified without the wood, "in space," can also be found reproduced in Lundy's book, wherein he asserts that it is indeed non-Christian, to wit uninfluenced by Christianity and representing an older tradition of a crucified god. With this transcendent cruciform of the deity and others in mind, Higgins continues his intriguing detective tale:

… I cannot help suspecting, that it is from this Avatar of Cristna that the sect of Christians heretics got their Christ crucified in the clouds.

Long after the above was written, I accidentally looked into Moor's Pantheon, at the British Museum, where it appears that the copy is an earlier impression than the former which I had consulted: and I discovered something which Mr. Moor has apparently not dared to tell us, viz. that in several of the icons of Wittoba, there are marks of holes in both feet, and in others, of holes in the hands. In the first copy which I consulted, the marks are very faint, so as to be scarcely visible. In figures 4 and 5 of plate 11, the figures have nail-holes in both feet. Fig. 3 has a hole in one hand. Fig. 6 has on his side the mark of a foot, and a little lower in the side a round hole; to his collar or shirt hangs the ornament or emblem of a heart, which we generally see in Romish pictures of Christ; on his head he has an Yoni-Linga. In plate 12, and in plate 97, he has a round mark in the palm of the hand.…

Figure 1, plate 91, of Moor's Pantheon, is a Hanuman, but it is remarkable that it has a hole in one foot, a nail through the other, a round nail mark in the palm of one hand and on the knuckle of the other, and is ornamented with doves…

It is unfortunate, perhaps it has been thought prudent, that the originals are not in the Museum to be examined. But it is pretty clear that the Romish and Protestant crucifixion of Jesus must have been taken from the Avatar of Ballaji, or the Avatar of Ballaji from it, or both from a common mythos.

As Higgins relates, Moor was compelled by Christian zealots not to publish the volume intact. Elaborating on Higgins's contentions regarding Christian mutilation of documents, Graves says:

[Higgins] informs us that a report on the Hindoo religion, made out by a deputation from the British Parliament sent to India for the purpose of examining their sacred books and monuments, being left in the hands of a Christian bishop at Calcutta, and with instructions to forward it to England, was found, on its arrival in London, to be so horribly mutilated and eviscerated as to be scarcely cognizable. The account of the crucifixion was gone—cancelled out.

In recounting his experiences in India regarding the images he subsequently used as plates in his book, the missionary Moor states, "A man, who was in the habit of bringing me Hindu deities, pictures, etc., once brought me two images exactly alike." Moor's self-appointed, post-mortem censor, Rev. Simpson, notes at this point that these images were of a crucifix. Simpson then comments, "The subject, a crucifix, is omitted in the present edition, for very obvious reasons." In other words, the crucifix image was removed so it would not offend good Christian sensibilities. In fact, it apparently would serve as evidence that the crucified savior god motif predated Christianity and was found in "heathen" nations.

Moor continues his story concerning the presentation to him of the crucifix images:

Affecting indifference, I inquired of my Pandit what Deva it was: he examined it attentively, and, after turning it about for some time, returned it to me, professing his ignorance of what Avatara it could immediately relate to; but supposed by the hole in the foot, that it might be Wittoba, adding that it was impossible to recollect the almost innumerable Avataras described in the Puranas.

The subject [of plate 98] is evidently the crucifixion; and, by the style of workmanship is clearly of European origin, as is proved also by its being in duplicate. These crucifixes have been introduced into India, I suppose, by Christian missionaries, and are, perhaps, used in Popish churches and societies…

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