Krishna is considered by many as the hero of the Mahabharata. He is the eighth son of Devaki, the princess of Mathura, and Vasudeva, the prince of Shurasena.
Krishna is raised in a cowherd settlement in Vrindavan for the first fifteen years of his life. Later, along with Balarama, he founds the seashore city of Dwaraka and builds a kingdom for the Yadavas – named Anarta.
He enters the Mahabharata story at Draupadi’s swayamvara, and quickly establishes friendly relations with the Pandavas – in particular with Arjuna. This friendship lasts all the way to the Kurukshetra war and beyond.
In this post, we will answer the question: Why did Krishna never return to Vrindavan?
No official explanation exists as to why Krishna never returns to Vrindavan after having left it as a teenager. Possible reasons include: (1) He appreciates that he no longer belongs just to Vrindavan, (2) He believes in letting go of relationships that have outlived their significance, and (3) He does visit Vrindavan occasionally but off the record.
Read on to discover more about why Krishna never returned to Vrindavan.
(For answers to all Krishna-related questions, see Krishna: 36 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu. He takes birth in the world of men during the Dwapara Yuga with the express intention of defeating the forces of evil. The Mahabharata war is a preordained event; Krishna arrives in order to steer events in Kurukshetra’s direction.
His childhood in Vrindavan is full of warm anecdotes of how lovable and how mischievous he is, how he becomes the darling of all the village’s citizens, how he shows glimpses of his incredible power by lifting the Govardhana Hill, and so on.
After he leaves the settlement at the age of fourteen or thereabouts, Krishna sets out on his destiny as first the liberator of Mathura, and then as the founder of Dwaraka.
He goes on to perform many miraculous deeds, and earns much fame for himself and his Yadava race. He fulfils his destiny as the establisher of Dharma, and ends life quietly in a forest at a ripe old age.
However, there is no official record of his ever returning to Vrindavan – to meet his old family members and friends.
Why did Krishna never return to the place of his childhood that loved him so dearly? We’re never explicitly told the answer to this question, but let us speculate all the same.
A Bigger Canvas
Krishna knows right from the beginning the purpose of his birth to the world at large. The relationships he builds at Vrindavan – while important – pale in significance compared to the work that lies ahead of him after he leaves the village.
In other words, he is working on a large masterpiece that requires all of his time and attention to complete. He does not have any emotional resources left for Vrindavan.
Also, as he grows in stature and power, Krishna collects a few enemies for himself. He may have thought that emotional attachments to Vrindavan would equip his foes with a lever that they can use to manipulate him.
(Suggested: Why did Krishna not kill Jarasandha?)
For instance, if Jarasandha came to know that Krishna has foster parents in Vrindavan whom he loves very much, he may capture them with the intention of blackmailing Krishna.
With Krishna and Balarama themselves finding their hands full under the constant barrage of Magadha’s attacks, they are in no position to protect Vrindavan. This is especially true after Krishna’s move to Dwaraka, which puts more distance between him and the village of his childhood.
So Krishna may have thought it best to detach himself – both physically and emotionally – from Vrindavan.
Another possibility we must consider is that Krishna is just not the nostalgic type. He is the kind of man that believes in moving on from the dead past into the future.
In the Bhagavad Gita, he narrates some of this philosophy to Arjuna. He says, ‘Do not get attached to people or thoughts or possessions. Get attached only to action. Not even to the consequences of your action.’
From the beginning, it is plain that Krishna considers the protection of the Yadava race to be his primary duty. To this end, he liberates Mathura, then accepts defeat to Jarasandha to build the city of Dwaraka and found the kingdom of Anarta.
All his actions throughout the Mahabharata can be seen as serving this one purpose: to ensure the rise of the Yadavas.
But at the end, he is ruthless enough to accept that decadence has set in among his people, and that the time has come to destroy them. He does not hesitate to hack down the very kingdom that he has done so much to build and grow.
All his relationships – including his bond with Balarama, his brother – appear to be transactional rather than emotional. For such a man, going back to the village of his childhood for no reason other than nostalgia would seem foolish.
Another mental model that we can adopt regarding Krishna is to see him as a man who is simply a tool of destiny. Yes, he knows what is to happen. He knows what he must do. But he has no power to change anything.
In other words, he is the protagonist in a story that has already been written. He has foreknowledge of everything that everyone will do, but since this foreknowledge is also part of the story, he cannot use it to change it.
(Suggested: Why did Krishna not stop the Mahabharata?)
All the events – including his birth, his actions, all the details that comprise his life – have already happened. Krishna is different to the rest of us in only one respect: he knows about it all.
This model paints him as a tragic figure rather than a hero. He does not possess free will, nor does he possess the illusion of it. He must go along with the written script. Things cannot happen any other way.
His internal thoughts, feelings and opinions are irrelevant. He does what he knows he has done; that is all there is to it.
Finally, we can entertain the possibility that just because there is no official record of Krishna visiting Vrindavan, it does not mean that he did not.
It is entirely possible that all throughout his life, Krishna continues to visit Vrindavan at regular intervals, disguised as a cowherd, away from all public scrutiny.
He may have taken care that none of his palace scribes know of these visits. He may have also requested the people of Vrindavan to tell no one.
This is not a difficult feat to achieve for someone with Krishna’s resourcefulness. We know that kings and regents used to routinely disguise themselves as commoners to mingle among their citizens. A regular visit to Vrindavan would only take a day’s chariot ride from Dwaraka – less from Mathura – with a trusted aide.
We may imagine, therefore, that Krishna continued to be son to Yashoda and Nanda. He continued to build friendships with the people of Vrindavan. Here, he may have shed his royal persona and become the mischievous cowherd of old once again.
Support for this Theory
Though this notion may sound far-fetched at first glance, it is not without support within the story.
One: the people of Vrindavan always claim that Krishna has never left them. A cynical view of the matter is that the villagers were fools hanging on to a long-dead past, imagining themselves to be still in Krishna’s thrall.
But if it were true that Krishna continued to visit Vrindavan throughout his life, the claim takes on a more literal meaning.
Two: as the Kurukshetra war approaches, Krishna reveals that he has a personal army of a hundred million cowherds that he can pledge for Duryodhana’s aid. Even if we assume that the number is an exaggeration, where did Krishna get an army of cowherds?
(Suggested: Why did Krishna give his army to the Kauravas?)
This suggests that Krishna has not completely severed his connection with the cowherds of Vrindavan. We may even speculate that after the death of Jarasandha, and after the middle kingdoms came under Krishna’s stewardship, Vrindavan grew from being a small village to a prosperous city.
In the story of Sudama, Krishna transforms the poor man’s house into a mansion. Perhaps Sudama is a metaphor for Vrindavan as a whole, and perhaps it is this city that builds the army of cowherds that Krishna calls upon in the war.
There are plenty of reasons one can think of for why Krishna never goes back to Vrindavan after leaving it as a teenager. The most commonly cited ones are that he is a man of destiny, and that he is not the nostalgic type.
We can also imagine Krishna as a helpless tool of Time who is blessed with foreknowledge but not with the power to change the course of events.
Finally, there is the possibility that Krishna has kept his relationship with Vrindavan alive – but in private and off the record. He even built it into a prosperous city after the death of Jarasandha.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
- Krishna: 36 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Karna: 41 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered
- 60 Mahabharata Episodes that Tell You the Whole Story