Krishna (kṛṣṇa in IAST, pronounced [ˈkr̩ʂɳə] literally “dark, black, dark-blue”) is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is an Avatar of Vishnu and considered in some monotheistic traditions as the Supreme Being. Krishna is identified as a historical individual who participated in the events of the Mahābhārata.
Krishna is often described as an infant or young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, or as a youthful prince giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita. The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero and the Supreme Being. The principal scriptures discussing Krishna’s story are the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana.
Worship of a deity or hero called Krishna, in the form of Vasudeva, Bala Krishna or Gopala, can be traced to as early as 4th century BC. Worship of Krishna as svayam bhagavan, or the Supreme Being, known as Krishnaism, arose in the Middle Ages in the context of the bhakti movement. From the 10th century AD, Krishna became a favorite subject in performing arts and regional traditions of devotion developed for forms of Krishna such as Venkateshwara in Andhra, Jagannatha in Orissa, Vithoba in Maharashtra and Shrinathji in Rajasthan. The Gaudiya Vaishnavism sect of Krishnaism was established in the 16th century, and since the 1960s has also spread in the West, largely due to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.