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Harry and Krishna – Parallel Lives

November 27, 2010

The story of Harry Potter has some striking similarities with the story of Lord Krishna. We will first take a look at the life of Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna was born to Devaki and Vasudeva in the jail cell of the tyrant Kamsa, who was his maternal uncle. The place of his birth is known as Sri Krishna Janmasthana. He appeared with his brother Balarama in response to the prayers of the devas in the wake of the widespread demonic harassment on earth.[1]

Previously, the devas and demons had been at war in the heavens. When the demons were defeated by the devas, they decided to attack earth instead. Thus, they invaded the earth by discretely taking birth as princes in powerful royal families of the time.[2]

And as the earth became overrun by militaristic activities of these kingly demons, the devas including the Earth goddess earnestly sought Lord Vishnu’s protection. Seeing the deteriorating social and political conditions and hearing the prayers of the devas, Lord Vishnu decided to take birth in the form of Lord Krishna, for the benefit of all.[3]

Before the birth of Lord Krishna, there was a prophecy in which the uncle of Lord Krishna, Kamsa heard that Lord Krishna will be the death of him. He immediately imprisoned his sister and brother-in-law. His plan was to kill Lord Krishna as soon as he was born. But with divine help, Lord Krishna was placed in the care of Yashoda and Nandalal of Vrindavan.[4] Krishna’s father Vasudeva took Lord Krishna in a basket and delivered him to his foster parents.

During this childhood time, he grew up as the son of his foster parents Nanda and Yashoda in the midst of the idyllic beauty of Gokula, Vrindavan, and Nandagram.[5] Not only did he destroy numerous demons, but also performed his famous rasa dance.

When Krishna and Balarama were older, they were invited to Mathura, where Kamsa, their demonic uncle, was planning their death in a wrestling match against two large and powerful wrestlers. When Kamsa saw his wrestlers defeated, he ordered his friends to drive the brothers out of Mathura, plunder the riches of their cowherd friends, and kill their fathers, Nanda and Vasudeva. However, Krishna immediately killed Kamsa and Balarama killed his eight brothers.[6] Lord Krishna then established the pious King Ugrasena as the emperor of several kingdoms.

There are many similarities between the stories of Harry and Krishna:

1.      There was a prophecy that Harry would kill Lord Voldemort. There was a prophecy that Krishna would kill Kamsa.

2.      Hearing that prophecy, Lord Voldemort proceeded to kill Harry and his parents. Kamsa, on hearing the prophecy about his own doom imprisoned Krishna’s parents, hoping that he would kill Krishna at his very birth.

3.      Lord Voldemort though succeeding in killing Harry’s parents was not able to kill Harry. Kamsa though kept Krishna’s parents in captivity and killed every other child of Devaki, was not able to kill Krishna.

4.      Harry was saved by the love of his parents. Krishna was also saved by the help of his father Vasudeva.

5.      Harry was taken to his relatives by Hagrid, wrapped in a bundle of clothes, during the night. Krishna was also carried to Vrindavan, wrapped in a basket, by his father Vasudeva, also during night.

6.      Harry had to live with his uncles and aunt and not his real parents, because they were killed by Lord Voldemort. Krishna had to live apart from his parents because Kamsa was keeping them in prison.

7.      Most importantly, Harry has a blood connection with Voldemort, due to which they both have many similar qualities. They both speak Parseltongue, both can read each other’s mind. Krishna also had blood relation with Kamsa. Kamsa was his real uncle.

8.      Harry killed Voldemort, when he reached teenage, as prophesied. He did this with the help of his friends. Krishna also killed Kamsa in his teenage, with the help of his brother and friends.

Apart from the philosophical similarities of the universe of Harry Potter and the worldview of Sanatana Dharma, the factual similarity in Harry’s and Krishna’s stories is striking.


[1] Menon, Ramesh. Blue God: A Life of Krishna. Lincoln. IUniverse. 2000.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bryant, Edwin F. Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God. (Srimad Bhagavata Purana Book X). London: Penguin Classics. 2004.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Niharika permalink
    November 28, 2010 11:09 PM

    Wow!! The similarities are striking

  2. Shobha permalink
    January 4, 2011 10:29 PM

    Wow, I just googled Harry Potter and Krishna and landed on your blog. It just occured to me a few days ago that the plots are eerily similar. Like an epiphany! I think it is true that they just have only 7 plots or so in this world. Nice blog 🙂

  3. Vytenis permalink
    January 24, 2011 8:53 PM

    Hare Krishna!

    Thank you for this interesting connection. This is what I noticed too. I have been a long-time fan of both Harry Potter books and Lord Krishna . We can make a case for a wonderful interpretation of Harry Potter saga from the Krishna Consciousness/Vaishnava/Vedantic point of view.

    Here are some parallels that I found:

    1. First of all, we are all like Harry. We live oftentimes among materialists (Muggles) who do not believe or accept any kind of spiritual reality (Wizarding world) and who are oftentimes very nasty towards us, just like the Dursleys are nasty towards Harry (many materialistically-minded people feel strond dislike towards everyone who is inclined towards something more than one can see or touch, like mysticism, UFO’s, paranormal etc., calling them “crackpots”, “dreamers”, “lunatics”, “not of this world”.) Remember Uncle Vernon red in his face yelling at Harry in Movie 1: “There is no such thing as magic!!!!!!!!!!”

    2. Secondly, for all of us spiritually-inclined people the moment comes at some point in our lives when someone, some devotee perhaps comes along and tells us that we are actually spiritual beings and do not belong in this material world. This is akin to Hagrid coming and telling Harry that he is a wizard. Hagrid is a sincere devotee of Dumbledore. He may not be perfect, but he is sincere. Similarly, some sincere devotee of Srila Prabhupada comes along in our lives and tells us the truth about us and we just trust them, just like Harry trusted Hagrid from the very beginning. The devotees may have flaws (just like Hagrid) but who cares. Harry loved Hagrid ever since in spite of all his imperfections. Similarly, we must love and respect all sincere devotees in spite of all their possible imputities and falldowns. The materialists/muggles/Dursleys of this world try to do their utmost to keep us from this knowledge going to the extremes of kidnapping sincere seekers and imprisoning them, just like the Dursleys took Harry to the island by force to prevent him from receiving the letters (the Dursleys acted exactly like the so-called “deprogrammers” who used to kidnap and imprison Krishna devotees to keep them from joining Prabhupada’s movement).

    3. However, finally we receive an owl from Dumbledore with a letter inviting us to Hogwarts and to the wizarding world – our world, where we really belong. Similarly, we receive a book from Srila Prabhupada which is like a letter telling us that we are spiritual beings (wizards) and not these material bodies (muggles) and that we are awaited in Hogwarts (Spiritual world) where we really belong. The spiritual train of the Holy Names (the Hogwarts Express) is awaiting for us at Platform 9 and3/4 in King’s Cross (at the place where all spiritually awakened souls gather) and by boarding it we will join the other fellow travellers on the journey of our lives towards the Spiritual world back to Godhead – our real home.

    4. However, the spiritual journey is not without its dangers. Unfortunately, some of the people who have like us discovered their spiritual nature and calling, become so proud of their “purity” and their superiority against the karmis/materialists/muggles that they become very unpleasent like Draco Malfoy and most of the other Slytherin folks who are all obsessed with their “purity” and “superiority”. This can be likened to some religious people who become so exclusivistic and fanatical that they become downrigt unbearable. There are religious sects and organizations so obsessed with their supposed spirituality, orthodoxy and purity and contempt towards all others, that they consider others lower, dirty, etc. Some religious fanatics become so deluded and obsessed with this perverted understanding that they even resort to violence and terrorism. This is similar to Voldemort. In every religious tradition there are those who consider themselves superior and higher and think that they have a right to command their will to everyone else. This is how the organizations like al-qaedas/death eaters are born.

    5. However, even the worlst of these fanatics can do nothing against the power of pure devotees like Prabhupada. The purity of devotees’ message makes all these ignorant supremacist exclusivist fanatical claims powerless just like the first rays of sunlight make any darkness disappear. Therefore Voldemort and Death Eaters are powerless against Dumbledore, but hate him so much for supposed “muggle-love”, “blood-treachery” etc. Just like so many religious fanatics of this world despice and hate their more tolerant and liberal fellow religionists for their “heresy”, “impurity of teaching” and so on.

    6. The Sorting Hat at Hogwarts is like the Lord’s deep look into our hearts by which He can tell our deepest desires and inclinations. In Book 2 Harry tells Dumbledore that the Sorting hat told him he would make a good Slytherin, but Harry asked not to be placed there, and so the Hat made him a Gryffindor. To that Dumbledore answered that it is our choices in life that make us what we truly are. Similarly, the Lord sees our deepest heart’s desires and sends us to the places and environments where we fit best. Also, at one point (I think in book 7) Dumbledore is remembered sayng that they sort pupils into houses too soon. Similarly, when Prabhupada came to America in the 60’s and worked with the hippies, he did not reject them out of hand for being “godless” or “impure” but worked with them patiently until their own deep change of heart occured and they were ready to make the right choices in life, choose spiritual life over materialism (or choose Gryffindor over Slytherin).

    7. In the books there are many other magical peoples and creatures (foreign wizards, house elves, centaurs, goblins, etc.). Foreign wizards (like Beaxbatons and Durmstrang) can be compared to the other Vaishnava missions beside ISKCON. The other magical peoples (house-elves, goblins etc.) can be compared to other religions (other kinds of magic). Great wizards like Dumbledore always teach to respect all these other kinds and live in peace with them at the same time recognizing and respecting the differences. Similarly, great devotees of Krishna have always recognized that there are different religions, different kinds of spirituality (like different kinds of magic), but that does not mean that we should consider the followers of other religions or sects inferior. Those who do are like Dolores Umbridge and other intolerant wizards who cannot understand that House Elves, Goblins and Centaurs are also intelligent beings who possess different kinds of magic, but also have to be respected and appreciated.

    8. There are many other parallels in the books between the life of Krishna Consciousness and Wizarding World. In London there is the restaurant Govindas’ which when I visited it reminded me very much of The Leaky Cauldron – the bar serving as a gatewey from the materialist (muggle) world to the Krishna conscious (wizarding) world. When you enter it you really feel like you have entered another universe.

    Finally, I will give a few quotes from Harry Potter books, which correspond so closely to what the basic tennets of Vedanta/Krishna Consciousness philosophy say. I give the quotes from Harry Potter books alongside the correcponding verses of the Vedic scriptures (mostly from the Bhagavad Gita) to make the connections obvious:

    “Look, if I picked up a sword right now, Ron, and ran you through with it, I
    wouldn’t damage your soul at all.”
    “Which would be a real comfort to me, I’m sure,” said Ron. Harry laughed.
    “It should be, actually! But my point is that whatever happens to your
    body, your soul will survive untouched,” said Hermione. /Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapter 6/

    The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. He is not slain when the body is slain.
    /Bhagavad Gita 2.23, 2.20/

    ***

    Professor Binns had been very old indeed when he had fallen asleep in front of the staff room fire and got up next morning to teach, leaving his body behind him. /Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone Chapter 8/

    As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. /Bhagavad Gita 2.22/

    ***

    After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. /Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Chapter 17/

    As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A self-realized soul (i.e. a “well-organized mind” to use Dumbledore’s words) is not bewildered by such a change. /Bhagavad Gita 2.13/

    ***

    A foolish young man I was then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it…. /Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Chapter 17/

    The demoniac person thinks: “So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemies will also be killed. I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am.” In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance.
    /Bhagavad Gita 16.13-15/
    Isn’t that a perfect description of a typical Voldemort-ish mindset?

    Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. /Bhagavad Gita 16.9/

    Exactly what You Know Who did! And what the likes of him do all the time.

    Taking shelter of insatiable lust and absorbed in the conceit of pride and false prestige, the demoniac, thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent. /Bhagavad Gita 16.10/

    Voldemort is so attracted to what is impermanent (this temporary life). Therefore he is so much afraid of death and hence all his efforts to make horcruxes which will make him immortal.

    ***
    `There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!’ snarled Voldemort.
    `You are quite wrong,’ said Dumbledore, /Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix/

    They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of life their anxiety is immeasurable. /Bhagavad Gita 16.11-12/

    ***

    “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” /Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets/

    Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is sincerely devoted to Me, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated. /God in the Bhagavad Gita 9.30/

    ***

    The happiest man will look into the mirror and see himself exactly as he is /Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone/

    One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me — such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me. /Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita 12.13-14/

    • May 15, 2011 8:36 AM

      I have made only the obvious connections. Some of them are factual points… the other are philosophical connections which I do not claim to have been consciously inserted by Rowling.

      While dealing with symbolism, we should be careful. Symbols are there, but they are not everywhere.

  4. Arnab permalink
    March 19, 2011 11:35 PM

    I too was eager to upload the connection sometimes. Thanks to you to make the task easier. I would only like to add up another connection, of course, without any prejudice. The name Harry – Can’t it be linked to ‘Hari’ the other name of Lord Krishna.

    • May 12, 2011 11:14 PM

      They of course seem similar at first sound, but I don’t think Rowling would consciously make the link. More important are the inadvertent connections rather than the deliberate ones.

  5. Arna permalink
    July 29, 2011 9:42 PM

    Well, the word prejudice suffices the in-advertency. But as you said above “Some of them are factual points… the other are philosophical connections which I do not claim to have been consciously inserted by Rowling”. Mahabharata is known to be the greatest Epic of the world. Moreover, think over frankly, won’t you refer to study materials while preparing a presentation for an hour. Imaginations too have unconscious backdrop. Who knows? Again, the comments are without any prejudice.

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