Among the thousands of names of Lord Krishna, Banke Bihari is one of the most popular and charming one. The term Banke Bihari literally translates as Banke (the bent) and Bihari or Vihari (the enjoyer or the indweller). Krishna seems to have got this name since his most popular standing posture playing a flute is typically seen bent in three places.
The twelfth century saint poet Jayadeva popularized the three bhangi (threefold) posture of Lord Krishna playing the flute.
A very old reference to the bent posture of Kirshna occurs in Śrī Brahmasaḿhitā (verse 5.31) in which Lord Brhama praises Kirhsna thus, “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, round whose neck is swinging a garland of flowers beautified with the moon-locket, whose two hands are adorned with the flute and jeweled ornaments, who always revels in pastimes of love, whose graceful threefold-bending form of Śyāmasundara is eternally manifest.”
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Threefold or Tri Bhanga postures are famous in classical dances and Shipshastra texts of the ancient India. Looking at the most famed standing posture of Krishna, we find the posture bent in three places namely the tilted head, the waist and the legs. Therefore, Krishna came to be called Banke Bihari, the Lord championing the stylistic thribhanga posture.
In most standing sculptures of Lord Krishna, we find these three bends gracefully depicted as also popularly found in the classical dances pertaining to Krishna. So, the name Banke Bihari could mean the most graceful indweller or inner enjoyer (Krishna) assuming the thribhanga (Banga or Banke) posture.