Why Krishna is Called Keshav

In the Vishnu Sahasranam Stotram, you find the name Keshav occurring as the 23rd and 648th names. Keshav is one of the most prominent titles attributed to Lord Vishnu and very fondly used by the devotees of the Lord. The word Keshav also occurs in several places in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Therefore the history of the name Keshav has a very long tradition. Here we discuss some of the meanings of the term Keshav.

In the Bhagwad Gita

In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjun addresses Krishna as Keshav in several places. When little Krishna was growing up in Gokul, Kamsa had come to know that his impending death was in the hands of Krishna. Therefore he sent several demons to kill Krishna. One such demon was Keshi who attacked Krishna in the form of a horse. Krishna kicked the horse with his little foot and tore it into pieces. The name Keshav applies to Krishna as he had slain the demon Keshi.

In addition to being directly associated with Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, the name Keshav is widely used to refer to Lord Vishnu. Here are some meanings of the word Keshav as given by Adi Shankara in his commentary of Vishnu Sahasranam Stotram.

  • One who has a long, shiny and uncut hair (also this reference is found in Padma Purana)
  • The Lord of creation, sustenance, and destruction – all put in one
  • One who destroyed the demon Keshi in Krishnavatar
  • One who is more effulgent than that of the sun god
  • One who assumes the three roles of Brahma (Kah), Vishnu (ah) and Shiva (isa)

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