Shyam is an enchanting name of Krishna used separately as well as in combination with other words like Radheshyam, Ghanshyam, Shyamsundar, Shyamgopal, and many others. Krishna is called Shyam due to his dark complexion (the word Shyam means dark). The very term Krishna is suggestive of Black complexion. Another interpretation of the term Krishna says, “Krushyati Iti Krushnah” meaning Krishna is that which attracts. Now the question is why Krishna chose to be black.
The science behind colors and lights says white is the perfect reflector. White is the combination of all seven colors. Black is the perfect absorber and it is the absence of any other color. When there is light, colors come to existence. When there is no light, there is no color. The vastness of the ether space is black all over. It is the source from where everything emerges and then merges back.
Purusha Suktam says,
Sahasra-Shiirssaa Purussah Sahasra-Akssah Sahasra-Paat |
Sa Bhuumim Vishvato Vrtva-Atya[i]-Tisstthad-Dasha-Angulam ||1||
The Purusha (Universal Being) has Thousand Heads, Thousand Eyes and Thousand Feet (Here thousand represents innumerable and infinite number that is uncountable)
He envelops the World and the Universe from all sides and extends for about ten inches even beyond the created universe.
Black suggests expansiveness. Even the celestial bodies emitting light are contained within this black space. Therefore the Supreme Principle that expands far beyond the created universe must be in black color – which is actually a colorless and without any attributes.
Krishna cannot be limited; He cannot be comprehended; He is beyond qualities; He is vast and all pervasive; He is the absolute principle that is not accessible to ordinary minds and therefore Krishna is depicted in black.
Krishna is the symbol of Supreme Godhead and hence depicted in black color. Shyam is synonymous with the term Krishna and therefore widely used to address Krishna. Krishna as Shyam is the repository of all beauties.