BC had certainly spread far
from one of these, viz. the Besnagar pillar inscription, that a Greek
ambassador of king Antialcidas, called Heliodora (Heliodorus), an inhabitant
of Taxila, styled himselfa Bhagavata, and erected a Garudadhvaja (a pillar
with an image of Garuda at the top) in honour of Vasudeva, the God of gods,
at Besnagar, the site of ancient Vidisa, in central India. It is thus apparent that
Bhagavatism, like Buddhism, was distinguished enough In the second
century BC to attract the most civilised people to its fold.
Though the above mentioned Besnagar inscription makes no mention of
any other deity except Vasudeva Krishna, the Nagari inscription of king
Sarvatata (also of the second century BC) informs us of his erection of stone
walls round the shrines of Somkarsholle and Vasudeva Krishna. The order in
which the two names are placed in the Nagari record obviously shows the
prominence of the first two Vrishni-viras in that order and not the vyuhas.
Further, the Mora inscription of the First century AD from Mathura refers to
the pancha-viras (five heroes) of the Vrishnis, viz. Sornkarshane, Vasudeva,
Prodyumna, Samba and Aniruddha, in this order. A Syrian leged further
infonns us that the cult of Krishna worship was prevalent in Armenia as early
as the second century BC. The popularity of the new cult about the same time
is sufficiently demonstrated by the fact that the chief legendary exploits of
Vasudeva Krishna formed the subject of dramatic representations. From the
second century BC the progress of the religion continued unabated, and
epigraphic evidence proves that by the end of the preGupta period, it had
gained a strong footing in south India, beyond the Krishna river.
Main Tenets or Features
The worship of the divine heroes (viras) was at first one of the most
important features of the cult. Arjuna who was a Pandava found no place in
this list though it contained the names of (l) Samkarshana or Baladeva (2)
Vasudeva-Krishna (3) Pradyumna (4) Samba, and (5) Aniruddha, all of
whom belonged to the Vrishni clan and were closely related to one another.
Both Samkarshana and Vasudeva were the sons of Vasudeva by different
wives (Rohini and Devaki), Pradyumna and Samba were the two sons of
Vasudeva (Pradyumna born to Rukmini and Samba to Jambavati who is