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The Advent of Lord Krishna

Krishna was born in a tense historical period preceding a devastating war. The warring factions built up so many weapons that the burden on the earth became unbearable. Finally the goddess of Earth took the form of a cow and prayed to Lord Brahma for relief. Lord Brahma called all the demigods to the shore of the Milk Ocean to hear Mother Earth and to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma fell into trance reciting the Vedic hymns known as the Purusa-sukta and heard the voice of Lord Vishnu. Then he announced, “O demigods, hear from me the words of god. He is aware of the distress on Earth and wants you demigods to incarnate as sons and daughters in the Yadu dynasty. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, will personally appear as the son of Vasudeva. Therefore you will all have the benediction of joining the eternal pastimes of Lord Krishna.”

Lord Brahma consoled the cow and sent her home, then returned to his planet, Brahmaloka. The demigods then began to take birth in the Yadu dynasty, awaiting the appearance of Lord Krishna. The members of the Yadu dynasty, headed by Vasudeva and Devaki, along with their friends, relatives, and well-wishers were all demigods. The residents of Vrindavana, headed by King Nanda, Queen Yasoda, and Queen Rohini, were also demigods.

King Kamsa was another relative in the family, however he was not a demigod. He usurped the throne of his father, Ugrasena, and put him in prison. When Devaki, a member of Ugrasena’s family, married Vasudeva, she received a large dowry of elephants, horses, chariots, and servants. After the wedding, Kamsa took the reins of the wedding chariot and started to escort the couple home. Along the way, a voice from the sky addressed him: “You foolish king, the eighth son of Devaki will kill you!”

Kamsa pulled Devaki down by her hair, drew his sword and prepared to kill her on the spot, but Vausdeva begged for his bride’s life and promised to let him kill the eighth child, so that the oracle would not be fulfilled. Kamsa agreed to spare her life, but locked Vasudeva and Devaki in a stone prison. Thereafter, he mercilessly killed the first six sons of Devaki. Devaki’s seventh son miscarried but mystically transferred to the womb of Queen Rohini in Vrindavana. This became Krishna’s older brother, Balarama. Soon thereafter, Devaki became pregnant with her eighth child.


The Appearance of Krishna

Krishna was born at the stroke of midnight in his four-armed Vishnu form, dressed in silk and jewels, carrying the four weapons: the conch, disc, club, and lotus. His parents prayed for him to turn himself into an ordinary baby so they could hide him from Kamsa. The Lord advised Vasudeva to take him to Vrindavana and exchange him with a girl that had just been born there. Then he turned himself into a baby.

Magically, the guards in Kamsa’s prison fell asleep, and all the iron shackles, chains, and locks automatically opened. Without questioning this, Vasudeva took the child and departed for Vrindavana. Like the story of Moses, the story of Krishna also includes a parting of the waters, allowing Vasudeva to carry Krishna across the Jamuna River to Vrindavana. When Vasudeva reached the house of Nanda, all the cowherds were asleep. He placed his own son on the bed of Yasoda, picked up her newborn girl, and returned to the prison of Kamsa.

There was a chance Kamsa would spare the child because the omen said it would be the eighth son that would kill him. Devaki pleaded with him, but Kamsa pulled the baby girl from her arms and dashed her against a stone. The girl slipped from his hands and rose above his head as the eight-armed form of Goddess Durga, dressed in fine garments and jewels. She said, “The enemy you contemplate is living somewhere else. You are a fool to hurt innocent children. Krishna will kill you.”

Kamsa became remorseful and begged Devaki and Vasudeva to forgive him for his sins. He released them from their shackles and fell down on their feet, crying tears of regret. The next day, however, Kamsa’s ministers advised him to give up his sentimental attitude and take action to kill all newborn children in the region. They also advised him to disturb the demigods and saintly people. There is a parallel to this story in the New Testament. When Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Herod killed all newborn children in the area, in what is known as the Massacre of the Innocents. Based on a dream, Joseph took the baby Jesus to Egypt, and returned only after Herod was dead.


Krishna’s Childhood in Vrindavana

When Yasoda and Nanda found Krishna as their son, they performed all the religious ceremonies in secret, to avoid Kamsa’s wrath. The family astrologer, Gargamuni, told the family, “Your son Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He will protect you from Kamsa’s persecutions, and by his grace only, you will surpass all difficulties. Therefore raise him carefully, because many demons will try to attack him.”

This warning proved true because throughout his childhood, Krishna fought Kamsa’s demons, along with all the other demons and jealous and misguided demigods who approached him.


Krishna Kills the Witch Putana

Kamsa enlisted a demon named Putana to kill newborn babies. The demon dressed as a beautiful woman and flew on her broom to Krishna’s nursery, hoping to kill him with the poison she had smeared on her nipples. Krishna’s mother innocently let Putana pick the baby up and put it to her breast. Krishna closed his eyes and sucked out her life air, killing her, without taking her poison. When Putana’s soul departed, her body returned to its real form: a gigantic witch that smashed trees as it fell, stretching twelve miles across the landscape. Putana’s soul attained liberation due to the benevolent act of offering her breast milk to Krishna and the inhabitants of Vrindavana cremated the body.

After Krishna killed Putana, the elder gopis (women of the village) picked him up and performed auspicious rites for his protection and purification. They bathed him and chanted religious mantras to prevent further attacks. Srila Prabhuapda explains in Krishna Book: “The elderly gopis of Vrindavana were so absorbed in affection for Krishna that they wanted to save him, although there was no need to, for he had already protected himself. They could not understand that Krishna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead playing as a child.” (p. 47)

Krishna’s parents treated children lovingly, celebrating their birthdays and other rites of passage. They acted in a kindly way to correct their children when they got into mischief, for example sometimes Krishna and Balarama would get into the cow shed, catch the tail of a calf and stand up. The calves would drag them around and they would be covered with mud. Rather than become angry, the mothers would call their friends to watch the fun. Mother Yasoda never hit Krishna, but once tied him to a grinding mortar when he stole butter and fed it to the monkeys. The scriptures explain that as she tried to tie him, the rope was too short. She kept using a longer rope, but it always came up too short. Srila Prabhupada explains that “Krishna appreciated the hard labor of his mother, and being compassionate upon her, he agreed to be bound up by the ropes.” (Krishna Book, p. 66)

Krishna tried to crawl and the mortar stuck between two Arjuna trees in the courtyard. The trees fell and two splendorous demigods emerged and offered prayers to Krishna. Narada Muni had cursed the souls to stand as trees for one hundred years and Krishna freed them.

When the boys got a little older, they spent their days playing with the calves in a nearby field. Their mothers cooked the noon meal and called them from the fields, or they would pack lunches for them. Children were considered the wealth of the family and were protected from abuse. However, rather than the parents protecting Krishna, it is the child who protects the village and all the people in it.


Krishna Kills the Snake Demon Aghasura

One day the cowherd boys were playing their games, such as imitating peacocks and running after birds’ shadows on the ground, when they came upon a mountain cave. This was actually a demon-brother of Putana’s, who had expanded himself into an eight mile long snake to kill the boys. The opening to the cave was his mouth. The boys felt a hot wind blowing that smelled like fish, or the serpent’s intestines.

The scriptures say that when the boys walked into the cave Krishna became momentarily aggrieved because he knew it was one of Kamsa’s tricks. He considered for a moment, then decided to enter the cave himself. Demons all over the world became joyful when Krishna went inside. The demigods, who had been hiding among the clouds to see what would happen, became distressed. For a time it seemed as if the snake-demon had killed Krishna, but when Krishna heard the demigods’ pleas, he grew larger and choked the demon to death. Aghasura’s life air burst through a hole in his skull and waited there for Krishna to come out, then it merged into his body. Krishna showed his benevolent nature by rescuing his friends and giving liberation to Aghasura.


Lord Brahma Kidnaps the Cowherd Boys

When Aghasura died, the demigods offered prayers, threw flowers, and beat drums. Hearing the commotion, Lord Brahma arrived on the scene. At that time Brahma kidnapped the children children, an offense unbecoming of a demigod. Krishna was unhappy because due to Brahma’s misdeed, because he would have to go back to the village alone. Instead, he decided to expand himself into substitute boys and calves that looked exactly like the originals, and he returned to the village with them. No one could tell the difference, but families showed increased spontaneous affection to their sons (who were actually expansions of god). Balarama, Krishna’s brother, noticed the parents’ behavior and asked Krishna what was going on. Krishna explained how Lord Brahma had kidnapped the real boys and calves.

Brahma made a mistake in trying to test Krishna’s power. Life went on like this for a year before Brahma returned. Brahma’s time passes much more quickly, so it seemed to him only a moment. However, when he returned he was shocked to see the boys and calves playing with Krishna, as though nothing had happened. Krishna knew Brahma was perplexed so he transformed all the boys and calves into four-armed Vishnu forms. Brahma heard music and saw many Brahmas, Shivas, demigods and jivas (souls) singing god’s names and dancing. Brahma’s mind opened at first to the vision, but then he became bewildered, so Krishna ended the dazzling scene.

When Brahma woke up, he realized that he was face to face with Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who was enacting his eternal pastimes as a cowherd boy in the spiritual land of Vrindavana. Brahma immediately got down from his swan-carrier and fell prostate at Krishna’s feet to beg forgiveness. After offering glorious prayers and penance for his behavior, Brahma circumambulated Krishna three times and returned to his planet.

Exactly one year before, Krishna had left his friends eating lunch on the bank of the Jamuna River. When he returned, they had just begun the meal, and thought Krishna had only been gone for a second. None of the boys realized that a whole year had gone by and that they had been kidnapped, asleep in a cave. When the children returned to their homes and told their parents about the Aghasura demon, the demon’s corpse had already decomposed so the parents thought it was just a wild tale from the children’s imagination.


Krishna Lifts Govardhana Hill

Vishnu in his many forms is an icon of protection, and Krishna was, among other things, an avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu. It is said that the residents of Vrindavana were sometimes aware of this and at times depended on Krishna to protect them. A good example was when Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill. Every year the residents of Vrindavana worshiped Lord Indra for supplying rain. One year when Krishna was a youth, he asked Nanda to worship Govardhana Hill instead of Indra. Krishna argued, “We do not derive any special benefit from Indra. Our specific relationship is with Govardhana Hill and Vrindavana forest. Let us have nothing to do with Indra.” (Krishna Book, p. 170)

King Nanda finally agreed with Krishna and prepared to offer the sacrifice to Govardhana Hill. This made Lord Indra angry and jealous. Forgetting the divine position of Krishna, Indra reasoned, “These cowherd men in Vrindavana have neglected my authority on the advice of this talkative boy who is known as Krishna. He is nothing but a child, and by believing this child, they have enraged me.” (Krishna Book, p. 174) Indra then sent a storm to devastate Vrindavana. All the people and animals came to Krishna for shelter, and in a miraculous show of strength, Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill with one finger to make the mountain into a huge umbrella. Everyone crowded underneath it and remained safe until the rains stopped. Later, Lord Indra realized his mistake in attacking Krishna and apologized. This is an example of one of the demigods behaving like a demon. Krishna Book explains, “Indra became angry because he thought that he was all in all within this universe and that no one was as powerful as he.” (p. 180)


The End of Kamsa

Kamsa’s demons harassed children throughout the region for fifteen years. Magically, Krishna and Balarama killed them all as part of their divine play, or lila. Thus, the inhabitants of Vrindavana were thankful, remembering their guru’s prediction about Krishna. After Krishna killed the arista (bull) demon, the great sage Narada Muni went to Kamsa’s palace and told him that Krishna and Balarama were the seventh and eighth sons of Vasudeva. Narada described the events that took place on the night of Krishna’s birth and confirmed that Kamsa would meet his death at Krishna’s hands.

On hearing this news, Kamsa imprisoned Devaki and Vasudeva again and renewed his vow to kill Krishna. He called for the Keshi demon, and other great demons, and just in case that didn’t work, he planned to draw the boys into a wrestling match with two of his strongest wrestlers. He sent his servant Akrura to bring the boys back to Mathura. This would be Krishna and Balarama’s transition into adulthood, because they never again return to the lighthearted pastimes of their youth, playing in the pastures or dancing with the young gopis.

Kamsa was delirious with fear waiting for Krishna to arrive, and unable to sleep through the night because of bad dreams. He saw his headless body in a mirror, everything appeared double, and he saw the covering of the sky as pierced. He saw holes in his shadow and left no footprints when he walked.

Krishna and Balarama entered the splendorous city with their friends. By and by they came to the wrestling ring and accepted the challenge to fight Kamsa’s demons. After fighting for a few moments, Krishna and Balarama easily killed their opponents. Everyone except Kamsa rejoiced at the wonderful defeat. The evil king stopped the celebration and shouted: “Drive the two wicked sons of Vasudeva out of the city! Confiscate the cowherds’ property and arrest that evil man Nanda! Kill that ill-motivated Vasudeva! Also kill my father, Ugrasena, along with his followers, who have sided with our enemies.”

Krishna jumped into the stands, seized Kamsa, knocked off his crown and dragged him to the wrestling mat by his hair. There he easily killed Kamsa, striking him with his fist. Kamsa’s eight younger brothers attacked Krishna and Balarama, but Balarama easily killed them with his club. Krishna and Balarama met their parents, but Devaki and Vasudeva were struck with awe seeing the prophecy fulfilled, and because of a feeling of reverence they were afraid to embrace their sons. After that incident, Krishna and Balarama entered the gurukula school as princes in the court of Yadu.


The Court of Dhritarastra

In the time of Krishna, the blind King Dhritarastra headed the lunar dynasty in Hastinapur. His wife, Queen Gandhari, had one hundred sons called the Kauravas, the oldest of whom was Duryodhana. Also in the royal palace were Grandfather Bhisma, the king’s uncle, and Queen Kunti and her five sons. Kunti’s late husband, Pandu, was King Dhritarastra’s brother, so the Kauravas were her nephews.

Krishna was also Kunti’s nephew, because her brother, Vasudeva, was Krishna’s father. Kunti grew up away from her family, in the palace of Kuntibhoja, her cousin. When she was a child, Kunti had pleased the powerful sage Durvasa Muni, who gave her a mantra that would allow her to conceive five sons from the demigods. She tested the mantra and the sun god gave her Karna, whom she secretly set afloat in a river. Karna grew up to become a great warrior for the Kauravas, and Kunti later revealed that she was his real mother.

When Kunti married Pandu she used the mantra to have three more sons: Yudhistira, Bhima, and Arjuna. Pandu was cursed to die if he ever tried to have sex with his wives, so he was glad Kunti could obtain sons from the demigods. He asked her to give the last chance to his other wife Madri, who subsequently had twins, Nakula and Sahadev. These five children were the Pandava brothers.

Eventually, Pandu attempted to have sex with Madri and immediately died from the curse. Madri killed herself in the funeral pyre, but Kunti lived on to care for the children. She and her sons moved into the palace of Dhritarastra, provoking scorn and jealousy among the hundred Kauravas. Her son Bhima caused problems with the other children, because he was a bully. In retaliation, the Kaurava brothers once tied him up and threw him in the ocean, but Bhima returned with added siddhis (yogic powers), annoying them all the more.

At this time Grandfather Bhisma enrolled the Pandava and Kaurava brothers in archery training under the renowned archer, Drona. At the end of their lessons, Arjuna ranked first place in Drona’s tests, and this was another factor to incite jealousy in the Kauravas. As a final request to his students (guru-dakshine), Drona asked them to arrest a neighboring king, Drupada, and bring him there for justice. The Kauravas failed, but Arjuna succeeded, increasing the Pandava’s status.

When their training as princes ended, Dhritarastra acknowledged Yudhistira, Kunti’s oldest son, as the heir-apparent to the throne. Dhritarastra’s move was an indirect insult to his oldest son, Duryodhana, whom he considered a buffoon. This angered the Kauravas, moving the family deeper into conflict that would eventually erupt in a devastating war, which was the basis of the most fundamental stories of the Hindu religion: Mahabharata and Bhagavad-gita.


Vengeance and Cunning Destroy the Family

Feeling angry and jealous of the Pandavas, Duryodhana made a plan to kill them. On a family pilgrimage, he built a house of lac for them, and then his servants set it on fire. The Kauravas thought the Pandavas were dead, but they had escaped through an underground tunnel and lived anonymously in the forest for a time. Finally, they heard about and engagement contest (svayamvara) for the hand of the Princess of Panchali, Droupadi, and went there in disguise. The object of the svayamvara was that the contestants had to string a heavy bow and shoot five arrows into the eye of a fish that was dangling on a target in a courtyard. Many princes had gathered, including the Kauravas, but Arjuna won the competition and brought Droupadi back to the forest retreat with him. The other princes were unhappy at losing Droupadi, but Krishna reasoned with them in Arjuna’s favor. When they arrived home with Droupadi, Arjuna told his mother that he had won a great prize that day. Without knowing what it was, Kunti instructed her sons to divide it equally among themselves, and thus they all shared Droupadi as their bride.

Everyone was joyful to find the Pandavas still alive, and married into a prominent ruling family, and so King Dhritarastra invited them to come back to Hastinapura and told his sons to give Yudhistira half the kingdom. Yudhistira built his palace, and lived peacefully with his brothers, Droupadi and their other wives.

Reunion at Kurukshetra

On the occasion of a solar eclipse, all the royal families traveled to Kurukshetra to observe religious rites. Kurukshetra would later become the battlefield for the Great War, but for now it was known only as a holy place of pilgrimage. In a previous millennium, Parasurama, an ancient incarnation of god, had killed thousands of evil military kings there, and their blood formed a river at that spot.

When the royal families met their relations in Kurukshetra, there were great exchanges of love. The Krishna Book describes, “Meeting after long separation, they were all jubilant; their hearts were throbbing, and their faces appeared like freshly bloomed lotus flowers. There were drops of tears falling from their eyes, the hair on their bodies stood on end, and because of their extreme ecstasy, they were temporarily speechless.” (p. 86)

At this meeting, Vasudeva and Kunti, who were brother and sister, lamented their long separation. Kunti complained about all she had been through due to Duryodhana. Vasudeva reminded her that he loved her and would have been there to help, except that his life was also miserable due to Kamsa’s persecutions.

Krishna and Balarama met the residents of Vrindavana and renewed their relationships with their foster parents, Nanda, Yasoda and Rohini, and the gopis, cowherd girls. The gopis were especially pleased to see Krishna again, since he had never fulfilled his promise to return to Vrindavana. While Krishna and Balarama met their childhood friends, Krishna’s parents from Vrindavana met with Vasudeva and Devaki. Vasudeva finally disclosed to Nanda the events surrounding Krishna’s birth, and they both felt grateful for their fate, having Krishna as their son. While Nanda and Yasoda sometimes thought of Krishna as their ordinary child, Vasudeva and Devaki had always remained conscious of Krishna’s divinity.

The Great War

Duryodhana remained angry at the Pandavas and wanted to drive them from the kingdom. He challenged Yudhistira to a game of dice, in which Yudhistira lost everything including his brothers, Droupadi, and himself. The Kauravas brought Droupadi to the arena to strip off her sari and humiliate her, but she prayed to Krishna and he mystically supplied an unending length of cloth.

King Dhritarastra came on the scene and gave everything back to the Pandavas and sent them home. Soon after that, despite warnings and protests from all sides, Duryodhana convinced Yudhistira to play dice again, and Yudhistira lost again. Thus to satisfy the terms of the wager, Kunti, the Pandavas and Droupadi went to the forest for twelve years, and spent a additional year incognito.

The Pandavas migrated as far north as Badrikashram in the Himalayas for some years, then back to neighboring regions. Toward the end of their exile, the fighting between the Pandavas and Kauravas heated up again. Duryodhana and his men occasionally visited the Pandavas in the forest to pick fights. Another mortal enemy, Jayadrath, kidnapped Droupadi, but the Pandavas rescued her. After satisfying the conditions of the dice game by living in exile, the Pandavas returned to Hastinapura to reclaim their kingdom, but Duryodhana refused to give them even a pinpoint of land. The situation between the Kauravas and Pandavas grew extremely tense. Krishna tried to make peace between the parties, but a war was destined to take place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Krishna became Arjuna’s chariot driver and spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna when the armies drew up to begin fighting. After eighteen days, the war was over.

All the great heroes of the Kaurava dynasty, along with millions of soldiers, lay dead on the battlefield. Only the Pandavas and a small handful of others remained. Asvatthama, one of the remaining warriors, killed Draupadi’s children in their sleep, hoping to end the royal lineage. Even though Prince Duryodhana wanted to find some last revenge, he was appalled by this atrocity and died of grief. The Pandavas arrested Asvatthama and brought him before Droupadi, but out of compassion she pleaded for his life. The shameless Asvatthama made one more attempt to kill the remaining heir, an unborn grandson in the womb of Uttara, Arjuna’s wife. He hurled a brahmastra (nuclear) weapon at Uttara, and when she saw the missile coming toward her, she ran to Krishna for protection. Krishna, who was preparing to leave for his own kingdom, defeated the missile with his Sudarshan-chakra weapon. The child Pariksit grew up to inherit the kingdom.

When Gandhari came to Kurukshetra and saw the corpses of her sons scattered on the battlefield, she blamed Krishna for everything. She cursed him that in thirty-six years he would also lose everything and die, so that the women in his family would cry, just as she was crying. Then King Dhritarastra, Gandhari, Kunti, and their gurus Vidura and Sanjaya, left for the forest.

Demise of the Dynasties and Death of Krishna

The Pandavas lived in grief due to separation from their relatives. After six years, Yudhistira saw his mother in a dream and they all went to the forest to see her. They took Vyasa, a sage and grandfather in the family, with them. Gandhari and Kunti told Vyasa they wanted to see their dead relatives. Vyasa advised them to dip into the Ganges, which they did, and when they came out they saw Karna, Duryodhana, and all the others standing on the bank of the river. Even the blind king Dhritarastra saw the vision. After the Pandavas returned to Hastinapura, two days later a forest fire killed Dhritarastra, Kunti, and Gandhari.

Yudhistira had become king after the Great War, but reigned for only a few years before the family crowned Pariksit, Arjuna’s son, as king. The Pandavas and Droupadi left their material engagements to prepare for the end of life (maha-prasthana). They departed for the Himalayas mountains where heaven is, walking in a line with Yudhistira first, then the other brothers, Droupadi, and finally Yudhistira’s dog. As they climbed the mountains, first Droupadi died, then each of the brothers died, until finally Yudhistira reached the gates of heaven, followed only by the dog. Lord Indra was there to meet him. When Yudhistira realized that his brothers and wife were dead, he didn’t want to go into heaven alone, but Indra said the others were already there waiting for him there, thus Yudhistira and the dog entered heaven with Lord Indra.

Along with the curse of Gandhari, another curse befell Krishna’s dynasty that contributed to its annihilation. Once some of Krishna’s sons were playing around and they dressed Samba as a pregnant woman, and brought him before some visiting sages Visvamitra, Kanva, and Narada Muni. In jest they asked the sages to predict what kind of child Samba would give birth to. Insulted, the sages said he would give birth to an iron rod that would become the instrument to fulfill the prophecy of their dynasty’s demise. Fearful and repentant, the boys asked Krishna what to do, but Krishna acknowledged the curse and said it was meant to be. When Samba delivered an iron rod the next day, the Yadavas (Krishna’s sons) filed it into powder and threw it into the sea. Krishna enforced a prohibition on liquor in Dvaraka, hoping to avoid what was destined to come. Still evil omens began: rats multiplied and attacked humans in their sleep, sheep howled like jackals, asses were born from cows, and cats from mules. Krishna’s Sudarshan-chakra weapon disappeared into the sky.

Eventually the powder from the iron rod washed up on the shore and grew into arrow-like grass. The Yadavas became drunk and used the rods to kill each other. Even Krishna beat people out of anger. In this fratricidal war all the descendents of Krishna killed each other. Krishna sent his messenger Daruka to Hastinapura to inform Arjuna of the demise of the Yadava race, then consoled the women in the palace. He told his wives that Arjuna would take care of them and left for the forest. Krishna’s brother Balarama sat down under a tree and his life air came out of his mouth like a white serpent and entered the sea. Krishna roamed the forest for some time, then sat down to meditate. When a hunter named Jara came by, he mistook Krishna for a deer, and shot an arrow into his foot. Krishna died at once and his spirit rose into heaven. Arjuna cremated Krishna and several of his principle queens died in the funeral pyre after him. Arjuna left for Hastinapura with the remaining wives, but on the way, forest dwellers attacked, and the women dove into the Satasvati River and died.

Krishna and Narakasura

Bhoomi Devi (mother Earth) had a son named Naraka. Even though Naraka was the son of a divinity, he had the nature of a demon. Naraka was powerful and he took pleasure in terrorizing the inhabitants of the three worlds.

Narakasura would raid and plunder the kingdoms of the three worlds. He did not even leave the women and would kidnap them for his own personal harem. Narakasura heard that Indra, the king of the devas, had thousands of divine elephants in his army. Now Narakasura, greedy that he was, wanted to possess everything, so he attacked the heavens.

Indra was helpless as he watched Naraka’s minions plunder the heavens. Naraka himself began pursuit of the devas. While pursuing the devas, a glimmering object far away caught his eye. Upon inspection, he realised that the glimmering object was mother Aditi’s (the mother of the devas) earrings. He assaulted mother Aditi and grabbed her earrings.

Now Indra, feeling humiliated at his loss and even worse that his mother was assaulted, wanted revenge and he knew that there was only one person who was a match for Naraka. It was Krishna.

Indra reached Krishna’s palace when Krishna was spending quality time with his wife Satyabhama. He told Krishna about the happenings and begged him for his help. Krishna was enraged that Naraka might lay his hands on mother Aditi and said that Naraka must die for his insolence.

Satyabhama looked annoyed because Krishna was about to leave her. Wanting to please both Satyabhama and Indra, Krishna decided to take Satyabhama with him into battle.

Krishna summoned his mount Garuda (a giant eagle) and made way towards Naraka’s fortress. An impenetrable barrier of magic mountains surrounded Naraka’s fortress. The mountains were such that a barrier would come up from any side that Krishna tried to enter the fortress. Krishna, unperturbed, hurled his mace at the barrier and shattered the entire mountain range in one blow. A downpour of magical weapons rained down on them. Krishna fired multiple arrows and destroyed all the weapons. In this manner Krishna destroyed countless other magical barriers and finally reached Naraka’s fortress.

Naraka’s palace was guarded by the five-headed demon Mura. Mura hurled countless weapons at Krishna, but Krishna shot each one down with his bow and arrow. Then Krishna picked up his flying discus and hurled it towards Mura dislocating Mura’s five heads. Mura fell to the ground, dead.

Krishna challenged Naraka to battle and killed him easily. Bhoomi Devi then sang hymns in praise of Krishna and begged him to take Naraka’s son Bhagdatta under his protection. Krishna placed Bhagdatta on the throne and then freed all of Naraka’s prisoners. The devas showered Krishna with flowers from the heavens.


Lord Krishna’s Birth – Janmashtami

Old King Ugrasena of Mathura had two children, Prince Kamsa and Princess Devaki. While King Ugrasena was a good king, Prince Kamsa was a ruthless tyrant. Now Princess Devaki was to wed a nobleman named Vasudeva.

Kamsa out of the love he bore for his sister decided to be the bride and groom’s charioteer for the day. While Kamsa drove the chariot bearing Devaki and Vasudeva out of the wedding hall, a voice from the heavens boomed informing Kamsa that Devaki’s eight child would be his slayer.

Kamsa being the superstitious type would take no chances. He wanted to strike down Devaki that very moment. Vasudeva intervened, he begged Kamsa not to slay Devaki and show her some mercy. He further promised Kamsa that he would hand over any child born to them, if he would let Devaki live. Now Kamsa not wanting to have the blood of his sister on his hands agreed and instead placed them under house arrest.

Every time a child was born, the guards would inform Kamsa and he would take the child and kill it. Six of Devaki and Vasudev’s children met their death this way. It so happened that the seventh child was born at night, and Devaki and Vasudeva seeing the opportunity decided to try to save the child.

The guards were asleep, so Vasudeva easily slid out of the palace undetected. He went to neighboring Gokul and left the child with his second wife Rohini and quickly returned to the palace (this child was named Balrama). In the morning he sent word to Kamsa that the child was still born.

Kamsa was pleased, he knew the next child was prophesized to be his slayer. Not wanting to take chances with the birth of the eight child, Kamsa had Vasudeva and Devaki thrown into the dungeon chained.

The 8th child was born on the eight night of the month of Shravan. It was raining heavily and the skies thundered as if the Gods were trying to pay homage to the new born child. Then the miracle happened, Vasudevas chains fell off and the prison door opened by itself. Vasudeva found the guards to be asleep, so he decided that he would escape with the child and leave him at his friend Nanda’s place in Gokul.

Picking up the child, Vasudeva placed him in a basket. He then carried the basket on his head and made his way to Gokul. Now Gokul was on the opposite bank of the river Yamuna. Because of the thundering and the rain, the river Yamuna was in a state of turmoil. Vasudeva, wondering how he would cross the river prayed for a miracle. Then it happened!. The waters of the Yamuna parted and made way for him. Vasudeva then crossed the Yamuna and reached Gokul.

On reaching Nanda’s house in Gokul, Vasudeva realised that Nanda’s wife Yashoda had given birth to a baby girl. While Nanda and Yashoda were asleep, he placed his child in the cradle and took Nanda’s daughter instead. He presumed that since it was a baby girl, Kamsa would not kill her. He then made the journey back to Mathura and he took the baby girl with him. As soon as Vasudeva reached the dungeon, the dungeon doors closed behind him and the baby girl started to cry. Awakened by the cries, the guards rushed to tell Kamsa of the birth of the eight child.

Hearing the news, Kamsa rushed to the dungeon and picked up the child and was about to dash it to the ground. Vasudeva begged Kamsa not to kill the child as it was only a girl and that a girl could do him no harm. The wicked Kamsa paid no heed and dashed the baby to the floor. As the baby was about to hit the floor, it suddenly flew up and told Kamsa that the one who was born to kill him still lives and is in Gokul. Then she disappeared.


Krishna Visits Mathura

Now stories about Krishna’s deeds spread far and wide. When Kamsa heard about Krishna, he was sure that Krishna was Devaki’s eight born child, born to destroy him. He, in turn, planned to invite Krishna to Mathura and have him killed. He summoned an old minister by the name of Akrura and sent him to Gokul with an invitation. Now Akrura was wise. He knew the real story of Krishna. That Krishna was a divine being born to kill Kamsa. He also knew that Nanda and Yashoda were not really Krishna’s parents. On arriving in Gokul, Akrura told Krishna and his parents everything. Nanda and Yashoda were horrified, they wondered how a teenager like Krishna could take on a warrior like Kamsa. But Krishna insisted on going and he and Balrama left for Mathura.

In the mean time, back in Mathura, Kamsa was thinking of ways of having Krishna killed. He asked an elephant trainer to have a mad elephant trample Krishna. Failing that he was sure that his best wrestlers Mushtika & Chanura could challenge Krishna & Balrama to a match and kill them.

When Krishna arrived in Mathura, the elephant trainer was waiting for him at the gate. He sent the mad elephant Krishna’s way. Krishna picked up the elephant by its trunk, hurled it into the air and killed it.

Krishna and Balrama then made way for the wrestling arena where Kamsa was. Kamsa then told Krishna and Balrama that his foremost wrestlers Mushtika and Chanura had heard of their strength and valor and would like to challenge them. Balrama killed Mushtika in mortal combat and then Krishna fought and killed Chanura.

Krishna then rushed towards Kamsa, grabbed his sword and killed him. Krishna then lifted the crown from Kamsa’s severed head and walked towards the dungeon where King Ugrasena was imprisoned, freed him and offered him the crown. King Ugrasena was touched that Krishna would make him King again. Krishna then freed his parents Devaki and Vasudeva and had a joyous re-union with them.


Krishna in Gokul

The next morning in Gokul, the word spread that Nanda had a little boy and he was named Krishna. Now Kansa knew that his would be slayer was still alive and was in Gokul, so he summoned a wicked demoness name Putana. He ordered Putana to go to Gokul and kill every baby born in the month of Shravan. Now Putana using her magic turned into a beautiful woman, she then applied poison on her breasts.

In Gokul she then searched for all the babies of the right age. She would act as if she was playing with them and then she would nurse them with her poisoned breasts. In this way, she killed many babies. Finally she came to Nanda’s house and found baby Krishna there. She acted as if she was playing with the child, and then she picked him up and started to feed him. Now baby Krishna being divine, instead of succumbing to her evil ways, sucked the life out of her.

Krishna grew up a playful, mischievous child. He grew up amongst the cowherds of Gokul and even came in contact with his brother Balrama. Another miracle Krishna performed as a teenager was the taming of Kaliya. Kaliya was a poisonous snake with many heads, and inhabited a lake in Gokul. Kaliya would devour any cow that would drink from the lake. Krishna, angered by this, took a vow to tame Kaliya. He jumped into the lake and fought Kaliya. Alarmed by this, his friends ran to the village and informed his parents. Upon returning to the lake they found pools of blood on the surface of the lake. They though that surely Krishna was dead. After a while, the many headed Kaliya rose to the surface with Krishna dancing on top of him. Kaliya was tamed. Krishna then ordered Kaliya to leave the lake and the inhabitants of Gokul alone.

The people of Gokul used to worship Indra, the arrogant King of the devas, more out of fear than of love of him. Krishna thought that this was wrong. He said that they should instead worship the Mountain Govardhana (Gokul was on the foothills of this mountain) who had given them so much. The people started to worship Govardhana, this made Indra really angry. Indra, in order to punish them for their insolence, sent storms their way. It rained for many days and Gokul was flooded. The people of Gokul approached Krishna for help. Krishna lifted the entire mountain Govardhana with his little finger and gave shelter to the people of Gokul under it.


Krishna and the Syamantaka Gem

Satrajit, a nobleman of Dwarka, was a devotee of Surya, the sun God. Surya being pleased with Satrajit’s devotion appeared before him and gifted him the Syamantaka gem. The Syamantaka gem’s specialty was that it could magically produce eight measures of gold a day.

Satrajit became a really wealthy man. Krishna then approached Satrajit and told him that he should share the gem with the other people of Dwarka and give it to King Ugrasena. Satrajit declined saying that the jewel belonged to him.

A few days later, Satrajit’s brother Prasena wore the jewel as a necklace and went out on a hunt. He climbed a tree waiting for some game, a lion came by and just as Prasena was about to shoot it, a snake, which dropped from the branch above, surprised him. Now Prasena was startled and he fell from the tree. As he was falling, the necklace with the Syamantaka gem got caught in a branch and Prasena hung by the neck, and was killed instantly.

Now the lion below, being attracted to the glow of the gem, picked it up and carried it away. As the lion walked away with the gem, Jambavan the king of the bears saw him. Being seduced by the glow of the gem, he attacked the lion and killed it and took the gem to his cave and gifted it to his infant son.

Prasena did not return to Dwarka and people were wondering what had happened to him. Satrajit suspected that Krishna might have killed Prasena in order to attain the gem. Krishna, in order to prove his innocence, gathered a search party and went into the forest.

A few hours later, they found Prasena’s body. Krishna noticed lion tracks around the body and assumed that a lion must have killed Prasena. On following the lion tracks, they came across the body of the dead lion. Krishna noticed that the lion had the marks of a bear’s claws and noticed that there were bear tracks around the body. On following the bear tracks Krishna reached Jambavan’s cave. Krishna sensing the danger ordered the rest of the party to stay outside while he entered the cave alone. Krishna found Jambavan’s son playing with the Syamantaka gem. Frightened by the stranger, Jambavan’s son let out a wail that alerted Jambavan. Now Jambavan thought someone was attacking his child and attacked Krishna. Krishna fought Jambavan for twenty-eight days after which Jambavan recognised Krishna’s divinity and surrendered to him. Along with the gem, Jambavan offered Krishna his daughter Jambavati’s hand in marriage. This Krishna accepted.

Krishna then returned to Dwarka with the Syamantaka gem and his new bride. Krishna returned the gem to its rightful owner Satrajit who by then was ashamed of accusing Krishna. In order to make up for his accusations and show his good will towards Krishna, Satrajit offered his daughter Satyabhama to Krishna.

But Satyabhama already had three suitors – Akrura, Kritavarma and Shatadhanwa. They were angered by the fact that Satrajit have given Satyabhama to Krishna and not to one of them. Shatadhanwa in his rage killed Satrajit while he slept and stole the Syamantaka gem from him. On realizing what he had done, Shatadhanwa left the gem with Akrura and fled from Dwarka. Krishna and Balrama gave chase and killed Shatadhanwa for his crime. Not finding the gem on Shatadhanwa, Krishna knew that he must have left it with Akrura for safekeeping.

Krishna approached Akrura and requested him to tell the people of Dwarka that he possessed the gem otherwise the people of Dwarka would think that he had killed his father in law in order to possess the gem. This Akrura did and Krishna’s name was cleared.


Krishna and Rukmini

Bheeshmaka, the king of Vidarbha had two children, Prince Rukmi and Princess Rukmini. Bheeshmaka had heard many stories of Krishna’s valor and secretly wished him to be his son-in-law. He knew that it might not be possible as Kamsa’s father in law, Jarasandha, was their overlord and he was Krishna’s sworn enemy.

Now Rukmi was a friend of Kamsa and owed his allegiance to Jarasandha. He wanted his younger sister to marry Shishupala, the crown prince of Chedi, who also was favored by Jarasandha.

Rukmini had heard stories of Krishna’s valour from her childhood and she had her heart set on marrying him. When she heard that Rukmi had chosen Shishupala for her, she resolved that she would only marry Krishna or die.

She sent for her trusted aid Sunanda, a wise old Brahman. She wrote a note to Krishna telling him that he was the only husband for her and asked if he would come and take her away. She wrote to him, that if he wouldn’t have her, she would give up her life. She also begged him that he spare the lives of her family whilst kidnapping her. She wrote that on the day of the wedding, she would go to the temple of the Goddess Parvati (their family deity) and if he would, that was the right time to kidnap her. She sent Sunanda with the note to Dwarka (Krishna’s new fortress home).

Krishna had heard a lot about Rukmini’s beauty too. He longed to have her but wasn’t sure if he should approach her family, as they owed their allegiance to Jarasandha. Upon receiving the message from her, he resolved to kidnap her. Now Jarasandha who knew that Krishna might try something like that to humiliate him, filled Vidarbha with people loyal to him.

Krishna went to Vidarbha first and Balrama followed with the army. On the wedding day, when Rukmini was leaving the temple, she looked in the crowds for Krishna. She did not see him. As she was about to enter her chariot and leave, she felt someone hold her from behind. It was Krishna. He lifted her into the chariot and sped away.

Jarasandha was furious. He rallied all his men and ordered them to chase Krishna. Jarasandha’s men followed Krishna but were ambushed by Balrama and his army on the outskirts of the city. Now Rukmi managed to go through Balrama’s army and catch up with Krishna and Rukmini. He swore that he would not return to his city without his sister.

Rukmi fired an arrow at Krishna, but it did not even make a dent in Krishna’s divine armour. Krishna then fired multiple arrows, which first killed Rukmi’s horses and then shattered his chariot. Rukmi then picked up his bow again, but before he could fire, Krishna shot another arrow and shattered Rukmi’s bow. Rukmi now mad with rage picked up his sword and ran towards Krishna. Krishna fired another arrow and split Rukmi’s sword in two. Krishna then picked up his sword and was about to attack Rukmi when Rukmini begged her lord to spare her brother’s life. On Rukmini’s saying, Krishna spared Rukmi’s life but cut half the hair on his head and half the mustache on his face, the worst insult a warrior could face, and then let him go.


Krishna and Jarasandha

King Brihadratha of Magadha was married to the twin daughters of the King of Kashi. Brihadratha loved both his wives equally and had all the material joys of the world, but no son. This left him in a depressed state.

The sage Chandakaushika visited his kingdom and Brihadratha served him with respect. Being pleased with his service, the sage granted Brihadratha a boon. Brihadratha asked the sage for a son and the sage gave him a mango, which Brihadratha was to give one of his wives. Now Brihadratha loved both his wives equally so he cut the mango in two equal halves and fed both of them.

Nine months later, both his wives gave birth to a child, or rather half a child each. Seeing this the queens attendants were horrified and decided that they must dispose of the two halves, so they dumped them outside the kingdom. Now outside the kingdom, there lived a demoness named Jara. Sensing human flesh, she found the two halves of the child. Hoping to carry them home to eat them, she placed both the halves side by side in a basket and lo behold the halves miraculously joined up, making one complete human child. Jara realized that this must be the son of the King of Magadha, and wanting a reward, took the child to the palace. The King was overjoyed and named the child Jarasandha in order to honor Jara, the demoness who had saved him.

Jarasandha grew up and became a very powerful king. He defeated many other kings and made them promise their allegiance to him making him supreme emperor. He gave both his daughters in marriage to Kamsa of Mathura.

Now Krishna killed Kamsa, making Jarasandha an enemy. Jarasandha attacked Mathura seventeen times and Krishna decimated his army, sparing Jarasandha alone.

Krishna had five cousins, the Pandavas, who had just acquired a kingdom -Indraprastha. The eldest Pandava, Yudishtra wanted to perform the Rajasuya Yagya. In order to perform the Rajasuya Yagya, a king had to be declared emperor and all the surrounding kingdoms had to recognize the emperor as their overlord. In order for this to happen, Yudishtra would have to defeat Jarasandha and obtain the title of emperor. Yudishtra, not knowing how to go about this, asked Krishna for help. Krishna said that he, Arjuna (the third Pandava) and Bheema (the second Pandava) would dress up like brahmans and go to Magadha and challenge Jarasandha to a wrestling match.

Upon reaching Magadha, Krishna, Arjuna and Bheema challenged Jarasandha to a wrestling match. Jarasandha seeing their physiques realised that these were not brahmans and asked them who they were. Krishna revealed their identities and told Jarasandha that they had come to challenge him and that Jarasandha must pick an opponent. Jarasandha said that he would not fight Krishna as he was a cowherd and he did not match his dignity and social standing. He then refused to fight Arjuna saying that Arjuna was too young, but he agreed to fight Bheema as Bheema seemed mighty and a worthy opponent.

Bheema and Jarasandha fought for days, both equally matched and neither succumbed to the other’s blows. Bheema realizing that Jarasandha was an equal match looked to Krishna for help. Now Krishna who knew the story of Jarasandha’s birth, picked up a twig from the floor, broke it in two halves and threw the two halves far away from each other.

Bheema now knew what he must do. He threw Jarasandha to the ground, held his legs and split his body in two. He then threw the two halves of Jarasandha far away from each other so that they might not join. Bheema had defeated Jarasandha and Krishna installed Jarasandha’s son as the king of Magadha. In return, Jarasandha’s son agreed to be a vassal to the Pandavas.


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