Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists/CHAPTER IV

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Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists
Sister Nivedita and Anand K. Coomaraswamy


Notes on Krishna

Krishna, son of Devaki, is barely mentioned in the Chhdndogya Upanishad (c. 500 B.C.). In the Mahabharata (3OOB.C.-2OO A.D.) he is a prominent figure ; in the Bhagavad Gita, which is a late addition, there is first put forward the doctrine of bhakti, loving devotion to him as a means of salvation, additional to the ways of work and knowledge. No mention is made of his youthful gestes. He is represented as the friend and adviser of princes; he is essentially Dwarkanath, the Lord of Dwaraka ; he is identified with Vishnu in many passages, although in his human form he worships Mahadeva and Uma and receives gifts from them.

At a subsequent period, between the time of the compilation of the Gita and that of the Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas, probably in the tenth or eleventh century, arose the worship of the boy-Krishna, the chief element in the modern cult. The boy-Krishna no doubt represents the local god of a Rajput clan. The names of Govinda and Gopala (herdsman) indicate his origin as a god of flocks and herds.

A summary of the Mahabharata has already been given ; in the following pages, therefore, are related the more modern legends of Krishna's youth, with brief reference only to his doings in the Great War. What is given is essentially a condensed translation, compiled from various sources, particularly the Vishnu Purana, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Prem Sagara. At the close of the Third Age a Rajput clan, the Yadavas, descendants of Yadu, a prince of the Lunar dynasty, dwelt beside the Jamna, with Mathura for their capital. Ugrasena, at the

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time of the beginning of the story, though the rightful king, had been deposed by his son Kans, a cruel and tyrannical ruler in fact, a rakshasa begotten by violence on Ugrasena's wife Pavanarekha. We thus find the rakshasas in possession of Mathura, where some of the Yaduvansis also still dwell ; but most of the latter reside with their flocks and herds at Gokula, or Braj, in the country, and are represented as paying annual tribute to Mathura. There is thus, as in the Ramayana, a state of opposition between two ideal societies, a moral society wherein the gods become incarnate in heroic individuals, and an immoral society which it is their object to destroy. It is in response to the prayer of the outraged earth, wasted by the tyranny of Kans, and at the request of the gods, that Vishnu takes birth amongst the Yaduvamsis at the same time with other heavenly beings gods, rishis, kinnaras, gandharvas, and the like.

Such is the pseudo-historical legend of Krishna. This story, whatever its origins, has sunk deep into the heart and imagination of India. For this there are many reasons. It is the chief scripture of the doctrine of bhakti (devotion) as a way of salvation. This is a way that all may tread, of whatever rank or humble state. The gopis 1 are the great type and symbol of those who find God by devotion (bhakti) , without learning (jnanam). It is for Krishna that they forsake the illusion of family and all that their world accounts as duty; they leave all and follow him. The call of his flute is the irresistible call of the Infinite; Krishna is God, and Radha the human soul. It matters not that the Jamna and Brindaban are to be found on the map : to the Vaishnava lover Brindaban is the heart of man, where the eternal play of the love of God continues.

1 Gopis, herd-girls.

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The Birth of Krishna

Vasudev was a descendant of Yadu, of the Lunar dynasty ; he was married to Rohini, daughter of King Rohan, and to him Kans also gave his own sister Devaki. Immediately after the marriage a heavenly voice was heard announcing: " O Kans, thy death will come to pass at the hand of her eighth son." Kans therefore resolved to slay Vasudev at once, and dissuaded from this, he did actually slay the sons one by one till six were dead. In Devaki's seventh pregnancy the serpent Shesh, or Ananta, on whom Narayana rests, took on a human birth. To save this child from Kans, Vishnu created a thought-form of him self and sent it to Mathura. It took the babe from Devaki's womb and gave it to Rohini, who had taken refuge with the herdsmen at Gokula, and was cared for by Nand and Yasoda, good people dwelling there, who had as yet no son of their own. The child born of Rohini was afterwards called Balarama. After transferring the child, the Sending of Vishnu returned to Devaki and revealed the matter in a dream, and Vasudev and Devaki gave Kans to understand that the child had miscarried.

Then Shri Krishna himself took birth in Devaki's womb, and the Sending of Vishnu in Yasoda's, so that both were with child. Kans, when he learnt that Devaki was again pregnant, set a strong guard about the house of Vasudev to slay the child the moment it was born ; for, much as he feared the prophecy, he dared not incur the sin of slaying a woman. At last Krishna was born, and all the heavens and earth were filled with signs of gladness trees and forests blossomed and fruited, pools were filled, the gods rained down flowers, and gandharvas played on drums and pipes. But Krishna stood up before his father and mother,

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and this was the likeness of him cloudy grey, moon-faced, lotus-eyed, wearing a crown and jewels and a robe of yellow silk, with four arms holding conch and disc and mace and lotus-flower. Vasudev and Devaki bowed down to him, and Shrl Krishna said to them : " Do not fear, for I have come to put away your fear. Take me to Yasoda, and bring her daughter and deliver her to Kans." Then he became again a human child, and the memory of his Godhead left both father and mother, and they thought only, " We have a son," and how they might save him from Kans.

Devaki, with folded palms, said to her husband : " Let us take him to Gokula, where dwell our friends Nand and Yasoda and your wife Rohini." At that very moment the fetters fell from their limbs, the gateways opened, and the guards fell fast asleep. Then Vasudev placed Krishna in a basket on his head and set out for Gokula. He knew not how to cross the Jamna, but with thought intent on Vishnu he entered the water. It rose higher and higher till it reached his nose ; but then Krishna saw his distress and stretched down his foot, and the water sank. So Vasudeva crossed the river and came to Nand's house, where a girl had been born to Yasoda ; but Devi had put forgetfulness upon her so that she remembered nothing of it. Vasudeva exchanged the children and returned to Mathura ; and when he was back again with Devaki the fetters and the doors closed, the guards awoke, and the baby cried. Word was sent to Kans, and he went in terror, sword in hand, to his sister's house. A voice announced to him: "Thy enemy is born, and thy death is certain " ; but finding that a girl had been born, he released Vasudeva and Devaki, and prayed their pardon for the past slayings and treated them well. But Kans was more than ever enraged against the gods forasmuch as they had deceived him and his guard-

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The Birth of Krishna by Nanda Lal Bose

ing of Devaki had been in vain, and especially he longed to slay Narayana that is, Vishnu. To this end his ministers counselled him to slay all those who served Vishnu, Brahmans, yogis, sannyasis, and all holy men. Kans gave orders accordingly, and sent forth his rakshasas to kill cows and Brahmans and all worshippers of Hari.

The Feats of Krishna's Youth

Meanwhile there were great rejoicings in Gokula for the birth of a son to Nand and Yasoda: the astrologers prophesied that the child would slay the demons and should be called Lord of the Herd-girls, the gopis, and his glory should be sung throughout the world. But Kans knew not where Shri Krishna had been born, and he sent out murderers to slay all children. Among his followers there was a rakshasi named Putana, who knew of the birth of Nand's son, and she went to Gokula for his destruction, taking the shape of a beautiful woman, but she had poison in her breasts. She went to Yasoda's house and made herself very friendly, and presently she took the boy on her lap and gave him her breast. But he held her tightly and drew hard, so that with the milk he took away her life. She fled away, but Krishna would not let her escape, and she fell dead, assuming her own hideous and huge form. Just then Nand returned from Mathura, where he had gone for paying tribute ; he found the rakshasi lying dead, and all the folk of Braj standing about her. They told him what had taken place, and then they burnt and buried her enormous body. But her body gave out a most sweet fragrance when it was burnt, and the reason for that was that Shri Krishna had given her salvation when he drank her milk; blessed are all those whom Vishnu slays.

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It was not long after this that a feast was held for rejoicings at the birth of Krishna ; but he was forgotten in the general merry-making, and lay by himself under a cart. Now another rakshasi, passing by, saw that he lay there sucking his toes, and to avenge Putana she sat on the cart as if to crush it ; but Krishna gave a kick and broke the cart and killed the demoness. All the pots of milk and curds in the cart were broken, and the noise of the broken cart and flowing milk brought all the herd-boys and herd- girls to the spot, and they found Krishna safe and sound. When Shrl Krishna was five months old another fiend came in the shape of a whirlwind to sweep him away from Yasoda's lap where he lay ; but at once he grew so heavy that Yasoda had to lay him down. Then the storm became a cyclone, but no harm came to Krishna, for none could even lift him. But at last he allowed the whirlwind to take him up into the sky, and then, while the people of Braj were weeping and lamenting, Krishna dashed the rakshasa down and killed him, and the storm was over.

Krishna's Mischief

Krishna and Balaram grew up together in Gokula ; their friends were the gopas and gopis, the herd-boys and herd- girls ; their hair was curly, they wore blue and yellow tunics, and crawled about and played with toys and used to catch hold of the calves tails and tumble down ; and Rohini and Yasoda followed them about lest any accident should happen to them. But Krishna was very mis- chievous. He used to take away the pots of curds when the gopis were asleep; when he saw anything on a high shelf he would climb up and pull it down and eat some of it, and spill or hide the rest. The gopis used to go and complain of him to Yasoda, calling him a butter-thief;

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and she found him, and told him he must not take the food from other people's houses. But he made up a plausible story, and said the gopis had fed him them selves or asked him to do some work for them ; and now, he said, " they are telling tales of me." So Krishna always got the best of it.

One day he was playing with Balaram in the courtyard and ate some clay, and one of his comrades told Yasoda, and she came with a switch to beat him. But he had wiped his mouth and denied all knowledge of the matter. However, Yasoda insisted on looking inside his mouth; but when he opened his mouth what she saw there was the whole universe, the " Three Worlds." Then she said to herself : " How silly am I to think that the Lord of the Three Worlds could be my son." But Vishnu again veiled his Godhead, and Yasoda fondled the child and took him home.

Another time, when he had been stealing butter and Yasoda was going to beat him, she found him with his comrades sitting in a circle, and Krishna was eating and giving others to eat. Then Krishna, seeing his mother, ran up to her, saying : " O mother, I don't know who upset the buttermilk; let me go." So she could only laugh; but she took him home and tied him to a big wooden mortar to keep him out of mischief. But he just then remembered that two men had once been cursed by Narada to remain in the form of trees till Krishna should release them, and he dragged the mortar after him and went to the grove where the trees were, and pulled the trees up by the roots. Two men appeared in their place: Krishna promised them a boon, and they prayed that their hearts might always be attached to him. This Krishna granted, and dismissed them. Presently

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Yasoda came and found that Krishna was gone, and she ran everywhere to seek him; but when the gopis found him by the fallen trees and heard what had happened they wondered how such things could be, and asked each other: "Who can comprehend the doings of Hari ? " Not long after this Nand and Yasoda removed their goods and chattels from Gokula, where they suffered from constant dangers and oppression, and crossed the river to Brindaban and began to live there in peace and ease.

More Miracles of Krishna

When Krishna was five years old he took the cattle out into the woods to graze ; that day Kans sent a demon in the shape of a crane, and he came to Brindaban and sat on the river-bank like a mountain. All the herd-boys were frightened; but Krishna went up to the crane and allowed it to take him up in its huge beak. Then Krishna made himself so hot that the crane was glad to put him out, and then he held open the crane's jaws and tore them apart; and collecting the calves, the herd-boys all went home with Krishna, laughing and playing.

Another time Kans sent a dragon named Aghasura; he came and hid himself in the woods with his mouth open. The herd-boys thought this open hole was a mountain cave, and they all went near and looked in. Just then the dragon drew in his breath, and all the gopas and calves were swept into his mouth and felt the poisonous hot vapour, and cried out in distress. Krishna heard that and jumped into the dragon's mouth too, and then the mouth was shut. But Krishna made himself bigger and bigger till the dragon s stomach burst, and all the herd-boys and calves fell out unhurt.

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Another time Krishna and all the gopas were feasting and laughing and talking in the woods, leaving the calves to graze, when Brahma came and stole away the calves. Krishna went to look for them and did not find them, but he created another herd just like them. Then he came back to the feasting-place and found the boys gone too, and he made others in their likeness and went home in the evening with the changeling boys and calves, and nobody but Krishna knew that the real children and calves had been hidden by Brahma in a mountain cave. Meanwhile a year went by; it was only a moment of time as it seemed to Brahma, but it was a year for men. Brahma remembered his doings and went to see what had happened. He found the boys and the calves asleep in the cave ; then he went to Brindaban, and found the boys and the calves there too. And Krishna made all the herd-boys into the likeness of gods, with four arms and the shape of Brahma and Rudra and Indra. Seeing this, the Creator was struck with astonishment; still as a picture, he forgot himself, and his thoughts wandered away. He was afflicted like an unworshipped, unhonoured stone image. But Krishna, when he saw that Brahma was thus afraid, drew back all those illusory forms into himself, and Brahma fell at Krishna's feet and prayed his pardon, saying: "All things are enchanted by thy illusion; but who can bewilder thee? Thou art the creator of all, in whose every hair are many such Brahmas as I. Thou compassionate to the humble, forgive my fault." Then Krishna smiled, and Brahma restored all the herd-boys and calves. When they awoke they knew nothing of the time that had passed, but only praised Krishna for finding the calves so quickly; then they all went home.

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The Quelling of Kaliya

One day the cowherds started out very early, and wandered through the woods and along the river-bank till they came to the place called Kaliya. They drank some of the water, and so did the cows ; but all at once they rolled over and over and were dying of poison. Then Krishna cast a life-giving look upon them, and they revived. Now there was living in that part of the Jamna a poisonous hydra or naga named Kaliya, and for four leagues all about him the water boiled and bubbled with poison. No bird or beast could go near, and only one solitary tree grew on the river-bank. The proper home of Kaliya was Ramanaka Dwipa, but he had been driven away from there by fear of Garuda, the foe of all serpents. Garuda had been cursed by a yogi dwelling at Brindaban, so that he could not come to Brindaban without meeting his death. Therefore Kaliya lived at Brindaban, the only place where Garuda could not come.

Presently Krishna began to play at ball with the herd- boys, and while they were playing he climbed up the kadamb tree that hung over the river-bank, and when the ball was thrown to him it fell into the river, and Shrl Krishna jumped after it. Kaliya rose up with his hundred and ten hoods vomiting poison, and Krishna's friends stretched out their hands and wept and cried, and the cows ran about lowing and snorting. Meanwhile some one ran back to Brindaban and brought Rohini and Yasoda and Nand and all the gopas and gopis, and they came running and stumbling to the edge of Kaliya's whirlpool ; but they could not see Krishna]. Only Balaram comforted every one, saying : " Krishna will come back very soon. He cannot be slain."

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Kaliya Damana by Khitindra Nath Mazumdar

Meanwhile Kaliya wrapped himself round about Krishna's body, but Krishna became so huge that Kaliya had to release him. So Krishna saved himself from every attack, and when he saw the Braj folk were so much afraid he suddenly sprang into Kaliya's head and assumed the weight of the whole universe, and danced on the naga's heads, beating time with his feet. Then Kaliya began to die. He dashed his hoods about, putting forth his tongues, and streams of blood poured from his mouths. When he was quite overcome the thought arose in his heart : " This must be the Primal Male, for none other could resist my venom "; so thinking, he gave up all hope and remained still. But then the naga's wives came and stood round Krishna, and some stretched out their folded hands toward him and some bent to kiss his feet, worshipping Krishna and praying for their husband. "Be pleased to release this one," they said, " or slay us with him, for death itself is good to a woman without a husband. Moreover, please consider that it is the nature of a serpent to be venomous, and pardon him." Shrl Krishna stepped from Kaliya's head, and Kaliya wor shipped him and prayed forgiveness for not recognizing the Lord. So Krishna pardoned him, and sent him away home to Ramanaka Dwipa. But he was afraid to go there because of Garuda. When he told Krishna this he answered : " Go without fear. When Garuda sees the mark of my feet on your head he will not touch you." So Kaliya with his family went to Ramanaka Dwipa, and Krishna came out of the water.

All the people of Braj were glad when Krishna came out safe ; but they were too weary to go home that day, so they spent the night in the woods near Kaliya's whirlpool. But about midnight a terrible forest fire broke out, and

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would have destroyed the trees and the cows and the people had not Shri Krishna risen and drunk up the fire and saved them. In the morning every one returned to their homes rejoicing and singing.

Krishna's Flute

Now the hot season came on, but because of Krishna there was only perpetual spring in Brindaban. One day a rak- shasa came in the form of a cowherd, and played with the others; but Krishna made a sign to Balaram and told him to kill the demon, but not in his cowherd shape. So Balaram let the demon carry him off on his back as if in play, and when they were some distance off, and the rakshasa took his own form to kill Balaram, suddenly Balaram knocked him down and slew him. While this had been going on the cows had wandered away, and the cowherds could not find them in the woods; but Krishna climbed up a kadamb tree and played his flute, and at once the cows and the boys came running to him, like the waters of a river that meets the sea.

Krishna used often to play his flute in the woods ; all the herd-girls in Braj, when they heard it, would go out and look for him ; but they could not find him, and had to wait till he came back again in the evening. So they sat down together in the road and talked of the flute. One said : " Just see how that bamboo tube is honoured ; drinking the nectar of Krishna's lips all day, it resounds like a cloud and pours out delight. Why is it more beloved than we ? This thing made before our very eyes has become like a rival wife ! Even the gods attend when Krishna plays his flute. What discipline has it performed that all things are obedient to it? " Another gopi replied: "First, when it

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grew in the bamboo stem, it remembered Hari ; then it endured heat and cold and water ; and lastly, cut to pieces, it breathed the smoke of its own burning. Who else per forms such mortifications? The flute was made perfect and has its reward." Then another Braj woman exclaimed : "Why did not the lord of Braj make flutes of us, to remain with him day and night?"

Once in the winter-time, when it was cold and frosty, the Braj girls went down to bathe in the Jamna together. They made an image of Devi and worshipped it with flowers and fruit and incense, and prayed: "O goddess, do thou grant that Shri Krishna may be our lord." Then they fasted all day and bathed, and when night came they slept by the river-side, to the end that Devi would grant their prayer.

Krishna steals the Gopis Clothes

Another day they went to a lonely place to bathe and laid all their clothes on the bank, and played in the water and sang their songs in praise of Hari. But Shri Krishna him self was sitting near by in a tree watching his cows. Hearing their songs, he came near very quietly and looked on ; then he saw the clothes, and a thought came into his mind, and he took the clothes and climbed up a kadamb tree. Presently the gopis came out of the water, and could not find their clothes. They looked everywhere to find them, till at last one girl looked up and saw Shri Krishna sitting in the tree with the bundle of clothes. He was wearing a crown and yellow robes, and had a staff in his hand, and he had a garland of flowers. So she called out to the others : "There he is, who steals our hearts and our clothes, up in the kadamb tree." Then all the girls were ashamed and jumped into the water to hide themselves, and stood there

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praying Krishna to give them their clothes. But he would not give them ; and, " by Nand," he said, "you must come out and fetch them."

The Braj girls were not very pleased at that, and they said : " That is a nice thing for you to ask ; but we shall go and tell our fathers and friends and Nand and Yasoda, and they will punish you. Thou it is that shouldst pro tect our husbands honour. And it is for thy sake we are bathing and keeping our vows."

Then Krishna answered : " If you are really and truly bathing for my sake, then cast away shame and receive your clothes." Then the gopis said to themselves : " What Hari says, that alone we ought to respect ; he knows all our body and mind; what shame in this?" And they came up out of the water with downcast looks.

But Krishna laughed and said : " Now with joined hands come forward and take the clothes." The gopis answered : " Darling of Nand, why dost thou deceive us ? We are simple Braj girls " ; but they joined hands, and Krishna gave them the clothes.

Then the gopis went home, and Krishna followed with the herd-boys and cows. But as he went he looked again and again at the deep forest all round about, and began to tell of the glory of trees. " Behold," he said, "these that have come into the world, what burdens they bear and what shelter they give to others. It is good that such kindly folk are here."

Krishna lifts a Mountain

The people of Braj had been wont to worship Indra, king of heaven and lord of rain. Once, when they had made an offering to Indra, Krishna came and persuaded them to give up his worship. " Indra is no supreme deity," said

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he, " though he is king in heaven ; he is afraid of the asuras. And the rain that you pray for, and prosperity, these depend on the sun, that draws up the waters and makes them fall again. What can Indra do? What virtue and fate determine, alone comes to pass." Then Krishna taught them to worship the woods and streams and hills, and especially Mount Govardhan. So they brought offerings of flowers and fruits and sweetmeats for the mountain, and when Nand and Yasoda stood before the mountain, with minds intent on him, Krishna assumed a second form, like that of the mountain god, and received the offerings. In his own form he still remained with Nand and worshipped the mountain king. That moun tain received the offerings and ate them up, so that all the people of Braj were glad.

But Indra was greatly enraged at the loss of his honour and gifts ; he sent for the King of the Clouds, and ordered him to rain over Braj and Govardhan till both were swept away. So an army of clouds surrounded the district of Braj and began to pour down sheets of water, so that it seemed that the end of the world was at hand. Then all the Braj folk, with Nand and Yasoda, came to Krishna and said : " You persuaded us to give up the worship of Indra ; now bring the mountain here to protect us." So Krishna filled Govardhan with the burning heat of his energy and lifted him up on his little finger, and all the people of Braj, with the cows, took shelter under the mountain, looking at Krishna in utter astonishment.

Meanwhile the rain that fell on the mountain hissed and evaporated, and although torrents of water rained for seven days, not even a drop fell in Braj. Then Indra gave up the conflict, for he knew that none but an incarnation of the Primal Male could have thus withstood him. Next

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day when Krishna and Balaram went out to graze the cows, with music of flute and song, Indra came down from heaven upon his elephant Airavata and fell at the feet of Krishna and made submission.

The Dance of Love

The time Krishna had stolen the gopis clothes he made a promise to dance with them in the month of Karttik, and they had ever since been eagerly waiting for the appointed time. At last the autumn came, when heat and cold and rain were finished and all the country was full of delight ; and Krishna went out on the night of full moon in Karttik. A gentle air was blowing, the stars shone bright and clear, and all the woods and meadows were bathed in moonlight ; so Krishna determined to fulfil his promise, and went toward the forest playing his flute. The Braj girls were restless and disturbed at the sound of the flute, calling them away from their homes, till at last they cast off the illusion of family, put off their shame, and left their household duties, decked themselves hurriedly, and ran out to Krishna. One as she went was stopped by her husband and brought back to her house and bound; but she set her mind only on Hari, and so left her body and came to him first, before all the others, and Krishna, because of her love, gave her full salvation.

Now she did not think that Krishna was God when she died for his love; it was as a man she desired him. How, then, could she come by salvation ? Even if one should drink the water of life unknowingly, still he will be immortal ; just such is the fruit of worshipping Hari. There were many that won salvation through him, how soever diverse their will toward him. Nand and Yasoda deemed him their son ; the gopis thought him their lover;

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Kans did him honour by fear; the Pandavas found him a friend; Shishupal honoured him as a foe; the Yaduvamsis thought he was one of themselves ; the yogis and rishis pondered upon him as God ; but all these alike attained salvation. What wonder, then, if one herd-girl, fixing her heart upon him, should reach the farther shore of existence ?

At last the gopis, following the sound of the flute, came upon Krishna deep in the forest, and stood gazing upon his loveliness, astonished and abashed. Then Krishna inquired of their welfare and blamed them for leaving their husbands ; and he said : " As it is, you have seen the dense forest, the silvery moonlight, the beautiful banks of the Jamna ; so now go home to your husbands." All the gopis, when they heard these cruel words, were stricken senseless and sank in a boundless ocean of thought, and the tears fell from their eyes like a broken necklace of pearls. At last they found words to reproach him. " O Krishna," they said, "you are a great deceiver. You led us away by your flute and stole our hearts and minds and wealth, and now you are cold and unkind and would put an end to our lives. We have abandoned clan and home and husband, and despised the reproach of the world ; now there is none to protect us but you, O Lord of Braj. Where shall we go and make our home, for we are enwrapped in love of you?"

Then Shri Krishna smiled and called them near, and asked them to dance with him, and made them glad. Then by his skill he formed a golden terrace in a circle on the Jamna bank, and it was planted all about with plantain-trees hung with wreaths and garlands of all manner of flowers. Then the gopis went to a pool named Manasarowar, and decked themselves from head to foot, and were

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well apparelled in robes and jewels. They brought lutes and cymbals and began to play and sing and dance, while Govinda stood amidst them like a moon in a starry sky. So they altogether gave up restraint and shame and were intoxicate with love, and they thought of Krishna as now entirely their own.

But he saw their pride and left them alone; he took only Radha with him and vanished. Then all the gopis were frightened and sad, and began to ask each other where Krishna had gone, and they began to search for him here and there, crying out: "Why have you left us, O Lord of Braj, who have surrendered all to thee?" At last they began to ask the trees and birds and beasts, as the fig-trees, the cuckoo, and the deer: " Has the Darling of Nand gone here or there? " At last they found the marks of his lotus feet, and near them the footprints of a woman ; and then they came on a bed of leaves and a jewelled mirror beside it. They asked the mirror where he had gone, and when there was no reply the pain of separation overwhelmed them altogether. Thus for their part the gopis were miserably searching for Krishna ; but Radha was full of delight and fancied herself the greatest of all, and grew so proud that she asked Shrl Krishna to carry her on his shoulders. But just when she would have climbed up he vanished away, and she stood there alone with hands outstretched, like moonlight without the moon or lightning without its clouds ; so fair she was that her radiance streamed upon the ground and made it shine like gold. She stood there and wept, and all the birds and beasts and trees and creepers were crying with her. The gopis found her standing there, and they were as glad to see her as anyone would be who had lost a great treasure and found the half of it. They embraced her

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Radha and Krishna by by Khitindra Nath Mazumdar

again and again, and then entered the forest with her to search for Krishna. As far as there was any moonlight they went ; but when they could find no path in the dark forest, they had to come back. They sat them down on Jamna bank, and talked of Krishna and cried out for him till they were faint and tired ; but still he did not come.

Now when Krishna saw that the gopls were dying for love he appeared again in their midst, so that they all came up out of the ocean of loneliness and were glad, for he said to them: "This I have done to try you. How can I now reward you enough ? For like a vairagi leaving his home and giving his heart to God, you have come to me." Then Krishna played and danced with the gopis. He made his appearance manifold and danced with them in a ring, so that each one thought that Krishna himself was by her side and held her hands; so they whirled round in a circle, the dark Krishna and fair Braj girls, like a gold and sapphire necklace. Then some of them played on their lutes and sang in many modes; so rapt were they that mind and body were both forgotten. When one of them stopped the sound of flute with her hand and sang the notes of the flute herself, then Krishna forgot all else, as a child, seeing its face in a mirror, forgets everything else in its wonder. So they spent the time, and even the gods came down from heaven to see the dancing, and wind and water stood still to hearken. But when four watches yet remained of the night Krishna said it was time for the gopis to go to their homes, and to comfort them he said : " Do you ever meditate upon me, as yogis do, that I may always be near you." So they were satisfied and returned to their homes, and no one knew they had been away.

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The Journey to Mathura

When all other plans for slaying Krishna had failed Kans determined to lure him to Mathura. He sent a messenger to Nand to invite the cowherds, with Krishna and Balaram, to a sacrifice to Shiva and sports and festivities to take place in Mathura. This invitation was accepted, and all the Braj folk, with their flocks and herds and carts, set out for the city; only the herd-girls remained behind weeping, and stood with Yasoda watching to catch the last glimpse of Krishna and begging him to come back again soon.

The Braj folk, when they arrived at Mathura, sent offerings to Kans, and made their camp outside the city. Krishna and Balaram went in to see the wonders of the town, with its great walls and palaces and gardens and groves. On the way they met a washerman and asked him for fine clothes, and when he laughed and refused they took them by force and made themselves very gay. Soon after they met a humpbacked woman, who prayed that Krishna would let her rub sandal-paste on his body; and he, for her deep devotion, went up to her, placing foot on foot, and with two fingers under her chin, lifted her up and made her straight and fair, and he said : " When I have slain Kans I will come and be with you."

The Tournament at Mathura

Presently the brothers came to the lists where Shiva's bow was set up, huge as three palm-trees, and great and heavy ; and Krishna went up to the bow and pulled it, and broke it in two with a great noise. When Kans heard that, he was terrified and saw death approaching ; but he sent men out to kill the brothers. But they slew all the soldiers

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that Kans sent out against them, and returned to the cow herds camp and said they had seen the city and had good sport, and now were tired and hungry; so Nand gave them food and they went to sleep. But Kans had evil dreams, and when he woke he gave orders to have the lists prepared for the tournament and the trumpets blown for assembly. Shri Krishna and Balaram went to the tournament disguised as jugglers, and all the cowherds followed them. When they came to the gate of the lists there was a furious elephant, as strong as ten thousand common elephants, waiting, and the driver rode it at Krishna to crush him; but Balaram gave it such a blow with his fist that it turned back, and when it was driven against them again the two brothers killed it easily. Then they entered the lists, and to each Krishna appeared as their own nature revealed him : the wrestlers thought him a wrestler, the gods knew him as their lord, the herd- boys as a friend, the women of Mathura thought him the treasure of beauty, and Kans and the rakshasas thought he was Death himself.

Soon Krishna had fought with all the king's wrestlers and slain the strongest; then he sprang up on the royal dais and dragged the king by his hair and killed him then and there, so that men and gods and saints were delighted. When the king's wives heard of this they came forth and mourned over him inconsolably, till Krishna comforted them with deep wisdom. "O Mother, grieve not," he said ; " none may live and not die. He is mistaken who thinks that anything is his own. No one is father or mother or son; there is only the constant succession of birth and death." Then Kans funeral rites were done by Jamna bank, and Krishna himself set light to the pyre. Then Krishna and Balaram went to Vasudeva and Devaki

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and set them free; and they, perceiving his form, knew him for God, till again he hid his Godhead, so that they thought him their son, and they embraced the two brothers gladly. Then Krishna established his grand- father Ugrasena upon the throne, and asking Nand to return to Brindaban, Krishna began to dwell with his friends in Mathura. The Braj girls were always mourning for Krishna, for he did not return to Brindaban ; but he sent a messenger, saying : " Do you now give up the hope of delight, and practise only devotion: I shall never be absent from you." Little did such a message comfort them when they thought of his flute and the dance, for they thought that prayer and vows and self-restraint more fitting for widows than for devoted hearts, and they thought the reason he stayed in Mathura was that more beautiful women had won his love, or he preferred the court life to dwelling with cowherds. They sent a message back to say : " O Lord, you have spoken of spiritual union, while all the time there is disunion between us ; but rather come back to us who are dying for love and save our lives." Yet there was no help for it, for that which had been could not be again as it had been.

About this time news came of the Kurus and Pandavas, how the latter were sorely oppressed, and Krishna sent messengers to find out news of the matter; and the messenger went to Hastinapur and came again with the tale.

The Migration to Dwaraka

Meanwhile a rakshasa named Jurasindhu, father-in-law of Kans, invaded Mathura with a vast army; and though Krishna destroyed his army of demons, another asura, Kalayavan by name, surrounded Mathura with another

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army of thirty million monstrous fiends. Then Krishna thought it well to depart ; and he summoned Vishvakarma and bade him prepare a great city amidst the sea, twelve leagues in extent, and to convey all the Yaduvamsis thither without their being aware of it. So Vishvakarma transported them all to the city in the sea, and when they awoke they marvelled how the sea had surrounded Mathura, for they did not know what had happened. Then leaving the people in Dwaraka, Krishna returned to Mathura and slew Kalayavan ; and Jurasindhu gave him chase, but he escaped, and returned secretly with Balaram to Dwaraka, while Jurasindhu possessed the city of Mathura.

Now at that time there was born in Kundalpur a daughter of Raja Bhishmak, and she was most beautiful and gentle. When Shrl Krishna heard of this his heart was set upon her night and day. She also heard of Krishna, in this wise: there had come to Kundalpur some wandering yogis, who sang the praise and high deeds of him, and they came also to court and recited their tales, and Rukmini heard as she sat in her high balcony, so that the vine of love sprang up in her breast. Thereafter night and day she thought of nothing but Krishna; sleeping and waking, or eating or playing, her mind was set upon him. She made an image of Gauri, and prayed her to give her the Lord of the Yadus for husband. By this time Rukmini was of age to be married, and her father and brothers sought for a bridegroom. The eldest brother, Rukma, suggested Shishupala, king of Chanderi ; but the old king was for betrothing her to Shrl Krishna. But the brothers laughed and called him a cowherd, and settled the affair for Shishupala and sent him the bridal gift; and a day for the wedding was fixed. All the city people

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were very sad, for they would have liked Rukmini to marry Shri Krishna. Rukmini herself was told of what was settled ; but she answered : " The Lord of the World is mine, in thought and word and deed." Then she wrote a letter to Krishna, and sent a Brahman to Dwaraka. This was the letter : " Thou art a Searcher of Hearts and knowest the thoughts of all ; what need I say ? Thou art my refuge ; my honour is in thy hands. Do thou act so as to guard it, and come and reveal thyself to thy servant." When Shri Krishna received this note he set out at once for Kundalpur. Shishupala was there already, and the wedding about to take place. Krishna, however, succeeded in carrying Rukmini off and took her away on his car, followed by Balaram and all his army. Shishupala pursued them with Jurasindhu, but Krishna beat them off, and defeated and bound Rukma, and carried his bride home: their son was Pradyumna, a rebirth of Kamadev. Pradyumna's son was Aniruddha, a rebirth of Satrughna ; he married Charumati, though this alliance did not suffice to heal the family feuds, and her grandfather Rukma was slain by Balaram. Afterwards Aniruddha also married Usha, daughter of Vanasur ; Krishna waged war with Vanasur to rescue his grandson, whom Vanasur had imprisoned. In this war Shiva fought on the side of Vanasur, but was defeated and made his submission to Krishna ; then Krishna welcomed him with the words : " Shiva-ji, there is no difference between thee and me, and whoever thinks of us as diverse he falls into Hell and is not saved ; but he that meditates upon thee obtaineth me also."

Krishna married Mitrabinda, Satibhama, and others, winning each by great deeds ; and another time, when a demon named Bhaumasura carried off and concealed many

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thousand princesses, Krishna pursued and slew him, and received these also into his house. Each of his wives had ten sons and one daughter, all cloudy of hue and moon-faced and lotus-eyed, and wearing yellow and blue. The people of Dwaraka were known as the Vrishnis.

Krishna marries Kalindi

While Krishna was ruling at Dwaraka, Duryodhana was oppressing the Pandavas at Hastinapur and sought to compass their death. Krishna and Balarama went to give them help, and it was while Krishna was the Pandavas guest that he married Kalindi, daughter of the Sun.

Balaram was married to Rewati, daughter of Raja Rewat of Amta. Once Balaram paid a visit to Braj, and related the doings of Hari to Nand and Yasoda, and delighted the gopis with dancing and music. Krishna's son Sambu sought to marry Lakshmana, daughter of Duryodhana; but he was taken and kept a prisoner till Balaram went to his rescue and dragged the city of Hastinapur down to the Ganges bank before he could be persuaded to spare the people. He brought away Sambu safe with his bride to Dwaraka.

Once Narada visited Krishna at Dwaraka to see how he dwelt as a householder with all his thousands of wives. He went in turn to the palace of Rukmini, Satibhama, Mitrabinda, and others, and in every one he found Krishna, and marvelled at the power of his yoga-maya, the magic illusion of manifestation. Another time Narada came and invited Krishna to a great sacrifice held in his honour by the Pandavas. At this glorious ceremony Shishupala was present, and was slain by Krishna. 1

1 For this episode see p. 157.

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Hiranyakashipu's Choice

It has also been related how Rama overcame Ravana in the battle for the recovery of Sita. This Shishupala and this Ravana were one with Hiranyakashipu, an impious Daitya king, who nursed an implacable hatred for Vishnu. He met his death when blaspheming against God. Vishnu himself sprang from a pillar of his palace in the form of a man-lion (Narasimha) and tore him to pieces. It is said that he had been once of high estate in Vishnu's heaven, but had committed a great fault ; and given the choice of expiation by three births on earth as the enemy of Vishnu, or seven births as his friend, chose the former as leading to the soonest return.

It should be noticed that Ravana before the battle in a brief moment of recollection admits Rama's divinity, and says : " I am to be slain by him, and therefore I have carried off this daughter of Janaka. It is not from passion or anger that I retain her. I desire, being slain, to reach that highest home of Vishnu." Of Shishupala it is said that he more than any other creature hated Vishnu in his incarnation as Krishna, and for this reason met death at his hands ; " but inasmuch as his thoughts were ever concentred on the Lord, albeit in hatred, Shishupala was united with him after death, for the Lord bestows a heavenly and exalted station upon those he slayeth, even in wrath."

The End of Krishna

After this Krishna again went to join the Pandavas, and remained with them during the Great War as Arjuna's charioteer. On the field of Kurukshetra he uttered the Bhagavad Gita. He was present at the death of Bhishma,

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and after Duryodhana's death he received the curse of his mother. She bewailed the death of her son and of friend and foe; then, recognizing Hari as the Prime Mover, the One behind All, she cursed him for letting such things befall. This was her curse : that after thirty-six years Krishna should perish alone and miserably, and his people, the Vrishnis, should be destroyed. These things in due time came to pass. A madness seized the people of Dwaraka so that they fell upon one another and were slain, together with all the sons and grandsons of Krishna. Only the women and Krishna and Balarama remained alive. Then Balarama went to the forest, and Krishna first sent a messenger to the Kuru city, to place the city and women of Dwaraka under the Pandavas protection, and then took leave of his father ; afterward he himself sought the forest, where Balaram awaited him. Krishna discovered his brother seated under a mighty tree on the edge of the forest ; he sat like a yogi, and behold, there came forth from his mouth a mighty snake, the thousand-headed naga Ananta, and glided away to the ocean. Ocean himself and the sacred rivers and many divine nagas came to meet him. Thus Krishna beheld his brother depart from the human world, and he wandered alone in the forest. He that was full of energy sat down on the bare earth and thought of Gandhari's curse and all that had befallen, and he knew that the time had come for his own departure. He restrained his senses in yoga and laid himself down. Then there came a hunter that way and thought him a deer, and loosed a shaft and pierced his foot; but when he came close the hunter beheld a man wrapped in yellow robes practising yoga. Thinking himself an offender, he touched his feet. Then Krishna rose and gave him comfort, and himself ascended

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to Heaven, filling the whole sky with glory; passing through Indra's paradise, he went to his own place. Arjuna went to Dwaraka and brought away the women and children of the Vrishnis, and set out for Kurukshetra. On the way a band of warriors attacked the cavalcade and carried away a great part of the women. Arjuna established the others with the remnant of Krishna's descendants in new cities ; but Rukmini and many others of Krishna's wives became Sati, burning themselves on a pyre, and others became ascetics and nuns. The waters of the ocean advanced and overwhelmed Dwaraka so that no trace remained.

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