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Vishnu Manifests as Krishna

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 6:00 AM
Krishna and RadhaBhoodevi's Complaint In the Dvapara-yuga, the third-quarter of the world-cycle, the ambitions of kings burdened the earth. Bhoodevi stood before Vishnu in the form of a cow and cried: "Save me before the greed of man breaks my back."

 Plucking two of his hairs, one white and one black, the lord said, "I will place these in the womb of Devaki, the Yadava princess, and she will give birth to your guardians, Baladeva and Vasudeva, who will rid the world of unrighteous men and reestablish dharma."

Birth of Baladeva

Kamsa, lord of the Yadavas, had usurped the throne of Mathura by imprisoning his own father.

When oracles revealed that his sister, Devaki, would bear his killer, he had her thrown into the dungeons along with her husband Sura-Vasudeva. Every time she bore a son, Kamsa strode into the dungeon and brutally smashed the newborn's skull against the stony floor.

The gods came to the rescue of Devaki's seventh child. They drew him out of Devaki and placed him in the womb of Sura-Vasudeva's other wife Rohini who lived far away in Gokula in the house of Nanda, chief of cowherds.


Friend of Farmers

Krishna at YamunaThe child, conceived in Devaki and delivered by Rohini, was called Baladeva, the mighty one.

Always dressed in blue robes, this light-skinned incarnation of Vishnu, bearer of the pestle and the plough, was a friend of farmers. He taught them the art of tilling soil, dehusking grain and building canals. He was revered as Sankarshana, the cultivator.

Balarama, as he was sometimes called, loved taking care of fields and orchards or drinking wine and playing dice with friends; he despised the complicated politics of cities.

His ways were simple and straightforward, unlike those of his alter-ego, Vishnu's most perfect incarnation: Krishna.


Birth of Vasudeva-Krishna

Born of Vishnu's black hair, on a dark night, in the dark half of the lunar cycle when rainclouds rumbled across the sky and rains lashed the land of Vraja, Devaki's eighth child was a dark-hued boy, Krishna.

As soon as he was born, the gods cast the spell of sleep across Mathura so that unnoticed, Sura-Vasudeva could slip out of the city with his son in his arms.


Escape to Vrindavana

Krishna Pickup Goverdhan ParvataVasuki, king of serpents, raised his mighty hood to shield father and son from the unrelenting rain. The river Yamuna parted its waters helping them reach Gokula safely. There, Sura-Vasudeva left Krishna in the care of the cowherd Nanda and his wife Yashoda. •

When Kamsa learnt of the escape, he sent Pootana to kill every newborn in Gokula with the poison in her breasts. Krishna stopped this diabolical wet-nurse by suckling her to death.

Soon after, Nanda took Krishna to Vrindavana, a distant pastureland on the slopes of Mount Govardhana, far from Kamsa's murderous hands.


Yashoda's Adorable Child

In Vrindavana, adored by his foster-mother Yashoda, in the company of Rohini and Balarama, the lord delighted everyone with mischief and charm.

Only once did Krishna let Yashoda have a glimpse of his divinity. She saw him eating dirt but found in his mouth, not mud or dung, but the entire cosmos the sun, the moon, the earth, the planets and the stars.


Stealing Butter

BalramaKrishna grew up with a fondness for butter and no attempt to keep it out of his reach was ever successful.

He would raid every kitchen and dairy in the village, helped by his brother and his friends, and then, with a smile, distribute his 'loot' amongst children and monkeys to the extreme annoyance of the milkmaids.

When caught, the bewildered expression on his butter-smeared face and his childlike protestations of innocence produced an upsurge of maternal affection in the gopis that took them closer to the divine. In love, the women learnt to tolerate, even enjoy, the theft of buttet.


Dance of Love

With his flute, Krishna captured the rhythm of the cosmos and infused idyllic surroundings the river banks, pastures and fields with romance and beauty.

Every night, charmed by his enchanting melodies and his winsome smile, the men and women of the village would abandon everything ambition, jealousy, anger, lust, pride and make their way to the flowery meadows of Madhubana to sport and play with the lord.

Krishna was the peacock, they were the peahens. As he played his flute, they danced to his tune, swaying gently around him until they all became one.

This was rasa-leela, the mystical dance of freedom and ecstasy.



Krishna and BalramaOnce, while the gopis .were bathing in the Yamuna, Krishna stole their clothes. Sitting on the highest branch of a tree, the lord smiled and said, "Let go of your inhibitions and stand before me without a facade."

Only Radha was willing to abandon everything even honour, shame and pride for the sake of Krishna. She asked for nothing in return.

The lord saw in this simple milkmaid the embodiment of perfect love. She became his dearest companion, the inspiration for his music. With Radha in his arms, Krishna danced in joyous abandon.

Guardian of the Village

The peace of Vrindavana was often disturbed by Kamsa's minions: Agha, the python; Arista, the bull; Baga, the stork; Keshi, the horse; Vatsa, the heifer; Vyoma, the goat. Krishna and Balarama destroyed them all.

When a forest fire threatened Vrindavana, Krishna opened his mouth and consumed the flames.

He wrestled and subdued the deadly five-headed serpent Kaliya who had poisoned the waters of the village lake. To mark his triumph he danced on the serpent's hood and delighted the cosmos with his performance.

His footprint is still seen on the hood of cobras.


Divine Cowherd

Like all gopas, Krishna looked after the cows of Vrindavan, leading them to their pastures at dawn and returning with them at dusk. Enchanted by the lord's music, the cows followed him readily and joyfully offer more milk.

During the festival of the rain-god Indra, Kamsa wished to sacrifice cows. Krishna protested against this practice.

Krishna and Radha"Killing cows to please Indra cannot benefit cowherds," said Krishna. "Let us instead worship a deity who looks after our welfare, like Mount Govardhana: it blocks rain-bearing clouds for our fields and provides grazing grounds for our cattle."

When the gopas and gopis accepted the lord's suggestion, Indra was so angry that he sent down torrential rains to drown the residents of Vrindavana.

To save his village and humble the rain-god's pride, Krishna raised Mount Govardhana with his little finger and turned it into a giant parasol under which cows, cowherds and milkmaids took shelter till the rains abated.

Invitation to Mathura

Krishna's many triumphs in Vrindavana made him famous across the three worlds.

Recognising him as his long-lost nephew, Kamsa sent the royal chariot to Vrindavana inviting Krishna and his brother Balarama to participate in the royal wrestling festival.

As Krishna mounted the chariot, the gopas and gopis wept in fear. "Kamsa's wrestlers will kill you. We may never see you again," they cried.

 "It is I who shall kill Kamsa," said the lord, smiling reassuringly. "I will return and together we shall dance in triumph."

Death of Kamsa

In the arena at Mathura, the brothers who had subdued many a wild bull on the streets of Vrindavana defeated the royal wrestlers effortlessly.

They won the admiration of the Yadavas for their strength and skill and were cheered as champions.

Kamsa, angered by their victory and popularity, lunged at Krishna. The lord grabbed him by the hair and dragged him across the ring until he was dead.

The Yadavas roared their approval.

Krishna DanceUddhava's Mission

After the death of Kamsa, the true identity of Krishna and Balarama as the sons of Devaki and Sura-Vasudeva became known to all. The citizens of Mathura readily welcomed the brothers into the royal fold.

Krishna sent the Yadava Uddhava to Vrindavana to inform his friends that he would not be returning to his village. "Tell them," said the lord, "It is time for Krishna to give up his pleasure-gardens vilasa-bhoomi and shoulder his responsibilities in his karma-bhoomi, the land of his destiny."

Uddhava carried with him Krishna's flute. Never again would the world hear Krishna make music, for his days as the carefree beloved of Radha had come to an end.


Sandipani's Son

Krishna and Balarama were sent to rishi Sandipani's ashram where they were taught every skill and scripture in just sixty-four days.

In gratitude, Krishna rescued his guru's son from the clutches of the demon Panchaja who lived in a conch-shell in the bottom of the sea. After killing the demon, Krishna claimed the conch-shell as his trumpet, calling it Panchajanya.

The music of the conch-shell was a warning: the lord was now ready to kill the tormentors of the earth-goddess.

Mathura to Dwaraka

To avenge the death of his son-in-law Kamsa, Jarasandha, emperor of Magadha, sent his army to destroy Mathura. Krishna used his divine powers to transport the Yadavas, along with their families and wealth, to the city of Dwaraka that stood on an island in the western sea.

By withdrawing his kinsmen from Mathura, the lord prudently avoided bloodshed. In gratitude, Krishna was given the epithet Ranchor-rai, he-who-avoided-war.

Dwaraka became Vishnu's Vaikuntha on earth the centre of dharma.

Krishna married eight noble women, chief of whom was Rukmini. Like the eight manifestations of Lakshmi, Krishna's queens were rulers of the eight quarters of his city.


Pandavas and Draupadi

Pleased to see Vishnu on earth in the form of Krishna, the earth-goddess Bhoodevi emerged from a fire-pit as Draupadi.

She wanted to marry an ideal king, but found none on the face of the earth. So she married the five Pandava princes of Hastinapur, Krishna's paternal cousins. Between them, the Pandava brothers had the five qualities of an ideal king: Yudhishtira possessed nobility, Bhima strength, Arjuna skill, Nakula charm, Sahadeva wisdom.

On Krishna's advice, the Pandavas, orphaned in childhood, asked their paternal cousins, the Kauravas, to . give them their half of the ancestral kingdom.

They were given the undeveloped half the wastelands of Khandavprastha on which they built, with the help of Krishna, a rich and prosperous city called Indraprastha.

The Kauravas envied the Pandava fortune.


Sishupala Envies Krishna

The kings of the earth attended the coronation of Yudhishtira. During the ceremony, the Pandavas honoured Krishna. "You are to the Pandavas on earth what Vishnu is to Indra in heaven," they said.

Sishupala, king of Chedi, jealous of Krishna's rising reputation, stood up and shouted, "How dare the Pandavas treat a common cowherd as a royal guest?" He began abusing Krishna, calling him names.

A thousand times did Sishupala insult Krishna. A thousand times Krishna forgave him.

Then when he insulted Krishna one more time, Krishna said, "When you were born, I promised your mother to forgive you one thousand times. I have kept my promise. Now that you have crossed the limit, I shall punish you."

Having explained his intention, tlie lord hurled his discus, the Sudarshan-chakra and slit Sishupala's throat.


The Game of Dice

Like Indra in the heavens, Yudhishtira became complacent surrounded by pomp and prosperity. Without consulting his benefactor Krishna, he accepted an invitation to a game of dice.

In the gambling hall he rolled the die and lost all he possessed: his kingdom, his brothers, even his own self.

His cousins, the Kauravas, the winners of the game, then asked him to wager Draupadi. Yudhishtira lost her too.

Draupadi was dragged by the hair into the gambling hall where the Kauravas decided to disrobe her in public.


Krishna Protects Draupadi

Krishna Kill KansaThe kings of the world, witnesses of this tragedy, were too busy discussing the intricacies of the law and the rules of the game to come to Draupadi's aid.

Realising no man, neither husband nor king, would come to her rescue, Draupadi, with tears in her eyes, raised her arms towards the heavens and cried out, "Help me, Krishna."

'Instantly the lord came to her rescue. For each robe that the Kauravas removed, there was another covering Draupadi.

No matter how hard they tried they could not strip the earth-goddess bare. When they gave up, Draupadi swore, "I will not tie my hair until I have washed it with the blood of the Kauravas."

Krishna promised to avenge her humiliation.


Justice and Peace

The Pandavas and their common wife, defeated in a game of dice, were driven out of Indraprastha. "You can claim your kingdom only after you live in the forests, without home or identity, for thirteen years," said the Kauravas, shutting the doors of civilisation on their face.

At first the Pandavas wished to attack and reclaim their lands immediately. "No, that will be against dharma. You lost the wager and so must suffer the exile," advised Krishna.

Thirteen years later, after much hardship, when the Pandavas returned from exile and asked for their kingdom, the Kauravas refused to part with it.

"This is against dharma," said Krishna. "The Pandavas kept their word. You must too."

"No," said the Kauravas. "Give them at least five villages for the sake of peace," pleaded Krishna, willing to compromise to avoid bloodshed.

"No," said Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava. "Then you will get what you deserve a war," declared Krishna, "And none will prevent the slaughter of the unrighteous Kauravas."


Arjuna's Charioteer

As the Pandavas and Kauravas prepared for war, Balarama said, "Spilling blood for land or law makes no sense." He refused to fight for either side.

"If this war does not take place, adharma will reign supreme, and pralaya will destroy the world before its time is up," argued Krishna.

Krishna took up the reins of Arjuna's chariot. "Come Arjuna, help me establish dharma on earth."


Bhagavad Gita

Before the battle began, Arjuna lost his will to fight. He put down his weapons and cried, "How can I kill my own cousins for a piece of land?"

"This battle," said Krishna, "is not for your land or your crown; it is for dharma. You shall kill the unrighteous, not out of anger and vengeance, but because it is your duty. You are only an instrument of the divine being who rotates the cycle of life."

"Who is this divine being?" asked Arjuna.

"It is Vishnu," said Krishna, revealing his true self, his vishvarupa. "Behold, all that exists, exists within me; all that happens is because of me. Do not delude yourself into believing that it is you who create or kill. I am the cause of all events the creator and the destroyer. Abandon yourself into my care, detach yourself from the result, and do as I say I caused the war, I will decide its fate."

Krishna and His MotherThe words of Krishna became the song of the divine, the Bhagavad Gita, that made Arjuna see his actions in clear light.

Doubts cleared, intention clarified, decision taken, Arjuna picked up his bow and mounted the chariot. Krishna blev, his conch and led Arjuna towards the enemy.


The Great War

The battle on the plains of Kurukshetra was no ordinary war; it was a battle to relieve the earth-goddess Bhoodevi of the burden of adharma.

Using every strategy of war, including guile, Krishna orchestrated the defeat of the unrighteous Kauravas. One by one, their commanders fell to the ground, struck by the ruthless sword of justice.


Defeat of Kauravas

On the final day of the war, encouraged by Krishna, Bhima killed Duryodhana, the leader of the Kauravas, striking him beneath the navel with his mace. This outraged the kings of earth who condemned Krishna for breaking the sacred rules of war.

"Where was this indignation when a helpless Draupadi was being abused by the Kauravas? Where was this sense of fair play when the earth-goddess Bhoodevi, burdened by your wickedness, begged for mercy? What use are your rules and laws when they do not uphold truth and justice?" asked the lord as he led the Pandavas to victory.


Krishna With His FatherHe who had brought love and laughter to the meadows of Vrindavana had filled the fields of Kurukshetra with the blood of unrighteousness kings and warriors.

Draupadi, Bhoodevi incarnate, washed her hair with the blood of the Kauravas and tied her hair. "Nothing burdens the earth anymore, there is dharma everywhere," said the earth-goddess thanking Vishnu, her divine protector.

The fallen kings reviled Krishna.

The triumphant Pandavas cheered Krishna.

Krishna accepted it all, unfluttered by the rage, unflattered by the praise. Under his guidance, the Pandavas reestablished righteousness on earth.


Death of Krishna

But there was anger and sorrow in the heart of Gandhari, mother of the Kauravas. She cursed Krishna, "May you, Eke me, witness the degeneration and death of your kith and kin. And then, may you like an common beast die at the hands of a hunter."

Said Krishna, "Every action has a reaction. For the sake of dharina if I have to lose my family I am willing to pay the price."

Gandhari's curse was to come true years later.

The war had divided the Yadavas. Those who supported the Kauravas became sworn enemies of those who supported the Pandavas. Matters came to a head years later at Prabhasa where, after consuming too much liquor, there was an argument between the two groups. This led to a brawl. The brawl turned into a battle.

Krishna, like Gandhari, saw his sons, his grandsons, his great-grandsons, fight and kill each other in this civil war.

Soon after, the sea rose and engulfed the city of Dwaraka.

In despair, Balarama renounced the world and let his life-breath slip out of his body in the form of a snake.

Having seen the Yadavas destroy themselves, Krishna sat under a banyan tree in contemplation. A hunter mistook his foot for the ear of a deer and shot a poisoned dart at him. As the poison took effect, the spirit of Vishnu left his earthly abode and returned to Vaikuntha.


Krishna`s AttackThe death of Krishna marked the dawn of Kali-yuga, the age of spiritual blindness.

"Have you abandoned us lord?" cried the gopas and gopis of Vrindavana.

Replied Vishnu, "How can I abandon those who love me? In Vaikuntha is Go-loka, the divine pleasure-garden. There, surrounded by celestial cows, under flowering trees, beside sparkling rivers, I play the flute and dance with Radha. Come, come and join me in my paradise, sing and dance around me for all eternity."

 "How do we come there lord?"

"Work with wisdom and devotion, respect dharma, be compassionate, and you shall find the way to my garden of eternal delight."

Writer – Devdutt Pattanaik


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