Continuation from the previous issue….
It happened, however, that a certain Brahman’s son died in a premature death. The bereaved father carried his body to the gate of the king’s palace, and placing it there, cried aloud and bitterly reproached Rama for the death of his son, saying that it must be the consequence of some sin committed within his realm, and that the king himself was guilty if he did not punish it; and finally threatened to end his life there by sitting dharna (hunger-strike) against Rama unless his son was restored to life. Rama thereupon consulted his council of eight learned Rishis and Narada amongst them told Rama that some Shudra among his subjects must have been performing Tapasya (ascetic exercises), and thereby going against Dharma (sacred law); for according to it the practice of Tapasya was proper to the twice-born alone, while the duty of the Shudras consisted only in the service of the twice-born. Rama was thus convinced that it was the sin committed by a Shudra in transgressing Dharma in that manner, which was responsible for the death of the Brahmin boy. So, Rama mounted his aerial car and scoured the countryside for the culprit.
At last, in a wild region far away to the south he espied a man practising rigorous austerities of a certain kind. He approached the man, and with no more ado than to enquire of him and inform himself that he was a Shudra, by name Sambuka who was practising Tapasya with a view to going to heaven in his own earthly person and without so much as a warning, expostulation or the like addressed to him, cut off his head. And lo and behold! That very moment the dead Brahman boy in distant Ayodhya began to breathe again. Here in the wilds the Gods rained flowers on the king from their joy at his having prevented a Shudra from gaining admission to their celestial abode through the power of the Tapasya which he had no right to perform. They also appeared before Rama and congratulated him on his deed. In answer to his prayer to them to revive the dead Brahman boy lying at the palace gate in Ayodhya, they informed him that he had already come to life. They then departed.
Rama thence proceeded to the Ashrama which was nearby of the sage Agastya, who commended the step he had taken with Sambuka, and presented him with a divine bracelet. Rama then returned to his capital.
Such is Rama.
THE RIDDLE OF KRISHNA
Krishna is the hero of the Mahabharata. Really speaking the Mahabharata is principally connected with the Kauravas and the Pandavas. It is the story of the war fought by the two for right to the kingdom which belonged to their ancestors. They should be the principal characters. But they are not. It is Krishna who is the hero of the epic. This is a little strange thing. But what is stranger still is the possibility not being a contemporary of the Kauravas and Pandavas. Krishna was the friend of the Pandavas who had their empire. Krishna was the enemy of Kansa who also had his empire. It does not seem possible that two such empires should subsist side by side at once and at the same time. Secondly, in the Mahabharata there is nothing to show that there was any intercourse between the two empires. The two stories of Krishna and the Pandavas have been mixed together at some later date in order to provide Krishna with a larger theater to play a bigger part. The mixture of the two stories is the result of a deliberate design on the part of Vyas to glorify Krishna and to raise him above all.
In the hands of Vyas Krishna is God among men. That is why he is made the hero of the Mahabharata. Does Krishna really deserve to be called God among men? A short sketch of his life alone will help to give a correct answer. Krishna was born at Mathura at midnight on the 8th day of the month of Bhadra. His father was Vasudeva of the Yadu race, and his mother Devaki, daughter of Devaka, the brother of Ugrasen, king of Mathura. Ugrasen’s wife had an illicit connection with Drumila the Danava king of Saubha. From this illicit connection was born Kansa who was in a sense the cousin of Devaki. Kansa imprisoned Ugrasen and usurped the throne of Mathura. Having heard from Narada or Daivavani, a voice from Heaven that Devaki’s eighth child would kill him, Kansa imprisoned both Devaki and her husband and killed six of their children as they were born one after another. The seventh child, Balarama, was miraculously transferred from Devaki’s womb to that of Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva. When the eighth child, Krishna, was born, he was secretly borne by his father to the other side of the river Yamuna, where Nanda and his wife Yasoda, natives of Vraja, were then living. The Yamuna rolled back her waters to make way for the divine child, the Ananta, the chief of serpents protected him with his ample hood from the heavy torrent of rain that was then falling. By a previous arrangement, Vasudeva exchanged his son for Nanda’s newly born daughter, Yogindra or Mahamaya, and presented the latter to Kansa as his eighth child, but she flew away, telling him that the child which is being brought up by Nanda and Yasoda would kill him. This led Kansa to make a series of unsuccessful attempts to kill the child Krishna. With this object he sent to Vraja a number of Asuras in various forms. The killing of these Asuras and number of other heroic deeds, impossible for an ordinary human child, are the chief staple of the Puranic account of Krishna’s early life. Some of them are mentioned in the Mahabharata also. As might be expected, the authorities differ largely in their narration of these facts. I mention only some of them, following chiefly the later authorities.
The first or one of the first of these is the killing of Putana. She was Kansa’s nurse and was sent by him to kill Krishna in the form of a female vulture, according to Harivamsa, and of a beautiful woman according to the Bhagavata. As she pretending to suckle Krishna, put her poisoned breast into his mouth, he sucked it so powerfully as to draw out her very life-blood so that she fell down with an yell and died.
Krishna performed another of these feats when he was only three months old. It was the breaking of a Sakata, a cart which was used as a cupboard and had several jars and pans, full of milk and curd, ranged on it. According to the Harivamsa Sakata was an Asura sent by Kansa and had entered the cart intending to crush the infant Krishna by its weight. However, Yasoda had placed the boy under the cart and gone to bathe in the Yamuna. On her return she was told that he had kicked against it and broken it to pieces with all that lay on it. This event surprised and frightened Yasoda, and she offered pujas to avert the evils threatened by it.
When Putana and Sakata’s attempts to kill Krishna having failed, Kansa sent another of his emissaries an asura named Trinavarta, to attempt the same task. He came in the form of a bird and carried aloft the divine child, then only a year old. But he soon dropped down dead with the child safe and holding his throat tightly.
The next feat was the breaking of two arjuna trees growing side by side. They are described as the bodies of two Yakshas who were converted into this form by a curse, and who were released by this feat of Krishna. When he had learnt to crawl about and could hardly be kept out of mischief Yasoda tied him with a rope to a wooden mortar and went to mind her household duties. When she was out of sight, Krishna began to drag the mortar after him till it stuck fast between the trees. Still pulling the heavy weight after him, he uprooted the trees and made them fall down with a tremendous noise, himself remaining unhurt by them.
Now these events filled Nanda with fear, and he seriously thought of leaving Vraja and moving to another settlement. While he was thus thinking, the place was infested with wolves which made great havoc among the cattle and made it quite unsafe. This fixed the wavering intention of the nomads and they moved with all their belongings to the pleasant woodland named Vrindavan. Krishna was then only seven years old.
After his removal to this new settlement, Krishna killed quite a large number of Asuras. One of them was Aristha, who came in the form of a bull; another, Kesin, who was disguised as a horse. Five others, Vratrasura, Bakasura, Aghasura, Bhomasura and Sankhasura, the last a Yaksha. More important than these was Kaliya, a snake chief, who lived with his family in a whirlpool of the Yamuna and thus poisoned its water. Krishna one day threw himself on Kaliya’s hood and danced so wildly as to make him vomit blood. He would thus have killed him, but on the intervention of the snake’s family, he spared him and allowed him to move away to another abode.
The subjugation of Kaliya was followed by Vastra-harana, the carrying away of clothes, a hard nut to crack for worshippers and admirers of the Puranic Krishna. The whole narration is so obscene, that even the merest outlines will, I fear, be felt to be indelicate. But I must give them in as decent a form as is possible, to make my brief account of Krishna’s doings as full as I can. Some Gopies had dived into the waters of the Yamuna for a bath, leaving their clothes on the banks, as is said to be still the custom in some parts of the country. Krishna seized the clothes and with them climbed upon a tree on the riverside. When asked to return them, he refused to do so unless the women approached the tree and each begged her own dress for herself. This they could do only by coming naked out of the water and presenting themselves naked before Krishna. When they did this, Krishna was pleased and he gave them their clothes. This story is found in the Bhagavata.
The next of Krishna’s feats was the uplifting of the Govardhan Hill. The Gopas were about to celebrate their annual sacrifices to Indra, the God of rain, and began to make grand preparations for it. Krishna pointed out to them that as they were a pastoral and not an agricultural tribe, their real Gods were kine, hills and woods, and them only they should worship, and not such Gods as the rain-giving Indra. The Gopas were convinced, and giving up their intention of worshipping Indra celebrated a grand sacrifice to the hill Govardhan, the nourisher of kine, accompanied with feasting and dancing. Indra was as he could not but be greatly enraged at this affront offered to him, and as punishment, he poured rain on the Gopa settlement for seven days and nights continually. Krishna, nothing daunted, uprooted the hill and held it up as an umbrella over the settlement and thus protected the Gopas and their cattle from the ruinous effects of Indra’s wrath. As to the jealousy between Indra and the Krishna of the Rig-Veda and that between the former and the Vishnu of the Satapatha Brahmana, I have already spoken in my first lecture.
Krishna’s youthful career was full of illicit intimacy with the young women of Brindaben which is called his Rasalila. Rasa is a sort of circular dance in which the hands of the dancers, men and women, are joined together. It is said to be still prevalent among some of the wild tribes of this country. Krishna, it is stated, was in the habit of often enjoying this dance with the young Gopis of Brindaben, who loved him passionately. One of these dances is described in the Vishnu Purana, the Harivamsa and the Bhagavata. All these authorities interpret the Gopi’s love for Krishna as piety—love to God, and see nothing wrong in their amorous dealings with him—dealings which, in the case of any other person, would be highly reprehensible according to their own admission. All agree as to the general character of the affair—the scene, the time and season, the drawing of the women with sweet music, the dance, the amorous feelings of the women for Krishna, and their expression in various ways. But while the Vishnu Purana tries — not always successfully—to keep within the limits of decency, the Harivamsa begins to be plainly indecent, and. the Bhagavata throws away all reserve and revels in indecency.
Of all his indecencies the worst is his illicit life with one Gopi by name Radha. Krishna’s illicit relations with Radha are portrayed in the Brahmavaivarta Purana. Krishna is married to Rukmani the daughter of King Rukmangad. Radha was married to ….. Krishna who abandons his lawfully wedded wife Rukmini, and seduces Radha, wife of another man and lives with her in sin, without remorse.
Source: ‘Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Writings and Speeches’ Volume IV, Riddles of Rama and Krishna, published by the Government of Maharashtra, 1987
continuing in the next issue …