Continuation from the previous issue…
Of all the indecencies of Krishna 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.
Krishna was also a warrior and a politician even at a very early age, we are told, when he was in his twelfth year. Every one of his acts whether as a warrior or as a politician was an immoral act. His first act in this sphere was the assassination of his maternal uncle Kamsa. ‘Assassination’ is not too strong a term for it, for though Kamsa had given him provocation, he was not killed in the course of a battle or even in a single combat. The story is that having heard God Krishna’s youthful feats at Brindaban, Kamsa got frightened and determined to secure his death by confronting him with a great athelete in an open exhibition of arms. Accordingly he announced the celebration of a dhanuryajna a bow sacrifice, and invited Krishna, Balarama and their Gopa friends to it. Akrura, an adherent of Krishna, but an officer of Kamsa, was deputed by the latter to bring the brothers to Mathura. They came, determined to kill Kamsa. He had provoked not only them, but other Yadavas also, whom his persecution had compelled to leave Mathura. The brothers were therefore supported by a conspiracy against him. Having arrived at Mathura, they desired to change their simple Gopa dress for a more decent one, and asked for clothes from Kamsa’s washerman, whom they met in the street. As the man behaved insolently with them, they killed him and took from his stock whatever clothes they liked. They then met Kubja, a hunch-backed woman who served as Kamsa’s perfumer. At their request she annointed them with sandal paste and in return was cured by Krishna of her bodily deformity. The Bhagvata makes him visit her on a subsequent occasion and describes his union with her with its characteristic indecency. However, on the present occasion, the brothers annointed by Kubja and garlanded by Sudama, a flower-seller, entered the place of sacrifice and broke the great bow to which the sacrifice was to be offered. The frightened Kamsa sent an elephant named Kuvalayapida to kill them. Krishna killed the elephant and entered the arena. There the brothers encountered Kamsa’s chosen athletes, Chanura, Mustika, Toshalaka and Andhra. Krishna killed Chanura and Toshalaka and Balarama the other two. Frustrated in his plan of securing Krishna’s death by stratagem Kamsa ordered the brothers and their Gopa friends to be turned out and banished from his kingdom, their herds to be confiscated and Vasudeva, Nanda and his own father Ugrasen to be assassinated. At this Krishna got upon the platform on which Kamsa was seated, and seizing him by the hair, threw him down on the ground and killed him. Having consoled Kamsa’s weeping wives he ordered a royal cremation for him, and refusing the kingdom offered him by Ugrasen, installed the latter on the throne and invited his banished relatives to return to Mathura.
The next episode is Krishna’s fight with Jarasandha, emperor of Magadha, and Kalayavana. Jarasandha was the son-in-law of Kamsa. Enraged by Krishna’s assassination of Kamsa, his son-in-law, Jarasandha is said to have invaded Mathura seventeen times and to have been every time repulsed by Krishna. Fearing, however, that an eighteenth invasion would be disastrous to the city, Krishna removed the Yadavas to Dwarka at the west end of Gujarat Peninsula. After the removal of the Yadavas from Mathura, the city was besieged by Kalayavana at the instigation of Jarasandha. While pursuing the unarmed Krishna, however, out of the city, the invader was burnt to ashes, by fire issuing from the eyes of king Muchakunda, who had been sleeping in a mountain cave and whom he had awakened with a kick mistaking him for Krishna. Krishna defeated the army of Kalayavana but while flying to Dwaraka with the booty, he was overtaken by Jarasandha. He, however, evaded his enemy by climbing a hill and flying to Dwaraka after jumping down from it.
Krishna was now, for the first time, married. He married Rukmini, daughter of Bhishmaka, king of Vidarbha. Her father, at Jarasandha’s advice, was making preparations to get her married to Sishupala, Krishna’s cousin and king of Chedi. But Krishna carried her off on the day before the proposed marriage. The Bhagavata says she had fallen in love with Krishna and had addressed a love letter to him. This does not seem to be true. For Krishna did not remain a true and faithful husband of Rukmini. Rukmini was gradually followed by an enormously vast army of co-wives till the number of Krishna’s consorts rose to sixteen thousand one hundred and eight. His children numbered one lakh and eighty-thousand. The chief of his wives were the well-known eight, Rukmini, Satyabhama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitrabinda, Satya, Bhadra, and Lakshmana. The remaining sixteen thousand and one hundred were married to him on the same day. They belonged originally to the harem of king Naraka of Pragjyotish whom Krishna defeated and killed at the invitation of Indra, whose mother’s ear-rings had been carried away by Naraka. While paying a visit after the battle to Indra’s heaven in company with Satyabhama, this lady took fancy to Indra’s famous parijat tree. To oblige his wife, Krishna had to fight with the God whom he had just favoured. Indra, though the chief of the Vedic Gods, and though he was helped by the latter on this occasion was indeed no match for the ‘Incarnation of the Supreme Being’ and was forced to part with his favourite flower-tree, which was thus carried to Dwarka and planted there. The story of how he obtained his chief eight wives is very interesting. The story of how he got Rukmini is already told. Satyabhama was the daughter of Satyajit, a Yadava chief who gave her away in marriage to Krishna because he was afraid of him and wished to buy his favour. Jambavati was the daughter of Jambavna, a bear chief, against whom Krishna waged a long war to recover a previous gem he had taken away from a Yadava. Jambavana was defeated and presented his daughter to Krishna, as a peace-offering. Kalindi went through a series of austerities in order to get Krishna as her husband and her devotion was rewarded by the marriage she had sought. Mitrabinda was a cousin of Krishna and was carried off by him from the Svayamvara grounds. Satya was the daughter of Nagnajit, king of Ayodhya and was won by Krishna when he had achieved a brave feat of arms, namely, killing a number of naughty bulls belonging to Nagnajit. Bhadra was another cousin of Krishna and was married by him in the usual way. Lakshmana was the daughter of Brihatsena, king of Madra. and was carried off by him from the Swayamavara grounds.
Krishna’s part in Arjuna’s marriage with Subhadra, sister of Balarama and Krishna’s half sister is noteworthy. In the course of his travels Arjuna arrived at the holy place of Prabhasa, and was received by Krishna on the hill of Raivataka. There he was enamoured of Subhadra and asked Krishna how he could get her. Krishna advised him to carry her off as a brave Kshatriya without depending upon the chances of a Svayamvaram, the usual Kshatriya form of marriage. The Yadavas were at first enraged at this outrage, but when Krishna convinced them that Arjuna would be a very worthy husband for Subhadra, and that by carrying her off he had done nothing unworthy of a hero, they consented to the union. And how could they do otherwise? Krishna did not simply argue like us, poor talkers. He, as we have already seen, had backed his precepts by his example.
It is interesting to note how Krishna disposed of Jarasandha and Sishupala who created trouble at the Rajasuya performed by Yudhisthira. Jarasandha had imprisoned a large number of kings and intended to sacrifice them to Rudra. Unless he was killed and the imprisoned princes released and given an opportunity to pay homage to Yudhisthira, the latter’s claim as emperor could not be established. Krishna therefore proceeded with Bhima and Arjuna to Rajagriha, Jarasandha’s capital, and challenged him to a single combat with anyone of them he might choose. Such a challenge could not be refused by a Kshatriya, and Jarasandha, at the anticipation of death at his opponent’s hand, declared his son Sahadev as his heir apparent and chose Bhima as his opponent. The combat lasted thirteen days, and Jarasandha at length met with a painful death at his rival’s hand. Having put Sahadev on his father’s throne, and invited the released princes to attend Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya, Krishna and his friends returned to Indraprastha.
In due course the Rajasuya came off. Of the various functions and duties connected with the ceremony, Krishna is said to have taken charge of washing the feet of the Brahmans. This is a sure indication of the comparative modernness of the Mahabharata, at any rate, of this story. For in ancient times, even when the supremacy of the Brahmans had been established, the Kshatriyas never paid them any servile honour. However when the sacrifice was over, the time came for Yudhisthira to make presents to the assembled princes, priests and other persons deserving honour. To whom must honour be paid first?
Yudhisthira having asked Bhishma’s opinion on the matter, the latter replied that Krishna was the person to be honoured first. Accordingly Sahadeva at Yudhishtira’s command presented the Arghya, the mark of honour, to Krishna, and the latter accepted it. This upset Sishupala, who made a long speech, challenging Krishna’s right to the honour and abusing the Pandavas for paying any honour and Krishna for accepting it. Bhishma made another speech narrating Krishna’s exploits and achievements at length, and declaring his divinity. Sishupala rose again, rebutted Bhishma’s arguments one after another, and grossly abused him. It is pointed out by Krishna’s recent biographers, that of the charges brought against Krishna by Sishupala, there is no mention of his dealings with the Brindaban Gopis, a sure indication, according to them, that when the Mahabharatha was composed, the story of these dealings of Krishna, a story made so much of by the writers of the Puranas and the later poets, was not conceived. However, at the end of Sishupala’s speech Bhishma, who saw that Yudhishtira was afraid lest Sishupala and his followers might obstruct the completion of the ceremony, said, addressing them that if they were resolved to die they might challenge the divine Krishna himself to fight. At this Sishupala challenged Krishna, who rose in response and narrated his opponent’s numerous misdeeds. Then with the words, “At the request of his mother, my aunt, I have pardoned a hundred of Sishupala’s offences. But I cannot pardon the insulting words he has spoken of me before the assembled princes: I kill him before you all”. He threw his chakra at him and cut off his head.
Actions of Krishna during the Mahabharata War may now be reviewed. The following are some of them:
- When Satyaki, Krishna’s friend, was hard pressed by Bhurisrava, son of Somadatta, Krishna induced Arjuna to cut off his arms, and thereby made it easy for Satyaki to kill him.
- When Abhimanyu was unfairly surrounded and killed by seven Kaurava warriors, Arjuna vowed the death of the ring leader, Jayadratha, next day before sunset, or, failing that his own death by entering into fire. When the Sun was about to set, and Jayadratha remained unslain, Krishna miraculously hid the Sun, on which Jayadratha, having come out Krishna uncovered the Sun, and Arjuna killed Jayadratha when he was unaware.
- Despairing of Drona being ever killed by fair means Krishna advised the Pandavas to kill him unfairly. If he could be made to cast down his arms, he could, Krishna said, be killed easily. This could be done if he was told that his son, Asvathama was dead. Bhima tried the suggested device. He killed an elephant named after Drona’s son and told him that Asvathama was killed. The warrior was somewhat depressed by the news, but did not quite believe it. At this juncture he was hard pressed by a number of sages to cease fighting and prepare himself for heaven with meditations worthy of a Brahmana. This checked the hero still more and he applied to the truthful Yudhisthira for correct information about his son. Finding Yudhisthira unwilling to tell a lie, Krishna overcame his reluctance by a long exhortation, in the course of which he announced his ethics of untruth in the following edifying text from Vasishtha’s Smriti.
“In marriage, in amorous dealings, when one’s life is in danger, when the whole of one’s possession is going to be lost, and when a Brahman’s interest is at stake, untruth should be told. The wise have said that speaking untruth on these five occasions is not a sin.” Yudhisthir’s scruples were stifled, and he said to his preceptor, “Yes, Asvathama is killed” adding in a low voice, “that is, an elephant” which last words, however were not heard by Dron. His depression was complete, and on hearing some bitterly reproachful words from Bhima, he gave up his arms, and while sitting in a meditative posture, was killed by Dhristhadyumna.
- When Bhima was unsuccessfully fighting with Duryodhana by the side of the Dvaipayana Lake Krishna reminded him through Arjuna that he had vowed the breaking of his opponent’s thighs. Now striking a rival below the navel was unfair, but as Duryodhana could not be killed except by such an unfair means, Krishna advised Bhima to adopt the same and Bhima did.”
The death of Krishna throws a flood of light on his morals. Krishna died as the Ruler of Dwaraka. What was this Dwaraka like and what sort of death awaited him?
In founding his city of Dwaraka he had taken care to settle thousands of ‘unfortunates’ there. As the Harivamsa said : ‘O, hero having conquerred the abodes of the Daityas (giants) with the help of brave Yadus, the Lord settled thousands of public women in Dwaraka”. Dancing, singing and drinking by men and women married and prostitutes filled the city of Dwaraka. We get a description of a sea trip in which these women formed a principal source of enjoyment. Excited by their singing and dancing, the brothers Krishna and Balarama joined in the dancing with their wives. They were followed by the other Yadava chiefs and by Arjuna and Narada. Then a fresh excitement was sought. Men and women all fell into the sea and at Krishna’s suggestion, the gentlemen began a jalakrida water sport, with the ladies, Krishna leading one party, and Balarama another, while the courtesans added to the amusement by their music. This was followed by eating and drinking and this again by a special musical performance in which the leaders themselves exhibited their respective skill in handling various musical instruments. It will thus be seen what a jolly people these Yadavas were, and with what contempt they would have treated the objections urged nowadays by the Brahmans and such other purists against nautch parties and the native theatres. It was in one of these revels—a drunken revel—that the Yadavas were destroyed. They, it is said, had incurred the displeasure of a number of sages by a childish trick played on the latter by some of their boys. These boys disguised Samba, one of Krishna’s sons, as a woman with child, tying an iron pestle below his navel, and asked the sages to say what child the ‘woman’ would give birth to. The enraged sage said ‘she’ would produce an iron pestle which would be the ruin of the Yadavas. Fearing the worst consequences from this curse, the boys took the pestle to the sea-side and rubbed it away. But its particles came out in the form of erakas, a kind of reeds and its last remaining bit, which had been thrown into the sea, was afterwards recovered and used by a hunter as the point of an arrow; Now it was with these erakas that the Yadavas killed themselves. They had gone in large parties to the holy place of Prabhasa. They indulged in drinking there and this proved their ruin. The evils of drinking there had been found out at length by Krishna and some other Yadava leaders, and it was prohibited on pain of death by a public notification. But the prohibition had no effect. The drunken Yadavas at first quarrelled and then began to fight and kill one another. When some of Krishna’s own sons were killed he himself joined in the fight and killed a large number of his own people. He then went in search of Balarama. He found him in meditative posture and saw his spirit passing out of his body in the form of a large serpent i.e., Sesha Naga, the divine snake whom he had incarnated. Krishna now felt that it was time for him also to pass away. He then bade farewell to his father and his wives, telling them that he had sent for Arjuna, who would take charge of them. Then he seated himself under a tree, hidden by its leafy and outstretching branches, and composed his mind in meditation. While thus sitting, a hunter named Jara mistook him for a deer and hit him with an arrow, one pointed with the last remaining bit of the fatal pestle. Discovering his mistake, the man fell at Krishna’s feet and was pardoned and flew away to heaven, illumining all sides by its dazzling light. Arjuna came and proceeded towards Hastinapur with the surviving Yadavas—men and women. But his good genius having left him he had lost the power of his hitherto mighty arm and his unrivalled skill as an archer. A number of Ahiras, armed only with lathis, attacked his party and carried off many of the women, and he reached Hastinapur only with a small remnant. After Arjuna’s departure the sea engulfed Dwaraka, and nothing was left to speak of the Yadavas, their glories, their domestic broils and their revels.
to be continued….
Source: ‘Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Writings and Speeches’ Volume IV, Riddles of Rama and Krishna, published by the Government of Maharashtra, 1987