MAHABHARATA Told by Sriram Raghavan

Chapter 028 - Stories of Krishna - Part 3 of 3.

The third part of Krishna stories. Krishna goes to Mathura and kills Kamsa. He marries Rukmini and 7 other wives. Krishna slays Narakasura and frees 16,100 women.

Mahabharata - Chapter 29 - A Recap of the Story so far - Told by Sriram Raghavan

Krishna performed many miracles. Kamsa heard of Krishna's exploits. He also came to know that Krishna was the real eighth son of Devaki – the child who was destined to kill him. Kamsa was enraged. If you remember, Kamsa had sent out many asuras to kill Krishna, but they were all defeated. Kamsa wondered what to do. An idea struck him. If he can somehow bring Krishna to Mathura, Kamsa's own backyard. Krishna can be overpowered. So, Kamsa arranged for a wresling match and invited Krishna and Balarama to participate. Krishna knew that the time had come to put an end to Kamsa's treachery and consented to the invitation. Krishna and Balarama went to Mathura. While walking through the city of Mathura, a poor garland maker called Sudama saw them. Sudama had heard of Krishna before. He was convinced that Krishna was the Lord himself incarnated. Sudama immediately ran towards Krishna and decorated him with flowers and fell at his feet. Krishna was greatly pleased and told Sudama to ask for any boon, but Sudama wished for nothing. He merely requested to be Krishna's devotee forever – to be blessed with compassion for all human beings. Krishna granted this boon to Sudama and the two became friends thereafter.

Krishna and Balarama finally reached the palace where the Wrestling match was to take place. At the gate was a giant elephant called Kuvalayapida. This elephant was instigated to trample and kill Krishna on sight. When Krishna reached the palace gates, the elephant attacked him, but Krishna caught hold of the elephant's trunk, swirled it a 100 times and dashed it to the ground. Then, pulling out it's tusks, Krishna and Balarama entered the wresling arena with wide eyes and fervor. Seeing the two mighty boys, the crowd and other wrestlers trembled in fear. Kamsa himself had sleepless nights and nightmares and on seeing Krishna and Balarama in person, was greatly agitated. He was sure that his end was now near.

Krishna and Balarama were challenged to wrestling matches by Chanura and Mushtika respectively. They fought valiently but were defeated in the end by the two boys. Many other wrestlers posed their challenge but every single one of them met with defeat in the end. Finally, Krishna rushed at Kamsa. Kamsa drew his sword to fight with Krishna and a great battle followed between the two. Eventually, Krishna wrestled and dragged Kamsa throughtout the arena and killed him. Kamsa's eight brothers, furious on hearing about Kamsa's death came to fight Krishna, but they were met with Balarama who killed them in battle.

Now that the kingdom was free of the treacherous Kamsa, Krishna freed his mother and father – Devaki and Vasudeva from the prison and crowned Ugrasena – Kamsa's father as the king of Mathura.

Krishna and Balarama continued to live in Mathura as princes for a while and eventually retreated to Dwaraka where Krishna set up his kingdom.

Krishna married the princess of Vidharba called Rukmini. Rukmini was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi who was Lord Vishnu's wife. Thus, Rukmini was destined to marry Krishna who was lord Vishnu's incarnation.

Rukmini's brother Rukmi was an ally of Kamsa. Thus he did not agree to the wedding of his sister to Krishna. He arranged for Rukmini's wedding with Shishupala. However, Krishna arrived on time and escaped with Rukmini and married her.

Incidentally, Shishupala, Rukmi and Jarasandha were all allys of Kamsa and since Kamsa was killed by Krishna, all three of them swore revenge against Krishna. We will hear about Krishna's encounter with these kings later in the Mahabharata.

Krishna in total married eight queens who were collectively known as Ashtabharya. Their names were Rukmini, Satyabama, Jambavati, Kalindi, Mitravinda, Nagnajiti, Bhadra and Lakshmana.

Krishna also wedded 16,100 women whom he freed by defeating and killing a demon called Narakasura who kept the 16,100 women as prisoners. Since they were held in captivity, their status in society would have been downgraded at that time and Krishna married them to reinstate their status in society. This marriage was more of a symbolic gesture of women upliftment than an actual marriage. It is also believed that these 16,100 women were souls that emerged from Goddess Lakshmi and were destined to marry Krishna as a result of several years of penances and austerities to attain Moksha – or salvation.

This brings us to the end of introducing Lord Krishna into the Mahabharata. Krishna has been described in this detail to give an appropriate picture of this character. To the listener, it is important to understand that Krishna was not an ordinary soul. He was an incarnation of the Supreme Lord Vishnu who was born as a human to relieve the earth of many evils. More importantly his mission was to relieve souls of their miseries in this world and provide them with a pathway to salvation. The most important teaching of Krishna as the Avatar of God was given to Arjuna in the Kurushetra war. In this teaching, Krishna speaks as a Guru who imparts the science of the soul to Arjuna – his disciple. This incident is famously recorded as the Bhagvad Gita and has been regarded as one of the greatest Spiritual Scripture of all time. We will visit the Bhagvad Gita in later chapters in the Mahabharata.

An important point to mention to the listeners. The supreme god has many names in many cultures. All scriptures talk about God being born as ordinary humans to impart the knowledge of truth and spiritual revelation to humanity. This birth can be called an avatar, incarnation, son of god, etc. And in the history of time, such a birth has happened repeatedly. At one time it was Rama. Another was Krishna. Another was Jesus Christ. Another was Kabir. Another Guru Nanak. Adi Shankara. Prophet Mohammed. Gautama Buddha. And so on.

The key part of their teachings, when analyzed would reveal the same message. Namely – God is one. The way to salvation is within the self and not outside in any idols or temples or churches. The way to god is only through a true Guru. That is – the teachers say that the way to god is through “me”. Krishna said that it was through him. Christ said that it was through him. Both were true for they were the true Gurus during their lifetime.

Krishna was the true Guru of the Mahabharata era. Thus, his significance is immense. As we listen to more stories in the Mahabharata, we will see that Krishna plays a pivotal role in several aspects.

The past 4 chapters are intended to give a fair picture of Lord Krishna. Krishna's childhood, past and history gives a solid picture of the divinity of this character. This background will be helpful as we delve into the rest of the Mahabharata story. If the listener is interested in detailed knowledge of Krishna, a suggested resource is the Bhagavada Purana.

We will now return to the Mahabharata and continue where we left of. Where was it? Ah yes – The Pandavas with their wife Draupadi, started ruling in Indraprasta.