Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reading Guide: Kincaid. Krishna. Chapter 10

[Notes by LKG]. The tenth chapter of Kincaid's book describes Krishna's battles with the demons Naraka and Bana.

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Shri Krishna of Dwarka and Other Stories by C. A. Kincaid (1920), online at Hathi Trust.

CHAPTER 10. Naraka and Bana.

Some months after Rukmi's death, the God Indra came on his elephant Airavata to visit Prince Krishna in Dwarka and to implore his help against a mighty demon called Naraka, compared with whom Arishta, Dhenuka, Keshin, and the other monsters killed by Krishna were as nothing.

"Naraka is King of Pragjyotisha," said Indra, "and none can withstand him. He has robbed Varuna the Sea God of his umbrella through which no water can make its way; he has carried off Mandara Mountain's jewelled crest, and he has forced my mother Aditi to give him her earrings — those earrings which give out ambrosia at the will of the owner. He has now sent me a message by one of his heralds and demands as the price of peace Airavata the elephant, which fell to my share when the gods and demons churned the ocean. Come with me and help me; slay this monster and free both heaven and earth from his tyranny."

Krishna, on hearing the God Indra's words, smiled and, rising from his throne, took him by the hand to comfort him. He then thought for a moment earnestly of the Lord Vishnu's eagle Garuda, and at once the wings of the great eagle could be heard beating the air. A moment later Garuda stood beside him. Krishna placed Satyabhama on Garuda's back and then mounted behind her. At the same time Indra mounted his elephant, and side by side Garuda and Airavata flew towards Pragjyotisha city.

Now a demon called Muru, who was skilled above all other demons in the art of fortification, had designed the defenses of Pragjyotisha city. Vast turrets enfiladed the walls and let the defenders shoot arrows and project flames on the attackers. Outside the walls ran a huge moat filled to the brim with water, and beyond the moat stretched magic nets to ensnare and take captive the onrushing foe.

But Krishna, mounted on Garuda, was safe from the fire of the turrets and flew easily over the moat and the magic nets. With his sword he cut through the nets, and with his fiery discus he dried up the water in the moat. Then, blowing a blast on the war horn that he had made out of Panchajanya's shell, he began to batter down the walls of Pragjyotisha with his mace. But at the bottom of the moat the demon Muru had hidden himself. When Krishna's discus had dried up the water, Muru was no longer hidden. He had five heads, and in his hand he carried a sharp trident. With this he rushed at Krishna and tried to pierce him. But Krishna shot five arrows, one after the other, and each one pierced a head of Muru.

On Muru's death, Krishna and Indra forced their way over the crumbling walls of Pragjyotisha. Inside, Muru's seven sons and all Naraka's army led by Naraka himself tried to stay their advance. But Krishna's arrows killed Muru's seven sons just as they had killed his father, and Krishna's sword sheared Naraka's hideous head from off his monstrous body. On the fall of their leaders, Naraka's army fled wildly from the city.

Leaving them to go where they would, Krishna and Indra entered Naraka's palace. There they found not only Mandara's jewelled crest and the umbrella of Varuna the Sea God and the celestial earrings of Aditi, Indra's mother, but they found vast stores of treasure, stables full of elephants and matchless horses, and more than sixteen thousand princesses whom the wicked Naraka had taken captive from the cities of all India, nay even from the palaces of the gods themselves. The spoils and the captives Krishna sent back under a guard to Dwarka.

Then, taking with him Aditi's jewels, he went with Satyabhama and Indra to Amravati to give them to her there. When they reached the gates of Amravati, Krishna blew a blast on his horn. Instantly the great golden gates flew open, and Indra's attendants welcomed Krishna and their master. Then Indra led Krishna to his mother Aditi's palace, where Krishna returned to the goddess the nectar earrings robbed from her by the wicked Naraka.

Aditi was so pleased at their return that she bade Krishna ask for any reward he pleased. Krishna asked Satyabhama what reward he should name. Just then her eyes fell on the Parijata tree which had come up at the churning of the Ocean at the same time as Airavata and Lakshmi and the ambrosia jar. Its bark was all of gold. Its branches were heavy with bunches of immortal fruit, and its fragrance filled the whole air of Amravati.

"Ask for the Parijata tree," whispered Satyabhama. "It would make Dwarka the equal of Indra's heaven."

But Krishna hesitated for he knew that Indra's queen Sachi loved the Parijata tree above all the wealth of Amravati.

Satyabhama whispered to him petulantly, "You have often told me that you love me well. Yet when I ask you for this one thing, you hesitate to please me. After all, what right has Indra to it? It came up out of the sea at the churning of the Ocean. It is not his more than anyone else's."

Krishna then reluctantly said to Aditi, "The reward that I ask for is the Parijata tree." Aditi consented.

But Sachi was so angry when she heard the news that she implored Indra to refuse the gift. Indra would not break his mother's promise, so he gave Krishna the Parijata tree. But at the same time he asked that when Krishna died, the Parijata tree should retum to Sachi's garden in Amravati.

Now the demon King Bali, whom the Lord Vishnu slew when he became incarnate as Vamana or the Dwarf, had a hundred sons. The eldest of them was called Bana. He had founded a city called Shonitpur where he ruled in great splendor. He worshipped the great God Shiva with such fervor that the great God appeared to him and bade him ask for a boon. "Make me lord of the whole earth," said Bana.

"I grant you the boon," said Shiva and departed.

Now Bana had a thousand arms, and when he brandished in each hand a weapon, no foe could stand against him. Thus by his own valour and the great God Shiva's favour, he ravaged the greater part of the earth and killed or extorted tribute from the kings who ruled over the conquered kingdoms. Weary of constant victory, he prayed to Shiva for yet another boon. The great God, pleased with the devotion of his worshipper, again appeared before him and bade him tell him what he wanted.

"Great God," said the infatuated Bana, "my thousand arms have become merely a useless burden to me. There is left on earth none whom I care to conquer. All my foes, fearing my resistless valor, flee before me. Even the eight elephants who support the eight corners of the earth tremble at my coming. The boon, therefore, that I ask at your hands is a foe worthy of me, a foe who will appease the longing of these thousand arms of mine for battle."

The great God Shiva smiled at the prayer of the demon king and said, "Fool that you are, I grant you what you ask! Some day you will come to me and pray me to save you from your folly. For a foe will come forth to meet you who will give you all and more than all the fighting for which you long."

One wiser than Bana would have heeded the great God's warning and would have fallen at his feet and implored him to take back his gift. But Bana was so filled with pride at his own strength and his past victories that he thought himself invincible, and he merely looked forward to a battle wherein after a fierce struggle he would once more win victory.

Now Bana had a beautifull daughter named Usha. One morning ere she woke, she saw in a dream Prince Aniruddha, the son of Pradyumna and the grandson of Krishna. So vivid was the dream that when she awoke, she cried out to her girlfriend Chitralekha, the daughter of Bana's minister Kubhanda, who shared her room. "Where is he gone, the beautiful youth who was here a moment ago?"

Chitralekha assured her that no such youth had been in the room. Usha's cheek mantled with blushes when she found that she had been dreaming. Then in reply to Chitralekha's questions she said, "I dreamt I was talking to a beautiful youth and that he and I were greatly drawn to each other. Suddenly he vanished and I awoke. Tell me, Chitralekha, how I can meet him again for I shall never know happiness unless I do."

Chitralekha tried to soothe the princess. "Nay, dear Princess," she said, "do not despair. If your dream youth really lives, I promise you that you shall see him. But of course if he was only the child of your fancy, I cannot do so."

Then taking a pencil and paper, she began to draw pictures of all the kings and princes of the day and also of the Gods, the Yakshas, the Gandharvas and the Vidyadharas. In turn she drew pictures of Krishna and Balarama, but Usha merely shook her head.

Next she drew a picture of Pradyumna. His likeness to Aniruddha was so striking that Usha first blushed, but then shook her head.

At last Chitralekha drew a picture of Aniruddha. Instantly Usha's eyes opened wide with delight and she cried in glee. "There he is, my dream lover, there he is! But who is he, Chitralekha? And where does he live?"

Chitralekha who was deeply versed in magic said, "Your dream-lover is Aniruddha, the grandson of Krishna the world-famed prince of Dwarka. Be of good courage, sweet lady, and I shall bring him to you before the day is over."

With these words Chitralekha, by means of her sorcery, rose into the air and in a few minutes had flown to Dwarka. Invisible to the guards and serving men, she flew through the doors of the royal palace and into Aniruddha's room. There Aniruddha lay fast asleep on his couch. Fanning him into a deeper slumber and at the same time making him as invisible as herself, Chitralekha lifted him up in her arms and bore him as swiftly as she had come to Shonitpur.

When Aniruddha woke up, he saw Usha bending over him, her eyes alight with love for him. He, too, on seeing the beautiful girl, fell no less in love with her. Usha hid Aniruddha in the women's apartments and, with Chitralekha's help, secretly married him.

For a time Bana suspected nothing. But one day going suddenly to the ladies' rooms, he came upon Aniruddha. At once he called his guards and bade them seize the prince. Aniruddha defended himself bravely and, even when he was overcome, burst again and again the bonds that held him. At length King Bana bound him with ropes which he had by his magic made out of live serpents. These enchanted bonds the prince could not break, strive though he might, and the demon king's guards took him from the palace and flung him into a dungeon far below the ground.

Aniruddha was missed but a short time after he left Dwarka. Everywhere Pradyumna and Krishna searched for him but in vain. For four months the useless search dragged on; then the sage Narada came to Dwarka and told Krishna the whole story of Aniruddha's flight with Chitralekha, his marriage with Usha, and his capture by Bana.

Instantly Krishna, Balarama, and all the Yadava knights set forth to Shonitpur to free the captive prince. They beat Bana's army in the field and drove him into Shonitpur to which they laid siege. In vain Bana brandished a thousand weapons in his thousand hands. One after the other, Krishna's discus sheared them off, and the weapons that they held dropped harmlessly to the ground. At last in his agony Bana remembered the foolish boon which he had asked of Shiva.

"Great God," he prayed, "in my folly I implored you to send me a foe who would be a match for the strength of my thousand arms. I see now how foolish I was and how wise was your unheeded warning. Grant me now yet a third boon. Forgive me and spare my life."

Shiva pitied the beaten King and went to Krishna and told him of Bana's folly and of his repentance. At the great God's instance, Krishna spared the demon king's life, provided that he sued for pardon and freed Aniruddha. Shiva took Krishna's message to Bana. The king came out in a suppliant's garb and, placing his head at Krishna's feet, begged for mercy. Krishna granted it. King Bana went back to the city and brought Aniruddha out of his dungeon. He loosed his bonds and, putting him and Usha on a chariot, he sent them to Krishna. Thereafter he sent a great train of wagons filled with treasure by way of tribute to his victor. Krishna with the spoils of Shonitpur returned with Aniruddha and Usha in triumph to Dwarka.

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