Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reading Guide: Kincaid. Krishna. Chapter 13

[Notes by LKG]. The final chapter of Kincaid's book describes Krishna's death.

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

CHAPTER 13. The Passing of Krishna.

Some years after Krishna's return from Indraprastha, Prince Samba, the son of Jambavati the Bear-King's daughter, went with some other young Yadava nobles to Pindaraka. There they saw sitting wrapped in contemplation Vishvamitra and several other mighty sages. To trick the sages, Samba dressed himself up as a young married woman and, in the most humble manner, went with the other youths to Vishwamitra's hermitage. Samba feigned bashfulness, but the youths with him took him by the hand and led him up to Vishvamitra.

"This beautiful girl," they said, "has hopes of a child and she is very anxious that it should be a son. She is too shy to speak for herself, so she has asked us to speak to you for her. She is sure that by seeing you, all her hopes will be fulfilled." The great rishi knew that the boys were but mocking him and cursing them, he said in awful tones.

"The child that she will bear will be a club which will destroy all the Yadava race." The prince and his companions, terrified at the prophecy, went away trembling. Samba took off his clothes to resume his former dress. As he did so, he found in the folds of his skirt an iron club.

The youths went sadly back to Dwarka and told the story and showed the club to King Ugrasena. Without telling Prince Krishna, King Ugrasena had the club ground to powder, all except the handle. Then he had the powder and the handle thrown into the sea. But the iron dust sank to the bottom and was washed ashore, where the dust particles grew into rushes. A large fish swallowed the iron handle as it was sinking below the surface. A day or two later a fisherman caught the fish with others in his net. When he opened it, he found the iron handle of Samba's mace. Not knowing what it was, he sold it as an ordinary bit of iron to a hunter called Jara. Jara welded it into an arrowhead and fixed it to one of his arrows.

Some years afterwards, terrible signs and portents began to be seen in Dwarka. The earth rocked, storms raged, hideous forms stalked through the streets and haunted the houses. Giant rats in countless swarms attacked and killed the children as they slept. At last, to calm the fears of his frightened people, Prince Krishna bade them all go on a pilgrimage. "The women, the children, and the old men should go to Shankhodhar. The men should go with me to Prabhasa. It is sacred to the goddess Saraswati. There let us bathe and worship her. In Prabhasa, too, live holy brahmins. We shall give them gifts of cows, of treasure, of land, of elephants, and of chariots, and they will pacify the gods who are angry with us."

The Yadavas and the other burghers agreed, and the men harnessing their chariots drove with all speed to Prabhasa. Now the Yadavas, because of Krishna's victories over all his enemies, had become full of pride and gave the glory to themselves and not to him. After they had bathed in the sea, they disregarded Krishna's bidding and, instead of worshipping Saraswati, began to drink the wine of Prabhasa, which was the most heating of all the wines of India.

A chance word led to a quarrel between two of the Yadava nobles. The friends of each took sides and, in a few minutes, all the men of Dwarka were fighting madly one with the other. When they had used all their arrows, they plucked out of the ground the rushes that had germinated from the powder of Samba's club. As their hands touched the rushes, the rushes became as hard as iron. Rejoicing in these new weapons, the Yadavas fought more fiercely than ever. Krishna and Balarama tried to stay the fight, but the Yadavas heeded not the brothers. In the end, they too caught the fever of the battle and joined in the slaughter. In this way fell Akrura and Pradyumna and Samba.

At last of all the Yadava nobles there was none left, save only Krishna and Balarama. Then a great fire rose out of the sea and swept inland over the bodies of the dead Yadavas, consuming them to ashes. Balarama went alone to the foot of a great tree. There Krishna saw issue from his mouth the serpent Shesha whose incarnation he was. As the mighty Snake King reached the edge of the water, Varuna the Sea God, followed by a countless host of snakes from the depths of the ocean, greeted Shesha and, waiting until he had passed, plunged after him into the waves.

Seeing Balarama's spirit thus depart, Krishna went and sat under a giant pipal tree. As he sat in deep and sorrowful thought, Jara, the very hunter who had turned the handle of Samba's club into an arrow head, stole softly up looking for game. Seeing Krishna's motionless figure, he mistook him for a sleeping stag. He loosed his bowstring and let fly the arrow. Directed by Vishwamitra's curse, it struck Krishna in the foot. The hunter ran to the spot, glad at having hit his mark. But when he drew near, he saw that instead of a stag, he had struck Krishna, the prince who had rid the land of so many pests and had raised Dwarka to the height of glory.

He fell at his feet and begged Krishna to slay him that he might expiate his sin. But Krishna bade Jara rise and comforted him, saying, "Nay, Jara, you are guilty of no sin. Of a truth I am your debtor. For you have freed me from a life of which I am weary. I pardon you with all my heart and bid you ascend to heaven."

As Krishna spoke, a shining chariot came down from the skies. Jara walked three times around Krishna and prostrated himself at his feet. Then, entering the chariot, Jara rose with it into the heavens. Just then Krishna's charioteer Daruka, who had been looking in vain for his master, came up. He smelt in the air a fragrance as if of ten thousand tulsi blossoms. Seeking the spot whence the perfume came, he found Krishna lying sorely wounded. He sprang from his chariot to throw himself at Krishna's feet. As he did so, the prince's four matchless horses bounded forward and, rising in the air, took the chariot with them higher and higher until they were lost in the clouds. Daruka was so amazed at the sight that he stood before Krishna, dumb with wonder. Krishna, seeing him, said, "Go, Daruka, go to Dwarka and tell King Ugrasena and the old men of Dwarka the fate that has overtaken us all. Tell them that Balarama is dead, that all the Yadava nobles are dead, and that I am as you see me. Tell them one and all to leave Dwarka, for when my spirit has gone back to Vaikunth, the sea will swallow up Dwarka. Then go to Indraprastha and tell my kinsman Arjuna the Bharata what has befallen. He will care for you."

Daruka bowed low to Krishna's feet and, though loth to leave the prince, turned to do his bidding and went to Dwarka. There he told King Ugrasena of the evil fate that had overtaken Krishna and his house. King Ugrasena, with all the old men and boys of Dwarka, went to Prabhasa. They saw the charred remains of the Yadava nobles, but nowhere could they see the bodies of Krishna or Balarama. Devaki, Rohini and Vasudeva searched all that day in vain. Then, stricken with age and grief, they died also by the seashore. Rukmani and Satyabhama and Jambavati made a great pyre and, lighting it with their own hands, entered the flames together. In this way they were joined once more to Krishna in Vaikunth.

But Daruka made his way to Indraprastha, where he told the news to Arjuna the Bharata. Arjuna went back to Dwarka with Daruka. Gathering together the women and children, he bade them go with him to Indraprastha. As he was about to start on his journey northwards, a great tidal wave, as Krishna had foretold, broke across the borders of the sea and swept away Dwarka. As the flood advanced, the Parijata tree tore its roots out of Satyabhama's garden and, rising into the heavens, went back to Sachi's garden in Amravati.

When the flood abated, all that remained of the fair city was the temple which the men of Dwarka had raised to Krishna to the east of the city. It withstood the shock of the great waves of the western sea, and it still stands today to tell men of the great years when Krishna lived and of the mighty deeds that he accomplished.

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