Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reading Guide: Kincaid. Krishna. Chapter 4.

[Notes by LKG]. The fourth chapter of Kincaid's book describes the further boyhood adventures of Krishna in Vrindavan, including the famous conflict with Indra and the miracle of Mount Govardhan.

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


For a little space, as I have said, King Kansa ceased to torment Krishna. Then he thought that if he killed Balarama, he would cause Krishna such grief as to weaken his strength. Thereafter when chance favored him, he would be able to kill Krishna also. To this end he sent the demon Dhenuka with several companions to lie in wait for Balarama and destroy him when chance offered. Dhenuka took the form of an ass and with his companions hid in an orchard of fruit trees. The herd boys of Gokula had been wont to eat the fruit of the orchard, but Dhenuka drove them away. Three of them, who were Krishna’s closest friends, went and told him that a giant ass guarded the orchard. They took him and Balarama there to show them.

Dhenuka hid in a bush until Balarama came close to it. Then he rushed out and began to kick Balarama with all his might. But Balarama had seen how Krishna had treated the demon buffalo. In the same way he caught Dhenuka by the hind legs and, whirling him round his head, dashed his brains out against one of the fruit trees. Seeing Dhenuka’s end, his companions also in the form of wild asses rushed together at Krishna and Balarama, but the two boys caught them one after the other by the tails or the hind legs and dashed their brains out against the fruit trees. The trees, shaken by the shock, let fall a shower of fruit and Krishna and Balarama and the herdboys sat down in the shade and ate it greedily.

King Kansa did not yet despair of killing Balarama. Pralambha, one of the strongest demons then on earth, offered to try and succeed where Dhenuka had failed. King Kansa consented and Pralambha, taking the form of a herd-boy, joined Krishna and his friends and played with them in their games. One day when they had reached a big fig tree known far and wide as the Bhandira fig tree, the boys pretended they were deer and began to jump, two and two together, imitating the bounds of deer. They liked the game so much that they picked sides. Balarama captained one side and Krishna the other. Two boys one from each party joined together as a deer and he who held out the longer won a point for his side. The forfeit was that the losers should each carry one of the winners back to the starting point on his shoulders.

In the course of the game Balarama’s side won. Now Pralambha was on Krishna’s side so as a forfeit he took Balarama on his back. This was the chance for which he had sought. He grew suddenly as high as a mountain peak, and then ran off with Balarama into the forest so far and fast that even Krishna could not catch him.

Balarama called to his brother for help but in vain and Krishna in despair heard Balarama’s cries grow fainter in the distance. He called out to Balarama to strike Pralambha on the head with his fists for Krishna knew that Pralambha, for all his strength, could not bear Balarama’s blows. Balarama heard Krishna’s words and, striking Pralambha with his fists on the head several times, knocked him senseless to the ground. Then he battered in his skull and, leaving him dead, returned to Krishna.

After the death of Pralambha and his failure to kill Balarama, King Kansa again for a space left the two youths in peace, and they soon forgot their former dangers and played with the herdboys and the milkmaids of Gokula and herded the cattle all day long, just as if no wicked kinsman longed to compass their death. The rainy season slowly changed into the cold weather, and the cowherds gathered together to offer thanks and sacrifices to the God Indra for the monsoon that had passed away and their prayers to him for a good rainfall in the coming year.

When Krishna saw the cowherds preparing for the sacrifice, he bade them no longer sacrifice to Indra but to Govardhan mountain, a great hill, not far from Vrindavan. The cowherds, who now all acknowledged Krishna as their leader, obeyed him and, leaving the worship of Indra, climbed Govardhan mountain and offered their sacrifices on its summit. They found Krishna already there and he accepted their sacrifices and blessed them.

The god Indra, angry that the cowherds no longer sacrificed to him or worshipped him, caused a fearful storm to burst over Vrindavan. Hail stones as large as boulders crashed to earth, destroying men and beasts alike. The rain falling in sheets swelled the rivers until in their maddened course they bore away and drowned the young kine and buffaloes. The herdsmen ran to Krishna for help, crying, "The wrath of Indra has descended on us because we would not worship him. Tell us; what shall we do?"

Krishna bade the herdsmen be of good courage. "Indra is angry with you," he said with a smile, "but I shall save you from his anger." With these words he plucked up from its roots Govardhan mountain and, holding it up high above his head, bade the cowherds take shelter beneath it. Glad of the refuge, they crowded with their cattle under the great rock. There beneath its base they kept safe and dry while, outside, the rain fell in torrents and on all sides of them the rivers foamed and swirled and roared in impotent anger.

At last Indra, unable to wreak his vengeance, stayed the rain. When the cowherds had once more driven their cattle into the fields and forests, Indra descended from Amravati to earth on his elephant Airavata and, invisible to the cowherds, greeted Krishna. Taking a ewer of water, which he had with him on Airavata’s back, he anointed Krishna as Govinda or god of the cows and of the cowherds. Thereafter he rose on Airavata’s back through the air until he once more came to Amravati.

The cowherds of Vrindavan then held a great festival to celebrate the purging of the country side from the demons that had wasted it and their own deliverance from the wrath of Indra. The cowherds danced in rings, and the milking maids imitated the gestures of Krishna when he slew his foes. At last cowherds and milking maids joined together in a ring. With each milking maid in turn Krishna danced, so that none felt neglected. When the dance was over, all the villagers fell wearied to the ground and slept where they lay.

In the middle of the night all woke up, hearing screams from Krishna’s father Nanda. A gigantic python had seized him in its coils and was trying to crush him. The cow-herds seized burning sticks and by beating it tried to force the python to let go its hold. But it merely wound its coils the tighter. Then Nanda called to Krishna, "Save me from this monster, Krishna, save me!"

Krishna sprang to his father’s side and put his bare foot on the serpent’s body. Instantly the coils loosened and then vanished. Instead of the hideous brute that had all but killed Nanda, there stood by him a man of kingly presence. "Who are you?" asked the trembling goatherds.

"My name is Sudarshan," replied the man, "and this is my story. I was once a chief among the Vidhyadharas, but my power and my beauty were my ruin. Once as I was speeding through the air in my heavenly chariot. I met the rishi Angira. Seeing his ugliness and deformity, I burst into a loud laugh. In his anger Angira turned and cursed me, so that I became a man-slaying serpent, and though I deeply repented of my folly, the rishi would abate nothing of his curse. Yet when your foot touched me, Lord Krishna, the curse fell from me like a soiled garment and I became a Vidhyadhara once more."

After telling this story, the Vidhyadhara walked round Krishna several times, bowed to his feet and then rose into the heavens, where he was lost to the cow-herds.

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