Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reading Guide: Kincaid. Krishna. Chapter 6

[Notes by LKG]. The sixth chapter of Kincaid's book describes the adventure of how Krishna founded the city of Dwarka (Dwarka).

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

CHAPTER 6. Krishna Founds Dwarka.

After Krishna and Balarama had freed Vasudeva and Devaki, they went to the cell in which the wicked Kansa had imprisoned his aged father Ugrasena. The old king in his gratitude to Krishna would have had him crowned king of Mathura. But Krishna said, "My Lord King, no Yadava prince can ever rule over Mathura."

"But why?" asked King Ugrasena.

"It is because of Yayati's curse," replied Krishna. Then he added, "As you have never heard the story, I shall tell it to you and then you will say with me that I can never rule over Mathura:

In ancient times, my lord king, there once reigned in Mathura a great king called Nahusha. He had six sons. The eldest, Yati, became an anchorite and refused the throne, so the second son Yayati became king in his stead. Now Yayati when hunting in the woods heard a woman's cries. Searching round him to see whence the cries issued, he came to a well. Looking into its depth, he saw a fair girl struggling in the water and clinging to a stone that jutted out from its side. Yayati fetched a cord and with its aid he lowered himself into the well and brought the fainting girl safe to the top and laid her on the grass beside the well. When she had recovered her strength, she told him that she was Devayani, the daughter of a mighty rishi called Sukra. So great were the rishi's powers that the king of the land Vrishaparvan feared him. Because of the king's fear of the rishi, the king's daughter Sarmishta quarrelled with Devayani, and that very day Sarmishta, seeing Devayani standing on the brink of the well, had stolen up behind her and had pushed her in. 
"But for your coming, gallant prince," said Devayani, "I had perished in the well."
King Yayati fell in love with the fair girl whom he had saved and taking her to Sukra received from him her hand. But Devayani never forgave Sarmishta and, to punish her, demanded of Vrishaparvan her father that she should become a serving maid in Yayati's palace; Vrishaparvan, through fear of Sukra's curse and of Yayati's prowess, yielded Sarmishta to Devayani. 
One day Yayati saw Sarmishta in his palace. Her beauty shone the brighter because of her humble dress, and Yayati loved her and wooed her. Sarmishta loved him in return. But Devayani found them together and fled to her father Sukra. The mighty rishi grew exceedingly wroth when he heard his daughter's tale, and he cursed Yayati so that, although still young, he became a decrepit old man. 
Yayati implored Sukra's pardon and the rishi so far relented that he told Yayati that if any one would give him his own youth in exchange for Yayati's old age, Yayati would became young again. Yayati called together his sons and first begged the eldest, Yadu, the ancestor of the Yadavas, to give him his own youth. But Yadu refused. Then Yayati cursed him and said, "You shall never rule over Mathura." 
Next Yayati asked in turn his four other sons. Three refused, as Yadu had done, and Yayati cursed them as he had cursed Yadu. At last Yayati's youngest son, Puru, freely gave his father his youth and took in exchange his father's old age. For many years Yayati enjoyed Puru's youth. Then he wearied of pleasure and became an anchorite. Before he went to practise penances in the woods, he gave back Puru his youth and raised him to the throne of Mathura. To each of his other sons he gave a small domain, but he decreed that they and their children after them should do homage to Puru and his children.
"As you, my lord king, are the offspring of Puru and I the offspring of Yadu, it is for you and not I to rule over Mathura." On hearing the tale of Yayati, Ugrasena agreed with Krishna and, assuming the crown, became once more king of Mathura.

But Krishna and Balarama, who had spent their lives with the cow-herds of Gokula, resolved to take a teacher that they might learn from him all the sciences and the wisdom of the time. To this end they went to Avanti, where lived a great sage named Sandipani. The old sage shook his head when he saw the youths, for he thought that they had come to him too late to learn. With much reluctance he agreed to take them as his pupils, but such was the talent of the two divine lads that in three months they had learnt all that Sandipani could teach them. Aware that no human minds could learn as Krishna and Balarama had learnt, the old sage guessed that the boys were divine. When therefore they bade him name his fee, he said, "Give me back my son who was drowned in the sea off Prabhasa."

Krishna and Balarama went to the Prabhasa coast and got ready to chastise the ocean. But when Varuna the sea god learnt why they had come, he pleaded that not he but a demon named Panchajanya had seized Sandipani's son and had dragged him under the water and was keeping him captive in a giant shell at the bottom of the sea.

Krishna at once dived into the sea until he reached the bottom. He walked along it until he came to a monster shell that roared with fury as he drew near. Krishna then knew that he stood face to face with Panchajanya. He entered the mouth of the giant shell and, in its depths, found and killed Panchajanya. Still deeper in the shell's recesses, he found the body of Sandipani's son.

Rising to the surface, he dragged both shell and body to the shore. On the Prabhasa sands he restored the boy to consciousness and gave him back safe and sound to Sandipani. But of the shell he made a war horn, the sound of which should strike terror into the hearts of his enemies.

Now King Kansa had married the princesses Asti and Prapti, the two daughters of Jarasandha, the great and wicked king of Magadha. When Jarasandha heard of Kansa's death, he raised a countless army and marched against Mathura, hoping to avenge the death of his daughters' husband. But Krishna and Balarama armed the men of Mathura and, few though they were compared with the hosts of Magadha, Krishna led them out boldy to meet Jarasanda. A great battle was fought outside the walls of Mathura and by sunset Jarasandha's army was all but destroyed, and Jarasandha with but a few score soldiers fled back to Magadha. There he raised a fresh army and again marched against Mathura. Again he was driven back and fifteen times afterwards. Then he called to his aid a great barbarian king called Kala-Yavana, who got ready to march with an even greater host against Mathura.

When Krishna heard these evil tidings and saw how few were left of the men of Mathura, he said to King Ugrasena and Balarama, "It is ill staying here. For though we destroy foe after foe and army after army, yet in the end none of us will remain. Let us go together with the men of Mathura to the shores of the western sea and there build a fair city, wherein we may live in peace."

King Ugrasena and Balarama assented and, gathering together the men of Mathura, they left it and journeyed to the shores of the western sea and there began to build a mighty city. Vishwakarma, the artificer of the gods, came to their aid, so that the city that they built was far greater and more beautiful than any city that had been before or has been since. The spires of the palaces of Krishna and his nobles were all of gold, and round the palaces stretched wide pleasances full of strange shrubs and flowers, which Vishwakarma brought with him from heaven. The god Indra sent from Amaravati beautiful trees, whose fragrant branches shaded all Dwarka. Varuna sent two immortal coal black chargers from the sea and Kubera, the god of wealth, sent vast stores of treasure.

But although on hearing of Krishna's going, Jarasandha no longer marched against Mathura, the greed of Kala-Yavana the barbarian king was but whetted when he heard of the wealth and splendor of Dwarka. So with a mighty army he marched to the shores of the western sea to plunder Krishna's city. Then Krishna thought of a device to rid him of this barbarian without wasting the lives of his own people. There lived in a cavern not far from Dwarka one Muchukunda, a mighty giant, who had of old helped against the demons the lesser gods before these became immortal.

Asked what reward he would wish, Muchukunda replied, "Give me sleep." So the gods gave him the boon for which he asked and added that whoever first roused him would be burnt to ashes. Krishna, knowing of the boon given to Muchukunda and the cave wherein he dwelt, went out barefooted and unarmed towards the camp of Kala-Yavana. The latter with his horsemen galloped after Krishna to seize him. But Krishna turned and ran towards the cave of Muchukunda so swiftly that Kala-Yavana, in his efforts to take him, outdistanced all the riders with him.

On reaching the cave Krishna entered it and hid in its recesses. A minute or two later Kala-Yavana reached its mouth and dismounting entered the cave on foot. In the centre he saw Muchukunda in a deep sleep. Thinking he was the man who had fled before him, Kala-Yavana kicked the slumbering Muchukunda. Muchukunda awoke. Instantly the promise of the gods was fulfilled and Kala Yavana became a heap of smouldering ashes.

Then Krishna returned to Dwarka and, leading out the Yadavas, fell upon Kala-Yavana's leaderless soldiers and slaughtered them like sheep. Kala-Yavana's camp he plundered and with all his horses and wealth and chariots returned in triumph to Dwarka.

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