Krishna As Warrior: Part – I
Krishna’s short journey from Vrindavan to Mathura was a watershed in his life. Until then his prominent characteristic was that of a carefree child and then of accomplished lover, fulfilling his will in a pastoral setting. On reaching Mathura, he assumed the mantle of a man of the world, a dexterous player in the urbane of city and state politics. This dramatic transition cowherd to prince, from flute-player to warrior statesman, and the equally dramatic change of canvas from the groves of Vrindavan to the decorum of kingly courts, has led some to postulate that historically there perhaps two Krishnas, two heroic figures whose its coalesced in time into the image of the one Krishna that we know of today.
This line of reasoning need not be dismissed outright. Historical curiosity about the origin and evolution of deities in the Hindu tradition has led to a new and authentic insights. But, in the case of Krishna, enquiries of this nature have not had—indeed cannot – have definitive answers. In spite of the sharp qualitative difference in his personality in the post-Vrindavan phase, there is much that points to the unitary aspect of his life. His mission was the elimination of evil personified in Kamsa: he came to Vrindavan to escape Kamnsa, and he went to Mathura to kill Karnsa.
From Mathura he sent Uddhava to Vrindavan to console his grieving parents and the gopis. The Bhagavata asserts that many years later, at Kurukshetra, on the occasion of a pilgrimage to mark the total eclipse of the sun, Krishna met Nanda and Yasoda and the gopis again. The Mahabharata frequently refers to Krishna as Govinda— a name that incontrovertibly associates him with his early years as a cowherd. Thus, as Alt Hiltebeitel states in ‘Krishna at Mathura’, ‘the problem is not to find separate origins for “contradictory” aspects of a composite Krishna but to understand why his essentially unitary biography is largely split in two. In Vrindavan, he is a prince in the guise of a cowherd; in Mathura and Dwarka he is a cowherd in the guise of a prince. In both, he is an avatar of Vishnu merely indulging in his effortless leela to assume many forms.
Kamsa was killed by Krishna through superior physical prowess. It was a clash of strength, in which Krishna, aided by Balarama, but without recourse to any supra-human powers, deposed and killed the tyrant. Kamsa had received due warning of the formidable strength of the two brothers. A washer man who had refused to lend them clothes appropriate for city-wear, had had his head smashed by one blow from Krishna. Kamsa’s sacrificial bow, which strong men could not even bend, had been picked up by Krishna and easily broken into two.Kuvalayapida, Kamsa’s massive elephant swaying in a rut, had been set upon the two young men, but Krishna had dragged it by its tail and, wrenching its tusk out, had killed the angry beast.
Now there was to be a wrestling match. Kamsa’s greatest wrestlers Chanura and Mustika were to fight Krishna and Balarama. The entire town had gathered to witness the match. Kamsa himself was seated in the royal pavilion. Krishna took on Chanura, and Balarama, Mustika. The professional wrestlers were full-grown men and tremendously strong, but no match for the agility and physical stamina of the two brothers. The moment to fulfill the prophecy of the death of Kamsa was now at hand. ‘Like a falcon swooping down from the sky*, Krishna caught hold of Kamsa, knocked off his crown, and dragged him by his hair around the arena, until he lay lifeless.
It was a dramatic moment. The people roared their approval. Kamsa’s wives screamed in grief. The noise of drums rent the sky. Some skirmishing—soon quelled by Balarama—persisted. Through all of this Krishna retained his transcendental calm. Good had prevailed over evil. More importantly—unlike in many other contexts of his future life as a warrior—it had prevailed with little ambivalence. In a transparent act of daring and courage, he had demonstrated that it could prevail. Now there was other work to do. The first was to release his long-suffering parents—Vasudeva and Devaki—from prison.