A host of demons, in the form of different animals, reptiles, or birds, were killed by the child Krishna and Balarama. Vatsasura, sent by Karnsa, came in the guise of a calf; Krishna recognized him, and catching him by the hind legs and tail, swung him round until he fell dead on top of a wood apple tree. Bakasura took the form of a giant crane and caught Krishna in his beak, but the Lord effortlessly ripped his beak apart as though it were a blade of grass. Aghasura, the brother of Putana, transformed himself into a huge python. Such was his size that his mouth appeared like a huge cavern, and the young gopas unsuspectingly walked in. Inside the demon’s belly, Krishna miraculously increased his size; Aghasura’s passage of breath was checked and he fell down dead.
The asura, Arishta, in the form of a terrible bull, under whose hooves the very earth trembled, attacked Krishna, but the divine lad pushed him back eighteen feet, tossed him to the ground, and wrenching out one of his horns, battered him to death with it. Kesin, another dreadful asura sent by Karnsa, came in the lorm of a wild horse; fire spewed from his mouth, his eyes were red like embers, his body was black, and his size and speed sent the clouds scattering. Krishna caught him by his hind legs and threw him as easily as he would a discus.
Wounded but not yet dead, Kesin came charging again, but the God of Gods stuck his fist into his mouth and choked him to death. (Hence Krishna is also called Kesava-the conqueror of Kesin.) Balarama was equally capable of such ‘acts of valor.The ass-demon Dhenukasura infested a palm grove, preventing the gopas from eating the fruit. Fearless Balarama caught hold of the dreaded demon by his hind legs and whirled him around till he fell dead on top of the trees.
These tales of valor must have been based on real life incidents of a heroic figure. The nomadic-pastoral community subsisted at the edge of thick and dense forests in which wild beasts abounded. Feats of courage and bravery in encountering such animals were probably in due course woven into folklore, which, by the time of the Puranas, coalesced into material for the Krishna legend.
The historical Krishna must have himself been such a figure. From the religious point of view, what is noteworthy is that his depletion in such situations is of one who remains supremely unruffled, achieving his ends without the slightest trace of effort, as though the adversary was created merely to provide him with a means to casually unfold his jvill. The beast could be more ferocious than anything the human mind could imagine, but Krishna, always unperturbed, dealt with the situation with a smile on his face, in flawless control, as if he were at play. Since the world itself was deemed to be a manifestation of his play, any overt act of will on his part, in however difficult a situation, could not but be an extension of that play.
However, in striking contrast to the portrayal of the unmoved and unblemished Lord is the description of the destruction of his demonic victims. The Puranas excel themselves in painting the most gory accounts of their death, the blood oozing out, the limbs breaking, their frenzied threshing about in pain, and the final death convulsions.