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Vishnu Purana – Fifth Kandha

Chapter 20

Grace upon Kubja

1-5As they proceeded along the high road, they saw coming towards them a young girl, who was crooked, carrying a pot of unguent. Kṛṣṇa addressed her sportively, and said, “For whom are you carrying that unguent? tell me, lovely maiden; tell me truly.” Spoken to as it were through affection, Kubjā, well disposed towards Hari, replied to him also mirthfully, being smitten by his appearance; “Know you not, beloved, that I am the servant of Kansa, and appointed, crooked as I am, to prepare his perfumes. Unguent ground by any other he does not approve of: hence I am enriched through his liberal rewards.”
6Then said Kṛṣṇa, “Fair-faced damsel, give us of this unguent, fragrant and fit for kings, as much as we may rub upon our bodies.”
7-12“Take it,” answered Kubjā.; and she gave them as much of the unguent as was sufficient for their persons; and they rubbed it on various parts of their faces and bodies[1], till they looked like two clouds, one white and one black, decorated by the many-tinted bow of Indra. Then Kṛṣṇa, skilled in the curative art, took hold of her, under the chin, with the thumb and two fingers, and lifted up her head, whilst with his feet he pressed down her feet; and in this way he made her straight. When she was thus relieved from her deformity, she was a most beautiful woman; and, filled with gratitude and affection, she took Govinda by the garment, and invited him to her house. Promising to come at some other time, Kṛṣṇa smilingly dismissed her, and then laughed aloud on beholding the countenance of Baladeva[2].
13-16Dressed in blue and yellow garments, and anointed with fragrant unguents, Keśava and Rāma proceeded to the hall of arms, which was hung round with garlands. Inquiring of the warders which bow he was to try, and being directed to it, he took it, and bent it; but drawing it with violence, he snapped it in two[3], and all Mathurā resounded with the noise which its fracture occasioned. Abused by the warders for breaking the bow, Kṛṣṇa and Rāma retorted, and defied them, and left the hall.
17When Kansa knew that Akrūra had returned, and heard that the bow had been broken, he thus said to Cāṇūra and Muṣṭika, his boxers:
18-23“Two youths, cowherd boys, have arrived; you must kill them both, in a trial of strength, in my presence; for they practise against my life. I shall be well pleased if you kill them in the match, and will give you whatever you wish; not else. These two foes of mine must be killed by you fairly or unfairly. The kingdom shall be ours in common, when they have perished.” Having given them these orders, he sent next for his elephant driver, and desired him to station his great elephant Kuvalayāpīḍa, who was as vast as a cloud charged with rain, near the gate of the arena, and drive him upon the two boys when they should attempt to enter. When Kansa had issued these commands, and ascertained that the platforms were all ready for the spectators, he awaited the rising of the sun, unconscious of impending death.
24-31In the morning the citizens assembled on the platforms set apart for them, and the princes, with the ministers and courtiers, occupied the royal seats. Near the centre of the circle judges of the games were stationed by Kansa, whilst he himself sat apart close by upon a lofty throne. Separate platforms were erected for the ladies of the palace, for the courtesans, and for the wives of the citizens[4]. Nanda and the cowherds had places appropriated to them, at the end of which sat Akrūra and Vasudeva. Amongst the wives of the citizens appeared Devakī, mourning for her son, whose lovely face she longed to behold even in the hour of his destruction. When the musical instruments sounded, Cāṇūra sprang forth, and the people cried, “Alas!” and Muṣṭika slapped his arms in defiance. Covered with must and blood from the elephant, whom, when goaded upon them by his driver, they had slain, and armed with his tusks, Balabhadra and Janārddana confidently entered the arena, like two lions amidst a herd of deer.
32-38Exclamations of pity arose from all the spectators, along with expressions of astonishment. “This then,” said the people, “is Kṛṣṇa! this is Balabhadra! This is he by whom the fierce night-walker Pūtanā was slain; by whom the waggon was overturned, and the two Arjuna trees felled! This is the boy who trampled and danced on the serpent Kālīya; who upheld the mountain Govarddhana for seven nights; who killed, as if in play, the iniquitous Aṛṣṭa, Dhenuka, and Keśin! This whom we see is Achyuta! This is he who has been foretold by the wise, skilled in the sense of the Purāṇas, as Gopāla, who shall exalt the depressed Yādava race! This is a portion of the all-existing, all-generating Viṣṇu, descended upon earth, who will assuredly lighten her load!”
39-44Thus did the citizens describe Rāma and Kṛṣṇa, as soon as they appeared; whilst the breast of Devakī glowed with maternal affection; and Vasudeva, forgetting his infirmities, felt himself young again, on beholding the countenances of his sons as a season of rejoicing. The women of the palace, and the wives of the citizens, wide opened their eyes, and gazed intently upon Kṛṣṇa. “Look, friends,” said they to their companions; “look at the face of Kṛṣṇa; his eyes are reddened by his conflict with the elephant, and the drops of perspiration stand upon his cheeks, outvieing a full blown lotus in autumn, studded with glittering dew. Avail yourself now of the faculty of vision. Observe his breast, the seat of splendour, marked with the mystic sign; and his arms, menacing destruction to his foes.
45-50Do you not notice Balabhadra, dressed in a blue garment; his countenance as fair as the jasmine, as the moon, as the fibres of the lotus stem? See how he gently smiles at the gestures of Muṣṭika and Cāṇūra, as they spring up. And now behold Hari advance to encounter Cāṇūra. What! are there no elders, judges of the field? How can the delicate form of Hari, only yet in the dawn of adolescence, be regarded as a match for the vast and adamantine bulk of the great demon? Two youths, of light and elegant persons, are in the arena, to oppose athletic fiends, headed by the cruel Cāṇūra. This is a great sin in the judges of the games, for the umpires to suffer a contest between boys and strong men.”
51-65As thus the women of the city conversed with one another, Hari, having tightened his girdle, danced in the ring, shaking the ground on which he trod. Balabhadra also danced, slapping his arms in defiance. Where the ground was firm, the invincible Kṛṣṇa contended foot to foot with Cāṇūra. The practised demon Muṣṭika was opposed by Balabhadra. Mutually entwining, and pushing, and pulling, and beating each other with fists, arms, and elbows, pressing each other with their knees, interlacing their arms, kicking with their feet, pressing with their whole weight upon one another[5], fought Hari and Cāṇūra. Desperate was the struggle, though without weapons, and one for life and death, to the great gratification of the spectators. In proportion as the contest continued, so Cāṇūra was gradually losing something of his original vigour, and the wreath upon his head trembled from his fury and distress[6]; whilst the world-comprehending Kṛṣṇa wrestled with him as if but in sport. Beholding Cāṇūra losing, and Kṛṣṇa gaining strength, Kansa, furious with rage, commanded the music to cease. As soon as the drums and trumpets were silenced, a numerous band of heavenly instruments was heard in the sky, and the gods invisibly exclaimed, “Victory to Govinda! Keśava, kill the demon Cāṇūra!” Madhusūdana having for a long time dallied with his adversary, at last lifted him up, and whirled him round, with the intention of putting an end to him. Having whirled Cāṇūra round a hundred times, until his breath was expended in the air, Kṛṣṇa dashed him on the ground with such violence as to smash his body into a hundred fragments, and strew the earth with a hundred pools of gory mire. Whilst this took place, the mighty Baladeva was engaged in the same manner with the demon bruiser Muṣṭika. Striking him on the head with his fists, and on the breast with his knees, he stretched him on the ground, and pummelled him there till he was dead.
66-71Again, Kṛṣṇa encountered the royal bruiser Tomalaka, and felled him to the earth with a blow of his left hand. When the other athletæ saw Cāṇūra, Muṣṭika, and Tomalaka killed, they fled from the field; and Kṛṣṇa and Saṅkarṣaṇa danced victorious on the arena, dragging along with them by force the cowherds of their own age. Kansa, his eyes reddening with wrath, called aloud to the surrounding people, “Drive those two cow-boys out of the assembly: seize the villain Nanda, and secure him with chains of iron: put Vasudeva to death with tortures intolerable to his years: and lay hands upon the cattle, and whatever else belongs to those cowherds who are the associates of Kṛṣṇa.”
72-80Upon hearing these orders, the destroyer of Madhu laughed at Kansa, and, springing up to the place where he was seated, laid hold of him by the hair of his head, and struck his tiara to the ground: then casting him down upon the earth, Govinda threw himself upon him. Crushed by the weight of the upholder of the universe, the son of Ugrasena, Kansa the king, gave up the ghost. Kṛṣṇa then dragged the dead body, by the hair of the head, into the centre of the arena, and a deep furrow was made by the vast and heavy carcass of Kansa, when it was dragged along the ground by Kṛṣṇa, as if a torrent of water had run through it[7]. Seeing Kansa thus treated, his brother Sumālin came to his succour; but he was encountered, and easily killed, by Balabhadra. Then arose a general cry of grief from the surrounding circle, as they beheld the king of Mathurā thus slain, and treated with such contumely, by Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa, accompanied by Balabhadra, embraced the feet of Vasudeva and of Devakī; but Vasudeva raised him up; and he and Devakī recalling to recollection what he had said to them at his birth, they bowed to Janārddana, and the former thus addressed him:
81-85“Have compassion upon mortals, O god, benefactor and lord of deities: it is by thy favour to us two that thou hast become the (present) upholder of the world. That, for the punishment of the rebellious, thou hast descended upon earth in my house, having been propitiated by my prayers, sanctifies our race. Thou art the heart of all creatures; thou abidest in all creatures; and all that has been, or will be, emanates from thee, O universal spirit! Thou, Achyuta, who comprehendest all the gods, art eternally worshipped with sacrifices: thou art sacrifice itself, and the offerer of sacrifices. The affection that inspires my heart and the heart of Devakī towards thee, as if thou wast our child, is indeed but error, and a great delusion.
86-89How shall the tongue of a mortal such as I am call the creator of all things, who is without beginning or end, son? Is it consistent that the lord of the world, from whom the world proceeds, should be born of me, except through illusion? How should he, in whom all fixed and moveable things are contained, be conceived in the womb and born of a mortal being?
90-91Have compassion therefore indeed, O supreme lord, and in thy descended portions protect the universe. Thou art no son of mine. This whole world, from Brahmā to a tree, thou art. Wherefore dost thou, who art one with the supreme, beguile us? Blinded by delusion, I thought thee my son; and for thee, who art beyond all fear, I dreaded the anger of Kansa, and therefore did I take thee in my terror to Gokula, where thou hast grown up; but I no longer claim thee as mine own. Thou, Viṣṇu, the sovereign lord of all, whose actions Rudra, the Maruts, the Aśvins, Indra, and the gods, cannot equal, although they behold them; thou who hast come amongst us for the benefit of the world, art recognised, and delusion is no more.”


[1] They had their bodies smeared in the style called Bhakticheda; that is, with the separating or distinguishing (cheda) marks of Vaiṣṇava devotion (bhakti): certain streaks on the forehead, nose, cheeks, breast, and arms, which denote a follower of Viṣṇu. See As. Res. XVI. 33.
[2] The story is similarly told in the Bhāgavata, &c.
[3] The bending or breaking of a bow is a favourite incident in Hindu heroic poetry, borrowed, no doubt, from the Rāmāyaṇa, where, however, it has an object; here it is quite gratuitous.
[4] The Bhāgavata enters into even fewer p. 552 particulars than our text of the place set apart for the games. The Hari Vaṃśa gives a much more detailed description, which is in some respects curious. The want of any technical glossary, and the general manner in which technical terms are explained in the ordinary dictionaries, render it difficult to understand exactly what is intended, and any translation of the passages must be defective. The French version, however, probably represents a much more splendid and theatrical scene than the text authorizes, and may therefore admit of correction. The general plan is nothing more than an enclosed space, surrounded by temporary structures of timber or bambus, open or enclosed, and decorated with hangings and garlands. It may be doubted if the details described by the compiler of the Hari Vaṃśa were very familiar even to him; for his description is not always very consistent or precise. Of two commentators, one evidently knows nothing of what he attempts to explain; but with the assistance of the other the passages may be thus, though not always confidently, rendered:—
[5] The terms here used are technical, and refer to the established modes of wrestling amongst Hindu athletæ. 1. Sannipāta is described ‘mutual laying hold of.’ 2. Avadūta, ‘letting go of the adversary.’ g. Kṣepaṇa, ‘pulling to, and casting back.’ 4. Muṣṭinipāta, ‘striking with fists.’ 5. Kīlanipāta, ‘striking with the elbow.’ 6. Vajranipāta, ‘striking with the fore-arm.’ 7. Jānunirghāta, ‘pressing or striking with the knees.’ 8. Bāhuvighaṭṭana, ‘interlacing the arms.’ 9. Pādoddhūta, kicking.’ 10. Prasṛṣṭā, ‘intertwining of the whole body.’ In some copies another term occurs, Aśmanirghāta, ‘striking with stones,’ or ‘striking blows as hard as with stones;’ for stones could scarcely be used in a contest specified as ‘one without weapons’
[6] Kṛṣṇa contended with Cāṇūra, ‘who through distress and anger shook the flowers of his crest;’ The two last terms are explained, the flower of the wreath on his head.’
[7] Et latus mediam sulcus diducit arenam.

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