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Vishnu Purana – Fifth Kandha

Chapter 23

Burning of Yavana king, Kalayavana and praise of Mucukunda to Kansa

1-4Parāśara said: —Śyāla having called Gārgya the Brahman, whilst at the cow-pens, impotent, in an assembly of the Yādavas, they all laughed; at which he was highly offended, and repaired to the shores of the western sea, where he engaged in arduous penance to obtain a son, who should be a terror to the tribe of Yadu. Propitiating Mahādeva, and living upon iron sand for twelve years, the deity at last was pleased with him, and gave him the desired boon. The king of the Yavanas, who was childless, became the friend of Gārgya; and the latter begot a son by his wife, who was as black as a bee, and was thence called Kālayavana[1].
5-8The Yavana king having placed his son, whose breast was as hard as the point of the thunderbolt, upon the throne, retired to the woods. Inflated with conceit of his prowess, Kālayavana demanded of Nārada who were the most mighty heroes on earth. To which the sage answered, “The Yādavas.” Accordingly Kālayavana assembled many myriads of Mlecchas and barbarians[2], and with a vast armament of elephants, cavalry, chariots, and foot, advanced impatiently against Mathurā and the Yādavas; wearying every day the animal that carried him, but insensible of fatigue himself.
9-15When Kṛṣṇa knew of his approach, he reflected that if the Yādavas encountered the Yavana, they would be so much weakened by the conflict, that they would then be overcome by the king of Magadhā; that their force was much reduced by the war with Magadhā, whilst that of Kālayavana was unbroken; and that the enemy might be therefore victorious. Thus the Yādavas were exposed to a double danger. He resolved therefore to construct a citadel for the Yadu tribe, that should not be easily taken; one that even women might defend, and in which therefore the heroes of the house of Vṛṣṇi should be secure; one in which the male combatants of the Yādavas should dread no peril, though he himself should be drunk or careless, asleep or abroad. Thus reflecting, Kṛṣṇa solicited a space of twelve furlongs from the ocean, and there he built the city of Dvāraka[3], defended by high ramparts, and beautified with gardens and reservoirs of water, crowded with houses and buildings, and splendid as the capital of Indra, Amarāvatī. Thither Janārddana conducted the inhabitants of Mathurā, and then awaited at that city the approach of Kālayavana.
16-22When the hostile army encamped round Mathura, Kṛṣṇa unarmed went forth, and beheld the Yavana king. Kālayavana, the strong-armed, recognizing Vāsudeva, pursued him; him whom the thoughts of perfect ascetics cannot overtake. Thus pursued, Kṛṣṇa entered a large cavern, where Muchukunda, the king of men, was asleep. The rash Yavana entering the cave, and beholding a man lying asleep there, concluded it must be Kṛṣṇa, and kicked him; at which Muchukunda awoke, and casting on him an angry glance, the Yavana was instantly consumed, and reduced to ashes. For in a battle between the gods and demons, Muchukunda had formerly contributed to the defeat of the latter; and, being overcome with sleep, he solicited of the gods as a boon that he should enjoy a long repose. “Sleep long and soundly,” said the gods; “and whoever disturbs you shall be instantly burnt to ashes by fire emanating from your body[4].”
23-28Having burnt up the iniquitous Yavana, and beholding the foe of Madhu, Muchukunda asked him who he was. “I am born,” he replied, “in the lunar race, in the tribe of Yadu, and am the son of Vasudeva.” Muchukunda, recollecting the prophecy of old Garga, fell down before the lord of all, Hari, saying, “Thou art known, supreme lord, to be a portion of Viṣṇu; for it was said of old by Garga, that at the end of the twenty-eighth Dvāpara age Hari would be born in the family of Yadu. Thou art he, without doubt, the benefactor of mankind; for thy glory I am unable to endure. Thy words are of deeper tone than the muttering of the rain cloud; and earth sinks down beneath the pressure of thy feet. As in the battle between the gods and demons the Asuras were unable to sustain my lustre, so even am I incapable of bearing thy radiance.
29-35Thou alone art the refuge of every living being who has lighted on the world. Do thou, who art the alleviator of all distress, shew favour upon me, and remove from me all that is evil. Thou art the oceans, the mountains, the rivers, the forests: thou art earth, sky, air, water, and fire: thou art mind, intelligence, the unevolved principle, the vital airs, the lord of life—the soul; all that is beyond the soul; the all-pervading; exempt from the vicissitudes of birth; devoid of sensible properties, sound and the like; undecaying, illimitable, imperishable, subject neither to increase nor diminution: thou art that which is Brahma, without beginning or end. From thee the immortals, the progenitors, the Yakṣas, Gandharbhas, and Kinnaras, the Siddhas, the nymphs of heaven, men, animals, birds, deer, reptiles, and all the;, vegetable world, proceed; and all that has been, or will be, or is now, moveable or fixed. All that is amorphous or has form, all that is subtile, gross, stable, or moveable, thou art, O creator of the world; and beside thee there is not any thing.
36-39O lord, I have been whirled round in the circle of worldly existence for ever, and have suffered the three classes of affliction, and there is no rest whatever. I have mistaken pains for pleasures, like sultry vapours for a pool of water; and their enjoyment has yielded me nothing but sorrow. The earth, dominion, forces, treasures, friends, children, wife, dependants, all the objects of sense, have I possessed, imagining them to be sources of happiness; but I found that in their changeable nature, O lord, they were nothing but vexation.
40-45The gods themselves, though high in heaven, were in need of my alliance. Where then is everlasting repose? Who without adoring thee, who art the origin of all worlds, shall attain, O supreme deity, that rest which endures for ever? Beguiled by thy delusions, and ignorant of thy nature, men, after suffering the various penalties of birth, death, and infirmity, behold the countenance of the king of ghosts, and suffer in hell dreadful tortures, the reward of their own deeds. Addicted to sensual objects, through thy delusions I revolve in the whirpool of selfishness and pride; and hence I come to thee, as my final refuge, who art the lord deserving of all homage, than whom there is no other asylum; my mind afflicted with repentance for my trust in the world, and desiring the fulness of felicity, emancipation from all existence.”


[1] This legend of the origin of Kālayavana is given also by the Hari Vaṃśa. The Bhāgavata, like our text, comes at once to the siege of Mathurā by this chief; but the Hari Vaṃśa suspends the story, for more than thirty chapters, to narrate an origin of the Yādavas, and sundry adventures of Kṛṣṇa and Rāma to the south-west. Most of these have no other authority, and are no doubt inventions of the Dakhini compiler; and the others are misplaced.
[2] So the Bhāgavata describes him as leading a host of Mlecchas, or barbarians, against Kṛṣṇa; but in the Mahābhārata, Sabhā Parvan, vol. I. p. 330, where Kṛṣṇa describes the power of Jarāsandha, he admits that he and the Yādavas fled from Mathurā to the west, through fear of that king, but no account is given of any siege of Mathurā by Kālayavana. The only indication of such a person is the mention that Bhagadatta, the Yavana king, who rules over Muru and Naraka in the west and south, is one of his most attached feudatories. This king is in various other places called king of Prāgjyotish, as he is in a subsequent passage of the same book, Sabhā P., p. 374; and this name is always applied to the p. 566 the west of Asam. His subjects are, however, still Yavanas and Mlecchas, and he presents horses, caps set with jewels, and swords with ivory hilts; articles scarcely to be found in Asam, which cannot well be the seat of his sovereignty. It seems most likely therefore that the story may have originated in some knowledge of the power and position of the Greek-Bactrian princes, or their Scythian successors, although in the latter compilations it has been mixed up with allusions to the first Mohammedan aggressions. See As. Res. V. 506 and XV. 100.
[3] According to the Mahābhārata, he only enlarged and fortified the ancient city of Kuśasthalī, founded by Raivata. Sabhā P.: see also p. 356 of our text.
[4] The name of Muchukunda, as one of the sons of Maṇḍhātri, occurs p. 363; but no further notice is taken of him. The Bhāgavata specifies his being the son of that king, and relates the same story of his long sleep as the text. The same occurs in the Hari Vaṃśa. The general character of the legends in this chapter is that of reference to something familiar, rather than its narration. In the Hari Vaṃśa the opposite extreme is observable, and there the legends are as prolix as here they are concise. The Bhāgavata follows a middle course; but it seems unlikely that in either of the three we have the original fables.

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