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Kamsa, aka: Kaṃsa, Kaṃsā; 8 Definition(s)


Kamsa means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Śilpaśāstra (iconography)

Kaṃsa (कंस) is depicted as a sculpture on the second pillar of the southern half of the maṇḍapa of the temple of Lokeśvara.—Here is the final act of the drama is carved in the extreme left of the register. The two brothers have reached the court of Kaṃsa, their maternal uncle. In the picture, we see a person falling head down. Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, both brothers fought with Kaṃsa and his younger brother Sunāman. With a blow on the heads of demons, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma threw them out on the road from the upper floor of the palace.

To the extreme right of the same panel is a temple like edifice and a goddess on a lion. Probably, she is Mahāmāyā who left for Himālaya after announcing to Kaṃsa that his killer is in the Nandagokula. The architecture of the temple in the sculpture resembles one of those rock-cut temples in Mahābalipuram.

Source: Archaeological Survey of India: Śaiva monuments at Paṭṭadakal (śilpa)Śilpaśāstra book cover
context information

Śilpaśāstra (शिल्पशास्त्र, shilpa-shastra) represents the ancient Indian science of creative arts such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vāstuśāstra (architecture), they often share the same literature.


1a) Kaṃsa (कंस).—The eldest son of Ugrasena1 and brother (cousin, Vāyu-purāṇa) of Devakī. Took part in the festivities connected with the marriage of Devakī and Vasudeva, when he heard a voice from air that her eighth son would kill him. He at once drew his sword to slay Devakī when Vasudeva entreated him to spare her life promising to give him all her sons. To this he agreed. He did not take notice even of the first boy. Subsequently Nārada confirmed what he heard from the welkin. So he killed all her sons and put her and Vasudeva in jail. He waited for the seventh and was particularly afraid of the eighth. Being informed of the birth of a girl, and without listening to his sister's appeal to spare the baby, he dashed it against a stone. It flew heavenwards and said that the baby born to vanquish him was safe. Disheartened, Kaṃsa let Vasudeva and Devakī free. Consulted his ministers who advised him to kill all infants in the kingdom, and to hurt all Brāhmaṇas and cows, the root cause of Hari's dharma. Messengers were sent out on this mission.2 An incarnation of Kālanemi. Threw his father Ugrasena in prison and assumed regal administration.3 Encouraged by his Asura friends such as Pralamba and Baka, as also by the Māgadhan king, he tyrannized the Yadus who left the land for other countries like Kuru, Pāñcāla and others. The Brāhmaṇas were afraid of him.4

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IX. 24. 24; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa I. 1. 125; III. 71. 132; Vāyu-purāṇa 1. 148; 96. 131, 173, 216; Viṣṇu-purāṇa IV. 14. 20; Matsya-purāṇa 44. 74; 46. 13.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa X. chap. 1-4; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 71. 175-235; 73. 99; Vāyu-purāṇa 98. 100; Viṣṇu-purāṇa IV. 15. 26-7; V. 1. 6-11, 67-69; 3. 2; chap. 4.
  • 3) Bhāgavata-purāṇa X. 1. 68-69.
  • 4) Ib. X. 2. 1-4; 23. 52.

1b) A dānava king; with the sun for two months—madhu and mādhava.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 23. 3; IV. 29. 123.

2) Kaṃsā (कंसा).—A daughter of Ugrasena; married Devabhāga.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa IX. 24. 25 and 40; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 71. 134; Matsya-purāṇa 44. 75; Viṣṇu-purāṇa IV. 14. 21.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

Kaṃsa (कंस), the mighty demon, descendant of the Bhoja family. Kaṃsa was the maternal uncle of Kṛṣṇa and he was known for his cruelty towards his own sister, Devakī, who was married to Vasudeva. While driving the marriage procession Kaṃsa himself heard an announcement made by a celestial voice. According to the announcement he was to be killed by Kṛṣṇa, the eighth child of Vasudeva and Devakī.

Source: Archaeological Survey of India: Śaiva monuments at Paṭṭadakal (purāṇa)Purāṇa book cover
context information

The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Kamsa was the maternal uncle of Krishna. When it was foretold that the eighth child of his sister would be his killer, he resolved to put to death all the children of his sister. To save Krishna from his fate, Vasudeva had him brought up as the son of a Yadava chieftain.

Source: Apam Napat: Indian Mythology

Kamsa (कंस): Maternal Uncle of Sri Krishna and son of Ugrasena, also son-in-law of Jarasandha, whom Sri Krishna killed.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

Kaṃsa (कंस).—A demoniac king of the Bhoja dynasty and maternal uncle of Kṛṣṇa. The son of Ugrasena. He imprisoned his father and took charge of the kingdom. He killed the first six children of Devakī. Kaṃsa was killed by Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

Source: ISKCON Press: Glossary

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

1. Kamsa - Another name, according to the scholiast, for Brahmadatta, king of Benares and father of Samuddaja. J.vi.198 (25).

2. Kamsa - King of Benares, and called Baranasiggaha because he was ruler of Benares. According to the Seyya Jataka (J.ii.403), he was the king who was seized by the monarch of Kosala, owing to the treachery of a disloyal courtier, and who was later set free on account of his great piety. In the Ekaraja Jataka, which purports to relate the same story, and again in the Mahasilava Jataka, the king is referred to by other names. We probably have here a confusion of legends due to an effort to make three similar stories into one and the same.

It is probably this same Kamsa Baranasiggaha who is referred to in the Tesakuna Jataka, by the owl Vessantara (J.v.112). There the scholiast explains Baranasiggaha as catuhi sangahavatthuhi Baranasim gahetva vattanto.

3. Kamsa - Son of Mahakamsa and brother of Upakamsa and Devagabbha.

Later he became king of Asitanjana in Kamsabhoga in the Uttarapatha.

He was killed by Vasudeva, one of the Andhakavenhuda saputta (J.iv.79f).

Source: Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).


kaṃsa : (m.) a plate to eat from.

Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English DictionaryPali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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