The Vishnu Purana (abridged)

27,616 words

The Vishnu Purana (Viṣṇu Purāṇa) is a religious Hindu text and one of the (most important) eighteen Mahapuranas. It is also known as Puranaratna ("gem of Puranas"). Presented as a dialogue between Parashara and his disciple Maitreya, the major topics discussed include creation, stories of battles fought between asuras and devas, the Avat...

Vasudeva and Devaki

Vasudeva married Devaka’s daughter Devaki. Kamsa drove the chariot of the couple on the occasion of the marriage. At that time, divine words were heard from the sky. A voice said, “Stupid Kamsa, whom are you driving in the chariot? The eighth child of this woman is going to kill you.”

When he heard this, Kamsa took up his sword and wanted to kill Devaki. But Vasudeva said, “Brave warrior, do not kill Devaki. Rest assured that I will hand over to you all the children who are born.” Kamsa agreed to this arrangement.

At that time, Prithivi (the earth) went to the gods on Mount Sumeru and complained. She said that the daityas who had been born on earth were creating havoc there. Many years ago, a daitya known as Kalanemi had been destroyed by Vishnu. This Kalanemi had now been born as Kamsa, the son of Ugrasena. He had got together with other evil and powerful kings like Arishta, Dhenuka, Keshi, Pralamba, Naraka, Sunda and Vanasura. All this oppression was proving to be too much for the earth.

Brahman corroborated what the earth had said. He said, “Let us all go to the northern shores of the great ocean and pray to Vishnu there. Whenever something like this happens, Vishnu is born on earth to protect the cause of dharma.”

On hearing these prayers, Vishnu appeared before Braham and the other gods. He heard what the gods had to say and tore off two hairs from his head. “These two hairs of mine will be born on earth to destroy the asuras,” he said. “And all these other gods will also be born on earth to fight with the asuras.” Before disappearing, he also added, “I shall be born as the eighth child of Devaki.”

Kamsa heard all this from the sage Narada. He was furious and imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki. One by one, six sons were born to Kevaki and Kamsa killed each of these sons. Vasudeva had another wife known as Rohini who lived in Gokula. The seventh son was magically transferred from Devaki to Rohini so that Kamsa never got a chance to kill it. This son grew up to be Sankarshana.

When Vishnu entered Devaki’s body , Devaki looked so bright that no one could bear to glance at her. Krishna was finally born during the monsoon in the month of Shravana. (The accounts in different Puranas do not always agree. In some other accounts, it is stated that Krishna was born in the month of Bhadra.) The actual date was the eighth day of krishnapaksha. He was born right at the stroke of midnight. All the sages were happy at this birth, the winds and the rivers became peaceful. The gandharvas sang and the apsaras danced. The gods showered down flowers form the sky.

Since there was the danger that Kamsa might kill the baby, Vasudeva, proposed to leave the child somewhere else. The guards slept, the prison door opened and the chains fell away by the grace of Vishnu. It was raining furiously that night. But a great snake held up its hood to protect Vasudeva and the baby. Vasudeva had to cross the river Yamuna which was very deep. But thanks to Vishnu, the water never rose above his thighs. Vasudeva corssed the river and met Nanda and other cowherds. Yashoda had given birth to a daughter known as Yogamaya. Vasudeva placed Krishna on Yashoda’s bed and removed Yogamaya. He then returned to the prison with Yogamaya.

The guards woke up and reported to Kamsa that Devaki had given birth to a child. Kamsa rushed to the prison, picked up the baby and threw it down on the stones so as to kill it. But Yu\ogamaya was really a goddess who had been sent by Vishnu. When Kamsa threw her down, the baby rose up into the air and adopted the eight-armed form of the goddess. “Stupid Kamsa.” She said, “the person who will kill has already been born. It was the who had killed you in your last birth.” So saying, Yogamaya disappeared intot he sky.

Kamsa called all his evil friends together and said.”My friends, the mischievous devas are trying to get me killed, but because I am brave, I am not going to pay any attention to this. Have you not seen how Indra fled like a coward before my arrows? In this whole world I am not sacred of anyone other than my guru Jarasandha. These attempts of the devas made me laugh. Nevertheless, one has to be careful as I have been told that Devaki’s son will kill me. We have to kill any male child who seems to be unduly strong.”

He was no further point in detaining Vasudeva and Deaki. He released them and said, “I have unnecessarily killed your children but that must have been their fate. The person who is to kill me must have been born somewhere else.”

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: