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Chapter XXXVII - The curse of the sages and destruction of the Yadu race

Destruction of the Yādavas. Śāmba and others deceive and ridicule the Ṛṣis. The former bears an iron pestle: it is broken, and thrown into the sea. The Yādavas go to Prabhāsa by desire of Kṛṣṇa: they quarrel and fight, and all peṛṣ. The great serpent Śeṣa issues from the mouth of Rāma. Kṛṣṇa is shot by a hunter, and again becomes one with universal spirit.

IN this manner did Kṛṣṇa, assisted by Baladeva, destroy demons and iniquitous monarchs, for the good of the earth; and along with Phālguna[1] also did he relieve earth of her load, by the death of innumerable hosts. Having thus lightened the burdens of the earth, and slain many unrighteous princes, he exterminated[2], by the pretext of an imprecation denounced by Brahmans, his own Yādava race. Then quitting Dvārakā, and relinquishing his mortal being, the self-born reentered, with all his emanations, his own sphere of Viṣṇu.

MAITREYA.—Tell me how Janārddana effected the destruction of his own race under the plea of Brahmanical imprecation, and in what manner he relinquished his mortal body[3].

PARĀŚARA.—At the holy place Piṇḍāraka[4], Visvāmitra, Kaṇwa, and the great sage Nārada, were observed by some boys of the Yadu tribe. Giddy with youth, and influenced by predestined results, they dressed and adorned Sumba, the son of Jāmbavatī, as a damsel, and conducting her to the sages, they addressed them with the usual marks of reverence, and said, “What child will this female, the wife of Babhru, who is anxious to have a son, give birth to?” The sages, who were possessed of divine wisdom, were very angry to find themselves thus tricked by the boys, and said, “She will bring forth a club, that shall crush the whole of the Yādava race.” The boys, thus spoken to by the sages, went and related all that had occurred to Ugrasena; and, as foretold, a club was produced from the belly of Śāmba. Ugrasena had the club, which was of iron, ground to dust, and thrown into the sea; but the particles of dust there became rushes[5]. There was one part of the iron club which was like the blade of a lance, and which the Andhakas could not break: this, when thrown into the sea, was swallowed by a fish; the fish was caught, the iron spike was extracted from its belly, and was taken by a hunter named Jarā. The all-wise and glorious Madhusūdana did not think fit to counteract what had been predetermined by fate.

Then there came to Keśava, when he was private and alone, a messenger from the gods, who addressed him with reverence, and said, “I am sent to you, O lord, by the deities, and do thou hear what Indra, together with the Viśvas, Maruts, Ādityas, Sādhyas, and Rudras, respectfully represents.  More than a hundred years have elapsed since thou, in favour to the gods, hast descended upon earth, for the purpose of relieving it of its load. The demons have been slain, and the burden of earth has been removed: now let the immortals once again behold their monarch in heaven. A period exceeding a century has passed: now, if it be thy pleasure, return to Swarga. This is the solicitation of the celestials. But should such not be thy will, then remain here as long as it may be desirable to thy dependants[6]." To this Kṛṣṇa replied, “All that thou hast said I am well aware of. The destruction of the Yādavas by me has commenced. The burdens of the earth are not removed until the Yādavas are extirpated. I will effect this also in my descent, and quickly; for it shall come to pass in seven nights. When I have restored the land of Dvārakā to the ocean, and annihilated the race of Yadu, I will proceed to the mansions of the immortals. Apprise the gods, that, having abandoned my human body, and accompanied by Saṅkarshaṇa, I will then return to them. The tyrants that oppressed the earth, Jarāsandha and the rest, have been killed; and a youth, even of the race of Yadu, is, no less than they, an iñcumbrance. When therefore I have taken away this great weight upon earth, I will return to protect the sphere of the celestials. Say this to them.” The messenger of the gods, having received this reply, bowed, and took his heavenly course to the king of the gods.

The mighty Kṛṣṇa now beheld signs and portents both in earth and heaven, prognosticating, day and night, the ruin of Dvārakā[7].

Shewing these to the Yādavas, he said, “See; behold these fearful phenomena: let us hasten to Prabhāsa, to avert these omens.” When he had thus spoken to the eminent Yādava, the illustrious Uddhava saluted and said to him, “Tell me, O lord, what it is proper that I should do, for it seems to me that thou wilt destroy all this race: the signs that are manifest declare nothing less than the annihilation of the tribe.” Then Kṛṣṇa replied to him, “Do you go by a celestial route, which my favour shall provide you, to the holy place Badarikāśrama, in the Gandhamādana mountain, the shrine of Naranārāyaṇa; and on that spot, sanctified by them, thou, by meditating on me, shalt obtain perfection through my favour. When the race of Yadu shall have peṛṣed, I shall proceed to heaven; and the ocean shall inundate Dvārakā, when I have quitted it.” Accordingly Uddhava, thus instructed by Keśava, saluted him with veneration, and departed to the shrine of Naranārāyaṇa[8].

Then the Yādavas ascended their rapid cars, and drove to Prabhāsa[9], along with Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, and the rest of their chiefs[10]. They bathed there, and, excited by Vāsudeva, the Kukkuras and Andhakas indulged in liquor. As they drank, the destructive flame of dissension was kindled amongst them by mutual collision, and fed with the fuel of abuse. Infuriated by the divine influence, they fell upon one another with missile weapons, and when those were expended, they had recourse to the rushes growing nigh. The rushes in their hands became like thunderbolts, and they struck one another with them fatal blows. Pradyumna, Śāmba, Kritavarman, Sātyaki, Aniruddha, Prithu, Viprithu, Cāruvarman, Cāruka, Akrūra, and many others, struck one another with the rushes, which had assumed the hardness of thunderbolts[11]. Keśava interposed to prevent them, but they thought that he was taking part with each severally, and continued the conflict. Kṛṣṇa then enraged took up a handful of rushes to destroy them, and the rushes became a club of iron, and with this he slew many of the murderous Yādavas; whilst others, fighting fiercely, put an end to one another. The chariot of the holder of the discus, named Jaitra, was quickly carried off by the swift steeds, and swept away by the sea, in the sight of Dāruka the charioteer. The discus, the club, the bow, the quiver, the shell, and the sword of Keśava, having circumambulated their lord, flew along the path of the sun. In a short time there was not a single Yādava left alive, except the mighty Kṛṣṇa and Dāruka[12]. Going towards Rāma, who was sitting at the root of a tree, they beheld a large serpent coming out of his mouth. Having issued from his mouth, the mighty snake proceeded towards the ocean, hymned by saints and by other great serpents. Bringing an offering of respect, Ocean came to meet him; and then the majestic being, adored by attendant snakes, entered into the waters of the deep. Beholding the departure of the spirit of Balabhadra, Keśava said to Dāruka, “All this is to be related by you to Vasudeva and Ugrasena. Go and inform them of the departure of Balabhadra, and the destruction of the Yādavas; also that I shall engage in religious meditation, and quit this body. Apprise Āhuka and all the inhabitants of Dvārakā[13], that the sea will inundate the town: be ready therefore in expectation of the coming of Arjuna, and when he quits Dvāraka, no longer abide there, but go whithersoever that descendant of Kuru shall repair. Do you also go to the son of Kunti, and tell him, that it is my request that he will grant what protection he can to all my family. Then depart with Arjuna and all the people of Dvārāvatī, and let Vajra be installed sovereign over the tribe of Yadu.”

Dāruka, being thus instructed, prostrated himself again and again before Kṛṣṇa, and walked round him repeatedly, and then departed as he had been desired; and having conducted Arjuna to Dvārāvatī, the intelligent servant of Kṛṣṇa established Vajra as king. The divine Govinda then, having concentrated in himself that supreme spirit which is one with Vāsudeva, was identified with all beings[14]. Respecting the words of the Brahman, the imprecation of Durvāsas[15], the illustrious Kṛṣṇa sat engaged in thought, resting his foot upon his knee. Then came there a hunter, named Jarā[16], whose arrow was tipped with a blade made of the piece of iron of the club, which had not been reduced to powder; and beholding from a distance the foot of Kṛṣṇa, he mistook it for part of a deer, and shooting his arrow, lodged it in the sole[17]. Approaching his mark, he saw the four-armed king, and, falling at his feet, repeatedly besought his forgiveness, exclaiming, “I have done this deed unwittingly, thinking I was aiming at a deer! Have pity upon me, who am consumed by my crime; for thou art able to consume me!” Bhagavat replied, “Fear not thou in the least. Go, hunter, through my favour, to heaven, the abode of the gods.” As soon as he had thus spoken, a celestial car appeared, and the hunter, ascending it, forthwith proceeded to heaven. Then the illustrious Kṛṣṇa, having united himself with his own pure, spiritual, inexhaustible, inconceivable, unborn, undecaying, imperishable, and universal spirit, which is one with Vāsudeva, abandoned his mortal body and the condition of the threefold qualities[18].

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Footnotes / commentary:

1.

A name of Arjuna, the great friend of Kṛṣṇa, to whom the latter served as charioteer in the war between the Pāṇḍus and Kurus.

2.

With Balarāma, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, and the rest.

3.

The legend of the destruction of the Yādava race, and the death of Kṛṣṇa, appears probably in its earliest extant form in the Mauśala Parva of the Mahābhārata. It forms the narrative portion of the eleventh book of the Bhāgavata, having been previously briefly adverted to in the first and third books; and it is summarily told in the Uttara Khaṇḍa of the Padma P.

4.

The village of Piṇḍāraka, still held in veneration, is situated in Guzerat, about twenty miles from the north-west extremity of the Peninsula. Hamilton, II. 664.

5.

The term is Erakā, which is explained in some medical lexicons, ‘a kind of grass.’ The commentator also calls it a kind of grass: and in the text of the Mahābhārata the term subsequently used, and as synonymous with it, is Triṇa, ‘grass.’ The Mahābhārata, when describing the affray which follows, mentions that the grass or rushes, on being plucked by Kṛṣṇa and the Yādavas, turn to clubs. The text, and that of the Bhāgavata, here say, that the powdered particles, floating on the sea, became rushes; or the latter may imply, that they fastened upon grass or weeds. The commentator, however, explains that the particles of iron being borne to land, they were so transformed. The Mahābhārata says nothing of the piece which could not be pounded, and this seems to be an embellishment either of our text or the Bhāgavata. The Mahābhārata, however, adds another precaution, which the two others have left unnoticed. Ugrasena causes a proclamation to be made, that none of the inhabitants of Dvārakā shall thenceforth drink wine, on pain of being impaled alive: and the people for some time observe the prohibition.

6.

Nothing of this kind occurs in the Mahābhārata: our text therefore offers an embellishment. The Bhāgavata, again, improves upon the text; for, not content with a messenger, it makes Brahmā with the Prajāpatis, Śiva with the Bhūtas, Indra with the other divinities, all come in person; indicating evidently a later date, as plainly as the addition of the text shews it to be subsequent to the date of the legend in the Mahābhārata.

7.

The Mahābhārata, which delights in describing portents and signs, does not fail to detail them here. A dreadful figure, death personified, haunts every house, coming and going no one knows how, and being invulnerable to the weapons by which he is assailed. Strong hurricanes blow; large rats multiply, and infest the roads and houses, and attack persons in their sleep; Sārikās, or starlings, utter inauspicious screams in their cages; storks imitate the hooting of owls, and goats the howling of jackals; cows bring forth foals, and camels mules; food, in the moment of being eaten, is filled with worms; fire burns with discoloured flames; and at sunset and sunrise the air is traversed by headless and hideous spirits. There is more to the same effect, which neither our text nor the Bhāgavata has ventured to detail. The whole passage has been published in Maurice's Ancient History of Hindustan, II. 463; translated apparently p. 609 by the late Sir Charles Wilkins. The names have been much disfigured either by the copyist or compositor.

8.

In the Mahābhārata it is said merely that Uddhava, who was versed in Yoga, foreseeing the destruction of the Yādavas, went away; that is, according to the commentator, he practised penance, and went to heaven. The Bhāgavata, taking the hint, makes much more of it than our text, and expands it into a long course of instruction given by Kṛṣṇa to Uddhava, occupying 150 leaves.

9.

See p. 561. n. 3. By sending the Yādavas to Prabhāsa, the commentator asserts, Kṛṣṇa prevented purposely the Yādavas from obtaining Mukti, ‘final liberation,’ which would have been the consequence of dying at Dvārakā. Death at Prabhāsa conferred only Indra's heaven.

10.

The Mahābhārata describes them as going forth with horses, elephants, and cars, and their women, and abundance of good cheer, and varieties of wine and meat.

11.

The Bhāgavata, like the text, adverts only in this general manner to the conflict; but the Mahābhārata gives the particulars. Yuyudhāna reproaches Kritavarman with having aided Aswatthāman in his night attack on the Pāṇḍu camp, and killing warriors in their sleep. Pradyumna joins in the abuse. Kritavarman retorts. Kṛṣṇa looks at him angrily. Sātyaki repeats the story of the Śyamantaka gem, by which he accuses Kritavarman of being an accomplice in the murder of Satrājit (p. 428). Satyabhāmā, the daughter of the latter, then mixes in the quarrel, and incites Kṛṣṇa to avenge her; but Sātyaki anticipates him, and murders Kritavarman. Saineya and the Bhojas attack Sātyaki; the Andhakas defend him; and the affray becomes general. Kṛṣṇa attempts to part the combatants, until Pradyumna is killed; and then taking up a handful of rushes, which become an iron club, he kills indiscriminately all that come in his way. The conflict continues until the greater part of the combatants have fallen, including all Kṛṣṇa's sons, and he then in wrath sweeps off all the survivors, except Babhru and Dāruka, with his discus.

12.

The Mahābhārata, as observed at the end of the last note, adds Babhru, but it presently gets rid of him. Kṛṣṇa sends him to take care of the old people, the women, and children, in Dvārakā, whilst Dāruka goes to bring Arjuna to their aid: but as he goes along, overcome with grief for the loss of his kindred, and approaching separation from Kṛṣṇa, he is killed by a club that is cast from a snare or trap set by a hunter. Kṛṣṇa then goes to Dvārakā, and desires Vasudeva to await the coming of Arjuna; after which he returns to Rāma, and sees the phenomenon described in the text; the serpent being Śeṣa, of whom Balarāma was the incarnation. The Bhāgavata does not mention this incident, p. 611 merely observing that Rāma, by the power of Yoga, returned into himself; that is, into Viṣṇu.

13.

The women, the elders, and the children, amongst whom, as we shall presently see, was Vajra, the son of Aniruddha, who was established as chief of the Yādavas at Indraprastha, and who therefore escaped the destruction which overwhelmed their kinsmen, the Vṛṣṇis, Kukkuras, and Andhakas, of Dvārakā. This was a fortunate reservation for the tribes which in various parts of Hindustan, both on the Ganges and in the Dakhin, profess to derive their origin from the Yādavas.

14.

The process is explained by the commentator: ‘By the force of Dhyāna, or abstraction, Kṛṣṇa satisfies himself that he is Brahma, or universal spirit; and is next convinced that he is therefore all things; by which his individuality ceases.’

15.

The story is told in the Mahābhārata, Durvāsas was on one occasion hospitably p. 612 entertained by Kṛṣṇa, but the latter omitted to wipe away the fragments of the meal which had fallen on the foot of the irascible sage, who thereupon foretold that Kṛṣṇa should be killed as in the text.

16.

This is an allegorical personage, however, for Jarā signifies ‘infirmity,’ ‘old age,’ ‘decay.’

17.

The Bhāgavata explains how this part of the foot became exposed. Kṛṣṇa had assumed one of the postures in which abstraction is practised: he had laid his left leg across his right thigh, by which the sole of the foot was turned outwards.

18.

He became Nirguṇa, ‘devoid of all qualities.’

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