Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 9


Krsna Storms the Citadel of Naraka
Bhagavata Purana, Mysore, c. 1840

Feb 18, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of Sri Krsna's liberation of Banasura, the Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

In the painting above, Lord Krsna attacks the citadel of Narakasura as his son, Prince Bhagadatta and his Grandmother Bhumi offer prayers to the Lord. This scene was described in detail in a Sun Feature series on The Astras, particularly the Vaisnava-astra that Bhagadatta used during the Battle of Kurukshetra (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Part 3 also links to an article describing a painting of Sri Krsna's pastime with Naraka, "Mother Bhumi Pays Homage to Krsna".

When Lord Krsna destroyed the demon Narakasura, as described yesterday in the passage from Krsna Book, Chapter 59, another famous pastime occurred -- Krsna's liberation of the 16,000 princesses the demon Naraka was holding captive.

    "....Krsna, at the request of Indra, kills the demon Narakasura, the son of the earth personified, along with the demon's associates, headed by Mura. The earth personified offers prayers to Krsna and returns to Him all the paraphernalia that Narakasura has stolen. Krsna then bestows fearlessness upon the son of Narakasura and marries the sixteen thousand princesses whom the demon kidnapped."

    (Srimad Bhagavatam 10th Canto Summary)

In Chapter 12 of Teachings of Queen Kunti, Srila Prabhupada explains:

    "When sixteen thousand girls were kidnapped by the demon Bhaumasura, they prayed to Krsna, and therefore Krsna went to the demon's palace, killed the demon, and delivered all the girls. But according to the strict Vedic system, if an unmarried girl leaves her home even for one night, no one will marry her. Therefore when Krsna told the girls, "Now you can safely return to your fathers' homes," they replied, "Sir, if we return to the homes of our fathers, what will be our fate? No one will marry us, because this man kidnapped us."

    "Then what do you want?" Krsna asked. The girls replied, "We want You to become our husband." And Krsna is so kind that He immediately said yes and accepted them.

    Now, when Krsna brought the girls back home to His capital city, it is not that each of the sixteen thousand wives had to wait sixteen thousand nights to meet Krsna. Rather, Krsna expanded Himself into sixteen thousand forms, constructed sixteen thousand palaces, and lived in each palace with each wife."

Sometime after the inconceivable pastime of Sri Krsna and His 16,000 wives in Dvarka, the Lord disappeared from this world. Some historians date the Disappearance of Sri Krsna to the year 3102 B.C., marking the beginning of Kaliyuga. The Golden City of Dvarka is said to have disappeared into the sea exactly seven days after Sri Krsna departed.

There is always some disagreement about the dating of Vedic texts and historical events, and references to the 'Mahabharata period' likewise vary. We know that the Battle of Kurukshetra took place just over 5,000 years ago, and that timeline marker is a good point of reference to use in understanding when historical events mentioned in sastra took place. Sri Krsna's pastimes battling the demon kings Banasura and Narakasura can also be measured against the Kurukshetra timeline.

In the Mahabharata, we find mention of Narakasura and his kingdom, Pragjyotisha, and the fact that Narakasura's son Bhagadatta fought for the Kauravas in the Battle of Kurukshetra. Because transcendental personalities appear repeatedly during different ages, and engage in various pastimes, the dates of their pastimes are sometimes confusing.

Although mention of the boar Prajapati is found as early as the Satapatha Brahmana, the pastime of Bhumi Devi engendering a son is first mentioned in the Harivamsa, dated to the 5th Century. Harivamsa describes Naraka as that son of Bhumi's, and this is further narrated in the later Vishnu Purana. The story is further elaborated upon in the Bhagavata Purana, later still.

Even more recent is the Assamese manuscript, Kalika Purana, written in the 10th Century. This Upapurana (secondary purana) gives an even more elaborate version of the Naraka story. In this text, the legend of Janaka of Videha, the father of Sita, is embellished and added to the legend of Naraka. However, beyond accepting confirmation of the dates of events given in the Bhagavat itself, the Upapurana versions cannot be taken as absolute.

But again, in the case of dating the pastimes of Naraka, we have the Mahabharata references to confirm that his son, King Bhagadatta ruled the kingdom of Pragjyotisha during the time of the Kurukshetra War, where he met his death.

It's interesting to note that in the quote above from the Summary of Bhagavatam 10th Canto, Srila Prabhupada states that before marrying the 16,000 princesses, Krsna bestowed fearlessness upon the son of Narakasura. Despite that boon, or perhaps because of it, it was Krsna's intervention that eventually resulted in Bhagadatta's death.

During the Battle of Kurukshetra, Bhagadatta was involved in a fierce battle with Arjuna on his elephant Supratika. During the course of this battle, Bhagadatta fired a potent weapon called Vaisnava-astra at Arjuna. However, Arjuna was saved from death by the timely intervention of Krsna, who let Himself be a cushion against this potent weapon, which turned into a garland and fell on the Lord Finally, Bhagadatta was killed, being hit by an arrow shot by Arjuna.

Before his death, Bhagadatta had formed two regiments of Kirat and Cina soldiers to fight on the side of the Kauravas, against the Pandavas. He was joined in death by another Kirat king, Jitedasti, who was fighting on the other side, against the Kauravas. When Jitedasti was killed, his forces then came under the command of Bhima. Bhima then commanded his new Kirati army to plunder all the cocks of Kurukshetra, destroying them before the time of cock-crow early in the morning. The Kirat soldiers were successful in their night attack upon the Kauravas. To this day, each year the Kirat people collect a number of cocks at night and perform a puja ceremony in the name of Bhima (Bhimsen).

Bhima eventually killed all 100 of the Kaurava sons of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari, likely employing his adopted Kirat forces to conduct some of those campaigns. Many generations after King Bhagadatta, one of his descendents, Vaskar Varma became a famous king in Assam.


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