Krishna the Subduer of Kaliya

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Krishna the Subduer of Kaliya

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In the enchanting realms of Vrindavan, where the emerald waters of Yamuna gracefully weave through the sacred land, the divine avatar of Lord Vishnu, Krishna, manifested with skin resembling monsoon clouds and eyes that sparkled like profound pools of wisdom. Amidst the laughter and vibrant life along the riverbanks of Mathura, Krishna, often seen frolicking with the cowherd children, concealed a secret deeper than the Yamuna’s sacred waters.

A long time ago, in the kingdom of Vrishni, there was a ruler named Kansa, who was the brother of Mata Devaki. Devaki married Vasudeva, the son of Yadava king Shurasena, in the capital city of Mathura. However, an oracle predicted that Devaki and Vasudeva’s 8th son would be the end of Kansa.

Fearing this prophecy, Kansa imprisoned Devaki and Vasudeva and cruelly killed their first seven children. When it was time for the eighth child, a divine intervention occurred. Lord Vishnu appeared in Vasudeva’s dream and instructed him to take the baby to Gokula and give it to Nand, Vasudeva’s cousin. In a brave move, Vasudeva placed baby Krishna in a basket and left for Gokula during a stormy night. To reach Gokula, he had to cross the flooded Yamuna river. Upon entering the river, the water level rose, but miraculously, when Krishna’s feet touched the water, the river calmed down. Vasudeva successfully reached Gokula, met Nand Maharaj, handed over Lord Krishna, and took Nand’s daughter back to Mathura. That’s how Lord Krishna ended up in Vrindavan. 

In Vrindavan, he grew up with Nand Maharaj as his foster father, playing joyfully with friends and taking care of cows. The tales of Krishna’s playful childhood, especially with Radha and his friends, became legendary in Vrindavan. And thus, the divine journey of Lord Krishna in the enchanting land of Vrindavan began.

Lord-krishna-in-the-enchanting-land-of-vrindavan

In the picturesque land of Vrindavan, where the river Yamuna flowed peacefully, a fearsome serpent named Kaliya naag had made its dwelling. This venomous serpent had poisoned the waters and spread terror among the residents of Vrindavan. Kaliya’s residence is on the island of Ramaṇaka but with the fear of Gruda he leaves his home and comes to Vrindavan as it is the only place where he can save himself from Garuda. 

Kaliya’s poison is so dangerous that birds who are flying over Yamuna are dying, animals who drank Yamuna’s water are dead. 

One day, as Lord Krishna was playing with his cowherd friends, their ball accidentally fell into the river. Without hesitation, Lord Krishna plunged into the waters to retrieve it. Upon entering the river, Kaliya naag got angry and emerged with its multiple hoods, creating a terrifying spectacle. The serpent coiled around Krishna, trapping him in its powerful grip.

Witnessing this, the residents of Vrindavan, including Krishna’s friends and family, were overcome with fear. However, Krishna, with his divine strength and purpose, expanded his size, causing Kaliya’s grip to loosen. 

Undeterred, Kaliya tightened its coils even more, but Lord Krishna retaliated and started dancing on the serpent’s many hoods with unmatched grace and agility.
As soon as Krishna danced on the hoods of Kaliya, the black, flowing locks around his beautiful moon-like face flew in all directions. The black ankle bells on his feet and the bells tied to his waist created sweet and divine melodies that enchanted everyone. The gods showered flowers from the sky in appreciation. Kaliya naag lifted his hoods, and Krishna, with his small, red lotus feet, crushed them underneath.

Krishna-dancing-on-kaliya,-chola-style-kaliya-nartana-krishna-statue

As Krishna danced, Kaliya surrendered to the divine power. All the venom from Kaliya’s mouth came out, and in the end, exhausted, Kaliya fainted.  Understanding the significance of the moment, Kaliya’s wives approached Krishna, seeking mercy for their husband and tell lord krishna how with the fear of Garuda they came to Vrindavan.  When he regained consciousness, Kaliya realized the greatness of the Lord and prayed for protection along with his wives.

In a compassionate gesture, Krishna chose not to harm Kaliya, but instead, he expelled the serpent from the Yamuna, cleansing its waters. In order to protect Kaliya from Garuda, Lord Krishna imprinted his divine footprints on Kaliya’s head.

Kaliya understood that the touch of the Lord’s feet had bestowed double blessings upon him. His wives, through a beautiful hymn, 
मस्तुभ्यम भगवते पुरुषाय महात्मने…नमः कृष्णाय रामाय वासुदेवसुताय च प्रद्युम्नाय अनिरुद्धाय सात्वतम पथये नमः

Afterward, Lord Krishna instructed Kaliya naag, his wives, children, and relatives to leave the river and go towards the ocean. The Lord promised that the Garuda, whom Kaliya feared, would not trouble him in the future because the imprints of the Lord’s feet were on his hoods. Yamuna regained her ancient glory, and her water became like nectar for everyone to drink.

This tale is mentioned in the 16th chapter of Bhagavata Purana. The tale of Krishna subduing Kaliya became a symbol of good triumphing over evil and the importance of humility in the face of divine power. Following this incident, Krishna earned the name “Kaliya Nartana Krishna,” and this particular moment became one of the most widely portrayed scenes in Indian art.

Kaliya-nartana-krishna

The divine dance on Kaliya’s hoods not only showcased Lord Krishna’s Divinity but also conveyed a timeless message of righteousness prevailing over darkness. The purified Yamuna, now free from Kaliya’s influence, flowed serenely through the sacred land of Vrindavan, marking another chapter in the enchanting journey of Lord Krishna.

According to legend, Lord Krishna instructed Kaliya not to look back towards Vrindavan and the Yamuna, warning that he would turn into stone if he did so. However, in a village now recognized as Jait, situated 20 km away from Mathura, Kaliya looked back and transformed into a stone. In Jait, there is a temple where a stone statue of Kaliya Naag can be seen.