If you are here on September 2nd this year, you must visit Patan Durbar Square, for that is where you will see long lines of both young and old devotees queuing up in front of the Krishna Temple to wish Lord Krishna a very happy birthday.
Actually, there are two temples dedicated to the god here. The more famous is the octagonal one that’s made in the Sikhara style, completely of stone. It was built in 1637 by King Siddhi Narasimha Malla. The other was built in 1723 by his granddaughter, Yogamati. Patan Durbar Square is a World Heritage Site, with an astonishing thirty or so monuments in an area measuring just about 160 by 70 meters.
The occasion of Krishna’s birthday is known as Krishna Janmasthami, and it’s an important festival for all Hindus, who make up the majority of Nepal’s population (almost 80%). Krishna is one of the more flamboyant of the gods in the Hindu pantheon. He is said to have had 16,000 lovers in his heyday. His accomplishment with the flute surely must have been a spellbinder as far as the ladies were concerned. But, he is actually far more than just a lover; he is one of the wisest of the gods, too, and his sermon to Prince Arjuna during the great Kurukshetra War between the Pandavas and the Kauravs (as related in the epic Mahabharata) at a crucial time helped turn the tide in the Pandavas’ favor. Krishna’s life story is replete with some really tall tales, and it begins with his birth.
His parents were Devaki and Vasudeva, and he was born in a place called Mathura in India at the stroke of midnight. His birth was foretold long before it actually happened. The myth is that, some 5000+ years ago, Bhudevi, the earth goddess, was sick of all the excesses happening on Earth, and she requested Lord Vishnu to do something to rectify the situation. Vishnu informed her that he would make an appearance as a human and do his utmost to ensure that the Earth was cleansed of all evil. At the time, most of the evil doings were due to the tyrannical rule of a king called Kansa, who happened to be Devaki’s brother. So evil was he that he had grabbed the throne from his father, who he threw into a dungeon.
In due time, Krishna was born, the eighth son of his parents. Kansa was, of course, his uncle. He was told by the court astrologers that the eighth born son of Devaki would be the cause of his death. So, he threw Devaki and Vasudeva into a dungeon, too. He also had six of their sons killed. The seventh, named Balaram, he couldn’t kill, because Devaki pretended to have a miscarriage. In truth, through some miracle, Balaram had been transferred into the womb of a woman named Rohini.
When the eighth son, Krishna, was born, his father carried him to a place called Gokul. The journey was not without challenge, since he had to wade through the swirling waters of the Yamuna River, but help came from the heavens. Once in Gokul, Krishna was handed over to a couple, Nanda and Yashoda, while Vasudeva carried back the couple’s daughter as his newly born offspring.
In this way, Krishna grew up in his foster parents’ home. Soon enough, he began to show his super powers through various extraordinary deeds. At the age of sixteen, he killed his uncle, Kansa, by beheading him with the slash of a sword he picked up after a wrestling bout that Kansa had arranged with the intention of doing Krishna grievous harm, at the hand of a notoriously cruel and extraordinarily strong wrestler. It goes without saying that Krishna killed the wrestler too, before doing away with the evil king, Kansa.
That, in a nutshell, is Krishna’s story. But it doesn’t end there. The story of Krishna’s death is equally fascinating. It’s a tale that’s taller than Everest.
When the Kurukshetra War ended, everybody was appalled by the horrific number of people killed, which included Duryodhan and his 100 brothers of the Kaurav clan. Their distraught mother arrived at the scene of carnage and wailed at Krishna: “I worshipped you as the avatar of Vishnu, and this is what you do?” Krishna chuckled in response–actually chuckled! This, naturally, infuriated the Kauravs’ mother, who then unleashed her curse on him that he, along with his entire clan, would die 36 years hence. Why 36? Well, I don’t know; perhaps there’s some obscure reason to be found in the relevant scripture.
In time, Krishna and his clan of Yadavas were living a life of blissful excess in their hometown when they were cursed again. This time, by a group of learned sages who felt insulted when they arrived at their village. It seemed that Krishna’s son was the culprit. Now, Krishna was a wise god, and he knew all this is as per his karma, so he wandered off into the jungle to meditate. There, a hunter called Jara shot a poisoned arrow at him, mistakenly thinking he was a deer. And that’s how Krishna died.
Top image: Vrindavan Lila/Flickr
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