Myth & Legends of India: Krishna, Naraka and the Founding of Dvaraka

Enjoy this tale from Myths & Legends of India

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Because Krishna is a major character in the epic, Vyasa – or those who hand down the epic orally, with many changes and additions – felt the need to include a full account of his life. The pretext for it is a conflict between Sisupala – son of the sister of Krishna’s father Vasudeva – and Krishna himself. Sisupala wanted to marry Rukmini, but Rukmini was fearful of him (he was in fact the incarnation of the Rakshasa king, Ravana, though she didn’t k ow that) and secretly wrote to Krishna asking for aid. He turned up on the morning of her wedding, eloped with her and married her. They were destined to be married, for Rukmini (like Krishna’s lover Radha) was an incarnation of Lakahmi (wife of Vishnu), and Krishna was an incarnation of Vishnu.

The panegyric of Krishna from which this extract is taken is spoken by Bhishma (the son of Santanu who gave up his claim to the throne of Hastina – pura: see p. 213) in order to dazzle Sisupala into submission – a ploy that is neither necessary nor effective! It does nothing to dissuade Sisupala, Rukma (Rukmini’s brother), Jarasamdha (another enemy of Krishna) and an army of Rakshasas from attacking Krishna and Balarama, who defeat and kill them all.

The story told in the following extract follows Krishna’s slaying of Kamsa (see p. 149) and takes us up to the foundation of Dvaraka, Krishna’s capital city.

Aditi, whose earrings are stolen by Naraka and recovered by Krishna, is the goddess of the firmament, and is variously described as ‘the mother of the gods’, the mother of Vishnu, or the mother of Indra. Indra gave her the earrings: they came to the surface of the primeval ocean when the gods churned it (see pop. 62-3.)

Krishna had 8 wives altogether. They are given a separate palace at Dvaraka.

Like the wind tearing through the clouds

into tatters, Krishna,

Seated in Indra’s chariot, attacked

And routed Kamsa’s army.

He slew Kamsa and his

Ministers in the royal court,

And immediately went and

Paid his respects to Devaki.

He honored, repeatedly,

Yasoda and Rohini,

And installed Ugrasena king.

All the Yadus praised Krishna.

After this, Purushottama Krishna

Attacked all-defying

Jarasamdha and defeated him

Near the lake-studded Yamuna.

Pleaser-of-the-Yadavas

Krishna then left

Mathura of Surasena and

Went to Dvaraka.

All the gold and gems that

Lotus-eyed Krishna

Had won from the anti-gods,

He lavished on Dvaraka.

The Daityas and Danavas

Opposed his plans.

Incensed, Krishna slaughtered

Hundreds of them.

It was at this time that

the anti-god Naraka,

of whom you know, whom all the

gods feared, obstructed Krishna.

Naraka had succeeded in 

taking possession of all

the earth’s recesses where sacred

images and langams were worshiped

Because he was Earth’s son,

Naraka was called Earth-Born.

Assuming an elephant’s shape,

he abducted the ravishingly lovely,

fourteen-year-old daughter,

Kaseru, of Visvakarman.

Naraka was king of Pragjyotisha – a fearless,

feelingless ruler. Taking Kaseru

to his place, he said:

‘All the gems of all the 

world’s kings, all the gems

that are buried in the earth,

all the gems of the oceans –

These will all be yours

from today, brought for you

by Rakshasas on my orders,

and by Daityas and Danavas.’

The earth-born anti-god

made lavish presents

of wealth in this fashion

to her (continued Bhishma).

He abducted the daughters of

the Gandharvas as well;

also the daughters of gods and

men, and lovely Apsarases.

Sixteen thousand and one virgins

were brought to his palace. 

According to the virtuous custom,

they kept single braids of hair.

Naraka made arrangements for 

their stay in a place

called Audaka in Antahpura, in

the anti-god Mura’s territory.

Earth-born Naraka of Prag-

jyotisha and the tens sons 

of ura guarded Antahpura

day and night.

So great was Naraka’s self-

conceit that he even

dared to insult Aditi over

the matter of an erring.

Never in the hpast had

all the Daityas together

offered such gross insult

as now did Naraka.

he was born of mother-Earth,

his capital was

Pragjyotisha; four heroric Daityas

protected his kingdom.

They blocked all approaches

from earth adn heaven.

Their looks struck terror

even among the gods.

they were called Hayagriva,

Nisumbha, terrible

Panchajana and hundred-sonned

boon-accomplished ura.

It was to kill them that

Krishna of the mace,

discus, and sword was born

to devaki and Vasudeva.

His glory flooded the three

worlds. And of course

all here know that Krishna lived

in the city of Dvaraka,

A city even more entrancing

than Indra’s Amaravati,

a city to shame all others,

which of cours you know.

In Dvaraka is a faous spot

called Dasarhi where 

the Vrishnis would congregate –

it is one yojana square

Balaraa and Krishna andother Andhakas would

emet here and plan for theprotection of the world.

It so happend once,

when they were gathered

a divine wind began blowing,

divine fragrance fell.

Suddenly a light that 

of a thousand suns

approached the earth slowly

and stopped near the assembly.

In the dazzling brightness

could be seen Indra

on his elephant, surrounded by

his hosts of gods.

Barlarama, Krishna, Urgrasena,

the Andhakas and Vrishnis

all rose, came out, and

honored the god Indra.

Indra got down for his

elephant, and warmly

embraced, first Krishna, then

Balarma and the others,

Among them Vasudeva,

Uddhava, Vikuda,

Pradyumna, Smba, Nisatha,

Aniruddha, Satyaki,

Gada, Sarana Akrura,

Kritavarma, Charudeshna,

Sudeshna. All the Yadavas

received Indra’s blessings.

When the chiefs of the

Andhakas and Vrishnis

had been greeted in this

fashion, Indra received 

their worship; then, head

slightly bowed, he said:

‘I come here, O Krishna, 

at the instance of

mother Aditi. The anti-god Naraka

has snatched her earrings.

Who but you will redress

her insult? O Krishna,

fortunate-favored lord of men,

go and kill Naraka.’

Krishna, greatly pleased,

replied, ‘I will go,

defeat Naraka, and bring back

Aditi’s earrings.’

He consulted Balarama;

and also gathered advice

from Pradyumna, Aniruddha,

and brave Samba.

Then, picking up his

conch, chakra, mace

and sword, Krishna mounted

the bird-deity Garuda

and flew away, keeping the

gods’ welfare in mind.

Seeing foe-destroying Krishna

go on his mission, Indra

and the other gods were

delighted and followed hi.

Krishna killed the chief

Rakshasas, and spotted

the six thousand deadly knive0

edged nets prepared by ura.

His discus sliced through them,

and decapitated Mura

and his followers; whizzing over

stone walls, it killed Nisumbha.

Next, it slew Hayagriva,

who could single-handed

fight a thousand soldiers, who 

single-handed defied the gods.

Delighter-of-the-hearts-

of-the-Yadavas,

the radiantly lustrous

heroic son of Devaki

Penetrated the steel fort

of Audaka, and killed

the fierce Rakshasas appointed

by Naraka to guard it.

From a distance he saw

the shining roofs of

Pragjyotisha. He fought a

battle with the Danavas there,

Which became celebrated

as the great gods-anti-gods’

war. It is said that no battle

equaled it in ferocity. 

Krishna’s chakra sired through

the Dana ranks,

decimating them; his heroism with

his sword did not rest.

Eight hundred thousand Danavas

fell in the fight

Lion-among-men Purushottama Krishna

Hurried to the lower regions

of hell where the challenger-

of-the-gods Naraka

lay hiding; the slayer of Kamsa

immediately attacked Naraka

The carnage that resulted

over the earrings of

World-Mother Aditi was impossible

to describe.

For a little while chakra-

wielding Krishna

egged Naraka on, then sliced off

his head with one throw.

Shredded by the chakra, Naraka’s mutilated body, like

Vritra’s killed by Indra’s thunderbolt

thudded on the ground.

Earth, seeing her son life-less returned Aditi’s

earrings, and said to

mighty-armed Krishna:

‘You gave him to me, my lord,

you now have taken him.

Play with me as you wish.

Only spare his children.’

Krishna replied, ‘Your son

had become a terror 

to sages pritris, mahatmas

and all the gods.

He persecuted the gods and Brahins..

People loathed him

He went so far in his pride

as to insult even

World-Mother Aditi by snatching

her earrings. So I killed him.

Earth-mother, do not hate me

for what I have done.

Fortune-favored one, your son

is lucky to have met death

at my hands. go now. Your

burden has been lightened.’

After killing Naraka (continued 

Bhishma) Krishna, 

accompanied by the guardians of

the universe went to his palace

Naraka’s palace was a fabulous treasure-house

of all varieties of precious 

stones and other wealth –

Pearls, diamonds, rubies,

cat’s-eyes gems embroidered

in clothes, topazes, jaspers,

and quartz-studded dresses;

Various other dresses made from

gold thread obtained 

from the Jambu river, shinning like

white-silk moonlight.

The inner apartments of the

palace were made of

gold. the hoard of wealth

that one saw there

Excelled the riches in the 

palace of Kubera god

of treasures, and the riches of

Indra’s palace in heaven

Indra said, ‘Adored Krishna

all this wealth you see

the gems, gold, the gold-woven

cloths, the howdahs,

The multi-colored dresses – 

all this is yours.

There are twenty thousand elephants

and forty thousand she-elephants;

Eight hundred thousand of the finest 

horses and any vehicles

pulled by yoked bulls. Whatever

you need belongs to you.

These woolens, beds,

seats, trained birds,

sandalwood and aloe-wood,

perfumed chariots – 

If you order me, I will 

arrange to send them

all to Dvaraka for your

and the Vrishnis’ comfort.’

All the magnificent wealth

of the gods, Gandharvas,

anti-gods and Daityas, was loaded

on Garuda’s back,

and Indra, along with

Krishna of the Dasarhas,

went to the mountain

known as Maniparvata.

Soft, cool breezes blew;

scenes of enchanting beauty

refreshed one’s eyes. the gods

saw, and marveled. 

The shining deities of the

sky, the rishis, the sun

and moon came there and

all were awe-struck.

Then, on a signal from

Indra and Balarama,

they set foot in Antahpura,

Naraka’s mountain stronghold.

Krishna saw the doors

of Antahpura flashing

like sapphire. Flags fluttered 

on all the city-gates.

Dazzling with golden light, 

glowing with colored flags,

Antahpura looked like a

painting against the clouds.

The upper rooms were large-

sized, the stairs were

gem-encrusted. The bewitching

young daughters of

Gandharvas and anti-gods

stood on the balconies

of that heaven and saw

invincible Krishna.

They saw him; and next

instant, surrounded him.

Each had a single braid, each

wore saffron and did tapas.

Their vow of self-restraint

and sorrow of separation

left them; they stood in front

of Krishna with folded palms;

The lovely lotus-eyed 

ladies said to

Krishna, lord of all

their senses:

‘Purushottama, the royal

rishi Narada said

to us, “Krishna will come here

to fulfill his mission

of helping the gods. He 

will kill Naraka,

Nisumbha, Mura and Hayagriva,

and take their possessions.

In a few days he will

be here to free you

from your suffering.” Saying this,

wise Narada left us.

We have been doing tapas

in expectation of

your coming. Oh, we have waited

long for your appearance.

And our thoughts were always

that you should

triumph over the Danavas.

Such was our tapas.

Marry us by Gandharva

rites, and save us.

the wind-god Vayu knew

our desire and told us,

“all that Narada has

predicted, will happen.” ‘

The gods and Gandharvas saw

Krishna standing among the 

enchanting girls, as a bull

stands among cows. 

They saw his moon-lovely

face, and were filled

with love-longing; passionately,

they said to him:

‘It seems unbelievable that

what the wind-god

said and what Narada predicted

should come to pass.

Narada said, “Vishnu Narayana will

come with discus, mace, 

conch and sword, kill Naraka,

and become your lord.”

Your showing today has 

fulfilled Narada’s

prediction – oh how auspicious

a day for us!

So we stand here and gaze

on your moon-lovely

face. your showing alone

has made us happy.’

Love for Krishna blossomed

in their hearts (Bhishma 

continued). Krishna, finest of

Yadavas, replied:

‘Lovely large-eyed ladies!

It will be as you say.

All your desires will be

fulfilled today.’

Krishna ordered his followers

to take the wealth

and girls to Dvaraka

(continued Bhishma).

Then Krishna instructed the

giant bird-deity

Garuda to lift the glittering

hill on his back,

With all its flocks of

birds, herds of elephants,

snakes, deer, Nagas, monkeys,

stones and rocks;

Antelopes, boars, ruru-deer,

waterfalls, jutting ledges,

and flocks of brilliant-feathered,

dazzling peacocks.

Even as all the creatures

watched, dazed, Krishna

lifted up the hill and placed

it on Garuda’s back.

And Garuda winged across

the sky with his load,

carrying Krishna, Balarama, 

and mighty Indra.

His gigantic body was like

a huge mountain peak.

His massive wings spread waves

of noise as he flew.

Hills brushed by his wings

toppled and fell,

tress snapped, and clouds were

dispersed on impact.

obscuring with his brightness

the stars and planets,

he reached the skyey paths

of the sun and moon.

Reaching the central summit

of Meru mountain, 

Krishna surveyed the abode

of all the gods.

He saw the Visvadevas,

Maruts, Sadhyas; he

visited the realms of the Asvins;

then went to Indra’s palace.

nearing Indra’s palace, he

alighted from Garuda.

He paid his respects to

Aditi. Brahma, Daksha,

the Prajapatis and gods

welcomed him inside. In the presence of Balarama,

Krishna handed over

the two earrings and other

ornaments to Aditi.

Aditi, pleased, threw off

her gloom, and warmly

thanked Krishna of the Dasarhas

and his brother Balarama.

Indra’s wife Sachi took

Krishna’s consort Satyabhama

by the hand, and escorted her

to Aditi to be blessed.

World-Mother Aditi was so

pleased with Krishna

that she ordained a special

boon for Satyabhama.

‘Sweet-faced wife,’ she said,

‘you will not be widowed

so long as Krishna is in human

form; all the fragrances

and all the virtues of the world

will make you radiant.’

Lovely Satyabhama wandered

with Sachi in the divine

realm and, with her permission,

retired to Krishna’s rest-room.

Foe-annihilating Krishna

took leave of the gods

and maharishis, and returned

to his capital Dvaraka.

Krishna covered the long distance

in no time, and arrived

in Dvaraka, whose principal gate

is known as Vardhamana.

Krishna, many-formed Narayana,

was delighted with

the beauty of the city that he saw

as he was about to enter.

On all sides, exquisite

gardens, with beautiful trees

growing; entrancing flowers, 

and sweet fruits.

The royal buildings shown 

like the sun and moon’

so tall they looked like

Meru’s cloud-kissing peaks.

Visvakarman himself had

supervised the architecture.

Louses bloomed in the moats

surrounding the city;

swans floating on them made them

resemble the Ganga and Sindhu.

Sun-bright, sky-touching,

tall-towered Davaraka,

girt with white clouds,

looked like Amaravati.

Its paradisaical gardens were

like those of Nandana,

Its Chaitraratha grove was like

Brahma’s own pleasure-haunt.

Like the Vaibhraja garden,

it flowered perennially.

So glorious was Dvaraka –

like a star-spangled city.

in the east of Dvaraka

was the towering Raivataka

hill, whose peaks were

enchanting to behold.

In the south was the hill

known as Lataveshta, 

known as Rainbow hill because

of its five colors.

In the south was the hill

called Sukaksha, and

from a distance one could see

brilliant-hued flowers on it.

And in the north, Yudhishthira,

there was Venumanta hill,

as glorious and celebrated as

Mandara mountain.

From Raivataka hill could

be seen all the scenic

loveliness of the forests of

Chaitraratha, Nandana, Ramana,

and Bhavana.

In the western part of

Krishna’s lovely city

was a lake, Pushkarini, spread

over a hundred bow-lengths.

Krishna was happy to

enter that magnificent

city of fifty gates

called Dvaraka –

So large, its exact dimensions

were unknown; surrounded

by rivers and lakes; with 

tall, shinning, white buildings.

A city well-fortified

with various shape spear – 

life defenses, and fierce, gigantic

circular war machines.

Like Indra’s city, it boasted,

outside its gates, eight

thousand chariots with flags

and pennants flying.

Its central area was roughly

eight yojanas wide

and twelve long. Double that

were its adjoining parts.

Eight main roads; magnificent

porches in all houses;

sixteen large crossroads – 

a finely planned city.

An intricate network of 

by-lanes radiating

from seven main lanes – all

executed by Visvakarman.

Its gold and gem-studded

staircases amazed all

who saw them. Everywhere,

at all ties, the sounds 

of sweet music issued from

its large-windowed houses.

Indra, when he saw this

extraordinary city with

its huge gates and porches,

was struck with wonder.

Flags fluttered on the high

buildings, cloud-white

against the sky like the 

summits of Mount Meru. 

The roofs were gold-washed,

the walls whitewashed;

the dome, grille-work and

windows were gem-encrusted.

From the eaves of the upper

rooms hung bird-cages.

Dvaraka had so much stone – 

and gem – work that

an observer could mistake it for

a gem-glittering mountain.

Some houses were made of

gold, some of marble,

others of stone and brick, the doors

of Jambu-gold and blue stone.

The very feel of these house

was soothing. Their roofs,

their rooms pleased as does

a beautiful mountain.

Five shades of the cassia

were mixed to get the

wall-colors of the rooms, as subtle

as the shades of clouds.

these tall houses stood as

lovely as painted pictures

against the sky’s backdrop, rivaling

the sun and moon.

Like the Ganga awesome

with its hosts of Nagas,

Dvaraka impressed with its

crowds of heroic citizens.

Like the sky enriched with

clouds, Dvaraka was

enriched by its houses; Krishna

was Dvaraka’s Indra.

Its young heroes strutted like peacocks,

its women were dazzle to their lightening.

Clouds draw their splendor

from Agni and the sun;

so Dvaraka basked in the effulgence of Krishna.

the weapons of its defenders

were like Indra’s rainbow.

Krishna’s palace, Yudhishthira,

which Visvakarman built

with his own hands, were four

yojanas square.

So many houses and small

apartments within this

area – impossible to count

them all! it was visible

from all over the world,

such was its splendor.

The palace in which Krishna 

lived was one yojana

square. Golden its cupolas,

like Meru’s summits.

It was built specially for 

Rukmini by Visvakarman.

Krishna’s second queen, Satyabhama,

lived in a white palace

with gemmy staircases, designed

for cooling effects.

Soft pennants waved atop

its turrets, like the play

of lambent sunlight. A lovely

garden; multi-colored flags.

Between these two palaces

of Rukmini and Satyabhama

was that of Krishna’s wife

Jambavati, also constructed

By Visvakarman, but decorated 

by her taste and skill.

It shown with the lustre

associated with Mount Kailasa,

Whose main door clowed like

gold from the Jambu;

altogether it shown with the

radiance of Agni;

Whose vastness one could compare

only with the ocean’s – 

that palace Krishna reserved for

Sukesi, Gandara’s daughter.

And the palace known as

Padmakuta, soft and

delicate as a lotus, was kept

for Queen Laksmana.

The palace of sapphires,

seeing which people thought,

‘This is Krishna’s own blue!’

was for mitravinda.

It is guarded by the gods 

themselves. Its beauty

lies in its blend of the

various architectural styles.

Another magnificent palace

in Dvaraka was built

by skilled artisans; it is a

smiling palace, known

As Ketuman, the pride of 

the artisans; it is

intended for Krishna’s queen

named Sudatta.

Another palace called Viraja

is well known in Dvaraka;

it has no asymmetry; it is Krishna’s 

favorite rest-place.

Still another palace, the work

of Visvakarman, is

one yojana square, built entirely 

of precious stones.

and the flags and pennants

that flutter on these

palaces have staffs hewn

from solid gold.

all houses in Dvaraka

have bells. Krishna

personally planted flats on the surrounding hills.

Near Dvaraka is the

Hamsakuta hill.

sixty palm-trees tall, one

yojana in width.

Also in Dvaraka is the 

large lake Indradyumna.

The Kinnaras sing there for

everyone’s delight.

Krishna’s capital is the talk

of the three worlds.

The sun-touching, tallest

peak of Meru mountain

seems to have been brought

with great difficulty

By Krishna to Dvaraka.

All the healing herbs 

that grew on Meru grow

in Dvaraka’s precincts.

And the paradise-tree which 

foe-crushing Krishna removed

from the palace of Indra is

planted in Dvaraka. 

Krishna brought many trees

from Brahma’s world too

sal, palm, asva-karna,

hundred-leafed banyan;

Marking-nut, benzoin, camphor,

champak, date-palm,

fragrant pandanus. All these

he planted in Dvaraka.

Lakes filled with crystal

water, brimming with pink

lotuses, glittering from a

distance like pearls – 

on all sides the lake are

verdant with trees.

Krishna brought trees from

the Himalayas and

from the Nandana groves 

specially for Dvaraka.

Some red, some pink, some

pale yellow, some white-

flowering; many trees in Dvaraka

blossomed all the year round.

Krishna brought all varieties

of trees in Nandana

and the gardens of Chaitraratha,

and planted them in Dvaraka.

In Krishna’s palace were many

lotus-filled bathing pools, 

many wells, fountains, and tanks

with pink sand and clear water.

Also, flowering artificial

rivulets, bubbling with

fresh water, shaded on both sides

by overhanging trees.

From its gardens gem-glinting,

pebbled, pink-sandy

water-channels flow, delighting

the peacocks and kaels.

In the hills of Dvaraka

roam cattle and

elephants; swine, deer and

birds haunt their jungles.

And the ranges of hills are

so employed by Visva – 

karman that they act as natural

defenses and gates,

which are a hundred arm’s-lengths

tall, and white like moonlight.

Outside the four natural

gates are the magnificent

mountains, rivers and lakes

girdling Krishna’s palace.

Entering the marvelous

city created by Visva – 

karman’s imagination, Krishna

looked right and left.

Indra and the gods also looked

admiringly on all sides.

This gives some idea of

how the glory of

Dvaraka struck Krishna,

Barlarama and Indra.

From his seat on Garuda’s 

back, Krishna joyfully

blew his horripilating, white

conch called Panchajanya.

The ocean-waves rose

agitatedly, the skies 

reverberated deafeningly. The

noise was awesome. 

Hearing the sound of Pancha-

janya and seeing Garuda,

the Kukuras and Andhakas

were stupefied.

In Krishna’s hands were the

conch, mace, chakra

and other weapons. Horripilating was

his sun-like radiance!

Trumpets blared, kettledrums

sounded, scattering noise

everywhere! And all the people

broke into shouts of praise.

All the Dasarhas, Kukuras

and Andhakas, seeing

Krishna, made preparations

to welcome him.

King Ugrasena led Krishna

to his palace, to 

the accompaniment of auspicious

flutes and conchs. 

Devaki, Rohini and the wives

of Ugrasena all 

emerged from their palaces

to receive Krishna.

They said, ‘All the anti-gods

have been crushed, all enemies

of the Vrishnis defeated,’ and

looked at Krishna.

Krishna was taken by

Garuda to his palace.

There Krishna placed the huge

hill of gems.

Lotus-eyed Krishna offered wealth

and precious stones to

the sabha, and in his mind

he thought of his father.

Large-and-pink-eyed, mighty-

armed Krishna, in

his mind, took the dust of

his guru Sandipani’s feet.

With his brother Balarama

he went to touche the feet

of his father, Vasudeva. Vasudeva’s

eyes filled with tears.

All the Vrishnis and Andhakas

embraced Krishna and Balarama. 

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