Nepal in the Mahabharata Period

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BY: SUN STAFF - 3.10 2018

The Thousand-armed Bana (detail) 
Battle between Banasura and Krishna (detail) 
Bhagavata Purana, Nepal, c. 1775

Sri Krsna's liberation of Banasura, the Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed these pastimes.

During the historical period recorded in the epic Mahabharata, the territory around Nepal played a key role in the pastimes of Sri Krsna and the Yadava dynasty. At the time when we first researched this fifty-part series, a great many of the Vaisnava temples featured in the series were still standing. Sadly, in April 2015 a destructive earthquake hit Nepal, and many of these temples were destroyed. Known as the great Gorkha quake, it killed some 9,000 people and injured another 22,000. As we progress through this series, we will attempt to inventory the many temples and tirthas that fell to the quake.

Our survey of Nepal in the Mahabharata period begins with the story of the demon Bana, or Banasura, who was the thousand-armed son of Bali A powerful and terrible asura, Bana created fear in all the people, and even the king of earth and the Devas were afraid of him. A devotee of Lord Shiva, Banasura ruled in a large area stretching from Nepal to what is known today as central Assam. His capital was at Sonitpur in Banpur, today the city of Tezpur, Assam. Having engaged in service to Shiva, Banasura requested a boon, and with Shiva as his protector, the demon became invincible. Until, that is, he was eventually defeated by the fighting supremacy of the Lord.

Before his defeat at Krsna's hands, with his extraordinary powers, Banasura expanded his realm and became the first Kirat king to rule the region of central Nepal. Krishna eventually sent a strong force of the Yadava's under the command of Bhuktaman to conquer the kingdom of Banasura. Attacking and killing the Bana demon, the Yadavas established their own kingdom, and ruled Nepal for eight generations.

In this illustration from Bhagavata Purana, we see Sri Krsna on Garuda, destroying Banasura. The demon's city is in flames and his warriors slain, as the Yadavas press on to final victory.

We begin this series with a narration of the pastimes of Banasura's demise, described by Srila Prabhupada in Chapter 63 of Krsna Book, entitled 'Lord Krsna Fights with Banasura':

"Banasura heard that the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty were attacking the whole city, tearing down various walls, gates and nearby gardens. Becoming very angry, he immediately ordered his soldiers, who were of equal caliber, to go and face them. Lord Siva was so kind to Banasura that he personally came as the commander-in-chief of the military force, assisted by his heroic sons Karttikeya and Ganapati. Seated on his favorite bull, Nandisvara, Lord Siva led the fighting against Lord Krsna and Balarama. We can simply imagine how fierce the fighting was--Lord Siva with his valiant sons on one side and Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His elder brother, Sri Balaramaji, on the other. The fighting was so fierce that those who saw the battle were struck with wonder, and the hairs on their bodies stood up. Lord Siva was engaged in fighting directly with Lord Krsna, Pradyumna was engaged with Karttikeya, and Lord Balarama was engaged with Banasura's commander-in-chief, Kumbhanda, who was assisted by Kupakarna. Samba, the son of Krsna, was engaged in fighting with the son of Banasura, and Banasura was engaged in fighting with Satyaki, commander-in-chief of the Yadu dynasty. In this way the fighting was waged.

News of the fighting spread all over the universe. Demigods such as Lord Brahma, from higher planetary systems, along with great sages and saintly persons, Siddhas, Caranas and Gandharvas--all being very curious to see the fight between Lord Siva, Lord Krsna and their assistants--hovered over the battlefield in their airplanes. Lord Siva is called the Bhuta-natha, being assisted by various types of powerful ghosts and denizens of the inferno--Bhutas, Pretas, Pramathas, Guhyakas, Dakinis, Pisacas, Kusmandas, Vetalas, Vinayakas and Brahma-raksasas. (Of all kinds of ghosts, the Brahma-raksasas are very powerful. Brahmanas transferred to the role of ghosts become Brahma-raksasas.)

The Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna simply drove all these ghosts away from the battlefield, beating them with His celebrated bow, Sarnga-dhanur. Lord Siva then began to release all his selected weapons against the Personality of Godhead. Lord Sri Krsna, without any difficulty, counteracted all these weapons with counterweapons. He counteracted the brahmastra, similar to the atomic bomb, by another brahmastra, and an air weapon by a mountain weapon. When Lord Siva released a particular weapon bringing about a violent hurricane on the battlefield, Lord Krsna presented just the opposing element, a mountain weapon which checked the hurricane on the spot. Similarly when Lord Siva released his weapon of devastating fire, Krsna counteracted it with torrents of rain.

At last, when Lord Siva released his personal weapon, called Pasupata-astra, Krsna immediately counteracted it by the Narayana-astra. Lord Siva then became exasperated in fighting with Lord Krsna. Krsna then took the opportunity to release His yawning weapon. When this weapon is released, the opposing party becomes tired, stops fighting and begins to yawn. Consequently, Lord Siva became so fatigued that he refused to fight anymore and he began to yawn. Krsna was now able to turn His attention from the attack of Lord Siva to the efforts of Banasura, and He began to kill his personal soldiers with swords and clubs. Meanwhile, Lord Krsna's son Pradyumna was fighting fiercely with Karttikeya, the commander-in-chief of the demigods. Karttikeya was wounded, and his body was bleeding profusely. In this condition, he left the battlefield and, without fighting anymore, rode away on the back of his peacock carrier. Similarly, Lord Balarama was smashing Banasura's commander-in-chief, Kumbhanda, with the strokes of His club. Kupakarna was also wounded in this way, and both he and Kumbhanda fell on the battlefield, the commander-in-chief being fatally wounded. Without guidance, all of Banasura's soldiers scattered here and there.

When Banasura saw that his soldiers and commanders had been defeated, his anger only increased. He thought it wise to stop fighting with Satyaki, Krsna's commander-in-chief, and instead directly attack Lord Krsna. Now having the opportunity to use his one thousand hands, he rushed towards Krsna, simultaneously working five hundred bows and two thousand arrows. Such a foolish person could never measure Krsna's strength. Immediately, without any difficulty, Krsna cut each of Banasura's bows into two pieces and, to check him from going further, made his chariot horses lay on the ground. The chariot then broke to pieces. After doing this, Krsna blew His conchshell, Pancajanya.

There was a demigoddess named Kotara who was worshiped by Banasura, and their relationship was as mother and son. Mother Kotara was upset that Banasura's life was in danger, so she appeared on the scene. With naked body and scattered hair, she stood before Lord Krsna. Sri Krsna did not like the sight of this naked woman, and to avoid seeing her He turned His face. Banasura, getting this chance to escape Krsna's attack, left the battlefield. All the strings of his bows were broken, and there was no chariot or driver, so he had no alternative but to return to his city. He lost everything in the battle.

Being greatly harassed by the arrows of Krsna, all the associates of Lord Siva, the hobgoblins and ghostly Bhutas, Pretas and ksatriyas, left the battlefield. Lord Siva then took to his last resort. He released his greatest death weapon, known as Siva-jvara, which destroys by excessive temperature. It is said that at the end of creation the sun becomes twelve times more scorching than usual. This twelve-times-hotter temperature is called Siva-jvara. When the Siva-jvara personified was released, he had three heads and three legs, and as he came toward Krsna it appeared that he was burning everything into ashes. He was so powerful that he made blazing fire appear in all directions, and Krsna observed that he was specifically coming toward Him.

As there is a Siva-jvara weapon, there is also a Narayana-jvara weapon. Narayana-jvara is represented by excessive cold. When there is excessive heat, one can somehow or other tolerate it, but when there is excessive cold, everything collapses. This is actually experienced by a person at the time of death. At the time of death, the temperature of the body first of all increases to 107 degrees, and then the whole body collapses and immediately becomes as cold as ice. To counteract the scorching heat of the Siva-jvara, there is no other weapon but Narayana-jvara.

Therefore, when Lord Krsna saw that the Siva-jvara had been released by Lord Siva, He had no recourse other than to release the Narayana-jvara. Lord Sri Krsna is the original Narayana and the controller of the Narayana-jvara weapon. When the Narayana-jvara was released, there was a great fight between the two jvaras. When excessive heat is counteracted by extreme cold, it is natural for the hot temperature to gradually reduce, and this is what occurred in the fight between Siva-jvara and Narayana-jvara. Gradually, Siva-jvara's temperature diminished, and Siva-jvara began to cry for help from Lord Siva, but Lord Siva was unable to help him in the presence of the Narayana-jvara. Unable to get any help from Lord Siva, the Siva-jvara could understand that he had no means of escape outside surrendering unto Narayana, Lord Krsna Himself. Lord Siva, the greatest of the demigods, could not help him, what to speak of the lesser demigods, and therefore Siva-jvara ultimately surrendered unto Krsna, bowing before Him and offering a prayer so that the Lord might be pleased and give him protection.

....After hearing the Siva-jvara, Lord Krsna replied, "O three-headed one, I am pleased with your statement. Be assured there is no more suffering for you from the Narayana-jvara. Not only are you now free from fear of Narayana-jvara, but anyone in the future who simply recollects this fight between Siva-jvara and Narayana-jvara will also be freed from all kinds of fearfulness." After hearing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Siva-jvara offered his respectful obeisances unto His lotus feet and left.

In the meantime Banasura somehow or other recovered from his setbacks and, with rejuvenated energy, returned to fight. This time Banasura appeared before Lord Krsna, who was seated on His chariot, with different kinds of weapons in his one thousand hands. Banasura was very much agitated. He began to splash his different weapons, like torrents of rain, upon the body of Lord Krsna. When Lord Krsna saw the weapons of Banasura coming at Him, like water coming out of a strainer, He took His sharp-edged Sudarsana disc and began to cut off the demon's one thousand arms, one after another, just as a gardener trims the twigs of a tree with sharp cutters. When Lord Siva saw that his devotee Banasura could not be saved even in his presence, he came to his senses and personally came before Lord Krsna and began to pacify Him by offering the following prayers.

...."Lastly, my Lord, I may inform You that this Banasura is very dear to me. He has rendered very valuable service unto me; therefore I want to see him always happy. Being pleased with him, I have given him the assurance of safety. I pray to You, my Lord, that as You were pleased upon his forefathers King Prahlada and Bali Maharaja, You will also be pleased with him."

After hearing Lord Siva's prayer, Lord Krsna addressed him also as lord and said, "My dear Lord Siva, I accept your statements, and your desire for Banasura is also accepted by Me. I know that this Banasura is the son of Bali Maharaja, and as such I cannot kill him because that is My promise. I gave a benediction to King Prahlada that all the demons who would appear in his family would never be killed by Me. Therefore, without killing this Banasura, I have simply cut off his arms to deprive him of his false prestige. The large number of soldiers which he was maintaining became a burden on this earth, and I have killed them all in order to minimize the burden. Now he has four remaining arms, and he will remain immortal, without being affected by material the pains and pleasures. I know that he is one of the chief devotees of Your Lordship, so you can now rest assured that henceforward he need have no fear from anything."

When Banasura was benedicted by Lord Krsna in this way, he came before the Lord and bowed down before Him, touching his head to the earth. He immediately arranged bring Aniruddha along with his daughter Usa, seated on a nice chariot, and presented them before Lord Krsna. After this, Lord Krsna took charge of Aniruddha and Usa, who had become very opulent materially because of the blessings of Lord Siva. Thus, keeping forward a division of one aksauhini of soldiers, Krsna began to proceeded toward Dvaraka. In the meantime, all the people at Dvaraka, having received the news that Lord Krsna was returning with Aniruddha and Usa in great opulence, decorated every corner of the city with flags, festoons and garlands. All the big roads and crossings were carefully cleansed and sprinkled with sandalwood pulp mixed with water. Everywhere there was the flavor of sandalwood. All the citizens, accompanied by their friends and relatives, welcomed Lord Krsna with great pomp and jubilation. At that time, there was a tumultuous vibration of conchshells and drums and bugles to receive the Lord. In this way the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna entered His capital, Dvaraka."

Krsna Book, Chapter 63

 Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Excerpted from text and purport of HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.

(To be continued...)