Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 8

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BY: SUN STAFF - 12.10 2018

Krsna Kills the Demon Narakasura with Sudarshan Chakra 
Harivamsha, c. 1590 - Edwin Binney 3rd Collection 
 

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

The history of the Kirat people in Nepal is commonly expanded to include events that took place in the region of Assam. As the map in yesterday's segment indicates, Assam hugs the Himalayan foothills as Nepal does, but is further east and separated from Nepal by modern Sikkim and Bhutan.

Before exploring the numerous temples associated with Banasura that are found in Assam, let us expand on the historical context.

Given that Assam was one of Banasura's strongholds, it is not surprising that he had close associates in the region. One of these was Narakasura (Nakrashur), a demon king who ruled Assam during the Mahabharata period.

"It is said in other puranas that Narakasura was the son of Dharitri, the earth, by the Lord Himself. But he became a demon due to the bad association of Bana, another demon. An atheist is called a demon, and it is a fact that even a person born of good parents can turn into a demon by bad association. Birth is not always the criterion of goodness; unless and until one is trained in the culture of good association, one cannot become good."

Srimad-Bhagavatam 3:3:6 Purport

Narakasura (or Naraka) belonged to the Kirat-Ashur, a mlechha tribe residing throughout the Himalya region. These particular Kirats came from the intermingling of Mongoloids who migrated from the north (now Tibetan China) and established themselves in Assam.

The Kamarupa Kingdom of Assam, 7th-8th Century.

Narakasura's capital was Pragjyotishpur, also known as the Kamarupa Kingdom. Pragjyotishpur is mentioned in the 10th Century Assamese text, Kalika Purana, and the later Yogini Tantra, and is said to have existed for a period of about 800 years, from 350 A.D. to 1140 A.D. Three dynasties have had their capital cities here, in Guwahati and Tezpur. The kingdom covered the entire Brahmaputra river valley, North Bengal and parts of Bangladesh, including the area of modern Assam.

According to the coinage minted by Alauddin Hussain Shah, who invaded the Kamata Kingdom in the late 15th Century, the region of Pragjyotishpur was called Kamru or Kamrud. In the 16th Century the Ahom kingdom came into prominence, assuming the political and territorial legacy of the Kamarupa kingdom.

The demon king Narakasura is cited as the progenitor of many dynasties that ruled Kamarupa in ancient times. There is a hill to the south of Guwahati named after him, and he is associated with Shakta worship at Kamakhya.

Narakasura took birth as the asura son of Varaha Avatar and his consort, the earth goddess, Bhudevi (Bhumi), or Dharitri. The son Naraka is therefore also known as Bhaumasura. Elsewhere he is described as being a son of the demon Hiranyaksha.

Narakasura established his kingdom at Pragjyotisha after overthrowing the last of the Danava kings, Ghatakasura. It was foretold that he would be destroyed by a later incarnation of Vishnu. His mother sought a boon from Vishnu that her son should have a long life, and that he should be all powerful. Vishnu granted these boons, thus empowering the asuric king.

Narakasura's demoniac nature was amplified due to the bad association of his friend, Banasura. Drunk with power, as Bana was, he believed himself to be unrivalled in prowess, and the rightful ruler of all kingdoms on earth. After marking his dominion of the earth, he turned his eyes towards Swargaloka, and even the mighty Indra could not withstand his assault. Narakasura become the overlord of both the heavens and earth. Addicted to power, he stole the earrings of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess, and usurped some of her territory, while also kidnapping 16,000 women. All the Devas, led by Indra, begged Lord Vishnu to deliver them from the demon Narakasura, and Vishnu kept his promise, in the Person of Sri Krsna.

Aditi, who was a relative of Krsna's wife Satyabhama (an expansion of Naraka's mother, Bhudevi), approached Satyabhama for help. When Satyabhama heard of Narakasura's ill treatment of women and his behaviour with Aditi, she was enraged. Satyabhama thus approached Lord Krsna for permission to wage a war against Narakasura. As promised to the Devas and Aditi, Krsna attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with Satyabhama by His side -- just as He had come to defeat Naraka's friend, Banasura.

The battle was furiously fought. Narakasura possessed 11 akshauhini of warriors, but Krsna killed them all with little effort. One of the demons the Lord killed was Narakasura's general, Mura. Lord Krsna's name, Murari refers to His killing of the Mura demon.

"An instance of astonishment in devotional service by indirect perception occurred when Maharaja Pariksit heard from Sukadeva Gosvami about Krsna's killing Narakasura, who had been fighting Krsna with eleven aksauhini divisions of soldiers. Each division of aksauhini soldiers contained several thousand elephants, several thousand horses and chariots and several hundreds of thousands of infantry soldiers. Narakasura possessed eleven such divisions, and all of them were throwing arrows toward Krsna, but Krsna killed them all, simply by throwing three arrows from His side."

Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 46

Eventually, the desperate Narakasura launched his great weapon, Sataghini (a thunderbolt astra), but it had no effect whatsoever on Krsna. Finally, when Naraka tried to kill the Lord with a trident, Krsna beheaded him with Sudarshana Chakra. Just before he died, Naraka requested a boon, that the anniversary of his death should be observed by all people on earth. This day is celebrated as Naraka Caturdashi.

There is another legend, that Narakasura had also gained a boon from Lord Brahma, that he would die only in the hands of his mother. On the day of the war, Satyabhama fought Narakasura bravely alongside Krsna, but she was no match to his trained skills. After a few days, when Narakasura got a chance, he took aim at Krsna, hurting him lightly. Krishna fainted in a preordained, divine plan adopted to empower Satyabhama. As expected, upon seeing Krsna hurt, Satyabhama became furious. She redoubled her attack on the demon king and finally killed him.

Krsna and Satyabhama Battle the Armies of the Demon Naraka 
Metropolitan Museum Collection

Fortunately, we find an accurate statement of events in Srimad Bhagavatam, narrated here by Srila Prabhupada in Chapter 59 of Krsna Book:

"Bhaumasura was also known as Narakasura, for he happened to be the son of the earth personified. When he saw that all his soldiers, commanders and fighters were killed on the battlefield by the strokes of the weapons of the Personality of Godhead, he became exceedingly angry at the Lord. He then came out of the city with a great number of elephants who had all been born and brought up on the seashore. All of them were highly intoxicated. When they came out, they saw that Lord Krsna and His wife were beautifully situated high in outer space just like a blackish cloud about the sun, glittering with the light of electricity. The demon Bhaumasura immediately released a weapon called Sataghni, by which he could kill hundreds of warriors with one stroke, and simultaneously all his assistants also threw their respective weapons at the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Krsna began to counteract all these weapons by releasing His feathered arrows. The result of this fight was that all the soldiers and commanders of Bhaumasura fell to the ground, their arms, legs and heads separated from their trunks, and all their horses and elephants also fell with them. In this way, all the weapons released by Bhaumasura were cut to pieces by the reaction of the Lord's arrows.

The Lord was fighting on the back of Garuda, and Garuda was also helping the Lord by striking the horses and the elephants with his wings and scratching their heads with his nails and sharp beak. The elephants were feeling much pain by Garuda's attack on them, all were all dispersing from the battlefield. Bhaumasura alone remained on the battlefield, and he engaged himself in fighting with Krsna. He saw that Krsna's carrier, Garuda, was causing great disturbance to his soldiers and elephants, and in great anger he struck Garuda with all his strength, which defied the strength of the thunderbolt. Fortunately, Garuda was not an ordinary bird, and he felt the strokes given by Bhaumasura just as a great elephant feels the impact of a garland of flowers.

Bhaumasura thus came to see that none of his tricks would act upon Krsna, and he became aware that all his attempts to kill Krsna would be frustrated. Yet he attempted for the last time, taking a trident in his hand to strike Him. Krsna was so dexterous that before Bhaumasura could touch his trident, his head was cut off by the sharp Sudarsana cakra. His head, illuminated by earrings and helmets, fell down on the battlefield. On the occasion of Bhaumasura's being killed by Lord Krsna, all the demon's relatives began to scream in disappointment, and the saintly persons began to glorify the chivalrous activities of the Lord. Taking this opportunity, the denizens of the heavenly planets began to shower flowers on the Lord."