Authors: Ashok K. Banker
FORTRESS OF DWARKA
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For Biki and Bithika:
My Radha and my Rukmini.
For Yashka and Ayush Yoda:
All you faithful readers
that these tales
are not about being Hindu
or even about being Indian.
They're simply about
In that spirit,
I dedicate this gita-govinda
to the krishnachild in all of us.
For, under these countless
separate skins, there beats
a single eternal heart.
||sukhinah ksatriya partha||
||labhante yuddham idrsam||
Blessed are the warriors
Who are chosen to fight justly;
For the doors to heaven
Shall be opened unto them
his high elevated seat, Jarasandha watched with arched eyebrows as Balarama wreaked havoc in the Magadhan ranks. The island that was Mathura city was surrounded by an ocean of Magadhan cavalry, foot-soldiers, chariots and elephants—arrayed for yojanas in every direction, covering the earth like nothing less than a great sea of violence waiting to be unleashed. In comparison with this great force, what were two men—young boys at that, merely fifteen years of age apiece? And yet, those two striplings were causing epic destruction to his forces.
The brother of Krishna struck down elephants like an elephant itself might strike down standing weeds. Each time Balarama leaped and spun in the air, leaping from elephant to elephant as he wreaked destruction, dozens of elephants died. As for their mahouts, they died with such ease and frequency that it was startling to view on such a scale. Jarasandha watched with reluctant admiration.
From his vantage point, it appeared as if the charging brigade of elephants had overwhelmed the brothers, engulfing them in a river of grey-black hastipaka rippling along. The flanks of the frontlines of the charge had bypassed the brothers, overshot them by a hundred yards or so before their mahouts could turn them around and coax them back into the fray. This meant that the river was turning into a swirling whirlpool of elephants with the two brothers at the epicenter. Balarama was leaping and dancing and spinning so rapidly, he was never in one spot for long. Krishna on the other hand, was still standing where he had been before the elephants charged. How was he still able to withstand such an onslaught? Why had he not yet been crushed to fluid pulp?
Then the ranks parted and the dust clouds cleared for a brief moment, and Jarasandha started at what he saw.
Krishna had transformed into his true form.
The being that stood on that battlefield was no longer merely the young dark-skinned foster son of Yashoda and Nanda, aged fifteen and ripe in his youth and mischievous beauty.
He was the four-armed supreme One himself. Black as a monsoon cloud. Clad in yellow silk anga-vastra and dhoti. Eyes as pink as lotus petals. Lips as red as roses. Four arms longer than any mortal’s could be. Throat as intricately formed and detailed as a conch shell with its overlapping layers. His torso and abdomen gleaming with layers of taut muscles, offset by wide hips and strong loins over powerful thighs and trunk-like legs. His limbs were adorned with precious bracelets and earrings, necklaces, sacred thread and belt, topped off by a crown on his scalp. On his chest was the sacred Kaustabha tuft within which was embedded the Kaustabha jewel, surrounded by a garland of wild forest flowers.
Jarasandha glimpsed this for only an instant and then his vision turned dark and forbidding. That beautiful vision of Krishna turned into a great and powerful force of nature, raging and roiling like a thunderstorm at sea. He saw lightning flash within those great pink eyes, and as the delicate lips parted, they revealed a world of pain and terror that awaited Jarasandha and his asura allies. It was a mind-numbing sight.
Then the vision was obscured by a dust cloud and the pressing ranks of the Magadhan forces as they continued to harry the brothers. Jarasandha fell back in his elevated seat, suddenly perspiring and breathless as if he had fought a battle himself.
Magnificent as Balarama’s fighting was, and terrible as his toll of death mounted up steadily, it was nothing compared to what Krishna was about to bring down on Jarasandha’s army.
Using all four hands, the Lord of Vaikunta released four separate weapons at once:
The Saranga bow occupied only one hand because the bow was capable of launching missiles without needing to be pulled. The missile it launched was a thing that could hardly be called an arrow for it more closely resembled a wave of fire.
The chakra named Sudarshana spun off the finger of another hand, racing to do its given task.
A conch shell sat in a third hand, held to Krishna’s blood-red lips as he prepared to blow it.
A lotus flower was in the fourth hand and at a flick of his finger, it too went flying through the air into the dust of the elephant charge.
Then Krishna blew his conch.
Jarasandha watched in disbelief as Krishna blew his conch. From his raised platform, some ten yards high, he could not see as well as Daruka could see from the chariot hovering above, but he still had a view of Krishna amid the raging river of elephants. Balarama continued to dance and spin and smash his mace with devastating efficiency, killing hundreds of elephants and breaking the back of the attack. But Krishna had only stood still for the first several moments of the charge, apparently doing nothing and Jarasandha knew that he could not simply remain standing thus for long. The question was, how did Krishna intend to fight—he needed to see and know that in order to launch his counter-attack. He had any number of options available: over five million in fact. But he could not simply throw his armies at the enemy without knowing their capability and strategy.
Now, his question was answered.
The figure of Krishna appeared to blur in Jarasandha’s view. He squinted and rubbed his eyes and tilted his head this way and that, trying to see more clearly. At first he assumed it was the dust raised by the charging elephants but even when the dust cleared in brief moments, he could still not view Krishna himself clearly. Only a moment earlier he had been able to make out that handsome dark face, creased in what appeared to be a dark scowl. Jarasandha had smiled to see that scowl for it meant that Krishna was either concerned or angry; either was to be desired in an enemy. It was only when an enemy displayed utter calm that he had reason to be worried.