“After this purificatory process, the gopis, headed by mother Yashoda and Rohini, chanted twelve names of Vishnu to give Krishna’s body full protection from all evil influences. They washed their hands and feet and sipped water three times, as is the custom before chanting mantra.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)
A contrast in strategy. Two groups, but each facing impending doom. One person heard it in a voice from the sky [akasha-vani]. The other group witnessed the events unfolding before their very eyes. One person kept an eye on the clock, as it ticked down ever so slowly, while the other happily went about each day, although they were aware of the uncertainty in the general conditions of the material world.
1. Explicit mitigation
Kamsa heard the voice from the sky while escorting his cousin-sister to the home of her new husband. This was on Devaki’s marriage day, and everything was going well until the sudden warning. Kamsa learned that Devaki’s eighth child would be his doom.
It must have been quite a shock to receive such news. There was not much else to the message. It was something like running into a stranger on the street, who makes an important announcement and then vanishes from the scene.
Did it even take place? Should the recipient carefully consider the words delivered or should they reject them out of hand, as if delivered from a crazy person? Should they act on the information or let things go, allowing death to arrive in the natural course?
Kamsa did not hesitate. He immediately went for the kill. The eighth child would never emerge if Devaki were no longer living. Never mind the sin associated with such a dreaded act; at least the king would remain in his position.
The new husband, Vasudeva, rescued Devaki at that moment. Without firing a shot, he found relief through delivery of cogent words of pacification. The king of Mathura relented; he dropped his weapon. Kamsa assumed a position of peace, but the compassion was short-lived. Soon enough, the couple was sent to prison, forced to hand over every new child born to them.
Even with the strict oversight, the eighth child managed to appear. Known as Shri Krishna, He was secretly whisked away to the nearby town of Gokula in what amounted to a baby-swap. Kamsa later tried to kill what he thought was the eighth child born to Devaki, but it was actually Durga Devi in her potency as yogamaya. She mocked the king for even attempting something so foolish, in the process revealing that Krishna was elsewhere and very much alive.
After dismally failing at something that should have been a piece of cake, Kamsa continued with the strategy of explicit mitigation. He sent one henchman after another to Gokula. The mission was to kill Krishna. One of the people Kamsa sent was a witch named Putana.
2. Praying to Vishnu
The people of Gokula were not aware that Krishna was the very same Vishnu that they were accustomed to worshiping. They did not know that Yashoda’s actual child was swapped, that Krishna came in its place. They just knew that her newborn was the jewel of the town, that He was the center of their life and wellbeing.
When Kamsa’s asura friends arrived, the people were amazed at baby Krishna’s ability to survive the attacks. They could not believe it, as how is the essence of innocence expected to defend itself against foes much stronger in the physical sense?
When Putana entered, she took the false form of a beautiful nurse. She presumed permission to breastfeed young Krishna, and this was expected to fulfill Kamsa’s mission. Putana had smeared poison on her breast, but when Krishna started to drink, it was the witch who lost her way.
As the very life was being sucked out of her, Putana could no longer keep the false guise. She showed her true, hideous form of a witch. Greatly enlarged in size, she finally tumbled to the ground, left lifeless from the ordeal.
There were eyewitnesses only to the final scene, where baby Krishna was playing on top of the dead body, looking completely unaffected. The mothers decided to worship Vishnu by repeating various names and asking for protection over the various body parts.
In the post-mortem analysis, Kamsa failed and the people of Gokula succeeded. The cause is that Vishnu’s favor is everything. If the Supreme Lord decrees something to take place, His word is as good as that of a pious brahmana’s. Nothing can be done to reverse destiny. Kamsa failed to recognize this until the very end, when He saw the blow of death in the vision of Krishna’s fist striking his face.
How dealing with dreaded curse,
Appeal to Divine or work to reverse?
Kamsa for mitigation choosing,
His mind over death’s clock losing.
In Gokula people always to pray,
Vishnu asked to save the day.
Result that king and asuras defeated,
Time in destiny’s path proceeded.
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