“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the shelter of the complete creation and from whose lotus navel the whole creation is manifested, immediately knocked the crown from the head of Kamsa and grabbed his long hair in His hand. He then dragged Kamsa from his seat to the wrestling dais and threw him down. Then Krishna at once straddled his chest and began to strike him over and over again. Simply from the strokes of His fist, Kamsa lost his vital force.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 43)
It was actually a sinful act. It might have been worse than the supposed offense of stopping the Indra-yajna. Radharani and the gopis chastised Krishna for having killed a bull, who was actually a demon. They considered Him to be unclean after the encounter, and that eventually led to the creation of both Shyama-kunda and Radha-kunda.
This betrayal of etiquette was more clear-cut. Kamsa was an uncle to Krishna. Kamsa was His mother’s cousin-brother. In Vedic culture, showing respect is everything. Beginning from the time of birth, the living entity blessed with the human form has to humble themselves over and over.
To begin, they are already at the mercy of the parents. The children are dependents. They cannot do anything on their own. Something as basic as eating and sleeping requires assistance from the guardians.
Then, during the period of school there is the authority figure known as the spiritual master. The Sanskrit word guru can refer to the mother, father, the spiritual guide, or any respectable person. The idea is that one person is recognized as in charge, the superior, and the other is the student, pupil, or subordinate.
The adult male may think they have outgrown the phases requiring subordination, but there is still respect to be paid to the ancestors, the demigods, and the saints appearing within the disciplic succession of Vedic culture.
A person may rise to the post of king, where everyone else takes orders instead of giving them, but there is still duty to the citizens. Some names for king in Sanskrit are Naradeva and Naresha, which mean the lord of the people or god of men. The king has the duty to represent the heavenly residents in administration of earthly affairs.
There is the saying that a blind uncle is better than no uncle. At the very least, Krishna should have shown respect to Kamsa based on his position within the family. Kamsa also happened to be the leader of Mathura, which was an important city to relatives and others in the home community.
From reading Bhagavata Purana, we find that Krishna actually killed Kamsa. A few quick strikes with the fist did the notorious leader in. This exchange fulfilled the prophecy told many years before. The voice from the sky had been telling the truth; Devaki’s eighth child would spell doom for Kamsa.
The king was fortunate to receive a proper punishment for his past misdeeds while still living. He had slammed newborn children into a stone slab, killing them in the hopes of denying destiny. This was the fate of Devaki’s children, one by one until the time of the advent of Krishna and Balarama.
Devaki’s eighth child merely repaid the favor. He only acted when the time was appropriate. Kamsa had openly declared that innocent leaders in the communities of Mathura and Gokula should be killed. The patience was gone. No more sending asuras to do the dirty work. No more hoping and praying that Krishna could be killed while a child.
There is the promise in Bhagavad-gita that if a person surrenders everything to Krishna, they will be protected. They can abandon every other kind of dharma. This was proven in the case of Krishna’s dealing with Kamsa.
The dharma of respecting elders did not supersede the need to remove an imminent danger to the world. Devaki’s child accepted whatever negative consequences would result. Since He is the object of dharma, those supposed negative reactions simply merged into Him.
The same was true of skipping Indra-yajna in favor of the first Govardhana Puja. In that case, Indra tried to retaliate directly and immediately. He sent a devastating flood to Vrindavana, to teach everyone a lesson. In response, Krishna simply lifted the massive hill and averted danger by using it as an umbrella.
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
This is not to say that devotees behave haphazardly or that they intentionally break etiquette on the strength of Krishna’s promise. Rather, whatever they feel they are missing, whatever deficiencies might arise from ignoring certain rules and regulations involved with other kinds of dharma, the gaps in the audit report, so to speak – those issues are resolved. The judgment of the Supreme Lord matters most, as was taught to the evil king of Mathura.
Of missed responsibility afraid,
Where demigods disobeyed.
Or that sinful reaction known,
When in that allegiance shown.
From Krishna’s transaction see,
Where fists for Kamsa to free.
Despite maternal uncle seizing,
Any reactions into Him freezing.