This is the second story in a series of stories about Lord Krishna and his exploits as a young kid in Vrindavan. Soon after Krishna was born, his father quietly took the newborn infant out of the evil King Kamsa’s palace in Mathura in the middle of the night, by hiding him in a wicker basket, crossed the mighty river Yamuna and left him at his sister Yashoda’s house in Vrindavan. When Kamsa came to know that Krishna had escaped, he sent many demons to kill the small child. However, each of these demons was slayed at the hands of Krishna, who was an incarnate of Lord Vishnu. The fiercest of these demons was Arishtasura, the bull demon. But for Krishna, slaying Arishtasura was child’s play. Read on to know what happened next….
King Kamsa grew restless after Krishna killed Arishtasura, the bull demon that Kamsa had sent to kill Krishna. Ever since it was prophesied that Krishna will the reason for evil Kamsa’s death, the latter had tried to kill Krishna many times. The fear of death had brought Kamsa to a state where he did not hesitate to order the killing of his own nephew, Krishna.
Sage Narada, son of Lord Brahma, went to Kamsa after the death of Arishtasura and told him that the prophecy is indeed true. According to Narada, Krishna would soon kill Kamsa. Infuriated at this disclosure, Kamsa called the long-haired, demon – Keshi.
Keshi was an extremely powerful mystic demon. Kamsa ordered Keshi to leave for Vrindavan and kill Krishna – the boy who wore a peacock feather in his hair, at once. Keshi assumed the form of a giant mad horse and left for Vrindavan. He could move at the “speed of thought”. He galloped so fast that his hooves tore into the earth.
Meanwhile, unaware of Keshi’s intent, Krishna was busy playing with his fellow cowherds. One of his closest friends, Madhumangala, said to Krishna, “Dear Friend, everyone in Vrindavan loves you. They never forget to offer you laddus*. Why don’t you share your peacock feather with me and your dress so that I can get some laddus from the villagers.” Krishna agreed to lend his dress for some time. Madhu was very happy and started walking towards the village.
Keshi, upon reaching Vrindavan, started looking for a boy with a peacock feather on his head. As soon as he saw Madhu, he started charging towards him. Madhu cried for help and before the wild beast could harm Madhu, Krishna reached the spot and challenged Keshi.
Keshi got infuriated and attacked Krishna instead and tried to trample the latter with his hooves. Krishna caught Keshi by his legs and tossed him in the air. Keshi fell down with a loud thud. He got up and raging with anger attacked Krishna once more. The duel between the two continued this way. Keshi would attack and each time, Krishna would repulse the attack, wounding the demon some more. Keshi refused to back down and after gathering some strength, would attack Krishna again.
Finally, tired and exhausted, Keshi tried to devour Krishna whole and attacked with his mouth wide open. Krishna thrust his arm into Keshi’s mouth and pushed it right till the animal’s belly. Then he expanded his arm till the demon could no longer breath. Keshi’s lifeless body then fell on the ground.
Who was demon Keshi?
As Keshi’s body fell down, his soul appeared in the form of a human. The soul bowed in front of Krishna and paid obeisance. He then said, “Mighty Lord Krishna, my name is Kumuda. I was the servant of Lord Indra and used to carry his chhatra (Parasol/Umbrella). To absolve himself of the sin of killing a brahman (sage) – Vritrasura, Lord Indra decided to perform Ashwamedha Yagna (Horse Sacrifice). The horse was magnificent and it ran at the speed of thought. I yearned to ride it and thus stole it and took it to Patal-loka (Nether World). I was caught by servants of Indra and produced before him. He cursed me to be a demon in a horse’s body. Today, Krishna, you have freed me from that curse. I respectfully offer you my obeisance”.
Saying this the soul embarked on the journey towards Vaikuntha (Heaven).
Krishna is said to have killed Keshi at the Keshi Ghat, a bank of river Yamuna to commemorate the slaying by the lord. Every story associated with Krishna has a life lesson and this is no different.
* laddus – ball-shaped sweets made of flour, minced dough and sugar.
Image Credit: The Met Museum