How Krishna Killed Kamsa
Sadhguru: After Krishna had silenced the violent bull elephant, people once again gushed about the event, “Krishna performed a miracle. Just touching the elephant, he put it to sleep.” Hearing this, Kamsa got really desperate. He called his advisor of many years and told him, “Somehow get Krishna into the wrestling ring with Chanura.”
Chanura and Mushtika, two great wrestlers who had been unbeatable for many years, were told it was their mission to lure Krishna and Balarama into the ring and kill them. Kamsa’s advisor and minister said, “How can you do this? Chanura, a great master wrestler cannot wrestle with a 16-year-old boy. It’s against the dharma. It’s against the rules of the game.” Kamsa said, “To hell with the rules. I want this to happen. Otherwise, you will be dead by the end of the festival.” So it was accordingly arranged.
According to the rules of Bahuyuddha, there was no killing in the ring. If one wrestler held the other wrestler down, and the back of the other one’s head touched the floor for more than 10-15 seconds, it meant the game was over; this is called chit. Though that was the rule of the game, many times Chanura had grievously injured people and even caused fatalities, simply because he was such a huge man. He was not only hugely muscled but also had an enormous amount of flesh and girth, like a sumo wrestler. When he wanted to eliminate his opponents, all he had to do was get them down to the ground and put his full weight on them. That would just crush their ribs. Some people even died. As per the rules, technically he was still correct because he did not do anything to kill them. But they died anyway.
The games started with a great amount of excitement. A lot of people had gathered – royalty, guests, including Nanda, Krishna’s foster father, Vasudeva, his biological father, and the whole family. They firmly believed that Krishna had come to deliver them, to free them of Kamsa and his tyranny. But at the same time, they worried, “What may happen to these young boys?” Already many attempts had been made on their lives.
Many dozens of wrestlers wrestled; people were winning and losing. Then Chanura made his rounds around the ring. Slapping his thighs and biceps, he went around inviting people, “Is anybody man enough to wrestle with me?” There was a royal enclosure, there were guests, there were people of high rank. But Krishna and Balarama, regally dressed, were sitting in an enclosure that was for villagers, because they didn’t have royal passes to get anywhere else. Chanura particularly came in front of the enclosure where Krishna and Balarama were sitting, eagerly wanting to watch the games. He taunted Krishna, “Oh, son of Nanda, you have come? They say you have great skill in wrestling. Why don’t you come and wrestle?” People started shouting, “No, no! A young boy cannot wrestle with a man like you.”
Chanura wanted to make him angry and somehow get him into the ring, but Krishna was not getting angry. He was cool as ever. He got angry only when he wanted to. His awareness was such that for him, the whole life, the whole planet was just a drama stage. He played the game right, the way it should be. He had no ego compulsions to jump into the ring and prove his manhood or some such thing. So for every taunt that Chanura threw, Krishna had an appropriate answer, with a smile. Chanura got angry and said, “Why are you not coming and wrestling with me? Are you not a man?” This was the tradition: if a Kshatriya was challenged, he had to go and fight. You know those duels even in the West – if somebody was challenged for a duel, he could not back out, otherwise, he was considered no good.
So when Chanura challenged him, Krishna, as a then 16-year-old boy, said, “I don’t have my father’s permission to wrestle. That’s why I don’t wrestle.” Chanura said, “Oh, how will your father give you permission? He knows that you can only dance with milkmaids.” Krishna smiled and said, “Yes, I can do Rasa for the whole night.” Then Chanura abused Krishna’s father, “You are not of the right breeding. That’s why you are not coming and fighting with me.” Krishna looked at his father and said, “Father, you must grant me permission. It has gone beyond a certain point now.” So Krishna took off his royal robes and with a langoti, a simple cloth tied tightly around the loins, he got into the ring.
In the meantime Mushtika, the other champion wrestler, was trying to taunt Balarama. Balarama was easy to taunt; he would get madly angry. The moment Krishna jumped into the ring, Balarama took it as permission for himself, immediately jumped into the ring, and without even giving Mushtika a chance to grapple, he just pounced upon him and broke his neck within seconds, and Mushtika died right there. The crowd couldn’t believe it – an 18, 19-year old boy – big built but with no record of winning wrestling matches behind him – for the first time in a competition, just went into the ring and broke the champion’s neck.
Then the wrestling match between Chanura, a huge mountain of a man, and the very lithe, agile 16-year-old Krishna started. The crowd was booing at Chanura, and supporting Krishna, “Jai Krishna, Jai Krishna!” Chanura was trying to grab the boy and just crush him. But all this dancing had kept Krishna so agile that he moved all over the ring; Chanura was never even able to lay his hands upon him.
And Krishna noticed something about Chanura that nobody had ever taken note of before: he was using his left leg a little tenderly, as if in pain. Every time Krishna hit Chanura’s left leg, he went into very painful spasms and almost fell down quite a few times. The crowd could not believe the great Chanura was just falling down because this little boy kicked him. Krishna just exhausted him this way. Chanura’s strength was his size, but Krishna made him run so much that he became very breathless.
When Kamsa saw that Chanura could not handle the boy, he was getting angrier and was in terror because if Krishna killed Chanura, the next one would be him. After a while, Krishna just went upon Chanura, sat on his shoulder and broke his neck. The wrestling was over and a huge celebration began.
Kamsa did not trust his own people; he thought the Yadavas may revolt anytime, so he had a small contingent of Jarasandha’s Magadha soldiers in his palace all the time, for his protection. The Magadha soldiers were strategically positioned, and after Krishna had defeated Chanura, the Yadavas also came with their arms and placed themselves. The moment this happened, the Magadha soldiers attacked, and the first person they went after was Krishna’s father. This was expected, so the Yadavas felled the soldier who had gone after him and a battle started.
This huge crowd of innocent people, women and children, did not know where to go, and a stampede occurred. When Krishna saw the scene and grasped where it was going, he knew he had to do something. He jumped over the barrier that enclosed the wrestling ring and saw Kamsa in his fury pulling out his sword and coming towards him. Akrura, Krishna’s uncle, tried to stop Kamsa who wanted to kill the boy, but Kamsa turned around and knocked him down. Krishna ran up to Kamsa, held him by his hair and pulled him down. Kamsa lost grip over his sword and fell backwards, and Krishna dragged him into the wrestling ring, took Kamsa’s sword and with one slash, he beheaded Kamsa.
Then he took the conch that Kamsa was wearing, blew it as a trumpet of victory, and everything stopped. People immediately knew that the prophecy had come true – Kamsa was dead, killed by a 16-year-old boy. Everything became still. Then some people burst into celebration. But Krishna said, “Quiet! This is not a time for celebration. Our king is dead; this is a time for mourning. I have done what was needed, but this is not something that we should celebrate.” That’s how he was made.
From there, his mission began. Here was established as the Deliverer, the savior of that race, because as it had been prophesied, he came at the age of 16 and put an end to this tyrant.
This man that we call Krishna grew into such a multi-dimensional figure. The way he handled every aspect of his life, as a playful boy, as a lover, as a king-maker, as a statesman, as a warrior, with how much flair he played every role he was given was just unbelievable. He criss-crossed the country any number of times to establish the dharma. By the time he was 30, he was established as an absolute power. Many people offered their kingdoms, but he just remained an arbitrator for all the kings. He was acknowledged as dharma goptr, which means protector of righteousness, but never did he rule a kingdom, though he would have had the power and the capability to do that.