Sadhguru tells us how Krishna turns the tables on Kamsa’s plan to kill him, with the violent elephant Kuvalayapida.

Sadhguru: The word of Trivakra’s miraculous healing spread in Mathura, and wherever Krishna went, people gathered in huge numbers to have his darshan. When the news reached Kamsa, real terror rose within him. It looked like the prophecy that he was trying to dismiss was true. Kamsa had become very powerful beyond the original borders of his kingdom because he formed a strong alliance with a very ambitious emperor from the East, Jarasandha, by marrying Jarasandha’s twin daughters. With the strength of the emperor’s army behind him, Kamsa was blatantly tyrannical and did terrible things to people, but no one dared to oppose him.

Jarasandha’s life is a very cruel story of ambition and greed as to how he manipulated himself into becoming a powerful emperor. His parents were childless, which is always a problem for a king since they need a son. Otherwise the kingdom will go into someone else’s hands. Someone told Jarasandha’s father Brihadratha, “There is a powerful sage. He may be able to make this happen.”

So he went to the sage, and the sage looked at him, took a mango, blessed it and said, “Give this to your wife and let her eat it. She will conceive.” The king took the mango and went back to his palace.

His problem was, he had married twin girls and loved each of them equally. He managed the whole situation in such a way that at no time did any one of them feel neglected or superior to the other. So he did not know whom to give this mango. For these women, their life is not complete unless they bear a son for the king, and there is also the ambition of one’s own son being the future emperor. So, whom to give the mango was both a question of power struggle and emotion. Out of his sense of goodness, he decided to give one half to each one of them.

Both the wives were extremely happy for his sense of inclusion and justice. They ate these half mangos and both of them conceived. After nine months, they delivered two halves of a baby. When they saw this, they were terrified, thinking something inauspicious had happened. They asked the maids to roll the two halves of the baby into separate pieces of cloth and throw them away.

There was a wild woman named Jara around. Usually, she is described as a demon, but actually, she was from a cannibalistic tribe. She was looking for food and smelled blood. She took these two bundles and went away to the forest where she opened her meal and found two pieces of a baby. Just out of curiosity, she put the two pieces together. They became one and the baby started crying.


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When she saw this wonderful boy, she didn’t have the heart to kill and eat him. She made an inquiry and came to know what had happened at the palace. So she took the baby and gifted it to the king, saying, “This is your baby. It came in two wombs, separately in two halves, and I put them together.” The king and the queens were happy that the baby had come alive and felt what a dastardly thing it had been to throw him out. His name became Jarasandha because Jara, the wild woman, put him together. “Sandha” means “to put it together.”

There was a full-grown bull elephant called Kuvalayapida which was known for its very violent temperament. People were terrorized by him.

Jarasandha became a very cruel and powerful conqueror. He ruled with an iron fist and was looking for strong alliances, and Kamsa was his prize catch. But now terror rose within Kamsa. “Is the prophecy really true? The boy has come and he seems to be performing miraculous deeds. The moment he arrived, he had already endeared himself to the whole town. Everyone was chanting “Krishna, Krishna” everywhere. The few methods he had so far devised to kill him had failed. So he thought up one more thing: There was a full-grown bull elephant called Kuvalayapida which was known for its very violent temperament. People were terrorized by him. Many times, the king had used Kuvalayapida in battles that he fought, with devastating impact. So Kamsa called Angaraka, the chief mahout or elephant handler and told him, “When the procession begins and these boys enter the gates of the palace, you must ensure that Kuvalayapida just stamps this boy to death. There should be no chance for him to escape.” He selected a narrow street Krishna and Balarama would have to pass through and decided to park Kuvalayapida there.

Among the palace guests was Rukmini, a young, beautiful princess. The kingdom she came from was ruled by her father Bhishmaka. Her brother Rukmi was very ambitious, a close friend of Kamsa and an ally of Jarasandha. The father had become old and had not much power over the kingdom anymore. The young man was raging like a young bull, wanting to align with these evil kings because he had ambitions to become very powerful himself. So he wanted to give his sister Rukmini in marriage to a king called Shishupala who was also aligned with Jarasandha.

This was a group of kingdoms who were aligned towards conquering the whole land in a most brutal fashion. Their alliances were always formed by marriage. This was like a guarantee. If you make a deal with someone, you are still not sure he won’t turn against you at some point. But if your daughter is in their house, they cannot touch you. So Rukmi wanted to give Rukmini to Shishupala to strengthen the alliance. But Rukmini in her very early childhood had fallen in love with Krishna. She had never seen him…there are too many like this! They didn’t have to see him – just the stories about him drove them crazy, and they fell in love with him.

Kamsa was standing on the balcony, twiddling his moustache. He knew the boys would be taken care of by the elephant who was parked right there in the narrow street.

There was talk going on in the palace how the king had ordered that this cowherd boy, who people believed was god himself, was going to be crushed by the elephant Kuvalayapida. Rukmini heard this and could not contain herself. She went and told Trivakra about it. Trivakra said, “He is god. See what he has done to me? You know just 24 hours ago how I was. See how I am right now. They cannot kill him. But anyway, find out more details.”

Rukmini found out more details about the plan. Trivakra had been married to Angaraka, the chief officer in charge of the elephants who had been ordered to handle the elephant to kill Krishna. Angaraka had deserted her 20 years ago, when she got crippled. Now, he was married with two wives. Going to him was a little difficult for her, but she was willing to do anything.

So she went and found Angaraka in deep turmoil because he did not want to do such a thing. But the king had ordered it, and there was no way to refuse the order. When he saw Trivakra walking in after all these years, he thought she was some kind of angel. He had last seen her all twisted out. Now she came as a graceful woman, and he just couldn’t believe this. Trivakra used that as a means and said, “See, he is god. He has come here to free us from this tyranny. This is the time for you to stand up and do something.” Angaraka asked, “What to do? If I refuse orders, I will be dead by morning. He will not spare me for a moment. And once I take Kuvalayapida into this narrow street and he goes berserk, there is nothing that anyone can do. He is very violent. He will kill everyone in the way.”
Trivakra, well-versed with herbs, had brought an armful of herbs, and she and Angaraka sat the whole night to feed Kuvalayapida with these herbs. The next morning when the appointed time came, drums started beating, conches started blowing – the festival began. Krishna and Balarama walked through the streets, regally dressed in the clothes they had stolen from the emperor’s clothes shop.

Kamsa was standing on the balcony, twiddling his moustache. He knew the boys would be taken care of by the elephant who was parked right there in the narrow street. But this elephant was not as violent and aggressive as it normally used to be. Its demeanor had become somehow very friendly to people. Whoever was going that way, it wanted to give its trunk for patting. It looked sleepy.

Trivakra and Angaraka had drugged the elephant with some herbs, so it was a little drunk, barely awake. A lot of people who do not know how to be loving, sweet, and friendly to somebody, when they get drunk, they become very sweet and nice. They sing songs to everyone, you know? Alcohol loosens them. That happens to animals too. So this elephant was totally stoned with certain herbs.

As Krishna walked into this street, Akrura his uncle who knew that all this had been planned was in great fear and he screamed, “Krishna, don’t go there!” But Krishna walked straight to the elephant, looked coolly into its eyes, and the elephant just nuzzled him. Krishna patted its trunk. The elephant lost control over itself and went down and fell asleep, right there on the street!

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Editor’s Note: This article is based on an excerpt from the December 2014 issue of Forest Flower. Pay what you want and download. (set ‘0’ for free). Print subscriptions are also available.