Krishna’s Guru Dakshina: In the Land of the Nagakanyas
Read all the episodes in the "Krishna's Guru Dakshina" series.
The ship continued on its way and they soon approached Vyavasthapuri, an island where a completely different kind of culture existed. Bikru had told Krishna what he knew about this culture. It was a completely woman-dominated, matriarchal tribe where a woman inherited the kingdom and ruled absolutely. The queen was revered as the Mother Goddess and there were many stories about her. She had tremendous power over people around her and was an occult person who could see and do things that others could not understand. She was supposed to know about things before they even happened. She would go into states and begin to say and do certain things, and it was said that the Mother of the Universe entered her at those times.
When they anchored near the port, Krishna sent Udhava with a few gifts for the officers of the port to announce their arrival to the queen and receive her permission to disembark. Udhava went to the island and announced Krishna’s arrival and sought permission to land. The authorities at the port sent a middle-aged woman, who looked to be of some prominence, back to the ship. Dressed only with a small golden girdle around her waist and lots of necklaces and bangles, she boarded the ship and invited Krishna to enter their city. Krishna and a few others got into another boat and made their way to the port.
Udhava warned Krishna, “The queen has divined that you will be coming. She knows your name, your details, where you come from and she knew that you would come on this day. She has the power of our sages. She is able to see the future. She has already told the people that you are coming. When you get there, you will be received by the crown princess. Offer your respects only to her. She is the one who matters. The crown prince will be there but he doesn’t matter.”
When they landed, the princess Larika and her sister Asika, had arrived to receive him. They were accompanied by a fine young man who was the crown prince. The usual greetings and other formalities happened. Most of the soldiers were women, armed and guarding the place. There were men soldiers but much further behind. Krishna noticed and took note of everything because people had told him that those who get onto the island never come back again.
After he had paid his respects, he was taken to the palace and entered the inner rooms of the court. He was introduced to the king, a very dignified looking man with a short sword by his side. The king took them along to the queen’s room. The room was bare, with just a fire burning. When they entered the room, the flames suddenly grew to a size taller than a man’s height, and from the fire, the queen walked out. She welcomed them and they were then taken to their quarters. The younger girl Asika was immediately deeply attracted to Krishna and nuzzled up to him.
The language of this place was different. Krishna did not understand it but neither did they understand the language that Krishna spoke. But the crown prince was translating everything with perfect understanding of both the languages. Krishna noticed his mastery of both the languages. Then suddenly, he announced to the king and the crown prince, “I have come here as a representative of my Guru Sandhipaani.” The crown prince’s face was immediately clouded with fear and he was disturbed. Krishna knew that this was the boy. So he set up his plans to somehow get him out of this place.
As Krishna looked around and tried to get a sense of the place, Asika hung onto him, following him everywhere. Within two days, she was deeply in love with him. Krishna had a hard time keeping her off because these women were known as Nagakanyas or serpent women. All of them just wore a simple golden girdle around their waist, and according to their stature, carved cobra hoods with either ruby or sapphire. These women were of a different nature altogether. They were bred and brought up in a different way. Mainly, they were taught the pleasures of the flesh right from childhood. This was a part of enslaving the people who went there. Plus, they had other tricks for which people had no answers at all. Krishna was very wary of her and tried to keep her away, but the girl just hung onto him.
At the first opportunity, Krishna got hold of Punardatta, took him aside and told him, “I have come here to take you home. You father has not spent a single day without thinking about you. He is eating his heart out. You must come back.”
Punardatta said, “I was living in the comfort that my father would have forgotten me by now. Now you have come and disturbed me. But there is no way I can come back.”
“If I make an attempt, I will be dead.”
“Don’t worry about that. You just go with me. I will see that you are taken out of this place.”
“It is not only that I cannot leave this place, I do not want to leave this place. You do not know the ways of the Nagakanyas, and how they enslave a man in so many ways. There are some that I know. There are some that I just don’t understand. All I know is I am so deeply enslaved to this, I cannot go. I have no way of leaving this place. At the same time I constantly live with the mortal fear of being killed because the tradition of this place is that if a new man comes, they will have a festival of choice. The crown prince has to fight the new man who has come to the island. If he wins, he continues to be the princess’s husband and the crown prince. If he dies, the new man will become the husband and the crown prince. This has been happening continuously. I have killed three men who had come to the island. Poor fellows, they did not know what it is to use a sword. Innocent men, they did not know anything about fighting. I killed such men. I live with that also. And I always fear that someone may come who is a better fighter than me and put an end to me. This is a threat that I constantly live with. And the queen mother, who is capable of taking the Mother of the Universe into herself at certain moments, is very powerful. Just with her thought she rules us. There is no way I can leave this place.”
Krishna tried to remind him of his father, of his commitment to his culture and dharma, and his duties to be fulfilled back home. Whatever he said, Punardatta just wept and said, “I cannot come.” After a few days, the queen passed a new mandate that Krishna would marry Asika. But when she saw that Krishna was looking to escape with Punardatta, she passed a new mandate. “Krishna will not marry Asika, he has to marry Larika. Since Punardatta is already her husband, Krishna will fight Punardatta. One of them should die.”
Krishna called Punardatta and said, “Look, I cannot fight you. You are my guru’s son. I cannot kill you. You are my spiritual brother. I am not going to kill you. Nor can you kill me. So this is the time we must break away from this. Enough.” But there was no way to get Punardatta out of it. He was in a kind of hypnotized state.
When the actual day of the fight dawned, Krishna made certain arrangements. He had Hukku and Hullu placed in strategic places. He had Udhava and a few others from the ship placed at another place to cut the boat and let it float in the ocean when the time came. Then the fight was to begin.
The whole town had gathered to see this fight to the death. Krishna and Punardatta started of with swords. Punardatta was no match for Krishna but Krishna played the game cleverly and only to the extent necessary to keep the odds even – neither winning nor losing. They just went clashing swords and creating sparks. Nothing happened and neither of them got hurt. Initially, the crowd enjoyed it, thinking they were equally matched, but within a few minutes, they saw that it was becoming stale. So people started booing and asking for blood.
Krishna knew that the game was up and he couldn’t continue with this ruse of hitting each other’s swords forever. With one powerful strike, he knocked Punardatta’s sword out of his hand while simultaneously dropping his own sword as if from the shock of the strike. Immediately, he lunged at Punardatta and went into bahayuddha. They wrestled and wrestled, throwing each other down but neither got anywhere. Again the crowd started booing, asking for blood. Krishna began to edge towards the boundary of the ring as they wrestled, grappling with Punardatta and taking him along. When they were at the edge of the ring, he just picked up Punardatta and threw him out of the ring.
Hukku and Hullu were waiting there. They just grabbed Punardatta and ran to the boat, and threw him in. The queen immediately gave the king the order to execute Krishna. The king was the official executioner in that kingdom. He was known as the Lord of the Death. Any execution that the queen ordered was always conducted by the king as a ritual process. The king came with his sword and Krishna picked up his sword, and as he was fighting the king, he behaved as if he was being pushed back and slowly made his way to the jetty and jumped into the boat. His men cut the boat off from the jetty and started to row away. Then, Asika, the younger girl came running and hugged Krishna. So Krishna decided to take her with him.
Some of the soldiers, both men and women, tried to swim and get to the boat. Whoever came near the boat met their fate. When the party got onto the ship, they were preparing to sail away when the queen suddenly got up, came and stood near the jetty and said, “Asika come back.” The girl, who had been totally in love with Krishna, just went into a trance, jumped overboard and started swimming back to the island. Udhava asked Krishna, “You could have stopped the girl. Why didn’t you?” Krishna said, “You can’t take a Nagakanya away from here. She will be completely out of place where we take her. Let her go back to her land.” They sailed back and Punardatta was reunited with his father.
Read all the episodes in the "Krishna's Guru Dakshina" series.
Editor’s Note: Watch the Leela series, for more of Sadhguru’s talks on Krishna.