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Part Two: Harivamsha and Mahabharata
As you have already been told, Brahma emerged from Vishnu's navel. Brahma's son was Atri, Atri's son Soma, Soma's son Pururava, Pururava's son Ayu, Ayu's son Nahusha and Nahushja's son Yayati. Yayati had two wives, Devayani and Sharmishtha. Devayani had two sons, Yadu and Turvusu. And Sharmishtha had three sons, Druhya, Anu and Puru. The descendants of Yadu were known as the Yadavas.
Vasudeva was a Yadava. His wife was Devaki. Vishnu was born as sthe son of Vasudeva and Devaki in order to remove the wicked from the world. The seventh son of Vasudeva and Devaki was Baladeva. And the eight son was
Krishna himself. Krishna was born in the month of Bhadra in the thick of the night. Scared that the wicked Kakmsa might kill the newly born child, Vasudeva left him with Yashoda, the wife of Nanda.
Nanda was the king of the cowherds and he brought up Baladeva and Krishna. Kamsa sent a rakshasa woman named Putana to kill Krishna but Krishna killed her instead. In Vrindavana, Krishna subdued the terrible snake known as Kaliya. He killed several other rakshasas named Arishta, Vrishabha, Keshi, Dhenuka and Gardhabha and made the country safe from the attacksof these demons. He also stopped the worship of Indra. This led to a fight between Indra and Krishna, Indra tried to destroy the inhabitants of Gokula by sending down torrents of rain. But Krishna held aloft the mountain Govardhana and saved the inhabitants of Gokula.
Kamsa's capital was in Mathura, Baladeva and Krishna went there. Kamsa let loose a mad elephant named Kuvalayapida on Krishna. But Krishna killed Kuvalayapida. Baladeva and Krishna also killed two strong wrestlers, Chanura and Mushtika, whom Kamsa had instructed to kill Baladeva and Krishna. Finally, Krishna killed Kamsa and made Ugrasena the king.
Kamsa was Jarasandha's son-in-law and Jarasandha became furious when he learnt of Kamsa's death. He attacked the Yadavas and laid siege to the city of Mathura. After a prolonged war, Krishna managed to defeat Jarasandha. Krishna also defeated another evil king named Poundraka. On Krishna's instructions, the Yadavas built the beautiful city of Dvaraka or Dvaravati. The Yadavas began to live in Dvaraka.
There was an asura named Naraka who was killed by Krishna. Naraka had imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the devas, gandharvas and yakshas (guards of Heaven's treasury). These women were freed by Krishna and Krishna married all of them. Amongst Krishna's other exploits were defeating the daitya Panchajana, killing Kalayavna, seizing the parijata tree from Indra and bringing back to life the sage Sandipani's dead son.
Krishna had several sons. Shamba was born of Krishna's wife Jambavati and Pradyumna was born of Krishna's wife Rukmini. As soon as Pradyumna was born, he was abducted by the asura Shambara. Shambara threw the baby into the sea, but a fish swallowed the baby. A fisherman caught the fish and brought it to Shambara's house. When the fish's stomach was cut open, the baby came out. There was a woman named Mayavati who lived in Shambara's house and Shambara handed over baby Pradyumna to Mayavati so that he might be brought up well. When he grew up, Pradyumna killed Shambara and married Mayavati. They returned to dvaraka and Krishna was very happy to see his lost son.
Pradyumma and Mayavati had a son named Aniruddha. Aniruddha secretly married Usha, the daughter of King Vana, Vana himself being the son of Vali. Vana's capital was in a city named Shonitapura. Vana had pleased Shiva through hard and difficult tapasya, so that sometimes he was called the son of Shiva. Vana loved to fight and he had wanted a boon from Shiva that he might get the chance to fight with someone who was his equal in battle. A flag with a peacock on it used to fly from the ramparts of Vana's palace. Shiva told him the day this flag fell down. Vana's desire for with an equal would be satisfied.
With the help of a friend of Usha's, Anuruddha and Usha used to meet secretly in Vana's palace. Vana's guards informed him about this and there was a fierce battle between Vana and Aniruddha At the same time, the flag with the peacock on it fell down. Krishna got to know from Narada about the fight between Vana and Aniruddha and he, Baladeva and Pradyumna arrived in Vana's capital. Shiva came to fight on Vana's side, accompanied by Nandi and Skanda or Kartikeya. But after a duel that lasted for a long time, Krishna triumphed over these enemies. Krishna's arrows also cut off the thousand arms that Vana had. But at Shiva's request, Krishna spared Vana's life and gave two arms with which to make do.
All of these stories about Krishna are related in detail in the Harivamsha. The Agni Purana merely gives a brief summary of the Harivamsha. But stories about Krishna, the eight avatara of Vishnu, also crop up in the Mahabharata. The Agni Purana, therefore, next summarises the Mahabharata.
The Pandavas were merely a pretext. Krishna used the Pandavas to rid the world of evil men.
You have already learnt that one of Yayati's sons was Puru. In Puru's line were born Bharata and Kuru. One of Kuru's descendants was the king Shantanu. Shantanu married Ganga and Bhishma was born from this marriage.
But Shantanu also married Satyavati and had two more sons, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Bhishma never married. Chitrangada died young. When Vichitravirya grew up, Bhishma defeated the king of Kashi and brought two of the king's daughters, Ambika and Ambalika, as brides for Vichitravirya. Vichitravirya as also quite young when he died of tuberculosis.
Since Vichitravirya had left no children, Vyasadeva was brought to Hastinapura. Vyasadeva and Ambalika had a son named Dhritarashtra and Vyasadeva and Ambalika had a son named Pandu. Dhritarashtra married Gandhari and they had a hundred sons, of whom the most important was Duryodhana. Pandu had two wives, Kunti and Madri. Kunti's sons were Yudhishthira, Bhima and Arjuna and Madri's sons were Nakula and Sahadeva. But Yudhishthira was really the son of the god Dharma and not Pandu's son. Similarly, Bhima was the son of the god Pavana, Arjuna the son of Indra and Nakula and Sahadeva the sons of the two Ashvinis. Earlier, Kunti had a son named Karna from the sun-god.
This was before she had god married to Pandu. Karna became a friend of Duryodhana's. Because of a curse imposed on him by a sage, Pandu died in the forest.
Duryodhana tried his best to kill the Pandavas. He set fire to a house of lac (jatugriha) in which Kunti and the five Pandavas were staying. But the Pandavas were saved and fled to a city named Ekachakra. There they lived, disguised as brahmanas. In Ekachakra, they destroyed a rakshasa named Vaka. They then won the hand of the daughter of the king of Panchala. Her name was Droupadi and all five Pandava brothers married her. When Duryodhana learnt that the Pandavas were alive, he handed over half the kingdom to them.
Meanwhile, the forest Khandava had to be burnt and Krishna and Arjuna did this together. Krishna had befriended Arjuna. When Arjuna successfully defeated the god Agni at the burning of the Khandava forest, Agni gave him several divine weapons. Arjuna had also obtained divine weapons from his guru Dronacharya.
On the Pandava side, Yudhishthira had become king. The Pandavas organised a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice) in which they conquered several kingdoms and accumulated lot of wealth. This made Duryodhana envious.
He arranged a game of dice (aksha) between Yudhishthira and Duryodhana's uncle Shakuni. Shakuni did not play fairly and Yudhishthira lost the game. As penalty for the loss, the Pandavas were to spend twelve years in the forest and one additional year without being detected. Droupadi went with them to the forest, as did the Pandava's priest, Dhoumya.
After the twelve years were over, the Pandavas came to the kingdom of King Virata where they proposed to spend the additional year that had to be spent in disguises. Yudhishthira pretended to be a brahmana, Bhima a cook, Arjuna a dancer, Nakula and Sahadeva stable-hands. Droupadi became the queen's maid. The queen's brother Kichaka tried to molest Droupadi, but was killed by Bhima. When the year was over, the Kauravas attacked King Virata to rob him of his cattle. But Arjuna defeated all the Kauravas and saved Virata's cattle After this success, the identity of the Pandavas could no longer be kept a secret. But thankfully, the one year during which identities had to be kept a secret, was over.
King Virata's daughter Uttara was married to Abhimanyu, Arjuna's son. Abhimanyu's mother was Subhadra, whom Arjuna had married. Subhadra also happened to be Krishna's sister.
The Pandavas now demanded their rightful share of the kingdom, but Duryodhana refused. A war was imminent. A huge battalion of soldiers was known as an akshouhini. Duryodhana collected eleven akshouhinis for the war and Yudhishthira collected seven. Krishna was sent as a messenger to Duryodhana to try and preserve the peace. Krishna told Duryodhana that the Pandavas would be satisfied with a mere five villages. Duryodhana refused to give them even this without a fight.
So the armies gathered for a war on the plains of Kurukshetra. Noticing that elders and relatives like Bhishma and Dronacharya were fighting on the side of the Kaurvas, Arjuna was reluctant to fight. But Krishna gave Arjuna lessons which have come down to us as the Gita. He taught there was no reason for sorrow if Bhishma or Dronacharya died, that was only a death of their physical bodies. The true identity of a person was his atman (soul) which never died, but passed from one body to another. True bliss was obtained when the atman united with the brahman (divine essence) or paramatman (supreme soul). This was always the goal of a yogi, that is, a person who sought union with god.
Thus instructed by Krishna, Arjuna started to fight. With the help of Shikhandi, he defeated Bhishma. This happened on the tenth day of the fighting. Bhishma did not however die. He had earlier received the boon that he would only die when he actually wished to do so. For many days, he lay there in the battlefield on a bed of arrows. After Bhishma's defeat, Dronacharya became the general on the Pandava side. Dronaharya killed Virata, Drupada and several other kings and soldiers on the Pandava side. Dhrishtadyumna also killed many Kaurava soldiers. On the fifteenth day of the fighting, a rumour gained currency that Ashvatthama, Dronacharya's son, had been killed. Dronacharya abandoned his weapons on hearing this bad news and Dhrishtadyumna faced no problems in killing him. Karna now became the Kaurava general and lasted for two and a half days before he was killed by Arjuna. Shalya was the last Kaurava general. He fought for only half a day and was killed by Yudhishthira.
Bhima and Duryodhana fought the last duel of the war with maces. Bhima broke Duryodhana's thighs and killed him. Ashvatthama had been fuming ever since his father Dronacharya had been killed by unfair means. In the dead of the night, he entered the Pandava camp where he killed Dhrishtadyumna and the five sons of Droupadi. Droupadi was disconsolate and demanded revenge. Arjuna and Ashvatthama let loose divine weapons at each other. Since this might destroy the world, they were asked to withdraw these weapons. Arjuna could withdraw his weapon, but Ashvatthama could not. Ashvatthama's weapon killed the baby that was in Uttara's womb, but when the dead baby was born, Krishna brought it back to life. This baby was Parikshita.
Many kings and soldiers died in the course of the Kurukshetra war. The only ones left alive were Kritvarma, Kripacharya and Ashvatthama on the Kaurava side and Pandava side. After the war was over, Bhishma taught Yudhishthira the duties of king. It was only after this that he died.
As a king, Yudhishthira performed many yajnas and gave a lot of to brahmanas. When Yudhishthira learnt that the Yadvas had been destroyed, he no longer wished to rule. He handed over the kingdom to Parikshita and the Pandavas left on a pilgrimage, in the course of which they died.
It was Krishna who had used the Pandavas as a tool to rid the world of evil kings and establish the good ones. Realising that the Yadavas were also evil, Krishna also ensured that the Yadavas would be destroyed. He then gave up his life at the place of pilgrimage that is known as Prabhasa. After Krishna died, the city of Dvarka was swallowed up by the sea.
This was the story of the eighth avatara of Vishnu