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The killing of the demon, Aghasura.
One day, Krishna decided to go to the forest early in the morning so that He could enjoy a breakfast picnic. By blowing His bugle made from a buffalo horn, Krishna woke up the cowherd boys and calves with its beautiful sound. Keeping the calves in front, Krishna and the cowherd boys went out of the village and entered the forest. Indeed, each of Krishna’s thousands of friends had thousands of calves to tend. The boys were very beautiful, and they were in a very playful mood. Each of them was equipped with a lunch bag, bugle, flute, and a stick for controlling the calves. Of course, because Krishna is unlimited, His calves were also of an unlimited number.
Although the cowherd boys were already decorated by their mothers with ornaments of jewels, gold, pearls and small conch shells called gunja, as they went into the forest they, further decorated themselves with fruit, green leaves, bunches of flowers, peacock feathers and soft colored minerals.
All the cowherd boys would steal one another’s lunch bags. When a boy came to understand that his lunch had been taken, the other boys would pass it around until it became further out of reach. When the owner of the lunch became upset, the others would laugh, and when the proprietor of the bag would cry, they would return it.
Sometimes, Krishna would go off alone into the forest, just to enjoy the scenery. At such times, the other boys would run after Krishna, to accompany Him, and while doing so they would say, “I will be the first to touch Krishna!”
While playing in the forest, all of the boys would be differently engaged. Some played on their bugles and flutes. Some imitated the buzzing of bumblebees, or the singing of cuckoos. Some boys imitated the flying of birds by running after their shadows on the ground, while others imitated the posture and movements of swans. Some sat down quietly with the ducks, and some imitated the dancing of the peacocks. Some boys played with the monkeys by trying to attract their babies, by imitating them, by making faces at them, or by climbing up the trees. Some boys went to the river and crossed where there were waterfalls. Others would jump with the frogs, and when they saw their reflections in the water, they would laugh. Other boys would condemn the sounds of their echoes.
In this way, all of the boys played with Krishna, after having accumulated the results of pious activities for many, many lives. How can one explain their good fortune?
While Krishna and the cowherd boys were thus playing, a great demon named Aghasura came there, having been sent by Kansa. He was the younger brother of Putana and Bakasura, and even the demigods were afraid of him, and thus awaited his death.
When Aghasura saw how the cowherd boys were enjoying, he could not tolerate it. Aghasura thought, “This Krishna has killed my brother and sister, and so just to please them, I will kill Him, along with all of His friends. Let me make them an offering for the departed souls of my brother and sister, and then the other inhabitants of Vrindavana will automatically perish as well.”
After making up his mind in this way, Aghasura utilized the mahima-siddhi by assuming the form of a huge python, as big as a mountain and thirteen kilometers long. He opened his mouth wide, like a big mountain cave, as he lay down on the path, in the hopes of swallowing all the boys.
Aghasura’s lower lip rested on the surface of the earth, and his upper lip touched the clouds. His tongue was like a broad highway, his breath was like a hot wind, and his eyes blazed like fire.
At first, all of the cowherd boys thought that the demon was some kind of decorative statue. But then, some of them could understand that it was a great python. The boys said, “Dear friends, is this a dead creature, or is it a living python spreading its mouth just to swallow us all?”
Finally, they decided, “This is certainly an animal sitting here to swallow us. Its upper lip resembles a cloud reddened by the sunshine, and its lower lip resembles the reddish shadows of a cloud. The inside of its mouth is very dark, like the cave of a mountain, and its teeth are like high mountain peaks. The hot fiery wind is the breath coming from its mouth, and it is giving off the bad smell of burning flesh because of all the dead bodies it has eaten.”
The boys concluded, “Has this creature come to swallow us? If so, it will be killed just like Bakasura, without delay.”
The cowherd boys looked at Krishna’s beautiful face, and while laughing loudly and clapping their hands, they entered the python’s mouth. The boys had full faith in Krishna, because they had already experienced how He had saved them from the mouth of Bakasura. Actually, they wanted to enjoy the sport of entering the demon’s mouth and being saved by Krishna.
Krishna knew that it was actually Aghasura appearing before them, and so while listening to the cowherd boys talk about a statue, He wanted to forbid them from entering the demon’s mouth. But as Krishna was considering how to stop them, the cowherd boys walked into Aghasura’s mouth, along with all of the calves. Although the demon swallowed them all, he remained stationary because he especially wanted Krishna to enter his mouth.
When Krishna saw that all of the cowherd boys and calves, who did not know anyone but Him as their Lord, had acted on their own and were now helplessly within the belly of the demon, He became momentarily struck with wonder and unsure of what to do. It was intolerable for Krishna to be separated from His friends, but all this was the arrangement of His internal potency.
Krishna wondered, “What can be done? How can I simultaneously kill the demon and save all of the devotees?” While waiting for the understanding to come, Krishna entered Aghasura’s mouth.
Upon seeing this, the demigods, who were hiding behind the clouds, exclaimed, “Oh! What has happened!” while the demons, like Kansa, were jubilant. When Krishna heard the demigods’ exclamations, He began to enlarge Himself within Aghasura’s throat. In response, the demon also expanded his size.
This was futile, however, and as Aghasura was suffocating, his breathing stopped, and his eyes popped out of their sockets. The demon’s life air, being unable to pass out from any outlet, finally burst through the top of his head. Krishna then glanced over the dead calves and cowherd boys, and in this way He brought them all back to life. Mukunda, the giver of liberation, then came out from the demon’s mouth, along with His friends and calves.
From out of the gigantic python’s body came an effulgent spark of life that illuminated all directions. That effulgent entity waited in the sky until Krishna emerged from the demon’s mouth. Then, as the demigods looked on, that spiritual spark entered Krishna’s body. Because of being killed by Lord Krishna, Aghasura achieved liberation. Although superficially it appears that he attained sayujya-mukti, merging into the Lord’s effulgence, it is explained that he actually attained sarupya, achieving a four-armed form like that of Lord Vishnu. This indicates that, at the end, even if for just a moment, Aghasura thought of Krishna with devotion.
Being greatly pleased, the demigods showered flowers, the Apsaras danced and the Gandharvas sang prayers to the accompaniment of musical instruments, while on earth, the brahmanas offered Vedic hymns glorifying the Lord.
When Lord Brahma heard these sounds of celebration, he immediately came down to take a look. Upon seeing so much glorification of Krishna, he became completely astonished.
Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and so for Him to appear in this world as the son of Nanda and Yashoda is an act of His great mercy. Because even Aghasura achieved sarupya-mukti, then who can judge the extent of that mercy? If even once, one brings Krishna’s form into one’s mind, he can attain salvation like Aghasura. What then can be said of those whose hearts the Lord enters when He appears as an incarnation?
When Aghasura’s body became a dried-up skin, it served as an interesting place for the residents of Vrindavana to visit, and it remained so for a long time. The incident of Krishna killing Aghasura took place when the Lord was five years old, but it was only disclosed to the residents of Vrajabhumi after one full year, as if it had taken place that very day.
Maharaja Parikshit inquired, “How was it that the killing of Aghasura occurred during Krishna’s kaumara age (when He was five years old), and then, during His pauganda age (when He was six) it was described to the residents of Vrindavana as if it had recently occurred?”
“My dear spiritual master, I am very curious to know about this. I think that it was just another display of Lord Krishna’s power of illusion.”
Because of remembering Krishna within the core of his heart, Shukadeva Gosvami momentarily lost all contact with his external senses. Then, with great difficulty, he revived his powers of perception, and began to reply to Maharaja Parikshit’s question.