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Nanda Maharaja saved and Shankhachuda slain.
One day the cowherd men travelled to Ambikavana by bullock cart, to worship Lord Shiva on the occasion of Shiva-ratri. After arriving at the Ambika forest, the cowherd men bathed in the River Sarasvati and devotedly worshiped Lord Pashupati and his consort, goddess Ambika. The cowherd men then gave the brahmanas gifts of cows, gold, clothing and cooked grains mixed with honey.
The cowherd men fasted all day, and after drinking a little water they lay down to rest. During the night, a huge and extremely hungry snake appeared from the jungle. Slithering up to where Nanda Maharaja was sleeping, the snake began to devour him. Nanda Maharaja cried out, “Krishna, Krishna, my dear boy! This huge serpent is swallowing me! Please save me, for I am surrendered to You!”
Upon hearing this, the cowherd men woke up with a start, and in great anguish, they began beating the serpent with blazing logs from the fire. But, even though he was being burnt, the serpent would not release Nanda Maharaja. Krishna then came and touched the serpent with His lotus foot, destroying all of its sinful reactions in an instant. Giving up its reptilian body, the serpent appeared in the form of a Vidyadhara and offered his obeisances to Krishna with great humility.
Lord Krishna then asked, “My dear sir, you appear so wonderful, glowing with great beauty. Who are you? Who forced you to accept such a terrible body?”
The serpent replied, “I am a well-known Vidyadhara named Sudarshana. I was very opulent and beautiful, and I used to wander everywhere in my airplane. Once, I saw some very unattractive sages in the dynasty of Angira Muni. Being proud of my beauty, I ridiculed them, and because of my sin, they made me assume this lowly form. It is actually for my benefit that those merciful sages cursed me, for now I have been touched by the lotus foot of the supreme spiritual master of all the worlds and relieved of all inauspiciousness.”
“My dear Lord, You destroy all fear for those who take shelter of You. Now, because I have been freed from the sages’ curse, by the touch of Your lotus foot, please let me return to my planet. O Lord of the devotees, I surrender unto You. Please command me as You will.”
After receiving permission to depart, Sudarshana circumambulated Krishna, bowed down to offer obeisances, and then returned to the heavenly planets. The inhabitants of Vraja were amazed to see Krishna’s prowess. After completing their worship of Lord Shiva, they returned to Vrindavana, describing Krishna’s wonderful pastimes all the while.
Once, sometime thereafter, on the full moon night of Holi, Krishna and Balarama went to the forest, along with the gopis, to enjoy Their pastimes. Krishna and Balarama sang in a wonderful way, utilizing the entire range of musical expression, and their singing brought happiness to the ears and minds of all living beings. While listening, the gopis completely forgot themselves, so that they did not even notice how their fine garments were becoming loose and their hair and garlands disheveled.
A servant of Kuvera, named Shankhachuda, then came upon the scene. Considering Krishna and Balarama to be ordinary boys, Shankachuda thought that he should be the enjoyer of the gopis. Even as Krishna and Balarama looked on, Shankhachuda took charge of the women as if he were their husband and started taking them away, toward the north.
Hearing their cries of “Krishna! Rama!” and seeing how the gopis appeared just like cows being stolen by a thief, Krishna and Balarama chased the demon. While calling out, “Do not fear!” Krishna and Balarama picked up big branches of a sala tree and pursued that lowest of Guhyakas, who was fleeing swiftly.
When Shankhachuda saw Krishna and Balarama coming toward him like personified Time and Death, he became terrified. Considering Them too powerful, he abandoned the women and ran for his life. Lord Govinda chased the demon, being eager to get the jewel that was shaped like a conch shell that he wore on his head. Lord Balarama stayed with the women to protect them. Krishna soon caught up with the demon and with His fist He severed his head, along with the jewel. Lord Krishna then took the jewel and presented it to Balarama with great satisfaction, as the gopis looked on.