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Paundraka, the false Vasudeva.
(Deliverance of Paundraka and the King of Kashi.)
While Balarama was staying at Vrindavana, King Paundraka, the ruler of Karusha, sent a messenger to Lord Krishna at Dvaraka.
The messenger found Krishna seated in His royal assembly hall, and he relayed the King’s words as follows: “I am the one and only Vasudeva, and out of my mercy, I have descended into this world, to deliver the fallen souls. O Krishna, give up the symbols of Lord Vishnu and take shelter of me. If You do not, then be prepared to give me battle.”
Being emboldened by the flattery of childish men, Paundraka imagined himself to be the Personality of Godhead, just as a foolish child playing with other children might imagine himself to be a king.
When the members of the assembly, headed by King Ugrasena, heard dull-witted Paundraka’s message, they laughed for a long time. After enjoying the joking of the assembly, Krishna gave the following message, to be delivered to Paundraka: “You foolish rascal, I will never surrender to you. As for My weapons, I will surely use My chakra to kill you and all of your foolish followers. At that time, instead of becoming My shelter, your dead body will become the food for dogs and carnivorous birds, like hawks and vultures.”
The messenger returned to Paundraka, and without wasting any time, Lord Krishna mounted His chariot and departed for the kingdom of Kashi, where Paundraka was residing, along with his friend, the King. Paundraka patiently heard the message, and soon thereafter, Krishna’s forces surrounded the city of Kashi.
In response, Paundraka came out of the city to fight, along with two akshauhini divisions of soldiers, and the King of Kashi followed him with three akshauhinis. When Krishna came face to face with Paundraka for the first time, He saw a complete imitation of Himself.
Paundraka was carrying the conch shell, disc, lotus and club. He had an imitation Sharnga bow, a mark of Shrivatsa, and a mock Kaustubha jewel. He was dressed in yellow silk, and his chariot was marked with the flag of Garuda. In actuality, Paundraka’s appearance was like an actor on the stage, and upon seeing this, Lord Krishna laughed heartily.
The opposing armies began to shower all sorts of weapons upon Krishna, but the Lord fiercely counter-attacked with His club, sword, disc and arrows, so that the battlefield became strewn with smashed chariots and dismembered bodies of men, horses, elephants, and camels. Indeed, the battlefield resembled the dancing arena of Lord Shiva at the time of dissolution, and upon seeing this, Krishna’s soldiers became enlivened and resumed fighting with greater enthusiasm.
Lord Krishna then said, “My dear Paundraka, the weapons that your messenger spoke of, I shall now give to you. O fool, I shall now make you renounce My name, which you have falsely assumed.”
After thus deriding Paundraka, Krishna first of all smashed his chariot with His arrows, and then cut off his head with His Sudarshana chakra. Paundraka was always meditating upon the form of Lord Vishnu, but because he was trying to imitate the Lord, he was offensive. That offense was negated when Krishna killed him, however, and so he attained sarupya-mukti, having a form similar to that of the Lord in Vaikuntha. Krishna then severed Kashiraja’s head with His arrows and threw it into the midst of the city, like a strong wind might carry a lotus flower.
Before coming out to fight, Kashiraja had bragged that he would bring back his enemy’s head, and his queens had later repeated the same boast. When the people gathered to see the fallen head, at first they assumed that it was Krishna’s. But, when they saw that it was their King’s head, they lamented very grievously, especially the queens.
Krishna then returned to Dvaraka, and Kashiraja’s son, Sudakshina, performed the funeral ceremonies for his father. Within his mind, Sudakshina resolved, “Only by killing my father’s murderer can I avenge his death.”
For that purpose, Sudakshina engaged a learned brahmana to worship Lord Shiva. Becoming satisfied by the worship, Lord Shiva appeared to Sudakshina and offered him his choice of benedictions. In response, the prince asked for the means to kill the slayer of his father.
Lord Shiva then advised Sudakshina to perform certain tantric rituals that are meant for the killing of one’s enemies. Lord Shiva assured him that by performing the prescribed sacrifice, his desire would be fulfilled, if directed against someone inimical to the brahmanas.
Thereafter, the evil spirit Dakshinagni appeared from the sacrificial fire, ready to carry out Sudakshina’s order. This fiery demon was naked and his beard and hair were the color of molten copper. His face looked most frightful because of his fangs and arched brows, and his eyes emitted blazing hot cinders. While licking the corners of his mouth, the demon waved his flaming trident.
Being instigated by Sudakshina, the demon rushed toward Dvaraka on legs as tall as palm trees, shaking the ground and burning all directions, and he was surrounded by hundreds of Lord Shiva’s ghostly companions.
When they saw the fiery demon approach, the residents of Dvaraka panicked, like animals trapped in a forest fire. At this time, Krishna was engaged in playing dice in the assembly hall, and many people came there, pleading, “O Lord, save us from this fire, which is burning our city.”
Krishna simply smiled and told them, “Do not fear, I shall protect you.” Understanding the demon to be the creation of Lord Shiva, He dispatched His Sudarshana chakra. That effulgent disc blazed like millions of suns, and began freezing the fiery demon. Being thus defeated, Dakshinagni turned back toward Kashi.
According to the methods of black art, as instructed in the tantras, if a mantra is invoked to kill someone but fails to do so, then it must kill those who employed it. When the demon returned to Kashi, he burned to death Sudakshina, as well as all of the priests whom he had engaged. The Sudarshana chakra entered Kashi in pursuit of Dakshinagni, and because the king had been against Krishna, it devastated the entire city, burning it to ashes.