When I first heard the name of this book, I was curious. Slayer? Kamsa? I did guess that the book about the most loved “Krishna”. But hold on, this is not one of those books that talk about sweet-romantic stories or incidents that made up his childhood nor does it talk about his intelligence or cuningness in running a kingdom or conquering one, rather it tells us the story of the life and times of Mathura before he was born. Just in case you think, this is going to be boring, you couldn’t be more wrong. This book is a far cry from boring….Even though “Krishna” figures only in the last few pages, the rest of the book is un-put-downable! Ok! That might not be a legit word in the English dictionary but I couldn’t think of another way to describe this book….
The book opens with a peace treaty being signed between the warring Mathura and Yadu clans. I bet many of us didn’t know that! But there is one person who is against anything of this sort, especially when Vasudeva, the King of the Yadu clan is more loved and revered by the citizens of Mathura compared to himself – Kamsa, the prince of Mathura.
Every time I think of Kamsa or type his name, I am only able to visualize pure evil! That is the effect this book had on me…Kamsa, the one who only craves power and control, nothing more or less! Born to Queen Padmavathi and King Ugrasena of Mathura but sired by the snake Kalanemi, he will stop at nothing to get the crown.
Vasudeva; I have never before come across any material that detailed this man’s character, virtues or courage. An embodiment of a brave Kshatria, a complete contrast to Kamsa in terms of values, knowledge, wisdom and courage. Both characters are pit against each other several times, but it is the unfaltering Vasudeva with the welfare of his citizens before himself, who always triumphs even during the prospect of near death at the hands of Kamsa
Then there is Devaki – the courageous and beautiful betrothed of Vasudeva. Her transformation from a young woman with dreams of a happy married future to a woman of steel who actually requests her husband to kill Kamsa and later on puts up with her brother’s atrocities just to ensure that the prophecy of his death is fulfilled is something that you should read to understand.
And Narada, the sapta maha rishi who plays the most important role in this tale about the incarnation of Maha Vishnu. I didn’t even know about his role in this legendary tale.
These characters are aptly supported by Jarasandha -the emperor of Magadha and Kamsa’s guru, King Ugrasena, Queen Padmavathi the tormented parents of Kamsa and Devaki..
On to more interesting facets about this book:
The book describes, many encounters between Vasudeva and Kamsa, where Vasudeva wins every time by pure divine intervention (not something that is known by everyone). It seems as if Lord Vishnu was already trying to tell Vasudeva something about the future.
That Kamsa was actually an asura might not be known to all – I just assumed he was an evil king all this while! His transformation from a mortal man to horrifying asura is stuff that would make the hairs on your neck stand straight! What was more disturbing is the way he treated anyone and anything that opposed him or stood in his way – be it man, woman, child or animal…
The amount of violence in this book was just mind-boggling! I mean I couldn’t stomach some parts and actually skimmed through those sections as I couldn’t bear to read about what was going to happen to some poor soul who had insulted Kamsa by just being in his presence. What was worse is the way Kamsa treats his own parents…not my cup of tea. But then if this is what it took for Lord Vishnu to come down to earth and wipe out evil, I think its high time he steps down anytime now considering where our world is headed!
The most intriguing part of the book is its similarities between Krishna and Jesus – these are just my observations and I am not trying to make any religious statements:– A prophecy which predicted the birth of a child that would save the world– They were both conceived the divine way
– Krishna was born into the clan of cowherds whereas Jesus was a shepherd
– Kamsa ordered all children born who shared the same birth date as the “Slayer” and also a few weeks prior. Didn’t King Herod do the same by ordering the death of all first borns who were born around the same time as Jesus, to prevent the birth of the Savior?
What is more shocking is how citizens were discriminated based on color! Sounds familiar anyone?? We still haven’t gotten over that one! Sad but true.
There is a point in the tale, where women are not allowed to step out alone or without veils covering their faces and bodies. The treatment of women and the atrocities committed are no different from the times of today! Just read the latest news and you will agree. Seems to me we are a twisted lot!
Then there is the actual birth of Krishna – this was truly magical and I almost had tears in my eyes as I read these sections. I could imagine myself being a part of this magical experience. Of hearing the baby Krishna giving his father the necessary instructions to save him, of watching all shackles break, of experiencing the rivers of Yamuna parting to let Vasudeva walk to Vrindavan, the hood of Sesha covering the father and child in the midst of torrential down pours and the look on Vasudevas face as he put down his own son and picked up Maya, the girl child who seemed to be waiting for him and make the journey to Mathura….
Ashok Banker is truly blessed to re-tell these stories. His words are definitely bound to weave magic in the minds of his readers. I for one am so glad to have read this book – now I can tell my children stories with more facts until they can start reading these books themselves! I enjoyed Banker’s “Ramayana” series with the exception of King of Ayodhya and Revenge of Ravana – I honestly thought the author had kinda gone off his rocker, but now with this book I am a loyal fan! I can’t wait to read the rest of the books that make up the Krishna Coriolis and his Mahabharatha series. I am proud to say that I have already read “The Forest of Stories” the first book of the later series.