The Killing of Dhenukāsura
In this way Śrī Kṛṣṇa, along with His elder brother Balarāma, passed the childhood age known as kaumāra and stepped into the age of paugaṇḍa, from the sixth year up to the tenth. At that time, all the cowherd men conferred and agreed to give those boys who had passed their fifth year charge of the cows in the pasturing ground. Given charge of the cows, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma traversed Vṛndāvana, purifying the land with Their lotus footprints.
Accompanied by the cowherd boys and Balarāma, Kṛṣṇa brought forward the cows and played on His flute as He entered the forest of Vṛndāvana, which was full of flowers, vegetation and pasturing grass. The Vṛndāvana forest was as sanctified as the clear mind of a devotee and was full of bees, flowers and fruits. There were chirping birds and clear-water lakes, with waters that could relieve one of all fatigue. Sweet-smelling breezes blew always, refreshing the mind and body. Kṛṣṇa, with His friends and Balarāma, entered the forest and, seeing the favorable situation, desired to enjoy the atmosphere to the fullest extent. Kṛṣṇa saw all the trees, overloaded with fruits and fresh twigs, bending down to touch the ground as if welcoming Him by touching His lotus feet. He was very pleased by the behavior of the trees, fruits and flowers, and He began to smile, realizing their desires.
Kṛṣṇa then spoke to His elder brother Balarāma as follows: “My dear brother, You are superior to all of us, and Your lotus feet are worshiped by the demigods. Just see how these trees, full with fruits and flowers, have bent down to worship Your lotus feet. It appears that they are trying to get out of the darkness that has obliged them to accept the form of trees. Actually, the trees born in the land of Vṛndāvana are not ordinary living entities. Having held the impersonal point of view in their past lives, they have been put into this stationary condition of life, but now they have the opportunity of seeing You in Vṛndāvana, and they are praying for further advancement in spiritual life through Your personal association.
“Generally, living entities in the mode of darkness obtain the bodies of trees. The impersonalist philosophers are in that darkness, but they eradicate it by taking full advantage of Your presence. I think the drones that are buzzing all around You must have been Your devotees in their past lives. They cannot leave Your company because no one can be a better, more affectionate master than You. You are the supreme and original Personality of Godhead, and the drones are just trying to spread Your glories by chanting at every moment. I think some of them must be great sages, devotees of Your Lordship, and they are disguising themselves in the form of drones because they are unable to give up Your company even for a moment. My dear brother, You are the supreme worshipable Godhead. Just see how the peacocks are dancing before You in great ecstasy. The deer, whose behavior is just like that of the gopīs, are welcoming You with the same affection. And the cuckoos who are residing in this forest are welcoming You with their joyful, sweet cries because they consider that Your appearance in their home is so auspicious. Even though they are trees and animals, these residents of Vṛndāvana are glorifying You. They are prepared to welcome You to the best of their ability, as is the practice of great souls in receiving another great soul at home. As for the land, it is so pious and fortunate because the footprints of Your lotus feet are marking its body.
“It is quite natural for these Vṛndāvana inhabitants to thus receive a great personality like You. The herbs, creepers and plants are also so fortunate to touch Your lotus feet. And by Your touching the twigs with Your fingernails, these small plants are also made glorious. As for the hills and the rivers, they too are now glorious because You are glancing at them. Above all, the damsels of Vraja, the gopīs, are the most glorious because You embrace them with Your strong arms, being attracted by their beauty.”
In this way, Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma began to enjoy the residents of Vṛndāvana to Their full satisfaction as They herded the calves and cows on the bank of the Yamunā. In some places Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were accompanied by Their friends. The boys were singing, imitating the humming sound of the drones and accompanying Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, who were garlanded with forest flowers. While walking, the boys sometimes imitated the quacking sound of the swans in the lakes, or when they saw the peacocks dancing, they imitated them before Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa also moved His neck, imitating the dancing and making His friends laugh.
The cows taken care of by Kṛṣṇa had different names, and Kṛṣṇa would call them with love. After hearing Kṛṣṇa calling, the cows would immediately respond by mooing, and the boys would enjoy this exchange to their hearts’ content. They would all imitate the sound vibrations made by the different kinds of birds, especially the cakoras, peacocks, cuckoos and bhāradvājas. Sometimes, when they would see the weaker animals fleeing out of fear of the sounds of tigers and lions, the boys, along with Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, would imitate the animals and run away with them. When they felt some fatigue, they would sit down, and Balarāma would put His head on the lap of one of the boys just to take rest, and Kṛṣṇa would immediately come and begin massaging the legs of Balarāma. And sometimes Kṛṣṇa would take a palm fan and fan the body of Balarāma, causing a pleasing breeze to relieve Him of His fatigue. Other boys would sometimes dance or sing while Balarāma took rest, and sometimes they would wrestle amongst themselves or jump. When the boys were thus engaged, Kṛṣṇa would immediately join them, and catching their hands, He would enjoy their company and laugh and praise their activities. When Kṛṣṇa would feel tired and fatigued, He would sometimes take shelter of the root of a big tree or the lap of a cowherd boy and lie down. When He would lie down with a boy or a root as His pillow, some of the boys would come and massage His legs, and some would fan His body with a fan made from leaves. Some of the more talented boys would sing in very sweet voices to please Him. Thus very soon His fatigue would go away. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, whose legs are tended by the goddess of fortune, shared Himself with the cowherd boys as one of them, expanding His internal potency to appear exactly like a village boy. But despite His appearing just like a village boy, there were occasions when He proved Himself to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sometimes men pose themselves as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and cheat innocent people, but they can only cheat; they cannot exhibit the potency of God.
While Kṛṣṇa was thus engaged in His transcendental pastimes, exhibiting His internal potency in the company of the supermost fortunate cowherd boys, there occurred another chance for Him to exhibit the superhuman powers of Godhead. His most intimate friends Śrīdāmā, Subala and Stoka-kṛṣṇa addressed Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma with great love and affection thus: “Dear Balarāma, You are very powerful; Your arms are very strong. Dear Kṛṣṇa, You are very expert in killing all kinds of disturbing demons. Will You kindly note that just near this place there is a big forest of the name Tālavana? This forest is full of palm trees, and all the trees are filled with fruits. Some have fallen down, and some of them are very ripe even in the trees. It is a very nice place, but because of a great demon, Dhenukāsura, it is very difficult to go there. No one can reach the trees to collect the fruits. Dear Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, this demon is present there in the form of an ass, and he is surrounded by similar demon friends who have assumed the same shape. All of them are very strong, so it is very difficult to approach this place. Dear brothers, You are the only persons who can kill such demons. Other than You, no one can go there for fear of being killed. Not even animals go there, and no birds are living there; they have all left. One can only appreciate the sweet aroma that is coming from that place. It appears that up until now, no one has tasted the sweet fruits there, either on the tree or on the ground. Dear Kṛṣṇa, to tell You frankly, we are very attracted by this sweet aroma. Dear Balarāma, if You like, let us all go there and enjoy these fruits. The aroma of the fruits is now spread everywhere. Don’t You smell it from here?”
When Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa were thus petitioned by Their intimate friends, They were inclined to please them, and with smiling faces They proceeded toward the forest, surrounded by all Their friends. Immediately upon entering the Tālavana, Balarāma began to yank the trees with His arms, exhibiting the strength of an elephant. Because of this jerking, all the ripe fruits fell down on the ground. Upon hearing the sound of the falling fruits, the demon Dhenukāsura, who was living there in the form of an ass, approached with great force, shaking the whole field so that all the trees moved as if there were an earthquake. The demon appeared before Balarāma and kicked His chest with his hind legs. At first Balarāma did not say anything, but with great anger the demon kicked Him again more vehemently. This time Balarāma immediately caught hold of the legs of the ass with one hand and, wheeling him around, threw him into the treetops. While he was being wheeled around by Balarāma, the demon lost his life. Balarāma threw the demon into the biggest palm tree about, and the demon’s body was so heavy that the palm tree fell upon other trees, and several fell down. It appeared as if a great hurricane was passing through the forest, and all the trees were falling down, one after another. This exhibition of extraordinary strength is not astonishing because Balarāma is the Personality of Godhead known as Ananta Śeṣa Nāga, who is holding all the planets on the hoods of His millions of heads. He maintains the whole cosmic manifestation exactly as horizontal and vertical threads hold the weaving of a cloth.
After the demon had been thrown into the trees, all the friends and associates of Dhenukāsura immediately assembled and attacked Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa with great force. They were determined to retaliate and avenge the death of their friend. But Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma caught each of the asses by the hind legs and, exactly in the same way, wheeled them around. Thus They killed all of them and threw them into the palm trees. Because of the dead bodies of the asses, there was a panoramic scene. It appeared as if clouds of various colors were assembled in the trees. Hearing of this great incident, the demigods from the higher planets showered flowers on Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma and beat their drums and offered devotional prayers.
A few days after the killing of Dhenukāsura, people began to come into the Tālavana forest to collect the fruits, and animals began to return without fear to feed on the nice grasses growing there. Just by chanting or hearing these transcendental activities and pastimes of the brothers Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, one can amass pious activities.
When Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma entered the village of Vṛndāvana along with Their friends, They played Their flutes, and the boys praised Their uncommon activities in the forest. Their faces were decorated with tilaka and smeared with the dust raised by the cows, and Kṛṣṇa’s head was decorated with a peacock feather. Both He and Balarāma played Their flutes, and the young gopīs were joyous to see Kṛṣṇa returning home. All the gopīs in Vṛndāvana remained very morose on account of Kṛṣṇa’s absence. All day they were thinking of Kṛṣṇa in the forest or of Him herding cows in the pasture. When they saw Kṛṣṇa returning, all their anxieties were immediately relieved, and they began to look at His face the way drones hover over the honey of the lotus flower. When Kṛṣṇa entered the village, the young gopīs smiled and laughed. Kṛṣṇa, while playing the flute, enjoyed the beautiful smiling faces of the gopīs.
Then Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were immediately received by Their affectionate mothers, Yaśodā and Rohiṇī, who, according to the time’s demands, began to fulfill the desires of their affectionate sons. Simultaneously, the mothers rendered service and bestowed benediction upon their transcendental sons. They took care of their children by bathing Them and dressing Them very nicely. Kṛṣṇa was dressed in yellowish garments, and Balarāma was dressed in bluish garments, and They were given all sorts of ornaments and flower garlands. Being relieved of the fatigue of Their day’s work in the pasturing ground, They looked refreshed and very beautiful.
They were given palatable dishes by Their mothers, and They pleasantly ate everything. After eating, They were seated nicely on clean bedding, and the mothers began to sing various songs of Their activities. As soon as They lay down on the bedding, They very quickly fell fast asleep. In this way, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma used to enjoy Vṛndāvana life as cowherd boys.
Sometimes Kṛṣṇa used to go with His boyfriends and Balarāma, and sometimes He used to go alone with His friends to the bank of the Yamunā and tend the cows. Gradually, the summer season arrived, and one day, while in the field, the boys and cows became very thirsty and began to drink the water of the Yamunā. The river, however, had been made poisonous by the venom of the great serpent known as Kāliya.
Because the water was so poisonous, the boys and cows became visibly affected immediately after drinking. They suddenly fell down on the ground, apparently dead. Then Kṛṣṇa, who is the life of all that lives, simply cast His merciful glance over them, and all the boys and cows regained consciousness and began to look at one another with great astonishment. They could understand that by drinking the water of the Yamunā they had died and that the merciful glance of Kṛṣṇa had restored their lives. Thus they appreciated the mystic power of Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Yogeśvara, the master of all mystic yogīs.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the fifteenth chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “The Killing of Dhenukāsura.”