Śrīmad Devi Bhāgavatam | Book 4 Chapter 1
THE FOURTH BOOK
On the questions put by Janamejaya regarding Kṛṣṇa’s incarnation
1. Janamejaya said:
O Vāsaveya! The Chief amongst the Munis, the Ocean of all knowledge, O the Sinless One! the Lord and Well Wisher of our families, I come to you with a humble mind to ask you certain questions.
* Vāsavī is the name of the mother of Vyāsa.
2-3. I heard of yore, but I do not know why was that illustrious son of Sūrasena, that powerful Ānakadundubhi (1), the pious and illustrious Vāsudeva, the father of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the incarnation of the God Hari Himself, and who was worshipped even by the Gods, thrown into prison by Kamsa?
Note (1) Ānakadundubhi is the epithet of Vāsudeva, father of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, since at Vāsudeva’s birth, drums called Ānakas and Dundubhis were resounded in the sky.
4-5. What faults had he and his wife Devakī committed? Why that Kamsa the descendant of Yayāti, killed the six infant sons of Devakī? And for what reason did the God Śrī Hari incarnate Himself as the son of Vāsudeva in the prison house of Kamsa?
6-11. How was that Lord of the Universe, Śrī Bhagavān, and the Ruler of the Yādava clan, taken to Gokula? Why was He, born of a Kṣattriya family, generally recognised as of the Gopāla (cow-herd) clan? Why were His father Vāsudeva and mother Devakī thrown into prison? And why did not Śrī Kṛṣṇa, of indomitable prowess, and capable to create and preserve the worlds, could release instantly, father and mother from their imprisoned state?
I cannot conceive that the so-called Fate could have any influence on such high souled persons, the father and mother of the Supreme Being, Śrī Kṛṣṇa; who were those sons of Vāsudeva that were killed by Kamsa? And who was that girl child who when struck by Kamsa on a slab of stone instantly rose up above the sky, assuming the form of Aṣṭabhujā, the eight armed Goddess?
O Sinless One! Kindly explain unto me how did Śrī Hari manage to perform the house-holder's duties, when he had married the several wives?
And what were those glorious deeds that he did in His this incarnation and how did he finally pass away from his mortal physical coil?
My mind sinks into an ocean of confusion, when I hear of the several things done by Śrī Hari; sometimes I find the deeds, not capable of being done by any other than the Supreme Being Himself and sometimes I hear of deeds that can be done by an ordinary man.
And, therefore I cannot decide whether Vāsudeva was the Incarnation of God or an ordinary being. Be pleased to remove these doubts from my mind and describe the life of Vāsudeva in its true light.
12-14. In days of yore, the two sons of Dharma were the two best amongst the Riṣis, and were the Devas Nara and Nārāyaṇa. They were very high souled persons and they performed severe austerities for long extending years.
They were born as part incarnations of Viṣṇu; and, for the good of the world, did they, in the Vadarikāśrama, perform penances, controlling their six passions, and free from desires.
15. The all-knowing sages Nārada and others say that the well-known Arjuṇa and Śrī Kṛṣṇa of indomitable prowess were the two part incarnations of those two ancient Munis Nara and Nārāyaṇa.
16. How came those two Devas Nara and Nārāyaṇa to be born in the two bodies of Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, though they did not relinquish their previous bodies!
17. And also when those two Munis had attained liberation, their goal in their Yogas, by performing severe penances, how could they again be born in other bodies!
18-19. If any Śūdra dies performing his own religion, he takes up a Vaiśya body in his next incarnation; if any Vaisya died so, he takes up a Kṣattriya body and a Kṣattriya when adhering to his own rites and ceremonies, dying takes up a Brāhman body in his next incarnation.
And if a Brahmin be free from desires and resorts to the path of peace, when he dies, he becomes free from incarnations and is saved from this disease of getting into the world.
20-21. Now the reverse seems to take place in the case of Nara and Nārāyaṇa. In spite of withering up their bodies by hard penances, they took up Kṣattriya bodies.
Under what influence of Karma, did they take up birth when they were Yogis? Or might they, the Brāhmins, become Kṣattriyas owing to some curse?
Whatever it may be, kindly remove my doubts, explaining to me their causes.
22. It is heard that the Yādava clan suffered destruction through the curse of a Brāhman and in spite of Śrī Kṛṣṇa being the incarnation of the Supreme Being, his family died of the effect of curse from Gāndhārī.
23. How was it that Pradyumna was stolen away by Śambara, the lord of the Asuras; and for what purpose when Vāsudeva, the Deva of the Devas was present, how was it that his son was stolen away from the lying-in room? This seems impossible.
24. Why did not Vāsudeva see, with His inner vision, the stealing away of his son from the impregnable walls of His fortress-like mansion in Dwārkā? (And could thus have prevented this!)
25-39. O Muni! After Vāsudeva had gone to Heaven, his wives were plundered by the dacoits on the way. I am very much in doubt on this point.
Also I cannot understand why did this event take place just after His translation to Heaven?
Again how was Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who was Viṣṇu's Full incarnation, born into this world to take off the vicious load of this earth, and to destroy the evil-doers, terrified and He fled through the fear of Jarāsandha, evacuated His kingdom of Mathurā and went with His armies and friends to Dwārkā?
Vāsudeva came here to destroy the evil miscreants and to preserve the religion; how then did He not, as He was all knowing, previously kill those dacoits, who afterward stole and plundered His wives? Was it, that He, being Omniscient did not know those dacoits?
He protected the Pāṇḍavas, no doubt, who were high souled, righteous and virtuous; but I cannot understand how did He consider the high souled virtuous persons like Bhīśma, Droṇa and others as loads of earth and slay them.
The devotees of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, observing good customs, conducts and practices, Yudhisṭhīra and his brothers performed the Rājasūya sacrifice, according to rules, giving various offerings to the Brāhmins and depended entirely on Vāsudeva;
still, O Muni! they suffered terrible hardships; whither were their virtuous deeds by this time? What horrible sins did they commit that they had to suffer pains and troubles in the assembly.
The highly merited Draupadī arose from the midst of sacrificial fire and is born of the part of Lakṣmī, pure and devoted to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. How did such a glorious woman meet with incomparable terrible pains often and often; how could she be caught hold of by her hair on her head by Duhśāsana; and carried to the royal assembly, when she was in her menses and extremely terrified and harassed?
How did she come to be a slave of Matsya Rāj in his kingdom Virāt, and though actually crying aloud like a female osprey (eagle) she was highly insulted by Kichaka!
Alas! How could Draupadī be stolen away by Jayadratha, though latterly released by the Pāṇḍavas? What evil deeds did the Pāṇḍavas commit in their previous births, that they had to befall under so many telling difficulties?
40. O high minded Muni! My ancestors performed the Rājasūya sacrifice and still they fell under so many serious difficulties. Kindly explain the causes of these to me.
41-42. If it be urged, that they suffered so many serious calamities, due to their actions in their former lives, that seems impossible. Because they are born of the Devas; thus arises my doubt; be pleased to explain to me.
Again how the Pāṇḍavas, the sons of Kunti, of good conduct, and knowing the illusory nature of the world, why did they, out of pretence killed Bhīśma, Droṇa and others?
43. This appears a riddle to me that these Pāṇḍavas were led to the extermination of their race, being inspired by Hari Vāsudeva, to this horrible act.
44. Rather to live on begging alms and to live on rice, growing wild or without cultivation, or to live as an artisan or artist than to kill the valiant warriors unlawfully in a battle, simply out of voluptuous greed.
45. O Best of the Munis! You have preserved this extirpated race by producing the Goloka sons (i. e. sons born by other persons of women after their husbands are dead) of indomitable prowess.
46. And why did my honoured father, born of Uttarā in this respected family, encircle a snake round the neck of a Brāhmin ascetic?
Nobody, born of a Kṣattriya family, shows signs of hatred and jealousy towards a Brāhmin. Is it that my father showed such feeling to that ascetic, who took the vow of silence!
O Best of the Munis —
These things and lots of others are troubling my mind with many grave doubts. O merciful saint! You know everything; be kind enough to quell this disturbed state of my mind.
Thus ends the First Adhyāya in the Fourth Book of Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavata Purāṇa of 18,000 verses by Mahāṛṣi Veda Vyāsa.