Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Wrath of an Emperor ( Krishnavatara II ) - K M Munshi

The part 1 of the book ended with the death of King Kamsa. Taking off from the same point K M Munshi, continues the journey through the life of Krishna post the death of Kamsa. Kamsa is dead to the comfort of many, the street rejoiced, there were celebrations and festivities around Yadava land. Some of the deserted Yadava clan leaders are now coming back. King Ugrasena and the elders now meet to decide the future of the land. Ugrasena is aging and so are most of the leaders. They need to elect some one who can lead the Yadava's in the future. Unanimous choice had been Krishna, which he refuses. Hence, the selection of 'Prince' is inconclusive. Death of Kamsa is not received well with his erstwhile allies. The mighty king of Magadh Empire Jarasandha is fuming. Kamsa, his son in law has been killed by two cowherds despite the presence of a large contingent of 'Magadh Warriors'. He plans revenge, and with the support of his other allies, decides to invade the Yadavas and inflict destruction of their kingdom.

Fragmented Yadava's can not resist the might of Jarasandha. They have no leader, nor an army equipped or trained to support the kingdom. Krishna offers to flea, as the emperor's wrath is against Krishna and Balarama for the murder of his son-in-law. The advancing army of Jarasandha was informed about the escape of the young price and Balarama by an envoy of Yadava's, thus chaning the track of the advancement. Krishna and Balarama had no place to go as most of the small kingdom were frightened of Jarasandha. Vidarbha king Bhishmaka , though likes Krishna, was in control of his son Rukmi, who call the shots and befriends Jarasandha. Karavirapura, other large empire is known to have his anger against the Yadava's. The only place they could escape to was to the Garuda kingdom of Gomantaka, over the Western Ghats. However, the advancing army managed to lay siege of the hills. Jarasandha, on advise of Bhishmaka, managed to set the hill on fire, only to be quenched by some clever maneuver from Krishna, who diverted the sea to the plains of Gomantaka. In the fierce battle that followed, the Garuda Warriors, upbeat by the support of Krishna and Balarama managed to defeat the might of Jarasandha. Jarasandha himself was broken and defeated by Balarama, only to be saved by the intervention of Krishna from an ominous death from the hands of Balarama.

The shame and failure did not demoralise Jarasandha. His pledge to take revenge is now only doubled. His name and power has taken a beating from the hands of two youngsters, who are nothing but cowherds. He has to now plan his move carefully. He need vast support and a support that is locked and sealed with better relationship. Thus started the plan of getting Vidarbha and Chedi together in a relation. He planned to get his grand daughter married to Rukmi, the young prince of Vidarbha and instructed to get Rukmini, sister of Rukmi to the powerful prince of Chedi, Shishupala. coming in a wedlock thus re-iterating their already pledged alliance, can thus be used to destroy the Yadava's, whose only strength is in those two youngsters. Despite the resistance of Rukmini, the plan to 'stage manage' her 'swayamvara' was planned. Select princes were called, and omitted the Yadava's as they have no official prince. Yadava's were upset but had no means of confronting the enemy. Krishna and Balarama on their part start preparing the young yadavas in arms and riding chariots. The 'swayamvara' had to be stopped and once again they proved their mettle by tactically intervening at Vidarbha, spoiling the 'swayamvara' preparations.

The emperor Jarasandha is now furious. All his plans were defeated by the clever cowherd. It is essential for his pride to teach them a lessen. He joined with his strong ally moved their forces towards Mathura. Once again, Yadavas are in trouble. They have no army to prevent the massacre and destruction. The only way is to retreat, as advised by Krishna to one of their friendly kingdoms. The long migration to 'dwaraka' thus begin whose King was helped to regain his lost power by Balarama and Uddhava. Krishna, returned to the valley to divert and disrupt the advancing enemy to gain time for his people to reach safe havens. Mathura was destroyed by the rage of Jarasandha, but a Mathura with no inhabitants and no valuables to loot. The regrouped Yadavas, then returned to prevent the 'swayamvara' of Rukmini, arranged for the second time by the Vidarbha king on insistence of Jarasandha, and abducted the princess Rukmini. The second part ends with the abduction of Rukmini, while it largely focussed on the Emperor Jarasandha's wrath and Krishna's miraculous deeds again and again to save his people and maintain 'dharma'.

While that is the story, what was impressive about this part of the Krishnavatara was the way K M Munshi treated the subject. The Krishna we see here is a young prince, trying to protect his people from a huge and powerful enemy. The heroics are not always in confronting. He knew the strength of his opponent and the weakness of his own people. Hence he cleverly managed and planned his actions, be it fleeing the emperor and diverting the attention and the anger towards him, sparing his people, or by shifting the entire populace to safe places. You also see clever manipulations between the kingdoms, the alliances formed and broken, the battle plans and trickery. What we witnessed in these pages continued through out the history of mankind. You see political alliances formed between countries, the alliances sealed with marriages. The helplessness of smaller kings against the might of a large army.

Though Krishna continue to perform miracles in tackling some of the dredged criminals and kings through out his journey, most of his deeds aren't extra ordinary or painted with any divine touch. They are by someone who is destined to maintain 'dharma' in the world and are performed some one with knowledge and skills. Even against his enemies he is considerate and genuine.

I thought Sri K M Munshi, did a phenomenal job in the Book 2, by not glorifying the actions are holy and divine and performed by 'Avatara'. He focussed on the humane characterisation of the young prince, his worries for his parents, his close friends and associates and the Yadava people. Despite the advances of Shaibya ( whom he rescued from Karavirapura) or Rukmini, he maintained his stand on preserving dharma as his duty and the rest has to wait.

The style is much more clearer ( may be I'm getting used to it) and the language despite few hiccups and unevenness is much better in Book 2. The flow and structure with its many diversions and sub texts converged back to the main theme. Fabulous read.
The Wrath of an Emperor (Krishnavatara II) 1963

Kulapathi K M Munshi

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

435 Pages

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