Lessons from mythology
Krishna Gopeshvara: The Truth of Vrishnis
Author : Sanjay Dixit
Publisher : Bloomsbury, Rs 399
This is a more-human-than-divine account of the life of the Hindu mythological figure, Krishna, reminding one that it’s ideology and not individuals that cause harm, writes ABHINAV AGARWAL
Krishna Gopeshvara is a book that takes you back in time and also makes you think about its parallels with medieval and modern history, about divinity and humanity, and individuals versus ideologies. Are there lessons to be learnt?
As evil scales new heights of destruction upon putting on the cloak of ideology, it acquires a degree of pervasiveness and permanence when it adopts the patina of unquestionable dogma. Communism was an inchoate idea in one man's head. When it became an ideology, it became a Red Holocaust, killing over one hundred million across the world in the twentieth century. When ideology and fanaticism infected religion, they gave birth to absolutism and monotheism, accompanied by violent expansionism across the world. Such is the subterranean message that runs through this book. The evil in one man, if nurtured by the pervert philosophy of the mad genius, can wreak havoc on society.
As the first book in a planned trilogy, Krishna Gopeshvara begins with Kamsa’s death. His two wives are whisked away to Magadha, where their father, Jarasandha, rules. Before a furious Jarasandha can retaliate against the upstart who has widowed his daughters, his guru urges him do a purvapaksha of his enemy, and to better understand the person he is going to fight with. Whether he should march against Krishna or not is a decision his guru, Chandakaushika, leaves to Jarasandha.
As Jarasandha’s guru starts his multi-day discourse, the reader is returned to Mathura, and back in time. We get to see the rise of Kamsa, aided by an evil savant who is bent upon remaking society in the image of his ideology — one book, one God, one King, one salute — and where debate and dissent are unnecessary irritants, to be dispensed with with the sword. We see the imprisonment of Devaki and Vasudeva, Krishna’s birth, the gradual takeover of Mathura by the followers of the kutildharmi and the fallout of their rakshasa karma, under the banner of the viloma swastika. Even as all this happens in Mathura, an infant Krishna grows into a toddler and then a child, escaping attempts on his life, finding kinship with the residents in Vrindavan, learning and growing all the time. An increasingly agitated Kamsa is driven to greater depths of despondency, frustration, and evil, goaded by the Kutil Muni, his kutil dharma, and twisted ideology. This part of the book culminates with the death of Kamsa at the hands of Krishna and the reinstatement of Ugrasena as the ruler of Mathura. The book then returns the reader to Magadha and the first of Jarasandha’s many attacks on Mathura.
As in works of fiction that derive from historical or mythological texts, there are elements of imagination, re-imagination, reinterpretation, contemporization, and more, that an author brings to his retelling. The same is the case here with Krishna Gopeshvara. If Kamsa was the evil doer, what drove him to such depths of depravity as to commit infanticide, and that too against his own sister’s progeny? Kamsa, as an individual, was ambitious. When mated with a twisted ideology and an evil adherent of the ideology, Kamsa’s proved to be a pliable mind, giving rise to unmitigated evil on a societal scale.
As an attempt to force us to look at Krishna differently, the author asks us whether Krishna was divine or human. Seen as an avatar, it serves one purpose, of reinforcing our belief in a divine presence that will surely intercede when evil crosses all limits of tolerance. If, on the other hand, Krishna is human, like us, it serves to make us aspire to that same level of yogic consciousness, since humans may not be able to become gods, but can surely aspire to become better humans. If a Krishna in Kaliyuga is not forthcoming, can we attempt to inculcate Krishna, goodness in each of us? Often enough, through history, people have made the mistake of fighting an individual, while ignoring the ideology. The concept of purvapaksha, the ancient Indian tradition of fully understanding an opponent’s point of view before countering it, is relevant here. If an ideology is not countered, fighting individuals is futile. Krishna’s story, as re-imagined in the book, looks at his life and struggles through the lens of humanity, not divinity.
As you read the book, and as Krishna’s life flows through its pages, do also attempt to view the tale through a modern lens. The book itself is fast-paced and keeps you engaged throughout. You may find yourself agreeing with some parts, and questioning some others. Allow those thoughts and encourage those questions. The journey to find answers will in itself be a rewarding journey.
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