Saturday, June 15, 2024

Intolerant Minority vs Tolerant Majority : The Kamsa-Ugrasena Example

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Sanjay Dixit
Sanjay Dixit
Sanjay Dixit is a senior IAS of Rajasthan cadre and former secretary of the Rajasthan Cricket Association. He has written extensively on agriculture, strategic matters and social issues. Dixit did his graduation in Marine Engineering and sailed with the Merchant Navy for 4 years before joining the IAS in 1986. He is Chairman of a popular Forum The Jaipur Dialogues. Follow him on Twitter @ Sanjay_Dixit

On day two, Āchārya Chanḍakaushika began a little early, as the King wanted to have the pūrvapaksha completed by next Pūrṇimā. Asti and Prāpti, and Queen Saudamini were seated in a semi-circular arc around the sage. The proceedings began around noon, to be completed before nightfall. Persuasive skills of Prime Minister Magadhasharman were brought to bear upon the Kulaguru for this change of time.

Āchārya began the day with the same chants to the infinite cosmos and to Krishṇa. He narrated —

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‘As promised by Kuṭil Muni, your father sent his crack detachment under Prabala to Mathurā. They camped outside Mathurā for a few days and were taken into the city on Kartik Pūrṇimā when the security was lax due to the heavy influx of pilgrims.

‘That the King of Magadha had been friends with one of the biggest adharmic forces is not well known even today. This will happen if a king does his religious duty and penance out of ahaṅkāra and for worldly power and wealth. Our king was friendly with Kuṭil Muni despite knowing his dogged crusade against Sanātana Dharma. He was born in Arvasthan, and came to Āryāvarta through Pārshvabhumi and built an Āshrama in Pushkalavati in Gāndhara’.

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Jarāsandha was shuffling uneasily as Āchārya Chanḍakaushika went through this narration. Āchārya continued.

‘King of Magadha is renowned as a great Shiva Bhakta. Of that, there is no doubt. What is doubtful is the motivation behind this Bhakti. This Bhakti is not for discovering the unity of consciousness that Shiva represents in this cosmic scheme. Rather, it is an opportunistic and hubris driven kriyā. The King of Magadha has forgotten my lessons on kriyā and karma. He has also forgotten my lessons on Kshātra Dharma. Yādavas were Shūdras in the varṇāshrma system. It was Gargāchārya who made them evolve into Kshatriyas in tune with the dynamic varṇāshrama system when Shūrasena followed his teachings to establish a just Rājya. Jarāsandha, however, wishes to become the Lord of the Universe without knowing what he would do with that title. All position in this world is relative. Kriyā is not karma. Yet, the King is busy doing the kriyā of Shiva Bhakti with the motivation of achieving material power, and at the same time having the worst Shiva drohi as his friend. It is this ahaṅkāra that made him tie up with Kaṃsa, as you would now hear. Jarāsandha, you are going down a dangerous path. Shiva resides in all of us. You have to find him within. The way you are planning to please him through Nara Medha Yajna will not make you invincible. In fact, it will be your undoing’.

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Jarāsandha was taken aback at this sudden outburst in the middle of sage’s narration. He had a look of great dismay over his face. His friendship with adharmic forces was being ripped open right in front of the ladies of his house. He bowed before the Āchārya and requested that the narration may continue. The ladies were mortified at the picture painted by the sage. They had always thought of their father as a very spiritual man. Here was the Kulaguru painting a different picture of him altogether.

Sage took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a brief vighaṭi and resumed.

‘After Kaṃsa received the forces of Magadha under Prabala, he started plotting. He had to somehow be at the Sudharmā Sabhā to be able to take it over.

‘Kaṃsa suddenly remembered Viprathu, the Prime Minister of Mathurā. He was the one who wanted Kaṃsa given death sentence. Yet, after he had been sentenced only for 10 years with provision of six months’ parole every three years and a good conduct remission at seven and a half years, Viprathu had come to Kaṃsa. He put his hand affectionately over the youngster’s head and said, “child, we all err at times. One who makes the most of his errors and learns from them comes out as gold from fire —
valuable, flexible, glittering and gleaming. Meet me after your first parole. I will try and get the rest of your sentence waived off if you earn good credits from the prison administration”.

‘Kaṃsa went and met Viprathu. The kindhearted Viprathu was happy to see Kaṃsa. “Come, my child. I am happy to see you. I hope you did not earn a bad name in the prison.”

“No, Amātya. I was not given a single punishment in the three years I was there”.

‘Viprathu was indulgent towards the Prince. He had lost the title of Crown Prince after being convicted. This was the code of Yādavas. A Sudharmā Sabhā meeting was due in fifteen days. Viprathu promised to have his case brought before the Sabhā.

‘The Sudharmā Sabhā convened on purṇa chandra day. The agenda for waiver of Kaṃsa’s punishment was brought before the Sabhā, but was not taken up. It was decided to take it up in the next meeting, after a month. Kaṃsa was directed to be present on that day. That would be only 3 days before his parole would end.

‘Meanwhile, Kaṃsa was finding it difficult to keep the Magadha force hidden. These were the finest troops from Magadha. Whenever they moved in the city, they would be noticed on account of their superb physique alone. Magadha had a centrally raised force. They were well trained in combat and other war like pursuits. They were specially recruited on the basis of their physical attributes. Mathurā, on the other hand, kept a contributory force. One month was a long time. On the other hand, if they were taken out and hidden somewhere in the forests of Matsya or Pānchala, there was no guarantee they would be able to find their way in on the appointed day.

‘Kaṃsa orgnaised an anushṭhāna with 108 priests. Half of the force was hidden among the priests, and the other half as parichārakas. It was common to have priests and parichārakas brought from outside for anushṭhānas. Kaṃsa managed to hide his secret.

‘On the day of the Sudharmā Sabhā, Kaṃsa carried out the purṇahuti and started from his abode in the north of Mathurā towards the south where the palace was located as also the main ghāṭ where members of the Yādava clan would perform ablutions after completion of an Anushṭhāna. His entire force was with him, dressed as priests and parichārakas, weapons hidden in their flowing robes and loose clothes. They were going towards the Yādava ghāṭ, from where they would move to Sudharmā Sabhā, which used to meet off the Eastern Gate, named as Yamunā Dwar. The procession proceeded as planned. Kaṃsa was allowed to go in alone. There was a detachment of six praharis67 guarding the gate. Chāṇūra was allowed to go in after a body search. He positioned himself in a line of sight with both his troops and Sudharmā Sabhā.

‘The Sabhā began with Amatya Viprathu standing up and bringing down his Dharmadanḍa68 and calling the meeting to order.

“With the permission of Mahārāj Ugrasena, we may begin today’s proceedings”, announced Viprathu.

‘Pralamba stood up to propose waiver of Kaṃsa’s sentence. Kaṃsa was ordered to come forward.

“Mahārāj, Amatya Viprathu has proposed a waiver of the rest of sentence for Kumar Kaṃsa. The report from prison keeper says that his conduct through the 3 years of incarceration was impeccable. The hard labour that he put in was ten times that of the average effort of all other prisoners sentenced to hard labour. He proposes that in view of such excellent reports, there is every ground to assume that the Kumar is not only penitent, but has sufficiently reformed himself to merit an entry into the sādhāraṇa prajā.

‘Kaṃsa was struck by the words “sādhāraṇa prajā”, but kept a poker face.

‘Mahārāj Ugrasena was looking intently at Kaṃsa. “Let Kaṃsa plead his own case”, said Mahārāj Ugrasena.

‘Kaṃsa was made to stand in the dock area, to the right of the King. The throne was on a raised platform, about five feet high. There were no stairs in front. King’s entry was from the back of the platform.

‘Kaṃsa spoke with certain haughtiness and a demeanour of a royalty, “I was unjustly punished”.

‘Viprathu was taken aback. He expected Kaṃsa to apologise. With this kind of an open challenge, he would antagonize the entire Sabhā. He tried to look at Kaṃsa with the intention of conveying a subtle message. Kaṃsa was not looking at him. He was looking at Ugrasena with blood shot eyes. He was kept in a confined dock, which was surrounded on all sides with a 5 feet high wooden enclosing partition. Even the normally phlegmatic Ugrasena looked a bit flustered at this clear breach of protocol.

“It does not look as if the petitioner has any sense of contrition. He is blaming the Sudharmā Sabhā for his despicable action”, said Ugrasena.

‘Kaṃsa gave out a loud grunt, broke the wooden enclosure using his enormous strength, and scaled the platform on which Ugrasena was seated in his throne with the alacrity of a perfectly trained combatant. Before anyone could realize, Kaṃsa had Ugrasena’s neck in the powerful grip of his right hand, ready to strangle him.

‘The entire Sudharmā Sabhā was paralysed with fear. They knew Kaṃsa’s prowess in combat. Not only the King was no match, he was equal to a hundred yoddhās in battle. “Hold off, everyone, or I will strangle Mahārāj Ugrasena”, screamed Kaṃsa.

Kaṃsa scaling the platform was a signal to Chāṇūra. He signaled to his troops waiting outside Yamunā Dwar. Two of them took care of the guards on the gate; the rest of them had taken the Sabhā hostage in barely two vighaṭis. Chāṇūra snatched away the Dharmadanḍa from Viprathu. He announced loudly, “Long live Mahārāj Kaṃsa”.

‘There was stunned silence in the Sudharmā Sabhā. Representatives from all the eighteen clans, as well as the senior ministers were present there. Not one could muster up the courage to speak up. All of them were armed. There were about fifty odd members of the Sudharmā Sabhā, all of them entitled to carry arms. Besides, there were the Palace guards numbering at least two hundred. One hundred Magadha troops had silenced them all. Ugrasena’s brother Devaka, Dharmādhikāri Vasudeva, Senāpati Pradyot, Gaṇanāyaka Pralamba, cousin Akroor, renowned warriors Satyak, Prasenjit, Satrajit — all were there and all of them were speechless.

‘Kaṃsa physically lifted Ugrasena and called one of the Magadha soldiers to pin him. At the same time, he took his sword and beheaded two bodyguards of King Ugrasena who had been trying to free their master without resorting to weapons, as they thought the King was in a hostage situation.

‘The Sudharmā Sabhā was terrorized. All the great warriors and accomplished wise men were silenced in the face of a threat to their body and honour. Kaṃsa lifted the crown from Ugrasena’s head, placed it on his own head and occupied the throne. A radicalised minority had no difficulty in subduing a peace-loving overwhelming majority.

‘A wave of shock hit the Sudharmā Sabhā. They could portend great calamity for Mathurā. Never had a King occupied a throne by unseating another and that too without any customary rituals.

‘Vasudeva, the Dharmādhikāri, got up and protested. “Kaṃsa, this is adharma. You are not only doing something unheard of in the Yādava confederation, but you are also ignoring the Dharma shāstras”.

‘Vasudeva was the son of Shūrasena Vrishṇi, a major clan of the Yādavas. His brother Naṅda was the chief of the clan. If the rule of primogeniture was to be applied, he was the rightful heir to the throne of Mathurā. Yādavas did not follow that rule. The wise Vasudeva himself proposed Ugrasena of the Kukur clan to succeed Shūrasena. He was a brave warrior, well-schooled in the nuances of Dharma, and very bold. He could clearly see the Sudharmā Sabhā taken hostage by Magadha troops, yet he spoke up. He was also a friend of Kaṃsa, though a few years older than him.

‘Kaṃsa roared with a demonic laughter. “Vasudeva, my Dharma teaches me that the throne belongs to the powerful. So I have snatched it. Since you are the Dharmādhikāri and also my friend, I am reappointing you on that post. You do whatever you need to do to formalize the arrangement. Where is Senāpati Pradyot and Gaṇanāyaka Pralamba?”

‘These two persons were not happy with the daily meddling of Sudharmā Sabhā in their affairs. They were present but looked on at the happenings without making any attempt to resist this unfortunate turn of events.

“Senāpati, I order the imprisonment of my father Ugrasena with immediate effect. He shall be placed in the same cell as I was. Looking at his age, I exempt him from hard labour.

‘Vasudeva got up again, “Kaṃsa, this is not the way to conduct affairs in Yādava Kul. Even Mahārāj has no power to sentence anyone. It is the job of the Sudharmā Sabhā. You cannot follow the path of adharma.”

“Oh, I see”, said Kaṃsa. “Ok. I do hereby order that all functions of the Sudharmā Sabhā shall forthwith reside with me, the King of Mathurā. As far as Dharma is concerned, I do hereby order Dharma, or whoever he is, suspended with immediate effect. Sanātana Dharma is no longer the official Dharma of Mathurā. Everyone is free to practise whichever brand of Dharma they wish to practise.”

‘The Sabhā was still. There had been whispers about Kaṃsa having met Kuṭil Muni. The Muni had a handful of followers in Mathurā, but he never made much headway. Here was the shadow of Kuṭil Muni and his intolerant Kuṭil Dharma seated right on the throne of Mathurā.

“The Sabhā is adjourned to meet again on next purṇa chandra. All officials shall retain their designations. Chāṇūra is appointed as head of my personal guards. Senāpati Pradyot is ordered to requisition another five thousand troops from Magadha, from my father-in-law Jarāsandha. In the Palace meeting halls, there shall be two thrones on each side of the main throne for my two wives, the Magadha Kanyās. Senāpati shall report to my Head of Personal Guards.” The Sudharmā Sabhā was dismissed. Ugrasena was led away to the prison, as if it was just a roulette routine. Except Vasudeva, no one even uttered a word. Such was the pusillanimity of the great chieftains of the Yādava clans in front of a bigoted tyrant.

Dixit, Sanjay. Krishna Gopeshvara . Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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