Book Review: ‘Slayer of Kamsa’

Updated: Dec 17, 2010, 17:58 PM IST

Aman Kanth

Itihasa and purana are an undying part of India’s moral and cultural ethos. Ram, Lakshman, Sita, Hanuman, Ravana, Krishna, Kansa, Pandavas and Kauravas are not mere characters from great Hindu epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagwad Gita, enlightening us about virtues and vices, but purveyor of ancient wisdom, which is ingrained in the fibre of our ethical universe.

Old they might be, these great Hindu epics are still read with great fervour by children and adults alike and are very much relevant in today’s time.

Author of an internationally acclaimed `Ramayana Series’, in ‘Slayer of Kamsa’, Ashok K Banker narrates the itihasa of cowherd, mystic lover and warrior Krishna. A Harper Collins imprint, Banker’s ‘Slayer of Kamsa’ is part of an eight-book series on Krishna Coriolis, retelling the ancient saga of the birth of Krishna in a wonderfully lucid, picturesque yet powerful and evocative manner.

In ‘Slayer of Kamsa’, Banker deconstructs the itihasa as told in umpteen mythological serials and abridged versions of the great epic. For instance, Kamsa – the son of King Ugrasena is never held in high regard by his parents (Ugrasena and Padmavati) and sister (Devaki). In fact, at the outset of the novel, Kamsa tries to break the peace accord between Andhaka monarch King Ugrasena and Sura king Vasudeva by vainly trying to kill the latter. Even Devaki asks her betrothed Vasudeva to ‘kill’ Kamsa – a ‘force of destruction’ before he kills all others.

As we proceed further, we come to know of Kamsa’s wily traits, of how he killed his pets and once even tossed his teacher from the balcony. Kamsa is truly an evil incarnate who loves the sight of blood and gore. However, real action takes place when Kamsa visits Machiavellian Jarasandha in Magdha on the advice of Narada. Once in Magdha, Jarasandha indoctrinates Kamsa, instigating him to usurp his father Ugrasena and take over the entire Andhaka nation. After wrecking havoc with Jarasandha’s Mohini fauj, Kamsa’s return to Andkaha is portentous.

On his return, Kamsa is stunned to see his sister Devaki marrying his arch enemy – Vasudeva. When a prophecy is made that Devaki’s male child will kill Kamsa, a furious Kamsa lunges with a sword on Devaki, only to be stopped by Vasudeva’s raison d`être of the consequences of slaying a woman, and to be criticised and ridiculed for one’s entire life.

Taken aback by Vasudeva’s invective, Kamsa is shaken to the marrow. Nonetheless, when reason dawns upon him, he is already stripped of his crown and given death sentence by Ugrasena.

Yet, on the day of his judgement, Kamsa asserts his real self – an amsa of Kala-Nemi and transforms into a grotesque, malformed and hideous creature, who takes over the entire Aryavtara race. An all powerful Kamsa seizes the kingdom from Ugrasena and incarcerates Vasudeva and Devaki, in order to kill their each new born babe and betray his providence.

One’s heart wrenches with pain as Kamsa kills each new born babe, swinging the child around and releasing it with great force. Vasudeva’s six babies share the same fate until Devi Yogmaya spirits away the seventh child from Devaki’s womb to Rohini – the first wife of Vasudeva. While Kamsa believes the loss of seventh child is a miscarriage, Narada comes and tells him that Devi Yogmaya spirited away the seventh baby to a new place. An angry Kamsa berates Narada and orders a stone wall to be built between Vasudeva and Devaki’s chambers.

However, the birth of lord Krishna is nothing short of a miracle, which takes place in the form of a celestial bluish light – an embryo within a womb. The unborn child reveals itself to Vasudeva as Vishnu incarnate and is transported into Devaki’s womb. Once born, as told by the Vishnu incarnate, Vasudeva takes away the divine baby to Vrindavan and swaps it with a girl child, while the whole of Andhaka nation is lost in divine stupor. When Kamsa comes to know that the eighth baby is a girl, he attacks to kill her, only to be stupefied by the sight of girl child floating mid-air and revealing herself as Vishnu’s sister Yogmaya and proclaiming the birth of Kasma’s slayer.

The Krishna Coriolis continues with ‘Dance of Govinda’ in Spring 2011.