Krishna and the celestial serpent Kaliya

The Nagas or serpents made offerings to Garuda on appointed days. Kaliya, proud of his own valour, did not make any offering himself and snatched away the offerings made by others. Garuda attacked him and, being overpowered in the fight, Kaliya sought shelter in a deep pool of water in the Yamuna.

Of yore, Garuda had caught a fish in that pool of water and was about to eat it, when Rishi Soubhari asked him not to eat, but Garuda heeded not his words. The wailings of the fish moved the tender heart of the Rishi and for their future good he cursed Garuda with death, if he entered the pool any more.

Kaliya knew about this and he therefore sought protection in that pool of water with his family. The water became deadly poison and even the adjoining air breathed poisonous death.

One day Krishna went with all his companions, other than Rama, to the Yamuna side. The Gopa boys and the cows being very thirsty drank the water of that pool and met with instant death. Krishna cast his amrita pouring looks at them and they got up, being restored to life. They looked at each other, very much surprised.

To purge the river, Krishna got upon a Kadamba tree and jumped into theĀ  pool of water. Kaliya fiercely attacked him and stung him to the quick. The serpent then twined round Krishna. The cows wept, the Gopa boys became senseless. There were evil portents in Vrindavana. Nanda and other Gopas came out in search of Krishna. They saw him in the grasp of the powerful serpent and made loud wailings. A moment after, seeing how they all grieved for him, Krishna eluded the grasp of the serpent and moved dancing round him.

The serpent, somewhat fatigued, also kept moving with its overspread hoods, fixing its looks on Krishna. Krishna then got upon the hoods one thousand in number, one hundred being the chief, and danced on them putting down the hood that tried to raise itself. It was a lovely sight and the Devas sang in joy and rained flowers. The serpent king was overpowered. He vomited blood. His body was broken. In his heart of hearts, he sought the protection of Narayana. The serpent girls also glorified Krishna and prayed for their husband’s life.

Krishna said: “Go hence O serpent, dwell in the sea. Men and cows shall use the water of the river. You left Ramanaka Dvipa for fear of Garuda. But now as your heads bear the marks of my feet, Garuda shall not touch you.” Kaliya left the Yamuna with his wives and the water of that river has been pure ever since.