The continuation of the previous part…
Sisupala and Rudra-Shiva
…Starkadr’s Hindu analog, Sisupala, is a secondary character of Mahabharata. He comes into play before the main intrigue develops. In the first books the authority of Pandavas brothers, main characters of subsequent events, is not yet disputed. The older brother, Yudhisthira is getting ready for the imperial consecration ceremony, which includes celebrating not only taking on royal rights, ‘rajasuya’, but as well ‘samrajya’, universal kingship, and ‘parthivya’, earthly sovereignty.
Yudhisthira brothers are sent into all four corners of the earth to secure consent, by persuasion or coercion, of all kings. With this work done, the ceremony may begin, and all kings pour Yudhisthira’s capital to pledge their allegiance for the new ‘Imperor’.
Celebration starts with the hospitality procedure of giving gift of excellence, ‘arghya’ to the most honorable guest. Great-uncle and tutor of the Pandavas family, Bhishma, chooses Krishna, who is just back from the ‘special operation’ of a Hollywood style, which removed the last and a grave obstacle to the whole event, the evil king Jarasandra, famous by his obsession with human sacrifice.
At the beginning no one from the guest kings objects the decision. No one, except the king of Cedi, Sisupala. He refuses to accept that on the assembly of kings the greatest honor is given to a person who is not a king:
“If you must honor Madhusudana, why bring these kings here – to insult them, Bharata?
It was not out of fear for the great-spirited Kaunteya that we all offered him tribute, nor out of greed or to flatter hum. He wanted the sovereignty and proceeded according to Law; so we gave him tribute and now he does not count us! What but contempt moves you, if in an assembly of kings you honor Krishna with the guest gift, while he has not attained to the title? …As a marriage is to a eunuch, as a show is to a blind man, so is this royal honor to you Madhusudana, who are no king!” (Dumezil 1983 62)
This demagogy is most unfair. Sisupala’s words may appear are defending the royal honor, but his actions show that his understanding of this honor is far removed from what he is preaching. In addition to having his own throne, Sisupala worked as a general for king Jarasandra, who was also a contender to the ‘Emperror’s’ title, until Krishna took care of this problem. King Jarasandra was obtaining his power from favors of Rudra-Shiva in exchange to sacrifices of conquered kings.
Bhishma rejects Sisupala’s boastings, explaining that Krishna is more then a king, enumerating already familiar to us high qualities of all three functions that Krishna possesses. However, Sisupala’s rhetoric finds its way into hearts and minds of many kings, and youngest of Pandavas brothers, Sahadeva, to keep the order, threatens to put his foot on a face of anybody who challenges Bhisma’s decision. View of the Sahadeva’s foot brings assembly into proper silence.
To enlighten kings, especially young, who may not know a whole story of Sisupala – Krishna relationships, Bhishma tells the story of Sisupala’s birth.
When, as it was mentioned above, Sisupala was born with four arms and three eyes, it was not the extra arms that bothered king and queen of Cedi so much that they were ready to abandon the newborn. Many arms of Hindu folklore personages are a frequent condition, and that does not scare off people around them. This is the third eye in the middle of forehead, an attribute of Vedic Rudra, replaced later by Shiva, the god of destruction, which alarmed royal parents.
When parents were ready literally to throw away the baby, a disembodied Voice sounded off, assuring grieving royal couple that when Sisupala will be placed on a lap of a chosen person, extra arms and eye will disappear. However there was one catch – the person-normalizer will be also a source of death for Sisupala.
The rumor about strange events quickly spreads among nearby kingdoms and far away lands. Many people come to Cedi to try to help desperate parents and the baby with their problem. Royal couple greets everybody gracefully, places Sisupala on the guest’s lap, and… nothing happens. Nothing happens until the news riches town of Dvaravati, the hometown of Krishna. Krishna and his brother decide to visit Cedi, especially this event has a family matter – Susupala’s mother is Krishna’s aunt.
And finally, when queen of Cedi places baby Susupala on Krishna’s lap, miracle occurs. The mother is relived and troubled in the same time, she remembers the second part of the prediction:
“Give a boon to me, Krishna, who am sick with fear, strong-armed one, for you are the relief of the oppressed and grant safety to those that are afeared! …Pray pardon, strong man, the derelictions of Sisupala!”
“I shall forsooth forgive a hundred derelictions of your son, paternal aunt, even though they may be capital offences. Do not sorrow”. (Dumezil 1983 55-6)
Sisupala, as we already know that, does not feel grateful or somehow obliged to Krishna. Third eye of Shiva is not a coincidence on Sisupala’s forehead. Sisupala is the incarnation of Rudra-Shiva, Puranas tell us. The very etymology of his name refers to Rudra-Shiva. ‘Sisu-‘ means ‘small’, the Vedic epithet for Rudra and later Shiva, who is called ‘pasupati’, ‘lord of animals’; thus Sisupala means ‘protector (lord) of the small’. (Dumezil 1983 57)
This conflict with Krishna is not the first in the ‘history’ of previous lives of Sisupala, and Krishna himself, who is also incarnation of another divinity, Vishnu. In former lives Sisupala was demon Hiranyakasipu, and, then, demon Ravana, both slain by Vishnu.
When Bhishma has finished his story, Krishna gives the kings samplings of Sisupala’s sins against him:
“1. Knowing that we had gone to the city of Pragjyotisa, this fiend, who is our cousin, burned down Dvaravati, our capital.
2. While the barons of the Bhojas were at play on Mount Raivataka, he slew and captured them.”
These are two examples of the sin against the second virtue of a King – “Sisupala, instead of fairly and openly giving battle, waits until he knows a king is absent to burn down his capital, and surprises rajanyas in the midst of disporting themselves to massacre or kidnap them”.
“3. Malevolently, he stole the horse that was set free at the Horse Sacrifice and surrounded by guards to disrupt my father’s sacrifice.”
Here, “Sisupala attacks the king in the area of religion by preventing him from celebrating most solemn of royal sacrifices”. This is a sin in the domain of the first, Jurist-Magician caste.
“4. When she was journeying to the country of the Sauviras to be given in marriage, the misguided fool abducted the unwilling wife-to-be of the glorious Babhru.
5. Hiding beneath his wizardry, the fiendish offender of his uncle abducted Bhadra of Visalia, the intended bride of the Karusa”. (Dumezil 1983 59-60)
The third, Commoner-Procreator caste may be known for its levelly, sexual excesses, but such a behavior against brides is out of allowed boundaries.
Sisupala continues mocking Krishna:
“How is it you not ashamed of yourself, decrepit defiler of you family, while you frighten all these kings with your many threats?”
But the tide has turned, sympathies of the kings is no longer on Sisupala’s side:
“All the assembled kings, upon hearing this and more from Vasudeva, now began to revile the Cedi king”.
Krishna warns Sisupala that he exhausted the limit of all one hundred offences he promised to leave unpunished, but Sisupala continues his arrogant fronde:
“’Forgive me, if you have that much faith, or don’t, Krishna, what could possibly befall me from you, however angry or friendly?’
…from this moment Krishna’s mind is made up… he ‘thinks’ of the ‘cakra’, the discus, his infallible weapon that has already punished the excesses of so many demons… At this solemn moment Krishna explains the situation once more, justifying his action. Then he acts:
‘I have had to forgive a hundred of his offenses, at his mother’s request. What she asked of me, I have given, and the tally is complete. Now I shall slay him before the eyes of all you earth-lords’. So saying, at that moment the best of the Yadus, scourge of his enemies, irately cut off his head with his discus. The strong-armed king fell like a tree that is struck by a thunderbolt.” (Dumezil 1983 64-5)…