Surrender by the Wives of Kaliya

The all-merciful Bhagavan has played infinite leelas in the lives of His devotees. Many a time, out of His own accord, He has intervened in the lives of many beings, bestowing His grace upon them –  sometimes simply enveloping them unto His divine fold and sometimes admonishing and transforming them to make them His own. In Krishna avataram, Kaliya Nardhana leela truly exemplifies this quality of Bhagavan. Lord Krishna employs His own sweet distinct plays and expands the kingdom of His family.

Kaliya, venomous although he was, was not only pardoned, protected, and purified but was also blessed with the fortune of bearing the Lord’s Lotus Feet on His head and carrying those imprints forever. 

Sri Swamiji in one of his Madhurageethams glorifies Kaliya Nardhana Krishna as, One who completely uproots all the negativities and washes away all our latent tendencies (uLLE oLindirukkum vAsanaigaLai veLikoNarndu azhitthiDuvAy  kALIya nardhana – kaNNA)

Last month we enjoyed Sri Swamiji’s kirtan— expounding this charming ‘Kaliya Nardhana’ — laden with words carrying incredible depth and richness interwoven with rhythmic beat patterns that bring out the intricacies in this dance feat of Lord Krishna!

The master of all fine arts, Lord Krishna, made Himself comfortable on the warm soft stage of the broad hoods of Kaliya and performed His unique exuberant dance. The audience consisting of all the celestials and the innocent folks of Brindavan were wonderstruck to witness this rare spectacle.  The podium was illuminated with precious gems which were on the hoods of Kaliya and his red eyes provided excellent lighting adding glory and twinkle to Krishna Natanam. Many great Mahatmas like Sri Oothukadu Venkata Kavi, Sri Vedanta Desika, and Sri Narayana Bhattadri have sung rejoicing the beauty and depth of this particular leela of Bhagavan. Bhattadri was unable to believe that little Guruvayurappan danced on this venomous snake Kaliya and so for Bhattadri, Lord Sri Guruvayurappan actually performed this dance in Guruvayur.  Bhattadri in his Narayaneeyam has sung these verses in the same rhythm complementing Lord Sri Krishna’s adroit dance moves.

Lord Sri Krishna with his cadenced movements, skillfully and powerfully laid His Lotus Feet upon every hood of Kaliya, devastating the serpent completely.  Blood streamed from Kaliya’s nostrils, his eyes bulged out oozing poison, and his hoods drooped down absolutely lifeless. Defeated and broken, Kaliya mentally submitted to the Lord.  Distraught, the wives of Kaliya with their children bowed down seeking the Lord’s mercy.

They offered their prayers with an overpowering sense of gratitude stating that the Lord had indeed showered His infinite compassion upon Kaliya by dispelling his negativities, and finally accepting him. They say,

tapaḥ sutaptam kim anena pUrvam  nirasta-mAnena cha mAna-dena
 dharmOtha vA sarva-janAnukampayA  yato bhavAmstushyati sarva-jIvah ।। 

– SB 10:16:35

Did our husband carefully perform austerities in his previous life, with his mind free of pride and full of respect for others? Is that why You are pleased with him? Or did he in some previous existence carefully execute religious duties with compassion for all living beings, and is that why You, the Life of all living beings, are now satisfied with him?

Along the same lines, Sri Swamiji, in one of His Madhurageethams, “thEDi vandanaiyE enai nI nADi vandanaiyE ” poses the same question to Bhagavan. Knowing only too well that one cannot bind Bhagavan’s grace to any reason, Sri Swamiji, in the anupallavi of this kirtan, calls out asking – is it the penance of my ancestors, or the blessings of good souls or the merits accumulated through my previous births or the merits attained through my worship — which of these could be the reason for the Lord’s immeasurable compassion?

(munnOr seyda thava payanO, nallOr aLittha nalvaramO
muRpiRavigaLin puNyam thAnO, alladu nAn seyda pUjApalanO)

The wives of Kaliya, full of fervor and devotion, totally baffled, wondered as to what was the merit that Kaliya possessed for Bhagavan to bless a lowly creature like him on His very own accord. They were unable to fathom this extent of Lord Sri Krishna’s mercy upon the grievous, sinful Kaliya who was blessed with Lord’s Lotus Feet on His head.

Further in the charanam of this Madhurageetham, Sri Swamiji too, overwhelmed with the Lord’s ineffable compassion, very meekly asks – ”have you considered to shower Your Grace on even someone like me! ” (ennaiyum madhitthu vandanaiyO…..)

Thus the wives of Kaliya extoll Lord Krishna and state that those who have secured the dust of His Lotus Feet would not desire anything of this world and even beyond. Sri Swamiji makes this exact affirmation in his Madhurageetham (viNNALum padaviyum nAn vENDEn) and concludes by saying, he would always remain celebrating the Lord – blissfully in His servitude!

This month we shall enjoy this kirtan ”Thedi vandanaye”, which resonates with the bhava of the wives of Kaliya and their supplication to the Lord, glorifying His limitless compassion.

rAgam: aThANA          thALam: Adi

thEDi vandanaiyE enai nI nADi vandanaiyE – unai
ADi pADi koNDADiDa nI || thEDi ||

munnOr seyda thava payanO
nallOr aLittha nalvaramO
muRpiRavigaLin puNyam thAnO
alladu nAn seyda pUjApalanO || thEDi ||

ennaiyum madhitthu vandanaiyO
kaNNaiyA un karuNaiyE karuNai
viNNALum padhaviyum nAn vENDEn
ennALum unai nAn koNDADiDuvEn || thEDi ||


You came searching for me, you came seeking for me,
To celebrate you by singing and dancing!

Is it the penance of my ancestors,
Or the blessings of good souls,
Or  the merits accumulated through previous births,
Or is it the merits I have accumulated through my worship?

You honored even me and came!
Oh Krishna! What to say of your compassion!
I don’t desire any great prestige or status
I shall celebrate you every day

By Nithya Balasubramanian, Pleasanton CA
Illustration: Thaman Sai Arepalli , 12 years, Richmond, VA


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