Hatred, animosity, bad blood, a feeling of ill will arousing active hostility is a corrosive, debilitating emotion. However in Hindu epics and stories this feeling is also given redemption again and again.

Shishupala was the cousin of Lord Krishna. He hated Krishna who had carried off Rukmini, his intended wife.

In the great Mahabharata, it is said that Sisupala was born with three eyes and four arms. His parents wanted to abandon the child. A celestial voice warned them not to do so, as his time was not come. The voice continued to foretell that the child’s superfluous limbs would disappear when a particular person took the baby into his lap. Shisupala would also eventually die at the hands of that same person.

Krishna came to see his new born cousin. The baby was placed on his knees. The extra eye and arms immediately disappeared. The parents were delighted but at the same time they remembered that Shishupala was destined to die at the hands of Krishna. Shishupala’s mother was grief stricken until Krishna, her nephew, vowed that he would pardon his cousin Shishupala a hundred times before he had to kill him.

Shisuapla was good friends with Rukmi, a Prince who in return promised his sister’s hand in marriage. Rukmini wanted to marry only Krishna whose valour she had heard about. She sent word to him and Krishna came in time to stop the wedding and eloped with Rukmini and married her. Shishupala felt humiliated in front of all the great kings who were invited for the aborted wedding!

The insults that Shishupala heaped on Krishna were mounting up. Krishna was always on the side of Dharma, righteousness and he supported the five brothers Pandavas against their evil cousins, 100 of them called Kauravas, who wanted to destroy the Pandavas. The kingdom was divided up and the Pandavas built a new capital and their kingdom flourished. To celebrate this, Yudhishtra, the Pandava King decided to celebrate the Rajasuya Yagna ( a series of prayers and sacrifices done around the fire by Saints and priests) that proclaimed his sovereignty.

During this huge event, Shishupala insulted Krishna by calling him a cowherd and worthless to be honoured as a king. The epic Mahabaratha says:

“Tiger-hearted Sisupala spake in anger stem and high,
Calm unto him Krishna answered, but a light was in his eye:

“List, O chiefs and righteous monarchs! from a daughter of our race
Evil-destined Sisupala doth his noble lineage trace,


Spite of wrong and frequent outrage, spite of insult often flung,
Never in his heart hath Krishna sought to do his kinsman wrong!

This and more hath Krishna suffered, for his mother is our kin,
But the sickening tale appals, and he adds sin to sin!

One more tale of sin I mention: by his impious passion fired,
To my saintly wife, Rukmini, Sisupala hath aspired,

As the unlettered seeks the Veda, soiling it with impure tongue,
Sisupala sought my consort, and his righteous doom is Death!”

Krishna spake; the rising red blood speaks each angry hero’s shame,
Shame for Chedi’s impious actions, grief for Sisupala’s fame!

Loudly laughed proud Sisupala, spake with bitter taunt and jeer,
Answered Krishna’s lofty menace with disdain and cruel sneer:

“Wherefore in this vast assembly thus proclaim thy tale of shame,
If thy wedded wife and consort did inspire my youthful flame?

Doth a man of sense and honour, blest with wisdom and with pride,
Thus proclaim his wedded consort was another’s loving bride?

Do thy worst! Or if by anger or by weak forbearance led,
Sisupala seeks no mercy, nor doth Krishna’s anger dread!”

Lowered Krishna’s eye and forehead, and unto his hands there came
Fatal disc, the dread of sinners, disc that never missed its aim,

“Monarchs in this hall assembled!” Krishna in his anger cried,
“Oft hath Chedi’s impious monarch Krishna’s noble rage defied,

For unto his pious mother plighted word and troth was given,
Sisupala’s hundred follies would by Krishna be forgiven,

I have kept the plighted promise, but his crimes exceed the tale,
And beneath this vengeful weapon Sisupala now shall quail!”

Then the bright and whirling discus, as this mandate Krishna said,
Fell on impious Sisupala, from his body smote his head,

Fell the mighty-arméd monarch like a thunder-riven rock,
Severed from the parent mountain by the bolt’s resistless shook!”

The interesting idea put forward by pundits is that Shisupala gained Moksha or freedom from rebirth for two reasons. First he indulged in ‘Ninda Sthuthi’ (praise of insults)—that is his thoughts were constantly engrossed in the Supreme Being, Krishna. Even though he bore animosity and hatred to Krishna, the fact that he repeated the Lord’s name and dwelt on him assured the evil King of Moksha. Secondly, the fact that he was killed by the sacred wheel of Vishnu also assured him of immortality.

I just thought I will relate this story for a new audience though Hindus would be familiar with it.

This is a post for the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Akanksha, Anu,  Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, Gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie11, Nema, Noor,Ordinary Joe, Paul, Rummuser, Maria the Silver Fox, Rohit, Will Knott, and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get seventeen different angles of the kaleidoscope of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by me.


About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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12 Responses to ANIMOSITY

  1. Vignesh says:

    Oral historian…story teller….my kids and I will love sitting around and listen to your tales. Rivetting…..


  2. Rummuser says:

    The idea of constant thought, though being negative, could liberate is disputed even by Indian Pundits. Rah, Moha and Krodh in any form is to be eschewed.


    • padmum says:

      The Vaishnavaites have a whole philosophy based on ‘Ninda Sthuthi’. The beauty of Hinduism is that it allows different view points, interpretations and attitudes to exist simultaneously. Many of the villains exist as a vehicle for imparting a lesson in Dharma.


  3. Grannymar says:

    A tale that I am unfamiliar with, and it will take more than one reading for me to put everyone in their place.


    • padmum says:

      Grannymar—the Mahabaratha has thousands (literally) of stories. The intermingling of clans, characters and stories is a veritable maze…the basic story has a lot in common with the Iliad..Arjuna the archer is the clone of Ulysses. Abhimanyu and Achilles have many similarities. Helen of troy and Draupadi are driven by the same idea of women wronged!….many more there.


  4. Delirious says:

    Thank you for sharing this interesting story. I took a “Humanities of Asia”, which included some of these tales, but not this one in particular. 🙂


    • padmum says:

      Delirious—thank you for your kind words….we learnt so much about the Old and New Testament in school and through English writing. It is only in the past decade or so that Indian writers are bringing our folklore and religious stories to a global audience through literature. How I wish I had been able to do a course like “Humanities of Asia”! Ah well! Another life maybe.


  5. padmum says:

    Thanks Vignesh…so many stories in the Puranas that bear retelling again and again…and listened too as well. I have lost my voice–so have to write…story ‘telling’ days are over.


  6. N.Srivatsa says:

    The Lord kept the promise made to his aunt but ensured that Sishupala met his fate after heaping over a century of insults on Krishna. The tale, thus, not only reinforces the need for tolerance but also honouring the word, so as to establish credibility.


  7. Rohit says:

    Another post I missed commenting on earlier. Ninda stuthi is quite an interesting concept…it quite literally takes the concept of the name of the divine being the same as the divine…even if one takes Krishna’s name one is worthy of praise. It was interesting you chose this story out of so many others which demonstrate animosity…unusual choice but a good one as this one is one of the less familiar ones.


  8. padmum says:

    Rohit–plenty more tales from my quiver coming up.


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