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The Demons in Vrindavana Lila

Krsna Vanquishes Our Material Desires


introduction Page 3

The Anatomy of the Cloud of Anartha Page 5

A Brief Summary of Demons in Vrndavana-Lila Page 7

Putana Page 9

Sakatasura •. Page 15

Trinavarta Page 16

The Deliverance of Nalakuvara and Manigriva Page 17

Vatsasura , Page 2!

Bakasura Page 26

Aghasura Page 27

Brahma-vimohana-Lila Page 29

Dhenukasura Page 33

Kaliya Page 35

Extinguishing the First Forest Fire Page 40

Pralambasura Page 41

The Second Forest Fire Page 43

Correcting the Brahmanas Performing Sacrifice Page 44

Overcoming the Pride of Lord India Page 47

Nanda Maharaja Stolen by Varuna Page 50

Nanda Maharaja Delivered from the Snake ...-. Page 51

Sankasura .'. Page 52

Aristasura Page 53

Kesi Page 54

Vyomasura Page 55



Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains in his Sri Caitanya Siksamrta: "Sri Krsna's activities are of two distinct types; namely nitya (eternal), and naimittika (occasional). In Goloka Vrndavana, Krsna's nitya-lila or eternal pastimes are conducted throughout eight periods of the day, and they are constantly in motion. But in Bhauma Vrndavana this asta-kaliya-lila is mixed with the naimittika-lila or occasional pastimes. Some occasional pastimes include Krsna's leaving Vrndavana to live in Mathura and Dvaraka, His returning to Vraja, His killing of various demons and so forth. These pastimes are very useful for an aspiring devotee who is bound within the material world. The naimittika-llla or occasional pastimes of leaving Vraja actually exist in Goloka Vrndavana, but only in a conspicuously absent manner; they are truly manifest only in the material world. Practicing devotees (sadhakas) understand these occasional pastimes to be like negatively-tinted reflections of the eternal pastimes. And such sincere devotees hope that by the influence of understanding the purpose of Krsna's performance of different occasional pastimes, their own various anarthas or unwanted material contaminations will be destroyed."

In the above-mentioned book Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has explained how the demons Lord Krsna killed in Vrndavana represent the main obstacles facing the aspiring devotee. If, by the Lord's grace, these demons can be killed in the various ways they may manifest themselves in our lives, then our progress in devotional service is guaranteed. That is the theme of this course.

Srila Rupa Goswami has explained in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu that there are nine stages devotees pass through as they advance in Krsna consciousness:

adau sraddha tatah sadhu-

sango-'tha bhajana-kriya

tato'nartha nivrttih syat

tato nistha ruci's tatah

athasaktis tato bhavas

tatah premabhyudancati

sadhakanam ayam premnah

pradhurbhave bhavet kramah

Srila Prabhupada translates these verses as follows: "In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. This taste leads one further forward to attachment for Krsna consciousness, which is matured in bhava, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life."


The specific stages are:

  1. Sraddha — faith

  2. Sadhu-sanga — association with devotees

  3. Bhajana-kriya — trying to seriously take up the process of devotional service

  4. Anartha-nivrtti — becoming free of all unwanted things

  5. Nistha — steadiness in Krsna consciousness

  6. Ruci — a deep taste for Krsna consciousness

  7. Asakti — attachment for Krsna

  8. Bhava — ecstasy, the first rays of the sun of love for Krsna

  9. Prema — pure love for Krsna

To attain Vraja-bhakti, pure devotional service in Sri Vrndavana Dhama is no cheap thing. In one purport Srila Prabhupada writes: "Srila Bhaktivinoda Thaura summarizes this growth of love of Godhead as a gradual process. A person becomes interested in devotional service by some good fortune. Eventually he becomes interested in pure devotional service without materia] contamination. At that point, a person wants to associate with devotees. As a result of this association, he becomes more and more interested in discharging devotional service and hearing and chanting. The more one is interested in hearing and chanting, the more he is purified of material contamination. Liberation from material contamination is called anartha-nivrtti, indicating a diminishing of all unwanted things. This is the test of development in devotional service. If one actually develops the devotional attitude, he must be freed from the material contamination of illicit sex, intoxication, gambling and meat-eating. These are the prelim nary symptoms. When one is freed from all material contamination, his firm faith awakens in devotional service. When firm faith develops, a taste arises, and by that taste, one becomes attached to devotional service. When this attachment intensifies, the seed of love of Krsna fructifies. This position is called priti or rati (affection) or bhava (emotion). When rati intensifies, it is called love of Godhead. This love of Godhead is actually life's highest perfection and the reservoir of all pleasure."

Once one has passed through the stage of anartha-nivrtti one is able to advance more quickly, seeing that one's obstacles are largely overcome. While lecturing on Bhagavad GIta in 1971 Srila Prabhupada explained: "In this way, when anartha-nivrttih is finished, perfect, then he becomes firmly stuck up in Krsna consciousness. Tato nistha tato rucih. Then taste. The taste is so nice that one cannot give up Krsna consciousness. One cannot give up chanting of Hare Krsna. It increases the transcendental taste. And after taste, there is asakti. Krsna is speaking from that stage here. Mayy asakta-manah, asakti, attachment. When there is attachment of Krsna, that is the almost final stage of your perfectional life."



As Described in Madhurya Kadambini By Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura

Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura explains that there are four types of anarthas, recognized according to their origins:

  1. Anarthas arising from previous sin

  2. Anarthas arising from previous pious activities

  3. Anarthas arising from imperfectly performed bhakti

  4. Anarthas arising from offenses in devotional service

Anarthas Arising From Previous Sinful Activities:

Anarthas arising from previous sin are the five types of klesas, or material sufferings:

  1. Avidya — ignorance (mistaking impermanent to be permanent etc.)

  1. Asmita — false ego (bodily identification and the tendency to only accept sense perception)

  1. Raga — attachment (the desire for material happiness and the means to achieve it)

  2. Dvesa — hatred (of unhappiness and the causes of it)

5. Abhinivesa — acquired nature (absorption in bodily existence, including fear of

Anarthas Arising From Previous Pious Activities:

Anarthas arising from previous pious activities are attachments to sattva guna sense enjoyment, and mukti.

Anarthas Arising From The Improper Performance Of Bhakti:

Anarthas arising from improper performance of devotional service are a little more subtle Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura says that, just as, along with the main plant, many weeds grow, similarly, by the cultivation of bhakti there appears acquisition of material wealth and other facilities, worship and respect by others, a comfortable position, fame etc. By their very nature, they have the power to influence the heart of the devotee, grow in size,and cover up the main plant intended for cultivation, bhakti. NB: One should note carefully that these do not include seva aparadhas.

Anarthas Arising From Offenses:

Anarthas arising from offenses in devotional service are the ten offenses against the chanting of the holy names:

  1. To blaspheme devotees

  2. To consider the demigods equal to or independent of Visnu

  3. To disobey one's spiritual master

  4. To blaspheme the Vedic (or related) scriptures

  5. To consider the glories of chanting the holy name to be imagination

  6. To give some mundane interpretation on the holy name

  7. To commit sin on the strength of the holy name

  8. To consider the chanting of Hare Krsna to be a karma kandiya activity


9. To preach the glories of the holy name to the faithless

10. To not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy names, and to maintain
material attachments, even after hearing many instructions on the matter

It is also an offense to be inattentive while chanting

  • Seva aparadhas do not fit into this category, because they are normally overcome in the course of the performance of one's devotional service, due to the potency of the devotional activities, or through some activity specifically performed for their nullification.

  • However, if one commits seva aparadhas knowingly, that becomes the seventh offense against the chanting of the holy names.

  • A person who commits nama aparadha loses the mercy of the Lord in the form of His name, and therefore suffers in many ways, but if such a person humbly takes the appropriate remedial methods for his offenses (there are recommended remedies for each of the ten types) then he is able to gradually get the mercy of the name again, and his diseased condition is relieved.

The Removal of Anarthas

According to Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura there are five grades of eradication of anarthas: limited (to one anartha), pervasive (affecting many anarthas), general, complete and absolute.

In the case of anarthas arising from nama aparadha the rate of nullification is as follows: On the level of bhajana kriya the eradication is limited. On nistha the eradication is pervasive. On the level of bhava the eradication is general. At prema the eradication is complete, and with the attainment of the Lord's lotus feet the eradication is absolute.

Anarthas arising from previous sin or piety are eradicated as follows: On the level of bhajana kriya it is general, at nistha complete, and on asakti absolute.

Anarthas arising from improperly performed devotional service are eradicated as follows: With the performance of bhajana kriya, eradication is limited. With the appearance of nistha it is complete, and with the appearance of ruci it is absolute.



In his Sri Caitanya Siksamrta Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura gives the following summary of the demons Krsna killed in His Vrndavana pastimes and the anarthas they represent. (Of course we should note that not in all cases is Lord Krsna dealing with demons as such, like in the pastime of the Brahma-vimohana-lila, and the lifting of Govardhana Hill, although He is always dealing with people who have antagonistic mentalities.)

1. Putana. The pseudo-guru.

3. Sakatasura (the cart demon). Carrying the burden of the cart-load of old and new bad
habits, lethargy and vanity.

2. Trnavarta (the whirlwind demon). The false pride arising from material scholarship,
which gives rise to bogus philosophies.

  1. Deliverance of Nalakuvara and Manigriva (breaking the twin arjuna trees). Arrogant pride from puffed-up aristocracy, rooted in madness for wealth.

  2. Vatsasura (the calf-demon). A childish type of mentality which gives rise to a type of greediness which results in a wicked type of mischievousness.

  3. Bakasura (the duck/stork demon). Cunning duplicity, deceptiveness and false types of behaviour.

  4. Aghasura (the snake demon). Cruelty and violence.

  5. Brahma-vlmohana lila (Lord Brahma steals the cowherd boys and calves). Mundane activities and speculative scholasticism.

  6. Dhenukasura (the ass demon). Gross materialistic intelligence, ignorance of spiritual knowledge.

  1. Kaliya (chastising the Kaliya serpent). Brutality and treachery.

  2. Extinguishing the First Forest Fire. Inter-communal discord among Vaisnavas.

  3. Pralambasura (killing the Pralamba demon). Lusty inclinations desire for personal gain or honour.

  1. The Second Forest Fire. Disruption of religious principles and interference with religious people by atheism.

  2. Correcting the Brahmanas Performing Sacrifice. Callousness towards Krsna due to pride because of one's position in varnasrama.


  1. Overcoming the Pride of Lord Indra. Demigod worship, and the tendency to think "I am Supreme."

  2. Nanda Maharaja Stolen by Varuna. Thinking that spiritual life can be enhanced by intoxication.

  3. Nanda Maharaja Delivered from the Snake. Rescuing the truth of eternal Krsna consciousness which has been swallowed by impersonalists.

  4. Sankhacuda (killing the conch-shell demon and retrieving the jewel stolen by him). Proneness towards acquiring name and fame, and desire for sensuous enjoyment, under the plea of devotion.

  5. Aristasura (the bull demon).Pride arising from indulging in false religions invented by cheaters which causes neglect of bhakti.

  6. Kesi (the horse demon). The feeling that "I am a great devotee and spiritual master"

21. Vyomasura (the sky demon). Associating with thieves and other rascals, and with

people who put themselves forward as avataras.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura says: "The devotee who worships the holy name should first petition the Lord for the strength to cast out all these unfavourable tendencies — and should pray thus before Lord Hari on a daily basis. By doing this regularly, the devotee's heart will eventually become purified. Sri Krsna has killed a number of demons which may arise in the kingdom of the heart — so in order to destroy these problems, a devotee must cry very humbly before the Lord and admit defeat — then the Lord will nullify all contaminations."



Putana represents the pseudo-guru. The pseudo-guru may appear in one or both of two forms:

  1. A deceitful, so-called guru who preaches sense gratification or liberation or both. In some cases this may be a person who is engaged in some Krsna conscious activity but has not realized the course of pure devotional service and tries to give instructions to his disciples beyond his own understanding, or without regard for their situations

  2. The inwardly manifest "spiritual" guide, in the form of the mundane empiric reasoning faculty (the material mind), is also like Putana.

In order to show mercy to His devotees Krsna sucks the life out of Putana's breast to protect His own innocent ecstasy, which has arisen within the young devotees' hearts.

According to the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, in her last life Putana was Ratnamala, the younger sister of Bali Maharaja, although the Garga Samhita says she was his daughter.

The Story of Putana

(from Srila Prabhupada's Krsna Books)

After consulting with his demoniac ministers, Kamsa instructed a witch named Putana, who knew the black art of killing small children by ghastly sinful methods, to kill all kinds of children in the cities, villages and pasturing grounds. Such witches can play their black art only where there is no chanting or hearing of the holy name of Krsna. It is said that wherever the chanting of the holy name of Krsna is done, even negligently, all bad elements — witches, ghosts, and dangerous calamities — immediately disappear. And this is certainly true of the place where the chanting of the holy name of Krsna is done seriously — especially in Vrndavana when the Supreme Lord was personally present. Therefore, the doubts of Nanda Maharaja were certainly based on affection for Krsna. Actually there was no danger from the activities of Putana, despite her powers. Such witches are called khecari, which means they can fly in the sky. This black art of witchcraft is still practiced by some women in the remote northwestern side of India. They can transfer themselves from one place to another on the branch of an uprooted tree. Putana knew this witchcraft, and therefore she is described in the Srimad Bhagavatam as khecari.

Putana entered the county of Gokula, the residential quarter of Nanda Maharaja, without permission. Dressing herself just like a beautiful woman, she entered the house of mother Yasoda. She appeared very beautiful, with raised hips, nicely swollen breasts, earrings, and flowers in her hair. She looked especially beautiful on account of her thin waist. She was glancing at everyone with very attractive looks and smiling face, and all the residents of Vrndavana were captivated. The innocent cowherd women thought that she was a goddess of fortune appearing in Vrndavana with a lotus flower in her hand. It seemed to them that


she had personally come to see Krsna, who is her husband. Because of her exquisite beauty, no one checked her movement, and therefore she freely entered the house of Nanda Maharaja. Putana, the killer of many, many children, found baby Krsna lying on a small bed, and she could at once perceive that the baby was hiding His unparalleled potencies. Putana thought, "This child is so powerful that He can destroy the whole universe immediately."

Putana's understanding is very significant. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is situated in everyone's heart. It is stated in the Bhagavad Gita that He gives one necessary intelligence, and He also causes one to forget. Putana was immediately aware that the child whom she was observing in the house of Nanda Maharaja was the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. He was lying there as a small baby, but that does not mean that He was less powerful. The materialistic theory that God-worship is anthropomorphic is not correct. No living being can become God by undergoing meditation or austerities. God is always God. Krsna as the child-baby is as complete as He is as a full-fledged youth. The Mayavada theory holds that the living entity was formerly God but has now become overwhelmed by the influence of maya. Therefore they say that presently he is not God, but when the influence of maya is taken away, then he again becomes God. This theory cannot be applied to the minute living entities. The living entities are minute parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; they are minute particles or sparks of the supreme fire, but are not the original fire, or Krsna. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, even from the beginning of His appearance in the house of Vasudeva and Devaki.

Krsna showed the nature of a small baby and closed His eyes, as if to avoid the face of Putana. This closing of the eyes is interpreted and studied in different ways by the devotees. Some say that Krsna closed His eyes because He did not like to see the face of Putana, who had killed so many children and who had now come to kill Him. Others say that something extraordinary was being dictated to her, and in order to give her assurance, Krsna closed His eyes so that she would not be frightened. And yet others interpret in this way: Krsna appeared to kill the demons and give protection to the devotees, as stated in the Bhagavad Gita: paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam. The first demon to be killed was a woman. According to Vedic rules, the killing of a woman, a brahmana, cows or a child is forbidden. Krsna was obliged to kill the demon Putana, and because the killing of a woman is forbidden according to Vedic sastra, He could not help but close His eyes. Another interpretation is that Krsna closed His eyes because He simply took Putana to be His nurse. Putana came to Krsna just to offer her breast for the Lord to suck. Krsna is so merciful that even though He knew Putana was there to kill Him, He took her as His nurse or mother.

There are seven kinds of mothers according to Vedic injunction: the real mother, the wife of a teacher or spiritual master, the wife of a king, the wife of a brahmana, the cow, the nurse, and the mother earth. Because Putana came to take Krsna on her lap and offer her breast's milk to be sucked by Him, she was accepted by Krsna as one of His mothers. That is considered to be another reason He closed His eyes: He had to kill a nurse or mother. But His killing of His mother or nurse was no different from His love for His real mother or foster mother Yasoda. We further understand from Vedic information that Putana was also treated as a mother and given the same facility as Yasoda. As Yasoda was given liberation from the material world, Putana was also given liberation. When the baby Krsna closed His eyes, Putana took Him on her lap. She did not know that she was holding death personified.


If a person mistakes a snake for a rope, he dies. Similarly, Putana killed so many babies before meeting Krsna, but now she was accepting the snake that would kill her immediately.

When Putana was taking baby Krsna on her lap, both Yasoda and Rohini were present, but they did not forbid her because she was so beautifully dressed and because she showed motherly affection towards Krsna. They could not understand that she was a sword within a decorated case. Putana had smeared a very powerful poison on her breasts, and immediately after taking the baby on her lap, she pushed her breastly nipple within His mouth. She was hoping that as soon as He would suck her breast, He would die. But baby Krsna very quickly took the nipple in anger. He sucked the milk-poison along with the life air of the demon. In other words, Krsna simultaneously sucked the milk from her breast and killed her by sucking out her life. Krsna is so merciful that because the demon Putana came to offer her breast milk to Him, He fulfilled her desire and accepted her activity as motherly. But to stop her from further nefarious activities, He immediately killed her. And because the demon was killed by Krsna, she got liberation. When Krsna sucked out her very breath, Putana fell down on the ground, spread her arms and legs and began to cry, "Oh, child, leave me, leave me!" She was crying loudly and perspiring, and her whole body became wet.

As she died, screaming, there was a tremendous vibration both on the earth and in the sky, in all directions, and people thought that thunderbolts were falling. Thus the nightmare of the Putana witch was over, and she assumed her real feature as a great demon. She opened her fierce mouth and spread her arms and legs all over. She fell exactly as Vrtrasura when struck by the thunderbolt of Indra. The long hair on her head was scattered all over her body. Her fallen body extended up to twelve miles and smashed all the trees to pieces, and everyone was struck with wonder upon seeing this gigantic body. Her teeth appeared just like plowed roads, and her nostrils appeared just like mountain caves. Her breasts appeared like small hills, and her hair was a vast reddish bush. Her eye sockets appeared like blind wells, and her two thighs appeared like two banks of a river; her two hands appeared like two strongly constructed bridges, and her abdomen seemed like a dried-up lake. All the cowherd men and women became struck with awe and wonder upon seeing this. And the tumultuous sound of her falling shocked their brains and ears and made their hearts beat strongly.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura on Putana

In one issue of the Harmonist Snla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura wrote extensively on the subject of Putana, as follows:

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