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The myth of the ‘leviathan’, Kaliya, appears in the history of Krishna and Kāliya as told in Chapter Sixteen of the Tenth Canto of the Bhagavata Purana or as an episode of Mahabharata, regarding Lord Krishna’s killing of Kaliya, a poisonous black serpent, embodying a type of cunning, malice and unrelenting cruelty, and symbolising the numerous desires we have (one desire gets filled another rises, like his hoods), living in the Yamuna River.

The water of the river had been poisoned by Kaliya. No bird or beast could go near. And there was only one Kadamba (a round yellow flower) tree on it’s banks. One day some cowboys feel thirsty and not informed that the water of the river is poisonous, drink from the riverbanks. As a result they meet instantaneous death. However Krishna is called and restores them to life. Krishna climbs the Kadamba tree and jumps into the lake that lies within the river. Kaliya attacks Krishna with his one hundered and ten hoods and wraps himself around Krishna’s body. Krishna makes himself huge to escape from the serpents hold and then begins to dance on his thousand heads. Playing his flute, he dances in an infinite variety of the most marvelous of figures. When the heels of Krishna strike the hoods, some break off and then get replaced by new ones. But the pressure of Krishna’s feet, assuming the weight of the whole universe, crushes the towering pride of the ‘myriad-hooded monster’. Kaliya lowers his hoods and vomits blood. But the Dance of Krishna does not cease, beating time with his feet, Kaliya is close to death. Kaliya’s wives worship Krishna and pray for forgiveness of Kaliya and to let him live, and Kaliya himself, recognises the greatness of Krishna : “O Lord! You are the creator. You have created venomous snakes like me; you have also created gods who drink nectar. What is my fault in this? I am poisonous because nature has made me so.” And so he surrenders. Kaliya is banished from the Yamuna to another place where he perhaps would learn to use venom only when absolutely necessary, in self-defence. The lake was now rendered immune from all poison and became as sweet as it was before the advent of Kaliya.

This feat is termed as Kaliya-Daman.

Reference: › Stories › Gods…snake/…/5787567.cms

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