The Harihara war: A war between the Lords

Warring lords show us what it takes to uphold Dharma.

The Harihara war: A war between the Lords

From the very beginning, Hindu history has been witness to various epic battles, be it the Mahabharata, Kalinga war or the Panipat war. Wars between devas and asuras with celestial weapons and supernatural beings have a central purpose, that is to uphold Dharma. One such war rarely spoken about is the Harihara war. A war fought between two of our prime deities, Lord Krishna or Hari and Lord Shiva, who is also known as Hara. If Lord Shiva is the divine destroyer, then Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu), is the protector of the three worlds.

As the legend dates back, a mighty asura king, Banasura once ruled over a large kingdom which is present day Tezpur in Assam, with its capital as Sonitpura. He was the eldest among the hundred sons of Bali and was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He was believed to have thousand arms and with these he used to play the Mridanga, in accompaniment, when Shiva performed his famous ‘Tandav’ dance. Shiva was so pleased by his devotion, that he promised to fulfil, any boon he asked for. Banasura asked him to be his protector. Upon getting this boon, Banasura thus became invincible. Over time, his egoism and arrogance crossed all bounds and he finally laid an attack upon Kailash, the abode of Shiva. This infuriated Shiva and he warned that his demise was approaching.

Banasura, had a beautiful daughter named Usha. While, he was trying to find a suitor for her, in one of her dreams, she sees romancing herself with a charming prince and falls in love with him. She narrated her dream to one of her closest maids, Chitralekha, who was blessed with magical powers. Using that, she made a portrait as per Usha’s narration and that prince turned out to be Aniruddha, Lord Krishna’s grandson. Chitralekha was successful in abducting Aniruddha from Krishna’s palace to Sonitpura, by using her magical powers.  Upon meeting Usha, Aniruddha too fell deeply in love with her. When Banasura, came to know about this affair, enraged, he caged Usha in a fortress over a hillock, bounded by fire from all sides. This hillock is situated in the heart of present-day Tezpur. Bana sent guards to seize Aniruddha, but he fought valiantly and defeated them. Bana then by using the powers granted to him by Shiva, bound him with snakes and imprisoned him too.

In the meantime, Narada narrated the entire series of events to Krishna. Furious Krishna, alongwith Balaram, Pradyumna, Satyaki, lead the twelve Akshauhinis of the army. They seized Sonitpura from all sides. Bana also attacked Krishna’s army with equal might, but he began to feel powerless in front of Lord Krishna. Thus, he evoked Lord Shiva to take his side. Shiva, confined to his abode along with his son Kartikeya, came to his aide. A tumultuous battle ensued between the two Lords, which became a spectacle among all other Gods, heavenly beings and sages. Even the Bhutas, Pretas, Pishachas, Dakinis and Rakshas, couldn’t win over Krishna. Many weapons were fired at Krishna by Lord Shiva, but he countered them all. Shiva’s own Pasupatastra was countered by Krishna’s own Narayanastra. The war became more intense, when Shiva spewed fire in all directions releasing his three headed and three legged form (also known as Mahesvari jvara). Upon realizing, Banasura becoming invincible, Krishna released his own spirit, the spirit to overpower the spirit Rudra. The spirit of Lord Vishnu said to Shiva, with him on Banasura’s side, Krishna was helpless in killing Bansura and Dharma can’t be upheld without slaying the arrogant and cruel Banasura. With these words Shiva’s spirits were soothed. As a trick, Shiva asked Krishna to fire the Jrumbhanastra, which would virtually lull him to sleep. After Shiva, falls into a virtual slumber, Krishna realizes that his victory over Banasura is possible, only after cutting his thousand arms systematically, like the branches of a huge tree. Seeing Krishna releasing his Sudarshan Chakra to sever his head, Banasura once again invokes Lord Shiva. True to the plight of his devotee, Shiva aroused from his virtual slumber, approached Krishna and interrupted him from severing Bana’s head, as he spoke

“Oh, Lord, the Supreme One, myself, Brahma and all other Gods have surrendered to you whole-heartedly. Banasura was a true devotee, as a boon granted to him, I had pledged to protect him. Therefore, my Lord, may you grant mercy to him”. 

To this Lord Krishna replied,

“O Lord Shiva, shall it be done as thy appeasement.  Let life be bestowed on Bana. Owing to, my benediction towards his forefather, Prahlad, it thwarts me from killing his descendents. It is not always that only by killing a wrongdoer, you can establish Dharma. By killing demons like pride, arrogance and ego that dwell within us and following the path of virtue, one can establish Dharma. Honouring your boon granted to your devotee, I grant mercy to Banasura. But to pacify his pride and arrogance, he shall remain immortal with only four arms.”

Banasura too understood the real meaning of victory and bowed down before the Lord offering his submission. Finally, he gave his daughter Usha’s hand to Aniruddha and the Yadava clan alongwith Krishna proceeded to Dwarka with the newlyweds, seated in a golden chariot. Banasura too retired to the Himalayas and dedicated his life in the service of Lord Shiva and remained immortal as his ardent devotee.

It is also said that the bloodshed resulting from this war so immense that the entire land of Sonitpura was drenched in human blood and thus the place came to be known as Tez (blood) and Pura (city or town), present day Tezpur.

This war is not a fight between the Lords for establishment of their greatness, nor due to any acrimony. This war never stated the supremacy between Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna. These events teach us the virtues of upholding Dharma. Not only by slaying or killing the sinner but even by killing demons such as arrogance, pride, ego, animosity that dwell inside us and by submitting oneself in the service or in the name of the Lord, following the path of righteousness, Dharma can be upheld.

About Author: Liza Borah

Liza is a traveler who is mesmerized by India's diverse culture. She works in the IT sector and religiously takes time out to dcument her travel experiences.

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