Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 2

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BY: SUN STAFF - 4.10 2018

Aniruddha Arrives for the Wedding (detail) 
Pahari, North India, c. 1840

Sri Krsna's liberation of Banasura, the Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed these pastimes.

In Chapter 63 of Krsna Book, the story of the Lord's battle with Banasura comes to a close with Lord Shiva imploring Sri Krsna to pardon his asuric devotee Bana, allowing him to live. At this point in the story, Sri Krsna's grandson Aniruddha is mentioned, along with Banasura's daughter Usa:

"When Banasura was benedicted by Lord Krsna in this way, he came before the Lord and bowed down before Him, touching his head to the earth. He immediately arranged bring Aniruddha along with his daughter Usa, seated on a nice chariot, and presented them before Lord Krsna. After this, Lord Krsna took charge of Aniruddha and Usa, who had become very opulent materially because of the blessings of Lord Siva. Thus, keeping forward a division of one aksauhini of soldiers, Krsna began to proceeded toward Dvaraka. In the meantime, all the people at Dvaraka, having received the news that Lord Krsna was returning with Aniruddha and Usa in great opulence, decorated every corner of the city with flags, festoons and garlands. All the big roads and crossings were carefully cleansed and sprinkled with sandalwood pulp mixed with water. Everywhere there was the flavor of sandalwood. All the citizens, accompanied by their friends and relatives, welcomed Lord Krsna with great pomp and jubilation. At that time, there was a tumultuous vibration of conchshells and drums and bugles to receive the Lord. In this way the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna entered His capital, Dvaraka."

(Krsna Book, Chapter 63)

Bana Greets Krsna at the Wedding (detail)

 

The story of Usa and Aniruddha begins long before this closing scene in the great battle. Prior to this, when Banasura had become very arrogant and cruel, enjoying the powers bestowed upon him by Lord Shiva, he had even taken harsh action against Usa. Because so many young suitors had come asking for the hand of his beautiful daughter, Bana locked Usa away in a fortress called Agnigarh.

From her locked confines, Usa had occasion to see a young man in one of her dreams, and she fell in love with him. Wishing to discover who this mysterious man was, she engaged the help of her dear friend Chitraleka, who was the daughter of Kumbhanda, a minister of Banasura. (On the battlefield, Kumbhanda served as Bana's commander-in-chief, engaging in the fight against Lord Balarama.)

Krsna and Bana Embrace at Wedding (detail)

Chitralekha was a talented artist. Sketching various portraits, she helped Usa to identify the man in her dream -- who was none other than Sri Krsna's grandson, Aniruddha. Employing her supernatural powers, Chitraleka then abducted Aniruddha from Krsna's palace, delivering him to Usa.

After the great battle, Banasura arranged for Aniruddha and Usa to be presented to Sri Krsna, and the divine party triumphantly returned to Dvaraka, as described above in Krsna Book. Sri Krsna then made arrangements for the couple's opulent wedding, which took place in what is now known as the Usha-Aniruddha Temple at Ukhimath, Uttarakhand. This tirtha is the place where Lord Kedarnath stays when the Himalayan Kedarnath temple closes for winter.

The Wedding of Aniruddha and Usa (detail)

The two paintings shown today are from a series entitled, 'Usha-Aniruddha', done in the Pahari region of North India, c. 1840. One painting depicts the arrival of Aniruddha, Sri Krsna and their party at the wedding site. The blue-skinned bridegroom is wearing a veil of flowers that covers his face. His soon to be father-in-law, the now four-armed Bana, is seen touching Lord Krsna's feet, while Shiva looks on.

Usha-Aniruddha Temple at Ukhimath

The second painting depicts the marriage ceremony. Bana and Krsna, now relatives by marriage, embrace one another while the wedding guests enjoy an evening of music and festivity.

Pictured below is Agnigarh, the place where Usa was locked away in the fortress of Banasura. The fortress was surrounded by fire at all times, so that nobody could cross the perimeter without permission. Located on a hill in Tezpur, Assam, on the banks of the Brahmaputra, Agnigarh is named for agni (fire) and garh, meaning fortress or wall.

Entrance to Agnigarh Hill Fortress

Visitors to the modern Agnigarh fortress will find various sculptures depicting Usa and Aniruddha, the abduction of Aniruddha, and Krsna's battle to free them.

Ukhimath, the site of Aniruddha's wedding to Usa, is today a popular pilgrimage site in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Situated at an elevation of 1,311 metres, about 41 km from Rudraprayag, Ukhimath is the winter abode of Lord Kerdernath. When the fierce winter weather arrives in the Himalayas, the Deities from Kedarnath Char-dham and the Deities from Madhyamaheshwar arrive here at Ukhimath, where They are worshipped for six months.

Arrival of Aniruddha's Wedding Party at Ukhimath

In the National Museum at Delhi there is an incomplete set of twenty-one paintings from the Usha-Aniruddha series. The scenes depict the pastimes of Aniruddha, Usa, Banasura and Sri Krsna. The paintings were once owned by the Chamba durbar.

The series, or at least most of the paintings in it, are thought to have been painted by Ram Sahai, son of Nainsukh. This distinguished family of artists from Guler migrated over the years to many of the hill states, including Kangra.