Kansa: The despotic ruler of Mathura (I)

Kansa: The despotic ruler of Mathura (I)

In the previous blog, we discussed the background of the birth of Lord Krishna. In this blog, we begin with the actual story. And the story begins with King Kansa, who was infamously known as the despotic ruler of the kingdom of Mathura.

Mathura, before Kansa came into power, had a very benevolent King and Queen. King Ugrasena and Queen Padmavati were ideal rulers. Things went wrong when once Queen Padmavati was tricked by a powerful wandering Gandharva into thinking that he was her husband, Ugrasena. By the time Padmavati realized that she had been tricked, she had already conceived. The child born to her was thus half human and half gandharva, a reincarnation of the demon Kalanemi, who had been vanquished by Vishnu himself in another lifetime.

Kansa proved to be a very capable commander under Ugrasena. When he stormed the Magadhan territory with his army, the Magadh King, Jarasandha, was so impressed with him that he offered his daughters, Asti and Prapti, in marriage to him. However, Kansa and Jarasandha were doing more than just establishing familial ties; they were also forging a mutually beneficial alliance. On the day of the marriage, Jarasandha arrived in Mathura with the entire Magadhan army, a move that was unexpected and definitely not required in royal marriage proceedings.

The intent behind this became clear when Jarasandha and Kansa cornered Ugrasena inside the castle premises and stated to him that they thought that it was time for him to retire as King and pass on the throne to Kansa. When Ugrasena refused and said that Kansa must wait for the appropriate time, he was threatened with mass destruction of the Kingdom and its people; both the armies stationed outside were just awaiting orders from their commanders.

Hence Ugrasena, seeing no other way out, and fearing for the lives of innocent people, gave up the crown to Kansa. Soon after, Kansa announced his coronation ceremony to the people of Mathura. Kansa was no Ugrasena, and the people suffered from the beginning under his despotic rule. But even a tyrant has a soft corner for at least one person. Kansa loved his cousin sister Devaki very much, and eventually, Devaki became his Achilles’ ankle.


In the next blog, we shall look at the union of Devaki and Vasudev and why Kansa, who had arranged the marriage himself, wanted to kill Devaki.

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