It was midnight when Krishna was born. Outside, it was raining heavily. The Yamuna river close by, was flooded. Clouds covered the moon, so there was little light. Inside the prison cell, it was warm, as Devaki hugged her new born son, who was smiling at her. But Devaki and her husband Vasudeva were too frightened to smile. They looked nervously at the locked gate of the prison. No guards showed their faces. This meant they did not know yet that the eighth child was born. That meant Kamsa, the King of Mathura, too did not know about the birth.
Just a few years ago, Kamsa had been a devoted brother to Devaki. They were cousins and very close to each other. On the day of her marriage, the newly married couple were taken in a procession, and Kamsa himself drove the chariot.
Amid the jubilation, rising over the beating of drums, a voice was heard, loud and clear. “The eighth child of Devaki will be the destroyer of all evil in this world.” Everyone was happy to hear the divine voice. Devaki’s son would bring in the good times.
Only one person was shaken to hear the divine oracle — Kamsa. His father, Ugrasena, used to warn him time and again, “you have strength and power. I only wish you pay attention to Dharma. You must use your strength and power for the good of everyone.” Kamsa would disagree. “Only the fittest will survive,” he would argue, “I adore strength and power. I want to inspire fear in people so that no one will pose a threat to me.”
Now he could see a threat to him. Kamsa winced. “I must nip it in the bud.”
Thus, as the voice from the heavens heralded the coming of the Destroyer of Evil, at that very moment, evil raised its head in Kamsa.
One moment Kamsa was full of love for his cousin. The next moment, his love turned into hatred. He pulled the reign and brought the chariot to a halt. He drew out of his sword and charged at the bride. He would have killed her had Vasudeva not come in between.
“Devaki has done you no harm, Kamsa,” said Vasudeva in a quiet voice.
“Do you expect me to do nothing when the child that she will deliver is going to kill me?” asked Kamsa.
“The voice said no such thing. But I can understand if you have reasons to hate the child that will be born to her one day. But you have no reason to hate Devaki,” pointed out Vasudeva. “Spare her life. We will hand over to you every child that will be born to us.”
Kamsa reluctantly agreed. But to ensure that the couple would not run away, he threw them in prison. When Ugrasena tried to stop him, he threw the old king too into prison, and occupied the throne.
Vasudeva was already married to Rohini. When her husband was taken a prisoner, Rohini moved to Gokula, a village on the other bank of the Yamuna. She took a house next to the house of Nanda, the Village Chief and a friend of Vasudeva.
In Mathura, Kamsa put Devaki’s little sons to death as soon as they were born. But when Devaki’s seventh child was about to be born, Devi Yogamaya decided to save the child. The child about to be born was miraculously transferred to Rohini, who delivered the baby the very next day in Gokula.
Unaware of the trick played on him, Kamsa thought that Devaki’s seventh child was dead. He wished the eighth child too would meet such an end. But he was not prepared to take chances. He posted more guards to keep a watch on Devaki. The guards were told that he should be informed as soon as the eighth child was born. He would come to the prison, pick up the baby and would kill it with his own hands.
Now that the eighth son was born, Devaki shivered with fear. Vasudeva anxiously looked at the prison gate, fearing that Kamsa would walk in at any moment.