Deserter of Battle

Deserter of Battle

One of Lord Krishna’s many names is ranachhor, literally, deserter of battle. Such a name does not do credit to a brave warrior like Krishna; in fact it is an insult. Yet this name persists and is very popular in Gujarat where boys are often given the name ranachhor das (devotee of the deserter Krishna). Back of this is an interesting story.

A foreign invader named kala yavan came to the Yadav capital Mathura with a huge army of highly trained and well-equipped soldiers. Krishna had just vanquished Kamsa and was the de facto leader of his race.

Kala yavan laid a siege around the city of Mathura and challenged the Yadavas. Everyone knew that the poorly armed and vastly outnumbered Yadavas were no match for the invader. Their council met for several hours without coming to a clear decision. Before the meeting was adjourned, Krishna stood up and asked permission to speak. The king waved his hand indicating consent.

Krishna said, “Honored king of the Yadavas and fellow citizens, the odds against us are overwhelming. If we fight the result will be annihilation of the race; but if we surrender we lose honor, which is worse. Therefore none of the options is good enough. I suggest that I should challenge Kala Yavan to a duel. People will be saved and the issue will be resolved.”

Everyone shouted sadho, sadho in consent. A messenger was sent and Kala Yavan accepted the challenge for a duel. He came to the city gate on the appointed hour the following morning so sure of his strength and wrestling skill that he pitied boy Krishna’s naiveté in throwing him the challenge. In contrast Krishna had argued ‘why have hundreds of soldiers killed and wounded when my opponent wishes only to settle the score with me for killing Jarasandha.’ The city gate opened and Krishna emerged in his yellow fighting garb and a broad smile on his face. He drew his opponent to follow him to a secluded place where his guards would be out of reach.

The story goes that as Krishna walked he took on his divine form with every step. Kala Yavan too, kept following and with each step got into the eternal pursuit of man for the divine. The God gradually lost His form and became subtle and formless. The human pursuer realized that the divine was really within himself and the best place to look was inside and not out. So in the end the conflict was over and both sides came out winners. By leaving the battlefield Krishna enlightened Kala Yavan and taught human kind a lesson.

Feb 19, 2005