Kansa has been the epitome of an autocratic, selfish and cruel despot. He was the maternal uncle and the king of Mathura, who was in a course of time killed in the hands of his own nephew, Krishna.
It was a prophecy that Kansa would be killed by his nephew, the eighth child born to his sister Devaki and her husband Vasudev. He thus used to kill all the children born to them.
However, he indeed was killed by the 8th son. The day of Kansa Vadh is a celebration of freedom from tyranny and autocracy. The day is celebrated on the dashami of shukla paksha on the month of Kartik as per traditional Hindu calendar.
According to the Gregorian calendar, this auspicious day is celebrated on the waxing phase of the moon in the month of November. In 2019, this day will be celebrated on the 7th of November.
Legend of Kansa and Krishna
Kansa was born to King Ugrasena and queen Padmavati. However, out of ambition and with the advice of his trusted aides like Chanur and Banasura, he decided on a coup against his own father. Thus he overthrew him and became the king. For strategic alliances, he married Asti and Prapti, the daughters of Jarasandha, the ruler of Magadha.
However, according to a prophecy by a heavenly voice that the 8th son of his sister Devaki will kill him, he decided to keep Devaki and her husband Basudev imprisoned. In fact Kansa wanted to kill Devaki herself, but Vasudeva intervened and promised to hand over their children to Kansa. Thus in the prison Devaki conceived and gave birth to six children, all of whom were duly killed by Kansa.
However, while Devaki was pregnant the sevent time, Lord Sri Vishnu called Yogamaya, another form of Durga and asked her to transfer the embryo of Shesh Nag from Devaki to the other wife of Vasudeva, called Rohini in Gokul. This was Balaram, the seventh child of Devaki and Vasudev. Lord Vishnu meant to incarnate as the eighth child himself. Thus when the young Krishna was born, upon Lord Vishnu’s instruction, Vasudeva crossed the river Yamuna on a stormy night to take him to safety in the house of Nand and Yashoda’s house in Braj and bringing back their baby girl child. Kansa thinking that it was this eighth child who was a threat was about to kill her, when she slipped out of his grip and rose up to the sky in his celestial form and declared, that the one about to kill him was born and was being brought up in Gokul.
Kansa made numerous attempts to kill Kansa. He sent his aides such as Putana, Keshi, Kootaka, the mad elephant Kuvalayapida, Bakasura, Aghsura, the demonic Mushtika , Chanura etc to kill Krishna. But Krishna managed to escape unharmed on all occasions, before finally killing Kansa.
When all Kansa’s plans of killing Krishna failed, he decided to invite them to Mathura through an emissary called Akrur. Akrur however was a devotee of Krishna and warned him of the demonic plans of Kansa. Krishna and Balaram, the two brothers, undeterred, arrived in Mathura, when a rampant mad elephant called Kuvalayapida was let free upon them. However, Krishna cut off Kuvalayapida’s trunk and the mammoth beast died. Enraged then Kansa thought and called the two demonic brothers called Mushtika and Chanura to wrestle with the two brothers; Krishna and Balaram. However, both were defeated and killed by Krishna and Balaram. Not knowing this Kansa himself came to the arena to see what was happening. Krishna caught him and killed him for all his sins, which included throwing the rightful king Ugrasena in the dungeon to imprisoning his parents and killing the six other children and also of mistreating the subjects of Mathura. After killing him Lord Krishna freed his parents, Devaki and Vasudeva from the prison. Lord Krishna also freed his grandfather King Ugrasena from the dungeons. He then reinstated King Ugrasena as the ruler of Mathura. This is a day of great celebration in Mathura.
Celebration of Kansa Vadh
The auspicious day of Kansa Vadh is celebrated by the people of Mathura and other places with great fervor. It is a symbolic victory of good over evil and a reminder that all tyrannical rulers have to perish. Effigies of Kansa are made and people thrash on it relentlessly in memory of Krishna killing Kansa. Numerous eminent performers enact portions of Krishna’s life through various art forms. Music, dance and other dance forms fill up the town of Mathura on this day reminding them about the victory of good over evil and their freedom from tyranny.