While Śukadeva Gosvāmī was narrating various activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa in playing the role of an ordinary human being, he also narrated the history of the battle between the dynasty of Yadu and a demon of the name Śālva, who had managed to possess a wonderful airship named Saubha. King Śālva was a great friend of Śiśupāla’s. When Śiśupāla went to marry Rukmiṇī, Śālva was one of the members of the bridegroom’s party. When there was a fight between the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty and the kings of the opposite side, Śālva was defeated by the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty. But, despite his defeat, he made a promise before all the kings that he would in the future rid the whole world of all the members of the Yadu dynasty. Since his defeat in the fight during the marriage of Rukmiṇī, he had maintained within himself an unforgettable envy of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and he was, in fact, a fool, because he had promised to kill Kṛṣṇa.
Usually such foolish demons take shelter of a demigod like Lord Śiva to execute their ulterior plans, and so Śālva, in order to get strength, took shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Śiva. He underwent a severe type of austerity during which he would eat no more than a handful of ashes daily. Lord Śiva, the husband of Pārvatī, is generally very merciful, and he becomes very quickly satisfied if someone undertakes severe austerities in order to please him. So after continued austerities by Śālva for one year, Lord Śiva became pleased with him and asked him to beg for the fulfillment of his desire.
Śālva begged from Lord Śiva the gift of an airplane which would be so strong that it could not be destroyed by any demigod, demon, human being, Gandharva, Nāga, or even by any Rākṣasa. Moreover, he desired that the airplane be able to fly anywhere and everywhere he would like to pilot it, and be specifically very dangerous and fearful to the dynasty of the Yadus. Lord Śiva immediately agreed to give him the benediction, and Śālva took the help of the demon Maya to manufacture this iron airplane, which was so strong and formidable that no one could crash it. It was a very big machine, almost like a big city, and it could fly so high and at such a great speed that it was almost impossible to see where it was, and so there was no question of attacking it. Although it might be dark outside, the pilot could fly it anywhere and everywhere. Having acquired such a wonderful airplane, Śālva flew it to the city of Dvārakā, because his main purpose in obtaining the airplane was to attack the city of the Yadus, toward whom he maintained a continual feeling of animosity.
Śālva thus not only attacked the city of Dvārakā from the sky, but he also surrounded the city by a large number of infantry. The soldiers on the surface began to attack the beautiful spots of the city. They began to destroy the baths, the city gates, the palaces and the skyscraper houses, the high walls around the city and the beautiful spots where the people would gather for recreation. While the soldiers were attacking on the surface, the airplane began to drop big slabs of stone, tree trunks, thunderbolts, poisonous snakes and many other dangerous things. Śālva also managed to create such a strong whirlwind within the city that all of Dvārakā became dark because of the dust that covered the sky. The airplane occupied by Śālva put the entire city of Dvārakā into distress equal to that caused on the earth long, long ago by the disturbing activities of Tripurāsura. The inhabitants of Dvārakā Purī became so harassed that they were not in a peaceful condition for even a moment.
The great heroes of Dvārakā City, headed by commanders such as Pradyumna, counter-attacked the soldiers and the airplane of Śālva. When he saw the extreme distress of the citizens, Pradyumna immediately arranged his soldiers and personally got upon a chariot, encouraging the citizens by assuring safety. Following his command, many warriors like Sātyaki, Cārudeṣṇa and Sāmba, all young brothers of Pradyumna, as well as Akrūra, Kṛtavarmā, Bhānuvinda, Gada, Śuka and Sāraṇa–all came out of the city to fight with Śālva. All of them were great fighters; each one could fight with thousands of men. All were fully equipped with necessary weapons and assisted by hundreds and thousands of charioteers, elephants, horses and infantry soldiers. Fierce fighting began between the two parties, exactly as was formerly carried on between the demigods and the demons. The fighting was very severe, and whoever observed the fierce nature of the fight felt his hairs stand on end.
Pradyumna immediately counteracted the mystic demonstration occasioned by the airplane of Śālva, the King of Saubha. By the mystic power of the airplane, Śālva had created a darkness as dense as night, but Pradyumna all of a sudden appeared like the rising sun. As with the rising of the sun the darkness of night is immediately dissipated, so with the appearance of Pradyumna the power exhibited by Śālva became null and void. Each and every one of Pradyumna’s arrows had a golden feather at the end, and the shaft was fitted with a sharp iron edge. By releasing twenty-five such arrows, Pradyumna severely injured Śālva’s commander-in-chief. He then released another one hundred arrows toward the body of Śālva. After this, he pierced each and every soldier by releasing one arrow, and he killed the chariot drivers by firing ten arrows at each one of them. The carriers like the horses and elephants were killed by the release of three arrows directed toward each one of them. When everyone present on the battlefield saw this wonderful feat of Pradyumna, the great fighters on both the sides began to praise his acts of chivalry.
But still the airplane occupied by Śālva was very mysterious. It was so extraordinary that sometimes there would appear to be many airplanes in the sky, and sometimes it would seem that there was none. Sometimes it was visible, and sometimes it was not visible, and the warriors of the Yadu dynasty became puzzled about the whereabouts of the peculiar airplane. Sometimes they would see the airplane on the ground, and sometimes they would see it flying in the sky. Sometimes they would see the airplane resting on the peak of a hill, and sometimes it was seen floating on the water. The wonderful airplane was flying in the sky like a firefly in the wind–it was not steady even for a moment. But despite the mysterious maneuvering of the airplane, the commanders and the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty would immediately rush toward Śālva wherever he was present with his airplane and soldiers. The arrows released by the dynasty of the Yadus were as brilliant as the sun and as dangerous as the tongues of serpents. All the soldiers fighting on behalf of Śālva became soon distressed by the incessant release of arrows upon them by the heroes of the Yadu dynasty, and Śālva himself became unconscious from the attack of these arrows.
The soldiers and the fighters fighting on behalf of Śālva were also very strong, and the release of their arrows also harassed the heroes of the Yadu dynasty. But still the Yadus were so strong and determined that they did not move from their strategic positions. The heroes of the Yadu dynasty were determined to either die in the battlefield or gain victory. They were confident of the fact that if they died in the fighting they would attain a heavenly planet, and if they were to came out victorious they would enjoy the world. The name of Śālva’s commander-in-chief was Dyumān. He was very powerful, and although bitten by twenty-five of Pradyumna’s arrows, he suddenly attacked Pradyumna with his fierce club and struck him so strongly that Pradyumna became unconscious. Immediately there was a roaring, “Now he is dead! Now he is dead!” The force of the club on the chest of Pradyumna was very severe, enough to tear asunder the chest of an ordinary man.
Pradyumna’s chariot was being driven by the son of Dāruka. According to Vedic military principles, the chariot driver and the hero on the chariot have to cooperate during the fighting. As such, it was the duty of the chariot driver to take care of the hero on the chariot during the dangerous and precarious fighting on the battlefield. Thus Dāruka removed the body of Pradyumna from the battlefield. Two hours later, in a quiet place, Pradyumna regained his consciousness, and when he saw that he was in a place other than the battlefield he addressed the charioteer and condemned him:
“Oh, you have done the most abominable act! Why have you moved me from the battlefield? My dear charioteer, I have never heard that anyone in our family was ever removed from the battlefield. None of them left the battlefield while fighting. By this removal you have overburdened me with a great defamation. It will be said that I left the battlefield while fighting was going on. My dear charioteer, I must accuse you–you are a coward and emasculator! Tell me, how can I go before my uncle Balarāma and before my father Kṛṣṇa, and what shall I say before Them? Everyone will talk about me and say that I fled from the fighting place, and if they inquire from me about this, what will be my reply? My sisters-in-law will play jokes upon me with sarcastic words: ‘My dear hero, how have you become such a coward? How have you become such a eunuch? How have you become so low in the eyes of the fighters who opposed you?’ I think, my dear charioteer, that you have committed a great offense by removing me from the battlefield.”
The charioteer of Pradyumna replied, “My dear sir, I wish a long life for you. I think I did not do anything wrong, as it is the duty of the charioteer to help the fighter in the chariot when he is in a precarious condition. My dear sir, you are completely competent in the battlefield activities. It is the mutual duty of the charioteer and the warrior to give protection to each other in a precarious condition. I was completely aware of the regulative principles of fighting, and I did my duty. The enemy all of a sudden struck you with his club so severely that you lost consciousness. You were in a dangerous position, surrounded by your enemies. Therefore I was obliged to act as I did.”
After talking with his charioteer, the son of Dāruka, Pradyumna could understand the real circumstances, and therefore he refreshed himself by washing his mouth and hands. Arming himself properly with bows and arrows, he asked his charioteer to take him near the place where Śālva’s commander-in-chief was standing. During the short absence of Pradyumna from the battlefield, Dyumān, Śālva’s commander-in-chief, had been taking over the positions of the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty. By appearing in the battlefield, Pradyumna immediately stopped him and struck him with eight arrows. With four arrows he killed his four horses, with one arrow his chariot driver and with another arrow he cut his bow in two; with another arrow, he cut his flag into pieces, and with another he severed his head from his body.
On the other fronts, heroes like Gada, Sātyaki and Sāmba were engaged in killing the soldiers of Śālva. The soldiers who were staying with Śālva in the airplane were also killed in the fighting, and they fell into the ocean. Each party began to strike the opposite party very severely. The battle was fierce and dangerous and continued for twenty-seven days without stop.
While the fight was going on in the city of Dvārakā, Kṛṣṇa was staying at Indraprastha along with the Pāṇḍavas and King Yudhiṣṭhira. This fighting with Śālva took place after the Rājasūya yajña had been performed by King Yudhiṣṭhira and after the killing of Śiśupāla. When Lord Kṛṣṇa understood that there was great danger in the city of Dvārakā, He took permission from the elderly members of the Pāṇḍava family, especially from His aunt Kuntīdevī, and started immediately for Dvārakā.
Lord Kṛṣṇa began to think that while He was arriving in Hastināpura with Balarāma after the killing of Śiśupāla, Śiśupāla’s men must have attacked Dvārakā. On reaching Dvārakā, Lord Kṛṣṇa saw that the whole city was greatly endangered. He placed Balarāmajī in a strategic position for the protection of the city, and He Himself asked His charioteer Dāruka to prepare to start. He said, “Dāruka, please immediately take Me to where Śālva is staying. You may know that this Śālva is a very powerful, mysterious man. Don’t fear him in the least.” As soon as he got his orders from Lord Kṛṣṇa, Dāruka had Him seated on the chariot and drove very quickly toward Śālva.
The chariot of Lord Kṛṣṇa was marked with the flag bearing the insignia of Garuḍa, and as soon as the soldiers and warriors of the Yadu dynasty saw the flag, they could understand that Lord Kṛṣṇa was on the battlefield. By this time, almost all the soldiers of Śālva had been killed, but when Śālva saw that Kṛṣṇa had come to the battlefield, he released a great, powerful weapon which flew through the sky with a roaring sound like a great meteor. It was so bright that the whole sky lit up by its presence. But as soon as Lord Kṛṣṇa appeared, He tore the great weapon into hundreds and thousands of pieces by releasing His own arrow.
Lord Kṛṣṇa struck Śālva with sixteen arrows, and with showers of arrows He overpowered the airplane, just as the sun in a clear sky overpowers the whole sky by an unlimited number of molecules of sunshine. Śālva struck a severe blow to Kṛṣṇa’s left side, where the Lord was carring His bow, Śārṅga, and as a result the Śārṅga bow fell from Lord Kṛṣṇa’s hand. This dropping of the bow was indeed wonderful. Great personalities and demigods who were observing the fighting between Śālva and Kṛṣṇa became most perturbed by this, and they began to exclaim, “Alas! Alas!”
Śālva thought that he had become victorious, and with a roaring sound began to address Lord Kṛṣṇa as follows: “You rascal, Kṛṣṇa! You kidnapped Rukmiṇī forcibly, even in our presence. You baffled my friend Śiśupāla and married Rukmiṇī Yourself. And in the great assembly at King Yudhiṣṭhira’s Rājasūya yajña, while my friend Śiśupāla was a little absent-minded, You took an opportunity to kill him. Everyone thinks that You are a great fighter and that no one can conquer You. So now You’ll have to prove Your strength. I think that if You stand before me any longer, with my sharpened arrows I shall send You to a place where-from You will never return.”
To this Lord Kṛṣṇa replied, “Foolish Śālva, you are talking nonsensically. You do not know that the moment of death is already upon your head. Those who are actually heroes do not talk much. They prove their prowess by practical exhibition of chivalrous activities.” After saying this, Lord Kṛṣṇa, in great anger, struck Śālva on the collarbone with His club so severely that he began to bleed internally and tremble as if he were going to collapse from severe cold. Before Kṛṣṇa was able to strike him again, however, Śālva became invisible by his mystic power.
Within a few moments, a mysterious unknown man came before Lord Kṛṣṇa. Crying loudly, he bowed down at the Lord’s lotus feet and said to Him, “Since You are the most beloved son of Your father Vasudeva, Your mother Devakī has sent me to inform You of the unfortunate news that Your father has been arrested by Śālva and taken him away by force. He took him just as a butcher mercilessly takes away an animal.” When Lord Kṛṣṇa heard this unfortunate news from the unknown man, He at first became most perturbed, just like an ordinary human being. His face showed signs of grief, and He began to cry in a pitious tone, “How could that happen? My brother Lord Balarāma is there, and it is impossible for anyone to conquer Balarāmajī. He is in charge of Dvārakā City, and I know He is always alert. How could Śālva possibly enter the city and arrest My father in that way? Whatever he may be, Śālva’s power is limited, so how could it be possible that he has conquered the strength of Balarāmajī and taken away My father, arresting him as described by this man? Alas! Destiny is, after all, very powerful.”
While Śrī Kṛṣṇa was thinking like this, Śālva brought before Him in custody a man exactly resembling Vasudeva, His father. These were all creations of the mystic power of Śālva.
Śālva began to address Kṛṣṇa, “You rascal, Kṛṣṇa! Look. This is Your father who has begotten You and by whose mercy You are still living. Now just see how I kill Your father. If You have any strength, try to save him.” The mystic juggler, Śālva, speaking in this way before Lord Kṛṣṇa, immediately cut off the head of the false Vasudeva. Without hesitation he took away the dead body and got into his airplane. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the self-sufficient Supreme Personality of Godhead, yet because He was playing the role of a human being, He became very depressed for a moment, as if He had actually lost His father. But at the next moment He could understand that the arrest and killing of His father were demonstrations of the mystic powers which Śālva had learned from the demon Maya. Coming to His right consciousness, He could see that there was no messenger and no head of His father, but that only Śālva had left in his airplane, which was flying in the sky. He then began to think of slaying Śālva.
When Śālva thought that Kṛṣṇa had been bewildered by his mystic representations, he became encouraged and began to attack the Lord with greater strength and energy by showering volumes of arrows upon Him. But the enthusiasm of Śālva can be compared to the speedy march of flies into a fire. Lord Kṛṣṇa, by hurling His arrows with unfathomable strength, injured Śālva, whose armor, bow and jeweled helmet all scattered into pieces. With a crashing blow from Kṛṣṇa’s club, Śālva’s wonderful airplane burst into pieces and fell into the sea. Śālva was very careful, and instead of crashing with the airplane, he managed to jump onto the land. He again rushed towards Lord Kṛṣṇa. When Śālva ran swiftly to attack Kṛṣṇa with his club, Lord Kṛṣṇa cut off his hand, which fell to the ground with the club. Finally deciding to kill him, the Lord took up His wonderful disc, which was shining like the brilliant sun at the time of the dissolution of the material creation. When Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa stood up with His disc to kill Śālva, He appeared just like the red sun rising over a mountain. Lord Kṛṣṇa then cut off his head, and the head, with its earrings and helmet, fell on the ground. Śālva was thus killed in the same way as Vṛtrāsura was killed by Indra, the King of heaven.
When Śālva was killed, all his soldiers and followers began to cry, “Alas! Alas!” While Śālva’s men were thus crying, the demigods from the heavenly planets showered flowers on Kṛṣṇa and announced the victory by beating on drums and blowing bugles.
Ref >> Srila Prabhupada Vani.