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Krishna dancing over the subdued Kaliya Naag, and his wives asking Krishna for his mercy. From a Bhagavata Purana manuscript, c. 1640.

Kaliya (IAST:Kāliya, Devanagari: कालिय), in Hindu mythology, was the name of a poisonous Naga living in the Yamuna River, in Vrindavan. The water of the Yamuna for four leagues all around him boiled and bubbled with poison. No bird or beast could go near, and only one solitary Kadamba tree grew on the river bank.

The proper home of Kāliya was Ramanaka Dwipa, but he had been driven away from there by fear of Garuda, the foe of all serpents. Garuda had been cursed by a yogi dwelling at Vrindavan so that he could not come to Vrindavan without meeting his death. Therefore, Kāliya chose Vrindavan as his residence, knowing it was the only place where Garuda could not come.

Once Krishna and herdboys were playing ball, and while playing Krishna climbed up the Kadamba tree and hung over the river bank, the ball fell into the river and Krishna jumped after it. Kāliya rose up with his hundred and ten hoods vomiting poison and wrapped himself around Krishna's body. Krishna became so huge that Kāliya had to release him. So Krishna saved himself from every attack, and when he saw the Brij folk were so much afraid he suddenly sprang into Kāliya's head and assumed the weight of the whole universe, and danced on the naga's heads, beating time with his feet. Then Kāliya began to die. But then the naga's wives came and prayed to Krishna with joined palms, worshipping Krishna and praying for their husband.

Kāliya, recognizing the greatness of Krishna, surrendered, promising he would not harass anybody. So Krishna pardoned him and then let him go free to leave the river and go to Ramanaka Dwipa. Some identify it as Fiji.[1]

Krishna Conquers the Serpent Kaliya (Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series)- Brooklyn Museum


Kaliya Daman, c. 1880.

The history of Krishna and Kāliya is told in Chapter Sixteen of the Tenth Canto of the Bhagavata Purana.

A king of Kaliraman Jat gotra (clan) in nagavanshi kshatriyas, known as Kaliya, was the ruler near Mathura, on the banks of Yamuna River. The ancient fort of Kaliraman is in ruins near Mathura. His fort was known as fort of Kalidheh. The episode of Mahabharata regarding Lord Krishna’s killing of a black python, Kaliya, is related with some bad ruler from this gotra. With the killing of Kaliya Nāga, Krishna brought the end of this clan's rule in Brij.

In Punjab there were two small states of rulers belonging to this Kaliraman. These were Sinpura and Bhagowal.

From Mathura they went to Kabul-Ghazni with other Jats - Yadavas. They founded the Kingdom of Garh - Ghazni. During rise of Islam they came back to Bhatner- Sirsa. According to their bards they founded the old village of Patan and Siswad. From Patan Chaudhary Sishu came to Sisai. His brother Sunda founded village Sandwa and Salaywala.

Oothukkadu in Tamilnadu, Tanjore district, is said to have a svayambhu (self-formed) image of this scene.

The episode is remembered as the 'Kalinga Nartana' in South India.

See also


  • Sister Nivedita & Ananda K.Coomaraswamy: Myths and Legends of the Hindus and Bhuddhists, Kolkata, 2001 ISBN 81-7505-197-3

External links