• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 07

Dance of destruction

The multi-headed serpent Kaliya
takes up residence in the Yamuna river,
spewing venom that roils the water,
killing the cattle, terrorizing the townsfolk.

On the banks of the Yamuna, child cowherd
and flautist, the eighth avatar of Vishnu,
Krishna delights in pranks and stealing butter,
plays with his friends, till their ball rolls in the river.

Krishna bravely wades in, to reclaim the toy,
does underwater battle with Kaliya, pitting
omnipotence against strength, dodging fangs and poison,
emerging victorious, he dances on the serpent’s head
till Kaliya flees, and the waters run clear.
The villagers marvel at this wunderkind god.

In this Kaliyug, there are so many Kaliyas:
politicians, caretakers, trustees –
ready to turn a blind eye for a price
to industrial pollutants that sully the river.

Myths and religion are no match for greed.
Who will play Krishna’s role now?
Who will clean up the rivers of the world?
Who can cleanse water so clouded by sin?