Friday, September 11, 2009

How Barbareek became Khatu Shyamji

Thousands of years ago, Barbareek, the mystical child of Ghatotkacha, was born with curly hair and reached adolescence shortly after birth. In order to gain guidance towards dharma, he turned to Lord Krishna, who named him suhridaya (“beautiful hearted”), instructed him on the duties of a warrior, and told him to worship Shakti to obtain power. Barbareek was successful in his devotion and was blessed by Shakti with more physical strength than anyone else. At some point, he even defeated Bhima in a tussle and had to be stopped by Lord Shiva to protect Bhima from being thrown into the ocean. When Barbareek learned that Bhima was his grandfather, he reached the depth of despair and thought of ending his own life. But a form of Shakti saved him and predicted, “Your body will soon be destroyed by Krishna.”

When the Pandavas (Barbareek’s paternal family) were preparing for the Mahabharata war, Barbareek visited them and showed the divine weapons that he possessed. He said, “I can finish the war in a moment. I’ll just pull the bow once, and my unfailing arrow will annihilate all the opponents and return back to me.” Immediately after Barbareek displayed his invincibility, Krishna did something unexpected; he beheaded Barbareek with his chakra.1 When the Pandavas asked Krishna about the reason behind this action, the Lord explained that he had simply redeemed Barbareek from a curse given by Brahma in Barbareek’s previous life. Besides, Krishna probably found it necessary to eliminate all rakshasas from earth to protect human beings. Nor could he let dharma be overpowered.2

Though Barbareek’s body lived no more, his devotion for Krishna showed its radiance. Krishna asked Goddess Chandika to dip his devotee’s head in nectar and immortalize it “like Rahu’s head.” Krishna blessed Barbareek, “You will be remembered on earth forever, and your head will be worshipped by human beings in my name.” Today, he is worshipped at a famous temple in Rajasthan as Khatu Shyamji.3

[1] This detail is from the Skanda Purana; another version says that Krishna asked for his head in charity.

[2] It is said that Barbareek had already vowed to support whoever was the “weaker side” in the war, not the righteous side.

[3] Shyam is another name for Krishna.

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