One day, without taking Sankarshana along with him, Krishna came near one of Yamuna’s bends to dip his legs and relax. The foams appearing on the riverbank looked like the river was giggling. But wait! Neither the river looked blue and fresh, nor the plants on its bank. On the contrary, the plants looked scorched and the dead fish were popping up on the surface.
Krishna frowned and closed his eyes. He saw a vision of many hooded Kaliya serpent residing at the bottom of Yamuna, poisoning the river with his venom.
Krishna thought, “After being defeated by my Vibhuti Garuda, this serpent has run from the ocean and taken shelter here. He’s polluting my dear Yamuna in this bend and killing the aquatic life. I must make sure that no cow or human dies after drinking water from Yamuna or bathing in it.”
Thus, he ran and climbed to the top of a nearby Kadamba tree. And from there, he jumped into the Yamuna with a big splash, making his way further to the river bed. The serpent was highly agitated due to this disturbance and began fuming his venom into the river. His terrible form soon appeared above the river surface and began sputtering fire on the nearby trees. This fire attracted the attention of people of Vrindavan who came running to the bank of Yamuna.
Meanwhile, Krishna poked at Kaliya and began irritating him. The eyes of Kaliya turned like red hot copper when he spotted a little boy daring to poke him. Beside Kaliya were his wives, who were afraid to sense this sudden disturbance. Kaliya coiled his tail and caught Krishna into it. Then he began targetting him with his venom from various hoods. The people who saw this scene from the bank were frightened. Yashoda was the most devasted on seeing such a vision and she fainted immediately.
The milkmaids cried, “We are no more returning to Vraja, today we’ll all die here, with our dearest Krishna. There is no day without sun, and there can be no Vrindavan without Krishna. Where there in no Krishna of the complexion of blue lotuses, there can be no life!”
Krishna heard them and gave them a warming smile. This melted the hearts of all. Even in times like this, Krishna didn’t forget to smile. Nandagopa was in full tension, and was being restrained by other men or else he would have jumped into the river to save his son.
Sankarshana mouthed to Krishna in a secret voice, “Oh Ananta! Why give pain to these men and women who cannot tolerate seeing you getting hurt. Oh Vishnu, for the sake of establishing Dharma on earth, you have taken this form. You have shown many human emotions, now is the time to put an end to the atrocities of Kaliya.”
Krishna smiled again and effortlessly freed himself from the grip of Kaliya. Such was the aura emanating from Krishna that Kaliya bowed his head in awe before him. Shyam climbed atop his head and held his tail with one hand. In the other hand, he held his flute and began playing it.
And he danced on the hoods of Kaliya gracefully, with all moves syncing perfectly with limbs. When the lotus feet of Krishna began thumping upon the hoods of Kaliya, his venom fumed out in a mist and he became terribly weak. The whole vision looked as if Shiva was performing his elegant Tandava. The people standing on the river bank were filled with terror on seeing the violent scene.
The wives of Kaliya came forward hissing and apologised for his deeds. The serpent himself lowered his hood and apologised to Krishna.
“Leave Yamuna and go to reside in ocean with your family,” Krishna said.
“Oh beautiful God! Your graceful dance has left our husbands weak, for who can tolerate the weight of the one who himself bears this whole universe? In that case, how will they protect us and themselves against predators, especially Garuda?” asked the wives of Kaliya.
Krishna replied, “Neither Garuda, nor any other creature will harm you after seeing my footprints on the top of your head.” Thus, bowing to Krishna, the serpent and his family quietly left the Yamuna. Krishna jumped into water and the vicinity came to life with his touch.
Yashoda got revived and she hugged Krishna tightly. Nandagopa said, “Thank Hari, for if it were not him, this giant serpent would have taken the life of my son.”
“Indeed,” muttered Krishna, enjoying a warm welcome from the people of Vrindavan.
So this is how Krishna stopped the terror of Kaliya, at the mere age of five!