Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 5 - Chapter 34
Pauṇḍra, a Vāsudeva, assumes the insignia and style of Kṛṣṇa, supported by the king of Kāśī. Kṛṣṇa marches against, and destroys them. The son of the king sends a magical being against Kṛṣṇa: destroyed by his discus, which also sets Benares on fire, and consumes it and its inhabitants.
Of a truth the divine Śauri, having assumed a mortal body, performed great achievements in his easy victories over Śakra and Śiva, and all their attendant divinities.
I am now desirous to hear from you, illustrious sage, what other mighty exploit the humiliator of the prowess of the celestials performed.
Hear, excellent Brahman, with reverent attention, an account of the burning of Varāṇasī by Kṛṣṇa, in the course of his relieving the burdens of the earth.
There was a Vāsudeva who was called Pauṇḍra, and who, though not the Vāsudeva, was flattered by ignorant people as the descended deity, until he fancied himself to be the Vāsudeva who had come down upon earth.
Losing all recollection of his real character, he assumed the emblems of Viṣṇu, and sent an ambassador to the magnanimous Kṛṣṇa with this message:
"Relinquish, thou foolish fellow, the discus; lay aside all my insignia, my name, and the character of Vāsudeva; and come and do me homage; and I will vouchsafe thee means of subsistence."
At which Janārdana laughed, and replied:
"Go, messenger, back to Pauṇḍra, and say to him from me:
'I will dispatch to thee my emblem the discus without fail. Thou wilt rightly apprehend my meaning, and consider what is to be done; for I shall come to thy city, bringing the discus with me, and shall undoubtedly consign it to thee.
If thou wilt command me to come, I will immediately obey, and be with thee tomorrow; there shall be no delay: and, having sought thy asylum, I will so provide, O king, that I shall never more have anything to dread from thee.'"
So saying, he dismissed the, ambassador to report these words to his sovereign; and summoning Garuḍa, mounted him, and set off for the city of Pauṇḍra.
When the king of Kāśī heard of the preparations of Keśava, he sent his army (to the aid of Pauṇḍra), himself bringing up the rear; and with the force of the king of Kāśī, and his own troops, Pauṇḍra, the false Vāsudeva, marched to meet Kṛṣṇa.
Hari beheld him afar off, standing in his car, holding a discus, a club, a mace, a scimitar, and a lotus, in his hands; ornamented with a garland of flowers; bearing a bow; and having his standard made of gold:
he had also the Śrīvatsa mark delineated on his breast; he was dressed in yellow garments, and decorated with earrings and a tiara.
When the god whose standard is Garuḍa beheld him, he laughed with a deep laugh, and engaged in conflict with the hostile host of cavalry and elephants, fighting with swords, scimitars, maces, tridents, spears, and bows.
Showering upon the enemy the shafts from his Śāranga bow, and hurling at them his mace and discus, he quickly destroyed both the army of Pauṇḍra and that of the king of Kāśī.
He then said to the former, who was foolishly wearing his emblems:
"Pauṇḍra, you desired me by your envoy to resign to you all my insignia. I now deliver them to you. Here is my discus; here I give up my mace; and here is Garuḍa, let him mount upon thy standard."
Thus speaking, he let fly the discus and the mace, by which Pauṇḍra was cut to pieces, and cast on the ground; whilst the Garuḍa on his banner was demolished by the Garuḍa of Viṣṇu.
The people, beholding this sight, exclaimed: "Alas! alas!"
but the valiant king of Kāśī, adhering to the imposture of his friend, continued the conflict, till Śauri decapitated him with his arrows, shooting his head into the city of Kāśī, to the marvel of all the inhabitants.
Having thus slain Pauṇḍra and the king of Kāśī, with all their followers, Śauri returned to Dvārakā, where he lived in the enjoyment of heavenly delights.
When the inhabitants of Kāśī saw the head of their king shot into their city, they were much astonished, and wondered how it could have happened, and by whom the deed could have been done.
Having ascertained that the king had been killed by Kṛṣṇa, the son of the monarch of Kāśī, together with the priest of the family, propitiated Śankara; and that deity, well pleased to be adored in the sacred place Avimukta, desired the prince to demand a boon:
on which he prayed, and said:
"O lord, mighty god, through thy favour let thy mystic spirit arise to destroy Kṛṣṇa, the murderer of my father."
"It shall be so," answered Śankara: and from out of the southern fire upspring a vast and formidable female, like flame out of fire, blazing with ruddy light, and with fiery radiance streaming amidst her hair.
Angrily she called upon Kṛṣṇa, and departed to Dvārakā; where the people, beholding her, were struck with dismay, and fled for protection to Madhusūdana, the refuge of all worlds.
The wielder of the discus knowing that the fiend had been produced by the son of the king of Kāśī, through his adoration of the deity whose emblem is a bull, and being engaged in sportive amusements, and playing at dice, said to the discus:
"Kill this fierce creature, whose tresses are of plaited flame."
Accordingly Sudarśana, the discus of Viṣṇu, immediately attacked the fiend, fearfully enwreathed with fire, and wearing tresses of plaited flame.
Terrified at the might of Sudarśana, the creation of Maheśvara awaited not his attack, but fled with speed, pursued by him with equal velocity, until she reached Varanasi, repelled by the superior might of the discus of Viṣṇu.
The army of Kāśī, and the host of the demigods attendant upon Śiva, armed with all kinds of weapons, then sallied out to oppose the discus;
but, skilled in the use of arms, he consumed the whole of the forces by his radiance, and then set fire to the city, in which the magic power of Śiva had concealed herself.
Thus was Varanasi burnt, with all its princes and their followers, its inhabitants, elephants, horses, and men, treasures and granaries, houses, palaces, and markets.
The whole of a city, that was inaccessible to the gods, was thus wrapped in flames by the discus of Hari, and was totally destroyed.
The discus then, with unmitigated wrath, and blazing fiercely, and far from satisfied with the accomplishment of so easy a task, returned to the hand of Viṣṇu.