Hindu mythology recounts times when Krishna fought and defeated enemy asuras, particularly asura demons threatening Krishna as serpents. The Bhagava Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam) recounts the story of when Aghasura, an ally of Kamsa who had been trying to kill Krishna since his birth, took the form of such a large serpent that when he opened his mouth it resembled a cave. Aghasura was the brother of Putana (whom Krishna had killed when a baby as he suckled the poison from her) and Bakasura (whom Krishna had also killed by breaking his beak) and thus sought revenge. Aghasura opened his mouth and the Gopi cowherd children went into it, thinking it was a cave in the forest. Krishna also went in, but realizing that it was Aghasura he expanded his body until Aghasura choked and died. On another occasion, shown on the popular show Sri Krishna, Krishna defeated the powerful asura serpent Kaliya Naag by dancing on his head while battling him in the river.
Mythology also describes Vritra, the asura leader and powerful serpent/dragon. The Rg Veda explains that the god Indra faced the demon Vritra in a great battle and killed him with his thunderbolt (vajrayudha) which broke Vritra’s jaw. The Bhagava Purana’s version explains that Vritra was such a large snake/dragon that he covered everything, putting even the planets and stars at risk, so that everyone was afraid of him. Vritra gained the upper hand in battles with the devas. Indra could not defeat him by strength, but was counselled to ask for the bones of the sage Dadhichi. Dadhichi offered his bones to be fashioned into vajrayudha which allowed Indra to finally defeat and kill the great serpent Vritra.
The Devil of the Hebrew Vedas: Beautiful Spirit becoming Deadly Serpent
The Hebrew Vedas also record that there is a powerful spirit who has set himself up as an adversary (Devil means ‘adversary’) of the Most High God. The Hebrew Vedas describe him as beautiful and intelligent, in the beginning created as a Deva. This description is given:
“‘You were the seal of perfection,Ezekiel 28: 12b-15
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
carnelian, chrysolite and emerald,
topaz, onyx and jasper,
lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.
Your settings and mountings were made of gold;
on the day you were created they were prepared.
14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God;
you walked among the fiery stones.
15 You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.
Why was wickedness found in this powerful deva? The Hebrew Vedas explain:
Ezekiel 28: 17
17 Your heart became proud
on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth;
I made a spectacle of you before kings.
The fall of this Deva is described further:
How you have fallen from heaven,Isaiah 14: 12-14
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
This powerful spirit is now called Satan (meaning ‘accuser‘) or the Devil but originally he was called Lucifer – ‘son of the dawn’. The Hebrew Vedas say he is a spirit, an evil asura, but like Aghasura and Vritra he is described taking the form of a serpent or dragon. This is how his casting to earth happened:
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.Revelation 12: 7-9
Satan is now the head asura who ‘leads the whole world astray’. In fact, it was he, in the form of a serpent, which brought about the first humans to sin. This ended Satya Yuga, the age of truth in paradise.
Satan has not lost any of his original intelligence and beauty, which makes him more dangerous since he can better hide his deception behind appearance. The Bible describes how he works:
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.2 Corinthians 11:14
Jesus battles Satan
It was this adversary that Jesus had to face. Right after his baptism by John he retreated into the forest, taking the Vanaprastha asrama. But he did so not to begin retirement, but to face his adversary in battle. This battle was not a physical battle such as described between Krishna and Aghasura or between Indra and Vritra, but a battle of temptation. The Gospel records it like this:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.Luke 4: 1-13
Their struggle had started at the beginning of human history. It renewed at Jesus’ birth through the attempts to have the baby Jesus killed. In this round of battle, Jesus had proved victorious, not because he physically defeated Satan, but because he resisted all the powerful temptations that Satan put before him. The battle between these two would continue in the months ahead, concluding with that Serpent ‘striking his heel’ and Jesus ‘crushing his head’. But before that, Jesus was to take on the role of guru to teach, dispelling darkness.
Jesus – someone who understands us
Jesus’ period of temptation and testing is very important for us. The Bible states about Jesus that:
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.Hebrews2:18
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Hebrews4:15-16
At Yom Kippur, the Hebrew Durga Puja, the High Priest brought sacrifices so the Israelites could receive forgiveness. Now Jesus has become a Priest that can sympathize and understand us – even helping us in our temptations, precisely because he himself was tempted – yet without sin. We can have confidence before God Most High because Jesus the High Priest underwent our most difficult temptations. He is someone who understands us and can help us with our own temptations and sins. The question is: Will we let him?