There was a time when Krishna was accused of theft and deceit. He was furious for no one had dared to ever level such allegations against him but he managed to clear his name and thereby gave rise to an intriguing tale of adventure involving lions, bears and princes of the Yadava clan.
The story told in the Vishnu Purana goes thus; Satrajit, a prince of the Bhoja clan, son of Nighna was an ardent devotee and friend of the sun god Surya. One day, he was walking by himself along the sea shore, deep in prayer. He was immersed in singing hymns to the sun god who, pleased with his devotion, descended from the heavens.
Satrajit was blinded by Surya’s brilliance and he appealed to the god to appear in his ordinary form and not as the golden orb in the sky that was visible to everyone. Surya obliged by taking off the jewel that hung around his neck; no sooner had he done that, a dwarfish being with a body the colour of burnished copper and eyes that bore a slightly reddish tinge emerged from the golden orb. Ask for a boon said the sun god and Satrajit asked for the jewel that he had just discarded. Surya gave it to him and went back to his home in the sky.
The jewel was the famous Syamantika, the gem of all gems. It gave its wearer the same radiance as the sun and yielded 8 tolas of gold every day. Also it dispelled all fear of beasts, droughts, fire and famine. It was a precious possession and Satrajit wore it proudly around his neck, looking like a god himself.
Word about the gem soon spread throughout the kingdom and Krishna who knew about the beauty and power of the Syamantika wanted the jewel be handed over to Ugrasena. However he left it to the prince to decide, not wanting to enforce his will, although he could well have, given his divine powers.
Satrajit went to meet Krishna but, he was worried that he would be asked to hand over the jewel and so he left it with his brother Prasena. Elated, Prasena wore it around his neck and sped into the jungle for a hunt where he was preyed upon by a lion who, having killed him, carried off the jewel in his mouth. But the lion had not gone far when he was attacked by Jambavat, the king of bears (also believed to be a close friend of Rama). Jambavat gave the jewel to his son Sukumara to play with.
Meanwhile Satrajit heard of his brother’s death and grew suspicious that Krishna had engineered the entire sequence of events just to acquire the jewel. When Krishna heard that, he was angry and decided to get to the bottom of the affair. He gathered a small army of Yadavas and set out for the forest and following the trail of Prasena’s blood reached Jambavat’s cave.
The bear king and Krishna fought a bitter battle that went on for 21 days. Finally when Jambavat was unable to defeat Krishna, he realised that his opponent was none other than god himself. He placed himself at his feet, gave back the jewel and also offered his daughter Jambawati in marriage.
Krishna married Jambavati and returned home and sent the jewel back to Satrajit, thereby exonerating himself completely from the crime. Satrajit was stricken with guilt for having falsely suspected Krishna and he went to him to offer his apologies and his daughter Satyabhama in marriage.
Krishna forgave him and married Satyabhama. However that is not the end of the story of Syamantika. The marriage of Krishna and Satyabhama was resented by many Yadava kings who were all keen upon her. Among the most aggrieved was Satadhanwan who declared that he would kill Satrajit and take the jewel into his possession. He was however fearful of Krishna and hence decided to wait for an opportune moment which made its appearance soon enough when the Pandavas and Kunti found themselves in a house of lac that was burnt down. When Krishna heard of their escape, he left his kingdom to be with them for a while. Taking advantage of this, Satadhanwan attacked and killed Satrajit and fled with the Syamantika.
An enraged Satyabhama immediately rushed to Krishna who rushed back home and went to Balarama, asking him to help him find and kill Satadhanwan and acquire the Syamantika. Balarama was furious when he heard the entire story and agreed to help his brother. The two set out to hunt down Satadhanwan approached a host of princes and kings for help. But none were brave enough to incur the wrath of Krishna. Finally he went to Akrura, but he too refused to get into a fight with Krishna. But Akrura agreed to protect the jewel only on the condition that no one should ever know that the Syamantika was in his possession.
Meanwhile Krishna and Balarama followed Satadhanwan. At one point they found that he had dismounted his horse and Krishna, asking Balarama to stand guard at the spot, pursued Satadhanwan on foot. He hunted him down and killed him but found no jewel on his person.
When Krishna came back to Balarama and told that there was no jewel, he turned on Krishna in rage. He accused him of jealousy and greed, accusing him of many things. Although he never spelt it out in so many words, he was convinced that Krishna had taken the jewel for himself and was misleading him. Angry, Balarama refused to return to their palace and went off to live in another kingdom (this was the time he taught Duryodhana the art of wrestling and use of the mace).
Meanwhile days went by and Akrura’s kingdom flourished. Even as kings in neighbouring provinces suffered from drought, famine and such other calamities, he managed to keep his people safe. Krishna sensed that there was something amiss and invited Akrura to Dwarka. When Akrura arrived, Krishna invited him to sit in his court and in front of the assembled kinsmen and kings and queens said that he knew Akrura’s secret. He requested that he present the jewel or be subjected to a search. He said that for long Balarama had suspected him of having the jewel and it was time to bring out the jewel and prove his innocence. Cornered Akrura showed him the Syamantika.
The brilliance of the jewel held everyone in thrall. Satyabhama staked claim to it as did Krishna and Balarama. However Krishna soon realised that this would lead to a difficult situation and he said that the jewel required its possessor to lead a life of purity and self-denial which, he said, none but Akrura could. And so the jewel remained with Akrura who went back to his kingdom, with the jewel secure in his care.

STORY COLLECTED BY: Arundhuti Dasgupta
TEXT SOURCE: Vishnu Purana, Translated by Horace Hayman Wilson
Location: Uttar Pradesh

Image source: Wikimedia commons