The misunderstood tale of Kubja and Krishna

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Since a young age, we have been hearing stories of being beautiful and accepted. Some say people with round eyes and full lips are beautiful while others believe people with long legs and curvy body is beautiful. And we always end up being confused about such beauty standards and what actually is beautiful. In fact, the definition of being pretty in itself seems faulty. People from Asian countries refer to pretty to pale skin tone beautiful, which is the opposite of trending tan today. Europeans consider tattoos and piecing as beautiful which we Indians don’t appreciate much. While for Americans being tall with a round body is beautiful. So, let just phrase the question differently: Why do we think, the things that are pretty are pretty? Or why do we think, the things that are ugly are ugly?

Very often we come across stories that depict beauty and blessings, but very few understand the core of such tales. One such story is of Kubja and Shri Krishna, a tale that you would have known and praised for years, but did you really embrace the moral of the story?

The Story Of Kubja

Do you remember the tale of Surpnakha? The world remembers her as the reason why Ravana abducts Sita and the war that resulted. Surpnakha was the sister of Ravana. Once she approached Lord Rama disguised as the most beautiful woman in the world, but Rama meanwhile kindly rejected her advances, telling her that he was faithful to his wife Sita and suggested she go to his brother. Upon reaching Lakshman, he too kindly denied her any pleasures because he was a slave to Lord Rama and thus the slave could only act on his master’s command. Going back and forth between the two brothers, made Surpnakha extremely furious and in fury she attacked Sita. This ignited Lakshman to take action against her and as a result, he chopped off her nose. We all have to admit, that no matter how much the world hates the character of Shurpnakha, there would have been no Ramayana without her.

However, in the Dwapar Yuga, Surpnakha was reincarnated as Kubja also known as Trivakra. She was named Kubja because she had three hunchbacks which made her extremely ugly (according to the tale). Though having a beautiful face, Kubja was despised because of her hunches. The Bhagavata Purana narrates the incident when Kamsa invited Krishna and Balarama to Mathura for Dhanush Yagya. While walking the streets of Mathura, Krishna and Balarama encountered Kubja, the maidservant of the king Kamsa. She was carrying the most beautiful and fine scented oils with her to the palace. In the whole town, none could make scented oils as good as Kubja and on the command of Kamsa, she made her best scents that day.

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Upon seeing Lord Krishna, Kubja was smitten by his charms and Krishna too was attracted to her scents. While everyone considered Kubja ugly, Lord Krishna asked her “Oh beautiful lady what is this you are carrying”. This sentence made her so happy that she instantly offered him the scents made for Kamsa. Despite knowing the fact that this action would lead her to death, she fearlessly gave every scent she had to Krishna and Balarama. Pleased Krishna presses his toes on her feet and placed a finger of both his hands under her chin and raises the fingers, which straightened her body. Kubja overcomes the disease and was now turned into the most beautiful woman in the town. She bows to Krishna and asks him to come to her house. Krishna kindly declines and promises that after slaying Kamsa he would pay her a visit. 

In several versions of the Krishna Lila, this tale is further narrated and explored more encounters of Lord Krishna and Kubja, but the basic story is the same.

What Do We Learn From The Tale of Kubja?

This story is to teach us that doing a small thing for the Omnipotent gives tremendous results. This story also narrates how Krishna turned the ugly Kubja into a beautiful maiden, but this fact lies far behind the real perspective. In reality, Krishna didn’t turn Kubja beautiful; he just made her realize this fact. He made her learn and accept her for who she was and that she was beautiful just the way she is. Because if we go by the facts, Lord Krishna himself was a dark-skinned person, but this never diminished the charms he carries. Thus, in an attempt to cure Kubja, Krishna just needed to cure her perspective about herself and that is what did the miracle.

We are today so obsessed with our looks that we often forget to appreciate ourselves for what we have. Studies shows, an average woman owns around 40 different cosmetic products and spends about 55 minutes getting ready each day. As a result, women sacrifice time and resources that could otherwise be devoted to pursuing goals in education, a career, family, or hobbies. We are so much obsessed with looks that many women suffer from depression when they are unable to meet the fake societal beauty standards. The majority of women are not satisfied with how they look and always suffer from low self-esteem. Studies have found that 82% of college-aged women report comparing their body unfavorably to a model’s body, and 70% of young women say they believe they’d be treated better by others if they looked more like the beauty ideal they see in the media.

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Why do we ever compromise ourselves for what others ‘might’ think of us? Every living creature in the world has its own beauty and flaws. And just by highlighting the flaws we have, we are somehow diminishing the beauty of our strengths. Because beauty is not about how you look, beauty is all about how you feel from the inside.

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