While Śukadeva Gosvāmī was narrating various activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa in playing the role of an ordinary human being, he also narrated the history of the battle between the dynasty of Yadu and a demon of the name Śālva, who had managed to possess a wonderful airship named Saubha. King Śālva was a great friend of Śiśupāla's. When Śiśupāla went to marry Rukmiṇī, Śālva was one of the members of the bridegroom's party. In the fight between the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty and the kings of the opposite side, Śālva was defeated by the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty. But, despite his defeat, he made a promise before all the kings that he would in the future rid the whole world of all the members of the Yadu dynasty. Since his defeat in the fight during the marriage of Rukmiṇī, he had maintained within himself an unforgettable envy of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and he was, in fact, a fool, because he had promised to kill Kṛṣṇa.
Usually such foolish demons take shelter of a demigod like Lord Śiva to execute their ulterior plans, and so in order to get strength, Śālva took refuge at the lotus feet of Lord Śiva. He underwent a severe type of austerity during which he would eat no more than a handful of ashes daily. Lord Śiva, the husband of Pārvatī, is generally very merciful, and he is very quickly satisfied if someone undertakes severe austerities to please him. So after continued austerities by Śālva for one year, Lord Śiva became pleased with him and asked him to beg for the fulfillment of his desire.
Śālva begged from Lord Śiva the gift of an airplane which would be so strong that it could not be destroyed by any demigod, demon, human being, Gandharva or Nāga, or even any Rākṣasa. Moreover, he desired that the airplane be able to fly anywhere and everywhere he would like to pilot it, and be specifically very dangerous and fearful to the dynasty of the Yadus. Lord Śiva immediately agreed to give him the benediction, and Śālva took the help of the demon Maya to manufacture this iron airplane, which was so strong and formidable that no one could crash it. It was a very big machine, almost like a big city, and it could fly so high and at such a great speed that it was almost impossible to see; so there was no question of attacking it. It appeared to be almost covered with darkness, yet the pilot could fly it anywhere and everywhere. Having acquired such a wonderful airplane, Śālva flew it to the city of Dvārakā, because his main purpose in obtaining the airplane was to attack the city of the Yadus, toward whom he maintained a constant feeling of animosity.
Śālva thus attacked the city of Dvārakā from the sky, and he also surrounded the city by a large number of infantry. The soldiers on the surface attacked the beautiful spots of the city. They began to destroy the nice parks, the city gates, the palaces and skyscraper houses, the high walls around the city, and the beautiful spots where people would gather for recreation. While the soldiers attacked on the surface, the airplane began to drop big slabs of stone, tree trunks, thunderbolts, poisonous snakes and many other dangerous things. Śālva also managed to create such a strong whirlwind within the city that all of Dvārakā became dark because of the dust that covered the sky. The airplane occupied by Śālva put the entire city of Dvārakā into distress equal to that caused on the earth long, long ago by the disturbing activities of Tripurāsura. The inhabitants of Dvārakā Purī became so harassed that they were not peaceful for even a moment.
The great heroes of Dvārakā City, headed by commanders such as Pradyumna, counterattacked the soldiers and airplane of Śālva. When he saw the extreme distress of the citizens, Pradyumna immediately arranged his soldiers and personally got up on a chariot, encouraging the citizens by assuring safety. Following his command, many warriors like Sātyaki, Cārudeṣṇa and Sāmba, all young brothers of Pradyumna, as well as Akrūra, Kṛtavarmā, Bhānuvinda, Gada, Śuka and Sāraṇa, all came out of the city to fight with Śālva. All of them were mahā-rathīs, great warriors able to fight with thousands of men. All were fully equipped with necessary weapons and assisted by hundreds and thousands of charioteers, elephants, horses and infantry soldiers. Fierce fighting began between the two parties, exactly like that formerly carried on between the demigods and the demons. The fighting was severe, and whoever observed the fierce nature of the fight felt his bodily hairs stand on end.
Pradyumna immediately counteracted the mystic demonstration occasioned by the airplane of Śālva, the King of Saubha. By the mystic power of the airplane, Śālva had created a darkness as dense as night, but Pradyumna all of a sudden appeared like the rising sun. As with the rising of the sun the darkness of night is immediately dissipated, with the appearance of Pradyumna the power exhibited by Śālva became null and void. Each of Pradyumna's arrows had a golden feather at the end, and the shaft was fitted with a sharp iron head. By releasing twenty-five such arrows, Pradyumna severely injured Śālva's commander in chief. He then released another one hundred arrows toward the body of Śālva. After this, he pierced each and every soldier by releasing one arrow, he killed the chariot drivers by firing ten arrows at each one of them, and he killed the carriers like the horses and elephants by releasing three arrows directed toward each one. When everyone present on the battlefield saw this wonderful feat of Pradyumna's, the great fighters on both sides praised his acts of chivalry.
But still the airplane occupied by Śālva was very mysterious. It was so extraordinary that sometimes many airplanes would appear to be in the sky, and sometimes there were apparently none. Sometimes the plane was visible and sometimes not visible, and the warriors of the Yadu dynasty were puzzled about the whereabouts of the peculiar airplane. Sometimes they would see the airplane on the ground, sometimes flying in the sky, sometimes resting on the peak of a hill, and sometimes floating on the water. The wonderful airplane flew in the sky like a whirling firebrand—it was not steady even for a moment. But despite the mysterious maneuvering of the airplane, the commanders and soldiers of the Yadu dynasty would immediately rush toward Śālva wherever he was present with his airplane and soldiers. The arrows released by the dynasty of the Yadus were as brilliant as the sun and as dangerous as the tongues of serpents. All the soldiers fighting on behalf of Śālva soon became distressed by the incessant release of arrows upon them by the heroes of the Yadu dynasty, and Śālva himself became unconscious from the attack of these arrows.
The soldiers fighting on behalf of Śālva were also very strong, and the release of their arrows also harassed the heroes of the Yadu dynasty. But still the Yadus were so strong and determined that they did not move from their strategic positions. The heroes of the Yadu dynasty were determined either to die on the battlefield or to gain victory. They were confident that if they died in the fighting they would attain a heavenly planet and if they came out victorious they would enjoy the world. The name of Śālva's commander in chief was Dyumān. He was very powerful, and although bitten by twenty-five of Pradyumna's arrows, he suddenly attacked Pradyumna with his fierce club and struck him so strongly that Pradyumna became unconscious. Immediately there was a roaring, "Now he is dead! Now he is dead!" The force of the club on Pradyumna's chest was very severe, and it appeared as though his chest had been torn asunder.
Pradyumna's chariot was being driven by the son of Dāruka. According to Vedic military principles, the chariot driver and the hero on the chariot must cooperate during the fighting. As such, because it was the duty of the chariot driver to take care of the hero on the chariot during the dangerous and precarious fighting, Dāruka's son removed Pradyumna from the battlefield. Two hours later, in a quiet place, Pradyumna regained consciousness, and when he saw that he was in a place other than the battlefield, he addressed the charioteer and condemned him.
"Oh, you have done the most abominable act! Why have you removed me from the battlefield? My dear charioteer, I have never heard that any of our family members was ever removed from the battlefield. None of them left the battlefield while fighting. By this removal you have overburdened me with a great defamation. It will be said that I left the battlefield while fighting was going on. My dear charioteer, I must accuse you—you are a coward and emasculator! Tell me, how can I go before my uncle Balarāma and my father, Kṛṣṇa, and what shall I say before Them? Everyone will talk about me and say that I fled from the fighting place, and if they inquire from me about this, what will be my reply? My sisters-in-law will play jokes upon me with sarcastic words: "My dear hero, how have you become such a coward? How have you become a eunuch? How have you become so low in the eyes of the fighters who opposed you?" I think, my dear charioteer, that you have committed a great offense by removing me from the battlefield."