Krishna persuades Pandavas to slay Jarasandha

Invited by Yudhistira for advice regarding whether or not to commit to the Rajasuya sacrifice, Krishna travels swiftly to Indraprastha.

Published: 17th July 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th July 2017 09:56 AM   |  A+A-

Invited by Yudhistira for advice regarding whether or not to commit to the Rajasuya sacrifice, Krishna travels swiftly to Indraprastha. We soon learn that he has an agenda of his own, to the extent that he might even be seeing Yudhistira’s desire for the rajasuya as an opportunity for himself and his community.

Krishna reminds Yudhistira that the rajasuya sacrifice means proclaiming oneself the universal emperor. Given that, if Yudhistira were to proceed with the sacrifice, it would only be an empty gesture, for the real supreme emperor is king Jarasandha of Magadha. Jarasandha has imprisoned 86 kings and has taken over their dominions, and is clamouring to extend the number to a 100, which is when he plans to sacrifice the kings. Thus, the only right way for Yudhistira to do a Rajasuya sacrifice is after the elimination of Jarasandha, if at all possible.

This is not completely neutral advice, for Krishna has his own reasons of enmity with Jarasandha. The latter’s daughter was married to Kamsa, the ruler of Mathura who was slain by Krishna. After Kamsa’s death, his wife approached her father and “repeatedly urged him to kill her husband’s killer”. And so we learn that it was out of fear of Jarasandha that Krishna (and the Yadavas in general) fled westward and ultimately settled in Dvaravati, a place with a very elaborate defense system made of series of secured dwars (gates).

Hearing about Jarasandha’s prowess and power, Yudhistira fidgets. He fears failure, and even says that “the Rajasuya is too difficult to accomplish”. But Krishna’s key intention in coming to Indraprastha and talking about defeating Jarasandha was not to appeal to Yudhistira’s good sense, but to the pride of his two younger brothers — Bhima and Arjuna. In that he is successful.

The two most powerful Pandavas try to convince Yudhistira, even at times provoking the elder brother with some harsh words. “A king who has no enterprise is like an anthill,” Bhima says. “What purpose is served if one possesses all the qualities, but lacks valour?” Arjuna questions. Krishna joins their efforts, and adds an element of poetry, “We do not know the time of our death, whether it will be night or day. Nor have we heard of anyone attaining immortality by avoiding battle.”

Excited, Yudhistira asks Krishna for more information about Jarasandha, and is told his origin story. Krishna also tells Yudhistira that it is the best time to kill Jarasandha, as his two powerful bodyguards, Hamsa and Dibhaka, and his most powerful ally, Kamsa, are now dead. Finally, Yudhistira allows Arjuna and Bhima to accompany Krishna on the mission to kill Jarasandha.

We thus see the alliance formed between the kingdoms of Indraprastha and Dvaravati after Arjun’s marriage with Subhadra begin to wield its power in the geopolitical game. Arjuna is the key actor, of course — as the one who won Draupadi and the one who kidnapped Subhadra, he has singlehandedly helped increase the Pandavas’ might through alliances.

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