With Krishna’s arrival in Hastinapura, the expenses incurred by the state for his welcome and on gifts showered upon him cause some discomfort. Vidura reminds Dhritarashtra that Krishna is firmly aligned with Pandavas, and no amount of riches will sway him to renege on the minimum requirement of five villages that the Pandavas have made. Duryodhana also argues the same, admitting that while Krishna deserves a mighty welcome, the timing isn’t apt.
Vidura and Duryodhana, while saying the same thing, are saying it for different purposes. Vidura is reminding Dhritarashtra of the uselessness of showering gifts on Krishna if he isn’t going to grant the five villages anyway, and is, therefore, urging the king to accept the Pandavas’ demand. Duryodhana is reminding Dhritarashtra of the uselessness of showering gifts on Krishna if the Kauravas are going to war anyway, and is, therefore, urging the king to declare a war.
When Bhishma tells the sabha that the treatment meted out to Krishna shall not please or displease him, given that he is on a peace mission, Duryodhana reveals his intention of capturing Krishna to subdue the Pandavas. Bhishma is so angered by the suggestion that he gets up and leaves the sabha.
The next day, when Krishna arrives in the city, he is greeted by all luminaries in Hastinapura except Duryodhana. His first private meeting, though, is with Vidura in the latter’s house. The second person Krishna meets is his father’s sister and the mother of the Pandavas, Kunti. At length, Kunti expresses her anguish at the suffering of her sons and is consoled by Krishna, who promises that the Pandavas shall soon achieve their objectives.
After Kunti, Krishna goes to Duryodhana’s residence where, surrounded by the Kaurava’s advisors, Krishna refuses the drink and food offered to him. When asked why, Krishna calls the food tainted, and also mentions that the only food he can accept is that offered by Vidura. This must be especially offensive to the royal prince, because of Vidura’s lineage.
Krishna continues to reside in Vidura’s house, forcing people to visit him there. In the night, Vidura warns Krishna about Duryodhana’s designs. Krishna is unperturbed and reminds Vidura of his own power. In the morning, Krishna’s procession to the royal sabha is followed by a horde of rishis. Once in the assembly, Krishna demands that the sages be offered seats and be allowed to witness the proceedings. This move is to create pressure on the Kaurava hierarchy — whatever the outcome of the peace talks, it would only help to get widespread support among the wise people of Hastinapura.
Krishna’s opening remarks are all for peace. He paints a picture of the combined might of the Kauravas and Pandavas, and hypothesisses that the combined kingdom would be unassailable and could rule the entire world. This is, of course, papering over the fact that granting Indraprastha to the Pandavas would effectively split the Hastinapura kingdom, if not immediately then surely after Dhritarashtra’s death.
The writer is reading the unabridged Mahabharata