By Nirooshitha Sethuram
Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow
One fine day, while Krishna was in the assembly hall of the palace, one of his guards came in and announced the arrival of a stranger. Krishna gave permission to admit this person to the royal court. The stranger came in and bowed to Krishna, explaining he was sent by the kings imprisoned by Jarasandha, the mighty king of Magadha. He said he came seeking help to save the kings from the tyrant Jarasandha. He also said that Jarasandha was planning to capture as many kings as he could, to do a sacrifice to Rudra. While Krishna was trying to console the stranger, and the stranger was praying to Krishna to save the kings, Sage Narada walked in.
Krishna welcomed the sage, offering due respect and a seat in the assembly. Krishna said to Narada, “Honorable Sage, there is nothing you don’t know about. You know all that happens in this manifestation of Ishvara (God). So, we are delighted to hear about your visit to the Pandavas from you.”
Narada was happy to share the details of his visit with the Pandavas. “I visited the Pandavas in Indraprastha. I was duly received by Yudhishthira. I was very much honored and warmly welcomed by them all. Then I conveyed to them that I was going to tell them a wish their father King Pandu had. Yudhishthira with respect immediately said that he will fulfill his father’s wish at any cost.
Then I disclosed the wish of Pandu by saying, ‘You must perform the Rajasuya Yaj~na to establish your superiority to all other kings.; Yudhishthira immediately called his royal priest and conveyed his desire. He also wanted to consult you, Krishna, about this matter.”
Hearing this, Krishna immediately started his journey to Indraprastha to advise Yudhishthira on the Rajasuya Yaj~na and the need to eliminate Jarasandha. As soon as Krishna reached Indraprastha, he was lovingly welcomed by Yudhishthira and his brothers. Krishna embraced them all with love and affection and gave his respects to Kunti, their mother and his aunt. Draupadi received Krishna’s wives cordially and led them to their rooms.
Yudhishthira begin to explain his plan about the yaj~na, also expressing his concerns about Jarasandha and Shishupala. After listening to Yudhishthira Krishna started to devise a plan. Yudhishthira then asked, “How can we accomplish the killing of Jarasandha? He is gifted with inimitable strength by Lord Shiva and has thus become invincible.”
Krishna assured Yudhishthira not to worry but to simply send Bhima and Arjuna with him. He said that he would make sure Bhima kills Jarasandha. Bhima defeating Jarasandha would establish Yudhishthira as the mightiest king, capable of performing the Rajasuya Yaj~na. As Yudhishthira completely trusted Krishna, he had no fear in sending Bhima and Arjuna with him. Still knowing Jarasandha’s valor very well he had several doubts in his mind which disturbed his peace.
Krishna again assured Yudhishthira saying, “Bhima will challenge Jarasandha for a wrestling duel. Knowing Jarasandha, he will be sure to accept it. By dueling with him, mighty Bhima will get a chance to kill him.” Yudhishthira was satisfied as he knew that, with the help and guidance from Krishna, Bhima will be victorious. Also, the invincible archer Arjuna will be there with them. Krishna also pointed out that Jarasandha’s end is imminent because his misdeeds have crossed all limits. Nature never spares a man whose excesses exceed the appropriate norms. Yudhishthira was certain that the Gods would be on their side because, by killing Jarasandha, they would be rescuing the kings who were imprisoned by him for sacrifice.
As a first step towards this, Krishna advised Yudhishthira to send Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva on a journey in all four directions to conquer all the other neighboring kings. They went as emissaries to all these other kings, demanding a vassal fee. This showed their willingness to accord Yudhishthira the position of an Emperor. This was done easily and all four of them returned in no time, with vassal fees sent to Yudhishthira willingly as he was loved by them all.
Now only Jarasandha remained. As planned earlier by Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna set out with Krishna to Magadha Kingdom, traveling in the guise of brahmins. After a long journey they reached the capital city. On their way, they destroyed the revered mountain of the Magadha kingdom. The brahmins belonging to the mountain took this as an ill omen. Right away, they informed Jarasandha about the mountain having been destroyed by some strangers.
Advised by his priests, Jarasandha started a Yaj~na to resolve the effect of the bad omen and to avert the misfortunes that looked to be looming large upon him and his kingdom. This was a great opportunity that created a way for Krishna and the Pandava brothers to enter the venue of the Yaj~na and meet Jarasandha.
They presented themselves before King Jarasandha and were cordially welcomed by him since he didn’t recognize who they were, because of their disguise. According to Krishna’s plan, both Pandava brothers stayed silent without uttering a word. Jarasandha was annoyed that the two men didn’t acknowledge his warm welcome. Krishna addressed their silence saying that they were both on a silence fast and they will not speak until midnight. Jarasandha requested them to rest and agreed to return after midnight to meet them.
As agreed, Jarasandha came to the place where Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna were staying and offered his salutations to them again. Arjuna blessed him and asked him to take a seat. Jarasandha gazed carefully at both the Pandava brothers and got suspicious of them. When they spoke, he recognized their voices to be familiar. Even their appearance was recognizable, despite the clothing they were wearing. And looking at their wrists confirmed his doubts that brahmins in front of him were not at all brahmins but kshatriyas (warriors).
Looking at them closely, he said to them, “You claim yourself to be brahmins. Except for your clothing, your physique and all your deeds are like those of kshatriyas. Upon your arrival, I am hearing about our revered mountain been destroyed. Plus you refused to accept my honor this morning on the pretext of observing a silence vow. So, I demand you disclose your true identity and the purpose of your visit, like true kshatriyas.”
Krishna replied, saying they didn’t accept his honor that morning as they were then, and even now, in the presence of their enemy. Jarasandha couldn’t quite understand what Krishna was saying and asked how they are enemies to him, demanding an explanation. So, Krishna pointed out how he has imprisoned kings for no fault of theirs. As kshatriyas, they came to Magadha for those who were imprisoned. Therefore, they considered Jarasandha as an enemy. Jarasandha argued, saying that he imprisoned them after defeating them in fierce battles. As victor, it is his right to treat them as he wishes.
Jarasandha was an ardent devotee of the brahmins and followed the dharma of giving. Due to his visitors’ brahmin attire, he decided to fulfill their wish, despite what consequences it might would bring. So, he asked what their wish was.
Krishna said that they were not there to beg for food but to challenge him to a duel. He then disclosed their identity, saying, “I am Krishna, the son of Vasudeva of the Yadava clan. This is Arjuna, the greatest archer of all times and a Pandava prince. And this is Bhima, his elder brother, destroyer of demons Hidimba and Bakasura.” Then he threw out a challenge to duel, asking him to choose one of them for the duel.
Jarasandha was furious at once. Especially his arch enemy Krishna being right Infront of him, he couldn’t refuse the challenge, because of his arrogance. He then roared with laughter and exclaimed, “Hey Yadava! you are so afraid to fight with me that you deserted Mathura and took refuge in the city of Dwaraka. So, I wouldn’t want to fight you. Arjuna is youngest of you all and wouldn’t be a match for me in a duel either.
“The only one whom I can even consider is Bhima. Even though he is incomparable to my valor, he is better than both of you. So, I am willing to have a fight with him.” So, the day was fixed for the ferocious fight between the two mighty men.