Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Slaying of Jarasandha


This chapter is from [Maha:2.13-2.18].

Ever since Narada had mentioned that performing the Rajasooya Yagna would help his father Pandu to attain a position in Indra's court, Yudhishtra was constantly thinking about ways by which this ritual could be accomplished. The one thing holding him back was the knowledge that it would be a very difficult task, and that his people might suffer in that attempt. True to his lineage (for he was the son of Yama), he wished to pursue a course of action that would result in the greatest good to his subjects.

He then summoned his friends and trusted counsellors and said, "The celestial Rishi Narada has brought me word from my deceased father Pandu, may his soul be blessed! My father desires that I perform the Yagna known as the Rajasooya, which would confer great honor upon him, and entitle him to a seat of great merit in the court of heaven. The Rishi has also warned me about the difficulties that lie ahead if such a sacrifice is to be conducted. Knowing all these things, what would you all advise me to do?"

The ministers conferred amongst themselves. Finally one of them stood up and said, "O King, your friends think that you possess all the qualities that are required for an emperor. You are certainly worthy of performing this great Yagna known as Rajasooya. By performing this ritual, you will be proclaimed as the conqueror of the whole world. We advise you to commence preparations for this Yagna without delay."

Yudhishtra then said, "I am very much gratified that you all consider me worthy of this honor. However, I should not take a decision of this grave import without consulting my well wisher Krishna. I shall send forth a messenger to invite him here. Once he has given his consent, I shall begin preparations for the ritual."

Accordingly, a swift messenger was dispatched to the city of Dwaraka to invite Krishna to Indraprastha. After worshiping his guest as befitting his status, Yudhishtra revealed to him his desire to conduct the Rajasooya sacrifice.

Krishna replied, "O King, your counsellors have certainly spoken the truth. You are indeed worthy of conducting the Rajasooya sacrifice. However, there is a significant obstacle to overcome. Before you can conduct this Yagna, all the kings in the world must accept you as their overlord. I have no doubt that your allies will not cause you any trouble. Indeed, even among those who are not your allies, there are not many who are strong enough to oppose you. The Kshatriyas of the present day are an inferior lot compared to their ancestors. Your only problem is Jarasandha. The king of Magadha is a powerful warrior. He has subjugated a large number of kings and is holding them prisoner. When he has conquered one hundred such kings, he intends to sacrifice them to Lord Shiva, and thereby become invincible in battle. Such is his prowess in arms that even I and my kinsmen had to abandon our city of Mathura and settle in our present city of Dwaraka to escape his depredations. You must slay Jarasandha before you can conduct the Rajasooya. Indeed, many kingdoms will be grateful to you if you can accomplish this feat."

Yudhishtra said, "Dear Krishna, if you had to flee from your city in fear of Jarasandha, you who are without equals in the use of weapons, what hope do I have of defeating Jarasandha? Indeed, hearing your description of his prowess, I fear that my desire of being crowned as emperor might not materialize. If victory is so uncertain, is it fair of me to subject my countrymen to the ardors of a long campaign against such a strong foe?"

At this point, Bheema intervened and said, "It is the duty of a Kshatriya to conquer kingdoms by war. Indeed, effort is the hallmark of a King. With my strength, Krishna's wisdom and Arjuna's prowess with the bow, I am certain that we can prevail over the King of Magadha. Self belief is the key to victory."

Krishna then said, "It is your duty to save the eighty-six kings now held captive by Jarasandha. If he succeeds in capturing fourteen more kings, he will sacrifice all of them. He is the de facto emperor of the world, for a large number of kings pay him tribute. As Bheema remarked, there is little that a team of myself, Bheema and Arjuna cannot accomplish. We shall surely be victorious."

Despite these assurances, Yudhishtra was still doubtful. He said, "Desirous of imperial dignity and acting of selfish motives, how, O Krishna, can I despatch you three to slay Jarasandha? From what I have heard of his prowess, it is doubtful if Yama himself can slay him. I am afraid that some harm may befall you all if you make this attempt."

Arjuna said, "O King, such words are not worthy of the illustrious dynasty in which you have been born. Have I not engaged the celestials in combat when I helped Agni burn the Khandava forest? Have I not been declared to be the best archer in the world by our guru Drona? Has he not taught me the use of many divine missiles and weapons? As Krishna says, it is our duty to save the eighty-six kings who are in danger of their lives at the hands of this monster. If we can slay the King of Magadha and save these Kshatriyas, we would have done a deed of great merit. Give us leave to fight."

Vasudeva (Krishna) said, "Arjuna has spoken words befitting a scion of the Kuru race. We know not when death will overtake us, in the night or in the day. Nor have we ever heard that immortality has been achieved by desisting from fight. It is, therefore, the duty of men to attack all enemies in accordance with the principles laid down in the scriptures. Aided by good policy, if not frustrated by destiny, our undertaking can achieve success. If we win, we shall win you the title of emperor, if we are slain in battle, we shall ascend to the higher regions reserved for those who fall on the battlefield. There is nothing to loose, let us attack."

Yudhishtra was convinced, but he was curious how Jarasandha came to be so strong. Krishna then narrated to him the story of Jarasandha's birth, and the reason for his immense physical strength. Finally, Yudhishtra gave his consent to attack Magadha.

Soon, Krishna, Bheema and Arjuna set out to for the kingdom of Magadha, disguising themselves as Brahmanas. The capital of this kingdom was protected by five large hills named Vaihara, Varaha, Vrishava, Rishigiri, and the Chaitya. Instead of entering the city through its gates, the party pierced the Chaitya peak with their shafts and broke it to pieces. This peak was revered by the clan of Brihadratha, the father of Jarasandha. As they entered the city, many ill omens were observed by those who were skilled in reading such signs, and those Brahmanas grew fearful for the safety of their kingdom.

Entering the city, the three invaders then forcibly snatched the garlands that had been kept for sale in the shops therein. They also snatched away sandal-wood paste and smeared it upon their body. Finally, they went to the palace and approached the King.

Jarasandha, although wondering at their unusual appearance, took them to be Brahmanas and offered them worship and said, "You are welcome to my city."

At this, Bheema and Arjuna remained silent. Krishna said to the King, "O King, my friends are currently observing a vow of silence. They will speak only after midnight."

The King then ordered his servants to provide suitable accommodation for his three guests. When the clock struck midnight, he sent for them. The King said, "It is well known to me that Brahmanas do not wear floral garlands or deck their body with sandalwood paste unseasonably. My soldiers tell me that you snatched these items from my subjects. I begin to doubt if you are Brahmanas in the first place! You appear to be Kshatriyas. What is your motive for coming here? Why have you entered my city in such an improper way?"

Krishna said in a grave voice, "O King, we never claimed to be Brahmanas. It has been said that one should enter the house of a fried in a proper manner and that of an enemy in an improper way. As we are your enemies, we entered your city in this unorthodox manner, and that is why we have not accepted the worship you have offered us."

Jarasandha said, "I do not ever recall having injured the three of you. For what reason do you regard me as your enemy? What is the injustice that I have done you?"

Krishna replied, "There is a prince of a royal line, who upholds the dignity of the Kshatriyas, who has sent us. O King, you have taken eighty-six kings prisoner with the intention of sacrificing them to the Lord of Uma. How can you sacrifice men as if they were mere animals? Is there any Kshatriya who will not seek to prevent this travesty? Know that I am Krishna, this man is Bheema and the other is Arjuna the Pandava. Desirous of liberating the captive monarchs, we have come to fight with you to the death."

Jarasandha said, "All those kings that have been taken prisoner by me have been defeated in fair combat. Having said that, I accept your challenge. With troops against troops, or one on one or against two of you at once, or against all three, I am ready to fight."

Having said this, Jarasandha then crowned his son Sahadeva as his heir apparent. Krishna then said, "We wish to engage you in single combat. Chose any one of you to fight with you."

Jarasandha said, "I will not fight you O Krishna, for you are of inferior birth. I will not fight Arjuna, for he is a mere child. I have, however, heard that Bheema is an excellent wrestler. I shall fight him to death."

Bheema and Jarasandha then entered the wrestling arena, and the combat began. They fought each other with their bare arms as their only weapons. The seized each other's arms and legs and tried to break each others' limbs. Striking neck against neck and forehead against forehead, they caused fiery sparks to come out like flashes of lightning. The citizens numbering thousands came to watch this wonderful battle. The battle had started on the first day of the month of Kartika, and the warriors fought day and night, without pausing for food or rest. On the thirteenth day, Krishna perceived that Jarasandha was beginning to tire. He gave the signal to Bheema, who lifted his foe high above his head and tore him into two pieces.

Such was the noise made when Bheema tore Jarasandha into two, that the citizens of Magadha were struck dumb with terror. It sounded as if a mountain had come crashing down upon them. Many pregnant women in the audience were prematurely delivered!

However, no sooner had the two pieces of the body hit the ground, that they joined together and became whole! Jarasandha sprang back to life and resumed the battle. Bheema was struck with wonder, and was perplexed as to how to slay his foe. Perceiving Bheemas predicament, Krishna then picked up a blade of grass, tore it into half and threw the two pieces in such a way that they were facing opposite to each other. Bheema understood this hint. He once again caught hold of Jarasandha and tore him in two. But this time, he threw the two pieces such that they were in opposite directions. The two pieces could not unite, and Jarasandha was slain.

Then Krishna went in person to free the monarchs who were being held prisoner in the mountain fort of Jarasandha. The kings were exceedingly glad to obtain their freedom, and pledged their undying devotion to Krishna. Highly gratified, Krishna then asked them to accept Yudhishtra as their overlord and to assist him in conducting the Rajasooya.

After installing prince Sahadeva, the son of Jarasandha on the throne of Magadha, Krishna and the two Pandavas returned victorious to Indra Prasta. They were welcomed very warmly by Yudhishtra who expressed his gratitude to Krishna for the success of their mission. After spending a few days with the Pandavas, Krishna returned to Dwaraka.

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Last Modified At: Sat Nov 13 21:37:47 2004