Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Shishupala is Slain


This episode is from [Maha:2.37-2.44].

Yudhishtra hastily ran after the King of Chedi and tried to conciliate him. He said, "O gracious king, what you have said is scarcely proper for one of your fame. It is sinful, and it is cruel. You ought not have insulted Bhishma or Krishna. Look at all these Kings, many older than you, who have approved of the first worship offered to Krishna. Forget the words that you have uttered in haste and come back, for the Yagna will not be complete till Arghya has been offered to all those who are worthy!"

Meanwhile, Bhishma once again stood up proudly, and said, "He that does not approve of the worship offered to Krishna, the light of the universe, does not deserve soft words or conciliation. In this vast assembly of Kings, I do not see even one who can withstand the might of Keshava in battle. He of the Vrishni race is foremost among warriors. O King of Chedi, we have not worshiped Krishna from fear or caprice, or from desire for favor. We have offered worship unto him, because of his fame, his heroism, his success. The sun, the moon, the constellations, the planets, all the cardinal directions are all established in Krishna. Just as the Agnihotra is foremost among Vedic rituals, as the Gayatri is foremost among metres, as a King is supreme among men, as the ocean is the largest of the water bodies, as Garuda is first among birds, Keshava is foremost among men and celestials. This Shishupala is a mere boy and does not see the greatness of Krishna. This witless ruler of Chedi will never see the glory that can be perceived by only those of pure heart. If he persists in regarding this first worship offered to Krishna as undeserved, I dare him to prevent it!"

Sahadeva then got up and said, "If among all those assembled here, there is someone who cannot bear to see the Arghya offered to Keshava, the slayer of Kesi, who is venerated by us Pandavas, I challenge him to battle me! All those possessed of intelligence will approve this first worship offered to Krishna."

None in the assembly dared to even raise a voice. Sahadeva then offered the first worship to Krishna as ordained in the scriptures. He then proceeded to offer worship to all those worthy of it. Shishupala looked at this proceeding with bloodshot eyes and addressed the Kings thus, "When I am willing to lead you all, why are you silent? Let us array ourselves in battle gear and slay these Vrishnis and the Pandavas, who have insulted us. Are you men or you women, held silent by fear of the Pandavas?"

With passions inflamed by the words of Shishupala, a fair number of the assembled Kings began to feel that they had been insulted. Older, wiser men tried to pacify these monarchs, but they were too angry to listen. There was imminent danger of a battle breaking out.

Worried, Yudhishtra turned towards Bhishma and said, "Sir, it appears as if there will be bloodshed. Dear grandfather, tell me what should I do now so that my Yagna can be completed without any mishap?"

Bhishma smiled and said, "Dear boy, do not fear. Can a dog slay the lion? These kings whose wrath has been stoked by Shishupala cannot harm the hero of the Vrishni race. Even as a child, he slew the demons sent to kill him. While just a boy, he killed Kamsa in a wrestling match. Leave everything to Krishna, he will take care of these upstarts."

Hearing these words, Shishupala was incensed. He said, "Old and infamous wretch! Are you not ashamed of trying to frighten these monarchs with false terrors? You are supposed to be the foremost of the Kurus, doomed is that race, led by you like a pack of blind men led by a blind man. Senility has overtaken you. You are singing the imaginary praises of this Krishna. What is the big deal if he slew a few weak demons? You praise his killing of Kamsa, who was his maternal uncle, was that not treachery? He is a cowherd, of low birth, and is the leader of low born men. It seems that the sons of Pandu, led by you, are reveling in sin. If you claim to be so virtuous, how was it that you abducted Amba who had plighted her troth to another and then abandoned her? I begin to suspect that your celibacy is merely a sham to hide your impotence! That mighty king Jarasandha who desired not to fight with Krishna, saying, 'He is a slave' was right. Who will regard as praiseworthy the role of Krishna in Jarasandha's death? You are all sinful wretches to praise this coward, whose stock in trade is treachery!"

Hearing these words of Shishupala, mighty Bheema ground his teeth in anger. He was about to spring on the king of Chedi with the intention of breaking him into two, but Bhishma caught him in a strong grip and appeased his wrath. Even though Shishupala saw the rage of Bheema's, he did not flinch. He laughed derisively and said, "Release him, O Bhishma!, Let all here witness me kill this Pandava!"

Bhishma said, "This Shishupala was born with three eyes and four hands. As soon as he was born, he screamed and brayed like an ass. An incorporeal voice spoke from heaven and said, 'This child has been blessed with great strength. His excess arms and eye will fall off when he meets his slayer.' His father, the King of Chedi then invited all the Kings to see his child. When Krishna (who was the nephew of the Chedi queen) placed the child on his lap, the extra organs fell off. The queen then asked Krishna to spare the life of her son. He then promised her, 'I shall pardon one hundred offenses committed by your son.' O Bheema, the end of this wretch is approaching, so reign in your anger."

Shishupala continued his taunts. He said, "O Bhishma, you are euoligizing Krishna like a professional chanter of praises. If you must praise somebody, praise this Karna, the peerless bowman. Or praise this great warrior Baaahlika. You may also praise Drona and Ashwatthama, Brahmanas endued with great energy. If your mind is always inclined to sing the praises of others, why are you not singing the praises of the mighty Salya? With so many worthy of your praise, you have unerringly picked out one who is unworthy of mentioning in such exalted company. Your pussilanimity is self-evident, for you live at the pleasure of these Kings assembled here!"

Bhishma said, "So much do I live at the pleasure of others that I do not consider any of the Kings even worthy as much as a blade of grass. There is none here who may withstand my might in battle."

Hearing Bhishma's boast, some of the kings became inflamed with wrath. Some of them stood up and began to reprove Bhishma. The situation was ripe for battle.

Bhishma continued, "If anyone here doubts that Krishna is the essence of the divine, let him show his displeasure by challenging me and Krishna to battle. Prepare to be slain!"

Shishupala said, "Others might decline this challenge from fear, but I dare you both. O Krishna, I challenge you to battle! Just as a dog that has tasted sacrificial offerings must be killed, so too do you deserve to be slain!"

Krishna addressed the assembly and said, "Hear O Kings, this wicked minded Shishupala, whose mother is my aunt, has been the enemy of our race. We have never sought to injure him, but he has always tried to do us an evil turn. He has attacked our city countless number of times. He succeeded in burning it when all the defenders had gone to visit our allies. He has also ravished the reluctant wife of Akrura. His ravishment of Bhadra, the princess of Visala is also well known. I have patiently borne all these transgressions for the sake of my aunt. Why, he even desired to wed Rukmini, despite knowing that she had plighted her troth to me!"

Shishupala laughed and said, "O Krishna, are you not ashamed in saying these words in the assembly? Which other man would say in an open assembly that his wife had been coveted by another? Show your prowess in arms, not words."

Krishna then meditated on his divine weapon, the discus, Sudarsana Chakra. In an instant, it appeared in his hand. He said, "Listen O monarches, I had promised my aunt that I shall pardon a hundred sins of this wretch. That number is now up. I will now slay him in your presence!" With these words, he launched the discus and cut off the head of Shishupala in one stroke. From the slain body of the King of Chedi, a divine light rose and merged with Krishna."

[Note: Shishupala was originally Vijaya, the gatekeeper at Vaikunta, the abode of Lord Vishnu. As a result of the curse of some sages, he and his twin Jaya had to be born many times as a mortal. He was offered the choice of having nine virtuos births or three sinful ones. Both chose the sinful births in order to be reunited faster with Lord Vishnu.]

Yudhishtra then commanded his brothers to perform the funeral rites of King Shishupala. The son of Shishupala was crowned the ruler of Chedi. The rest of the Vedic ritual went off without a hitch. All the monarchs returned to their Kingdoms, pleased at having witnessed the grand spectacle of the Yagna. After staying a while longer, Krishna also returned to his city of Dwaraka.

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Last Modified At: Tue Nov 30 19:57:01 2004