Story of Jarasandha – from Cradle to the Grave

The King of Magadha, Bruhadratha, was very powerful and was a religious man too. He was married to the twin sisters from the religious place of Kashi. But he did not have any children. Despite all the remedies that a king could afford those days, he was not successful in becoming a father. Disheartened, he lost interest in the royal affairs and decided to go to the forest in exile.

He used to spend the days inside the forest like an ascetic. One day, he came across Sage Chandrakoushika and expressed his interest to offer services to him. When the Sage agreed, Bruhadratha continued to serve him as a disciple. After a few days, the Sage was pleased with his sincerity and demeanour, and granted him a boon.

As expected, Bruhadratha expressed his desire to father a child. The Sage offered him a ripe mango and told him that if his wife, the Queen, ate the mango, she could bear a child. Bruhadratha was elated and returned to his palace. As he had two queens, he cut the ripe mango into two equal halves and gave a half each to them. As prophesied by the Sage, with the passage of time, both the queens became pregnant. In due course, each of the queens gave birth to a half of a child. Scared by such a horrific incident, the King ordered the handicapped kids outside the palace premises.

At the night-break, the demoness Jara was roaming in the dark in search of food. She could trace the dead bodies of the handicapped kids. When she was about to eat the dead bodies dreaming of their tender flesh, something mysterious happened – the two halves combined into one live kid and the kid started crying.

Amazed at such an astonishing incident, Jara thought she might be rewarded if she brought this to the King’s notice. She rushed to the King’s place and explained the incident in detail before the King. The King became elated and rewarded the demoness Jara and named the boy as Jarasandha after her.

Jarasandha later grew up to become the invincible king of Magadha. He was a devotee of Lord Shiva; but as the demoness Jara helped breathe life into him at the beginning, he had inherited many qualities of a demon. Jarasandha had deep respect for the Brahmins. Every day, after taking bath, he used to pray Lord Shiva. And then he was offering goodies/alms to the Brahmins who met him.

Jarasandha used to maintain a good rapport with all the powerful kings around, in order to expand his image and stature. He married off his two daughters, Asti and Prapti, with the infamous Kamsha, the King of Mathura. He also had a friendly relationship with Shishupala, the King of Chedi, and Rukma, Rukmini’s brother.

After Shri Krishna killed Kamsha, the two widows came back to Magadha. To avenge this, Jarasandha attacked Mathura seventeen times and was defeated by Shri Krishna every time. But to save the precious lives of the countrymen, Shri Krishna sent them all to the island kingdom of Dwaraka. Later, when Shri Krishna eloped with Rukmini, which enraged all – Shishupala (Jarasandha’s friend), Rukma (Rukmini’s brother), and Jarasandha himself.

Some days later, Jarasandha reared a strange wish in his mind. He wished to kill 100 kings and offer Lord Shiva a garland made of their heads. For that, he invaded all the kingdoms in Aryabartta and made their kings prisoners. He was falling short of 100, the magic number, by four, when the prisoned kings prayed Shri Krishna by sending him messages secretly. At that time, Shri Krishna was a guest at his cousins, the Pandavas. Yudhisthira was preparing to begin the Rajasuya Yajna, which would need him to lord over all the kings of Aryabartta. Shri Krishna encouraged the Pandavas to kill Jarasandha and release the prisoned kings under him. That way, Shri Krishna accompanied Bhima and Arjuna to Magadha.

Shri Krishna was well aware of the weaknesses of the opponents. So, all three of them disguised themselves as Brahmins and entered the kingdom of Magadha. After worshipping Lord Shiva, when Jarasandha was waiting to fulfil the wishes of all the Brahmins, all three of them came to the fore and invited him to a wrestling duel. Jarasandha, from their voices and outfits, got a doubt about their true identities and questioned them. Shri Krishna and the two Pandava brothers revealed their true identities.

Jarasandha decided not to fight against Shri Krishna calling him as an escapist and as someone from the cowherd community. Arjuna too was not fit for him to get into a duel with, because of his normal human physique. So, Bhima alone could win a chance for direct wrestling duel with Jarasandha. Both of them were equally powerful. So, their wrestling duel continued beyond twenty-seven days. On the twenty-eighth day, Bhima was at his furious best and tore Jarasandha’s body into two equal halves. As he was about to celebrate his victory, the two halves joined together again, bringing back Jarasandha to his previous form. Even repeated attempts to kill him did not get the desired result for Bhima. Disappointed at such mysterious results, Bhima looked at Shri Krishna for a cue. Shri Krishna picked up a piece of straw lying nearby, made that into two pieces, and then threw them in two opposite directions – the right part to the left side, and the left part to the right side.

Bhima could decipher the message from Shri Krishna and did the same with the two parts of Jarasandha’s body. That brought an end to Jarasandha’s life. After that, Shri Krishna made Jarasandha’s son the King of Magadha and suggested him to work under the aegis of the Pandavas. The ninety-six kings prisoned earlier by Jarasandha were let free. Yudhisthira took all of them along with Jarasandha’s son to begin the Rajasuya Yajna.

Lessons learnt:

  • Physical strength alone may not win you a battle – when the Providence is on your side, your win is certain, come what may.

[Published earlier at StoryMirror]

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Akshaya Patra – An Inexhaustible Source of Food

That was the time when the Pandava brothers were in exile for twelve years. A group of Brahmins from Hastinapur and other adjacent places followed the Pandavas as they continued their journey through the forest. The Pandavas out of their moral stature owned the responsibility of food and security of the Brahmins. As the journey became tougher, apprehensive of the hardship that might come ahead, the Pandavas requested the Brahmins to go back to their respective places. Even the humble request of Yudhisthira fell on deaf ears, as the Brahmins were steadfast in their wish to accompany the Pandavas in the journey. They even promised that they would take care of their own food and security.

Dismayed at such a decision, Draupadi prayed the Sun God for help. Pleased with her sincere prayer, the Sun God offered her an Akshaya Patra, a vessel that would be an inexhaustible source of food, for good, irrespective of the number of people consuming food from it. The uniqueness of the vessel was that it would always remain filled with food and would be empty only when Draupadi herself ate food out of it at the end of the day. The Pandavas were pleased for such a gift from the Sun God and were jubilant with the thought that their food worries for the entire twelve years of their exile would be nulled.

When jealous Duryodhana knew of this incident, he was deeply disturbed. To see the Pandavas suffer was his sole motto. So he consulted with Sakuni to devise a new way to put the Pandavas in trouble. They got the plan ready. Sage Durbasha was wandering in the same forest with his disciples. Duryodhana requested Durbasha to visit the Pandavas and ask for food when they would feel hungry. Little aware of Duryodhana’s ill intention, Durbasha and his disciples wished to go and meet the Pandavas immediately. But Duryodhana somehow kept all of them engaged in conversation until Draupadi had her food from the vessel at last.

The Pandavas, often known for their hospitality, were worried to see Sage Durbasha and his disciples at such a time when the vessel was empty and there was no food available to serve. When they expressed their desire to have food, the Pandavas were lost in thought of how to handle such a situation. They asked Sage Durbasha and his disciples to go and take bath before having food. Draupadi worried more as she was sure of the imminent curse from infamous Durbasha when there would be no food for him and his disciples. As always, the last resort for her was to remember her friend and guide, Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna appeared before her in a while and asked for something to eat as he was feeling hungry. Draupadi, ashamed at her inability to provide the Lord anything to eat, explained about her precarious situation. Lord Krishna wore a weird smile on his lips and took Draupadi’s hand in his hand. He took away a rice particle stuck in the corner of her finger nail and ate that. Then, he told Draupadi that was sufficient to satisfy his hunger and he was feeling content.

When Sage Durbasha and his disciples came back refreshed, they told the Pandavas that they would not have to worry for their food as they were feeling quite full at that moment. The Pandavas were pleasantly surprised at such a decision of Sage Durbasha and his disciples. After they left the place, the Pandava brothers asked Draupadi if she had any clue to what might have been the reason for such a change. Draupadi narrated the whole episode of how Lord Krishna helped them get rid of such a puzzle. The Pandavas felt obliged to Lord Krishna. And Lord Krishna yet again showed his love for his ardent followers.

Lessons learnt:

  • When you have unflinching faith in God, your silent prayers in the midst of any crisis would be heard, provided your intentions are morally upright.
  • Let us not allow a crisis to force us to change our moral stance, come what may. When helpless, let us confide in the Providence and wait for his interference.

Samba’s Arrogance Leads to the End of the Yadavas

Samba, a son of Lord Krishna and Jambabati was a handsome young man. He prided himself on his good looks and considered himself to be the best among all sons of Lord Krishna. That he resembled Lord Krishna made him haughtier to such an extent that he became disrespectful to all the guests who were visiting Dwaraka.

On one occasion, Samba made fun of Narada due to his peculiar dressing style. Narada kept quiet considering that as his folly and also keeping in mind that he was Lord Krishna’s son. But the omniscient Lord could know of the incident and got very angry with Samba and cursed him with leprosy, as that would take away his handsomeness which he prides in so much.

Moments later when Samba got affected with leprosy, both, he and his mother Jambabati, got worried and pleaded before Lord Krishna for help. Lord Krishna became considerate and let them know an antidote to the curse. To get rid of leprosy, Samba had to meditate and worship the Sun God at the Chandrabhaga beach (near Konark, Odisha) for 12 year long years. Legend has it that after the Sun God waived off the curse and returned him his original handsomeness, Samba constructed the Sun temple of Konark, now considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

But that episode wasn’t perhaps enough for Samba to learn a lesson. As he regained his handsomeness, he started priding himself on his looks and figure. On one occasion, Narada, Durbasha, and Kanwa Munni came to meet Lord Krishna at Dwaraka. At that time, other sons of Lord Krishna brought Samba in the guise of a pregnant lady and asked the sages to predict the gender of the baby she would deliver.

Samba’s disguise could have fooled the common people to believe that she was a pregnant lady; but the revered sages could make out the fact and felt offended. Especially Durbasha, infamous for his short temper, took the offense so seriously that he cursed the pregnant lady to deliver a block of iron, and he left Dwaraka without meeting Lord Krishna. When Lord Krishna got to know that, he was heartbroken and felt concerned as the whole of Aryabartta knew of such an unpleasant incident by then.

Bhima, the second of Pandavas, promised Lord Krishna that he would grind the iron block to dust. That made Krishna a bit relaxed. When that inopportune moment came, Samba delivered a block of iron. Bhima took that iron block far away from the borders of Dwaraka and rubbed that against metallic stones to dust. He threw the remnant piece to the sea near Prayag Teertha, away from Dwaraka.

But who has the power the change the course of Providence? The entire clan of Yadavas got addicted to alcohol and kept themselves busy in sinister deeds that were quite unbecoming of them.

The place where Bhima grinded the iron block bore a peculiar kind of grass that was strong and sharp like arrows. As luck would have it, the Yadavas in inebriated state followed ‘karala’, a guised animal, that lead them to that place of dangerous grass. They started infighting as the animal vanished and killed one another by attacking with those strands of grass. After that, Lord Krishna became the lone surviving representative of the Yadava dynasty.

On the eve of that unfortunate incident, Lord Krishna foresaw the imminent misfortune and went to Prayag Teertha to seek mental peace far from the madding crowd. By that time, Jara Sabara had got the last piece of iron thrown by Bhima into deep sea during his fishing expedition. He found the piece of iron too sharp and fixed that to his arrow. Considering Lord Krishna’s lotus feet as a deer’s ear, Jara released the arrow and that brought the end of Lord Krishna.

Lessons learnt:

  • Pride goes before a fall.
  • Be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant. – Anonymous

Muchukunda’s Weird Wish and Kala Jabana’s Death

Prince Muchukunda, son of King Mandhata, was a warrior par excellence. When there was a battle between the gods and the demons (that is, asuras), there were none to take up the role of commander-in-chief in the war from the gods’ side. Lord Indra, therefore, requested Muchukunda to assume that role. Muchukunda conceded to the request and kept himself busy in that war for quite some time. Later, when Lord Kartikeya proved himself eligible to lead the gods in the war, Muchukunda was freed from his responsibilities.

Lord Indra, pleased at Muchukunda’s selflessness, integrity and industriousness wished to grant him a boon. At that, Muchukunda thought that he would need to have a satisfying sleep for a long time, maybe a few years, to get rid of his fatigue in the war. When Lord Indra found such a wish to be weird, Muchukunda justified that since there would be neither his kingdom nor his home on earth after those many years, he had nothing to do, and hence, the wish. Lord Indra happily granted his wish, and added that whoever would wake him up before he did have a satisfying sleep would be burnt to ashes at his first look.

Even though Muchukunda longed to win ‘liberation from birth’ (that is, moksha) as a boon, which Lord Bishnu only could grant one, he was satisfied with his long sleep wish being fulfilled. He chose to sleep inside a cave in Mathura where there was less disturbance, and slept there for years together.

Many years later, after Kamsa was killed by Lord Krishna, his two queens, Asti and Prapti, returned to their paternal home and requested their father Jarasandha to take revenge for their husband’s murder.

Therefore, Jarasandha attacked Mathura for seventeen times, but Lord Krishna defeated him on all occasions. As a last resort, Jarasandha persuaded his friend Kala Jabana to attack Mathura. Kala Jabana was blessed by Lord Shiva not to be killed by any weapon. Lord Krishna knew this. So, when Kala Jabana attacked Mathura, Lord Krishna feigned fearfulness and fled from the place. Kala Jabana followed Lord Krishna wherever he went. Lord Krishna led him to the cave where Muchukunda was in deep sleep, covered his body with his own clothes, and hid himself in a corner. As it was too dark inside, Kala Jabana assumed Muchukunda to be Lord Krishna by the clothes and started kicking him. Muchukunda woke up and looked at Kala Jabana in anger. In a fraction of second, Kala Jabana was burnt to ashes. Then, Muchukunda could see Lord Krishna, who is an avatar of Lord Bishnu. Lord Krishna narrated the incident to Muchukunda, and then, granted him ‘moksha’ that he was longing for.

This was just one of the numerous instances when the omniscient and omnipotent Lord Krishna didn’t have to use a weapon to win a battle.

Lesson learnt:

  • Even if you are divinely blessed with rare skills and have no fierce competitors to challenge you, never take the liberty to misuse your skills. And, never challenge the Almighty.
  • At times, if you can explore the power of your ‘mind’, you can forgo the ammunition in a battle field.

Lord Krishna and His Modest Friend Sudama

Lord Krishna brought an end to His maternal uncle Kamsa’s evil acts by scripting his death in a unique manner. Afterwards, Ugrasena, Kamsa’s father, was made the King of Mathura. But Lord Krishna and His elder brother Balarama were declared as the princes of Mathura. And as princes, they did have to complete their formal education for which both of them were sent to the ashram of Sage Sandipani. They completed their academics as well as war art in a year alone. There, in the ashram, Lord Krishna befriended a Brahmin boy, Sudama.

As part of the Gurukul system of education, the disciples in the ashram had to take exams to prove their learning progress. Sage Sandipani was known for his novel way of examining the all-round skills of his disciples. He used to expose his disciples to various tests in course of their daily activities rather than having formal tests.

On one occasion, Lord Krishna and Sudama were sent to deep forest to collect firewood required for holy fire (yajna). Anticipating any untoward challenges in their mission, the Sage’s wife tied a handful of rice fry (khuda bhaja) in one end of Sudama’s robes. As anticipated, there came a sudden heavy downpour while both of them were deep inside the forest. They had to take shelter atop a huge tree throughout the rainy night. Morning after, when rain subsided and they returned to the ashram, Sage’s wife wanted to know the experience of the dreadful dark night inside the dense forest. During the conversation, Sudama fell on her feet and confessed to have eaten the rice fry all alone without sharing a portion with Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna was surprised to know of that episode.

Sage Sandipani, after analyzing the incidents, showed his displeasure with Sudama and said, “Poor fellow, that was a test of your loyalty to your friend. That was ‘treated rice fry’. You owned up poverty for the rest of your life by gulping the rice fry all alone.” Lord Krishna was shocked at this and prayed the Sage to forgive Sudama’s mistake. But the Sage expressed his helplessness in that and suggested to accept the sorry fate and live on.

Few years later when Lord Krishna was ruling over Dwaraka as a prince, Sudama was struggling hard to make both ends meet. Many a time, Sudama’s wife suggested him to meet Lord Krishna and ask for his help, but he would not listen to the counsel due to his self-respect. But his respect and loyalty for his friend Lord Krishna was intact. When things became really tough, Sudama persuaded himself to meet Lord Krishna in Dwaraka. Coincidentally, Sudama had nothing other than a handful of rice fry to offer his old friend when they would meet.

A handful of rice fry for the King of Dwaraka! Sudama wasn’t at peace with himself after thinking about that. After reaching Dwaraka, he was astonished to see the riches there and was desperately trying to hide his gift that he brought for his friend. But the omniscient Lord Krishna came to the scene and warned Sudama not to repeat a past mistake. He snatched the handful of rice fry from Sudama and ate that all with happiness, sharing a portion with his queens.

Sudama’s self-respect did not allow him to reveal anything about his abject poverty before his childhood friend Lord Krishna. So what he treasured before he left for his village was Lord Krishna’s friendship and hospitality. But there happened a miracle in Sudama’s village in his absence: his modest hut was transformed into a palace with riches galore. When Sudama reached home and got to see all that, he could realize that those were the deeds of Lord Krishna. As he thanked him for getting him out of the abyss of poverty, Lord Krishna appeared in his mind’s eye and told, “There’s nothing to thank me for. You had eaten up my share of rice fry and had owned up my share of poverty too. And today when you returned my share of rice fry, I returned you your share of riches. That is the ruling of Providence. I was only waiting for an opportune moment when I could make you debt-free.

Lesson learnt: The ability to forget and forgive is a true measure of the depth of friendship. Unless you are ‘you’ with your friend, there are a few more tests to pass to approve your relation as friendship.

How Lord Krishna Designed the End of Durdaksha

Out of the ninety-nine brothers of Duryodhana, Durdaksha was the only one who was supporting the stand of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata war. He was the only one from the Kourava clan who always dissuaded Duryodhana from the path of deceit and violence. But Duryodhana would never listen to his advice. Instead, he ousted Durdaksha from the Kourava clan. When Durdaksha asked for Yudhishthira’s help at those troubled times, he offered him solace till end of the war. But Dhritarashtra and Gandhari, parents of the Kouravas, were unaware of such a happening.

At the end of the Mahabharata war, it was tough for Dhritarashtra and Gandhari to believe that their beloved son Duryodhana had also been slain, like all his brothers. What was tormenting more was their pride of having hundred sons was meaningless. Gandhari, who blind-folded herself after marrying Dhritarashtra to prove her love and devotion for her blind husband, was then desperate to open her eyes to have the last glimpse of her sons’ bodies. What she was perhaps unaware was that her first sight after her years of feigned blindness would burn anything to ashes, maybe due to her divine devotion for her husband.

While taking stroll in the battle field with Bidura and Sanjaya, Gandhari wished Yudhishthira to meet her. As Yudhishthira was getting ready to come to meet Gandhari, Lord Krishna appeared with Durdaksha and wished to accompany Yudhishthira. After they reached the place where Gandhari was eagerly waiting for Yudhishthira, Lord Krishna advised him not to go to the front of Gandhari. Upon Yudhishthira’s innocent inquiry, Lord Krishna answered that it would be a solace for Gandhari to see her only son alive after the demise of her ninety-nine sons. Yudhishthira agreed and sent Durdaksha to stand before Gandhari’s eyes.

Gandhari requested Lord Krishna to unwrap the blind-fold on her eyes so that she could see her son at first sight. Lord Krishna did that. In a fleet second, Durdaksha was burnt to ashes, thus scripting the end of the Kouravas. The heart-broken Gandhari looked at Lord Krishna and was surprised to see Him smiling mysteriously. After realizing the situation, Gandhari cursed Lord Krishna: ‘The end of the Yadavas (to which Lord Krishna belongs) be similar to that of the Soma dynasty (the Kouravas).’

Weighing the sorrows that Gandhari had owned so far, Lord Krishna agreed to live through her curse. Therefore, later, when the Yadavas in Dwarika were in inebriated state and were infighting among themselves thus signalling their end, Lord Krishna did take recluse from all of them, and planned His end while resting at the far-off Prayag Teertha. [You may like to read When Lord Krishna planned His end …]

Lesson learnt: Unless Lord Krishna had it planned that way, Gandhari’s fearsome first sight might have burnt Yudhishthira to ashes. How could the Pandavas who have lost so much in their struggle to defeat the Evil face such an end while a part of the Evil is still alive? In the court of God, Justice reigns supreme.

When Lord Krishna planned His end …

What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. [T S Eliot]

Who knows this better than who made all the beginning? When Lord Krishna was certain that Good had started to rule over Evil after His concerted efforts to restore order in an anarchic world, He did plan His end in a way that would have many questions for posterity to ponder about. While He was resting peacefully in the lap of Mother Nature at Prayag, a place nearby Dwaraka, Jara Sabara was on his hunting expedition. While Jara released his arrow to hit a deer’s ear amidst the jungle, little did he know, what he aimed at was not deer’s ear but Lord Krishna’s lotus feet that resembled a deer’s ear. [Earlier, if Rukmini had taken Saint Durbasha’s order seriously, perhaps Jara’s arrow wouldn’t have pierced Krishna’s feet. To know more, read an earlier post.]

When Lord Krishna was in acute pain and Jara was at his apologetic best, the Lord wished Jara to get Arjuna to that place, for their last meeting. That was perhaps a death wish, Jara deciphered. Jara reached the Pandava brothers and told them that Lord Krishna in His last times wished to meet Arjuna as He was about to depart for good. Shocked at Jara’s revelation, all the Pandava brothers got ready to go on to meet Lord Krishna. Jara reiterated Krishna’s wish to meet Arjuna specifically and not all of them. The Pandava brothers got disappointed, but had no other option than sending Arjuna alone to meet Krishna.

As Arjuna was taking leave from his brothers, Sahadeva, who had the rare ability to see everything that would happen in future but would never be vocal about that, advised Arjuna not to touch Lord Krishna when they would meet. When Arjuna wished to know the reason, Sahadeva told that Lord Krishna would take away all his skills (that He bestowed on Arjuna earlier) if and when they would touch each other. As Arjuna was yet to come out of the shock, he nodded his head and accompanied Jara to Prayag.

Arjuna, seeing his friend, philosopher and guide reeling in acute pain, was moved to tears. Lord Krishna expressed His desire for Arjuna’s last hug before He would depart. But Sahadeva’s prophecy was ringing so loud in Arjuna’s mind that he had to fight a battle with his own self to restrict himself from giving in to Lord Krishna’s last wish. The omniscient Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to extend his arrow and touch Him by that. Arjuna thought for a while and then did extend his arrow towards Lord Krishna. In a fleet second, Lord Krishna took away the divine skills that He bestowed on him before. Many wonder why Lord Krishna did that. Now when the world was in safe hands, there was no reason for Arjuna to carry those divine skills with him. And when the Lord Himself departs, who would tame the skilled Arjuna? There was chance Arjuna might even misuse the skills. (Arjuna, whom the world reckoned as the invincible warrior, was unable to even lift his bow and arrow when his skills were taken away.)

Lesson learnt: Just know that you are a non-entity when the umbilical chord (represented by your faith and devotion) is cut from the Supreme Being. Your skills and abilities that you flaunt to this world are not your own and are the gifts of the Supreme Being.