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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Dronacharya and King Drupada: A Story of Revenge and Mercy

Most of us know that the Hindu epic Mahabharat is replete with many interesting anecdotes that teach us many rare life lessons. Let us recall one such anecdote involving the lives of Guru Dronacharya and King Drupada.

Dronacharya and Drupada were disciples in the same Gurukul. Over a period of time, both of them became good friends. Drupada was the only heir to his royal family, and that way, a future king. Dronacharya, on the other hand, was the son of a saint named Bharadwaja, a poor Brahmin by birth. He was therefore worried about his future even though he was skilled in all fronts – academic, warfare, sports, and others. He was an exceptional warrior of that era even though he was a Brahmin, not a Kshatriya who were known to be good at war skills. Drupada, however, was not so skilled; so, he used to seek Dronacharya’s help in all his tasks during their entire tenure in the Gurukul.

One day, it struck to Drupada’s mind that he must express his gratitude to Dronacharya for all his timely help in the tasks he was given at the Gurukul. So, he called on Dronacharya and pledged before him that he would love to help him unconditionally in the time of his need. He also asked Dronacharya to feel free to seek any kind of help whenever there is a need.

Many days passed, and when the time came for both of them to leave the Gurukul after completion of their formal studies, Drupada promised Dronacharya to offer him half of the kingdom, which he would rule over, to alleviate his poverty. Dronacharya was too self-respecting an individual to accept such an offer. He expressed sincere thanks to Drupada for that gesture. He also expressed that he would not hesitate to seek Drupada’s help when there is an absolute need. Thus, they departed.

Time and milieu changed with the changing cosmos. With them were forgotten many a promise and many a pledge. Drupada became the King of Panchala. His growing power and the ensuing prestige boosted his ego, thus converting him to a different person than the one who was Dronacharya’s friend at the Gurukul.

On the other hand, the lady luck did not smile at Dronacharya for quite long. He was still languishing in poverty. By that time, he had married Krupi, the twin sister of Krupacharya, and had become the proud father of Ashwatthama. However, he had to struggle hard to make both ends meet.

On one occasion, when Ashwatthama was being ridiculed by a bunch of his friends, Dronacharya overheard their conversation. The basis of the ridicule was that Dronacharya was not able to afford milk for Ashwatthama, and therefore, Ashwatthama was tricked to believe a beverage made with rice powder as milk. That incident saddened the poor father in Dronacharya and he was not at peace with himself. Over a deep thought, he was reminded of his last meeting with Drupada and his promise. Then, he decided to meet Drupada and beg a few cows to nurture them.

As Dronacharya reached King Drupada’s palace, the gatekeepers were stunned to see him. They did not allow him in, because of his poor attire and dejected look. He was ridiculed more when he called King Drupada as his childhood friend. Despite all that, Dronacharya was hell-bent on meeting the King. That compelled the gatekeepers to pass on his message to the King. King Drupada allowed him entry into his court but did not identify him as his childhood friend. He mocked Dronacharya by saying, “How a rich King and a poor Brahmin be friends?” He ordered the court to present him a few cows as a royal favour and send him back. Pissed off with such unexpected, irrational behaviour of a childhood friend, who once promised to offer him half of his kingdom, Dronacharya returned empty-handed. He cursed his fate and took a promise to take revenge on Drupada at a suitable time later.

The vengeful Drona, leaving aside his interest in the Brahminic studies, made up his mind to teach war skills to the Kshatriyas. His brother-in-law Krupacharya referred his name before Bhishma to train the Kuru Dynasty in war skills. Bhishma took a tough test before offering Dronacharya the new responsibility.

As time passed by, Dronacharya discovered the latent talent of Arjuna, among all others, and trained him meticulously. Thus, Arjuna came up as an undisputed warrior. At the end of the formal training, when the disciples asked Dronacharya about his Guru Dakshina (return gift to the Guru), he desired them to defeat King Drupada in direct war and bring the defeated King to him.

The Kouravas led by Duryodhana were highly ambitious and boastful. So, they jumped the gun and hurriedly raised a war against the Panchala kingdom and were defeated. Duryodhana was taken as a prisoner. Then, the Pandavas reiterated the war against Drupada, to honour their Guru’s wishes and to free Duryodhana as well.

As expected, Arjuna, after a fierce fight, won the war and brought the defeated King Drupada before Dronacharya. Dronacharya blessed Arjuna for his bravery. He then reminded Drupada about their Gurukul days of friendship and his false promise, allowing him to relish his shameful defeat. Drupada was ashamed of his ruthless behaviour. He repented and asked Dronacharya to forgive. Dronacharya was humane enough to listen to his appeal, and forgave Drupada, then and there. But as per Drupada’s promise made earlier, he took away half of the Panchala kingdom and made Ashwatthama the king of that. He returned the other half to Drupada.

The helpless King Drupada pretended to be friendly at that time. But in his heart of hearts, he pledged again to take revenge on Dronacharya for that offence. He came back and arranged to offer prayers to the Almighty seeking divine favor to punish Dronacharya. He performed yajnas, aspiring to father a child who could help him make friendship with Arjuna, be the cause of Dronacharya’s death, and wipe away the Kuru Dynasty forever, directly or indirectly.

King Drupada’s prayers were heard, and he was blessed with a son Dhrushtadyumna, who later killed Dronacharya in the Mahabharata war, and a daughter Draupadi who married Arjuna, thus helping his father make friendship with him, and was the sole indirect reason for the end of Kuru Dynasty.

Lessons learnt:

  • Strong determination can win you a battle even when you are ill-equipped – you may need to have a good stock of patience.
  • Hatred and vengeance may lead you to a certain destruction.

[Published earlier at StoryMirror]

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.

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.

When Lord Krishna Answered Draupadi’s Prayers

All know and wonder about the divine camaraderie that existed between Lord Krishna and Draupadi, the only wife of the Pandavas in the epic, Mahabharata. The episode when the Pandavas bet on Draupadi to win a game against Duryodhana and his brothers as a trump card has been perhaps the most talked about one in the epic’s popularity.

When the Pandavas lost the game due to the cunning Shakuni playing his part in supporting the dice calls, Duryodhana wanted his younger brother Dushasana to bring Draupadi to the banquet place and denude her before all parties. Well, it is not that the Pandavas did not have the might to fight with the Kauravas to stop that act of inhumanness. They left the fate of Draupadi to Providence only because they respected their committed words. They did realize that it was a phenomenal wrong to bet on their beloved wife to win back their fortune in a highly unpredictable game played by clever opponents. So, the crisis was of their own doing, and it was against their swadharma (that is, self-religion) to distance themselves from their words that they have committed, in real life or in a mere game.

Draupadi for once cursed her fate to be used as a pun in the game and prayed fervently Lord Krishna to save her from the shameless humiliation that the Kauravas were causing her. Lord Krishna was playing dice with Queen Satyabhama while Draupadi’s prayers reached Him. The omniscient Lord was visibly disturbed for a moment while listening to the prayers, and then kept playing for a few more moments. When He unwrapped the cloth from His wounded finger and released that in air, He murmured, with His inimitable smile on lips, that finally the debt was repaid. Upon Satyabhama’s inquiry, Lord Krishna told her about Draupadi’s helplessness at the moment and His action.

When Satyabhama asked why Lord Krishna delayed in offering Draupadi His help, He answered that He wanted Draupadi to put in her best to avoid the crisis on her own. And if she failed after her honest efforts, she must submit herself before the Lord completely. So it was only when Draupadi reposed her complete faith in Him and lifted her hand towards heaven, did He release the piece of cloth that was coincidentally the piece of saree that Draupadi had torn (from her own saree) and wrapped on Krishna’s wounded finger in their last meeting. Lord Krishna narrated the incident further. Last time, when His finger was wounded and bleeding continued in the presence of all His queens and Draupadi, all His queens screamed for the maids and physicians. But before any of them could spring into action, Draupadi tore a piece of her saree that she was wearing to wrap the wounded finger to stop bleeding. That act of her human kindness had cemented the platonic friendship between them. And of course, that small piece of saree extended till infinity at a time when it mattered most and Draupadi could get out of the shameful situation.

Lesson learnt:

  • Always show acts of your human kindness whenever and wherever you are in a capable position. God remembers every small act of your human kindness and returns you the favour at a time when you need that the most.
  • When you wait on God’s interference to help you out of a crisis, first, ensure that: 1) You have put in your honest efforts to fight it out with all the resources and skills you have with you. 2) When your efforts failed, you have surrendered yourself completely before God to get you a solution.
  • God’s action depends more on how honest your efforts were and how complete your surrender (to Him) is.