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The slaying of the demon, Jarasandha.
(Liberation of King Jarasandha)
One day, as Maharaja Yudhisthira was seated in the royal assembly hall, surrounded by his brothers, other relatives, and numerous citizens, he addressed Lord Krishna, while everyone listened attentively. The King said, “O Govinda, I wish to perform the Rajasuya-yagya, the king of all sacrifices, and so I hope that, by Your mercy, it can be done. By performing this sacrifice, I wish to satisfy all of the demigods, who are Your empowered representatives in this world.”
“Of course, as far as we, the Pandavas are concerned, we do not desire anything from the demigods, for we are satisfied being Your devotees. I wish to invite all of the demigods, beginning with Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, just to show that they have no power independent of You. I wish to substantiate that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and all others are Your servants.”
“O Lord, those who are Your surrendered devotees attain all success, even if they desire something in this world, whereas those who do not take shelter of You are never satisfied. Let the people of this world see the result that is obtained by those who worship Your lotus feet, and also let them see the result that is obtained by those who do not.”
The Supreme Lord then said, “O King, your plan is an excellent one, because, by the performance of the Rajasuya sacrifice, all living beings will be benefited. First, you must conquer all the kings of this earth, bringing it under your control, and you must procure the necessary paraphernalia. Only then can this great sacrifice be performed.”
“You brothers are partial expansions of great demigods, and you are so self-controlled that You have conquered Me, who am unconquerable by those who cannot control their senses. No one in this world, even a demigod, and so what to speak of an earthly king, can surpass My devotee with his strength, beauty, fame or riches.”
Upon hearing the Lord’s words, Maharaja Yudhisthira became so happy that his face appeared to blossom like a lotus flower. Krishna becomes conquered by the love of one who has conquered his senses. One who has not conquered his senses cannot conquer the Supreme Lord. This is the secret of devotional service. To conquer the senses means to engage them constantly in the service of the Lord. This was the specific qualification of the Pandavas.
Maharaja Yudhisthira sent his brothers out to conquer all directions. Sahadeva went to the south, Nakula to the west, Bhima to the east, and Arjuna to the north. It is not that the Pandavas declared war on all the kings of the world. They went out to inform them of Yudhisthira’s intention to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice, and that they were required to pay taxes for its execution. This payment meant that a king accepted his subjugation before Yudhisthira, and in the case of a refusal, there was certainly a fight.
When Maharaja Yudhisthira heard that Jarasandha would not accept his sovereignty, he became anxious, and so Krishna informed him of Uddhava’s plan. Bhima, Arjuna and Krishna then disguised themselves as brahmanas and went to the city, Girivraja. They approached Jarasandha (who was a dutiful householder that never neglected Vedic injunctions) at the time appointed for receiving guests.
Dressed as brahmanas- Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna stood before Jarasandha, while the Lord said, “O King, we have come a great distance just to ask some charity from you. Please grant us our wish. What can the tolerant not bear? What will the wicked not do? What will the generous not give in charity? Who will those of equal vision see as an outsider?”
In this way, the Lord encouraged Jarasandha to just grant them their desire, without first having them specify their wish.
Krishna continued, “That person must be condemned and pitied, who, although able to do so, fails to achieve lasting fame by the use of his temporary body. Just consider how Harishchandra, Rantideva, Unchavrtti Mudgala, Shibi, Bali, the legendary hunter and pigeon, and many others attained the permanent by means of the impermanent.”
In this way, Krishna flattered Jarasandha by comparing him to greatly charitable persons of the past. The Lord further explained that such imperishable fame always comes at the cost of sacrificing one’s temporary bodily comforts.
While listening, Jarasandha came to guess that the visitors were actually kshatriyas, because of the stature of their bodies, their commanding tone of voice, and the marks caused by the bowstring on their arms. He also felt that he had seen them, somewhere else.
Jarasandha thought, “These persons are surely kshatriyas dressed as brahmanas. What harm can they do me, for they have already diminished their stature by coming to me as beggars? I shall give them what they want. Once, Lord Vishnu came to Bali in the guise of a brahmana. Although aware of this trick, and forbidden by his guru, Bali Maharaja gave the entire earth in charity, and his spotless fame is still discussed throughout the world.”
Thus having made up his mind, Jarasandha said, “O learned brahmanas, tell me what you want. I will give it to you, even if you ask for my head.”
Krishna replied, “O exalted King, we are actually kshatriyas who have come to beg for a fight. We have no other request to make. Over there is Bhima and this is his brother, Arjuna. I am your old enemy, Krishna.”
Being thus challenged, Jarasandha laughed loudly and said with great contempt, “All right, you fools, I shall fight! But I won’t fight with You, Krishna, because You are a coward who fled from the battlefield and entered the sea. As for this one, Arjuna, he is younger than I, and not very strong. Bhima, however, looks like a good match for me.”
Jarasandha offered Bhima a large club, and selected another one for himself. Then, everyone went out of the city. The two heroes began battling, striking each other severely, and they were so expert that it almost appeared as if they were two dancers on a stage. When the clubs struck together, it sounded like thunderbolts in a storm, and while circling one another, Jarasandha and Bhima presented a magnificent spectacle.
After their clubs were broken, the two angrily pummeled one another with iron-hard fists, and they appeared to be equal, in terms of training, strength and stamina. Still, they kept on fighting without any letup, neither able to defeat the other. For twenty-seven days they fought, stopping at the end of each day to live as friends in Jarasandha’s palace at night.
On the twenty-eighth day, Bhima frankly admitted that he could not defeat Jarasandha. Krishna then told Bhima the secret regarding Jarasandha’s birth. Jarasandha was born in two halves from two mothers. Seeing that the baby was useless, the father threw the two parts into the forest. These were found by a black-hearted witch, named Jara, and she managed to join the two halves, bringing the baby to life.
As the fighting continued, Krishna gave Bhima a hint, by splitting a tree-branch in two halves. This indicated that Jarasandha could be killed by reversing the manner in which he was born. Previously, Krishna had transferred His power to Bhima. Now, understanding the signal, Bhima grabbed hold of Jarasandha’s legs and threw him onto the ground. Pressing one leg with his knee, Bhima grabbed the other in his hands and in this way, he bifurcated Jarasandha’s body, beginning from the anus and going up to his head.
When the people of Magadha saw their king’s body lying on the ground in two halves, each having one foot, one leg, one thigh, one testicle, one hip, one shoulder, one arm, one ear, one eyebrow and one ear, with half a chest and half a back, they let out a great cry of lamentation. Krishna and Arjuna went and congratulated Bhima by embracing him.
Lord Krishna didn’t want to rule the kingdom, however, and so he called for Jarasandha’s son, Sahadeva, and had him installed upon the throne. The Lord then went and released all the kings and princes that had been imprisoned by Jarasandha.