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The deliverance of Sishupala at the Rajasuya Sacrifice.
Thereafter, Maharaja Yudhisthira began to arrange for the performance of the Rajasuya sacrifice by inviting qualified brahmanas and rishis, such as Krishna-dvaipayana Vyasa, Bharadvaja, Sumantu, Gautama, Asita, Vasishtha, Chyavana, Kanva, Maitreya, Vishvamitra, Vamadeva, Jaimini, Paila, Parashara, Vaishampayana, Kashyapa, Parashurama and Sukracharya.
All of the elder Kurus were then invited, including Drona, Bhishma, Kripa, Dhritarashtra and his sons, and the wise Vidura, as well as kings from all over the world. Indeed, even the citizens in general were invited, so that brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras became eager to attend.
The brahmana priests constructed the sacrificial arena, utilizing a golden plow, and then they initiated Maharaja Yudhisthira into the performance of the yagya. All of the utensils used in the sacrifice were made of gold. All of the important demigods were present, by Yudhisthira’s invitation, including Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and King Indra, as well as innumerable Siddhas, Gandharvas, Vidyadharas, great sages, Yakshas, Rakshasas, Kinnaras, and Charanas. Everyone agreed that Maharaja Yudhisthira was quite competent to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice, just as Varuna had previously performed it.
The sacrifice commenced, and on the day of extracting the soma juice, Maharaja Yudhisthira very respectfully received the priest that was engaged to detect any mistake that might be made. After this, the members of the assembly pondered over the question of who should be worshiped first (by the agra-puja), in consideration of his being the most exalted personality present.
Since there were many exalted personalities present, many names were nominated When the matter remained undecided, Sahadeva spoke up: “Certainly it is Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who deserves the highest honor. He is the total of all the demigods, for He is the original cause of the creation, and there is nothing independent of Him. Therefore, we should give the highest honor to Krishna, and if we do so, then we will automatically be honoring ourselves, as well as all others.”
As Sahadeva fell silent, all the saintly persons congratulated him by exclaiming, “sadhu! sadhu!” (“excellent! excellent!”), reflecting the mood of the entire assembly. Maharaja Yudhisthira was delighted to hear the applause of the audience, and so with great affection he began to worship Lord Krishna.
Maharaja Yudhisthira first of all washed Lord Krishna’s lotus feet and then he sprinkled the water on his head and on the heads of his wife, brothers, other family members and ministers. Then, he presented yellow silk garments and precious jeweled ornaments, and his tear-filled eyes prevented him from seeing the Lord nicely. At this time, nearly everyone stood up and chanted “namo” and “jaya” (“obeisances unto You” and “all glories to You”).
Sishupala, the son of Damaghosa, was present in the assembly, however, and being an avowed enemy of Krishna, he could not tolerate His glorification. As everyone stood up to honor Lord Krishna, Sishupala alone remained seated. Becoming more and more infuriated, after the assembly had once again settled into their seats, Sishupala suddenly stood up. Angrily gesturing with his arms, he loudly spoke so that all could hear: “It is now proven true that we are not in control of our destiny, for even great sages are seen to be influenced by maya. Just see how the wise elders in this assembly have been misled by the words of a mere boy! How could you pass over the exalted controllers of the universe, as well as the topmost sages present here, and select a cowherd boy? He no more deserves your worship than a crow deserves to eat the offerings at a sacrifice!”
“Having been cursed by Yayati, these Yadavas have been ostracized by honest men. How then does Krishna deserve to be worshiped? The Yadavas abandoned a holy land inhabited by great sages and took shelter within the sea, a place where no religious principles are observed.”
Being bereft of all good fortune, Sishupala spoke like a madman, but still, Krishna patiently listened. The assembly became highly agitated, however, except for a very few that agreed with Sishupala. The Pandavas and other warriors angrily rose up from their seats, while drawing their swords. Others, who thought that they could not take action against Sishupala, simply covered their ears with their hands and left the assembly. It is said in shastra that anyone who fails to immediately leave the place where he hears criticism of the Supreme Lord or His faithful devotee will certainly fall down from his position.
In spite of the opposition, Sishupala was undaunted, and he also picked up his sword and shield. Standing in the midst of the assembled kings, Sishupala continued to hurl insults at those who supported Krishna. Not wanting a fight on such an auspicious occasion, Lord Krishna restrained the assembly, invoked His Sudarshana chakra, and then severed Sishupala’s head from his body.
At this, a great roar arose from the crowd, and taking advantage of this, the few supporters of Sishupala left, out of fear for their lives. Then, as everyone watched, an effulgent light (Sishupala’s soul) emerged from the slain body and entered the body of Lord Krishna, like a meteor falling from the sky.
Although Sishupala was Krishna’s enemy, he was never for a moment out of Krishna consciousness. After initially attaining sayujya-mukti, or oneness with the Lord (impersonal liberation), Sishupala was ultimately reinstated in his original position of service.
At the completion of the sacrifice, Maharaja Yudhisthira generously remunerated the sacrificial priests and other members of the assembly and then took his avabhritha bath. While the demigods were happily returning to their celestial abodes, they glorified the Lord and the wonderful sacrifice. Everyone was very satisfied, except Duryodhana, who was by nature envious and sinful, and who had appeared like a chronic disease personified, to destroy his entire family. Being a personification of the age of quarrel, Duryodhana could not bear to see the Pandavas’ flourishing opulence.
Thereafter, Lord Krishna remained at Indraprastha for a few months, at the request of the Pandavas. Then, He took the reluctant permission of Maharaja Yudhisthira and returned to Dvaraka, along with His retinue.