0The intention of Vyasa in writing the life of Sri Krishna in Mahabharata is to demonstrate a character of a most-unselfish life of perfection. The early life of Sri Krishna commences from the prayer of the gods for the descent of divine force to the earth, passing through various lilas until the demolition of Kamsa. Then starts his more active life in the field of society wherein he has to set right various defects, errors, and disharmonies in the society of those days.Then he turned his attention to a new type of activity to rid the world of evil.
For the first time his mention is made in the Mahabharata, in the Adiparva in the court of Drupada at the swayamvara of Draupadi. There he was a witness. And the next scene is when he helps Arjuna in establishing himself and his brothers from the tyranny of Dhrtarashtra and the Kauravas. A piece of dryland was given which was good for nothing. it was called Khandava Prastha. Khandava Prastha was converted into Indraprastha with the help of Krishna. A wonderful palace was built.This became known to Duryodhana. Then it was that he played the trick of dice. When the dice game was played, Sri Krishna was not present. It was all a miracle that in crucial moments his presence was not seen.The only incident which is associated with Sri Krishna's invisible presence was the cry of Draupadi, as described in the Sabha Parva of Mahabharata. The next meeting of Sri Krishna with the Pandavas was when they were in the forest, having been defeated in a dice game a second time.He himself went there with all his retinue, and asked about their welfare. Satyaki said to Sri Krishna "We shall fight with the Kurus and throw them out, and handover the entire land to the Pandavas."Sri Krishna could have done that, but he said, "Yudhisthira is a Kshatriya he will not accept it. I know his mind." with these words and blessing, after having a very cordial talk with the brothers in that unfortunate condition he returned to Dvarka.
we have no mention of Krishna again for a long time.The Pandavas had to live incognito in the court of Virata. When they completed their Ajnatavasa, they removed their disguises and declared themselves to be the Pandavas.Sri Krishna came with his retinue once again and summoned an audience, giving instructions regarding the necessary steps that should be taken in the matter of handing back to the Pandavas their share of the Kingdom.Having conducted this audience, he sent a Brahmin as a messenger to the Kurus. The Kurus sent Sanjaya in response who, on behalf of the Kurus, came and talked about peace and the unworthiness of having war between the two cousins. Yudhisthira said "As for the reply, which my uncle obviously expects from me, I leave that to Krishna. Let him decide what we must do, I will abide by his decision."
The true reasons for Krishna's birth into the world at the age's end were as mysterious as life itself, as inscrutable as he was. But he had come to cleanse the earth, and the Kuru war was to be the climax of that ceremony. Knowing how inexorable destiny is, Krishna smiled to himself at these courtly messages and deliberations.
But in the council in Upaplavya, he said, "Sanjaya, I am moved that my cousin relinquishes his very fate to me , the welfare of the Pandavas is my first concern. Yet, I would also like Dhritarashtra's sons to have long lives.Your King's message is strange indeed. It seems to me, he seeks to blame Yudhishtira for Duryodhana's crimes. There will be no peace as long as Duryodhana holds what rightfully belongs to Yudhishtira.Dhritarashtra encouraged his son and enjoyed the fruits of his sin. And now he dares preach to Yudhishtira, who is an image of Dharma.
Yudhishtira does not want this war and neither do I. We do not wish to stain the earth with the blood of eleven akshauhinis, or even to kill Dhritarashtra’s sons. Let them return Indraprastha to Yudhisthira,and there will be no war.
This was not the genial Krishna, whom everyone knew and loved. It was another Krishna, grave and fearsome.Tell every man in that sabha Krishna said each one of them deserves to die for what they did to Panchali on the day of the game of dice. Tell Karna that Arjuna has never forgotten what he said to Draupadi on that day.Tell Dusasana that Bheema has not forgotten what he tried to do to the precious Panchali. Remind him of Bheema’s oath.. Tell Dusasana that draupadi has not yet tied her hair; she is waiting to wash it in his blood before she does.Tell Duryodhana that awake and asleep , Bheema sees the thigh on which he dared call Panchali to sit. Go back and tell them Sahadeva has not forgotten the oath he swore to kill Shakuni. Every morning at his prayers, Nakula renews his oath to kill Uluka. Dhritarashtra has not sent you here because he truly wants peace or to give up his greed, but only because he is afraid.We want peace not because we are afraid, but because we do not want to see Kshatriya kind destroyed by the war; because Yudhishtira still cares for the lives not only of his brothers, but of his cousins.That is a great difference, Sanjaya. Go back to your King and say all this to him. Say I will come myself to Hastinapura, soon. I do not think I will succeed, but I will surely come and try." Krishna came to Dhritarashtra’s palace and was ushered into the sabha of Hastinapura. He refused the hospitality of Duryodhana and went to vidura’s house. Vidura offered the peels and threw away the plantains and when he realized it, he wept. He then offered Plantains. Sri Krishna said, ”The peel was more tasty than the plantain now, because the peel was offered in the ecstasy of love.” These are the peculiarities of a great man . Vidura begged him not to go to Dhritarashtra’s sabha. He said, ”It is not a court of Dharma any more.”Krishna said, ”It is my dharma to try to save the lives of these men, who seem so eager to die. If I did not do everything to stop this war, I would fail in my dharma. Yudhisthira is the greatest man born into this age. I have come here for his sake. To clear his name of taint, so the world will remember his greatness forever. I have come to make it clear on which side dharma lies, and on which, adharma.” In the sabha Krishna addressed Dhritarashtra ”I have come here to make peace between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. If you can bring the Pandavas and the Kauravas together, your fame will be sung in heaven as well as on the earth .What will this war bring you except the death of your sons. Bring back dharma to your kingdom. His words struck all of them deeply, and what he said frightened them. At last Dhritarashtra broke the silence, ”Krishna , don’t you realize how helpless I am? I do not rule this land, and what I say is of little consequence. My sons are the masters here and they have no regard for my wishes any more. Duryodhana is stubborn, and determined to sacrifice us all. Still, if you can succeed where the rest of us failed, no one will be more in your debt than I.”
Krishna turned to Duryodhana and said, ”Duryodhana, do you want to be remembered as the man who destroyed the world, or the one who had the courage to save it. Make your father and grandfather happy, your gurus and your mother proud. change the course of destiny , you still can. If you want to be king in Hastinapura, won’t it be better if you have pandavas support, rather than their enmity. Duryodhana looked straight at Krishna and said, ”I will not give the pandavas even a mote of my kingdom, not even what would cover the point of a needle!”
Then Krishna laughed. It was a terrible laugh, as none of them had heard from him before, and the Kurus trembled to hear it. calmly, Krishna said , ”If you really want a bed on the battlefield, to lie on forever, you shall have one.”
Krishna’s eyes blazed and said, ”You are not innocent, Duryodhana. You are the most evil man in this world, that you no longer see right from wrong, good from evil, darkness from light?”
They all shifted uneasily in their places to hear him. Duryodhana glazed at Krishna for a moment, then, contemptuously at the others, without another word, he walked out of the court.
Duryodhana was back to the place where Dushasana, Shakuni and Karna waited for him. When these four were planning to take Krishna as hostage Satyaki heard of it and informed all the elders about it. Dhritarashtra was panic stricken and called Duryodhana to the sabha and scolded him, ”You dare even think of taking Krishna as a hostage? I know you were vain and foolish, but I never realized you were mad,”Krishna said softly, ”Look, Duryodhana, I am not alone Immediately, there was a miracle. The body of Krishna began to grow in larger and larger proportions, and Brahma and Rudra and Arjuna and the Pandavas and all the warriors-everybody started shining in his body. Lustrous he became, and blinded were all people who could not see him. Only four people could see him—Vidura, Drona, Bhishma and Sanjaya, and the rishis, ofcourse. They saw him and said ,”Oh wonder! A marvel! What is this mystery!
Dhritarashtra, who was blind wept, ”What is this Krishna, they say there is wonder and miracle, I cannot see, will you not bless me?” Then for a few minutes he was blessed with vision. Then he again prayed, “Having seen this, I do not want to see anything else, so make me blind again.” So once again he was made blind. After sometime, from his universal form he reverted to his human form. Krishna rose and along with Satyaki and Vidura he walked out of the sabha.
Then, preperations were made for war, and Sri Krishna took up the work of the charioteer. In Dwaraka Duryodhana and Arjuna met him for help. Duryodhana said,”I have come first to ask for help, Arjuna came later on. You offer me the choice.” Sri Krishna said,”Well, I saw him first because he was sitting at my feet.Arjuna what do you want? ”A rjuna replied, ”I want help in the impending war which is inevitable.” Duryodhana said, ”I have also come for the same purpose. I want help from you. You are an impartial man, so you give me help.”Both were asking Sri Krishna said, ”What help can I give you? I have only two things, I am here myself, and I have a vast army. You can choose either of these. You can choose the vast army which is invincible almost- Narayani sena it is called. I am a puny man, I cannot do anything, I can sit with you and chat, perhaps whom do you like, Arjuna? ”’you come. I am not in need of the army, replied Arjuna. Duryodhana said,”I have taken the butter. He has taken the butter-milk. I am going. Wonderful! Stupid is Arjuna..”He said to Sri Krishna, ”thank you for the army.”He thought he had already half won the victory.’what is the use of one man? The whole army is mine.” He went and told his brothers ,“Victory is ours.”
Then, Krishna said to Arjuna, ”You are a foolish man. Why did you choose me? What made you choose me, who will do nothing?”Arjuna said , ”Even if you do not do anything, your presence will do more than others can do by hands and feet. I know your greatness.” “All right as you wish”, he said. ‘What work can I do?” “you guide me in the war.” Krishna said,”I will be your charioteer.”
And then the Udyoga Parva closes and the Bhishma Parva starts, where we have the incident of cosmic vision bestowed upon Sanjaya by Vyasa for describing to him the events of the forthcoming war, and people rushed to the field. An array of armies was seen there. Arjuna looked at the large army of the Kauravas and suddenly his mind changed. He became despondent. That is the first chapter of the Bhagavadgita. And then the Bhagavadgita continues. Sri Krishna reprimanded him for his mood of melancholy, and again showed the Visvarupa which he showed in the court of the Kauravas. Then the war began. A fierce battle took place where Bhishma was the commander-in-chief of the other side, and he worked for the massacre of the whole Pandava army. Arjuna’s conscience pricked him. “After all, he is my grandfather. How can I attack him?”
Krishna began to feel this. “Oh, this fellow has changed his mind again even after hearing the Gita, and if this sort of thing is to be allowed, today itself Bhishma will finish all the army of the Pandavas.” Krishna said, “Arjuna, if you cannot fight, keep quiet. I shall do all the work.” Then he jumped down from the chariot and said, “I shall finish Bhishma today, myself.” And then the earth shook. Brahma thought the world had come to an end when Sri Krishna jumped from the chariot like that with a fierce, fire-like energy.
Then Bhishma prayed, “Lord, if you kill me I shall regard myself as blessed, but I shall not stop fighting.”
Then Arjuna begged pardon, “Well, I shall fight. Please don’t break your vow, because you had vowed you would not take up arms. Now why are you jumping? You come back!” Twice Sri Krishna jumped like that in the Bhishma Parva.
The Drona Parva is again a masterpiece of Vyasa’s literary beauty. Only those who know Sanskrit can appreciate the literary beauty of Vyasa; but even in a translation, one may enjoy it because of the magnificent high pitch of language used. It is difficult to read it without a thrill, without hair standing on end, and without a tumult of emotion in one’s mind. In the Drona Parva, the work was very difficult. It became more complicated, and Sri Krishna had to help Arjuna from various calamities and catastrophes. Sri Krishna was alone, grooming the horses, while Arjuna fought alone, singlehandedly, on foot in the battlefield.
And there was a very powerful man called Bhagadatta. He was a very old man. He used to fight on a very powerful elephant which was supposed to be a descendent of Airavata of Indra. A very fierce elephant it was; it could simply dash down all warriors. Hundreds started dying and running away at the very sight of the elephant of Bhagadatta. He was a very old man, past one hundred years, but he was fighting such a fierce battle. Krishna said, “This man will finish you if you do not meet him. You go and meet him yourself.” Arjuna with all his might fought with Bhagadatta, maimed his elephant and killed it finally, but Bhagadatta would not be overcome. He sent a missile which came like a meteor, a comet. Immediately Sri Krishna raised his chest and withdrew it into himself.
Arjuna said, “You said you will not take part in the war. Now why are you interfering with me? I would have done something myself. I could have broken it into pieces. Why did you interfere?”
Sri Krishna said, “You do not know what it was. It was Vaishnav Astra, and nobody can stand before it. You would have died just now. It was given to Bhagadatta through Narakasura once upon a time, from a divine source. It has come from Me only, so I have taken it back. Otherwise, you would not have been left alive just now,” he said.
“All right, whatever you say. Now let the war continue.”
Then we have a portion of the Drona Parva called the Jayadrathavata, a very beautiful section. Jayadratha killed Abhimanyu through the help of many others who joined together to kill him, but he was responsible for the death of Abhimanyu the boy because he blocked the passage of the Chakravyuha. Arjuna vowed that before sunset the next evening he would finish Jayadratha; otherwise he would enter into fire. Then Krishna said, “Why did you take this foolish vow without consulting me? How do you know that you will be able to kill him tomorrow? Will you enter into fire tomorrow?”
“Whatever it is,” Arjuna replied, “let me try.” Then that night Sri Krishna took him to Rudra in Kailasha in a mysterious manner, and Rudra blessed him with the Pasupata Astra. And then the battle took place near sunset. Jayadratha was not killed. Sri Krishna cast his Sudarshana Chakra on the sun and made darkness. Then Jayadratha stood up, thinking it was night, because he wanted to see the funeral pyre of Arjuna, who would be falling into the fire. He was a very tall man, taller than others, and when he stood up immediately Sri Krishna withdrew his Sudarshana and told Arjuna, “Look at that man. Cut off his head.” Immediately an arrow was shot and he was hit. And then Krishna said, “Shoot another arrow.”
“No. I will not shoot at a dead man,” said Arjuna.
“You foolish man! Do it. There is a purpose behind it.”
Then Arjuna hit him with another arrow. This second arrow was shot because the father of Jayadratha was doing tapas on the shore of the ocean and doing agya: “Whoever drops the head of my son, his head may be broken to pieces.” So if Arjuna dropped Jayadratha’s head, what would happen? Arjuna’s head would break to pieces. So another arrow was shot which brought the head on the palm of the very same man who was doing this agyam, so he dropped it not knowing what it was, and his head was broken. The father’s head was broken to pieces because he did not know what was dropping on him. See the wonder! This is all described in the Drona Parva.
Arjuna was saved from many calamities. There are many other incidents which cannot be described in a short compass. Then in the Karna Parva, Sri Krishna pressed the chariot, making it sink down a few inches into the earth so that the arrow of Karna passed over the head of Arjuna, taking his crown but missing his head.
Then, when all the war was over and everyone had finished his work, Sri Krishna said to Arjuna, “By providence, your work is done. Now you get down from the chariot first.” Generally the chariot driver gets down first. He does not tell the passenger to get down first. But here the chariot driver said, “You get down first.” Arjuna could not understand what the matter was. He got down. Then Sri Krishna got down from the chariot. When he got down, the whole chariot, together with the horses, burst into flames and was reduced to ashes.
Arjuna asked, “What is this miracle, Krishna?”
“That is why I asked you to get down first. Otherwise, you would have gone into the fire.”
“What is this? Why?”
“You know the astras of Drona and Karna had already burnt this chariot of yours at that time, but because I was sitting there, I kept it intact. Now I have got down, and it is reduced to its original condition.”
“Oh, I never knew! What would have happened if by mistake you had got down first!”
“Yes, I knew it very well so I did not get down first and asked you to get down first.” That was the power.
Then through the various Parvas of the Mahabharata – right until the Shanti Parva where Sri Krishna advised Yudhisthira to receive the blessings of Bhishma – he saw to it that the poor brothers were helped, and the king was installed on the throne, and he gave the last message to him. He said, “Yudhisthira, now my work is done. By the power of Bhima and dexterity of Arjuna, you have won victory.” He did not say, “With my help you have won victory. I have done so much for you. What are you going to give me?” He never uttered a word about himself: “Yudhisthira, I am glad that providentially, with the power of Bhima and the dexterity of Arjuna, you have won victory.”
Yudhisthira knew the secret. “Krishna, don’t say this. Your grace, it was. It was your grace that has brought us to this state of glory.” He wept. Because Krishna had uttered these words, he wept. He could not contain it. “You don’t mention yourself. You tell about my brothers only.” Anyhow, that was his greatness; that was his humility. The height of knowledge went with the height of humility. That which was everything looked like nothing. That was Krishna.