When Arujna and Duryodhana came to Him seeking his support for their side before the Kurukshetra war broke out, Krishna said that he could only participate without taking up arms. However, Krishna, knowing pretty well that the war indeed was inevitable, had in fact been taking preparatory steps for it well in advance. This fact can be deduced from a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna found in a passage Drona parva.
This incident happened on the 14th day of the war. By sunset, Jayatradha was killed and the war continued non-stop to night too. As midnight approached, Gadodhgaja’s valor in the war was surging upward. The Kouravas were buckling at his onslaught and Duryodhana was desperate that Gadodhgaja should be killed at any cost. He urged Karna to use Shakti aayudham obtained from Lord Indra against Gadodhgaja and finish him off. Karna conceded to his pressure and finally killed Gadodhgaja using that Power Weapon.
Here a very surprising fact has to be pointed out. In the Kumbakonam edition (Tamil), the description of this event continues as follows: “…Oh King, the rakshas Gadodhgaja, in the interest of creating further damage to the enemies, did this strange and surprising act. At that moment, as his life-force was sucked by the Shakti Aayudham, he lost his tongue and he puffed up his physical body to the size of a mountain. It was shining like a cloud. His inert body, split by two by the hit of the powerful weapon, toppled from the sky and fell on the ground with a massive thud. A sizable count of your army got crushed to death under the weight of his corpse…” (Part 5 Drona Parva, Chapter 180, Gadodhgaja Parva, page 723).
In some other versions of Bharata, it is said that it was Bhima who had advised Gadodhgaja to enlarge his body like this before falling. It is obviously not so in the source book. It was a conscious decision of Gadodhgaja. There is no mention of Bhima’s advice in this Kumbakonam edition.
When the entire Pandava camp was immersed in grief at the death of Gadodhgaja, strangely, Lord Krishna was in jubilation! ‘He roared like a lion to the irritation of the Pandava Camp; he embraced Arjuna and danced like a tree swaying in wind’ – goes the narration (page 724).
Arjuna felt disturbed and confused. He said, “Krishna, we have lost our dear son just now; you are acting as though an enemy has been killed! Your behavior is very strange!” .
Now Krishna starts giving a long explanation here. Out of many such reasoning given by Krishna here, there is some small bit of information found, which led to what we have put forth at the first para of this chapter.
On page 727, Krishna says : “Just in case Jarasandha, Sethi King Shishupala and the powerful Nishada king Ekalavya were not killed even before the Mahabharata war, they are sure to create lots of worries for us in this war.”
Of the three kings mentioned here, Jarasandha had been killed by Bhima, a few months before Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya Yagna. Shishupala was killed by Krishna at the beginning of Rajasuya Yagnya, which happened some 14 years before the war.
Obviously, these two powerful Kings, who were capable of causing worry to Pandavas in the war, had been killed well before any possibility of war breaking out between Pandavas and Kauravas.
How did we say 14 years of time lapse?
It was at the start of Rajasuya yagna that Krishna killed Shisupaala. There was not even an inkling about war at that time. Duryodhana and company, who returned to Hastinapura after the yagna, were seething with envy on seeing Pandavas’ grandeur. He along with Shakuni schemed to invite Pandavas to play dice game. He won the game and sent Pandavas to live in forest for 12 years and incognito for 1 more year. Afterward, Pandavas stayed in Upablavya for about a year and three months. That is how the 14 years count came. (For time periods associated with Mahabharata events, you may please have a look at: know more
Even though Bhima killed Jarasandha, it was indeed Krishna who schemed the events and ensured it to happen before the Rajasuya. (Incidentally, there exists a popular bit in the story related to the killing of Jarasandha. As per this version, it is said that Lord Krishna signalled to Bhima a hint on how to kill Jarasandha without giving him an opportunity to come back alive, by tearing the leaf of a grass and turning one half of it upside down. No such mention exists in the source book, which I came to know while reading Ramakrishna Mutt’s publication earlier. I am mentioning it here only to highlight how wrong stories are being circulated by people).
There is yet another story in some websites saying that Ekalavya and Jarasandha, joining together, came to attack Dwaraka with a huge army. It means, if and when such an incident happened, it should have been well before Rajasuya Yagna.
Whatever be such stories, let us come back to our subject of Krishna’s talk with Arjuna after the death of Gadodhgaja on the 14th night war. Krishna says to Arjuna. “It is for your sake that Ekalavya was killed by me at the war front” (Page 729).
So, the fact is clear. It was Krishna who killed Ekalavya, that too in a warfront. Krishna did not kill Ekalavya by stabbing on his back as mentioned in some websites, but killed him in a war, face to face. Thus the three great warriors, who were ‘capable of causing fear to Pandavas in the event of war’ had been killed individually, according to Krishna’s own statement. Their deaths had happened at different time periods in the past.
Ekalavya was present in Rajasuya Yagna, but was not there when the dice game took place. Krishna too was absent at that crucial event. Krishna was engaged in a war with King of Salva during the time Pandavas and Kauravas were playing dice game (according to Kumbakonam edition, Part 2, Vanaparva, page 58).
From all these analyses, it is clear that Ekalavya was indeed a very powerful warrior. But how do many people project Ekalavya? A lowly hunter, stooped in poverty, made incapable of even shooting an arrow at birds, by the vicious Dronacharya!
Even if these three great warriors were to be alive to take part in the Mahabharata war, we can safely presume that Krishna would have schemed things suitably to eliminate them in the war. It is obvious, because Krishna indeed was the’ indirect Chief of army’ of the Pandavas! We can even go to the extent of saying that the war was indeed between Krishna and Duryodhana’s clan. We shall go into details on this matter.
Before that, let us go deeper and analyse whether the point of view that Duryodhana was indeed the rightful heir to the throne of Hastinapura, as the son of Dridarashtra, the elder, is fully justified.
Let us dig into it in the next chapter.
Shri Hari Krishnan is an independent researcher in Mahābhārata based in Bangalore.
Translation by: C.V.Rajan 27/07//21
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