THE Pandavas ruled Indraprastha in all glory. Those who
surrounded Yudhishthira urged him to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice and assume
the title of Emperor. It is evident that imperialism had an irresistible
glamour even in those days.
Yudhishthira sought Sri Krishna's advice in this matter.
When Krishna learnt that Dharmaputra desired to see him, he set out in a
chariot harnessed with swift horses and reached Indraprastha.
Yudhishthira said: "'My people urge me to perform
Rajasuya, but as you know, only he who can secure the respect and allegiance of
all kings, can perform that sacrifice and win the status of emperor. Advise me,
you are not among those whose affection makes them blind and partial. Nor are
you one of those who advise to please and whose counsel is pleasant rather than
true or wholesome."
Krishna replied: "Quite so and that is why you cannot
be emperor while the mighty Jarasandha of Magadha is alive and unconquered. He
has conquered many kings and holds them in subjection. All the kshatriyas,
including the redoubtable Sisupala himself, are afraid of his prowess and are
submissive to him. Have you not heard of the wicked Kamsa, the son of Ugrasena?
After he had become the son-in-law and ally of Jarasandha my people and I
attacked Jarasandha. After three years of continuous fighting we had to
acknowledge defeat and we left Mathura and moved to Dwaraka in the west, and
built a new city where we are living in peace and plenty. Even if Duryodhana,
Karna and others do not object to your assuming the title of emperor,
Jarasandha will certainly oppose it. And the only way to overcome his
opposition is to defeat and kill him. You can then not only perform the
Rajasuya but also rescue and win the adherence of the kings who languish in his
At these words of Krishna, Yudhishthira said: "I
agree. I am but one of the many kings who rule their kingdoms with fairness and
justice and lead happy unambitious lives. It is mere vanity and vainglory to
desire to become an emperor. Why should not a king rest satisfied with his own
kingdom? So, I shall give up this desire to be an emperor. And really, the
title has no temptations for me. It is my brothers who wish it. When you
yourself are afraid of Jarasandha what can we hope to do?"
Bhima did not at all like this spirit of cowardly
Bhima said: "Ambition is the noblest virtue of a
king. What is the good of being strong if one does not know his own strength? I
cannot reconcile myself to live a life of idle ease and contentment. He who
casts off indolence and properly employs political means, can conquer even
those stronger than himself. Strength reinforced by stratagem will surely do
much. What, indeed, cannot be accomplished by a combination of my physical
strength, Krishna's wisdom and Arjuna's dexterity? We can conquer Jarasandha's
might, if we three join and set about it without doubts or fears."
Krishna interposed: "Jarasandha should certainly be
slain and fully deserves it. He has unjustly cast eighty-six princes in prison.
He has planned to immolate a hundred kings and is waiting to lay hold of
fourteen more. If Bhima and Arjuna agree, I shall accompany them and together
we will slay that king by stratagem and set free the imprisoned princes. I like
Yudhishthira was not pleased with this advice. He said:
"This may really mean sacrificing Bhima and Arjuna who are to me as my two
eyes, merely to gratify a vain desire to be an emperor. I do not like to send
them on this dangerous errand. It seems to me far better to give up the idea
Arjuna said: "What is the use to us of an existence
without heroic deeds, born as we are of an illustrious line? A Kshatriya though
endowed with all other good qualities, will not become famous if he does not
exert himself. Enthusiasm is the mother of success. We can seize fortune if we
do our duties energetically. Even a powerful man may fail if, through
lassitude, he does not employ the means he has. Failure is due, in the vast
majority of cases, to ignorance of one's own strength. We know we are strong,
and we are not afraid of using our strength to the utmost. Why should
Yudhishthira suppose that we are incapable of this? When we have become old, it
will be time to assume the ochre robe, resort to the forest and pass the rest
of our days in penance and austerities. Now, we should lead strenuous lives and
do heroic deeds worthy of the traditions of our race."
Krishna was delighted to hear these words and said:
"What else can Arjuna, born of Kunti in the Bharata race, advise? Death
comes to all, the hero as well as the sluggard. But the noblest duty of a
kshatriya is to be true to his race and faith, and overcoming his foes in
righteous battle, to win glory."
Finally Yudhishthira assented to the unanimous opinion
that their duty lay in slaying Jarasandha.
This conversation has a curiously modern ring about it and
shows that powerful men in ancient days used very much the same specious
reasoning as now.