HAVING sent Drupada's brahmana to
Hastinapura on the peace mission, the Pandavas sent word, at the same time, to
the princes likely to favor their cause to collect their forces and hold
themselves in readiness for war. To Dwaraka, Arjuna went himself.
Having understood through his
spies the turn events were taking, Duryodhana too did not remain idle. Learning
that Vasudeva (Krishna) was back in his home city, he sped towards Dwaraka in
his chariot, as fast as his swiftest horses could take him. The two of them,
Arjuna and Duryodhana, thus reached Dwaraka on the same day.
Krishna was fast asleep. Because
they were his close relatives, Arjuna and Duryodhana could go into his bedroom.
There they both waited for Krishna to wake up. Duryodhana, who went in first,
seated himself on a decorated throne-chair at the head of the bed, while Arjuna
kept standing at its foot with arms folded in respectful posture.
When Mahadeva woke up, his eyes
fell on Arjuna who stood in front of him and he gave him warm welcome. Turning
then to Duryodhana, he welcomed him too and asked them what brought them both
to Dwaraka. Duryodhana was the first to speak.
"It looks," said he,
"as though war would break out between us soon. If it does, you must
support me. Arjuna and I are equally beloved of you. We both claim equally
close relationship with you. You cannot say that either of us is nearer to you
than the other. I came here before Arjuna. Tradition has it that he who came
first should be shown preference. Janardana, you are the greatest among the
great; so it is incumbent on you to set an example to others. Confirm with your
conduct the traditional dharma and remember that it was I who came first."
To which Purushottama (Krishna)
answered: "Son of Dhritarashtra, it may be that you came here first, but
it was Kunti's son that I saw immediately on waking up. If you were the first
arrival, it was Arjuna who first caught my eye. So, even in this respect, your
claims on me are equal and I am therefore bound to render assistance to both
sides. In distributing favors, the traditional usage is to begin with the
junior-most among the recipients. I would, therefore, offer the choice to
Arjuna first. The Narayana, my tribesmen, are my equals in battle and
constitute a host, large and almost invincible. In my distribution of assistance,
they will be on one side, and I individually on the other. But I shall wield no
weapon and take no part in actual fighting."
Turning to Arjuna he said,
"Partha, think it over well. Would you want me, alone and weaponless, or
would you prefer the prowess of the Narayana? Exercise the right to the first
choice which custom gives you as the younger man."
Scarcely had Krishna finished
when Arjuna said with reverence and without hesitation: "I would be
content if you are with us, though you may wield no weapon."
Duryodhana could hardly contain
himself for joy at what he thought was Arjuna's imbecile choice. He gladly
chose the help of Vasudevas army and his request was granted. Pleased with the
acquisition of a mighty force, Duryodhana went to Baladeva and told him the
As he finished speaking, the
mighty Balarama said: "Duryodhana, they must have told you all I said at
the time of the marriage of Virata's daughter. I pleaded your case and urged
everything that could be said for you. Often have I told Krishna that we have
equal ties with the Kauravas and the Pandavas. But my words failed to carry
conviction to him. I am helpless. It is impossible for me to side with one whom
Krishna opposes. I will not help Partha and I cannot support you against Krishna.
Duryodhana, you come of an illustrious line, which is respected by all the
princes of the land. Well, then, if it must be war, bear yourself in accordance
with the Kshatriya code," said he.
Duryodhana returned to
Hastinapura in high spirits saying to himself: "Arjuna has made a fool of
himself. The great army of Dwaraka will fight on my side and Balarama's good
wishes too are with me. Vasudeva has been left without an army."
"Dhananjaya, why did you
choose thus unwisely, preferring me alone and unarmed to my fully equipped and
heroic forces?" asked Krishna of Arjuna with a smile, when they were
alone. Arjuna answered:
"My ambition is to achieve
glory even like yours. You have the power and prowess to face all the princes
of the land and their hordes in battle single-handed. I too feel I can do it.
So, I desire that I should win the battle with you driving my chariot unarmed.
I have desired this for long and you have today fulfilled my wish."
Vasudeva smiled again and
pronounced this benediction: "Are you trying to compete with me? May you
succeed," for he was pleased with Arjuna's decision. This is the sacred
story of how Krishna became Partha's charioteer.