regards and ask him to devise some way
of ensuring that his grandchildren live
happily in amity. Convey the same
message to Vidura also. Vidura is the
person who can best see what is good for
all of us and advise accordingly. Explain
matters to Duryodhana and tell him on my
behalf: 'My dear brother, you made us,
who were princes of the realm, live in the
forest, clad in skins. You insulted and
harassed our weeping wife in the
assembly of princes. We bore all this
patiently. Give us back, at least now, what
is lawfully ours. Do not covet what
belongs to others. We are five. For the
five of us give at least five villages and
make peace with us. We shall be content.
Say thus to Duryodhana, Sanjaya. I am
prepared and ready for peace as well as
After Yudhishthira had said these words,
Sanjaya took leave of Kesava and the
Pandavas, and went back to Hastinapura.
55. NOT A NEEDLE-POINT OF
AFTER he had despatched Sanjaya to the
Pandavas, Dhritarashtra, filled with
anxiety, could not get a wink of sleep that
night. He sent for Vidura and spent the
whole night talking to him.
"To give the Pandavas their share of the
kingdom is the safest plan," said Vidura.
"Only this can bring good to both sides.
Treat the Pandavas and your own sons
with equal affection. In this case, the right
course is also the wise one."
Vidura counselled Dhritarashtra in this
manner at great length.
The next morning Sanjaya returned to
Hastinapura. And gave a full account of
what had taken place in Yudhishthira's
"Chiefly, Duryodhana should know what
Arjuna said: 'Krishna and I are going to
destroy Duryodhana and his followers,
root and branch. Make no mistake about
it. The Gandiva bow is impatient for war.
My bowstring is throbbing even without
my stretching it and from my quiver,
arrows keep peeping out impatiently,
demanding when? When? Sanjaya, evil
stars make the foolish Duryodhana seek
war with Krishna and myself. Not even
Indra and the gods can defeat us.' Thus
spoke Dhananjaya," said Sanjaya.
Bhishma counselled Dhritarashtra against
opposing the combined might of Arjuna
and Krishna. "Karna, who boasts
repeatedly that he will slay the Pandavas",
said Bhishma, "is not equal to a sixteenth
part of the Pandavas. Your sons are
heading for destruction, listening to his
words. When Arjuna beat back your son's
attack on Virata's capital and humbled his
pride, what was Karna able to do? When
the Gandharvas took your son prisoner,
where did the invincible Karna bide
himself? Was it not Arjuna who drove
back the Gandharvas?" Thus did Bhisma
taunt Karna and warn the Kauravas.
"What grandfather Bhisma says is the
only proper thing to do," said
Dhritarashtra. "All wise men say, and I
know, that it is best to seek peace. But
what can I do? These fools would go their
own way, however loudly I protest."
Duryodhana, who had been listening to all
this, stood up. "Father, do not worry and
tremble about our safety. We know how
strong we are. That we shall win is
certain. Yudhishthira knows it too, for,
giving up all hope of kingdom, he only
begs now for five villages. Is it not clear
from this that he is already scared about
our eleven divisions? What can the
Pandavas oppose to our eleven divisions?
Why then do you doubt our victory?"
Duryodhana said to his father and tried to
cheer him up.
"My son, let us not have war," said
Dhritarashtra. "Be satisfied with half the
kingdom. It is enough if we govern that
half well." Duryodhana could stand it no
longer. "The Pandavas will not receive
even a needle-point of territory," he
exclaimed, and left the court. In the
excitement that prevailed, the court broke
Let us now relate what the Pandavas were
saying among themselves. After Sanjaya
Yudhishthira said to Krishna: "Vasudeva,
Sanjaya is Dhritarashtra's alter ego. From
his speech, I have divined what is in
Dhritarashtra's mind. Dhritarashtra is
trying to secure peace without giving us
any territory. In my simplicity, I was glad
at first when I heard Sanjaya speak. But it
soon became clear that my joy was
unfounded. He then struck a middle line
and spoke desiring peace. But the words
with which he ended his message seemed
to commend meekness to us, even if our
just rights were denied. Dhritarashtra has
not been playing fair with us. The crisis is
approaching. There are none but you to
protect us. I made my offer that we would
be content with only five villages. The
wicked Kauravas will refuse even this.
How can we tolerate this height of
intransigence? Only you can advise us in
this crisis. There is none but you who
knows what our duty is now and can
guide us in dharma as well as in
Krishna said in reply: "For the good of
you both, I have decided to go to
Hastinapura. I shall go to Dhritarashtra's
court and try to secure your rights without
war. If my mission succeeds, it will be for
the good of the world."
Yudhishthira said: "Krishna, pray do not
go. What is the good of your going to the
enemies' place now? The perverse
Duryodhana will stick to his folly. I do not
like your going among those unscrupulous
men. We cannot let you jeopardise your
safety, for the Kauravas will stop at
Krishna answered: "Dharmaputra, I know
how wicked Duryodhana is. But still we
should make all attempts at a peaceful
solution so as to give the world no cause
to accuse us of not having done
everything possible to avert war. We must
omit nothing, no matter how slender our
hopes of success. Have no fears for my
safety, for, if the Kauravas offer me, a
messenger of peace, any threat of bodily
harm, I will reduce them to ashes."
Said Yudhishthira: "You are all-knowing.
You know our hearts as well as theirs. In
expounding matters and in the art of
persuasion, there is none better than you."
Krishna said: "Yes, I know you both.
Your mind ever clings to righteousness
and theirs is always steeped in hatred,
jealousy and enmity. I will do all I can to
secure the result, which I know is dear to
you, a settlement reached without war
even though it may have, but little for
you. The signs are ominous and portend
war. Still duty demands that we should
make the attempt for peace."
Thus saying, Krishna took leave of the
Pandavas and set off in his chariot to
56. KRISHNA'S MISSION
(Krishna) to Hastinapura. Before setting
out on his journey, Krishna had a lone
discussion with the Pandavas. Even the
supported a peaceful settlement.
"Let not the race be destroyed. Peace is
very much to be preferred," said he. The
poet Vyasa makes Bhima speak thus in
order to show that truly great warriors
desire peace, and that to seek peace is not
a sign of fear.
But Draupadi could not forget her
humiliation. Holding her locks in her hand
she stood before Krishna, and in a voice
"Madhusudana, look at these tresses of
mine and do what honor requires to be
done. There can be no peace with honor.
Even if Arjuna and Bhima are against
war, my father, old though he is, will go
to battle, supported by my children. Even
if my father can keep out, my children,
with Subhadra's son Abhimanyu, at their
head, will fight the Kauravas. I have, for
the sake of Dharmaputra, these thirteen
years, suppressed the burning flame of
anger within me. I can restrain myself no
longer." And she sobbed, remembering
the great outrage.
Krishna was moved and said: "Weep not.
Dhritarashtra's sons will not listen to my
words of peace. They are going to fall and
their bodies will be food for wild dogs and
jackals. You will live to see us victorious
and the insult to you will be fully
avenged, and that too, soon." Draupadi
Madhava (Krishna) halted for the night
near the city of Kucasthala. When news of
Krishna's forthcoming visit came, the city
was in great excitement.
Dhritarashtra issued orders for decorating
the city and arrangements for receiving
Janardana (Krishna) were in full swing.
Dhritarashtra issued instructions that
Duhsasana's palace, being bigger and
more beautiful than Duryodhana's, should
be got ready and placed at the disposal of
Krishna and his entourage and large tents
were erected at several places outside the
city, along the route which Krishna's
chariot was to take.
Dhritarashtra consulted Vidura. He said to
him: "Make arrangements for presenting
Govinda with chariots and elephants.
Presents of other kinds should also be got
ready." But Vidura said:
"Govinda cannot be bought with presents.
Give him that for which he is coming to
the land of the Kurus. Does he not come
here seeking a peaceful settlement? Make
that possible. You cannot satisfy Madhava
with other gifts."
When Govinda reached Hastinapura, the
citizens had thronged in such numbers in
the decorated streets that his chariot could
only progress very slowly. He went first
to Dhritarashtra's palace and then
proceeded to Vidura's house. Kuntidevi
met him there.
Thinking of the sufferings of her sons and
overpowered by grief, she wept. Krishna
comforted her and, taking leave of her,
made for Duryodhana's palace.
Duryodhana gave Govinda welcome and
invited him to dinner, but Krishna said
with a smile: "Emissaries eat only after
their mission is fulfilled. You may give a
feast when my work here is completed."
Declining Duryodhana's invitation, he
returned to Vidura's house where he
Vidura and Krishna took counsel together.
Vidura told him that Duryodhana's
arrogance was based on his confidence
that no one could defeat him as long as
Bhishma and Drona, who, he knew, were
under a moral obligation not to abandon
him, stood by him.
Vidura said that it would be a mistake for
Govinda even to enter the wicked man's
court. All, who knew Duryodhana and his
brothers, apprehended that they would
plot, through fraud and deceit, against
"What you say about Duryodhana is true.
I have not come here with any hope that I
would be able to secure a peaceful
settlement, but only in order that the
world might not hold me to blame. Have
no fear for my life," said Krishna.
The next morning, Duryodhana and
Sakuni came to Krishna and informed him
that Dhritarashtra was waiting for him.
Govinda went to the court along with
As Vasudeva came into the court, that
great assemblage of kings stood up.
Saluting the elders with folded hands and
with a word or a smile for the others,
Krishna took his seat. The introductions
over, Govinda rose from his seat and,
turning to Dhritarashtra explained the
object of his visit. He made clear what the
"Dhritarashtra, do not bring ruin to your
people. You regard as bad what is good
for you and as good what is bad. It is your
duty to restrain your sons. The Pandavas
are prepared for war but they desire peace.
They wish to live in happiness under you.
Treat them also as your sons and devise
an honorable solution, and the world will
acclaim you," said Krishna.
Dhritarashtra said: "My friends know that
I am not to blame. I desire precisely what
Madhava has stated but I am powerless.
My wicked sons do not listen to me.
Krishna, I entreat you to advise
Krishna turned to Duryodhana and said:
"You are the descendant of a noble line.
Pursue the path of dharma. Your present
thoughts are unworthy and befit only men
of low birth. On account of you, this
famous line is in danger of being
destroyed. If you listen to reason and
justice, the Pandavas themselves will
install Dhritarashtra as king and you as the
heir apparent. Make peace with them by
giving them half the kingdom."
Bhishma and Drona also pressed
Duryodhana to listen to Govinda. But
Duryodhana's heart could not be softened.
"I pity Dhritarashtra and Gandhari whom
Duryodhana is dooming to bereavement
and desolation by his misdeeds," said
Dhritarashtra once again said to his son:
"If you do not listen to Govinda's advice,
our race will perish."
Drona and Bhishma also tried repeatedly
to persuade Duryodhana and turn him
from error. Duryodhana was furious with
everyone for pressing him in this matter to
agree to a peaceful solution. He rose, and
"Madhusudana, you wrong me out of love
for the Pandavas. The others here also
blame me, but I do not think I am one
whit to blame in this matter. The
Pandavas, of their own volition, staked
their kingdom at play and, being defeated,
justly forfeited it. How am I responsible
for it? Losing the game, they went to the
forests as in honor bound. For what fault
of mine do they now seek battle and wish
to slay us? I will not yield to threats.
When I was young, the elders did us
grievous wrong by giving the Pandavas, I
do not know why, a part of the kingdom
to which they had not a shadow of a right.
I acquiesced then but they lost it at play. I
refuse to return it to them. I am utterly
blameless. I will not give the Pandavas an
inch of land, not even a needle-point of
When Duryodhana said that he had not
committed wrong, Govinda laughed and
said: "The play was fraudulently arranged
by you in conspiracy with Sakuni and you
afterwards insulted Draupadi in an
assembly of princes. And yet, you have
the impudence to say that you have
committed no wrong," and reminded him
of the other iniquities he had perpetrated
against the Pandavas.
Duhsasana seeing that Bhishma and others
were accepting Krishna's indictment of
Duryodhana said: "Brother, it seems that
these people have a plot to bind you with
ropes and hand you over to the Pandavas.
Let us get away from here," and
accompanied by his
brothers, walked out of the court.
Govinda addressed the court again and
said: "Sires, the Yadavas and Vrishnis live
happily, now that Kamsa and Sisupala are
dead. In order to save a whole people, it is
some times necessary to sacrifice an
individual. Does it not happen
occasionally that a village is abandoned in
order that the country may be saved? I am
afraid you will have to sacrifice
Duryodhana if you want to save your race.
That is the only way."
Dhritarashtra said to Vidura: "Bring far-
sighted Gandhari here. It is possible that
Duryodhana might listen to her."
Gandhari was sent for and, when she
came to the court, Duryodhana was sent
Duryodhana, his eyes red with anger,
returned and Gandhari tried by all the
means in her power to bring him round to
reason. Duryodhana said 'No' and again
walked out of the hall.
He and his friends had plotted to seize
Krishna. News of this reached the court.
Govinda, who had anticipated all this,
laughed and disclosed his divinity.
The blind Dhritarashtra, by the grace of
Krishna, temporarily regained his sight
and was able to see Krishna in his
Visvarupa presence in every form.
"Pundarikaksha, (lotus-eyed Krishna)
having seen your Visvarupa, I do not wish
to see anything else. I ask that I should be
blind again," said Dhritarashtra, and he
became blind again. "All our efforts have
failed. Duryodhana is obstinate," said
Dhritarashtra to Govinda.
And Krishna rose and, with Satyaki and
Vidura on either side of him, left the
He went straight to Kunti. He told her
what had happened and she asked him to
convey her blessings to her sons.
"The time has come," said she, "for that
for which a kshatriya woman brings forth
sons. May you protect my sons!"
A kshatriya mother brings forth children
to be sacrificed in war. Purushottamat
(Krishna as Supreme Being) got into his
chariot and sped towards Upaplavya. War
became a certainty.
57. ATTACHMENT AND DUTY
ANY ray of hope there might have been
of a peaceful settlement when Krishna
went to Hastinapura was extinguished
when he returned and narrated what
happened. Kunti was overwhelmed with
grief when she learnt that it was to be war
to the death.
"How can I" reflected Kunti, "give my
thoughts tongue and say to my sons, 'Bear
the insults. Let us not ask for any territory
and let us avoid war'? How can my sons
accept what is contrary to kshatriya
"At the same time," she thought, "what
can be gained by mutual killings in the
war and what happiness attained after the
destruction of the race? How shall I face
this dilemma?" Thus was she tormented
by the prospect of wholesale destruction
on the one hand and the claims of
kshatriya honor on the other.
"How can my sons defeat the mighty three
combined, Bhishma, Drona and Karna?
They are warriors who have never yet met
defeat. When I think of them, my mind
trembles. I do not worry about the others.
These three are the only people in the
Kaurava army capable of fighting the
Pandavas with any hope of slaying them.
Of these, Dronacharya might refrain from
killing my children from either love or
unwillingness to meet one's own disciples
in battle. The grandsire will certainly not
want to kill them. But Karna is the
Pandavas' chief enemy. He is anxious to
please Duryodhana by killing my sons.
Karna is a great man-at-arms. As I think
of him engaged in battle against my other
sons, my heart is consumed with agony
like a faggot in the fire. Now is the time
for me, to seek Karna out and tell him the
truth about his birth, on knowing which,
he is bound to abandon Duryodhana's
Tormented by these anxious thoughts
about her children. Kunti went to the
banks of the Ganga where Karna usually
offered his daily prayers.
Karna was there at his devotions. Facing
east and with uplifted hands he was in
deep meditations. Kunti quietly stood
behind him and waited.
Karna was in meditation and was
unmindful of everything until he felt the
hot rays of the sun on his back.
His prayers over, Karna looked back to
find Kunti standing behind him and
holding the hem of his upper garment over
her head to shield it from the burning sun.
That Pandu's queen and the mother of the
Pandava princes should be there, waiting
patiently for him to finish his prayers,
filled him with great confusion and
"The son of Radha and the chariot-driver
Adhiratha bows to you. I am at your
service. What can I do for you, O queen?"
asked Karna, according to the established
forms of respectful address.
"Karna," said Kuntidevi, "you are not
Radha's son, nor is the charioteer your
father. Do not think that you are a man of
the chariot-driver's caste. You are Surya's
son born out of the womb of Pritha of
royal blood, otherwise known as Kunti.
May good fortune attend you"!
She then narrated the story of his birth.
"You who were born with full armor and
golden earrings," said Kunti, "not
knowing that the Pandavas are your
brothers, have joined Duryodhana and
have come to hate them. To live in
dependence on Dhritarashtra's sons, does
not befit you. Join Arjuna and be one of
the kings of the realm. May you and
Arjuna put down the wicked! The whole
world will be at your feet. Your fame will
reach far and wide, like that of the
Surrounded by your five brothers, your
effulgence will be like that of Brahma
among the gods. In perplexing situations,
one must do what gives satisfaction to
loving parents. This is the highest dharma
according to our scriptures."
When his mother spoke thus to him at the
end of his devotions to the sun, Karna felt
a sign in his heart that the Sun god
endorsed Kunti's request. But he checked
himself and took it to mean that the Sun
god was testing his loyalty and strength of
mind. He should not be found wanting.
With an effort of the will, he controlled
alike the temptations of self-interest and
the prompting of natural affection. He said
sadly but firmly: "What you have said,
dear mother, is contrary to dharma. If I
swerve from the path of duty, I shall have
done myself much more hurt than any that
an enemy might inflict on me in the
battlefield. You deprived me of all that
was my birthright as a kshatriya when you
threw me, a helpless babe, into the river.
And now, you talk to me of my duties as a
kshatriya. You denied me the motherly
love, which blesses all life. And now,
thinking of your other children's good,
you tell me this story. If I now join the
Pandavas, will not the world proclaim that
I have done so out of fear? I have eaten
the salt of Dhritarashtra's sons, won their
confidence as their champion and enjoyed
all the consideration and kindness they
showed me. And now you want me, when
the battle is about to be joined, to be
untrue to my salt and go over to the
Pandavas. The sons of Dhritarashtra look
on me as the ark, which will enable them
to cross the deluge of war. I have myself
urged them into this war. How can I now
desert them? Could there be blacker
treachery and baser ingratitude? What in
life, or beyond it, would be worth a price
like that? Mother dear, I must discharge
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