The Mahabharata is an ancient Sanskrit epic poem that tells the story of the kingdom of Kurus. It’s based on a real war that took place in the 13th or 14th century B.C. between the Kuru and Panchala tribes of the Indian subcontinent. It is regarded as both a historical account of Hinduism’s birth and a code of ethics for the faithful. It is India’s longest epic poem. This story was found in Legends & Myths of India by William Radice, and is the Mahabharata’s climax. Enjoy, continue to read and explore.
“As the Mahabharata approaches its climax – the great battle of Kurukshetra between the Kauravas and Pandavas – Krishna’s role as an intermediary and would-be peace-maker between the two sides becomes ever more important. When war breaks out, Krishna offers Duryodhana (leader of the Kauravas) a choice: one side can have his army, the other can have him as an ally. Duryodhana opts for the army, so Krishna becomes an ally of the Pandavas, and takes on the relatively humble role of charioteer to Arjuna, the Pandava commander-in-chief. On the eve of the battle he recites to Arjuna the Bhagavadgita, the famous poem in Sanskrit literature, in which he tries to reconcile Arjuna philosophically to the conflict by urging him to pursue ‘right action’ without thought of reward. (It appalls Arjuna and his brothers that they should be fighting against cousins, and that both sides will have to kill their kith and kin.)
“Krishna recites the Bhagavadgitan when it is clear that the battle is inevitable. Previously, he has tried to persuade the Kauravas to make peace. In this extract, his attempt to persuade Duryodhana to give up the war is backed by Gandhari (mother of the Kauravas); by Drona (tutor to the Pandavas and the Kauravas in their boyhood); and by Vidura (the minister at the court of King Dhritarashtra who tipped off Yudhishthira about Duryodhana’s plot to burn the Pandavas alive: see p. 260 in Myths & Legends of India [hyperlink]). Even the perpetually weak and vacillating King Dhritarashtra tries. But Duryodhana remains unmoved – even when Krishna reveals his true divine form, miraculously enabling the blind Dhritarashtra to see it alone with everyone else.
Krishna The Peace-Maker pp. 537-62
“Just before this extract, Duryodhana has said that he
‘Will not let the Pandavas have
So much land
As can be covered by the point of
A sharp needle’
“It is Yudhishthira’s decision to reconquer his lost kingdom with the help of the king of Virata (whom the Pandavas helped when his kingdom was invaded by another king) that has precipitated the final, all-out war.
“Krishna pondered this statement (continued Vaisampayana); then
The Dasha hero said to Duryodhana
In the Kuru assembly:
“ ‘You are eager for a hero’s bed.
You will have it.
You and your friends have only to wait
For the massacre.
“ ‘Fool! You think you have not been
Guilty of any
Misconduct with the Pandavas. O rajas,
Listen and judge –
“ ‘You were jealous of the mahatma
And conspired with Sakuni to manipulate
“ ‘Why else, my friend, would the unsuspecting,
Honest and intelligent
Pandavas agree to participate in the
“ ‘O vastly wise one, gambling is know
To steal the honest
Man’s intelligence, and produce dissensions
“ ‘You and your scheming followers planned
Through gambling; you never consulted
Men of character.
“ ‘Who but you would have molested
your brothers’ wife
The way you did after Draupadi was dragged
Into the sabha?
“ ‘She is noble-born, full of patience,
Honored by them
Like life itself. You dared insult
The Pandavas’ queen!
“ ‘The Kurus know how Duhsasana mocked
The Pandavas publicly
In the sabha as they were preparing to
Go into exile.
“ ‘What kind of a man is this who
Insults his kinsmen,
Specially those honored for dharma, goodness
“ ‘You, Karna and Duhsasana expressed
Your feelings t hen
In words that suit only ruthless and
“ ‘You tried your best to kill the Pandavas
And their mother
By arson when they were in Varanavata –
But you failed.
“ ‘You have always treated the sons of
Pandu perfidiously –
And yet you assert you have not harmed
“ ‘If you refuse to grant them their
They will take it after divesting you
Of your glory.
“ ‘In spite of your repeated acts
Cruelty and wickedness, you pretend
To be different!
“ ‘Your mother and father, Bhishma, Drona
And Vidura urge
You to make a peaceful settlement.
You are adamant.
“ ‘Peace will bring you profit; peace
Will profit both.
But your minuscule intelligence cannot
“ ‘You cannot possibly succeed by ignoring
What you plan to do smells of adharma
“The Dasarha hero said this to Durodhana,
Loudly addressed himself to the Kuru-
“ ‘If you refuse peace terms with
The sons of Pandu,
The Kauravas will tie you and hand you
Over to Yudhishthira.
“ ‘Your father, Bhishma and Drona
Will turn us
Over – Karna, you and me – to
The sons of Pandu.’”
“Dhritarashtra’s son Duryodhana heard this
From his brother
And was infuriated. He rose, sighing
Like a huge snake.
“Vidura, Dhritarashtra, maharaja Bahlika,
Kripa, Somadatta, Bhishma, Drona, Krishna –
“Brushing them all aside, the shameless,
Duryodhana stalked out.
“Seeing him march out, his brothers
Also walked out,
Followed by the whole assembly of
Courtiers and rajas.
“The abrupt exit of Duryodhana
And his brothers
From the sabha made Santanu’s son
“ “Ill-wishers find enormous amusement
In the spectacle of
An angry man ruined by his rejection
“ ‘The ill-minded son of Dhritarashtra
Is confused over
Means and ends, and filled with pride,
Anger and greed.
“ ‘The time has come for the doom
Of the Kshatriyas,
For the kings and courtiers have foolishly
Followed his example.’”
“The lotus-eyed Dasarha hero Krishna
Heard Bhishma’s comment,
And said to all the followers of
Bhishma and Drona:
“ ‘The great failing of Kaurava elders
Is that they do not
Use force to prevent this proud and
“Chastisers of your foes! It is time
You took action.
Faultless men, listen to these beneficial
Words of mine.
“ ‘My suggestions are motivated to
Seek your good.
If you find them agreeable,
Act on them.
“ ‘The son of the elderly raja Ugrasena
Of Bhoja was an
Ill-minded voluptuary. He usurped the throne
And then was killed.
“ ‘I killed Ugrasena’s son Kamsa in
A fierce battle
For the good of my race. His friends
Had deserted him.
“ ‘Ahuka’s son Ugrasena was honored
King; he annexed the Bhoja territory
To his kingdom.
“ ‘Forsaking one – Kamsa – for the good
Of the many,
The Yadavas, Andhakas and Vrishnis
“ ‘The supreme god Brahma thought at the
Time when the
Gods and anti-gods were arming themselves
“ ‘When the world split into two camps
And faced ruin –
The Creator and Ruler of the
“ ‘The Adityas, Vasus, Rudras and
Will defeat in battle the Daityas, Danavas,
“ ‘In their fanatic warfare, the gods,
Gandharvas and Rakshasas will indiscriminately
Slaughter each other.
“ ‘And so great Brahma said
To Dharma: ‘Tie up
The Daityas and Danavas and hand them
Over to Varuna.’
“ ‘Dharma carried out the order of
The Creator and
Tunred over the trussed Daityas and Danavas
“ ‘Dharma carried out the order of
The Creator and
Turned over the trussed Daityas and Danavas
“ ‘Made captive by Dharma’s power and
The lord of waters keeps the Danavas
In the ocean.
“ ‘Neutralis Duryodhana, Karna and
And Duhsasana, and turn them over
To the Pandavas.
“ ‘Sacrifice a man for a family,
Sacrafice a family for a village
Sacrifice a village for the world,
Sacrifice the world for the Atman.
“ ‘Silence Duryodhana, O raja; make peace
With the Pandavas.
This will save the Kshatriya race
“These words of Krishna (Vaisampayana
Dhritarashtra say hurriedly to all-dharma-
“ ‘Child, go to vastly wise Gandhari;
Bring her here.
Together she and I will try to influence
“ ‘If she is able to persuade ill-minded,
We might be able to implement the
Peace-plan of Krishna.
“ ‘Perhaps her words on peace may lead
Her foolish son,
Blinded by greed and misguidance, to
The right path.
“ ‘If she is able to avert the awful
Of Duryodhana’s making, lasting happiness
May still be ours.’”
“Vidura followed the raja’s instruction
With Gandhari, who was gifted
“ ‘Dhritarashtra said: ‘Your ill-Atmaned son,
To obey me. Greed will destroy his
Prosperity and life.
“ ‘He is so disrespectful and ill-Atmaned
That he staled out of
The sabha with his friends, ignoring
All his well-wishers.’
“The raja’s daughter, renowned Gandhari,
And wanting her son’s welfare, said
To her husband:
“ ‘Summon your son here. He lusts for
How can one without dharma-and-artha
Rule a kingdom?
“ ‘Yet far-from-humble Duryodhana has got
Your fondness for him, Dhritarashtra, is
To blame for this.
“ ‘You know his unrighteous inclinations,
Yet pamper him;
And he, propped by you, indulges in
Kama and greed.
“ ‘It is too late now for force: je
Will not change.
Having left the kingdom to that
“ ‘Who has crooked advisers who play
On his greed,
You are no reaping the fruits.
Be firm now
Your enemies are laughing at this
“ ‘Maharaja, if a crisis can be solved
Or by gifts, what is the point of
“Orderd by Dhritarashtra, and requested
Vidura went and returned with the
“his eyes copper-red with anger, sighing
Duryodhana came to listen to his
“when her wrong-path-treading son
Motivated by a desire for peace,
“ ‘My son Duryodhana, listen to me,
I wish the good
Of you and your followers. My advice
Is not difficult.
“ ‘Duryodhana, best of the Bharatas, accept
What your father,
Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Vidura
Have advised you.
“ ‘You could not show me, your father,
Bhisma and others
Headed by Drona greater honor than
By agreeing to peace.
“ ‘My vastly wise son, you cannot rule
A kingdom by
The strength of kama, nor win, cherish
And enjoy it.
“ ‘An indiscipline man cannot really
Enjoy a kingdom;
Only the disciplined and intelligent
Can protect a kingdom.
“ ‘Kama and anger are obstacles to
A man’s prosperity.
First these two; only then does a raja
Conquer the earth.
“ ‘The ill-Atmaned can hope to gain
The massive authority
Of royalty, but governing a kingdom
Is another matter.
“ ‘The greatness-seeker first trains his senses
Self-discipline feeds intelligence, as
Fuel feeds fire.
“ ‘Undisciplined, the senses can destroy a
Person, as ill-trained
Horses can run off with a driver
Who is incompetent
“ ‘The man who, without governing his Atman,
Tries to govern
His ministers, or the man who, without
governing his ministers,
Tries to govern his enemies, is soon
Subdued by others.
“ ‘That man succeeds who considers first
His Atman as foe
And governs it; and then governs ministers
“ ‘Prosperity always favors the man
His senses, controls his enemies,
Wields the rod
Of justice against criminals, and acts
After deep reflection.
“ ‘Kama and anger are slippery fish in
They can be permanently trapped only
“ ‘No matter how eligible a person may
Be for heaven,
Heaven’s doors are shut if he has
“ ‘A king who has totally conquered
Greed, pride and selfishness, is fit
“ ‘Kings who are eager to obtain dharma-
And-artha, and wish
To defeat their enemies, should first
Control their senses.
“ ‘The king whose kama-and-anger
Makes him deceive
Him and others, soon finds nobody
On his side.
“ ‘My son, seek the friendship of the
Wise, heroic, foe-
Punishing Pandavas, and enjoy this
Earth with them.
“ ‘What Santanu’s son Bhishma and Drona
Have said about
The chariot-heroes Arjuna and Krishna being
Invincible is true.
“ ‘Seek the protection of the strong-armed,
Krishna. If Krishna is pleased, both sides
Will be happy.
“ ‘enemies are ecstatic over the man
The advice of wise and noble and
“ ‘My son, how can war breed good?
Dharma-and-artha, so how can it
Lead to happiness?
Even victory is not permanent. Do not
“ ‘Afraid of dissensions, my wise son,
Your father, Bhishma,
And Bahlika gave the Pandavas
Their kingdom’s share.
“ ‘The fruits of that decision are yours –
You enjoy the earth
Without obstacles, all the thorns having
Been already removed.
“ ‘Give the sons of Pandu their rightful
Half-share, my son,
If you wish to enjoy the kingdom
With your ministers.
“ ‘Surely half the world is enough to
Sustain you and
Your ministers. Follow your well-wishers
And gain respect.
“ ‘A fight with the prosperous Pandavas,
Who are disciplined
And intelligent, can lead only to loss
Of your happiness.
“ ‘Pacify your angry well-wishers, and
Govern your kingdom
After returning to the sons of Pandu
Their rightful share.
“ ‘They have endured enough misery for
Vastly wise one, curb your kama-and-
“ ‘You are not worthy of possessing the
Nor are Karna and your irascible
“ ‘Anger-inflamed Bhishma, Drona, Kripa,
Arjuna and Dhrishtadyumna will go
To their doom.
“ ‘My son, don’t let your anger spell
Don’t let this entire earth be
“ ‘Your hope that Bhishma, Drona, Kripa,
And others will
Fight on your side is like to
“ ‘They know their Atmans and have the
Same affection for
You and the Pandavas. The Pandavas
Have greater dharma.
“ ‘They may out of loyalty to give
Their lives for you –
But they will never be able to face
Yudhishthira with honor.
“ ‘Greed does not bring prosperity to
My bull-among-the-Bharatas’ son,
Curb your greed.’
“Duryodhana ignored the sensible advice
Of his mother;
He rose restless-Atmaned and strode
To his room.
“Coming out of the sbha, he went
Subala’s son, Raja Sakuni, the expert at dice.
“The decision arrived at by the four –
Subala’s son Sakuni, and Duhsasana –
Was as follows:
“ ‘Krishna is no waster of time.
His purpose seems
To be to seize us with Dhritarashtra’s
And Bhishma’s help.
“ ‘But we will strike first and, like
The son of Virochana, seize tiger-among-
“ ‘When the Pandavas learn of Krishna’s
Seizure, they will
Become as depressed and helpless as
“ ‘Strong-armed Krishna is everyone’s
Refuge and guardian.
When the boon-granting hero
“ ‘The sons of Pandu and the Somakas
Will be helpless.
Let us without any delay imprison
“ ‘Despite the protests of Dhritarashtra,
And proceed with
The battle-plan.’ This treacherous move
Of the scoundrels
“was guessed by the wise Satyaki.
Of it made him go to Hridika’s
“He said to Kritavarman: ‘Hurry,
Get an armor-
Clad troop of soldiers, and wait at
“ ‘While i get the message to fluently
He entered the sabha like a lion
Entering a cave,
“And divulged his suspicion first to
Then to Dhritarashtra and, finally,
“He smiled and said: ‘They are
About to embark
On an act that violates dharma,
Artha and Kama.
“ ‘The fools are about to try to do
They have devised this most
“ ‘Kama and anger and greed have
And they seek to kill treacherously
The lotus-eyed one.
“ ‘Even as children and madmen try to
Seize fire with
Their clothes.’ Satyaki’s words made
Vastly wise Vidura
“Say to strong-armed Dhritarashtra in
The Kaurava assembly:
‘Kala is now ready to swallow
Your sons, O king.
“ ‘They are bent on doing what is
If possible, shameful. Conspiring against
The lotus-eyed one,
“ ‘The younger brother of Indra, they want
To seize him,
Who is an invincible, unchallengeable
“ ‘They will perish like moths in
A blazing fire.
If Krishna wishes, he can, in the
Midst of battle,
“ ‘Angrily consign them to Yama, like
A lion scattering
An elephant herd. But such a karma
Is not ordained,
“ ‘ Because Purushottama Krishna never goes
Once Krishna burnt down Varanasi
And the horses,
Chariots and elephants of the city’s king
And his followers;
“ ‘So the conch-mace-and-chakra-wielder,
As Lord Kala,
Will burn down Hastinapapura and all
“ ‘When the-joy-of-the-Yadavas Krishna
Furious Indra attempted to subjugate him,
But Indra failed.
“ ‘The anti-god Mura devised six thousand
To trap Krishna near Nirmocana, but
Krishna broke free.
“ ‘This is the same Krishna that strode
Up to Saubha,
Smashed the hill, and killed Dyumatsena
And his followers.
“ ‘The Kauravas are old, so lotus0eyed
Of dharma, does his best to forgive
Their ill karma.
“ ‘If the Kauravas and other rajas
Are intent on
Imprisoning Krishna, they will become guests
In Yama’s realm.
“ ‘The Kauravas are to charka0weilding
So many blades of grass tossed in
A strong wind.’
“When Vidura had finished, Krishna
And said, so that all standing near
Could hear him:
‘Raja, if your impulsive sons want
To imprison me,
“ ‘Let them try their best1 O ruler
Of the earth,
I can diagnose their anger and
Cure them too.
“ ‘But I will not do an action that
And wrong. Your sons will lose all
By being greedy.
“ ’Their criminal intent gives Yudhishthira
An edge over them.
I can, if I wish, immobilize them
And their followers,
“ ‘and turn them over to Yudhishthira –
An easy-enough task.
But I will refrain from doing
“ ‘Let Duryodhana, fired by wickedness
Do exactly as he wishes before you,
“ ‘I give this freedom to your sons.’
Heard this, he called Vidura and
Said to him:
‘Summon wicked and greedy Duryodhana
To my presence,
With all his friends, ministers, brothers
I will try to bring him back to the right path.’
“So Vidura brought Duryodhana again
To the sabha
With his brothers and rajas, though
He was unwilling.
“Raja Dhritarashtra said to Duryodhana,
Karna and all the other rajas
“ ‘Unfeeling Duryodhana! You have sought
The help of low –
Minded followers in the commission of
A criminal act –
“ ‘An act condemnable and shameful,
An impossible act!
Only a family-dishonoring man like you
Would think of it.
“ ‘You and your vicious followers have
planned to imprison
The invincible lotus-eyed one, whom none
“ ‘Even the Indra-led gods cannot harm
Him, O Duryodhana.
You are like a little child crying for the moon.
“ ‘You know very well that neither
Humans, Gandharvas, nor Nagas can
“ ‘Imprisoning Krishna is like grasping
Air, or clutching
The moon, or holding the earth
On one’s head.’
“When Dhritarashtra finished, Vidura looked
Straight at the
Tempestuous son of Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana,
And said to him:
“ ‘Duryodhana, listen to me carefully.
At Saubha’s gate
The Danava-lord named Dvivida
With what seemed an irresistible
Volley of stones.
“ ‘He thought violence would be the way
To destroy Krishna;
He tried and failed; now you wish
To try violence.
“ ‘Naraka and all his Danavas failed
To capture Krishna; and now you wish
To try violence.
“ ‘six thousand great anti-gods in
With their nooses; and now you wish
to try violence.
“ ‘When only a baby, he killed the
As a child, he liefted Govardhana hill
To protect the cows.
“ ‘He killed the vicious Arishta, Dhenuka,
The powerful CHanura,
Asvaraja, and the enormously wicked
“ ‘He killed in battle Jarasamdha, Vakra,
And Bana; many other rjas were also
Killed by him.
“ ‘Raja Varuna and the inexhaustibly energetic
God of fie
Were humbled by him, and Indra stealing
“ ‘He killed Madhu and Kaitabha as
They reposed on
The ocean; in another birth he
“ ‘He is the all-creator, himself
He is male power. He can do whatever
“ ‘ You cannot comprehend this amazingly
He has the fierce clear energy of an
“If you try to harm strong-armed,
You will perish like moths flying into a fire.’
“ ‘WHen Vidura finished (continued Vaisampayana),
Of enemy-hosts, said to Dhritarashtra’s
“ ‘Small-minded fool@ You think I
And so it is easy for you to
“ ‘Here are the Pandavas! the Andhakas!
The Adityas! The Rudras! The Vasus!
“As he said this, foe-slaying Krishna
His laughter made his mahatma body
Shake like lightning.
“Gods rushed out fo his thumb!
They flowed like fire!
Brahma sat on his forehead!
Rudra appeared on his chest!
“The Lokapala guardians of the universe on his arms!
Agni from his mouth!
“Balarma from one arm!
Arjuna from the other!
Bow-armed Arjuna on his right!
Plough-weilding Balarama on his left!
Madri’s twin sons!
Led by pradyumna
“And other chiefs
With upraised arms!
“And other weapons
In blazing splendor
In Krishna’s hands!
“From his two eyes
Like spark-emitting smoke
“From the pores of his skin
Closed their eyes –
Because they had tapas
They received celestial vision
“Krishna’s magnificent form
Filled the sabha!
Divine drums sounded,
“Dhritarashtra said: ‘Favor me, O lotus0eyed one!
O excellent Yadava, worker for the good
Of the world!
“ ‘Illustrious one,
Restore me my sight!
I wish to see you,
I wish to see nothing else.
“Strong-armed Krishna said to Raja
Of the Kauravas, I grant sight to
Your sightless eyes.’
“Maharaja, wonder of wonders! for
His sight to have a vising of the
“The kings, awestruck by the restoration
Of sight to
Dhritarashtra, along with the rishis
“And the earth shook.
And the oceans heaved.
And the rulers of the earth
Were dumbfounded with wonder.
“Foe-chastising tiger-among-men Krishna
Indrew his magnificent,
Celestial, auspicious and prosperous,
“Krishna took Satyaki’s hand and
And, with the permission of the rishis,
Left the place.
“In the ensuing commotion, the rishis,
Narada and others
Disappeared. The hubbub subsided. It was
A weird happening.
“the Kauravas, and the assembled rajas,
Seeing Krishna leave,
Followed him as the gods follow Indra
Of a thousand sacrifices.
“But unimaginable-Atmaned Krishna
Ignored the mandala
Of following kings and left like a
“His white massive chariot, carved in
Gold and tinkling
With bells, with wheels that resounded
“Covered with white tiger skins, and
Pulled by magnificent
Horses, among them Saibya, was brought up
“He saw the son of Hridika, the
Kritavarman, a respected Vrishni, sitting
In the chariot.
“Foe-chastising Krishna was about
When maharaja Dhritarashtra said
“ ‘You have seen what power I have
Over my sons.
Krishna, nothing is now hidden
“ I want peace for the Kurus,
I will struggle
For it. I implore you not to think
Badly of me.
“I harbored no malice towards the
Sons of Pandu.
YOu know how I treid to dissuade
My son Duryodhana.
“The Kauravas, these rajas, these
Rulers of earth –
They are witness to my sincere desire
“Strong-armed Krishna (said Vaisampayana)
Said to Dhritarashtra,
To Duryodhana’s grandfather Bhishma, Vidura,
Bahlika and Kripa:
“ ‘You have personally seen what happened
In the assembly
Of the Kurus – how the uncouth fool
Left his seat,
“ ‘and how the world-ruler Dhritarashtra
Confesses to his
Powerlessness. With your permission, I
Return to Yudhishthira.’
“The excellent bowmen-heroes – all
Splendid Bharatas –
Followed finest-of-men Krishna
To his chariot.
“They included Bhishma, Drona, Kripa,
Bahlika, Asvatthaman, Vikarna, and the
“While the Kauravas looked, Krishna
Took his large,
White, sweetly tinkling chariot to his