Reading Guide. It is now time for Yudhishthira to declare himself a supreme monarch by performing a Rajasuya sacrifice. This will require that he confront a rival king, Jarasandha, and it will also lead to a violent confrontation between Krishna and Shishupala, the King of Chedi.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [900 words]
As time went on, the Pandavas grew more and more powerful. At length Yudhishthira deemed that the time had come to hold his great Rajasuya sacrifice to celebrate the supremacy of his power over all.
Krishna came to Indraprastha at this time and said, "There is now but one rajah who must needs be overcome: Jarasandha, monarch of Magadha." Now this rajah was of great valor and matchless strength. His body was invulnerable against weapons; not even the gods could wound him with mace or sword or with arrow. He was also of miraculous birth, for he was born of two mothers who had eaten of a mantra-charmed mango which fell into the lap of his sire when that he was childless and was undergoing penances to obtain offspring.
Krishna, Arjuna, and Bhima disguised themselves as brahmins and went towards the city of Mathura, which was Jarasandha's capital. They went boldly before the king decked with flowers, and the king said, "Ye are welcome."
Arjuna and Bhima were silent, but Krishna spake to Jarasandha, saying, "These two men are observing vows, and will not open their mouths until midnight; after that hour they will speak."
The king provided for his guests in the sacrificial chamber, and after midnight he visited them and, discovering that they were warriors, Jarasandha said, "I have never done you an injury. Why, therefore, do ye regard me as your enemy?"
Then Krishna revealed himself and upbraided the king because that he was wont to offer up in sacrifice to Shiva the rajahs whom he took captive in battle. He said, "O king, we challenge thee to combat. Set free the rajahs who are in thy dungeons, or die at our hands!"
Said the king, "I have taken captive in battle these royal prisoners of mine, whom I shall offer in sacrifice to Shiva, according to my vow." Then Jarasandha expressed his wish to meet Bhima in battle. In the end the king was swung aloft, and his back was broken over Bhima's knee.
When the great Yudhishthira came to know that Jarasandha had been slain, he sent forth his four brethren with great armies to collect tribute from every rajah in the world.
Some there were among the kings who welcomed them; others had to be conquered in battle. But when they had sworn allegiance to Yudhishthira, they joined the Pandava force and assisted in achieving further victories. A whole year went past before the brethren returned again unto Indraprastha.
Krishna came from Dwaraka to aid Yudhishthira at the ceremony, and he brought with him much wealth and a mighty army.
Then the rajahs came to Indraprastha in all their splendor and greeted mighty Yudhishthira. Now there were deep and smouldering jealousies among the assembled rajahs, and when the time came to honor him who was regarded as the greatest among them by presenting the Arghya, their passions were set ablaze. First Bhishma spake forth and said that the honor was due to Krishna. "Krishna," he said, "is the origin of all things; the universe came into being for him alone. He is the incarnation of the Creator, the everlasting one, who is beyond man's comprehension."
When the Arghya was given unto Krishna, Shishupala, the Rajah of Chedi, arose in wrath and said, "For what reason should homage be paid unto Krishna, who is neither the holiest priest, the wisest preceptor, the greatest warrior, nor the foremost chieftain? To the shame of this assembly be it said that it doth honor the murderer of his own rajah, this cowherd of low birth."
So spake Sishupala, who hated Krishna because he had carried away by force the beautiful Rukmini, who had been betrothed unto himself.
Then Krishna thought of his bright, resistless discus, and immediately it was in his hand. In anger he spake forth and said, "Hear me, ye lords of earth! I have promised the pious mother of Sishupala to pardon a hundred sins committed by her son. And I have fulfilled my vow. But now the number is more than full, and I will slay him, O ye mighty rajahs, before your eyes."
Having spoken thus, Krishna flung the discus, and it struck Sishupala on the neck, so that his head was severed from his body. He fell down like to a cliff struck by the thunderbolt. Then the assembled rajahs beheld a great wonder, for the passion-cleansed soul of Sishupala issued from his body, beautiful as the sun in heaven, and went towards Krishna. Its eyes were like to lotus blooms, and its form like to a flame, and it adored Krishna and entered into his body.
The rajahs all looked on, silent and amazed, while thunder bellowed out of heaven, and lightning flashed, and rain poured down in torrents. Yudhishthira commanded his brothers to perform the funeral rites over the dead with every honor. So the body of Sishupala was burned and the oblation poured forth. Then his son was proclaimed Rajah of Chedi.
Thereafter the great sacrifice was performed with solemnity and in peace. Krishna, who had maintained the supremacy of Yudhishthira by slaying a dangerous and jealous rival, looked on benignly.