Krishna and Sishupala

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At the climax of the Rajasuya, Maharaja Yudhisthira was crowned emperor and everyone cheered him generously. No one felt hatred or envy. The eldest of the Pandavas, known as the most virtuous of kings, was respected and loved by all, and no one, except obviously Duryodhana, felt disrespected.

Immediately afterwards, according to the ceremony, the arghya took place, during which the emperor usually elects from among those present the most deserving person to sit on the highest seat to receive the puja. At that point the Pandava felt uncomfortable. Before him were hundreds of Rishis, Brahmanas, unblemished and sinless warriors, and it would have been difficult to honor one without offending others. Each of those present would have deserved the arghya. Who to name, then? Noticing his embarrassment, Bhishma suggested:

“In my opinion, there is no one here who deserves as much respect and recognition as Krishna. Any person free from anger and envy who knows who He really is will be happy and honored to pay homage to Him.”

Yudhisthira was pleased with the advice and turning to Sahadeva said:

“Bhishma’s suggestion is appropriate according with the dictates of the scriptures, so, I completely agree. No one deserves this recognition like Krishna. Take what is needed and offer the arghya to our beloved friend.”

Joyfully, the youngest of the Pandavas performed the ceremony, and at the end, a shower of flowers from the celestial planets fell on Krishna and Sahadeva.

During the ceremony no one had uttered a word, but the air was impregnated with a strange, heavy, grave silence, which increased when it was completed. There was a strong tension. It was clear that many did not like Yudhisthira’s choice.

Then, at a certain point a loud murmur was heard and many kings began to talk to each other making gestures of incomprehension although no one dared to say anything. It was Sishupala, the king of Chedi, who broke the silence:

“Yudhisthira, we have come here of our own free will to pay you homage, as we have always recognized in you great qualities of righteousness and a strong sense of justice. However, after this choice we must change our mind and think that we have overestimated you. Look around: here there are present sages deserving of absolute respect and old and rich kings of all qualities. Here, in front of them, how could you have preferred Krishna? How could you have listened to the advice of Bhishma, who evidently has lost his reason due to age? Did you realize that you have committed an unforgivable insult to all the most important living personalities? How could you do that? Surely Krishna does not deserve this honor”.

“Dear Sishupala,” replied Yudhisthira, “whoever has a spiritual vision and is not a victim of jealousy and lust, knows that Krishna is not an ordinary man, but the earth incarnation of the Supreme Lord Narayana. I am fully aware of the fact that here, in front of me, are the most deserving men in the world, but Krishna is not a man, he is much more: He is the Supreme Lord incarnate, therefore He deserves the adoration of all of us, and not only at this juncture but at all times of our life.”

Yudhisthira’s words inflamed spirits even more. Sishupala began to rant with great violence against Krishna and Bhishma, who for their part, calmly observed the scene without intervening.

But the Pandavas, hearing the offenses against their dearest friend and object of devotion, began to tremble with rage and, grabbing their respective weapons, shouted threats in the direction of Sishupala. The tumult increased. Some kings sided with Krishna and others sided with Sishupala. Then they began to shout and insult each other, brandishing swords, bows and clubs.

At that point, Sahadeva stepped forward with an expression of fury that left anyone looking at him astounded, and shouting louder than the others to make sure everyone heard him, said:

“Those who cannot bear to see Keshava, the killer of Keshi, who possesses immeasurable energies, and who is adored by me, worshipped, know that I will be very happy to put my foot on their heads after defeating them in a duel. I want you to come forward now. On the contrary, those who possess true spiritual intelligence give their approval to Yudhisthira’s choice. I want everyone to know that for us, Krishna is at the same time our tutor, our father, our guru, and that He fully deserves the arghya and the adoration I just bestowed on Him.”

When in defiance, Sahadeva showed everyone his foot, not one of those mighty monarchs dared to respond. Then a shower of flowers from the celestial planets fell on his head and a disembodied voice said:

“Excellent, excellent”!

 However, without taking up Sahadeva’s challenge, Sishupala, now devoid of any tranquility of mind, victim of his perfidious envy, continued to offend Krishna, who was still sitting on the elevated seat.

 Hearing these insults, Bhima’s chest swelled with agitation as his hand gripped the club with terrible fury.

“I can no longer tolerate hearing this infamy towards Krishna,” he told Bhishma; “give me permission to crush that poisonous snake’s head.”

But Bhishma, even though a good number of the offenses were also directed at him, did not get upset. Instead, he replied:

“Do not intervene. The time allowed for Sishupala’s life is drawing to a close and there is no need for your intervention. You do not see that Krishna Himself, although He could kill him with a single wave of His hand, says nothing, while on the contrary He remains seated without making the slightest movement. Don’t you ask yourself why? Listen to Sishupala’s story, and you will regain peace of mind.

“After Jaya and Vijaya, the guardians of Vaikuntha, were cursed by the sons of Brahma to be born three times as demons in this material world, they incarnated in Satya-yuga as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, in Treta-yuga  as Ravana and Kumbhakarna and now, at the end of Dvapara-yuga, as Sishupala and Dantavakra.

“As soon as he was born he had a monstrous appearance, with three eyes and four arms and his parents, terrified at the sight of that deformed child, had decided to suppress him, when a mysterious voice told them that as soon as the newborn was held on the lap of the person who in the future would kill him, the surplus eye and arms would disappear.”

“His mother, who on the one hand had calmed down in the hope that her son would soon take on a normal appearance, on the other hand felt anxious for his future, and wondered who could possibly be the architect of her son’s death. For this purpose, she began to travel everywhere, asking every king of Bharatavarsha to take the baby in his arms, but her attempts were in vain.”

“So, one day, when Krishna and Balarama went on a courtesy visit to Chedi, the capital of king Damaghosha, the queen asked Krishna to take Sishupala in His arms. As soon as He touched him, the baby became normal. She had come to know the one who in the future would take the life of her son. She begged him:

“Please, Lord, the fate is for Sishupala to be killed by You; therefore, please do not take seriously the offenses he will make to You.”

“Since Sishupala’s mother was His aunt, one of Vasudeva’s sisters, Krishna replied:

“I will forgive up to a hundred of his offenses.”

“From the earliest years of his life, the child instinctively felt a strong hatred of everything related to Krishna, nor could he bear to hear even the slightest praise given to Him. That is why he reacted in this way to the arghya offered to Krishna.”

“Bhima, know that the Lord cannot fail in His promise, but the number of one hundred insults has already been exceeded, so that soon He will free Sishupala from the punishment in which his own anger and envy have imprisoned him.”

 And while Bhishma was telling the story, the Chedi kept insulting the divine Krishna, until, blinded by anger, he lost the light of reason and, grabbing his sword, rushed at him.

At that moment the Sudarshana disc appeared in Krishna’s hand and immediately afterwards darted against the opponent. Sishupala’s head blew up and a bright spark like the sun rose from his body and entered Krishna’s. Everyone saw the extraordinary event: despite so much hatred, Sishupala had obtained liberation.

 Sishupala’s death calmed tempers, and although many were disappointed by the turn the situation had taken, the sacrifice ended without further incident.


This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.

To buy the complete book, click above

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