AS SOON as the news of the slaying of Sisupala by Krishna reached his friend Salva, he became very angry and besieged Dwaraka with a mighty force.
Krishna having not yet returned to Dwaraka, old Ugrasena was in charge of the defence of the city. The sieges described in the Mahabharata seem very much like those in wars of the present day.
Dwaraka was a strongly garrisoned fortress built on an island and well provided with means of defence. Ample barracks had been provided and there was an abundant supply of food and weapons and the garrison included many illustrious warriors.
Ugrasena imposed a stringent ban upon drinking and amusements generally for the period of the siege. All the bridges were demolished and ships were forbidd enentry into ports in the realm.
Iron spikes were planted in the moats around the fortress and the city walls kept in good repair.
All entrances to the city were guarded with barbed wire and permits and passwords strictly controlled ingress and egress. Thus no arrangements were neglected that could further strengthen the city which nature had already made impregnable.
The pay of the soldiers was increased.
Volunteers for service were rigidly tested before being accepted as soldiers.
The siege was so rigorously pushed that the garrison suffered great privations.
Krishna, when he returned, was struck to the heart at the sufferings of his beloved city and he compelled Salva immediately to raise the siege, by attacking and defeating him.
It was only afterwards that Krishna learnt for the first time of the events at Hastinapura, the game of dice and the exile of the Pandavas. At once be set out for the forest where the Pandavas were living.
Along with Krishna went many, including men of the Bhoja and Vrishni tribes, Dhrishtaketu, the king of the Chedi country, and the Kekayas who were all devoted to the Pandavas.
They were filled with righteous indignation when they heard of Duryodhana's perfidy and cried out that surely the earth would drink the blood of such wicked people.
Draupadi approached Sri Krishna and, in a voice drowned in tears and broken with sobs, told the story of her wrongs. She said: "I was dragged to the assembly when I had but a single garment on my body.
The sons of Dhritarashtra insulted me most outrageously and gloated over my agony. They thought that I had become their slave and accosted me and treated me as one. Even Bhishma and Dhritarashtra forgot my birth and breeding and my relationship to them. O Janardhana, even my husbands did not protect me from the jeers and the ribald insults of those foul ruffians. Bhima's bodily strength and Arjuna's Gandiva bow were alike of no avail. Under such supreme provocation even weaklings would have found strength and courage to strike the vile insulter dead. The Pandavas are renowned heroes and yet Duryodhana lives! I, the daughter-in-law of the emperor Pandu, was dragged by my hair.
I, the wife of five heroes, was dishonored.
O Madhusudana, even you had deserted me." She stood trembling, utterly unable to continue, for the grief convulsed her.
Krishna was deeply moved and he consoled the weeping Draupadi. He said:
"Those who tormented you will be stricken to death in the bloody quagmire of a lost battle. Wipe your eyes. I solemnly promise that your grievous wrongs shall be amply avenged. I shall help the Pandavas in every way. You will become an empress. The heavens may fall, the Himalayas may split in twain, the earth may crumble or the boundless sea may dry up, but, I tell you verily, my words shall stand. I swear this," and Krishna took a solemn vow before Draupadi.
This vow, it will be seen, was in perfect accord with the purpose of the Lord's avatars, as declared in scriptures:
"For protecting the righteous, for destroying the wicked and for firmly upholding the law, I am born on earth age after age."
Dhrishtadyumna also consoled his sister and told her how nemesis would overtake the Kauravas.
He said: "I will kill Drona, Sikhandin will cause Bhishma's fall. Bhima will take the lives of the wicked Duryodhana and his brothers. Arjuna will slay Karna, the charioteer's son."
Sri Krishna said: "When this calamity befell you, I was in Dwaraka. Had I been in Hastinapur, I would never have allowed this fraudulent game of dice to take place.
Uninvited, I would have gone there and stirred up Drona, Kripa and the other elders to a sense of duty. I would, at all costs, have prevented this destructive play of dice. When Sakuni was cheating you, I was fighting King Salva who had besieged my city. It was only after I had defeated him that I came to know of the game of dice and the subsequent sordid story. It grieves me that I am not able to remove your sorrows immediately but you know, some water must be lost before a broken dam is restored."
Then Krishna took leave and returned to Dwaraka with Subhadra, the wife of Arjuna, and their child, Abhimanyu.
Dhrishtadyumna went back to Panchala taking with him the sons of Draupadi.