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Chapter 56: Krishna's Mission

SATYAKI accompanied Govinda (Krishna) to Hastinapura. Before setting out on his journey, Krishna had a lone discussion with the Pandavas. Even the mighty Bhima, rather surprisingly, 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 quivering with grief, she said:

"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 was satisfied.

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 rested.

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 Krishna's life.

"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 Vidura.

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 Pandavas wanted.

"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 Duryodhana."

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 Vidura.

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 said:

"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 it!"

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 Duryodhana, 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 farsighted 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 for.

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 court.

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.