After a few years, the sage Chandakausika once again came to the kingdom of Magadha. Filled with joy at the arrival of the sage, king Vrihadratha went to meet him and pay his respects to him.
Pleased with the respects paid by the king, the holy man informed him that his son Jarasandha would grow in prosperity and endued with great prowess. Just like no other bird could match the speed of the mighty Garuda, so too no other kings would be able to match the energy of Jarasandha. Just like how even mighty currents of water make no impression on sturdy rocks, so too he would remain unaffected by any celestial weapons used against him. Just like the mighty sun diminishes the luster of all divine bodies around it, so too will Jarasandha’s magnificence rob all surrounding kings of their splendor. Even kings with mighty armies with countless vehicles and animals will perish before Jarasandha, just like insects do when they approach a fire. All the kings of this earth will live in obedience of him just like all humans rely upon Vayu for their survival.
Pleased and enthused with the holy man’s words, Vrihadratha came back to his capital city and installed Jarasandha on the throne of Magadha. Soon after he retired to the forest with his wives to live the rest of his life as an ascetic away from all worldly pleasures.
By virtue of the boon granted on him by the sage, Jarasandha grew from strength to strength. He conquered all the kingdoms neighboring Magadha and developed a reputation for being a fierce warrior.
Some years later when his friend king Kamsa was killed by his nephew Krishna, Jarasandha whirled a mace ninety nine times and hurled it towards Mathura, where Krishna was residing. The citizens of the place where the mace fell went and informed Krishna of this occurrence. The killing of Kamsa was the beginning of his rivalry with the mighty Jarasandha.
In the meantime, Jarasandha had built the loyalties of two followers, Hansa and Dimvaka, both of whom were incapable of being killed by weapons. They were extremely intelligent and well versed in the science of politics and morality. Along with Jarasandha, the trio believed that they were more than a match for anybody in the three worlds. Between the three of them, they enjoyed a reputation for being such fierce and brave warriors that none of the kingdoms of the time harbored any intentions of cultivating unfriendly relations with Magadha.
In fact the formidable trio went on to capture and imprison many kings who dared to refuse to accept to their sovereignty and superiority. They also annexed the lands and kingdoms of these kings and unjustly ruled over them for many years.
As the years went by Hansa and Dimvaka died and this left Jarasandha significantly weaker, at least mentally.
After narrating this story to the Pandavas, Krishna went on to advise Yudhisthira that the time had come for the destruction of Jarasandha. Given that he could not be defeated by entire armies of asuras and devas, he suggested that the only way he could be vanquished would be in a fight with bare arms. He went on to suggest that Bhima with his physical prowess, Arjuna with his ability to triumph over all odds and himself would undertake this task incognito before the Rajasuya yagna as this would ensure that all other rulers would pledge their allegiance to Yudhisthira without any hesitation.
Upon receiving permission from Yudhisthira to do so, the trio then reached the capital city of Magadha in the guise of Snataka brahmanas to avoid being recognized and alert Jarasandha of their arrival and intentions. On their way there, instead of walking into the capital city through the royal gate, they instead broke the heart of the Chaityaka peak which was worshipped since the time of Vrihadratha and entered the city.
As the trio reached the capital city, the priests and brahmans of the royal court saw many evil omens which they reported to their king Jarasandha. With a view to ward off any oncoming evils, the king started a holy sacrifice by performing all the necessary rites to do so. As part of the rituals, he intended to sacrifice all the kings and monarchs he had imprisoned over the years to appease the gods.
It was in this milieu that the trio reached the city. They went on to adorn their bodies with sandal paste and garlanded themselves with flowers. In this attire, they arrived at the court of the mighty king. Upon seeing them arrive in their naturally resplendent glory, the king, as was customary welcomed them to the sacrifice. While Bhima and Arjuna remained silent, Krishna spoke- O king of kings, these two are in observance of a vow of silence. They will remain silent till midnight, after which they will talk to you.
The king then made necessary lodging arrangements for them and approached them after the midnight hour. Addressing them he said – It is well known to me that Snataka Brahmans don’t adorn themselves with sandal paste and flowers. Attired in such colorful robes and decked with flowers and sandal paste, tell me who you are and to what end have you arrived in my capital city? The fact that you destroyed the holy Chaityaka peak and entered the city through the wrong gate clearly portends that you have arrived here with a specific intention in your minds. Pray tell me that your intentions are. Also let me know why you didn’t accept my offerings and worship as you entered the hall where the sacrifice was being performed.
Krishna responded thus- O king, the rules of ordinance state that an enemy’s abode should always be entered through the wrong gate as against a friend’s abode which should always be entered through the right gate. And also know this o king, it is our eternal vow that having entered a foe’s abode for accomplishment of a purpose, we will not accept the worship offered to us.
Jarasandha said- I do not recollect if I have ever acted unjustly towards you. I very well know that a Kshatriya who injures an innocent man will be subject to the fate of sinners. And since I adhere to the Kshatriya practices judiciously, your charge of me being your foe seems erroneous.
Krishna replied- O king, we represent the head of a royal line who intends to uphold the dignity of his race. At his command we have come to your capital city. You have brought many Kshatriya kings to your city as captives and have held them prisoner for many years. Having perpetrated such an act, how can you consider yourself innocent? As if that were not enough, you now intend to offer these kings as sacrifice to appease the evil omens that your holy men recently saw. And yet you state that you follow the rules laid down for virtuous Kshatriyas. Why do you seek to perform a sacrifice by slaughtering these kings? Therefore, desirous of helping these kings, and for the prosperity of our race, we have come to slay you.
I am Krishna of the Yadava clan and my companions are Bhima and Arjuna, the sons of Pandu. O king of Magadha, we hereby challenge you in bare arms combat. Either set free all the kings you have kept captive or die at our hands.