Two half empty lives – Part 3


<< Part 1 | Part 2  >>

Upon hearing Krishna’s challenge Jarasandha responded- I have captured and imprisoned all these kings with the sole intention of sacrificing them. How can I therefore let them go just because you ask me to?

I accept your challenge, against two of you or all three of you, if you so desire.

He then proceeded to install his son Sahadeva on the throne and prepared himself for the challenge issued by Krishna.

Mindful of the fact that Jarasandha was destined to be slain by Bhima, Krishna did not want to kill the king himself. Addressing the king he said- O king, who amongst us three do you desire to fight? Which of us three needs to prepare for the fight against you?

Addressing Bhima, the king said- O mighty one, I choose you to battle against. I would rather fight the strongest opponent.

Saying so, he rushed at Bhima with great energy, thereby signaling the start of the fight.

The two warriors then engaged in a fierce unarmed duel which brought out the best of their abilities. With bare arms as their only weapons and roaring like wild beasts, they struck each other like mad elephants encountering each other. Incensed at each other’s’ blows, they fought like enraged lions jumping at each other vengefully. Since both of them were well versed with the skills and techniques of wrestling, they tried a lot of moves on each other and gave a wonderful display of the same.

The sound made by both of them brought forth almost the whole of the capital city of Magadha to the arena. Both of them were so evenly matched that their fight continued for thirteen days and nights without a break.  On the fourteenth day, to prod Bhima to fulfill his destiny, Krishna addressed him- O son of Pandu, your foe is greatly exhausted, put forth all the strength you can muster and finish him off.

Hearing Krishna say so, Bhima dug deep into his reserves of energy and prepared himself for the final assault on the king of Magadha. He lifted Jarasandha up high above his head and began to whirl him. He then brought him down, pressed his knee on his backbone and broke his body in half. Having killed him thus, Bhima let out a mighty roar in jubilation.

The trio then proceeded to Jarasandha’s dungeons and freed all the kings and monarchs that the evil king had imprisoned over the years. To express their gratitude for having received their freedom all the kings pledged their allegiance to Yudhisthira, his brothers and Krishna.


A lot of popular versions of Jarasandha’s story suggest that at the end of thirteen days, Bhima was clueless as to how to defeat the king. Despite his best attempts and skillful fighting, Jarasandha refused to be defeated. And it was at this juncture that Krishna suggested that the king be torn into two vertical halves and each half be thrown in opposite directions.

Krishna is supposed to have made this suggestion by taking a small stick, breaking it in half and throwing the halves in opposite directions (ie, threw the left piece on the right side and the right piece on the left side) when Bhima was looking at him. By doing so, Bhima would ensure that Jarasandha’s two halves (by virtue of his miraculous birth) would not be able to fuse together again to form a whole.

Following Krishna’s instructions Bhima proceeded to tear the evil king in half and threw his right half on the left side and his left half on the right side, thereby preventing the halves from joining together.


Two half empty lives – Part 2


<< Part 1 | Part 3 >>

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.

<< Part 1 | Part 3 >>

Two half empty lives – Part 1

Three people walk into a bar, or in their case, a ‘public house’ in the capital city of the kingdom. They formed a curious trio; one of them big, gigantic and endowed with great strength, one of them lithe, athletic and handsome and the third one with a ‘divine aura’ surrounding him. They did not look like people who usually frequented such places.

And to be honest, they were not from the group of people who frequented such places; if anything they belonged to a class of people who were usually served food and drinks in their private chambers and rarely even appeared in public, even less as commoners, as they did right now.

They had a good reason to put aside all ‘formal rules of engagement’ and adopt this unconventional approach. They were on a mission to gauge the public sentiment regarding the ‘powers that be’ of the city they were in; this information would prove invaluable to them in achieving their goal.

The trio of Bhima, Arjuna and Krishna knew that they had a formidable task ahead of them; that of slaying Jarasandha, the ruler of Magadha.



After being crowned the king of Indraprastha, Yudhisthira on the advice of elders and senior counselors sought out to perform the Rajasuya yagna to be crowned Chakravarthi, the king of kings, the emperor.

Krishna then mentioned that Yudhisthira could become an emperor only after he defeated Jarasandha, the king of Magadha. While the Pandavas had heard about the legend of the king and how he had been undefeated for a long time, they did not know his whole story. Upon being requested to do so, Krishna then proceeded to narrate the story to them.


There once lived a might king Vrihadratha, in Magadha. He was handsome, endued with energy and possessed affluence and wealth beyond measure. His glory was comparable with that of Surya, his forgiveness with Prithvi, his wrath with Yama and his wealth to Kubera.

He was married to the twin daughters of the king of Kasi and had an understanding with both of them that he would love them both equally and would not provide only one of them with preferential treatment. However, the king did not manage to have any progeny despite the passage of time. Despite his best efforts and performing various yagnas and sacrifices for being blessed with a child, he was not successful.

One day Vrihadratha heard that the holy man Chanda Kausika, the son of Kakshivat had come to Magadha in the course of his wandering and was now seated under a mango tree in the capital city. The king along with his wives went to the holy man bearing gifts and offered his obeisance to him. Pleased with his offering and his obeisance, the holy man granted the king a boon of his choice.

The king replied O holy one, it is time for me to forsake my kingdom and worldly pleasures and go into the woods to practice ascetic penances. However, I have no son to whom I can hand over my kingdom and do so.

Hearing these words of the king, the holy man closed his eyes and concentrated hard in his mind. Suddenly a mango from the tree he was sitting under fell on his lap. He took up the fruit, and chanting a few mantras, gave it to the king. O king, desist from going into the forest yet. Your wish is hereby fulfilled.

Hearing these words and filled with hope, the king and his wives returned to the palace. Keeping in mind the promise he had made to them, the king cut the mango into two equal halves and gave one half to each of his wives. And as an effect of the holy man’s powers, both the queens conceived with a child each. The king’s joy knew no bounds that day.

After a few months when both the queens delivered their babies, the king was shocked. Both of them delivered babies that were fragmented; each baby was born with one eye, one arm, one leg, half a stomach and half a face. The two midwives who oversaw the delivery of the babies wrapped them up, took them outside the palace by the back door and threw them away.

A rakshasha woman by name Jara happened to pass by on the path that these two half-babies lay. She took up the fragments and as if by force of fate she united the fragments of the babies with an intention of carrying away the babies. As soon as the fragments were united they formed a sturdy child of one body endued with life.

Then suddenly Jara found herself unable to carry the child which seemed to have a body as strong and hard as a thunderbolt. The infant then closed his fists, inserted them into his mouth as babies do and began to make a noise. The noise was akin to rain charged clouds thundering loudly.

Alarmed at this sound, the inmates of the palace including king Vrihadratha himself and his queens came running out. Seeing the lactating mothers, the sonless king, Jara thought to herself – I live within the dominion of a king who strongly desires progeny. It does not bode me well to think of killing this child.

Suddenly assuming a human form gave the child to the king O Vrihadratha, this is your child, given back to you by me. Take it, as it has been born of both your wives by virtue of the command of the holy man. Cast away by the midwives, your son has been returned to you by Jara.

Having spoken these words Jara disappeared from there.

The king took the child and performed all the rites of infancy thereof. He named the child Jarasandha – the child which had been united by Jara. As the boy grew up he was endued with great energy and began to grow in bulk and strength like fire on which clarified butter had been poured.

<< Part 2 >>


This post has been written for the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.

Today’s prompt was “Three people walk into a bar …” and I took the liberty of using this prompt as the first post in a series about the story of Jarasandha, the ruler of Magadha.

The Syamantaka Saga – 06 – The conclusion


<<Part 5 of the story>>

To prevent the gem from causing any more conflict and ill will between his family or his clansmen Krishna immediately spoke to Akrura – “I requested you to present the gem in front of the Yadava elders only to clear my reputation. Both Balarama and Satyabhama are right in claiming their ownership of the gem from their points of view. But this jewel, to be of benefit to the whole kingdom, must be carried by a person who leads a life of perpetual continence, self-restraint and moderation. If worn by an impure individual, it will be the cause of his death.

Now as I have sixteen thousand wives, I am not qualified to keep the gem. I am sure Satyabhama also will not agree to this condition to keep the gem with her. My brother, the good Balarama is much too addicted to the pleasure of the senses for him to keep the gem. All of us, the Yadavas and the three of us, therefore request you to retain the care of the gem as you have done all these years. You are qualified to keep it in your possession for the greater good of the entire kingdom and Dwaraka will be grateful for you if you accept this request.”

Hearing Krishna speak so, Akrura was delighted and wore the gem around his neck from that day onwards. As it shone with its dazzling brightness, he moved around like the sun, wearing a necklace of light. Such was the shimmering brilliance of the Syamantaka gem.


This story has been completely sourced from the English translation of The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson in 1840.


In case you are wondering why I started writing this novella in the first place, the reasons are quite simple. While most readers of the blog are well aware of the great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the other great epics, the Puranas remain relatively under-appreciated and unexplored by most of us (including me). I have therefore embarked on a small mission (if I can call it that) to read more stories from the Puranas and present them in an easy to read, easy to understand format in the form of individual posts or novellas such as these. My posts related to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata also will continue on the blog. The Puranas are an invaluable new addition to my existing mythology related posts.

While I have heard of the Syamantaka gem being mentioned in the context of some stories involving Krishna, this novella gave me the opportunity to read the story in its entirety. And the moment I read it, I knew that it had to be published on my blog as a novella. Here’s hoping all you readers enjoyed the story as much as I did.

The Syamantaka Saga – 05 – Krishna’s plan


<<Part 4 of the story | Part 6 of the story>>

Andhaka, the Yadava elder was of the opinion that when a person who was as gifted as Akrura was because of his birth, it was inevitable that Dwaraka would face scarcity and the vagaries of nature when he fled from the city. He was of the opinion that Akrura should be brought back to Dwaraka for the city to see her glory days yet again.

Agreeing with Andhaka’s sound advice a group of Yadavas went to Akrura and assured him of his safety and well-being at Dwaraka and brought him back to the city. And just as the Yadava elder had foretold, his coming back to the city ceased the plague, dearth, famine and all other calamities, due to the magical powers of the gem that he carried with him.

Krishna observing this phenomenon was not fully convinced that Akrura enjoyed these wonderful powers simply because he was the progeny of Swaphalka and Gandini. He suspected that Akrura had the Syamantaka gem with him and that was the real reason for his prosperity. He also knew for a fact that Akrura had been performing various religious rites and performing a whole lot of sacrifices over very many years, despite his own means being insufficient for such expenditure. He therefore decided on a plan of action.

Yadava_assemblyUnder the pretext of a festive celebration, he called all the Yadava elders to his house including Akrura. When they were all seated and were at ease, he started a conversation with Akrura and told him “Oh noble Akrura, we are all aware of the fact that Satadhanwan gave you the Syamantaka gem for safekeeping before he fled Dwaraka, and it is now in your possession, and has provided good fortune and benefits to us. So let it remain with you only, so that we may continue to derive its advantages from its virtues.

But my brother Balarama still suspects that I have it with me. Would you therefore just show us the gem so that my brother’s doubts are assuaged and my guilt is cleansed?”

Akrura was now put on the spot. He was stuck in a situation where his mind was filled with conflicting thoughts. “If I deny the fact that I have the gem with me right now, I might be subjected to a search. Apart from the humiliation of a public search, when they do find out that I have the gem, my honor will be lost.” Thinking so, Akrura replied to Krishna “It is true that Satadhanwan gave me the precious gem for safekeeping before he left Dwaraka. I have been waiting all these years for you to ask me about it. Every moment that I have had the gem, the burden of keeping it safe has been a heavy one for me. I have not enjoyed even the simple pleasures of life and have not known a moment of ease all these years.”

Saying so he took the gem out from his garments and presented it to Krishna “Give to anybody you please Krishna” he said.

When the Yadava elders beheld the precious gem, they were filled with astonishment. Almost immediately Balarama claimed it as his property jointly with Krishna, as had been agreed upon before they embarked on the quest to find Satadhanwan and the gem. At the same time, Satyabhama claimed the gem as her property by virtue of the fact that it originally belonged to her father Satrajit.

<<Part 4 of the story | Part 6 of the story>>