The Panchala king Drupada offers his daughter Draupadi’s hand in marriage to Krishna. This leads to Krishna’s entrance in Mahabharata. I strongly recommend the readers read this episode before proceeding further with this story. Krishna meets Drupada in order to discuss this offer. However, he receives shocking news of the apparent death of Pandavas in the wax palace at Lakshagriha. Hence, he goes to Hastinapura in order to offer condolences to the Kuru family, before going to Kampilya (capital of Panchala) to meet Drupada. In Hastinapura, he secretly learns that Pandavas are alive and hence embarks on one of the most exciting adventures in the annals of mankind. From Hastinapura, he goes to Kampilya in order to meet Drupada and Draupadi. He declines to marry Draupadi and suggests Drupada hold a swayamvara for her. Simultaneously, he and his best friend Uddhava try hard to get Arjuna to take part in Draupadi swayamvara, who is living in the forest along with his brothers, after an attempt on their lives:
‘The Five brothers are nowhere on the horizon of Kampilya and that leads us nowhere, Uddhava!’ exclaimed Krishna, a night before Draupadi swayamvara. Minutes ago, he had been successful in taming Jarasandha, convincing him to stay away from the swayamvara, which in a way was decisive for maintaining peace in Aryavarta.
Uddhava caressed Krishna’s hair like a loving father, though younger than him! He knew that despite a stunning achievement of keeping Jarasandha out of the swayamvara, Duryodhana still posed a threat. Draupadi was hell-bent on not marrying either Duryodhana or Karna. Karna could be kept out based on caste, but Duryodhana was a problem. If he won the archery test, either Draupadi would immolate herself, which would lead to a war between Kurus and Panchalas-two major powers leading to the crumbling of Dharma, or if she submits herself to Duryodhana, the five brothers would sink as before into helpless dependents of the Kuru royal family. The fratricidal conflict might recommence – or nothing might happen at all – for Duryodhana would completely dominate Hastinapura.
‘I wish you had not taken a pledge not to enter the contest Govinda’ Uddhava said.
‘That would have defeated the purpose, Uddhava. If I win the contest, I would have to pledge myself against Dronacharya i.e. Kurus to avenge Drupada’s humiliation. Duryodhana would team up with Jarasandha against us and that would put the entire Aryavarta in flames. I wish to divide power equally in Aryavarta and that’s why I want Arjuna to win the contest since Bhishma would never allow Duryodhana to seek an alliance with Jarasandha against Pandavas and Drupada can never coerce Pandavas to attack the Kurus, since they would never oppose their Grandfather and Kurus for Drupada’s revenge. Plus Jarasandha would never dare to fight the combined might of Kurus and Panchalas, for they would be bound by common ties with the Pandavas. But everything would go wrong if Pandavas don’t appear since Karna or Duryodhana are the only people capable of winning the test apart from Jarasandha, excluding myself and yourself. ’
‘Duryodhana won’t win.’ said Uddhava resolutely.
Krishna looked up. ‘He is probably the best archer after Arjuna, Karna and ourselves.’
Uddhava turned towards Krishna with an enigmatic smile. ‘Allow me to enter the test. I will win it.’
Krishna was surprised. ‘Would you care to marry Draupadi? You are a simple, softhearted man with no ambition to enter powerful alliances and vortex of politics of Aryavarta.’
‘That’s not the point, Madhava. You won’t enter the test. Pandavas might not make it to the contest. Satyaki might fail. Your pledge must be kept.’ Uddhava added smilingly.
Krishna hugged Uddhava.’ How many times will you sacrifice yourself for my pledges!’ wiping his tears he said, ‘But that might not solve our problems. Drupada would still coerce us to fight Drona. Also, what if you fail?’
‘In that case, Krishna, I will see that Duryodhana does not win,’ affirmed Uddhava.
‘How?’ Krishna turned towards Uddhava, expecting a new solution.
‘Please don’t deny Krishna. I have seen the bow. It’s heavy enough to crush me to death, the swayamvara will have been defiled and it will be abandoned.’ said Uddhava trying to sound light-hearted.
‘Uddhava!’ Krishna exclaimed, choked with emotions ‘Why must you sacrifice yourself for my mission!’
‘I live for fulfilling your vision and mission. If that is not achieved my life is worthless.’ Uddhava declared.
Uddhava lived to see Krishna in his last moments since we all know the spectacular way in which Arjuna won the competition. But this episode brings out his love for Krishna. That’s why Krishna chose him to deliver Uddhava Gita on his deathbed.
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P.C. Krishna and Uddhava