Prologue: the Krishna Jarasandha rivalry
The greatness of Krishna was not a mere accident, but a result of superhuman choices. His life was everything apart from roses. Right from his birth, he had to fight various attempts on his life, depart from the love of his life Radha. Later on, he had to kill his atrocious maternal uncle Kamsa. As a result, he invited the wrath of the emperor Jarasandha, who was the father-in-law of Kamsa. Jarasandha tried to capture Krishna at Gomantaka but was routed instead. Further, Krishna interjected during Rukmini’s marriage to Shishupala, forcing Jarasandha to postpone the marriage.
These two blows incensed Jarasandha to such an extent that he decided to wipe out Yadavas (the tribe of Krishna) from the face of the planet. Accordingly, he planned a swift two-pronged attack on Mathura, the capital of Yadavas. On the eastern side, he would himself lead a massive army, while from the south-west, the barbaric king Kalayavana would trap the Yadavas. However, Vidura, Hastinapura’s prime minister warned Krishna in advance, enabling him to plan his course of action.
The emergence of Ranchor
Krishna broke the information received from Vidura to the assembly in Mathura. Naturally, the news of the two-pronged attack spread like wildfire in Mathura, causing terror and confusion. Fighting this mighty attack was sure annihilation. Also, no help could be expected out of Bheeshma of Hastinapura or Drupada of Panchala, since they were riven by conflict amongst themselves. The Yadavas turned to Krishna for help, after some initial mud-slinging at him. They were aware that, he was resourceful enough to find a way out of this catastrophe. Rightly so, Krishna came up with a solution that would be considered condemnable by some, commendable by many, for ages.
When consulted, Krishna said, “Let us leave our ancient homes, not out of fear, but with the solemn determination to live free.”
“But where are we to go,” said Kadru, one of the courtiers.
“There is a faraway land named Kushasthali, ruled by king Kukumudin. It is laved by the sea of Saurashtra (present-day Gujrat). Let us reclaim land from the sea and build a port named Dwaraka. It is a race for life. We have to elude the hordes of Kalayavana, who can trap us in the same way. With faith and energy, we shall win the race.” said Krishna.
“What if we don’t?” said Kadru.
Krishna replied, “There is no choice before us. We may either die fighting here or at the hands of Kalayavana on the way, so let us make a bid for life,” his flashing eyes encompassing the entire assembly. Everyone agreed to his plan to abandon Mathura. However, he was garlanded by the title ‘Ranchor’, the one who abandoned the battlefield, for eternity.
Krishna, Balarama and Uddhava were the three men who knew the way to Kushasthali. Hence, it was decided that Balarama and Udhhava would lead the tribe, while Krishna and Satyaki trailed in order to ensure that no one was left behind. Like giant centipede, the Yadavas crawled through the forests, swamps and deserts. Apart from the Yadava citizenry, the crown constituted of dependent tribes like Nagas and Nishadas. They were refugees in the Mathura, generally treated like second class citizens entitled to perform humble tasks.
Ultimately, the crowd reached Lavanika river, which though shallow usually, was flowing turbulently on account of monsoons. Although the Yadavas crossed the river, it would take 4 more days for the dependent folks to do the same. That night Krishna came to Satyaki and said: “Satyaki, I must part from you now.”
“Why?” Satyaki asked in surprise. “We will cross the river soon, lord.’
“Listen, Satyaki. These people are in grave danger. Last night I saw the western sky faintly lit up. I think it emanates from the campfires of Kalyavana’s army. He is evidently proceeding along the valley of Lavanika. If so, he will overtake us tomorrow or day after.” said Krishna
The guide who knew the locality confirmed the same. Satyaki looked at the western sky and said, “We will have to hasten!”
“People on this side cannot cross it in two days. They cannot be hurried since they are not trained warriors,” said Krishna.
“The Yadavas have already crossed over to safety. If necessary, we can abandon the dependent crowd to Kalayavana,” said Satyaki.
“They are our people, part of us, and we cannot allow them to be killed by the demon. Also, If we leave these folks, they might give away our plan to Kalyavana. He might redirect his march towards us instead of Mathura,” said Krishna.
“What do you suggest lord?” asked Satyaki humbly.
“I am leaving you now, Satyaki. I will go and meet Kalayavana, and somehow or the other halt him for a couple of days. That will give you time to cross the river,” said Krishna.
“But that is dangerous. He will kill you,” remonstrated Satyaki.
“That is what I expect him to do. Why worry? What is death after all? I shall only change clothes.” said Krishna in a prophetic ring in his voice, as he would do years later in the field of Kurukshetra, to Arjuna.
Krishna gave his final messages to his parents, Balarama and Satyaki and left to face Kalayavana. He admitted his identity and promised Kalyavana to surrender an abandoned Mathura through the shortest route possible, in order to divert the latter from the valley of the river. Below map displays the possible diversion, which gave Satyaki the requisite time to cross the river.
How Krishna achieved this and how did he manage to stay alive, is a story for another day. However, this episode shows Krishna’s greatness and his considerate nature even for the humblest of folks. Legends are not born in royal documents but in the hearts of common men. After all, there is a reason why he is worshipped for more than 3500 years.
Cover image credits: https://www.indiadivine.org/dwaraka-the-submerged-kingdom-of-lord-krishna/