“Neither the grandfather Bheeshma nor the Dhritarashtra intervened in my disrobing. My husbands deserted me and even you were not there to save me!” wept Draupadi in the arms of Krishna, the lord of the universe. Krishna had come to meet the Pandavas in the forest after the concocted game of dice and the unfortunate Draupadi Vastraharan, wherein Pandavas lost their kingdom and honour.
Although it has been a popular belief that Krishna saved Krishnaa (Draupadi) during her infamous disrobing, the critical edition of Mahabharata disagrees with it. According to the BORI scholars, it is Dharma who saves Draupadi. Notwithstanding the conflict on Krishnaa’s saviour, since we know that Krishna was not physically present to save her, the pertinent question might be, “Where was Krishna during Draupadi Vastraharan?”
After the Pandavas and Kauravas grew up, Yudhishthira was installed as the crown prince of Hastinapura. However, post the infamous wax palace incident, believing that the Pandavas were dead, the elders at Hastinapura installed Duryodhana as the crown prince. Later on, after Arjuna’s spectacular victory in Draupadi Swayamvara, the Pandavas relinquished their self-imposed exile. This gave rise to a grave situation is Hastinapura, since Yudhishthira too had an equal claim on the throne. Thus, tensions rose in the Kuru kingdom.
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In order to dodge a potential conflict, the elders divided the kingdom into two halves. Hastinapura went to Duryodhana while the arid, unpopulated land named as Khandavprastha went to the Pandavas. With sheer hard work and character, the Pandavas turned the land into heaven and renamed it as Indraprastha. People from all over Aryavarta flocked to the new, dynamic kingdom, ruled by the just Yudhishthira and protected by the mighty Bheema and Arjuna.
With time, Indraprastha grew into a major power. Hence, Yudhishthira’s brothers and well-wishers including Krishna urged him to perform the ‘Rajasuya’ sacrifice, so that he could establish himself as an emperor. This endeavour was followed by the destruction of Jarasandha and the Digvijaya campaign of the four younger Pandavas.
After subduing all the kings of Aryavarta, the Pandavas held a large Rajasuya ceremony. They sent invitations to all the kings including Shishupala, a cousin of Pandavas and Krishna.
As a part of the ceremony, one person amongst the invited guest was supposed to be selected for primal worship also called as ‘Agra Puja’. Unanimously, Bheeshma and Pandavas decided to offer Agra Puja to Krishna. This hit a section of kings badly with Shishupala at the lead. With his anger aroused, Shishupala hurled abuse after abuse on Krishna. Yet, Krishna was calm since he had promised Shishupala’s mother.
It so happened that once Shishupala’s mother tried to extract a promise from Krishna that he would never kill him. However, the way Shishupala was going around with his hatred for Krishna and more importantly his unrighteousness, Krishna could not do so. Yet, out of respect for his aunt, Krishna promised to spare 100 deadly offences of Shishupala. However, on the day of Rajasuya, Shishupala crossed every limit. Hence Krishna invoked his discus and beheaded him.
Upon hearing about Shisupala’s death, Shalva, the king of Sauba, also a close friend of the slain, decided to avenge him. As a result, he launched a full-scale offensive on Dwarka, the kingdom of Krishna, destroying its major cities and ports. To add to the woes of Dwaraka, Krishna was away from home in Indraprastha. Although Krishna’s sons Pradyumna and Samba tried their best to launch a counteroffensive, the nature of the attack was very different; an aerial one! Yes, this is one of the descriptions of aerial attacks in Indian texts. Apparently, Shalva possessed and aircraft which could travel at supersonic speeds.
Hence, such an attack left Dwaraka into tatters, leaving Pradyumna and Samba injured, while Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, was taken hostage by Shalva.
When the news of Shalva’s attack reached Krishna, he was in Indraprastha. Furious at this barbarism, Krishna along with Balarama and Satyaki immediately left for Dwaraka. Grim scenes of destruction, wailing widows and dead children were commonplace in the island city. Krishna rallied his remaining army and attacked Sauba, the kingdom of Salva. However, Salva was no mean foe. It took months of siege to defeat Shalva. Adding to the difficulty of Yadavas was the fact that Vasudeva was held captive in the city of Sauba and that, did not allow Yadavas to use weapons of mass destruction.
Finally, Krishna and the Yadavas were successful in their siege on Sauba, to the delight of Yadavas. A delighted Krishna went back to Dwaraka, hoping to take some rest after months of activity. However, the agony of hearing the details of the unfortunate game of dice and Draupadi Vastraharan awaited him, leaving him in despair and pain once again.
- In the opening section, we mentioned the critical editions’ stand about the saviour of Draupadi. According to them, it is Dharma who rescues her. However, devotees of Krishna might not accept this position. I would like to take a middle ground here i.e. it is Krishna’s grace, his energy, his blessings which saved Draupadi.
- The description of aircraft is based on texts. However, there is no empirical evidence that such a technology was available in those times.
Also, check out Mrinal Rai’s page here: Lotus of Saraswati