In the episode of “The Mango of Truth” (see the post on June 9, 2005 in this blog), Arjuna had told Krishna this truth, among others, about himself in the presence of his brothers, Draupadi, sage Vyasa and the imposter Gauramukha: he would never target an enemy who was fleeing from the battle (sangrame shatru pithidele sahasra na marai – in the battle – enemy – if turns his back – arrows – not – shoot = if the enemy turns his back on the battle, I do not hit him with my arrows). When the mother, who is going for her bath, tells her child to protect the butter from the crow till her return, she does not mean that he could allow a pigeon or a cat to eat it. Likewise, Arjuna’s declaration is not to be taken literally. What he said would cover situations like the enemy being without weapons or for some other reason, not being in a position to defend himself, having surrendered to him, etc.  Now, he didn’t say this to Krishna on that occasion but a reader of Sarala Mahabharata knows that this virtuous warrior would not attack unless he is attacked. He had refused to start a battle at least twice. In the Kurukshetra battlefield, when Krishna asked him to attack Bhishma and start the war, he had told him that he would respond only after he was attacked. Later, when he faced the army of the mlecha king Mayasura and Krishna asked him to attack them, he told him the same thing: he would wait for them to attack him and would fight with them only then.   

Now think of what he did when he came face to face with Jayadratha the day after Abhimanyu’s death. He had taken a vow that he would consign himself to the fire if he failed to kill Jayadratha by evening that day and avenge the killing of his son. Jayadratha was so well-protected in the battlefield that he could not penetrate through the layers of his defence before it became dark. Arjuna requested Duryodhana to light the funeral fire. The fire was lit and Arjuna was readying himself to enter it when Sakuni asked Jayadratha to come out of his protective ring and witness the event and he came out.

The sun suddenly appeared, as unknown to every mortal, Krishna withdrew his divine chakra, Sudarshana which had covered the sun.  Duryodhana asked his brother-in-law to flee from the battlefield and save himself. He ran for his life and Arjuna and Krishna abandoned their chariot and chased him. With one arrow, Arjuna cut off his bow and destroyed his quiver. Jayadratha stood unarmed and defenceless.  Jayadratha begged for mercy. “Save me, O Partha,” he said, “You are known to be the noble warrior, who spares his enemy when he abandons fighting and surrenders to him. I have surrendered.  I am your servant from now on. Save me. Save me”. Arjuna felt sad. Jayadratha was his brother-in-law. “There is no merit in killing one’s relations, O Krishna, said Arjuna. “Those who kill their kin for their selfish gains, head to narka (hell). Why did we start this fratricidal war, O Keshava?”, said Arjuna in grief.

Krishna told him that the man was vile and insincere. If he spared the vile wretch, he would mercilessly kill his brothers and he would not be there to save them, having entered the fire for failing to redeem his promise. Besides, he was the killer of his son and not avenging one’s son’s killing was a grievous sin. One would suffer in narka for that. “Jayadratha is doomed,” the Avatara told him. “I have saved him for you, O Partha”, said Krishna, “if you don’t kill him, someone else will; if no one does, then I will. He has killed my nephew.” If one takes out the last sentence, one can hear the echo of Krishna’s words in Srimad Bhagavad Gita – Bhishma, Drona and the others were already dead, killed by Him, had said He, in His Viwarupa Form. He, Sabyasachi was to be only a nimitta.   

That last sentence has a narrative purpose; it brings Abhimanyu again into the discourse in a different way.  This was Krishna’s strategy to provoke Arjuna – to keep reminding him of Abhimanyu so that his mind would be filled with the image of his dead son and he would forget for that moment his warrior-dharma. He succeeded. How Jayadratha was killed, let that remain for another note. From another perspective, in the Gita, it was the Essence of the Avatara Krishna in His Supreme manifestation who was speaking to Arjuna; here it was the Avatara speaking. The Avatara has human relations; his Essence has none.

In Sarala Mahabharata, no one blamed Arjuna for the death of Jayadratha. The Kauravas blamed Krishna – on suspicion. If impossible things happened, Krishna must be the reason, they thought. Who didn’t! As for Arjuna, it never occurred to him during the many years he lived after his brother-in-law’s death that he had compromised with his warrior-dharma.  


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