Jarasandhavadha Mahakavyam

by Pankaj L. Jani | 2010 | 82,365 words

The English translation of the Jarasandhavadha Mahakavyam: a Sanskrit epic poem written by Goswami Hariraiji. The story revolves around the story of Krishna’s vanquishing of the Magadha King, Jarasandha. The soul message of this epic Jarasandhavadha is “where there is righteousness there is victory”. The sources for this story include the Mahabhar...

Part 5 - Canto-wise Summary (of the Jarasandhavadha Mahakavyam)

First Canto:

The Jarasandhavadha Mahakavyam commences with prayers to Nara, Narayana and the holy river Yamunaji. According to the classical conventions the poet in the beginning invokes the supreme commander of the world Lord Krishna and the mother Yamunaji to keep him in his great task of writing this epic. He considers himself as the most humble servant of Lord Shri Krishna and prays to keep the benevolent hand upon his head to bestow all round development.


It is followed by the arrival of Devarshi Narada, who has come from the heaven to the earth. He has come to Lord Shri Krishna who offers him hospitality according to the custom. In this canto the poet has presented the complete description of Shri Krishna who happens to be the Mahanayak of this epic. Lord Krishna is creator of the universe, the form of the universe, the primary cause of the three worlds, the transformation of the worlds and the destroyer of the worlds.

(JM- 8)

Second Canto:

This canto presents the apprehensions of people about Narada’s arrival, description of Narada, description of his welcome by Shri Krishna, the reason for his arrival and explanation by Narada on the justification of killing Jarasandha by recalling the incidents of his previous birth, acceptance message and finally Narada’s departure. In this canto Naradaji reminds Shri Krishna that he is the supreme controller of the world but despite this there are treacherous rulers like Jarasandha who do not believe in the supremacy of Lord Krishna. Such a ruler on the earth is a curse.

It is a fact that some on earth do not believe in god’s supremacy and inscrutability. Naradji says,

“Despite your being endowed with endless capacity you do follow the path of morality and you exhibit endless actions and miracles which show that you are too great to be comprehended by the ordinary, strange to the demons, but fascinating to the intellectuals of the earth". (JM-15)

He reminds him that thousands of lives are taken in the sacrifice in the name of God -


That is why Jarasandha is fit to be killed in the battle field. So Bhima being a man of stupendous strength (Mahabali) can take up the task of killing Jarasandha since nobody else is capable of taking up the task.


Third canto:

The ladies of Indraprastha, separated from their dear One (Krishna), could not suffer the pangs of separation anymore. The intensity of their love for their Lord is described here in exaggerated terms- 'ati shayokti alankara' is used. The Gopikas are the beloveds of Gopala (Krishna) in the spiritual sense of the term, whereas they have already been married to their husbands in the physical sense of the term. The spiritual sense of the marriage does not apply here. They were wedded to Krishna, in the spiritual sense, which entails their union -the union of individual self with the Universal Self, with each other.

Having been attracted to their Metaphysical Love, the Lord appeared before them in all His actions (leelas), and embraced them all and allowed them all to drink the ambrosia of His lips which made them shed the tears of joy which they tried their best to hide! The attainment of the unattainable communion with Paramatman, which is the wish of the Gopikas, is expressed here.


The ambrosia from the lips of Hari was allowed to be drunk by the beautiful bodied -ananga Gopies, who had the privilege of embracing the God of Love (ananga-bodiless) which bestowed the support of the Lord on them, which made them motionless since they never thought that they would be granted love by their Lord! They lost their consciousness and went into 'Yognidra' -the sleep induced by the spiritual union with the Lord. This is considered the final stage of Yog which is the consummation of the Spiritual Love. As this is not physical, only psychological, should not be taken in physical sense. It is the Union of individual Self with the Universal Self -is presented in this canto.

Fourth Canto:

Yudhishtira intended to perform the Rajsuya Sacrifice. Therefore he sought the advice of Shri Krishna. Krishna reaches Indraprastha to guide Yudhishtira and discusses all important and relevant matters regarding performing the Rajsuya Yajna and how to kill Jarasandha. Krishna informed him that without killing Jarasandha he could not perform the Rajsuya Yajna. He conquered many kings and held them in subjection.

Lord Shri Krishna tells him that the son of Brihadrath who is born of the grace of the sage is haughty and sunk with power. He has turned blind due to the royal power of the kingdom Magadha. Jarasandha, the vain, haughty knowing no fear, with uncontrollable behaviour is an expert in dual combat. He does not accept the superiority of any other king. Therefore Lord Krishna reminds Yudhishthira that his first duty is to conquer and tame that royal tiger who has a large and mighty army and makes even the most powerful king uneasy and restless -


The wicked Kansa, Shishupal and many others were afraid of his prowess and were submissive to him. Even Lord Krishna could not defeat him.

Yudhishthira wanted to know about the strength and prowess of Jarasandha. When Shri Krishna narrated the story of Jarasandha, Yudhishthira says,

"All the same your behaviour is appropriate looking to the occasion. But do you think that this dual approach is applicable to me? Therefore O Lord, though you want me to perform the Rajsu Yajna, I consider this time is inappropriate for such an act." (JM-44)

This is what Arjun said to Shri Krishna in the Mahabharata. Exactly this thought is conveyed by Yudhisthira too. In the Gita Arjun uttered these words to Lord Shri Krishna in the context of war and Yudhisthir repeats these words with reference to Jarashandha's murder.

Noticing that Yudhisthira was disturbed at the advice of Shri Krishna, Shri Krishna said,

"Dear friend, don't remain in suspense about the performance or the nonperformance of the Yajna. The Yajna has to be performed anyhow I shall look after it. Actually the performance of the Vedic Yajna is a part of Dharma. Once if just for a moment it strikes your mind that you have to perform it and you resolve it. It is irreligious and sinful".


Thus Lord Shri Krishna advises Yudhisthira to perform the Yajna. Finally they decided to kill Jarasandha. Looking to this point the sarg is very important.

Fifth Canto:

This canto presents the description of Krishna’s departure to Dvarika and when he leaves this place he observes the grandeur of Indraprastha. It was in this Indraprastha that the royal palace of Dharmaraja Yudhishthira was situated. The domes and the minarets of the palace made of gold and touching the sky high red flags fluttering in the sky. Indraprastha was noted for its palaces and pinnacles. These buildings served as the resting place for birds flying across the sky when tired.


Resounding with the chants of sacred verses of the Vedas by pandits, rising fumes from the continuous stoking of the fire, which causes the destruction of sins of living creatures, were the effervescent features that Lord Krishna saw in the Palace, while going to Dvarika, where with the gathering of the saints, noble men and worshipful erudite people, the Palace was assuming sacredness like pilgrim centers. There the Lord saw Brahmins well versed in scriptures and scholars having knowledge of sacred religious oblations and people strictly adhering to the rituals in performing the yajna.

Sixth Canto:

In this 'sarg' the poet has presented the glory of Brihadratha who was the heroic lord of Magadha. He married the two beautiful twin-daughters of the king of Kashi. But no son was born to him to perpetuate his line; though he performed many auspicious rites and 'homas'. This canto also presents how Jarasandha was born by the boon of the illustrious Rishi Chandakaushika, the son of Kakshivana of the Gautama race.

The two queens delivered two fragmentary bodies having one eye, one arm, one leg, half a stomach, half a face, and half an anus. Seeing the fragmentary bodies, the queens decided to throw away the fragments of the body. A 'Rakshas' woman, whose name was Jara found the fragments lying there. She took those parts in her hand and united the fragments to make them easier to carry. As soon as the fragments were united, they formed into a heroic child of one body which was as hard and strong as the thunderbolt. Thus the name -Jarasandha was kept -


Seventh Canto:

In this canto it is described how Rishabh Rakshas was killed by Jarasandha under the guidance of Brihadratha. The brutality of the night walker is highlighted in this 'sarg'. The royal wrath of Jarasandha is described quite fitting to a hero. Thus he proved his valour, courage and might. He received recognition of his subjects and the world outside for his valour in killing the ferocious demon.

We have symbolic description of nature to associate the night for sinful activities with the nightwalker’s wrath. The demon, the bull among the kings, was roused to the utmost wrath which he expressed by stamping his feet heavily which sounded like the cyclone which shook the palaces and ordinary houses alike like the blind without any discrimination. He drank human blood like a thirsty person who drinks water in excess. The wrath of the demon is described here.


Jarasandha was married to the princess of Kashi Naresh. A son was born to him whose name was Sahadev. Finally the king Brihadratha, along with hundreds of Brahmins, appointed his son, the prince with utmost pleasure and dedicated the self sufficient kingdom unto him. And then he, with his two wives, left for the forest to spend the rest of his life in penance.

Eighth Canto:

It describes the state of affairs of Jarasandha, the birth and marriage of his daughters, Kansa's 'vadh' by Shri Krishna, Jarasandha’s vow to kill Krishna. After the installation of Jarasandha as the king of Magadha, he brought numerous kings under his sway by his valour. As told by Kaushika, the king Jarasandha received the boons and ruled the kingdom after obtaining the sovereignty of the whole world.


Jarasandha's twin daughters were married to Kansa the king of Kashi who was killed by Lord Krishna. His heart was burning with sorrow, his mind distraught by the widowhood of his two daughters, angrily made a promise that he would kill Krishna the murderer of Kansa. He delegated the burden of the administration to his ministers, and went to the Chaitya Mountain accompanied by some Brahmins to get the blessings of Lord Shiva. Thus Jarasandha, the enemy of Vishnu, blinded by his ego performed for one year the hard vow of Shiva. Finally Shiva was well pleased and appeared there and Shiva gave him the desired boon and disappeared from there.

The proud Jarasandha, who accomplished fulfillment in the worship of Shiva, having received the desired boon from the lord of the gods, had become unconquerable even to the great foes, and carried a tremendous radiance. The king of Magadha waited for an opportunity to defeat Krishna, the cause of widowhood of his daughters.


Ninth Canto:

This sarg is full of events. It presents -as per the advice of Narada Jarasandha’s attack on Mathura, fight with Shri Krishna, defeat, again fight, again defeat, Sahdev advises his father to bow down to Shri Krishna, Jarasandh’s anger, once again decides to fight with Shri Krishna, appointment of Shalva to prepare the scheme to defeat Shri Krishna.

Jarasandha considering himself as unconquerable in the three worlds. He was blinded by pride and rejecting the strength of all other kings as useless, behaved improperly everywhere. Very interesting thing is this that the same Rishi Naradaji who prompted Lord Krishna to kill Jarasandha, now comes to Jarasandha and advices him to fight against Krishna.


Tenth Canto:

As per the planning of Shalva, Kalyavan’s attack, destruction of Krit by Muchkund with the help of Shri Krishna, Jarasandha’s attack, the descriptions of the marching of the army, for the safety of Bhrahmins Shri Krishna’s tactful escape (flee) from the battlefield as a defeated person, Shri Krishna reaches Dvarika secretly -are the incidents described in this canto.

Jarasandha threatened his companions that he was preparing his army to fight Krishna again, and for any reason If he was unable to defeat Krishna in the battle, then he would definitely destroy all the rulers and Brahmins at the same time. On listening to the scaring announcement, even the people of the town were trembling.

After fully discussing among them, Brahmins in trepidation told the King,

"Hey Lord! The auspicious time has come and now you can go to war with complete confidence. The enemy will certainly run away after the defeat and there is no doubt that the victory will be yours." (JM-102)

Thus the king, who was a devout of Shiva, worshipped lord Shiva with many Bilva leaves as per prescribed rites and upon serving the scholars, left with his great army. It is well-known that Lord Krishna who is popular as 'Ranchhod' ran away from the battlefield just to protect the Brahmins on the earth. The Lord of the Universe is amazingly playful and due to his phantasm over the entire world, Shri Krishna dodged the wicked Jarasandha’s attempts to catch him.


Eleventh Canto:

Looking to the theme of this epic this canto is also very important. As per the advice of his friend Paundraka Jarasandha decided to perform the Naramedha Yajna.

In Learning from his friend about his enemy’s welfare, Jarasandha summoned the King of Chedi (Shishupala) to discuss the situation along with Dantavakra, the king of Kashi and Paundraka. Thereafter, the King of Chedi, learning Jarasandha’s fury and on being invited to meet him, rushed to Magadha along with his ministers. Paundrak, advises the ruler of Magadha to please Lord Shiva, he should start the Naramedha Yajna (a sacrifice involving killing of a human being). To follow the norms of Naramedha Yajna, Magadha King arrested several innocent kings quickly and put them in the prison. Once again Sahdeva’s objection to perform this Narmedha Sacrifice is presented here. Sahadeva tells his father,

"Hey insensitive! My dear father! You told me that you have decided to perform the Naramedha Yajna—by killing innocent people for the act, will you be able to live peacefully even in Heaven? Unfortunately, even those like me and pious Brahmins, who always obey your orders, are not happy at heart to approve of your act (Naramedha Yajna). Thus, by your cruel act (Naramedha Yajna) you are committing a great sin by hurting the sentiments of the minor kings, Brahmins and your subjects. So, father, if you want your welfare on this earth, then give up this cruel act and start making peaceful prayer to Lord Shiva."

(JM - 118)

Twelfth Canto:

This canto presents the mental state of the kings imprisoned by Jarasandha. The kings lodged in the prison, spent their miserably unbearable time counting on their fingers. Gripped in fear with the Naramedha Yajna day fast approaching, those kings suddenly thought that it was wiser to fall at the feet of the unerring, immutable, eternally divine Krishna, who is also known as Jagadeesh (lord of the Universe). Thus the devotees appealed to the Lord who burns down the forests of distress and reciprocates the affection of his devotees and who is the concentration of their meditation. Thus bowing to the Chakradhari Vishnu, all the kings having complete faith that they will be released from the bondage -is described in the 'sarg'.

Thirteenth Canto:

This canto presents the description of imprisoned kings, their imbalanced state of mind, their request to the guards to carry their message to Jarasandha to have mercy on them, Jarasandha’s anger and displeasure, Naradji’s arrival, his advice to Jarasandha, as per the advice of Naradji Jarasandha’s worshiping of all captive kings by the Brahmans, the captive kings send a letter to Lord Krishna to release them from the prison, finally the Brahman reaches Dvarika secretly, all these instances are described in this 'sarg'.

Fourteenth Canto:

The Brahmin arrived in the city of Dvarika unaffected by any other faith in the Almighty. The description of Dvarikanagar, the people of Dvarika, the ladies, their jewelry and dress everything is described in a very beautiful way. As the city, Dvarika was protected by Achyuta Himself, it looked very beautiful and pleasing to the eye even from a distance.

(JM - 140)

It gave to the humans of the world as good a result as their good deeds and on the whole a pleasant view to the viewers and thus happiness to all. There are the descriptions of lakes full of crystal clear water, gardens, which were replete with fully blown flowers, beautiful trees, the panoramic view of the city, the ladies of Dvarika and in the end their yearning for water sports.

Fifteenth Canto:

This 'sarg' describes that one of the servants sent by the Pandavas quickly approached Shri Krishna. Hearing this Shri Krishna entrusting his ministers with the work responsibilities left blissfully for the Pandavapura. Krishna saw the markets filled with abundance of grains, hundreds of houses, dwelled by elite people, blissfully watching mountains, trees, forests and ponds which were pleasing to heart. It also describes the Jalvihar of Shri Krishna. In the morning Lord Krishna reaches Hastinapur.

Sixteenth Canto:

The 'sarg' presents Lord Krishna's arrival to Hastinapur. He did not give much importance to his welcome and entered the town. Then hearing that Krishna has come, the urban ladies afflicted by cupid, as if to drink the sweetness of the countenance of the beloved, came out of the houses quickly. Leaving aside their own work, the ladies those were hit by the cupid on their vital parts, stayed on the sides of the palaces drinking Krishna with their sight as if the Chakoris to the moon. Shri Krishna had discussion with Yudhishthira for Rajsuya Yajna, final decision for 'Digvjay', decision to take Bhima and Arjun with him to Magadh is described in this 'sarg'.

Where the lord of the worlds Krishna himself appears continually there variety of troops of army and abundance of weapons are of no use. Where there are Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima like three fires, who eradicate enemy and are prepared to kill the enemy, there every desired thing is achieved -

(JM - 174)

Seventeenth Canto:

The description of Lord Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna is presented very beautifully. These trio like trio of fire that is brilliant with flames, as if ready to burn entirely the huge race of crying evil people. Crossing the boundaries, they entered the boundary of Magadha. From the peak of the mountain, Gorath, saw at a distance, city named Girivraja. They went by walking to the mountain Chaityaka keeping the chariot safely with charioteer on the mountain of Gorath, all the three the mightiest of the three worlds, went by walking to the mountain Chaityaka.

Going there, they who tormented the enemies saw a trio of drums that was situated on the slope of the peak, made up of skin of the armour of demon. Then the three overwhelmed with anger, making big sound, forcefully broke down that trio of drum, placed on the mountain, that was made owing to the order of Brihadratha. These three Brahmins sensed Jarasandha’s intent to disturb the peace and Jarasandha also realized the possibility of disturbance to peace due to the entry of these three Brahmins, as informed by the Brahmins of the kingdom and secret intelligence information. King Jarasandha was a bit upset with the entry of these unexpected guest Brahmins in the kingdom, on which issue, a debate had ensued between learned men and astrologers and the destruction of the drums.

They entered the city, their meeting with Jarasandha, long discussion is described in the 'sarg'. This canto is very important as Lord Krishna reveals the secrets of birth and death of Jarasandha to Bhima and how to vanquish Jarasandha—whose body was unshatterable even by a fatal weapon. Earlier, due to the efforts of his father and as a consequence the effect of powerful Muni’s split fruit and seed, this child was born in the night to two mothers in two portions. Wandering in the night, a female demon named Jara with an accursed form, used her magic powers to bind the two sections of the strong body like Vajra, of this wicked child.

This child, with the effect of Kaushika Rishi’s speech, was joined (Sandhi) into one body by the female demon Jara, from his own two sections, was thus came to be known as Jarasandha, a name given by his father. Lord Shri Krishna tells Bhima,

"O! Accomplished wrestler Bhima, you may definitely and very easily succeed in attacking Jarasandha, who has a strong body like a fatal weapon, by choosing to hit him suddenly on the mark found in the middle part of his body. It is not correct to think that by attacking in a deceptive manner the terrorizing King Jarasandha, we will be committing a betrayal. Because, with the death of a terrorist ruler like this, lives of thousands of people could be saved and it will actually be a good deed". (JM - 186)

Thus, lord Krishna explained to Bhima and Arjuna about adopting such tactics as per the norms of governing fighting the enemy and destroying him, which contained the remedy for all ill effects.

Eighteenth Canto:

This 'sarg' describes that the brothers in the meantime, unarmed and with their bare arms as their only weapons, entered the city in the guise of Snataka Brahmins in order to fight with Jarasandha. Jarasandha received his visitors with proper ceremonies. Jarasandha was sure that they were not the Brahmins as they broke the strong drums as Brahmins. Lord Krishna reminded him that he had done cruel deed by making the Kshatriyas of the world captive and put in the prison. Lord Krishna tells him on the face that they are desirous of helping all distressed people. They will liberate all the captive monarchs. Thus he challenged Jarasandha for a single combat.

Lord Shri Krishna informed him that they were certainly not the Brahmins. On the other hand Jarasandha was also a brave king he did not agree to liberate the kings collected for the purpose of the sacrifice. He was ready to fight with troops or alone against one. Finally it was decided that he would fight with Bhimasena. Description of the 'Vishkanya', Shalva planned to kill Bhim with the help of this 'Vishkanya' is beautifully presented in this 'sarg'.

Nineteenth Canto:

This sarg presents the complete description of the meeting of Bhima and the Vishkanya disguised as a beautiful young maid, in the garden, Bhima having seen that beautiful young maid in that secluded place, indulged in the amorous play, becoming forgetful of his younger-brotherhood to Dharma, kinship with Krishna, recollecting repeatedly the cupid alone, then saw Hari appearing himself before him in reddish hue of the sun. Lord Krishna reminded him of the wanton lady being sent by the foe for thinning his excellent might. Finally he was saved by Lord Krishna.

From the artistic point of view this canto is very interesting. It presents the ability of the poet to form the 'Padmabandha', 'Gadabandha', 'Murajbandha', 'Shulbandha', 'Venubandha', 'Vajrabandha' and 'Chakrabandha'. The following verse, which is arranged in ‘Chakrabandha’ shows as follows -

“Hariraya Jarasandhavadham Kavyam”

(JM - 216)

Twentieth Canto:

This 'sarg' presents the complete description of the duel between Jarasandha and Bhima. The fight began on the first day of the month of Kartika, and those two heroes fought on continuously without food, and without intermission of day or night till the thirteenth day. It was on the night of the fourteenth day, the Magadha king stopped from fatigue. Bhima was determined to kill him. That foremost of all strong men, Bhima, mustered all his strength and courage with the desire of vanquishing the unvanquished Jarasandha.

Bhima raised up the strong Jarasandha and whirled him high one hundred times. He seized him firmly, lifted one of his legs upright at once with hands, Bhima twisted it as though a wet cloth, which made every limb of him frail. He (Bhima) threw him like an uprooted tree. Bhima did split them into pieces. Bhima pressed his knee against Jarasandha's backbone and broke his body and threw away those two halves in the air, two miles afar and thus killed him.

(JM - 223)

Thus they liberated the friends the captive kings. Krishna installed the son of Jarasandha on the throne of Magadha. The Epic ends its version with the death of Jarasandha.

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