The Story of Jarasandha

Once the Pandavas had settled in their new capital of Indraprastha, Yudhisthira decided to perform the Rajasuya yagna (kingly sacrifice). This meant that all the other kings would accept him as their overlord and pay a tribute to him. Yudhisthira told Sri Krishna of his desire and asked his advice upon it. Sri Krishna told Yudhisthira that he had all the qualities of an emperor but as long as lived Jarasandha, the king of Magadha, he would not be accepted as the emperor. Hence, if he wanted to perform this important sacrifice, he would first have to kill Jarasandha.

The Rajasuya yagna is very deep in symbolic meaning. The word ‘raj’ means consciousness. Every student of spirituality makes an effort to rise to a higher level of consciousness. In his efforts towards this aim, he tries to free himself from the attraction and hypnosis of negative emotions. At a certain stage he observes that negative emotions no longer trouble him, and thus feels a certain freedom from the hold they once had. It is that stage in his journey where the consciousness has risen and he can now redirect the energy which was being expressed negatively and transform it into a positive emotion. This is the performance of the Rajasuya yagna. It also represents that point in our journey when we have conquered inner chatter and negative imagination. And for that, we must kill the Jarasandha lying within us.

In all of us there is a mechanical habit to become aggressive whenever we dislike a situation. This aggressiveness is a deeply rooted pattern in our unconscious mind and whenever something unpleasant happens, it automatically manifests. Whether we supress or express our negativity (say in anger or irritation), the aggressiveness within us keeps building up over the years. This lies in our unconscious like to a volcano waiting to explode, akin to a desire to kill. This is the Jarasandha within us.

The word ‘Jara’ comes from the root jru, meaning to decay. Emotional energy is a very powerful energy but when it becomes negative and is held within the unconscious mind as a pattern or a hurt, it becomes pathological. These negative patterns are open wounds lying in us and all physical illnesses are born out of such emotional negativity. These deep patterns of anger, jealousy, and nonfulfillment lead to decay of our bodies and mind. We always choose not to work on them and to be free of it. Instead, we compromise and make an understanding with them. This holding onto old patterns is called ‘sandhi’, an understanding – a type of bonding. In our young days we have many desires of indulgence and excitement. When we grow old we adjust to the capacity and infirmities of our body. This does not mean we are free of those desires; we have only made an understanding with them. This is the Jarasandha within all of us.

Sri Krishna then explains to Yudhisthira why it is important to kill Jarasandha. He begins by telling him of the power of Jarasandha. “Through his conquests he has captured many kings. All the Kshatriyas come from two lineages, they are Ail and Ishkavaku. In the Ishkavaku line, there were great kings such as Yayati and Bhoja. You are from the Yayati line and we are from the Bhoja line. Jarasandha is from the Ail line and he has now, through his power and cruelty, captured many kings of the Ishkavaku line. He has made divisions in the house of Bhoja and one of our own, Sisupala the king of Cedi, has sided with him and become his general. The kings of Karusha and Vakra also pay homage to him as disciples. The two great warrior brothers, Hamsa and Dimbak, were also his followers and married two of his daughters.”

Sri Krishna added “In one of our battles with Jarasandha, my brother Balarama killed another king whose name was also Hamsa. On the battlefield everyone started shouting that Hamsa had died. Dimbak heard this and thinking his brother had died, felt no desire to live and drowned himself in the rive Yamuna. When his brother Hamsa heard that Dimbak had died, he followed him and also drowned himself in the Yamuna. The death of two of his dear ones had made Jarasandha very sad and for some time he has let us live in peace. But Hamsa’s wife went to her father Jarasandha and cried and extolled him to take revenge for the death of her husband. So Jarasandha started attacking us in Mathura again. All the seniors of our clan got together and decided to leave Mathura for good and resettle at beautiful spot on the western shores called Dwarka. We knew that even in three hundred years we would never be able to defeat him – he is invincible and cannot be killed with any weapons and so we took the wise way out.

Sri Krishna continued “Initially Jarasandha was not the oppressor but his son-in-law Kamsa was. He had married Jarasandha’s two daughters, Asti and Prapti. Kamsa was very cruel and wicked and unjust. He troubled and oppressed the whole Bhoja clan and the people of Mathura for many years. Then, Balarama and I killed Kamsa. We thought this would be the end of our troubles. But our pains did not end as Jarasandha vowed revenge for Kamsa and started attacking us.

When we begin our Sadhna, we have two centres in us – the attachment centre (excitement) and the detachment centre (sensitivity). Here in this story, they are represented by the two lineages, the Ail and the Ishkavaku. Ail comes from the Sanskrit root eel, meaning to go, become, or to do. So this is the attachment centre which becomes, that which identifies or is hypnotised by life; the ego wants to do. The Ishkavaku lineage is the detachment centre. This comes from the root ish, or to be willing. In sadhna, we need the will to resist attachment. In the next article we will expand on the above symbology and go into the story of Jarasandha’s’ birth.