Bhīmasena said, “I suggest you speak to the Kauravas and try to ensure peace between us. Don’t scare them with the prospect of a war even as you start speaking! Let us try to bring things under control using the path of sāma, i.e. reconciliation through peaceful means. Don’t get agitated with them. Duryodhana is a greedy person and is full of malice. He is adamant and will not give up his stance even if he has to give up his life. It's difficult to strike a chord of harmony with such a person. He has no concern for dharma and doesn't care for his friends. Our entire lineage will get destroyed because of him. To prevent any kind of damage to our family, we will either need to ignore the Kauravas or heed to their whims. Please speak to Bhīṣma and the other elders; ask them to advice Duryodhana to have cordial relationship with his siblings and kinsmen. This is Yudhiṣṭhira’s view as well. Arjuna does not desire to fight a war either. He is kinder to them than Yudhiṣṭhira!”
Kṛṣṇa heard Bhīma’s words and said, “Oh Bhīma! I perceive a kind of softness in your words, something which we have never seen before! You seem to have developed a tender heart. Seems like the mountains have softened and the fires have cooled down!” He smiled, laughed gently, and continued, “Bhīmasena! You always supported the idea of waging a war and vanquishing the Kauvravas. You were like fire, constantly emitting puffs of smoke. At other times, you looked like one carrying a great weight on his head, lost deep in his thoughts. You always behaved like you had gone mad! You didn't want anything or anyone! Your brows were shrunk into a knot of worry and you would grind your teeth. You had even taken oath after oath that you would kill Duryodhana. How is it that a person of your nature has his heart turned towards peace now? Are you scared because the war is round the corner? Do you feel your heart trembling, mind broken down, and your thighs frozen? Are you seeking peace merely out of such reasons? It is difficult to estimate the human mind; it is extremely fickle. Your change of heart has left the Pāṇḍavas in mid-water. I'm stunned listening to your words. It feels like a mountain has changed its position! Get up Bhīma! Gain back your sturdiness and stability! Give up your grey mood. It doesn't go well with you. If a kṣatriya loses his vigour, he will never be able to win anything!”
Bhīma was unable to tolerate Kṛṣṇa’s words. It was like slashing a horse of a good breed with a whip. He said, “Acyuta! I said something and you've totally misunderstood my intensions! You've been with us for so long and you know my courage, valour, and strength very well. Or are you like a boat that floats on the surface of water but never learns the depth of the lake on which it floats? Have you never known my strengths? You are putting me to shame, unaware of my talents. It is not good to praise oneself but I will need to speak as my power is being questioned. Even if the skies and the earth come together to crush me in between them, I can push them apart and save myself. I haven’t seen anyone who has escaped after having been captured by my powerful arms. I will crush anyone who comes to fight against the Pāṇḍavas, under my feet! This is as clear as the glowing Sun and if you don’t understand this, you will see it all later in the battlefield. Just as a wound is pricked by the tip of a needle, you have hurt me with your harsh words. My legs have not lost their strength yet and my heart isn’t quivering. I can take on the entire world and know no fear! I was only concerned about our Bharata-vaṃśa, the lineage of the Bharatas; I did not want it to get extinguished. Keeping this in mind, putting away all the miseries aside, I spoke with a tone of concern and sought peace!”
Kṛṣṇa replied, “Bhīma I spoke in this manner only to dig into your heart and understand what you really are! I did not mean to accuse you or insult you. I did not speak out of anger or out of superiority. Should I turn you down even after having witnessed your courage in times of dire need? It is hard to say which of the two is superior – Free Will or Fate. Whatever helps in our activity can also turn out to be the reason for its destruction. All human efforts are subject to indecisiveness and confusion. Even a well-thought out plan put forth by a wise person can go wrong, just as winds know no direction for their flow. An activity planned well can go haywire by the play of Fate. Similarly, factors such as cold, heat, rain, hunger, and thirst that are caused by Fate can be overcome by man with his own efforts. Sometimes, there are no obstacles to the activities taken up by a person. Thus, there is no other choice than to keep performing our duties. A wise person who continues to perform his duties keeping in mind both Fate and Free will not get affected by the fruits of his actions – he is neither overly joyous that his efforts were successful nor is he upset that they bear no fruit. I will say the following: We cannot be sure that the war waged against the Kauravas will bring us victory. We shouldn’t sit fretting about things that might go wrong in the process. I will go to Dhṛtarāṣṭra tomorrow and will keep your purpose in mind. I shall try to convince them for peaceful means. If we are successful, I will get a good name and your desire will be fulfilled too. It will bring them glory too. If they don’t listen to my advice, there will be a ghastly war in the near future. If a war is declared, its responsibility will bear upon your shoulders. You and Arjuna will need to play the lead roles and protect the people on your side. I will take my role as Arjuna’s charioteer and that is what he wishes too. It is not that I don’t desire to fight a war. I wanted to understand your thoughts and merely tried to provoke you by speaking what I just did.”
Arjuna said, “Janārdana! My revered brother Yudhiṣṭhira has spoken everything that needs to be told. It seems like you have presumed a peaceful solution to be impossible either because of Duryodhana’s greed or because of your perception that we are helpless. You say that a man’s effort might not always bear fruit but you also say that if we don’t act, we will not reap the desired benefit. Both are true and false at the same time. There is nothing impossible. They have constantly pushed us into danger and they have not been successful in their efforts, after all! If we work well, we will be victorious. Please make sure we are relieved of our enemy. You have filial relations with and are desired by both the parties. Just by your going there, our task will get executed. The crooked one will finally have to yield to your plans – I'm sure of this. We are in agreement with whatever you decide on our behalf – be it a peaceful compromise or a fierce battle. We need to teach him a lesson – he cheated Dharmarāja, subjected Draupadī to great misery and made her lament. He sent us to the forest; he should bite the dust along with his aides. Please achieve your desire either through soft means or by force. If you think that it would be best to kill them, make sure that it happens soon. Don’t think too much before you make a decision. I don’t foresee him heeding to our gentle requests. Thus, do take a call on whatever you deem to be most suitable for us and whatever will bring us glory. We will follow your instructions!”
Kṛṣṇa said, “All activities on earth take place either due to the play of Fate or through man’s Will. A farmer may till his land and sow seeds. However, without rain crops don’t grow. Even if he tries to irrigate it by fetching water from different sources, Fate may decide to let the plants dry. I will do whatever is possible through human efforts. I don’t have Fate under my control. Duryodhana is full of malice. He doesn't desire to tread the path of honesty and dharma. His evil nature is fuelled by his companions – Karṇa, Śakuni, and Duśśāsana. He will not agree to give up his kingdom through peaceful means, Death penalty is the only means. I shall try to avoid bloodshed as far as possible through my words and deeds. However, I have no hope that I will be successful. I will take a call on whatever is good for Dharmarāja and for you all. Please have trust in me!”
Nakula said, “Kṛṣṇa! Yudhishtria, Bhīma, and Arjuna have voiced their opinions so far. You have spoken your heart several times too. Now, we only need to hear what the Kauravas have to say and then take a call on our next steps. Please don’t hesitate to do so. A person will need to change his opinions as the situation demands. We no longer have the same mentality that we had when we were in the forest. We now have several kings and their armies on our side and we have developed some desire to rule the kingdom. Please console the Kauravas first and then you can instil fear in them. Your visit to their court will fulfil Dharmarāja’s wish. At least Bhīṣma, Drona, and Vidura will understand your intent. They might talk some sense to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Duryodhana!”
Sahadeva added to Nakula’s thoughts. He said, “Kṛṣṇa! Yudhiṣṭhira has spoken dharma. Even so, make sure that there is a war. Even if the Kauravas plead for peace, we will wage a war. Who can keep mum after having seen the torture that Draupadī had to undergo? Even if Dharmarāja, Bhīma, and Arjuna seek a peaceful resolution, I will push for war!”
Sātyakī supported Sahadeva’s words and said that that is what all the warriors wanted too. Listening to the conversation, all men assembled there roared like lions as a show of their agreement.
To be continued...
This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form.