As he heard Kṛṣṇa’s words, Duryodhana turned towards him and snapped. “Kṛṣṇa! You should think about this once more thoroughly and then speak to us. You have criticised me too much in your speech. Everyone seems to be upset with me – you, Vidura, father, grandfather, ācārya, and everyone else. I fail to figure out what my mistake is, in whatever has transpired so far. The Pāṇḍavas came forward to gamble on their own accord because they love the game. Śakuni won their kingdom. What is wrong with it? Whatever little they won in the game, they took with them. How is it my fault if they lost the game of dice and went to the forest? They are now powerless and have joined hands with Sṛñjayas and the others. They are sharpening their swords with us in their mind and wish to kill us. I don’t know for what mistake of ours they want to spew anger. We have no fear for blackmail or for threatening actions. Even the devatās cannot defeat Bhīṣma, Droṇa, and Kṛpa, let alone the Pāṇḍavas. If we wage a war, we will defeat them or reach the heavens for our valour. It is the highest dharma for a kṣatriya to sleep on a bed of arrows in the battlefield. We have no hesitation to subject ourselves to that. A kṣatriya may break down but will never compromise on his values. Whatever was offered to my father in the past as his rightful share is all mine now – I will live on it and will not give it up to anyone. It is possible that some part of the kingdom went under their possession when I was young – it must have happened without my knowledge. Now, however, I won’t even give them a land as small as the tip of a needle!”
Kṛṣṇa was enraged by Duryodhana’s speech. His eyes widened with fury but he said with a smile, “Duryodhana! If you wish to sleep on a bed of valour, you will do so, don’t worry! Wait a bit longer; war is round the corner. You ask me how you have wronged the Pāṇḍavas! You were jealous of their wealth, conspired with Śakuni, and called them for a gambling match. They are noble and simple-minded. They never thought that you will deceive them. If that wasn’t sufficient, you brought Draupadī, the favourite wife of the Pāṇḍavas and their royal queen, to the court and tried to disrobe her. Everyone is aware of the ill words spoken by Karṇa, Duśśāsana, and you. You tried to burn the Pāṇḍavas and their mother alive by sending them away to Vārṇāvata. You came up with several other plans to kill them. None of that turned out to be successful. You have been cheating the Pāṇḍavas all along. Is this not criminal? Are you not guilty of all the heinous deeds? Who behaves in such a lowly manner with relatives? Only peace can bring you all happiness. If you don’t listen to me and only lend your ears to those who feed in ugly ideas to you, you will be a pawn of adharma and ill-fame!”
Duśśāsana shouted, “Brother! If you don’t agree for a peaceful treaty, apparently our father, grandfather, Droṇa, and other Kaurava elders will hand us over to the Pāṇḍavas as captives!”
His words further enraged Duryodhana who shot up like a hissing snake. Without caring for any of the elders and giving up all ethical conduct, he stormed out of court rudely followed meekly by his brothers
Bhīṣma said, “This arrogant fool has disrespected the court and has left without a word. He is followed by kings, officials and ministers who are loyal to his evil mind. Seems like the final days of kṣatriyas are not far away!”
Kṛṣṇa addressed the Kuru elders – “It is not right to have left him to his whims and fancies right from the beginning. Kaṃsa was like him too. His relatives left him and I killed him for the benefit of the world. The Andhakas and Vṛṣṇis are living in peace now. If you can put Duryodhana behind the bars and agree for a peace treaty with the Pāṇḍavas, it will avoid the destruction of the Kurus!”
Kṛṣṇa's dire predictions left Dhṛtarāṣṭra stunned and speechless He called for Gāndhārī through Vidura. She called her son Duryodhana and advised him to drop his animosity and develop cordial relationship with the Pāṇḍavas. “It is not good to fight a war. It does not bring dharma or artha to the world. There is no guarantee of victory. You have reposed your trust in Bhīṣma and Droṇa. They might fight the war out of obligation for what the palace has provided them. However, they have their hearts with both the sides. They will not turn down Yudhiṣṭira. Share the kingdom with the Pāṇḍavas and rule the kingdom in peace. Arrogance cannot bring prosperity, dear child!”
He did not find mother’s words pleasant either. He got agitated and hastily left the court once again. He thought of a plan with his misters who were waiting for him outside the court. “Kṛṣṇa plans to get us all imprisoned. Before he does that, let us put him in chains. As soon as the Pāṇḍavas get to know that Kṛṣṇa is chained, they will lose all their strength just as serpents are powerless without their teeth. All their motivation will get killed!” He said this with a tone of finality and the others found his plan fitting too.
Sātyaki, who came to know of his plan, called Kritavarma outside and asked him to get the army ready and wait at the door. He went inside the court and informed Kṛṣṇa of Duryodhana’s plans. He spoke to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Vidura – “Your children have planned a heinous deed. They plan to put Kṛṣṇa in shackles. This is like kids planning to capture fire using a cloth!”
Kṛṣṇa told Dhṛtarāṣṭra, “Revered king! They plan to tie me up out of their fury. Just wait and see if they will chain me or if they will chain themselves. I will not go down to their level and perform such unethical deeds. As they are doing this out of greed and arrogance, consider Yudhiṣṭira to be victorious! Let Duryodhana act as per his wish!”
Dhṛtarāṣṭra asked Vidura to call for Duryodhana. He said, “You wicked one! You have joined hands with your malicious friends and you plan to perform such a heinous deed! This will be an eternal blemish on our family. A person like you should never live with us. What! You plan to bind Kṛṣṇa? Even Indra and the other devatās cannot tie him up! It is like trying to catch wind with the bare hands, touching the moon, and hoisting Earth on your head!” Vidura supported Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s words and spoke about all the glorious deeds performed by Kṛṣṇa.
Kṛṣṇa then told Duryodhana, “You think I'm all alone here and it is easy to put me in chains? The Pāṇḍavas, Andhakas, Vṛṣṇis, Ādityas, Rudras, Vasus, and everyone else is here as well!” He said so and laughed out loud. Devatās came out of his body in brilliant thumb-sized forms. Brahmā was found in his forehead and Rudra in his chest. The dikpālakas (deities guarding the directions) manifested in his shoulders and Agni in mouth. The Ādityas, Sādhyas, Vasus, Maruts, Viśvedevas, Yakṣass, Gandharvas, and Rākṣasas were seen in his arms. Balarāma, Arjuna, Bhīma, Nakula, Sahadeva, Pradyumna, and the other heroes belonging to the Andhaka and Vṛṣṇi clans manifested in his back. Śaṅka, Cakra, Gadhā, Śaktyāyudha, Śārṅga, Nandaka, and other weapons came before him waiting for his command. Fiery flames were emitted by his eyes, ears and nostrils. Every pore and strand of hair was blazing like a powerful sunray. Everyone except Droṇa, Bhīṣma, Vidura, and Sañjaya closed their eyes, unable to bear the dazzling form. Kṛṣṇa then got back to his normal form and went out along with Sātyaki and Kṛtavarma.
As he sat down on the chariot, Dhṛtarāṣṭra came there and said, “Janārdana! You saw how much of control I have over my children. I don’t have any evil intentions with regard to the Pāṇḍavas. The Kauravas and the other kings here know that I'm trying to strike a peaceful treaty with them.” Kṛṣṇa spoke to Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Bhīṣma and the others – “You have witnessed everything that transpired in the Kuru court today. You also saw how many times the idiot left the court disrespecting the elders and the guests. Dhṛtarāṣṭra, here, tells me that his words bear no value in the court!” With these words, he bid farewell and left the place, even as everyone stood startled and looked at him with confused eyes. He headed towards Kuntī’s house.
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.