BHISHMA AND KRSHNA'S ROLE IN RAJASUYA SACRIFICE
Vishnu, head of an academy, an independent social activist
Vishnu, the head of the academy (bhagavan) who had a broad vision and moved about in all social sectors and was a charismatic figure and benefactor (isvara) was not satisfied with living in his exclusive abode (vaikunta) and directing others or listening to the complaints of others. He directed all the nobles, Maruts, Vasus, Rudras, Adityas and Asvinidevas, and the gandharvas and apsarases who belonged to the free intelligentsia and were closer to the nobles than to the commoners and the two great officials, Surya who looked after the administration of the core society on behalf of the nobles and Soma who looked after that of the frontier society on behalf of the intelligentsia of the forests, and were benefactors (isvaras) of all social worlds to shift their activities to the social world of commoners (manushyas). They were asked to organise the communities that were at the bare subsistence level.
Nara and Narayana were two eminent sages who belonged to the cadre of free men (naras) who were not bound by the codes (dharmas) of any clan (kula) or community (jati) of the commonalty (manushyas). These naras could pursue any vocation that was not reserved by or for such clans and communities. They were associated with the administration of the areas where they resided and even manned the militias of those areas. Naras ranked lower than gandharvas who were independent intellectuals and warriors. The gandharvas ranked lower than the nobles (devas) but were superior to the commoners (manushyas) in talents.
Vishnu was an aristocrat (deva) and belonged to the cadre of Adityas who formed the governing group during the Vedic times. Krshna was a Vasu. The Vasus, though they too were aristocrats and superior to the commoners were essentially landlords and owners of large herds of cattle. Krshna was a devaka, a rank lower to that of deva. The rulers of the frontier society who were technocrats or plutocrats had the status of devatas, a rank marginally lower than that of devas. Purushas were far superior to the commoners (manushyas) and the free men (naras) and even the free intellectuals (gandharvas) and were social leaders. They were on the threshold of the aristocracy (devas). It was only during the later medieval times, that Narayana, Vishnu, Krshna and Rama were deified.
Vishnu himself joined the Yadu clan. For Vishnu an outstanding social leader (purshottama) grazing cattle was a pastime. It was one of the many forms and roles that he had assumed. Bhishma told Yudhishtira that Vishnu had done so of his own accord. It was not a decision taken by the assembly of nobles (devasabha) or by Narayana who was the highest socio-political authority (parabrahma). Vishnu was an independent social activist.
As he excited the native population (jana) as Janardana, there was an enthusiastic uprising in the mass society and the nobles (devas) too welcomed the change. The legislators (maharshis) including Narada were happy. His association with the movement for resurgence of the agro-pastoral commonalty delighted the free intelligentsia, gandharvas and apsarases. The core society then had four sectors, nobles (devas), sages (rshis), free intelligentsia-cum-warriors (gandharvas) and commoners (manushyas). The system of four varnas, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras had not yet come into force.
Indra and Govinda and social reorganisation
Indra, chief of the nobles (devas) met Govinda who was grazing the cattle for directions and then told the legislators (maharshis) that the head of the academy (bhagavan) who organised the different social worlds (lokas) would by using his powers as a noble (deva) carry out the tasks that the nobles were required to perform and would do what was helpful to the nobles and then return to his abode. Govinda did not require the active participation of the nobles in the reorganisation of the society and assured them that their status would not be disturbed.
Sakra Indra who had undertaken the responsibility to wage a relentless battle against the confederation of asura leaders led by Sambara could return to his palace leaving Krshna of the Yadavas to complete his mission. The legislators (maharshis) too had no role to play in this reorganisation of the society. The new order would have the nobles at the helm as a privileged social cadre and it would be only the other cadres that would be reorganised when the four classes (varnas) came into existence, it was assured.
Krshna born to Vasudeva, an official in the government of Kamsa (an exploitative ruler of Mathura), and his wife Devaki (sister of Kamsa), was brought up in the household of a cattle-owner and his wife, as a cowherd. Vasudeva was one of the nobles who had joined the ranks of the commonalty. He was a landlord belonging to the group of Vasus and conducted himself like a gentle and liberal cultured person. His wife, Devaki, also had a rank marginally lower than that of the traditional nobles, devas. During his early career as a cowherd there were attempts at Krshnas life. Once, a driver of a heavy wagon-cart tried to run over him. Then Bhutana, a woman belonging to the social periphery who did not have any real affection for her wards, tried to kill him by feeding him poisoned milk. These two persons were suspected to have been engaged by Kamsa to kill him. Krshna who was brought up as a cowherd became the cynosure for the girls engaged in the cattle-farm. (Ch.52 Sabhaparva)
Govinda joins Vishnu's mission
This cowherd was called upon to join the mission undertaken by Vishnu to make the nobles (devas) take an active part in the resurgence of the agro-pastoral commonalty. Destroying Kamsa was a personal mission that Krshna had to fulfil as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. It was also a social mission as Kamsas conduct as a powerful ruler was not different from that of the dreaded feudal lords (asuras). Krshna emerged as a charismatic leader of the Yadavas who were a pastoral community.
He controlled the technocrats (nagas) like Kaliya who had taken over the marshes and prevented them from being reclaimed for the use of the natives (janas) of the agro-pastoral communities. The attempt to expand the agro-pastoral economy by bringing more areas under its jurisdiction met with resistance by the communities that were dependent on the resources of moors, marshes and forests. In creating a resurgent agro-pastoral economy Krshna was associated with Balarama who took active part in promoting the interests of the agriculturists.
The two brothers who as sons of Vasudeva were entitled to a place in the ranks of aristocrats (devas) and were honoured by them dressed as and learnt to behave like commoners (manushyas) of the agro-pastoral plains. They took part in the festival of Govardhana hill dressed as nobles (devas) and partook the offerings made to the nobles and surprised all the cowherds (gopalas). Krshnas feat in lifting that hill to protect the cattle from the heavy rains that lashed it made Krshna highly admired by all the social worlds (loka). Indra came down from svargaloka, the social world of nobles, to pronounce him as the king (raja) of the pastoral lands with the title, Govinda.
In the latter capacity he destroyed Arishta, a feudal lord and owner of untamed studs that the latter let loose on the mild cows. He also killed Kesi, a feudal chieftain who led a huge contingent of cavalry to put down the autonomous pastoral people who were functioning under his protection. Krshna as Govinda had earlier killed Sudhama, a king who treated the pastoral people with cruelty. Balarama had then killed a boxer in Kamsas court. Krshna killed Kamsa along with his ministers in the open court and crowned Ugrasena whom Kamsa had overthrown as king of Mathura. He then prostrated before his parents, Vasudeva and Devaki (Kamsas sister) and sought their forgiveness. (Ch.53 Sabhaparva)
Krshna's training under Sandipani
Bhishma told Yudhishtira that the two Yadava lads, Balarama and Krshna, who knew the social laws, dharma, and followed them, had before enrolling themselves as students of Sandipani, obtained formal education as students of a residential school in Avanti. In sixty-four days, they learnt the Vedas and its branches, and in twelve days, etymology, numerals, music, medicine, riding elephants and horses. While staying in Avanti, in fifty days they learnt archery from Sandipani who knew the social laws, dharma. After that Sandipani asked them to retrieve for him his son who had been carried away by a feudal chieftain (asura) who was a river-pirate (swallowed by a whale) and they did so. This unheard-of feat surprised all the natives (jana) of Avanti. Balarama and Krshna rewarded their teacher liberally in gratitude for the training he had given them.
Bhishma pointed out that Krshna who had mastered all methods of warfare became known as the leading warrior in all social worlds (lokas) and was allowed to ride in Indras chariot driven by Indras charioteer, Matali. He was convinced that only because Krshna was also (a deputy and agent of) Narayana and the best of the social leaders (purushottama) he was entitled to use that special chariot. It was the period when Kamsa shone equal to the great warrior and king, Kartavirya Arjuna. Krshnas training in Avanti prepared him for the great battle against the huge army of Kamsa.
Bhishma felt that only because Krshna was (deputed by) Narayana and fought from Indras chariot he was able to defeat that army and kill Kamsa and his ministers. Krshna (Hari) as Vishnu was junior to Indra in the administrative cadre of Adityas who were also generals of the army. He saluted his mother, Devaki and his foster-mother, Yasoda and Rohini, the surrogate mother who bore Balarama or Samkarshana. After the killing of Kamsa, Vasudeva, the great social leader (purushottama) migrated from Mathura where he was born to Dwaraka with his clan, the Vrshnis. On his way he defeated Jarasamdha and other supporters of Kamsa on the banks of Sarasvati (which had by then dried up). (Ch.54 Sabhaparva)
Krshna accepted the rich tributes and gifts that Naraka, a free- lancer and a former feudal chieftain (asura) paid him. Other feudal chiefs (daityas) and chieftains of the frontier society (danavas) did not approve this gesture of friendship and alliance between the voluntary exile from Mathura whose conduct was more like that of a commoner (manushya) than that of an aristocrat (deva) or of a member of the ruling elite and the free men (naras).
The liberal aristocrats (devas) of the agro-pastoral core society, the cruel feudal lords (asuras) who had been expelled from that society to the periphery and the covetous plutocrats (danavas) of the industrial frontier society of the forest society were three sections of the ruling elite of the larger society. The chroniclers had presented them as the offspring of Kashyapa by three of his wives, Aditi, Diti and Danu and as representing the approved sections of the social leadership, the dreaded ones and the undesirable ones respectively though Kashyapa himself did not approve of such differentiating. Kashyapa was for integration of the eight major sectors of the society and treated them all as the offspring of Aditi.
Krshna versus Naraka
The term, manushyas, indicated the organised sections of the commonalty of the core society who followed their respective kuladharmas and jatidharmas while the term, naras, indicated its individual members who acted freely without being under the control of any clan or community but within the ambit of the regional laws, desadharmas. Those naras, who were expelled to the ghettoes, as they were associated with the cruel feudal lords, were known as narakas. The social and state laws, dharmas, did not approve their conduct.
Krshna, who was born in an elitist family (devas, devakas) of the agro-pastoral community, wanted to bring them under the jurisdiction of the cultured and civilised society. The narakas were not poor but suffered social ostracism. But the daitya and danava chieftains interfered with this effort and forced the narakas of the ghettoes not to join the mainstream of the commonalty of the plains. These chieftains had earlier been assured that their activities and lives would not be interfered with if they refrained from harassing the commoners (manushyas) and the elite (devas) of the core society of the plains (bhumi, prthvi). But as they became arrogant and unruly, Krshna felt it necessary to destroy them.
Bhishma told Yudhishtira that the feudal chieftain who controlled the land of the socio-political outcasts, narakas, was originally born in the lands (bhumi) of the docile and civilised commonalty who had their own socio-cultural ideals, devas and devis. The chieftain known as Narakasura behaved in abominable way when he waylaid a respected elderly woman (aditi) and snatched her earrings. Feudal chieftains and their followers had not done such an act earlier. Hayagriva, Nikumbha, Pancajana and Mura who were powerful feudal chieftains were protecting with their asura troops the four sides of this chieftain of Pragjyotishpura.
Krshna, the head of the academy (bhagavan) who was born in the Yadu clan to Vasudeva and Devaki (who belonged to one of its elitist families) had along with his brother, Balarama, set up his headquarters in Dwaraka with the Vrshnis and Antakas who had migrated from Mathura when Indra who headed the nobility, devas, approached him. Ahuka who was the chief administrator (raja) of Dwaraka, Vasudeva, Uddhava, Vikatru, Baladeva, Krshna, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Satyaki, Krtavarma and other leaders of that city who were equal to aristocrats (devas) in their orientations and conduct welcomed Indra who said that he had come with a message from Aditi that Krshna, the charismatic and benefactor (Isvara) of the commoners (manushyas) should kill Narakasura and retrieve her earrings.
In the later Vedic epoch, Aditi, the benevolent mother figure and guardian of the morals, ranked next only to Viraj, the head of the federal social polity and Prajapati, the chief of the people. She guided the functions of the eight administrators (Adityas) who were led by Indra. Indra presided over the house of the nobles (devas), controlled the treasury and led the army until a new civil polity emerged under the Indra-Brhaspati agreement. Aditi treated Naraka as a son (putra) of the soil (bhumi) and she had directed Krshna to kill him for his affront to her authority and retrieve her earrings.
Krshna Vasudeva whom Indra had appointed as Govinda, the autonomous ruler with jurisdiction over the pastoral community invited Balarama, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Samba to join him in his march against Narakasura to fulfil the mission (karya) that the nobles (devas) had entrusted to him. Vasudeva (Krshna), Samkarshana (Balarama), Pradyumna and Aniruddha were the four scholars-cum-leaders who had outlined the features of the Pancaratra cult, the basis of Vaishnavaism. Krshna killed the powerful chieftains, Mura and Hayagriva, and their guards (rakshasas) and also Vrupaksha who controlled an island in the Lohita (red) Ganga. Nikumbha was defeated and chased away.
The troops of the asura leader of the five native communities (pancajana) must have been dispersed. [Drhyus, Yadus, Turvasus, Anus and Purus were the five groups recognised as approved clans since the times of Yayati.] Then in a fierce fight Krshna defeated and killed Narakasura by using his weapon, wheel (chakra) even as Sakra Indra killed Vrtrasura with his weapon, vajra, spine. The people of the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi) led by their mother figure (devi) handed over to Krshna Aditis earrings (representing the authority that she had given to Indra to administer the core society), which had fallen down when Narakasura fell.
Bhumidevi and Naraka asura
Bhumidevi, the spokeswoman of the commonalty, pointed out that Krshna had facilitated Naraka, the fallen free man, to become an administrator with no accountability and behave like an asura, a feudal lord. Krshna had realised that his step to institute autonomous states in the social periphery with no clans and communities and with only free men as its population ruled by free men had gone awry requiring him to step in and destroy that system by killing Naraka.
Bhumidevi, the guardian of the commonalty, requested Krshna to ensure that the offspring of Narakasura were not punished for his fault. Krshna assured her and the organised commonalty that her son (Naraka, a fallen free man) whom she considered to be eligible for the same rights as a manushya, a member of an organised clan or community had, would be reinstated. Narakasura had proved himself a threat to the system that upheld the high status of the three non-economic but high cultural cadres, nobles, scholars and elders (devas, rshis and pitrs) and to those living at the bare subsistence level(pranis). He had refused to continue the practice of voluntary offerings, sacrifices (yajnas), meant for the maintenance of these classes not engaged in productive economy and threatened to liquidate them. He despised the intellectuals and members of the judiciary (Brahmanas).
A commoner, manushya, did not have the ability of a social leader, purusha, that a nara, a free man could acquire. While a purusha was on the threshold of the cultural aristocracy, Narakasura, a free man behaving like a feudal warlord was an irresponsible rabble-rouser. The social world of commonalty despised him and the mobile groups and other social cadres (lokas) treated him as a thorn in their body.
Krshna explained to bhumidevi, the guardian of the plains, that bhumi included all those born in a territory. They were all to be treated as equals whether they were disciplined members of a clan or community (manushyas) or were free men (naras) in the service of the local administration. Narakasura had harassed Aditi, a lady (devi) who deserved to be revered and snatched her earrings. Krshna would honour her request and ensure that Narakasura would attain a higher status and would free her from her responsibility of controlling an undisciplined son. (Ch.55 Sabhaparva)
Yadunatha Krshna, the leader of the Yadavas, entered the palace of Narakasura, which was more affluent than that of Kubera, the leader of the plutocrats, yakshas, and that of Indra, the leader of the aristocrats, devas. After Naraka and Nikumbha were indicted and assigned suspended death sentence, Indra received the earrings of Aditi and told Krshna that he would deposit all the wealth of Narakasura in Krshnas capital, Dwaraka and also take all the troops, horses and elephants of that feudal warlord to Dwaraka, for according to the socio-political laws, dharma, Krshna had earned them by his valour. The gold and jewellery that earlier belonged to nobles (devas), free intelligentsia-cum-warriors (gandharvas) and feudal chieftains (asuras) had earlier been confiscated by Naraka and kept in his treasury.
Naraka claimed to be establishing a classless society
Devas, asuras, gandharvas and manushyas were the four sectors of the later Vedic core society. When the two rival sections of the ruling elite (devas and asuras) decided to bury the hatchet, the feudal lords (asuras) moved to the social periphery along with the free men (naras) drawn from the cadres of gandharvas and manushyas. Naraka claimed to establish a classless society of free individuals, naras, and confiscated the wealth of the nobles (devas) and the feudal lords (asuras) and the free middle class of gandharvas. This wealth had to be disposed of in the proper manner by the victors led by Krshna and so too the daughters of the nobles (devas) and gandharvas whom Naraka had kept in his palace as his attendants had to be set free and returned to their parents.
Naraka was a commoner who after capturing power and wealth in the name of a free egalitarian society of naras and naris and abolishing the earlier social distinctions and strata and diversity of orientations had become authoritarian like the asura feudal lords. He however did not countenance licentiousness and imposed puritanical laws that under the garb of discipline required the free men and the free women not to enter marital bonds or to have personal property. These laws did however permit the free women to pursue the paths of personal salvation rather than pleasure and wear the garbs of ascetics to indicate this.
Narada had assured these girls that the head of the academy (bhagavan) would soon arrive and kill Naraka, Nikumbha, Mura, Hayagriva and Pancajana and free them from the captivity in which Naraka had kept them. They were leading a life of nuns denied of all pleasures. Later Vayu (who was in charge of the open space, akasa, in the Vedic social polity) told them that their day of deliverance was fast approaching. Those girls requested Krshna, the brave Yadava warrior, to remove their sorrows.
Krshna and Rshabha outlook
Bhishma told Yudhishtira that the nobles (devas) and the free middle class (gandharvas) noticed Krshna (who shared the outlook of Rshabha, the famous saint and father of Jatamuni Bharata), as having the traits of the great stud (maharshabha) that stood in front of the cows as their protector. The women who were freed, requested Krshna to become their husband (protector). Krshna assured those girls who shared the outlook of another Saivaite (Rudra) thinker, Visalaksha, a champion of Kshatriya aristocracy, that their desires would be fulfilled.
Krshna with his consort, Satyabhama, and his brother, Balarama accompanied Indra to his palace and returned to Aditi, her earrings retrieved from Naraka. He was welcomed with due respect by Brahma, Daksha and other organisers (srshtikartas) of the society and by the nobles and sages. Aditi, the mother of the nobles told Krshnas consort, Satyabhama, that the latter would remain young as long as Krshna stayed in the social world (loka) of the commoners (manushyas). Krshna then returned to Dwaraka, escorted by Indra. (Ch.56 Sabhaparva)
The victors received a great ovation as they returned to Dwaraka. Their feat was interpreted as a victory of Antakas and Vrshnis over those who despised the Brahmans who upheld the socio-political constitution. Krshna after depositing the wealth seized from Naraka went to salute his teacher, Sandipani and his father, Vasudeva. He distributed that wealth among the Yadava leaders in accordance with their ranks. Indra narrated to the Akuras and Antakas and their king, Akuka, the feats of Krshna while destroying Naraka. He also told them that he would soon approach Krshna along with Adityas, Vasus and Saddhyas in connection with the next mission to kill Bana, a feudal chieftain.
Krshna takes over the functions of Indra and other Vedic officials
After enjoying his stay in Dwaraka in the company of Krshna and Balarama, Indra left for his abode. Indra had during this period the powers of Aditya (Surya), the general of the independent standing army of Kshatriyas. But he had to maintain cordial relations with Agni, the head of the intelligentsia and the civil judge of the commonalty. Kubera, Varuna, the nine satellite officials and the seven Maruts followed him as he passed through the open space (vaisvanara path open to the free citizens of the world) that was under the jurisdiction of Vayu.
With this transfer of all powers and missions to Krshna, Sakra Indras responsibilities that he had borne and carried out almost single-handed during the last decades of the long Vedic era, guided by Vivasvan and Manu Vaivasvata, as the head of the aristocracy came to an end and Indra disappeared from the scene of socio-political affairs of the core society.
The chronicler then described the visit of the prominent Yadava ladies to the hall where Balarama and Krshna were being honoured for their success. The ladies were curious to see the wealth and jewellery that the two victorious warriors had brought. Devaki had conceived both of them but his surrogate mother, Rohini, delivered Balarama while Krshna was brought up as Yasodas son. The chronicler, Vaishampayana, would compare Devaki with Aditi, the benevolent mother figure and guide of the officials of the Vedic polity known as Adityas, and Balarama and Krshna with Surya and Varuna, two of the Adityas.
Surya, Varuna and Rshabha constitution
In the neo-Vedic constitution, Surya (Aditya) was the head of the administrative machinery-cum-army (kshatras) while Varuna was the head of the civil judiciary that was also trustee of all public property. Surya or Ravi was also in charge of collecting revenue from the agricultural lands. This constitution seems to have come into force in the western region where Dwaraka was located. During the Atharvan epoch the western region was guided by the strict ombudsman, Varuna. It was noted for its anarchist administration. The new constitution did not provide for a federal social polity headed by Viraj and assisted by Prajapati, the authoritarian chief of the people and the assembly of nobles (devas). It was an alternative to the anarchist structure (vairupa) and administration (vairaja) headed by Varuna for which the western region was noted during the Vedic epoch.
These two officials, Surya and Varuna, who assisted Aditi in heading a non-patriarchal social polity of the gentle non-aggressive pastoral community, adopted the approach popularised by Rshabha, a leading thinker-cum-activist of the Rudra school of thought. The socio-political leader who was the most charismatic among the unarmed civilian populace and who could be depended on to protect it and lead it was described as Rshabha. He was authoritarian too unlike the Purusha who led only willing followers. (Ch.59 Sabhaparva)
Krshna had undertaken the mission to reconstruct the society after Bali, the powerful asura warlord, was dislodged from Janasthana, a state in the Narmada valley. Balis son, Bana, did not give up the authoritarian style of functioning of his father. Bana was ruling from Sonitapura (a city built of red bricks), which was guarded by Siva (Samkara), Subrahmaniya (Senapati), Bhadrakali and Vinayaka. This Saivaite fort was impregnable. Narada reported to Krshna that Aniruddha, son of Pradyumna and grandson of Balarama, who had fallen in love with Usha, daughter of Bana and had married her secretly, was kept in prison in that fort along with Usha.
Krshna (Vasudeva), Balarama (Samkarshana) and Pradyumna, three of the four sponsors of the Vaishnavaite Pancaratra cult hastened to that fort to retrieve their fourth member, Aniruddha, from the hold of the Saivaite cults, represented by Samkara, Kumara, Sakti and Ganapati. According to Bhishma who narrated this episode to Yudhishtira, Krshna overcame Siva and defeated Bana and freed Aniruddha and his consort, Usha. This episode gives the impression that the conflict between the two cults headed by Vasudeva and Mahesvara had sprouted during the later Vedic times though it was not then visualised that these two great personages along with Brahma constituted the Trinity of forces (of creation, preservation and destruction). (Ch.60 Sabha) Much of Ch.61 is later interpolation and defies chronology of events. It also hints the submerging of Dwaraka in the sea and the civil war in which all the Vrshnis and Antakas were killed.
Krshna a liberal aristocrat
Bhishma recalled to Yudhishtira and his brothers the several feats of Krshna and emphasized that Krshna was essentially a liberal aristocrat (noble, deva) who had got associated with the Yadavas in pursuit of the objectives outlined by the great social thinker, Rshi Narayana. He advised the Pandavas to seek Krshnas help in getting rid of Sisupala before embarking on their project to perform a Rajasuya sacrifice and install Yudhishtira as an emperor, samrat. He reprimanded the supporters of Sisupala for having spoken ill of Krshna. Sahadeva, the youngest of the Pandavas, reasserted that he would stamp out any one who challenged his action in honouring Krshna as equal to his teacher and father and paying him the first tribute in that assembly convened to endorse the proposal to install Yudhishtira as samrat.
While most of the audience preferred to remain silent fearing to dissent, many persons not present there applauded his challenge and decision. Narada who knew the past and could foresee the future got up to pronounce that those commoners (manushyas) who refused to revere Krshna should be treated as dead persons though living. They would therefore become ineligible to hold the positions and wealth that they had, he implied. He also pronounced that none should converse with such detractors. Sahadeva who knew the status distinctions among scholars (Brahmanas) and among warriors (Kshatriyas) and had the status of a king (raja) honoured them all according to their respective statuses. [He had the status of an associate deva and was hence entrusted with the duty to receive and honour the guests.]
Sisupala, king of Cedi, told the kings who supported him that he was prepared to lead their army as a general and that they should be prepared to fight even if the Pandavas and the Yadavas came together against them. He instigated them to disturb and frustrate the rajasuya sacrifice. Krshna could easily guess that they were preparing for the fight. (Ch.62 Sabhaparva)
The rising of the invited kings who were incited by Sisupala upset Yudhishtira who thereupon appealed to Bhishma, the eldest member of the Kuru clan, to guide him on what he should do. Yudhishtira would liken Bhishma to Brhaspati, the guide (purohita) of Indra, the chief of the nobility. He wanted to know how their (rajasuya) sacrifice could be protected from hindrances and what action would be beneficial to the subjects (prajas) of his (enlarged) state. What he should convey to others about how they were to act, he wanted to know. Yudhishtira was then a king (raja) implementing the provisions of the social and political code (dharma) and he knew its provisions well. Hence Bhishma had to point out methods that were not covered by that conventional code. He pointed out that he had already referred to the best policy and the safe method for this purpose.
Bhishma compared Krshna to a sleeping lion and the kings who spoke against him to barking dogs. Yudhishtira might desire that Bhishma should pray to Krshna to come to the help of the Pandavas. But Bhishma said that he preferred that Krshna should stay put until the dogs let loose by Sisupala, got tired and weak. These kings thought that they were great warriors while they were not. Krshna was planning to withdraw the power (sakti), which he had given to Sisupala, Bhishma felt. Yudhishtira being wise should wait until the tide turned in his favour.
The kings including the king of Cedi who objected to Krshna being honoured as the chief guest at the rajasuya sacrifice lost their balance of intellect as Krshna, the prominent leader (purushasreshta) had intended. This was Krshnas method in weakening his opponent, Bhishma pointed out. He asked Yudhishtira to realise that Krshna had assigned all living beings of the three social worlds (lokas) to four classes. Bhishma meant nobles (devas), commoners (manushyas), the intermediate ranks (triyak) and the idiots and inert people like the immobile things (sthavara). This was intended to tease Sisupala and provoke him.
Sisupala belittles Bhishma and Krshna
Sisupala could ably bring out the weaknesses in the arguments that Bhishma advanced in support of the Pandavas decision to give the highest place in honour to Krshna who was not recognised as a Kshatriya then. Sisupala accused Bhishma of destroying his clan though he was an elder member of it and should be ashamed of doing so. He teased that Bhishma being a eunuch it was natural that he spoke for steps that were not in tune with dharma. Bhishma as a leader of the Kuru clan was like a blind man leading the blind. He should not have lauded Krshna who was an arrogant and ignorant person, Sisupala held. Though intellectually mature Bhishma was lauding a young shepherd boy, he charged.
Sisupala belittled the claims about the feats performed by Krshna as a child but agreed that the ungrateful killing of his benefactor and guardian, Kamsa, was a wonderful feat. Bhishma did not claim that the feats that were attributed to the childhood days of Krshna were indeed performed by a child. Besides, he was keenly aware that there was a hiatus between the years that Krshna spent as a shepherd and the times he functioned as the head of an academy and between the latter and the years he spent on specific missions entrusted to him by the nobles. Sisupala failed to notice these hiatuses and recognise their significances for the social polity of those times.
He claimed that Bhishma did not know the social laws, dharma, and had not heard from elders what he then proposed to tell that Kaurava veteran. Obviously these elders did not use the methods of reasoning and had followed the then traditional approach of not questioning the ancestral faiths. The pious elders who were devoted to dharma and were scholars had always held that one should under no circumstance use his weapons against women and cattle and Brahmans and against his employer and provider of food and against those who sought asylum under him. Sisupala accused Krshna of having violated every one of these expectations. He found fault with Bhishma for having failed to take note of this aspect in Krshnas career. He held that Bhishma had not availed of the social laws in force in the social world of commoners. He also charged that Bhishmas eulogy of Krshna could not cut ice with him. For, he knew all about Krshna, especially his offences of killing a woman and a cow.
Krshna, the Janardana
Krshna the Janardana (who agitated and roused the jana, the native people of regions like Janasthana) might believe that he was really Isvara (a charismatic benefactor and leader especially of the people of the social periphery) that Bhishma described him to be while flattering the former, Sisupala argued. Sisupala was sure that the claims made in the eulogy of Krshna were all false. If Janardana had the ability to know his own calibre and did not expect to be honoured as the best of the leaders why did Bhishma plan to honour him so, Sisupala asked. A falsehood uttered many times could become a truth and come to ones protection (when arraigned in court), he pointed out.
Sisupala was pinpointing the aberrations hidden in the earlier laws based on nature (rta), those that were based on truth (satya) then being honoured and the liberal laws based on dharma that were being propagated by persons like Krshna and Bhishma. A bird cannot but follow its nature. [Men do not do so. They follow what they are taught and often function against their own nature and also against the principles of truth.] According to the principles of truth, Bhishmas conduct was despicable, he claimed. As he was the son of a river (Ganga) his mind was not fixed and flowed (from higher level to lower ones), Sisupala said teasing Bhishma on his birth. [He was suggesting that Ganga had sex with aristocrats as well as commoners.] He charged that the nature of the birth of the Pandavas, who held Krshna as the best to be honoured and who had Bhishma as the advocate of that proposal, was worse than that of Bhishma. [He was drawing attention to their mother, Kunti, conceiving them by officials like Indra and not by her husband.]
He refused to accept Bhishma who did not know the socio-cultural laws (dharma that prescribed bonds like marital purity) and who departed from the traditional practices upheld by the elders, as a champion of dharma. If Bhishma claimed that he knew the provisions of the new code based on dharma, Sisupala asked whether other intellectuals who thought that they were repositories of dharma would do those acts as he who knew those laws did. [Vaishampayana, the chronicler was a disciple of Krshna Dvaipayana, a brother of Bhishma. He was expressing the reservations that the great sage had about Bhishma, through Sisupalas allegations.] If Bhishma claimed that he knew the social laws based on dharma and had a good intellect and was a scholar why did he abduct the virgin, Amba, knowing that she loved another person, Sisupala asked.
As the enraged Bhishma rose to reply, Sisupala pointed out that his brother, Vichitravirya, who followed the paths of the elders and for whom he brought her, did not like Bhishmas act. As Bhishma protested (that he knew the traditional practices as well as the new laws) Sisupala countered why Vicitravirya who was impotent had to get offspring procreated on his wives by others by resorting to the provisions of niyoga approved by dharma while Bhishma who guarded his self-respect and was eligible to be called upon and required to consent failed to perform his duty. He charged that Bhishma did not consider himself to be bound by any provision of the laws (dharma) and that his claim that he had undertaken to be a celibate and so refrained from performing his duty was not tenable. Bhishma was observing that vow of celibacy because of either ignorance or impotence, Sisupala argued.
Sisupala's address to Dharmasabha
He was speaking in the dharmasabha convened by the Pandava chieftain, Yudhishtira, and opposing Bhishmas proposal that Krshna be invited to be its chief guest. Agreed that Bhishma knew the laws, dharma, but he was not specialised in any discipline, Sisupala argued. Besides, Bhishma did not follow the views of his seniors, he said. [Such persons were considered to be heretics, vratyas.] Hence Bhishma had uttered as being within the provisions of law (dharma) that step (honouring Krshna as the chief guest), Sisupala said. Bhishma protested that he was not a heretic.
Revering nobles (devas), offering gifts (dana), studying Vedas, paying huge fees (dakshina) to priests and performing sacrifices (yajnas) might be considered to be acts of dharma but they did not yield even one-sixteenth of the merit that performing the duty of procreating offspring yielded, Sisupala argued. He was not willing to accept the practice of lifelong celibacy as a meritorious duty. Sisupala pointed out that the social codes (sastras) held that the various vows and acts of penances were of no avail in the case of one who had no offspring. Bhishma, a childless elderly person whose counsel on dharma was against the laws based on truth (satya), would meet his end at the hands of his own kinsmen, even as the swan (in the parable) did, Sisupala (to be precise, Krshna Dvaipayana) predicted.
The laws of the middle Vedic age were based on the principle of truth (satya) and they treated the ability of one to honour his debts to be of great importance while allowing one to take the oath in the court. If he had no son who would fulfill the commitment given by the father, he would not be eligible to hold any position. Sisupala was pointing out that the new code, dharma, had not set aside the validity of this provision.
The elderly swan, who exhorted other birds to do only virtuous acts and not to commit sins, advocated that non-violence (ahimsa) was the dharma that the prajas (subjects of the expanded polity) should follow. Ahimsa was the substance of dharma, this thinker said. One who throughout his life steadfastly did good acts with good intents was bound to go to heaven, was the advice given by the gentle thinker (swan) of the past. But the birds, which trusted him with their eggs, soon found that this counsellor was a sinner and was surreptitiously living on those eggs and killed him. Sisupala accused Bhishma of being one who counselled good conduct for others but whose own conduct was that of a sinner. He (to be precise, Krshna Dvaipayana) was indirectly warning Yudhishtira against trusting Bhishma and acting on his advice. (Ch.64 Sabhaparva)
Sisupala then belittled Krshnas conduct while he along with Bhima and Arjuna faced Jarasamdha. He respected Jarasamdha, as he was unwilling to fight with Krshna who he considered was but a dasa in status. Sisupala implied that Krshna was but a lad engaged to look after the cattle and was not a member of any of the three higher social classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and that he was entitled to be included only in the class of Shudras. While the three higher classes were drawn from the ranks of nobles (devas), feudal chiefs (asuras), free intelligentsia (gandharvas) and the commonalty (vis) engaged in economic activities on their own lands and were eligible for the status of Aryas (free citizens with personal property), the servants of these persons whether they were bonded labourers or independent employees were called dasas. Sisupala and Jarasamdha were contemptuous of these dasas and held them to be ineligible to be treated as warriors on par with Kshatriyas.
Sisupala and his supporters did not approve the way in which Krshna, Bhima and Arjuna killed Jarasamdha. Krshna entered the fort of Jarasamdha disguised as a Brahman as he knew the prowess of the latter. But Jarasamdha who considered himself as a supporter of Brahmans (scholars, judges and priests) sent his first offerings to the Brahman that Krshna pretended to be. The three declined to accept his hospitality and the food offered. Sisupala addressing Bhishma as a fool asked why Krshna who he claimed was a Brahman legislator and social organiser did not exhibit his identity as a Brahman.
[Dvaipayana was drawing attention to Krshnas claim that he had sponsored the move to organise the larger society into four classes (varnas) based on the traits (gunas) of the individuals and provide a new socio-political constitution. Krshna however left the implementation of this scheme to the academy headed by Brahma to which he had sent the graduates of his own yoga academy.]
Sisupala was surprised that though Bhishma was dragging away the Pandavas from the path of the elders by accepting Krshna as their guide, they thought that it was a correct step. He teased them for following on all matters the counsel given by Bhishma, who he said, lacked manliness and was too old. Sisupalas tirade against Bhishma and Krshna enraged Bhima who had to be controlled by Bhishma. Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that Bhimas anger did not trouble the warrior, Sisupala. He laughed at Bhima and asked Bhishma to leave him free so that the kings might see how his prowess burnt Bhima like a beetle. Bhishma told Bhima that it was Krshnas intent that Sisupala should challenge him (Bhima) and not Sisupalas intent to take on one who had never seen defeat. He was trying to make Sisupala diffident. (Ch.65 Sabhaparva)
Bhima did not know much about Sisupala's career. Bhishma told him that an unknown discrete individual (bhuta) of the periphery introduced Sisupala to the house of the king of Cedi as an odd personage with three eyes and four arms (resembling the picture of Siva). When the king, his wife, ministers and counsellors (purohitas) were wondering what to do with that lad a voice (vani) representing the people of that periphery who did not belong to any organised social group (asarira) told them that the lad born as the son of the king of Cedi would become famous and that they need not fear that he might pass away early. That voice however said that the person who would be the cause of that protected child was already born. Sisupala who learnt about that prophecy became arrogant and cruel but his mother suspected that he would die only at the hands of Krshna. Krshna however assured her that he would not be the cause of the death of her son, Sisupala. This assurance had emboldened Sisupala to challenge Bhima to battle, Bhishma said. (Ch. 66 Sabhaparva)
Sisupala's immunities withdrawn
Bhishma told Bhima that Sisupalas challenging the latter signified that Krshna, the guardian of the social world (loka) of commoners had intended that and that the latter planned to withdraw from Sisupala the advantage of using certain powers (sakti) that Krshna had given him earlier. This provoked Sisupala to launch another tirade against Bhishma. If Bhishma wanted to show off his ability to eulogise others he might eulogise the king of Bahlika or Karna or Bhima who killed Jarasamdha with his bare hands or Drona or Asvattama who were great generals or Duryodhana or Jayadratha or Krpa the archer who were all great warriors, he said. Bhishma could have better opted to praise Bhishmaka or Drupada or Salya or one of the other great warriors and kings assembled there. But his choice of Kesava (Krshna) was deplorable, Sisupala stated. Bhishmas praise of Kesava (Krshna) was unacceptable, he said.
He compared Bhishmas words to those of Kulingasakuni of the trans-Himalayan region who said what was contradictory to what he was doing. It was only because the other kings desired it he was leaving Bhishma alive, Sisupala declared. Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that Bhishma said that he did not live on the mercy of those kings and that he held them all in contempt. Some of them did not dare to antagonise him while others spoke on his side and only a few dared to protest his remarks. He told them that he was challenging them all to fight against Govinda (the king of the pastoral community) who was silent but was armed with the wheel (chakra) and a mace. (Ch.67 Sabhaparva)
Thereupon Sisupala addressing Vasudeva as Janardana challenged him to fight with him. He threatened to kill him along with the Pandavas. The latter deserved to be killed as they had ignored all those who were kings and had honoured Krshna who was not a king, he said. Sisupala said that Krshna was only a dasa and not a king. Sisupala was putting forth the view that social reorganisation had resulted in the nobles (devas) and independent warriors and administrators (kshatriyas) merging in the ranks of kings (rajanyas) and all the subordinates (dasas) of these cadres merging in the commonalty (manushyas), resulting in the formation of the two cadres, rajas and dasas.
The politico-economic codes (arthasastras) of the pre-varna times recognised two classes, aryas who owned personal property and were eligible to attest all deeds as free citizens and dasas who served them and did not have property or the right to so attest deeds. All the three higher classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas, were later included in the class of Aryas. Dasas were also called Shudras. As the Yadavas were not recognised as Kshatriyas or as Vaisyas or were not Brahmans they were assigned the status of Shudras. Sisupala, who was an arrogant ruler like Jarasamdha, would show their contempt for them by calling them Dasas.
Krshna faced the kings instigated by Sisupala all alone from his chariot and advised them to go back with their troops. He pointed out to them that Sisupala, though he was the son of his aunt, a Yadava woman, was an enemy of Yadavas and had burnt Dwaraka during his absence from there on his mission to Pragjyotishpura (to humble Narakasura). Krshna also recounted many of the atrocities of Sisupala committed against them. Krshna had tolerated all of them as he had given a promise to his mother not to be the cause of his death even if he committed a hundred sins. But he was free to kill him if he interrupted the (rajasuya) sacrifice. He would kill Sisupala if he harmed the Pandavas, he said.
Sisupala had a personal enmity for Krshna, as Rukmini chose Krshna over Sisupala. Krshna said that Sisupala was a fool to expect her to marry him. His expectation was like that of a Shudra trying to study Vedas when they were not entitled to do so. (Obviously this is a later unwarranted interpolation.) As Krshna thus explained why he was being constrained to kill Sisupala, the supporters of the latter withdrew. Sisupala replied that it was shameful for Krshna to marry Rukmini when Sisupala had already married her. He declared that he did not care whether Krshna bore with him or not and advanced against the latter.
Yudhishtira and Narada
Yudhishtira, the Dharmaraja, asked Narada about the happenings in the social world of commoners (bhumi) and of those in the open space (akasa) where those other than members of the commonalty could move about, that indicated misfortunes for kings. [He was not referring to omens and portents.] Narada told the Kuru chieftain that one who had studied astrology should note the paths and powers of the planets, their coming together, their rise and climax, their opposite movements and endeavours and instability and occasions of invisibility of their movements, sudden appearances, reaching lower levels, ups and downs, their colours (varnas) and locations and beneficial results and failures.
Narada was drawing a comparison between the functions and levels of the different departments of the state that were named after the sun and the different planets that had then been identified. The authors of the politico-economic codes (arthasastras) used the concept of organs (angas) of the body politic or the concept of elements (prakrtis) while dealing with the factors that had to be taken into account by the conqueror. Narada dealt with the same factors but used the concepts popularised by the science of astrology.
According to Narada the trends created by the nobles influenced the organised commonalty of the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi) first and the unorganised people and individuals of the open space (akasa) later. He was referring to how the ways of life and orientations and pursuits that were first envisaged by the ruling cultural aristocracy percolated to the commonalty of the core society and then spread to the open space that was unlike the commonalty not under the direct and immediate control of that elite.
Unnatural events have always and everywhere tended to disturb the commoners and even intellectuals. They have made them try to find out the implications of these for their immediate future. Invariably the steps they take to forestall the feared consequences are irrational. These have later been connected to their faiths in the powers of specific deities and efficacies of certain non-normative measures to free themselves of the fruits of their former acts of omission and commission. But the science of astrology per se does not concern itself with or deal with these so-called remedial steps. It does analyse the trends and tries to predict the events of the not-too remote future. Both the ruling elite and their subjects have evinced interest in this knowledge.
Narada's reply to Yudhishtira was intended to guide the royal astrologers on their duties. He does not appear to have advocated any step like penances and sacrifices to forestall the undesirable happenings. He hinted to the likely fallouts on the kings (whether formally anointed or not) household and his generals, on his towns and country and on his subjects, on the economy and health of the people and their reactions. The comments indicate that the people of the core society were introduced only recently then to the practice of installing idols of devatas (chiefs of the plutocrats and technocrats, yakshas and nagas) and worshipping them though it was in vogue in the parallel society of the forests and mountains since long. The nobles (devas) of the core society had not received such worship.
The followers of the sober aristocracy did not welcome the step to honour the plutocrats and technocrats of the other not-so sober society. Introduction of the practice of idol-worship did not find favour with most sections of the core society and when the temples that housed the idols of these devatas were destroyed there was panic. Narada would advise the kings and other rulers to rebuild those temples and not view this destruction as an act of inimical nobles (devas).
Yudhishtira belonged to a period when the integrated social polity had come into existence only newly and it did face resistance from the core society especially because of the infusion of the mobile sectors of the industrial proletariat (sarpas) into it. As Naradas comments indicate the disturbances to its life by the sectors (likened to frogs) of the intermediate periphery, which moved to and fro between the core society and the frontier society were to be taken note of by the ruler as predicting major social and economic upheavals. Narada claimed that it was Krshna who had introduced the concept of finding correlations between symptoms noticed in variations in Nature and the trends in different sectors of social and political economy.
These happenings (emergence of symptoms and noticeable follow-ups) sponsored by the nobles (by Krshna on behalf of the nobles, devas) pertained to the organised society of the plains (bhumi) and the large unorganised open society (akasa). They influenced the minds of the people, often leading to creation of panic and widespread dismay among the masses. According to Narada, it was Krshna who determined which kingdom (desa) should thrive and which should decline and arranged to foretell (tell) its people about what they should be prepared for. Hence, Yudhishtira (a descendant of Bharata who governed the destinies of many countries acquired mainly through political manoeuvres and brought under a single confederation of states, chakra) should pay attention to what was brewing following Krshna's stepping into the affairs of those states. Krshna was creating illusions of lunar and solar eclipses and causing dismay among the peoples in all areas while preparing for war against Sisupala, Narada pointed out to Yudhishtira. (Ch.69 Sabhaparva)
Sisupala's plans thwarted
The conflict between Sisupala and Krshna was not intended only to determine who of the two was superior in wielding weapons. The two were engaged in a struggle to exhibit who of the two prominent social leaders (purushasreshtas) had a better hold over the different sections of the social polity. It was impossible for a commoner (manushya) to engage in such a struggle for a comprehensive control over all those sections. When Sisupala claimed that he had control over the civil judiciary (represented by the Vedic official designated as Agni), Krshna overruled it by invoking the authority of Varuna who in the Atharvan polity was an ombudsman committed to the maintenance of durable peace among the peoples and of discharge of his duties by every one. It is too inane to suggest that Krshna dowsed fire set by Sisupala by rain.
Sisupala used wealth and economic power (represented by Kubera) to overcome Krshnas influence among the masses. Krshna used the same economic power to overcome him. Vaishampayana implied that economic power wielded by one could be best countered only by economic power. This latter and better power is secured by being the overlord (prabhu) of the unorganised social universe of free intellectuals (jagat). Krshna had considerable influence over it and availed of its unlimited resources. Sisupala used the provisions of the Vedic code that prohibited certain acts (yamas) to paralyse his opponents. Krshna too used its provisions and riders to offset the crippling effects of the former. [It needs to be noted here that it is imperative to interpret the implications of this conflict between the two chiefs of Yadava origin from a rigorously rational angle.]
Sisupala tried to enrol the gandharvas who were free intellectuals and independent warriors on his side. They were referred to as a mobile population (jagat) rather than a social world of settled communities (loka). Devas, asuras, gandharvas and manushyas were the four sectors of the core society of the later Vedic times. Krshna too endeavoured to bring them under his influence and in this competition he was able to score over Sisupala. (Krshna is referred to as Jagannatha.)
Sisupala then tried to bring under his influence the manavas who were unlike the manushyas not organised as clans or communities bound by kuladharmas and jatidharmas. They were not totally subordinate to the social and political codes of any region (desadharma). These manavas were citizens of the world and were free to pursue their vocations in any state. They were classified as intellectuals (Brahmans), administrators (Kshatriyas), traders (Vaisyas) and workers (Shudras) and were governed by manava dharma. Krshna brought them too under his fold by adopting a rational and just method of assigning individuals on the basis of their natural aptitudes (gunas, svabhavas) to these classes.
The people of the open space (akasa) were functioning under the Vedic official, Vayu. He ensured that this highly diffused populace did not suffer on account of their inability to tap the vast resources of nature adequately. Sisupala of Cedi intervened to recruit their services and acquire those resources. Krshna frustrated him by guaranteeing protection to the people on the bare subsistence level and by bringing akasa under the aegis of the benevolent nobility to which he belonged.
Sisupala tried to rouse the violent people of the forests and mountains who followed the Rudras, one of the four traditional cadres of nobles. Krshna who belonged to the Vasus, another traditional cadre of nobles, established good rapport with the Rudras and frustrated Sisupalas moves. If Sisupala tried to bring the nobles and their head, Indra, under his influence, Krshna too tried to do so. Sisupala of Cedi attempted to mobilise the followers of Vishnu, an Aditya. Krshna, one of the sponsors of the Vaishnavaite Pancaratra cult that was first propounded under the patronage of Uparicara Vasu, easily brought Sisupalas move to a nought.
It was not easy to overcome Sisupala, the warrior. Krshnas charioteer feared that his life was in danger. Addressing Krshna as Janardana (protector of the people) and Govinda (protector of the cattle), he requested Krshna not to dally with his opponent and to kill him immediately. Krshna pointed out that Sisupala enjoyed certain immunities (from death) even as Hiranyakasipu (killed by Narasimha) and Ravana (killed by Rama) did and hence he was constrained to move cautiously.
Then he used his wheel (chakra) to cut Sisupala's head and fell him. It indicated that the confederation of the peoples and discrete individuals of the social periphery who had offered their support and consent to function under Krshnas leadership used their influence to deprive Sisupala of the powers of the general (surya, aditya) of the combined forces. This power then passed on to the best of the social leaders (purushottama), Krshna.
While most of the kings, who were Sisupalas supporters, preferred to keep mum, a few did mourn his fall. Some secretly applauded Krshna. The senior sages (maharshis) who were legislators of the integrated society were delighted and eulogised him. The great and noble scholars (Brahmans) who were jurists and guardians of the constitution and were not attached to any interest group (and were hence maha atmas, great souls, in common parlance) praised him. And the highly powerful kings too admired his prowess. The cadres of nobles (devas) and of the free middle class (gandharvas) and other kings who were popular among the commonalty (bhumi) saluted him. Only those former feudal groups (asuras) who had lost their status as members of the ruling elite and became (were born as) soldiers (kshatriyas) and were attached to the social world (loka) of commonalty and were ignoble elements (duratmas) censured Krshna for killing Sisupala.
The chronicler told Janamejaya that scholars, who were associated with Brahma, the head of the academy of jurists and Brahmarshis and others like siddhas, gandharvas, nagas and charanas who remained neutral but admired Krshnas ways of thinking eulogised him chanting divine (classical) songs. Yudhishtira, in his capacity as Dharmaraja, directed his brothers to offer Sisupala a state funeral and as directed by Krshna installed the son of Sisupala as King of Cedi.
A rational appreciation of the rajasuya sacrifice that Yudhishtira performed in his capacity as Dharmaraja is imperative. After all the disputes and interruptions pertaining to the performance of this sacrifice (yajna) ended, the assembly appeared to be one attended predominantly by the legislators (maharshis, great sages). Krshna, armed with his weapons, the wheel and the mace, guarded it till the end. The scholars were engaged in debating several issues putting forth arguments for and against them. Of course every one tried to score over the others. Social constitutions and legislations were the products of such debates. No god or his messenger ordained them. None was prevented access to such debates. Of course the sages did not tolerate vain arguments.
Sahadeva compered the proceedings while Krshna occupied the seat of the chief guest and moderator in his capacity as Upendra. The chronicler implied that Krshna succeeded Vamana as Upendra. Vamana had trounced Usanas in his debate over the distortions that the latter introduced in the socio-political constitution leading to the creation of a monstrous and exploitative leviathan headed by the warlord, Bali, in place of a just social welfare state. After Bali was exiled and the treasury was handed over back to Indra, his assistant, Upendra, looked after the administration of the civil polity. The post of Upendra was equivalent to that of Brhaspati of the Atharvan polity. Brhaspati was concerned with the economic activities of the commoners and civil laws and controlled the treasury (sura) and was in charge of the armoury. The army, which functioned under Aditya, remained disarmed during times of peace.
Upendra did not deprive Indra of any of the powers he had under the Indra-Agni system. He did not take over the powers of Agni as the civil judge. Upendra originally belonged to the nobility but had been deputed to regulate the affairs of the commonalty and other sections of the population that had been freed from the control of the feudal lords and the state. Krshna, as Bhagavad-Gita suggests, was engaged in completing the task of reorganisation of the janapada that had begun under the aegis of Vamana. According to the chronicler, Yudhishtira performed the rajasuya sacrifice in such a way that it would meet the purposes of Krshnas mission, the completion of the project of socio-political reorganisation that Vamana (Urukrama, Trivikrama) had initiated. Of course the conference of these scholars from far and near was an occasion for feasts and festivities. No doubt, Brahmans were specially feasted.
Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that it was an occasion when kings, representatives and observers and visitors from all the districts (desas) and provinces (janapadas) of the Jambhudvipa had assembled at one place. They brought their contributions for the occasion. Of course the disputations that the scholars engaged in did not result in bitterness among them. When the nobles (devas) who had mastered the Vedas, the jurists (Brahmans) and the legislators (maharshis) discussed the issues frankly the hall looked like the open space (akasa) where any one might enter and stay or move ahead. True, some Brahmans had come to exhibit their scholarship and some were wranglers with no committed notions and some had come to learn. Some had come as visitors and some had come, as they were afraid of Yudhishtiras prowess. This has been so down the ages whenever such conferences were convened.
Besides crowned kings, the three sections of the integrated elite, traditional aristocrats (devas), plutocrats (yakshas) and technocrats (nagas) and the young bearers of knowledge (vidyadharas) from the aristocracy (devaloka) and also representatives of the commonalty (manushyaloka) took part in that great conference. As gandharvas and apsarases and ascetics (munis) and rich yakshas were present it looked like a second social world of nobles (devaloka). Kimpurushas and kinnaras (who belonged to social universes, jagats, but were separate from the gandharvas and apsarases) and Narada (a gandharva) entertained the audience with their songs. The conference was open to all the classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras and to mixed classes (samkarajatis) and to those (mlecchas) outside these. Bhishma, Drona, Duryodhana, other Kauravas, Yadavas and Pancalas worked for its success. (Ch. 71 Sabhaparva)
Yudhishtira completed the rajasuya sacrifice without further trouble under the protection of Krshna. Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that Dharmaraja Yudhishtira honoured Vyasa, Dhoumya, Vasishta, Narada, Sumantu, Jaimini, Paila, Vaishampayana, Yajnavalkya, Kapila, Kapali, Kausika and other scholars who attended it and contributed to the success of the debates at the conference of intellectuals. He also honoured Vasudeva Krshna, Balarama and Bhishma. Yudhishtira, who was one who knew and followed the provisions of the socio-political laws, dharma, also honoured the Kshatriya rulers of the plains (bhumi). They said that they were happy at his rise in status and affluence and declared that he had attained the status of samrat, emperor. The performance of the rajasuya sacrifice indicated that his writ as the final arbiter ran over all the states that these Kshatriya kings of the plains ruled. They honoured him as a worthy descendant of the great Rajarshi, Ajamida and thanking him for his hospitality took leave of him. His brothers saw them off with due honour.
All the guests including Krshna, Bhishma, Drona, Dhrtarashtra and Drupada were seen off by the Pandavas. Only Duryodhana, Sakuni, Karna and Duhsasana stayed in that beautiful hall with the Pandavas. It is interesting to note that Vidura did not attend the rajasuya sacrifice performed by Yudhishtira. The seeds of rivalry between the Kauravas and the Pandavas sprouted after that. (Ch.72 Sabhaparva)