One example how Krishna and Pandavas used Upaya (Strategy/Policy) blended with Anrshamsyam (hailed as the highest Dharma in Mahabharata) is the episode of Jarasandha-vadha. In an Matsyanyaya-System, the Small-Fish has to adopt Upaya against the Big-Fish to survive and to become Upturner of Matsyanyaya. Such Upaya is also sanctioned by Apaddharma. If Krishna and Pandavas and Draupadi represent the God-forces of Vishnu, Indra and Agni, in Vedic narratives the same Gods are indeed Upturner of Matsyanyaya. This might be one reason why they are hailed as God-sons or Gods’ Amshas or incarnations.
1. Jarasandha-vadha Mission in the light of Kautilya’s Arthashastra
On being advised by all to perform Rajasaya, Yudhishthira decided to take Krishna's’s counsel because Krishna had conquered Kama and Krodha (2.12.38-40).
When Krishna was about to set out for Jarasandha-killing mission, Yudhishthira compared him with Fisherman (2.18.17-20) implying Jarasandha’s intention to sacrifice 86 imprisoned kings was Rashtriya Matsyanyaya, and Krishna as Fisherman would stop the Big-Fish-Jarasandha from "eating" the Small-Fish-Kings. To Yudhishthira, Krishna was one who had conquered Kama and Krodha, that is, Krishna could be Fisherman to Jarasandha, because he was Fisherman to his own Self in which Kama and Krodha are Big-Fishes.
However, Yudhishthira’s use of the word chidram (2.18.17c) shows Yudhishthira was not just a Bholaa-Bhaalaa King, but one apt in Kuuta-Kaushala because he understood that Jarasandha must be killed through his loopholes.
What was the loophole exactly?
We get that answer in Mahabharata itself and more prominently in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
Failing to match Jarasandha on battlefield, Krishna took advantage of Jarasandha’s weaknesses – ironical or surprising it may sound, but the weakness was actually Jarasandha’s high respect for Brahmanas and certain ritualistic beliefs.
Vyasa shows a unique life-situation: vulnerability in strength and Power.
Jarasandha had a Vrata - ‘babhuuva bhuvi vishrutam’ that ‘as soon as he should hear of the arrival of Snataka Brahmanas at his place, should it be even at midnight, he would immediately come out and grant them an audience (2.19.30-31).’
Jarasandha was so confident and proud of his power that he could not foresee how such religiosity could spell his doom.
The comfort, ease and confidence with which Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima moved about in Magadha and entered Jarasandha’s palace, shows that they had thorough knowledge of Magadha, Jarasandha’s palace and Jarasandha’s ways by an effective Spy System.
Krishna, being Krishna, would never have entered Magadha without necessary homework.
Bound in his own ritualistic vows, Jarasandha made the fatal mistake of meeting Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima at midnight thinking them to be snatakavratino.
Can we then say that Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima were liars to pretend as Snatakas?
No hope for anti-Krishnas to think that way.
If Jarasandha took them to be Brahmanas seeing them as snatakan, Krishna did not entirely lie, because ‘Brahmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are all competent to observe the vow of Snataka (12.19.45).’
Kautilya certainly had this episode in mind when he formulated his policy on contrivances, one of which is: “Contrivances to kill the enemy may be formed in those places of worship and visit, which the enemy, under the influence of faith, frequents on occasions of worshipping gods, and of pilgrimage (KA-12.5.1-2).”
Why Krishna chose midnight for action is also understandable from Kautilya’s dictum on precaution - “Or having challenged the conqueror at night, he may successfully confront the attack; if he cannot do this, he may run away by a side path; or disguised as a heretic, he may escape with a small retinue (KA-12.5.37-38).”
Kautilya further suggests: “When the enemy is in the habit of paying frequent visits to ascetics, altars, sacred pillars (stúpa), and images of gods, spies hidden in underground chambers or in subterranean passages, or inside the walls, may strike him down.” (13.2)
But Krishna is Krishna, and not Kautilya that he would backstab Jarasandha at his weakest moment. On the contrary, we find in Krishna a unique blending of Dharma and Kuuta-Kaushala.
When Jarasandha offered them worship, in true Dharmik spirit Krishna admitted of the policy and refused to accept Jarasandha’s worship.[i]
Krishna, being Krishna, did not murder Jarasandha treacherously. He gave him an option in true Kshatriya spirit – ‘'O king, with whom amongst us three dost thou desire to fight? Who amongst us shall prepare himself for battle (with thee)? (2.21.2)”
Jarasandha expressed his desire for fighting with Bhima saying “I will fight with thee. It is better to be vanquished by a superior person - Bhima yotsye tvaya sardham shreyasa nirjitam varam (2.21.7).”
The recension has it that Jarasandha refused to fight with Krishna calling him mayavina (2.21.2d*241_1). Here too Jarasandha’s pride proved to be his weakness and worked to Krishna's advantage.
Krishna knew that Jarasandha would choose Bhima.
The wrestling match began. When Jarasandha was fatigued, Krishna told Bhima: “O son of Kunti, a foe that is fatigued cannot be pressed for if pressed at such a time he may even die. Therefore, O son of Kunti, this king should not be oppressed by thee. On the other hand, O bull of the Bharata race, fight with him with thy arms, putting forth as much strength only as thy antagonist hath now left! (2.21.20-21)”
Krishna’s respect and compassion for his Kshatriya-opponent is evident. Rishi Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, in his Krishnacaritra, has emphasized this event to portray Krishna as an Ideal Man and Ideal Kshatriya.
Jarasandha, the then “Fisherman” Samrat of Bharatavarsha, about to eat the 86 Kings was now trapped by Fisherman-Krishna in his own ritualistic vows. The self-created Net is always invisible until one gets caught in it. Even Krishna would not escape this reality.
2. Krishna’s White-in-Black and Black-in-White Karma-philosophy
If Krishna’s Upaya is Black, then his motive and honour is White.
Let us remember that ensuring safety of Yadavas from Jarasandha, vengeance against Jarasandha for the harms he had already done to the Yadavas, and establishing the Pandavas on the throne of Emperor were not the only motives involved here, but Krishna’s action was also guided by his urge to save the 86 Kings whom Jarasandha had imprisoned for doing human sacrifice.
Krishna’s action is thus blending of Personal and Impersonal motive – and only when the blend was perfect that Krishna did think of killing Jarasandha.
This is what I regard the blend of White and Black – Krishna(Black)-Upaya blended with Anrshamsyam-Dharma.
If these are Black-Upayas, the Whiteness is in the fact that instead of murdering Jarasandha treacherously, Krishna gave him an option to fight with any one of them of his choice (2.21.2), and when the duel was in progress, told Bhima not to oppress fatigued Jarasandha, but to fight him with equal strength (2.21.20-21).’
Thus, Krishna exemplifies Anrshamsyam as well as pragmatic Upaya – that would kill the foe yet preserve Bhima’s energy.
3. Jarasandha’s Death: The Other-Side of the Itihasa and Food Imagery
How Krishna killed Jarasandha is later confirmed by Dhrtarashtra (5.50.37-38) and Shishupala (12.39.1-8). Shishupala’s comment is very significant to our present discussion – Krishna refused to ‘eat’ food offered by Jarasandha - bhujyatam iti tenoktah krishnabhimadhanamjayah/ jarasamdhena kauravya krshnena vikrtam krtam (2.39.5).
Vyasa represents the other side of the story through Shishupala who charged Krishna during Yudhishthira’s Rajasuuya:
“That mighty king Jarasandha who desired not to fight with Krishna, saying 'He is a slave,' was worthy of my greatest esteem. Who will regard as praiseworthy the act which was done by Kesava, as also by Bhima and Arjuna, in the matter of Jarasandha's death? Entering by an improper gate, disguised as a Brahmana, thus Krishna observed the strength of king Jarasandha. And when that monarch offered at first unto this wretch water to wash his feet, it was then that he denied his Brahmanahood from seeming motives of virtue. And when Jarasandha, O thou of the Kuru race, asked Krishna and Bhima and Dhananjaya to eat, it was this Krishna that refused that monarch's request. If this one is the lord of the universe, as this fool representeth him to be, why doth he not regard himself as a Brahmana? This, however, surpriseth me greatly that though thou leadest the Pandavas away from the path of the wise, they yet regard thee as honest. Or, perhaps, this is scarcely a matter of surprise in respect of those that have thee, O Bharata, womanish in disposition and bent down with age, for their counsellor in everything (2.39.1-8).”
The Food-motif is very interesting.
In Upanishadik philosophy, “Rich in Food” and “Eater of Food” suggest Power. If Krishna refused to eat Jarasandha’s food, in principles of Matsyanyaya, that means Krishna refused to ‘share’ power with Jarasandha, and wanted to ‘eat’ him.
Well, despite Krishna’s honouring Kshatriya-Ideology and compassion for Jarasandha, we still cannot forget that Krishna could not kill Jarasandha in War, or in a declared dual.
Some stigma therefore, must attach to Krishna.
Vyasa is the truthful merciless Kavi in such happenings of life; thus, Krishna’s own end and Yadava Destruction has to bear all the ironies.
First, let us note that Jarasandha’s Mythical and Supernatural birth (though we cannot believe in that rationally) has something to do with Jara.
It is said that Jarasandha was born in two parts in the wombs of his two mothers, and one Jara-Rakshasii joined him. Ironic for Krishna, his end comes through the hand of one Nishada-Vyadha named Jara.
Secondly, if Krishna refused to eat Jarasandha’s food, the Yadavas initially start hitting each other with Food-Pots during their fatal Tiirtha-Yatra in Prabhasa. The Food Imagery thus gains new significance.
Kala is the ultimate Eater; and the Yadavas indeed had vision of Kala (and Kalii) some days before their Prabhasa-Yatra.
If Krishna wanted to be Kala to the corrupted Yadavas, Jara-Vyadha appeared as Kala to Krishna. And Jara’s action was also prompted by food-motive. He was there to hunt deer, and he mistook Krishna’s foot for deer.
In RgVeda, the most archaic word for ‘old age’ is Jaras, which is possibly connected with the inherited √gr- 'to swallow, to devour' - and this epithet of Agni could mean 'devouring enemies'. Again, Jara-gu- or Jara-gava- 'swallowing cattle' could have originally been a species name for one of the many varieties of vulture that are found in India.
Thus, Jara indeed “eats” Krishna!
If Krishna had been Fisherman to Jarasandha, Jara is Fisherman (actually so according to the Puranas and Niilakantha) to Krishna.
Not surprising then, when Arjuna reached Dvaraka, he saw Dvaraka in the Imagery of Vaitaranii-River in which Krishna and Balarama lay dead like two dead Crocodiles (a supportive and extended imagery of Fish) caught in Kala-Fisherman's Net. (See Krishna, Last Days: Why Vyasa ‘kills’ him at the 16th Parvan?)
Arjuna had seen Krishna’s Vishvaruupa devouring all beings; finally Krishna is Food to his own Vishvaruupa – the ultimate “Eater of Food”!
Indeed, in Chandogya Upanishad, the name Krishna signifies Food (yat krishnam tad annasya, 6.4.1), and Anna or Food is also the name of Earth which is again of Krishna-colour. Thus, having fulfilled his Bhubharaharana (Earth-rescuing) mission, Krishna-Anna sat on Anna-Earth, and got killed by Krishna(Black)-coloured Jara looking for Anna.
Krishna died being hit on the Foot. In Aitareya Aranyaka, the Rsi says that Prana enters the body through the Foot (2.1.4); thus, Krishna's Prana exits through his Foot. In Brhdaranyaka Upanishad (3.9.8), “Food and Prana are the foremost Gods (annam caiva pranaash ceti)."
Bhima, Vayu’s son or Amsha, took away Jarasandha’s Prana by tearing apart his legs; and Vayu and Prana are same. Bhima killed Jarasandha like Pashu (animal).
The leg/Foot and Prana motif repeats in Krishna's death-episode and Krishna indeed is mistaken for a Pashu (animal).
Pashu, needless to explain, is the primary Food in Yajna (Sacrifice).
Krishna's Prana exits through his Foot (- and Foot represents Shudra as well as Earth and Vishnu), and Krishna finally becomes the Pashu to his own Kshatriya Yajna.
In Aitareya Aranyaka (2.1.2), the Earth is both Food and Consumer of Food (or, 'Eater of Food').
The Foot/Shudra theme brings us back to Jara.
The Eating of the Self by the Self is further emphasized by the fact that Jara is Krishna’s half-brother – a Nishada-son born to Vasudeva’s Shuudra-wife (Harivamsha-2.103.27).
4. Jarasandha vs. Krishna: Old-Kshatriya-Order vs. New-Kshatriya-Order?
Some scholars have suggested that Jarasandha’s name having the prefix Jara is suggestive of his representing an Old-Kshatriya-Order opposed to the New-Kshatriya-Order represented by Krishna and Pandavas.
While that is one obvious interpretation (in Bengali literature, Bankim Chandra in his Krishnacharita, and Gajendrakumar Mitra in his novel Panchajanya have interpreted it that way long before many modern scholars began to read Mahabharata), I suggest, by no mean that is all.
Vyasa’s vision of Life is not that simplistic to see opponents in terms of ‘versus’ only, or to see War as just Old vs. New. This is evident from the fact that four of the five Pandavas except Arjuna are hailed as ex-Indra-incarnates – and ex-Indra, in RgVedic philosophy, represents Vrtra and Asura (as also in the case of Balii, an ex-Indra).
If four Pandavas are already ex-Indra-Vrtras, how can we say that their conflict with Jarasandha is one of New-Kshatriya-Order vs. Old-Kshatriya-Order?
Even if we regard Krishna as Vishnu’s Avatara, we cannot call him perfect. Our giant Rshis never had any Illusion and Delusion of Perfection. They knew that even if God assumes a Human Body, the Existential Reality of the Body would impose restrictions and limitations even on God.
Yajnavalka points out one flaw of Vishnu who “is the most excellent of the Gods” (Vishnurdevanam shreshtha iti,14:1:1:5): “Vishnu was unable to control that (love of) glory of his; and so even now not every one can control that (love of) glory of his (sa yah sa Vishnuryajnah sa sa yah sa yajno'sau sa adityastaddhedam yasho vishnurna shashaka samyantu tadidamapyetarhi naiva sarva-iva yashah shaknoti samyantum, 14:1:1:6).”
In the cosmic scheme, Vishnu’s power is not absolute. There have been hundreds of Chakras like Vishnu’s and Vajras like that of Shakra - na shastrani vahanty ange cakravajrashatany api (13.14.54*85_10), and Vishnu is subject to Kala who creates Gods again and again (13.1.48-49) – a fact stated by Mrtyu to a snake in front of a Vyadha named Arjunako resonating Arjuna – significant indeed!
Shri Ramakrishna narrates a beautiful anecdote on how even an Avatara is nothing in the Supreme God’s scheme:
“(Some people) meditate on the formless God. They don’t believe in the incarnation of God. Arjuna sang a hymn of praise to Sri Krishna, ‘You are Brahman Absolute.’ Krishna said to him, ‘Would you like to see whether or not I am the Absolute Brahman? Come with me.’ Saying this, he took Arjuna to a particular place and said, ‘What do you see?’ Arjuna said, ‘I see a big tree with clusters of fruit similar to black berries.’ Krishna said, ‘Come closer and you will see that these are not clusters of black fruit. Innumerable clusters of Krishnas, like me, are hanging there. That is to say, the same tree of the Absolute Brahman yields numberless incarnations of God.’”
I cannot but observe that Shri Ramakrishna, hailed as an Avatara by many, could see so clearly Vyasa’s message despite the fact that he had no ‘first-hand’ acquaintance with Classical Mahabharata.
What ‘semi-literate’ Shri Ramakrishna could see, unfortunately (nay, fortunately) most Self-proclaimed Believers and scholars cannot. Mahabharata is for those who can Feel, and not for those who can Think only.
Like the Vishnu of Shatapatha Brahmana, Krishna could not ultimately control his glory that he obtained by establishing Yadavas and Pandavas’ Hegemony.
5. Jarasandha’s Supernatural Birth: Political Propaganda
In the light of Bhiishma, Vidura, and Krishna’s Niiti further elaborated with naked explicitness by Kautilya’s Arthashastra, all Supernatural Birth-Myths and Death-Myths can be interpreted as Political Propaganda (See Mahabharata: Rational Reading
in the light of Kautilya’s Arthasastra; The Mystery of The Pandava ‘God-Fathers’; and Karna's Father Found.)
Several Birth-Myths, Power-Myths and Karma-Myths abound in the Mahabharatan air. Uparicara was Indra’s friend, Satyavati and king of Matsya were born in womb of fish, Vyasa was instantly born and instantly grew up, Bhiishma’s mother was Ganga, Drona was born in a pot without a mother, Krpa was born in grass without mother, Bhiishma (with iccha Mrtyu), Vyasa, Krpa, and Ashvatthama were immortal etc.
Jarasandha's birth in two wombs and then conjoined by Jara-Rakshasii falls in the same line.
It is evident that the Ruling Class, particularly Brahmanas and Kshatriyas used such Supernatural and Mythical stories as Upaya (Strategy/Policy) of Appearance, and Survival Strategy in Rashtriya and Social Matsyanyaya, and of course to perpetuate their Hegemony over the mass.
Needless to mention, this nature of the Ruling Class and the Ruled Class is a universal phenomenon, and we get to observe such drama every now and then... well, not only in politics but in the academic field too ...
Vyasa and Narada’s hailing Krishna, Pandavas and Draupadi as God, God-sons/Amshas, and Agni-born is then an act of Political Propaganda, either Initiated or Proactive Political Propaganda, or Counter Political Propaganda.
Jarasandha’s death reveals how Krishna and Pandavas could take the opposition’s propaganda to their advantage.
Thus, if Jarasandha had a chariot which Indra and Vishnu of RgVeda fought on (2.22.16), then, after killing Jarasandha, Krishna–Arjuna do ride the chariot as the new Indra-Vishnu of the age regaining possession of their RgVedic chariot. Indeed, the rescued kings address Krishna as Vishnu (2.22.33).
It is a mark of Vyasa’s great poetic genius that the political reality of the time consisting of the Supernatural and Mythical Narratives have been used and made to work and serve as metaphors and allegories to convey his messages. The political ‘lies’ have been made the vehicles and carrier of poetic and philosophic truths.
6. Jarasandha: Something more …
As I have tried to show, Vyasa shows through the Rotation of Wheel that there is nothing absolute White or Black, or Old and New, or Good and Bad in Human Life; that is, there is no absolute polarity.
The Human Existential Reality is always a situation like White-in-Black and Black-in-White, or Old-in-New and New-in-Old. This is further confirmed in a Shatapatha Brahmana narrative in which Indra can never kill Vrtra because Vrtra dwells in his stomach. Other than the obvious Vrtra-in-Indra situation here, we should not miss the Food-motif yet again represented through Indra and Vrtra.
The Paradox of Life that Vyasa points out, I would regard as the White-Black Paradox. This Paradox is Power, and one can meet this Paradox by being such Paradox oneself. (See Krishna and Arjuna on One Chariot - Rotating Night and Day)
Vyasa’s Krishna (in fact, the four Krishnas,[ii] including Vyasa himself) is the epitome of this Paradox.
Thus, the same Krishna who shows compassion for Jarasandha can yet dance in joy over Ghatotkaca’s dead body. However, this is only an External event.
The true significance of being the White-Black Paradox is to become – what I would call – the In-Between Character.
The etymology of Jarasandha throws light on what I want to say.
Jarasandha = Jara + sam-dha
Thus, Jarasandha connotes –
i) One who is joined and united by Jara (in rhythm with Jarasandha’s Birth-Myth, and Jara-Rakshasi's role)
ii) One who holds and possesses Jara, or one who is held and possessed by Jara (in rhythm with the Theory that Jarasandha represents the Old-Kshatriya-Order because Old implies Jara-decreptitude)
If these two meanings are obvious and apparent, I suggest a third meaning:
Jarasandha = Jara + sam-dha (“Jara in the junction or connection”)
To clarify: Jarasandha is the metaphor for Existential Reality that whatever is Joined or Connected Always-Already carries Jara (Decay/Death) in it. It is a situation like: To be Born means taking a step towards Death, or, 'In the Beginning is the End."
Indeed it is a grave irony of Life.
We all love a child, its innocent smile, and the uncorrupted freshness that it represents. We all want such a child to continue to gladden our heart.
However, the continuity we thus seek in the child is also seeking its living in Kala-Time; and therefore, seeking its continuity in Kala-Time is ironically seeking its advancement towards Death.
We, of course, cannot think that way consciously – and herein is the gravest reality of Life.
Coming back to our present discussion …
If Jarasandha is the metaphor for Always-Already Death-in-Life situation, then the only Spiritual Solution to this Existential Reality is to accept that lot, yet spiritually (and psychically) become the In-Between – to invade the very Space that is Jara’s domain – an act (Karma), that would mean to face Jara directly in the face and “Out-Jara Jara” thus.
How is Krishna the In-Between?
We have seen that Krishna is White-Black Paradox – that is, he is Neither-White-Nor-Black and Both-White and Black. Krishna is In-Between the White and Black.
When Bhima kills Jarasandha, Krishna is neither Inside nor Outside that fatal fight; he is In-Between. When the Pandavas fight the Kurus in Kurukshetra, Krishna is again, neither Inside nor Outside that fatal battle; he is In-Between.
In fact, Krishna is even In-Between the In-Between – because despite being on the Pandavas’s side, he never takes arms for the Pandavas; and though twice he rushes towards Bhiishma, we are again left with the ambiguity whether Krishna really wants to fight Bhiishma or his intention is to instigate Arjuna.
The Pancavimsha Brahmana gives us an idea what this In-Between or Sandhi is:
“The Brhat (-Saman) he should take as twilight-laud for one who wishes (to reach) the world of heaven. The Brhat is the world of heaven; in the world of heaven he gets a firm support”
brhat svargakamaya sandhim kuryat (PB 9.1.30)
svargo loko brhat svarga eva loke pratitishthati (PB 9.1.31)
In a Shatapatha Brahmana narrative, Indra can kill Namuci with Sarasvatii and Ashvins’ help by being at the Joint of Day and Night, and Agni (Dry) and Soma (Moist) (12:7:3:1). Sarasvatii suggests the strategy of using Foam to serve as Vajra with which Indra beheads Namuci (12:7:3:3). The foam is Paradoxical and Ambiguous because it is neither water nor non-water, neither wet nor dry – indeed the same White-Black Paradox.
In another narrative, (Shatapatha Brahmana-1:6:3:35) -
“After Prajapati had created the living beings, his joints (parvan) were relaxed. Now Prajapati, doubtless, is the year, and his joints are the two junctions of day and night (i.e. the, twilights), the full moon and new moon, and the beginnings of the seasons.”
prajapaterha vai prajah sasrjanasya | parvani visasramsuh sa vai samvatsara eva
prajapatistasyaitani parvanyahoratrayoh samdhii paurnamasii camavasya cartumukhani
The significance of the Joint or In-Between as the Twilight of Day and Night throws light on what the four Krishnas stand for. In fact, in the above three references, we find the metaphoric significance of the four Krishnas – all of whom represent the White-Black Paradox. If their name and complexion is Krishna, suggesting Black, their being established in Dharma with Sattvika motive is their White-Guna.
Sarasvatii and Ashvins’ aid to Indra to kill Namuci is significant because in Mahabharata, Draupadi has prominent Vak-Sarasvatii-aspect, Nakula-Sahadeva are Ashvins’ sons, the Pandavas are the Indras, and both Duryodhana and Karna are Namuci-Archetypes.
The four Krishnas are also Shyamo (dark-complexioned)[iii] – and Shyamo is the highest principle in Chandogya Upanishad that creates variegated colours and also consumes and absorbs variegated colours.
Draupadi represents Brhat – she is distinctly called brhatii shyama. I do not think, Brhatii here connotes “large” as is often thought to be. Draupadi as Brhatii is the In-Between Draupadi among the Pandavas – he is none’s exclusive wife, yet he is wife to all.
Significantly, Draupadi is called Brhatii when the Pandavas go on their last journey to Svarga – that is, when the Pandavas are at the Sandhi of This-World and That-World.
Arjuna and Krishna are the Day and Night rotating. (See Krishna and Arjuna on One Chariot - Rotating Night and Day)
Individually too Arjuna and Krishna are In-Between characters; both being Ardhanariishvara. (Here, by Ardhanariishvara I mean, one who has Masculine-Feminine Balance in his nature)
Besides, Arjuna and Krishna both have much affinity with Ardhanariishvara Shiva.
Vyasa too is Ardhanariishvara (- and this is allegorically stated by the fact that he alone is Shuka’s father and mother). Besides, Vyasa, like Prajapati is In-Between the Kuru-Pandavas.
When the Kurukshetra War is about to begin, Arjuna’s urge to be at the middle of the two armies (Giita- 1.21) to see those about to engage in battle (22-23), and Krishna’s subsequent placing the chariot between the armies (senayor ubhayor madhye sthapayitva rathottamam), is in fact, preparing Arjuna to take the role of “Benign-Spiritual Fisherman” through Actual Transformation to an In-Between character – ONE WITH DETATCHED ATTACHMENT!
Jarasandha's death was a necessity for this battle – the fulfillment of Krishna’s life-purpose of Bhuubharaharana.
Krishna thus sought to split apart Jarasandha’s Sandhi, the Joint, by placing himself at the Sandhi, the Joint.
Splitting apart Jarasandha etymologically means separating the lexemes Jara and samdha. Since, Jara is an Existential Reality or nécessité absolue to the Sandhi, would the Sandhi survive if Jara is taken away? Irony again! Sandhi gains its entity of Sandhi by virtue of Jara! It is force of Decay that keeps things together!
Krishna had struggled all his life to remain In-Between to the Yadava clan-politics (- this is evident in Krishna-Narada dialogue in Shanti-Parvan). Even during the last hours of his life, when the intoxicated Yadavas were about to engage in Self-destructive quarrel, Krishna tried to remain In-Between.
However, at this time, Krishna is separated from Arjuna – the rotating Day and Night are no more together – consequently, the In-Between-Twilight is absent.
Krishna could not be In-Between anymore; he could not bring Sandhi among the fighting Yadavas. On the contrary, he gave in to Manyu (anger) and became partial.
When Krishna started killing the Yadavas, he is again the In-Between character because he killed whoever came before him, implying he killed the Vrshnis too - his own clan members.
Finally, the split-apart Jarasandha takes his revenge.
Failing to effect a Sandhi among Yadavas, when Krishna attempts a Sandhi with his Atma through Yoga, Jara comes there and shoots him mistaking him to be Food.
Krishna, Vyasa reports, was wandering about in the forest with a sensation of Shunya (emptiness) and was thoughtful. This was moments before his death.
What was Krishna thinking?
Perhaps he was thinking like Hamlet:
“The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!”
Vyasa would not even allow Krishna’s Sandhi with his Atma, because Krishna has to return again to split apart Jarasandha, the Existential Reality that we, human beings are born with, so that -
"the pattern may subsist, that the wheel may
turn and still be forever still”
[i] ‘These are the rules of the ordinance, viz., that an enemy's abode should be entered through a wrong gate and a friend's abode through the right one. And know, O monarch, that this also is our eternal vow that having entered the foe's abode for the accomplishment of our purpose, we accept not the worship offered to us!’
[ii] Vyasa, Vasudeva-Krishna, Arjuna-K?ishna and Draupadi-K?ishnaa
[iii] Nakula is also Shyamo, but in Classical Mahabharata we find Nakula a rather marginalized character. It is for this reason I believe that Classical Mahabharata has been much tampered with – so that Nakula’s role has been much obscured. In Folk Mahabharata, however, Nakula is all glorious – and Sahadeva too.