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Lord Krishna: The Master Strategist - 4
by P. Mohan Chandran Bookmark and Share

Continued from Previous Page

—— Strategy#8: Confusing Duryodhana to go before Gandhari Covering His Loin Area to Ensure He was Not Immortal

It was the 18th day – the ultimate day of the epic war. Before the start of the war, Duryodhana met his mother, Gandhari. Gandhari said, “My dear Duryodhana! Please take bath and come and stand before me in a state of nature so that I can focus all the accumulated power of my penance, chastity, loyalty and integrity towards my husband in the form of an unbreakable diamond-like impenetrable armor for your body, which will make you immortal.” While Duryodhana was coming back after the bath to meet his mother, Krishna watched him. He immediately transformed himself into Duhshala, Duryodhana’s sister, and said, “Oh! What a shame! The king is roaming naked. Are you not ashamed to go about like this? How disgusting!” Duryodhana responded, “Duhshala, mother wanted me to come in this fashion, that’s why I am in such a state.” Duhshala retorted, “If mother says so, where is your brain? You should know that you are an adult and you shouldn’t go before your mother in such a state. At least cover your area from the waist till your thighs with some leaves when you stand before her.” Saying so, Duhshala left.

Duryodhana thought for a while and then covered the area from his waist till the thighs with some leaves and appeared before his mother. Gandhari opened the blindfold from her eyes, and focused the power of her penance and chastity on Duryodhana’s entire body – in the form of rays – to provide him a diamond-like impenetrable armor. When Gandhari realized that Duryodhana had covered his loin area, she reprimanded him. Duryodhana said that Duhshala intercepted him and suggested the idea of covering up his loin area. Just then Duhshala arrived. When Duryodhana scolded her for suggesting the idea of covering up his loin area, she was taken aback to hear that from Duryodhana and stated that she was inside the room all the while and didn’t go out at all. Duryodhana later understood that all this was a conspiracy and ‘maya’ (drama) of Krishna.

The above incident demonstrates how Krishna created a ‘convincing doubt’ in the mind of Duryodhana, when his mother had asked him to come before her stark naked. Krishna, thus, negated any advantage Duryodhana would have had to become immortal through Gandhari’s power and weakened his prime opponent, even before his ultimate war with Bhima. A strategist should anticipate the opponent’s/competitor’s actions and weaken it at source, before it flares up into a potential danger. He should create an element of ‘uncertainty’ that would make the opponent/competitor work against his own benefit, without his own knowledge that he is doing so.

—— Strategy#9: Saving the Pandavas from Defeat Even before the Mahabharata War

The date of the epic Mahabharata war was finalized by Sahadeva, who was considered the greatest ever in Vedas and Shastras. Once the date was finalized, Shakuni, Duryodhana and Karna discussed the date for "Yuddha Bali" (war sacrifice). Duryodhana suggested that they should meet Somadatta, the King of Dasarna, who had expertise in shastras, to finalize the date for the war sacrifice. But Shakuni suggested that Sahadeva was more knowledgeable than Somadatta, and his prediction and accuracy had never failed. Shakuni requested Duryodhana to go to Sahadeva and request him to finalize the best day for the war sacrifice for the Kauravas, which would ensure their triumph in the epic war. Duryodhana, at first, strongly refused to meet Sahadeva because of his deep enmity towards the Pandavas, but Shakuni and Karna convinced Duryodhana that victory was more important than his ego. Finally, Duryodhana agreed to meet Sahadeva. Duryodhana reached the Pandava camp, where Krishna, King Virat, and the Pandavas had convened to discuss their date for a war sacrifice. Krishna asked Sahadeva to finalize the date for war sacrifice. Sahadeva started calculating the date. Just then, a messenger conveyed that Duryodhana had come to meet Sahadeva. Bhima was furious and told the messenger that Sahadeva would not see him, but Yudhishtra said that they should welcome even an enemy who had come to see them. Duryodhana, who was accompanied by Shakuni, was welcomed inside.

Duryodhana met Sahadeva privately and asked him to finalize a date for their war sacrifice so that they could triumph in the war. Duryodhana asked Sahadeva if the Pandavas had finalized their date for the war sacrifice, to which Sahadeva said that they were about to finalize it, but he had intervened. Sahadeva finalized the date for war sacrifice for Duryodhana and said that Amavasya (New Moon day) was an auspicious day and that if they gave the sacrifice on that day, then victory in the epic war would be guaranteed for them. Duryodhana confirmed with Sahadeva if he had finalized the ‘correct’ date for them and if he had not given the wrong date to ensure the victory of the Pandavas. Sahadeva assured that his prediction had never gone wrong and would never ever go wrong. He said that even if an enemy had asked him, he would always give the correct date as per the shastras, because, for him, upholding shastras was more important than sustaining enmity or winning the war. Duryodhana and Shakuni were convinced that Sahadeva would never lie. They left the camp. Krishna and the other Pandavas asked Sahadeva the reason for Duryodhana's visit. Sahadeva told that Duryodhana wanted him to finalize an auspicious day for the war sacrifice, which he did. Krishna was baffled. He mentioned that the victory of the Kauravas was guaranteed, as they would give war sacrifice on new moon day before the Pandavas. Yudhishtra and the other Pandavas were shocked at Krishna's statement. Yudhishtra requested Krishna to do whatever he could, in his might, to ensure that the Pandavas gave the war sacrifice before the Kauravas to ensure their victory in the epic war. Krishna then performed ‘tarpanam’ (a ritual for the dead) a day before the actual new moon day. All the gods were baffled as to why Lord Krishna was performing ‘tarpanam’ a day before the new moon day. The Sun god came and asked Krishna the reason for him performing ‘tarpanam’ a day before new moon day. Krishna asked him to wait for a while, as he was expecting someone else, too. Just then, the Moon god also came and asked Krishna the same question that the Sun god asked him. Krishna asked the Sun god and the Moon god to tell him the meaning of new moon day. Sun god said that it was a day when the Sun and Moon were opposite to each other. Krishna said that both the Sun god and Moon god were standing opposite each other and that it was a new moon day on that day itself. Krishna gave his offering to the Sun god and the Moon god, and later they left. Pandavas, thus, gave their war sacrifice on that day as ‘technically’ that day was considered the ‘new moon day’. Thus, through Krishna's clever plan and help, the Pandavas averted a major fiasco and gave the war sacrifice a day before the Kauravas.

Even when things had gone astray and beyond control, Krishna always had with him the ability to bring things under control and would always have a plan up his sleeve that would negate the plans of even the most astute strategist of all times.

—— Strategy#10: Lord Krishna Disguising as a Brahmin and Asking Karna to Donate Him All His Virtues to Ensure His Death Arising Through Arjuna’s Arrow

Even after Arjuna had shot his Anjalika astra (weapon) on Karna, Karna did not die easily. He was still breathing life. When Arjuna questioned Lord Krishna as to why his arrow was not able to kill Karna, Lord Krishna told Arjuna that it was because of the many acts of selfless virtues that Karna had performed throughout his life, which was protecting him like a shield and saving him from death. To ensure the death of Karna, Lord Krishna then disguised himself as a Brahmin and asked Karna to donate him some gold. Karna immediately took a stone nearby and broke his golden tooth and gave it to the Brahmin. But the tooth was dripped in blood and hence the Brahmin refused to accept it. Karna then shot an arrow, which ensured a stream of water. He then washed the tooth in that water and gave the golden tooth to the Brahmin, who was none other than Lord Krishna. The Brahmin also asked Karna to donate all the virtues he had garnered throughout his life, including the one he would garner by donating all such virtues, which Karna instantly donated. Lord Krishna was immensely pleased with Karna’s acts of selfless charity and then revealed himself. He revealed his divine form to Karna and requested him to ask for a boon. But Karna refused to ask for a boon, stating that watching Lord Krishna’s divine form before his death was greater than any boon he would have ever got in his life.
Thus, Lord Krishna ensured Karna’s death by taking away all his virtues he had garnered throughout his life. Killing Karna was no mean task and it was possible for Arjuna only through Krishna’s intervention.

—— Strategy#11: Lord Krishna’s Anticipatory Counter-Attack Strategies Vis-à-Vis Duryodhana’s Unexecuted Strategies

Duryodhana was lying on the battlefield, awaiting death, badly bruised by the wounds inflicted by Bhima during their duel. Suddenly, Duryodhana kept his three fingers in a raised position and was unable to speak. All the efforts made by his men to understand the meaning proved futile. Seeing his plight, Krishna approached him and said, “I know what issues occupied your mind. I will address them”. Krishna identified the issues as (1) not building a fort around Hasthinapur, (2) not persuading Vidura to fight the battle, and (3) not making Ashwattama the Commander-in-Chief after the death of Dronacharya. Krishna explained that if Duryodhana had built a fort, he would have asked Nakula to mount the horse and destroy the fort; if he had succeeded in persuading Vidura to participate in the battle, then he too would have also fought the battle, and if Ashwattama was made the Commander-in-Chief, he would have made Yudhishtra angry. On hearing this Duryodhana closed all the fingers and within seconds, he left his body.
Many do not know that Nakula can ride his horse even in heavy rain without getting wet. He travels with such great speed between a drop and another drop, without getting wet. Only Nakula could do this among both the Kaurava and the Pandava warriors. Also, if Yudhishtra got angry, everything that fell within the ambit of his eyesight would be incinerated.

We can, thus, understand that Lord Krishna had a counter-Strategy for every Strategy of his opponent, even the one that was merely conceived in mind, but which was never executed. Lord Krishna could anticipate even the unexecuted strategies of his opponents and had a meticulous and immaculate plan to make every Strategy of the opponent ineffectual. Thus, this incident proves beyond doubt that Krishna was a strategist nonpareil, who could make even the strongest and most powerful of strategies completely powerless with his incisive and futuristic thinking, and flawless execution. 

—— Strategy#12: Lord Krishna Standing Up to Sudhaayu’s Weapon to Protect Arjuna’s Life
When Arjuna was fighting Sudhaayu in the Kurukshetra war, he was finding it difficult to defeat Sudhaayu, who had a boon that no one could defeat him and that he could be killed by none, but only of his own weapon. Arjuna fired several arrows at Sudhaayu, but it failed to even harm him and did not have any effect on him. When Sudhaayu fired a weapon at Arjuna, Arjuna tried to counter it through his arrows, but they were unable to stop Sudhaayu’s weapon, which was rapidly advancing towards him. When Arjuna enquired with Lord Krishna as to why that happened and what he should do, Lord Krishna advised Arjuna to put down his weapons and surrender to Sudhaayu’s weapon. Arjuna refused to do so as it was against Kshatriya dharma (warrior’s principles). As the weapon was approaching Arjuna, Lord Krishna stood up and allowed the weapon to strike him. The weapon gently struck Lord Krishna and boomeranged and went fiercely and hit Sudhaayu, who was killed by his own weapon.

Arjuna considered it as an insult that Lord Krishna took the weapon upon him to protect Arjuna. Arjuna questioned Krishna why he did so. Krishna then revealed to Arjuna that Sudhaayu was blessed with a boon that no one could kill him and that he would die only of his own weapon, that too when he fired a weapon on a person who was not holding any weapons in his hand. Krishna said as he was weaponless, the weapon gently hit him and then killed Sudhaayu.
Thus, Lord Krishna saved the life of Arjuna at a crucial moment in the Kurukshetra war. This shows that knowledge about the history of an opponent is crucial to defeating him. One should have full knowledge of an opponent’s past, his skills and abilities, and the factors that could lead to his death. Before competing with an opponent, one should be fully prepared to know the opponent thoroughly.


It is important to remember that right from the start of the war, the Kaurava army was much superior to the Pandava army, both in quantity and quality. Krishna knew that there would be no way to gain victory by direct combat or straightforward methods. He foresaw that he would have to resort to cunning ploys to ensure the fall of the first three commanders – Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Karna – who were extraordinarily skilled warriors.

If Krishna hadn’t appeared in the war, it was quite hard to predict who among Arjuna or Karna would have won. Although Karna was cursed multiples times in his life – once by Parashurama and a Brahmin – it was Krishna who ensured that the curses took effect at the specific time when he was fighting Arjuna. Even when Karna’s chariot’s wheel got stuck in the earth during the battle, it was Krishna who goaded Arjuna to attack Karna when he was defenseless. Arjuna, by himself, would never have attacked a vulnerable Karna. Even after shooting the arrow, Karna did not die immediately because of his ‘punya’ (the merits/virtues he earned due to his innumerable selfless and virtuous acts of charity), which was keeping him alive. At that time, Krishna took the form of a Brahmin and asked Karna to donate all his ‘punya’, which Karna did, which resulted in Karna’s death. Krishna was the key reason for the Pandavas to gain a huge advantage during the first 15 days of the war (Karna became the commander on the 16th day).

Arjuna was extremely skilled in warfare, but it was highly unlikely that he could have defeated Bhishma, Dronacharya and Karna by employing direct methods of warfare. If Krishna hadn’t advised them the way he did, the Pandavas would never have turned to deceitful means to win the war. One could infer that the Pandavas were somewhat idealistic in the aspect of adhering to the rules of the war.
Lord Krishna changed his plans according to the situation, recognizing the people, their intentions and potential. He clearly knew what appealed to whom and how to get the work done. He identified Ashwattama as Dronacharya’s weakness and the fact that Bhishma was always caught between ‘dharma’ and ‘karma’ (action/duty). Equally outstanding were the ways in which he handled Duryodhana and Karna at very crucial points in the epic war. He effectively used different strategies, sometimes changing as a chameleon, but always safeguarding ‘dharma’ and always working towards what was ‘right’. Most importantly, being the people-oriented leader, he guided and facilitated people to perform/achieve their goals. If we try to imagine the Mahabharata for a second without Lord Krishna, then we realize the vacuum in the absence of a leader like him. 

Akin to a business leader and strategist of modern times, Krishna displayed vision, flexibility in approach, resourcefulness and an excellent capacity to command. The authority that he exercised over others was borne more out of love and concern for the greater good of humanity. He was the trouble-shooter par excellence who led, inspired, guided and motivated. He has set a fine example for business leaders and managers to emulate. If one studies the Mahabharata war closely, it is essentially Krishna’s ideas, advice, ploys, cunningness, and presence that turned the tide of war in favor of the Pandavas at critical moments. Krishna clearly had an enormous influence on the way the war was fought.

Krishna is a role model for leaders, managers and even strategists. He demonstrated that one can even achieve the ‘impossible’ as long as one’s decisions and actions are rooted in complete pragmatism, backed by sound values and propelled by a desire to achieve the greater good. 

References & Bibliography

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