The Rajasuya Yajna ceremony is completed and the final event of befitting the honours is about to begin. Bhishma advised Yudhishthira that Krishna deserves the first place in the list. This greatly upsets and angers Shishupala …
A livid Shishupal rises from his seat. He addresses Yudhishthir thus, “O Pandava, this Krishna does not deserve the first right of honour when so many great lords and men are sitting here. This oversight does befit you, O great king. O Pandavas, you are mere children and do not know the subtleties of Dharma. You were ill advised and hence can be forgiven.
But this old man Bhishm should have known better. With age, he has truly become senile. He is bereft of all intelligence and basing in false glory.
How does this Yadava, a mere cowherd, deserve precedence over others when he is not even a king? Possibly, you revere Krishna considering him as an elder. Even then, how does he be accorded precedence over his own father Vasudev? Possibly, you regard Krishna as a well-wisher, but then how does he earn precedence over Drupad?
If you believe Krishna to be your preceptor, then does he deserve worship ahead in the presence of guru Drona? Perhaps you believe that Krishna to be a priest of the yagya, then how does he deserve first choice worship in the presence of the great Sage Ved Vyas himself?
O Bharata, many of us have come as a mark of respect to your great righteousness and being a follower of Dharma. We are not afraid of your might. You have greatly rebuked us by selecting Krishna over and above all of us. We have not come here to be insulted so.“
Then directly addressing Krishna, Shishupal continued his tirade.
“O Krishna, you are truly vile and conceited. The Pandavas may have been driven by the fear of you, but at least you should have considered whether you were truly deserving for the honour. How could you even accept it, when you are totally unworthy of it? Like an undeserving dog lazing around in the corner and lapping up the discarded food, you must be believing that you have gained superiority by accepting the worship. O Madhusudana, your worship is very much akin to a marriage of an impotent man. We have seen the Pandavas for what they are. I no longer wish to be party of this farce.” So saying, Shishupal started to leave the hall.
Yudhishthir rushed after Shishupal and begged him to come back. He said to him, “O King, please come back. You utterances are not worthy of you. They are improper and harsh. It is hardly conceivable that the great, learned, aged and expert in dharma, our grandsire Bhishm himself, is wrong. This great son of Shantanu can never yield bad advice. Therefore, do not say things that offend him. Behold these kings.“
Seeing this, Bhishm said to Yudhishthir, “It is futile to plead with one does not recognize Krishna for who he really is. Krishna is the true patriarch of all the worlds. Krishna is the origin of the universe and he causes its final dissolution. In this assembly, I see no king who has not been subdued by the glory of Krishna. Therefore, in the presence of all these elders and great men, I worship Krishna and none other.” And then he bowed to the Lord.
Bhishm continued, “The sun, the moon, the stars and all other celestial objects dwell in Krishna. Shishupal, imbecile as he is, does not perceive this and always maligns him. If Shishupal deems the worship unfit, he may do as he please.”
Sahadeva, the youngest Pandava rose and said, “I will trample upon the heads of those who cannot tolerate the worship of Krishna.“
But some of the kings, friends of Shishupal and people jealous of Pandavas such as Duryodhan, Duhshasan, etc. were becoming agitated. Shishupal sensed this and addressed them directly, “O Kings, rise to this blasphemy. I am here to lead you. Let us fight Krishna and the Pandavas.”
Seeing this Yudhishthir was greatly perturbed and he conferred with Bhishm. Bhishm advised him not worry. “Fear not, O great king, can a dog slay a lion? The dim-witted Shishupal wants to drag other kings to abode of Yama along with himself. If Krishna wishes, he can deprive Shishupal instantly of his life. At the times of death and destruction, the mind of the deprived often becomes unsettled and starts taking questionable decision, like this king of Chedi here.“
When the already livid Shishupal heard this, he became even more furious and shouted, “O Bhishm, why do you tarnish the name of your race? Whom are you trying to frighten? You are a senile old man. Why does your tongue, which praises Krishna, not split into a 100 pieces? What is so astonishing of Krishna and what has he ever achieved? All he did was slew a horse (Keshi) and a bull (Arishta/Dhenuka). He subdued the snake Kaliya. What is so great about killing and subduing animals who possess no combat skills? He killed Putana, a woman.
What is so wondrous about lifting Govardhan which is no bigger than a large ant-hill? He even killed his own uncle Kansa whose salt he had eaten. O degenerate Bhishm, perhaps you have not heard of the words of the learned. The valiant never strike a woman, a cow, a brahmin and those whose food one has eaten. So, how does one who has killed a woman, a cow and his bread-giver become worthy of worship.“
Shishupla Continue “O aged one, you are praised as old and wise. But I know all that is a mere mask. Your celibacy is all in vain. You take great pride in your vows but the real truth is that perhaps you have taken them to nurture your vanity or hide your impotence.“
When Shishupal uttered these most humiliating words, Bheem became furious. He rushed to Shishupal with an intent to kill him. But Bhishm held him back. Seeing this Shishupal laughed and said, “O leave him. Let him come and face me. He will see the nature of a true kshatriya and I will soon send him to Yama’s abode. He will perish like a moth in the fire of my glory.“
Bhishm heard all and knew the birth and death secret of Shishupal. He then proceeded to tell the story to the Pandavas.
The Death of Shishupal and the conclusion of Rajasuya yagya
When Bheem wanted to attack Shishupal, Bhishm stopped him. He knew the birth and death secret of Shishupal. He then proceeded to tell the story to the Pandavas…
Bhishm said,“When Shishupal was born, he had three eyes and four arms. At the moment of his birth, instead of crying like a normal baby, he brayed like a donkey. The king and queen were greatly upset and wanted to discard him immediately. But then an aakashvaani proclaimed,
‘Your son will acquire great strength and glory. Do not abandon him but take care of him. He will certainly not die out of your efforts. The moment of his death has not arrived yet but his destroyer is also born.‘
Hearing this, the queen bowed to the voice and with folded hands said, “I wish to know who will slay my son”.
To this the voice replied, “He shall be slain by who on whose lap this child’s extra limbs drop off and his third eye disappears.”
Hearing this many kings visited the Chedi kingdom. The Chedi king placed his son on the lap of each and every one of them. Yet, the limbs and eye remained in place. One day, Balaram and Krishna visited the king. The queen was Krishna’s aunt and thus Krishna is Shishupal’s cousin. The queen placed Shishupal on Balaram’s lap first but nothing happened. When she placed Shishupal on Krishna’s lap however, the two extra limbs fell off and the third eye disappeared. The queen had at last found her son’s slayer.
The queen, Krishna’s aunt started weeping. Krishna, the benefactor that he is, what is it that she wants. The queen asked Krishna not to kill her son. But Krishna said that this was fated to happen and he cannot accede to the request. However, he promised that he will forgive Shishupal for one hundred such crimes, all of which that deserve a death sentence.”
Bhishm continued, “O Bheem, Shishupal the sinful has been emboldened by the boon. He knew that none other than Krishna can kill him. So his proud, haughty and sinful behavior grew leaps and bounds. We are powerless against him. Otherwise, tell me, who on earth dare abuse and insult me, the way Shishupal has and then live to tell the tale? Who else, indeed, other than this disgraceful king of Chedi?“
“Undoubtedly, the Chedi king does not act on his own accord. He is impelled by Krishna under whose patronage he lives. Indeed, Shishupal is part of the living force of Hari who desires to deprive Shishupal from it.“
All this talk had no effect on Shishupal. Becoming more and more reckless, he addressed Krishna, “O Krishna, I challenge you. Fight me and I shall slay you in front of these Pandavas and all other kings and prove the prophecy wrong.“
Krishna was silent and observant all along. He finally got up and addressed the assembly, “Shishupal is indeed our greatest enemy after Jarasandha. Once when I had gone to Pragjyotishpur, this brute, despite being my father’s nephew, set fire to Dwaraka. The wretch stole the sacrificial horse of my father’s Ashwamedha yagya. But I bore all these insults out of concern of my aunt.
Fortunately, you all have witnessed he heaped on me today. Each of this insult deserves death as per kshatriya tradition. But that is not all, he even tried to harm me personally. This imbecile, driven by the wish to die, dared to possess Rukmini. But once again out of the word given to my aunt that I shall forgive his 100 such offences that I am quiet.“
Many of the assembled kings condemned Shishupal’s behaviour. Then addressing Shishupal directly, Krishna said, “O Shishupal, your 100 sin count is over. I ask you not to insult anyone here anymore. The promise made to my aunt is fulfilled at this point. If you value your life, say no more.“
Shishupal merely laughed and said, “O Krishna, are you not ashamed of speaking about Rukmini thus? Was she not promised to me as my betrothed? First you abduct the woman promised to someone else and then proclaim it in public. What can be more brazen than this? It is all same to me whether or not you forgive me. Whether you are pleased or angry, I am least concerned.“
At this statement, Krishna raised his finger. His principal weapon, the Sudarashan chakra appeared. He sent it furling to Shishupal. The discus went to Shishupal, cut off his head and returned to Krishna. Shishupal mighty body fell to the earth as a dead rotten tree whose roots have rotted crashes to the ground. When his body fell, a brilliant light emerged from his body and merged into Krishna.
The moment of Shishupal’s death caused a lot of disturbances and unnatural events and calamities – rain fell from a cloudless sky, meteors fell to the ground, and earthquake struck. But soon the things quietened down. Yudhishthir then asked his brothers to perform the last rites of Shishupal. He then appointed Dhrishtaketu, Shishupal’s son, as the new king of Chedi. In due course, the honours rites were completed and the Rajasuya yagya was completed.