There are so many characters in the Mahabharata and most of these characters, whether good or evil, were highly accomplished warriors. One of them was Jarasandha, the king of Magadha during the early part of Pandavas and Kauravas.
Jarasandha was the son of King Brihadrath of Magadha. Brihadrath had married the twin princesses of Kashi. He was without a son for a long time. He was very dejected and sad on this account. He went to the forest and became a follower of Rishi Chandrakaushik. He served the rishi for a long time. The rishi was very please and took pity of the plight of the old king. The rishi gave him a divine fruit and told the king to give it to his wife to eat. The fruit will help the queen conceive and bring forth a son to be born to them. What the sage did not know that the king had two twins as his wives. Brihadrath loved both the sisters equally and he decided to divide the fruit into two equally and gave a part each to both. In due course, each wife conceived but to the horror of all, each gave birth to half a part of the human body – left side and right side. The stricken king ordered the child body parts to be thrown away into the forest.
At that time, in the forest, lived a rakshasi (demoness) named Jara. Attracted by the smell of human flesh, she came across the two half torsos. She held both pieces in her arms and incidentally and out of curiousity joined them together. As soon as the two halves touched each other, the child came to life and cried extremely loudly. The demoness was petrified but at the same time her maternal instincts rose above her hunger and cruel nature. She could not bring herself to kill a small child. So she went to the kingdom and presented Brihadrath the new child explaining what had happened. The king accepted the child back as his son. Since the child was brought to life by Jara, he was henceforth named as Jarasandha (meaning “joined by Jara”).
Chandrakaushik arrived at the court and saw the child. He prophesied to Brihadrath that his son will be specially gifted and would be a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He also predicted that Jarasandha, because of his history of birth and life, would not be killed unless he was torn apart from legs to head and the two half bodies thrown miles apart in the opposite direction.
Jarasandha became a famed and powerful king, extending his empire far and wide. He prevailed over many kings, and was crowned emperor of Magadha. Even while Jarasandha’s power continued to grow, he had concerns over his future & that of the empires, as he had no heirs. Therefore, on the advice of his close friend king Banasura, Jarasandh decided to get his two daughters ‘Asti and Prapti’ married to the heir apparent of Mathura, Kansa. Jarasandha had also lent his army and his personal advise to Kansa to create a coup d’état in Mathura.
When Krishna killed Kansa in Mathura, Jarasandha become enraged because of Krishna and the entire Yadavas clan on seeing his two daughters being widowed. So, Jarasandha attacked Mathura repeatedly. He attacked Mathura 17 times. Sensing danger over the repeated attack on Mathura by Jarasandha, Krishna relocated his capital city to Dwaraka. Dwaraka was an island and it was not possible for anyone to attack it at all. Hence, Jarasandha could not attack the Yadavas anymore.
In time, as predicted, Jarasandha became a devout worshipper of Lord Shiva. Like Karna, he was very famous for his charity. After performing his daily poojas, he would grant Brahmins anything they wished for without exception. He was exceptional in the art of one-to-one wrestling. Only Karna and Bhim were capable enough to challenge and defeat him.
Jarasandha, in his quest to become all supreme, started the preparation of a yagya-sacrifice in which he would sacrifice the heads of a 100 kshatriya kings. He captured 95 such kings during the course of his long preparation till he met his death in a “dwandva-yuddha” (a wrestling match-fight to death) at the hands of the Pandav Bhim. More or this later.