In the early hours of morning, when the sun had still not risen over the mighty, vast kingdom of Hastinapur, and the corridor diyas of the palace were still burning, one particularly dimly lit hallway was alive with muffled whispers.
“Impossible. Are we even sure our sources are correct?” said Dushasan, his surprise not letting his voice lower itself.
“Caution, prince. The walls have ears.” whispered the King of Gandhar, Shakuni, in his croaking voice.
“It’s true. That cunning shepherd will show his face here today.”
“I don’t understand the need to worry.” The crown prince, Duryodhan added, his fingertips shaping his moustache and a smirk forming on his lips.
“Dwarkadhish is arriving here, yes. But, unarmed. He’s going to be a feeble messanger. It’ll not take more than one of my lowest ranked soldiers to drag him all the way down to the dark depths of our dungeon. With him out of the picture, the Pandavas are mere pawns to play around until I get them executed for good.”
Gandharaj shook his head. He placed his hand on Duryodhan’s shoulders and gave a look of disappointment.
“We’re not missing the major detail here, Yuvraj. It’s you. You’ve completely overlooked the fact that Vasudev is going to be a messenger of peace. An envoy sent by the Pandavas in an attempt to prevent the war.”
“This war is happening. And not even Lord Shiva can stop it” growled back Duryodhan.
“Patience, my prince. The point I’m trying to make is, an envoy sent on a diplomatic mission cannot be bound. It’s Rajdroh, and that senile lunatic Bhishma might use that against us. He would not stand anyone disrespecting Vasudev in any form.”
Duryodhan let out a deep sigh. “Is there no way out of this, mamashree?”
Shakuni turned his back to him, as he let a victorious smirk form on his face.
“If we can’t do a Rajdroh, we’ll let our Lord Krishna himself do it. Get those metal chains with shackles ready. Our dear shepherd is going back to the place where he came from.”
“All the elders of the palace have been intimated, my lord. They’ll be at the entrance anytime now.”
“Thank you. Please make sure all the arrangements for Lord Krishna’s stay is adequate. There should be no deficits in any way.” Prime minister Vidhur told his attendant, who bowed to him and took his leave.
Vidhur turned to face the huge ornamental window that looked over the Capitol. For the first time in months, he could sense festivity amidst the crowds. He felt a smile forming as his people started gathering around, with fresh flowers in their hands, eager to welcome their beloved Lord. He let out a sigh as he turned back to face the throne room, the simhasan in front of him. How many innocents had suffered in this futile and selfish battle for power, he wondered. And how many more would serve this fate?
His thoughts were interrupted by the loud noise of the conch shells. As he rushed to the entrance, he prayed fervently for the success of whatever mission Lord Krishna was here for.
As he let himself out into the large courtyard overlooking the entrance gates of the palace, he was greeted by all the respectful elders of the kingdom. Mahamahim Bhishma smiled, while Guru Dronacharya gave a stiff nod. The blind King Dhritrashtra, however seemed restless, for he had always been afraid of the miraculous Lord of Dwarka. He tried to suppress his fears but they wouldn’t leave him. Vidhur had once told him that fear resides where guilt dwells. But he would not accept that. All he knew was to protect his sons. And that he would at any cost.
With the sound of the conch shells subsiding, they could hear the arrival of the chariot and the happy cries of people in a distance. Children, elderly and everyone in between pushed among themselves to see the face of whom they believed was Narayan himself walking among humans. They had faith that one darshan of his face would relieve them of all sins and guide them towards the path to Dharm, and thus in turn help them attain moksha.
Soon enough, the simple white chariot, decked with gold borders entered through the gates. Seated at the charioteer position was Lord Krishna himself, his beaming face bringing a sense of calm to everyone who looked at him. He stopped as he neared the stairway and stepped down, his towering height, dwarfing most of the soldiers who came forward to greet him. He blessed them and folded his hands in a pranipat as he walked towards the royal family of Hastinapur.
Queen Gandhari looked behind her one last time, anticipating the arrival of her sons, but she was dejected to see she was wrong. Duryodhan was adamant in his stand that he would not receive the enemy’s ally and so were his brothers. Suppressing her unhappiness, she stepped forward with the aarti thali along with her sister in law Queen Kunti, to bless Krishna and welcome him into the Kuru household. Krishna smiled at the gesture and bend down to touch their feet and take his aunts’ blessings.
“Welcome to Hastinapur, Dwarkadhish!” Said King Dhritrashtra firmly, trying to not let his voice quiver.
“Thank you Maharaj. This has been a delightful welcome.” Krishna answered back, as he moved over to take the King’s blessings.
“Your presence in our kingdom has brought new light and hope to all of us, Vasudev” said Bhishma, with his warm smile showing the respect he had towards Krishna.
“This compliment coming from Hastinapur’s beacon of hope himself means a lot to me, Mahamahim.” Krishna replied back, his hands still folded.
“I’ve asked my attendants to take you to our guest tower, Lord Krishna. Once you’re settled, we will call for session in the throne room.” Vidhur said.
“With all due respect, minister. It would be of great help, if we can hold the session right now.” Krishna replied.
“I’m sorry, but you’ve travelled a great distance, my Lord and-“
“I understand your concern, Uncle Vidhur. But it is of utmost importance to discuss the matter at hand, as early as possible. So I would not like to delay this further by indulging in any sense of frivolity.”
Vidhur looked disappointed, but he nodded in approval and called for his attendants to ready the hall and the party followed them into Hastinapur’s esteemed throne room, once a symbol of justice and the seat of respectful ancestors, but now fallen decay over controversies and adharm due to the inauspicious happenings of dyut sabha and Draupadi’s vastraharan.
As Krishna entered the hall, he had a sense of foreboding. He looked around him, the elders seated in their place and he walked upto the middle of the dias, facing the King.
“I, the King of Hastinapur call for my sons and the King of Anga, for this session cannot begin without their presence.” Dhritrashtra ordered.
“There would be no need for that.” An arrogant voice filled the hall. Duryodhan, Dushasan and Gandharaj Shakuni stood at the hall entrance, their haughty expressions sending piercing glares towards Krishna. Krishna in turn however, smiled back.
The trio ignored him completely, and walked towards their seats and sat down.
They were followed by the King of Anga, Maharathi Karna who walked up to Krishna and bowed with respect.
“Vasudev, we are all moved by this attempt at peace from your end. I will pray for your success.”
“Thank you, Angraj. It’s surprising to see you are with me on this, considering the fact you’ve always wanted a one- on one battle with Arjun.”
“I need no mahayudh for that, Vasudev. I can challenge him anytime, for I’m confident of my abilities which are enough to defeat him. If we can prevent this war that could cause so much harm to life and resources, then my support is always with peace.”
Krishna smiled back and gestured for him to be seated. Karna bowed again and walked down the dias to his place.
Shakuni rolled his eyes. He hoped Karna’s attachment to Dharm wouldn’t weigh heavy on their plans.
His thoughts were interrupted by King Dhritrashtra, asking the court to begin their hearing.
Krishna spoke first.
“My respectful well wishes to the King, and every member of this court. I’m here to talk on behalf of the Pandavas and their-“
“Before we go to that, isn’t something amiss here?” Duryodhan interjected, making the annoyance in his face crystal clear.
He got up, and walked to the dias. Facing Krishna, he spoke again.
“You’re just a messenger. Aren’t you? Where are your respects then, Vasudev? Aren’t you aware that you need to offer your pranams to the crown prince of Hastinapur?”
Bhishma stood up, his face fierce with anger.
“What is this behaviour, Duryodhan? You’re talking to the Lord of Dwarka. Moreover, the most respectful individual in Aryavart. And you have the audacity to ask him to bow to you?”
Without even turning to face Bhishma, Duryodhan went on, in his arrogant tone.
“None of that matters to me. As of today and as of now, Dwarkadhish is merely a messenger. If he knows what’s better for him, he’ll act like one.”
“Is that a threat, prince?” Krishna asked.
“Whatever deems fit to you, you crafty shepherd.”
An angry Bhishma retaliated again, which fell on deaf ears.
“So, what is it going to be?” Duryodhan asked again.
“Avashya” Krishna said, folding his hands.
“If this is what takes for you to atleast consider the arguments from the perspective of Dharm, then be it.”
To be continued–>