King Brihadratha ruled over the flourishing realm of Magadha. He was married to the two beautiful daughters of Raja of Kashi. Everything was going well for him but still he was not happy. What bothered him day and night was that even after several years of marriage, he was not blessed with a son to carry his name. He approached a sage, Chandakaushika, for help. The sage gave him a fruit, advising him to give it to his wife and she would conceive. He did not know that the king had two queens.
Brihadratha returned to his palace with much hope. Cautious not to displease either of his queens, he cut the consecrated fruit into two and gave the halves to both of them. The queens became pregnant, but a greater concern was lying in wait for the royal household. For, in due course, the queens delivered babies with only half the bodies – one queen bore the left half and the other, the right half. Disgusted, the king had the ghastly-looking things thrown into the jungle.
Suman K Sharma
As luck would have it, a rakshasi by the name of Jara caught the sight of the two halves and picked them up. Out of curiosity, she brought them together in her palms and they instantly joined into a wholesome baby. The baby was called Jarasandh – one brought together by Jara.
Jarasandh grew up to be a powerful ruler and kings of the region were in awe of him. To further strengthen his position, he married his daughters Asti and Prapti to the Mathura king, Kansa. When Krishna killed Kansa, Jarasandh became a staunch enemy of Krishna. He attacked Mathura for seventeen times but was defeated each time by Krishna and Balram.
Jarasandh was planning to attack Mathura once more when Krishna devised a strategy to finish him off. He managed to have Bheema fight a wrestling match with him. The two heroes fought for twenty-seven days. Still, Bheema was unable to defeat Jarasandh. Each time he succeeded in tearing up Jarasandh end to end, the bodyparts would join together of their own. Finally, following a signal from Krishna, Bheema split open his body once again and threw the halves in opposite directions. It was thus that Jarasandh met his end.
The Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary defines ‘Jara’ as ‘old age’, ‘infirmity’ and ‘decrepitude’; and ‘sandh’ derives from ‘sandhan’ , meaning ‘the act of placing or joining together’ (ibid).Put together, the two words would imply someone whose alliance could cause a whole lot of trouble. So, ‘Jarasandh’ sounds more like a tag than the real name of a ruler.
From the point of view of Krishna and His supporters, the powerful realm of Magdha in the east might have proved menacing. Indeed, the seventeen invasions of Jarasandh must have weakened Mathura to the point that Krishna had to move farthest west and found the kingdom of Dwarka.
The point is how was Jarasandh put to an end. Krishna advised Bheema to split his adversary into two and throw the halves into opposite directions so that they could never join together. ‘Divide and decimate’ was how it was done. Thousands of years later, the British Raj would use the same tactics. It split India -a ‘troublesome’ colony – in such a manner that the parts would never live together in peace. There are things in history that never seem to change.