The statecraft of the decision was never in doubt. Magadha was a powerful kingdom and Jarasandha a formidable foe. The Bhagavata states that Krishna deliberately allowed Jarasandha to escape on all seventeen occasions, but this appears to be—even by the Bhagavata’s standards—a rather far-fetched rationalization. Kalayavana was probably an invader from across the Himalayas whose marauding hordes could not be taken lightly. Mathura, at the head of the Indo-Gangetic plains, was much too vulnerable a site against such attacks.
The Yadava army after the turmoil and dislocation of Kamsa’s death had little time to recoup and consolidate. The withdrawal to the more sheltered west coast, away from Magadha and the northern frontiers, made sound strategic sense. Jarasandha and Kalayavana pursued the retreating Yadavas, but geographical distance ultimately made it impossible for them to sustain the impact of their military strike. Kalayavana was probably killed by cunning and deceit father than in open warfare. The Bhagavata says that Krishna emerged from his fortress consciously unarmed and alone, thus luring Kalayavana to pursue him. Prof. Goswamy and Prof. Dallapiccola give an account of the killing of Kalayavana in Krishna, The Divine Lover.
Dodging Kalayavana but leading him on at the same time, Krishna now entered a dark cave where he knew the glorious king Muchkunda to be asleep. Unsuspectingly, the Yavana also entered the cave. There he dimly perceived the form of a man lying asleep on the ground. Naturally assuming that this must be Krishna, he kicked him, at which Muchkunda woke with a start and cast on the intruder an angry glance which instantly reduced the Yavana to ashes. Muchkunda had in a bygone age, aided the gods against the demons and, completely overcome with grief, had solicited just one favour from them: that he be allowed to enjoy a long repose. ‘Sleep long and soundly’ the gods replied ‘and whoever disturbs you shall be instantly burnt to ashes by the fire emanating from your body.’ Krishna knew of this favour and had turned it skillfully to his own advantage.
The linkages between a possible historical event and its mythological embellishment and perpetuation is once again made evident.
The move to Dwarka symbolized the expansion of Krishna’s mythic domain from the north and the east to the west of India. Dwarka was built as a fortress-city, on a mountainous perch overlooking the Arabian Sea. It was a well laid out city, and the Bhagavata speaks eloquently of its gold encrusted buildings and crystal balconies. At the heart of the city was Krishna’s resplendent palace, encrusted with jewels and replete with all manner of luxuries. This was the setting of a powerful king, but as an extremely popular and poignant incident of Krishna’s life demonstrates, it was power that was both accessible and human. Once a childhood friend of Krishna, by the name of Sudama, came to see him at Dwarka.
Sudama was very poor and had agreed to visit Dwarka reluctantly and only at the goading of his more calculating wife. As he wended his way to Dwarka, all kinds of doubts assailed Sudama: Who would believe him when he claimed Krishna as a friend? Would the royal guards even allow him to enter the palace? Would Krishna recognize him? And if he did, what would be his reaction to see an indigent friend of so long ago? Once in Dwarka, Sudama was pleasantly surprised to find that he could enter the palace without hindrance. What is more, Krishna himself saw him approach and, even from a distance, immediately recognized him. Tears of joy began to flow down the cheeks of the ruler of Dwarka.
He clasped his friend in a tight embrace and seated him on his own couch. With the greatest reverence he himself washed his friend’s feet. Then he served him food with his own hands. All this while, Sudama had endeavoured to hide some handfuls of rice tied up in a rag which his wife had sent as a gift for Krishna. Sudama was ashamed of a present so wretched for a king so rich, but Krishna, seeing the little bundle, opened it eagerly and ate up the poached rice with the utmost delight. The next day, when Sudama left, Krishna accompanied him for a considerable distance to see him off. Sudama had not been able to bring himself to ask anything of Krishna. It was more than enough, he told himself, that he had managed to meet him and had been treated with so much love and respect. A huge surprise, however, awaited him when he reached home. His humble hut had been miraculously replaced by a glittering palace. Krishna had fulfilled his needs without his asking.