Jayadratha, the ruler of Sindhu and the son-in-law of Dhritarashtra, was killed, if not by a tampering of temporal laws, then bydivine manipulation. Jayadratha had been instrumental in the death of Abhimanyu. Arjunahad sworn to either avenge his son’s death by killing Jayadratha before sunset the next day, or to immolate himself. Having heard of Arjuna’s oath, Jayadratha, protected by the entire might of the Kaurava army, remained effectively elusive. At the end of an exhausting day of fighting, he was still beyond the reach of Arjuna. The horizon was darkening with the imminent sunset. Krishna was worried. Jayadratha emerged triumphantly from hiding, only after he was very sure the sun had set. But just as he did so, the sun inexplicably peeped out from the darkness to shine again. This time Arjuna did not let the opportunity slip by. One arrow from his bow and the exultant Jayadratha was dead. Krishna had saved Arjuna from his vow of selfimmolation by creating a false sunset to lure Jayadratha from his hideout.
Duryodhana was the last of the Kaurava brothers to be killed. With honourable magnanimity, Yudhishthira had offered him a duel with any of the Pandavas using a weapon of his choosing. Krishna was quick to chide Yudhishthira for such foolhardy generosity. Duryodhana was too good a fighter, he said, to be defeated by anybody except perhaps Bheema. Fortunately, Bheema himself challenged Duryodhana to fight him with the mace, and the latter readily accepted. The fight was long and bitter. The two opponents were evenly matched. But, after a while, it became clear that even though Bheema was the heavier of the two, Duryodhana was more agile and the better fighter. Krishna, who was watching the duel intently, confided to Arjuna that Bheema would never be able to win in a fair fight. He had to be defeated by unfair means.
‘Has Bheema forgotten his vow to break Duryodhana’s thighs?’ Krishna asked Arjuna in a voice loud enough for Bheema to hear. Arjuna, (quickly grasping Krishna’s intent), smacked his own thighs as a signal to Bheema. Bheema got the message. In one forceful blow his mace smashed Duryodhana’s thighs, leaving him prostrate and writhing in agony. It was against the rules of war to hit below the navel. Duryodhana was thus not expecting to be hit on his thighs. Bheema too would not have broken the rules of war but for Krishna’s unambiguous urging. Balarama, who was observing the fight, was furious at the unfair means adopted. He was ready to attack Bheema, but was restrained by Krishna. Then Duryodhana, who was in his death throes, but still mentally alert, spoke. His last words were a damning indictment of the means adopted by Krishna during the war. The fallen warrior recounted each incident—the disarming of Bhishma, the killing of Drona and Karan, and, of course, the duplicitous means responsible for his own defeat. There was unconcealed contempt in his voice, and the heavens themselves seemed to endorse his stand by raining flowers on his head when he died.
Krishna’s response to the accusations of Duryodhana is extremely interesting. First, he admitted that he had resorted to unfair means. The Kauravas, ‘who were the very flowers of Kshatriya prowess’, could not, he said, have been killed by fair means. The vow he had made to Draupadi at Kamyaka forest could thus be fulfilled only by the pursuit of deceitful means. Deception, Krishna said, is acceptable when the enemy is stronger. ‘The gods themselves are not above it; we have only followed their example.’ The Kauravas symbolized adharma. They had to be defeated. In such a situation, ‘the end,’ he said, ‘justifies the means’. In the prevailing times, ‘unsullied righteousness’ could not be practised. The fourth quarter of time, the Kalyug, had begun. In this age, absolute morality would be at a discount.
The working of fate and destiny did not allow right and wrong to retain their sharply distinctive focus. ‘It is the rule of time. You must not try and change the course of Destiny. She will have her way. She is unrighteous too, and she fulfils herself in manv ways mostly unrighteous.’ Krishna’s final argument was that in his human avatar he had to play the game as a mortal would. ‘When I am living as a god, I act like a god; when my form is that of a gandharva or a naga, my actions and behaviour are in conformity with such a status; now, as One born of human parents, I must act and behave as human beings would.’