Peace and prosperity smiled upon the Pandavas after the defeat and decimation of the Kauravas. Their own sons had perished in the war, but a grandson, Parikshit, born to Uttara and Abhimanyu after the latter’s death, kept the lineage preserved. This family continuity would have tragically snapped, but, as always, for Krishna’s help. Parikshit had been stillborn, possibly as a result of injury to the embryo from the after effects of a special weapon launched by Aswathamma, in the last stages of the war. Krishna, true to his promise to be at hand to ensure a safe birth, miraculously resuscitated the child. In time, Parikshit grew into a handsome and responsible prince.
The time for Krishna to relinquish his mortal frame was approaching. When the war had ended, Gandhari, inconsolable at the death other bundled sons, and, furious with Krishna for not having prevented such fratricidal bloodshed, cursed him: ‘You Krishna, will one day slay your kith and kin and die yourself alone in the wilderness.” Her ominous prophecy came true in a curious way. The story goes that once Shambha, a son of Krishna, along with some other Yadava boys, insulted the sages Vishvamitra, Narada and Kanwa.
Shambha dressed himself as a woman and accompanied by his friends presented himself before the sages with the question: ‘Will this woman bear a male or a female child?’ The sages, who immediately saw through the ruse, were not amused, and cursed the boys thus: This woman will produce a club that will destroy the Yadava race.”
Accordingly, an iron club emerged from Shambha’s belly. Ugrasena, aware of the prophecy, had the club ground to dust and scattered, but from the particles there grew fearsome iron rushes. One particle, bigger than tlie others, was thrown into the sea and swallowed by a fish. The fish was caught by a hunter, Jara, who, discovering the piece of iron in its belly, used it as a point for his arrow.
Meanwhile, events toward the destruction of the Yadavas were proceeding inexorably. There were evil signs and portents foretelling the imminent destruction of Dwarka. On Krishna’s advice, the Yadavas left for a pilgrimage to Prabhasa. But destiny had to be fulfilled. In Prabhasa they consumed liquor and under its effect set about attacking each other. Such was their uncontrolled anger that when their weapons were expended, they used the same deadly rushes as weapons in a fight to the finish. Krishna tried unsuccessfully to stop the fighting; enraged, he himself slew several of his kin. In the end, save Krishna, Balarama and Krishna’s charioteer, all the Yadavas lay dead.
In anguish, Krishna retired to the forest. Here he saw a large serpent emerge from the mouth of Balarama and take him towards the deeps of the ocean. Balarama, an avatar of Sesha, Vision’s great serpent, had returned to his celestial origins. Krishna knew his own end was close. He despatched his charioteer to narrate the sequence of events to Ugrasena and Vasudeva. He had already ensured the survival of Uddhava by sending him on a separate pilgrimage to the mountains. Now, the emblems of his mighty power—his conch shell, mace and discus—circumambulated him and ascended heavenwards. Alone in the wilderness, Krishna sat down to meditate, one foot resting on his knee.
At this moment, Jara, the hunter, mistaking the sole of Krishna’s foot as belonging to a deer, shot the arrow tipped by a piece of the fatal iron club. The lethal arrow, strongly reminiscent of a similar weapon in Greek mythology, lodged itself in its target. On realizing his error, Jara fell at the Lord’s feet, but Krishna, not in the least perturbed, blessed him and assured him of a solace in the heavens of the gods. Then, by his own volition, Krishna relinquished his mortal frame, to become one with his essential self – eternal, unblemished and universal.
On that very day, the oceans rose in upheaval and submerged the city of Dwarka.