Rukmi offers help
Rukmi, Rukmini’s brother, nursed a grudge against Krishna. Rukmi had wanted his sister to marry Sishupala, but Rukmini herself, had preferred Krishna. She secretly wrote to Krishna asking him to save her from this marriage saying that she preferred to marry him instead.
Krishna therefore, carried away Rukmini just before the marriage could take place, and in the fight that followed, defeated Rukmi. Krishna spared Rukmi’s life but the latter was disgraced. He did not go to his own kingdom but build another and became its ruler.
Just before the Mahabharata war, Rukmi approached the Pandavas and said, “I am on your side. I come to offer my help to you despite my dislike for Krishna. With me by your side, you will defeat the Kauravas.”
Krishna sat silent, not moving, not speaking.
The Pandavas were silent too. Then Yudhishtra spoke. He said, “Thank you but we are not afraid of the Kauravas. We are sure we will win, with Krishna’s support.”
Rukmi felt very insulted. So he went to the Kauravas instead and made the same offer.
Now Duryodhana, who had great respect for Krishna, understood the situation immediately. He said, “You come to me after the Pandavas have refused your help. If I accept it now, I would be taking in something which the Pandavas had discarded. I am sorry, but if you had come to me first, I would have considered your offer.”
Poor Rukmi had to return to his capital, totally humiliated.
The symbol of the plough
Balarama, Krishna’s brother, was disturbed at the thought of war. He decided to be neutral and planned a pilgrimage to holy places, and not take part in the Mahabharata war.
Before he left, he went to meet the Pandavas.
He told them, “War is insane and destructive. I am completely against it. Both Duryodhana and Bhima are my students – who can I support? I thought Krishna would talk to both of you and create peace. But that has not happened. Therefore, I am going away. If only all weapons would turn into ploughs, and all people farmers!”
He smiled and said, “You are a great warrior. But to you, peace is more important than anything else, for you believe in the land and its produce and the power of the plough. But I am afraid that I have to go to war – it has been forced on me. You have to forgive me.”
Balarama blessed him and left. As much as war has been a part of human history, peace has been a part of it too. People of Balaram, warriors though they may be, believe in peaceful and productive living.
Shalya is flattered
Shalya was the brother of Madri and uncle to the Pandavas, Nakula and Sahadeva. So while preparing for the Mahabharata war, Yudhishtra took it for granted that King Shalya would be on their side. He had forgotten how much King Shalya hated Krishna.
Shalya, was a man who though himself to be great and wanted other people to tell him so. He thought he was better than Krishna in driving a chariot, better than Bhima in wielding a mace and better than Arjuna in archery.
He wanted to be given importance by the Pandavas but was not sure he would be, since Krishna was in their camp. He did not want to play second fiddle to Krishna.
Nevertheless, he set out to join the Pandavas with his large army.
Duryodhana knew of Shalya’s fears. He also knew that Shalya was a man who could be flattered. So he decided to bring Shalya to his side.
As Shalya travelled with his army, Duryodhana set up wonderful guest houses on the way to receive them. They served the best of food and wines and his officers told Shalya, “O great warrior. Duryodhana offers you his respects.”
Now this happened so many times of the way, that Shalya was pleased and happy.
Then, when they stopped at yet another guest house, Duryodhana himself paid Shalya a visit. He said, “O great warrior. To me, you are greater than Krishna. You know Krishna is on the Pandava’s side. I want you on our side, to balance out the power.”
Flattered, King Shalya agreed. Then immediately he felt bad. He was on his way to join the Pandavas after all, despite their not asking him for help.
He told Duryodhana so and said, “I will go to Yudhishtra and tell him what I plan to do. Then I will join you.”
So Shalya met Yudhishtra and told him of his meeting with Duryodhana.
Yudhishtra was upset. “O best of warriors. You are our uncle and I did wrong to take your help for granted. Now there is no other way but to allow you to join Duryodhana. He will need your help since Krishna is on our side.”
King Shalya was also upset. He said, “I may join the Kauravas but I know that righteousness is on your side. I wish you success.”
Yudhistra then said, “O king. Duryodhana may make you drive Karna’s chariot to counter-balance Krishna driving Arjuna’s. In that case, I have just one request from you – please do not help Karna kill Arjuna.”
King Shalya replied, “I do not think Duryodhana will ask me to drive Karna’s chariot. Even if he does, and I agree, Arjuna will not die at Karna’s hands while I drive his chariot.”
The Pandavas were happy. Shalya then said, “Karna is so arrogant that it will be his fault that he will be unable to kill Arjuna. He will not take my help.”
This came to be true during the war but that’s another story.