On the return of Sanjaya Yudhisthira informed Krshna of the intentions, of Dhritarashtra. "Sanjaya," he said, "knows the heart and is the very soul of Dhritarashtra. I asked but for five villages, Avisthala, Vrkasthala, Makandi, Varnavata and any other for the last or fifth, or for five towns, if they preferred; but even these the wicked souled son of Dhritarashtra does not grant. What is then more regrettable than this?"
Krshna comforted him as well as others, saying that for the good of both the parties he would go to the Kuru camp; and, in spite of the vicious nature of Duryodhana, try to bring about peace without sacrificing the interests of the Pandavas. "The earth," he said, "is moistened and purified by action; but without rain it cannot be made to yield a crop. Human affairs are accomplished both by divine providence and exertion on the part of man. Your kingdom has been wrested from you by deceit, and I too was sought to be withdrawn from your side by that vicious one. But that could not be. I shall go to king Dhritarashtra with the desire of doing what is Right, what is for our good, and for the benefit of the Kurus." So saying, Janardana ascended his chariot, and proceeded to the kingdom of the Kurus.
Krshna's Reception: When Dhritarashtra heard that Krshna was coming, he wished that he should receive a most hearty welcome; that all his sons and grandsons, with the exception of Duryodhana, should go to receive him; and that beautiful girls should go out to see him with their veils withdrawn and so he gave orders that all his subjects, men, women and children, should go out to behold Krshna, bright like the rising Sun, and that he should be lodged in the house of Duhsasana, well-furnished and cleaned for his reception.
The Resolve of Duryodhana: But Duryodhana tried to persuade his father to withhold this welcome from him.
"Krshna," he said, "is most worthy of worship in all the three worlds, but circumstances are such that nothing should be given to him. War has been decided on; there cannot be peace." And to put an end to all difficulties, he resolved to make Krshna, the refuge of the Pandavas, captive while in their midst in the Kuru camp, believing that, with his imprisonment, the whole world would fall under his sway.
Krshna among the Kauravas: The next morning Krshna arrived, and was duly welcomed and worshipped by Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, Drona, Krpa and others. After greeting them, he went to the house of Vidura to meet him, and there saw Prtha, his father's sister, who inquired from him all about her sons and Draupadi. Govinda (Krshna) told her everything and comforted her. Then bidding adieu, he went to the residence of Duryodhana, and there he saw the prince surrounded by his brothers, Karna and Sakuni. He was welcomed by them, and they offered him food to eat; but he declined, saying, "One should take food from another when there is love between them, or when one is in distress. O king, neither do you please me, nor am I in distress." Then the mighty one came out of the mansion of Duryodhana, and went to the residence of Vidura, and there took the clean and delicious food provided by him.
Krshna in the Assembly Hall: The next morning Dhritarashtra held a great council in his Assembly Hall, and Krshna was requested to come. He entered the Hall, which was like the abode of Indra, holding by the hand Vidura on one side and Satyaki on the other; and as he did so, all those gathered there rose to greet him, and he took the seat specially prepared for him.
The Advice of Krshna: When all had taken their seats after him and perfect silence prevailed, Krshna began: "I have come," said he, "that there might be peace between the Kauravas and Pandavas Peace depends on you, O King, as well as on myself. Control your sons, and I shall set the Pandavas Right. Let the sons of Prtha live to serve you and fight for you, and let there be peace among you all."
The King's Helplessness: "O Kesava," said Dhritarashtra, "all that you say is virtuous and just, and for the benefit of the world. But I am not my own master. Persuade, O Krshna, my wicked son, Duryodhana, who disregards the injunctions of the Scriptures, and never listens to what is good. Do you instruct him yourself."
Then Krshna spoke to Duryodhana, bade him be wise, and not to let the race of Kurus be exterminated. In this he was joined by Bhishma, Vidura, and Dhritarashtra himself.
Duryodhana's Resolve: "It is proper," said Duryodhana, addressing himself to Krshna, "that you should speak to me in this way. But why do you find fault with me? I have not committed the slightest fault. The Pandavas lost their all in a game of dice in which they engaged of their own free will; and I ordered that their wealth be returned to them at the time. Is it our fault that, defeated again a second time, they were exiled to the forest? Why have they become our enemies? We will not submit out of fear. If, following the duties laid down by my religion, O Madhava, I fall down dead in the field, it will lead me to heaven. This kingdom cannot now be regained by the sons of Pandu. So long as I hold it, I shall not leave for them even a piece of land which can be pierced by the point of a needle."
Krshna's Rebuke: But Krshna rebuked Duryodhana, and reminded him that it was he who had arranged the game of dice in consultation with Sakuni; and so the responsibility for the result was his. Nor could he forget how Draupadi was insulted in the Assembly Hall. At this Duryodhana left the Hall in anger, and Krshna asked Dhritarashtra to control his wicked son, advising that the time had come for him to act.
Gandhari's Advice: The King thereupon requested Gandhari to expostulate with her son; and, at her bidding, Duryodhana came back. Gandhari counselled him to control his senses, and act with a view to virtue and profit; and advised him to make over to the Sons of Pandu one half of the kingdom as their share. But Duryodhana treated her words with contempt; and, filled with wrath, went away again to his own place.
The Capture of Krshna: Then Duryodhana, Karna, Sakuni and Duhsasana resolved to capture Krshna, the deity of quick action, while in their midst. The wise Satyaki came to know of their design, and communicated it to Krshna, the performer of action without exertion, and then to Dhritarashtra and Vidura. "The fools," said Satyaki, "seek to do an act which they cannot perform; and, overpowered by desire and wrath, these men of mean heart, seek to slay one with lotus eyes." Krshna smiled and said, "O King, if in their wrath they can capture me by their might, let them do so, and I shall cure them all of their anger."
The Divine Form of Krshna: Then Vidura asked Duryodhana to come to the Assembly Hall, and his father and elders reprimanded him for his evil designs. Seeing him, Krshna laughed aloud, and at his laughter the body of the great-souled one became like lightning, and from it issued forth all the gods and creatures of the world. He then blessed Dhritarashtra, and let him see his universal form with eyes divine. Seeing that terrible form of Krshna, the hearts of all, except Dhritarashtra, Drona, Bhishma, Vidura and Sanjaya, were struck with fear. Then Kesava, assuming his human form, took Satyaki and Krtavarman, the son of Hrdika, by the hand, and went out. Then said Dhritarashtra to him, "You have seen the influence I wield over my sons. Do not suspect me. I have no evil intentions against the sons of Pandu, O Kesava; and I have tried to bring about peace to the best of my power."
Krshna's Return; the Message of Kunti: Having failed in his attempt to bring about peace, Krshna took leave of Dhritarashtra and others, and went to bid farewell to Kunti, the sister of his father. She gave him a message for her sons and Draupadi, and asked him to remind Yudhisthira that a Ksatriya is created to perform hard deeds and to protect his subjects.
Krshna and Karna: Before leaving the city of the Kurus, Krshna met Karna informed him that he was the son of Kunti, and advised him to desist from making war on the sons of Pandu, his brothers. He offered, him precedence over the Pandavas in case he would go over to their side, promising that during the sixth period Draupadi would go to him as to a husband. But Karna, remembering how he had been neglected by his mother in his childhood, and thinking of the promise of assistance he had made to Duryodhana, expressed his inability to change.
Kunti and Krshna: Then Kunti, anxious for the fate of her sons, went out to Karna, as he sat in prayer with his face turned to the east, and waited till his back became heated with the rays of the Sun. Then he turned, and saluted her. "I am Karna, the son of Radha. Tell me what should I do for you." "You are the son of Kunti, not Radha," said Prtha; and then she spoke to him of his birth, and begged him to make friends with her five sons, and be as a brother to them. But Karna turned sadly away from her, reproached her for what she had done in his childhood, and said, "On the side of the Sons of Dhritarashtra must I fight with your sons with all my power. But your appeal to me shall not be entirely in vain. I shall not kill in battle Yudhisthira, Bhima and the twins who are capable of being killed by me. Arjuna alone is worthy of fighting with me; and with him shall I contend. O lady of renown, you shall have five sons still. If I am killed, you will have Arjuna instead; and if Arjuna is killed, Karna will be with you." Then Kunti blessed her son, and went away.
Krshna's Return: When Krshna returned to Upaplavya... he told the Pandavas all that had transpired at Hastinapura, and informed them that eleven Aksauhinis had assembled for the Kurus, and among them Bhima was in the foremost rank.
Dhrstadyumna's Command: The Pandavas had seven Aksauhinis, each under the respective command of Drupada, Virata, Dhrstadyumna, Sikhandin, Satyaki, Chekitana and Bhima; and, at the bidding of Ka, they appointed Dhrstadyumna as their commander-in-chief.
The Field of Kurukshetra: The army was then drawn up in battle array, and they all came out and encamped in the field of Kurukshetra.
The Kaurava Forces; Bhishma's Command: After Krshna had left, Duryodhana, Karna, Duhsasana and Sakuni mustered their forces, and assembled eleven Aksauhinis, each under the respective command of Krpa, Drona, Salya, Jayadratha, Sudaksina, Krtavarman, Asvatthaman, Bhurisravas, Sakuni and Vahlika; and turning to Bhishma, Duryodhana requested him to become their general.
Bhishma and Karna: "Both you and the Pandavas," replied Bhishma, "are equal in my eyes. But I shall fight on your side as I have promised. There is no one equal to me in the world save Dhananjaya (Arjuna), the son of Kunti. But there is one condition on which I shall consent to be the leader of your army. Either let Karna fight first, or I." Then Karna promised not to fight so long as the son of Ganga (Bhishma) was alive. Bhishma consented to become the commander-in-chief of the Kuru forces; and they all came to the field of Kurukshetra.
The Vow of Bhishma: Then Bhima told Duryodhana that he had taken a vow never to slay a woman, nor one who had been a woman, nor one whose appearance resembled a woman; and informed him that Sikhandin, born of king Drupada, was originally a woman, and had afterwards become a man. So he would not fight with Sikhandin.
The Story of Sikhandin: He then narrated to him how he had taken by force the three daughters of the king of Kasi, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika for his brother Vicitravirya; and one of them, Amba, representing that she had already chosen Salva, the lord of Saubha, as her bridegroom, he permitted her to go to him. But Amba was refused by Salva, and so she came to him (Bhishma), requesting him to accept her as his wife. But that was impossible, as he was under a vow of celibacy and so, being weary of a woman's life, she prayed to Mahadeva to be changed into a man, desiring thereby to be avenged on Bhishma. Mahadeva granted her prayer and she was born as a daughter to Drupada, destined to be both male and female. By her austerities she had secured the favour of a Yaksa, and had changed her sex with him, and so become a man. "With Sikhandin," said Bhishma, "I will not fight, even if I see him standing on the battle-field."
The Order of Battle: The armies were now arranged in order of battle and Yudhisthira, following the rules of war, bade that Dhrstadyumna should encounter Drona; Arjuna fight with Karna; Bhima with Duryodhana; Dhrstaketu with Salya; Uttamaujas with Krpa; Nakula with Asvatthaman; Saibya with Krtavarman; Yuyudhana with Jayadratha; Sahadeva with Sakuni; the five sons of Draupadi with the Trigartas; Abhimanyu with Vrsasena and the rest of the rulers of the earth; while Sikhandin was to be in front for fighting with Bhishma.