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For the Kannada film, see Jarasandha (film).
Bhima Slays Jarasandha.

As per the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Jarasandha (Sanskrit: जरासन्ध) was the king of Magadha. He was a descendant of the king Brihadratha, the founder of the Barhadratha dynasty of Magadha. He was also a great devotee of the Hindu god Shiva. But he is generally held in negative light owing to his enmity with the Yadava clan in the Mahabharata.


The word Jarasandha is made from two Sanskrit words. First is Jara (जरा) and sandha (सन्ध). Jara was a demoness and sandha means 'joining'. So the meaning of the name is 'the one who is joined by Jara'.

Legend about his birth[edit]

Birth of Jarasandha
Jara merges two parts of Jarasandha

Brihadratha was the king of Magadha. His ancestor Uparichara Vasu had taken over the Chedi Kingdom, and Brihadratha had taken over Maghada. His wives were the twin princesses of Varanasi. While he led a contented life and was a famed king, he was unable to have children for a very long time. Frustrated over his inability to have children, he retreated to the forest and eventually ended up serving a sage named Chandakaushika. The sage took pity on him and on finding the actual cause for his sorrow, gave him a fruit and told him to give it to his wife who in turn will soon become pregnant. But the sage did not know that he had two wives. Not wishing to displease either wife, Brihadratha cut the fruit in half and gave it to both of them. Soon both the wives became pregnant and gave birth to two halves of a human body. These two lifeless halves were very horrifying to view. So, Brihadratha ordered these to be thrown in the forest. A Rakshasi (demoness) named Jara (or Barmata) found these two pieces and held each of these in her two palms. Incidentally when she brought both of her palms together, the two pieces joined together giving rise to a living child. The child cried loudly which created panic for Jara. Not having the heart to eat a living child, the demoness gave it to the king and explained him all that happened. The father was overjoyed to see him.

Chandakaushika arrived at the court and saw the child. He prophesied to Brihadratha that his son will be specially gifted and would be a great devotee of the god Shiva.


Battle between Balarama and Jarasandha. Illustration from a Bhagavata Purana series.

Jarasandha became a famed and powerful king, extending his empire far and wide. He prevailed over many kings, and was crowned emperor in Magadha. Many powerful kings, like Narakasura, Pundru Vasedev, Shishupala of Chedi, Shalva of Shuva and Vishmak became his allies. Even while Jarasandha's power continued to grow, he had concerns over his future & that of the empires, as he had no heirs. Therefore, on the advice of his close friend king Banasura, Jarasandh decided to get his two daughters Asti and Prapti married to the heir apparent of Mathura, Kamsa. Jarasandha had also lent his army and his personal advise to Kamsa to create a coup d'état in Mathura.

When Krishna killed his uncle Kamsa in Mathura, Jarasandha become enraged because of Krishna and the entire Yadava clan on seeing his two daughters being widowed. So, Jarasandha attacked Mathura and the Yadavas 17 times. Once his army included the Panchalas and the Kurus among other kings of India. While Krishna and the Yadavas survived the attacks, sensing danger Krishna relocated his capital city to Dwaraka. Dwaraka was an island and it was not possible for anyone to attack it at all.

Krishna began a campaign to diminish the power of Jarasandha, one by one eliminating his powerful allies like Kalyavana, Naraksura, Hansha, Dimbaka. Jarasandha participated in the Swayamvara of Draupadi, and after being unable to lift the bow, left the place.

In another incident when Jarasandha attacked Duryodhana for abducting the Kashi Princess Bhanumati, Karna comes to the rescue. Karna and Jarasandha fought 21 days continuously and Karna defeated Jarasandha.This was the first time ever Jarasandha lost a fight. Jarasandha gifted Malini town to Karna as a prize for his skills.


Bhima and Jarasandh Wrestling

Jarasandha raided Mathura 17 times and was defeated by Krishna every time. At last to avoid unnecessary loss of lives, Krishna moved his capital to Dwaraka. Since Dwaraka was an island city guarded heavily by Yadava Army, Jarasandha was not able to invade Dwaraka any more. To attain the capacity to invade Dwaraka, Jarasandha planned to conduct a Yagna to please the god Shiva. For this Yagna, He had imprisoned 95 kings and was in need of 5 more kings, after which he was planning to perform the Yagna, sacrificing all the 100 kings. Jarasandha thought that this Yagna will make him win the powerful Yadava Army.

The kings captured by Jarasandha wrote a secret missive to Krishna to rescue them from Jarasandha. Krishna, not wanting to go for an all out war with Jarasandha to rescue the captured kings, in order to avoid a major loss of lives, devised a plan to eliminate Jarasandha. The Pandava king Yudhisthira was planning to make a Rajasuya yagna in order to become the emperor. Krishna convinced his cousin Yudhisthira that Jarasandha was the only obstacle to oppose Yudhisthira from becoming an emperor. Krishna planned a clever scheme to eliminate Jarasandha by making Yudhisthira's brother Bhima wrestle with the Jarasandha in a duel.

Like Karna, Jarasandha was also very good in giving charity donations. After performing his Shiva pooja, he used to give whatever the Brahmins asked for. On one such occasion Krishna, Yudhisthira's brothers Arjuna and Bhima in the guise of Brahmins met Jarasandha. Krishna asked Jarasandha to choose any one of them for a wrestling match. Jarasandha chose Bhima, the strongman, to wrestle. Both of them fought for 14 days. Bhima lost hope to win the battle and sought help of Krishna. Krishna,who then knew of the secret of Jarasandha's weakness from the victory of Karna over Jarasandha took a blade of grass or twig and spit it into two. Bhima understood the clue and split Jarasandha's body into two, slaying the king.

After his death, the Pandavas released all the 95 kings imprisoned by Jarasandha and crowned his son, Sahadeva as the king of Magadha. Thus, these 95 kings along with Sahadeva, the new ruler of Magadha became an ally of Pandavas who took part in the Mahabharata war later.


Further information: Śalākāpuruṣa

According to Jain literature, Jarasandha was the ninth and last Prati-Vasudeva (Prati-Narayana) of the current half time cycle (Avasarpini) in Jain cosmology and was slayed (killed) by Krishna who was the ninth and last Vasudeva (Narayana). The mention of this story comes in Acharya Jinasena's Harivamsa Purana. Jarasandha attacked Krishna with his most powerful weapon, Sudarshana Chakra. Sudarshan Chakra instead of killing Krishna, accepted Krishna as its owner and killed Jarasandha. In Jainism, Mahabharata was the fight between Krishna and Jarasandha as opposed to the Hindu version of the epic and Kauravas and Pandavas were mere generals.