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This article is about semi-mythical king of Magadha. For the Kannada film, see Jarasandha (film).
Bhima Slays Jarasandha.jpg
Painting showing Bhima slaying Jarasandha
Brihadratha King
Predecessor Brihadratha
Successor Sahadeva
Issue Sahadeva
Dynasty Brihadratha
Father Brihadratha

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. He was a great senapati and a Maharathi, but he is generally held in negative light owing to his enmity with the Yadava clan in the Mahabharata.


The word Jarasandha is a combination of two Sanskrit words, Jara (जरा) and sandha (सन्ध), "joining". Jara was a demoness who put the two halves of Jarasandha together after finding them by a tree. In return for saving Brihadratha's son, he named Jarasandha after her, and the word sandha, which means "joining". So the meaning of Jarasandha is 'the one who is joined by Jara'.[1]

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 Magadha. 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.[citation needed] 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.[2]

Chandakaushika arrived at the court and saved the child. He prophesied to Brihadratha that his son will be specially gifted and would be a great devotee of the god Shiva.[3]


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 Vasudev, 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, Kansa. Jarasandha had also lent his army and his personal advise to Kamsa to create a coup d'état in Mathura.[citation needed]

When Jarasandha's two daughters were old enough to be married, he let Kamsa marry them so that an alliance would be formed with the two leaders and so Jarasandha would have an heir.[citation needed] However Kamsa was a bad and cruel leader. Krishna the nephew of Kamsa had been observing the horrors that Kamsa was committing and become very upset. Krishna was so upset that he killed Kamsa. When Krishna killed Kamsa in Mathura, Jarasandha become enraged because Krishna had widowed his two daughters.[citation needed] Jarasandha vowed to get revenge for his two widowed daughters.[citation needed] So Jarasandha attacked Mathura and the Yadavas 17 times.[citation needed] However whenever Jarasandha attacked Krishna's fled along with his people fearing Jarasandha's power. Jarasandha's 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 Jarasandha to attack it. [2]

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.[4]

In another incident when Jarasandha attacked Duryodhana for abducting the Kashi Princess Bhanumati, Karna comes to the rescue. Karna and Jarasandha fought 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.[citation needed]


Bhima and Jarasandh Wrestling

Jarasandha raided Mathura 17 times and Krishna was defeated every time. Krishna and his brother Balarama ran away every time from Jarasandha so Krishna has been named as Ranchod, meaning deserter. On the 17th occasion, Krishna and the Yadavas decided to leave Mathura forever and retreated. To avoid unnecessary loss of lives in future, 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.[citation needed]

Krishna, on the other hand, made a plan for eliminating Jarasandha. The Pandava king Yudhishthira was planning to make a Rajasuya yagna in order to become the emperor. Krishna convinced his cousin Yudhishthira that Jarasandha was the only obstacle to oppose Yudhishthira from becoming an emperor. Krishna planned a clever scheme to eliminate Jarasandha by making Yudhishthira's brother Bhima wrestle with the Jarasandha in a duel.[citation needed]

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, Yudhishthira'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 twig and split it into two. Bhima understood the clue and split Jarasandha's body into two, slaying the king.[5]

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.[citation needed]


Further information: Śalākāpuruṣa

Jainism is another ancient religion from India. The essence of Jainism is concern for the welfare of every being in the universe.[6] 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.[7]


  1. ^ "Jarasandha was a very powerful king of Magadha, and the history of his birth and activities is also very interesting - Vaniquotes". vaniquotes.org. Retrieved 2015-12-31. 
  2. ^ a b Chandrakant, Kamala (1977). Krishna and Jarasandha. India Book House Ltd. pp. 3–5. ISBN 81-7508-080-9. 
  3. ^ "Slaying of Jarasandha - Indian Mythology". www.apamnapat.com. Retrieved 2016-01-10. 
  4. ^ Squarcini, Frederico (2011). Boundaries, Dynamics, and Constructions of Traditions in South Asia. 244 Madison Ave, #116, New York,NY: Anthem Press. p. 117. ISBN 9780857284303. 
  5. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 12: Santi Parva: Rajadharmanusasana Parva: Section V", sacred-texts.com 
  6. ^ "BBC - Religions - Jainism: Jainism at a glance". Retrieved 2016-01-10. 
  7. ^ "Download Limit Exceeded". citeseerx.ist.psu.edu. Retrieved 2015-12-31.