Kritavarma (Sanskrit: कृतवर्मा, Kŗtavarmā) was an important and one of the bravest Yadava warriors and chieftain, and a contemporary of Krishna. He finds mention in several ancient Sanskrit texts including the Mahābhārata, the Vishnu Purana, the Bhagavata Purana and the Harivamsa.
According to the Puranas, he was born in the most fearless Andhaka clan of the mighty Yadavas, and son of Hŗidika. Though he is depicted as a devotee of Krishna in the Vishnu Purana, apparently he was not on good terms with Krishna, and was one of the conspirators who plotted to kill Satrajit, Krishna's father-in-law during the Syamantaka Jewel episode.
During the great battle at Kurukshetra, Kritavarma was an ally of the Kauravas against the Pandavas and led the Yadava army (also called the Narayani Sena). He was one of the three survivors of the entire Kaurava army and had helped Ashwatthama in carrying out his heinous night time massacre of Panchala warriors, in which the latter had slaughtered among others, Dhrishtadyumna (the Pandava commander-in-chief), Shikhandi and the five sons of Draupadi. The event is described in the Sauptika Parva of the Mahābhārata. He returned to his kingdom after the war and was later killed by Satyaki in Dwarka during the final departure of the Yadavas, as we find in the Mausala Parva of the Mahābhārata.
Knowing that the destruction of Yadavas was near they retired to Prabhasa where they were allotted temporary residences. When their time had come Vrishnis started revelling and drinking. Satyaki who was inebriated laughed at and insulted Kritavarma for killing the Pandava army in midst of their sleep. Pradyumna applauded Satyaki for this which highly incensed Kritavarma. He then taunted Satyaki by saying that he had slain the armless Bhurishravas in cold blood. Satyaki then narrated the incident when Kritavarma tried to kill Satrajit. Satyabhama upon hearing this became angry and started crying. She then approached Krishna and sat on his lap greatly increasing his anger towards Kritavarma. Satyaki then rising up in anger said that he would kill Kritavarma for slaying the warriors of the Pandava army while they were asleep. Having said this he rushed towards Kritavarma and severed his head with a sword.
As is typical with the characters in the Mahabharata, Kritavarma is juxtaposed with Satyaki. Unlike the more hotheaded, independent-thinking Satyaki, Kritavarma is more subdued and traditional. When Satyaki breaks bonds with the Vrishini army, holding his ties to his teacher Arjuna and his relative Krishna, as well as the righteousness of the Pandava cause, over his loyalty to the army (sworn to Duryodhana), Kritavarma fights for the Kauravas, feeling that since he is committed to Dwarka, and Dwarka is committed to Hastinapur, that he is obligated to fight for Duryodhana.
Throughout the war, Kritavarma takes part in many acts. He engages in the killing of Abhimanyu (his own student), he checks Bhima's advance on the 14th day, and defends Jayadratha against Arjuna. He also gives no protest when Ashwatthama proposes they kill the Pandavas in their sleep. Far from being morally accepting of such acts, Kritavarma is portrayed as a very dutiful soldier...what his senior officer commands, he will execute without failure.
- Pargiter, F.E. (1972). Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.105.
- Bose, Buddhadeva (February 1986). The Book of Yudhisthir: A Study of the Mahabharat of Vyas (2nd ed.). Hyderabad, India: Sangam Books. p. 167. ISBN 9780861314607.