Jarāsandha attacked Mathura because he wanted to kill Krishna, Balarama and wanted to destroy the beautiful Mathura city.
But what enmity, did Jarāsandha had with Krishna?
Jarāsandha’s two daughters Asti and Prāpti were married to Kamsa. Jarāsandha was a powerful warrior, when he saw the valour of Kamsa, he decided to establish family relationship with Kamsa, so he got his two daughters married to him.
When Kamsa was killed, his two daughters came to him and with tears in their eyes narrated the whole story. Jarāsandha felt deep pain seeing the plight of his daughters.
Demons’ emotions – real or false?
No matter how cruel Jarāsandha was but he had emotions for his daughters. Demons may inflict cruelty upon others, but they are protective towards their family members as long as their family members are not an obstacle in their pursuit for sense gratification.
Demons want complete surrender from everyone including their family members. If someone comes in their way then they immediately try to eliminate them. Hiranyakasipu tried his best to kill his own son who was just five years old just because Prahlada did not accept that his father was greater than Lord Vishnu. Similarly, we see Ravana rebuked Vibhishana and threw him out of his kingdom because Vibhishana asked him to return back Mother Sita.
But here Kamsa was cruel and so was Jarāsandha. So, they both got along with each other.
Now after Jarāsandha’s daughters became widow then Jarāsandha thought that my daughters have become widow because of Krishna and Balarama. So, I will attack the city of Mathura and kill the two boys and destroy the entire city.
Not even for a moment Jarāsandha contemplated on the fact that Kamsa was extremely cruel and deserved to be punished. Kamsa was so cruel that he was killing innocent children. Jarāsandha might be knowing that a celestial voice had already said that Kamsa is going to be killed. He might be knowing that Kamsa was cursed to be killed by the Supreme Lord. He may also be knowing that Krishna is not an ordinary personality but the Supreme Lord.
But still Jarāsandha instead of contemplating on surrendering to Krishna, taking shelter of Krishna, he decided that he will kill Krishna and Balarama.
Demons want to become God
That is the nature of the demons. They always have a mission to defeat God. They nurture a great craving in their heart to dethrone Krishna and usurp the position of Krishna. Somehow or other they have this thinking that if they can kill God then they can become God.
And most of the times, these demons are not illiterate and unaware about the teachings of the scriptures.
We read about Hiranyakasipu that how when his brother, Hiranyaksha, was killed then in order to console his mother, Diti, his sister-in-law, Ruṣābhānu, and his nephews spoke a great philosophy about the immortality of soul and how everything in this world is temporary. to buttress his point, he gave the example of restaurant or a place where people come to drink water. The demon said, “Just like in a restaurant or a place of drinking water people come, sit together, have meal or water and then leave never to meet again similarly, in this world we come together, stay for certain period of time, develop temporary relationship with family members and then we leave never to meet again.
But after speaking such a great philosophy, he took a vow that he will kill Lord Vishnu and take revenge of his brother’s death.
Similarly, like other demons, Jarāsandha wanted to avenge the death of his son in law, Kamsa so he attacked Mathura.
Jarāsandha attacked Mathura with five million soldiers
Srimad Bhagavatam describes in detail how Jarāsandha surrounded Mathura with 23 akṣauhiṇī divisions. An akṣauhiṇī consists of 21,870 soldiers on elephants, 21,870 charioteers, 65,610 cavalrymen and 109,350 infantry soldiers. In total, one akṣauhiṇī division has 2,18,700 warriors. So, 23 akṣauhiṇī divisions consisted of 50,30,100 warriors.
With the massive army by his side, Jarāsandha, a formidable warrior challenged Krishna and Balarama. He was so puffed up that he thought that it is below his dignity to fight with Krishna who was a mere a boy. So, instead of fighting directly with Krishna he challenged Balarama to fight.
“Jarāsandha looked at the two of Them and said: O Kṛṣṇa, lowest of men! I do not wish to fight alone with You, since it would be a shame to fight with a mere boy. You fool who keep Yourself hidden, O murderer of Your relatives, go away! I will not fight with You.” Srimad Bhagavatam 10.50.17
“You, Rāma, should gather Your courage and fight with me, if You think You can do it. You may either give up Your body when it is cut to pieces by my arrows, and thus attain to heaven, or else kill me.” Srimad Bhagavatam 10.50.18
Why Krishna decides not to kill Jarāsandha?
However, Lord Krishna had other plans. When he saw the humongous army of Jarāsandha surrounding the city of Mathura, he started contemplating as how to deal with Jarāsandha, “Should I kill him along with his soldiers or should I kill only his soldiers?”
The Lord then thought that the purpose of my appearance in this world is to annihilate the demons and protect the devotees. “If I kill all the soldiers and leave Jarāsandha alive then Jarāsandha will again assemble demoniac people and will attack again. I will again be able to kill those impious associates of Jarāsandha. So, in this way just outside the Mathura city, I will be able to lessen the burden of the earth by killing millions of demons.”
As Lord Krishna was thinking, two chariots descended from the spiritual world consisting of the charioteers and the weapons. It should be noted here that Krishna did not chant any mantras or did any yagna to invite the chariots from the higher sky.
Krishna just desired and the chariots appeared. That is the beauty of Krishna, he just desires, and everything happens automatically. Krishna along with his brother Balarama came out of the city with a small contingent of armies.
The residents of Mathura were tensed. They had faith in Krishna’s ability but out of love were concerned for Krishna.
Krishna and Balarama defeats Jarāsandha
Jarāsandha’s army had surrounded Mathura and attacked Krishna and Balarama. But the two Lords were easily able to annihilate the soldiers of Jarāsandha with a small contingent of soldiers.
“Lord Kṛṣṇa took arrows from His quiver, fixed them on the bowstring, pulled back, and released endless torrents of sharp shafts, which struck the enemy’s chariots, elephants, horses and infantrymen. The Lord shooting His arrows resembled a blazing circle of fire.” Srimad Bhagavatam 10.50.23
The mighty warriors of Jarāsandha fell dead on the ground. Gigantic elephants and the horses too dropped dead having their heads severed.
Jarāsandha could not believe what he saw. He had come with a mission to not just kill Krishna and Balarama but also to destroy the entire Mathura. But his 5 million soldiers got killed and he was left alone.
“For Him who orchestrates the creation, maintenance and destruction of the three worlds and who possesses unlimited spiritual qualities, it is hardly amazing that He subdues an opposing party. Still, when the Lord does so, imitating human behavior, sages glorify His acts.” Srimad Bhagavatam 10.50.29
Balarama captures Jarāsandha
Jarāsandha was all alone now on the battlefield. Everyone accompanying him was killed even the horses and elephants. Balarama caught Jarāsandha just like a lion catches a deer and tied him with ropes just like an animal. But Krishna asked Balarama to release Jarāsandha and not take his life.
Balarama released the defeated king. Jarāsandha felt terribly humiliated. For a warrior insult is worse than death. Completely dejected, he thought of retiring to the forest and do penance.
Persuaded by friends, Jarāsandha attacked Mathura seventeen times
But he met other kings on the way who were his friends and had same evil mentality. They persuaded him not to relinquish the throne. His friends told him that he lost because of some past karma or may be because he took his opponents lightly. He should not lose hope and again attack the city. Jarāsandha felt encouraged.
He returned to his kingdom and again started making plans to attack Mathura. Soon, Jarāsandha attacked Mathura for 2nd time. Again, all his soldiers were killed by Krishna and Balarama, and he was left alive. Jarāsandha again returned to his kingdom and began preparing for the warrior.
The foolish king of Magadh attacked Mathura 3rd time and again got defeated. In this way Jarāsandha attacked Mathura 17 times with a desire to kill Krishna and Balarama but each time he was defeated and his entire was annihilated but he was left alive.
Krishna builds Dvārakā
Just when Jarāsandha was going to attack Mathura for the eighteenth time, another king called Kālayavana attacked Mathura with 30 million soldiers.
At that time, Krishna decided to shift the residents of Mathura to a safer place and so he created a magnificent city of Dvārakā. In the night when all the residents of Mathura were fast asleep, he mysteriously transferred them from Mathura to Dvārakā.
When they slept in the night, they were in Mathura and when they woke up they found themselves in a beautiful palace in Dvārakā. The city of Dvārakā was full of opulence, had all the facilities. And in that great city built by Krishna no one suffered from thirst and hunger.
After shifting all the residents to Dvārakā, Krishna made plans to get Kālayavana killed. By his divine plan, he got Kālayavana killed from his devotee, Mucukunda.
Without killing Jarāsandha, Krishna goes to Dvārakā
After the death of Kālayavana, Krishna returned to Mathura and annihilated the army of Kālayavana. As Krishna had thought of not killing Jarāsandha, so he decided to flee from there with his brother Balarama.
Although defeated 17 times, Jarāsandha mistakenly thought that the two brothers are fleeing away in fear and laughed loudly.
Lord Krishna had a different plan to kill Jarāsandha and it is not always easy to comprehend Krishna’s plan. Krishna and Balarama later returned to Dvārakā and in Dvārakā everyone was so happy to see the two brothers, Krishna and Balarama.
Since Krishna fleed from the battlefieled and went to Dvārakā, so he is also known as Ranchod. Ranchod means one who ran away from the battle.
Jarāsandha is again defeated and is finally killed
Later we see that when Krishna kidnapped Rukmini because Rukmini wanted to marry Krishna and not Śiśupāla then Rukmini’s brother along with Śālva, Jarāsandha, Dantavakra and Vidūratha attacked Krishna. In fact, the army which attacked Krishna was led by Jarāsandha, but Jarāsandha was easily defeated by Krishna’s army.
When Rukmini became fearful seeing Jarāsandha and his army, Krishna laughed and asked Rukmini not to worry, “Do not be afraid, beautiful-eyed one. This enemy force is about to be destroyed by your soldiers.” Srimad Bhagavatam 10.54.5
The supreme Lord Krishna is the creator, maintainer and destroyer of the entire universe. For him to fight Jarāsandha is just like we fighting an ant.
Krishna would have easily killed Jarāsandha when the demon first attacked the city of Mathura. But Krishna kept him alive so that he could assemble demons from all directions and bring it to Mathura and then Krishna could easily kill thousands of demons and free the earth from sinful beings. Later Bhima, guided by Krishna, killed Jarāsandha.