It began at the end
After the Great War that nearly destroyed humankind and humanity alike, Kurukshetra was silent! The battle had come to an end and the war ground was strewn with bodies of royal and commoners alike. The Pandavas were not rejoicing their win. Rather they were devastated at the destruction that a single war had caused. Stunned and speechless, they scanned the ground for people in need of help.
The curse of Gandhari
“Duryodhanaa….,” shrieked a voice from far far away, “My son, open your eyes. Speak… Speak to me my first born… Speak to me… A hundred did we bear, all fine and proud. Was it for such a foolish end? Dhuryodhana…. SPEAK OUT.” Gandhari, was bent over the bloody muddle of her son’s body, tears pouring down, slurring her speech. Her husband, the blind king Dritharashtra stood by, looking helpless. The Pandavas and Krishna hurried over to Gandhari and Dritharashtra, to offer their respects, apologies and condolences.
Sanjaya, the king’s escort, gently bent down to Gandhari, to inform the blindfolded woman of the arrival of the five and their companion. Gandhari stood up, all grief gone in a flash, replaced with vengeance. Red, boiling fury. The Pandavas recoiled in fear. Gandhari, however, totally ignored them and aided by Sanjaya, came up to Krishna.”You”, she shouted, “You, the young king of Dwaraka. You, who I worshipped as Vishnu and You, known as an avatar of the supreme godhead. Aren’t you ashamed of your doings?”
Gandhari fumed, “Shouldn’t you have averted this war with your divine will and power? Is this what you do to your own creation? I have requested you, each and every day in the past troubled times to avert this disaster. Is this how you answer my prayers? Ask your mother, Devaki, the pain of losing a child. She had seven of her children being killed at birth and now I have seen a hundred sons of mine being butchered to death” Gandhari, was shaking, her anger uncontainable.”
Gandhari was shocked to hear Krishna laughing gently. Her fury vents itself out, “And you smile after all this? What a nerve you have. Listen to this, oh mocking God. If my years of Vishnu Bhakthi have been true, and if I have been true to my husband, then, may you die in 36 years from today. May Dwaraka be flooded and may every one of your Yadava kin perish by killing each other, just as you made the kins of Kuru kill one another. May the Yadavas die out…. may the Yadavas die out….”
Gandhari was close to tears, her anger all gone, and she fell down on her knees to the Lord’s feet. Krishna, lifted her up, his smile stuck onto his face and said “Maathey, that curse of yours will take effect, not only because of your true devotion towards me and your husband, but also due to the ever changing sands of time. In the mean time, let’s attend to the tending of the dead and sending them away on their journey to the heavens.” And supporting Gandhari, Krishna walked past the startled Pandavas.
The burden of Lord Krishna
After the war was over Krishna was himself contemplating the end of the Yadav race. They were very powerful under the protection of lord Krishna so no external force could defeat them. If the Yadavas themselves are left unchecked, at some point of time in future, they will become a burden to the Earth. So, lord Krishna realizes the importance of bringing the destruction of his own race. So, when Gandhari curses Lord Krishna and his race, He thanks her for having solved his problem.
As years passed by…
Days flew by after the coronation of Yudhishtra as the king of Hasthinapur. Krishna went back to Dwaraka to rule over the beautiful island kingdom. Blessed by the presence of the Goddess of Wealth (Rukmini), the people enjoyed a luxurious life. Slowly the curse of Gandhari started taking form. The Yadavas were in eternal bliss in Dwaraka. So much bliss, that they forgot good conduct, morals and the importance of discipline and humility. Consequently, once when some learned men came to Dwarka, the Yadavas sealed their destiny.
The curse of the sages
It so happened that once great sages like Vishwamitra, Durvasa, Vashista, Narada among others were on a pilgrimage. After visiting various places, they visited Dwaraka to meet Lord Krishna and Balarama. The Yadavas, which included Bhodakas, Vrishnis, Kekeyas and Andakas, who were once virtuous devotees of Krishna, had lost their sense of culture and discipline and were little more than hooligans. A group of Yadava boys who saw the great sages decided to play a prank on them in order to test their powers.
They dressed Samba, the son of Krishna and Jambavati, as a woman and tied many robes to his belly so he'd appear as a pregnant woman. They approached the sages and asked them to predict whether the 'lady' would give birth to a boy or a girl. The Rishis realised the truth through their divine vision and were enraged. In anger, the sages cursed them saying that the disguised boy will give birth to a lump of Iron which will destroy the entire Yadava race.
The Yadavas, shocked though they were, were too arrogant to even apologise. They left the scene, laughing off the curse as the speech of one who had lost all his sanity. Things were however very different the next morning. Sambha developed labour pains and soon delivered a mace from within him. The Yadavas were now struck with fear. They immediately rushed with the mace to Akroora and Ugrasena and in the presence of Krishna himself; they narrated the weird tide of events.
Akroora imediately ordered, “Grind the mace to a fine powder and cast it into the seas.” The Yadavas nodded and retreated. Akroora cast his gaze at Krishna, his eyes full of questions. Krishna simply smiled back. “The wheels of time are turning Uncle”, he said, “and Sambha has played his part perfectly.” He left without another word, leaving both of them bewildered. “What did he mean by that?” asked Ugrasena. “I can tell you that, father.” Ugrasena turned around to the source of voice - Rukmini.
“Thirty six year ago, Krishna prayed to Shiva for a son like him. Does that ring any bell?” Rukmani asked. Ugrasena, said very slowly, his eyes bright, “A son like Shiva. A son like the god of destruction! Krishna wanted Sambha to aid in destruction…” And even more slowly, his voice down several levels, he uttered, “Gandhari’s curse. The time for her curse to act has arrived. A reward for her devotion in him”, he ended, leaving Akroora agape and Rukmini nodding in agreement.
This is how Yadava’s dealt with their destruction
Outside the palace, the Yadavas had obeyed Akroora’s command to the dot. They had ground the mace finely. Everything was ground except a sharp triangular piece which appeared to be very hard indeed. And then they had thrown the fine powder and the lone piece into the sea. Happy that they had taken care of the matter so easily, they returned back to their general state of intoxication and bliss.
The tale of that triangular piece
Time rolled by. The triangular piece of the mace was swallowed by a fish. The fish was caught by a hunter, who upon finding the piece in the fish’s entrails immediately used it to craft a fine poisonous arrow. The fine powder, on the other hand, washed back ashore and deposited itself by the beautiful coast of Dwaraka. A certain grass grew in lush abundance in the area where the powder was deposited. Everything was set for the final showdown.
A step towards their own destruction
The Yadavas soon forgot all about their curses. The consumption of alcohol was banned in the entire kingdom of Dwaraka. However, after 36 years of Mahabharat war, lots of omen used to appear in the Dwaraka city. The Sudarshana chakra, Panchajanya shankh, the chariot of lord Krishna and the plough weapon of Balarama disappeared from earth. One day, the Yadavas gathered on the beach. The liquor that they drank made them lose their senses completely.
They started teasing one another, bringing up the gory pasts and gruesome mistakes of each other. Satyaki and Krithavarma acted as the starting points of the doom of Dwaraka. Satyaki had fought on Pandava’s side in the battle of Kurukshetra and Krithavarma, on the Kaurava side. They taunted one another, bringing back memories of the horrific war. In a fit of rage, Satyaki, jumped on Krithaverma and cut his head off. The friends of Krithavarma pounced on Satyaki and a great brawl followed.
Pradyumna, the son of Krishna, innocent though he was, found himself in the thick of the fight and was killed. As they have come to the sea shore for a plealsure, they did not carry any weapons along with them. They saw the long grown grass in abundance along the sea shore. They picked up the grass stems and beat and killed each other. Those grass stems are nothing but blades made of the powder of the same lump of Iron born to Samba. Thus the curse of saints fructified.
The end of Krishna’s clan
Each blade of grass became a mace, smashing into the Yadavas, killing them instantly. It was a matter of moments before the Yadavas lay dead, killed by their own clan members and in front of their very King. Except Krishna, all Yadavas were killed. Krishna’s charioteer Daruka and another one called Babhru only survived. They both approached Sri Krishna and said: “O Krishna! All Yadavas were killed. Whereabouts of Balarama are not known. It is better to search for him.”
Krishna and Balrama
Balarama was in deep meditation under a tree. Seeing this, Krishna told Daruka, ““O Daruka! you immediately go to Hastinapura and inform Dharmaja about the mass massacre of Yadavas and bring Arjuna here. He will look after everything.” said Krishna. Accordingly, Daruka rushed towards Hastinapura in a chariot. Krishna went to the place where Balarama was sitting and said “O brother Balarama! I will sit in meditation along with you.”
Balrama leaves the mortal world
But there was no reply from Balarama. A long serpent came out of the face of Balarama. Balarama left this mortal body. His soul travelled into the sky through the sea. As Balarama was the incarnation of Adi Sesha, Naga community welcomed back Balarama. Balarama attained Vishnu Loka and joined Vishnu. Krishna saw Balarama putting an end to his incarnation. Krishna thought that time has come for him to leave this world and go back to his original abode.
Cursed and Distressed: The Death of Krishna
Krishna started thinking about the ways and means to leave this body. He remembered the words of Rishi Durvasa. Once, as per the wish of saint Durvasa, he applied Payasam (liquid food prepared with milk, sugar and rice) throughout his body. As his legs were resting on ground, he could not apply it to his feet. Durvasa observed it and said: “Krishna! You have not applied Payasam to my foot. Your death is in your foot.” said Saint Durvasa.
Krishna laid down under a tree and went into Yoga Samadhi. At that time a hunter Jara entered that forest. That hunter misunderstood the moving foot of Krishna as a lurking deer and shot a lethal arrow that pierced into Krishna’s feet. As soon as the hunter reached Krishna, he realised his mistake and pleaded the lord for forgiveness. Lord Krishna consoles him andtell him how his death was inevitable.
Krishna says that in his previous birth as Rama in the Tretayuga, Rama killed Vaali (Sugreeva's brother) from behind. So, Krishna has now reaped the price for the same through Jara who was king Vaali in his previous birth. This story beautifully brings out the very important fact that, even for the Ruler of the Universe, the laws of Karma remain the same. Hence, lord Krishna left the mortal world. The time from which lord Krishna died is considered to be the beginning of Kaliyuga.
Daruka, sent by Sri Krishna, met Pandavas and informed them about the tragic deaths. On hearing this, Pandavas plunged into great grief. After taking suitable instructions from Dharmaja, Arjuna reached Dwarka. Dwarka was supposed to be flooded within seven days of Krishna’s death; hence, Arjuna decided to take the left over people to Indraprastha. Krishna's father left for heavenly abode while being in meditation. The wives of Krishna and Balarama pounced into pyre as Sati. Arjuna performed the last rites for Krishna and his kinsman.
All the ladies and children started moving towards Indraprastha along with Arjuna. As the people walked away from the Dwaraka city, the city sank into the sea. On the way, some thieves of saw that only one man with a bow accompanied the ladies. They tried to rob them. Arjuna who was once a very great archer, found it very difficult to even lift his bow. When he tried to invoke his Divya astras, he forgot all those incantations. The thieves killed many people and kidnapped the women.
Some of the ladies fell into the nearby river and gave up their lives. Some burnt themselves alive. Arjuna arrived at Hastinapur in a dejected condition. The Pandavas visited sage VedaVyasa and narrated the Yadavas destruction, Krishna's death and Arjuna’s inability to save the Yadava women. The sage consoled the Pandavas and told them that their purpose on the earth is served. The Pandavas coroneted Parikshit and embarked on their final journey towards the Himalayas.
Most of the pauranic tales based on Mahabharath flatters and projects lord Krishna to be the cause for every event that occurred in Mahabharath. But, this is an incorrect nortion. Krishna was a person who never intervened in anyone's matter unnecessarily on his own. For example, Krishna participated in the Kurukshethra battle only after Arjuna and Duryodana themselves voluntarily came to seek his help in Dwaraka. He gave his Narayani sena to Duryodana and became a charioteer to Arjuna.