Srimad Bhagavatam 01.15.16A - Nature of Krishna's Protection (download mp3)
by Damodar Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
yad-doḥṣu mā praṇihitaṁ guru-bhīṣma-karṇa-
astrāṇy amogha-mahimāni nirūpitāni
nopaspṛśur nṛhari-dāsam ivāsurāṇi
Great generals like Bhīṣma, Droṇa, Karṇa, Bhūriśravā, Suśarmā, Śalya, Jayadratha and Bāhlika all directed their invincible weapons against me. But by His [Lord Kṛṣṇa’s] grace they could not even touch a hair on my head. Similarly, Prahlāda Mahārāja, the supreme devotee of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, was unaffected by the weapons the demons used against him.
The history of Prahlāda Mahārāja, the great devotee of Nṛsiṁhadeva, is narrated in the Seventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Prahlāda Mahārāja, a small child of only five years, became the object of envy for his great father, Hiraṇyakaśipu, only because of his becoming a pure devotee of the Lord. The demon father employed all his weapons to kill the devotee son, Prahlāda, but by the grace of the Lord he was saved from all sorts of dangerous actions by his father. He was thrown in a fire, in boiling oil, from the top of a hill, underneath the legs of an elephant, and he was administered poison. At last the father himself took up a chopper to kill his son, and thus Nṛsiṁhadeva appeared and killed the heinous father in the presence of the son. Thus no one can kill the devotee of the Lord. Similarly, Arjuna was also saved by the Lord, although all dangerous weapons were employed by his great opponents like Bhīṣma.
Karṇa: Born of Kuntī by the sun-god prior to her marriage with Mahārāja Pāṇḍu, Karṇa took his birth with bangles and earrings, extraordinary signs for an undaunted hero. In the beginning his name was Vasusena, but when he grew up he presented his natural bangles and earrings to Indradeva, and thenceforward he became known as Vaikartana. After his birth from the maiden Kuntī, he was thrown in the Ganges. Later he was picked up by Adhiratha, and he and his wife Rādhā brought him up as their own offspring. Karṇa was very charitable, especially toward the brāhmaṇas. There was nothing he could not spare for a brāhmaṇa. In the same charitable spirit he gave in charity his natural bangles and earrings to Indradeva, who, being very much satisfied with him, gave him in return a great weapon called Śakti. He was admitted as one of the students of Droṇācārya, and from the very beginning there was some rivalry between him and Arjuna. Seeing his constant rivalry with Arjuna, Duryodhana picked him up as his companion, and this gradually grew into greater intimacy. He was also present in the great assembly of Draupadī’s svayaṁvara function, and when he attempted to exhibit his talent in that meeting, Draupadī’s brother declared that Karṇa could not take part in the competition because of his being the son of a śūdra carpenter. Although he was refused in the competition, still when Arjuna was successful in piercing the fish target on the ceiling and Draupadī bestowed her garland upon Arjuna, Karṇa and the other disappointed princes offered an unusual stumbling block to Arjuna while he was leaving with Draupadī. Specifically, Karṇa fought with him very valiantly, but all of them were defeated by Arjuna. Duryodhana was very much pleased with Karṇa because of his constant rivalry with Arjuna, and when he was in power he enthroned Karṇa in the state of Aṅga. Being baffled in his attempt to win Draupadī, Karṇa advised Duryodhana to attack King Drupada, for after defeating him both Arjuna and Draupadī could be arrested. But Droṇācārya rebuked them for this conspiracy, and they refrained from the action. Karṇa was defeated many times, not only by Arjuna but also by Bhīmasena. He was the king of the kingdom of Bengal, Orissa and Madras combined. Later on he took an active part in the Rājasūya sacrifice of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira, and when there was gambling between the rival brothers, designed by Śakuni, Karṇa took part in the game, and he was very pleased when Draupadī was offered as a bet in the gambling. This fed his old grudge. When Draupadī was in the game he was very enthusiastic to declare the news, and it is he who ordered Duḥśāsana to take away the garments of both the Pāṇḍavas and Draupadī. He asked Draupadī to select another husband because, being lost by the Pāṇḍavas, she was rendered a slave of the Kurus. He was always an enemy of the Pāṇḍavas, and whenever there was an opportunity, he tried to curb them by all means. During the Battle of Kurukṣetra, he foresaw the conclusive result, and he expressed his opinion that due to Lord Kṛṣṇa’s being the chariot driver of Arjuna, the battle should be won by Arjuna. He always differed with Bhīṣma, and sometimes he was proud enough to say that within five days he could finish up the Pāṇḍavas, if Bhīṣma would not interfere with his plan of action. But he was much mortified when Bhīṣma died. He killed Ghaṭotkaca with the Śakti weapon obtained from Indradeva. His son, Vṛṣasena, was killed by Arjuna. He killed the largest number of Pāṇḍava soldiers. At last there was a severe fight with Arjuna, and it was he only who was able to knock off the helmet of Arjuna. But it so happened that the wheel of his chariot stuck in the battlefield mud, and when he got down to set the wheel right, Arjuna took the opportunity and killed him, although he requested Arjuna not to do so.
Naptā, or Bhūriśravā: Bhūriśravā was the son of Somadatta, a member of the Kuru family. His other brother was Śalya. Both the brothers and the father attended the svayaṁvara ceremony of Draupadī. All of them appreciated the wonderful strength of Arjuna due to his being the devotee friend of the Lord, and thus Bhūriśravā advised the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra not to pick any quarrel or fight with them. All of them also attended the Rājasūya-yajña of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira. He possessed one akṣauhiṇī regiment of army, cavalry, elephants and chariots, and all these were employed in the Battle of Kurukṣetra on behalf of Duryodhana’s party. He was counted by Bhīma as one of the yūtha-patis. In the Battle of Kurukṣetra he was especially engaged in a fight with Sātyaki, and he killed ten sons of Sātyaki. Later on, Arjuna cut off his hands, and he was ultimately killed by Sātyaki. After his death he merged into the existence of Viśvadeva.
Trigarta, or Suśarmā: Son of Mahārāja Vṛddhakṣetra, he was the King of Trigartadeśa, and he was also present in the svayaṁvara ceremony of Draupadī. He was one of the allies of Duryodhana, and he advised Duryodhana to attack the Matsyadeśa (Darbhaṅga). During the time of cow-stealing in Virāṭa-nagara, he was able to arrest Mahārāja Virāṭa, but later Mahārāja Virāṭa was released by Bhīma. In the Battle of Kurukṣetra he also fought very valiantly, but at the end he was killed by Arjuna.
Jayadratha: Another son of Mahārāja Vṛddhakṣetra. He was the King of Sindhudeśa (modern Sind Pakistan). His wife’s name was Duḥśalā. He was also present in the svayaṁvara ceremony of Draupadī, and he desired very strongly to have her hand, but he failed in the competition. But since then he always sought the opportunity to get in touch with Draupadī. When he was going to marry in the Śalyadeśa, on the way to Kāmyavana he happened to see Draupadī again and was too much attracted to her. The Pāṇḍavas and Draupadī were then in exile, after losing their empire in gambling, and Jayadratha thought it wise to send news to Draupadī in an illicit manner through Koṭiśaṣya, one of his associates. Draupadī at once refused vehemently the proposal of Jayadratha, but being so much attracted by the beauty of Draupadī, he tried again and again. Every time he was refused by Draupadī. He tried to take her away forcibly on his chariot, and at first Draupadī gave him a good dashing, and he fell like a cut-root tree. But he was not discouraged, and he was able to force Draupadī to sit on the chariot. This incident was seen by Dhaumya Muni, and he strongly protested the action of Jayadratha. He also followed the chariot, and through Dhātreyikā the matter was brought to the notice of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira. The Pāṇḍavas then attacked the soldiers of Jayadratha and killed them all, and at last Bhīma caught hold of Jayadratha and beat him very severely, almost dead. Then all but five hairs were cut off his head and he was taken to all the kings and introduced as the slave of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira. He was forced to admit himself to be the slave of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira before all the princely order, and in the same condition he was brought before Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira. Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira was kind enough to order him released, and when he admitted to being a tributary prince under Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira, Queen Draupadī also desired his release. After this incident, he was allowed to return to his country. Being so insulted, he went to Gaṅgotri in the Himālayas and undertook a severe type of penance to please Lord Śiva. He asked his benediction to defeat all the Pāṇḍavas, at least one at a time. Then the Battle of Kurukṣetra began, and he took sides with Duryodhana. In the first day’s fight he was engaged with Mahārāja Drupada, then with Virāṭa and then with Abhimanyu. While Abhimanyu was being killed, mercilessly surrounded by seven great generals, the Pāṇḍavas came to his help, but Jayadratha, by the mercy of Lord Śiva, repulsed them with great ability. At this, Arjuna took a vow to kill him, and on hearing this, Jayadratha wanted to leave the warfield and asked permission from the Kauravas for this cowardly action. But he was not allowed to do so. On the contrary, he was obliged to fight with Arjuna, and while the fight was going on Lord Kṛṣṇa reminded Arjuna that the benediction of Śiva upon Jayadratha was that whoever would cause his head to fall on the ground would die at once. He therefore advised Arjuna to throw the head of Jayadratha directly onto the lap of his father, who was engaged in penances at the Samanta-pañcaka pilgrimage. This was actually done by Arjuna. Jayadratha’s father was surprised to see a severed head on his lap, and he at once threw it to the ground. The father immediately died, his forehead being cracked in seven pieces.