The Killing of Satrājit and Śatadhanvā
After Akrūra visited Hastināpura and reported the condition of the Pāṇḍavas to Kṛṣṇa, there were further developments. The Pāṇḍavas were transferred to a house which was made of lac and was later set ablaze, and everyone believed that the Pāṇḍavas, along with their mother Kuntī, had been killed. This information was also sent to Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. After consulting together, They decided to go to Hastināpura to show sympathy to Their relatives. Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma certainly knew that the Pāṇḍavas could not have been killed in the devastating fire, but in spite of this knowledge They wanted to go to Hastināpura to take part in the bereavement. On arriving in Hastināpura, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma first went to see Bhīṣmadeva because he was the chief of the Kuru dynasty. They then saw Kṛpācārya, Vidura, Gāndhārī and Droṇa. Other members of the Kuru dynasty were not sorry, because they wanted the Pāṇḍavas and their mother to be killed. But some family members, headed by Bhīṣma, were actually very sorry for the incident, and Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma expressed equal sorrow, without disclosing the actual situation.
When Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were away from the city of Dvārakā, there was a conspiracy to take the Syamantaka jewel away from Satrājit. The chief conspirator was Śatadhanvā, who was among those who had wanted to marry Satyabhāmā, Satrājit’s beautiful daughter. Satrājit had promised that he would give his beautiful daughter in charity to various candidates, but later the decision was changed, and Satyabhāmā was given to Kṛṣṇa along with the Syamantaka jewel. Satrājit had no desire to give the jewel away with his daughter, and Kṛṣṇa, knowing his mentality, accepted his daughter but returned the jewel. After getting back the jewel from Kṛṣṇa, he was satisfied and kept it with him always. But in the absence of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma there was a conspiracy by many men, including even Akrūra and Kṛtavarmā, who were devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa, to take the jewel from Satrājit. Akrūra and Kṛtavarmā joined the conspiracy because they wanted the jewel for Kṛṣṇa. They knew that Kṛṣṇa wanted the jewel and that Satrājit had not delivered it properly. Others joined the conspiracy because they were disappointed in not having the hand of Satyabhāmā. Some of them incited Śatadhanvā to kill Satrājit and take away the jewel.
The question is generally raised, Why did a great devotee like Akrūra join this conspiracy? And why did Kṛtavarmā, although a devotee of the Lord, join the conspiracy also? The answer given by great authorities like Jīva Gosvāmī is that although Akrūra was a great devotee, he was cursed by the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana because of his taking Kṛṣṇa away from their midst. Because of wounding their feelings, Akrūra was forced to join the conspiracy declared by sinful men. Similarly, Kṛtavarmā was a devotee, but because of his intimate association with Kaṁsa, he was contaminated by sinful reactions, and he also joined the conspiracy.
Being inspired by all the members of the conspiracy, Śatadhanvā one night entered the house of Satrājit and killed him while he was sleeping. Śatadhanvā was a sinful man of abominable character, and although due to his sinful activities he was not to live for many days, he decided to kill Satrājit while Satrājit was sleeping at home. When he entered the house to kill Satrājit, all the women there cried very loudly, but in spite of their great protests, Śatadhanvā mercilessly butchered Satrājit without hesitation, exactly as a butcher kills an animal in the slaughterhouse. Since Kṛṣṇa was absent from home, His wife Satyabhāmā was present on the night Satrājit was murdered, and she began to cry, “My dear Father! My dear Father! How mercilessly you have been killed!” The dead body of Satrājit was not immediately removed for cremation because Satyabhāmā wanted to go to Kṛṣṇa in Hastināpura. Therefore the body was preserved in a tank of oil so that Kṛṣṇa could come back and see the dead body of Satrājit and take real action against Śatadhanvā. Satyabhāmā immediately started for Hastināpura to inform Kṛṣṇa about the ghastly death of her father.
When Kṛṣṇa was informed by Satyabhāmā of the murder of His father-in-law, He began to lament like an ordinary man. His great sorrow is, again, a strange thing. Lord Kṛṣṇa has nothing to do with action and reaction, but because He was playing the part of a human being, He expressed His full sympathy for the bereavement of Satyabhāmā, and His eyes filled with tears when He heard about the death of His father-in-law. He thus began to lament, “Oh, what unhappy incidents have taken place!” Then Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, along with Satyabhāmā, immediately returned to Dvārakā and began to make plans to kill Śatadhanvā and take away the jewel. Although he was a great outlaw in the city, Śatadhanvā was still very much afraid of Kṛṣṇa’s power, and thus when Kṛṣṇa arrived he became most afraid.
Understanding Kṛṣṇa’s plan to kill him, he immediately went to take shelter of Kṛtavarmā. But Kṛtavarmā said, “I shall never be able to offend Lord Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, for They are not ordinary persons. They are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Who can be saved from death if he has offended Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa? No one can be saved from Their wrath.” Kṛtavarmā further said that Kaṁsa, although powerful and assisted by many demons, could not be saved from Kṛṣṇa’s wrath, and what to speak of Jarāsandha, who had been defeated by Kṛṣṇa seventeen times and each time had to return from the fighting in disappointment.
When Śatadhanvā was refused help by Kṛtavarmā, he went to Akrūra and implored him to help. But Akrūra also replied, “Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa are Themselves the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and anyone who knows Their unlimited strength would never dare offend Them or fight with Them.” He further informed Śatadhanvā, “Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma are so powerful that simply by willing They create, maintain and dissolve the whole cosmic manifestation. Unfortunately, persons bewildered by the illusory energy cannot understand the strength of Kṛṣṇa, although the whole cosmic manifestation is fully under His control.” He cited, as an example, that Kṛṣṇa, even at the age of seven years, had lifted Govardhana Hill and had continued to hold up the mountain for seven days, exactly as a child carries a small umbrella. Akrūra plainly informed Śatadhanvā that he would always offer his most respectful obeisances to Kṛṣṇa, the Supersoul of everything created and the original cause of all causes. When Akrūra also refused to give him shelter, Śatadhanvā decided to deliver the Syamantaka jewel into the hands of Akrūra. Then, riding on a horse which could run at great speed and up to four hundred miles at a stretch, he fled the city.
When Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were informed of the flight of Śatadhanvā, They mounted Their chariot, its flag marked by a picture of Garuḍa, and followed immediately. Kṛṣṇa was particularly angry with Śatadhanvā and wanted to kill him because he had killed Satrājit, a superior personality. Satrājit happened to be the father-in-law of Kṛṣṇa, and it is the injunction of the śāstras that one who is guru-druha, who has rebelled against a superior person, must be punished in proportion to the severity of the offense. Because Śatadhanvā had killed His father-in-law, Kṛṣṇa was determined to kill him by any means.
Śatadhanvā’s horse became exhausted and died near a garden house in Mithilā. Unable to take help of the horse, Śatadhanvā began to run with great speed. In order to be fair to Śatadhanvā, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma also left Their chariot and began to follow Śatadhanvā on foot. While Śatadhanvā and Kṛṣṇa were running, Kṛṣṇa took His disc and cut off Śatadhanvā’s head. After Śatadhanvā was killed, Kṛṣṇa searched through his clothing for the Syamantaka jewel, but He could not find it. He then returned to Balarāma and said, “We have killed this person uselessly, for the jewel is not to be found on his body.” Śrī Balarāma suggested, “The jewel might have been kept in the custody of another man in Dvārakā, so You’d better return and search it out.” Śrī Balarāma expressed His desire to remain in Mithilā City for some days because He enjoyed an intimate friendship with the king. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa returned to Dvārakā, and Balarāma entered the city of Mithilā.
When the king of Mithilā saw the arrival of Śrī Balarāma in his city, he was most pleased and received the Lord with great honor and hospitality. He gave many valuable presents to Balarāmajī in order to seek His pleasure. At this time Śrī Balarāma lived in the city for several years as the honored guest of the king of Mithilā, Janaka Mahārāja. During this time, Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, took the opportunity to come to Balarāma and learn from Him the art of fighting with a club.
After killing Śatadhanvā, Kṛṣṇa returned to Dvārakā, and in order to please His wife Satyabhāmā, He informed her of the death of Śatadhanvā, the killer of her father. But He also informed her that the jewel had not been found in his possession. Then, according to religious principles, Kṛṣṇa, along with Satyabhāmā, performed ceremonies in honor of His departed father-in-law. In those ceremonies all the friends and relatives of the family joined together.
Akrūra and Kṛtavarmā were prominent members in the conspiracy to kill Satrājit, having incited Śatadhanvā to kill him. So when they heard of the death of Śatadhanvā at Kṛṣṇa’s hand, and when they also heard that Kṛṣṇa had returned to Dvārakā, they both immediately left the city. The citizens of Dvārakā felt themselves threatened with pestilence and natural disturbances due to the absence of Akrūra from the city. This was a kind of superstition, because while Lord Kṛṣṇa was present there could not be any pestilence, famine or natural disturbances. But in the absence of Akrūra there were apparently some disturbances in Dvārakā. The superstition arose for the following reason: Once in the province of Kāśī (Vārāṇasī) there was severe drought – practically no rain fell. At that time the king of Kāśī arranged the marriage of his daughter, known as Gāndinī, with Śvaphalka, the father of Akrūra. This was done by the king of Kāśī on the advice of an astrologer, and actually it so happened that after the marriage of the king’s daughter with Śvaphalka there was sufficient rainfall in the province. Due to this supernatural power of Śvaphalka, his son Akrūra was considered equally powerful, and people were under the impression that wherever Akrūra or his father stayed there would be no natural disturbances, such as famine or drought. That kingdom is considered happy where there is no famine, pestilence or excessive heat and cold and where people are happy mentally, spiritually and physically. As soon as there was some disturbance in Dvārakā, people considered the cause to be the absence of an auspicious personality in the city. Thus there was a rumor that because of the absence of Akrūra inauspicious things were happening. After the departure of Akrūra, some of the elderly residents of the city also began to perceive inauspicious signs due to the absence of the Syamantaka jewel. When Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa heard these rumors spread by the people, He decided to summon Akrūra from the kingdom of Kāśī.
Akrūra was Kṛṣṇa’s uncle; therefore, when he came back to Dvārakā, Lord Kṛṣṇa first of all gave him a welcome befitting a superior person. Kṛṣṇa is the Supersoul in everyone and knows everything going on in everyone’s heart. He knew everything that had happened in connection with Akrūra’s conspiracy with Śatadhanvā. Therefore, He smilingly began to speak to Akrūra. Addressing him as the chief among munificent men, Kṛṣṇa said, “My dear uncle, it is already known to Me that the Syamantaka jewel was left by Śatadhanvā with you. Presently there is no direct claimant of the Syamantaka jewel, for King Satrājit has no male issue. His daughter Satyabhāmā is not very eager for this jewel, yet her expected son, as the grandson of Satrājit, would, after performing the regulative principles of inheritance, be the legal claimant of the jewel.” Lord Kṛṣṇa indicated by this statement that Satyabhāmā was already pregnant and that her son would be the real claimant of the jewel and would certainly take it from Akrūra.
Kṛṣṇa continued: “This jewel is so powerful that no ordinary man is able to keep it. I know that you are very pious in activities, so there is no objection to the jewel’s being kept with you. There is one difficulty, and that is that My elder brother, Śrī Balarāma, does not believe My version that the jewel is with you. I therefore request you, O large-hearted one, to show Me the jewel just once before My other relatives so that they may be pacified and reject various kinds of rumors. You cannot deny that the jewel is with you because we can understand that you have enhanced your opulence and are performing sacrifices on an altar made of solid gold.” The properties of the jewel were known: wherever the jewel remained, it would produce for the keeper more than two mounds of pure gold daily. Akrūra was getting gold in that proportion and distributing it profusely at sacrificial performances. Lord Kṛṣṇa cited Akrūra’s lavishly spending gold as positive evidence of his possessing the Syamantaka jewel.
When Lord Kṛṣṇa, in friendly terms and sweet language, impressed Akrūra about the real fact and Akrūra understood that nothing could be concealed from the knowledge of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he brought out the valuable jewel, covered by cloth but shining like the sun, and presented it before Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa took the Syamantaka jewel in His hand and showed it to all His relatives and friends present and then returned the jewel to Akrūra in their presence, so that they would know that the jewel was actually being kept by Akrūra in Dvārakā City.
This story of the Syamantaka jewel is very significant. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that anyone who hears the story of the Syamantaka jewel or describes it or simply remembers it will be free from all kinds of defamation and the reactions of all impious activities and thus will attain the highest perfectional condition of peace.