“You will suffer a beastly death – lonely, helpless and aggrieved,” Mata Gandhari had cursed him after the battle of Kurukshetra. The heart-wrenching pain and anguish in her voice haunted him. Gandhari’s cries had reminded him of his own mother Yashoda’s wails when he was leaving Gokul. The pain of separating from one’s children is felt the same way by mothers of every age and era.

Gandhari had said, “I have lost ninety-nine sons. My feet are still stained with the blood from Duryodhan’s bleeding thighs...I am tired of washing my feet time and again...Dushasan’s severed hand still calls out to me in the middle of the night...Krishna, you failed to do justice.”

Despite knowing everything, Kunti too chose to blame Krishna for the carnage. “Krishna, my sons might have emerged victorious, but you have rendered so many mothers of Hastinapur childless and ruined so many families. How can I rejoice amidst so much grief? Krishna, you will never understand the agony of Gandhari bahen, because you yourself are not a mother...”

It wasn’t that Krishna couldn’t understand Gandhari’s grief, but all this was predestined; it had to happen.

Having taken the trouble to come this far, how could Krishna leave without completing the task? He had always known that he would have to witness such devastating slaughter. Not only did he have to count the bloodstained and ravaged bodies of his kinsfolk, but he also had to face the situation with courage and equanimity.

abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamyaham
For the preservation of the good, I manifest myself.

How could this vow be rendered futile?

It is true that even god, born as a human being, has to follow the moral codes of the mortal world. He has to experience all the emotions born of love, attachment and relationships that bind him. The mind, concealed by the body, gets enslaved and, as a result, every human suffers its travails.

That is why Krishna was distraught on witnessing the misery his own siblings, friends, nephews, grandchildren and great grandchildren had inflicted on each other.

Draupadi’s words still echoed in his mind... “twadiyam vastu govindam tubhyamev samarpaye”.

“I cannot continue carrying the burden of this knowledge any longer...Where am I going? I am not sure. I don’t even know if I am even going anywhere; yet, I would like to return everything you have given me and become free of debt.”

What freedom or liberation was she referring to?

Both Krishna and Draupadi understood the meaning of the words bondage and liberation.

It was time. Though the exact moment was still unclear, it was certain and fast approaching. Draupadi and Krishna were preparing each other for that moment.

While he was the one who was bestowed with the prowess of understanding people and reading their thoughts, Krishna wondered whether Draupadi too could read his mind...

“Was my relationship with Draupadi so deep that she could decipher even my innermost thoughts? Had she probably decided to free me before she liberated herself? Did she know that until she liberated me, she wouldn’t be able to free her own mind that so intensely identifies with mine?” Krishna asked these questions of himself.

“While men are incapable of understanding the difference between the mind and the intellect, women understand the mind much better!” she had said.

He recalled Draupadi saying, “Is there actually something called the mind, Sakha? Where in the body does it lie? Can you tell me what colour and shape it is? We don’t know so many things about it; nevertheless, the mind rules over this huge body, the past, present and the future...As women, we have a strange comradeship with our mind. Not only are we able to hide a lot of things in it, we also understand it better than men do. The mind controls the body as per its will. While women dance to its tunes, men are slaves to intellect, they measure and weigh everything by it and behave accordingly. A man’s intellect and a woman’s mind never think in the same direction, and that, my dear friend, is the root of all complications.”

Krishna had asked, “But how do you segregate and manage the variety of thoughts that arise?”

“O Sakha! Doesn’t a mother manage five sons who are all different? Each one’s behaviour, thoughts, words, likes and dislikes, expectations of affection and expressions of love are different. Yet, doesn’t she handle them? When we spin thread from cotton, sometimes, the threads do get entwined and tangled; similarly, our thoughts too can sometimes get tangled...”

“I have always seen you behave with restraint and express yourself clearly. Of course, I wouldn’t say you were always balanced, as I have seen you lose equanimity at times. Yet, your clarity constantly keeps your tone, behaviour and thoughts tied together. How are you able to achieve this, Sakhi?”

“Well, I don’t know how, but you do exactly as you say; is it any surprise that I too behave in a similar manner?”

“Sakhi, sometimes I am bewildered by the way you became five different women while relating with your five husbands ...”

“All those five women have become one and are surrendering to you – the man who holds the most exalted and singular place in my mind. The one who is my friend, my brother, my companion...and...”

“And what else, Sakhi?”

She added hesitatingly, “You are my all – my honour, my identity, my femininity...I have truly run out of words, my dear...I dedicate to this man, whom I hold in the highest esteem, everything that he has bestowed upon me and even all that he did not...”

Draupadi’s eyes seemed vacant and forlorn. Those flaming and ever-vibrant fiery orbs were unusually listless.

Was this the final moment of parting? Who was going away? And from whom ...?

Had Draupadi realised that her life purpose was over?

Krishna wondered, Is that why she had come to me? To seek liberation ... or to grant me mine? Is that why she had said: “Twadiyam vastu govindam tubhyamev samarpaye”?

When Draupadi and the five Pandav brothers came to Dwarka, little did they realise that it was the last time they were seeing Krishna there.

Just before leaving, Draupadi came to Krishna’s chamber early in the morning. Even his wives and his brother Balaram hesitated to visit at this hour because this was his time for daily prayers and meditation. Krishna loved his solitude in the morning, but Draupadi couldn’t help meeting him because what she had to say to him could be said only in utmost privacy. Draupadi feared that he would get busy later with his rajya sabha. She had to meet him first thing in the morning!

Krishna looked resplendent in his silk dhoti. His face was radiant with a sandalwood paste tilak on his forehead. Bare-chested, slender-waisted, broad-shouldered and devoid of any jewels except the sacred thread, his sinewy body looked arresting. His hair was freshly washed and combed back, with a few strands of grey peeping from behind his ears. His eyes were full of compassion and tenderness.

Draupadi wondered as she stood looking at him, “Is this the human form of god?”

Krishna wasn’t surprised to see Draupadi. Welcoming her with a sweet smile, he said, “Yagyaseni! The arrival of the goddess herself immediately after my pooja is an auspicious sign indeed!”

Draupadi softly said, “Sakha...”

She stayed silent for a long time. She had come fresh from her bath, water dripping down her wet hair, her face soft and aglow. Even though age had caught up with Draupadi, she was so beautiful, statuesque and slender still, that she could make a lot of young women envious. She wore a beige bodice and a saree to match. Yet her face gave away signs of having spent a sleepless night.

She opened her mouth to say something several times, but hesitated. She didn’t know where to begin. Sitting in awkward silence, she looked intermittently at Krishna and the sky visible through the window opposite her. She seemed to be struggling to gather her thoughts and feelings and kept playing with the end of her saree.

Krishna asked her gently, “Do you want to say something? Is there a problem?”

“Yes, I want to tell you something, but I am not sure how.”

Krishna said, “Just start speaking; everything will flow on its own.”

“I have never been at a loss for words with you, Krishna. You come to know of my thoughts and words even if I don’t express them, but today...”

“Come now...tell me without hesitation. Don’t be shy.”

“Oh, Sakha! Why would I feel shy? I hesitate because once I tell you, there will be nothing of mine left with me.”

“I am completely yours. I am always with you. So how will you lose anything by telling me?”

“That is all I came to tell you, Sakha...” Draupadi said, looking into Krishna’s eyes.

Krishna had perceived an unseen torrent in Draupadi’s eyes, for the first time in the time that he had known her. Her eyes welled up and tears streamed down her cheeks, her voice choked as she quietly turned her face and walked away.

Her unsaid words seemed to echo in the room, long after she had left:

Twadiyam vastu govindam tubhyamev samarpaye.


Excerpted with permission from Krishnayan, Kaajal Oza Vaidya, translated from the Gujarati by Subha Pande, eka.