News of Krishna’s visit to Hastinapura reached the Kuru royals. They set about exploring the best manner to invite and win over the Blue One to show favour towards Duryodhana.

“I’ll offer Krishna treasures and place at his feet exquisite works of art,” said King Dhristarashtra. “I’ll also give him the best milking cows and goats. And elephants; as many as he wants. These gifts, which are fit for a conquering king, will cause him to show us favour.”

“O King, the cowherd loves to flirt with milk maidens, but gold and jewels do not move him; not even the finest hooves of this land,” said Sakuni of Gandhara.

“Then, I shall gather the comeliest maidens from our empire and gift them to him.”

“Are we ruling an empire or managing a dancehall?” said the Gandhara royal.

“Sakuni!” Dhristarashtra’s sightless eyes bulged in anger.

“My dear brother, that is unbecoming of you,” said Queen Gandhari. “But I suspect you have something better with which to entice Krishna. If so, share your scheme, so my dear husband will know that your words were ill chosen, but you mean well.”

“We flatter the cowherd, not with material gifts or enticing flesh,” said Sakuni. “We’ll give him something that his kind yearns. We’ll make him a god.”

“He is a god,” said Bhishma.

“Well spoken, Grandsire,” said Sakuni. “When our time comes and we depart this earth, we’ll become gods too. All it takes is money to the poets and handsome gifts to some brahmanas. And of course, we will raise magnificent temples to host our likeness in stone. But Krishna; he wants to be a god while he is still alive.”

“You spew nonsense, bordering on blasphemy,” said Bhishma.

“Is that so, Grandsire Bhishma?” said Sakuni. “Here we are, all kshatriyans, in the king’s private parlour. There are no brahmins here. We can speak with candour. Why do you pretend ignorance when you have lived the longest and are the wisest among us? Do you not understand how our oral history matures?”

“Sakuni, I cannot tolerate your rudeness towards our Grandsire,” said Dhristarashtra. “Speak with respect or know your place and keep silent.”

“Dear brother-in-law of mine, hear me out. Aeons ago, a wealthy hero became king. When other wealthy men challenged him, the hero defeated them. He paid priests who claimed the gods chose him. The people believed. In time, the hero died. People, fed by oral history that twisted and turned as a tongue, claimed the hero was a god. People worshipped him and he became a god. But his grandsons were weak. A new hero rose and defeated the weaklings and became king. He claimed to have descended from the hero god; though the pretender was as unrelated as a donkey is to a lion. And so, it has become. Powerful men usurp thrones and claim heavenly blessings; claim descent from a god. But many of the so-called gods themselves started off as mere mortals on earth. All of us kshatriyans claim such heritage when we know the truth to be otherwise. And there are many priests who will feed and praise our ego in return for treasures and land grants. It is a system that has brought order among the clawing masses; a system that underpins our civilisation. We wait our turn to become a god, after our death, when our family and society worship our memory. But Krishna wishes us to worship him as a god right away. Today. That is his ego at play. Let’s feed that burgeoned ego.”

“What madness is this?” said Bhishma.

“Madness? Do you know a better way to win him over?”

“I don’t want any part of this scheme.”

“Dear Grandsire, if my scheme promises to praise and not disparage Krishna, will you agree?”

“If you speak the truth, yes, I might agree to such a plan.”

“I promise even you will applaud how well I praise him.”

Sakuni convinced Dhristarashtra to despatch a strong military contingent to meet Krishna at the border and escort him to Hastinapura. The last time the Pandavas, who had completed their thirteen years in exile, arrived with Krishna and his Vrishni army. The sudden incursion of the foreign military force had rattled the Kauravas; but the people welcomed and rejoiced with the returnees. The Pandavas entered as triumphant heroes; not as the poorer cousins come to beg the return of their lost kingdom, Indraprastha. This time, it would be a Kaurava army that will escort Krishna and his entourage.

Dushasana led a 100,000-strong army to meet the visitors. He looked foolish, for Krishna arrived with a modest entourage of ten chariots, a thousand-man regiment and one thousand servants.

“There is no need for you to travel with such a show of power and protection, Dushasana,” said Krishna. “I am sure the people of Kuru Pradesh love you and your brothers, as they love me too.”

*** Copyright @ 2021, Eric Alagan ***

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