Jarasandha (Sanskrit: जरासंध) was the king of Magadha with Girivrajapur as capital (present day Rajgir in Bihar). He was a descendant of the king Brihadratha, the founder of the Barhadratha dynasty of Magadha which was found by Uparichara Vasu more than 6000 years before war of Mahabharata happened.
Jarasandha’s descendants now called themselves as ancient Jats in north India.
He had friendship with many kings like Narakasura, Pundru Vasedev, Shishupala of Chedi, Shalva of Shuva and Vishmak.
Jarasandha’s only concern was that he had no heirs. On the advice of his close friend king Banasura (ruler of North-East Indian states with capital as Sonitpur, which is present day Tezpur, Assam), Jarasandha decided to get his two daughters Asti and Prapti married to the heir apparent of Mathura, Kamsa.
Jarasandha had also lent his army and his personal advise to Kamsa to create a coup d’état in Mathura.
When Krishna killed his maternal uncle Kamsa in Mathura, Jarasandha become enraged because of Krishna and the entire Yadava clan on seeing his two daughters being widowed. So, Jarasandha attacked Mathura and the Yadavas 17 times. Once his army included the Panchalas and the Kurus among other kings of India. While Krishna and the Yadavas survived the attacks, sensing danger Krishna relocated his capital city to Dwaraka, which was an island in arabian sea.
So, Krishna was named as Ranchod, meaning deserter of warfield.
Birth of Jarasandha
Brihadratha was the king of Magadha. His ancestor Uparichara Vasu had taken over the Chedi Kingdom, and Brihadratha had taken over Maghada. His wives were the twin princesses of Varanasi. While he led a contented life and was a famed king, he was unable to have children for a very long time. Frustrated over his inability to have children, he retreated to the forest and eventually ended up serving a sage named Chandakaushika. The sage took pity on him and on finding the actual cause for his sorrow, gave him a fruit and told him to give it to his wife who in turn will soon become pregnant. But the sage did not know that he had two wives. Not wishing to displease either wife, Brihadratha cut the fruit in half and gave it to both of them. Soon both the wives became pregnant and gave birth to two halves of a human body. These two lifeless halves were very horrifying to view. So, Brihadratha ordered these to be thrown in the forest. A Rakshasi (demoness) named Jara (or Barmata) found these two pieces and held each of these in her two palms. Incidentally when she brought both of her palms together, the two pieces joined together giving rise to a living child. The child cried loudly which created panic for Jara. Not having the heart to eat a living child, the demoness gave it to the king and explained him all that happened. The father named the boy as Jarasandha (literally meaning “joined by Jara“).
Chandakaushika arrived at the court and saw the child. He prophesied to Brihadratha that his son will be specially gifted and would be a great devotee of the god Siva.
Death of Jarasandha
Jarasandha planned to conduct a Yagna to please the goddess Chandi. For this Yagna, He had imprisoned 95 kings and was in need of 5 more kings, after which he was planning to perform the Yagna, sacrificing all the 100 kings. Jarasandha thought that this Yagna will make him win the powerful Yadava Army.
The kings captured by Jarasandha wrote a secret missive to Krishna to rescue them from Jarasandha. Krishna, not wanting to go for an all out war with Jarasandha to rescue the captured kings, in order to avoid a major loss of lives, devised a plan to eliminate Jarasandha. The Pandava king Yudhisthira was planning to make a Rajasuya yagna in order to become the emperor. Krishna convinced his cousin Yudhisthira that Jarasandha was the only obstacle to oppose Yudhisthira from becoming an emperor. Krishna planned a clever scheme to eliminate Jarasandha by making Yudhisthira’s brother Bhima wrestle with the Jarasandha in a duel.
Like Karna, Jarasandha was also very good in giving charity donations. After performing his Shiva pooja, he used to give whatever the Brahmins asked for. On one such occasion Krishna, Yudhisthira’s brothers Arjuna and Bheema in the guise of Brahmins met Jarasandha. Krishna asked Jarasandha to choose any one of them for a wrestling match. Jarasandha chose Bhima, the strongman, to wrestle. Both of them fought for 14 days. Bheema lost hope to win the battle and sought help of Krishna. Krishna – who knew of the secret of Jarasandha’s birth – took a blade of grass or twig and spit it into two and threw it in opposite directions. Bheema understood the clue and spit Jarasandha’s body into two, slaying the king.
After his death, the Pandavas released all the 95 kings imprisoned by Jarasandha and crowned his son, Sahadeva as the king of Magadha. Thus, these 95 kings along with Sahadeva, the new ruler of Magadha became an ally of Pandavas who took part in the Mahabharata war later and got killed.
Jarasandha’s martial arts training center at Rajgir
Jarasandha Akhara or Akhada, better known as Ranbhumi which literally means battle field, is located at Rajgir of Nalanda District. This is where martial arts were practiced by Jarasandha and his army.
He used to unite all kings and warriors who were against Krishna during that time and train them here.
Bheema killed Jarasandha in a dual combat at this location.
Brihadrata’s dynasty rule continued with Jarasandha’s grandson Marjari and further more with 20 descendant kings for 1021 years and ended with 22nd king Ripunjaya.
Later other dynasties took over Magadha kingdom and ruled further and later shifter capital from Girivrajapur (present day Rajgir) to Pataliputra (present day Patna).
[Complete history of Kings who ruled Magadha kingdom for 6000 years with dates will comeup in another article]
In North India descendants of Jarasandh still claim to exist and use Lodha (लोधा) (which means piece of flesh named after their ascendant “jarasandh“) as their suffix or surname while naming themselves. Lodha Gotra Jats live in Rajasthan.
There are few more descendants of Jarasandha moved to a place called Mitan in Rajasthan and are known by Gotra of Mitan (मिटाण).