The King of Cedi interrupts the Rajasuya 
sacrifice to blaspheme Lord Krsna.

The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the narration continues, Vaisampayana describes how Sisupala objected when Lord Krsna was chosen the first to be worshiped at the great Rajasuya sacrifice of King Yudhisthira, now emperor of the world.

Sisupala Challenges the Decision to Worship Lord Krsna first

Sisupala Challenges the Decision to Worship Lord Krsna first

SISUPALA COULD NOT tolerate the worship offered to Lord Krsna. The mighty Sisupala, King of Cedi, rejected and insulted Krsna, in the process publicly reviling Bhisma and Yudhisthira.

Sisupala said, "When all these exalted lords of the earth are standing here, Yudhisthira, this Vrsni man Krsna does not deserve the honor of a ruler, as if He were a king. O Pandava, this is improper behavior for the exalted Pandavas. Out of selfishness you have worshiped lotus-eyed Krsna. You Pandavas are all childish! You can't understand, for the principles of religion are quite subtle. And this Bhisma, son of Ganga, has transgressed the law, for he has little vision. Like you, Bhisma is certainly bound to justice. So, because he is acting whimsically to please his favorite, he deserves even more disdain among the societies of decent people.

"How in the midst of all the kings of the earth can this Krsna of the Dasarhas, who is not even a king, deserve such honors, the way you have all worshiped Him? Or do you actually think Krsna to be senior? When His elderly father Vasudeva is present, how can his son deserve these honors? Or even if Krsna wishes you well and has rendered you service, how can He deserve such worship when Drupada is present? O Kuru chief, if perhaps you consider Krsna to be your teacher, how could you worship Him when [your real teacher] Drona is standing here? Or if you think Krsna to be a priest, O Kuru son, why should you worship Krsna when the learned sage Dvaipayana [the greatest of priests] is present? Krsna is not a priest, a teacher, or a king, and yet He is being worshiped. Why else but out of your capricious desire to please Him?

"Then again, if you are indeed to worship Krsna, then why bring all these kings here? To insult them? We offer tribute to Yudhisthira not out of fear or greed or diplomacy but because he is a man dedicated to virtue who aspired to be the lord of the earth. We offer tribute to him, but he does not consider us. What else could this be but disrespect, that in a council of kings you have, with arghya, * (A beverage made of auspicious ingredients that is offered to highly respected persons.) worshiped Krsna, who has not even achieved a clear status in society.

"For no reason, fame has gone to this son of Dharma, Yudhisthira, and people call him dharmatma, 'a virtuous soul.' In fact, what man would offer such elaborate worship to Krsna, who has fallen from virtue and, though born in the Vrsni dynasty, once killed a king? Today the status of being "a virtuous soul" has been dragged away from Yudhisthira, for by delivering the honor of arghya to Krsna he has become a weak, miserly man.

"If the sons of Kunti are frightened or wretched men, or if they are ascetics who don't care about the world and its customs, in any case you should know what honor Krsna actually deserves.

"And You, Krsna, when You are unworthy of this worship offered by wretched men, why have You approved it? You so highly esteem an honor that does not befit You, like a dog who lays hold of a stream of sacrificial butter and is eager to devour it in seclusion. But this sort of insult does not work among earthly kings. Clearly it is You alone whom the Kurus deceive. Indeed, they have made a fool of You. As the gift of a wife is to a eunuch, as the display of a lovely form is to a blind man, so is the offering of kingly honor to You, Krsna, who are not even a king.

"Now King Yudhisthira is revealed for what he is, and Bhisma too is seen as he really is. Even this Krsna is now actually seen. All this can now be understood as it really is."

Thus having spoken to the assembly, Sisupala at once rose up from his exalted seat and left that meeting, together with some other kings.

Yudhisthira and Bhisma Reply

Then King Yudhisthira rushed up to Sisupala and, trying to calm him, softly spoke these words: "It is not proper, O earthly ruler, for you to speak like that. It is the greatest injustice to speak such harsh and meaningless words. Bhisma, son of Santanu, has never failed to recognize the highest religious principle, so do not think otherwise and belittle him. Look at these many earthly rulers who are far senior to you. They tolerate this honor bestowed on Krsna, and similarly you should accept it. O lord of Cedi, Bhisma knows Krsna very well, and in truth. You do not know Him as well as he does."

Bhisma then spoke: "Humble persuasion should not be directed to him, nor is he worthy of conciliation, for he disapproves of the worship of Krsna, the seniormost person in the world. When a warrior who is the best of those who do battle conquers another in battle and, having subjugated his foe, then releases him, he becomes the defeated warrior's guru. In this meeting of kings I do not see even one earthly lord whom Krsna, son of the Satvatas, has not defeated in battle with His splendid power. Not only should we worship that infallible Lord Janardana, but so too should all the three worlds.

"Krsna has defeated many of the best warriors in battle; indeed, the entire universe is completely situated in Krsna, who has appeared among the Vrsnis. Therefore, even when elder men are present, we worship Krsna, not others. It is not proper for you to speak thus, Sisupala. Give up such an attitude.

"O king, I have adored many who were senior by knowledge, and I listened when those learned saintly ones came together and talked about the many highly revered attributes of the extremely qualified Krsna. And beyond that, I have heard people narrate, often and at length, the activities the wise Krsna has performed since His birth.

"O Cedi king, we worship Krsna, whom the saintly worship, not merely from personal desire, nor because we give priority to our family tie with Him, nor to gain from Him favors of any sort, though it is He who bestows all earthly happiness. Rather, we worship the Lord because we know His glory, heroism, and victory.

"Certainly there is no one here, not even a young boy, whom we have not examined. And passing over those who are senior by their qualities, we conclude that Lord Krsna is most venerable. In knowledge He is senior to the brahmanas, in strength greater than the warriors. These two causes of superiority are firmly established in the honorable Krsna. In this world of men, who but Krsna possesses such unlimited strength and unlimited understanding of the Vedas and their supplements?

"Fame, beauty, charity, modesty, expertise, humility, education, heroism, satisfaction, prosperity, determination, and supreme discernment are ever fixed in the infallible Lord. He is possessed of all existence. He is the great and sacred teacher, the guru, the venerable adored one whom I worship and whom all of you should revere. The priest, the guru, the son-in-law, the newly wedded brahmana, the monarch, and the beloved all these exist in Lord Krsna, since He is the Lord of the senses. Therefore, the infallible Lord is to be worshiped.

"Krsna alone is certainly both the generating source and the destroyer of the worlds. Indeed, for Krsna's sake the universe is assembled and exists. He is the eternal doer and the unmanifest cosmic nature. He is above all beings; therefore that infallible Lord is the oldest. Mind, intelligence, fire, water, sky, the mighty wind, and all that is earth indeed the entire existence is situated in Krsna. Sun, moon, stars, directions, all the planets, and the intermediate regions everything is situated in Krsna.

"This childish man Sisupala does not understand that Krsna exists everywhere, at all times; that is why he inveighs in this way. An intelligent man, one who can really discern the most excellent religious principle, must see according to that principle and not as this Cedi king does. Then who among these exalted kings, with all their elders and children, does not find Krsna worthy? Who indeed would not worship Him? Rather, if Sisupala determines this worship to be wrongly done, then let him do what is fitting in the matter of this wrong action!"

Having thus spoken, the greatly celebrated Bhisma fell silent.

Sahadeva's Challenge

Then Sahadeva uttered these meaningful words in reply: "O monarchs, whoever among you does not tolerate Krsna, He who with His immeasurable prowess slew Kesi and whom I now worship, then on the head of any such powerful man, or on the heads of all of them, I place my foot. Now that I have thus clearly spoken, let such a person speak out in reply. But all thoughtful kings must admit that Krsna is the teacher, father, and guru He who is to be worshiped, has been worshiped, and is worthy of worship."

Among all those intelligent, respectable, and powerful kings present, not one spoke out when Sahadeva clearly showed his foot. Then a shower of flowers fell on Sahadeva's head, and invisible voices declared, "Excellent! Excellent!" Narada Muni, who tells the future of all creatures, who frees people from all spiritual doubts, and who knows all the worlds, waved his deerskin in jubilation.

Thereupon, all the crowds of warriors headed by Sisupala, all of whom had come on Yudhisthira's invitation, became enraged, and their faces turned pale. Those kings, convinced of their own superiority, spoke with loathing about the anointing of Yudhisthira and the honor given Lord Krsna. Restrained by close friends, they resembled roaring lions being dragged away from their fleshy prey. Krsna then realized that that unlimited mass of might, that invincible sea of royalty, was making plans for battle.

Sahadeva, a god among men, having especially honored the brahmanas and ksatriyas, who are worthy of worship, then concluded the ceremony.

When Krsna had been directly adored, Sisupala, harasser of enemies, addressed the kings, his eyes bright red with rage: "I stand here among you as leader of the army! Believe it! What then now? Strap on your armor, and let us stand in battle against the assembled Vrsnis and Pandavas!"

Thus rousing all those kings, the bull of the Cedis took counsel with them, aiming to disrupt the holy rite.


Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who holds a Ph.D. in Indology from Harvard University, occasionally teaches at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and has been a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Characters in this Episode

Bhisma the grand-uncle of the Pandavas

Dharma the lord of religious principles (Yamaraja)

Drona the military teacher of the Pandavas

Drupada the father-in-law of the Pandavas

Dvaipayana a name of Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedas

Kunti the mother of the Pandavas

Kurus the sons of Dhrtarastra and cousins of the Pandavas

Narada Muni a sage who travels the universe at will

Pandavas Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva

Sisupala a cousin of Krsna's