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Krishna Fighting Arjuna To Kill Gaya Gandharva

The story of Gaya Gandharva who creates fight between Arjuna and Krishna is not found in the Vyasa Mahabharata but features in many regional retelling of the Mahabharata. Arjuna protects the Gandharva as Subhadra had given the word that her husband will protect him. But Krishna wanted to kill the Gandharva for spitting on his head.

As the regional retelling a Gandharva called Gaya was flying over Dwaraka one day when he spat on the ground. Gaya’s spit fell on Krishna’s head. Furious at his insolence, Krishna took an oath to bead the creature who showed him such disrespect. He then picked up his weapons, including the dreaded Sudarshana chakra, mounted his chariot, and set out in pursuit of Gaya.

Terrified of Krishna, Gaya ran to Indraprastha and fell at the feet of Subhadra, Arjuna’s wife.

‘O noble lady! Save me from a mad warrior who is after my life and threatens to kill me for a crime accidentally committed,” the Gandharva cried.

Feeling sorry for the poor creature, Subhadra promised to help. “Do not be scared. My husband, Arjuna, is the mightiest archer on earth. He will offer you protection,” she reassured him. Gaya smiled in relief.

Shortly thereafter, fuming with rage, Krishna came to the gates of the city, and ordered Gaya, who he had seen entering the gates, to step out.

On seeing Krishna, Subhadra realized that the mad warrior that Gaya had been referring to was none other than her own brother. Having already promised to help the Gandharva, she could not go back on her word. She told Krishna that Arjuna had sworn to protect Gaya and therefore, Krishna could not harm him.

Reiterating his oath to behead Gaya, Krishna told Subhadra that nothing would stop him from killing the offender.

Soon Krishna and Arjuna stood facing each other. Arjuna held the mighty bow, Gandiva, in his hand, while Krishna’s Sudarshan Chakra whirred around his finger. Gayalay quivering at Subhadra’s feet. Men of their word, neither of the two warriors was ready to step back.

“The fundamental principle of dharma instructs one to honor one’s word,” said Arjuna.
A duel between the two would have been catastrophic. If Arjuna struck Krishna, the world would come to an end and if Krishna struck Arjuna, it would mean the defeat of the Pandavas, and ultimately, the end of all hope for the world.

The demigods, who saw all this unfold from heaven, were alarmed. Fearing the worst, they begged Brahma and Shiva to intervene and avert the unimaginable.

Brahma and Shiva reached the spot to stop the battling warriors. “Stop,” they said. “The earth trembles as you draw your weapons against each other.”

To resolve the conflict, Brahma asked Arjuna to let Krishna fulfill his oath and behead Gaya. He promised Arjuna that he would restore Gaya to life, making sure that he was not dishonored either.

“Thus both of you will be able to keep your world and fulfill your oath,” said Brahma.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, Arjuna lowered his bow and let Krishna behead Gaya. As promised, Brahma the resurrected the Gandharva.

The story of Gaya Gandharva explains how even good intentions can disrupt the bonds of friendship. It is also a lesson on how people can exploit friendship to their own advantage.

Sourcepage 123 of The Illustrated Mahabharata The Definitive Guide To India’s Greatest Epic, Published by DK Penguin Random House