Categories: Hindu Mythology

Jayadratha: The King of Sindhu in the Mahabharata

Jayadratha is a prominent character in the Indian epic Mahabharata. He was the king of the Sindhu kingdom, married to Dushala, the only sister of the hundred Kaurava brothers (Kauravas). The son of King Vriddhakshatra, Jayadratha’s life and actions had significant repercussions on the events of the Mahabharata, culminating in his death at the hands of Arjuna. He had a son named Suratha, who also played a part in the epic’s concluding events.

Jayadratha

Etymology and Other Names

The name Jayadratha comes from two Sanskrit words: “jayat,” meaning ‘victorious,’ and “ratha,” meaning ‘chariot.’ Thus, Jayadratha means ‘victorious chariot.’ He was also known by other names:

• Sindhuraja (सिन्धुराज) – King of Sindhu Rivers
• Saindhava (सैन्धव) – Chief of Sindhus or king of Sindhu Kingdom

Previous Birth

In the Drona Parva of the Mahabharata, Jayadratha is mentioned indirectly as the rebirth of Jambha, a powerful demon defeated by Indra and Vishnu. This connection is part of the epic’s intricate narrative, linking past and present events and characters.

The Abduction of Draupadi

During the Pandavas‘ exile, a significant event unfolded involving Jayadratha and Draupadi. While the Pandavas were away hunting, Draupadi was left alone at the ashram under the care of Sage Trunabindu and Dhaumya. Jayadratha, passing by, saw Draupadi and was struck by her beauty. He sent his minister Kotikasya to inquire about her identity. Kotikasya learned that she was Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, and reported back to Jayadratha.

Jayadratha abducted Draupadi and began moving towards his kingdom

Despite knowing her identity, Jayadratha approached Draupadi and proposed marriage. Draupadi, initially treating him hospitably as the Pandavas’ brother-in-law, vehemently refused his proposal. Enraged by her rejection, Jayadratha abducted Draupadi and began moving towards his kingdom.

Upon returning to the ashram and finding Draupadi missing, the Pandavas learned from Draupadi’s friend Dhatreyika that Jayadratha had forcibly taken her away. Yudhishthira ordered his brothers to rescue Draupadi. They pursued Jayadratha with great fury, decimating his soldiers. Realizing his forces were defeated, Jayadratha abandoned Draupadi and fled. The Pandavas rescued Draupadi, and upon Yudhishthira’s orders, they captured Jayadratha but spared his life. Bhima humiliated him by shaving his head, leaving five tufts of hair, and brought him back in chains. Draupadi, considering her sister-in-law Dushala, suggested releasing Jayadratha. He returned to his capital, bowing to Yudhishthira’s mercy.

Kurukshetra War

Penance and Boon

After his humiliation, Jayadratha performed severe penance to Lord Shiva, seeking power to avenge himself against the Pandavas. Pleased with his austerities, Shiva granted him a boon. Jayadratha wished to defeat the five Pandavas, but Shiva told him this was impossible. Instead, Shiva granted him the power to hold back the Pandavas, except Arjuna, for one day. With this boon, Jayadratha joined the Kaurava side in the Kurukshetra War.

Role in the War

Jayadratha’s role in the Kurukshetra War was significant. On the 11th day, he defeated Drupada and the Panchala forces but was later defeated by Abhimanyu. The 13th day saw the most pivotal moment involving Jayadratha. The Kauravas formed the Chakravyuha, a complex battle formation. Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu entered the formation, intending for the Pandava forces to follow and break it from within. However, Jayadratha used Shiva’s boon to hold back the Pandava brothers and their allies, trapping Abhimanyu inside. Isolated and overwhelmed, Abhimanyu was brutally killed by the Kaurava warriors.

Abhimanyu’s death was a devastating blow to the Pandavas. Arjuna, in particular, was grief-stricken and enraged. He vowed to kill Jayadratha by the next sunset, declaring that he would immolate himself if he failed. This set the stage for a dramatic confrontation on the 14th day of the war.

Arjuna’s Revenge

To protect Jayadratha, Dronacharya arranged complex formations: the Shakata Vyuha (cart formation), the Suchimukha Vyuha (needle formation), and the Padma Vyuha (lotus formation). Despite fierce fighting, Arjuna struggled to reach Jayadratha as the day waned. As sunset approached, Krishna created an illusion of sunset using his Sudarshana Chakra. The Kauravas, thinking the day was over, celebrated Arjuna’s imminent defeat.

Jayadratha emerged from hiding to mock the Pandavas. At that moment, Krishna dispelled the illusion, revealing the sun still above the horizon. Seizing the opportunity, Arjuna quickly shot a divine arrow that decapitated Jayadratha. Jayadratha’s head, carried by the arrow, landed in his father’s lap. Vriddhakshatra, horrified, stood up, causing his son’s head to fall to the ground. This fulfilled a prophecy, resulting in Vriddhakshatra’s head bursting into a hundred pieces, killing him instantly.

Succession

After the Kurukshetra War, Yudhishthira became the king and performed the Ashvamedha Yajna to assert his sovereignty. He sent an army to guard the sacrificial horse, led by Arjuna. As Arjuna’s forces approached the Sindhu kingdom, Jayadratha’s son Suratha, now grown, feared facing Arjuna and ended his own life. Arjuna, learning of Suratha’s death, felt compassion for Dushala, Jayadratha’s widow. He installed Suratha’s infant son as the heir of Sindhu and returned without engaging in battle.

Conclusion

Jayadratha’s life and actions had a profound impact on the Mahabharata’s narrative. His abduction of Draupadi, his role in Abhimanyu’s death, and his own dramatic demise underscore the themes of revenge, mercy, and the interplay of destiny and free will. His story is a testament to the complex characters and intricate storytelling that make the Mahabharata a timeless epic.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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