Krishna is considered by many as the hero of the Mahabharata. He is the eighth son of Devaki, the princess of Mathura, and Vasudeva, the prince of Shurasena.
Krishna is raised in a cowherd settlement in Vrindavan for the first fifteen years of his life. Later, along with Balarama, he founds the seashore city of Dwaraka and builds a kingdom for the Yadavas – named Anarta.
He enters the Mahabharata story at Draupadi’s swayamvara, and quickly establishes friendly relations with the Pandavas – in particular with Arjuna. This friendship lasts all the way to the Kurukshetra war and beyond.
In this post, we will answer the question: How did Krishna get the Sudarshana Chakra?
Krishna receives the Sudarshana Chakra from Agni during the burning of Khandava. Agni gets Brahma’s permission to devour Khandava, but is thwarted by Indra. So he takes the help of Arjuna and Krishna to guard the forest while he consumes it. He gives Arjuna the Gandiva, and to Krishna he gives the Sudarshana Chakra.
Read on to discover more about how Krishna got the Sudarshana Chakra.
(For answers to all Krishna-related questions, see Krishna: 36 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
Around the time of Subhadra’s marriage, Krishna and Arjuna get an opportunity to spend a lot of time together. Their lifelong friendship takes root here.
First, Krishna hosts Arjuna in Dwaraka and encourages him to abduct and marry Subhadra. Then, Krishna accompanies Subhadra to her new home in Khandavaprastha, and stays back for a while.
During this time – while Arjuna and Krishna are sporting near the forest of Khandava – Agni the fire god approaches them for help with his predicament.
Agni’s issue is that he has received permission from Brahma to devour the Khandava forest, but Indra keeps stopping him in order to save Takshaka, the king of the Nagas. Takshaka and Indra happen to be good friends.
Why does Agni need to burn Khandava? Because he has been steadily weakened over a period of a number of years due to the many sacrifices performed by a king named Swetaki. Swetaki has poured so much ghee on Agni that the fire god is no longer burning with the same lustre.
(Suggested: How did Arjuna get the Gandiva?)
In order to regain his prowess, therefore, he goes to Brahma – and the grandsire recommends that he devours the Khandava.
When Agni tells Brahma that Indra will not allow Khandava to be destroyed as long as Takshaka lives there, Brahma replies: ‘Krishna and Arjuna live in Khandavaprastha now. Go take their help.’
This entire episode, therefore, occurs with the full approval of the gods.
Disguised as a Brahmin
Agni dons a disguise as a Brahmin and visits Arjuna and Krishna one day. He first secures a boon from Arjuna that the latter will without fail quench his hunger. Then he reveals his true form.
He tells them that his hunger is not for food of mortals but for the entire forest of Khandava.
Arjuna and Krishna agree – having given their word – but when the prospect of fighting Indra and his army arises, the two friends tell Agni: ‘We would love to help, but we do not have the weapons we will need.’
Agni thinks this is a reasonable request. He immediately summons Varuna and arranges for a number of divine weapons to be given to Arjuna and Krishna.
Agni gives Arjuna the following gifts:
- A bow that was forged in the kingdom of Soma called the Gandiva
- Two inexhaustible quivers of arrows
- A chariot that had been built by Vishwakarma, furnished with celestial weapons, drawn by silver horses, and upon whose banner stands a great ape (Hanuman).
Krishna receives from Agni the following weapons:
- A discus with an iron pole driven through the hole in its center – called the Sudarshana Chakra. ‘This weapon will make you superior in battle to men and gods, the Rakshasas, the Pisachas, the Daityas and the Nagas, O Krishna. When you hurl it at someone, it will kill them and return to your hands.’
- A mace called Kaumodaki, capable of slaying every Daitya on Earth, and which roars like thunder each time it is used.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 14: Massacre at Khandava.)
Krishna becomes Invincible
With these gifts, Arjuna and Krishna become just about the two most powerful warriors in the known world. Using the Gandiva and the Sudarshana Chakra respectively, they defeat the army of Indra and ensure that Agni completes his mission successfully.
Here we must note that the ‘army of Indra’ is not the full army of all celestials containing Vishnu, Shiva, Kartikeya and so on. It appears to be just a single division that belongs solely to Indra.
Caring for Takshaka – and therefore for Khandava – appears to be a personal issue for Indra. All the other gods seem to have agreed that the destruction of the forest is preordained – and therefore ‘a good thing’.
In any case, Arjuna and Krishna have no real problems defeating the celestial army. At the same time, they ensure that none of the animals and other beings living in the forest escape death by Agni’s flames.
After the project is complete, Agni does not ask for the weapons to be returned. Krishna and Arjuna keep them for good. This indicates that the burning of Khandava is merely an excuse to equip the two heroes with plenty of weapons and render them invincible.
Powers of the Sudarshana Chakra
At a realistic level, the Sudarshana Chakra is a discus that a person can twirl about his forefinger and hurl at his enemy. One assumes that the metal weapon has serrations along its perimeter that scythe through skin and muscle.
Discus-wielders of this sort often target their enemy’s neck, and other organs not usually protected by armour.
In the Mahabharata, however, the Sudarshana Chakra is also imbued with magical abilities. Here are a few:
- Once it leaves Krishna’s finger, it can travel around a particular area on its own, and kill every enemy it encounters. In this, it is not unlike the Narayana Astra.
- It returns to Krishna’s finger on its own after the work has been done. So it is also a bit of a boomerang.
- It has the ability to respond to chants and instructions from its owner, delivered – one assumes – in the right language and in the right tone.
When does Krishna use it?
The most notable use of the Sudarshana Chakra in the Mahabharata occurs during the Shishupala Vadha Parva.
At Yudhishthir’s Rajasuya, when Shishupala, the king of Chedi, goes on a long tirade against Krishna and all the other assembled Kuru elders, Krishna finally decides that enough is enough – and sends his Sudarshana Chakra to behead the offender.
During the Kurukshetra war, overcome by frustration at Arjuna’s disinterested manner of fighting, Krishna leaps off his chariot and advances toward Bhishma with his Sudarshana Chakra held aloft. Arjuna does not let him use it, though.
In addition to the above, the Sudarshana Chakra makes an appearance every time Krishna displays his Vishwaroopa. He is always depicted holding it up on his right index finger.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
- Krishna: 36 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Karna: 41 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered
- 60 Mahabharata Episodes that Tell You the Whole Story