One day, while the war of Kuruksetra was still on and Bhismadeva was functioning as the commander in chief of Duryodhana’s army, Duryodhana reached Bhismadeva and said, “Five days have already passed under your leadership and the Pandavas on the opposite side are still alive. If you remain lenient towards the Pandavas, we cannot win the war. Since you wanted to be soft and loving towards the Pandavas, you should have mentioned that before I selected you to be the commander in chief of my army. You are such a great warrior that none of the demigods, the demons, or humans in the whole universe cannot defeat you in battle. If you wanted, we could win the war within one day. Can you please perform your duties genuinely?” Hearing this, Bhismadeva got angry and promised, “Tomorrow I will kill all the Pandavas and surely no one from this universe can protect them.” This statement by Bhismadeva spread like wildfire everywhere, and, hearing this, the Pandavas became scared and prayed to Lord Krsna for His help. Dropadi became very upset that she would become a widow and that her husbands would be killed before her death. According to Vedic civilization chaste ladies wish to die before the death of their husbands. When night arrived, she reached Lord Krsna and said that she wanted to die before her husbands’ death because Bhismadeva’s words were as sure as death and he did not tell lies even while joking. Living a widowed life is very difficult for a chaste lady; that is why a chaste lady desires to live, surpassing her husband’s death; so she wanted to die. Lord Krsna told Dropadi, “He cannot do anything but feel sympathy for her situation.” After this Dropadi went in her camp feeling very sad.
Lord Krsna took His four armed form and took His bow and arrow and sat outside the camp of the Pandavas working as their night guard overnight while the Pandavas slept. Dropadi, desiring not to live, thought, “I must go out of the camp and burn myself in the funeral pyre before tomorrow arrives because Bhismadeva will kill my husbands in the battle in the morning.” Thinking this, she covered herself with a cloth so nobody could recognize her and exited the entrance of the camp. Unless Lord Krsna is directly involved, no male or female should decide to commit suicide for any reason, as it is against Vedic civilization.
Lord Krsna was sitting alert outside the door acting as the night guard for the Pandavas and saw Dropadi exiting while He was guarding the camp. Lord Krsna asked why Dropadi was exiting the camp at the dead of night. She replied, saying that she did not want live to see her husbands getting killed and it was impossible for her to live as a widow. At this point, Lord Krsna wanted to perform a pastime to make His devotee, Dropadi, happy. From this point onwards Lord Krsna’s internal potency, Yogamaya, was working on Dropadi and therefore Dropadi requested Lord Krsna to help her make a funeral pyre so she could burn herself in it. Lord Krsna agreed to make a funeral pyre for her a distance away from the camp and also told her that it is customary for the funeral pyre that she decorate herself in the best possible way, as she had done at the time of her marriage, before jumping into the pyre. Although she didn’t want to go to decorate herself, she felt that Lord Krsna’s advice must be followed, therefore she went in her camp to decorate herself with gorgeous garments and ornaments as a chaste lady would do at the time of marriage. While she decorated herself, Lord Krsna gathered dry wood and ignited the pyre for Dropadi and told her to enter in the funeral pyre. When Dropadi reached near the blazing pyre to jump in, Lord Krsna told her that the rule of the pyre is to first circumambulate it, so she circumabulated it just once. When Lord Krsna told her to circumambulate seven times, she said she could not do so because her legs were shaking and she was not in the proper mindset. Lord Krsna wanted to perform a specific pastime to keep the Pandavas alive even though Bhismadeva had promised to kill them and thus lifted Dropadi on His back to circumambulate the funeral pyre and, while circumambulating the pyre, He took her, unbeknownst to Dropadi, near the camp of Bhismadeva. It had started raining and Lord Krsna covered Dropadi with His own blanket and reached the gate of Bhismadeva’s camp. The gatekeeper asked Lord Krsna, “Who are you?” Lord Krsna, not letting him recognize that He was Lord Krsna, told the gatekeeper (pointing to Dropadi) that this chaste lady wanted to meet Bhismadeva right away. Dropadi asked Lord Krsna how she got near Bhismadeva’s camp in the dead of night. Lord Krsna replied, “I brought you here because the rule of the funeral pyre is that you must pay respects to elderly great personalities of your family and get their blessings before entering into the pyre.
Bhismadeva was a great devotee and knew that Dropadi was a chaste lady; therefore there was no fear of her entering in his camp alone at night. Bhismadeva’s guard did not let Lord Krsna inside, but let Dropadi enter into the camp, because in the camp of Bhismadeva real devotees, true Brahmins, chaste ladies, innocent children, and old people were allowed to enter at any time without question. So when Dropadi entered, she saw Bhismadeva awake and he was moving around in his camp with an anxious look on his face. Lord Krsna had taught Dropadi not to introduce herself as soon as she met Bhismadeva and to immediately fall down to the ground and pay her obeisances and wait for his blessings and when she knew that his blessings were positive, only then should she introduce herself. With this in mind, Dropadi payed her obeisances to Bhismadeva. Bhismadeva blessed her, saying, “May all auspiciousness be with you and may you live happily with your husband.” Hearing the benediction, Dropadi introduced herself and said, “You are a great devotee and a great authority of Vedic civilization and blessings never go in vain because you never tell a lie even while joking. But I am a little skeptical about your present blessing because you have promised to kill my husbands tomorrow and if my husbands will be dead then how can the blessings that I have now received be fruitful?”
Seeing Dropadi with tears in her eyes, Bhismadeva asked her, “Who brought you here at the dead of night and how come you are not wet from the rain outside? How come your feet are not smeared with mud?” Dropadi replied, “Our guard had brought me here and he had covered me with his blanket and had taken my shoes because your guard did not let me enter here with shoes, so my shoes are with my guard.” Lord Krsna had taught Dropadi not to say who actually had brought Him there and to only say that a guard had brought her there. Because Bhismadeva was a great devotee of Lord Krsna, he immediately understood that Lord Krsna had brought her there, so he immediately rushed towards the outside of his camp looking for who brought Dropadi to his place. He found Lord Krsna in His four armed form there holding the blanket of Dropadi in one hand and her shoes in another with the guarding weapons in His other two hands. Bhismadeva folded his hands and began praying to Lord Krsna, “O Lord Krsna, whomever you want to protect, there is no one in this creation that can kill that person. The Pandavas are Your real devotees and they are under Your protection. How can I kill them? The promise I made to kill them will kill me in return. I will be dead tomorrow in the battle instead. You are an amazing God. See, You brought Dropadi to me in the dead of night and because my guard did not allow her to enter my camp with shoes, You held her shoes in Your hand. How much You love your devotees is unimaginable. It is true that You will do anything for Your real devotees. It is a fact that if anyone becomes Your real devotee, You will do anything for that devotee. You do not like those devotees who are two-faced, who are hypocrites like an actor on a stage, or who are a hoax. Please keep me at Your lotus feet and give me a benediction that when I am on the verge of death You show me Your four-armed form in front of my eyes when I pass away.” Lord Krsna agreed.
This episode proves that Lord Krsna is always with His real devotees and never lets them harm Him in any way even though somebody promises to harm them. Bhismadeva is also His devotee and the Pandavas are also His devotees. Even though one devotee promised to harm another segment of devotees, still Krsna protected one immediately and another at death. Such promises should not be made by anyone unless Lord Krsna is directly involved in that episode. Even though both were real devotees, the Pandavas were considered to be better, that is why Krsna protected them before protecting Bhismadeva. Neither Dropadi killed herself by jumping in the funeral pyre nor did Bhismadeva kill the Pandavas. All were protected. This was the pastime of Lord Krsna and those who are His real devotees understand such pastimes of Him correctly. Just imagine! The Lord of the universe from whom all the universes emanate, that very Lord Sri Krsna, held Dropadi on His back and held her shoes in His hand because she was also a great devotee of Him. One has to become a real devotee, gender has no bar.
[Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji, KBS5139]