50. ARJUNA'S CHARIOTEER
HAVING sent Drupada's brahmana to Hastinapura on the peace mission, the Pandavas sent word, at the same time, to the princes likely to favor their cause to collect their forces and hold themselves in readiness for war. To Dwaraka, Arjuna went himself. Having understood through his spies the turn events were taking, Duryodhana too did not remain idle. Learning that Vasudeva (Krishna) was back in his home city, he sped towards Dwaraka in his chariot, as fast as his swiftest horses could take him. The two of them, Arjuna and Duryodhana, thus reached Dwaraka on the same day. Krishna was fast asleep. Because they were his close relatives, Arjuna and Duryodhana could go into his bedroom. There they both waited for Krishna to wake up. Duryodhana, who went in first, seated himself on a decorated throne-chair at the head of the bed, while Arjuna kept standing at its foot with arms folded in respectful posture. When Mahadeva woke up, his eyes fell on Arjuna who stood in front of him and he gave him warm welcome. Turning then to Duryodhana, he welcomed him too and asked them what brought them both to Dwaraka. Duryodhana was the first to speak. "It looks," said he, "as though war would break out between us soon. If it does, you must support me. Arjuna and I are equally beloved of you. We both claim equally close relationship with you. You cannot say that either of us is nearer to you than the other. I came here before Arjuna. Tradition has it that he who came first should be shown preference. Janardana, you are the greatest among the great; so it is incumbent on you to set an example to others. Confirm with your conduct the traditional dharma and remember that it was I who came first." To which Purushottama (Krishna) answered: "Son of Dhritarashtra, it may be that you came here first, but it was Kunti's son that I saw immediately on waking up. If you were the first arrival, it was Arjuna who first caught my eye. So, even in this respect, your claims on me are equal and I am therefore bound to render assistance to both sides. In distributing favors, the traditional usage is to begin with the junior-most among the recipients. I would, therefore, offer the choice to Arjuna first. The Narayana, my tribesmen, are my equals in battle and constitute a host, large and almost invincible. In my distribution of assistance, they will be on one side, and I individually on the other. But I shall wield no weapon and take no part in actual fighting."