It may be noted that by dispatching his younger brothers to conquer in different directions, King Yudhiṣṭhira did not actually intend that they declare war upon the kings. Actually, the brothers started for different directions to inform the respective kings about King Yudhiṣṭhira’s intention to perform the Rājasūya sacrifice. The kings were thus informed that they were required to pay taxes for the execution of the sacrifice. This payment of taxes to Emperor Yudhiṣṭhira meant that the king accepted subjugation before him. In case of a king’s refusal to act accordingly, there was certainly a fight. Thus by their influence and strength the brothers conquered all the kings in different directions, and they were able to bring in sufficient taxes and presentations, which they brought before King Yudhiṣṭhira.
King Yudhiṣṭhira was very anxious, however, when he heard that King Jarāsandha of Magadha did not accept his sovereignty. Seeing King Yudhiṣṭhira’s anxiety, Lord Kṛṣṇa informed him of the plan explained by Uddhava for conquering King Jarāsandha. Bhīmasena, Arjuna and Lord Kṛṣṇa then started together for Girivraja, the capital city of Jarāsandha, dressing themselves in the garb of brāhmaṇas. This was the plan devised by Uddhava before Lord Kṛṣṇa started for Hastināpura, and now it was given practical application.
King Jarāsandha was a very dutiful householder, and he had great respect for the brāhmaṇas. He was a great fighter, a kṣatriya king, but he was never neglectful of the Vedic injunctions. According to the Vedic injunctions, the brāhmaṇas are considered to be the spiritual masters of all other castes. Lord Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna and Bhīmasena were actually kṣatriyas, but they dressed themselves as brāhmaṇas, and at the time when King Jarāsandha was to give charity to the brāhmaṇas and receive them as guests, they approached him.
Lord Kṛṣṇa, in the dress of a brāhmaṇa, said to the King, “We wish all glories to Your Majesty. We three guests at your royal palace have come from a great distance to ask you for charity, and we hope that you will kindly bestow upon us whatever we ask from you. We know about your good qualities. A person who is tolerant is always prepared to tolerate everything, even though distressful. Just as a criminal can perform the most abominable acts, a greatly charitable person like you can give anything and everything for which he is asked. For a great personality like you, there is no distinction between relatives and outsiders. A famous man lives forever, even after his death; therefore, any person who is completely fit and able to execute acts which will perpetuate his good name and fame and yet does not do so becomes abominable in the eyes of great persons. Such a person cannot be condemned enough, and his refusal to give charity is lamentable throughout his whole life. Your Majesty must have heard the glorious names of charitable personalities such as Hariścandra, Rantideva and Mudgala, who used to live only on grains picked up from the paddy field, and the great Mahārāja Śibi, who saved the life of a pigeon by supplying flesh from his own body. These great personalities have attained immortal fame simply by sacrificing the temporary and perishable body.” Lord Kṛṣṇa, in the garb of a brāhmaṇa, thus convinced Jarāsandha that fame is imperishable but the body is perishable. If one can attain imperishable name and fame by sacrificing his perishable body, he becomes a very respectable figure in the history of human civilization.
While Lord Kṛṣṇa was speaking in the garb of a brāhmaṇa along with Arjuna and Bhīma, Jarāsandha marked that the three of them did not appear to be actual brāhmaṇas. There were signs on their bodies by which Jarāsandha could understand that they were kṣatriyas. Their shoulders were marked with impressions due to carrying bows, they had beautiful bodily structure, and their voices were grave and commanding. Thus he definitely concluded that they were not brāhmaṇas but kṣatriyas. He also thought that he had seen them somewhere before. But although these three persons were kṣatriyas, they had come to his door begging alms like brāhmaṇas. Therefore he decided that he would fulfill their desires in spite of their being kṣatriyas, because they had already diminished their position by appearing before him as beggars. “Under the circumstances,” he thought, “I am prepared to give them anything. Even if they ask for my body, I shall not hesitate to offer it to them.” In this regard, he began to think of Bali Mahārāja. Lord Viṣṇu in the dress of a brāhmaṇa appeared as a beggar before Bali and snatched away all of his opulence and his kingdom. He did this for the benefit of Indra, who, having been defeated by Bali Mahārāja, was bereft of his kingdom. Although Bali Mahārāja was cheated, his reputation as a great devotee able to give anything and everything in charity is still glorified throughout the three worlds. Bali Mahārāja could guess that the brāhmaṇa was Lord Viṣṇu Himself and had come to him just to take away his opulent kingdom on behalf of Indra. Bali’s spiritual master and family priest, Śukrācārya, repeatedly warned him about this, yet Bali did not hesitate to give in charity whatever the brāhmaṇa wanted, and at last he gave up everything to that brāhmaṇa. “It is my strong determination,” thought Jarāsandha, “that if I can achieve immortal reputation by sacrificing this perishable body, I must act for that purpose; the life of a kṣatriya who does not live for the benefit of the brāhmaṇas is certainly condemned.”