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 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."
Actually King Jarāsandha was very liberal in giving charity to brāhmaṇas, and thus he informed Lord Kṛṣṇa, Bhīma and Arjuna: "My dear brāhmaṇas, you may ask from me whatever you like. If you so desire, you may take my head also. I am prepared to give it."
After this, Lord Kṛṣṇa addressed Jarāsandha as follows: "My dear King, please note that we are not actually brāhmaṇas, nor have we come to ask for food or grain. We are all kṣatriyas, and we have come to beg a duel with you. We hope that you will agree to this proposal. You may note that here is the second son of King Pāṇḍu, Bhīmasena, and the third son of Pāṇḍu, Arjuna. As for Myself, you may know that I am your old enemy Kṛṣṇa, the cousin of the Pāṇḍavas."
When Lord Kṛṣṇa disclosed their disguise, King Jarāsandha laughed very loudly, and then in great anger and in a grave voice he exclaimed, "You fools! If you want to fight with me, I immediately grant your request. But, Kṛṣṇa, I know that You are a coward. I refuse to fight with You because You become very confused when You face me in fighting. Out of fear of me You left Your own city, Mathurā, and now You have taken shelter within the sea; therefore I must refuse to fight with You. As far as Arjuna is concerned, I know that he is younger than me and is not an equal fighter. I refuse to fight with him because he is not in any way an equal competitor. But as far as Bhīmasena is concerned, I think he is a suitable competitor to fight with me." After speaking in this way, King Jarāsandha immediately handed a very heavy club to Bhīmasena, he himself took another, and all of them went outside the city walls to fight.
Bhīmasena and King Jarāsandha engaged themselves in fighting, and with their respective clubs, which were as strong as thunderbolts, they began to strike each other very severely, both of them being eager to fight. They were both expert fighters with clubs, and their techniques of striking each other were so beautiful that they appeared to be two dramatic artists dancing on a stage. When the clubs of Jarāsandha and Bhīmasena loudly collided, the impact sounded like that of the big tusks of two fighting elephants or like a thunderbolt in a flashing electrical storm. When two elephants fight together in a sugarcane field, each of them snatches a stick of sugarcane, holds it tightly in its trunk and strikes the other. At that time the sugarcane becomes smashed by such heavy striking. Similarly, when Bhīmasena and Jarāsandha were heavily striking each other with their clubs on different parts of their bodies—namely the shoulders, arms, collarbone, chest, thighs, waist and legs—their clubs were torn to pieces. In this way, all of the clubs used by Jarāsandha and Bhīmasena became ruined, and so the two enemies prepared to fight with their strong-fisted hands. Jarāsandha and Bhīmasena were very angry, and they began to smash each other with their fists. The striking of their fists sounded like the striking of iron bars or like the sound of thunderbolts, and the two warriors appeared to be like two elephants fighting. Neither was able to defeat the other, however, for both were expert in fighting, they were of equal strength, and their fighting techniques were also equal. Neither Jarāsandha nor Bhīmasena became fatigued or defeated in the fighting, although they struck each other continuously. At the end of each day's fighting, they lived at night as friends in Jarāsandha's palace, and the next day they fought again. In this way they passed twenty-seven days in fighting.
On the twenty-eighth day, Bhīmasena told Kṛṣṇa, "My dear Kṛṣṇa, I must frankly admit that I cannot conquer Jarāsandha." Lord Kṛṣṇa, however, knew the mystery of Jarāsandha's birth. Jarāsandha had been born in two different parts from two different mothers. When his father saw that the baby was useless, he threw the two parts into the forest. There they were later found by a witch named Jarā, who was skilled in the black arts. She managed to join the two parts of the baby from top to bottom. Knowing this, Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore also knew how to kill him. He hinted to Bhīmasena that since Jarāsandha had been brought to life by the joining of the two parts of his body, he could be killed by the separation of these two parts. Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa transferred His power into the body of Bhīmasena and informed him of the device by which Jarāsandha could be killed. Lord Kṛṣṇa broke off a twig from a tree, took it in His hand, and bifurcated it. In this way He hinted to Bhīmasena how Jarāsandha could be killed. Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is omnipotent, and if He wants to kill someone, no one can save that person. Similarly, if He wants to save someone, no one can kill him.
Informed by the hints of Lord Kṛṣṇa, Bhīmasena immediately took hold of Jarāsandha's legs and threw him to the ground. When Jarāsandha fell, Bhīmasena immediately pressed one of Jarāsandha's legs to the ground and took hold of the other leg with his two hands. Catching Jarāsandha in this way, he tore his body in two, from the anus up to the head. As an elephant breaks the branches of a tree in two, Bhīmasena separated the body of Jarāsandha. The audience standing nearby saw that Jarāsandha's body was now divided into two halves, so that each half had one leg, one thigh, one testicle, half a backbone, half a chest, one collarbone, one arm, one eye, one ear and half a face.