After equipping Themselves with military dress, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma mounted Their chariots. Kṛṣṇa rode the chariot of which Dāruka was the driver. With a small army They came out of the city of Mathurā, blowing Their respective conchshells. Curiously enough, although the other party was equipped with greater military strength, when they heard the vibration of Kṛṣṇa’s conchshell their hearts were shaken. When Jarāsandha saw Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa, he was a little bit compassionate because They happened to be related to him as grandsons. He specifically addressed Kṛṣṇa as puruṣādhama, meaning “the lowest among men.” Actually Kṛṣṇa is known in all Vedic scriptures as Puruṣottama, the highest among men. Jarāsandha had no intention of addressing Kṛṣṇa as Puruṣottama, but great scholars have determined the true meaning of the word puruṣādhama to be “one who makes all other personalities go downward.” Actually no one can be equal to or greater than the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Jarāsandha said, “It will be a great dishonor for me to fight with boys like Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma.” Because Kṛṣṇa had killed Kaṁsa, Jarāsandha specifically addressed Him as the killer of His own relatives. Kaṁsa had killed many of his own nephews, yet Jarāsandha did not take notice, but because Kṛṣṇa had killed His maternal uncle, Kaṁsa, Jarāsandha tried to criticize Him. That is the way of demoniac dealings. Demons do not try to find their own faults or those of their friends, but try to find the faults of their enemies. Jarāsandha also criticized Kṛṣṇa for not even being a kṣatriya. Because He was raised by Mahārāja Nanda, Kṛṣṇa was not a kṣatriya but a vaiśya. Vaiśyas are generally called guptas, and the word gupta can also be used to mean “hidden.” So Kṛṣṇa was both hidden and raised by Nanda Mahārāja. Jarāsandha accused Kṛṣṇa of three faults: that He killed His own maternal uncle, that He was not even a kṣatriya, and that He was hidden in His childhood. And therefore Jarāsandha felt ashamed to fight with Him.
Next he turned toward Balarāma and addressed Him: “You, Balarāma! If You like You can fight along with Him, and if You have patience, then You can wait to be killed by my arrows. Thus You can be promoted to heaven.” It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that a kṣatriya can benefit in either of two ways while fighting. If a kṣatriya gains victory in the fight, he enjoys the results of victory, but even if killed he is promoted to the heavenly kingdom.
After hearing Jarāsandha speak in that way, Kṛṣṇa answered, “My dear King Jarāsandha, heroes do not talk much. Rather, they show their prowess. Because you are talking a great deal, it appears that you are assured of your death in this battle. We do not care to hear you any longer, for it is useless to hear the words of a person who is going to die or of one who is very distressed.” To fight with Kṛṣṇa, Jarāsandha surrounded Him from all sides with great military strength. As the sun appears covered by cloudy air and dust, Kṛṣṇa, the supreme sun, was covered by the military strength of Jarāsandha. Kṛṣṇa’s and Balarāma’s chariots were marked with pictures of Garuḍa and palm trees, respectively. The women of Mathurā all stood on the tops of the houses, palaces and gates to see the wonderful fight, but when Kṛṣṇa’s chariot was surrounded by Jarāsandha’s military force and was no longer visible to them, they were so frightened that some of them fainted. Kṛṣṇa saw Himself overwhelmed by the military strength of Jarāsandha. His small army of soldiers was being harassed, so He immediately took up His bow, named Śārṅga.
He took His arrows from their quiver, and one after another He set them on the bowstring and shot them toward the enemy. They were so accurate that the elephants, horses and infantry soldiers of Jarāsandha were quickly killed. The incessant arrows shot by Kṛṣṇa appeared like a whirlwind of blazing fire killing all the military strength of Jarāsandha. As Kṛṣṇa released His arrows, all the elephants gradually began to fall, their heads severed by the arrows. Similarly, all the horses fell, their necks severed, and the chariots fell also, along with their flags and the fighters and drivers on the chariots. Almost all the infantry soldiers fell on the field of battle, their heads, hands and legs cut off. In this way, many thousands of elephants, horses and men were killed, and their blood flowed just like the waves of a river. In that river, the severed arms of men appeared like snakes and their heads like tortoises. The dead bodies of the elephants appeared like small islands, and the dead horses appeared like sharks. By the arrangement of the supreme will, there was a great river of blood filled with paraphernalia. The hands and legs of the infantry soldiers floated just like different kinds of fish, the hair of the soldiers floated like seaweed and moss, and the floating bows of the soldiers resembled waves of the river. And all the jewelry from the bodies of the soldiers and commanders seemed like many pebbles flowing down the river of blood.