4. Preparations for the Kurukshetra war:
Krishna does not have an option. He is over-ruled by his council, and pledges his army to Duryodhana. However he says that he will fight on behalf of the Pandavas, because they have asked him for help too. He makes it sound as innocuous as possible: "I will only be a charioteer. I will not take up arms. I only wish to accompany my friend Arjuna. What can little old me do?" And now Duryodhana makes a fatal mistake. He underestimates Krishna. He agrees to Krishna's conditions.
Krishna plays his master-stroke early on. He is fully aware of the capabilities of his army. If Balaram enters the battlefield on Duryodhana's side, it is game over for the Pandavas. So Krishna convinces Balaram that this war will be full of adharma (he is not wrong on that count). A man of Balaram's accomplishments should not taint his soul by participating in such a war. He should instead go on a pilgrimage to the holy sites in India. _This_ is Krishna's greatest political maneuver in the Mahabharat. With Balaram gone, Kritivarma becomes the Senapati of the Yadava army. It is a testament to the quality of Yadava soldiers that Kritivarma and Satyaki (who is the only Yadava to fight for the Pandavas) are two of the 10 people to survive the war.
When Krishna goes to Hastinapur to sue for peace, one last time, he plays another closely guarded card. He takes Karna aside and tells him of his parentage. He then tries to sway Karna by promises of power and rule. He even offers Draupadi as a final perquisite. Karna turns him down. Luckily for Krishna, Bhishma too has his own agenda. He knows the truth of Karna's birth, and does not wish for him to fight his brothers. So he insults Karna in the war council, and tells him he is only fit to fight ardha-rathis. Karna swears not to enter the battlefield until Bhishma falls. Thus the Pandavas are free of the terror of Karna for 10 days. When Karna will finally enter the battlefield on the 11th day, Krishna will try again. He will send Kunti to Karna, to convince Karna to switch, and when that fails, to beg for the lives of her sons. Thus, Krishna will ensure that 4 sons of Kunti are safe from the wrath of Karna.
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