Thirty-six years had passed since Gandhari cursed the Yadava race to total annihilation, blaming Krishna for the Mahabharata war. The chain of events leading to disaster and destruction of the race started from a prank, indulged in by the Yadava youth.
It was the fag end of Dwaparayuga.Sages Viswamitra, Kanva and Narada arrived on a visit to Dwaraka. Their senses fogged by Fate, some of the Yadava youth approached the distinguished rishis to play a prank on them. One of the youth, Samba, was dressed like a pregnant woman. They asked the sages, “You noble ones, this is the wife of Babhru who is desirous of having a son. Could you tell if she would be blessed with one?”
The rishis immediately understood the mischief being played upon them. They cursed the youth, “This scion of the Vasudeva family, Samba, would bring forth an iron rod which would cause the destruction of the Yadavas. All of them, excepting Balarama and Krishna, would perish due to this curse.”
The very next day Samba brought forth an iron rod. When the king of the Vrishnis, Ugrasena, came to know about this, he became alarmed. He ordered the iron rod to be ground to powder and thrown into the sea. He also announced a total ban on the manufacture and consumption of spirits throughout his kingdom.
The Yadava clans of Vrishnis, Andhakas, Bhojas and Kukuras were at their best behaviour, in fear of the sages’ curse. But there were omens of impending disaster. Asses were born to cows and mules to elephants. Worms were found in the food that was cooked clean. Brahmins were ill-treated and wives and husbands deceived their spouses. The configuration in the sky was similar to what appeared before the eighteen-day war. Death in the form of a black and hideous woman roamed the city. The discus given by Agni to Krishna disappeared into the sky. The standards in the chariots of Krishna and Balarama, the Garuda (Kite) and the Palmyra tree, were taken away by the apsaras. The chariot of Krishna, drawn by the four famous steeds, Sugriva, Saivya, Megapushpa and Balahaka, bolted away.
Alarmed by these signals, the Yadavas, with their families, journeyed to the holy sea shore of Prabhasa. Having reached Prabhasa, however, they took to drinking wine, even in the presence of Krishna, and were soon intoxicated. Balarama himself joined the revelers. There followed arguments that led to fights. Inebriated by spirit, Satyaki derided Kritavarman for having killed at Kurukshetra, those who were sleeping. Kritavarman hurled back abuses at Satyaki who promptly severed his adversary’s head. A free for all ensued and whatever weapons could be found, was used to attack and kill. Whoever could not find a weapon took blades of grass grown from powdered iron, which turned into cursed rods eventually.
Knowing that the Yadavas’ hour of destruction had arrived, and remembering Gandhari’s curse, Krishna did not interfere in the fight. In fact Krishna himself killed many of his kinsmen, using the rod. All the men, save Krishna, his charioteer Daruka and Balarama were killed.
Krishna dispatched Daruka to Hastinapura to inform Arjuna of the events, so that the Pandava prince could come and take the surviving Yadava women with him. Balarama, grieved at the slaughter of the Yadavas, walked into the forest. When Krishna caught up with him, he saw his brother’s soul leaving its body. A ten-headed serpent issued from Balarama’s mouth and drifted into the seas. Adisesha, the serpent under Vishnu’s feet, had completed his mission on earth and was returning to the region of gods. Krishna decided that his own hour to give up his body had come.
Krishna laid himself down in the forest and entered into meditation. On an earlier occasion, Durvasa had given him the boon that his body would be invulnerable, excepting for his feet. A hunter, Jara by name, mistook him for a deer and shot at him. The arrow pierced Krishna’s foot at the sole and went through his body.
Alarmed at his mistake, the hunter sought Krishna’s pardon. Krishna comforted him and sent him away. The supreme deity returned to his abode in Heaven, to the welcome of all gods and demigods.
Receiving news about the happenings in Prabhasa, Arjuna went to Dwaraka where he met his uncle Vasudeva. The aged father of Krishna was found lying on the ground, deeply afflicted by the loss of his near and dear ones. Soon after Arjuna’s arrival, Vasudeva died, unable to bear the grief over his losses.
Arjuna performed the rites for his uncle. Vasudeva’s four wives, Devaki, Bhadra, Rohini and Madira also ended their lives, overwhelmed by the loss of their husband.
Arjuna gave seven days for the inhabitants of Dwaraka to leave the city. He knew that the Yadava capital would be swallowed by the sea. He told the citizens that the young prince, Vajra, Krishna’s grandson, would be their king. Arjuna then proceeded to Prabhasa to perform the last rites for Krishna, Balarama and the others who had died.
Seven days after his arrival, Arjuna started his journey back to Hastinapura. He proceeded with a huge entourage of women and children, and carried with him all the wealth that he could. Close on his heels, the city of Dwaraka disappeared under the rising waves of the ocean.
On his way home, Arjuna’s party was plundered by robbers. Besides gold and other valuables, the robbers/pirates carried away many of the women from ships. Arjuna found himself bereft of the power to ward off the robbers, unable to invoke any of his celestial weapons.
Arjuna took all the surviving Yadavas to Kurukshetra. He then established Vajra as king at Indraprastha. Krishna’s wife, Rukmini, ended her life by entering fire. His other wife, Satyabhama, proceeded to the Himalayas to undertake penance.
From Kurukshetra, Arjuna went to the hermitage of Vyasa. There the sage consoled Arjuna by saying, “There is no need for you to be depressed. The robbers were successful because all your power has been lost since you have accomplished all that was expected of you. Whatever happened to the Kshatriyas and the Yadavas was pre-ordained.”