This has been a controversial question from the time of the Mahabharat itself. Gandhari cursed Krushna and the entire Yadav race because she felt Krushna could have done more to stop the war.
Rishi Uttank was also very upset with Shri Krushna for not having used his divine powers to stop the immense bloodbath of the Bharata war.
Several non-Hindu religions use the Bharata war as a reason to argue that Krushna wasn’t God. They argue that if he was, why didn’t he stop the carnage of the great war ? Why didn’t Krushna use his divine powers to stop the war ?
My question is, why didn’t others act to prevent this war ?
Besides Krushna, there were plenty of others who had the power and chance to stop the war. Why didn’t they act ?
Of the great elders, Bhishma / Drona / Krupacharya could have stopped the war by refusing to fight – on principle – but they didn’t. Had they abstained from war as Vidur and Balarama had, the Kaurav army would have lost hope and many of the warriors that followed them to war would have stopped.
Dhritarastra as the “king” could have forced the Kaurava princes / armies to stop. But it was his greed and concealed desire for the legitimising his stranglehold on the ancestral throne that made him support his sons mechanisms to oust the Pandavas. Even when his sons and grandsons had been annihilated, the blind old king continued to stay with Pandavs and enjoy all the trappings of kingship for several years. Such was his desire for “kingship” and all the grandeur that went with it. When Krushna came with the peace treaty and asked for just five towns, Dhristrastra threw up his hands and told him in no uncertain terms that he had no influence over his sons and he was unable to prevent them from doing as they please
Gandhari could have stopped this war as the mother of 100 sons. As the grand matriarch, Gandhari could have reasoned, pleaded or commanded her sons, or as many as would obey, to abstain from the war. But she didn’t. She followed the social strictures and told her sons that “Truth will Triumph.” Yet, why didn’t she ever insist that her sons “follow / implement Truth” ? From the first moment, when her sons poisoned Bhima, why didn’t Gandhari act to stop such things happening in the future ? As a mother, wasn’t she responsible for the conduct of her sons ?
Though sighted, she willingly wore the blindfold to “share” the blindness of her husband. Instead of helping her husband and king as his “queen” by becoming “his eyes”, she chose to become as blind as him. This compounded the blindness of the throne and its incumbent. Even as a queen, Gandhari could and should have acted to stop the war. But, instead, she let it happen through negligence.
As Duryodhan's best friend, Karna could have stopped the war by switching sides. Had he switched sides, Duryodhan would have lost all hopes of winning the war and would have been forced to concede to the terms of the peace treaty.
Karna knew he was the son of Kunti and with the help of Krushna, could easily have taken over the mantel of being a Pandava. Yet, his sense of loyalty and “indebted-friendship” made him stay on the Kaurav side. Knowing he was supporting “adharma”, evil, Karna decided to perish on the side of evil rather than survive on the side of the good. Krushna, Kunti, Surya and even Bhishma pitamaha advised him to stop the war by switching sides, but he refused.
Rajmata Kunti -
As the queen mother, Kunti could have stopped the war by acknowledging Karna much earlier. Had she not abandoned him, or having realised that he was in Hastinapur, Kunti could have publically acknowledged that this was her long-lost son. Yes, it would have been embarrassing. Yes, it would have been painful. Yes, it could have ostracised her from society. But, it would have given “her son” his rightful place in life. It would have put Pandavas and Karna in the same camp and crippled Duryodhan’s hopes of snatching the kingdom from the Pandavas.
Why doesn’t anyone ask why Duryodhan did nothing to stop the war ? Having stolen the entire kingdom by stealth, as per the peace treaty, he could have been magnanimous enough to let the Pandavas rule five towns. But as a brutish bully, he was unwilling to let even Pandavas have even a tiny speck of the their ancestral kingdom. He refused to listen to anyone who gave him advise that was contrary to his own wishes. Believing in his own propaganda, he thought that while he had the likes of Karna, Ashwashthama and Kuru elders on his side, he had nothing to fear and would win the war with ease. Unable to see beyond this greed, he thought that having cheated Shalva to join him and having obtained an army from the Yadavas his victory was assured.
Everytime a great warrior fell, Duryodhan’s generals and well wishers advised him to make peace with Pandavas. Duryodhan refused. He refused to the very bitter end. Even at the very end, when his entire army, all his friends and all his brothers were dead, Duryodhan refused to acknowledge that peace would have been the better deal. Even at the bitter end, as he lay fending off vultures and jackals, he delighted in the knowledge that the sons of Pandavas and their relatives were dead.
Duryodhan’s desire for this war was so entrenched, he refused to let anyone or anything dissuade from that. At the very start of the war, he boasts of the number of men who are “willing to die for me” (SMB Gita – chapter 1 – “madarthe tyakta jivita”). As a king and commander of the army, he is not looking at ways to “save the lives” of his troops, rather, he is expecting them to die for him. Such a commander is an enemy of the very troops he leads. With such a person in charge, what sense of peace can anyone hope for ?
Duryodhan was a war monger and he collected like minded people around him at the
court of Hastinapur. Responsibility
for the war and the carnage that ensued is with him and his father who were
greedy for the ENTIRE kingdom, rather than share it with their relatives.
Shri Krushna -
So, back to the question, “why didn’t Krushna stop the war"?
In my humble opinion, here are some of the reasons Shri Krushna did not stop the war –
3) Laws of karma effect everyone equally
4) Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind
5) Peace without justice in worthlesss
6) Compromise dilutes the great “cause”
7) Start with a clean slate - Greater good of the many
1) Freewill :-
If we (as souls) have FREE WILL, we are responsible for our own actions.. If Kauravas and their allies chose to go to war, why should God interfere in their choice of action(s) ? Having given us free will, why should God stand in the way of us experiencing the fruits of our choices ? With "rights" come "responsibility". Surely, one such responsibility is to suffer the consequences of our actions – good or bad. Krushna did not “help” Yudhisthir after the game of dice (his one and only mistake) and let him suffer his exile for 13 long years. Why should he not than punish Kauravs for a life time of evil through the medium of the War ?
God is fair.
We just don't like it when the finger of justice is pointed at us.
Either way, God does not interfere because God does not want to interfere ! Even if he could have, why should he ? The very people who could / should have wanted peace, did not want peace, why should Krushna ? As a friend and a relative of both sides, he counselled peace to both sides. Though Pandavas wanted peace, they also wanted their patrimony. Kauravas wanted peace by unfairly denying their cousin’s their rights. Only way Pandavas could regain their kingdom was through war. Kauravas were hell bent on war and were unwilling to share even the tiniest piece of land with their cousins.
Under such circumstances, when war was the preferred option for both parties, why should God interfere ?
2) Lila :-
If we are puppets of God / destiny, what difference does it make to the puppet what happens ?? Its but a play anyway ! If we believe this to be a divine play / lila, than war is as good as romance and is but acted out at the whim of the director.
As a divine persona, why would Shri Krushna want to interfere with a cosmic plan he himself has set in motion ? “Cleansing the earth of all its burdensome rulers” was a plan put in place and now it was time to execute it. Why should he stop the carnage that would cleanse the earth ?
This indeed is the scene Yudhisthir sees at the very end – when he sees all the people he knew in life sitting amicably with their respective divinities. He than realised that Karna came from the Surya, Arjuna from Narayana, Drupadi from Svraga loka, Duryodhan his cohorts came from a race of Rakshashas and he himself was from the regions of Dharma. Having fulfilled their parts in the divine like, all the actors of Mahabharata returned to their respective lokas (planets) and there was no karmic retribution in this, as it was all a lila anyway !
In which case, where is the war, where is its consequences, who should have stopped it and for what reason ? Of all the great mysteries, this is the most complex – is this life a dream or real ?
3) Laws of karma effect everyone equally :-
Karmic laws are immutable.. Karmas will bear fruit, whether we like it or not. The Mahabharat war helped settle may karmic accounts. God can’t hold back the reward or punishment for past karmas. Having established the laws of karma, its in the interest of the universe for God to stay out of karmic justice.
Kauravas evil deeds had to be paid for. Their underhanded attempts at assassination, unfair dice game, insults after the dice game, harassments during the exile, lies, cheats, political power play – all of this had had matured and was about to bear fruit. Why should God stave off the day of judgement for so many crimes ?
4) Sometime, you have to be cruel to be kind :-
As every parent, judge and king knows, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Errant children, criminals, thieves, terrorists and evil people need to be punished to reform them as well as to establish “order” for others to follow. If those in-charge do not enforce the rules, who will respect the rules ? When all softer alternatives to reform have been exhausted, for the greater good of everyone, sometimes, you have to be hard to show your heart. So sometimes out of love, you have to appear to be "cruel" in the short term to be actually "kind" in the long term.
5) Peace without justice in worthless :-
Krushna’s peace treaty also demanded justice.. “Peace without Justice” is inherently unfair. What sort of leader would he be if he allowed such injustices to be perpetuated ? If the guilty are not punished, why should anyone obey the laws or social strictures ? If the great and good become soft on crime and criminals, why should anyone bother being “good” ? If the guilty escape due to their position, wealth or connections, why should anyone respect the law of the land ?
In balance, cost of war to humanity as opposed to cost to humanity through hollow peace, was tipped in the favour of WAR. The cost of not having the war would have been to leave everything in its place – just as it was. Over time, this would have been more dangerous and painful to many more lives and countries that would have been destroyed as a result of adharma. Sometimes, to save all of humanity, some lives have to be sacrificed. For the good of the many, it is acceptable to sacrifice a few evil people.
Danger of a hollow peace to dharma, social order, political stability, security of women etc was dire while the likes of Kauravas, Kansa, Jayadratha, Shishupal and Jarasandha ruled.. By destroying all such rulers, Krushna helped establish the Dharma Rajya that the world needed.
As a statesman and a leader of the Yadav confederacy, he could not over look the manifest injustice the Kauravas were hell bent on inflicting on the Pandavas. As he advised Arjun in the SMB Gita, it is incumbent upon the leaders to lead by example and to implement justice no matter how unpalatable it is.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Krushna was patient and appealed to the Kuru court to be fair and equitable. If the very people who should enforce the law refuse to do so, who else can we appeal to ? When the system has become so corrupt that there is no hope of redemption, a complete overhaul is required to cleanse the system. The Mahabharata war provided that overhaul where all the incumbent rulers were killed off – on both sides – and a new generation had the opportunity to start afresh.
6) Compromise dilutes the greater “cause” :-
Fact is, God, as Shri Krushna, saved humanity by letting the war wipe out a generation of evil men.. War annihilated millions of men and animals within a matter of days.
Compromise with evil would have established a “hollow peace”, which would have
allowed evil to continue to reign.
As a result, many more millions would suffered under the yoke of evil for many
more generations to come. Under the
circumstances, killing off evil was the best course of action to take.
Shri Krushna was a king maker. He
wanted to establish Dharma-Rajya and decided to do it with the help of the
Pandavas. Yudhisthir was firmly
wedded to truth, justice, fair play and peace.
Of all the kings of
Truth can not be compromised with. Compromising with the truth is like splashing plain white paper with mud and expecting it to be still white. Moment you compromise with Truth, its no longer truth any more. Diluting the greater cause of establishing a Dharma Rajya was not acceptable to Shri Krushna.
7) Start with a clean slate - Greater good of the many :-
It's easy to measure what was lost to start again with a clean slate.
It is harder to measure the consequences of not following the higher duty, true dharma. The cost to mankind would have been greater if Krushna had stopped the war. Stopping the war is easy. Changing the hearts and minds away from wickedness towards goodness was a bigger challenge. Shri Krushna tried to do that over several decades. He even established family relations with Kauravas to try and influence them from within. But when the battle for “hearts and minds” of Kauravas had failed, for the greater good of mankind, Krushna accepted that the “war” as the best option.
To establish dharma, adharma has to be annihilated..
To establish civilisation, chaos has to be conquered.
Shri Krushna acted as a catalyst to achieve this greater goal for all of humanity.