Once the sentiments get sorted, the politics of those times come into play. Kamsa was the son-in-law and an important vassal of Jarasandha the mighty emperor of Aryavarta. With a huge crowd of Kamsa’s allies and supporters gathered in Mathura, the Yadava council wants to crown Krishna as the next king. Here Munshi’s impeccable research shows up. Yadavas were a democratic people. There were no kings in their hierarchy though Kamsa’s father was called a ‘King’ more out of courtesy. But then when Kamsa seizes power from him father, he forces people to acknowledge him as a king. Now that Kamsa is gone, Krishna urges their council to reinstate the Yadava chiefs to their rightful place and to bring back their democratic rule. (Note: This fact is well documented in both Mahabharata and Bhagavata Puranam.)
Krishna refuses the crown of Mathura and takes a tearful farewell from his adopted father Nanda. The council decides to send Krishna and his brother to Guru Sandipani’s ashram to educate them in arms and statecraft.
Parallel to this, runs Rukmini’s passion for Krishna whom she contrives to meet whenever possible. Sadly for her, Krishna is enigmatic as ever and doesn’t give her any encouragement.
Krishna’s education in Sandipani’s ashram gives us a glimpse of how young students were trained in all aspects of life. Politics, statecraft, arms, weaponry, learning how to make one’s arms were one of many of the lessons taught to students.
According to myths, Krishna and Udhava rescue Punardatta from an underworld kingdom, which in this case becomes an unknown island off Prabhasa sea. The description about Nagakanyas and their weird traditions makes a fascinating adventure. And this is where Krishna also comes into possession of his legendary couch, Panchajanya.
Back home, Krishna and Balarama find that Jarasandha is poised to attack Mathura so they escape to Parashurama’s ashram hoping that the angry emperor will come after them and leave the city alone. Parashurama advises them to stay with a mountain tribe called Garuda. So the ever-faithful garudas becomes a tribe here rather than fascinating bird creatures. It is here that Krishna builds his arms, his bow and arrow, mace and the enigmatic Sudarshana Chakra. While Krishna is thus occupied Balarama discovers that there is more to life than just making arms and he indulges himself in nectar; a habit and an attitude that would define him for the rest of his life.
Jarasandha attacks and the brothers are able to defeat him. Udhava’s adventures are also interesting and the fiery Karavirapura Princess Shaibya is a very fascinating character. Udhava’s trial by fire and his surrender to Krishna is one of the most important chapters in this book. You can almost call it as a pre-curser to Udhava Gita, a discourse that Krishna gives to Udhava before he disappears from earth.
Krishna’s escape from Kala Yavana’s wild hoards is well described and keeps the pace of the book alive. Things move on fast from this chapter onwards culminating in Rukmini’s kidnapping. The beauty of Munshi’s narrative is that, even though you know how the story is going to end, you will fret with Rukmini, feel sad for her plight and get anxious when she is about to step into the funeral pyre because her Lord has not come yet.
This book is almost like the coming of the age of Krishna’s character. From this point on, this charming cowherd will become a seasoned politician and a master chess player in the arena of kings.