Yudhishtira, the eldest Pandava decided to perform Rajasuya. It was a yajna performed by Kings who were confident of asserting their status as a Chakravartin or the Supreme emperor by the other Kings of the land. His father, Pandu had died with an unfulfilled wish to perform Rajasuya and his decision to perform the same was to an extent motivated by Krishna Vaasudeva and supported by the Paanchaalas and other well wishers. Before the Yajna, the generals of Yudhishtira had to conduct successful military conquests in order to secure the consent of surrounding Kings.
The emissaries were sent to various Kingdoms to diplomatically pursue the Kings to co operate and acknowledge Yudhishtira as the Chakravartin. The eldest Pandava preferred to achieve the consensus of the Kings without resorting to military methods. The biggest opposition was expected from the emperor of Magadha, Jarasandha who had already performed Ashwamedha to ascertain his Chakravarti status. Jarasandha had his allies around him who would join him and defy the proposal of the Pandavas. Opposition was expected from Southern Kings and to an extent from Chedi which was a staunch ally of Jarasandha. Avanthi which had sided with Magadha in some ocassions and with Hastinapura in others would oppose the Pandavas for sure. Spies brought the news that Vidarbha in all probabilities would extend support to Avanthi. Both these kingdoms shared a common hatred for Krishna who aligned himself with the Pandavas.
Yudhishtira wanted to make sure that the neutral Kingdoms and those who could be convinced by diplomatic means to be convinced so. Able emissaries were deployed in all the four directions. Krishna who spent most of the time in Indraprastha impressed upon Yudhishtira to design effective military conquests too. The remaining Pandavas chose a direction each to pursue the conquest. The conquests were to begin in a favourable season so that rains and other climatic conditions do not hamper the fitness of the accompanying soldiers. The Pandavas awaited the return of the emissaries in order to finalise the campaign. Sahadeva, the youngest of the five brothers chose to lead the Southern campaign, keeping in mind, his expertise on sword.
The news reached Anagha that Avanthi planned to stall Sahadeva’s progress indirectly motivated by Duryodhana of the Kurus. He could not himself oppose the Rajasuya owing to the influence of Bhishma, but proceeded to indirectly support Avanthi with armies, weaponry and gold.
At Anagha, Dharmasena took the counsel of his best friend, the old commander Vajrabahu. The time to take a stance and choose a side had arrived sooner than expected. Vinda, the elder prince of Avanthi had sought the support of Anagha in stationing the armies of Avanthi along the highway. Dharmasena could not allow that if he had to stand by the word he gave to the Yadavas. Within Vinda’s message was a crafty hand seeking the alliance. The elder prince of Avanthi sought the hand of Abhaya for his brother Anuvinda. This was very much expected. But even then, Dharmasena felt a gush of fury in his veins at the very thought. Vajrabahu advised him to hold on.
“Your Majesty, it would be better to put off the strife to as long as possible. We cannot face Avanthi with full might and expect to survive. We should also wait for an opportune moment and help from Indraprastha and Dwaraka.”
“I don’t need the Yadavas or Panadavas to protect my daughter and my people.” Dharmasena retorted. Vajrabahu looked at him with a comforting smile. He had the privilege of seeing the king’s emotional side. To the rest of the world the Lord of Anagha was the one who possessed a lot of self restraint and speaks each word after a well measured thought. But he, Vajrabahu was one friend with whom Dharmasena could vent his emotions without any restraint.
“My Lord, anyone who would face you in battle is sure to meet his death. But my King, numbers play with the minds of the armies. Avanthi has the bulk strength which we do not possess at the moment. God Forbid, Neither Anagha, nor our precious princess should find themselves defence less any moment.”
Dharmasena sat back as he realized the impossibility of winning over Avanti without any help from outside.
“Vajrabahu, I shall reply back that I would want to discuss both the issues with the King directly. I strongly feel King Jayasena would not approve of an implicit takeover of Anagha or a forced wedding.”
“We would need to know about the plans of the five brothers?” asked Dharmasena after some thought.
“My Lord.” Vikram’s voice was heard from the entrance. Dharmasena motioned him to come in.
“Your Majesty, forgive me for overhearing your conversation, but I want to convey that Noble Uddhava of the Yadavas is keeping me informed of the plans of the Pandavas. Sahadeva would start his campaign towards South and Nakula, towards west soon after the monsoons.” Vikram.
“That leaves us to fend for ourselves for another couple of months. Noble Prince Sahadeva should take another month to reach Anagha after he starts his campaign.” Vajrabahu replied thoughtfully.
“How long can we take a siege?” Dharmasena asked Vikram.
“Commander Veerabahu feels we can ward off the attackers for about ten days. With the help from the Nagas, we could increase it to fifteen or eighteen days.” Vikram spoke, his tone showing signs the he was disturbed.
“Alright, we should try putting off the events and prolong the conversation to buy time.”
“Lord, the Yadavas are ready to help.”
“Vikram, we would not seek their help to stand by the word we gave them.” Dharmasena’s words concluded the conversation as he exited the courtroom.