By Swami Harshananda
Jarāsandha literally means ‘one whose body was joined by Jarā’.
Jarāsandha was the powerful monarch of the kingdom of Magadha and a contemporary of Kṛṣṇa and the Pāṇḍava-s. His capital was Girivraja. Bṛhadratha, his father, had no children for a long time. Upon his request, once a sage named Caṇḍakauśika gave him a mango sanctified by a mantra. He asked him to give it to his wife. Since Bṛhadratha had two wives, he cut the fruit into two halves and gave a piece to each of them. Each gave birth to half a baby. Alarmed at this grotesque turn, the two queens threw away the ‘babies’. Jarā, an ogress who was searching for food, found the pieces and joined them. Then these two halves formed a baby-boy. She took it to the king Bṛhadratha who suitably rewarded her. Since the boy was ‘joined’ by the lady Jarā, he came to be known as ‘Jarāsandha’.
Jarāsandha grew into a strong young man capable of taking over the kingdom. Bṛhadratha crowned him and left for the forest to live as a vānaprasthin (forest-recluse). Jarāsandha’s daughters had been married to Kansa. Since Kansa was killed by Kṛṣṇa, Jarāsandha became his bitter enemy. His several invasions over Mathurā and attempts to kill him proved infructuous.
He was a staunch worshiper of Bhairava, an aspect of Śiva. He had imprisoned a large number of princes from other kingdoms with a view to sacrifice them to his deity. When Kṛṣṇa knew about this, he got him killed in a duel with Bhīma and put his son Sahadeva on the throne.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore