The role of Krishna in Mahabharata is of utmost importance. Krishna, himself, probably needs no introduction. His temples and institutes such as ISKCON have made him a global personality and he has the answer to all the questions one can have about their life. There are a plethora of stories about him ranging from his childhood deeds of beating demons, lifting a mountain to save the village to beating his own maternal uncle Kansa and bestowing the kingdom to the righteous ruler. However, one of the most striking and notable qualities that each of his portrayals and representation gives him is that of a superior strategist, something he lives up to fully in the war of Kurukshetra.
Krishna’s friendship with Arjuna starts when Arjuna is in exile because he interrupted a private moment between Yudhishthira and Draupadi. They both knew each other from childhood and are cousins but they only grew closer when Arjuna meets him while Subhadra is to marry Duryodhana and she confesses her feelings for Arjuna to Krishna. Krishna orchestrates a plan through which he convinces Balarama of Arjuna’s capabilities. This becomes an example of Krishna’s capabilities to Arjuna and thus begins their eternal friendship.
The most important event that leads to the establishment of the war is the selection by Duryodhana and Arjuna. Both are given a choice of either Krishna as their charioteer or the massive army of Yadavas for the Kurukshetra war. Smitten by the might of numbers, Duryodhana opts for the army and Arjuna opts for Krishna. The war unfolds.
Perhaps it is Krishna’s contribution that drives the war. Krishna in Mahabharata never lifts his weapons to fight for the Pandavas and when he does, he is stopped by Arjuna and others to live up to his promise. Krishna’s most important deed in the war is not his strategies but the life lesson he gives to Arjuna about Dharma in the form of Bhagavad Gita, an epic that is still considered to be one of the finest ways to come to terms with the troubles and mysteries of life. It is after hearing this that Arjuna is convinced to pick up his Gandiva and fight his own kins. Krishna also shows his divine form to Arjuna and a selected fortunate people who can witness Krishna’s teachings because of the boons or deeds that they did.
Strategically, he was able to defeat Karna by taking his divine armour and earrings, Duryodhana by manipulating him to cover his thighs while facing the divine vision of Gandhari, Bhishma’s death through Shikhandi, or the plan to kill Dronacharya with a deceptive plan. Whatever the phase of the war was, Krishna in Mahabharata had a vital role to play.
It is the aftermath of the war that leads to a curse that Gandhari gives Krishna for killing all his sons. He is cursed that his sons would also fight each other. This becomes the reality when Yadavas go on the civil war and everyone is killed. Krishna dies of an injury on his heel which a hunter causes mistaking him for a deer and thus he fulfils his purpose of life on earth.