In Mahabharata, when Duryodhan is captured by Gandharvas in forest, Yudhishtir tells Bhim to go save him. Bhim refuses. Yudhishtir then advises Bhim that if there is an internal family feud, it is 100 karuavas vs. 5 pandavas. But against an external entity, it is 105 vs. Others. Then Bhim goes and saves Duryodhana.

Are there any instances in scriptures where the Divide & Conquer (Bheda) was successfully implemented ? Similar to what Westerners did in India before independence.

Are there any recommendations on how to guard against it ('united we stand') ? e.g. agreeing to agree on certain opinions, agreeing to disagree on others, figuring out which opinions are worth fighting for, and which are worth setting aside.

There is a related story I think in Mahabharata about how a rat and a cat temporarily make friendship so that the rat can escape from a fox, and the cat can escape from a hunter. Anyone know the reference for it ?

  • 1
    Pandavas themselves are a great example of being united in spite of differences of opinions, Bhima goes in aggressive mode, Yudhistir goes to passive mode and they disagree often. But they are all united, because they accepted Krishna as the center of their lives.
    – user16618
    Nov 22, 2018 at 6:35
  • Kaurava and Duryodhana team though appears united had their big egoes and was always divided.. Karna didn't want to join the war as long as Bhisma was in battlefield. Salya always was a disturbance for Karna though he was his charioteer.
    – user16618
    Nov 22, 2018 at 6:48

2 Answers 2


There is a related story I think in Mahabharata about how a rat and a cat temporarily make friendship so that the rat can escape from a fox, and the cat can escape from a hunter. Anyone know the reference for it?

I think you are referring to the story of a rat named Palita, and Lomaśa, the cat, from the Śānti-parva. The rat enters a temporary alliance with the cat (which is trapped in a hunter's noose) to save itself from a mongoose and an owl. But to protect itself from the cat it doesn't free the cat until after the hunter returns. After it's been freed, the cat wants to prolong the friendship but the rat says their friendship was born out of a reason and it cannot continue as a cat is its worst enemy and only circumstances made them friends.

The story is several pages long so I'm only quoting the concluding part.

Shanti Parva (Apad-dharma Parva) – Chapter 1464 (136)

Having been thus praised by the cat, the rat thought and spoke these grave and purposeful words to the cat. 'You are virtuous and I have heard the words of reason you have spoken to me. Though I am pleased, I do not trust you. By praising me, or by offering me riches, you won't be able to get me to associate with you. O friend! The wise do not subjugate themselves to the enemy.

On this, there was a verse sung by Ushanas. Listen to it. "If one has had an agreement with a more powerful enemy to achieve a common end, one must act in a controlled way. Once the task has been accomplished, one should not trust. In every situation, one must protect one's own life. All one's possessions and offspring exist only as long as one is alive. In brief, the supreme view of all the texts about policy is that one should not trust. Therefore, if one desires the welfare of one's own self, one must completely distrust men. Those who are weak, but do not trust, are not killed by their enemies. But if they trust, even the relatively strong are quickly slain by the weak."

O cat! Thus, I must always protect my own self from someone like you. You must also protect yourself from the chandala, whose anger has been generated.' As it was speaking in this way, terror arose in the cat and it swiftly entered its hole. Palita knew about the true purport of the sacred texts and was full of intelligence and capacity. It was wise. Having said all this, it went to another hole. Palita was wise and intelligent, though weak. Because of this, though alone, it was able to overcome many other immensely strong enemies.

A learned person must have an alliance with a capable enemy, just as the rat and the cat resorted to each other and escaped. '"I have instructed you about the path to be followed in the dharma of kshatriyas. O lord of the earth! I have recounted it in detail. Listen to it briefly again. Those two were firm in their enmity towards each other, but acted with supreme affection. They then turned their minds towards subjugating each other. However, by resorting to the strength of its intelligence, the wiser one subjugated the other one. But if care is not exercised, a wiser person can be subjugated, even by someone who is not learned. A person who is scared must act as if he is not scared. Even if he does not trust, he must act as if he trusts. One must be careful and not be fickle. If one is fickle, one is destroyed.

There is a time for allying with enemies. There is a time for fighting with friends. O Yudhishthira! Those who know about the truth have said that one must always act in this way. O great king! Having thought about this, having understood the purport of the sacred texts and having engaged oneself with care, one must act fearfully, before the cause for fright presents itself. One must determine one's action as if one is frightened and decide on counters. Intelligence results from fear, provided that one engages oneself with care. O king! There is no fear for a person who is frightened of fear that hasn't materialized. However, a great fear is generated for a person who is not frightened, but is careless. One must never offer the counsel, 'Do not be scared.' That leads to ignorance. If one knows, one can go to those who know about a means to get out of the hardship. A person who is scared must therefore act as if he is not scared. Even if he does not trust, he must act as if he trusts. Having comprehended the gravity of the task, he must not indulge in any falsehood. O Yudhishthira! In this way, I have recounted the history to you. O son! Having heard in the midst of these well- wishers, act accordingly. Use your intelligence to first know the difference between an enemy and a friend, the time for war and peace and means of escaping from a difficulty. For a common objective, one must have an alliance with a stronger enemy. One must associate and act in accordance with the agreement. However, having accomplished the objective, one must not trust.

(The Mahabharata: Volume 8, Bibek Debroy)

In the K. M. Ganguli translation, you can find the same story here.

  • yep, that's the one
    – ram
    Nov 26, 2018 at 23:52

The Divide & Conquer (Bheda) was successfully implemented by both Duryodhan and Yudhisthir in case of Salya.

As per Mahabharata: Udyoga Parva, Salya with one Akshauhini army was actually going to fight from Pandava's side.


Duryodhana, hearing that magnanimous and mighty hero was on his way, hastened towards him and paid him honours, O best of the Bharata race and caused finely decorated places of entertainment to be constructed at different spots for his reception, on beautiful sites, and whither many artists were directed to entertain the guests....

Salya thought it was arranged by Yudhisthira and wanted to reward those servants then, Duryodhana appeared and asked Salya a boon (to fight from Duryodhan's side) to which Salya agreed. Salya promised Duryodhan that he will come back to join his army after a quick visit to Yudhisthira.

Then, Salya visited Yudhisthira and explained him that he gave a boon to Duryodhan and now he had to fight from his side on which

Yudhishthira said, O valiant king, it has been well-done by thee that being pleased at heart thou hast plighted thy truth to Duryodhana. But good betide thee, O ruler of the earth, I ask thee to do one thing only. O king, O best of men, thou wilt have to do it solely for my sake, though it may not be proper to be done. O valiant one, hear what I submit to thee. O great king, thou art equal to Krishna on the field of battle. When, O best of kings, the single combat between Karna and Arjuna will take place, I have no doubt thou wilt have to drive Karna's car. On that occasion, if thou art inclined to do good to me, thou must protect Arjuna. O king, thou must likewise so act that the Suta's son Karna may be dispirited and the victory may be ours. Improper it no doubt is; but, O my uncle, for all that thou must do it.

Salya said, 'Good betide thee. Listen, O son of Panda. Thou tellest me to so act that the vile son of the Suta may be dispirited in fight. To be sure, I shall be his charioteer' on the field, for he always considers me equal to Krishna. O tiger like descendant of Kuru, I shall certainly speak to him, when desirous of fighting on the field of battle, words contradictory and fraught with harm to him, so that bereft of pride and valour, he may be easily slain by his antagonist.

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