By Nirooshitha Sethuram
In Dwaraka’s palace, Arjuna contemplated the situation all night. He realized he had to act immediately to stop the marriage of Duryodhana to Subhadra, the youngest sister of Krishna, born to Vasudeva and his wife Rohini. As she was already promised to be married to Duryodhana, a promise made by Balarama, her other brother, there was no way for Arjuna to win her through the traditional way. For him to marry Subhadra, the only other way would be to kidnap her by force.
In this case, force would probably not be necessary since Subhadra was already in love with him. She was not at all happy about her arranged marriage. Maybe an elopement! That’s it. Arjuna realized that was the meaning of Krishna’s hint given the night before! Now Arjuna need only to wait for an opportunity to carry out his plan.
Subhadra’s older brother Balarama gave her the duty to take care of the needs of their guest, Arjuna, who was thought to be a sage. It was considered a great blessing for a young maiden to serve a sage, so that she would get the blessings of a good husband and many children. Arjuna thoroughly enjoyed every visit of Subhadra, thanking God for this unexpected gift. He fell in love with her even more so, seeing her every time she came to serve him.
Not knowing the true identity of the sage, Subhadra was delighted in serving him and being there, readily available for all his needs. After a few visits, she became a bit suspicious about his behavior. She found his interactions with her to be far from a saintly manner. When she watched him closely, she noticed his callused forefinger, common for an archer.
With this young sage, both of his forefingers were callused, which was a sign of a great archer. Not only was it a sign, it was a proof that the sage must be none other than Arjuna. Arjuna was the only archer who could have this as he was famous for shooting equally well with his right and left hands. When she asked, Arjuna didn’t have any choice other than to reveal his true identity to her. Ever since this discovery, their courtship progressed smoothly. As his stay continued, the rainy season started to end, meaning Subhadra’s wedding day was approaching. Now was the time to act.
They both had Krishna as their biggest ally. First and foremost, he gave Arjuna his chariot and advised Subhadra to drive the chariot away from Dwaraka towards Indraprastha. This was a crucial piece of advice, to make it look like Subhadra kidnapped Arjuna, not the other way around.
The next morning, Arjuna borrowed Krishna’s chariot and waited near the temple where Subhadra had gone for a puja. As she came out of the temple, Arjuna drove the chariot in front of her so that she could easily get in. When the soldiers on duty saw this, they thought that Subhadra was being abducted by the sage.
Arjuna caught Subhadra by the arm to seat her in the chariot, preparing for her to drive away. At that moment, the soldiers started to attack Arjuna. Remembering Krishna’s advice, Subhadra took the reins of the horses. Arjuna immediately started to fire arrows at the soldiers, revealing his true identity. The soldiers ran towards the palace to inform Balarama of the incident.
Balarama got into a rage, uncommon for him. He pledged to punish Arjuna for what he had done, especially by breaking the trust by faking to be a sage. Balarama felt that the entire Yadava clan had been dishonored by this act of Arjuna. Since Arjuna was Krishna’s bosom friend, Balarama suspected Krishna’s involvement as well. He wanted to confront Krishna about the event and sent word for him to come.
When Krishna arrived, Balarama shouted at him, asking why Krishna was silent about his dear friend insulting them and the Yadava clan by kidnapping their sister. He said to Krishna, “It’s an unbearable disgrace upon us. Especially after we treated Arjuna so well, offering him shelter. I cannot wait to hear why you let this happen, and you not yet getting ready to chase him down to fight!”
Krishna smilingly said, “Didn’t I warn you dear brother, about letting strangers stay at our palace, especially with our young sister around. You are the one refused to believe me, and now you are trying to blame the event on me. I heard from the soldiers that it was our loving sister, Subhadra who was driving the chariot and not Arjuna. Therefore, this is not a kidnapping. It is an elopement initiated by our sister.” Balarama was a bit annoyed by Krishna’s sarcasm.
Then Balarama looked at Krishna and asked why he hadn’t said anything about the true identity of the sage, as well as the love affair between them. Krishna smilingly said, “As you had already promised Subhadra to Duryodhana, I didn’t want you to get involved in any elopement. In this way, you are clear of all blame and guilt. Since you knew nothing about this elopement, Duryodhana cannot blame you for breaking your promise.” Balarama had no choice but to accept the marriage of Subhadra with Arjuna.
The couple was invited back with great honor and the wedding was celebrated grandly in Dwaraka. After some time passed, it became time for the newlyweds to return to Arjuna’s home, Indraprastha. Subhadra was getting ready to leave with Arjuna, bringing her huge dowry of precious metals, horses and maidens.
But there was a problem in taking Subhadra to Indraprastha. When all five Pandavas married Draupadi, they gave her their word that they would never bring any of their other wives whom they marry in the future to the palace where Draupadi lived. Therefore, while they were allowed to marry many women, according to the tradition of kshatriyas, but Draupadi would be the only wife whom they would have in Indraprastha. Arjuna decided to take his chances by returning from his exile to Indraprastha along with his new wife Subhadra.
He was welcomed by Kunti and his brothers. But Draupadi was missing. When he inquired about her, the brothers revealed that she was in a rage and didn’t want to see anyone. They added that she was heartbroken, as Arjuna was breaking the promise by bringing his new wife, Subhadra, to Indraprastha.
Hearing this Subhadra decided to mend things. To save her husband from this difficult situation, she decided to visit Draupadi’s chamber in the attire of a cowherd woman. When Draupadi asked who she was, she said that she came to serve her as her maid. She then fell at Draupadi’s feet. Draupadi got suspicious and asked her to come out with the truth. Then Subhadra revealed who she was and promised Draupadi that she would never want to replace her or take her place in Indraprastha. Seeing such humility, Draupadi accepted Subhadra as her younger sister.
After some time, Subhadra bore a son to Arjuna. He was the great Abhimanyu, who later became equal to his father in virtue, valor, and proficiency in archery. A true son of Arjuna, he became the favorite of all the Pandava brothers and of Krishna.
Now let’s look at the marriages of Krishna, which also happened in this same time period.
Mitravinda was a cousin of Krishna as her mother Rajadevi was an aunt to Krishna. The princes of Avanti, Vinda and Anuvinda were friends of Duryodhana. The princes arranged a swayamvara for their sister, Mitravinda, but without her consent. Mitravinda begged Krishna to rescue her. She was devoted to Krishna and longed to marry him. Knowing her devotion, Krishna obliged to her request. He once again fought with all the other kings while abducting her, then formally married her in Dwaraka.
Satya was the daughter of the King of Kosala, Nagnajita, who was married to Vasudeva’s sister. This king owned seven vicious bulls with sharp horns. He declared that whomever was capable of subduing these seven bulls would win his daughter’s hand in marriage. Many kings from all parts of the world wanted to marry Satya, so they attempted to calm the bulls but failed miserably.
When Krishna visited Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala, King Nagnajita greeted him with highest honor and gave him a grand welcome. His daughter Satya, seeing Krishna in person, immediately fell in love with his divine form and wanted to marry him. As Nagnajita had already announced the competition, he had to request that Krishna accept the challenge, in order to fulfill Satya’s wish.
Krishna entered into the arena which the bulls had been let loose. He then multiplied himself into seven forms and calmed the bulls instantaneously with great ease. The king along with his daughter were delighted to see this. The happy father bestowed his blessing on the bride and groom in a grand wedding. Krishna then took Satya with him back to Dwaraka.
Krishna’s marriage to his cousin Bhadraa was the only marriage that took place without any unpleasant occurrences. Bhadraa was the daughter of Shrutakirtii, another aunt of Krishna. Bhadra’s brothers married their sister to Krishna in a splendid wedding.
Krishna also married Lakshmanaa (or Lakshanaa), the daughter of King of Madra. In her swayamvara, he won her in an archery challenge similar to the one Arjuna won to marry Draupadi. Thus, Krishna married about eight women during the course of this time. He lived happily in Dwaraka until he received multiple complaints about the mighty King Narakasura.