By Nirooshitha Sethuram
Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow
Arjuna continued on his long journey and reached Manipura. He went to the court of Chitravahana, King of Manipura, and introduced himself. The king was delighted to have mighty Arjuna in his court and gave him a warm welcome. The king requested Arjuna to be his royal guest, so he was given accommodation in the royal palace.
One day Arjuna got a glimpse of the king’s daughter, Chitrangada. He was totally bewitched by her masculine beauty and wanted to marry her. He went straight to the king and requested his permission to marry her. As Chitravahana did not have any other heir, he had trained Chitrangada in warfare and ruling the kingdom. The king agreed for his daughter to marry Arjuna under one condition.
As Chitrangada was his only child, thus the only one who could continue his dynasty, the king had decided to adopt her son and appoint him as the Crown Prince of Manipura. This meant that a child, born to her, would be his successor, no one else. Therefore, the condition was that Chitrangada’s son would remain in Manipura. As Arjuna was so madly in love with her, he didn’t have a choice but to agree.
The marriage took place in a grand scale and Arjuna stayed there for a few years. In due course Chitrangada got pregnant and bore a son. As was promised, Chitravahana adopted Arjuna’s son as his own. It was time for Arjuna to move on with his journey. Arjuna left his wife Chitrangada and his son, to stay in Manipura, as he continued his journey to the south.
On the way to the south, he came across some sages. Spending time with them he gained knowledge and wisdom. He saw that the sages had problems getting water for their daily use. When he asked about it, they revealed that there were five ponds nearby, but they were unable to get water from them, as each of the ponds was the home of a huge crocodile who ate anyone who came near the pond. Hearing this Arjuna assured them that he would put an end to this terror.
Arjuna fearlessly got into one of the ponds. The crocodile in that pond immediately came towards him to attack him. Ullupi’s boon given to Arjuna, that he will remain unconquerable in water, came true. Arjuna easily defeated the crocodile. Catching it by its tail, he flung it out of the water and threw it to the ground, injuring it very badly. As soon as the crocodile hit the ground it transformed into a heavenly damsel.
The damsel paid her respect to Arjuna and said, “Oh Son of Pandu! All the crocodiles in these ponds are heavenly beings. We have been cursed by a sage to remain in these waters as crocodiles for years now. We have been waiting for a true warrior to liberate us from this curse. As you liberated me, please do liberate the others as well. Arjuna freed all of them from their curse. The heavenly beauties thanked Arjuna and returned to heaven. The sages were relieved of their problems and blessed Arjuna.
Arjuna moved on with his journey. As Arjuna’s years of pilgrimage were coming close to an end, he wished to end it in Dwaraka, where he could meet Krishna again. The last time he saw and spent time with Krishna was when they took up their residence in Indraprastha.
He remembered going out on a hunting trip with Krishna. At the end of the day, they were tired and thirsty. They went to the banks of Yamuna to quench their thirst and refresh themselves. When they reached the riverbank, they were struck by the beauty of a damsel wandering along the banks. When questioned by him, she revealed herself as Kalindi, the daughter of Sun God. She had been living in a house beneath the river due to a vow she had taken to marry the incarnation of Vishnu. She had been observing severe austerities until she met one.
Arjuna with a smile told her the time has come to receive the fruits of her penance, for the one she was looking for is only a few yards away from her. He pointed to Krishna and Kalindi prostrated at Krishna’s feet, pleading him to accept her as his consort. Krishna, with delight, accepted her and all three of them returned to Indraprastha. After getting blessings from Yudhishthira, Kalindi returned to Dwaraka with Krishna. Krishna married her there, with the support of all in Dwaraka.
Arjuna also was thinking about Krishna’s sister Subhadra. Arjuna had met her on one of his trips to Dwaraka. They had been attracted to each other. No one knew about this other than Krishna. Arjuna was looking forward to meeting Krishna and Subhadra. With all that in his mind, Arjuna continued his journey towards Dwaraka.
Subhadra was Krishna’s younger sister. She had grown up to be a lovely young lady. She was highly pampered by her two older brothers, Balarama and Krishna. Her happiness was everything to them. As the eldest brother, Balarama was anxious to get her married to a suitable groom. Duryodhana had heard about her exceptional beauty and showed his interest to marry her. Not knowing Subhadra’s desire to be with Arjuna, Balarama agreed to Duryodhana’s proposal of marriage. He was quite pleased about this alliance, as he always had a soft corner towards Duryodhana; Duryodhana was Balarama’s favorite student. Not to mention, he was thrilled about the alliance with the great family of the Kuru dynasty, too.
Krishna was not at all happy about this news, but it was too late as Balarama had already given his word to Duryodhana. Nonetheless, Krishna didn’t want his dear sister to suffer at the hands of the cruel-natured Kaurava Prince, Duryodhana. So he had to come up with a strategy to save his sister from marrying this ill-natured man, and to marry the one whom she carried in her heart.
Arjuna arrived at the gates of Dwaraka. After travelling so long his clothes were soiled and crumbled, and he had grown a long beard. He looked like a sage. No one recognized him in Dwaraka, though he was well-known there. Arjuna chuckled about people not recognizing him. He found a tree, sat under it and closed his eyes. People started coming towards him, as they mistook him for a real sage. The crowd gathered around him and some started gossiping about the news of Subhadra’s wedding to Duryodhana.
Arjuna was devasted to hear this news. He didn’t know until that moment how much Subhadra meant for him. He couldn’t afford to lose her. He closed his eyes, deeply lost in his thoughts. He wondered about Krishna’s involvement in this, as he knew that Krishna was aware of his attraction towards Subhadra and her’s towards him. He decided to sit in stillness, meditating. He expressed no desire for anything, including food. People were quite convinced that he was a great sage.
The news about a sage visiting Dwaraka reached the ears of Balarama. He immediately came to visit the sage, not knowing he was Arjuna. He paid his respect to the sage but Arjuna was quite embarrassed about this, as he was very much younger than Balarama. He tried to hide his face as he was nervous that Balarama would recognize him. But, to his surprise, Balarama didn’t have a clue about the one who was hiding behind the clothes of a sage.
Arjuna’s years of spending time with great beings during this time period really helped him to suit the act. Balarama was pleased with meeting the sage. He went back to get Krishna to come along with him. When Krishna arrived, and recognized Arjuna, he gave a quizzical look. Arjuna couldn’t take it and closed his eyes. Balarama humbly invited the sage to stay at the palace, as the rainy season had started. It is customary for sages to stay with householders during monsoon times. Arjuna glanced at Krishna and agreed to the request, as he knew that Krishna recognized him.
Krishna showed dissatisfaction with his brother’s decision. He muttered into Balarama’s ear, though in such a way Arjuna could hear. He said, “Oh dear brother, beware of bringing strange young men into our residence, even if they are holy men. Don’t forget that our beloved sister is a maiden waiting to be married. The sage doesn’t look old enough to renounce the pleasures of life. You better think twice before you bring him into our home.”
Balarama looked at Krishna in such a way to tell him to mind his own business. Balarama went on with his plan, inviting Arjuna the sage into their home. They all went back to the palace. Balarama made sure the Sage was comfortable in his room. What Krishna had said to Balarama was playing in Arjuna’s mind over and over again. He knew there was a hidden message for him in what Krishna said. He kept thinking about it all night.
More to come…