Abhaya and Mitravinda on a cherished husband

After attending the wedding celebrations at Dwaraka, Dharmasena met King Ugrasena and Vasudeva and expressed his desire to return to Anagha along with his daughter and retinue. King Urgasena thanked the King of Anagha profusely for the support of the latter and his presence at Dwaraka.

"We are delighted to have gained the friendship of a King like you, Anagheswara. I cannot thank you enough for all that you've done for us." 

Dharmasena folded his palms in saluation and addressed the ageing King. "Noblest of Bhojas, The good fortune has been mine to gain an association with your honored self, your noble family and your exemplary grandson, Vaasudeva. We are also overwhelmed at your hospitality extended to us. I now seek your permission to leave for my principality."

Vasudeva politely interrupted. "Your majesty, your Kingly duties are surely the greatest of the priorities for a noble King like you. However, today is the day where the elders of our family visit the holy shrine of Prabhasa. I can assure you that the unique experience of the shrine would stay afresh and flow into one's soul like the holy Ganga . Therefore I request you to join us in this pilgrimage. You have been a part of this celebration and your presence in this visit shall gladden the hearts of one and all."

With Ugrasena seconding Vasudeva's proposal and delighted at the prospect of visiting the holy shrine of Prabhasa, Dharmasena agreed to proceed with them.

Abhaya, who had taken ill could not accompany her father. Mother Devaki personally assured that the Yadava women would take all the care so that the princess of Anagha becomes fit to travel back to her province by the time her father returns from Prabhasa.

After the elders left, Abhaya found herself interacting more with the yadava women. Important among them were Revati, the princess of Kushasthali and wife of Balarama, Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbha and the first wife of Krishna and Lakshana, the princess of Madra. 

Revati, who had a giant built was as magnanimous as she seemed. She took care of Abhaya the whole morning, talking to her, interesting facts. The common interest the she shared with revati was about the war duels. As Abhaya loved the sword, Revati took to the mace which was even more a weapon of a man. She educated Abhaya about the types of strokes she learnt from her husband Balarama who was a master in the art of wielding a club. The talk inspired Abhaya to a great extent and she began to feel much better by noon.

At noon, she walked out of her guesthouse and was accosted by Rukmini who personally came to call her for the mid day lunch. 

Abhaya folder her hands in salutation. "You have taken the trouble to come till Your Highness, princess Rukmini."

Rukmini smiled majestically at the younger girl. "How is it a trouble princess of Anagha. I heard that Mitra treats you like a younger sister. You can treat me as an elder sister too. How are you feeling now? "

Abhaya gestured she was much better, thanks to the care of Revathi.

As she led Abhaya by hand toward the mansion of Mother Devaki. In the courtyard of the mansion, There were children playing with toy weapons. Rukmini pointed at a six year old trying to aim arrows with his toy bow.

"Princess Abhaya, that is my elder son Pradyumna. And the one toddling on the steps is my younger son Charudeshna."

The children had bewitching smiles, inherited from their father. Abhaya thought so. Once at the mansion, she was introduced to Lakshana, the princess of Madra Desha, another wife of Krishna.

As Rukmini too leave to attended to other things, Lakshana enquired about Abhaya's health. She was more talkative as compared to the queenly Rukmini and assumed responsibility of introducing the other women of the household. As the women sat to partake their meal, Abhaya enquired of Mitravinda.

"Princess, you seem to miss your adopted sister!" laughed Lakshana." She would be partaking her meal along with Aryaputra (referring to Krishna) in the bridal mansion itself. " 

Abhaya looked carefully at Lakshana to find any tinge of envy and was relieved not to find any. Looked like both the co wives actually welcomed another wife of their Lord. Still Abhaya could not help but feel doubtful about how happy princess Mitravinda would feel in this extended family, especially after being almost estranged from her maternal home.

Next moment, she was greeted by Subhadra, the daughter of Mother Devaki and sister of Krishna. Abhaya felt an sense of of belonging to the bubbly daughter of Yadava house. After the meal, Subhadra took Abhaya to her apartments and forced her to rest inspite of Abhaya's protests that she was feeling better.

The princesss of Anagha lost track of time listening to Subhadra as she embarked on a verbal journey speaking about the exploits of Krishna. They included of the childhood adventures as well which happened when Subhadra was not born.

Abhaya smiled. " I should agree with you Subhadra. I do remember the way your brother wielded the sword on the day of Swayamvara at Avanthi. Thats a move only an expert swordsman can do." 

"Oh, I think I should stop then. "remarked Subhadra.

'Why, your Highness?" Abhaya was curious.

"Recently, I earned the name of winning newer brides for my brother. They all think my praises made Mitravinda fall from him and today she is wedded to him. There is another friend of mine, I can't utter her name, a daughter of a wealthy merchant who keeps asking me about my brother and I am sure she wants to marry him. And now if you fall in love with him, the rumours about me will come true." Subhadra exclaimed.

Though taken a bit aback at the open but endearing talk of Subhadra, Abhaya smiled in reply. "Do you think I shall also marry your brother and add up to the miseries of sister Mitra?"

"What is the misery facing Mitravinda?" Subhadra demanded.

"Nothing dear lady, Don't take my words to heart. Your brother is as is burdened with multiple wives and sister Mitra, with co-wives. As a well wisher of this lovely family, I don't intend to add up to confusions." Abhaya gently explained as it to assure Subhadra.

"What confusions?" Subhadra was still not convinced.

"Spare me Subhadra. Don't you know of the troubles of multiple wives sharing a husband?" Abhaya replied.

"That can never be the case with my brother. He knows to keep everyone happy. So no confusions or adding miseries if you come to this household. I am sure you can be as happy as you are if not happier." Subhadra retorted.

Abhaya fell silent not knowing what to reply. She heard her companion laugh. 

"Cheer up princess, I am not here to ensnare you! On the contrary, I want to escape being branded as a bride winner to my brother."

"You love your brother. Nothing wrong in praising him. I love my brother and am equally proud of him. Don't care for the words of envious people. Anyways, your company is delightful Subhadra. I dont have words to express." Abhaya replied relieved.

Abhaya rested for the afternoon. The care of the yadava women had made her overcome the sickness in no time. She smiled to herself as she drifted into sleep. 

She was gently shaken awake from her dreams by Subhadra. 

"Wake up Princess Abhaya, Cousin Mitra has sent for you. Do refresh yourself. I too shall accompany you to her."

When she was ready, Subhadra introduced her to Satya, a plump girl with a coy smile, carrying a pouch, probably containing a gift for the new bride. She had colorfully adorned herself in jewelry fit for queens.

"Princess of Anagha, Satya is the daughter of a reputed wealthy merchant of our clan by name Satrajit. Her mother is distantly related to Grandfather Ugrasena."

Abhaya exchanged pleasantries with Sathya and the three of them walked towards the bridal chambers where Mitravinda was housed. When they reached, Subhadra gave a shout of joy. "There's my brother. Haven't seen him for a whole day. Brother Krishna, how have you been?"

Abhaya and Sathya halted in their steps as Subhadra abruptly left them and ran ahead to join her brother who was now leaving the bridal chamber. 

Abhaya saw Vaasudeva turn towards her. "Princess of Anagha, heard that you were unwell? Are you alright?"

Abhaya smiled back caught in his gaze. "A thousand thanks to the love and care of the yadava women. I am feeling alright within no time. Best of Yadavas. It was kind of you to enquire." 

Abhaya did not know the reason, but she felt the latter part of her words drifting and she had to put effort to make a coherent statement. It was a  feeling unknown to her but her heart was beating fast. 

"Mitravinda remembers your courageous offer to deliver her message. She would be happy to see you. How is the brave warrior Vikram doing?" 

"It.. was my .. good fortune to have been useful to the princess of Avanthi... And.. brother Vikram would be delighted to know that your noble self asked of him."

Abhaya knew that all the royal formal nature of the language was failing to hide her discomfiture. Vaasudeva's informal words were endearing beyond measure. It would be foolish not to reciprocate the same way.

"Also heard that your Noble father has left for the shrine of Prabhaasa. Hope he has a good journey and experience."

Abhaya could not help blushing and could only smile in reply. Her eyes showed a sparkle of admiration for Krishna and he gracefully passed his gaze onto Satya.

"Daughter of Satrajit. Hope your noble father and brothers are doing well."

Satya exerted far lesser efforts to hide her joy and excitement. Abhaya found her looking at him with devotion and unexpressed intimacy.

"I would not take more time of those waiting to meet the new bride. Subhadra, lead them in." Krishna departed with these words. 

Abhaya was left looking at the retreating form for a couple of moments before she heard Subhadra called her from behind. When she turned, she found a similar sparkle in the eyes of Satya. Both the maidens felt they shared a common experience but could not talk out.

Satya briefly met princess Mitravinda and left after duly wishing her well and gifting her a pair of bracelets sent by her mother. Subhadra went with her.

"Now, I get time to see my sister. Abhaya, you were so busy amongst the yadava women that you forgot me?" Mitravinda smiled.

Abhaya noticed how happy the princess of Avanthi looked compared to how reserved and restrained she was at Avanthi. She went forward into the open arms of Mitravinda and was locked in an affectionate embrace, now coupled with a great happiness.

They then had another visitor whose arrival doubled Mitravinda's joy. 

"Bhadra, you took so long? Abhaya, this is Kaikeyi, the princess of Kekaya. Her name is Bhadra. Also my maternal cousin who was lucky to wed Aryaputra before me. Bhadra, this is the princess of Anagha. Above all, my new found younger sister.

"Another co-wife?" Abhaya thought as she greeted the Kekaya princess. Bhadra looked stunningly beautiful and the very epitome of coyness. "Close as they are, Does sister Mitra have a chance against this Goddess of beauty?" Abhaya could not help worry.

After Bhadra left to her chambers, Mitravinda found Abhaya's face clouded with worry. 

"Missing home dear sister? You sleep with me tonight. Aryaputra is away for the night and has to leave for Prabhaasa early in the morning. But tell me What worries you?"

Abhaya thought it was better to express her concern. "What worries me Sister, is that you are married to a Yadava leader, noble and valiant as he is, but not a prince, and has multiple wives, two children from the princess of the influential Vidarbha state, leaves hardly after two days after you wedding."

Mitravinda smiled away the concerns of Abhaya. 

".. And yes, you have a Kaikeyi too for a co-wife."

Mitravinda turned serious. "Abhaya, Should I interpret this as your immeasurable love for me or as a disability to realize the magnanimity of the Yadu household?"

"Sister Mitra, Gor forbid, if you are unhappy in future, I would hold myself partly responsible too." Abhaya was close to tears.

"Calm down little sister. You are too young to understand. Can't you see how visibly happy I am?"

Abhaya looked up straight into the eye of Mitravinda. "Sister, I hear a lot about the troubled women who have many co wives and the complexities they have to face in life ahead. My heart throbs in fear for you."

"Its not appropriate that you feel the same for me Abhaya, I consider myself the most fortunate to be called a sahadharmachaarini of this great soul, Getting Aryaputra as a husband is something which only the heaped good fortune of previous lives can earn you."

The End

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