Balarama, the son of Vasudeva and the elder brother of Krishna, was seated in his terrace and appeared annoyed. It angered him that the Yadavas of Dwaraka were not invited to the swayamvara of the princess of Avanthi. The sight of the setting Sun failed to cheer him and the sound of the tides could not elate him. Seated to his left was Krishna, the younger son of Vasudeva and the favourite leader of the Yadavas. Krishna tried to pacify his elder brother advising him not to take the invitation issue personally.
“Krishna, the issue is not entirely the personal matter of Avanthi. When they sent invitations to the Kurus, Panchalas, Pandavas, Kekayas, Madras and all the smaller and bigger Janapadas of Aryavarta, why not us? Is it a blatant denial of the existence of Shooras? That too when their Queen Rajadhi is the very sister of our own father.”
“It is a blatant denial of the happiness of their princess.” Subhadra’s voice came in as she entered the balcony. She was the younger sister of the brothers and a much doted upon daughter of the household. She shared an extremely open communication with both her brothers. Bhadra, the younger wife of Krishna followed Subhadra, looking unsure.
“Come in girls.” Balarama motioned. “And tell your Krishna, the same thing you’ve told me last night.
“What did you tell him?” Krishna asked Subhadra and Bhadra. His indulgent smile looked like he was talking to children.
“Brother, Mitravinda is in love with you. Bhadra knows it since long. I happened to overhear their conversation three years back. You can ask Bhadra if you want.”
Krishna turned to Bhadra. “Bhadra, did Mitravinda tell you that?”
“Yes Govin… Aryaputra,” Bhadra replied. Her eyes batted in a wave of coyness as they met the gaze of Krishna. She lowered her gaze unsuccessfully hiding a smile. “She herself told me that during your wedding to sister Rukmini. That was before our wedding.”
She felt extremely conscious of the presence of Balarama and turned her eyes towards Subhadra.
“Bhadra, you are my cousin before and wife of my Krishna later. No need to feel unsure in my presence.” Balarama spoke affectionately to ease her.
Krishna continued. “Still, Brother Rama, that was around three years back. A lot could have changed in this period. Elder brother, we really can’t assume that she still believes what she believed when she was younger.”
“When my belief did not change, why should hers?” Bhadra questioned, momentarily looking at Krishna.
“Your belief?” Krishna questioned.
“Krishna you must listen to this. Even I overheard the girls when they spoke out their hearts to each other during your wedding with Vaidarbhi (Rukmini).” Balarama broke into a laughter.
“Big Brother! Please!” Bhadra protested. Her cheeks turned pink as she flustered.
“Mitra, if Vaidarbhi who is in no way related to Govinda realized his greatness and pursued till she finally wedded him, we his cousins must realize what he is.” Balarama spoke imitating Bhadra
“Big Brother! I am leaving!” Bhadra was about to stand up and run away. She wondered how she could face Krishna next.
“Wait, let me complete!” Balarama ordered. Then he cleared his throat to resume. “You are so right Bhadra. Govinda is incomparable to any human being in this world. If we being his cousins, don’t realize this, nobody can be more unfortunate. We should wed him, Only him and none other than him.”
“I am going to tell mother that you overhear the private talk of unmarried girls.” Bhadra retorted.
“Thank Mahadeva that I overheard. Then I almost threatened VrihatKshatra to either give you to Krishna or face dire consequences. Because of me, you’ve realized your dream.” Balarama spoke in an air of benediction.
“You’ve done that to Vrihatkshatra?” Krishna‘s eyes grew wide in an unbelieving expression.
“What to do? I could not bear my dear cousin suffering and pining for you.” Balarama replied humorously.
“Lord, he is only joking. My brother Vrihatkshatra was delighted at the prospect. He has always considered you a God. When big brother brought this alliance, Vrihat’s happiness knew no bounds.” Bhadra intervened.
Krishna looked at Balarama. “Only Mahadeva knows why people call me a miracle worker when in fact, it is you who works them out.”
“People are too foolish to realize the great, dear Krishna. Look at our cousins at Avanthi. I am sure Vinda and Anuvinda have plotted to keep you out of Mitra’s swayamwara. Or else it is very unrealistic that we are singled out while every Kingdom of Aryavarta gets invited.”
Bhadra cleared her throat. Her face turned to its normal fair complexion. “Lord, the Kekayas would attend it only to cheer you if you go. Vrihat sent me a message that Pandavas too are not contesting the Swayamvara as they have an idea about Mitra’s love for you.”
“Right. They should focus on stabilizing Indraprastha as a future power centre first.” Balarama commented. He then turned to Krishna.
“Let me also tell you Krishna. Spies feel that this swayamvara is also going to be a fake. Our dear cousins, Vinda and Anuvinda want an alliance with the Kurus. They want to give their sister to Duryodhana. At this juncture, if Duryodhana gets the support of Avanthi, it won’t be long before Vidarbha and Magadha too join them. Our allies are soon going to be overwhelmed.” Balarama explained his thoughts.
“Aren’t you assuming things in a hurry Rama?” Krishna replied in a contemplative mood. “The Grandsire Bheeshma shall never let the Kurus to co operate with Magadha.”
“So, do we let our cousin Mitra to be forced into a marriage she does not like?” Balarama asked, starting to get annoyed.
“I din’t say that brother Rama.” Krishna replied with a resolute smile. “I was always against using daughters as political weapons. Dharma shall never flourish in a land where girls are bartered away for expansive gains. Gods smile there where the woman is empowered to choose herpatiwho pursues excellence, strives to overcome human temptations and steers her life towards greater good.”
“We shall try to stop the alliance and the fake swayamwara.” Krishna spoke with determination and continues. “Only if we can make sure that Mitravinda is not happy about her marriage with Duryodhana.”
“And what if she is still devoted to you?” Balarama questioned.
Bhadra looked at Krishna with expectation and beseeched. “Lord, Mitra is not the one to change her mind so easily and that too about you. She can never be happy with Kurus or any other family. I can vouch that her life depends on you.”
“We shall go to Avanthi, Rama.” Krishna replied to the delight of those around. “But I shall wed her only after we are sure of the situation there. So before we leave, I must speak to Vaidarbhi and Lakshana.”
“You enjoy going in search of troubles, Krishna. Will Vaidarbhi ever welcome the fact of you marrying again? Lakshana is different. But the princess of Vidarbha has moved earth and heaven, braving all sorts of adversities to be united with you. She might not approve of this easily” Balarama protested.
“That is exactly why I should reveal to her and convince her.” Krishna explained. “Rama, I do not want my wives to feel insecure and would never want to keep them in dark about important decisions I make. They are my Sahadharmacharinis. If they can’t be a party to my pursuits, It is wrong of me to proceed. Don’t worry brother, Vaidarbhi, determined as she is, has a large heart.”
Krishna pondered back on their plan at Avanthi. “Let us go to Avanthi on the pretext of visiting Gurudeva. It won’t be fully false as the visit is due since a long time and my heart yearns to seek his blessings. Our Maharathis would stop at a one night distance from the borders of Avanthi. And Subhadra would accompany us.”
The adventure loving sister of Krishna beamed at the prospect of helping her brothers. “A good chance for me to test myself on my archery skills!” She declared.
Krishna and Balarama shook their heads in dissent. “You would take up a bow in hand? Subhadra, your big brother is still alive. Left to me, I shall alone charge into Avanthi and bring Mitravinda to Dwaraka.” Balarama shouted.
“No one would take to weapons unless it is absolutely necessary.” Krishna intervened. “Subhadra, all I want from you is to carry presents to Aunt Rajadhi on behalf of Mother and father. You would enter the palace without facing any hostile questions and then be able to gain access to Mitravinda and know her heart.” Krishna explained the plan.
“If we come to know that this alliance with Duryodhana is being forged purely out of expansive greed, then we shall attend the swayamvara and prevent the adharmic alliance.” Krishna concluded.
“I shall speak to Uncle Jayasena myself to gauge the situation. And you wont stop me, Krishna” Balarama spoke in a tone of an order.
“As you wish, elder brother.” Krishna smiled. “All I want is prevention of undesirable violence. But we really cannot do without you. With you in lead, the Atirathis of the whole Aryavarta wont find courage to stop us.”
Balarama smiled at Krishna’s usual way of giving him the importance. This subtle minded smart brother of his was successful in working miracles without shedding a drop of sweat. But he never failed to credit his elder brother.
“Fine Krishna. Speak to Vaidarbhi and decide when we can start.” Balarama stood up, his mind already imagining a glorious conquest.
Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbha and the first wife of Krishna, watered her favourite tulsi plant which she worshipped as the giver of prosperity. But on this occasion, she was not the usual happy self. Her mind was disturbed. She finished the worship in an absent minded way and walked into her chambers. She placed the silver pot which she used for worship on a shelf. A storm raged within her mind.
Krishna was not just a husband. He was the very meaning of her existence. He was her God. She, as an adolescent witnessed his heroic exploits and had lost her heart to him. Her family on the contrary betrothed her to the prince of Chedi. But she held on to her heart with a super human will. She had spent sleepless nights and fasted countless times to win Krishna as her husband. She had defied one and all in her family and finally dared to send a message to Krishna through a trusted Brahman. Risking her life and reputation, she implored Krishna to carry her off from the dreaded wedding to the prince of Chedi. She had decided that if by any chance Krishna does not turn up, she would give up her life than enter into the unholy knot.
But at the decisive moment, he had come. Krishna, the life of her life had come like a victorious conqueror, like a God who had won over the titans. She had run towards his speeding chariot with all the energy she could muster. He had pulled her into his chariot and she fell into his arms due to the force of the chariot turning around. That moment was filled with unexplainable bliss which had overwhelmed her whole form.
Rukmini’s eyes welled up at the memory of the defining moment of her life. The years after her wedding had flown past. He had been a wonderful husband, Her Krishna. Yes, she always felt he belonged to her. Hardly an year had passed after her wedding, Krishna had married Lakshana from Madra by swayamvara. Her heart sank at the prospect of having to share the fruit of her penances with another woman. If she had not been pregnant with a child she might have considered jumping into the sea. But this husband of hers was truly wonderful. His second marriage did not bring any noticeable change in her own marriage. He continued to be as loving as before. Before she knew, Lakshana had become like a younger sister to her.
She had felt the same pangs of insecurity when Bhadra entered her Lord’s life. She could not understand how every maiden could win him, her Lord to win whose grace she had passed severe of the severe ordeals. Again Krishna never ceased to work miracles. The sweet princess of Kekaya never threatened her position. Krishna had only made Rukmini, the Goddess of his prospering world. She blissfully belonged to Him. He belonged to everyone who loved him. But when she was in his presence, He made her feel he belonged to her.
Now Bhadra told her about Mitravinda. Another co-wife? Her mind races in various directions engulfing her into same sea of uncertainty. She scolded herself for not trusting her Lord who had never for a moment failed her. Her heart told her Krishna would always stand by her. But the feeling of insecurity over the newer bride did not stop bothering her.
“God of Gods! When shall I be worthy of Krishna? How can I not trust him?” She wailed to herself. “Krishna, come to me. I am still the worthless woman who can’t even keep her faith steady on you. But I am lost without you.”
“Vaidarbhi.” Rukmini turned startled at the call. “Does he really divine what goes in my mind?” She thought to herself as she hurried to the door to receive Krishna and fell at his feet.
“Rukmini, What brings tears to your eyes?” He asked as he raised her up. She clung to him like she would never see him again.
Krishna led her to the couch and seated her, speaking the most soothing words she ever heard. He held her till her frame stopped shaking due to the silent sobs. He released her from his arms and held her face in his palms.
“Rukmini, unburden all your worries. Tell me everything that ails you. You don’t want me to go to Avanthi? I won’t if you say so.”
“Govinda! Would there be a worse insult of your immense love than me telling so?” Rukmini spoke. Her mind suddenly felt comforted by his sheer presence.
“Then how can I go when it so breaks your heart. You are precious to me, Vaidarbhi.”
“Lord, how will my heart break when you reside there? I am only disappointed with myself for failing to trust you every time. You belong to Dharma and as your sahadharmacharini, I should keep up your faith. I am proud to have chosen you and am fortunate to have been chosen by you. But this narrow minded fear makes me feel unworthy of you Krishna. Lakshana and Bhadra are much more open minded than me” Rukmini poured her heart out.
“Don’t be harsh to yourself, Rukmini.” Krishna consoled with an enchanting smile. “You still are the crown-jewel among the Yadava women and you would continue to be so.”
With a laugh he continued. “In fact you started the trend of asserting yourself and refusing to bow down to the political greed of your brother. Now every Arya princess is inspired by you. Bhadra looks upon you like a goddess. Mitravinda possibly is following your footsteps. You should in fact, feel proud of yourself.”
“Lord, you are just being kind.” Rukmini spoke with a smile, appearing fully comforted. She looked up to him turning serious. “Forgive me, Govinda.”
“Vaidarbhi, do you see that the status of a woman and her character heavily influences the balance in our society. She is the mother who ushers the world into newer times. Don’t you feel that every woman should be conscious of this fact and so should be her family members”” Krishna meditatively asked.
Rukmini nodded in a devoted assent. Krishna continued. “Violating a woman’s right to choose her husband is blatant Adharma. Forcing her into an undesirable marriage aspiring expansion is even more deplorable. If any ruler resorts to that it is our duty as committed Kshatriyas to stop the same.”
Rukmini agreed. “Definitely Krishna, the princess of Avanthi, needs you to save her from the undesirable alliance with the Kurus. Do save her and return victorious my Lord.”
Krishna took her to his bosom. “Armed with the faith of a wife like you, I am bound to be victorious.”