The port city of Dwaraka had yet another occasion to celebrate, another new bride to welcome and another reason to take pride in her darling Krishna. Enthusiasm was abound in the ceremonies which were attended by all the influential chieftains, Lords and Nobles from in and around the region of Saurashtra. The women of the Shoora household took to their hospitable best and stood up to the popular impression that the Yadava home was that of plenty.
One evening after all the important ceremonies had taken place, Mitravinda, the new bride seated herself near the window of her bridal chambers. The place had a view of the sea and the setting sun and the reddish glow filled up the hugely decorated room. The princess of Avanti spent some light moments relivening the whole adventure with none other than princess Abhaya. The Princess of Anagha who had accompanied Mitravinda for the wedding had now come to her to take leave to return back.
"So how did Dwaraka treat you? Met all the womenfolk?" Mitravinda affectionately asked.
"Dwaraka stood true to her reputation, Princess. Apart from Mother Devaki, and Princess Revathi, I met the three older wives of Vaasudeva, sister. The princesses of Vidarbha, Madra and Kekaya. Noble Ladies, Rukmini, Lakshana and Bhadra" Abhaya's face turned serious.
Mitravinda smiled. "Oh you remember all the important names! You do have a wonderful memory. Do you know? Princess Bhadra of Kekaya is my maternal cousin. We played together as children. I had also met Rukmini of Vidarbha on several ocassions. In fact her bravery inspired myself and Bhadra a lot. The day Rukmini was married to the Lord, we both took a resolve that we would also wed the Lord."
Abhaya smiled at the exhilaration with which Mitravinda narrated. The princess of Avanti continued.
"Bhadra was fortunate though, to have a brother like Brihatkshatra who was wary of the Lord's greatness. My brothers on the other side.." Stopping for a moment, Mitravinda forcibly brought the smile back to her face. "So what? Lord Mahakaala gave me a sister in you. Abhaya, I am so grateful to you."
Abhaya threw an unsure glance in reply.
"Sister Mitra, I am not sure whether it would be appropriate of me to talk so. But I am just concerned for you. I know I am too young to speak about the intricacies of a samsaara. My knowledge is gained from what I heard from the elderly womenfolk at my palace. The wives of Sudatta and venerable Vajrabahu used to discuss about the dangers of a husband having multiple wives."
Mitravinda dismissed Abhaya's fears with an amused smile. "You are so young sister. Dont let the palace women gossip bother you. Yes the intricacies of samsaara are endless and thats why the seers have termed it as an endless ocean. I heard it from the seers who visit Gurudeva. To cross over this ocean, you need a boat of Dharma. With the boat, a boatman who can steer dharma.
Mitravinda stopped for a moment and drew Abhaya closer. "Dear sister, when you are sure the boatman is competent to steer you over this ocean, you need not bother if there are others on the same boat."
"The boat should have place for everyone firstly to avoid upturning." Abhaya pointed out quickly. "Sister Mitra, I am sure your Lord is surely the able 'boatman'. But Princess, can the boatman save the boat if the passengers unexpectedly get unruly and upset the balance of the boat? However able he is, things are bound to get out of his hands."
"Poor sister, you are overcome with concern. Alright, you can be convinced that those 3 princesses are the most disciplined 'passenger' on the 'boat'. After all everyone wants to cross this 'ocean' without much of a mishap." Mitravinda tried her best to allay Abhaya's fears.
"Abhaya, I know that you cannot be objective here. So let us think this way. What are the qualities you would like in your prospective husband."
Abhaya looked puzzled at the sudden question.
"I.. I still did not think it over Princess." Abhaya replied still blank.
"My little sister. It would soon be time for you to think. So as an elder sister as you treat me, its my duty too to guide you about the complications that would ensue. Do you know that your province of Anagha overlooks a strategic trade route that connects Saurashtra to Avanti and Matsya?"
"Yes. Now how is that connected to how my future husband should be?"
"I am coming to that but do listen and think with patience. So now your kingdom earns handsome taxes as traders from Avanti, Matsya and those areas connected by these two have to pass through this route while coming to Dwaraka." Mitravinda explained.
" My father does not believing in fleecing the traders. But it happens that the traders reach Anagha by dusk. A good amount of care is taken that their stay for the night is well cared for. Also, my father takes some care not to levy heavy taxes on those merchants making a loss or those who are still new to their trade." Abhaya explained pondering at places. Then she continued with increased confidence. "Sister, I have personally heard my father give special instructions to find out the various trades. Our taxes are linked to the profits and dont aim to fleece wealth out of loss making merchants."
"Oh yes, I am quite sure that His Majesty Dharmasena is a just ruler. But tell me. If a neighbouring Kingdom, say Avanti or Matsya gets a control over your province, wont they have increased wealth from these taxes?"
"Sister Mitra, are you trying to say, these two Kingdoms would be aiming to win over Anagha? To threaten our autonomy? To destroy the peace in the region?" Abhaya got up from the seat, alarmed.
"Calm down sister." Mitravinda pacified the younger girl. " I do not mean to scare you. But yes, there is a good reason for your province to attract attention from your neighbours who have expansive views. And I know that my brothers think that way. As far as my knowledge is concerned, Keechaka, the governor of Matsya too is ambitious."
"So? Sister Mitra, Would either of these try to gain over Anagha by proposing an alliance and seeking my hand?"
"Your understanding is impressive. But it is imperative that you understand the intrigues that would soon face you Abhaya. Now tell me what kind of a husband would you aspire for?"
"Sister, Greedy expansion of kingdoms is Adharma. Yes, I would want a husband who can help my father and Vikram face these intrigues. But, would that constrain my choice? Can't I aspire for a husband who.. who can understand me, my desires as well as responsibilities. Cant I desire to share with my future husband, his responsibilities; to become inseparable; to unite by bone and breathe; a husband to love me as none would; a husband whom I wont have to share with other co-wives?"
Mitravinda smiled sadly. "For a princess born in our times, you dream what is next to impossible Abhaya. Now face the reality of these intrigues. You cannot escape them. Your wedding would play a great part in facing these political intrigues. You can't dream beyond them sister."
"In a land where Dharma is followed, a maiden has all the right to dream about her future husband. If the political intrigues constrain the innocent charm of her dreams and make her helplessly compromise, it is a shame on the race of the noble Aryas."
The voice at the entrance took the women by surprise. Mitravinda's cheeks turned pink and her hands joined in a salute while her gaze coyly turned to the ground below.
Abhaya turned. "Salutations, Noble Vaasudeva."
Krishna smiled and acknowledged with an informal wave. Motioning Abhaya to be seated, he moved to the seat by the side of Mitravinda whose eyes shone with a new glow.
"And I hope the maiden does not dream to swing on the moon and play with the sun, adorned with stars." Krishna continued with a humorous glint.
Abhaya could not speak more, partly gladdened at his views and partly enchanted with the voice that seemed sweet without the touch of the Ego that existed in Royal men.
"I.. I had come to take leave of the princess of Avanti. I should leave for Anagha by dawn. I am indeed grateful for the hospitality extended here, best of Shooras." She spoke softly.
"Oh, this princess of Avanthi who considers you as her sister, would have loved if you stayed for a while." Krishna spoke in an endearing manner like that of close kin.
"If I can, I would keep her with me till I can personally find a groom deserving of her hand and settle her." Mitravinda replied affectionately.
"Then you should not be scaring her mentioning those narrow minded political ploys of greedy rulers. Instead as a sister, assure her the protection, affection and appropriate freedom to make her choice." Krishna replied back, the smile turning to that of a protective mentor.
"If the Lord wills, I would be too happy to give her all that and more." Mitravinda replied. Her eyes sought out Krishna's as if a sudden thought occurred.
Abhaya was won over at the kinship extended by the couple. She felt unsure to linger and disturb the privacy of the bridal couple. She slowly rose upto her feet.
"Adherence to Dharma is the greatest assurance. And Noble Vaasudeva, I can't thank you enough for all your emphasis on Dharma. My noble father would indeed be delighted to host you, blessed couple at Anagha."
Everyone's attention was drawn towards the hurried tinkling of anklets.
"The evening meal for my brother and cousin.. no the new sister-in-law." Subhadra's merry voice rang around as she hurried to pay her respects to Krishna in her own childish hurry.
"And Mother Devaki wants to gift the princess of Anagha who is in such a hurry to leave Dwaraka at dawn tomorrow." She shot a half annoyed glance at Abhaya and continued, "We did not get even some time to even talk to each other."
Abhaya smiled in reply. "Noble Lady, It was my fortune to have attended the wedding in your family. Even I cannot recollect how soon the time flew past. But I really need to go back now."
Subhadra stubbornly looked at Mitravinda and Krishna. "Why don't you insist that she stay back a couple of days longer?"
Krishna patted Subhadra's head, amused. "How long can you, little sister, stay away from home? Doesn't the princess of Anagha need to go back to hers?"
Subhadra smiled and turned around. "Princess Abhaya, I shall ask Mother arrange for you to sleep in my chamber. We can then talk for a while before going to sleep. But I assure you I wont keep you awake for long. I know you plan to leave early at dawn."
Abhaya nodded, completely charmed by the informal yet hearty hospitality of Subhadra. She turned to Mitravinda who took her in her arms. "It has been hardly a fortnight since we met Abhaya. I feel so drawn to you. You should take care of yourself and the noble King."
"You take care of yourself too sister. Farewell"
Abhaya then turned to Krishna as if to tell him to care for his new bride well. As she saluted to him she heard him speak.
"You had spoken the ultimate truth a while ago, noble princess. Adherence to Dharma is the greatest assurance by itself. Those who are steadfast by the belief shall always stay protected. I wish you well. Do convey my respects to His Majesty, the Lord of Anagha. And also to the brave Vikram, who risked the anger of the prince of Avanthi."
Abhaya closed her eyes for a moment. She wondered what was so over powering about Krishna and how he spoke words which could in a flash, allay any kind of unrest in the mind.
As she left along with Subhadra, Mitravinda looked at the retreating figures with great concern.
"You never got so emotional even when you left your maternal home, Mitra." Krishna turned her by shoulders gently to face him.
Mitravinda for a moment felt the peaks of ecstasy at his touch.
"We are alone together Mitra, I am your forever your Govinda and you may continue to call me so."
Momentary blush made her pink. Then she composed herself.
"Arya noble women never forget a benefactor. When I know what is going to befall this young maiden and what my brothers might have in store, I feel overwhelmed with concern. They might even force an alliance and then wield the influence to gain control over the highway. And she on the other hand deserves better."
"I am sure she deserves better. And she shall get what she deserves. Stay assured, Mitra."
Mitravinda looked at him with eyes full of meaning. "Govinda, Do you think she deserves you Lord?"
Krishna looked amused. "Apparently, you did not hear what your so called little sister desired. She wants an eka patnivrata for a husband. And you think of me?"
"But that was a childish desire. I am sure with time, her desires would know maturity." Mitravinda protested.
"Then dearest Mitra, let time itself take care of things. The future is the will of the Great God, Mahadeva. Let us live the present without compromising on our Dharma."
As Mitravinda felt herself drawn closer to Krishna, her heart beat hastened at his very touch and in a burst of passion, forgot about the rest of the world.