Celebrations now, had become a daily affair in Dwaraka. In spite of that, this celebration was something special, probably more special than all the occasions in the past. The wedding of a daughter had been an auspicious event in the yadava household. It made it even more significant that she was being wedded to the man, reputed to be the best of Archers in the whole of Aryavarta. He had received accolades and humbled great warriors in the past.
The Yadavas were proud of that fact that he was the third son of the daughter of their house, Empress Kunti who had wedded Emperor Pandu of Kuru Dynasty. This wedding of Subhadra with Arjuna is sure to cement the relationsip between the Pandavas and the Yadavas.
Krishna had been keen to extend invitations to all the neighboring Lords most of whom came to grace the occasion. Most of them were interested in showing their willingness to side with the newly formed strategic alliance. Guests arrived from Matsya, Kekaya, Madra, Vidarbha and Avanthi.
When Vikram arrived at Dwaraka, he was pleasantly surprised to notice a handsome and princely Yadava youth waiting to receive him. He alighted from his chariot and extended pleasantries along with the gifts sent by the King of Anagha.
"Welcome, Prince Vikram of Anagha. It is a great pleasure to receive you. I am Uddhava, the son of Devabhaga. My father and Lord Vasudeva are brothers. I am a cousin to Krishna Vaasudeva."
Vikram returned the salutation, putting all his efforts to understand the complex family structure of the Yadavas. He observed that the participation for the occasion came from all sides with no air of royal hierarchies and protocols. Upon further enquiry, he got to know that the Yadavas did not function in a monarchical structure like other Arya tribes. The republican system was followed since generations, respecting a decree of an ancestor Yayati.
Uddhava led Vikram to the decorated chamber. "Hope you would feel comfortable here, Prince.."
"Noble Uddhava, I.. I am not a prince, The noble King of Anagha only adopted me." Vikram corrected.
"Oh! But still we call the Son of a King, a prince. Do they have a different word in Anagha?" Uddhava warmly remarked.
Vikram was touched by the informality and warmth in is words.
"I know that you are of Naga birth, Prince. In fact, even Krishna and I share a Naga origin. Our grand mother was a Naga princess from the northern belt of Ganga."
His words were cut short by the arrival of an attendant who came to inform Uddhava that he was needed. He left telling Vikram to refresh himself and rest before the festivities begin.
Vikram was duly escorted to the presence of Yadava Nobles where he met Yuyudhana Satyaki. "Welcome brave warrior, I remember you were the one who stopped Anuvinda from throwing the knife at our Krishna at Avanthi. I could not meet you when I came to your borders a couple of days back. Are you well?"
The hospitality of the Yadavas was overwhelming as usual. They did not discriminate guests from prominent royal families to those from neighboring small provinces.
Satyaki was with Vikram for the evening, introducing him to other Yadava leaders. Vikram noticed the guests and could not spot a guest representing the Avanthi Royal family. When they were relatively alone, Satyaki spoke in a low tone. "Prince, Did the Noble Lord of Anagha respond to Vaasudeva's proposal?"
When Vikram nodded in positive, Satyaki took him to one of the inner chambers. They were soon joined by Krishna, Arjuna and Uddhava. Vikram stood up to pay his respects to them and duly congratulate the groom.
After the cordial pleasantries, he conveyed the message of King Dharmasena that the province of Anagha would keep its control over the highway and not concede it to any neighbouring Kingdom with an expansive outlook.
Arjuna looked pleased and shared a quick meaningful glance with Krishna. Krishna turned to Vikram “Dear prince, we are indeed grateful to the Lord of Anagha for appreciating our concerns and confirming to our proposal. We are also pleased to host you on this joyful occasion.“
“The good fortune is ours, Best of Shooras. I would also want to convey the salutations of our princess to Mother Devaki and other noble women of the Yadu Household. And to the Noble princess of Avanthi” Vikram spoke hesitatingly. He was thinking about how he could shift the conversation towards Avanthi. It was important to know about the stance of Dwaraka towards this neighboring province. But this being the first of his diplomatic missions, he felt clueless about how to pursue the conversations subtly.
“Oh, it is kind of your sister to remember them all, Prince.” Krishna replied, sensing the Vikram was seeking something frantically as he spoke hesitated to be frank about it. It was announced that the ceremonies would begin soon for the groom and Arjuna had to leave the room. Krishna, looked at Uddhava who sensed the meaning of his glance. He smiled at Vikram. “May be brother Uddhava could escort you to meet the daughter of Jayasena. She might be held up in the ceremonies in the palace. But I am sure she would like to ask about Princess Abhaya’s well being.”
Vikram sighed with relief, marveling on how Krishna came to know of his discomfiture and resolved it. It would be relatively easier to speak to the princess of Avanthi about the happenings of her maternal home.
At a convenient moment, Uddhava accompanied him to the palace of Yadava women where they sought an audience with Princess Mitravinda. She affectionately received Vikram and asked about princess Abhaya. Vikram immediately took the opportunity to ask about the welfare of King Jayasena and Queen Rajadhi.
Mitravinda was quiet for some moments thinking whether to answer the whole truth. She heard from various sources that her brothers had virtually arrested the movement of her parents within the palace. They had been slow in gaining the support of the military, but they were steady. Things were hanging on a delicate balance. Any slight eruption or a difference of opinion could make them imprison her father and take to the throne of Avanthi.
Vikram spoke again. “Your Highness, I apologise if I may have asked something inappropriate. Let me frankly admit that the information is crucial to us at Anagha. We doubt that the twin princes are gaining control at Avanthi and that His Majesty Jayasena is slowing down….” He stopped looking for any kind of reaction from Mitravinda and continued haltingly, “and, it might not be good news to us at Anagha.”
Uddhava grasped the situation and nodded supportively. He was slightly amused at the sudden relief in the face of Vikram as he spoke his mind out. Though he too knew about the situation at Avanthi, he looked for Mitravinda to take lead in answering.
“Yes, it surely is a bad news for Anagha, for her King, for her princess and for her people.” Mitravinda replied in a warning tone. “I am sad to admit so, Noble son of Dharmasena, that your Kingdom would be the first to get affected. You are right in being forewarned.”
Vikram stared at the ground, in deep thought. “ And their first step after the twins gain the throne, would be to take over Anagha?” He questioned as if speaking to himself.
Uddhava smiled and intervened. “Prince, it might not be so easy for them to launch a conquest so immediately. Even if they won over Anagha which I pray that Mahadeva forbid them, Matsyas would immediately launch an attack on them. The chances are less because the famed Keechaka is at Matsya presently. Given your cordial relationship with them, the twins cant risk a battle with Matsya.
It was Mitravinda’s turn to intervene. “But that is no reason to stay assured, Prince. My brothers would first try it diplomatically. To directly put it, they might even ask for the hand of Abhaya for Anuvinda.”
‘What?” gasped Vikram. “But, your highness, I beg your pardon. But my Princess is just short of hating him. That is especially after the swayamvara of your noble self.”
“Of course, no sensible maiden would like him for his blatant violation of Dharma at all possible situations.” Mitravinda replied. She softened looking at Vikram’s agitated expression. “Prince, I consider princess Abhaya as my own sister. I am as concerned for her as you are. This is the reason I am divulging all this to you.”
“If things go out of hand, we would be eager to be of help, Vikram.” Uddhava assured informally with an air of a close kin. “I really hope that the God of Gods would protect your righteous King and his people.” He added.
“If things go out of hand, It is my personal request to your King, “ Mitravinda spoke with earnest concern, “that he send Abhaya to me. I assure that no harm shall befall her in Dwaraka, under my care.”
“I am grateful for your kindness, Princess. However, I hope Anagha could do everyting to avert an open skirmish. My King and Princess would indeed be happy to know of your concern for them.” He smiled before taking leave. “Recruitment of Naga warriors should now continue with double the vigour.” He thought on his way back to Anagha.