A lone traveller, disheveled and distraught reached the gates of Indraprastha. The guards at the gate would have surely stopped him if not for King Yudhishtira’s orders that the poor and hungy must not be stooped at the gates of the city anytime.
“I need to meet Krishna Vaasudeva.” He angrily told the guard who reluctantly escorted him inside and was about to lead him to a public guesthouse.
“It is almost midnight. Wouldn’t you want some food and rest?” the guard replied restraining his annoyance at being disturbed in the night.
“Food and sleep have stopped mattering to me since long. I want Vaasudeva.” The traveller stamped his foot angrily.
“He is highly regarded by our King and his family. I would not disturb him at this time. And who are you to demand to see him at this odd time? We only let you in as we though you are one of those refugees from…” The guard curtly denied.
“Refugee? By Mahakala! Yes, I look like one today! Had I not stood for the cause of your King, had I not listened to the sweet tipped words of your highly regarded Vaasudeva, I would have been a prince peacefully asleep in his chambers. Thanks to your Vaasudeva, I lost my father, my family, my city and my people. Lead me to him.”
He showed two swords bearing the symbol of a Royal Kingdom. The guard could not make out which Kingdom it was. But he softened and turned reverent, “Where are you from, Prince? What happened to your family?”
“I am not interested to bother you with my tragedies. Lead me to Vaasudeva, now.”
The guard was in a dilemma. At a juncture when his King was expanding the kingdom, orders were passed that Royal guests, Brahmanas and even commoners were to be treated with utmost respect. At the same time could he believe the stories of a stranger and disturb one of the most distinguished member of his King’s family? The guard remembered his encounters with Krishna Vaasudeva. The Noble from Dwaraka seldom carried any air of nobility while interacting with anyone.
In course of their walk, the guard realized that Krishna’s guest house was the last one and the most prominent one in the street where smaller houses for royal guests. He had meant to house VIkram in one of the smaller ones for the night.
“I beg of you Prince, Could you wait till the morning?” But the stranger was unmoved.
Hesitating, the guard walked him towards Krishna’s guest house. He spoke to the guards outside the guesthouse who were again reluctant to admit a strange visitor at an odd hour. As the strenger raised his voice again, a commotion could not be avoided.
The commotion was heard by Krishna who was in the middle of his thoughts with sleep avoiding him in the recent days. Krishna went to the door himself, with attendants guilty of their lack of attention, following him.
“Vikram! How in the name of Mahadeva… Come inside.”
The guards admitted Vikram inside, relieved of the undesirable commotion.
Krishna led Vikram in, by hand. The latter followed in silence, wondering where his anger disappeared at merely seeing Krishna.
“What brings you here in this state Noble prince?” Krishna took rug to drape aroind Vikram as the prince of Anagha shivered in the cold, though he was least bothered about it. His clothes were in rags. Wounds on his body appeared untended for days or weeks.
“The Lord of Anagha…”
“He is dead.” Vikram’s reply cut Krishna’s sentence in the middle.
“Dead” Vikram’s words seemed devoid of emotions. But fresh rage built up within him as he was again reminded of the bloody onslaught which left Anagha in shambles.
Krishna did not speak. He instead seated Vikram in a comfortable seat and seated himself beside him. Squeezing Vikram’s palms which seemed to have sustained injuries as well, he sighed. Some time went in his choosing words to comfort the distraught prince who had lost everything.
“Are you happy Vaasudeva? Oh I must not have been alive too! I wonder why the God of deah did not pursue me though! But…” Rest of the words were lost as Vikram panted for beathe in the spurt of rage.
Blame and accusation were not new to Krishna. When as a youth of sixteen, he had slayed Kamsa people had hailed him as their savior. But when the event spurred an attack by Jarasandha, the same people cursed him. He had successfully defeated Jarasandha and was hailed as a hero again. But a second attack by Jarasandha made them blame him again. As he led the Yadavas to a new inhabitation, many had scorned his ‘cowardice’. Few recognized or acknowledge to restore stability to the Yadava life. Prosperity of Dwaraka had raised his status as a leader again. But as he proactively participated in the affairs of the mainlad of AryAvarta, his own people discouraged him and blamed him of going in search of new problems.
Krishna brushed aside his thoughts and chose not to stop the words spoken in unrestrained rage. A good man’s anger was shortlived. Krishna knew it. He held Vikram by shoulders in a comforting grip.
“I am relieved that you are alive, my friend. How did it happen?”
Vikram was struck with a sudden guilt at his earlier accusation. “Chaidyas. They attacked and demanded a free pass to Dwaraka. We denied. We could hold them for not more than four days. Fourth day, my King was badly wounded. They attacked in the night and barged through the highway.”
“Chaidyas?” Krishna exclaimed. A couple of days earlier, the second batch of Yadavas had come to Indraprastha. Lakshana who came with them told him that Mitravinda and Bhadra had gone back to assist Rukmini. From Vikram’s recounting, Sishupala would have attacked when Dwaraka was the least defended.
Concern for Rukmini, Bhadra and Mitra arose in his heart. But Krishna chose to attend to Vikram for the moment. He would dispatch Yuyudhana towards Dwaraka by dawn or go himself. But now, he wanted to attend to Vikram who till now did not know that princess Abhaya was abducted and her whereabouts were not yet known. He handed a cup of water to Vikram who looked at it with contempt.
“Do you think I have anything left to live for, Vaasudeva?”
“A wife and son to care for, a sister to find and a kingdom to rebuild. Can you afford to think of death, Vikram?”
Vikram could not comprehend all at once and unconsciously drank the water offered.
“Jayanthi gave birth to a son, named Stambha. Both are now sheltered by my sister Subhadra. I shall take you to them, myself in the morning.” Krishna explained.
Krishna nodded, with a small smile.
“Vaasudeva, is this true? But what were you saying about finding Abhaya?” Vikram asked as he understood the rest of Krishna’s earlier statement.
“She was abducted, Vikram, by an unidentified group of Shakti worshippers, the Vaamaachaaris.”
“Vaamaachaaris again? By Mahakaala, why do they haunt me thus? First my mother, then my sister!” Vikram exclaimed at the new shock. “Vaasudeva, how and when?”
“It took place when they halted at Vrindavan due to Jayanthi’s labour. We traced the path they took till Kashi. But at Kashi, we lost them. We shall soon trace the group and rescue her.” Krishna assured.
“Vaasudeva! Kashi?” Vikram collapsed to the floor. “Mahakaala take pity on us! She has gone beyond Kashi? Where?”
“It could be towards south. It could be towards the Himalayas.” Krishna explained what he made out from the clues he got at Kashi as he
“South? Himalayas?” Vikram repeated and looked at Krishna, now hesitating to continue whether to speak out his mind.
“Had you accepted her hand, Vaasudeva…..”
“She would have now been with my other three wives at Dwaraka, which stood with least defence as Sishupala marched past Anagha.” Krishna contemplated.
Vikram looked startled. “Your wives are at Dwaraka? And Sishupala in all probability has attacked the place?”
Krishna nodded. “I shall leave for Dwaraka tomorrow at dawn. We shall set out to search for your sister as soon as I return.”
“Vaasudeva, let me come with you.” Vikram pleaded. “We tried our best to stop them but…. We were outnumbered.”
“Vikram, were the rites performed for the departed King?”
“Vaasudeva, I managed to cremate him with the help of a couple of Nagas. But could not perform the rites as per Arya …..”
Krishna drew Vikram closer, raising him from the floor. “Stay here, Vikram and attend to those. I shall tell for a knowledgeable priest to assist you.
“Also tell for a horse, Vaasudeva. I shall follow you as soon as the rites are duly performed.” Vikram insisted. “In my grief, I have been unfairly harsh….” The words were lost as he broke down on Krishna’s shoulder.