The suitors who had gathered at Koshala to win the hand of Princess Sathya Nagnajiti watched with bated breathe. What seemed impossible was again made possible. The seven bulls were tamed!. The dust that that arose by the hooves of the bulls had blurred the vision of what exactly happened when this successful suitor took them on. Some of the onlookers had pitied him. Some had cheered him. Some had imagined the worst and closed their eyes.
Sathya, however had not missed the duel for a moment. Her lips had curved into a smile, the moment she saw him taking on the right bull. That was the key to winning over the rest six. But his ways had been more charming than violent. The barging of the Master bull left him undisturbed and his steps had not faltered by even an inch. He had not waited in defence but had charged over to the beast, catching it by its hor with its left and landing a master stroke on its forehead with his right. It did not take much effort to humble the rest six of them. He had won! And she, Sathya Nagnajiti was now, the bride of none less than Krishna Vaasudeva, the mastermind who saved the eastern AryAvarta from JarAsandha!
As King Nagnajit gave his relieved nod, she stood up with grace and moved to the centre stage, inviting him with an ardent smile. As she garlanded him she met his gaze. He acknowledged her look of gratitude with the most elegant smile she had seen. Buy his eye did not show the joy of triumph. They did not display an ounce of desire. His gaze was intense and focused. Sathya tried to fathom what it tried to convey. The rituals were completed by the evening in a shortened way. Vaasudeva had insisted for it and Nagnajit was happy to comply with any desire of his.
The night, Sathya, dressed in her bridal attire awaited him. She knew it was not going to be the night of nights awaited by a normal new bride. She had probably lost some of his respect at her earlier bargain that he participate and win this swayamvara.
Vaasudeva entered the room and she received him with the most earnest salutation she could offer at his feet. He raised her immediately with a protective smile. “You and your kingdom need not fear the other Kings of the East, princess. Koshala would not be a war field now.”
Sathya wanted to say in words how grateful she felt. But words failed her as an unspoken rebuke spilled out of his eyes despite his cordiality. It made him look distantdespite the fact that they were seated on the same bed.
“Nagnajiti, are all your fears answered now?”
“Your favour for which I am indebted to you for all lives to come, Lord.” Sathya replied.
“I saw the bottle of poison you threw away before you garlanded me.”
Sathya felt her eyes moist at the fact that he had observed what she had done so discreetly. “Had the worst happened, I would have borne an unforgivable magnitude of guilt. My life would not have been woth living any more.”
“Your fear was unfounded. I entered the contest only after I figured out your secret bull.” He gave a small chuckle.
“What would you have done if they all belonged to different herds and there was no key?” curiosity got better of her before she thought of propriety.
“I would have waited for Bhimasena Pandava to conquer Koshala and prevailed upon your father to postpone the swayamvara by two more months.”
Sathya took a chAmara in hand to fan him. He held her hand, preventing her. “Summer is still a month away. I don’t see the need to trouble yourself, princess.”
She could not bear the distance anymore. “I know I am no better than a trader who trades on bargains, Lord. But I would not like to step away from any Dharma of mine. Let me serve you, Lord even if you don’t deem me fit for…” She had got down as she spoke from the bed to sit on the floor, lightly resting her forehead against his knee.
“I never approve of bartering of a maiden’s life for other gains, Nagnajiti. But why did you do it by yourself?”
“Lord, I loved only you! I did not barter my life. But, had to put up the condition lest, you had other priorities. Call me selfish and scheming for that. But the other way left for me had you rejected, was suicide.”
Krishna smiled as his characteristic sympathy got better of his equanimity and raised Sathya from the ground, tenderly passing his finger over her cheek to wipe her tears. “You need to deprave yourself for what happened, Nagnajiti. But I need you to stand by your word now and tell me what you know.”
“My father did not name me Sathya for nothing. And I know to stand by my word. The women who are being abducted are taken to Pragjyotisha.”
“How did you know that?”
“My cousin, the dearest of my companions, Sunanda was abducted from Kashi, Lord. The king of Kashi only provided a lip support and did nothing to help us find her. I myself went there, disguised as a male brahmachari.”
Krishna looked at her, his eyes showing a sense of appreciation for her courage. “But that was a risk.”
“It was, my Lord. But I could not keep myself away. My loving uncle, fell sick and has not recovered till today. He loved me as his daughter and Sunanda was the best sister I could have. Father had his own priorities. But I could not forsake her. I traced the way taken by the abductors till the foothills of Pragjyotisha, the part of it ruled by King Bhagadatta. He is hostile to Koshala and I could not proceed further.”
“Are all the women who get abducted are taken to PrAgjyotisha?”
“Most of them, Lord. If they are not bought by the King himself as his slaves, they are taken to prAgjyotisha. Few of them are taken southwards. But my cousin was taken to prAgjyotisha. I also gather that women of royal or noble birth are taken there.”
Krishna did not respond as he was working out the plan of action ahead. He realized there was quiet for sometime and acknowledged Sathya with a smile, this time a hearty one.
“Lord, we the Koshalas, who pride the legacy of Sri Rama who crossed the seas to claim his wife, are today powerless to claim our own daughter. I beg of you to rescue her.”
“So, taming the bulls was only the beginning. A conquest over Pragjyotisha is the actual test for swayamvara. Am I right?”
“I can only beseech you, Lord. My heart cannot enjoy the celebration of a wedding as my cousin languishes in captivity. But it is your decision. “Sathya replied earnestly.
“Sathya, you know to make an impact.” Krishna commented in humour. He then turned serious. “Mahadeva willing Sunanda should be well and I shall attack prAgjyOtisha and rescue her.”
Sathya smiled, her eyes flashing a mix of gratitude and pride and turned to reach out for the brass jug which contained sweetened milk.
Krishna looked contemplative as she offered him the milk. He mechanically received it and kept it aside.
“You need not weep over the lost glory of the Suryavamsha, Princess. If the son of the dynasty rescued the daughter in law in your proud past, the son in law is happy to rescue the daughter today and you keep the honour of the family. But…” He sighed hard, eyes showing peaks of focused contemplation. “What would be the fate of the rescued woman? Would it follow your glorious history?”
Sathya looked up as if stung at the sarcasm he expressed over the word glorious. She for a minute did not understand what he meant. “Lord?? What do you mean? “
“I meant to ask whether your esteemed family would welcome her back with the same love or subject her chastity to a scrutiny.” Krishna was blunt.
She spoke hesitantly, “Sunanda is a true daughter of the Solar dynasty. She would happily and willingly enter the fire instead of compromising with our honour. “
“Wonderful! So I would go and win a bloody war over prAgjyotisha and rescue the princess of your family only to see her jumping into fire to save the honour of the family. Very motivating indeed!” Contempt was glaring in his tone.
“Lord, don’t you consider the honour of the family and the social commitment as important?” Sathya asked, feeling midly disturbed at his statements.
“If saving the honour warrants the death of a blameless and helpless woman, any sensible man in my view would think twice and dwell upon what he defines as honour and not dumbly demand the woman to jumpt into fire.
“Lord, are you mocking at Sri Rama’s compliance to his Kingly priorities or are you thinking that we are so heartless to willingly abandon our own daughter?” Sathya could not help a feeling of indignance and anger.
Krishna laughed, the laugh speaking about an unfathomable reason. “I am only sighing with relief at rejecting kingship. I need not be helpless or heartless.”
“Lord, I did not understand.”
“Sri Rama abandoned Devi Sita because of his priorities as a King. Unwilling or willing, your family might be helpless to abandon princess Sunanda to keep up with your prided standards of past. But I am free enough to give the maiden whom I rescue, a life of honour, independent of her state when I rescue her.”
Sathya looked at him with a new awe. “Lord, would you… truly?”
Krishna nodded as he stood. “Let me go now to start on my mission, Sathya. Mahadeva willing, you shall meet your sister before I take her to Dwaraka.”
Sathya caught his arm, suppliant and visibly humbled. “Lord, take me too. I don’t wish to stay here any longer. Now that you’ve shown me the emptiness of my beliefs.”
“You wanted a heir for the throne of Koshala. Am I right?”
“Not anymore. No heir is needed for a dynasty that can’t shelter their daughter in her time of distress. I don’t want to be helpless anymore. Be gracious enough to make me a part of your free and honourable life.” Sathya was short of breathe at the upheaval that went on in her heart.
Krishna noted her distress of being torn between the beliefs rooted in past and her genuine love for her sister. Women, as he observed had displayed the extremes of strengths and weaknesses, of pride and humility, of love and hatred. The most appreciable part being the intensity and genuinity of commitment in what they believed in.
For the first time, he put his arms around her and she melted into him, sobbing tearlessly. Moved, he held her comfortingly and seated her again. “Calm down, Sathya. It does not warrant an end of a line because the understanding of a principle they believe is no longer valid. We need to build up on our past knowledge. The greatest tribute we can offer to our ancestors is by evolving our insights and outlook with time while being true to the core of Dharma. That is carrying on the legacy forward.”