Hello listeners. This is Krishna with HinduLit, a podcast where I narrate to YOU, the listener, stories from Indian literature including legends, mythologies, and history.
Today's story is on Rukmini's marriage to Krishna. Rukmini was the princess of the kingdom of Vidarbha and said to be an incarnation of Lakshmi, Vishnu's wife, on earth. Their marriage is a tale of love.
At the palace gates of the kingdom of Vidarha, a chariot came rushing in. Rukmi, the crown prince and son of the King Bheeshmaka, had returned and he rushed into the palace. When he reached his family's chambers, he informed his father, Bheeshmaka, thus: "Kamsa, the son-in-law of the emperor Jarasandha, is dead. He was killed by the cowherd Krishna from Vrindavan."
There were shocks and exclamations in the room. They asked Rukmi how it was possible for a mere cowherd to defeat a rakshasa warrior king.
Rukmi said, "It appears that Krishna is in fact the eighth son of Kamsa's cousin Devaki who married Vasudeva. When Devaki married Vasudeva, a prophetic voice revealed to Kamsa and the others present that the eighth son born to Devaki would kill Kamsa."
"Kamsa jailed Devaki and Vasudeva and tried to kill all the children of Devaki but failed. Krishna and his brother Balarama, who is the seventh son of Devaki, were secretly taken to Gokul when they were born and they brought up among cowherds."
The news shocked them. Despite the evil Kamsa's best efforts, Krishna had managed to escape death and managed to kill Kamsa.
The young girl Rukmini, the sister of Rukmi, piped: "Then he is no cowherd, but is in fact a noble yadava, descendant of the legendary king Yadu."
Rukmi reprimands his sister, "He murdered my friend, and you call him noble?"
Rukmini responded, "Kamsa was an evil king. You will never admit it, but the yadavas of Mathura have never been happy under his rule of tyranny. Not only that, Kamsa deposed and jailed his own father, Ugrasena, and usurped his throne."
The King Bheeshmaka then intervened with a question of his own: "Now that Krishna has beaten Kamsa, I imagine that he will take the throne."
Rukmi responded, "No.Â Krishna has refused the crown and has reinstated the old King Ugrasena."
Bheeshmaka reacted in surprise, "He REFUSED the throne."
The shock in Bheeshmaka's tone is understandable. In history, we find many examples of humans performing condemnable acts with the purpose of gaining power, usually to gain control of a kingdom. fatricide, fillicide, infanticide, siblicide, patricide, nepoticide were all too common among royals and noble. Krishna's selflessness and lack of greed or ambition was not the norm and it both surprised and shocked Bheeshmaka. Not to mention, Krishna's nobility impressed him.
Rukmi continued, "Yes. Ugrasena and the other nobles have asked and insisted that Krishna remain in Mathura. He has agreed to remain to learn scriptures and the princely arts necessary for leadership, engagement, and politics of ruling."
Bheeshamaka mused, "I wonder how Jarasandha will react."
Rukmi replied, "The emperor is furious. Both of his daughters have been widowed in one stroke. He has vowed to take revenge. In fact, he has sent for me."
With that, Rukmi left. Jarasandha was a powerful emperor who commanded over several other kingdoms, including Vidarbha. The King Bheeshmaka was a vassal of the emperor.
The young Rukmini sought to learn more about Krishna and followed Rukmi.
Now that the King and his Queen were by themselves, they discussed Krishna further.
The Queen said, "The boy is virtuous. Someone like him would make for a suitable husband to Rukmini."
Bheeshmaka concurred, "I was thinking the same. The old man Ugrasena must have been pleased."
Meanwhile, Jarasandha and his vassals made several attempts to defeat and capture Krishna. Krishna and his brother Balarama defeated or escaped Jarasandha's clutches eighteen times. Realizing that Jarasandha was relentless and concerned about the safety of the citizens of Mathura, he asked a celestial architect Vishwakarma to build a new kingdom to protect them. Vishwakarma built the island nation of Dwaraka. The brothers directed the citizens to move from Mathura to Dwaraka, where they established their new kingdom and palace. The island fortress was difficult to attack and was considered impregnable. It succeeded in the goal of protecting the yadavas.
Some years passed, Krishna and Balarama relaxed in the chambers of their new constructed kingdom.
Krishna commented, "With the people safe in Dwaraka, we have a moment of respite and can relax."
Balarama responded coyly, "Yes. Now you have the time to think of the beautiful princess of Vidarbha, eh."
Krishna smiled and responded, "Yes. But the king of Vidarbha is a vassal of Jarasandha. He will not give the Princess' hand in marriage to me."
Balarama said, "Don't be so sure. I hear that unlike the emperor, Bheeshmaka favors you. He only keeps quiet so as not to offend the emperor."
Back in Vidarbha, Rukmini had grown up and was now a fine young woman. One day she was sitting in the palace garden. She had heard of Krishna's various exploits and how he had managed to escape the clutches of Jarasandha time and time again.
Rukmini thought, "Krishna is amazing. Only he will be my lord."
In India, it is customary to treat the duties that one has to their spouse as equal to serving god. Here, Rukmini uses 'lord' axiomatically to mean her husband. Many Indians, in their upbringing, are taught to treat their parents, guests, animals, and books as god or as akin to god. To the modern listener who may not be accustomed to this manner of thinking, you may find it more fruitful to think along the following lines. We need to treat people, animals, and even objects with the appropriate respect. Part of one's spiritual growth is to manage your senses in a manner in which you treat everything you interact with, with care. A temperament of disrespect or even non-respect can lead to treating other people poorly and choosing not to care, which is discouraged.
[editorial notes if any]
Rukmini overheard some voices approaching her in the garden. She saw that her father and brother, Bheeshmaka and Rukmi, were approaching. She made herself discrete and eavesdropped on their conversation.
Bheeshmaka said, "Your mother and I have been talking. Rukmini is of age to marry and we are thinking that there is no one better than Krishna."
Rukmini was thrilled. "Oh Good! Father and mother approve. How fortunate am I?", she thought.
Rukmi responded, "How can you say that father? Did you forget that he killed my dear friend Kamsa? Not to mention, if we give Rukmini to Krishna, we will incur the wrath of the emperor."
Bheeshmaka asked Rukmi, "Then who do you suggest?"
Rukmi responded, "My friend Shishupala, the emperor's favorite nephew, would make a fine match of Rukmini. I can tell him when I visit him next."
Shishupala was a slimy prince and Jarasandha's nephew. When Rukmini overhead this she thought, "That Jackal! Never! I would rather immolate myself than marry him. Oh Rukmi, how could you sell your own sister to curry favor with the emperor? Please father, do not agree."
Bheeshmaka however, tended to defer to his son on most political matters. With a sigh, he said, "Alright Rukmi. I'll do what you say."
With that Rukmi and Bheeshmaka left the garden. Rukmini had heard every word.
Rukmini thought, "They don't even plan to hold a Swayamwara? I won't even have a choice."
A Swayamvara is an event where a woman could choose a man for a husband. Usually a practice followed by royalty. The event took varying forms. A king whose daughter reached a marriageable age would inform other kings, warriors, and others via messengers of the Swayamvara. Sometimes the young woman would simply choose her husband of choice by placing a garland around the prospective man. Other times the king placed a contest of some form with the challenge that the man who succeeded in beating the challenge would be worthy. It appears that this practice did not require the woman to marry the winner as there are examples where the woman could choose not to accept.
Rukmini suddenly came upon an idea. She decided to call a brahmin named Sunanda, who she trusted.
Back in her chambers, Sunanda had been summoned. Rukmini explained the conversation between her father and brother. She explained that she was in love with Krishna and asked Sunanda whether it would be appropriate to send a message to Krishna.
The old Sunanda replied, "It is not wrong. In fact, it would be wrong to marry Shishupala when your heart is set on another. Not only that, your parents in their hearts approve."
Sunanda offered to carry a message for Rukmini to Krishna. Rukmini wrote down a message and handed it to Sunanda.
"Please be sure to tell him that I do not want my friends and family to be killed on my behalf."
Sunanda agreed to relay the message and travelled to Dwaraka. After receiving an audience with Krishna, he shared Rukmini's message with Krishna.
Krishna read the message.
"...I have chosen you as my husband. Come to Vidarbha. Defeat Jarasandha, Shishupala, and their armies and claim meâ¦"
When Krishna finished reading the message, Sunanda said, "Rukmini has said that if you do not come and take her away, she will give up her life."
Krishna responded, "Yes. She mentioned that in her message."
Krishna continued, "I too have my heart set on her, but I know that Rukmi does not like me and will not give Rukmini willingly."
Sunanda's face showed visible distraught. "Are you saying that you won't come?"
"No." interjected Krishna. "Now that I know that she has revealed her heart, I will not hesitate to beat anyone who stands in my way."
Sundanda was overjoyed. He told Krishna that Rukmini wanted Krishna to not harm her family and relatives and that there should be no bloodshed on her account.
Krishna replied, "It is natural that she feels that way. She has the temperament of a goddess."
Sunanda took his leave and Krishna called for his charioteer. Once the charioteer arrived, he commanded the palace servant to let Balarama know his whereabouts. With that Krishna left for Vidarbha with his chariot.
Soon Balarama was informed of Krishna's plan. Realizing that Jarasandha and his retinue would attack Krishna, Balarama decided to leave for Vidarbha along with the army.
Back in Jarasandha's chambers, Shishupala had arrived to celebrate the news that he would marry Rukmini. He said, "Rukmi has said that I can marry the beautiful princess Rukmini without even a Swayamwara."
Jarasandha was more cautious. "It won't be as simple as you think. I am sure that cunning yadava will attempt to abduct your bride. We should be prepared."
With that Jarasandha called several of his vassals and military officers. "We must ensure that the princess of Vidarbha is protected. Shishupala is to wed her and we must ensure that the cowherd doesn't kidnap Rukmini."
And so Jarasandha's armies set forth to Vidarbha.
Back in her palace, Rukmini was awaiting Sunanda's return anxiously. It was the day of the marriage and she wondered whether Sunanda had run into some problem or perhaps Krishna had rejected her.
However, Sunanda returned and Rukmini observed a glow on his face. She dismissed her servants so that she could talk to Sunanda privately. She rushed to the door of her chambers when Sunanda arrived.
Seeing her eagerly waiting, Sunanda responded, "Little one, your plan worked. Krishna and his brother are here with their forces."
Meanwhile, in the court of Bheeshmaka, an attendant announced that Krishna and Balarama had arrived at the palace gates. Bheeshmaka was surprised and delighted. He hoped that Krishna had come to take Rukmini away. As was customary, Bheeshmaka went to the palace gates to receive him only to find that not just he and his brother, but their army had come to Vidarbha. This confirmed in Bheeshmaka's mind that the yadava had come to take Rukmini by force if he had to.
Bheeshmaka invited them into the palace grounds and gave them a tour of his kingdom. Balarama observed that Jarasandha's forces were spread across the city.
Back in the palace, Rukmini was getting ready. She was to visit the temple goddess of Parvati prior to the marital ceremony. A maid came to her as Rukmini was being dressed and informed her that the chariot that would
take her to the temple had arrived.
Rukmini took the chariot with some of her maids and arrived at the temple. As she stepped out of the chariot, she looked out at the crowd of warriors, princes, and kings who had come to observe the wedding (some of which were there on behalf of the emperor and Shishupala to protect Rukmini). As Rukmini gazed at them, the men were mesmerized by her beauty and heartbroken as they knew they would never have her.
Rukmini looked for Krishna with some trepidation: "He is said to be dark complexioned and wears a peacock feather on his crown. But I don't see him."
Rukmini entered the temple where an idol of the goddess Parvati greeted her. She washed the feet of the idol and placed some offerings. Then, Rukmini prayed, "Oh Goddess, please let only Krishna win and wed me. Please do not fail me."
As she stepped slowly out of the temple, she glanced at the retinue of men waiting for her. She didn't see Krishna anywhere. As she approached her chariot, she slowed down as despair and disappointment was setting in.
Suddenly, someone grasped her arm.
Rukmini looked back and saw a handsome man behind her. He had broad chest and a heavenly smile. On his head, where his crown rested, was a peacock feather.
"Rukmini, it is I, your Krishna."
And with that Krishna lifted her off her feet and placed her on his chariot, bolting away before Jarasandha's army could respond. They looked at what transpired, clueless.
Jarasandha roared in anger. "WHAT ARE YOU FOOLS DOING? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR KSHATRIYA VALOR?!!! AFTER THEM!! I want that Vile Yadava's head."
And so, the armies of Jarasandha chased after Krishna and the yadavas.
Balarama looked back at the large army chasing them. "Krishna, we cannot lead these armies back all the way to Dwaraka. We must face them here. You take Rukmini and continue."
Overhearing this, Rukmini looked at Krishna in fear, worrying for the fate of Balarama and what might transpire in this battle. Would everyone she cared about be harmed?
Krishna noticed the alarm on Rukmini's face and said, "Do not worry. Balarama is more than capable of facing Jarasandha's armies. He will fight off Jarasandha's armies. He won't lose you, his dear sister-in-law, quite so
Balarama and the yadava army fought Jarasandha's army and were able to effectively keep them at bay, buying Krishna some time.
Rukmi was enraged. Seething, he vowed, "I will never return to my kingdom without my sister. After that coward yadava!", he said to his charioteer.
Balarama observed Rukmi passing him in chase of Krishna and chose not to engage. He thought that this was a more personal matter and that Krishna could manage against Rukmi by himself even with Rukmini standing alongside him.
As Rukmi chased after Krishna, Balarama and his army managed to defeat Jarasandha's armies. Jarasandha's called off the chase. He looked at Shishupala and said, "The Yadavas are determined to keep Rukmini. We must retreat. Rukmini is lost to you."
Shishupala looked upset and miserable. He thought his marriage to Rukmini was set to be his and now he had lost her.
Rukmi caught up with Krishna and shot an arrow at him. Krishna responded by killing Rukmi's horses and shattering his chariot with his arrows.
Rukmi was enraged and came after Krishna with his sword, only to have it too shattered by Krishna's arrow.
Rukmi stood there with just the hilt. He had no weapons. Krishna stepped down from his chariot and unsheathed his sword and moved towards Rukmi to strike a killing blow.
Rukmini immediately came between her brother and Krishna. She fell forward to his feet and beseeched Krishna to spare her brother. Krishna consented. He tied Rukmi up and then used his sword to cut half the hair of Rukmi's head and half his moustache.
As he was doing this Balarama arrived on his chariot. He saw what Krishna had done and criticized him saying, "What have you done? Is this the way you treat a Kshatriya, a warrior? You have not treated your opponent with respect. What you have done is worse than granting him death. What is worse you had done it to Rukmini's brother and our relative."
Balarama turned to Rukmini and said, "Please forgive my brother. He should not have done this to Rukmi; however, Rukmi has reeped the fruits of his misdeeds."
He released Rukmi from his bonds and let him go.
Rukmi left the battlefield. He had vowed not to return to his kingdom without Rukmini. Now defeated and humiliated, he went off to form a kingdom of his own.
Krishna then told Rukmini, "Come. Let's return to Dwaraka where we can wed and have our marriage finalized by auspicious rituals."
And with that Krishna, Rukmini, and Balarama returned with their armies to Dwaraka where Krishna and Rukmini wed.
[Add any potential meaning, symbolism or exposition to convey.]
Thus, ends the story of Krishna and Rukmini's marriage. Join us again for our next podcast.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.