Princess Subhadra's Dowry

Krsna and Balarama shower immense wealth 
on their new brother-in-law Arjuna.

The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. The Pandava Arjuna has just kidnapped Subhadra, the sister of Krsna and Balarama, intending to marry her in the warrior tradition. As the narration continues, Lord Krsna responds to points raised by Lord Balarama in criticizing Arjuna's act.

WHEN ALL THE Vrsnis repeatedly spoke in the same spirit as Balarama, Lord Krsna then spoke with words that revealed the practical and moral reality of the situation.

"Arjuna did not commit an offense to our family, for he holds us in the highest regard, without a doubt. And he realizes that you Satvatas are not greedy for his money. Furthermore, he did not want to create havoc at Subhadra's svayamvara.

"Who will approve of giving away an innocent maiden as if she were a head of cattle? What man on earth would make a sale of his offspring? In my opinion Arjuna saw all these discrepancies, and therefore in accord with religious law he has taken the initiative and carried away the girl. The relationship appears to be a proper one. Subhadra is a most respected lady, and Arjuna is of the same nobility. Therefore he simply took the initiative and carried her away. Who could possibly seek revenge against Arjuna, who took birth as the son of King Kuntibhoja's daughter in the dynasty of the exalted Bharata and Santanu?

"I do not see anyone in all the worlds with the courage and prowess to defeat Arjuna, and that includes Indra and Rudra, O worthy colleagues. What a chariot he has! And it is yoked with My own horses. Arjuna is a fighter, and his release of weapons is extremely rapid. Who could be equal to him in battle? My conclusion is that with supreme kindness we should run after Arjuna and in a mood of joyful celebration persuade him to return. For if Arjuna defeats all of you in a violent encounter and by his own strength returns to his city, your reputations will be ruined instantly. But there is no defeat in reconciliation."

After hearing from Sri Krsna, the Vrsnis acted accordingly, and Arjuna came back and celebrated his wedding in Dvaraka city. Arjuna stayed there the last nights of the year, and then he passed the rest of his exile in Puskara. When the twelve-month exile was finished, he returned to Khandava Prastha.

Greeting King Yudhisthira with great humility and offering reverence to the brahmanas, Arjuna at last went to greet Draupadi [his first wife]. But because of her love for him, Draupadi said to the Kuru prince, "You should go and stay with Subhadra. After all, even when a load is well tied, the knot first tied is the first one that comes loose."

Draupadi thus lamented in many ways, and Arjuna pacified her again and again, pleading for her understanding and tolerance. Arjuna then hastened to send for Subhadra, having her change from her red silk garments to the dress of a cowherd girl. That glorious lady, a hero's wife, looked even more beautiful in that style, with her excellent figure and large copper eyes. Upon reaching the main palace, the well-admired girl honored her mother-in-law, Kunti. Then Subhadra, whose face was lustrous like the full moon, quickly approached Draupadi and honored her. Subhadra said, "I am Subhadra, your servant."

Draupadi rose to greet Subhadra, Krsna's sister. Draupadi embraced her and said happily, "May your husband have no rival."

Subhadra too was joyful and replied, "May it be so!"

The mighty Pandavas were delighted, and Kunti too was extremely pleased, O Janamejaya.

Krsna Comes to Indraprastha

Lord Krsna, whose eyes are as lovely as the lotus, received the news that Arjuna, the foremost Pandava, had reached his own city of Indraprastha. Sri Krsna Kesava, who is always beyond the influence of material nature, then came there with Sri Balarama and the very aristocratic heroes of the Vrsni and Andhaka dynasties, all of whom were maharatha warriors. As they traveled, Lord Krsna was surrounded by His cousin-brothers and other young princes and warriors, and He was well guarded by a large army.

Hearing that Lord Krsna, the husband of the goddess of fortune, had arrived, King Yudhisthira sent out Nakula and Sahadeva to receive Him. They greeted Him and also welcomed the most aristocratic circle of Vrsnis who had come with Him, and together they then entered Khandava Prastha, which was adorned with banners and flags in their honor.

The roads had been thoroughly cleansed and sprinkled with water, and flowers were profusely strewn about. The city was further enhanced with cooling essence of sandalwood and varieties of pure, bracing scents. Here and there fragrant aloe burned. The city was bustling with freshly bathed citizens in spotless garments, and the wealthy merchants in the crowd lent sparkling color to the scene.

Surrounded by Vrsnis, Andhakas, and Mahabhojas, the mighty-armed Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality, reached the city with His brother Balarama. As Krsna was being worshiped by the citizens and by thousands of brahmanas, He entered the palace of King Yudhisthira, which resembled the abode of Indra, king of heaven.

Yudhisthira properly greeted Balarama and embraced Krsna and kissed His head. Krsna greeted the joyful king with submission and respectfully greeted tigerlike Bhima, following the rules of etiquette for older brothers. Yudhisthira then most respectfully received the foremost Vrsnis and Andhakas as they began arriving in the palace. Those who were older he honored as superiors, those of his age he honored as beloved friends, greeting them with affection, and those who were younger honored him in turn.

Presenting the Dowry

Then the greatly renowned Krsna gave extraordinary treasure to the bridegroom's party as a dowry on Subhadra's behalf. Lord Krsna gave one thousand chariots wrought in gold, yoked with four horses, bedecked with garlands of bells, and driven by charioteers of widely recognized skill. He gave ten thousand cows from the land of Mathura, all fine milkers of the purest breed. With pleasure the opulent Krsna also gave one thousand pure-bred mares, as bright as moonbeams and decorated with golden ornaments, as well as five hundred black and five hundred white mules, fully trained and as fast as the wind.

The lotus-eyed Lord presented a thousand youthful ladies of light complexion, beautifully dressed, bright and pure, and expert in bathing and massaging. All the girls were well groomed, enjoyed the best of health, wore one hundred gold pieces around their necks, and possessed fine ability in all types of personal service.

Lord Krsna, chief of the Dasarha dynasty, also gave worked and unworked gold of the finest quality, as bright as fire and as much as ten strong men could carry.

Lord Balarama was fond of bold heroism, and being ultimately pleased with Arjuna's behavior, He desired to strengthen the loving relationship with the Pandavas and show His submission to King Yudhisthira. Thus He who wields the plow weapon awarded to Arjuna a thousand fine elephants who stood like shining hilltops, their temples cleft in three places and oozing maddening juice. Equipped with drivers and adorned with loud bells and golden garlands, these elephants would never turn back in battle.

Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama gave so many priceless jewels to the Pandavas that the gems became like the waves of a river, in which gifts of fine garments and blankets were the foam on the waves and the colorful flags and banners were the bright green river moss. This mighty river went swirling into the ocean of the Pandavas, filling it up and bringing grief to those who envied them. Dharmaraja Yudhisthira accepted all these gifts, and he duly honored the maharatha warriors of the Vrsni and Andhaka dynasties.

All those great souls, the leaders of the Kurus, Vrsnis, and Andhakas, sported together like pious men who have gone to the dwelling of the gods. Drinking together and loudly clapping their hands, the Kurus and Vrsnis enjoyed to their full satisfaction and within the bonds of decency.

Thus those superlative heroes celebrated for many days, and finally, with full honors from the Kurus, the Vrsnis returned to their city of Dvaraka. Taking with them gleaming jewels presented to them by the Kuru nobles, the champion warriors of the Vrsnis and Andhakas placed Lord Balarama in the lead and departed. The very wise Sri Krsna stayed with Arjuna in the enchanting city of Indraprastha, O Bharata, and the two friends would stroll along the banks of the Yamuna River.

Wonderful Abhimanyu

Thereafter Lord Krsna's beloved sister Subhadra gave birth to a brilliant and beautiful child, just as Paulomi had given birth to Jayanta. Subhadra's son had long arms, exceptional strength, and large eyes like a bull. He was destined to subdue his enemies. This future hero and leader of men was named Abhimanyu because he was fearless (abhi) and capable of powerful anger (manyu). He arose from Dhananjaya Arjuna in the womb of the Satvata princess, just as sacred fire springs from the sami firewood in the course of sacrifice. When Abhimanyu was born, Kunti's mighty-armed son Yudhisthira awarded to the brahmanas ten thousand cows and as many coins.

From birth the child became a favorite of Lord Krsna, and indeed of all his uncles, just as the cool moon-rays are dear to hard-working people. Sri Krsna Himself performed the religious rites, beginning with the birth ceremony, that invoke blessings on children, and the boy grew steadily like the waxing moon.

Arjuna knew the military Veda, and he taught his child, a tamer of enemies, the entire tenfold military science, Dhanur Veda, in its four divisions, including knowledge of both human and divine weapons. The mighty father taught his son the finest techniques in the use of weapons skills that can be acquired only by long experience. In all the duties of royalty, Arjuna gave him extraordinary training. When Arjuna saw that his son by Subhadra was equal to the father in theory and practice, Arjuna was satisfied.

Like the lord of heaven admiring his son, Arjuna, of frightening prowess, gazed upon his child, admiring his invincible fortitude; the hard muscle throughout his limbs; the signs of nobility on his body; his neck and shoulders like those of a bull; and his wide jaws as forbidding as the jaws of a cobra. A grand wielder of the bow, Abhimanyu was as proud as a lion, with the courage of a maddened elephant, a deep voice like thunder or rumbling kettledrums, and a face as bright and handsome as the full moon. He was just like Krsna Himself in courage, power, beauty, and physique.

The Sons of Draupadi

Draupadi too, whose body was a treasure of blessings, begot five heroic and brilliant sons, as steady and unmovable as mountains. By Yudhisthira she gave birth to Prativindhya; by Bhima, Sutasoma; by Arjuna, Srutakarma; by Nakula, Satanika; and by Sahadeva, Srutasena. Just as Aditi gave birth to the Aditya gods, so Draupadi begot five heroic sons, all of whom became maharatha warriors.

Consulting the holy books, the brahmanas said to Yudhisthira about his son by Draupadi, "He shall be called Prativindhya, for he will acquire knowledge of his enemies' weapons." Bhimasena's son was called Sutasoma because he shone like the sun and the moon together after a thousand sacrifices of Soma. The brahmanas declared that the son whom Arjuna begot after performing mighty deeds would be called Srutakarma, "one whose deeds are heard." Nakula, the Kaurava prince, named his son after the saintly king Satanika, "one who commands a hundred armies," and his son would indeed bring glory to the clan. Draupadi gave birth to a son by Sahadeva during the asterism of fire, and the child became known as Srutasena, "one who leads a famous army."

The five illustrious sons of Draupadi were born in that order, at one-year intervals, O best of kings, and they were dedicated to serving one another. Dhaumya, the royal priest of the Pandavas, performed successively the birth ceremonies and the hair-cutting and initiation rites for the boys, strictly following the Vedic path, O noble Bharata. The five of them were well behaved and faithful to their vows, and they studied the Vedas. They learned from Arjuna the complete military science, both human and divine.

O tiger of kings, the Pandavas achieved a life of joy, for they were faithfully followed by their mighty, broad-chested sons, who shone like sons of the gods.


Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who holds a Ph.D. in Indology from Harvard University, is Professor of Vaisnava Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He is translating the Mahabharata and other Sanskrit works.