Betrothed to a man she loathed, Rukmini wanted to elope with Krsna. But would He consent?
The King of Vidarbha, Maharaja Bhismaka, had five sons and a young daughter known as Rukmini. Many saintly persons used to visit the king's palace, and from them Rukmini obtained information about Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Simply by hearing about the opulences of Krsna. she desired to surrender herself to His lotus feet and become His wife. All the relatives of King Bhismaka agreed that that Rukmini should be given in marriage to Krsna, and after hearing how Rukmini was a reservoir of all transcendental qualities intelligence, liberality, exquisite beauty, and righteous behavior Krsna Himself decided that she was fit to be His wife.
However, Rukmini's brother Rukmi arranged for her to be married to Sisupala, a determined enemy of Krsna's. When the black-eyed, beautiful Ruknini heard of this settlement, she became very morose. But, being a king's daughter, she could understand political diplomacy, and therefore she decided to take immediate steps to acquire Krsna as her husband. After some deliberation, she wrote a letter to Krsna and entrusted it to a brahmana messenger. Without delay, she sent him with her letter to Krsna's capital city of Dwaraka.
Reaching the gate of Dwaraka, the brahmana informed the doorkeeper of his mission, and the doorkeeper led him to Lord Krsna, who was sitting on a golden throne. After the messenger was duly greeted according to his brahminical status, he carefully read Rukmini's letter to the Supreme Lord:
My dear Krsna, O infallible and most beautiful one, I have heard of Your transcendental qualities. I may be shameless in expressing myself so directly, but You have captivated me and taken my heart. I am an unmarried girl, young in age, and You may doubt the steadiness of my character. But my dear Krsna, since You are the supreme lion among human beings, the supreme person among persons, any girl not yet out of her home, or any woman of the highest chastity, would desire to marry You, being captivated by Your unprecedented character, knowledge, opulence, and position.
I know that You are very kind toward Your devotees. Therefore I have decided to become Your eternal maidservant. My dear Lord, I dedicate my life and soul unto Your lotus feet. I have selected Your Lordship as my husband, and I request You to accept me as Your wife. You are supremely powerful. O lotus-eyed one. Now I belong to You. It would be ludicrous if what is enjoyable for the lion is taken away by the jackal. Therefore I request You to immediately take care of me before I am taken away by Sisupala. Please come here and catch hold of my hand so that I may not be touched by Sisupala and his men.
Lord Krsna was very pleased to hear Rukmini's statement. He shook hands with the messenger and said, "My dear brahmana, I am very glad to hear that Rukmini is anxious to marry Me, since I am also anxious to get her hand. I can understand that Rukmini's brother has arranged her marriage with Sisupala in a spirit of animosity toward Me. So I am determined to give him a good lesson. Just as one can bring forth fire from ordinary wood by proper manipulation, similarly, after dealing with the demoniac princes, I shall bring forth Rukmini like fire from their midst."
When Krsna heard that Rukmini's marriage was scheduled for the following day, He decided to leave for the kingdom of Vidarbha immediately. He ordered His driver to harness the horses to His chariot and prepare for the journey, and they started at once. Within a single night they rode one thousand miles to their destination, the town of Kundina.
Krsna's elder brother, Lord Balarama, soon received the news that Krsna had left for Kundina accompanied only by a brahmana, and Sisupala was there with his ally Jarasandha and large number of soldiers. Suspecting that they would attack Krsna, Balarama took strong military divisions of chariots, infantry, horses, and elephants and rode to the precinct of Kundina.
Meanwhile, inside the palace, Rukmini was expecting Krsna to arrive. But when neither He nor the brahmana messenger appeared, she became full of anxiety and began to think how unfortunate she was. She thought, "There is only one night before my marriage day, and still neither the brahmana nor Krsna has returned. I cannot understand this."
Being the Supersoul of all living beings, Krsna could understand Rukmini's anxiety, so He sent the brahmana inside the palace to let her know that He had arrived. When Rukmini saw the brahmana, she was elated. She smiled and asked him whether or not Krsna had come. The brahmana replied, "The son of the Yadu dynasty, Sri Krsna, has arrived!" He further encouraged her by saying that Krsna had promised to carry her away without fail. Rukmini was so thrilled by the brahmana's message that she wanted to give him in charity everything she possessed. However, finding nothing at hand suitable for presentation, she simply bowed down and offered him her humble respects.
Meanwhile, Rukmini came out of the palace to visit the temple of the goddess Durga. Rukmini was dressed very beautifully, and as she proceeded toward the temple, she was very silent and grave. Her mother and girlfriends were by her side, and she was surrounded by royal bodyguards. In this way she entered the temple and offered her prayers to the deity. Ordinary people pray to Durga for material wealth, fame, strength, and so on. Rukmini, however, desired to have Krsna for her husband, and therefore she prayed to the deity to be pleased with her and bless her. Then she caught hold of the hand of one of her girlfriends and left the temple, accompanied by the others.
All the princes and visitors who had come to Kundina for the marriage were assembled outside the temple to see Rukmini. When the princes, who were especially eager to see her, caught sight of Rukmini leaving the temple, they were struck with wonder. Indeed, they thought she had been especially manufactured by the Creator to bewilder them! She appeared to be just a youth not more than thirteen or fourteen years old. Her body was well constructed, the middle portion being thin. The beauty of her high cheeks and pink lips was enhanced by her scattered hair and different kinds of earrings, and around her feet she wore jeweled lockets. All in all, the bodily luster and beauty of Rukmini, which was specifically intended to attract the attention of Krsna, appeared as if painted by an artist perfectly presenting beauty following the description of great poets.
Although the princes gazed upon her beautiful features, she was not at all proud. Her eyes moved restlessly, and when she smiled very innocently, her teeth appeared just like lotus flowers. Expecting Krsna to take her away at any moment, she proceeded very slowly toward her home. The motion of her legs was just like that of a full-frown swan's body, and her ankle bells tinkled very mildly.
The princes assembled there were so overwhelmed by Rukmini's beauty that they almost became unconscious, and they fell from the backs of their horses and elephants. Full of lust, they hopelessly desired Rukmini's hand, comparing their own beauty to hers. Srimati Rukmini, however, was not interested in any of them. In her heart she was simply expecting Krsna to come and carry her away. As she adjusted the ornaments on the fingers of her left hand, she happened to look upon the princes. Suddenly she saw that Krsna was among them. Although Rukmini had never seen Krsna before, she was always thinking of Him, and thus she had no difficulty recognizing Him.
Ignoring the other princes, Krsna immediately took Rukmini and placed her on His chariot. He then proceeded slowly, without fear, taking Rukmini away exactly as a lion takes a deer from the midst of jackals. Meanwhile, Balarama appeared on the scene with the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty.
Jarasandha, who had previously been defeated many times by Krsna, began to roar, "How is this? Krsna is taking Rukmini away from us without any opposition! What is the use of our being chivalrous fighters? My dear princes, just look! We are losing our reputation by this action! It is just like a jackal's taking booty from a lion!"
All the princes, led by Jarasandha, then became very angry at Krsna for kidnapping Rukmini. They stood up and properly armed themselves with their bows and arrows. However, as they began to chase after Krsna on their chariots, horses, and elephants, the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty turned and faced them. Terrible fighting between the two belligerent groups ensued. The princes opposing Krsna were all very expert fighters, and they shot their arrows at the Yadu soldiers just as a cloud splashes the face of a mountain with torrents of rain. Determined to defeat Krsna and recapture Rukmini from His custody, Jarasandha and his companions fought with Krsna's army as severely as possible. Rukmini was seated by Krsna's side on His chariot. She became fearful when she saw the arrows of the opposing party raining onto the faces of the soldiers of Yadu, and she looked at Krsna, grateful that He had taken such a great risk alone. She felt very sorry. Krsna understood, and He encouraged her with these words: "My dear Rukmini, don't worry. Please rest assured that the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty will kill all their opponents without delay."
Lord Balarama and the commanders of the Yadu soldiers did not tolerate the defiant attitude of Jarasandha's army. They started to strike them with their arrows. As the fighting progressed, the princes and soldiers of the enemy began to fall from their horses, elephants, and chariots.
When the enemy found that they were gradually being defeated, they thought it unwise to risk losing men for the sake of Sisupala. They felt that Sisupala himself should have fought to rescue Rukmini from the hands of Krsna, but when they saw that Sisupala was not competent to fight with Krsna, they decided not to lose their strength unnecessarily. Therefore they ceased fighting and dispersed.
Rukmini's brother Rukmi, however, was very agitated. He was determined to personally teach Krsna a lesson. He drew his bow and forcefully shot three arrows directly against Krsna's body. Then he condemned Krsna, saying, "You are the most abominable descendant of the Yadu dynasty. Stand before me for a minute so I can teach You a good lesson! You are carrying away my sister just like a crow stealing clarified butter meant for use in a sacrifice. You are proud of Your military strength, but You cannot fight according to regulative principles. You have stolen my sister, so now I shall relieve You of Your false prestige. You can keep my sister in Your possession only as long as I do not pin You to the ground with my arrows."
Upon hearing all these crazy words from Rukmi, Lord Krsna immediately shot an arrow and severed Rukmi's bowstring. Rukmi then took up another bow and shot another five arrows at Krsna. Attacked for a second time by Rukmi, Krsna again severed his bowstring. Again Rukmi took up a bow, and yet again Krsna cut its string. Having run out of bows, Rukmi took the assistance of swords, shields, tridents, lances, and similar other weapons used in hand-to-hand combat. But Krsna destroyed them all in the same way as before. Repeatedly baffled in his attempts, Rukmi finally took his sword and ran very swiftly toward Krsna, just as a fly hurtles toward a fire. As soon as Rukmi reached Him, Krsna cut his weapon to pieces, took out His own sharp sword, and prepared to kill him. But Rukmini, understanding that Krsna was not going to excuse her brother, fell down at the Lord's lotus feet. In a very grievous tone, trembling with fear, she began to plead with Him: "Please do not kill my brother just before the auspicious time of our marriage. I am happy to get You as my husband right at the last moment before my marriage to Sisupala, but I do not want our marriage to cost my elder brother's life. After all, he loves me, and he simply wants me to marry someone who, according to his calculations, is a better man than You."
At Rukmini's request, Lord Krsna grew compassionate and agreed not to kill the foolish Rukmi. At the same time, He wanted to give him some slight punishment. So He tied Rukmi up with a piece of cloth and snipped at his mustache, beard, and hair, leaving some spots here and there.
Krsna then brought Rukmini to Dwaraka and married her according to the Vedic rituals. All the inhabitants were happy on this occasion, and in every house there were great ceremonies. The citizens of Dwaraka were so pleased that they dressed themselves with the nicest possible ornaments and garments and presented gifts to the newly married couple. The story of how Krsna kidnapped Rukmini was poeticized, and the professional readers recited it everywhere. In this way, all the inhabitants of Dwaraka were extremely jubilant, seeing Krsna, the Supreme Lord, and Rukmini, the goddess of fortune, peacefully united.