Before we proceed with this interesting tale, I strongly recommend you to read this story on how Krishna entered Mahabharata. In this story, the Panchala king Drupada offers his daughter Draupadi’s hand in marriage to Krishna. In order to discuss this offer, Krishna meets Drupada. Unfortunately, he receives the shocking news of Pandavas’ death at Varnavarta. Hence, he goes to Hastinapura in order to offer condolences to the Kuru family before the meeting with Drupada.
Krishna visits Hastinapura
‘I feel as if I have visited a shrine!’ said Krishna, as he came out of Bhishma’s chamber. He was on a visit to Hastinapur to pay condolences to the Kurus, on the occasion of the apparent death of Pandavas in the wax palace. Krishna was clearly inspired by the very aura of the grandfather, who reminded him of the Himalayas-the very epitome of strength. Bheeshma’s grief was the only one that seemed to be genuine amongst all the drama that was being staged by Duryodhana and company.
Two days later, Dhritarashtra invited Krishna into his court, where he met all the dignitaries of the state and members of the royal family. Amongst the ladies were Gandhari, the austere empress of Kurus and Bhanumati, the young and exquisitely beautiful wife of Duryodhana. More than Bhanumati’s beauty, it was her childlike and innocent ways, unlike the strict ways of Hastinapur presided by the grandfather, that captivated Krishna’s attention. She had been brought up listening to the exploits of Krishna and used to daydream of being Krishna’s gopi, which was clear by the worshipful looks she threw at Krishna.
Gouri Puja and Duryodhana’s wife
Later on that evening, Duryodhan invited Krishna to a secluded spot called Bhanumati’s Garden, on the occasion of Gouri Puja. Led by Duryodhana and Bhanumati, Krishna proceeded towards the image of the Goddess to perform the rituals, to mark the beginning of the festivities. Bhanumati chattered happily and danced merrily. As wine seeped into people without restraint, music and dance gained prominence. Soon, every pair of eyes was lit with fire, unfit to the occasion of worship. Krishna was sure that this wasn’t the puja that Bhanumati performed every day. It was one of the machinations of Duryodhana or Shakuni. He failed to decipher the motive, which he would discover soon.
Slowly torches were dimmed. Men and women, intoxicated by passion, started chasing each other-not necessarily their married partners- in dimming lights. The sacred ritual was now turning into a bestial orgy. Suddenly, a woman fell upon Krishna. There was no mistaking; it was Bhanumati. She was clearly intoxicated. Clinging to him and resting her head against his chest, she whispered, “I am your Gopi”. He could gauge the terrible implications of the situation. Exploiting the unthinking childishness of his wife, Duryodhana aspired to bind Krishna to a boon of companionship. He could also hear the guttural voice of Duryodhana whispering to someone who wasn’t Bhanumati.
That magnanimous act of Krishna
Krishna’s heart went back to the solitary old Bheeshma, who, by his sheer strength of character, upheld the traditions of Kurus. He missed his dear cousin Yudhishthira, the very epitome of righteousness. He wouldn’t have allowed such blasphemy to perpetrate in the house of Kurus, where ancient canons were being flouted shamelessly now. His heart ached for Bhanumati. His political genius could have exploited this opportunity to leave Duryodhana humiliated and devastated for the rest of his life. Yet, the greatness in him had his heartache for the poor and innocent Bhanumati.
Krishna lifted the intoxicated Bhanumati and moved straight towards Gandhari’s chambers. He introduced himself to the guard, who promptly let him in. Gandhari was aghast when she learned the proceedings at Gouri Puja. ‘The House of Kurus will be indebted to you forever, my child. Ask for any boon and I shall confer it’ the blindfolded Gandhari said, addressing Krishna. Prostrating himself humbly to the unfortunate, blindfolded mother Krishna said ‘Convey my message to my little sister Bhanumati that, a woman, who tries to win friends for her husband by shedding her sense of propriety, ends by making an enemy of him as well as of her own self.’
Bhanumati became a devotee of Krishna, post this incident. A great drama leading to Draupadi swayamvara started taking shape, followed by a dirty game of politics. Sadly, Bhanumati became the victim of Duryodhana’s frustration that had risen out of his humiliating defeat at the swayamvara and the division of the kingdom, and this took a toll on her health ultimately leading to her death. However, she was fortunate enough to breathe her last in Krishna’s arms.
Note: The reference to this story is KM Munshi’s Krishnavatara Book 3: The Five Brothers. We encourage you to buy this book here: Krishnavatara III The Five Brothers