Prologue: the love letter
‘O Lord, ever since I saw you first, seven years ago, you have owned me. I have chosen you as my husband. In my conscious, unconscious and subconscious world, I am yours and you are mine. However, I will be forcefully wedded to Shishupala. Please rescue me by abducting me on your eagle banner chariot. If I am alive take me, or else take my ashes,’ wrote Rukmini to Krishna and dispatched the letter to acharya Shvetaketu, a common friend of Krishna and Rukmini.
This letter emerged out of a despondent mind, clinging to its last ray of hope, like a drowning man holding on to a straw. Rukmini was in pain since she was being used as barter in the imperial games by her brother. She was anxious since Mathura, the city of Krishna, her lord was under siege by a two-pronged attack by the savage hordes of Jarasandha and Kalyavana. But, she was relieved when she learnt that Krishna and his tribe Yadavas had escaped. Though unaware of the whereabouts of Krishna, she hoped that Shvetaketu would be able to trace him.
Last Hope to Lost Hope
However, a reply letter by Shvetaketu containing the news of Krishna’s apparent death reduced all her hopes to ashes. It so happened that Krishna went to Kalyavana to distract him, so as to give Yadavas sufficient time to escape his wrath (Read this article for details: Greatness of Krishna). When Kalayavana came to know of Krishna’s trickery, he decided to kill the latter. However, Krishna escaped to Muchukunda caves, where he lived in exile for months. With no news of Krishna, the Yadavas assumed him to be dead. Shortly, this became common news, which Rukmini received.
Rukmini fainted while chanting Krishna’s name. Gradually as she closed her eyes, an image of Krishna when she saw him for the first time appeared:
The miracle worker had arrived
Kamsa, the king of Mathura had invited his friends and allies for a bow sacrifice. In reality, this sacrifice was a pretext for Kamsa to invite his nephew Krishna, who was supposed to be his nemesis. Krishna accepted the invitation. As soon as he arrived in Mathura, he started displaying his fabled superhuman feats. Apparently, one day he transformed a hunch-backed, ugly woman named Trivakra into a shapely, straight and beautiful lady. As a result, a huge crowd gathered to witness this miracle. Everyone in the vicinity was stupefied and jubilant at the same time, except for Rukmi!
The arrogant Rukmi
Rukmi was the crown prince of the Vidarbha Kingdom and son of Bhishmaka, an ally of Kamsa. He had arrived with his chariot thundering across the street where Krishna had transformed Trivakra. As the crowd blocked his chariot, he started making his way by cracking his whip or pushing his horse through anyone and everyone in his way.
This impudence by Rukmi flared up Krishna’s elder brother Balarama. With superhuman strength, he pushed back the horses of the charging chariot, thus overthrowing the charioteer viz. Rukmi. Enraged at this defiance by Balarama, Rukmi advanced towards Balarama. However, Krishna held Rukmi by his neck and arrested his progress.
Rukmi turned to Krishna angrily and lashed out, ‘Fool, don’t you know me? I am Rukmi, the crown prince of Vidarbha’
Krishna replied, ‘Now that I know you, you better leave this place quickly.’
‘Scoundrel!’ exclaimed Rukmi and unsheathed his sword. However, in a swift movement, Krishna twisted his arm and pushed him up to his chariot. Before the haughty prince could respond, Krishna picked him up and threw him into his chariot.
The first encounter of Rukimini Krishna
‘Leave my brother, you wicked fellow’ a strong voice was heard from a beautiful girl within the chariot. It was Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbha and sister of Rukmi.
Krishna smiled in a way that won hearts and replied, ‘Is it your brother? As a princess, you should teach him some manners of Prince.’
Looking at Rukmi’s dismal condition Rukimini cried, ‘Oh, what have you done to my brother?’
Krishna replied with a mischievous smile and said, ‘Don’t worry young lady. Your brother has lost nothing but his conceit. I am sure he will behave better hereafter- even with you.’ Even though drenched in tears, Rukmini could not resist a smile. A smile that emanates from inner recesses of the heart. A smile when one finds the purpose of their existence. An epic love story began.
Rukmini woke up out of a dream-like state with a smile. People around her thought that she had lost her mind, out of shock. However, it was a smile emanating from a grim resolve. It was from a mind that had found its destiny. Her vision of Krishna and her first encounter with him in a subconscious state had strengthened her. Standing on her feet she declared that she would enter fire on the day of swayamvara, to join her master, Krishna.
Although her friends and well-wishers were shell-shocked, they knew of her hard headedness. Hence, preparations were made accordingly. A funeral pyre was set up for her near the temple of the goddess Annapurna outside Kundinapura, the capital of Vidarbha, where the river Tapti used to flow. As soon as she ascended on the funeral, a fast-moving chariot was seen across the river. As it neared the bank, in order to cross Tapti, everyone could see the eagle banner on it. It was driven by a man dressed in yellow, garlanded with lotus flowers, and his crown bore a peacock feather. Yes, it was Krishna!
Rukmini abandoned the pyre and ran towards the chariot, which was crossing the river at a ford. Krishna picked her up in the chariot, took the reins and turned back to cross the ford. Flying across to the other side, he picked up his conch shell named Panchajanya and blew the blast of the chariot.
The terrific blast issued from the conch shell announced it’s master’s arrival, to friends and foes alike, indicating that he was alive and victorious as ever!
I understand that a few gaps have been left. For instance, how Krishna came to know of Rukmini’s love letter and so on. However, I urge you to read Krishnavatara Book 2, the wrath of the emperor by K.M. Munshi to know more.