Sunday, August 4, 2013

Krishna on Svayamvara

(edited Aug 4, 2014)
Svayamvaras resulted in much confusion and carnage in the Mahabharata. There is the svayamvara of the daughters of the King of Kashi - Amba, Ambika, and Ambalika. The story of a spurned Amba is an epic in itself.Then there is the most famous of all - Droupadi's svayamvara, where none of the princes and kings could win the competition. It was then that Arjuna, in disguise as a brahmana, won. Krishna attended Droupadi's svayamvar, but did not participate in it. Why we are not told. The svaymvara of Damayanti that Nala attended, but with four other gods also desiring Damayanti is another interesting episode. Krishna was involved in yet another svayamvara, this time not as a spectator but as an active participant - that of Rukmini. Rukmini wanted to marry Krishna, and not Shishupala. Krishna swooped down and carried off a willing Rukmini.

Here however I want to briefly mention what happens when Arjuna, serving out his term of exile, arrives in Dwarka, and is besotted with Subhadra - Krishna's sister. Vasudeva replies, "A svayamvara is the form of marriage for kshatriyas. O Partha! But that is uncertain if one doesn't know the inclination." [Subhadra Harana Parva] 

After Arjuna has made off with Subhadra and the incensed Vrishnis, the Bhojas, the Andhakas want to go off in pursuit of Arjuna, Krishna pacifies them. He has this to say about the svayamvara:
"The Pandava also knows that the results of a svayamvara are uncertain. Who can contemplate the giving away of a daughter, as if she were an animal? Which man on earth would like to sell his daughter? I think Kunti's son saw these blemishes in the other method." [Harana Harika Parva, Adi Parva, Ch 213]
That Krishna did not approve of svaymvaras can be gleaned from all these episides. So is this why Krishna did not participate in Droupadi's svayamvara? As an act of registering his silent protest? We will never e quite sure.

These excerpts are from Vol.2 of the unabridged translation of the Mahabharata by Dr. Bibek Debroy.

© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.