Subhadra: The Sister Of The Lord

She sits on the pedestal between her brothers, Jagannath and Balabhadra. Her eyes were like a blue lotus, shining brightly under the golden rays of the mighty sun. But who is she behind the veil of a sister and wife?
A love beyond reality; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A love beyond reality; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

There’s a really old folk myth that says “the Mahabharata should not be kept at home”, as it might create factions in the family. The saga of Mahabharata enciphers characters and moments that are violent and negative in nature. In a broader sense, the characters of Mahabharata might look flawless, but a closer look at them makes us realise that all of them are filled with flaws. None of the characters can be categorised as entirely black or white, it is the shade of grey that adds to the character’s individuality.

However, over the past few years, this grey shade has faded away into nothingness and characters are either whitewashed or wrongly condemned. There are some whose pain and humiliation have been highlighted, while others are undermined.

During the lockdown, Doordarshan has invigorated the Ramayana and Mahabharata series for people to again watch and relive the moments. This very series brought me closer to a character who is seldom discussed. She is considered to be the one who had won Paarth’s heart, she is considered to be the sister of the two mighty lords, Jagannatha and Balabhadra, and last but not the least, she is the incarnation of Vrishni goddess, Ekanamsha. She is Subhadra, a woman who had different roles yet a very special purpose.

The door of Yudhisthir’s palace opened suddenly as Arjuna ran inside to get his bow and arrow. He knew of the consequences of breaking the vow of not entering his brother’s chamber when he was with Draupadi. But he couldn’t help it. The poor Brahmin was in trouble and it was his duty as a Kshatriya to relieve him of his trouble. After coming back from the fight, he saw the pitiful faces of his brothers, Kunti and Draupadi. What had to be done is done, and now it was time for Arjuna to serve his exile period. Though no one wanted him to leave the Indraprastha palace, Arjuna stuck firmly to his words and went for the pilgrimage.

After traveling through numerous mountains and valleys, crossing rivers and oceans, he finally reached the abode of Krishna. However, on that very day, a special festival was organised in the Raivata mountains. While he was roaming around the colourful streets of the Raivata mountain, he came across a beautiful woman. Her long lashes, lotus-like eyes, long hair cascading down her slim waist and rose-like lips enchanted him.

Smitten by her irresistible beauty, he asked Krishna about her. He was astonished to know that she was none other than Subhadra, Krishna’s sister and Vasudeva’s adopted child.

Krishna advised Arjuna that if he was in love with Subhadra, then he should not wait for swayamvara, as she might choose someone else. Thus, he thought of a plan and asked Arjuna to elope with Subhadra and that he would take care of the rest of the matters. Abducting Subhadra on a chariot, Arjuna eloped with her.

Little did Arjuna know that Subhadra’s elder brother, Balarama had already decided that she would marry the king of Hastinapur, Duryodhana. However, after meeting Arjuna, Subhadra fell in love with and didn’t want to marry Duryodhana. In fact, Balarama forced her to marry Duryodhana. Little did Balarama know of Arjuna’s plan of eloping with Subhadra. The entire clan of Yadavas, Vrishni and Andhaka couldn’t stop them. An angry Balarama was further shocked to find that Krishna supported their marriage was in fact, helped them to elope by driving their chariot. Later on, Krishna convinced the entire clan and Subhadra married Arjuna with full Vedic traditions.

However, Arjuna and Subhadra were not aware of Yajnaseni’s fieriness. While Kunti and Arjun’s brothers welcomed the newly wedded groom and bride with open arms, Draupadi’s eyes lit with fire when she saw Subhadra beside Arjuna. Waling back in the direction of her chamber, the fire-born princess took the form of a simple cowherd. Subhadra ran behind her and entered her chamber, only to see Draupadi’s devastated state. Leaning on her knees, Subhadra folded her hands. When Draupadi asked. “Who are you?”, Subhadra humbly replied that she was her maid. Her humble reply delighted Draupadi and she hugged Subhadra. Draupadi finally accepted her as her younger sister.

While this story weaves the life of Subhadra with marriage, seldom do we try to understand her perspective. Though she was entitled to choose a groom for herself through swayamvara, she was not given the chance. On one hand, Arjuna decided that he would marry Subhadra and on the other hand, Balarama had decided that Duryodhana would be the future husband of Subhadra. In both the cases, Subhadra did not have her say.

In popular religious culture of Odisha, Subhadra who is regarded as the siter of Jagannatha and Balabhadra, is worshipped at Jagannatha Temple at Puri. She also has a chariot dedicated to her that runs on the occasion of Rath Yatra. In the western part of Rajasthan, there is small village named Bhadrajun, where Subhadra is worshipped as Dhumda mata since the time of Mahabharata.

When Subhadra eloped with Arjuna with Krishna as their charioteer; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

When Subhadra eloped with Arjuna with Krishna as their charioteer; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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