Mahabharata Stories: 10 – Ascetic in Love

Some among us have, at some time, experienced difficulty in maintaining a falsehood, especially if our actions are suspect in the eyes of the one for whom the falsehood was uttered in the first place. However, what we say is determined a lie or not, based on the intention alone, not on the fact of things. For it has been said, by none other than the Lord himself, that a Truth uttered to bring about misery ceases to be the Truth, and that a Lie uttered to bring about happiness becomes the Truth.

Taking sage Narada’s advice, the Pandavas agreed upon the condition that Draupadi would spend a year with each of them in turn, and the one who infringed upon this right would have to undertake a year of exile as atonement.

One evening, a Brahmana came to Arjuna asking for his help in getting back his stolen cows. As Arjuna’s weapons were in Yudhishtira’s house, and as Yudhishtira and Draupadi were in privacy at that time, Arjuna hesitated. However, on the Brahmana’s repeated entreaty, he went to Yudhishtira’s house and, getting his weapons, successfully restored the poor Brahmana’s cows.

He then told Yudhishtira: Brother, I have broken the rule we imposed upon ourselves. So I am going on a year of pilgrimage.

Yudhishtira held that the situation warranted Arjuna’s action and that it fell outside the rule, but Arjuna maintained his resolve. Donning the garb of a mendicant, Arjuna set out on a sacred journey all over Bharatavarsha. He came down the eastern coast until he reached the southernmost tip of the country, and then he journeyed on and went up the western coast.

He reached the outskirts of Dwaraka and remembered Subhadra, whom he had heard of as virtuous, bold and very beautiful. He desired very much to see her now. He smeared ash all over his body and stood in the tree posture in the precincts of a temple on the outskirts of the city.

Soon the word spread of the Yati in town and Sri Krishna came to understand from description that it was Arjuna who, he knew, was on a yearlong pilgrimage. He also understood that it was to attract Subhadra that Arjuna was acting thus.

Lord Krishna went up to Arjuna and quietly elicited of him his true intention. The two then decided that they had to get Subhadra fall in love with Arjuna. It was the norm among Kshatriyas that marriage to a woman was with her willing consent.


Sri Krishna arranged for news of the Yati to be conveyed to Balarama in very attractive terms. The unsuspecting Balarama was taken in by the Yati’s apparent piety and wisdom. He arranged for the ascetic’s stay in Subhadra’s gardens and asked Subhadra to attend upon him. Sri Krishna played up here and feigned unhappiness over the whole arrangement, calling Balarama’s attention to the fact that both were young, beautiful, and therefore, highly impressionable. But, as foreseen by Lord Krishna, Balarama did not budge from his decision.

Soon, the inevitable happened, and Subhadra happily came to know that her guest was none other than Arjuna, who also was her dream hero. It was time for the two to be married.

Sri Krishna made the act easy by ensuring that Balarama was taken away along with the rest of the family members to an island to perform a fifteen-day puja for the good of the family. Subhadra was left behind, as she was supposedly ill.

On the twelfth day of their absence, an auspicious day, Arjuna in all his splendour wended the way with his arrows as Subhadra deftly rode the chariot that Sri Krishna had left behind for them!

Balarama was furious when he came to know of the Yati’s true identity and the incidents but then, the onus of letting it happen lay on his own shoulders, thanks to Sri Krishna’s feigned behaviour! None could separate the couple anymore!



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