Today 23 May 2021 is the auspicious appearance day of Srimati Rukmiṇī Devi, the eternal consort of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Rukmiṇī Devi is the supreme goddess of fortune, Mahā-Lakṣmī. According to the authority of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, the expansion of Kṛṣṇa and that of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī are simultaneous: Kṛṣṇa expands Himself into various viṣṇu-tattva forms, and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī expands Herself into various śakti-tattva forms, by Her internal potency, as multiforms of the goddess of fortune.
Rukmiṇī Devi is Lord Kṛṣṇa’s first wife and principal queen among the 16,108 queens.
The story of Kṛṣṇa’s marriage with Rukmiṇī is described as follows. The King of Vidarbha, Mahārāja Bhīṣmaka, was very qualified and devoted. He had five sons and only one daughter. The first son was known as Rukmī; the second, Rukmaratha; the third, Rukmabāhu; the fourth, Rukmakeśa; and the fifth, Rukmamālī. The brothers had one young sister, Rukmiṇī. She was beautiful and chaste and was meant to be married to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Many saintly persons and sages like Nārada Muni used to visit the palace of King Bhīṣmaka. Naturally Rukmiṇī had a chance to talk with them, and in this way she obtained information about Kṛṣṇa. She was informed about the six opulences of Kṛṣṇa, and simply by hearing about Him she desired to surrender herself to His lotus feet and become His wife. Kṛṣṇa had also heard of Rukmiṇī. She was the reservoir of all transcendental qualities: intelligence, auspicious physical features, liberal-mindedness, exquisite beauty and righteous behavior. Kṛṣṇa therefore decided that she was fit to be His wife. All of the relatives of King Bhīṣmaka decided that Rukmiṇī should be given in marriage to Kṛṣṇa. But her elder brother Rukmī, despite the desire of the others, arranged for her marriage with Śiśupāla, a determined enemy of Kṛṣṇa. When the black-eyed, beautiful Rukmiṇī heard of the settlement, she immediately became very morose. However, being a king’s daughter, she understood political diplomacy and decided that there was no use in simply being morose. Some steps should be taken immediately. After some deliberation, she decided to send a message to Kṛṣṇa, and so that she might not be deceived, she selected a qualified brāhmaṇa as her messenger. Such a qualified brāhmaṇa is always truthful and is a devotee of Viṣṇu. Without delay, she sent the brāhmaṇa to Dvārakā.
Reaching the gate of Dvārakā, the brāhmaṇa informed the doorkeeper of his arrival, and the doorkeeper led him to the place where Kṛṣṇa was sitting on a golden throne. Since the brāhmaṇa had the opportunity to be Rukmiṇī’s messenger, he was fortunate enough to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa, the original cause of all causes. A brāhmaṇa is the spiritual teacher of all the social divisions. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in order to teach everyone the Vedic etiquette of how to respect a brāhmaṇa, immediately got up and offered him His throne. When the brāhmaṇa was seated on the golden throne, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa began to worship him exactly as the demigods worship Kṛṣṇa. In this way, He taught everyone that worshiping His devotee is more valuable than worshiping Him.
In due time, the brāhmaṇa took his bath, accepted his meals and lay down to rest on a bedstead completely bedecked with soft silk. As he was resting, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa silently approached and, with great respect, put the brāhmaṇa’s legs on His lap and began to massage them. In this way, Kṛṣṇa appeared before the brāhmaṇa and said, “My dear brāhmaṇa, I hope that you are executing the religious principles without difficulty and that your mind is always peaceful.” Different classes of people in the social system are engaged in various professions, and when one inquires as to the well-being of a particular person, he should do so on the basis of that person’s occupation. Therefore, when one inquires as to the welfare of a brāhmaṇa, the questions should be worded according to his condition of life so as not to disturb him. A peaceful mind is the basis for becoming truthful, clean, equipoised, self-controlled and tolerant. Thus by attaining knowledge and knowing its practical application in life, one becomes convinced about the Absolute Truth. The brāhmaṇa knew Kṛṣṇa to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and still he accepted the respectful service of the Lord on the grounds of Vedic social convention. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa was playing just like a human being. Because He belonged to the kṣatriya division of the social system and was a young boy, it was His duty to show respect to such a brāhmaṇa.
Lord Kṛṣṇa continued: “O best of all the brāhmaṇas, you should always remain satisfied, for if a brāhmaṇa is always self-satisfied he will not deviate from his prescribed duties; and simply by sticking to one’s prescribed duties, everyone, especially a brāhmaṇa, can attain the highest perfection of all desires. Even if a person is as opulent as the King of heaven, Indra, if he is not satisfied he inevitably has to transmigrate from one planet to another. Such a person can never be happy under any circumstances; but if one’s mind is satisfied, even if he is bereft of all possessions, he can be happy living anywhere.”
This instruction by Kṛṣṇa to the brāhmaṇa is very significant. The purport is that a true brāhmaṇa should not be disturbed in any situation. In this modern age, Kali-yuga, the so-called brāhmaṇas have accepted the abominable position of śūdras or less and still want to pass as qualified brāhmaṇas. Actually, a qualified brāhmaṇa always sticks to his own duties and never accepts those of a śūdra or of one less than a śūdra. It is advised in the authorized scriptures that a brāhmaṇa may, under awkward circumstances, accept the profession of a kṣatriya or even a vaiśya, but never is he to accept the profession of a śūdra. Lord Kṛṣṇa declared that a brāhmaṇa will never be disturbed by any adverse conditions if he scrupulously sticks to his religious principles. In conclusion, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa said, “I offer My respectful obeisances to the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas, for the brāhmaṇas are always self-satisfied and the Vaiṣṇavas are always engaged in actual welfare activities for human society. They are the best friends of the people in general; they are free from false egoism and are always in a peaceful condition of mind.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa then desired to know about the rulers (kṣatriyas) in the brāhmaṇa’s kingdom, so He inquired whether the citizens of the kingdom were all happy. A king’s qualification is judged by the temperament of the people in the kingdom. If they are happy in all respects, it is to be understood that the king is honest and is executing his duties rightly. Kṛṣṇa said that the king in whose kingdom the citizens are happy is very dear to Him. Of course, Kṛṣṇa could understand that the brāhmaṇa had come with a confidential message; therefore He said, “If you have no objection, I give you liberty to speak about your mission.”
Thus, being very much satisfied by these transcendental pastimes with the Lord, the brāhmaṇa narrated the whole story of his mission in coming to see Kṛṣṇa. He got out the letter Rukmiṇī had written to Kṛṣṇa and said, “These are the words of Princess Rukmiṇī: ‘My dear Kṛṣṇa, O infallible and most beautiful one, any human being who happens to hear about Your transcendental form and pastimes immediately absorbs through his ears Your name, fame and qualities; thus all his material pangs subside, and he fixes Your form in his heart. Through such transcendental love for You, he always sees You within himself; and by this process all his desires are fulfilled. Similarly, I have heard of Your transcendental qualities. I may be shameless in expressing myself directly, but You have captivated me and taken my heart. You may doubt my steadiness of character, since how could an unmarried young girl like me approach You without any shame? But my dear Mukunda, You are the supreme lion among human beings, the supreme person among persons. Any girl, though not yet having left her home, or even any woman of the highest chastity, would desire to marry You, being captivated by Your unprecedented character, knowledge, opulence and position. I know that You are the husband of the goddess of fortune and are very kind toward Your devotees; therefore I have decided to become Your eternal maidservant. My dear Lord, I dedicate my life and soul unto Your lotus feet. I have selected Your Lordship as my husband, and I therefore request You to accept me as Your wife. You are the supreme powerful, O lotus-eyed one. Now I belong to You. If that which is enjoyable for the lion to eat is taken away by the jackal, it will be a ludicrous affair; therefore I request You to immediately take care of me before I am taken away by Śiśupāla and other princes like him. My dear Lord, in my previous life I may have done public welfare work like digging wells and planting trees, or pious activities such as performing ritualistic ceremonies and sacrifices and serving superiors like the spiritual master, brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas. By these activities, perhaps I have pleased the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa. If this be so, then I wish that You, Lord Kṛṣṇa, the brother of Lord Balarāma, please come here and catch hold of my hand so that I shall not be touched by Śiśupāla and his company.’ ”
Rukmiṇī’s marriage with Śiśupāla was already settled; therefore she suggested that Kṛṣṇa kidnap her so that this might be changed. This sort of marriage, in which the girl is kidnapped by force, is known as rākṣasa and is practiced among kṣatriyas, or men with an administrative, martial spirit. Because her marriage was already arranged to take place the next day, Rukmiṇī suggested that Kṛṣṇa come there incognito to kidnap her and then fight with Śiśupāla and his allies like the King of Magadha. Knowing that no one could conquer Kṛṣṇa, who would certainly emerge victorious, she addressed Him as Ajita, “the unconquerable Lord.”
Rukmiṇī told Kṛṣṇa not to be concerned that the fighting would take place within the palace and that many of her family members, including other women, might thus be wounded or even killed. As the king of a country thinks of diplomatic ways to achieve his object, Rukmiṇī, being the daughter of a king, was diplomatic in suggesting how this unnecessary and undesirable killing could be avoided. She explained that it was the custom of her family to visit the temple of goddess Durgā, their family deity, before a marriage. (The kṣatriya kings were mostly staunch Vaiṣṇavas, worshiping Lord Viṣṇu in either the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa or Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa form; still, for their material welfare they used to worship goddess Durgā. They never made the mistake, however, of accepting the demigods as the Supreme Lord on the level of viṣṇu-tattva, as do some less intelligent men.) To avoid the unnecessary killing of her relatives, Rukmiṇī suggested that it would be easiest for Him to kidnap her while she was either going from the palace to the temple or else returning home.
She also explained to Kṛṣṇa why she was anxious to marry Him, even though her marriage was to take place with Śiśupāla, who was also qualified, being the son of a great king. Rukmiṇī said that she did not think anyone was greater than Kṛṣṇa, not even Lord Śiva, who is known as Mahādeva, the greatest of all demigods. Lord Śiva also seeks the pleasure of Lord Kṛṣṇa in order to be delivered from his entanglement in the quality of ignorance within the material world. Although Lord Śiva is the greatest of all great souls, mahātmās, he keeps on his head the purifying water of the Ganges, which emanates from a hole in this material universe made by the toe of Lord Viṣṇu. Lord Śiva is in charge of the material quality of ignorance, and to keep himself in a transcendental position he always meditates on Lord Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, and always tries to purify himself with the water of the Ganges. Therefore Rukmiṇī knew very well that obtaining the favor of Kṛṣṇa was not easy. Since even Lord Śiva must purify himself for this purpose, surely it would be difficult for Rukmiṇī, who was only the daughter of a kṣatriya king. Thus she desired to dedicate her life to observing severe austerities and penances, such as fasting and going without bodily comforts. If it were not possible in this lifetime to gain Kṛṣṇa’s favor by these activities, she was prepared to die from such austerities and to undergo similar difficulties lifetime after lifetime. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said that pure devotees of the Lord execute devotional service with great determination. Such determination, as exhibited by Rukmiṇī-devī, is the only price for purchasing Kṛṣṇa’s favor. One should be strongly determined in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and that is the way to ultimate success.
After relaying Rukmiṇī-devī’s statement to Kṛṣṇa, the brāhmaṇa said, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, chief of the Yadu dynasty, I have brought this confidential message for You from Rukmiṇī; now it is placed before You for Your consideration. After due deliberation, You may act as You please, but if You want to do something, You must do it immediately. There is not much time left for action.”
After hearing Rukmiṇī’s statement, Lord Kṛṣṇa was very much pleased. He immediately shook hands with the brāhmaṇa and said, “My dear brāhmaṇa, I am very glad to hear that Rukmiṇī is eager to marry Me, since I am also eager to get her hand. My mind is always absorbed in thoughts of the daughter of Bhīṣmaka, and sometimes I cannot sleep at night because I am thinking of her. I can understand that the marriage of Rukmiṇī with Śiśupāla has been arranged by her elder brother in a spirit of animosity toward Me; so I am determined to give a good lesson to all of these princes. Just as one extracts and uses fire after manipulating ordinary wood, after dealing with these demoniac princes I shall bring forth Rukmiṇī, like fire, from their midst.”
Kṛṣṇa, upon being informed of the specific date of Rukmiṇī’s marriage, was anxious to leave immediately. He asked His driver, Dāruka, to harness the horses for His chariot and prepare to go to the kingdom of Vidarbha. After hearing this order, the driver brought Kṛṣṇa’s four special horses. The names and descriptions of these horses are mentioned in the Padma Purāṇa. The first one, Śaibya, was greenish; the second, Sugrīva, was grayish like ice; the third, Meghapuṣpa, was the color of a new cloud; and the last, Balāhaka, was of ashen color. When the horses were yoked and the chariot was ready to go, Kṛṣṇa helped the brāhmaṇa up and gave him a seat by His side. Immediately they started from Dvārakā and within one night arrived at the province of Vidarbha. The kingdom of Dvārakā is situated in the western part of India, and Vidarbha is situated in the northern part. They are separated by a distance of not less than one thousand miles, but the horses were so fast that they reached their destination, a town called Kuṇḍina, within one night or, at most, twelve hours.
King Bhīṣmaka was not enthusiastic about handing his daughter over to Śiśupāla, but he was obliged to accept the marriage settlement due to his affectionate attachment for his eldest son, who had negotiated it. As a matter of duty, the King was decorating the city for the marriage ceremony and acting in great earnestness to make it very successful. Water was sprinkled all over the streets, and the city was cleansed very nicely. Since India is situated in the tropical zone, the atmosphere is always dry. Dust always accumulates on the streets and roads, so they must be sprinkled with water at least once a day, and in big cities like Calcutta twice a day. The roads of Kuṇḍina were arrayed with colored flags and festoons, and gates were constructed at particular crossings. The whole city was decorated very nicely. The beauty of the city was enhanced by the inhabitants, both men and women, who were dressed in fresh, washed clothes and decorated with sandalwood pulp, pearl necklaces and flower garlands. Incense burned everywhere, and fragrances like aguru scented the air. Priests and brāhmaṇas were sumptuously fed and, according to ritualistic ceremony, were given sufficient wealth and cows in charity. In this way, they were engaged in chanting Vedic hymns. The King’s daughter, Rukmiṇī, was exquisitely beautiful. She was very clean and had beautiful teeth. The auspicious sacred thread was tied on her wrist. She was given various types of jewelry to wear and long silken cloth to cover the upper and lower parts of her body. Learned priests gave her protection by chanting mantras from the Sāma Veda, Ṛg Veda and Yajur Veda. Then they chanted mantras from the Atharva Veda and offered oblations in the fire to pacify the influence of different stars.
King Bhīṣmaka was experienced in dealing with brāhmaṇas and priests when such ceremonies were held. He specifically honored the brāhmaṇas by giving them large quantities of gold and silver, grain mixed with molasses, and cows decorated with cloth and ornaments. Damaghoṣa, Śiśupāla’s father, executed all kinds of ritualistic performances to invoke good fortune for his son. Śiśupāla’s father was known as Damaghoṣa due to his superior ability to cut down unregulated citizens. Dama means curbing down, and ghoṣa means famous; so he was famous for controlling the citizens. Damaghoṣa thought that if Kṛṣṇa came to disturb the marriage ceremony, he would certainly cut Him down with his military power. Therefore, after performing the various auspicious ceremonies, Damaghoṣa gathered his military divisions. He took many elephants garlanded with golden necklaces, and many similarly decorated chariots and horses. It appeared that Damaghoṣa, along with his son and other companions, was going to Kuṇḍina not exactly to get Śiśupāla married but mainly to fight.
When King Bhīṣmaka learned that Damaghoṣa and his party were arriving, he left the city to receive them. Outside the city gate were many gardens where guests were welcome to stay. In the Vedic system of marriage, the bride’s father receives the large party of the bridegroom and accommodates them in a suitable place for two or three days until the marriage ceremony is performed. The party led by Damaghoṣa contained thousands of men, among whom the prominent kings and personalities were Jarāsandha, Dantavakra, Vidūratha and Pauṇḍraka. It was an open secret that Rukmiṇī was meant to be married to Kṛṣṇa but that her elder brother Rukmī had arranged her marriage to Śiśupāla. There was also some whispering about a rumor that Rukmiṇī had sent a messenger to Kṛṣṇa; therefore the soldiers suspected that Kṛṣṇa might cause a disturbance by attempting to kidnap Rukmiṇī. Even though they were not without fear, they were all prepared to give Kṛṣṇa a good fight to prevent the girl from being taken away. Śrī Balarāma received the news that Kṛṣṇa had left for Kuṇḍina accompanied only by a brāhmaṇa and that Śiśupāla was there with a large number of soldiers. Balarāma suspected that they would attack Kṛṣṇa, and thus out of great affection for His brother He took strong military divisions of chariots, infantry, horses and elephants and went to the precincts of Kuṇḍina.
Meanwhile, inside the palace, Rukmiṇī was expecting Kṛṣṇa to arrive, but when neither He nor the brāhmaṇa who took her message appeared, she was full of anxiety and began to think how unfortunate she was. “There is only one night between today and my marriage day, and still neither the brāhmaṇa nor Śyāmasundara has returned. I cannot ascertain any reason for this.” Having little hope, she thought that perhaps Kṛṣṇa had found reason to become dissatisfied and had rejected her fair proposal. As a result, the brāhmaṇa might have become disappointed and not come back. Although she was thinking of various causes for the delay, she expected them both at any moment.
Rukmiṇī further thought that demigods such as Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and goddess Durgā might have been displeased. It is generally said that the demigods become angry when not properly worshiped. For instance, when Indra found that the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana were not worshiping him (Kṛṣṇa having stopped the Indra-yajña), he became angry and wanted to chastise them. Thus Rukmiṇī thought that since she did not worship Lord Śiva or Lord Brahmā very much, they might have become angry and tried to frustrate her plan. Similarly she thought that goddess Durgā, the wife of Lord Śiva, might have taken the side of her husband. Lord Śiva is known as Rudra, and his wife is known as Rudrāṇī. Rudrāṇī and Rudra refer to those who are accustomed to putting others in distress to cry forever. Rukmiṇī was thinking of goddess Durgā as Girijā, the daughter of the Himalayan Mountains. The Himalayan Mountains are very cold and hard, and she thought of goddess Durgā as hardhearted and cold. In her anxiety to see Kṛṣṇa, Rukmiṇī, who was after all still a child, thought this way about the different demigods. The gopīs worshiped goddess Kātyāyanī to get Kṛṣṇa as their husband; similarly Rukmiṇī was thinking of the various types of demigods not for material benefit but in respect to Kṛṣṇa. Praying to the demigods to achieve the favor of Kṛṣṇa is not irregular, and Rukmiṇī was fully absorbed in thoughts of Kṛṣṇa.
Even though she pacified herself by thinking that the time for Govinda to arrive had not yet expired, Rukmiṇī felt that she was hoping against hope. Not expressing her mind to anyone, she simply shed tears, unobserved by others, and when her tears became more forceful, she closed her eyes in helplessness. While Rukmiṇī was in such deep thought, auspicious symptoms appeared in different parts of her body. Trembling began to occur in her left eyelid, arm and thigh. When trembling occurs in these parts of the body, it is an auspicious sign indicating that something lucrative can be expected.
Just then, Rukmiṇī, full of anxiety, saw the brāhmaṇa messenger. Kṛṣṇa, being the Supersoul of all living beings, could understand Rukmiṇī’s anxiety; therefore He sent the brāhmaṇa inside the palace to let her know that He had arrived. When Rukmiṇī saw the brāhmaṇa, she could understand the auspicious trembling of her body and immediately became elated. She smiled and inquired whether Kṛṣṇa had already come. The brāhmaṇa replied that the son of the Yadu dynasty, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, had arrived; he further encouraged her by saying that Kṛṣṇa had promised to carry her away without fail. Rukmiṇī was so elated by the brāhmaṇa’s message that she wanted to give him in charity everything she possessed. However, finding nothing suitable for presentation, she simply offered him her respectful obeisances. The significance of offering respectful obeisances to a superior is that the one offering obeisances is obliged to the respected person. In other words, Rukmiṇī implied that she would remain ever grateful to the brāhmaṇa. Anyone who gets the favor of the goddess of fortune, as did this brāhmaṇa, is without a doubt always happy in material opulence.
When King Bhīṣmaka heard that Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma had come, he invited Them to see the marriage ceremony of his daughter. Immediately he arranged to receive Them, along with Their soldiers, in a suitable garden house. As was the Vedic custom, the King offered Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma honey and fresh, washed garments. He was hospitable not only to Kṛṣṇa, Balarāma and kings such as Jarāsandha but also to many other kings and princes according to their personal strength, age and material possessions. Out of curiosity and eagerness, the people of Kuṇḍina assembled before Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma to drink the nectar of Their beauty. With tearful eyes, they offered Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma their silent respects. They were very much pleased, considering Lord Kṛṣṇa the suitable match for Rukmiṇī. They were so eager to unite Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī that they prayed to the Personality of Godhead: “Our dear Lord, if we have performed any pious activities with which You are satisfied, kindly be merciful upon us and accept the hand of Rukmiṇī.” It appears that Rukmiṇī was a very popular princess, and all the citizens, out of intense love for her, prayed for her best fortune. In the meantime, Rukmiṇī, being very nicely dressed and protected by bodyguards, came out of the palace to visit the temple of Ambikā, goddess Durgā.
Deity worship in the temple has been in existence since the beginning of Vedic culture. There is a class of men described in the Bhagavad-gītā as veda-vāda-rata: they believe only in the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies but not in temple worship. Such foolish people may here take note that although this marriage of Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī took place more than five thousand years ago, there were arrangements for temple worship. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says, yānti deva-vratā devān: [Bg. 9.25] “The worshipers of the demigods attain the abodes of the demigods.” There were many people who worshiped the demigods and many who directly worshiped the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The system of demigod worship was directed mainly to Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Lord Gaṇeśa, the sun-god and goddess Durgā. Lord Śiva and goddess Durgā were worshiped even by the royal families; other, minor demigods were worshiped by silly, lower-class people. As far as the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas are concerned, they simply worship Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavad-gītā the worship of demigods is condemned but not forbidden; there it is clearly stated that less intelligent men worship the demigods for material benefit. On the other hand, even though Rukmiṇī was the goddess of fortune, she went to the temple of goddess Durgā because the family deity was worshiped there. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that as Rukmiṇī proceeded toward the temple of goddess Durgā, within her heart she always thought of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore when Rukmiṇī went to the temple it was not with the intention of an ordinary person, who goes to beg for material benefits; her only goal was Kṛṣṇa.
As Rukmiṇī proceeded toward the temple, she was silent and grave. Her mother and her girlfriends were by her side, and the wife of a brāhmaṇa was in the center; surrounding her were royal bodyguards. (This custom of a would-be bride’s going to the temple of a demigod is still practiced in India.) As the procession continued, various musical sounds were heard. Conchshells, drums such as paṇavas, and bugles of different sizes, such as tūryas and bherīs, combined to make a sound which was not only auspicious but very sweet to hear. Thousands of wives of respectable brāhmaṇas were present, all dressed very nicely with suitable ornaments. They presented Rukmiṇī with flower garlands, sandalwood pulp and a variety of colorful garments to assist her in worshiping Lord Śiva and goddess Durgā. Some of these ladies were very old and knew perfectly well how to chant prayers to goddess Durgā and Lord Śiva; so, followed by Rukmiṇī and others, they led these prayers before the deity.
Rukmiṇī offered her prayers to the deity by saying, “My dear goddess Durgā, I offer my respectful obeisances unto you as well as to your children.” Goddess Durgā has four famous children: two daughters—the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, and the goddess of learning, Sarasvatī—and two sons, Lord Gaṇeśa and Lord Kārttikeya. They are all considered demigods and goddesses. Since goddess Durgā is always worshiped with her famous children, Rukmiṇī specifically offered her respectful obeisances to the deity in that way; however, her prayers were special. Ordinary people pray to goddess Durgā for material wealth, fame, profit, strength and so on; Rukmiṇī, however, desired to have Kṛṣṇa for her husband and therefore prayed that the deity be pleased with her and bless her with that benediction. Since she desired only Kṛṣṇa, her worship of the demigods is not condemned. While Rukmiṇī was praying, she presented a variety of items before the deity, chief of which were water, different kinds of flames, incense, garments, garlands and various foods prepared with ghee, such as purīs and kachoris. She also offered fruits, sugarcane, betel nuts and spices. With great devotion, Rukmiṇī offered them to the deity according to the regulative principles, directed by the old brāhmaṇa ladies. After this ritualistic ceremony, the ladies offered the remnants of the food to Rukmiṇī as prasādam, which she accepted with great respect. Then Rukmiṇī offered her obeisances to the ladies and to goddess Durgā. After the business of deity worship was finished, Rukmiṇī caught hold of the hand of one of her girlfriends in her own hand, which was decorated with a jeweled ring, and left the temple in the company of the others.
All the princes and visitors who came to Kuṇḍina for the marriage had assembled outside the temple to see Rukmiṇī. The princes were especially eager to see her because they all actually thought that they would have Rukmiṇī as their wife. Struck with wonder upon seeing Rukmiṇī, they thought she was especially manufactured by the Creator to bewilder all the great chivalrous princes. Her body was well constructed, the middle portion being thin. Her high hips were adorned with a jeweled locket, she had pink lips, and the beauty of her face was enhanced by her slightly scattered hair and by different kinds of earrings. The bodily luster and beauty of Rukmiṇī appeared as if painted by an artist perfectly presenting beauty following the descriptions of great poets. Rukmiṇī’s breasts are described as being somewhat high, indicating that she was just a youth not more than thirteen or fourteen years old. Her beauty was specifically intended to attract the attention of Kṛṣṇa. Although the princes gazed upon her beautiful features, she was not at all proud. Her eyes moved restlessly, and when she smiled very simply, like an innocent girl, her teeth appeared just like jasmine buds. Expecting Kṛṣṇa to take her away at any moment, she proceeded slowly toward her home. Her legs moved just like a full-grown swan, and her ankle bells tinkled mildly.
The chivalrous princes assembled there were so overwhelmed by Rukmiṇī’s beauty that they became almost unconscious and fell from their horses and elephants. Full of lust, they hopelessly desired Rukmiṇī’s hand, comparing their own beauty to hers. Śrīmatī Rukmiṇī, however, was not interested in any of them; in her heart she was simply expecting Kṛṣṇa to come and carry her away. As she was adjusting the ornaments on a finger of her left hand, she happened to look upon the princes and suddenly saw that Kṛṣṇa was present amongst them. Although Rukmiṇī had never before seen Kṛṣṇa, she was always thinking of Him; thus she had no difficulty recognizing Him amongst the princely order. Kṛṣṇa, unconcerned with the other princes, immediately took the opportunity to place Rukmiṇī on His chariot, marked by a flag bearing an image of Garuḍa. He then proceeded slowly, without fear, taking Rukmiṇī away exactly as a lion takes a deer from the midst of jackals. Meanwhile, Balarāma appeared on the scene with the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty.
Jaräsandha, who had many times experienced defeat by Kåñëa, roared, “How is this? Kåñëa is taking Rukmiëé away from us without opposition! What is the use of our being chivalrous fighters with arrows? My dear princes, just look! We are losing our reputation. He is just like a jackal taking booty from a lion.”
Jaräsandha and all the other princes were very angry at Kåñëa for having kidnapped Rukmiëé. Struck by Rukmiëé’s beauty, they had fallen from the backs of their horses and elephants, but now they began to stand up and properly arm themselves. Picking up their bows and arrows, they began to chase Kåñëa on their chariots, horses and elephants. To check their progress, the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty turned and faced them. Thus terrible fighting began between the two belligerent groups. The princes opposing Kåñëa, who were led by Jaräsandha and were all expert in fighting, shot their arrows at the Yadu soldiers just as a cloud splashes the face of a mountain with torrents of rain. Gathered on the face of a mountain, a cloud does not move very much, and therefore the force of rain is much more severe on a mountain than anywhere else.
The opposing princes were determined to defeat Kåñëa and recapture Rukmiëé from His custody, and they fought with Him as severely as possible. Rukmiëé, seated by the side of Kåñëa, saw arrows raining from the opposing party onto the faces of the Yadu soldiers. In a fearful attitude, she looked upon Kåñëa’s face, expressing her gratefulness that He had taken such a great risk for her sake only. Her eyes moving, she appeared sorry, and Kåñëa, who could immediately understand her mind, encouraged her with these words: “My dear Rukmiëé, don’t worry. Please rest assured that the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty will kill all the opposing soldiers without delay.”
As Kṛṣṇa was speaking with Rukmiṇī, the commanders of the Yadu dynasty’s soldiers, headed by Lord Balarāma, who is also known as Saṅkarṣaṇa, as well as by Gada, not tolerating the defiant attitude of the opposing soldiers, began to strike their horses, elephants and chariots with arrows. As the fighting progressed, the princes and soldiers of the enemy began to fall from their horses, elephants and chariots. Within a short time, millions of severed heads, decorated with helmets and earrings, had fallen on the battlefield. The soldiers’ hands were severed along with their bows and arrows and clubs; arms were piled upon arms, thighs upon thighs, and horses upon horses. Similarly, other animals, such as camels, elephants and asses, as well as infantry soldiers, all fell with severed heads.
When the enemy, headed by Jarāsandha, found that they were gradually being defeated by the soldiers of Kṛṣṇa, they thought it unwise to risk losing their armies in the battle for the sake of Śiśupāla. Śiśupāla himself should have fought to rescue Rukmiṇī from the hands of Kṛṣṇa, but when the soldiers saw that Śiśupāla was not competent to fight with Kṛṣṇa, they decided not to lose their armies unnecessarily; therefore they ceased fighting and dispersed.
Some of the princes, as a matter of etiquette, appeared before Śiśupāla. They saw that Śiśupāla was discouraged, like one who has lost his wife. His face appeared dried up, he had lost all his energy, and all the luster of his body had disappeared. They addressed Śiśupāla thus: “Our dear Śiśupāla, don’t be discouraged in this way. You belong to the royal order and are the chief amongst the fighters. There is no question of distress or happiness for a person like you because neither of these conditions is everlasting. Take courage. Don’t be disappointed by this temporary reversal. After all, we are not the final actors; as puppets dance in the hands of a magician, we are all dancing by the will of the Supreme, and according to His plan alone we suffer distress or enjoy happiness. We should therefore be equipoised in all circumstances.”
Although in the beginning the princes had been full of hope for success in their heroic action, after their defeat they could only try to encourage Śiśupāla with flattering words. Thus Śiśupāla, instead of marrying Rukmiṇī, had to be satisfied with the flattering words of his friends, and he returned home in disappointment. The kings who had come to assist him, also disappointed, then returned to their respective kingdoms.
The whole catastrophe of the defeat was due to the envious nature of Rukmiṇī’s elder brother Rukmī. Having seen his sister forcibly taken away by Kṛṣṇa after he had planned to marry her to Śiśupāla, Rukmī was frustrated. So after Śiśupāla, his friend and intended brother-in-law, returned home, Rukmī, very much agitated, was determined to teach Kṛṣṇa a lesson personally. He called for his own soldiers—a military phalanx consisting of several thousand elephants, horses, chariots and infantry—and equipped with this military strength, he began to follow Kṛṣṇa to Dvārakā. To show his prestige, Rukmī promised all the returning kings, “You could not help Śiśupāla marry my sister, Rukmiṇī, but I cannot allow Rukmiṇī to be taken away by Kṛṣṇa. I shall teach Him a lesson. Now I am going to follow Him.” He presented himself as a big commander and vowed before all the princes, “Unless I kill Kṛṣṇa in the fight and bring back my sister from His clutches, I shall not return to my capital city, Kuṇḍina. I make this vow before you all, and you will see that I shall fulfill it.” After thus vibrating all these boasting words, Rukmī immediately got on his chariot and told his chariot driver to pursue Kṛṣṇa. He said, “I want to fight with Him immediately. This cowherd boy has become proud of His tricky way of fighting with kṣatriyas, but today I shall teach Him a good lesson. Because He had the impudence to kidnap my sister, I, with my sharp arrows, shall teach Him very good lessons indeed.” Thus this unintelligent man, Rukmī, ignorant of the extent of the strength and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, voiced his impudent threats.
In great stupidity, he soon stood before Kṛṣṇa, telling Him repeatedly, “Stop for a minute and fight with me!” After saying this he drew his bow and directly shot three forceful arrows against Kṛṣṇa’s body. Then he condemned Kṛṣṇa as the most abominable descendant of the Yadu dynasty and asked Him to stand before him for a minute so that he could teach Him a good lesson. “You are carrying away my sister just like a crow stealing clarified butter meant for use in a sacrifice. You are proud of Your military strength, but You cannot fight according to regulative principles. You have stolen my sister; now I shall relieve You of Your false prestige. You can keep my sister in Your possession only until I beat You to the ground for good with my arrows.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa, after hearing all these crazy words from Rukmī, immediately shot an arrow and severed the string of Rukmī’s bow, making him unable to use another arrow. Rukmī immediately took another bow and shot another five arrows at Kṛṣṇa. Being attacked for the second time, Kṛṣṇa again severed Rukmī’s bowstring. Rukmī took a third bow, and Kṛṣṇa again cut its string. This time, to teach Rukmī a lesson, Kṛṣṇa shot six arrows at him and then shot another eight arrows, killing four horses with four arrows, killing the chariot driver with another arrow, and chopping off the upper portion of Rukmī’s chariot, including the flag, with the remaining three arrows.
Rukmī, having run out of arrows, took assistance from swords, shields, tridents, lances and similar weapons used for fighting hand to hand, but Kṛṣṇa immediately broke them all in the same way. Being repeatedly baffled in his attempts, Rukmī took his sword and ran swiftly toward Kṛṣṇa, just as a fly proceeds toward a fire. But as soon as Rukmī reached Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa cut his weapon to pieces. This time Kṛṣṇa took out His sharp sword and was about to kill him immediately, but Rukmī’s sister, Rukmiṇī, understanding that this time Kṛṣṇa would not excuse her brother, fell down at Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet and in a very grievous tone, trembling with great fear, began to plead with her husband.
Rukmiṇī first addressed Kṛṣṇa as Yogeśvara. Yogeśvara means “one who is possessed of inconceivable opulence and energy.” Kṛṣṇa possesses inconceivable opulence and energy, whereas Rukmiṇī’s brother had only limited military potency. Kṛṣṇa is immeasurable, whereas her brother was measured in every step of his life. Therefore, Rukmī was not comparable even to an insignificant insect before the unlimited power of Kṛṣṇa. She also addressed Kṛṣṇa as the God of the gods. There are many powerful demigods, such as Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Indra, Candra and Varuṇa, but Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of all these gods, whereas Rukmiṇī’s brother was not only an ordinary human being but in fact the lowest of all because he had no understanding of Kṛṣṇa. In other words, a human being who has no conception of the actual position of Kṛṣṇa is the lowest in human society. Then Rukmiṇī addressed Kṛṣṇa as Mahābhuja, which means “one with unlimited strength.” She also addressed Kṛṣṇa as Jagatpati, the master of the whole cosmic manifestation. In comparison, her brother was only an ordinary prince.
In this way, Rukmiṇī compared the position of Rukmī with that of Kṛṣṇa and very feelingly pleaded with her husband not to kill her brother just at the auspicious time of her being united with Kṛṣṇa, but to excuse him. In other words, she displayed her real position as a woman. She was happy to get Kṛṣṇa as her husband at the moment when her marriage to another was to be performed, but she did not want it to be at the loss of her elder brother, who, after all, loved his young sister and wanted to hand her over to one who, according to his own calculations, was a better man. While Rukmiṇī was praying to Kṛṣṇa for the life of her brother, her whole body trembled, and because of her anxiety, her face appeared to dry up and her throat became choked, and due to her trembling, the ornaments on her body loosened and fell scattered on the ground. In this manner, when Rukmiṇī was very much perturbed, she fell down on the ground, and Lord Kṛṣṇa immediately became compassionate and agreed not to kill the foolish Rukmī. But, at the same time, He wanted to give him some light punishment, so He tied him up with a piece of cloth and snipped at his mustache, beard and hair, keeping some spots here and there.
While Kṛṣṇa was dealing with Rukmī in this way, the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty, commanded by Balarāma Himself, broke the whole strength of Rukmī’s army just as an elephant in a pond discards the feeble stem of a lotus flower. In other words, as an elephant breaks the whole construction of a lotus flower while bathing in a reservoir of water, the military strength of the Yadus broke up Rukmī’s forces.
When the commanders of the Yadu dynasty came back to see Kṛṣṇa, they were all surprised to see the condition of Rukmī. Lord Balarāma became especially compassionate toward His sister-in-law, who was newly married to His brother. To please Rukmiṇī, Balarāma personally untied Rukmī, and to further please her, Balarāma, as the elder brother of Kṛṣṇa, spoke some words of chastisement. “Kṛṣṇa, Your action is not at all satisfactory,” He said. “This is an abomination very much contrary to Our family tradition! To cut someone’s hair and shave his mustache and beard is almost comparable to killing him. Whatever Rukmī might have been, he is now Our brother-in-law, a relative of Our family, and You should not have put him in such a condition.”
After this, to pacify Rukmiṇī, Lord Balarāma said to her, “You should not be sorry that your brother has been made odd-looking. Everyone suffers or enjoys the results of his own actions.” Lord Balarāma wanted to impress upon Rukmiṇī that she should not be sorry for the consequences her brother suffered due to his actions. There was no need of being too affectionate toward such a brother.
Lord Balarāma again turned toward Kṛṣṇa and said, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, a relative, even though he commits such a blunder and deserves to be killed, should be excused. For when such a relative is conscious of his own fault, that consciousness itself is like death. Therefore, there is no need to kill him.”
Balarāma again turned toward Rukmiṇī and informed her that the current duty of the kṣatriya in human society is so fixed that, according to the principles of fighting, one’s own brother may become an enemy. Then a kṣatriya does not hesitate to kill his own brother. In other words, Lord Balarāma wanted to instruct Rukmiṇī that Rukmī and Kṛṣṇa were right in not showing mercy to each other in the fighting, despite the family consider that they happened to be brothers-in-law. Śrī Balarāma informed Rukmiṇī that kṣatriyas are typical emblems of the materialistic way of life; they become puffed up whenever there is a question of material acquisition. Therefore, when there is a fight between two belligerent kṣatriyas for kingdom, land, wealth, women, prestige or power, they try to put one another into the most abominable condition. Balarāma instructed Rukmiṇī that her affection toward her brother Rukmī, who had created enmity with so many persons, was a perverse consideration befitting an ordinary materialist. Her brother’s character was not at all admirable, considering his treatment of his friends, and yet Rukmiṇī, as an ordinary woman, was affectionate toward him. He was not fit to be her brother, and still, Rukmiṇī was lenient toward him.
“Besides that,” Balarāma continued, “the consideration that a person is neutral or is one’s friend or enemy is generally made by persons in the bodily concept of life. Such foolish persons are bewildered by the illusory energy of the Supreme Lord. The spirit soul is of the same pure quality in any embodiment of matter, but those who are not sufficiently intelligent see only the bodily differences between animals and men, literates and illiterates, rich and poor, which cover the pure spirit soul. Such differences, observed merely on the basis of the body, are exactly like the differences between fires in terms of the various types of fuel they consume. Whatever the size and shape of the fuel, there is no such variety of size and shape in the fire which comes out. Similarly, in the sky there are no differences in size or shape.”
In this way Balarāma reconciled the situation by His moral and ethical instructions to Rukmiṇī and Kṛṣṇa. To Rukmiṇī He stated further, “This body is part of the material manifestation, consisting of the material elements, living conditions and interactions of the modes of material nature. The living entity, or spirit soul, being in contact with these, is transmigrating from one body to another due to illusory enjoyment, and that transmigration is known as material existence. This contact of the living entity with the material manifestation has neither integration nor disintegration. My dear chaste sister-in-law, the spirit soul is, of course, the cause of this material body, just as the sun is the cause of sunlight, eyesight and the forms of material manifestation.”
The example of the sunshine and the material manifestation is very appropriate in understanding the living entity’s contact with the material world. In the morning the sun rises, and the heat and light gradually expand throughout the whole day. The sun is the cause of all material shapes and forms, for it is due to the sun that integration and disintegration of material elements take place. But as soon as the sun sets, the whole manifestation is no longer connected to the sun, which has passed from one place to another. When the sun passes from the eastern to the western hemisphere, the results of the interactions due to the sunshine in the eastern hemisphere remain, but the sunshine itself is visible in the western hemisphere. Similarly, the living entity accepts or produces different bodies and different bodily relationships in a particular circumstance, but as soon as he gives up the present body and accepts another, he has nothing to do with the former body. Similarly, the living entity has nothing to do with the next body he accepts. He is always free from the contact of this bodily contamination. “Therefore,” continued Balarāma, “the appearance and disappearance of the body have nothing to do with the living entity, just as the waxing and waning of the moon have nothing to do with the moon.” When the moon waxes we falsely think that the moon is developing, and when it wanes we think the moon is decreasing. Factually, the moon, as it is, is always the same; it has nothing to do with such visible activities of waxing and waning.
Lord Balarāma continued: “One’s consciousness in material existence can be compared to sleeping and dreaming. When a man sleeps, he dreams of many nonfactual happenings, and as a result of dreaming he becomes subject to different kinds of distress and happiness. Similarly, when a person is in the dream of material consciousness, he suffers the effects of accepting a body and giving it up again in material existence. Opposite to this material consciousness is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In other words, when a man is elevated to the platform of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he becomes free from this false conception of life.”
In this way, Śrī Balarāma instructed Rukmiṇī in spiritual knowledge. He further addressed His sister-in-law thus: “Sweet, smiling Rukmiṇī, do not be aggrieved by false notions caused by ignorance. Only because of false notions does one become unhappy, but one can immediately remove this unhappiness by discussing the philosophy of actual life. Be happy on that platform only.”
After hearing such enlightening instructions from Śrī Balarāma, Rukmiṇī immediately became pacified and happy and adjusted her mind, which was very much afflicted by the degraded position of her brother Rukmī. As far as Rukmī was concerned, his promise was not fulfilled, nor was his mission successful. He had come from home with his soldiers and military phalanx to defeat Kṛṣṇa and release his sister, but on the contrary he lost all his soldiers and military strength. He was personally degraded and very sorry, but by the grace of the Lord he could continue his life to its fixed destination. Because he was a kṣatriya, he could remember his promise that he would not return to his capital city, Kuṇḍina, without killing Kṛṣṇa and releasing his sister, which he had failed to do; therefore, he decided in anger not to return to his capital city, and he constructed a small cottage in the village known as Bhojakaṭa, where he resided for the rest of his life.
After defeating all the opposing elements and forcibly carrying away Rukmiṇī, Kṛṣṇa brought her to His capital city, Dvārakā, and then married her according to the Vedic ritualistic principles. After this marriage, Kṛṣṇa became the King of the Yadus at Dvārakā. On the occasion of His marriage with Rukmiṇī, all the inhabitants were happy, and in every house there were great ceremonies. The inhabitants of Dvārakā City were so much pleased that they dressed themselves with the nicest possible ornaments and garments and went to present gifts, according to their means, to the newly married couple, Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī. All the houses of Yadupurī (Dvārakā) were decorated with flags, festoons and flowers. Each and every house had an extra gate specifically prepared for this occasion, and on both sides of the gate were big water jugs filled with water. The whole city was made fragrant by the burning of fine incense, and at night there was illumination from thousands of lamps, which decorated every building.
The entire city appeared jubilant on the occasion of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s marriage with Rukmiṇī. Everywhere in the city there were profuse decorations of banana trees and betel-nut trees. These two trees are considered very auspicious in happy ceremonies. At the same time there was an assembly of many elephants, who carried the respective kings of different friendly kingdoms. It is the habit of the elephant that whenever he sees some small plants and trees, out of his sportive and frivolous nature he uproots the trees and throws them hither and thither. The elephants assembled on this occasion also scattered the banana and betel nut trees, but in spite of such intoxicated action, the whole city, with the trees thrown here and there, looked very nice.
The friendly kings of the Kurus and the Pāṇḍavas were represented by Bhīṣma, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, the five Pāṇḍava brothers, King Drupada, King Santardana and Rukmiṇī’s father, Bhīṣmaka. Because of Kṛṣṇa’s kidnapping Rukmiṇī, there was initially some misunderstanding between the two families, but Bhīṣmaka, King of Vidarbha, being approached by Śrī Balarāma and persuaded by many saintly persons, was induced to participate in the marriage ceremony of Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī. Although the incident of the kidnapping was not a very happy occurrence in the kingdom of Vidarbha, kidnapping was not an unusual affair among kṣatriyas. Kidnapping was, in fact, current in almost all their marriages. Anyway, King Bhīṣmaka was from the very beginning inclined to hand over his beautiful daughter to Kṛṣṇa. In one way or another his purpose had been served, and so he was pleased to join the marriage ceremony, even though his eldest son was degraded in the fight. It is mentioned in the Padma Purāṇa that Mahārāja Nanda and the cowherd boys of Vṛndāvana joined the marriage ceremony. Kings from the kingdoms of Kuru, Sṛñjaya, Kekaya, Vidarbha and Kunti all came to Dvārakā on this occasion and met with one another very joyfully.
The story of Rukmiṇī’s being kidnapped by Kṛṣṇa was poeticized, and professional readers recited it everywhere. All the assembled kings and their daughters especially were struck with wonder and very much pleased upon hearing the chivalrous activities of Kṛṣṇa. In this way, all the visitors as well as the inhabitants of Dvārakā City were joyful to see Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī together. In other words, the goddess of fortune was now united with the Supreme Lord, the maintainer of everyone, and thus all the people felt extremely jubilant.