I just finished the part where Arjuna has a number of adventures (including having sexual affairs with some wondrous creatures and fathering one or two children) in exile and finally marries Subhadra and brings her back to Indraprastha to the ire of Draupadi. The marriage between Arjuna and Subhadra was engineered by Krishna who made a statement that a marriage based on love is the highest form of marriage (oh, if only the traditionalists would listen) and therefore Arjuna should win over Subhadra before marrying her.
This union is quite interesting to me. On the surface it’s quite romantic. In fact, it is mentioned that the people of Dwarka approved of the whole thing because it was so romantic and reminded them of whenKrishnacarried away Rukmini.
But the details seem rather traditional after all. First of all, we are told both Arjuna and Subhadra are already in love with each other, without having ever set sight on each other, based on the stories they have been told about each other. I don’t know how plausible this is. I suppose it is a bit like being in love with Mr. Darcy. And then Mr. Darcy turns up and actually is as handsome and impressive as one imagined he would be. Okay.
The thing is, though, that the same is said of the Draupadi-Pandava union. That Draupadi and Arjuna were in love with each other before they even met based on reports about each other. So it appears that in the Mahabharata, men either spot a woman and fall in lust on sight or the man and woman, separately and unbeknowest to each other, fall in love based on stories that we told about each other. Even Gandhari, wife of blind King D (name too tedious to type out), was so enamoured of him without seeing him, that when she was told he was blind, volunteered to blind herself as well.
Couples don’t really meet, get to know each other (by talking I mean) and fall in love. Ah well, ancient times. Maybe men and women just didn’t meet and mingle for a chat.
It all smacks of the whole arranged marriage thing of modern times though where one doesn’t really see ones intended partner, intended that is by all different interested parties who build up said person’s image in your eyes and hope you fall in love with them. And then you marry them and it is assumed that you fell in love. If Draupadi and Arjuna and Arjuna and Subhadra could fall in love on mere reports, why can’t you?
Anyway, I digress. Arjuna and Subhadra actually do a bit of getting-to-know. But inexplicably, this is possible because Arjuna is disguised as a yati. Why he couldn’t just be welcomed into Dwarka as Krishna’s guest is unclear to me. Oh wait, because there wouldn’t be enough opportunities for them to be in close proximity because men and women, I presume, didn’t interact much.
And then why did Arjuna have to kidnap her? Why couldn’t they just fess up and be married in Dwarka as was later done? Oh yeah, that was because Balaram would be infuriated at having been tricked into throwing the yati/Arjuna into Subhadra’s path and would need time to cool down. Quite refreshing that once she got over the shock of her own desire, Subhadra took the reins literally and brought the chariot to Arjuna. So more like she carried him off than the other way round. Quite a humorous moment when the guards were confused about whether to stop the chariot or not because Subhadra seemed quite happy to be “carried away”.
Heh. Okay it is quite a cool romantic story after all. It took me this entire post to come to that conclusion. Sorry for wasting your time, dear reader!
The only thing that continues to ick is the way Draupadi was handled. She was jealous and furious which is of course understandable. So Subhadra is counseled to be meek and humble and defer to her, which she does, winning Draupadi over. And then, having demonstrated that she is not going estrange her husband from his first wife, poor little Subhadra withdraws and discretely closes the door on Draupadi and Arjuna who fall on each other in passion. Ick.