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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.
Jarāsandha, who had many times experienced defeat by Kṛṣṇa, roared, “How is this? Kṛṣṇa is taking Rukmiṇī 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.”
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Fifty-third Chapter of Kṛṣṇa, "Kṛṣṇa Kidnaps Rukmiṇī."