The Tale of Subhadra

Subhadra was Arujna’s second wife, Krishna’s half-sister and Abhimanyu’s mother, grandmother of Parikshit who eventually becomes the heir of the victor Pandava clan. But Subhadra is more than all of this. This is her story.

Disclaimer: This is a work of pure fiction.

She stood by the palace window, tall and still, staring at the blurred distance. She had two choices, both unattractive, out of which, she had to take a decision. She squared her shoulders, hoping that would give her strength. She could either leave Arjun, the mighty Pandava or she could continue to live with , living the life of the neglected.

She was Queen Subhadra, and her lithe form and the air of dignity around her conveyed that she was Queen indeed. She was the proud daughter of the mighty Yadu clan, sister of Lord Krishna and Lord Balarama and mother to Prince Abhimanyu. 

She had married Prince Arjuna, falling irresistibly in love with him and she had thought he had the same love for her. She had married him after that wretch Draupadi had, yes, but Draupadi was a common wife, to be split among five brothers. Draupadi split her love among five, and Subhadra had dedicated herself to Arjuna, yet she remained an afterthought, ever inferior to his darling Draupadi.  She had borne him a worthy son and Draupadi? She had reared  a weakling. Her son had sacrificed his life in the Kurukshetra, and yet, she received no attention from her husband. It hadn’t always been that way. She had been the Queen of queens in Arjuna’s eyes but following the Kurukshetra, he had simply forgotten her or so it seemed. Her enmity was not with Draupadi, the lady was a strong woman but she felt such grief that she had no one to blame  except Draupadi. She had waited, for Arjuna was noble, and she knew he was deeply pained that he had to kill his own. But she couldnt wait had been 5 years, not a short while.

Leaving Arjuna for her home would be a difficult choice. A women in that age would be scorned for leaving a husband. But what made it difficult for her to put her self respect first was the fire that burned within her. She loved him, she deserved him and she would make him see that. Queen Subhadra stood at the window, in the cold night, her bed empty like it always was when Draupadi lived in her palace.

The next morning, the handmaids found Queen Subhadra asleep on the couch by the window.  They gently woke her informing her that her beloved brother Lord Krishna had arrived to visit and had requested for her.

Queen  Subhadra eagerly dressed herself. Her brother Krishna, the omniscient, had arrived and it could not be mere coincidence He had appeared without notice just when she was pained.

She ran into her brother’s arms and embraced him like she used to when she was ten years old. Her brother just whispered playfully, “Now,now, Subhadra. You are a queen. What will people say?” She withdrew in embarrassment. Her brother always had that effect on her. He always made her forget herself and behave in ways she never would allow herself to be seen in.

She gestured for the handmaidens to leave them alone. Once they were both seated,she asked,”Brother, I know you too well. There must be a specific purpose for your visit here.”

Krishna smiled and said,” I go where I’m needed Subhadra. Surely you know that. Tomorrow marks the 5th anniversary of my nephew’s heroic sacrifice to save his clan. Wouldnt I be here to hold his Veeramatha’s hand?”

Subhadra’s eyes welled up with tears at the mention of her son. Krishna just wiped her eyes gently. “Pain is a paradox,my dear. Some are better because of it and some are not. Some like you shed tears and seek strength from those around you. Others delve into themselves and barricade themselves from the world.”

She looked up in astonishment. Her brother had come for her and had given her her answer. It was she who had to break the barricade and take the burden off her husband. 

Krishna whispered, “Now is the time for action.”

Subhadra nodded and took leave of him. As she walked to Arjuna’s apartment, she thought about her divine brother. Her brother who was usually enigmatic and never directly presented a solution. But for her, in His love, He had given her a direct solution.

Lost in her thoughts, she nearly did not realise that she had arrived at Arjuna’s apartment. The guards at the door clanged their spears to the floor and bowed their heads in respect. The guards presented her ,”Queen Subhadra, sister of Krishna, mother of Abhimanyu, queen of mighty Arjuna!”

Arjuna, fully bejewelled in time for court, stood and stared at her.  She gestured for the handmaidens and guards to leave them. Once they had left, she walked towards him and smeared the holy tilak on his forehead.

Arjuna then spoke awkwardly, “This is done only in times of war.”

She said,”What about the internal war you are fighting alone,my Lord? Shouldn’t i help you in it unlike the last 5 years?”

Arjuna looked up, tears in his usually clear eyes, “Please, Subhadra, do not blame yourself. I am to blame in this, me and me alone.”

“But what about my desertion, my lord. Is that not why you and I do not even visit each other’s apartment anymore?”

“Subha! No!”

Subhadra was taken aback by his favourite name for her and the tone in which he presented it. He was broken.

He sunk to the floor keeping his head between his hands.

“Paartha, i know the Kurukshetra was a difficult battle for you. Our own had to die. But it was for the good of the Kuru clan.” 

Arjuna then spoke,” It pained me,Subha,yes. But it was my duty. I fear I risked our total separation for another reason.”

Subhadra sunk to her feet too. “What is it?”

Arjuna took her hands. “You reared him with these hands.  While I was an absent father, you reared him to be a Prince amongst princes. And you lost your son because of me.”

“Paartha,was this why?If for the good of the Kuru clan, I am willing to ask you to kill our own. Would I not be willing to put my own son at war? At war, lives are lost. Bheema lost a son too. I am not a hypocrite to ask for others to be killed without allowing my own to be at risk.”

Arjuna looked at her spellbound.”It is this guilt that would not let me see you,Subha. Please forgive me.”

“Paartha, I am your wife,there is no forgiveness between wife and husband.”

She smiled, the last 5 years seeming a haze to her”Now ,Paartha,you must go to court. Today I will prepare a feast for you at my apartment. “

Paartha smiled at her, ” I will be there. Always.”

And thus ended the misunderstanding between Subhadra and Prince Arjuna.

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