The minute Rukmini saw her father, she knew something was wrong. Her father's normally sparkling eyes were looking glazed. He had a vexed look in his eyes. With a thumping heart she asked her father slowly, 'Father! What is it? Something is wrong...'
Bhishmaka saw his daughter and felt self pity raking through him. He had promised his daughter that she would marry the man of her dreams....Now....
Slowly, haltingly coaxed by the loving Rukmini, Bhishmaka told his daughter everything that Rukmi had told her. Rukmini was aghast! Her brother had stooped so low and was planning to get her married even without her consent....Rukmini had heard all about Sishupala...She would rather die than marry that man....How on earth could her brother even compare that excuse of a human being with her Krishna?
Bhishmaka looked unhappily at Rukmini. 'I...I don't know what to do....I cannot stop your brother...' Bhishmaka looked helplessly at his daughter, tears in his eyes. Rukmini shook her head and wiped her father's tears. 'It is ok, father! It is really ok...' Bhishmaka looked at his daughter, who was looking at him with a steely look in her eyes. Bhishmaka saw a resolve of determination in her eyes....Bhishmaka looked at his daughter with sudden alarm. 'What are you going to do?'
Rukmini smiled at her father. 'The only thing which matters to me is that you approve of my choice. Leave the rest to me....'
'What are you going to do?' Bhishmaka whispered again.
Rukmini smiled at her father. 'I am going to make sure I marry the man I love....' Bhishmaka was taken aback. But only for a second. He smiled. He knew his daughter well. Once she had decided to do something, she would do it.....happiness spread through him.
Rukmini fell at her father's feet.
Rukmini sent for a local priest, who often came to their palace. He was a man of great discretion and her father trusted him implicitly. He had seen Rukmini since she had been a child and Rukmini knew that he was totally trustworthy....
When the man arrived, Rukmini received him graciously.
'What is the matter,child? The man asked looking at the determined Rukmini. Rukmini was looking upset. The man had never seen Rukmini like this....
'Sir! I want you to carry a message for me. I want you to carry it to Dwaraka....to the Dark Lord! To Krishna!' Rukmini said with a sudden smile. 'You will find that Krishna receives everyone in his kingdom....So you will have no problem in meeting him face to face....' Rukmini said with a sudden surety.
The man blinked, not understanding. Rukmini explained everything to the man, wasting no words.
With a smile in his lips, the man left for Dwaraka.
Probably because the man himself wanted to meet Krishna, or may be it was his fate to make sure the divine lovers met each other. For whatever reason, the man found himself in Dwaraka very soon. True to Rukmini's prediction he found himself standing before the handsome Dark Lord of Dwaraka, who received him with love and affection.
Krishna treated him with great hospitality. After the man was fed and well looked after, Krishna asked him. 'Sir! You are from the Kingdom of Vidharba! What brings such a good man like you from such a far away kingdom....'
The man composed his thoughts. 'Sir! As you said I come from Vidharba! King Bhishmaka is the ruler of the Kingdom. He has five sons and a daughter. Rukmi is his eldest son and Rukmini....' The man smiled. 'Rukmini is his only daughter, the apple of his eye....Bhishmaka, the King of Vidharba wanted his daughter to marry you...' The man said as Krishna looked surprised. 'Me? I didn't know that....In fact no one from that kingdom has come to me....'
The man sighed. 'Sir! King Bhishmaka is very old! The actual power lies in the hands of Rukmi,his son!' Krishna frowned as the man continued. 'Rukmi wants his sister to marry Sishupala,the king of Chedi!'
Krishna looked appalled! Sishupala was arrogant and evil....Krishna shook his hands and looked at the man. 'What does Rukmini have to say about this?'
The man smiled inspite of himself. 'Rukmini has heard so much about you....she is in love with you! She wants to marry you and no one else....I come with a message from her!'
Krishna looked mischievously as the man gave the message.
I have heard so much about you that it feels that I already know you....And all the things that I have heard about you....makes me love you even more.
I am the daughter of the King of Vidharba, a princess by birth and I am intelligent and I think I am in every way fit to be your wife.
My brother wants me to marry Sishupala. I belong to you and not some arrogant, evil man,who does not even know what love is.
If you let Sishupala take me...beware! My death falls on your head!'
I have also made arrangements for you to take me away. I know that a warrior would not like to enter the quarters of an unmarried woman. Do not worry! On the day of marriage, we have a custom to go and ask the blessings of Goddess Durga in a temple which is very far from the palace. I think the path to the temple would be best place for you to take me away, with you! I am counting on you! Please come!
I have sent a message through his man, who has known me since I was a little girl.
The man looked at Krishna's face which seemed to be glowing...The man asked Krishna anxiously. 'What is your reply, sir?
Krishna looked at the man. 'Narada'...Krishna smiled. 'Sage Narada came here often and used to narrate stories of Rukmini! I kept hearing so much about her...that I could not help but fall in love with her! I have been waiting and waiting for her father to arrange for her swayamvara....But suddenly my spies reported about Rukmi and Sishupala...' Krishna shook his head unhappily. 'I have been worried...I could not even sleep at night...' Krishna looked at the man. 'And now you have come. Hearing your words have calmed my fears...' Krishna spoke as he got up. 'But now we must hurry! Rukmini is waiting!' Krishna smiled. 'Rukmini is waiting for me!'
Krishna called his charioteer Daruka and asked him to keep four of his favourite horses – Shaibhya, Meghapushpa, Sugriva and Valahaka ready for travel.
Krishna along with the man traveled in the chariot. The horses were swift and they traveled all day and night. They reached Vidharba the very next day....
Balarama came out of his palace looking around. He frowned. He summoned his guard. 'I do not see Krishna! Where is he?'
The guard bowed. 'Your highness! Lord Krishna has left for Vidharba!
Balrama looked perplexed. 'Why on earth would he leave for Vidharba all of a sudden....' A sudden comprehension dawned on his face. 'Did somebody come to see him yesterday!'
The guard nodded. 'Yes sir! A priest from Vidharba came to see him....'
Balarama was quick in joining all the dots. He turned to his general. 'Get the army ready...we are marching to Vidharba!'
The general looked uncomprehendingly. 'Vidharba? Why?'
'Krishna is going to need help!' Balarama explained hurriedly as he walked back to the palace to get his weapons. Balarama smiled. 'Krishna has gone for Rukmini!'
The kingdom of Vidharba and its capital Kundinapura looked beautiful. It was decorated lavishly and all the people of the kingdom were in a festive mood.
Despite the festive mood, Sishupala, Jarasandha, Salva had all come with their huge armies. Prince Rukmi had warned them before hand about his father's reaction to Rukmini's marriage. All of them suspected that Krishna would come for the wedding and try to take away Rukmini....None of them could accept the fact that a cowherd could aspire the hands of a princess...Krishna had to be stopped at all costs....
Rukmini spent the morning in anxiety so heightened that she could not do anything. Had the man reached Krishna? Would Krishna come? Did Krishna even love her? The questions just kept haunting her again and again....She tried everything to keep her mind occupied but every time she saw the marriage hall being decorated until the last minute, she would feel queasy...What would happen?
Finally it was time for the customary puja at the Durga temple. Rukmini was walking with a heavy heart. She realized her plans had not worked...Either Krishna had not got her message or did not care about her....
Feeling bitter Rukmini was walking down the palace steps, every step getting more and more heavy....Rukmini's eyes were blurred as she found that she was weeping....Suddenly Rukmini saw a familiar face....She blinked away her tears...was it.....? Unable to believe her eyes she saw...It was indeed the priest she had sent. He was walking towards her with a quiet smile. His manner of walking and his smile told her more than anything he could ever say.
Rukmini grinned through her tears. The man came forward and nodded his head. 'The Lord is here! He said he will come for you.....!'
He is coming for you...Rukmini did not hear anything else. He is coming for you...Krishna is coming for me....
Rukmini fell at the feet of the man. 'Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much! There is nothing more I can say....'
Rukmini literally flew to the temple of Durga! There, with a full heart she worshiped Goddess Durga. Thank you! You have made me a part of Krishna....Krishna is now a part of me...Thank you! I bow before you!
Rukmini walked out of the temple slowly. The princes and the Kings assembled to escort the princess back to the palace gasped. Rukmini looked ravishingly beautiful....Rukmini walked out of the temple in slow steps, her heart beating. As she stepped out of the temple, she felt him...Rukmini turned right and blinked. Standing before her was one of the most handsome looking men she had ever seen. Rukmini realized that Krishna was so handsome that no words could ever describe his beauty....His dark body with his dark eyes....He looked like a Deva coming towards her.
Time, it seemed, stood still when the two lovers met for the first time. Krishna walked towards Rukmini and smiled as he escorted her towards his chariot. Rukmini felt blissful as she climbed on to the chariot.
The entire group watched in stunned silence. Krishna had taken the princess...For a few seconds utter confusion reigned. Then the kings and the princes got on their chariot and chased the two of them.
The kings let their arrows fly all of which avoided the chariot, because of the deft handling of the chariot....
The kings chased and they reached the end of the kingdom. There they faltered....Standing before them was not just Krishna with Rukmini, but Balarama with the entire Yadava army in its full splendor...