There was a time when humans followed strictly the code of ethics called ‘Dharma’. Every person observed it and stuck to it, save of course those who would blatantly flout it and eventually meet their doom. Observance of this code benefited people at first until it became misused by those with ego issues. The era of the Mahabharata was such a time when those who strictly followed Dharma even to its extremes clashed with those who questioned the very code but would use whatever loopholes within it, often misconstruing its meaning to punish the former. The Pandavas fought with the Kauravas, who felt envious of the sons of Pandu and blamed them for usurping the throne that was meant for the Kauravas, even though Yudhisthira had proved time and again that he was a better ruler according to Dharma. Throughout the Mahabharata there is Krishna upadesh to Arjuna and his teachings tell us a lot about living life, love and our values.
Lord Krishna’s Teachings To Arjuna
We will not be able to comprehend Lord Krishna’s teachings to Arjuna unless we go to the back story of the love between Arjuna and Subhadra. For that we will start from the Pandavas return to Hastinapura after Draupadi’s swayamvar, having been presumed dead after the deadly Varanavata fire. As expected, they had been doled out a bleak landscape to develop, called Khandavprastha. They worked hard under the guidance of Lord Krishna and his elder brother, Balarama, and Khandavprastha soon became Indraprastha, which soon earned the envy of the Kauravas.
One day, a Brahmin came to Indraprastha late at night, seeking protection from the Pandavas from a demon who had stolen his cows and would harm him. Arjuna, the archer-Prince, heard him, and roused, as was his won’t rushed into Draupadi’s chambers, where his celestial bow Gandiva was kept, unmindful of the promise he had given his wife that he would not enter her rooms until he was called for or it was his turn (Draupadi was married to the five Pandavas and demanded that she spend a year each with one of them before going on to the next. At the end of each year, her virginity would regenerate, thanks to Lord Shiva’s boon.)
Related Reading: Krishna’s Story: Who Loved Him More Radha Or Rukmini?
Arjuna fulfilled his Dharma
Arjuna accomplished his Kshatriya-Dharma and protected the Brahmin by killing the demon and returned the next morning with the stolen cows. As he dismounted his horse, he knew that he had to fulfill his promise to Draupadi and depart from Indraprastha to lead an ascetic life in the forests for twelve years. And so Arjuna did that, being a man true to his word.
At the end of the exile, Arjuna, in the guise of a Brahmin, came to Somnath, a place near Dwarka. There he beheld the Yadava Princess, Subhadra, who was Krishna’s half-sister. She fell in love with him and would occasionally flirt with him, even though she did not know then who he was.
Subhadra asked Arjuna to follow his Dharma
One day, Krishna saw what was happening and asked his servants to bring the Brahmin home. He asked her to feed the Brahmin and ask him for a boon later. Subhadra, being an obedient sister, did as she was told and when the time came for the benefit, she asked for his hand in marriage. The Brahmin, shocked, stood up and said to her that Balarama already fixed her marriage to Duryodhana.
Subhadra told him that she knew that he was Arjuna and now that a princess had asked him to flee, Arjuna had to fulfill his Dharma.
Arjuna said to her that he couldn’t abduct her, as he would have to fight the Yadavas then. Krishna then entered and suggested that Subhadra could kidnap him instead, at which Arjuna baulked. This was the beauty of the Krishna and Arjuna relationship. No matter how far fetched the idea was Arjuna always listened because he knew that Krishn’s updesh was always backed by logic and reasoning.
He asked how a warrior could be abducted and whether it wouldn’t be the talk of Aryavarta. Krishna told him that love is the supreme emotion and vanity shouldn’t take precedence over it.
Arjuna reluctantly agreed and let Subhadra elope with him the next morning. The rest as we know is history and as destiny had planned Subhadra was the one who took forward the Pandava gene when everyone died in the Kurukshetra battle and the Pandava’s left for their heavenly journey. Krishna’s teachings about love to Arjuna were the most important and in fact speaks of gender equality.
What does Krishna say about love to Arjun?
Krishna conveys to Arjuna that when two people are in love and the man in the relationship could be the mightiest and the most chivalrous being on earth but a woman can always take the first step to ask his hand in marriage and if he agrees then can even abduct him. She has the physical powers and the decision-making ability to take away a man she loves and marry him.
Today, the rules aren’t so strict, yet vanity still holds power over us. Even now, when society is considered to be progressive, why is a girl proposing to a boy mocked? Why is the boy always supposed to propose or ask for the girl’s hand in marriage?
Does chivalry matter so much? The urban areas might be progressing, but the same does not apply to rural and backward areas, where a boy proposing to a girl is considered a norm and vice versa is considered anathema.
Love conquers all, strength and vanity can only conquer so much. That was Krishna’s valuable teachings to Arjuna.