Kṛṣṇa, the Raṇacora
When Mucukunda, the celebrated descendant of the Ikṣvāku dynasty, was favored by Lord Kṛṣṇa, he circumambulated the Lord within the cave and then came out. On coming out of the cave, Mucukunda saw that the human species had surprisingly been reduced in stature to pygmy size. Similarly, the trees had also been far reduced in size, and Mucukunda could immediately understand that the current age was Kali-yuga. Therefore, without diverting his attention, he began to travel north. Eventually he reached the mountain known as Gandhamādana, where there were many trees, such as sandalwood and other flowering trees, whose fragrance made anyone who reached them joyful. He decided to remain in that Gandhamādana Mountain region to execute austerities and penances for the rest of his life. It appears that this place is situated in the northernmost part of the Himalayan Mountains, where the abode of Nara-Nārāyaṇa is situated. This place is still existing and is called Badarikāśrama. In Badarikāśrama he engaged himself in the worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa, tolerating all kinds of pains and pleasures and the other dualities of this material world. Lord Kṛṣṇa returned to the vicinity of Mathurā, where He fought with the soldiers of Kālayavana and killed them one after another. After this, He collected all the booty from the dead bodies, and under His direction it was loaded on bullock carts and brought back to Dvārakā.
Meanwhile, Jarāsandha again attacked Mathurā, this time with bigger divisions of soldiers, numbering twenty-three akṣauhiṇīs.
Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa wanted to save Mathurā from the eighteenth attack of the great military divisions of King Jarāsandha. To prevent further killing of soldiers and to attend to other important business, Lord Kṛṣṇa left the battlefield without fighting. Actually He was not at all afraid, but He pretended to be an ordinary human being frightened by the immense quantity of soldiers and resources of Jarāsandha. Without any weapons Kṛṣṇa left the battlefield. Although His lotus feet were as soft as the petals of a lotus flower, He proceeded for a very long distance on foot.
This time, Jarāsandha thought that Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were very much afraid of his military strength and were fleeing the battlefield. He followed Them with all his chariots, horses and infantry. He thought Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma to be ordinary human beings, and he was trying to measure the activities of the Lord. Due to this pastime Kṛṣṇa is known as Raṇacora, which means “one who has left the battlefield.” In India, especially in Gujarat, there are many temples of Kṛṣṇa known as temples of Raṇacorajī. Ordinarily, if a king leaves the battlefield without fighting he is called a coward, but when Kṛṣṇa enacts this pastime, leaving the battlefield without fighting, He is worshiped by the devotees. A demon always tries to measure the opulence of Kṛṣṇa, whereas a devotee never tries to measure His strength and opulence but always surrenders unto Him and worships Him. By following in the footsteps of pure devotees, we can know that Kṛṣṇa, the Raṇacorajī, left the battlefield not because He was afraid but because He had some other purpose. The purpose, as it will be revealed, was to attend to a confidential letter sent by Rukmiṇī, His future first wife. Kṛṣṇa’s leaving the battlefield is a display of one of His six opulences. Kṛṣṇa is the supreme powerful, the supreme wealthy, the supreme famous, the supreme wise and the supreme beautiful; similarly, He is the supreme renouncer. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam clearly states that He left the battlefield in spite of having ample military strength. Even without His militia, He alone would have been sufficient to defeat the army of Jarāsandha, as He had done seventeen times before. Therefore, His leaving the battlefield is an example of His supermost opulence, renunciation.
After traversing a very long distance, the brothers pretended to become tired. To mitigate Their weariness, They climbed up a mountain many miles above sea level. This mountain was called Pravarṣaṇa due to constant rain, for the peak was always covered with clouds sent by Indra. Jarāsandha took it for granted that the two brothers were afraid of his military power and had hidden Themselves at the top of the mountain. First he tried to find Them, searching for a long time, but when he failed he decided to trap and kill Them by setting fires around the peak. He therefore surrounded the peak with firewood and set it ablaze. As the fire spread more and more, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma jumped from the top of the mountain down to the ground – a distance of eighty-eight miles. Thus, while the peak was burning up, Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma escaped, unseen by Jarāsandha or his men. Jarāsandha concluded that the two brothers had burned to ashes and that there was no need of further fighting. Thinking himself successful in his efforts, he left the city of Mathurā and returned to his home in the kingdom of Magadha. Gradually Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma reached the city of Dvārakā, which was surrounded by the sea.
Following this, Śrī Balarāma married Revatī, daughter of King Raivata, ruler of Ānarta Province. This is explained in the Ninth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. After the marriage of Baladeva, Kṛṣṇa married Rukmiṇī. Rukmiṇī was the daughter of King Bhīṣmaka, ruler of the province known as Vidarbha. Just as Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vāsudeva, Rukmiṇī is the supreme goddess of fortune, Mahā-Lakṣmī. According to the authority of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, the expansion of Kṛṣṇa and that of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī are simultaneous: Kṛṣṇa expands Himself into various viṣṇu-tattva forms, and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī expands Herself into various śakti-tattva forms, by Her internal potency, as multiforms of the goddess of fortune.
According to Vedic convention, there are eight kinds of marriage. In the first-class marriage system, the parents of the bride and bridegroom arrange the marriage date. Then, in royal style, the bridegroom goes to the house of the bride, and in the presence of brāhmaṇas, priests and relatives, the bride is given in charity to the bridegroom. Besides this, there are other systems, such as the gāndharva and rākṣasa marriages. Kṛṣṇa married Rukmiṇī according to the rākṣasa system, kidnapping her in the presence of His many rivals, like Śiśupāla, Jarāsandha and Śālva. While Rukmiṇī was being given in charity to Śiśupāla, Kṛṣṇa snatched her from the marriage arena exactly as Garuḍa snatched a pot of nectar from the demigods. Rukmiṇī, the only daughter of King Bhīṣmaka, was exquisitely beautiful. She was known as Rucirānanā, which means “one who has a beautiful face expanded like a lotus flower.”
Devotees of Kṛṣṇa are always eager to hear about the transcendental activities of the Lord. His activities of fighting, kidnapping and running away from the battlefield are all transcendental, being on the absolute platform, and devotees take a transcendental interest in hearing of them. The pure devotee does not make the distinction that some activities of the Lord should be heard and others avoided. There is, however, a class of so-called devotees known as prākṛta-sahajiyās who are very interested in hearing about Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa-līlā with the gopīs but not about His fighting with His enemies. They do not know that His bellicose activities and His friendly activities with the gopīs are equally transcendental, being on the absolute platform. All the transcendental pastimes of Kṛṣṇa described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are relished by pure devotees through submissive aural reception. They do not reject even a drop.
The story of Kṛṣṇa’s marriage with Rukmiṇī is described as follows. The King of Vidarbha, Mahārāja Bhīṣmaka, was very qualified and devoted. He had five sons and only one daughter. The first son was known as Rukmī; the second, Rukmaratha; the third, Rukmabāhu; the fourth, Rukmakeśa; and the fifth, Rukmamālī. The brothers had one young sister, Rukmiṇī. She was beautiful and chaste and was meant to be married to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Many saintly persons and sages like Nārada Muni used to visit the palace of King Bhīṣmaka. Naturally Rukmiṇī had a chance to talk with them, and in this way she obtained information about Kṛṣṇa. She was informed about the six opulences of Kṛṣṇa, and simply by hearing about Him she desired to surrender herself to His lotus feet and become His wife. Kṛṣṇa had also heard of Rukmiṇī. She was the reservoir of all transcendental qualities: intelligence, auspicious physical features, liberal-mindedness, exquisite beauty and righteous behavior. Kṛṣṇa therefore decided that she was fit to be His wife. All of the relatives of King Bhīṣmaka decided that Rukmiṇī should be given in marriage to Kṛṣṇa. But her elder brother Rukmī, despite the desire of the others, arranged for her marriage with Śiśupāla, a determined enemy of Kṛṣṇa. When the black-eyed, beautiful Rukmiṇī heard of the settlement, she immediately became very morose. However, being a king’s daughter, she understood political diplomacy and decided that there was no use in simply being morose. Some steps should be taken immediately. After some deliberation, she decided to send a message to Kṛṣṇa, and so that she might not be deceived, she selected a qualified brāhmaṇa as her messenger. Such a qualified brāhmaṇa is always truthful and is a devotee of Viṣṇu. Without delay, she sent the brāhmaṇa to Dvārakā.
Reaching the gate of Dvārakā, the brāhmaṇa informed the doorkeeper of his arrival, and the doorkeeper led him to the place where Kṛṣṇa was sitting on a golden throne. Since the brāhmaṇa had the opportunity to be Rukmiṇī’s messenger, he was fortunate enough to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa, the original cause of all causes. A brāhmaṇa is the spiritual teacher of all the social divisions. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in order to teach everyone the Vedic etiquette of how to respect a brāhmaṇa, immediately got up and offered him His throne. When the brāhmaṇa was seated on the golden throne, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa began to worship him exactly as the demigods worship Kṛṣṇa. In this way, He taught everyone that worshiping His devotee is more valuable than worshiping Him.
In due time, the brāhmaṇa took his bath, accepted his meals and lay down to rest on a bedstead completely bedecked with soft silk. As he was resting, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa silently approached and, with great respect, put the brāhmaṇa’s legs on His lap and began to massage them. In this way, Kṛṣṇa appeared before the brāhmaṇa and said, “My dear brāhmaṇa, I hope that you are executing the religious principles without difficulty and that your mind is always peaceful.” Different classes of people in the social system are engaged in various professions, and when one inquires as to the well-being of a particular person, he should do so on the basis of that person’s occupation. Therefore, when one inquires as to the welfare of a brāhmaṇa, the questions should be worded according to his condition of life so as not to disturb him. A peaceful mind is the basis for becoming truthful, clean, equipoised, self-controlled and tolerant. Thus by attaining knowledge and knowing its practical application in life, one becomes convinced about the Absolute Truth. The brāhmaṇa knew Kṛṣṇa to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and still he accepted the respectful service of the Lord on the grounds of Vedic social convention. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa was playing just like a human being. Because He belonged to the kṣatriya division of the social system and was a young boy, it was His duty to show respect to such a brāhmaṇa.
Lord Kṛṣṇa continued: “O best of all the brāhmaṇas, you should always remain satisfied, for if a brāhmaṇa is always self-satisfied he will not deviate from his prescribed duties; and simply by sticking to one’s prescribed duties, everyone, especially a brāhmaṇa, can attain the highest perfection of all desires. Even if a person is as opulent as the king of heaven, Indra, if he is not satisfied he inevitably has to transmigrate from one planet to another. Such a person can never be happy under any circumstances; but if one’s mind is satisfied, even if he is bereft of all possessions, he can be happy living anywhere.”
This instruction by Kṛṣṇa to the brāhmaṇa is very significant. The purport is that a true brāhmaṇa should not be disturbed in any situation. In this modern age, Kali-yuga, the so-called brāhmaṇas have accepted the abominable position of śūdras or less and still want to pass as qualified brāhmaṇas. Actually, a qualified brāhmaṇa always sticks to his own duties and never accepts those of a śūdra or of one less than a śūdra. It is advised in the authorized scriptures that a brāhmaṇa may, under awkward circumstances, accept the profession of a kṣatriya or even a vaiśya, but never is he to accept the profession of a śūdra. Lord Kṛṣṇa declared that a brāhmaṇa will never be disturbed by any adverse conditions if he scrupulously sticks to his religious principles. In conclusion, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa said, “I offer My respectful obeisances to the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas, for the brāhmaṇas are always self-satisfied and the Vaiṣṇavas are always engaged in actual welfare activities for human society. They are the best friends of the people in general; they are free from false egoism and are always in a peaceful condition of mind.”
Lord Kṛṣṇa then desired to know about the rulers (kṣatriyas) in the brāhmaṇa’s kingdom, so He inquired whether the citizens of the kingdom were all happy. A king’s qualification is judged by the temperament of the people in the kingdom. If they are happy in all respects, it is to be understood that the king is honest and is executing his duties rightly. Kṛṣṇa said that the king in whose kingdom the citizens are happy is very dear to Him. Of course, Kṛṣṇa could understand that the brāhmaṇa had come with a confidential message; therefore He said, “If you have no objection, I give you liberty to speak about your mission.”
Thus, being very much satisfied by these transcendental pastimes with the Lord, the brāhmaṇa narrated the whole story of his mission in coming to see Kṛṣṇa. He got out the letter Rukmiṇī had written to Kṛṣṇa and said, “These are the words of Princess Rukmiṇī: ‘My dear Kṛṣṇa, O infallible and most beautiful one, any human being who happens to hear about Your transcendental form and pastimes immediately absorbs through his ears Your name, fame and qualities; thus all his material pangs subside, and he fixes Your form in his heart. Through such transcendental love for You, he always sees You within himself; and by this process all his desires are fulfilled. Similarly, I have heard of Your transcendental qualities. I may be shameless in expressing myself directly, but You have captivated me and taken my heart. You may doubt my steadiness of character, since how could an unmarried young girl like me approach You without any shame? But my dear Mukunda, You are the supreme lion among human beings, the supreme person among persons. Any girl, though not yet having left her home, or even any woman of the highest chastity, would desire to marry You, being captivated by Your unprecedented character, knowledge, opulence and position. I know that You are the husband of the goddess of fortune and are very kind toward Your devotees; therefore I have decided to become Your eternal maidservant. My dear Lord, I dedicate my life and soul unto Your lotus feet. I have selected Your Lordship as my husband, and I therefore request You to accept me as Your wife. You are the supreme powerful, O lotus-eyed one. Now I belong to You. If that which is enjoyable for the lion to eat is taken away by the jackal, it will be a ludicrous affair; therefore I request You to immediately take care of me before I am taken away by Śiśupāla and other princes like him. My dear Lord, in my previous life I may have done public welfare work like digging wells and planting trees, or pious activities such as performing ritualistic ceremonies and sacrifices and serving superiors like the spiritual master, brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas. By these activities, perhaps I have pleased the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa. If this be so, then I wish that You, Lord Kṛṣṇa, the brother of Lord Balarāma, please come here and catch hold of my hand so that I shall not be touched by Śiśupāla and his company.’”
Rukmiṇī’s marriage with Śiśupāla was already settled; therefore she suggested that Kṛṣṇa kidnap her so that this might be changed. This sort of marriage, in which the girl is kidnapped by force, is known as rākṣasa and is practiced among kṣatriyas, or men with an administrative, martial spirit. Because her marriage was already arranged to take place the next day, Rukmiṇī suggested that Kṛṣṇa come there incognito to kidnap her and then fight with Śiśupāla and his allies like the king of Magadha. Knowing that no one could conquer Kṛṣṇa, who would certainly emerge victorious, she addressed Him as Ajita, “the unconquerable Lord.”
Rukmiṇī told Kṛṣṇa not to be concerned that the fighting would take place within the palace and that many of her family members, including other women, might thus be wounded or even killed. As the king of a country thinks of diplomatic ways to achieve his object, Rukmiṇī, being the daughter of a king, was diplomatic in suggesting how this unnecessary and undesirable killing could be avoided. She explained that it was the custom of her family to visit the temple of Goddess Durgā, their family deity, before a marriage. (The kṣatriya kings were mostly staunch Vaiṣṇavas, worshiping Lord Viṣṇu in either the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa or Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa form; still, for their material welfare they used to worship Goddess Durgā. They never made the mistake, however, of accepting the demigods as the Supreme Lord on the level of viṣṇu-tattva, as do some less intelligent men.) To avoid the unnecessary killing of her relatives, Rukmiṇī suggested that it would be easiest for Him to kidnap her while she was either going from the palace to the temple or else returning home.
She also explained to Kṛṣṇa why she was anxious to marry Him, even though her marriage was to take place with Śiśupāla, who was also qualified, being the son of a great king. Rukmiṇī said that she did not think anyone was greater than Kṛṣṇa, not even Lord Śiva, who is known as Mahādeva, the greatest of all demigods. Lord Śiva also seeks the pleasure of Lord Kṛṣṇa in order to be delivered from his entanglement in the quality of ignorance within the material world. Although Lord Śiva is the greatest of all great souls, mahātmās, he keeps on his head the purifying water of the Ganges, which emanates from a hole in this material universe made by the toe of Lord Viṣṇu. Lord Śiva is in charge of the material quality of ignorance, and to keep himself in a transcendental position he always meditates on Lord Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, and always tries to purify himself with the water of the Ganges. Therefore Rukmiṇī knew very well that obtaining the favor of Kṛṣṇa was not easy. Since even Lord Śiva must purify himself for this purpose, surely it would be difficult for Rukmiṇī, who was only the daughter of a kṣatriya king. Thus she desired to dedicate her life to observing severe austerities and penances, such as fasting and going without bodily comforts. If it were not possible in this lifetime to gain Kṛṣṇa’s favor by these activities, she was prepared to die from such austerities and to undergo similar difficulties lifetime after lifetime. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said that pure devotees of the Lord execute devotional service with great determination. Such determination, as exhibited by Rukmiṇī-devī, is the only price for purchasing Kṛṣṇa’s favor. One should be strongly determined in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and that is the way to ultimate success.
After relaying Rukmiṇī-devī’s statement to Kṛṣṇa, the brāhmaṇa said, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, chief of the Yadu dynasty, I have brought this confidential message for You from Rukmiṇī; now it is placed before You for Your consideration. After due deliberation, You may act as You please, but if You want to do something, You must do it immediately. There is not much time left for action.”
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the fifty-second chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “Kṛṣṇa, the Raṇacora.”