Pradyumna Born to Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī
It is said that Cupid, who is directly part and parcel of Lord Vāsudeva and who was formerly burned to ashes by the anger of Lord Śiva, took birth from the womb of Rukmiṇī, begotten by Kṛṣṇa. This is Kāmadeva, a demigod of the heavenly planets especially capable of inducing lusty desires. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, has many grades of parts and parcels, but the quadruple expansions of Kṛṣṇa – Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha – are directly in the Viṣṇu category. Kāma, or the Cupid demigod, who later took his birth from the womb of Rukmiṇī, was also named Pradyumna, but he cannot be the Pradyumna of the Viṣṇu category. He belongs to the category of jīva-tattva, but for exhibiting special power in the category of demigods he was a part and parcel of the superprowess of Pradyumna. That is the verdict of the Gosvāmīs. Therefore, when Cupid was burned to ashes by the anger of Lord Śiva, he merged into the body of Vāsudeva, and to get his body again he was begotten in the womb of Rukmiṇī by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself. Thus he was born as the son of Kṛṣṇa and celebrated by the name Pradyumna. Because he was begotten by Lord Kṛṣṇa directly, his qualities were most similar to those of Kṛṣṇa.
There was a demon of the name Śambara who was destined to be killed by Pradyumna. The Śambara demon knew of his destiny, and as soon as he learned that Pradyumna had been born, he took the shape of a woman and kidnapped the baby from the maternity home less than ten days after his birth. The demon took him and threw him directly into the sea. But, as it is said, “Whoever is protected by Kṛṣṇa, no one can kill, and whoever is destined to be killed by Kṛṣṇa, no one can protect.” When Pradyumna was thrown into the sea, a big fish immediately swallowed him. Later this fish was caught in the net of a fisherman, and the fish was later sold to the Śambara demon. In the kitchen of the demon was a maidservant whose name was Māyāvatī. This woman had formerly been the wife of Cupid, called Rati. When the fish was presented to the demon Śambara, it was taken charge of by his cook, who was to make it into a palatable fish preparation. Demons and Rākṣasas are accustomed to eating meat, fish and similar nonvegetarian foods. Demons like Rāvaṇa, Kaṁsa and Hiraṇyakaśipu, although born of brāhmaṇa and kṣatriya fathers, used to take meat and fish without discrimination. This practice is still prevalent in India, and those who eat meat and fish are generally called demons and Rākṣasas.
When the cook was cutting the fish, he found within its stomach a nice baby, which he immediately presented to the charge of Māyāvatī, who was an assistant in the kitchen affairs. This woman was surprised to see how such a nice baby could remain within the belly of a fish, and the situation perplexed her. The great sage Nārada then appeared and explained to her about the birth of Pradyumna and how the baby had been taken away by Śambara and later thrown into the sea. In this way the whole story was disclosed to Māyāvatī. Māyāvatī knew that she had previously been Rati, the wife of Cupid; after her husband was burned to ashes by the wrath of Lord Śiva, she was always expecting him to come back in a material form. This woman was engaged for cooking rice and dāl in the kitchen, but when she got this nice baby and understood that he was Cupid, her own husband, she naturally took charge of him and with great affection began to bathe him regularly. Miraculously, the baby swiftly grew up, and within a very short period he became a beautiful young man. His eyes were just like the petals of lotus flowers, and his arms were long, reaching down to his knees; any woman who happened to see him was captivated by his bodily beauty.
Māyāvatī could understand that her former husband, Cupid, born as Pradyumna, had grown into such a nice young man, and she also gradually became captivated and lusty. Smiling before him with a feminine attractiveness, she expressed her desire for sexual union. He therefore inquired from her, “How is it possible that first you were affectionate like a mother and now you are expressing the symptoms of a lusty woman? What is the reason for such a change?” On hearing this statement from Pradyumna, the woman, Rati, replied, “My dear sir, you are the son of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Before you were ten days old, you were stolen by the Śambara demon and later thrown into the water and swallowed by a fish. In this way you have come under my care, but actually, in your former life as Cupid, I was your wife; therefore, my manifestation of conjugal symptoms is not at all incompatible. Śambara wanted to kill you, and he is endowed with various mystic powers. Therefore, before he again attempts to kill you, please kill him as soon as possible with your divine power. Since you were stolen by Śambara, your mother, Rukmiṇī-devī, has been in a very grievous condition, like a kurarī bird who has lost her babies. She is very affectionate toward you, and since you have been taken away from her, she has been living like a cow aggrieved over the loss of its calf.”
Māyāvatī had mystic knowledge of supernatural powers. Supernatural powers are generally known as māyā, and to surpass all such powers there is another supernatural power, called mahā-māyā. Māyāvatī had the knowledge of the mystic power of mahā-māyā, and she delivered to Pradyumna this specific energetic power in order to defeat the mystic powers of the Śambara demon. Thus being empowered by his wife, Pradyumna immediately went before Śambara and challenged him to fight. Pradyumna addressed him in very strong language, so that his temper would be agitated and he would be moved to fight. At Pradyumna’s words, the demon Śambara, being insulted, felt just as a snake feels after being struck by someone’s foot. A serpent cannot tolerate being kicked by another animal or by a man, and it immediately bites its opponent.
Śambara felt the words of Pradyumna as if they were a kick. He immediately took his club in his hand and appeared before Pradyumna to fight. Roaring like a thundering cloud, in great anger the demon began to beat Pradyumna with his club, just as a thunderbolt beats a mountain. Pradyumna protected himself with his own club and eventually struck the demon very severely. In this way, the fighting between Śambarāsura and Pradyumna began in earnest.
But Śambarāsura knew the art of mystic powers and could raise himself into the sky and fight from outer space. There is a demon of the name Maya, and Śambarāsura had learned many mystic powers from him. He thus raised himself high into the sky and threw various types of nuclear weapons at the body of Pradyumna. To combat the mystic powers of Śambarāsura, Pradyumna invoked another mystic power, known as mahāvidyā, which was different from the black mystic power. The mahāvidyā mystic power is based on the quality of goodness. Śambara, understanding that his enemy was formidable, took assistance from various kinds of demoniac mystic powers belonging to the Guhyakas, the Gandharvas, the Piśācas, the snakes and the Rākṣasas. But although the demon exhibited his mystic powers and took shelter of supernatural strength, Pradyumna was able to counteract his strength and powers by the superior power of mahāvidyā. When Śambarāsura was defeated in every respect, Pradyumna took his sharp sword and immediately cut off the demon’s head, which was decorated with a helmet and valuable jewels. When Pradyumna thus killed the demon, all the demigods in the higher planetary systems showered flowers on him.
Pradyumna’s wife, Māyāvatī, could travel in outer space, and therefore they directly reached Dvārakā, his father’s capital, by the airways. They passed above the palace of Lord Kṛṣṇa and came down as a cloud comes down with lightning. The inner section of a palace is known as the antaḥ-pura (private apartments). Pradyumna and Māyāvatī could see many women there, and they set down among them. When the women saw Pradyumna, dressed in yellowish garments, with very long arms, curling hair, beautiful reddish eyes, a smiling face, jewelry and ornaments, they at first could not recognize him as a personality different from Kṛṣṇa. They all felt very bashful at the sudden presence of Kṛṣṇa and wanted to hide in a different corner of the palace.
When the women saw, however, that not all the characteristics of Lord Kṛṣṇa were present in the personality of Pradyumna, out of curiosity they came back to see him and his wife, Māyāvatī. All of them were conjecturing as to who he was, for he was so beautiful. Among the women was Rukmiṇī-devī, who was equally beautiful, with her lotuslike eyes. Seeing Pradyumna, she naturally remembered her own son, and milk began to flow from her breasts out of motherly affection. She then began to wonder, “Who is this beautiful young boy? He appears to be the most beautiful person. Who is the fortunate young woman able to conceive this nice boy in her womb and become his mother? And who is that young woman who has accompanied him? How have they met? Remembering my own son, who was stolen from the maternity home, I can only guess that if he is living somewhere, he might have grown by this time to be like this boy.” Simply by intuition, Rukmiṇī could understand that Pradyumna was her own lost son. She could also observe that Pradyumna resembled Lord Kṛṣṇa in every respect. She was struck with wonder as to how he had acquired all the characteristics of Lord Kṛṣṇa. She therefore began to think more confidently that the boy must be her own grown-up son because she felt so much affection for him, and, as an auspicious sign, her left arm was trembling.
At that very moment, Lord Kṛṣṇa, along with His father and mother, Devakī and Vasudeva, appeared on the scene. Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, could understand everything, yet in that situation He remained silent. However, by the desire of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the great sage Nārada also appeared, and he disclosed all the incidents – how Pradyumna had been stolen from the maternity home and how he had grown up and had come there with his wife, Māyāvatī, who had formerly been Rati, the wife of Cupid. When everyone was informed of the mysterious disappearance of Pradyumna and how he had grown up, they were all struck with wonder because they had gotten back their dead son after they were almost hopeless of his return. When they understood that it was Pradyumna who was present, they received him with great delight. One after another, all the members of the family – Devakī, Vasudeva, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Lord Balarāma, Rukmiṇī and all the women of the family – embraced Pradyumna and his wife, Māyāvatī. When the news of Pradyumna’s return spread all over the city of Dvārakā, all the astonished citizens came with great eagerness to see the lost Pradyumna. “The dead son has come back,” they said. “What can be more pleasing than this?”
Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī has explained that in the beginning all the ladies of the palace, who were all mothers and stepmothers of Pradyumna, mistook him to be Kṛṣṇa and were all bashful, infected by the desire for conjugal love. The explanation is that Pradyumna’s personal appearance was exactly like Kṛṣṇa’s, and he was factually Cupid himself. There was no cause for astonishment, therefore, when the mothers of Pradyumna and the other women mistook him in that way. It is clear from this statement that Pradyumna’s bodily characteristics were so similar to Kṛṣṇa’s that he was mistaken for Kṛṣṇa even by his mother.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the fifty-fifth chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “Pradyumna Born to Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī.”