The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Elopement of Subhadra: The Lord’s Grace on Shrutadeva which is chapter 86 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the eighty-sixth chapter of the Tenth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 86 - Elopement of Subhadrā: The Lord’s Grace on Śrutadeva

The King (Parīkṣit) said:

1. O Brāhmaṇa sage! We would like to know how (my grand-father, the ever victorious) Arjuna married the sister of Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa, as she was my grand-mother.

Śrī Śuka narrated:

2. While the mighty Arjuna was travelling over the earth for pilgrimage to sacred places, he arrived at Prabhāsa where he happened to hear about his maternal uncle’s daughter (Subhadrā).

3. He further heard (the report) that Balarāma would like to give her in marriage to Duryodhana, while others opposed it. As he was desirous of securing her (as his wife), he disguised himself as a recluse bearing a triple staff.[1] and went to Dvārakā.

4. With a view to accomplishing his object, he stayed the months of the rainy season, at that place. He was now and then worshipped by the citizens as also by Balarāma who did not recognise him (and was unaware that he was Arjuna).

5. It is reported that one day, he was invited as a guest and brought to the palace by Balarāma, where he partook of sweet dishes served to him with devotion.

6. He espied there that youthful girl who captivated the hearts of warriors. With his eyes blooming with love, he set his heart agitated by passions, on her.

7. As soon as she saw him who was fascinating to the hearts of women, she also fell in love with him. She fixed her heart and gazed on him with smiles and bashful glances.

8. Brooding over her constantly, he was eager to get an opportunity to elope with her. As his mind was distracted with over-powering passion for her, he could get no peace of mind.

9. With the consent of her parents and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, that great warrior carried her away as she came out of the fort in a chariot to visit a shrine on the occasion of a great festival of gods.

10. Immediately after getting into the Chariot of Subhadrā, he took up his bow, routed all the soldiers who tried to obstruct him. Like a lion taking away his share, he carried her even as her Yādava relatives were screaming.

11. Hearing the report (of Subhadrā’s elopement with Arjuna), Balarāma got enraged like an ocean on a full moon day. But he gradually calmed down when Kṛṣṇa and other well-wishers clasped his feet (and tried to pacify him).

12. Balarāma was pleased to send to the bride and bride-groom presents and marriage-gifts consisting of a big amount of money, articles of furniture, elephants, chariots, male and famale servants.

12(A). Bhāgavata Candrikā’s Text adds:

Yādavas and Pāṇḍavas who were already relatives became very much delighted with mutual affection. Now listen to another anecdote of Kṛṣṇa’s affection for two of his devotees.

Śrī Śuka resumed:

13. There was a great Brāhmaṇa, known by the name Śrutadeva. He felt to have accomplished all the goals in life by his unflinching single-minded devotion to Kṛṣṇa. He was serene, full of spiritual wisdom and un-attached to objects of pleasure.

14. He lived in the country of Videha, at Mithilā (its capital modern Janakpur). Though he was a householder, he carried out all his duties and responsibilities within whatever came to him without any effort.

15. Luckily, through the grace of God, he used to get just what was absolutely necessary for his bare maintenance and nothing more. He was, however, quite contented with it and performed all his duties in the proper manner.

16. The protector (King) of that Stale, Bahulāśva by name, a descendant of Janaka was also free from egotism, dear Parīkṣit. Both Śrutadeva and Bahulāśva were beloved of Lord Kṛṣṇa.

17-18 Being pleased with both of them, the glorious Lord had his chariot brought by Dāruka. The almighty Lord rode the chariot and set out for the country of Videha (modern Tirhut or North Bihar) in the company of sages like Nārada, Vāmadeva, Atri, Kṛṣṇa (Kṛṣṇa-Dvaipāyana Vyāsa), Paraśurāma Asita, Āruṇi, I myself (Śuka), Bṛhaspati, Kaṇva, Maitreya, Cyavana and others.

19. At every stage in that journey, citizens and villagers received him on his arrival, with articles of worship and offerings in their hands, O king, just as they would do unto the Sun rising in conjunction with planets.

20. Men and women from the countries of Ānarta, Dhanva, Kuru, Jāṅgala, Kaṅka, Matsya, Pāñcāla, Kunti, Madhu, Kekaya, Kosal and Arṇa as well as others drank with their eyes his lotus-face illumined with noble smile and affectionate looks.

21. (As he proceeded), Kṛṣṇa, the Preceptor of the three worlds, conferred insight into and knowledge of the Truth and the state of fearlessness (i.e. Liberation from Saṃsāra) on people, the blinding darkness of whose vision had been completely dispelled by his gracious glances. Hearing on the way his own glory celebrated in songs by gods and men—his world—wide spotless (pure) glory which destroys inauspiciousness and sins—He slowly and leisurely journeyed to Videha.

22. Hearing Lord Kṛṣṇa’s arrival (in Videha), villagers and citizens thereof became delighted and they came forward to welcome him with presents and other offerings in their hands.

23. When they saw Lord Kṛṣṇa of hallowing renown, their countenance, and hearts (as if) bloomed with ecstasy. With their palms folded on their heads, they bowed to him and the accompanying sages of whom they had only heard before.

24. Believing that Kṛṣṇa, the Preceptor of the world had come there to shower his grace on him personally, both the king of Mithilā as well as the Brāhmaṇa Śrutadeva prostrated themselves at the feet of the Lord.

25. With their palms folded to pay obeisance, both the king of Mithilā (Bahulāśva) and Śrutadeva simultaneously invited Kṛṣṇa along with the sages accompanying him, to accept their hospitality.

26. The Lord accepted the invitation of both of them. With the desire of pleasing them both, he (assumed two forms and) entered (severally) the houses of them both, without being perceived by the other.

27-29. When Lord Kṛṣṇa and sages, whose even names never reached the unrighteous ears, visited his house, the high- minded Bahulāśva, the descendant of the family of Janaka brought excellent seats (and offered them). When they were comfortably seated, he paid obeisance to their feet with intense devotion. His heart was transported with joy and eyes were bedimmed with tears of joy. He washed their feet and sprinkled his own head as well as those of the members of his family with that water which purified the world. He then worshipped the Lord and sages whose minds were devoted to God by means of sandal paste, flowers, cloths, ornaments, fragrant incense, lamps and offered them oblations of water, cows and bulls.

30. When they were fed with sumptuous meal to their heart’s content, he joyfully placed on his lap the feet of Viṣṇu (Kṛṣṇa). Pressing them gently, he spoke in sweet words pleasing them all, as follows:

The King (Bahulāśva) said:

31. “O all-pervading Lord! You are the in-dwelling soul (antaryāmin) of all beings, the witness to everything and self-illuminating. It is hence that you revealed yourselves to us who remembered your lotus-feet.

32. You have often declared that neither your brother Balarāma (the incarnation of Śeṣa), nor your consort goddess Śrī, nor your son (God Brahmā) is as dear to you as a person who is exclusively devoted to you. It is to vindicate the veracity of your statement that your Lordship has revealed yourself to our view.

33. What person cognisant of the knowledge that you offer your own self to those serene sages who regard nothing (even their bodies) as their own (and contemplate on you) will abandon your Lotus-feet?

34. You have incarnated in the family of Yadus for putting an end to the Saṛhsāra of persons who are whirling in that cycle of birth and death. And you have extended your glory which can completely wash out the sins of the three worlds.

35. I bow to you, O glorious Lord Kṛṣṇa of unlimited wisdom and intellect; you are the divine sage Nārāyaṇa who quietly perform penance (for the happiness of the world).

36. O perfect lord! Be pleased to stay in our house along with the sages for some days and purify this family of King Nimi by the dust of your feet.”

37. Thus entreatingly invited by the king, the Lord, protector of the universe stayed for some days at Mithilā, bestowing happiness and well-being on men and women of Mithilā.

38. Like Janaka (the king of Mithilā), Śrutadeva was overjoyed to find that Kṛṣṇa had arrived and stayed in his house. It is traditionally reported that he was so much transported with joy that he waved his cloth and danced.

39. Bringing mats and seats of Kuśa grass, he seated them comfortably. He warmly greeted them with words of welcome. With great joy, he and his wife washed their feet.

40. With that water, that highly blessed Brāhmaṇa sprinkled himself and all the members of his family and relations. Feeling that he had accomplished all his ambitions in life, he was transported with ecstasy.

41. He propitiated them by worshipping them with whatever articles of worship he could procure, such as fruit and other articles (e.g. sandal-paste, flowers), cool water scented with the plant Andropogon muricatus (called Vāḷā in Marathi), fragrant earth (musk?), Tulasī leaves, Kuśa grass and lotus flowers and with food conducive to the promotion of Sāttvika qualities.

42. He tried to reason with himself, “O! How wonderful! How did this association of mine who am fallen in the dark well of household life, take place with Lord Kṛṣṇa and the gods on the earth (Brāhmaṇas) who have enshrined Lord Kṛṣṇa in their hearts and the dust on whose feet has the sanctity of holy waters.”

43. When the guests were offered warm hospitality and were comfortably seated, Śrutadeva, along with his wife, children and relatives waited upon them and touching the feet of Kṛṣṇa, submitted to him as follows:—

Śrutadeva said:

44-45. “It is not only to-day that the Supreme Person has revealed himself to our vision but (long ago) when, having created the universe with his potencies, he had his presence therein by virtue of his personal power. But he has actually revealed to our vision to-day. Just as a man in the state of sleep mentally creates another dream world, world of his own through the influence of Avidyā on his mind (or by the force of your Māyā) and entering into that dream-world appears as objective reality.

46. You always shine in the hearts of those pure-minded persons who constantly listen to and speak about your glories: who always adore you and pay obeisance to you and converse with each other about you. (But it is my great fortune that you have manifested yourself within the range of my sight).

47. Even though you abide in the hearts of those whose minds are distracted by their Karmas, you are very far away from them and you cannot be comprehended by their mental powers such as Egotism (Ahaṅkāra). But you are quite nearest to those who have developed spiritual qualities by listening to and singing of your glories, contemplating on you, etc.

48.[2] Salutation to you who reveal yourself as the Supreme Soul (and confer liberation from Saṃsāra) to those who know the (real nature of the) Soul as different from the body (and thus do not identify their body with their Soul) and who have allotted Saṃsāra (the cycle of births and deaths) to those who wrongly identify the body with the soul (and are thus separated from you). You control both the principles like Mahat, etc. which are the evolutes of Prakṛti and are thus ‘caused’ or products and the Prakṛti itself which is uncaused, but to both of these the jīva is subject (and hence he whirls in the Saṃsāra). By the force of your Māyā potency the vision of others is screened but yours is ever unobstructed.

49. As you are the Almighty Lord, be pleased to command us, your servants, what services we should render to you. Your very revelation to the view of men instantaneously puts an end to all their sufferings.”

Śrī Śuka said:

50. They say that when the Lord heard Śrutadeva’s appeal (as presented by him), the glorious Lord who annihilates all the agonies of those who bow and thus submit themselves to him humbly, took him by the hand and similingly spoke to Śrutadeva:

The Lord said:

51. O Brāhmaṇa Śrutadeva! Please note that these sages who move with me purifying the people with the dust on their feet, have come here with the intention of conferring their grace on you.

52. Gods, sacred places and holy waters gradually purify people by their sight, contact and worship after a long period of time. But that is instantaneously accomplished just by the sight of these most exalted souls (the Brāhmaṇas—).

53. A Brāhmaṇa, by his very birth, is superior to all other beings. What needs be said of a Brāhmaṇa who is endowed with penance, learning, contentedness and devotion to me?

54. Even this Personality of mind endowed with four arms is not dearer to me than a Brāhmaṇa. A learned Brāhmaṇa is the very embodiment of Vedas while I, of gods. A proof (Pramāṇa) is Superior to what is to be proved (Prameya) as it depends on Pramāṇa. As Vedas are Pramāṇa and gods, the Prameya, the Superiority of the Vedas (and consequently of Brāhmaṇas) is automatically obvious.

55. Persons of evil mentality do not understand this truth. Out of jealousy they disregard their preceptor, me, Brāhmaṇas who are my ownself and entertain reverential attitudes to idols (and symbols, etc.) as adorable objects.

56. Perceiving me as the All-pervading Atman everywhere, a Brāhmaṇa cherishes the idea that this universe consisting of mobile and immobile creation and the principles such as Mahat and others which constitute the universe, are nothing but my forms.

57. Therefore, O Brāhmaṇa Śrutadeva, worship these Brāhmaṇa sages with the same devotion and faith as you have in me. If this is done, I am directly worshipped but not by any other means even if it involves considerable expenditure of wealth and show of grandeur.

Śrī Śuka said:

58. Thus commanded by the Lord, he worshipped Kṛṣṇa and those excellent Brāhmaṇa sages as being the same (as one Ātman) with the same devotion and attained the goal of saints (Mokṣa). Even king Bahulāsva [Bahulāśva?] of Mithilā also attained the same state.

59. O king Parīkṣit! The glorious Lord Kṛṣṇa who is devoted to his votaries stayed with his two devotees. Having enlightened them in the true path to Mokṣa as enunciated in the Vedas, he returned to Dvārakā.

Footnotes and references:


The three staffs indicate his control of mind, speech, and action. The word daṇḍa stands for restraint. The Smṛtis of Manu 12.10 and Dakṣa 7.30 declare that a man is called tri-daṇḍī who has restraint over speech, mind and body.


(i) Bhāgavata Candrikā: Salutation to you who dispense both bondage and liberation from Śaṃsāra. Those who know the Supreme Soul as he is, attain to him. According to your will you ordain death to those who have not given their mind to you. You assume an incarnation for conferring grace on Jīvas and not do so due to the force of Karmas. You are not partial in not bestowing Liberation from Saṃsāra on those whose vision is clouded by your Māyā and do not realize you properly.

(ii) Padaratnāvalī: It is beyond my capacity to propitiate you except by offering salutation to you who bestow all Puruṣārthas (desired objectives in human life) on those who comprehend the Paramātman correctly. You are all-pervading. You take up various forms according to your will. You pervade the gross universe which is the product (or evolute of Prakṛti) and also the subtle causeless i.e. eternal Prakṛti. It is due to your infinite Poten=y that your vision i.e. knowledge is always unobstructed.

(iii) VT: It is due to your grace that we came together and I could see you. For those who realize you, it is your Śrī-Vigraha (original form of God) which removes the fear of death. You control this transient world (which is a product) and your own region which is eternal. By the force of your Māyā the vision of those interested in this world is clouded but not of those who are related to your region.

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