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Stealing a Willing Bride: Women's Agency in the Myth of Rukmiṇī's Elopement1

  • Heidi Pauwels

‘Krishna and Rukmini’ is the title of Amar Citra Kathā comic vol. 516, with artwork by Pratap Mulick. The front page has a muscular Kṛ⋅ṇa gallantly helping an entranced lady mount his chariot. Or is he that gallant? A closer look reveals that Kṛ⋅ṇa is actually grabbing her by the wrist; yet the lady seems more than willing, she is coquettishly lifting her skirt as she mounts the vehicle, and her eyes look adoringly, somewhat naively, at her hero as she smiles coyly. The only hint of opposition is in the background where we see angry mustached warriors coming after them. Is this a case of abduction, or is it better called an elopement?

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This paper was first read at the 216th annual meeting of the American Oriental Society in Seattle, April 2006. I thank the audience for its questions and suggestions, especially Peter Scharf of Brown University. I also thank Michael Shapiro of the University of Washington for his comments on a first draft of the paper and Dr Swapna Sharma of Vrindaban for going over the translations from Braj and making wonderful suggestions for improvement. In the original version, I included in the comparison the televised version of the story as it appears in B.R. Chopra's Mahabharat. For reasons of length, I have not incorporated that material in this paper, but plan to incorporate it in a chapter of my forthcoming book on Kṛ⋅ṇa and Rāma's consorts in scripture and on the screen. There, however, I will not take into account the Marwāṛī version of the story. I am grateful to the anonymous peer reviewers’ comments of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for many useful suggestions.

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2 See the web site (accessed 28 August 2006) and under mythology, click Krishna and Rukmini (accessed on 18 December 2006).

3 I am grateful to Peter Scharf of Brown University for bringing this to my attention. A study of the evolution of the Sanskrit story will be part of the forthcoming work of Tracy Coleman.

4 For an interesting exposé on ideals of love based on inscriptions, chronicles and plays in a period just anterior to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa see Daud Ali, ‘Courtly love and the aristocratic household in early medieval India’, in Love in South Asia: a cultural history, ed. Fancesca Orsini (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 43–60.

5 One may object that we are asking questions from the stories that the authors were not really concerned with. It is of course unfair to judge medieval authors anachronistically by feminist standards. However, in contemporary popular discourse such interpretations are routinely asserted. As the example of the ‘sales pitch’ for the comic book version above illustrates, contemporary concerns are projected back onto the past and those interested in defending a glorious Hindu culture which allowed for women's agency will take myths, such as Rukmiṇī's to support their pride in their woman-friendly tradition. Moreover, the mythological heroes and heroines are explicitly upheld as ‘role models for the young generation’ in the comic book versions based on their stories. See for instance Anant Pai's explanation of intent on his web page for Amar Chitra Katha ( accessed July 2006). Interestingly, Pai has also authored books on personality development. In any case, it is legitimate to ask how far such interpretations are justified.

6 For example, Jayant Lele, ‘The Bhakti Movement in India: A critical Introduction’, in Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti Movements, ed. Jayant Lele (Leiden, 1981), pp. 1–15.

7 For example, Ranajit Guha, ‘Dominance without Hegemony and its Historiography’, in Subaltern Studies VI: Writings on South Asian History and Society, ed. Ranajit Guha (Delhi, 1992), pp. 47–60.

8 For example, David Lorenzen, ‘The Historical Vicissitudes of Bhakti Religion’, in Bhakti Religion in North India: Community, Identity and Political Action, ed. David Lorenzen (New York, 1995), pp. 1–32.

9 References in this article will be to the books (skandha), chapters (adhyāya) and verses (śloka and many other meters) of the Gītā Press edition, edited by Chinman Lal Goswami and M.A. Śāstrī, Śrīmad Bhāgavata Mahāpurāṇa, with Sanskrit Text and English Translation, 2 parts, (2d ed., Gorakhpur, 1982). The translations provided are my own, but I am much indebted to the Gītā Press translation, and have also checked with the recent translation of the tenth book by Edwin Bryant, Krishna: The beautiful legend of God (London, 2003). A handy translation of these chapters is also found in Tracy Coleman, ‘The abduction of Rukmiṇī’, Journal of Vaishnava Studies 12.1 Autumn (2003), pp. 25–56.

10 See Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha Bhakti: The early history of Kṛ⋅ṇa devotion in South India (Delhi, 1983).

11 It is unfortunate that no critical edition of this important work has been undertaken. There is a facsimile edition of a birchbark manuscript in the Sharda script, namely Heinz Bechert and Maheshwari Prasad, The Bhagavata Purana: the birch bark manuscript in the State and University Library in Göttingen (New Delhi, 1976) and an opiniated study attempting to reconstruct a ‘correct’ metrical reading, namely: Durgaprasad S. Nadkarni, Textual Restoration in the Bhāgawata-Purāna, with special reference to metrical analysis (Bombay, 1975).

12 For some references, see Christian Lee Novetske, ‘A Family Affair: Krishna comes to Paṇḍharpūr and Makes Himself at Home’, in Alternative Krishnas: Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity, ed. Guy L. Beck (New York, 2005), pp. 113–138.

13 Professor Ronald Stuart McGregor of Cambridge carried out a study of the Rāsa Pañcādhyāyī manuscripts, on which he reports in The Round Dance of Krishna and Uddhav's message (London, 1973), pp. 55–56.

14 Brajratnadās, ed. Nanddās Granthāvalī. Nāgarī Pracāriṇī Granthmālā 39 (Benares, [1949] 1957). This edition is based on two older editions, one by Śrīkarmcand Guggalānī and another by Śrī Murārīlāl Keḍiyā, neither of which is now available. The editor also gives variants from a manuscript from his own private collection, which, he says, was about 200 years old. Another edition from Allahabad University, by Umāśaṅkar Śukla from 1942, is unfortunately no longer available either. I have not been able to find any translations of Rukmiṇī Maṅgala.

15 Ronald Stuart McGregor, Hindi literature from its beginnings to the nineteenth century. (A history of Indian literature, 8.1.6, edited by Jan Gonda) (Wiesbaden, 1984), p. 85.

16 That he was closely connected with the famous Śrīnātha temple at the time of Vi⃛⃛halanātha seems to be borne out by his works, as he mentions both the image and the man frequently, see McGregor, The Round Dance of Krishna, p. 31.

17 Jo yaha maṃgala gāya, citta dai sunai-sunāvai/So saba maṃgala pāvai, Hari-Rukamini mana bhāvai/ /Hari Rukamini mana bhāvai so, saba ke mana bhāvai/Naṃdadāsa apane Prabhu kau, nita maṃgala gāvai (RM 132–3).

18 Nanddās is said to have faced opposition from Brahmins to his ‘translation’ project and to have stopped his work when his guru requested him to honour the Brahmins’ demands.The story is found in the Vallabhan hagiography Do Sau bāvan Vai⋅ṇavan kī Vārtā (hereafter 252 VV), prasaṅga 4, in the edition by Gaṅgāvi⋅ṇu Kṛ⋅ṇadās (Reprint. Bombay, 1986) on pp. 40–41. There is a legend that Nanddās in fact had done a complete translation, which he offered to the Yamunā (i.e., set afloat in the river). Some parts of his work were miraculously saved, and that is why only fragments survive. See Brajratandās, Nanddās Granthāvalī (Nāgarī Pracāriṇī Granthmālā 39) (Benares, 1949), p. 117.

19 According to Vallabhan sectarian traditions, they were even brothers, see 252 VV, vārtā 4, pp. 34–38, pp. 39–40 and pp. 41–44.

20 A friend is also said to have inspired Rāsa Pāñcādhyāyī and all his works of which the title ends on Mañjarī. Although this may be a convention (McGregor 1971: p. 106–107 n. at Rāsa Pancādhyāyī 58), there has been a lot of speculation as to who this special friend may have been.

21 See Kaṇ⃛hamaṇi Śāstrī Viśārad, ed., “Mañjarī-Pañcaka” par dṛ⋅⃛i-nik⋅ep (Kankroli, 1954), p. 2. There is also a story linking Nanddās’ work named Rūpmañjarī with a woman of that name who seems to be from Gwalior (gvā⋖iyā kī be⃛ī) in another sectarian text (Śrī Nāthjī kī Prāka⃛ya Vārtā 59; see Mahārāj 1967: 41).

22 See 252 VV, Vārtā 232.

23 I will use the edition by L.P. Tessitori, Veli Krisana Rukamaṇī rī: Rā⃛hoṛa raja Pri⃛hī Rājā rī kahī. Ḍiṅgala Text with Notes and Glossary (Bibliotheca Indica, New Series 1423), (Calcutta, 1919). For the translation, I have consulted the excellent Hindi paraphrase in Narottamdās Svāmī, Krisan-Rukamaṇī-rī Veli: Rā⃛hauṛ Pṛthvīrāj-rī kahī. (Agra, [1953] 1971), and the English paraphrase in the interesting and agenda-driven more recent work by Rajvi Amar Singh, Veli Krisan Rukmaṇī rī (Bikaner, 1996).

24 See Tessitori, Veli Krisana Rukamaṇī rī, pp. ii–iv.

25 Ibidem, pp. iv–vii.

26 Following Tessitori's translation, I'm taking va⃛a for vā⃛a.

27 Nara jethi nimāṇā nīlaja nārī/akbara gāhaka va⃛a ava⃛a/ /Āvai tiṇi hā⃛ai ūdāuta/vece kima rajapūtava⃛a

Rojāitāṃ taṇai naürozai/jethi musījai jagata jaṇa/ /Cauha⃛i tiṇi āvai cītroṛau/ patau na kharace khatrīpaṇa

I am following Tessitori's edition (on p. iv). There are significant variants in other editions, such as Rāvat Sārasvat, Pṛthīrāj Rā⃛hauṛ (New Delhi, 1984), p. 102 and the above-quoted edition by Svāmī, pp. 31–32, but there is no reference as to the source of those editions.

28 James Tod, Annals and antiquities of Rajasthan or the Central and Western Rajput States of India (Delhi, [1920] 1971), vol. 1, pp. 398–402. Legend has it that this song was instrumental in convincing Akbar to give up the custom of celebrating the Fancy Bazar for women during Navroz, though the poem is not addressed to Akbar.

29 Tessitori says that he had trouble locating old manuscripts. His edition was based on two recent manuscripts. He notes the existence of another publication, which however cites no manuscript material (Veli Krisana Rukamaṇī rī, p. iv). Most later texts on the subject just copy others without giving their sources.

30 See 252 VV episode 241, in Kṛ⋅ṇadās, Do Sau Bhāvan Vai⋅ṇavar kī Vārtā, p. 483. Except for the conversion, the Vallabhan stories have a venerable source, the turn-of-the-sixteenth-seventeenth century Bhaktmāl by Nābhādās, which remembers Pṛthvīrāj for his great devotion, his miraculous visions of the deity in the temple at home, even while away on campaigns for Akbar, and his determination to return and die in Mathurā when mortally wounded in battle. Bhaktmāl, chappāī 176, elaborated on in 1712 by Priyādās in 3 kavittas (pp. 538–540), see Sītārām Śaraṇ ‘Rūpkalā’ Bhagvānprasād, Gosvāmi Nābhājī kṛt Śrī Bhaktamāl: Śrī Priyādāsjī praṇīt ⃛ikā-kavitta, Śrī Sītārāmśaraṇ Bhagvānprasād Rūpkalā viracit Bhaktisudhāsvād tilak sahit (Reprint. Lucknow, [1903–9] 1977), p. 799.

31 Svāmī, Krisan-Rukamaṇī-rī Veli, p. 28.

32 Ārambha maiṃ kiyau jeṇi upāyau/gāvaṇa guṇanidhi hūṃ niguṇa/ /Kiri ka⃛hacita pūtalī nija kari/citrārai lāgī citraṇa (KRV 2): ‘I've set out to sing of my creator, the source of all virtues, while I'm utterly virtueless. Like a wooden painted doll trying, with its own hands, to paint its painter’.

33 Jiṇi dīdha janama jagi mukhi de jīhā/Krisana ju pokhana bharaṇa karai/ /Kahaṇa taṇai tiṇi taṇau kīratana/srama kīdhā viṇu kema sarai KRV 7.

34 He lists both this-worldly, such as notably a good wife or husband, health and wealth, and protection against black magic (KRV 278–87) and other-worldly, such as mok⋅a (KRV 288–9).

35 See John L. Brockington,‘Sanskrit Epic Tradition IV: Svayaṃvaras’, paper delivered at the XIth World Sanskrit Conference, Torino, Italy, 3–8 April 2000.

36 See Pandurang Vaman Kane, History of Dharma⋅āstra: Ancient and Medieval Civil Law in India (Poona, [1941] 1974), vol. 2.1, p. 522, and Patrick Olivelle, Manu's code of law: a critical edition and translation of the Mānava-Dharma⋅āstra (New York, 2004), p. 45 ad Manu 3.26.

37 For an incisive overview of the discussions surrounding women's agency in contemporary elopement cases, see Prem Chowdhry, ‘Private Lives, State intervention: Cases of runaway marriage in rural North India’, Modern Asian Studies 38.1 (2004), pp. 55–84. Interestingly, contemporary informants justify their actions with reference to the ancient normativity of Dharma⋅āstra, see Parveez Mody, ‘Kidnapping, elopement and abduction: An ethnography of love-marriage in Delhi’, in Orsini, ed., Love in South Asia, p. 332.

38 Sukadeva Vyāsa Jaideva sārikhā/sukavi aneka te eka santha/ /Trīvaraṇaṇa pahilau kījai tiṇi/gūṃthiyai jeṇi siṃgāra grantha/ /Dasa māsa udhari dhari va⋖e varasa dasa/jo ihāṃ paripā⋖ai jivaḍī/ /Puta hetu pekhatāṃ pita prati/va⋖ī visekhai māta vaḍī (KRV 8–9).

39 Bandhūnām icchatāṃ dātuṃ kṛ⋅nāya bhaginīṃ nṛpa, tato nivārya kṛ⋅ṇadviṅ Rukmī caidyam amanyat (X 52.25).

40 One might surmise that some initial material is lost, because there are only two verses of invocative material, which is incidentally not in all manuscripts, see Brajratandās, Nanddās Granthāvalī, p. 175 n.1.

41 Sisupālahi koṃ deta, Rukmiṇī bāta sunīṃ jaba/Citra likhī sī rahī, daī yaha kahā bhaī aba (RM 3).

42 Sāṃbhali anurāga thayau mani syāmā/vara prāpati vaṃchatī vara/ / Hari guṇa bhaṇi ūpanī jikā hari/hari tiṇi vandai Gavari Hara (KRV 29): ‘Meditating (on the scriptures), love filled Śyāmā's heart. She desired to obtain the best for her groom. A desire for Hari's qualities welled up in her. With that desire in mind she worshipped Gaurī and Śiva.’ This line plays on the multiple meanings of hari, one of which is of course Kṛ⋅ṇa, another one is synonymous with hara, in the meaning of ‘desire’ (q.v. Sītārām Lā⋖as, Rājasthānī sabad kos. 4 vols. Caupāsnī Jodhpur, 1962–78, hereafter RSK).

43 īkhe pita māta erisā avayava/vima⋖a vicāra karai vīyvāha/ /Sundara sūr sū⋖i ku⋖i kari sudha/nāha krisana siri sūjhai nāha (KRV 30).

44 Prabhaṇanti putra ima māta pita prati/aṃhāṃ vāsanā vasī isī/ /Gyāti kisī rājaviyāṃ gvālāṃ/kisī jāti ku⋖apāṃti kisī (KRV 31).

45 Su ju karai ahīrāṃ sarisa sagāī/olāṃḍe raja ku⋖a itā/ /Vridhapaṇai mati koī vesāsau/pāṃtariyā mātā i pita (KRV 32).

46 Pita māta prabhaṇai pūta ma pāṃtari/sura nara nāga karai jasu seva/ /Likhamī samī rukamaṇī lāḍī/Vāsudeva samau vāsudeva (KRV 33). Note the pun (yamaka) in the last line.

47 Alternatively: ‘Having suppressed him (i.e., the husband) in all ways, they are shining in highest love,’ or ‘He concealed them in every manner and made them shine. . .’ The verb lop- (v.t.) in is glossed as mi⃛ā-, and op- (v.i.) is glossed as camak-, q.v. Dīndayāl Gupta, and Premnarāyaṇ Taṇḍan, Brajbhā⋅ā Sūrkoś (Lucknow, 1974, hereafter BBSK).

48 Karata bicāra manahi mana abha dhauṃ kaisī kījai/loka lāja kula kāni kiye mohiṃ sarabasu chījai/ /Jyoṃ piya hari anusarauṃ soī aba jatana karauṃ ha⃛āhi/māta tāta aru bhrāta bandhu-jana sabai parau bha⃛ha/ /Āgi lāgi jari jāhuṃ lāja jo kāja bigārai/suṃdara Naṃdakuṃvara nagadhara soṃ aṃtara pārai/ /Pati parihari hari bhajata bhaīṃ Gokula kī gopī/tinahuṃ sabai bidhi lopi parama premai rasa opī/ /Jinake carana kamala raja ajahū bāṃchana lāge/ /Sanaka Sanaṃdana Siva Sārada Nārada anurāge (RM19–23).

49 Gāvai kari maṃga⋖a caṛhi caṛhi gauche/manai sūra Sisupā⋖a mukha/ /Padamaṇi ani phūlai pari padamaṇi/Rukhamaṇī kamodaṇī rukha (KRV 42).

50 Pṛthvīrāj turns his Brahmin into a comical figure (KRV 44–5), a feature reportedly also found in folk versions of the story.

51 Siddhi śrī śrī nivāsa pāsa śrutavāsa sahāyaka/Suṃdara sucibara śrī Guvinda tuma saba baradāyaka/ /Nṛpa Vidarbha kī kanyā Rukmini anucari ganiyai/Tākoṃ prathama pranāma bāṃci puni binatī suniyai/ /Bilagu māniyaiṃ nāhiṃ jāniyaiṃ apanī karikaiṃ/Magna hota dukha jalanidhi meṃ udharo kara dharikaiṃ/ /Jaba taiṃ tumhare gunagana muni jana Nārada gāye/Taba taiṃ auru na bhāye amṛtaiṃ adhika suhāye/ /Maiṃ tuma mana kari bare kuṃvara Giridharana piyāre/Hauṃ bhaī tuma paricāri nātha tuma bhaye hamāre/ /Aba vilaṃba nahiṃ karau barauṃ tribhuvana pati suṃdara/Nātha parama sukhadhāma Syāma sukhabhoga puraṃdara (RM 57–62).

52 This line is unclear. Pānipa can also mean ‘water,’ in which case one could interpret as ‘shedding ever-new tears.’

53 Chiyā can mean ‘girl’ (BBSK), but it can also mean ‘dirt’ or ‘leftovers’, in which case one could also translate this as: ‘Would you touch Śiśupāla's left-overs?’

54 Auru sabai dukhabhare sare aṃtara hī aṃtara/Kāla kaula se kare pare china china parataṃtara/ /Dekhata ke saba gore nava nava pānipa ḍhore/Hāra kāju nahiṃ āvaiṃ jasie ujjala ore/ /Tina maiṃ ika Sisupāla tāhi muhi deta Rukuma sa⃛ha/Tāta mātu paci hāri hota nāhiṃna ca⃛atai ma⃛ha/ /Ucita hoya so kariya karata lājahiṃ nahiṃ mariyaiṃ/Bārana bṛṃda bidārana bali gomāyana ḍariyaiṃ/ /Mahā haṃsa Jadubaṃsa bīra jū balahi bicārau/Hai yaha tumaro bhāga kāga Sisupāla biḍārau/ /Parata parevā nabha taiṃ para kara dekhata yāaum/Tuma saba lāyaka achata chue Sisupāla chiyā kau/ /Jo nagadhara Naṃdalāla mohi nahiṃ karihau dāsī/To pāvaka para jarihauṃ barihauṃ tana tinakā sī/ /Jari mari dhari dhari deha na paihauṃ suṃdara hari bara/Pa yaha kabahuṃ na hoya syāla sisupāla chueṃ kara (RM 63–70).

55 The verb prās- can mean ‘to eat’, see Tessitori's wordlist in Veli Krisana Rukamaṇī-rī, p. 139.

56 Literally: ‘Cow Kapila given and the receiver a butcher’.

57 Apparently ai⃛hati has this meaning, it is glossed as such in Svāmī, Krisan-Rukamaṇī Veli, p. 31.

58 Saraṇa tūjha asaraṇasaraṇa (KRV 57) Ba⋖ibamdhaṇa mūjha siyā⋖a singha ba⋖i/ prāsai jau bījau paraṇī/ /Kapi⋖a dhenu dina pātra kasāī/Tu⋖asī kari caṇḍā⋖a taṇai (KRV 59) Amha kaji tumha chaṇḍi avara vara āṇai/Ai⃛hati kiri homai agani/ /Sā⋖igarāma sūdra grahi saṅgahi/Veda mantra mlechāṃ vadani (KRV 60).

59 Tessitori in his glossary specifies that netra stands for netarau and that nah- can mean thāp- (Veli Krisana Rukamaṇ-rī, p. 138).

60 Hari hue Varāha hae Hariṇākasa, hūṃ ūdharī patā⋖a hūṃ/Kahau taī karuṇāmai Kesava, sīkha dīdha kiṇī tumhāṃ/ /Āṇe sura asura nāga netrai nahi, rākhiyau jaī maṃdara raī/Mahaṇa mathe mūṃ līdha mahamahaṇa, tumhāṃ kiṇai sīkhavyā taī/ /Rāmā avatāri vahe riṇī Rāmaṇa, Kisī sīykha karuṇākaraṇa/Hūṃ ūdharī Triku⃛agaṛha hūṃtī, Hari bandhe ve⋖āharaṇa/ /Cauthiyā vāra vāhari kari catrubhuja, saṁkha cakra dhara gadā saroja/Mukhi kari kisūṃ kahījai Māhava, antarajāmī sūṃ āloja (KRV 61–4).

61 Tathāpi rahe na hūṃ sakūṃ bakūṃ tiṇi, triyā anai prema āturī/Rāji dūri Dvārikā virājau, dina naiḍau āiyau durī (KRV 65).

62 This time it is Nanddās who includes a comical interlude, which may derive from folk sources and/or points to the performance possibilities of Nanddās's work as part of theatrical productions.

63 In all versions, good omens relieve Rukmiṇī's anxiety and indeed immediately afterwards the Brahmin shows up. From his face she can tell that he has been successful in his mission (BhP X 53.28–9; RM 79; KRV 71).

64 For a discussion of this episode, see my article ‘Three ways of falling in love: Tulsīdās's Phūlvārī episode and the way it is portrayed in contemporary electronic media’, in A Varied Optic: Contemporary Studies in the Rāmāyaṇa, ed. Mandakranta Bose (Vancouver, 2000), pp. 55–100.

65 This is remarkably similar to Tulsīdās's concerns for propriety in his version of the ‘Blossoming of love’ or Pu⋅pavā⃛ikā episode. There too, the poet had been at pains to ensure parental sanction for Sītā's visiting the temple (and meeting Rāma on her way).

66 He also fails to mention the girlfriends, the ‘courtesans’ (vāramukhyāḥ, BhP X 53.42) and the bards of different types (sūta-māgadha-vandinaḥ, BhP X 53.43).

67 Aho devi Aṃbike gauri īśvari saba lāyaka/mahā māya baradāya su saṃkara tumare nāyaka/ /Tuma saba jiya kī jānati tuma soṃ kahā durāūṃ/Gokula-caṃda Gubiṃda Naṃdanaṃdana pati pāūṃ (RM103–4).

68 Hvai prasanna Aṃbikā kahata he Rukmini suṃdari/paiho abahiṃ Guviṃda-caṃda jiya jina bi⋅āda kari (RM105).

69 Devā⋖ai paisi Ambikā darase/ghaṇai bhāvi hiti prīti ghaṇī/ /Hāthe pūji kiyau hāthā lagi/mana vacchita phala Rukamaṇī (KRV 108).

70 Dekhati chabi soṃ chalī apana bara ārata ulahī/nirakhata narapati sagare ḍarapata naiṃku na dulahī/ /Ghūṃgha⃛a pa⃛a diyo huto su kholyo badana ḍahaḍahyau/janu aṃbara taiṃ aba hī nikasyau caṃda gahagahyau (RM109–10).

71 Alī aṃsa bhuja diye nihārata alaka sudhārata/Sara ka⃛āccha sana bhare sutaki taki bhūpana mārata (RM 113). Here, the poet in effect combines two elements from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, where she was said to take her friend by the hand (pragṛhya pāṇinā bhṛtyām, X 53.50) and where she combs her locks away with her fingers (utsārya vāmakarajair alakān, X 53.54b). Nanddās, however, has added that it is a deliberate strike to ‘kill off’ the kings.

72 The verb para⃛h- is attested in the meaning ‘to establish’ and ‘to strike’ (RSK).

73 Āsakaraṇa vasīkaraṇa unamādaka/para⃛hi draviṇa sokhaṇa sara pañca/ /Citavaṇi hasaṇi lasaṇi gati sakuṃcaṇi/sundari dvāri dehurā sañca (KRV 109).

74 Manapaṅgu thiyau sahu sena mūrchita/taha naha rahī sampekhatai/ /Kiri nīpāyau tadi niku⃛īe/ /ma⃛ha pūta⋖ī pākhāṇamai (KRV 110). The feminine noun taha is attested in the meaning ‘consciousness’ (RSK). The masculine noun niku⃛ī is attested in the meaning ‘stone-cutter’ (RSK).

75 arabarāi murajhāya kachū na basāya tiyā paiṃ/paṃkha nāhiṃ tana bane, nataru uḍi jāya piyā paiṃ (RM 116). Note the internal rhyme. This line is not in all manuscripts, see Brajratnadās, Nanddās Granthāvalī, n. after 7 on p. 183.

76 The Bhāgavata Purāṇa uses the epithet Mādhava (BhP X 53.55b) and Nanddās, never one to spurn an opportunity for a clever play on words, is inspired to come up with a pun: Mādha-hā with a double meaning of ‘Killer of Madhu’ (synonymous with Mādhava) or ‘Honey-eater.’ Lai cale nāgara nagadhara navala tiyā koṃ aise, māṃkhina āṃkhina dūri pūri madhuhā madhu jaise (RM 119). ‘The clever mountain-lifter abducted his bride in such a way: Like a honey-eater (Madhuhā) with honey, throwing dust in the eyes of the bees.’ This is a reworking of the more martial comparison in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, where he is like a lion taking his share from among jackals (sṛgālamadhyād iva bhāgahṛd dhariḥ, X 53.56).

77 Lasata sāṃvare suṃdara saṃga suṃdari ābhāsī, janu nava nīrada nika⃛a cāru caṃdrikā prakāsī (RM 121).

78 Māṃkhaṇa corī na huvai Māhava/mahiyārī na huvai mahara (KRV 114b).

79 Jitika chohu Hari hiyaiṃ huto, tetika nahiṃ kīne/Mūṃḍ amūṃḍi sata-cu⃛iyā rakhi, puni chori ju dīne (RM 130).

80 Āḍoaḍi ekāeka āpaṛe/vāgyau ema Rukmaṇī vīra/ /Aba⋖ā lei ghaṇī bhuṃī āyau/āyau hūṃ paga māṃḍi ahīra (KRV 130).

81 Rukamaiyau pekhi tapata āraṇi raṇi/pekhi Rukamaṇ rī ja⋖a prasana/ /Taṇu lohāra vāma kara niya taṇu/Māhavi kiu sāṃḍasī mana (KRV 132). ‘When looking at Rukmī, he burned in the oven of the battle field, When at Rukmiṇī, cooling water calmed him, Thus, like an ironsmith using the left hand, with his body, Mādhava [handled] his mind like pincers’. The extended metaphor shows Krishna like the blacksmith in total control of his body, moving his mind like pincers, alternately towards the fire of Rukmī's burning hatred and Rukmiṇī's cooling grace. This shows Kṛ⋅ṇa caught between Rukmī who is enfuriating, and his sister who appeals to his compassion. Rukmiṇī here is never given a voice. Kṛ⋅ṇa knows her mind though, presumably by seeing her tears (‘cooling waters’).

82 Anuja e ucita agraja ima ākhai/dusa⃛a sāsanā bhalī daī/ /Bhini jāsu pāsai baisārī/bhalau kāma kiu bhalā bhaī (KRV 135).

83 Though the text is somewhat ambiguous, that is definitely the interpretation of the commentators, see Tessitori, Veli Krisana Rukamaṇī rī, p. 107.

84 Krita karaṇa akaraṇa annathā karaṇaṃ/saga⋖e hī thoke sasamattha/ /Hāliyā jā ilagāyā hūṃtā/Hari sā!ai siri thāpe hattha (KRV 137). The masculine noun thoka can mean ‘heap’ or ‘result’ (RSK). The verb hāl- can mean “to leave” (RSK). Svāmī gives an alternative reading of how to split up the words: hāliyā jāi lagāyā hūṃtā, which may be a lectio facilior without clear sense: ‘He left, after the hand that had been turned against him’.

85 See Goswami and Śāstrī, Śrīmad Bhāgavata Mahāpurāṇa, vol. 2, p. 1301.

86 Also in the miniature illustrations of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, the wedding proper seems to be the most favourite part of the whole episode to be depicted.

87 Vedogata dharama vicāri veda vida/kampita cita lāgā kahaṇa/ /Hekaṇi sutrī sarisa kima hovai/punaha punaha pāṇigarahaṇa (KRV 150).

88 Literally (including the verb hūṃtau from the next half-line): ‘devoid of all flaws was the auspicious time (sāvaü).’

89 Nirakhe tatakā⋖a trikā⋖a nidarasī/kari niraṇai lāgā kahaṇa/ /Saga⋖e dokha vivarajita sāvaü/hūṃtau jaī huau haraṇa/ /Vasudeva devakī sūṃ brāhmaṇe/kahī parasapara ema kahi/ /Huau haraṇi hathalevau hūau/Sesa saṃsakāra hui sahi (KRV 151–2).

90 The seasonal description starts with summer (grī⋅ma) with the months of je⃛ha and āsāḍha (KRV 187–93), monsoon (var⋅ā) with the months of śrāvaṇa and bhadrava (KRV 194–205), autumn (śarad) with the months of āsoja (āśvin) and kārtika (KRV 206–16), winter (hemānta) with the month of pausa (KRV 217–221), and late winter (śiśira) with the months of māgha and phāgun (KRV 222–228). The poet devotes the longest section to spring or vasanta with the month of baisākha (KRV 229–68).

91 Interspersed with all the generalities are some verses reporting on the action of Kṛ⋅ṇa's participation in the impending Great War of the Mahābhārata (KRV 216). His waking up one time with Arjuna and Duryodhana at his feet, both seeking his assistance in the War, is cleverly situated in Autumn at the time of the festival of the awakening of the gods in the month of kārtika.

92 Dasa māsa samāpati garabha dīdha rati/mani vyākula madhukara muṇaṇanti/ /Ka⃛hina veiṇa kokila misi kūjati/vanasapatī prasavatī vasanti (KRV 229). Taking rati to be ritu, as supported by one of the variants, rita (see Tessitori, Veli Krisana Rukamaṇīrī, p. 62).

93 In the last part of the description of spring, the poet follows the course of the southern wind from the Malaya mountains, which is described as a villain, a drunkard and philanderer, about whom women have mixed opinions (KRV 258–64).

94 The story ends on a curious didactic verse, straight out of a prohibition campaign: Saṃsāra supahu karatā griha saṅgraha/gyāna taṇī pancamī ju gā⋖i/ /Madirā rīsa hiṃsā nindāmati/cyāre kari mūṃkiyā caṃḍa⋖i (KRV 277): “The sustainer of the world became a householder. He understood that, for one, slander, But even before, the four: alcohol, anger, violence, and arrogance, were to be shunned like the worst untouchables”. This ending is somewhat abrupt and represents a shift of tone from what has preceded. There is no comment on this incongruity in the editions and commentaries. One may surmise that the verse was a later addition, although it seems to be in all the manuscripts. It may be the case that Pṛthvīrāj intended to integrate it better in his work, but did not get around to doing so. The verse seems to be something that stands on its own and that could be offered as a piece of advice to a ruler. Maybe it was intended for one of his brothers, but one can only speculate as to the circumstances. As it stands, it comes as an explicit didactic summary of the whole work, seemingly interpreting the Veli's message as what could be summarised in contemporary clichés as: ‘make love not war’.

95 Aspa⋅⃛avartṃanāṃ puṃsām alokapatham īyu⋅ām/Āsthitāṃ padavīṃ subhrūḥ prāyạḥ sīdanti yo⋅itạḥ (X 60.13).

96 Vyūḍāyāś cāpi puṃścalyā mano ‘bhyeti navaṃ navaṃ/Budho ‘satīṃ na bibhṛyāt tāṃ bibhrad ubhayacyutaḥ (X 60.48).

97 It is also interesting to read Pṛthvīrāj's work against the current assertion on the political scene of the ‘Other Backwards Caste’ of the Yādavs. Rukmī's denigrating referrals to Kṛ⋅ṇa as a ‘mere’ milkman and cowherd, ring especially poignant in the context of the caste group's struggle for social respectability. It would be interesting to pursue the issue further by looking at folk retellings of the story, such as by Yādav performers at Yādav weddings, as reported by UW engineering student Sanjeev Yadav in Autumn 2005.

98 See in particular the insightful work by Frances H. Taft (‘Honor and Alliance: Reconsidering Muhal-Rajput Marriages’, in The Idea of Rajasthan: Explorations in Regional Identity, Vol. 2. Institutions, ed. Karine Schomer, Joan L. Erdman, Deryck O. Lodrick and Lloyd I. Rudolph (New Delhi, 1994), pp. 217–241. She points out that Rajput-Muslim intermarriage dates back to the time of the Delhi Sultanates (ibid. p. 225). For her assessment of Pratāp's resistance, see pp. 227–233.

99 See also I. Lloyd and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, ‘The Disdainful Maharana: Amar Singh's Ethnography of the Mewar-Kishengarh Marriage’, in Multiple Histories: Culture and Society in the Study of Rajasthan, eds. Lawrence A. Babb, Varsha Joshi, and Michael W. Meister (Jaipur, 2002), pp. 254–283 (in particular, p. 281 n.9).

100 That the opinion of the people of Vidarbha is on her side may also be interpreted as an extra legitimation for her behaviour (this is the case in all versions).

101 See recent work by Jeevan Deol on the texts of Mirza Sahiban (‘To die at the hands of love: conflicting ideals of love in the Punjabi Mirza-Sahiban cycle,’ in Orsini, ed., Love in South Asia, pp. 142–158) and Hīr-Rānjhā (‘Sex, social critique and the female figure in premodern Punjabi poetry: Vāris Shāh's “Hīr”’, Modern Asian Studies 36.1 (2002), pp. 141–171. I am grateful to the anonymous JRAS referees who made this useful suggestion.

1 This paper was first read at the 216th annual meeting of the American Oriental Society in Seattle, April 2006. I thank the audience for its questions and suggestions, especially Peter Scharf of Brown University. I also thank Michael Shapiro of the University of Washington for his comments on a first draft of the paper and Dr Swapna Sharma of Vrindaban for going over the translations from Braj and making wonderful suggestions for improvement. In the original version, I included in the comparison the televised version of the story as it appears in B.R. Chopra's Mahabharat. For reasons of length, I have not incorporated that material in this paper, but plan to incorporate it in a chapter of my forthcoming book on Kṛ⋅ṇa and Rāma's consorts in scripture and on the screen. There, however, I will not take into account the Marwāṛī version of the story. I am grateful to the anonymous peer reviewers’ comments of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for many useful suggestions.

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