The Mahabharata is the longest epic poem with over 100,000 Sanskrit verses ever written in ancient India. The epic tells the story of two branches of a royal family, who fought in the Kurukshetra war for the ultimate throne of Hastinapura. As per scholars, the epic poem may have been composed in the 4th century BCE or earlier.
Being the longest epic ever written in human history, it also has given us great characters, like – Krishna, Arjuna, Bhima, Karna, Draupati, and many more. However, beside Krishna (who is believed to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu), Arjuna is the second most popular character of the Mahabharata.
Despite the immense popularity, there are still some untold stories of him that are not very well known. Such as “How many wife did Arjuna have?” and “Who was Arjuna’s most favorite wife?” So in this post, I’m going to tell you about the interesting stories of Arjuna’s marriage to many princesses.
Table Of Content
- How Many Wives Did Arjun Have?
- Who Was Arjuna’s Favorite Wife?
- Why Was Arjuna Exiled For 12 Years?
- Which Princess Did Arjuna Refuse To Marry – But Why?
How Many Wives Did Arjuna Have?
Contrary to popular beliefs, Arjuna did not have seven wives. In fact, he had married only four royal princesses from different states, they were Draupadi – the princess of Panchal State, Ulupi – a widow and the daughter of Kauravya, Chitrangada – the warrior princess of Manipur kingdom and Subhadra – the sister of Krishna.
However, Arjuna could have had two more wives if he did not refuse to marry Urvasi – a celestial nymph of the haven of Lord Indra, and Uttara – the princess of Matsya kingdom.
How Did Arjuna Get To Marry Draupadi?
At a first glance, we might misunderstand the Mahabharata as only the epic of wars and bloodshed, but if given a closer look of its other aspects of complex human emotions, we also could see the light of love and compassion. The love between Arjuna and Draupati is thus not hidden to anyone. Despite the fact that the five pandavas shared the same wife, Draupati always loved Arjuna the most and favored him over the other four of her husbands.
You can see how much she loved Arjuna by the fact that she broke her strict condition of not letting any other wives of her five husbands stay with them in one palace, but she did allow the second wife of Arjuna, Subhadra to stay with them. This shows how much she loved and cared for Arjuna.
Arjuna won Draupadi at her swayamvara declared by her father – the king of Panchal state. The swayamvara was a one type of blind arrow throwing contest organized to select the best possible husband Draupadi could get from the participants of the contest.
However, the final decision was on her and she could refuse to marry the final winner of the swayamvara if she wanted. But Arjuna amused Draupadi with his unmatchable skill of archery, and won her as his first wife.
Why Was Arjuna Exiled For 12 Years?
The story of how Arjuna got married to Ulupi, Chitrangada, and Subhadra is very interesting. The context is needed to lay first, before you can understand the whole picture. So, it starts with the time when five pandavas have just finished their marriage rituals with Draupadi, and were declared as husbands and wife, the Narada Muni (a sage god of the haven) visited and advised them to make a rule for themselve of how they would share Draupadi righteously without causing any internal fight between themselves for the one beautiful wife.
He suggested that only one of the five pandavas will get the chance to spend time with Draupadi for one year, and the cycle would repeat itself with the end of each year. But there would be a catch, that is during the time when one pandava will have the right to spend time alone with Draupadi, no other brother would have the permission to enter the room or disturb them. If anyone disobeys the rule, will have to face 12 years of exile from the kingdom.
And as you have guessed, Arjuna broke the law one time to take his bow back, when a poor brahmin asked for his help fighting a group of thieves. The bow was in the room where Draupadi was sharing some romantic time alone with Yudhistira.
Arjuna knew the consequence of breaking the rule, but he decided to help the poor brahim instead, and went into the room. As a result he had to accept the punishment as a exile for 12 years, and this is how the journey of him marrying three other princesses was started.
Why Did Arjuna Marry Ulupi – His Second Wife?
During the exile, when Arjuna went through a forest, he met with a beautiful woman, called Ulupi. She was the daughter of Kauravya – the leader of a Naga Tribe. The tribe she belonged to were living in the wild, and very independent from the mainstream kingdoms.
Thus, Ulupi was not a typical princess. In fact, she was a widow and had no child. The first husband of her was killed a long ago by Garuda. After the husband’s death she was living with her father and still was very young to be a widow.
Ulupi almost had lost hope with her life, but then one evening she saw Arjuna taking a bath in the river near an ashram where he was staying during the exile. She had heard of him before, and was aware of his extraordinary archery skills. She could not believe how prince Arjuna had become an ascetic at such a young age? – She had no idea.
Watching Arjuna taking a bath and mesmerised by his good looks somehow persuaded her to abduct him. Being from a naga tribe Ulupi knew some magic spells which she used against Arjuna and managed to bring him to her place.
There she asked Arjuna to marry him before he could go back to his place. Arjuna agreed to the proposal and married her. Together they spent some time there, and later when she was pregnant with their son – Iravan, Arjuna left the tribe and returned to his ashram.
Why Did Arjuna Marry Chitrangada?
After Arjuna left his second wife Ulupi in her Naga tribe, he went to the west and reached the kingdom of Manipur. There he met with the stunningly beautiful princess of Manipur, Chitrangada. One day when he was resting at the entrance of a temple, Chitrangada recognized him, and offered him some food.
She was mesmerized by his good look, but did not show any immediate affection towards him. Later when she went back to her palace, she told her father Chitravahana – the king of Manipur, about Arjuna visiting their kingdom.
The king got excited and invited him to stay with them in the palace, which Arjuna agreed to. After some time, Arjuna also started falling for Chitrangada as she intentionally was trying to woo him over her enchanting beauty. So, he eventually asked her father to give her hand for marriage. Her father, Chitravahana agreed to the proposal with one condition.
The condition was that Arjuna could marry Chitrangada but she would not leave Manipur and her offspring will also be born and brought up here only. Arjuna again agreed to the given condition and married Chitrangada. It’s said that Arjuna stayed there for about three years before leaving, and they had a son called Babruvahana.
Arjuna’s Fourth Wife – Subhadra
When Arjuna was a student of Dronacharya, he met Gada and became close friends. In their conversation, Gada often talked about the half-sister of Krishna, who was none other than Subhadra herself. He would often discuss the accomplishment and beauty of Subhadra, and this is how Arjuna fell in love with her just by hearing those stories of her brilliance.
When Arjuna left Chitrangada and their son Babruvahana in the Manipur kingdom, he headed to the Dwarka to meet Krishna. Actually, Arjuna had been in love with Subhadra for years even before winning Draupadi at her swayamvar.
So, when Arjuna finally met Krishna, he discussed some of their political issues first and then cleverly inserted his desire to marry his half-sister Subhadra. Krishna agreed, or you can say he also wanted to see his sister with Arjuna. However, since Balarama – the elder brother of Krishna already made plans for Subhadra, Krishna suggested that Arjuna should abduct Subhadra at her permission only if she agrees to marry him.
That was great advice though. Arjuna then approached Subhadra and asked her if she wanted to marry him. Subhadra agreed, and the next day Arjuna picked her up from the temple she used to visit daily, and left straight for Indraprastha.
Who Was Arjuna’s Favorite Wife?
Arjuna had four wives in total and out of them, he only stayed with Draupadi, and Subhadra. He left the other two wives, Ulupi and Chitrangada in their own kingdom after spending some time with them. So, it’s hard to judge whom Arjuna loved the most. Even though according to many scholars Arjuna kept Draupadi above all of his wives, he loved Subhadra the most. The reasons?
Well, Ulupi forced him to marry, and Chitrangada tricked him to marry her, so they are out of the list of Arjuna’s favorites. From the remaining two wives, Arjuna had to share Draupadi with his other four brothers, and could only meet her every 5 years. So, practically speaking Arjuna spent most of his life with Subhadra, also they were in love way before Draupadi came into the picture.
Which Princess Did Arjuna Refuse To Marry – But Why?
In Mahabharata Arjuna could have had two more wives if he did not refuse to marry Urvasi – a celestial nymph of the haven of Lord Indra, and Uttara – the princess of Matsya kingdom.