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. According to 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 gives us great characters, like Krishna, Arjuna, Bhima, Karna, Draupadi, and many more. However, besides Krishna (who is believed to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu), Arjuna is the second most popular character in the Mahabharata.
Despite his immense popularity, there are some untold stories about him that are not very well known. Such as, – How many wives did Arjuna have? and Who was Arjuna’s most favorite wife?
How Many Wives Did Arjuna Have?
Contrary to popular belief, Arjuna did not have seven wives. In fact, he married only four royal princesses from different states. They were:
- Draupadi, the princess of Panchal State.
- Ulupi was a widow and the daughter of Kauravya.
- Chitrangada is the warrior princess of the Manipur kingdom.
- Subhadra – the half-sister of Krishna.
However, Arjuna could have had two more wives if he had not refused to marry Urvasi, a celestial nymph of the haven of Lord Indra, and Uttara, the princess of the Matsya kingdom.
How Did Arjuna Get To Marry Draupadi?
At first glance, we might misunderstand the Mahabharata as only the epic of wars and bloodshed, but if given a closer look at its other aspects of complex human emotions, we could also see the light of love and compassion.
The love between Arjuna and Draupadi is thus not hidden to anyone. Despite the fact that all five Pandavas shared the same wife, Draupadi 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 type of blind arrow throwing contest organized to select the best possible husband Draupadi could get from the contestants.
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 untouchable skill at 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 set the stage before you can understand the whole picture. So, it starts with the time when the five Pandavas had just finished their marriage rituals with Draupadi and were declared husbands and wives.
Then, the Narada Muni (a sage god of the haven) visited and advised them to make a rule for themselves of how they would share Draupadi righteously without causing any internal fight between themselves for the one beautiful wife.
He proposed that only one of the five Pandavas spend a year with Draupadi at a time, and that the cycle would repeat itself at the end of each year.
However, there would be a catch: when one Pandava has the right to spend time alone with Draupadi, the other brother would not be allowed to enter the room or disturb them.If anyone disobeys the rule, they will have to face 12 years of exile from the kingdom.
And as you have guessed, Arjuna broke the law once 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 brahmin instead and went into the room. As a result, he had to accept the punishment as an exile for 12 years, and this is how the journey of him marrying three other princesses started.
Why Did Arjuna Marry Ulupi – His Second Wife?
During the exile, when Arjuna went through a forest, he met with a beautiful woman named Ulupi. She was the daughter of Kauravya, the leader of the Naga Tribe. The tribe she belonged to lived in the wild, and was very independent from the mainstream kingdoms. Thus, Ulupi was not a typical princess.
In fact, she was a widow and had no children. Her first husband was killed a long time ago by Garuda. After the husband’s death, she was living with her father and was still very young to be a widow. Ulupi had almost lost hope in her life, but then one evening she saw Arjuna taking a bath in the river near the 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 really had no idea. Watching Arjuna taking a bath, mesmerized by his good looks, somehow persuaded her to abduct him.
Being from the 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 he 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 looks 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 tried to woo him over her enchanting beauty. So, he eventually asked her father to give her hand in 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 would 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 they 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 accomplishments 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 Dwarka to meet Krishna. Actually, Arjuna had been in love with Subhadra for years, even before she won 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, because Krishna’s elder brother, Balarama, had already planned to abduct Subhadra, Krishna suggested that Arjuna abduct Subhadra with 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 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.
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. 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.