This is a story about the irony of fate. When Duryodhana’s daughter, Laksmana, came of age, she wanted to choose a husband. According to the custom of those days, when it was time for a princess to marry, her father would hold a special ceremony called a swayamvara. All the neighbouring princes would be invited and the princess would place a garland around the neck of the one whom she wished to marry.
So Duryodhana held a swayamvara for his dearest daughter and many princes came from the royal families of other kingdoms. Each prince expected that she would choose him to be her husband.
Krishna’s son, Samba, also attended the ceremony. But, instead of waiting to see if the princess was going to put the garland around his neck, Samba abducted her by force in front of everyone. All the other princes as well as the members of the princess’s own family were outraged that Samba had dared to do such a thing. For Krishna’s own son to behave in such a manner was unthinkable. They all chased Samba in their chariots and, finally, they caught him. Samba was arrested and put into jail in the kingdom of the Kauravas. He was subjected to much humiliation because of his rash act.
Meanwhile, since most of the princes were still present at the gathering, they asked Duryodhana’s daughter to choose someone else. The poor princess was already so sad and miserable that for her to choose somebody else in her present frame of mind was an impossible task. Besides, in the depths of her heart, she did like Samba.
Seeing her plight, some people suggested that the swayamvara be postponed until another day. “This is not the time,” they said. “Right now the princess is startled. Let her recover from her ordeal before she chooses her husband.”
So the princes went home disappointed and Samba remained in jail. The news of his capture soon reached his father, Krishna, who became very sad and upset. “My son has to do me this kind of favour!” he exclaimed. “He knows the Kauravas are our worst enemies. I am not going there to rescue him.”
It happened that Krishna’s brother, Balarama, was extremely fond of this particular nephew of his. He told Krishna, “I will not allow my nephew, Samba, to be imprisoned in the kingdom of the Kauravas. I will go and bring him back.”
Krishna replied, “Do whatever you like. I am so embarrassed by my son’s behaviour. You go and do whatever you want to do.”
Balarama went to the Kaurava kingdom and said to Duryodhana, “I have come to take my nephew back home.”
Duryodhana and his brothers began making fun of Balarama. “Your nephew is so bad!” they said. “Why do you want to be associated with him?”
Balarama answered, “No matter what he has done, I am all love for him. Now kindly release him.”
But Duryodhana would not allow Samba to be released. This made Balarama furious. His main weapon was the plough. He started wielding his plough and breaking down the walls of the prison. The soldiers who tried to prevent him were all destroyed.
When the Kauravas saw that Balarama was so powerful, they grew frightened and quickly released Samba. Then Balarama said, “I demand the girl, Duryodhana’s daughter. Now that I have defeated all of you, I want Laksmana to marry my nephew.”
Once more the Kauravas began laughing at Balarama. “She did not place the garland around your nephew’s neck,” they contended. “How can you demand that she marry him?”
Balarama said, “No, I know that she loves him.”
Duryodhana knew that Balarama had the capacity to destroy all the Kauravas so he was very frightened. He said to himself, “The best thing is to get rid of my daughter. Otherwise, if I choose to keep her, Balarama may kill everyone. For one daughter, the whole kingdom will be ruined.” Out of fear, he let Laksmana go with Balarama and Samba. He did not even consult her before he made his decision. He just told her, “Now go.” For her dowry, Duryodhana gave thousands of horses and chariots, together with hundreds of magnificent elephants.
Balarama returned to Dwaraka, Krishna’s kingdom, with Samba and Duryodhana’s daughter, plus so much wealth from the Kauravas. Once again, Krishna was very happy.
Can you imagine! Of all the princesses to abduct, Krishna’s son had to choose the daughter of Krishna’s enemy, Duryodhana. Naturally, Duryodhana arrested the boy and put him in jail. But Balarama’s love for his nephew was such that he himself went and fought for Samba’s freedom. When the Kauravas surrendered they gave Balarama not only Samba, but also Duryodhana’s daughter along with immense wealth.
Krishna, Arjuna and Duryodhana all belonged to the warrior caste. They were Kshatriyas. In those days, Kshatriyas were allowed to abduct a bride, but it was generally done by the common consent of both parties. When Arjuna abducted Krishna’s sister, Subhadra, it was with Krishna’s full approval, because Krishna knew that the two were in love with each other. But when Balarama found out that Arjuna had abducted his sister, he wanted to chase Arjuna in his chariot and kill him. Krishna had to console Balarama by saying that Arjuna was the best of warriors and it was no shame to have him as a member of the family.
This whole practice of abducting a wife started with Vishma. He abducted three sisters for his nephew, Vichitravirya, the grandfather of the Pandavas. The names of these three sisters were Amba, Ambalika and Ambika. Because he took them against their will, Vishma was cursed, and from that day everything started going wrong for him.