Subhadrā (Sanskrit: सुभद्रा) is an important character in the Mahābhārata. She is the half-sister of Krishna, wife of Arjuna, and mother of Abhimanyu. She is considered the incarnation of Bhuvaneshvari or Shakti.
Subhadra is the only daughter of Vasudeva, born to him by his wife Rohini. She is born after Krishna rescues their father, Vasudeva, from prison and is thus much younger than both her brothers. Subhadra therefore grows up in comfort as the princess, and escapes the travails that haunted her family before her birth.
Arjuna, the Pandava, once spends twelve years in exile for breaking a vow. He spends the last portion of this exile in Dwaraka, at the residence of his cousins Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra. They are his cousins because their father, Vasudeva, is the brother of Arjuna's mother Kunti. During his sojourn at Dwaraka, a romance ensues between Arjuna and Subhadra. This matter is abetted by Krishna, who has always been particularly attached to Arjuna, and wishesnothing but the best for his sister Subhadra.
As the period of Arjuna's exile draws to a close, and his departure homeward becomes imminent, he proposes marriage to his cousin, and she acquiesces. Knowing that the entire family would view with disfavor the prospect of Subhadra becoming the fourth wife of her much-married cousin Arjuna, Krishna facilitates the elopement of the couple and their departure for Indraprastha. He gives the couple a crucial piece of advice related to their elopement: it is Subhadra, and not Arjuna, who drives the chariot away from Dwaraka and towards Indraprastha. Krishna later uses this fact to persuade his family that Subhadra has not been abducted; on the contrary, it is she who has kidnapped Arjuna.
Arjuna and Subhadra.
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma.
Subhadra and Arjuna soon have a son, the valiant Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu profits from receiving Krishna's tutelage and gains a suitable education that will prepare him for the struggles and responsibilities that he is expected to bear in later life.
At the end of the period of exile, Arjuna sends for his wife and son. Abhimanyu is wed to Uttara, daughter of king Virata. To Subhadra's great grief, the young Abhimanyu is killed during the Kurukshetra war which ensues soon afterwards. Uttara is pregnant at that time and is later delivered of a son, who is named Parikshit.
Parikshit is destined to become the sole surviving heir of the entire Kuru dynasty, Pandavas and Kauravas combined. When he comes of age, the Pandavas (his grandfather Arjuna and four grand-uncles) appoint him king of their realm and retire to the Himalayas. Subhadra remains behind to guide and mentor her grandson