While Uttara, Abhimanyu’s wife, has a limited role in the Sanskrit version of Mahabharata, she plays a significant role in the Bhil version of the epic, where she is known as Antra.

Subhadra is worried that since her son Abhimanyu has decided to participate in the war, he could die without an heir and therefore be condemned to hell. So his virgin wife, Antra, who he had been married off to when she was a young girl and was at her parents awaiting puberty, was summoned. But given the distance and the times, getting Antra to Abhimanyu would take six months. That would be too late and so for a way out of the problem, Krishna’s help was sought.

Krishna agreed to cast a spell over the world, where the night would be prolonged to six months and soon, messengers were sent to fetch Antra. They soon reached the Antra’s kingdom, where they were stopped by the guards who sought more information on their identity, whereabouts and purpose. And then sufficiently armed with all the information, one of the guards was sent off to the palace to alert the king and his family of the developments.

Antra was asleep at the time, a rather fitful sleep though where several ominous signs told her of impending doom. Still, she had to do as her husband needed and her mother began making the necessary arrangements. Antra asked for a small jar of nectar and a twig of kaniyor, a local tree. If her husband was martyred in the war, she would sprinkle some nectar on him to revive him and they would never be separated. Once arranged, she kept it on the window sill, but then in the hustle and bustle of her departure, left it behind.

Somewhere along the route as the camels were being marched at high speed, Antra remembered that she had forgotten something. She looked in her bundles and realized that she had forgotten the jar and the twig. She begged that the camels be turned back, or she wouldn’t be able to save her husband. One of the riders was Rupo and he was assigned the task of rushing back to get the forgotten elements and return in time to give them to the princess. He was not particularly swift minded so he was tutored very thoroughly on his task: a ‘jar of nectar’ and a ‘twig of kaniyor’ that was what he had to bring back.

Rupo rushed back, repeating the two phrases through the journey. But on reaching the palace, the ‘jar of nectar’ became a ‘jar of oil’ and the ‘twig of kaniyor’ became a ‘comb’! The mother gave him what he had asked for and he duly rushed back to Antra.

When Antra saw what had been brought she beat her breasts and cursed Rupo, but by then they were significantly delayed. By the time, they reached, the sun was up. And even though Subhadra urged Abhimanyu to wait, the hero left. As he moved on to the battlefield, he heard the jingling of the camels’ bells and knew that his wife had arrived. But he didn’t stop, as he was steadfast in his mission. Even when Antra asked him to stay, he proceeded.

Abhimanyu and Antra’s marriage in this version was never consummated and thus there was no child as the Sanskrit version offers. Abhimanyu goes as a hero in the battle, and dies as one.

Story collected by: Utkarsh Patel

Source: Bharath, by Dr. Bhagvandas Patel

Location: Gujarat

Image Source : ‘Sahapedia’. https://www.sahapedia.org/motifs-pithora-painting