Love stories are quite an integral part of the Mahabharat, although not all of them are popular, some lie buried in the deep recesses of the epic, like this one. The story of Parikshit and Sushobhana has many versions, with different interpretations. It is referred to as a story where love leads to transformation.
The king of Mandukya’s daughter, Sushobhana, was not willing to get married, as she felt that marriage was like putting a free bird in a cage. Sushobhana would mask her identity, and get close to the man of her choice and live with him till she got tired of him, and leave under some pretext. The men would be forced to undertake a vow that they would never speak about the dalliance and thus the matter was never known to anybody, except her maid, Subinita and the king.
Subinita on her part had tried her best to stop the princess from her philandering ways, but Sushobhana was not one to listen. She felt her beauty and charm gave her the means to live a life of her choice. Her father could not convince her otherwise either.
Sushobhana met the handsome King Parikshit of the Ikshvaku dynasty and taken in by his looks, she drew him into a relationship. She hid her identity. Parikshit took the unknown lady to his palace and the two spent a long and enjoyable time together. A time came when Parikshit wanted to marry her, but Sushobhana true to her nature saw that as an entrapment. At the beginning of the relationship, she had made Parikshit take a vow that he would never take her near a water-body. Over a period of time, Parikshit had forgotten about it. When Sushobhana came to know about the wedding, in a moment of Parikshit’s weakness, made him take her close to a lake and on reaching the lake, she reminded him of his vow and her imminent departure.
When a shocked Parikshit probed further, she feigned a curse. At that moment Parikshit decided to hold her in a tight embrace, daring the curse to take effect. And then Sushobhana felt that this man was different, and something changed, but she could not accept that this was love. She managed to escape from there. While she was leaving, Parikshit noticed a spy watching them from a distance and from his attire, realised that he was from the Mandukya kingdom. He took his army to the doors of Mandukya and asked them to hand over Sushobhana who according to him had been ‘kidnapped’ by them. The King met Parikshit and told him the whole story.
Another version says that while escaping, she swam into the water-body never to emerge from it. Parikshit ordered the water to be drained, only to find a frog in it. He ordered to frog to be killed, and just when the soldiers tried to put it to death, the frog showed itself as the King of the Frog-kingdom, who told Parikshit the whole story of his daughter.
When Sushobhana came to know about it, she was depressed that her truth was out in the open and the shame would be too much for her or her father. At that moment she decided to commit suicide. Just when she was about to gulp down the cup of poison, her maid Subinita told her that Parikshit was waiting for her in his tent. Sushobhana was surprised to know that the prince wanted to marriage despite everything? Why would any man want a woman whose ways were so wanton? Subinita replied “For love”.
Sushobhana realised the power of love and that changed her, much to the delight of her maid and her father, the princess gave up her fears and transformed herself.
Story Collected by: Utkarsh Patel
Text Source: Mahabharata, Vana Parva: Markandeya-Samasya Parva: Section CLXL
Location: Pan India
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons