Chitrangada – The Warrior Princess

A brief outline of Chitrangada’s story-

As per Tagore’s adaptation, King Chitravahana brought up Chitrangada like a son. She was the Warrior princess of Manipur. One day, on her hunt, she chances upon a wandering hermit. As she gets to know it is no other than Arjuna on his exile, she falls in love with him. But Arjuna rejects her advances. Insulted, she turns to Kamadeva to grant her wish of transforming into a beautiful woman. Arjuna now promptly falls in love with this apparition, while Chitrangada silently laments the deceit.

While living out the blissful days with Chitrangada, Arjuna hears about the great warrior princess of Manipur, whose archery skills are unparalleled. His need to be challenged makes him restless for a meeting with her. Chitrangada, tired of living a stranger’s life returns back to her being. As she reveals her identity to Arjuna, she points out that she will settle for nothing less and nothing more than to be held and respected as an equal.

1. The Hunt

Chitrangada pulled out an arrow and took aim,
Her movement fluid, in perfect harmony with nature
But her mind wandered
She stared at the elusive deer
But her eyes conjured up an image of a sunburnt back
Muscles taut, deep furrowed brows
Everything about Arjuna was fierce
An unknown fear gripped the pit of her belly
It felt like something had taken hold of her heart
And squeezed the very life out of it
Her stance wavered as she gasped for breath
She let go off the heavy bow as it thudded to ground
The deer had noticed her too
Today she wasn’t a warrior but a woman
Fighting another kind of war
He gave her one last look before sauntering away

2. The Seduction

She could see Arjuna’s eyes drinking in her beauty
Tasting, savouring…
How could he help it?
She had fallen in love with her own image
She had never felt so much power before
Not even when she rode her horse into a war
Standing by her father Chitravahana’s side, she would fight
Till the battleground was drenched crimson
Meeting the horizon set ablaze by the setting sun
She had pleaded Kamadeva to grant her this beauty
To make her a woman as a woman should be
It was bad enough that Arjuna thought her to be a man
It had worked
Arjuna’s eyes stayed transfixed on her
But wasn’t she deceiving him?
Did she want to be loved this way?
For what she was not…

3. The War

Remains of the war lay scattered at her feet
Her crowned head held high
Manipur breathed again
Sheltered by its warrior princess
But a battle raged in her heart
Arjuna stood before her
She had changed for him
He had craved another
Arjuna now looked at her in awe
So weak, so convenient
She remembered the nights she lay down beside him
As Arjuna remained pensive, restless to meet the warrior princess
A man after all, always wanting what is not
Today she was Chitrangada, the warrior princess
And she saw in Arjuna’s eyes what she had desired
Admiration. Respect.
But did she feel the same for him?

4. The Equal

Arjuna lowered his eyes
She stared, scorching him down
Right to his soul
Accusing, questioning
He finally looked at her
She was beautiful, standing tall in the moonlight
She was the moon itself
He kneeled down before her,
Nothing he could say would make it easy
And then she stretched out her hand
To pull Arjuna up to face her
“I am Chitrangada, a warrior princess
Neither a goddess, nor a nobody
I want nothing less or more
But to be your equal
To fight wars as two equals, but one
To stand with you as you stand with me
For better or for worse
Only then will you truly find me
.