Here’s a story from the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Asura king Bana was the great grandson of Prahlada, the child devotee most dear to Lord Krishna. Through penance and prayers offered to Lord Shiva, he secured a boon that the great god himself would personally guard his city of Sonitapura. Banasura was an arrogant king and had a thousand arms which he was very proud of. But this is not quite his story. It’s his daughter’s….
Usha, the daughter of Banasura, was a beautiful princess. One night she had a dream in which she saw a very handsome, young man. It was love at first sight for them and they spent many happy hours in each other’s company. But like all good things, dreams too come to an end. And Usha woke up to find that all that passed was nothing but a dream.
When Chitralekha, her best friend, came to find her that morning, she found the princess tearful and greatly upset. “What’s wrong with you today? What happened now?” she asked puzzled, for they had parted the evening before in high spirits.
“You may think me foolish but I had this very vivid dream last night about this handsome young man, a prince, perhaps… I really do not know for I’ve never seen anybody like that.” Usha’s voice trailed off.
“Who is this person? You must have seen him somewhere before, surely... think back...,” urged Chitralekha.
“I’m very sure I’ve never seen him before. I don’t think he even exists.” At this point Usha broke into fresh tears and Chitralekha knew she had to do something.
“Okay, I can paint the likeness of any man or god for I’ve learnt painting from Narada himself. Let me start painting some of the handsomest gods and mortals we have and maybe you will see your beloved’s face among them.”
Chitralekha was soon sketching the faces of gods, devas and gandharvas with an expert’s ease. Finally, she painted Lord Krishna.
“Yes, this looks like him, but not quite...,” said Usha from behind her. Next Chitra painted Pradyumna, son of Krishna. “What about him?”
“Umm… he’s younger... but you are close.” Usha was cheering up, her friend noted. Chitralekha continued to make another sketch and when she showed it to her friend, the princess smiled in delight and her cheeks coloured. “Ah… So this is the prince who has stolen your heart! He’s Aniruddha, the grandson of the Krishna of Dwaraka,” laughed Chitralekha, happy to have solved the mystery. “Is this who you desire? I shall bring him to you tonight!”
“What? How?” Usha could not understand what her friend was saying.
“Relax… don’t worry about anything. Just wait for the night to fall.” Chitralekha’s dark eyes were shining and Usha knew her friend had a plan.
Chitralekha was trained in yoga and could travel to wherever she wished, in record time. That night she flew to the palace of Krishna in Dwaraka and made her way to young Anirudda’s chambers. Lifting the sleeping prince in her arms, (yes, some supergirl she was) she hastened back to Sonitapura and gently laid him beside the sleeping Usha.
Next morning, Aniruddha was woken up by a beautiful stranger and found himself in surroundings unknown to him. “Where am I? And who are you?” he asked the maiden who smiled at him. Usha shyly related to him her dream and how her friend actually went and found him for her. Aniriddha was puzzled and thought that maybe he was in a dream too. But as it seemed pleasant enough, he was happy not to fight it.
Many happy days passed and the two young people fell in love. At least Aniruddha too, we can conclude. But this happy state of affairs could not continue for long. One day, Bana’s guards saw the young couple talking and laughing, and alerted the asura king. Bana walked into his daughter’s chambers unannounced and was shocked to find Aniruddha there. The prince was immediately captured and taken prisoner.
In Dwaraka, everyone was saddened and worried by the sudden disappearance of the young prince. It was sage Narada, who on an apparently ‘casual’ visit there, informed them about how Aniruddha was taken prisoner.
Balarama, Krishna’s older brother, was amused. “So Krishna, we have here a chip off the old block, huh? Now we have to go rescue him, looks like.”
Krishna smiled too. “It’s time we attacked Bana’s city,” he said for all of it happens for a reason. The Yadava heroes, Balarama, Pradyumna, Satyaki, led by Sri Krishna himself, marched towards Sonitapura and attacked the city.
But there was Lord Shiva himself they had to vanquish, for it was he who was entrusted with the city’s protection. So began the battle between the great gods, Shiva and Krishna. Shiva’s son, Kartikeya joined his father and engaged in a battle with Pradyumna.
Divine arrows flew back and forth as devas and other gods watched from the heavens in wonder. Finally Krishna sent forth the Jrumbhana astra, a sleep inducing arrow which struck Lord Shiva who promptly fell asleep!
Bana, who was fighting Satayaki, came towards Krishna. Krishna effortlessly broke each of his bows and finally threw his divine discus Sudarshana at him, which cut away his thousand arms.
At that point, Lord Shiva woke up and intervened on his devotee’s behalf. “Do not kill him Krishna, he’s a devotee of mine who has sought my protection.”
“Do not worry. I promised Prahlada that I would kill none of his kin. With his thousand arms cut off, he will no longer be so arrogant. Let him remain an attendant of yours, always beside you forever.”
Hearing Krishna’s words, a humbled Banasura fell at the feet of the gods.
He then went back to his palace and returned with the young couple, Aniruddha and Usha. He placed them on a chariot and let them return to Dwaraka together.