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Chitrāngadā (चित्रांगदा), in the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, is one of Arjuna's wives. Arjuna travelled the length and breadth of India during his term of exile. His wanderings took him to ancient Manipur in the eastern Himalayas, an almost mystic kingdom renowned for its natural beauty. There, he met Chitrāngadā, the daughter of the king of Manipur, and was moved to seek her hand in marriage. Her father demurred on the plea that, according to the matrilineal customs of his people, the children born of Chitrāngadā were heir to Manipur; he could not allow his heirs to be taken away from Manipur by their father. Arjuna agreed to the stipulation that he would take away neither his wife Chitrāngadā nor any children borne by her from Manipur and wed the princess on this premise. A son, whom they named Babruvahana, was soon born to the couple. Babruvahana would succeed his grandfather as king of Manipur.

Rabindranath Tagore took the story of Chitrāngadā and turned it into a dance drama, very much like a modern day musical with the story put to music and with the characters acting out the parts in dance. Tagore's story differs a bit from the story of Chitrāngadā in the Mahābhārata. He expands on the character and gives her new life. In Tagore's story, Chitrāngadā is the only child of the King of Manipur. Being the heir to the throne, she dresses like a man and is the protector of the land. Her people look to her to keep them safe. One day, she meets Arjuna and seeing him in action as he hunts in the forest, she falls in love with him. Arjuna is impressed by her fighting abilities but all along believes her to be a man. Chitrāngadā falls madly in love with Arjuna but believes he could never love her the way she is. She receives a boon from a sage and transforms herself into a beautiful ladylike woman. When she meets Arjuna again, he can't help but fall in love with her. Though she believes that she has everything she wants in life, deep down she wishes that he could love her for her true self. When marauders come into her kingdom to take over the villages, Arjuna learns from the people of the kingdom that their Princess is the greatest warrior around and they wonder why she isn't there to help protect them now. Arjuna is impressed by the story of this woman who seems to be his equal when it comes to fighting and longs to meet her. Chitrāngadā appears and saves her kingdom before revealing her true self to Arjuna. No longer in love with her just for her beauty, Arjuna marries Chitrāngadā.

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Chitrangada can refer to two people in Hindu mythology:

  • Chitrāngadā, a wife of Arjuna
  • Chitrāngada, a son of Shantanu and king of the Kauravas


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