Duryodhana, the son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, had a marriageable daughter by the name of Lakṣmaṇā. She was a very highly qualified girl of the Kuru dynasty, and many princes wanted to marry her. In such cases, the svayaṁvara ceremony is held so that the girl may select her husband according to her own choice. In Lakṣmaṇā’s svayaṁvara assembly, when the girl was to select her husband, Sāmba appeared. He was a son of Kṛṣṇa's by Jāmbavatī, one of Lord Kṛṣṇa's chief wives. This son Sāmba was so named because be was a pet child and always lived close to his mother. The name Sāmba indicates a son who is very much his mother's pet. Ambā means "mother," and sa means "with." So this special name was given to him because he always remained with his mother. He was also known as Jāmbavatī-suta for the same reason. As previously explained, all the sons of Kṛṣṇa were as qualified as their great father. Sāmba wanted Duryodhana's daughter, Lakṣmaṇā, although she was not inclined to have him. Therefore Sāmba kidnapped Lakṣmaṇā by force from the svayaṁvara assembly.
Because Sāmba took Lakṣmaṇā away from the assembly by force, all the members of the Kuru dynasty, such as Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Bhīṣma, Vidura and Arjuna, thought it an insult to their family tradition that the boy, Sāmba, could possibly have kidnapped their daughter. All of them knew that Lakṣmaṇā was not at all inclined to select him as her husband and that she was not given the chance to select her own husband; instead she was forcibly taken away by this boy. Therefore, they decided that he must be punished. They unanimously declared that he was most impudent and had degraded the Kurus' family tradition. Therefore, all of them, under the counsel of the elder members of the Kuru family, decided to arrest the boy but not kill him. They concluded that the girl could not be married to any boy other than Sāmba, since she had already been touched by him. (According to the Vedic system, once being touched by some boy, a girl cannot be married or given to any other boy. Nor would anyone agree to marry a girl who had already thus associated with another boy.) The elder members of the family, such as Bhīṣma, wanted to arrest him. Thus all the members of the Kuru dynasty, especially the great fighters, joined together just to teach him a lesson, and Karṇa was made the commander in chief for this small battle.
While making the plan to arrest Sāmba, the Kurus counseled amongst themselves that upon his arrest the members of the Yadu dynasty would be very angry with them. There was every possibility of the Yadus' accepting the challenge and fighting with them. But they also thought, "If they came here to fight with us, what could they do? The members of the Yadu dynasty cannot equal the members of the Kuru dynasty because the kings of the Kuru dynasty are the emperors whereas the kings of the Yadu dynasty are able to enjoy their land only because we have granted it to them." The Kurus thought, "If they come here to challenge us because their son was arrested, we shall accept the fight and teach them a lesson, so that automatically they will be subdued under pressure, as the senses are subdued by the mystic yoga process of prāṇāyāma." (In the mechanical system of mystic yoga, the airs within the body are controlled, and the senses are subdued and checked from being engaged in anything other than meditation upon Lord Viṣṇu.)
After consultation and after receiving permission from the elder members of the Kuru dynasty, such as Bhīṣma and Dhṛtarāṣṭra, five great warriors—Karṇa, Śala, Bhūri, Yajñaketu and Duryodhana, the father of the girl—who were all mahā-rathīs and who were guided by the great fighter Bhīṣmadeva, attempted to arrest the boy Sāmba. There are different grades of fighters, including mahā-rathī, eka-rathī and rathī, classified according to their fighting ability. These mahā-rathīs could fight alone with many thousands of men. All of them combined together to arrest Sāmba. Sāmba was also a mahā-rathī, but he was alone and had to fight with the six other mahā-rathīs. Still he was not deterred when he saw all the great fighters of the Kuru dynasty coming up behind him to arrest him.
Alone, he turned toward them and took his nice bow, posing exactly as a lion stands adamant in the face of other animals. Karṇa, leading the party, challenged Sāmba, "Why are you fleeing? Just stand, and we shall teach you a lesson!" When challenged by another kṣatriya to stand and fight, a kṣatriya cannot run away; he must fight. Therefore, Sāmba accepted the challenge and stood alone before them, but as soon as he did so he was overpowered by showers of arrows shot by all the great warriors. A lion is never afraid of being chased by many wolves and jackals. Similarly, Sāmba, the glorious son of the Yadu dynasty, endowed with inconceivable potencies as the son of Lord Kṛṣṇa, became very angry at the warriors of the Kuru dynasty for improperly using arrows against him. He fought them with great talent. First of all, he struck each of the six charioteers with six separate arrows. He used another four arrows to kill the charioteers' horses, four on each chariot. Then he used one arrow to kill the driver and one arrow for Karṇa as well as the other celebrated fighters. While Sāmba so diligently fought alone with the six great warriors, they all appreciated the boy's inconceivable potency. Even in the midst of the fighting they admitted frankly that this boy Sāmba was wonderful. But the fighting was conducted in the kṣatriya spirit, so all together, although it was improper, they obliged Sāmba to get down from his chariot, now broken to pieces. Of the six warriors, four took care to kill Sāmba's four horses, one struck down his chariot driver, and one managed to cut the string of Sāmba's bow so that he could no longer fight with them. In this way, with great difficulty and after a severe fight, they deprived Sāmba of his chariot and were able to arrest him. Thus, the warriors of the Kuru dynasty accepted their great victory and took their daughter, Lakṣmaṇā, away from him. Thereafter, they entered the city of Hastināpura in great triumph.
The great sage Nārada immediately carried the news to the Yadu dynasty that Sāmba had been arrested and told them the whole story. The members of the Yadu dynasty became very angry at Sāmba's being arrested, and improperly so by six warriors. Now, with the permission of the head of the Yadu dynasty, King Ugrasena, they prepared to attack the capital city of the Kuru dynasty.