Thus Śukadeva Gosvāmī began to narrate the story as follows: Once upon a time, King Parīkṣit's grandfather Arjuna, the great hero, was visiting several holy places of pilgrimage, and while thus traveling all over he happened to come to Prabhāsa-kṣetra. In Prabhāsa-kṣetra he heard the news that Lord Balarāma was negotiating the marriage of Subhadrā, the daughter of Arjuna's maternal uncle, Vasudeva. Although her father, Vasudeva, and her brother Kṛṣṇa were not in agreement with Him, Balarāma was in favor of marrying Subhadrā to Duryodhana. Arjuna, however, desired to gain Subhadrā’s hand himself. As he thought of Subhadrā and her beauty, Arjuna became more and more captivated with the idea of marrying her, and with a plan in mind he dressed himself like a Vaiṣṇava sannyāsī, carrying a tridaṇḍa in his hand.
The Māyāvādī sannyāsīs take one daṇḍa, or one rod, whereas the Vaiṣṇava sannyāsīs take three daṇḍas, or three rods. The three rods, or tridaṇḍa, indicate that a Vaiṣṇava sannyāsī vows to render service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead with his body, mind and words. The system of tridaṇḍa-sannyāsa has been in existence for a long time, and the Vaiṣṇava sannyāsīs are called tridaṇḍīs, or sometimes tridaṇḍi-svāmīs or tridaṇḍi-gosvāmīs.
Sannyāsīs are generally meant to travel all over the country for preaching work, but during the four months of the rainy season in India, from July through October, they do not travel but take shelter in one place and remain there without moving. This nonmovement of the sannyāsī is called Cāturmāsya-vrata. When a sannyāsī stays in one place for these four months, the local inhabitants of that place take advantage of his presence to become spiritually advanced.
Arjuna, in the dress of a tridaṇḍi-sannyāsī, remained in the city of Dvārakā for the four months of the rainy season, devising a plan whereby he could get Subhadrā as his wife. None of the inhabitants of Dvārakā, including Lord Balarāma, could recognize the sannyāsī to be Arjuna; therefore all of them offered their respects and obeisances to the sannyāsī without knowing the actual situation.
One day Lord Balarāma invited this particular sannyāsī to lunch at His home. Balarāmajī very respectfully offered him all kinds of palatable dishes, and the so-called sannyāsī was eating sumptuously. While eating at the home of Balarāmajī, Arjuna was simply looking at beautiful Subhadrā, who was very enchanting to great heroes and kings. Out of love for her, Arjuna's eyes brightened, and he looked at her with glittering eyes. Arjuna decided that somehow or other he would achieve Subhadrā as his wife, and his mind became agitated on account of this strong desire.