By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna
Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow
Sage Vyasa visited the Pandavas in the forest, gave his support and offered great wisdom. He warned them to prepare themselves for a dreadful but a great war between their cousins, the Kauravas, and themselves.
He advised Yudhishthira to do penance with his brothers and wife and acquire many divine weapons. He then directed Arjuna to go to Mount Kailasa to do penance, to please Lord Shiva, to obtain a mighty weapon as a blessing.
Following Sage Vyasa’s advice, Arjuna at once got ready to depart. Draupadi wished him good fortune. Her blessing words were felt as his mother’s wishes for him to fulfill what he was born for. Draupadi also reminded how all their lives were dependent on his mission. She prayed to Gods and other divine powers for his success.
After taking leave from his brothers and Draupadi, Arjuna set out for the Himalayas. He reached the foothills in no time, with the knowledge he had acquired and been blessed with. He crossed the Gandhamardan range and reached Indrakeela Mountain. There he met an elderly sage who asked, “Who are you? Why are you wearing armor and holding weapons like a warrior, here in a place where sages who gave up everything and have given themselves to God live? War and violence have no place here.” He started laughing while saying this and advised Arjuna to leave his weapons behind.
Arjuna introduced himself as the son of late King Pandu of Hastinapura and refused to obey the sage. As Arjuna was hesitant to leave his weapons, the Sage revealed himself to be Indra, King of the Gods. He blessed Arjuna, saying he just came to meet him and offered him a boon. He also suggested that it was of no use to acquire weapons, but instead to ask for wealth and pleasure.
Arjuna said that he is seeking only divine weapons, as he had left his brothers and wife in the forest. Indra asked Arjuna to worship the Lord of Lords, Shiva, and then to return to him for all further knowledge of divine weapons.
Arjuna went to Mount Kailasa and began meditating in Lord Shiva’s name. Lord Shiva recognized Arjuna and knew the purpose for which he was there. Seeing Arjuna’s intense austerities, Lord Shiva decided to test his devotion before granting his wish. Along with his wife Parvati, Shiva came to the forest, dressed as hunters where Arjuna was doing his penance.
When they reached there, they saw a wild boar charging at Arjuna. This wild boar was a demon called Mukasura, sent by Duryodhana to kill Arjuna. Hearing the wild boar’s grunts disturbed Arjuna’s meditation. He opened his eyes and charged the wild boar immediately with his bow.
Simultaneously the visiting hunter shot at the wild boar. The two arrows pierced the boar at the same time. As Arjuna got closer to his kill, he found another arrow. Arjuna was furious about this incident. Then he saw the hunter who emerged from the trees. Arjuna asked the hunter who he was and why he was in this forest with a woman?
The hunter replied. saying that the forest belonged to him and his clan. He claimed the wild boar as his kill. Arjuna didn’t agree that it was the hunter who killed the boar, but said that he definitely can take the meat. The hunter refused to take anything that belonged to someone else, arguing that it was his kill.
Unable to come to a conclusion about who killed the boar, they decided to settle it with a challenge. The fight between them went on for a long time. Arjuna found it surprisingly hard to beat his opponent. He used all his skills and weapons. He ended up losing his Gandiva when the hunter simply snatched it away.
At last, they ended up fighting each other without any weapons. Arjuna was unable to beat the hunter in that duel as well. Arjuna was so ashamed, as he had never lost a single challenge before. When he realized he could not defeat his opponent, he decided to seek divine intervention.
He made a Shivalinga, placed a garland on it and prayed to Lord Shiva. To his amazement, he saw the hunter wearing the garland he’d offered to his Shivalinga. Thus he realized that the hunter was none other than Lord Shiva himself. He sat at the hunter’s feet with folded hands and asked for forgiveness.
Lord Shiva, pleased with Arjuna’s devotion and valor, appeared in his true form. He gave the Gandiva bow back and blessed Arjuna with the mightiest weapon “Pashupata-astra.” He gave a warning along with the weapon, saying, “Never use it unmindfully. Use it only when you really need it, as it has the power to destroy the universe.” He then asked Arjuna to visit Indra.
Arjuna stood there with delight, especially after being blessed by Lord Shiva along with Parvati. He felt fully contented and in bliss. All the Gods appeared, blessing Arjuna and granting him their own special divine weapons. Indra presented him his divine weapon “Vajra-yudha.” Arjuna thanked them all and offered his respect to them humbly with folded hands.
Indra brought down one of his special chariots to escort Arjuna to Amaravati, his abode in heavens. Indra gave a grand welcome to his earthly son, asking him to stay in Amaravati for five years to learn to use all the celestial weapons he had acquired. Arjuna agreed, but with one condition, that his brothers and Draupadi be informed of his wellbeing and his extended stay in Amaravati. Indra immediately called upon Rishi Lomasa and requested him to convey the message to the other four Pandava brothers and to Draupadi on earth.
Arjuna was delighted to see the grandeur of Amaravati, the beautiful gardens, the celestial nymphs and their divine dances. He not only enjoyed hearing the music of the Gandharvas but also learned the art of music, musical instruments and dancing from Chitrasena, chief of Gandharvas.
During Arjuna’s stay in Amaravati, Urvashi, one of the most beautiful celestial nymphs, had fallen in love with him. But Arjuna could only see her as a mother, even though she was blessed to stay young forever. He gave her the respect that he would give his own mother. Wishing for his love, Urvashi tried her level best to attract Arjuna by captivating gestures and postures. Arjuna with his iron will was quite unshakable. This offended Urvashi.
Rejecting her efforts to win his love made her so angry, she cursed him. As he could not return her love, thus disappointing her, she cursed that he would turn into an eunuch. Immediately regretting her hasty words and impressed with his self-controlled behavior, she modified her curse, saying that it would be effective for only one year, whenever he wished for it.
Her curse was a boon which would help Arjuna successfully go through the period of incognito, so he could be unrecognized. Arjuna bowed to her with gratitude. Indra was very proud of Arjuna for his steadiness in his state.
In the forest after Arjuna’s departure, the Pandavas were a bit low in their sprit. All of them loved him dearly, so they really missed him. He was the favorite brother. They kept thinking about his safety and at times feared about losing him. Yudhishthira often blamed himself for creating distress for all his brothers and Draupadi, which buried him in sorrow.
His brothers and Draupadi would cheer Yudhishthira up by praising Arjuna’s bravery and wisdom. Bhima and Draupadi continued their constant badgering about fighting to get their kingdom back, as they both believed it to be the right thing that kshatriyas would do.
One day, as the two brothers Yudhishthira and Bhima were arguing, Sage Brihadvasa came to visit them. The Pandava brothers and Draupadi welcomed him, duly paying their respects. They took care of his needs and gave him a comfortable seat.
Yudhishthira lamented to the sage in a distressed tone, saying, “Oh Sage, the cheaters invited us to play the dice game and have taken all our wealth and kingdom. Due to this, my brothers, the incomparable warriors, and my dear wife are in exile in the forest. My brother Arjuna, who went to acquire divine weapons, hasn’t returned for a very long time. We feel lifeless without him. Could you kindly tell us if our dear brother would return? When will we see him? We are in great grief. No one would have ever suffered the way I am suffering now. I am the most unfortunate and unhappiest man of all.”
Sage Brihadvasa spoke kindly to Yudhishthira, identifying his self-pity. He said, “Don’t dwell in grief. Arjuna will return after receiving the divine weapons and blessings. You will defeat your enemies. You said there is no other man as unfortunate, who has suffered like you. That is not correct. There once lived a king who was more unfortunate and his sufferings were far greater than you could ever imagine. All that was due to a very small negligence. The result of this, he not only lost his kingdom but also his senses, mind and experienced hardships and embarrassment in life. Let me tell you his story.”
Thus, Sage Brihadvasa started narrating to them the mind-blowing and heart-wrenching story of King Nala of Nishada.
More to come…
2. Mount Kailasa – https://www.flickr.com/photos/vincentdesplanche/12219182375
3. Shiva and Arjuna – https://www.indiadivine.org/arjunas-penance-pasupataastra
4. Shiva, Parvati and Arjuna – https://chithirapoomalai.wordpress.com/2022/01/25/mh_03_01-shiva-and-arjuna
5. Shiva, Parvati and Arjuna – https://www.researchut.com/hindu-mythology/arjuna-and-shiva/#gsc.tab=0
6. Urvashi and Arjuna – https://srimadmahabharat.blogspot.com/2018/05/46b-urvashi-curses-arjuna.html