Mahabharata : Vana Parva Part 2 Read the story of Nala Damayanti as narrated by Brihadaswa rishi to Yudhisthira in the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata.

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Arjuna’s tapasya
Arjuna, after learning the science of Prateesmrithi, leaves for the Himalayas. There, in Indrakela, a mountain, he encounters a brahmana who is fierce and glowing. The brahmana stops him and says, ”In this region, there is no requirement for weapons. What are you doing with your Gandiva and other weapons?And who are you?”Arjuna says, ”I am a kshatriya. The weapons are my company. I cannot leave them behind. ”The brahmana argues with him, but Arjuna is firm. He is clear in his mission. And finally, the brahmana reveals his true form to Arjuna. He is Indra himself! Arjuna is Indraputra-the son of Indra. Arjuna is very happy to see Indra, his father. He prostrates, and asks Indra, ”O Indra!Please give me the celestial weapons. ”Indra says, ”After you get the blessings of Shankara, I will definitely give you the celestial weapons. ”And hence Arjuna starts his tapasya, his highly intense tapasya, to please Shankara and obtain the astras from Shankara – Shiva Himself.
In the first month of his tapasya, he eats only dry leaves. The second month, he eats once in a fortnight and just sips water. After that, he does not even consume water; he survives on air, standing on one leg with upraised arms. All the rishis and the devas are concerned, because such intense tapasya generates a lot of heat. They approach Lord Shiva and say, ”The kshatriya Arjuna is doing immense tapas. Please gratify him so that others can live in peace.”

Arjuna and the Kirata
Shiva agrees. He is aware of it. And hence, he appears as a kirata, a hunter, along with Parvati. A rakshasa named Mukha assumes the form of a boar and plans to attack Arjuna. Arjuna becomes aware of the boar and he shoots his arrow. At the same instant, the hunter, who is Shiva in disguise, shoots his arrow. Both the arrows pierce the boar and it dies. Now, there is a duel between Arjuna and the kirata. Arjuna says, ”How dare you attack my target?” The hunter says, ”Nobody has said that it is your target. Whoever attacks it first gets the boar. And my arrow pierced the animal first. ” Arjuna is extremely angry. He shoots arrows at him, but nothing happens to the hunter. Arjuna’s inexhaustible quiver of arrows gets exhausted! Arjuna is not able to understand this, and no matter what weapon he uses, all of them fail to even touch the hunter. Arjuna now tries to fight the hunter with his bare hands. A single blow from Shankara, and Arjuna almost faints. Shankara is very happy with Arjuna. Then, Shiva and Parvati reveal their form, their glorious, effulgent form, and the whole region lights up with their effulgence. Arjuna, through his tapasya, can perceive the brilliance of Shankara. Without tapasya, no human mortal can. We cannot even look at the sun, how could we look at someone much beyond the sun, like Shankara? Shankara blesses Arjuna and gives him the Pashupata astra, which is his own astra. Shiva and Parvati, after blessing Arjuna, leave to their abode.

Kirātārjunīya (Sanskrit: किरातार्जुनीय, Of Arjuna and the Kirāta) is a Sanskrit kavya by Bhāravi, written in the 6th century or earlier. It is an epic poem in eighteen cantos describing the combat between Arjuna and Lord Shiva at Indrakeeladri hills in present-day Vijayawada in the guise of a kirāta or mountain-dwelling hunter. Along with the Naiṣadhacarita and the Shishupala Vadha, it is one of the larger three of the six Sanskrit mahakavyas, or great epics. It is noted among Sanskrit critics both for its gravity or depth of meaning, and for its forceful and sometimes playful expression. This includes a canto set aside for demonstrating linguistic feats, similar to constrained writing. Later works of epic poetry followed the model of the Kirātārjunīya

Arjuna receives devastras
Then, the celestials, the gods Varuna, Yama, Indra and Kubera arrive. They are very happy with Arjuna. Hence, Varuna gives his Pasha, his noose, which is his celestial weapon, to Arjuna. Yama gives him his mace, which is his celestial weapon. Kubera too gifts him his celestial weapon, and all of them bless Arjuna and leave to their abodes. Finally, Indra blesses him and Matali, the charioteer of Indra, takes Arjuna to Indra loka.
The depiction of all this is very wonderful. It may seem almost too good to be true, but it is factual. It is definitely not imagination.

Arjuna at Amaravati
So Arjuna sees many celestial beings all around on his way to Indra loka. Finally he arrives at Amaravati. There, Indra is seated on the throne in all grandeur with all the gandharvas, apsaras, and the devas surrounding him. It is such a brilliant vision in his palace of Sudharma- the sabha of Indra. When Arjuna is made to sit beside Indra, he shines forth like a second Indra, to everybody’s astonishment. Everyone recognizes that he is Nara, the great sage and friend of Rishi Narayana. They have been born as Krishna and Arjuna to uplift the earth and relieve its suffering. Arjuna learns how to master the various celestial weapons, their mantras, how to invoke them, and how to revoke them. One by one, all the celestial weapons merge within Arjuna.
The astras are depicted as doors that are not just physical weapons, but that can be invoked with specific mantras, which require a certain purity of the person using them. If the person is not pure enough, the astra can burn the person who is using it. Astras are actually a science that is now lost to the world, as we do not understand these principles. The astras also obey the will of the person who is using them. For example the Brahmastra that is used by Arjuna will work differently when Karna uses it. To give a modern day analogy, if we consider a car, we find that according to the will of the driver, the same car performs differently. Similarly, these astras work differently according to the purity of the persons involved, their tapasya and their will.

Urvashi’s curse
The astras are wonderful weapons, and all the celestial astras merge within Arjuna. He further learns music and dance from Chitrasena, the gandharva chieftain of Indra loka. Once, during a performance by the apsaras, Indra notices that Arjuna’s attention is held by Urvashi, and hence he asks Chitrasena to inform Urvashi of this. Urvashi prepares herself to visit Arjuna. When she visits him, Arjuna falls at her feet and says, ”You are like my mother. How can I treat you like any other woman?”Urvashi says, ”The laws that apply in Deva loka are not human laws. Human beings have laws based on age, but in Deva loka, there is no age, and no decay. There is eternal youth. These laws work differently. So please satisfy me. I have come to you. ”Arjuna remains at her feet and says, ”You are my mother. I cannot accept you. ”Urvashi, her desire thwarted, is extremely angry. When we are looking forward to something, when we desire something very much, and that desire is thwarted, anger arises. So, in her anger, she curses Arjuna. ”Since you did not display manliness, you be a eunuch, amongst women. Women will not look at you as a man. You will not be able to satisfy them. ” Arjuna is heart-broken, as he had not done anything wrong. On hearing about this incident, Indra laughs in glee, and says to Arjuna, ”Even great rishis were not able to avoid the advance of Urvashi. Now, her pride is broken. Her pride in her superior beauty, in her ability to attract anyone, has been broken by a mere mortal. O Arjuna, you have done a wonderful thing. ” Indra reduces the curse to take effect for just a period of one year and says, ”It will definitely be useful for you in the thirteenth year, when you will have to live undiscovered by anybody. ”Because Arjuna is so famous, that wherever he goes, everybody recognizes him. So this curse becomes a blessing in disguise.

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