Reading Guide. Remember that as young boys, the Pandava brothers lived in the wilderness with their mother Kunti before she brought them to live in Hastinapura. Now they are living in the wilderness once again, and they will face many dangers while they living in hiding.
Image. In the illustration you can see Bhima's four brothers looking on; Arjuna carries his characteristic weapon — the bow.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [800 words]
The Pandavas, having escaped through the subterranean passage, hastened southwards and entered the forest, which abounded with reptiles and wild animals and with ferocious man-eating asuras and rakshasas of gigantic stature. Weary and footsore were they all, and greatly oppressed with sleepiness and fear. At length the mighty Bhima lifted up all the others and hastened on through the darkness: he took his mother on his back, and Madri's sons on his shoulders, and Yudhishthira and Arjuna under his arms. He went swifter than the wind, breaking down trees by his breast and furrowing the ground that he stamped upon. The whole forest was shaken as with fear.
At length the Pandavas, fatigued and athirst and heavy with sleep, found a place to rest in safety, and they all lay down to slumber below a great and beautiful banyan tree except mighty Bhima, who kept watch over them.
Now there lived in the forest on a shala tree a ferocious rakshasa named Hidimba. He was of grim visage and terrible to behold; his eyes were red, and he was red-haired and red-bearded; his cheeks were of cloud color and his mouth was large, with long, sharp-pointed teeth which gleamed in darkness; his ears were shaped like to arrows; his neck was broad as a tree, his belly was large, and his legs were of great length.
The monster was exceedingly hungry on that fateful night. Scenting human flesh in the forest, he yawned, and scratched his grizzly beard, and spoke to his sister, saying, "I smell excellent food, and my mouth waters; tonight I will devour warm flesh and drink hot, frothy blood. Hasten, now, and bring the sleeping men unto me; we will eat them together, and afterwards dance merrily in the wood."
Then the rakshasa woman went towards the place where the Pandavas slept. When she beheld Bhima, the long-armed one, clad in royal garments and wearing his jewels, she immediately fell in love with him, and she said to herself, "This man with the shoulders of a lion and eyes like to lotus blooms is worthy to be my husband. I will not slay him for my evil brother."
Now a rakshasa woman has power to transform herself, and this one at once assumed the shape of a beautiful woman; her face became as fair as the full moon; on her head was a garland of flowers, her hair hung in ringlets; delicate was the hue of her skin, and she wore rich ornaments of gold with many gems. Timidly she approached Bhima and spoke to him, saying, "O bull among men, who art thou and whence comest thou? Who are these fair ones lying in slumber there? Hear and know that this forest is the abode of the wicked chieftain of the rakshasas. He is my brother and hath sent me hither to kill you all for food, but I desire to save thee, O long-armed one. Be thou my husband. I will take thee to a secret place among the mountains for I can speed through the air at will."
Said Bhima, "I cannot leave my mother and my brethren to become food for a rakshasa."
The woman said, "Let me be thy servant. Awaken thy mother and thy brethren, and I will rescue you all from my fierce brother."
Said Bhima, "I will not awaken them from pleasant and needful slumber because I do not fear a rakshasa. O fair one, thou canst go as it pleaseth thee, and I care not if thou dost send thy brother unto me."
Meantime the rakshasa chieftain had grown impatient. He descended from his tree and hastened after his sister, with gaping mouth and head thrown back. Darkly blue was his body, like to a raincloud.
The rakshasa woman said to Bhima, "He cometh hither in wrath. Awaken thy kinsfolk, and I will carry you all through the air to escape him."
Said Bhima, "Look on my arms, which are strong as the trunks of elephants; my legs are like iron maces, and my chest is indeed powerful and broad. I will slay this man-eater, thy brother."
The rakshasa chieftain heard the boast of Bhima, and he fumed with rage when he beheld his sister in comely human guise and said to her, "I will slay thee and those whom thou wouldst fain help against me." Then he rushed against her, but Bhima cried, "Thou wilt not kill a woman while I am near. I challenge thee to single combat now. This night will thy sister behold thee slain by me as an elephant is slain by a lion."
Said the rakshasa, "Boast not until thou art the victor. I will kill thee first of all, then thy friends, and last of all my treacherous sister."
Having spoken thus, he rushed towards Bhima, who nimbly seized the monster's outstretched arms and, wrestling violently, cast him on the ground. Then as a lion drags off his prey, Bhima dragged the struggling rakshasa into the depths of the forest, lest his yells should awaken the sleepers. There they fought together like furious bull elephants, tearing down branches and overthrowing trees.