Wednesday, December 10, 2008

PDE Mahabharata: Arjuna and Shiva

Reading Guide. Arjuna, meanwhile, goes on another series of solo adventures. The first time he went out on his own was because of the exile imposed when he violated Draupadi's private time with Yudhishthira; this time, he will go out on his own to acquire the weapons the Pandavas will need at the end of their exile when they will, once again, have to face the jealous Duryodhana and his brothers. Arjuna is the son of the god Indra, but the god Shiva will also play a very important role in his life, as you will see below.

SourceMyths of the Hindus and Buddhists by Sister Nivedita (1914). [700 words]

Krishna's Visit | 43. Arjuna and Shiva | Indraprastha

A holy man came to visit the retreat of the brothers and said to Yudhishthira, "Thou art troubled, O king, about the rival strength of thy friends and thy foes. For that have I come to thee. There is none in the world who can defeat thy brother Arjuna if once he betakes himself to the mountains and obtains the vision of the Great God. By his hand are all thine enemies destined to be slain. Let Arjuna go to the mountains, and there alone let him fast and pray."

Arjuna, therefore, thus selected, took vows of austerity, promising to be turned aside by nothing that he might meet, and set out for the Himalayas. Passing through the thick forests, he soon reached the very breast of the mountains and established himself there, amidst trees and streams, listening to the songs of birds and surrounded by fair blossoms, to practice his vow of prayer, vigil, and fast. Clad in scant clothes made of grass and deer-skin, he lived upon withered leaves and fallen fruits, and month after month he reduced his allowance of these till in the fourth month he was able to live on air alone, taking no other food whatever. And his head looked like lightning because of his constant bathing and purification, and he could stand day after day with arms upraised without support, till the earth began to smoke and the heavenly beings to tremble from the heat of Arjuna's penance.

One day, as he performed his morning worship, offering flowers to a little clay image of the Great God, a boar rushed at him, seeking to slay him. And Arjuna, in whom the instincts of the soldier and the sportsman were ever uppermost, seized his bow and arrows and rose from his worship to kill the creature. At that moment the forests had grown strangely and solemnly still. The sound of springs and streams and birds had suddenly stopped. But Arjuna, with his mind still on his half-finished worship, did not notice this. Stringing his bow, he shot an arrow and hit the boar.

At the self-same instant the beast was struck by another dart, seemingly as powerful, and with a roar he fell and died. But in Arjuna the wrath of a sportsman had blazed up, and apparently in his unknown rival also, each to find his own shot interfered with at the last moment. For there stood towering above him, as angry as himself, a huntsman, seemingly some king of the mountain tribes, accompanied by his queen and a whole train of merry followers. His form was blazing with energy, and he was saying, "How dared you shoot? The quarry was mine!"

"Let us fight for it!" said Arjuna, and the two began to turn their arrows on each other. To the mortal's amazement, the body of the huntsman swallowed up his darts without seeming any the worse, and Arjuna could only shoot till his quiver was empty.

"Let's wrestle then!" he cried, and threw himself upon his opponent. He was met by the touch of a hand on his heart, and instead of continuing his combat he turned at once to finish his worship.

Taking up a garland of flowers, he threw it about the image, but the next instant it was on the neck of the mountain king. "Great God! Great God!" cried Arjuna, falling in a rapture at the feet of his unlooked-for guest. "Pardon thou my blows!"

But the Great God, well pleased, put out his hand and blessed his worshipper and granted him the boon of divine weapons, such as could be hurled by the mind, by the eyes, by words, and by the bow. Never should such weapons be used till all others had been exhausted. Never should they be used against feeble foes. For so they might in truth destroy the universe. Then the Great God gave to Arjuna Gandiva, the divine bow, and, blessing him, turned and left that mountain with its vales and caves and snowy heights, and went up into the sky with all his train.

Such was the Kirat-Arjuna, Arjuna's vision of Mahadeva, the Great God, as a Kirata, or huntsman.

Krishna's Visit | Arjuna and Shiva | Indraprastha

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