Monday, April 20, 2009

PDE Mahabharata: Bhima and the Nagas

Reading Guide. It does not take long for Duryodhana's hatred of his cousins to escalate into a sinister plot: in this episode, he attempts to kill Bhima, the second of Pandu's sons and strongest of the Pandavas. This episode is the first of many occasions when the Pandava heroes encounter supernatural beings. In this case, Bhima goes down into the underworld king of the mighty serpents who are called nagas, and as a result of this adventure, he becomes supernaturally strong.

Image: If you look at a detail from the image, you will see that those are some bloodthirsty snakes attacking Bhima!

Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [300 words]

Pandavas and Kauravas | 13. Bhima and the Nagas | Drona

It chanced that the young men had gone to dwell in a royal palace on the banks of the Ganges. One day, when they feasted together in the manner of warriors, Duryodhana put poison in the food of Bhima, who soon afterwards fell into a deep swoon and seemed to be dead. Then Duryodhana bound him hand and foot and cast him into the Ganges; his body was swallowed by the waters.

But it was not fated that Bhima should thus perish. As his body sank down, the fierce snakes, which are called nagas, attacked him, but their poison counteracted the poison he had already swallowed, so that he regained consciousness. Then, bursting his bonds, he scattered the reptiles before him, and they fled in terror.

Bhima found that he had sunk down to the city of serpents, which is in the underworld. Vasuki, king of the nagas, having heard of his prowess, hastened towards the young warrior, whom he desired greatly to behold.

Bhima was welcomed by Aryaka, the great-grandsire of Kunti, who was a dweller in the underworld. He was loved by Vasuki, who, for Aryaka's sake, offered great gifts to fearless Bhima. But Aryaka chose rather that the lad should be given a draught of strength which contained the virtues of a thousand nagas. By the king of serpents was this great boon granted, and Bhima was permitted to drain the bowl eight times. He immediately fell into a deep slumber, which continued for the space of eight days. Then he awoke, and the nagas feasted him before he returned again unto his mother and his brethren, who were mourning for him the while.

Thus it fell that Bhima triumphed over Duryodhana, for ever afterwards he possessed the strength of a mighty giant. He related unto his brothers all that had befallen him, but they counseled him not to reveal his secret unto the Kauravas, his cousins.

Pandavas and Kauravas | Bhima and the Nagas | Drona

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