Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Arjuna included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Arjuna

The third of the Pāṇḍavas.


Descended from Viṣṇu thus: Brahmā, Atri, Candra, Budha, Purūravas, Āyus, Nahuṣa, Yayāti, Pūru, Janamejaya, Pracinvān, Pravīra, Namasyu, Vītabhaya, Śuṇḍu, Bahuvidha, Saṃyāti, Rahovādi, Raudrāśvan, Matināra, Santurodha, Duṣyanta, Bharata, Suhotra, Suhotā, Gala, Gardda, Suketu, Bṛhatkṣetra, Hasti, Ajamīḍha, Ṛkṣa, Saṃvaraṇa, Kuru, Jahnu, Suratha, Viḍūratha, Sārvabhauma, Jayatsena, Ravyaya, Bhāvuka, Cakroddhata, Devātithi, Ṛkṣa, Bhīma, Pratīca, Śantanu, Vyāsa, Pāṇḍu, Arjuna.

Previous birth.

Arjuna and Śrī Kṛṣṇa are often referred to as Naranārāyaṇas (Nara and Nārāyaṇa). In their previous life they were two Ṛṣis called Nara and Nārāyaṇa, and from that time onwards they lived as inseparable companions and sons of the same parents. They entered Mahāsamādhi at Badaryāśrama in the Himālayas. Of the two Nārāyaṇarṣi was a partial incarnation of Viṣṇu. About the Nararṣi the Devī Bhāgavata has the following to say: "Dharma had his origin in the heart of Brahmā, and he earned great reputation for truthfulness and adherence to Vedic dharma. He married the daughters of Dakṣa. Dharma had four sons, Hari, Kṛṣṇa, Nara and Nārāyaṇa. Of the four sons Hari and Kṛṣṇa became great yogīs, and Nara and Nārāyaṇa, great tapasvins. Nara and Nārāyaṇa did tapas, worshipping Brahmā for 1000 years at the holy Badaryāśrama in the plains of the Himālayas. Nara was born in the next birth as Arjuna. (Devī Bhāgavata, 4th Skandha). See Nara.


To Vicitravīrya son of Śantanu was born Dhṛtarāṣṭra by Ambikā, and Pāṇḍu by Ambālikā. Pāṇḍu had two wives, Kuntī and Mādrī. The curse of a Muni made physical contacts with his wives impossible for Pāṇḍu. (See Pāṇḍu). Kuntī, before her marriage had attended on Maharṣi Durvāsas who pleased with her service made a gift of five mantras to her. The effect of the mantras was that Kuntī would become mother of a son from him about whom she was thinking while she repeated the mantra. As soon as she got the mantras she retired to a solitary place and thinking of the Sun-God repeated the first mantra. At once Sūryadeva appeared and Karṇa was born to her by him. After assuring her that the incident would not affect her chastity Sūrya disappeared. Kuntī abandoned the child to float in the river Gaṅgā, and stayed with Pāṇḍu keeping the other four mantras to herself. Since Pāṇḍu could not contact the body of his wives, with his permission Kuntī began practising the other four mantras one by one. By three mantras she got three sons, Dharmaputra from Kāla, Arjuna from Indra and Bhīmasena from the wind God (Vāyu). The remaining one mantra Kuntī gave to Mādrī. She repeated it thinking of the Aśvinī Devas, and two sons, Nakula and Sahadeva were born to her. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 63 onwards).

Festival of birth.

At the birth of Arjuna Kuntī heard a heavenly voice declare as follows: "Oh! Kuntī! your son will be equal to Śiva in prowess and unconquerable just as Indra is. After defeating all the Kings he will perform the Aśvamedha thrice. He will please Śiva and get the great weapon called Pāśupata from him. On the orders of Indra he will kill Nivātakavacas. Hearing the above prophecy the Devas played ecstatic music and flowers were showered from the sky. The Saptarṣis, Prajāpatis and other sages arrayed themselves in the sky. Thus, all animate and inanimate objects celebrated the birth of Arjuna.


Sages from the top of the Śataśṛṅga mountain came together to perform the christening ceremony of Arjuna. While enumerating the various names of Arjuna, it is said in the Virāṭa Parva that Kṛṣṇa was the name Pāṇḍu gave to his son. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 123, Verse 20).


The Pāṇḍavas spent their childhood at Hastināpura with the Kauravas. Then Arjuna studied the art and science of using weapons, dance, music etc. along with the other boys. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 129, Verse 1). Kaśyapa, the high priest of Vasudeva did for Arjuna the usual Saṃskāras like Upanayana (wearing of the holy thread) etc. Arjuna was taught the first lessons in Dhanurveda (Science of archery) by Rājarṣi Śuka. Afterwards, Kṛpācārya became the preceptor of the Pāṇḍavas in Dhanurveda, and it was then that Droṇācārya came. There is a particular story about Droṇācārya becoming the guru. (See Droṇa).

Special favour of Droṇa.

Arjuna showed very great interest in the science of the use of weapons. Droṇa, the master, wanted to teach Aśvatthāmā, his son, certain special things, and he began sending all his disciples to fetch water. Aśvatthāmā used to be the first to return with the water, and before the others returned Droṇa began teaching Aśvatthāmā the special lessons. Arjuna came to understand this programme and he began returning with water along with Aśvatthāmā. Then the guru began teaching the special things to both Aśvatthāmā and Arjuna. Droṇa instructed the cook not to serve Arjuna food in the darkness. While Arjuna was once taking his food, wind blew out the burning lamp, and Arjuna alone continued eating. Because of constant practice Arjuna was quite sure about the position of the hand and the mouth in the process of eating, and Arjuna surmised from this that archery also could be practised in darkness. He began practising them. The guru came to know of it, and witnessing Arjuna’s performance praised Arjuna as a unique archer. (Bhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 132).

Ekalavya’s finger was cut.

Ekalavya, son of Hiraṇyadhanus, King of the Niṣādas (a tribe of hunters, forestmen) approached Droṇa to learn the science of the use of weapons. Droṇa, the Brahmin, refused the prayer of this prince of the forest tribe. Ekalavya, after prostrating at the feet of Droṇa returned to the woods, made an image of Droṇa with earth and meditating upon it as guru began practising the use of weapons.

The Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas went hunting in the forest. Seeing there Ekalavya with his matted hair and clad in deer skin the hunting dogs began barking at him. Ekalavya shot into the mouth of the dog seven arrows at one and the same moment. With the arrows thrust in the mouth the dogs ran back to the Pāṇḍavas, and they found out the culprit, Ekalavya, who claimed himself to be a disciple of Droṇa. Grief-stricken at this claim Arjuna hurried up to Droṇa and said: "You had pronounced me to be your foremost disciple without an equal. But, today Ekalavya, another disciple of yours has relegated me to the second place". Thereupon Droṇa went and saw Ekalavya in the forest. Ekalavya, in all devotion stood up and saluted the guru. And the guru said as follows: "Oh! Ekalavya if thou art my disciple give me the dakṣiṇā (fee) due to the guru, and I desire to get the thumb of your right hand as my fee". At once Ekalavya cut his thumb and gave it to Droṇa. Henceforth Arjuna became Droṇa’s unequalled disciple. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 132).

Arjuna got Brahmaśirāstra.

When once Droṇa and his disciples were bathing in the river Gaṅgā, a whale caught hold of the leg of the guru. The combined efforts of the disciples failed to extricate the leg from the grip of the whale. Ultimately Arjuna shot an arrow and released the guru’s leg. Greatly pleased at this Droṇa imparted to Arjuna knowledge about Brahmaśirāstra, and Arjuna was enjoined not to use the astra against men, but to use it only when confronting higher beings than men. [Bhārata (Malayalam), Ādi Parva, Chapter 133].

Competition in arms.

When the training of the princes was almost over Dhṛtarāṣṭra decided to have a rehearsal of their attainments, and the scene for it also was set. The princes with bows and arrows appeared on the scene. Yudhiṣṭhira and others first exhibited their skill in shooting arrows in the order of their seniority. Every scene was explained to Dhṛtarāṣṭra by Vidura and to Gāndhārī by Sañjaya. Duryodhana and Bhīma clashed with each other. Aśvatthāmā pacified them and kept them apart. And, then Arjuna and Karṇa appeared on the scene, and the onlookers declared them to be equal in skill in archery. When their shooting exhibition was over, Karṇa who got angry again rushed to the stage. Arjuna also got ready. Arjuna challenged Karṇa’s eligibility on the ground that he was low-born and not a Kṣatriya. At once Duryodhana proclaimed him as the King of Aṅga. Though this pacified the scene, this competition in archery served much to make the Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas the bitterest of enemies. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapters, 136, 137).

Arjuna’s gurudakṣiṇā (Offering of fee to the preceptor).

At the starting of training the princes Droṇa told them: "I have one thing in mind, and you must do it for me when you have completed the course of training. All the disciples except Arjuna kept silent at this, but Arjuna promised to fulfil the guru’s wish at the proper time

The training was over, and it was time for gurudakṣiṇā. Droṇa asked to be brought bound before him Drupada, King of Pāñcāla. (For Droṇa’s enmity towards Drupada see Drupada). Thereupon the Pāṇḍavas marched to Pāñcāla, and in a fierce battle Arjuna defeated Drupada. Though Bhīma tried to kill Drupada Arjuna did not permit it, but took him bound to Droṇa. This ended Droṇa’s hatred towards Drupada, who now gifted half his kingdom to Droṇa. Droṇa was very much pleased with Arjuna for the above act, and advised him to fight even him (Droṇa) if the latter opposed him (Arjuna). To this Arjuna replied 'Yes'. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 139, Verse 14). With this promise to fight even the guru in case the guru attacked him Arjuna became the most reputed archer in Bhārata.

Jealousy of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.

After the gurudakṣiṇā Arjuna marched against the neighoouring kingdom. He defeated very easily in war the King of Yavana and the Kings Sauvīra, Vipula and Sumitra. These victories of Arjuna made the Kauravas very anxious; Dhṛtarāṣṭra brooded over it. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 138, Verses 20-23).

Escape from the waxen palace.

Duryodhana made up his mind to destroy the Pāṇḍavas somehow or other. He got the Pāṇḍavas to shift their residence to a palace made of wax at Vāraṇāvata, and one year after this the palace was set fire to. The Pāṇḍavas escaped death by fire through a tunnel and entered the forest, the next day. (See Arakkillam).

Arjuna on the banks of river Ga gā.

The Pāṇḍavas walked much through the terrible forest, and after midnight reached the banks of the Gaṅgā. At that time Aṃgāraparṇa (Citraratha), the Gandharva was enjoying his time in the river with some Apsarā women. The presence of men at the scene, the Gandharva did not relish. Arjuna and the Gandharva crossed in words, which led to a duel. In the duel the Gandharva was defeated. As the wife of the Gandharva prayed with tears in her eyes Arjuna spared him his life. The grateful Gandharva told the Pāṇḍavas many interesting stories. He also made a present of divine horses and imparted to them the esoteric knowledge called Cākṣuṣīvidyā. The Gandharva finally told the Pāṇḍavas that they were attacked because they came without Agni and Āhuti in their front. He also explained this fact that Arjuna could subjugate him on account of his (Arjuna's) genuine celibacy. (See Citraratha).


Citraratha, during his talks with the āṇḍavas had pointed out to them the need to have a priest to lead and guide them in all matters, and accordingly they visited Dhaumyāśrama and installed the Maharṣi (Dhaumya) as their priest.

And, meantime seeing thousands of people on their way to attend the Svayaṃvara (marriage by open choice of husband by the girl) of Kṛṣṇā (Pāñcālī) daughter of the King of āñcāla, the Pāṇḍavas also followed the crowd. Veda Vyāsa, whom the Pāṇḍavas met on their way blessed them. King Drupada wished to give his daughter Kṛṣṇā in marriage to Arjuna. The news that the ṇḍa as were burned to death in the palace of wax grieved Drupada. Yet he had made arrangements for a trial of strength by Heroes at the Svayaṃvara. A tremendous bow was got ready and installed on the ground, and a machine constructed which was kept suspended in the air. The target was placed inside the machine. And then Drupada spoke thus: "My daughter shall be married to him who will bend the bow and with the first arrow hit the target placed inside the machine". (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 155, Verse 11). Great warriors like Duryodhana, Karṇa, Śiśupāla, Śiṃśumāra took their seats in the marriage hall. All the kings failed even to lift the bow up. Ultimately Arjuna lifted the bow and hit the target very easily. Pāñcālī put the wedding garland on Arjuna’s neck. When the Pāṇḍavas returned to their mother with Pāñcālī in the evening the mother from inside her room said: "What you have got today, my sons, you enjoy among yourselves." Kuntī said this under the impression that what her sons had got was some Bhikṣā. At any rate, in obedience to the above injunction of the mother Pāñcālī became wife to the five Pāṇḍavas. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapters 190, 191).

Arjuna at Indraprastha.

The svayaṃvara of Pāñcālī broadcast news about the whereabouts of the Pāṇḍavas. Dhṛtarāṣṭra brought them back to Indraprastha, and installed them in a new palace built at the place called Khāṇḍavaprastha. (Indraprastha). Dharmaputra ruled a part of the country with Indraprastha as capital. Nārada went there once and advised the Pāṇḍavas to guard themselves against mutual quarrels as the five of them claimed one and the same woman as wife. Thenceforth it was set forth that Pāñcālī would live with each husband in turn for one year. It was also settled that during a particular year if any other husband than the one whose turn it was to live with Pāñcālī saw her the intruder was to go on a pilgrimage for one year.

Once a brahmin came to the palace complaining that his cows were stolen by thieves, and Arjuna promised to help him. Arjuna did so without remembering that all his weapons were stored in Dharmaputra’s palace. That year Pāñcālī was living with Dharmaputra. Forgetting the fact Arjuna went to Dharmaputra’s palace, got his weapons and helped the brahmin. For thus breaking the rule Arjuna left his palace on a pilgrimage for one year.

17A) Arjuna married Ulūpikā and Citrāṅgadā. Arjuna with his bow and arrows went into the forest. Many brahmins followed him. Arjuna reached the banks of Gaṅgā and entered the waters for a bath. Here Arjuna was attracted by Ulūpikā, daughter of the Nāga King and he married her. A son was born to them called Irāvān. After visiting places like Agastyavaṭam, Vasiṣṭhagiri Arjuna reached Manalur. He married Citrāṅgadā, daughter of Citrāṅgada, King of Manalur. After a stay of three months there he went southwards. Citrāṅgadā gave birth to a son named Babhruvāhana.

17B) The mark on Arjuna’s flag is Hanūmān, and the following story is attached to it. Arjuna, once during a tour of the country was much surprised to see the Dam constructed by Śrī Rāma from Rāmeśvara to Laṅkā. He also felt that it was not at all proper on the part of Śrī Rāma to have sought the help of monkeys to construct the dam. Śrī Rāma could have made a dam with arrows. Arjuna put this question to a great scholar (Pandit) who was sitting nearby reading the Rāmāyaṇa. Neither the Pandit nor the other brahmins gathered there could give a convincing answer to Arjuna’s doubts. Then a monkey child went up to Arjuna and told him with pride that a dam made of arrows would have broken when the monkeys walked on it. Arjuna said then, "no, no, no monkey will be able to break the dam built with Rāma’s arrows; which monkey will break a dam of arrows made even by me?" And, a debate began about the subject. The monkey and Arjuna agreed to a bet that if a monkey broke the dam made by Arjuna he would end his life by jumping into fire, and if the monkey could not break the dam it would for ever be Arjuna’s slave. Arjuna constructed a dam with arrows. And, as soon as the monkey set foot on it it was broken. Arjuna tried again. Though now it caused some efforts on the part of the monkey the dam broke this time also. Arjuna was thus left with no alternative but to die by jumping into fire and a fire was accordingly lit. Before Arjuna jumped into the fire a brahmin boy, who was bathing in the river ran upto Arjuna and told him that his attempt at self annihilation was not justified as the bet was made without an arbiter. When Arjuna who was wedded so much to truth brushed aside this argument and got ready to end his life the boy said: "If you are so very insistent about it you (Arjuna and the monkey) compete once again with me as arbiter. This suggestion of the boy was accepted. The monkey child tried its best to break the dam, but it failed. It developed its body to the size of a mountain and jumped on the dam. Even then it did not break. Then he ran up to the boy who was acting as arbiter and prostrated at his feet crying 'Rāmacandra'. At the same moment Arjuna also prostrated before the boy crying 'Śrī Kṛṣṇa, slave to devotees'. The boy asked both of them to get up, and after admonishing them for their conceit gave them good advice. He also asked the monkey child to keep his word by remaining as the emblem of Arjuna’s flag.

(The monkey boy was actually Hanūmān and the brahmin boy Śrī Kṛṣṇa).

17C) Arjuna married Subhadrā. Arjuna went to the holy place called Saubhadratīrtha and redeemed the woman named Vargā from the curse she was labouring under. (See Vargā). Arjuna continued his journey and reached Gokarṇa and Prabhāsa tīrtha, where he met Gada, brother of Śrī kṛṣṇa. Gada described to Arjuna the great beauty of his sister, Subhadrā. Arjuna went to Dvārakā and paid his respects to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. A few days later the yādavas celebrated a great festival at mount Raivataka. Arjuna went there disguised as a Sannyāsin and forcibly took away Subhadrā with him with the permission of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Though the yādavas got ready for a fight they were ultimately pacified, and Subhadrā was married to Arjuna. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter, 218-224).

17D) Brahmin boy saved. When once Arjuna was in Dvārakā with Śrī Kṛṣṇa a brahmin appeared on the scene lamenting that his child died as soon as it was born. Nobody paid any heed to this, and then Arjuna rose up and assured protection to the next child to be born to the brahmin and asked him to return home in peace. Arjuna also vowed that he would end his life by jumping into fire if he failed to protect the next child of the brahmin.

As the time for the delivery of his wife approached the brahmin took Arjuna home. Arjuna made the house secure by making an enclosure with his arrows. Yet the child died; not only that, at the time of birth itself its body disappeared. And, the brahmin heaped insults on Arjuna, who looked very foolish. Rendered thus an object of ridicule Arjuna began to make a fire for him to jump into. At this Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared before Arjuna and prevented him from jumping into fire. And then both Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna went to Viṣṇuloka and submitted the case of the brahmin to him. Viṣṇu told them: "Oh! Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, it was I who took away the brahmin boys for the pleasure of seeing you both here. You may immediately return with the brahmin boys. And, Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna returned with the boys to the brahmin, who now felt very happy. (Bhāgavata, Daśama Skandha, Chapter 89).

17E) Burning of Khāṇḍava forest. While Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna were spending their days on the banks of river Yamunā in the summer season Agni Bhagavān (the fire-god) requested them to give the Khāṇḍava forest as food to him. (See Khāṇḍavadāha). Arjuna agreed to oblige Agni Bhagavān, who presented to Arjuna the bow called Gāṇḍīva, a white horse and many other powerful arrows. When Agni began burning the forest, Indra sent a heavy shower of rain. By creating a tent with arrows Arjuna saved the forest from the rain. Arjuna killed Takṣaka’s wife, cursed the N ga called Aśvasena and saved Maya, the architect of the Asuras who was put up in the forest. Indra was pleased and gifted many divine arrows to Arjuna. Maya gave the famous conch, Devadattam to Arjuna. By now the one year of the pilgrimage of Arjuna was over and he returned to Indraprastha. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapters 233-239).

17P) Fight between Arjuna and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. (See Gālava, para 4).

Again to the forest.

Maya, who escaped death in Khāṇḍava forest, in his great gratitude, went to Indraprastha, and with the permission of Dharmaputra built for the Pāṇḍavas an exceptionally beautiful palace. And then the Pāṇḍavas made the conquest of all the earth, and after killing enemy kings like Jarāsandha, the Kimpuruṣas, the Hādakas, Śiśupāla, Kurundha and Bhagadatta returned to Idraprastha and performed the Rājasūya yajña. The Kauravas who got jealous at this went on a visit to Indraprastha. When they entered the palace built by Maya they were put into many a ludicrous situation. (See Sabhāpraveśa). Insulted and humiliated they returned to Hastināpura and challenged the Pāṇḍavas to a game of dice, and in the game the Pāṇḍavas lost not only their kingdom and other riches, but Pāñcālī as well. Duśśāsana dragged Pāñcālī and stripped her of her clothes in the royal assembly and thus mercilessly insulted her. According to the terms and condition agreed to with reference to the game of dice, the Pāṇḍavas had to lead forest life for twelve years and live for one year incognito. The Pāṇḍavas again started for the forest. (Mahābhārata, Sabhā Parva).

Pāṇḍavas in Kāmyaka forest.

A number of brahmins also accompanied the Pāṇḍavas to the forest. The noble brahmin, Śaunaka consoled the aggrieved Dharmaputra in the Dvaitavana. Dharmaputra felt worried that he could not feed the brahmins who accompanied him into the forest. Pāñcālī prayed to the Sun-God, and he gave the Akṣayapātra to her. (See Akṣyapātra). And, after this the Pāṇḍavas, along with the brahmins, entered the Kāmyaka forest. (Mahābhārata, Araṇya Parva, Chapter 36).

Arjuna secured divine arrows.

Dharmaputra asked Arjuna to do tapas in the Himālayas and thus secure divine arrows. Accordingly Arjuna went south and saw Indra in the Indrakīla mountain. Indra gave him boons. There Arjuna killed Mūkāsura. And, then Arjuna went to Mount Kailāsa and prayerfully concentrated his mind on Śiva. Śiva appeared in the guise of a forest dweller. (See Pāśupatāstra). After that he got the Daṇḍāstra from Yama, Pāśāstra from Varuṇa and Antardhānāstra from Kubera. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapters 37-41).

Arjuna in Indraloka.

Indra, who was so very pleased that Arjuna got so many divine arrows deputed his charioteer, Mātali, to bring Arjuna to Devaloka, and at Devaloka he learned more about archery and music. The Apsarā women forgot themselves when they saw the exceptionally handsome Arjuna. Urvaśī, mad with love, sent her messenger Citrasena to Indra. Being told about Urvaśī’s love Arjuna closed both his ears with hands, and reminded the messenger of Urvaśī’s maternal position with reference to him. Urvaśī cursed and turned Arjuna into an eunuch. Indra consoled Arjuna by assuring him that Urvaśī’s curse will turn out to be of great benefit to him. Afterwards Arjuna stayed in Devaloka for a few days with Citrasena, and during the period he killed Nivātakavaca and Kālakeya.

Arjuna became a friend of Maharṣi Lomaśa, who had gone to Devaloka to see Indra. Promising Arjuna that he would protect Dharmaputra Lomaśa returned to the earth. Arjuna left the Kāmyaka forest and returned to his brothers after an absence for five years. He met the brothers at Mount Gandhamādana. (Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapters 42-47).


At last a witty and humorous brahmin went to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and dilated upon the hardships being suffered by the Pāṇḍavas, and Duryodhana and others were extremely pleased and happy to hear it. Yet, they shed crocodile tears. But, Duryodhana was in a mighty hurry to see with his own eyes the pitiable plight of the Pāṇḍavas. On the pretext of going out for hunting Duryodhana and others with the permission of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, started for the forest with a number of attendants. 8,000 chariots, 30,000 elephants, thousands of infantry soldiers, 9,000 horses, merchants, ornaments, courtesans and thousands of hunters formed this procession into the forest. Just like roaring winds during the rainy season the procession caused thunderous noise. Duryodhana approached the pool in the Dvaita forest and waited at a distance. (Mahābhārata, Araṇya Parva, Chapter 239, Verses 25-29).

Duryodhana and attendants put up tents in the forest. The Gandharvas obstructed Duryodhana, and he and the Gandharva called Citrasena clashed with each other. Duryodhana was made a prisoner. Arjuna came on the scene and released him. And, thus humiliated Duryodhana returned to Hastināpura with the attendants. (Mahābhārata, Āraṇya Parva, Chapters 239-253).

Arjuna lost consciousness.

While once Pāñcālī was alone King Jayadratha forcibly took her away. Within seconds the Pāṇḍavas confronted Jayadratha and regained Pāñcālī. Jayadratha and his men were killed. The Pāṇḍavas, who were very weary and tired walking in the forest felt extremely thirsty. Nakula, at the instance of Dharmaputra climbed a tree and looked around and sighted a pool of clear water. When Nakula went to the pool and began to draw water a voice from above was heard saying as follows: "Do not be so very daring. This is my ancestral wealth. If you answer my questions you may not only drink the water but also take some with you". Without paying any heed to this warning Nakula drank water from the pool, and lo! he fell down unconscious immediately. Sahadeva who went to the pool in search of Nakula and drank water from the pool also met with the same fate as Nakula. Arjuna and Bhīma also had the same fate at the pool. Lastly Dharmaputra went to the pool and understanding what happened to his brothers requested permission to drink water. At once a Yakṣa appeared and brought the brothers of Dharmaputra back to consciousness. In fact, the Yakṣa was none other than Yamadharmadeva. (For questions and answers of the Yakṣa see Dharmaputra.) (Mahābhārata, Araṇya Parva, Chapters 312-315).

Life incognito.

Now the twelve years of forest life being over the Pāṇḍavas decided to spend the one year of life incognito in the Virāṭa palace. Arjuna disguised himself and deposited his clothes and weapons in the hollow of a Śami tree in the forest. And the Pāṇḍavas in various disguises reached the Virāṭa palace. They assumed false names: Dharmaputra as Kaṅka, Bhīma as Valāla, Arjuna as Bṛhannala, Nakula as Granthika and Sahadeva as Ariṣṭanemi and Draupadī as Mālinī.

When the life incognito of the Pāṇḍavas for one year was about to expire a rumour reached the Kauravas that the Pāṇḍavas were at the Virāṭa capital, and the Kauravas thought that the Pāṇḍavas will appear on the scene if a war was fought against King Virāṭa. The Kauravas, with this object in view, lifted the cows of Virāṭa and that led to war. Uttara, the prince of Virāṭa boasted that he would fight provided he had a good charioteer. Bṛhannala (Arjuna) agreed to act as such and they started for the warfield. At the sight of the massive army of the Kauravas Uttara got frightened and tried to run away from the field. But Bṛhannala tightly bound Uttara to the chariot, drove it very fast to the forest, took back from the hollow of the Śami tree his weapons and returned to the battle-field. The Kauravas were absolutely defeated in the war and they took to their heels. They understood that the very clever and terrible warrior in disguise was Arjuna himself. But, by the time the period of the Pāṇḍavas life incognito was over. The king of Virāṭa, greatly pleased over this victory in war gave his daughter, Uttarā in marriage to Abhiṃanyu, son of Arjuna. (Mahābhārata, Virāṭa Parva).

Preparations for war.

After the forest life and life incognito the Pāṇḍavas returned. The Kauravas refused to give them half the Kingdom. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, on behalf of the Pāṇḍavas, implored that half the kingdom or five districts or five houses or at least one house be given to them. But the Kauravas took the stand that not even an iota of land would be given to the Pāṇḍavas. And, war was perforce decided upon. Duryodhana went to Kṛṣṇa at Dvārakā to request for support in war. Kṛṣṇa, who favoured the Pāṇḍavas lay in false sleep as he did not want to fight against them. Duryodhana sat at the head of Kṛṣṇa. Arjuna, who came after some time sat at the feet of Kṛṣṇa and remained there standing. Awakening from sleep, it was Arjuna whom Kṛṣṇa saw first. After the greetings were over with Arjuna, Kṛṣṇa saw Duryodhana also. Between Kṛṣṇa without any arms and the armed forces of Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna chose Kṛṣṇa and Duryodhana his armed forces to help each side in the impending war. (Udyoga Parva).


Both the Parties were encamped in Kurukṣetra ready for war. Śrī Kṛṣṇa acted as Charioteer to Arjuna. He stopped the chariot in between the opposing armies. Arjuna felt deep anguish to find his own people arrayed on the opposite side for war. Reluctant to kill relations, elders, friends and preceptors Arjuna laid down his arms in the chariot. Then did Kṛṣṇa instruct him in Karmayoga (the philosophy of action). That instruction and advice of Kṛṣṇa is the world-famous Bhagavad Gītā. The Gītā cleared off Arjuna’s illusions and he praised the Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who revealed his all comprehensive form (Viśvarūpa) to Arjuna.

On the first day of the war Arjuna fought a duel with Bhīṣma, and the second day he fought the Kaurava forces with exceptional prowess. And then Arjuna prevented Kṛṣṇa from killing Bhīṣma. But, the Kaurava army faced defeat that day. On the third day Arjuna defeated Bhīṣma, Aśvatthāmā, Trigartta, Bhagadatta and others. Thereupon a really fierce fight began. The war lasted for 18 days. The important incidents during the 18 days can be summarised as follows:—(1) Fierce fight between Arjuna and Bhīṣma. (2) Fight between Arjuna and Aśvatthāmā. (3) Arjuna destroyed the Kaurava army. (4) Irāvān, son of Arjuna, was killed. (5) Arjuna fought against Droṇa and Suśarmā. (6) Took the vow to kill Bhīṣma. (7) Śikhaṇḍī prompted to kill Bhīṣma. (8) On the appearance of Śikhaṇḍi the Kaurava army, took fright and fled in great disarray. (9) Arjuna fought a duel with Duśśāsana. (10) Duel with Bhagadatta. (11) Duel again with Bhīṣma. (12) Bhīṣma fainted and fell on the ground. (14) With Śikhaṇḍī in the front made an attack on Bhīṣma. (15) Arjuna discharged three arrows to serve as pillow to Bhīṣma who, dislodged from the chariot, was lying on a bed of arrows. (16) Cool water sprinkled on the face of Bhīṣma with the aid of divine arrows. (17) Fought against Droṇa and defeated his forces. (18) Satyajit deputed to remain with Dharmaputra to help him. (19) Sudhanvā killed. (20) Again fought with Bhagadatta. (21) Supratīka, the elephant of Bhagadatta killed. (22) And after that, Bhagadatta also killed. (23) Vṛṣaka and Acala killed by Arjuna. (24) Śakuni defeated. (25) Arjuna killed the three brothers of Karṇa and confronted Karṇa. (26) Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna, killed. (27) Hearing about the death of Abhimanyu, Arjuna fell down unconscious. (28) Awakened, Arjuna vowed to kill Jayadratha. (29) Arjuna performed Śiva Pūjā. (30) Arjuna dreamt that night to have paid homage to Śiva along with Kṛṣṇa and that Śiva gave him divine arrows like Pāśupata. (31) Marched forth routing the elephant regiment of Durmarṣaṇa. (32) Routed Duśśāsana in fight. (33) Again fought Droṇa, Kṛtavarmā, Śrutāyudha, Sudakṣiṇa, King of Kāmboja. (34) Sudakṣiṇa killed in fight. (35) Śrutāyu, Acyutāyu, Niyutāyu, Ambaṣṭha and the Mlecchas' army killed. (36) Vinda and Anuvinda killed. (37) Warfield converted into a house of arrows, on account of the great collection of arrows. (38) Arjuna defeated Duryodhana. (39) Fought the nine great warriors on the Kaurava side. (40) Arjuna cut off the right hand of Bhūriśravas at the instance of Kṛṣṇa. (41) Cut off the head of Jayadratha with arrows. The head and the arrows were thrown on the lap of Jayadratha’s father. (42) Alambuṣa, King of Rākṣasas killed. (43) Daṇḍadhāra killed with his elephant. (44) Arjuna killed the six brothers of Suśarmā, viz., Satyasena, Candrasena, Mitrasena, Śrutañjaya, Sauśruti and Mitradharmā (45) Difference of opinion arose between Dharmaputra and Arjuna about the failure to kill Karṇa, and in the heat of excitement Arjuna called his elder brother 'thou'. (46) Immediately repenting Arjuna drew sword to kill himself. But, regained mental peace by begging pardon of the brother. (47) Killed Vṛṣasena, son of Karṇa, (48) Karṇa brought down Kṛṣṇa’s crown by his arrow resembling the face of the serpent. Enraged at this Arjuna killed Karṇa. (49) Killed Satyakarmā, Satyeṣṭha and others. (50) After bowing to Vyāsa, Arjuna withdrew arrow. (Mahābhārata, Bhīṣma, Droṇa, Karṇa, Śalya and Sauptika Parvas).

After the war.

In the great war the Kaurava army, to the very last man, was annihilated. The Pāṇḍavas assembled together. Thoughts about the future came up. Śrī Kṛṣṇa consoled the sorrowing Dharmaputra. As desired by Vyāsa, Kṛṣṇa, Dharmaputra and others returned to Hastināpura and took up the reins of governing the country, and the idea of performing an Aśvamedha Yāga was seriously mooted. A King named Marutta agreed to give money needed for the yajña. Arjuna defeated all enemy kings. (Mahābhārata, Śānti Parva).

Death and rebirth of Arjuna.

On his way back after digvijaya Arjuna was killed by the arrows of his son, Babhruvāhana. Immediately did Ulūpī, Arjuna’s wife bring back to life her husband by Mṛtasañjīvanī mantra. Then Arjuna questioned Ulūpī about the reason for his son killing him, and also as to how she happened to be present at the time. Ulūpī described the story of a curse in answer to Arjuna’s querry. (Mahābhārata, Aśvamedha Parva, Chapter 79).

The story of the curse.

Ulūpī said: You shall not get angry. Yes, all is for the best. In war you killed Bhīṣma by unrighteous means, viz. with the help of Śikhaṇḍī. On his death, the Aṣṭavasus and Gaṅgā Devī cursed you with hell. I told about this curse to my father, who begged the Vasus for redemption, and they said that you would be redeemed from the curse when your son, Babhruvāhana, killed you. Accordingly he has been brought here to kill you.

The above story pleased Arjuna. (Aśvamedha Parva, Chapter 81).


Arjuna again defeated Meghasandhi, the King of Magadha, Śakuniputra and others and returned to Hastināpura, where the Aśvamedha yajña was performed. The Yādava dynasty was extinguished before long. Arjuna did all the rites due to them on death. He grieved over the departure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. (Bhāgavata, Skandha 11, Chapter 31). And then he went to Indraprastha with the consorts of Kṛṣṇa. On the way dacoits overcame Arjuna and snatched away some of the females. Arjuna felt very sad. Then Vyāsa appeared and told him that he would be strong and powerful only in the presence of Kṛṣṇa. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 15).

Pāṇḍavas' journey to the other world.

Now, it was time for the Pāṇḍavas to journey to the other world. It was at this juncture that the Yādava dynasty ended and Śrī Kṛṣṇa was killed, and some of Kṛṣṇa’s consorts were abducted. Arjuna could not save them, and they jumped into the river and died. Arjuna, who lost all his power began the great journey with his brothers. On their way Agnideva advised him to deposit reputed bow, Gāṇḍīva in the sea, and Arjuna did so. (Mahāprasthāna Parva, Chapter 1, Verses 1-42). The Pāṇḍavas continued their journey, Yudhiṣṭhira leading them. They reached the Himālayas, and there Pāñcālī expired. To Bhīma’s querry as to why Pāñcālī expired first, Yudhiṣṭhira replied that it was due to her having been more partial to Arjuna. The others continued their journey and then Sahadeva died. Yudhiṣṭhira explained that Sahadeva died second due to his arrogance and conceit. And, the others continued going forward. An emaciated dog was already with the Pāṇḍavas during their journey. Nakula was the third to die, and Yudhiṣṭhira attributed it to his (Nakula) extreme conceit about his beauty. And, Arjuna’s death next, Yudhiṣṭhira said, was due to his having not kept his vow, once made, to kill the whole lot of enemies in a day. After proceeding a short distance further Bhīma also fell dead, and Yudhiṣṭhira thought to himself that it was due to Bhīma’s voracious eating. And, then Devendra came in his chariot of gold and welcomed Yudhiṣṭhira to Svarga. But, he refused the offer saying that he would not do go alone, leaving his brothers behind. When Indra assured him that his brothers were already there, in Svarga, Yudhiṣṭhira got into the chariot and reached Svarga, and he was elated to find his brothers there happy with Pāñcālī. (Mahāprasthāna Parva and Svargārohaṇa).

The meanings of the word, Arjuna.

(1) White. "śuklaśubhraśuciśveta-viśadaśvetapāṇḍavāḥ avadātassito gauro valakṣo dhavalo'rjunaḥ hariṇaḥ pāṇḍuraḥ. (amarakośa) (2) the plant called vīrataru. nadīsarjo vīratarurindradṛuḥ kakubhor'rjunaḥ. (do) (3) grass. śaṣpam bālatṛṇaṃ ghāso yavasam tṛṇaṃarjunam. (do) (4) indra." (Ṛgveda, Chapter 1, Anuvāka 7, Sūkta 112).

Synonyms used in the Mahābhārata of Arjuna.

Aindri, Bhārata, Bhīmānuja, Bhīmasenānuja, Bībhatsu, Bṛhannala, Śākhāmṛgadhvaja, Śakraja, Śakranandana, Śakrasūnu, Śakrātmaja, Śakrasuta, Śvetāśva, Śvetahaya, Śvetavāha, Devendratanaya, Dhanañjaya, Gāṇḍīvabhṛt, Gāṇḍīvadhanvā, Gāṇḍīvadhārī, Gāṇḍīvī, Guḍākeśa, Indrarūpa, Indrasuta, Indrātmaja, Indrāvaraja, Jaya, Jiṣṇu, Kapidhvaja, Kapiketana, Kapipravara, Kapivaradhvaja, Kaunteya, Kaurava, Kauravaśreṣṭha, Kauravya, Kirīṭamāli, Kauraveya, Kirīṭabhṛt, Kirīṭavān, Kirīṭī, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇasārathi, Kuntīputra, Mahendrasūnu, Mahendrātmaja, Nara, Pākaśāsani, Pāṇḍava, Pāṇḍaveya, Pāṇḍunandana, Pārtha, Paurava, Phālguna, Prabhañjanasutānuja, Savyasācī, Tāpatya, Tridaśeśvarātmaja, Vānaradhvaja, Vānaraketana, Vānaraketu, Vānaravaryaketana, Vāsavaja, Vāsavanandana, Vāsavātmaja, Vāsavi, Vijaya.

Origin of certain words.

Towards the close of his life incognito, Arjuna went to the Śami tree to take out Gāṇḍīva kept in its hollow. Uttarā also was with Arjuna. Then Arjuna revealed himself to Uttarā, and also elaborated the meaning of his various names as follows:—

I shall tell you my ten names. Arjuna, Phālguna, Jiṣṇu, Kirīṭi, Śvetavāhana, Bhībhatsu, Vijaya, Kṛṣṇa, Savyasācī and Dhanañjaya....I am called Dhanañjaya, because even after having conquered all the lands and amassed wealth I stand in the centre of righteousness ....I am called Vijaya because in fights with haughty opponents I always succeed.....I am called Śvetavāhana because white horses are harnessed in war to my chariot decked with golden ornaments....I am called Phālguna because I was born in the month of Phālguna and under the star, Phālguna...I am kirīṭī because during my fight with the Daityas I put on my head crown glowing as Sun...I am called Bībhatsu by men and Devas because I never resort to revolting means during war...Devas and men call me Savyasācī because both my hands are adept in using the bow, Gāṇḍīva....I am Arjuna because, in the world people are rare who possess such fair colour as I do, and moreover I do only white (just and ethical) acts....I am called Jiṣṇu, because I am unassailable and unconquerable, and I subjugate and conquer, and also because I am the son of Indra...My father gave me the tenth name of Kṛṣṇa because I was very attractive (Kṛṣṇa=attractive). [Mahābhārata (Malayalam)].

Wives of Arjuna.

(1) Pāñcālī (2) Ulūpī (3) Citrāṅgadā (4) Subhadrā.

Sons of Arjuna.

Śṛtakirīṭi, Irāvān, Babhruvāhana, Abhimanyu.

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