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Vana Parva


Chapter One

The First Days of Exile


After leaving the city of Hastinapura, the Pandavas traveled north and eventually came to the bank of the Ganges. They were being followed by many pious citizens who could not bear separation from those saintly kings. The citizens of Hastinapura did not want to live in a kingdom where Duryodhana and his followers ruled. They thus petitioned the Pandavas, "All blessings upon the sons of Pandu! Where will you now go, leaving us in grief? We are distressed learning that your kingdom has deceitfully been taken away by the conniving Duryodhana. It behooves you not to forsake us, because we are your loving subjects. Deterioration of good qualities will certainly manifest by living in the kingdom of the Kuru king, Duryodhana. Please listen as we describe the merits and demerits from association with what is good and what is bad. As cloth, water, earth, and sesame seeds are scented by association with llowers, similarly we are endowed with good qualities as a product of your association. Association with fools produces an illusion that entangles the mind; but daily communion with the pious and wise leads one toward the path of liberation. Therefore, those that desire emancipation should associate with those who are devoted to God, and are wise, honest, pure in conduct and prone toward asceticism. Those persons should be served whose knowledge and actions are all pure, and this association is superior to study of the scriptures. Devoid of religious acts as we are, we shall gain religious merit by association with the righteous, just as one would engage in sin by associating with the sinful. The very sight, touch, association, or conversation with the dishonest causes one to lose purity of mind. Association with base persons impairs spiritual growth, whereas association with self realized souls exalts it. Those attributes found in the Vedas pertaining to religious qualities and extolled by the wise exist simultaneously in you. O sons of Pandu, because we desire our own welfare, and because you possess all exalted qualities, we wish to live with you in the forest."

King Yudhisthira knew that the citizens could not follow his term of exile in the forest, and compassionately he addressed them, "Dear citizens, we are certainly blessed that you, who are moved by affection and compassion, credit us with merits we do not possess. Your affection for us can never be forgotten, and we also are always thinking of your welfare. We request one thing from you, and we hope you will consent to our desire. You should not, through affection and pity, act otherwise. Our nearest relatives are very much aggrieved by our absence. Bhishma, Drona, the King, my mother Kunti and many others are overwhelmed by separation and need solace. Therefore, if you are inclined to please us, serve their every need. Grieved at our departure, you have come a far distance. Please go back, and set your hearts towards serving these great souls. This, above all other things, is the one thing that causes me anxiety; and by showing concern for the Kuru elders, you would bestow upon me peace of mind and pay me the highest regard."

Thus requested in such a humble way by King Yudhisthira, the citizens cried loudly, exclaiming, "Alas, O King, how will we live without you!" Afflicted and overwhelmed with certain separation, the pious citizens, tears of love falling from their eyes, remembered the virtues of Kunti's sons, and unwillingly retraced their steps back to Hastinapura. The citizens were unwilling to leave King Yudhisthira's association, but out of love for the King, they did what he asked.

Almost all the citizens returned to Hastinapura with the exception of certain brahmanas who could not be persuaded to go back. They spent that night with the Pandavas in the forest by the bank of the celestial Ganges. Yudhisthira felt that he could not fulfill the needs of those pious brahmanas to his satisfaction, and therefore, he humbly requested them, "Our kingdom has been plundered in gambling, and we do not possess anything. We are inhabitants of the forest and are dependent on begging for our sustenance. This forest is also full of dangers. Myself and my brothers are distressed at the loss of our kingdom and the insults to our queen Draupadi. I cannot say that we would be able to support you with food on a daily basis."

"There should be no anxiety on your part, O King," the brahmanas replied, "for we shall find our own food in the forest. We cannot give up your company for you are religion personified. We are devoted to saintly persons, and we wish to help you in every way."

"Without doubt, it must be as you say," Yudhisthira said, "for I am ever pleased with the association of saintly persons. However, how will I be able to see such worshipful persons, who do not deserve to endure any kind of hardship, subsisting on food found in the forest? O shame upon the wicked sons of Dhritarastra!"

After contemplating the situation, Yudhisthira went to his priest, Dhaumya and inquired "These brahmanas are following us to the forest out of affection. At the present moment we are burdened with many calamities, and I am unable to support them. Tell me, O holy one, what should I do in this circumstance?"

"The sun god Vivasvan is the source of all food grains and vitality on earth," Dhaumya replied. "If you worship and pray to him, he will certainly show you his favor."

Yudhisthira, desiring the brahmanas welfare, followed the instructions of Dhaumya, and sat down to begin his meditation upon the Sun God Vivasvan. He fasted from any food or drink. After some time he entered the Ganges and remained in that position, half submerged in the water. He worshiped the sun god with prayers and survived only on air. Very soon the Sun God Vivasvan was pleased with Yudhisthira and appeared before him. The Sun God offered a boon, "O King Yudhisthira, all your desires will be fulfilled. I shall provide you with food for this thirteen year period. Accept this copper pot which shall fulfill your needs. Whatever little amount is cooked in this pot in the form of fruits, vegetables, milk products and grains will become inexhaustible. It will last only as long as Draupadi has not eaten her meal from it. All good fortune to you, King Yudhisthira. After your term of exile is finished, I shall see you regain your kingdom." Vivasvan then disappeared.

After receiving this benediction from the Sun God, Yudhisthira rose from the water, touched the feet of Dhaumya and embraced his brothers. He went to Draupadi and told her the potency of the copper pot bestowed upon him by the Sun God. Yudhisthira then personally prepared the evening meal consisting of four different kinds of food. With only a little food prepared, he fed the entire host of brahmanas. By the mystic power of the copper pot the small amount of food multiplied. There was also enough to satisfy the hungry Bhima, his other brothers and himself. When Draupadi had finally eaten her portion, the pot became exhausted.

After the Pandavas had entered the forest, the blind King Dhritarastra called for his brother Vidura, and inquired from him, "O Vidura, you are conversant with the laws of morality, and you look on all the Kauravas with an equal eye. Please give advice on the proper course of action for myself and my sons. According to providence things have now taken their course. What should we do now? How may I secure the goodwill of the citizens so that they may not destroy us at the roots?"

"The three purposes of life: profit, pleasure and salvation have their foundation in virtue," Vidura replied. "Therefore, O monarch, to the best of your ability treat equally the sons of Pandu and your own sons. You should return to the Pandavas what was taken away by the sinful Duryodhana. If you do this, your son may again take his position among honest men. A king should be content with what he has acquired by his own endeavors and never desire another's possessions. Your prime duty is to chastise Shakuni and to reinstate the Pandavas in their proper status. If you do not do this, then certainly this dynasty will meet with disaster. Abandon this child of yours, Duryodhana, for the good of your dynasty. Putting Duryodhana aside, coronate Yudhisthira as the King of the earth. Yudhisthira is known as Ajatrashatru or one who was born without an enemy. He will be able to rule this world free from passion. Duryodhana, Shakuni and Karna should be subordinate to the the Pandavas, and Duhshasana, in open court, should beg forgiveness from Draupadi and Bhimasena. If you follow this course of action, then all the citizens of the earth will offer homage to the Kuru dynasty. You have asked me how to counsel you, and I have given the proper answer."

"This counsel favors the Pandavas over my son," Dhritarastra said. "My mind does not approve of this. How can I abandon my son for the sons of Pandu? The Pandavas are certainly to be protected like my sons, but Duryodhana has come from my body. How can I renounce my body for the sake of others. O Vidura, your counsel is crooked. You may either stay or go as you like. I have no more affection for you." Dhritarastra then rose and left. Vidura thought, "The dynasty is doomed." He decided to join the Pandavas in the forest.

The Pandavas had left the banks of the Ganges and proceeded to the Yamuna River. After crossing that sacred river, which was the play area of Lord Krishna in His youth, the Pandavas headed in a westerly direction. On the banks of the Saraswati river they saw the forest of Kamyaka. They decided to spend some time there. Vidura learned about their location and followed their path through the forest; soon, he found them. Yudhisthira was excited to see his uncle. Vidura was moved with compassion at the sight of the Pandavas, and Yudhisthira had to comfort him with sweet words. Vidura then told Yudhisthira about the argument he had with his brother, which caused him to come to the forest. Yudhisthira was happy to have Vidura with him, and immediately made arrangements for his comfort.

Meanwhile, in Hastinapura King Dhritarastra began to regret the argument he had with Vidura. He felt keen separation from Vidura, whom he loved much and who always gave him good counsel. Feeling as if he could not live without Vidura, he ordered Sanjaya to find Vidura and bring him back to the palace. Following the instructions of the King, Sanjaya ascended a chariot and began his search for Vidura. He found him in the Kamyaka forest and humbly begged him on behalf of his blind brother to return to the palace. Vidura felt it was his duty to try to save Dhritarastra, and thus he returned to Hastinapura.

Hearing that Vidura had returned and that the King had pacified him, Duryodhana began to burn in grief. He called for Shakuni, Karna and Duhshasana, and expressed his evil intentions, "The learned Vidura has returned to the palace. He is always seeking the welfare of my enemies. If he again induces the King to call the Pandavas back to this city, I will take poison and kill myself. I will never again see the Pandavas in opulence."

Wanting to comfort Duryodhana, Shakuni said, "O King, do not think in this way. The Pandavas will never come back from the forest for they are righteous men and always keep their vows. Even if the King calls them back, they will not come, for they are bound by the cord of the thirteen year exile."

Karna then advised Duryodhana in a way that bolstered his heart, "Please hear my opinion, O kings of the earth. Now is the time to put on armor, and taking up our weapons, kill the sons of Pandu as they live in the forest. When they are dead, then all in the palace will find peace." These sinful men, overcome by the influence of time, applauded Karna's words, and thus they started to execute their evil plan.

While these unprincipled men were conniving to kill the Pandavas, the great sage Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, the father of Dhritarastra, came to the palace. He immediately ordered them to desist from the heinous act in which they were about to engage. Vyasa then went to Dhritarastra and informed him, "O wise King, hear what I have to say! I will tell you what is salutary for the whole Kuru dynasty. I am not pleased that Pandu's sons have gone to the forest after being dishonestly defeated in gambling. O descendent of Bharata, when the end of the thirteenth year comes, the sons of your brother will shower death-dealing weapons like virulent poison. Why does your son, who has a wicked heart, seek to kill the Pandavas? He is a fool and should be restrained. In attempting to kill the Pandavas while they are in the forest, he will lose his own life. You should stop him from executing any further actions such as this one. Better let Duryodhana accompany the Pandavas in the forest, and if by chance they become attached to your son, then there will be good fortune in your family."

"O holy one," Dhritarastra replied to his father, "I did not like the idea of this gambling match, but I think I was made to consent to it by the will of providence. None of the members of the court agreed with what happened. And yet knowing everything and its consequence, I am unable to throw away my senseless son, because of my fatherly affection. If, however, you offer words of chastisement, maybe he will listen."

"The great sage Maitreya has come from the forest after visiting the Pandavas," Vyasadeva said. "He desires to talk with you, and also to influence your son. If you follow his advice, you will prosper, but if you neglect his words of wisdom, he will curse your son." Having said this much, Vyasadeva left the palace.

There then arrived at the entrance of the imperial court the great sage Maitreya. Dhritarastra greeted him warmly and worshiped him according to his position. Hearing that he had come from the Kamyaka forest, Dhritarastra inquired about the Pandavas. The great sage Maitreya replied, "Yes, I have seen the Pandavas in my travels on pilgrimage. I was surprised to see the great King Yudhisthira dressed in deerskin and wearing matted hair. I was shocked to see this and to hear what had happened because of this dice game. How could this have happened in your presence and in the presence of Bhishma? Because of this unscrupulous act, you have lost your reputation."

Then turning to Duryodhana, the great sage spoke compassionately, "O mighty armed prince, listen to my words. O King, do not seek a quarrel with the Pandavas. Those tigers among men are great heroes on the battlefield. Do you not remember that Bhima killed the powerful Jarasandha, who possessed the strength of ten thousand elephants? Bhima has also killed the very powerful Hidimva and Baka, and recently he has killed the great Rakshasa Kirmira. The Pandavas are related to Lord Krishna and have as their allies King Drupada and his followers. Do not think you can win such a war. It is better to make peace with the Pandavas and live happily in your kingdom."

While Maitreya was speaking beneficial words, Duryodhana listened with a smirk on his face. He hit his thigh again and again, and scratched the floor with his toes, not caring for the words of the Rishi. Maitreya, seeing the insolent behavior of the prince, thought of cursing him. With angry red eyes, he touched water and spoke the following condemnation, "Since you have ignored my advice, you will suffer the result. In a great war that will come after the term of exile, I say that Bhima will fulfill his vow and smash your thighs with a single stroke of his mace." When the muni had spoken this curse, Dhritarastra tried to pacify him, but his attempts were futile. Maitreya finally relented, "If Duryodhana makes peace with the Pandavas, my curse will not take effect; otherwise, it will act just as I have said."

The blind King, desirous of knowing Bhima's strength, wanted to hear about Kirmira's death, but the sage was angry and refused, "Vidura knows about how Bhima killed Kirmira. He will inform you of this event." After cursing Dhritarastra's son, the eminent sage left the palace.

Dhritarastra was very anxious to hear about the death of the powerful Rakshasa, Kirmira. He then inquired from Vidura, "O Vidura, I want to hear how the Rakshasa Kirmira, who had no equal, was slain by Bhima."

"Listen, O King," Vidura replied, "as I relate these events. Formerly blessed sages and brahmanas inhabited the forest of Kamyaka, but due to the presence of the Rakshasas, they could not live there peacefully. When the Pandavas attempted to enter the forest of Kamyaka, a frightful Rakshasa appeared before them blocking their path. There were eight teeth protruding out of his mouth, and his eyes were the color of flaming copper. The hair on his head was red like fire and stood erect in a fearful way. He was roaring loudly, petrifying all living creatures in the forest. The movements of his steps caused the very earth to tremble, and all the animals in the forest fled in terror. A violent wind arose, and dust scattered in all directions. Seeing the Pandavas were fearless in his presence, he obstructed their path, appearing like a huge mountain before them. Draupadi closed her eyes in horror, and her husbands surrounded her for protection. Dhaumya, who possessed great mystic power, chanted various mantras, destroying the fearful illusion created by the demon. With the illusion dispelled, the mighty Rakshasa expanded his eyes in rage, seeming like death personified to all living creatures. King Yudhisthira then inquired from the demon, 'Who are you and tell us why you are obstructing our path?''I am the brother of Baka' Kirmira replied, 'and the friend of Hidimva. My name is Kirmira. I am the lord of this Kamyaka forest, and I obtain my food by daily subjugating men in battle. By killing all of you, I shall feast on your flesh and blood. Who are you, and for what reason have you come to the Kamyaka forest?' Yudhisthira then informed the man eater, 'I am King Yudhisthira, the son of Pandu, and these are my brothers, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. I have been deprived of my kingdom and have now entered the forest for the period of thirteen years.'

Vidura continued, "Kirmira said to Yudhisthira, 'It is by good luck that fate has fulfilled all my desires. With my upraised weapons, I have been searching the earth to revenge the death of my brother Baka. I have been searching for Bhima, but now I see that he is present before me in the dress of a brahmana. Bhima has slain my brother, but truly I say that he is a coward, for he killed my brother Baka when he was hungry and weak. Bhima also killed Hidimva in the same way, and then by force he stole his sister. This fool has now come into the forest in the middle of the night when the Rakshasas are most powerful. By slaying this cruel Bhima, I will be freed from the debt I owe to my brother and my friends. I will kill Bhima and devour him before your very eyes!'

"When threatened by Kirmira, the pious Yudhisthira exclaimed, 'It can never be as you say.' The first son of Kunti then began to chastise the Rakshasa with strong words. Provoked by Kirmira's words, the mighty armed Bhima uprooted a tree thirty feet in height, clipping it of its branches and leaves. In a twinkling of an eye, Arjuna strung his Gandiva bow and stood ready for action. Bhima told Arjuna to stand aside and approached the Rakshasa challenging, 'Stand your ground! Do not flee!' Bhima then brought the tree down upon the head of the Rakshasa. Kirmira, however, did not move nor did he seem affected by that blow. The Rakshasa also uprooted a tree and approached Bhima, swinging it with all his might. It appeared like the mace of Yamaraja, but had no effect on Bhima. Bhima and the Rakshasa uprooted all the trees in that area with the intent of killing each other. When neither of those mighty armed heroes could defeat the other with trees, Kirmira tore up a huge boulder and flung it at Bhima. The boulder, however, bounced off Bhima's head, not harming him in the least. The Rakshasa then rushed at Bhima with his outstretched arms, intending to crush him to death. Bhima and the Rakshasa wrestled one another and struck one another with their fists that were as strong as thunderbolts. Remembering his hatred for Duryodhana and looking for some way to release that anger, Bhima seized the Rakshasa with his robust arms, throwing him on the ground with great ferocity. He then grabbed him by the waist and began to whirl him around till he became senseless. Lifting Kirmira up, he bounced him off the ground. The Rakshasa had become weak, and Bhima, grabbing him by the arms, squeezed him with all his strength. In great anxiety the Rakshasa screamed with his mouth wide open, causing the whole earth to tremble. He began to vomit blood, and his whole body was a mass of broken bones. Bhima then threw him on the ground, and placing his knee on his stomach and his hands around his neck, he strangled the Rakshasa to death. Upon witnessing the superhuman strength of Bhima, his brothers were struck with wonder and glorified his prowess. After the death of this terrible ogre, they then set out along with the brahmanas for the Dwaitavana forest.

Vidura said, "Thus Kirmira was slain by that king of the warriors, Bhimasena. As I was passing through the forest I saw the broken body of that fearless Rakshasa. I have heard of this achievement from the brahmanas present with Yudhisthira." Hearing the account of Kirmira's slaughter, King Dhritarastra sighed in sorrow and became absorbed in fearful thought.

Thus Ends The First Chapter of the Vana Parva, Entitled, The First Days of Exile.


Chapter Commentary


This feeling of intense separation that the citizens of Hastinapura felt for the Pandavas reminds one of when the great Lord Ramachandra was exiled to the forest by his father. Lord Rama is one of the incarnations of Lord Krishna, who appeared in the Treta yuga many millennia ago. At the time of Lord Rama's exile the citizens of Ayodhya also accompanied Lord Ramachandra to the forest unable to bear the separation of that great king. They considered the forest a better place to reside as long as Lord Ramachandra was there. They did not think living in Ayodhya with Kaikeyi to be of any value. The citizens of Ayodhya considered Ayodhya uninhabitable as long as Lord Ramachandra was there.

The value of association with the Lord and His devotees can never be minimized. Therefore, the holy scriptures state that one moment's association with a pure devotee of the Lord can guarantee one's success in life. Why is that? The reason is that hearing about the holy name, form and pastimes of the Supreme Lord Krishna from a pure devotee can give one the seed of pure devotional service by which one can attain pure love of God, the necessary item for entering the kingdom of God. If a fortunate person gets the seed of pure devotion and waters the seed, it will fructify into into a creeper that will take shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord and bear the fruit of loving devotion.

Real association with a devotee means to follow his instructions. There are two kinds of association with the spiritual master. One is by vapu or personal association and the other is by vani or instructions. Of the two, following the instructions of the spiritual master is the most important, for by this process, one will come to realize the personal presence of the spiritual master. The citizens of Hastinapura were right in following King Yudhisthira's order to return to Hastinapura and give solace to Kuru elders.

When Lord Chaitanya was traveling through south India, he met the Kurma brahmana. This brahmana was a householder who came to love Lord Chaitanya very much. In fact when the Lord left his village, he wanted to renounce everything and follow the Lord. However, the Lord instructed him, "Whoever you meet and whoever you see, instruct them in the message of Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam. In this way you will always have my association." (C.C. Madhya lila) Lord Chaitanya gave this same instruction to all those whom He met on His South Indian tour. Personal association is not as important as following the instructions of the spiritual master.

The Pandavas were always under the protection of Lord Krishna. They were blessed whether they were in the forest or their opulent kingdom. A devotee can live anywhere and always think of Krishna. When a devotee always keeps the Lord in his heart, he can turn hell into heaven. A devotee of the Lord is actually a holy place personified, because he has realized the presence of the Lord in his heart and in the heart of all living beings. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, "The yogi who knows that I and the Supersoul in all creatures are one worships Me and remains always within me in all circumstances." (B.g. 6.31)

The cause of Duryodhana was doomed. Just as one receives the seed of devotion and it fructifies into love of God in due course, so also one can plant the seed of offenses and sins; and in due course the seed will fructify and produce the sour fruits of suffering, misfortune and misery. Duryodhana had planted the seed offenses already by trying to poison Bhima, by trying to burn the Pandavas in a house of lac, by stealing away their kingdom, and by offending Draupadi. He kept watering the original seed of sin by more offenses. In this chapter Duryodhana has offended Maitreya Rishi, for which act Duryodhana is cursed by the Rishi to die by Bhima's mace. He has also displeased Shrila Vyasadeva and been labeled a fool. In a previous chapter Narada also cursed the cause of Duryodhana. Although it appears that Duryodhana has won sovereignty of the whole world, his plant of sin will soon fructify into the fruits of suffering when he faces the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war.



Chapter Two

Lord Krishna Visits the Pandavas


When Lord Krishna heard that the Pandavas had been cheated out of their kingdom by gambling, He went to the Kamyaka forest. He was accompanied by Dhristadyumna, Dhristaketu, the Bhojas, the Vrishnis and the Andakas. They were angered about the deceitful gambling match in Hastinapura and were ready to help Yudhisthira regain his kingdom. They offered respect to Yudhisthira that was due to an emperor. Seated in that assembly like the moon amongst the stars, Lord Krishna addressed the assembled kings, "The earth shall drink the blood of Duryodhana, Karna, Duhshasana, and the wicked Shakuni. After slaying these men in battle along with their allied soldiers, we will make Yudhisthira the emperor of this earth. The wicked deserve to be slain. My reason for being on earth is to establish the proper religious principles for all human beings."

Lord Krishna's anger increased as He thought of the offenses committed by the Kurus. He seemed bent upon annihilating the miscreants. Understanding the anger of Lord Krishna, Arjuna spoke to pacify Him, "O slayer of Madhu, material qualities like anger, envy, and cruelty can never exist in You. O Supreme Lord, who knows no deterioration, all saintly persons and rishis seek Your protection. It is only You who exists after the annihilation when this universe is drawn into Your own self. O thou of the Vrishni race, at the beginning of the millennium Brahma was born from Your navel on a lotus flower. He in turn created all mobile and immobile things. When the dreadful demons Madhu and Kaitava were bent on slaying Brahma, You became angry; and from Your forehead, Shambu (Lord Shiva) took his birth. Thus those two foremost deities have sprung from Your body in order to execute Your order. O Lord of all lords, I know this to be truth because it was Narada who instructed me. O Narayana, O God, O thou with eyes like lotus petals, the deeds You have performed while still a boy testify to Your unlimited power. Baladeva and Yourself have executed super human activities that have never been performed by others, nor in the future will they be performed by others."

Thus Arjuna glorified Lord Krishna, and the lotus eyed Lord, glancing lovingly at His devotee, responded, "My dear Arjuna, you are Mine, and I am also yours. All that belongs to Me also belongs to you. He that hates you, hates Me as well, and he that follows you also follows Me. O great soul, you are Nara, and I am Narayana. We are the rishis Nara and Narayana born in this mortal world for a special purpose. O Partha, we are inseparable, and no one can understand the difference that is between us."

When Draupadi heard Lord Krishna's words of love for Arjuna, she broke down in tears. Remembering how He had saved her from an embarrassing situation, she fell at His feet and offered humble prayers, "O Krishna, the great sages such as Asita and Devala have spoken of You as the cause of all causes and the creator of this manifested world. The great sage Jamadagni, the father of Parasurama, has said that You are Vishnu, the Lord of all created beings, both human and celestial. You are sacrifice, the performer of the sacrifice and the object of sacrifice. O foremost of all beings, O Lord of Lords, the great sage Narada has spoken of You as the master of all other deities, including Shiva and Brahma, whom You sport with as children sport with toys. O exalted one, the firmament is Your head and the lower planets are Your feet. The three worlds are in Your womb and this entire universe is Your body. You are the object of meditation and worship by all the great sages and brahmanas. O chief of all male beings, You are the only shelter for royal sages, who are devoted to virtuous acts, who never turn their backs in battle, and who have fulfilled their religious obligations. You are omnipresent, the soul of all things, and the active power pervading everything. The heavenly lords, heaven itself, the stellar conjunctions, the ten points of the horizon, the firmament, the moon and the sun are all established in You. All immoral and moral activities emanate from You.

"O slayer of Madhu, impelled by the affection You bear towards me, I will relate to You my grief. O Krishna, how could one like me, the wife of the Pandavas, the sister of Dhristadyumna and Your friend, be dragged into that assembly of sinful men. Those despicable men in the court at Hastinapura dragged me into their presence and attempted to strip me. The sinful Duhshasana touched my sanctified hair and pulled on my sari. None of the Kuru elders would help me, nor would my husbands do anything. O fie on the strength of Bhima and the Gandiva of Arjuna! They suffered me to be disgraced by small minded men. My husbands never forsake persons who ask their protection, and yet they abandoned me who requested it. Why do those who are gifted with strength in this assembly sit indifferently, beholding my afflicted state? Why do I have to burn in grief for so long? O my Lord, it was by Your causeless mercy that I was saved from that embarrassing situation. By remembering Your lotus feet, I was saved from the greatest danger. You are truly the only shelter in this dangerous material world, and You, my Lord, are the only one who can give all beings protection. You are the father, mother, grandsire, husband, and worshipable deity. O Krishna, we are now in another dangerous situation, having been exiled to the forest. Please give us Your protection."

Having spoken these words full of devotion and grief, Draupadi hid her face in her soft hands and began to weep. Tears fell from her lotus-like eyes, and the Supreme Lord, who is very kind to His devotees, pacified her with sweet words, "O chaste lady, the wives of those who have insulted you, shall weep. Soon you will see those men who have offended you lying on the ground, filled with Arjuna's arrows. Do not cry, O princess. You will soon see Yudhisthira crowned king, and the sinners punished for their crimes. You shall again be the queen of Kings. The heavens may fall; mount Himavat may crack; and the oceans may dry up, but My words will never prove to be futile."

After hearing the promise of Lord Achyuta, Draupadi glanced at Arjuna waiting for a response. And Arjuna understanding what she wanted said, "O lady with coppery eyes, do not grieve about these offenses committed against you. What the slayer of Madhu has said will certainly come to pass. It will not be otherwise."

Supporting Lord Krishna's vow, Dhristadyumna said, "My sister, do not cry. I promise you that I will kill Drona; Shikhandi will kill Bhishma; Bhima will kill Duryodhana, and Karna will be killed by Arjuna. Assisted by Balarama and Krishna, we are invincible in battle. The sons of Dhritarastra will not survive."

In the presence of all assembled, Lord Krishna informed King Yudhisthira, "If I had not been preoccupied with protecting Dvaraka, then this evil would have never befallen you. O irrepressible one, I would have attended this gambling match even without the invitation of Dhritarastra or Duryodhana. I would have prevented the gambling match from taking place by showing its many evils. Supported by Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Bahlika, I would have prevented these offenses from taking place. Womanizing, drinking, hunting, and gambling have been regarded as the four evils by which a man loses all prosperity. I would have pointed these evils out and their attendant miseries. If Dhritarastra had rejected my counsel, offered as medicine, then I would have compelled him by force. And if those who wait at his court professing to be his friends had supported him, then I would have slain them all. O Yudhisthira, O justice personified, it was due to My being preoccupied in protecting Dvaraka that you have fallen into such distress. It was only after a fierce battle with Shalva that I learned from Satyaki about this calamity. And, O foremost of kings, after hearing about your exile I immediately came here to assist you."

"O slayer of Madhu," King Yudhisthira inquired, "what happened at the city of Dvaraka that it had to be protected?"

"While I was attending the Rajasuya sacrifice in Hastinapura," Lord Krishna explained, "King Shalva attacked Dvarakapuri. Previously, he had attended the wedding ceremony of Rukmini in which she was to be married to Shishupala. When I kidnapped the beautiful Rukmini, Shalva fought with the Yadu dynasty and was defeated. At that time he took a vow that he would destroy all My family members. He worshiped Lord Shiva and received a benediction of an airplane called Saubha. This airplane could not be destroyed by any demigod, demon, human being, Gandharva, Naga, or even by any Rakshasa. The airplane could also fly anywhere and everywhere, and he strongly desired that it be a great danger to the Yadu dynasty. Lord Shiva agreed to the request of Shalva, and the demon Maya helped him to manufacture the airplane. It was more like a flying city than an airplane, and it could fly so high and at such a great speed that no one could see where it was. When Shalva had acquired this airplane, he decided to attack Dvaraka. When the demon heard of the death of his friend Shishupala at the Rajasuya sacrifice, he was overpowered with resentment. He organized his divisions and attacked Dvaraka City. Not only did he attack Dvaraka from the air, but he also laid siege to My city from the ground with numerous troops. His army began to destroy the beautiful points of the city, and the members of the Yadu dynasty were immediately called to battle.

"Dvaraka City was well fortified; the walls of the city were high and thick; there were turrets at the top of the walls furnished with different kinds of weapons for repulsing the enemy. There were cannons and machines that could hurl fire, liquid metal, huge metal balls and dangerous bullets. The city was also defended by numerous chariot fighters, who were fearless in the face of the enemy. King Ugrasena had been contemplating an attack from Shalva, and thus he had the bridges destroyed. The trenches around the city were spiked with poles. Mines were laid around the city, and the ground was dug up so that it was uneven in all directions. No one was allowed in or out of the city with out the proper password. Thus Dvaraka was defended by the intelligent King Ugrasena.

"Shalva attacked Dvaraka from the sky and began to shower slabs of stone, tree trunks, thunderbolts and poisonous snakes. Shalva also managed to create such a strong whirlwind that the city of Dvaraka was covered in dust. The inhabitants of Dvaraka were in such distress that they were not peaceful even for a moment. The great heroes of Dvaraka City, headed by commanders such as Pradyumna, counterattacked the soldiers and the airplane of Shalva. Following the command of Pradyumna, many warriors such as Satyaki, Carudeshna, Samba, Akrura, Kritavarma, Bhanuvinda, Gada, Suka and Sharana--all came out of the city to fight with Shalva. All of them were maharathis; and assisted by thousands of warriors, they came out of the city to fight with Shalva. Fierce fighting began between the two armies, exactly as was carried on between the demigods and demons.

Lord Krishna continued, "O King, the demon Kshemavriddhi attacked my son Samba and tried to overcome him with his arrows. However, Samba countered with a thousand arrows, driving him from the field of battle. After that mighty general had retreated, a demon named Vegavat attacked My son. Samba held his ground; and taking up a powerful mace, he hurled it at Vegavat. When hit by that mace, the demon fell to the ground dead. Meanwhile, one of Shalva's generals named Vivindhya attacked Pradyumna and covered him with arrows. Pradyumna, the mighty son of Rukmini, fixed to his bow an arrow effulgent as the sun and empowering it with the force of a thunderbolt released it at the demon. When Vivindhya was struck by that weapon, he fell down to the ground, a lifeless corpse.

"Upon seeing that his men were being defeated, Shalva advanced in his airplane. The warriors of the Yadu dynasty were struck with fear upon seeing that wonderful airplane. It was so extraordinary that sometimes there would appear to be many airplanes in the sky. Sometimes they would see the airplane in the sky, and sometimes they would see it on the ground. Sometimes they would see it on the peak of a hill, and sometimes floating in the water. The wonderful airplane would not stay steady even for a moment. Pradyumna encouraged the members of the Yadu dynasty by vowing, 'Stand your ground and do not fear this airplane. I shall, by the force of my arrows, stop the advance of Shalva's creation. With the power of my weapons, I shall destroy the host of demons that inhabit this airplane. Fear not, I will slay the lord of Saubha today!' Thus encouraging his troops, Pradyumna attacked with greater force. The arrows released by the members of the Yadu dynasty were as brilliant as the sun and as deadly as the tongues of serpents.

"The commander in chief of Shalva's forces was Dyuman, and he was a great warrior. Although stung by twenty-five of Pradyumna's arrows, he suddenly attacked Pradyumna with his club and struck him so strongly that he fell to the ground unconscious. Shalva's men roared with joy and exclaimed, 'Now, he is dead! Now, he is dead!' The force of Dyuman's club was so severe that it would have torn open the chest of an ordinary man.

Lord Krishna continued, "The chariot of Pradyumna was being driven by the son of Daruka. According to Vedic military principles, the chariot driver and the hero on the chariot have to cooperate during the fighting. As such, it is the duty of the chariot driver to take care of the hero on the field of battle. Thus, the son of Daruka removed Pradyumna from the battlefield. Two hours later, he regained consciousness; and when he saw that he was not on the battlefield, he began to chastise his charioteer, 'Oh, you have done the most abominable act! Why have you moved me from the battlefield? My dear charioteer, I have never heard that anyone in our family was ever removed from the battlefield while in the midst of fighting. I accuse you of being a coward. Tell me how I can go before my uncle, Balarama, and before my father, Krishna; and what shall I say to them? Everyone will talk about me, and say that I fled from the fighting place; and if they inquire from me about this, what will be my reply? My sisters-in-law will play jokes upon me with sarcastic words. I think, O charioteer, that you have committed a great offense by removing me from the battlefield.'

"The son of Daruka replied, 'My dear hero, I wish a long life for you. I have not done anything wrong, as it is the duty of the charioteer to help the chariot fighter when he is in a precarious condition. My dear sir, you are completely invincible in battlefield activities. It is the mutual duty of the charioteer and the warrior to give protection to each other in a precarious condition. I was completely aware of the regulative principles of fighting, and I did my duty. The enemy all of a sudden struck you with his club so severely that you lost consciousness. You were in a dangerous position, surrounded by your enemies. Therefore, I was obliged to act as I did.'

Lord Krishna continued, "After talking with his charioteer, the son of Daruka, Pradyumna could understand the real circumstances, and therefore he refreshed himself by washing his mouth and hands. Arming himself properly with bows and arrows, he asked his charioteer to take him near the place where Shalva's commander in chief was engaged in combat. During the short absence of Pradyumna from the battlefield, Dyuman, Shalva's commander-in-chief, had been pushing back the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty. By appearing in the battlefield, Pradyumna immediately stopped him and struck him with eight arrows. With four arrows he killed his four horses, with one arrow he killed his chariot driver, and with another arrow he cut his bow in two; with another arrow, he cut his flag into pieces, and with another arrow he severed his head from his body.

"Pradyumna then attacked Shalva as he was fighting from his airplane. Seeing the presence of My son on the field of battle, Shalva released a shower of arrows that pierced the son of Daruka. Not minding those arrows, the son of Daruka directed the chariot closer to where Shalva's airplane was hovering in the sky. Shalva released more arrows, but they were cut to pieces before they could reach his chariot. Shalva then resorted to mystic illusions and caused a rain of terror on the battlefield. Pradyumna counteracted that illusion with the Brahma weapon and then released his own arrows that pierced Shalva in the head, chest, and face. Hit by those weapons the demon fell to the ground unconscious. The son of Rukmini then fixed to his bowstring an arrow that was as deadly as a venomous serpent. With this action all the warriors exclaimed, 'Alas, Alas!' Suddenly Narada appeared before Pradyumna and informed him, 'O hero, Shalva is not to be slain by you! Do not release your arrow. It has been ordained by providence that this demon will die by the weapon of Lord Krishna.' With these words, Pradyumna withdrew the incantations for the arrow and placed it back in his quiver. Meanwhile Shalva recovered from Pradyumna's arrows and continued fighting the soldiers of the Yadu dynasty.

Lord Krishna continued, "After the completion of the Rajasuya sacrifice in Indraprastha, I returned to Dvaraka just during the thick of the fighting. My chariot was marked with the flag bearing the insignia of Garuda; and as soon as the soldiers and warriors of the Yadu dynasty saw the flag, they could understand that I was on the battlefield. By this time, almost all of Shalva's soldiers had been killed; but when Shalva saw that I had come to the battlefield, he released a great, powerful weapon which scorched through the sky like a roaring meteor. It was so bright that the whole sky lit up by its presence. But as soon as I saw the weapon, I tore it into hundreds and thousands of pieces. I then struck Shalva with sixteen arrows; and with a showers of arrows I overpowered the airplane, just as the sun in a clear sky overpowers the whole sky by an unlimited number of molecules of sunshine. Shalva struck a severe blow to my left side, where I was carrying My Sarnga bow, and as a result the Sarnga bow fell from My hand.

"The sinful Shalva thought that he had become victorious, and with a roaring sound began to address Me, 'You rascal, Krishna!. You kidnapped Rukmini forcibly, even in my presence. You baffled my friend Shishupala and married Rukmini Yourself. And in the great assembly at King Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice, while my friend Shishupala was a little absentminded, You took an opportunity to kill him. Everyone thinks that Your are a great fighter and that no one can defeat You. So now You'll have to prove Your strength. I think that if You stand before me any longer, with my sharpened arrows I shall send You to a place wherefrom You will never return.' To that sinful person I replied, 'Foolish Shalva, your threats are simply nonsense. You do not know that the moment of death is already upon your head. Those who are actually heroes do not talk much. They prove their prowess by practical exhibition of chivalrous activities.' After saying this, I struck Shalva on the collarbone with My club so severely that he began to bleed internally and tremble as if he were going to collapse from severe cold. Before I was able to strike him again, however, Shalva became invisible by his mystic power.

"Within a few moments, a mysterious unknown man came before Me. Crying loudly, he bowed down and informed Me, 'Since You are the most beloved son of Your father Vasudeva, Your mother Devaki has sent me to inform You of the unfortunate news that Your father has been arrested by Shalva and taken away by force. He took him just as a butcher mercilessly takes away an animal.' When I heard this unfortunate news from the unknown messenger, I thought, 'How could that happen? My brother Lord Balarama is there, and it is impossible for anyone to conquer Balaramaji. He is in charge of Dvaraka City, and I know He is always alert. How could Shalva possibly enter the city and arrest My father in that way? Whatever he may be, Shalva's power is limited, so how could it be possible that he has conquered the strength of Balaramaji and taken away My father as described by this man? Alas! Destiny is, after all, very powerful.'

"While I was thinking like this, Shalva brought before Me a man exactly resembling Vasudeva, My father. These were all creations of the mystic power of Shalva.

"Shalva then spoke to Me. 'You are a coward, Krishna! Look! This is Your father who has begotten You, and by whose mercy You are still living. Now just see how I kill Your father. If You have any strength, try to save him.' The mystic juggler, Shalva, immediately cut off the head of the false Vasudeva. Without hesitation he took away the dead body and got into his airplane. In the next moment I could understand that the arrest and killing of My father were demonstrations of the mystic powers which Shalva had learned from the demon Maya, Coming to My senses, I could see that there was no messenger and no head of My father, but that only Shalva had left in his airplane, which was flying in the sky. I then began to think of slaying Shalva.

Lord Krishna continued, "When Shalva thought that I had been bewildered by his mystic representations, he became encouraged and began to attack the Me with greater strength and energy by showering volumes of arrows upon Me. By hurling My arrows with lightning speed, I injured Shalva, whose armor, bow and jewelled helmet all scattered into pieces. With a crashing blow from My club, Shalva's wonderful airplane burst into pieces and fell into the ocean. Shalva was very careful, and instead of crashing with the airplane, he managed to jump onto the land. He again rushed towards Me. When Shalva ran swiftly to attack Me with his club, I cut off his hand, which fell to the ground with the club. Finally deciding to kill him, I took up My wonderful discus, which was shining like the brilliant sun. I then cut off his head, and the head, with its earrings and helmet, fell on the ground. Shalva was thus killed in the same way as Vritrasura was killed by Indra, the King of heaven."

After relating to the Pandavas Shalva's death and the attack on Dvaraka city, the Lord made preparations to return to Dvaraka. The slayer of Madhu offered reverential respect to King Yudhisthira, and Bhima being older than Krishna smelt the crown on His head out of affection. He was embraced by Arjuna and the twins bowed down to him with reverence. Lord Krishna was duly honored by Dhaumya and worshiped with tears by Draupadi. He then requested Subhadra and Abhimanyu to ascend His chariot. After promising the Pandavas that He would come to them whenever they called, He headed on His golden chariot for the city of Dvaraka.


Thus Ends the Second Chapter of the Vana Parva, Entitled, Lord Krishna Visits the Pandavas.


Chapter Commentary


Lord Krishna loved the Pandavas so much that He sometimes lived with them in the forest. The Pandavas did not request Lord Krishna to relieve their suffering condition. Yudhisthira accepted the loss of his kingdom as destiny and did not complain to Lord Krishna. He could have requested Lord Krishna to fight with Duryodhana and gain back his kingdom, but he didn't. A devotee can accept any condition as the mercy of the Lord. The Pandavas are pure devotees and eternal associates of the Lord; so one may ask why the Lord put them in that condition of life? He did so to show the conditioned souls in this world how to act in times of calamity. By setting the proper example common persons will know how to act. Everyone in this world has been transmigrating through many species of life. In the human form we have committed many sinful activities for which we have to suffer. When a conditioned soul comes to Krishna, the Lord takes his karma and minimizes it. The devotee only receives a token reaction for his past sins and that is given directly by the Lord. Therefore, a devotee should not complain, but thank the Lord for giving a small punishment.

The Lord always promises to protect his devotees. In this chapter Lord Krishna told Arjuna, "You are Mine, and I am yours....He who hates you, also hates Me, and he who follows you, also follows Me." With this loving reciprocation, there was no chance for Duryodhana to be victorious. Duryodhana could have had a hundred or a thousand Bhishma's on his side; still he would have lost. When Lord Krishna agrees to protect someone, nothing can harm that person. If Lord Krishna does not protect someone, no one can save that person. Because Bhishma did not take the side of the Pandavas, he was destined to die because he did not receive the protection of Lord Krishna.



Chapter Three

Arjuna Obtains the Celestial Weapons


The Pandavas spent many years in the forest, and it was difficult for Bhima to tolerate the life of an ascetic. He would sometimes contemplate killing all of the Kurus at once, but his brother Yudhisthira would always pacify him and tell him that it was not the opportune time to fulfill their desires. The Pandavas lived peacefully in the forest and received knowledge from many sages and saintly persons. One day the great sage Vyasa came and informed the Pandavas that many generals had agreed to take up Duryodhana's cause, such as Karna, Shakuni, Bhurishravas, Sala, Drona and even grandfather Bhishma. He told Arjuna that if he were to fight in a future war, he would have to obtain the divine astras of Lord Indra and Lord Shiva. After the departure of Vyasa, Yudhisthira ordered Arjuna to go to the Himalayan mountains to perform austerities to please Lord Shiva.

Arjuna did as he was told and headed for the Himalayan mountains. When Arjuna entered a forest at the base of Mount Himavat, he saw that it was devoid of human beings; however, he could hear the sounds of conches and drums from the heavens. He soon passed through many woody regions until he came to the peak of Mount Himavat. He stayed there for some time in that opulent region. Beautiful birds abounded everywhere, and the rivers were the color of Lapis Lazuli. When Arjuna saw the beauty of that heavenly place, he was pleased at heart. It was there that he decided to perform austerities and worship Lord Shiva. In the beginning of his austerities, he ate withered leaves that fell from the trees. For the first month he also ate fruits every three days. In the second month he ate fruits every sixth day and in the third month every fortnight. When the fourth month came, that best of the Bharatas began to subsist on air alone. With his arms upraised and standing on his tiptoes, he continued his austerities. The illustrious hero's matted locks took on the color of lightning due to his severe austerities. Then all the rishis, suffering from the heat of Arjuna's tapasya, went to Lord Shiva and complained, "O god of gods, we do not know the reason why the son of Kunti is performing these severe austerities. He is, however, causing us pain. Heated by his asceticism, the world is smoking in all directions."

"Do not lament over the austerities of Phalguna," Lord Shiva replied. "Cheerfully return to your ashramas. I know the desire of Arjuna's heart. His wish is not for heaven, nor for prosperity, nor for a long life. I will fulfill the desire for which he has come here."

Lord Shiva then took the form of Kirata, an inhabitant of the mountainous regions, and along with Uma, who also took the form of a Kirata woman, went to see Arjuna. They were accompanied by many other Kirata women. Upon Lord Shiva's arrival in that region the sylvan deities became silent. Even the birds did not chirp. As he was approaching Arjuna, a demon named Muka, taking the form of a boar, sought to kill Arjuna. Arjuna immediately took up his Gandiva bow and a number of arrows resembling snakes of virulent poison. He then addressed the boar, "I have not come here to harm you, but you seek to slay me. Therefore, I must send you for judgement in Yamaraja's abode."

Beholding Arjuna about ready to kill the boar, Lord Shiva ordered, "Do not kill this boar for I have aimed at it first!" However, Arjuna disregarded that order and shot the boar. The Kirata also let loose his arrow at the same time, and both arrows hit the boar, resounding like Indra's thunderbolt. When the boar was hit, it gave up its life assuming the original form of a Rakshasa.

Seeing the Kirata before him, Arjuna inquired, "Who are you, and who are all these women surrounding you? O thou who has the splendor of gold, are you not afraid of this terrible forest? Why have you shot this boar that I aimed at first? This Rakshasa was seeking to slay me, and therefore I have released my arrow. You have not acted according to hunting codes, and therefore, I challenge you."

"O hero," Lord Shiva replied, "you should not be anxious on my account. This forest is the proper abode of those who inhabit mountainous regions. I would inquire, however, as to why you have chosen this region amidst such difficulties?"

"Depending on the Gandiva bow and arrows like blazing fire," Arjuna said, "I live in this great forest like a second wind god. You have seen how I have killed this Rakshasa, who took the form of a boar."

"I shot this boar first," the Kirata adamantly stated, "and it was my arrow that killed the boar. You are proud of your strength, and it behooves you not to attribute your faults to others. You are at fault, O wretch, and therefore, you will not escape with your life."

Hearing these challenging words, Arjuna released his deadly arrows. Then both of those mighty warriors began to release showers of arrows at each other. Lord Shiva stood unmoved by Arjuna's arrows. Seeing his arrows ineffective, Arjuna exclaimed, "Excellent! Excellent! Alas, this mountaineer, dwelling on the heights of Himavat, has born the arrows of the Gandiva bow. Who is he? Is he Shiva himself or some other demigod, Yaksha or asura? The gods sometimes descend on the heights of Himavat. Except for Lord Shiva there is none who can bear the infinite arrows shot from the Gandiva. However, never mind who he is, I will slay him this moment." Arjuna then released hundreds and thousands of arrows, but soon his quiver became depleted, and he became alarmed. He began to think, "Alas, my arrows are all exhausted. What shall I shoot now? I shall slay him with the end of my bow."

Arjuna then dragged the Kirata by the bowstring and beat him repeatedly and the sounds were like thunderbolts. However, the Kirata snatched the bow from Arjuna's hands. Arjuna then took out his sword and ran at the Kirata to kill him. The Kuru prince, with the full force of his arms, brought that mighty sword down upon the Kirata's dazzling crown. As soon as it touched the crown, it shattered into hundreds of pieces. Enraged, Arjuna threw trees and rocks and finally began to beat the Kirata with his clenched fists. Lord Shiva, in the form of the Kirata, returned Arjuna's blows, and the combined sounds were frightening. Arjuna finally clasped the mighty Kirata in his arms and began to squeeze him with all his might. However, the Kirata also pressed Arjuna to his chest and Arjuna, whose body was weakening, fell to the ground senseless.

Arjuna soon regained consciousness and began to mentally worship Lord Shiva. He mentally offered a garland, and when he looked up he saw that the garland was on the crown of the Kirata. He then understood that the Kirata was Lord Shiva, and overwhelmed with joy, Arjuna fell at his feet. Lord Shiva was satisfied with Arjuna and said, "O Phalguna, I am pleased with you, for no one can rival your prowess. There is no kshatriya who is equal to you in courage and patience. O sinless one, your strength and prowess almost equal mine. Behold me, O bull of the Bharata race. I will grant you eyes to see my true form. Without doubt you will defeat your enemies, including those in heaven. I have been pleased with you and will grant you an irresistible weapon."

Prostrating himself before Lord Shiva, Arjuna said, "O Mahadeva, O Rudra, O bearer of the trident, you are the foremost of all male beings. I bow down to you. O illustrious Sankara, it behooves you to pardon my fault. It was to obtain your sight that I came to this mountain to perform austerities. I have worshiped you to obtain your grace. Please do not regard my impudence as a fault. I seek your protection; pardon me for all the offenses I have committed."

Lord Shiva then took the hands of Arjuna into his and smilingly said, "I have pardoned you. In your former life you were Nara, the friend of Narayana, the Supreme Lord of lords, the upholder of this universe. O lord, taking up your fierce bow, whose twang resembled the deep roar of thunder, you, as well as Lord Krishna, chastised the demons at the coronation of Indra. This Gandiva bow, O son of Pritha, is fit for your hands. I have forcibly taken it from you with the help of my powers of illusion. Your two quivers will again provide you with infinite arrows. Your body will be free from pain and disease, and no enemy will defeat your prowess. O chastiser of the foes, there is not a being, even in heaven, equal to you, nor is there any kshatriya on earth your equal. Please, ask me for a boon."

"O illustrious god," Arjuna said, "if you will grant me any desire, then I request your pasupata astra by which I may obtain victory in battle over Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Karna."

"O powerful one," Shankara (Shiva) replied, "I will give to you my favorite weapon called the pasupata astra. O son of Pandu, you are capable of holding, hurling, and withdrawing it. Neither Indra, nor Yamaraja, nor Kuvera, nor Varuna, nor Vayu have access to this weapon. Therefore, how could ordinary mortals know of it? However, O son of Pritha, this weapon should not be hurled without adequate cause; for if hurled at an inferior enemy, it may destroy the whole universe. In the three worlds there is no one who cannot be slain by this weapon. It can be hurled by the mind, by the eye, by words, and by the bow."

Arjuna then purified himself and requested Lord Shiva, "Please instruct me how to use this weapon." Mahadeva then instructed Arjuna in every detail of the weapon. The pasupata astra then began to serve Arjuna as it previously did Lord Shiva. After Arjuna received this foremost weapon, the whole earth trembled, and the sounds of conches, drums, and trumpets could be heard in all directions. The heavenly gods and demons then beheld the marvelous weapon in its embodied form by the side of Arjuna. Then Lord Shiva touched Arjuna and whatever inauspicious things had been in his body disappeared .

Lord Shiva then instructed Arjuna, "Go to heaven and obtain the weapons of the other devas." Arjuna then worshiped Lord Shiva; and the three eyed deity, along with with his wife Parvati, ascended into the heavens.

Arjuna was overjoyed at having been benedicted by Lord Shiva, and he thought, "O, I have been favored by the three eyed Hara. I shall certainly obtain success. My enemies have already been defeated. My purposes have been achieved."

While Arjuna was contemplating the mercy of Lord Shiva, suddenly, Varuna, the god of the waters, appeared before him, dazzling with effulgence. Also Kuvera, with a body resembling pure gold, appeared on the scene. Next to come was Yamaraja, the lord of justice. He was accompanied by the Pitris. At that moment Indra also appeared, along with his wife Sachi. They were riding on the celestial elephant Airavata. Indra was being eulogized by ascetic rishis and Gandharvas. Other heavenly gods also appeared to bestow benedictions upon Arjuna.

After all had arrived, Yamaraja spoke to Arjuna, "Behold the protectors of the world assembled here. We will grant you special vision to behold us. In your former life you were Nara, who possessed infinite power. At the command of Brahma you have been born among men. O sinless one, it will be you who vanquishes the great Bhishma in battle. You will defeat all the kshatriyas commanded by the son of Bharadwaja, Drona. There have been many demons born among men, and you shall destroy them all to establish religious principles. O Dhananjaya, O son of the Kuru race, you shall slay Karna, who is a portion of my father, Surya. O Phalguna, your achievements will earn you lasting fame in this world. You have gratified the invincible Mahadeva in battle. You shall, with Vishnu Himself, lighten the burden of the earth. Please accept my personal weapon, the mace, which cannot be baffled by any warrior." The son of Pritha then received that weapon from Yamaraja along with the mantras for hurling and withdrawing it.

Then Varuna, the lord of all watery creatures, benedicted Arjuna, "O son of Pritha, you are the foremost of kshatriyas. Behold me; I am Varuna, the god of the waters. Accept from me the Varuna nooses, which cannot be counteracted. With these, O hero, I have in the past seized and tied up thousands of Daityas (demons) in battle. Even Yamaraja himself could not escape this weapon. With these nooses in hand, the battlefield will become destitute of warriors."

After Varuna and Yamaraja had given away their celestial weapons, Kuvera, the lord of heavenly treasures, spoke to Arjuna, "O son of Pandu, O thou of great might and wisdom, I, too, have become pleased with you. Meeting you gives me as much pleasure as meeting Lord Krishna. O wielder of the Gandiva bow, you were in a previous life the great Nara, possessed of ascetic splendor. Please accept my personal weapon by which you will be able to consume the ranks of Duryodhana. This favorite weapon of mine is called antardhana, which is capable of putting your enemy to sleep. Endowed with the dignity of Meru, you are competent to hold this weapon."

After Kuvera had benedicted Arjuna, Indra, the king of heaven spoke, "O mighty armed son of Kunti, you are an ancient god of yore. O repressor of the foe, you have yet to accomplish the purpose of the demigods. You must first ascend to heaven. I have prepared my own chariot with Matali as its driver. It will soon ascend to earth and take you to my abode. There I will bestow upon you all my celestial weapons."

Beholding the protectors of the worlds assembled together, Arjuna was struck with wonder. He worshiped them with sweet words, water and fruits. After benedicting Arjuna with various weapons needed to defeat the demons, the heavenly lords returned to their abodes. Arjuna was filled with joy and regarded himself as one favored by providence and crowned with success.

As Arjuna was thinking of the heavenly realm, suddenly, the heavens illumined and Indra's chariot appeared in the sky dividing the clouds. That chariot was traveling at such speed that one could hardly mark its progress. Drawn by ten thousand horses, that golden chariot, filled with the most powerful weapons, descended to the spot where Arjuna was sitting. Matali stepped down from the chariot and requested, "O son of Indra, your father wishes to see you. Please ascend this celestial chariot, and I will take you to the heavenly realm. You will return after obtaining all the celestial weapons."

"O Matali," Arjuna replied, "Even kings of great prosperity, who have performed great sacrifices, are not competent to ride on this chariot. He, who does not possess ascetic merit, will not be able to see or touch this chariot. After you have ascended it and calmed the horses, I will attempt to sit in it like an unworthy man stepping on the high road to honesty."

Before ascending the chariot, Arjuna bathed in the Ganges and purified himself by his daily offering of prayers. He bid farewell to Mount Himavat and then ascended the chariot. The Kuru prince, looking like a second Indra himself, then coursed through the firmament to Indraloka. After he had become invisible to mortal eyes, he beheld thousands of celestial airplanes of extraordinary beauty. And in that region there was no sun or moon or fire to give light. The light generated was from that of ascetic merit. And those brilliant stars seen from earth, so small in consequence, though actually very large, were seen by Arjuna full of beauty, effulgence and blazing with splendor. There he beheld royal sages crowned with ascetic merit, and heroes who had attained heaven by yielding their lives in battle. There were also those who had attained heaven by severe austerities. Arjuna also saw Gandharvas, with bodies blazing like the sun, and Guhyakas, Rishis and Apsaras.

Beholding those self-effulgent regions, Arjuna became filled with wonder and inquired about them from Matali. Matali replied, "These, O son of Pritha, are virtuous persons stationed in their respective places according to their karma. It is these, O exalted one, that you have seen on earth as stars." Then Arjuna saw at the gates of Indraloka the victorious elephant Airavata, which possessed four tusks and resembled Mount Kailasa. After entering the gate, Arjuna followed that path that only the most pious persons were able to follow. Endowed with lotus petal eyes, the celebrated Arjuna finally beheld Amaravati, the city of Indra.

The city was indeed dazzling in all its splendor. It was the resort of the siddhas and charanas. It was adorned with flowers of every season and trees of every kind. Arjuna also beheld the Nandakanana gardens, which were the favorite place of the Apsaras. Fragrant breezes carried the scent of different kinds of flowers. The region was such that none who had not performed austerities could see it. It was a region for the pious alone. It was not for those who turned their back in battle, who had not performed sacrifices, or practiced rigid vows, or who were without Vedic knowledge, or who had not bathed in sacred waters. And none were competent to visualize that remarkable city who had disturbed sacrifices in a previous life, who drank intoxicating liquors, who committed adultery with their preceptor's wife, or who were eaters of meat, or who were wicked.

As Arjuna entered the celestial city, he saw thousands of flower airplanes driven by the most beautiful persons. The Apsaras and the Gandharvas began to praise Arjuna. Benedictions were poured upon him, accompanied by the sounds of celestial music. Indra welcomed his son by embracing him and smelling his head out of affection. He made Arjuna sit on his exalted seat, and taking his handsome face in his perfumed hands which bore the mark of the thunderbolt, he glanced again and again at Arjuna's handsome features. Indra and Arjuna appeared like the sun and moon seated on that most opulent throne. Then the Gandharvas headed by Tumburu played music, and the heavenly maidens Ghritachi, Menaka, Rambha, Purvachitti, Swayamprabha, Urvasi and others by the thousands began to dance for the pleasure of Indra and Arjuna. These women had eyes formed like lotus petals and could entice the hearts of even great ascetics. They had slim waists, large hips, large breasts and casting their beautiful eyes in all directions, they could steal any man's heart. In this way Indra showed Arjuna the opulences of Amaravati one by one.

Arjuna stayed with his father for some time in the heavenly planets. Indra instructed Arjuna how to use various weapons, including the thunderbolt weapon which Indra had used to slay Vritrasura. After receiving all the celestial weapons, Arjuna remembered his brothers with great affection and thought of returning to them. However, Arjuna stayed a full five years in the heavenly planets due to Indra's desire. At Indra's request, Arjuna learned the art of dancing and music from Chitrasena, the Gandharva. This particular science of music and dance was unknown in the earthly regions. Nonetheless, even after obtaining the different weapons and sciences of music and dance, Arjuna was unhappy, wanting to return to his brothers and his wife Draupadi.

One day, Indra, thinking that Arjuna was attracted to Urvasi, told Chitrasena to go to Urvasi and request her to satisfy Arjuna's desire. When Urvasi heard that Arjuna was attracted to her, she was pleased and said, "Seeing the good qualities of this best among men, I will bestow my favor upon him. I will be happy to choose Arjuna for a lover."

When the twilight had come and the moon was illuminating the dark sky, Urvasi went to the Palace of Arjuna. Her braids of hair were decked with flowers and she looked extremely beautiful. Her graceful features, her charm, the motions of her eyebrows, her soft accents, and her moon-like face contained all the power of Cupid's arrow. As she proceeded, her full, finely tapering bosoms decked with a chain of gold and smeared with sandalwood and perfumed oil, trembled. Her thighs were faultlessly shaped, and the abode of the god of love. Her hips were high and fair. Being decked with very thin transparent attire, her body was able to shake the very sainthood of most ascetic sages. Exhilarated with a liquor she had taken and filled with sensual desire, she approached Arjuna's quarters.

The doorkeeper informed Arjuna of her arrival, and she was allowed in. When Arjuna saw her thus attired, he closed his eyes from modesty and offered her respectful words of worship. Not understanding Arjuna's intention, she tried to entice him with sweet words, "O thou of fairest complexion, I have been sent here by Indra himself. Please satisfy my desire, your desire, and the desire of your father. O slayer of the foes, my heart has become attracted by your virtues, and I am already under the influence of the god of love."

Arjuna was overcome with bashfulness. and covering his ears with his hands, he said, "O blessed lady, please do not speak to me in this way, for you are certainly equal to the wife of a superior. Even as my mother, Kunti, or Sachi, the wife of Indra, are to be worshiped, so are you to be worshiped. There is no doubt of this. It is true that I had given you my attention, but there was a reason for this. I remembered that you were the mother of the Kuru race, having taken Puru for your husband. O blessed Apsara, it behooves you not to entertain any other feelings towards me, for you are my superior, being the mother of my dynasty."

"O son of Indra," Urvasi replied, "Apsaras are free and unconfined in their choice of mate. You should not, therefore, look upon me as a superior. The sons and grandsons of the Puru race have come here in consequence of their ascetic merit and have sported with us without incurring sin. Therefore, O hero, do not send me away. I am burning with desire."

"Truly I tell you," Arjuna said, "that you are as a mother to me. Therefore, I bow my head before you and prostrate myself at your feet. You deserve worship as a mother, and I ask that you protect me as a son."

Being rejected by Arjuna, Urvasi was extremely angry. Trembling with rage and contracting her eyebrows, she cursed Arjuna saying, "Since I have come here on your father's order and since I am burning with the shafts of love, I curse you become impotent and pass your time among females as a dancer and scorned as a eunuch." Her lips still quivering in anger, Urvasi then returned to her abode.

When Indra heard how Arjuna had rejected Urvasi, he embraced his son and said, "O best of beings, having obtained thee as a son, Pritha, today has truly become a blessed mother. O mighty armed one, you have vanquished even rishis by your patience and self control. Do not be disturbed by the curse of Urvasi. It will benefit you in your last year of exile when you have to pass that time unknown to men. It is at that time that you will suffer the curse of Urvasi. After that final year has ended, you will again achieve your power of manhood." Arjuna was pleased to hear how the curse was a benediction and ceased to think of it any longer.

One day the great sage, Lomasa, came to the court of Indra and saw Arjuna sitting on the throne with his father. Lomasa wondered what austerities this earthly person had performed to sit on the same throne as Indra. While Lomasa was thinking in this way, Indra informed him, "O brahmarishi, I know what is passing through your mind. However, this one is no mortal, although he has taken his birth among men. This mighty armed hero is my son, born of Kunti. He has come here in order to obtain celestial weapons. Do you not recognize him as the ancient rishi, Nara, of the highest merit? Listen to me, O brahmana, as I tell you who he is, and why he has come here. Those ancient Rishis, Nara and Narayana, have descended on Earth as Krishna and Arjuna. They will accomplish their mission of establishing religious principles, and lightening the burden of the earth. Also, there are certain asuras, known as Nivatakavachas, who are proud of a boon they have acquired. Even now they are planning to destroy the heavenly regions. Due to a benediction they have received, they cannot be killed by the denizens of heaven. Only Lord Vishnu or Arjuna is capable of slaying them. However, the slayer of Madhu should not be requested to kill them when the task is insignificant. Arjuna is competent to encounter them all; and after slaying them in battle, he will return to the world of men. My dear rishi, please descend to earth and find Yudhisthira in the forest of Kamyaka. Inform him that he should not be anxious about Phalguna, for he will return to earth a proficient master of weapons. Without these weapons he will not be able to conquer Bhishma and Drona in battle. Also inform him that he should go on pilgrimage and bathe in the different holy rivers to cleanse himself of any desire for material attraction. Then the fever of his heart will abate. O foremost brahmana, it behooves you to guide and protect him on his pilgrimage through the earth. Fierce Rakshasas live in the mountains and rugged steppes. Please protect the king from those cannibals." After Mahendra (Indra) had humbly requested Lomasa in this way, the sage descended to the earthly plane to find that saintly king, Maharaja Yudhisthira.

Meanwhile, Narada Muni had already gone to the Kamyaka forest to pay a visit to the godly Yudhisthira. When Yudhisthira requested Narada to describe the merits of going on pilgrimage to the different holy places, Narada then described in detail all the holy places, sacred rivers and ashrams of saintly sages. After hearing the glories of all the pilgrimage sites and while the brothers were discussing the idea of going on pilgrimage, Lomasa, on the order of Indra, appeared before them. He related all messages from Indra and Arjuna. He advised them not to worry about Arjuna, since he was under Indra's care in the heavenly realm. He told them how Arjuna was faring, and how he had obtained all the celestial weapons from Lord Shiva, Indra, Kuvera and Varuna. He told Yudhisthira that after Arjuna had finished his business in the heavenly planets, Indra would return him to their association. Lomasa informed the Pandavas of Indra's desire that they should go on pilgrimage and perform austerities. Lomasa instructed Yudhisthira about the necessity for austerity, because that allows one to fulfill ones desires. He then offered to guide them to all the holy spots. Agreeing with the proposals, the Pandavas began their travels and visited all the important holy tirthas in Bharatavarsha.

When the Pandavas, headed by Lomasa, reached the holy place of Prabhasa, Yudhisthira engaged himself in ascetic practices for twelve days, subsisting only on air and water. He performed ablutions for many days and nights and surrounded himself with fire. Thus that greatest of all virtuous men engaged himself in asceticism. While he was practicing these needed austerities, news reached Lord Krishna and Balarama that Yudhisthira was nearby. Those two leaders of the Vrishni race, accompanied by their troops, came to see Yudhisthira. When the Vrishnis beheld the sons of Pandu in ascetic dress, their bodies smeared with dirt, due to lying on the ground, they were beside themselves with grief. They could not refrain themselves from lamentation. When Yudhisthira saw the arrival of the Vrishnis, he paid them honor as far as his means would allow. That pious king, whose determination was so great that no misfortune could cast him down, was overjoyed to see Lord Krishna and Balarama. At the request of the Vrishnis, King Yudhisthira recounted the mischievous acts of the Kurus during the vicious gambling match. He also told them of their adventures in forest life and how Arjuna had gone to the heavenly planets. When the Vrishnis saw the Pandavas so exceedingly lean, they could not check their tears, which spontaneously flowed from their eyes.

When Balarama, whose hue resembled milk, the Kunda flower, the moon, silver and lotus root, saw the condition of the Pandavas, He spoke to His brother Lord Krishna, "O Krishna, I do not see that the practice of virtue leads to any beneficial result, or that the practice of irrelligious activities can cause suffering, when Yudhisthira, the virtuous, is living in such a miserable state, and Duryodhana is now ruling the earth. It would seem to a person of limited vision that a vicious course of life is preferable to a virtuous one. When Duryodhana is in a flourishing state and Yudhisthira is suffering thus, what should people think of this matter? This is the doubt that is perplexing all men."

Replying to the inquiry of Lord Balarama, Satyaki, the commander in chief of the Yadus, replied, "O Rama, let us do what is proper and suited to the present occasion. Although Yudhisthira does not say a word, let us look after his welfare as Saivya and others did for Yayati. When the sons of Pritha have for their patrons, Rama and Krishna, Pradyumna, Samba and myself, why should the sons of Pritha be living in the forest? It is certainly fitting that this very day the army of the Vrishnis should march against the sons of Dhritarastra and send them to the abode of death."

"O scion of the Madhu race," Lord Krishna replied, "no doubt what you say is true. However, this bull of the Bharata race would never accept sovereignty of the world unless it were won by the prowess of his own arms. When we put forth our united strength, the enemies of Yudhisthira will be annihilated."

"It is not incorrect," Yudhisthira said, " that you (Satyaki) should speak in this way. However, O scion of the Madhu race, truth is the first consideration above my sovereign power. It is Krishna who knows precisely my heart, and I am fortunate to also know His heart. As soon as Krishna perceives that the time has come for feats of heroism, then He, who possesses beautiful hair, will direct us to defeat Duryodhana. Let all the brave men of the Vrishni race return to Dvaraka. We shall be united when the opportune time has come."

Thus after mutual greeting and after offering obeisances to each other, the valiant men of the Yadu dynasty and the Pandavas departed. Having offered due respect to Lord Krishna, the Pandavas continued their journey to the sacred holy places of Bharatavarsha.


Thus Ends Chapter Three of the Vana Parva, entitled, Arjuna Obtains the Celestial Weapons.


Chapter Commentary


Arjuna is in preparation to fulfill the desire of the Lord. By performing austerities we show the Lord our desire. We should perform austerities to conform to the will of the Lord. The Lord's desire was that the demoniac kings be replaced with godly kings so that the earth's great burden would be lifted. One may think that Arjuna performed his austerities for some mere weapons. One may think, "What does that have to do with pure devotional service?" His desire to obtain the celestial weapons was a part of the Lord's plan to annihilate the miscreants. Therefore, it was pure devotional service.

One may also ask why Arjuna worshiped Lord Shiva. Why not worship Krishna for the needed weapons? When Lord Krishna stopped the cowherd men from worshipping Indra, He did so to establish firm monotheism. There is only one God. There was no need to worship Indra. Therefore, why did Arjuna perform austerities to worship Lord Shiva? The answer is that for the service of the Lord, a devotee may worship a demigod. Just like the Gopis of Vrindavana worshiped the Goddess Durga to have Lord Krishna as their husband. They weren't interested in becoming more devoted to the Goddess Durga. Their only interest was Lord Krishna. Similarly, Arjuna's only interest is Krishna and his service to Krishna. What is Arjuna's devotional service? His service is to be an instrument of the Lord in decreasing the burden of the earth. To help in that devotional service, he has worshiped Lord Shiva, Indra, Varuna, Kuvera and Yamaraja. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, "In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to establish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium." (B.g. 4.8)

There is a difference in worshiping the demigods for sense gratification and the service of the Lord. Lord Krishna has over and over condemned worship of the demigods in the Bhagavad-gita. "Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures." (B.g. 7.20) "Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary." (B.g. 7.23) "Whatever a man may sacrifice to other gods, O son o


Chapter Four

Bhima Meets Hanuman and Kills Jatasura


It then happened that Vyasa, the father of Dhritarastra, went to Hastinapura and informed his son of Arjuna's accomplishments in the heavenly planets. When Dhritarastra heard from his father, Vyasadeva, about Arjuna's success in Indra's abode, he spoke with Sanjaya, "O charioteer, have you heard in detail the accomplishments of Arjuna? My wicked and sinful son is still engaged in sinister policy. Being a wicked soul, he will certainly depopulate the earth. That compassionate soul, Yudhisthira, whose words even in jest are true and who has Arjuna to fight for him, will certainly gain sovereignty of the entire world. Who is there who can challenge Arjuna to battle? My wretched sons, who will be forced to fight with the Pandavas, are indeed doomed. If Drona, Karna or even Bhishma were to advance against Arjuna, a great calamity is likely to befall the earth. The person who can kill Arjuna does not exist, nor is there a person who can defeat him. O Sanjaya, the thunderbolt falling on a mountain top will leave a portion unconsumed, but the arrows of Arjuna will not leave a single soul behind."

"What you have said, O King, is true," Sanjaya replied. "The Pandavas are filled with rage, seeing their dear wife insulted during the gambling match. I have heard how Arjuna has gratified Lord Shiva, who assumed the form of a Kirata. I have also heard how the other devas have bestowed upon him their respective weapons. Arjuna cannot be defeated even by the heavenly lords. Provoked by the insult to their wife, the Pandavas will certainly slay your sons in battle. When Baladeva, Krishna, Arjuna, Pradyumna, Samba, Yuyudhana, Bhima, the sons of Madri, the Kekaya princes, and the Panchala princes bring their wrath against your sons, how can they live? What senseless person would dare to face them on the battlefield?"

"O Sanjaya," Dhritarastra inquired, "how can my wicked sons live, for they do not tread in the path of righteousness? Because I am devoid of eyesight, my son thinks that I am a fool and does not listen to my advice. He, who has Lord Krishna for his counselor, will never experience defeat. When, therefore, Bhima, Arjuna and Vasudeva become enraged, surely my sons will perish like moths in a fire. O charioteer, I have not had a moment's peace thinking of my son's terrible misbehavior during the gambling match. What Vidura warned me about during the gambling match is about to mature. A terrible fratricide will take place at the end of the thirteenth year of exile." Thus Dhritarastra, meditating on the future death of his sons, could not find any peace of mind.

As the Pandavas made their way from one holy tirtha to another, they finally came to Badrikashrama in the Himalayan mountains. It was a very scenic spot that could hardly be described in words. The flowers that bloomed there could not be found anywhere else in the world. One day as Draupadi was gazing on the beautiful scenery, a strong wind arose and blew a thousand-petaled lotus flower into her lap. The flower had an celestial effulgence, a captivating aroma, and its beauty was unearthly. She took the flower to Bhima and requested, "Behold, O Bhima, this most celestial flower. O repressor of the foes, it has gladdened my heart. I shall present this one to Yudhisthira. Will you also obtain others for my satisfaction so that I may carry them to our hermitage in Kamyaka?" Bhima was delighted to please Draupadi in some way and proceeded to follow the path the scented flower had left. He traced the perfumed air for some time, and suddenly he realized he had covered a long distance. When he blew his conchshell, which roused the lions in the area, he also heard a loud pounding that caused the earth to tremble.

As Bhima approached the sound which was like a challenge to him, he suddenly saw a huge monkey lying on a stone slab. The monkey was waving his tail in the air and dashing it against the ground, causing the tremendous noise that spread in all directions. Bhima was completely amazed for he had never seen a monkey like this before. The monkey was sitting there with half opened eyes calmly blocking the way. As Bhima approached, the monkey advised him, "Young man, why do you make so much noise? Most of the animals in this region were sleeping peacefully, and now you have awakened them. Please be more considerate, and do not be so cruel to the inhabitants of this region. Beyond this point the forest is impassable. It is a path leading to heaven and cannot be taken by ordinary mortals. Rest awhile here and eat some fruits. After your fatigue is relieved, you may return to your residence."

Bhima was surprised that the monkey could talk like a human being, and questioned him, "May I know who you are? What monkey speaks like a human being? You must be some demigod in disguise. As for myself I am the son of Vayu, and my mother is the chaste Kunti. My name is Bhima, and I am one of the Pandavas." Bhima then told him the history of how they were exiled to the forest. He also informed the monkey that at the present moment they were waiting for the return of their brother Arjuna from the heavenly planets. The monkey smiled when Bhima told him all this and said, "I know that I am obstructng your path, but I have become ill and cannot move. If you take my advice, you should return by the path which you came."

Bhima's eyes reddened in anger, and he became very impatient. "I do not want your advice," he said. "Move out of my way, or I will have to move you myself."

The monkey replied, "I have grown too old to move and most of the time I simply lie here. If you insist on going further, then you can do so by leaping over my body."

Bhima was becoming frustrated with the whole matter. He said to the monkey, "You are an elderly personality, and you are lying on my path. It is not proper for me to jump over your body, for the Supreme Soul exists in everyone. It is also disrespectful to elders. If I had not known that Supreme Lord exists in everyone's heart, then I would have leapt over your body and this mountain as the great Hanuman did when he crossed the sea to Lanka."

The monkey inquired, "Who is this Hanuman who bounded over the ocean? You speak of him with respect. His name comes with affection from your mouth. Have you met him before? Can you relate something about him?"

The monkey looked at Bhima with a smirk on his face, and Bhima became furious. He exclaimed, "You are a monkey, and you do not know who Hanuman is? Hanuman is the greatest of all monkeys. He is also the son of the wind god Vayu and is, therefore, my esteemed brother. He is famed for his devotion to Lord Ramachandra. He is the illustrious chief of the monkeys, who is renowned in the Ramayana. When Lord Ramachandra lost His wife Sita, that brother of mine leaped across the sea to Ravana's abode and discovered her whereabouts. He then set the city of Lanka on fire. Later he killed many Rakshasa generals in the battle of Lanka. He even carried a huge mountain from the Himalayas just to save the life of Lord Ramachandra's brother, Lakshmana. I am insignificant in comparison to his strength, but I am able to fight with you if I have to. I must proceed further into this forest, and you must clear the way."

The monkey smiled calmly when he saw Bhima's impatience. He said, "Please do not be angry with me. I tell you the truth when I say that I am too old to move from this spot. If my tailobstructs your path, then just move it aside and go on your way."

Bhima, thinking that the monkey was failing in energy, thought, "I will take hold of his tail and throw this monkey, destitute of strength, to Yamaraja's abode." Assured of his prowess and smiling, Bhima approached the tail, and with his left hand he tried to move the tail as if it were a twig on the ground, but the tail would not move. He tried with both hands, but still he could not lift the tail. He tried again and again, but still he could not budge the tail so much as an inch. The monkey was smiling in amusement, which only increased Bhima's anger. Bhima tried repeatedly to lift the monkey's tail till his face was completely red, his eyebrows tightened, his eyes rolled, his face was contracted in wrinkles, and his body was covered with sweat. Finally, Bhima had to admit his defeat. He went before the monkey and prostrated himself, saying, "Please forgive my harsh words. Out of ignorance I have transgressed the conduct of good behavior to elders. Your power is greater than mine, and therefore, you must be some demigod descended from the higher regions. Please tell me who you are."

The monkey smiled at him and said, "I will gladly tell you who I am. I am the son of the wind god, Hanuman." With these words they tightly embraced each other, and tears of joy came from their eyes. They talked a long time, and Bhima was thrilled beyond words that he had finally met his brother, whom he had only heard about previously. Before their departure, Hanuman bestowed a boon on Bhima, "I am going to grant you a benediction that will help you in the future battle of the Bharatas. I will sit on the flagstaff of Arjuna's chariot and with my thunderous voice, I will strike fear into the hearts of your opponents and put new life into your army. I will always be with you." After Hanuman gave this boon to the Pandavas, both brothers embraced and departed.

Bhima continued on his journey and finally came to a lake that was covered with thousands of the flowers that Draupadi had wanted. It happened to be the garden of Kuvera, and there were many Rakshasas guarding it. They attacked him with their upraised weapons, but Bhima killed most of them. Those that were left alive ran to Kuvera and informed him of the intruder that had come upon the lake. Kuvera understood that it was Bhima and told his servants to let him pick as many flowers as he wanted. This message was relayed to Bhima, who thought of Kuvera with great affection.

In the meantime, Yudhisthira and Draupadi became worried that Bhima had not returned. They called for Ghatotkacha, and together they followed Bhima's path. In a short time they found him at the lake of Kuvera, sitting with an armful of flowers that were meant for Draupadi. Bhima then related to them all that had had happened. As they were talking, an invisible voice spoke from the heavens ordering, "You are to go no further than this point. You must return to Badrikashrama. Your brother Arjuna will return from Indra's abode in a short time." Following the command of the voice, they returned to Badrikashrama and waited for the return of Arjuna.

One day while Bhimasena was away, a Rakshasa all of a sudden carried off Yudhisthira, Nakula, Sahadeva and Draupadi. That Rakshasa, who had been disguised as a brahmana, had secretly remained in the company of the Pandavas, alleging that he was a high class brahmana. His real desire was to steal the bows, quivers and other possessions of the Pandavas. He had also been waiting for the opportunity to enjoy Draupadi. The name of this wicked demon was Jatasura. When he saw that Bhima and Ghatotkacha were away and that Lomasa and the other ascetic sages were bathing and collecting flowers, he took the opportunity to steal away the three brothers and Draupadi. However, Sahadeva broke away from the demon's grip and forcefully took the sword named Kausika from his grasp. He then began to call for Bhimasena in the direction in which that mighty warrior had gone.

While Sahadeva was calling out for Bhima, Yudhisthira rebuked the Rakshasa, "O stupid one, your merits are decreasing moment by moment. O Rakshasa, we are the guardians, governors and preceptors of kingdoms. Unless we have committed some offense, you should not abduct us like this. We have not committed any misdeeds, however small. Living on simple food in the forest, we serve gods and others to the best of our ability. After offering you food and shelter, why would you seek to injure us? Why do you seek your death for no apparent reason? If you are really a hero, then give us back our weapons and fight us one by one."

Suddenly the Rakshasa could not proceed at a rapid pace. Sahadeva, following behind, began to challenge the Rakshasa, "Wait! Wait! I am Pandu's son, Sahadeva. Stand before me and fight, O coward; either I will slay you or you will slay me."

While Sahadeva was challenging the Rakshasa, Bhima appeared on the scene holding his mighty mace. When Bhima saw Yudhisthira, Nakula and Draupadi on the shoulders of the demon and Sahadeva chastising him fearlessly, he fired with wrath and addressed the Rakshasa, " I suspected you for a wicked person from the time I saw you looking at our weapons. Because you were in the dress of a brahmana, and you were innocent of offense, I did not kill you at that time. He who kills a Rakshasa in the dress of a brahmana goes to hell for slaying him. Further, a person cannot be killed before his time comes. Surely you have reached the end of you time for carrying away the chaste Draupadi. By committing this sinful deed, you have swallowed the hook fastened to the line of fate. So, like unto a fish in water, whose mouth has been hooked, you will not live today. You will attain the same destination as that of Baka and Hidimva."

Thus challenged by Bhima, the Rakshasa put down Yudhisthira, Nakula and Draupadi, and being forced by fate, approached Bhima for a fight. And with his lips trembling in anger, he rebuked Bhima, "Wretch! I have not been bewildered. I have been waiting for you. Today, I will offer oblations to those Rakshasas whom you have just mentioned."

Challenged in this way, Bhima, bursting with wrath, rushed towards the Rakshasa, licking the corners of his mouth and slapping his own arms with his hands. The Rakshasa also darted toward Bhima in anger. When the dreadful wrestling ensued between those two, the sons of Madri also rushed at the Rakshasa. However, Vrikodara forbade them with a smile and said, "Witness this battle! I am more than a match for this puny Rakshasa. By my own self, by my brothers, by my merit, by my good deeds, and by my sacrifices, do I swear that I shall slay this Rakshasa."

Thus the fighting ensued, and those two mighty heroes struck each other with their arms. Repeatedly uprooting trees, they hit each other, shouting and roaring like two masses of clouds. Wishing to kill the other and wrestling with each other in fury, those two combatants broke down many massive trees by the force of their thighs. The encounter resembled that between Vali and Sugriva, who fought over a kingdom and a woman. Brandishing trees in their hands, they struck each other with full force, shouting incessantly. When all the trees in that region had been pulled down and crushed to pulp, those two warriors picked up rocks and flung them at each other. Then again they darted toward each other, and each grabbing the other, wrestled like two maddened elephants. They dealt each other fierce blows that sounded like the crashing of thunderbolts. Clenching his fist like a five headed snake, Bhima dealt a blow to the neck of the Rakshasa that make him fall faint. Catching hold of the mighty Rakshasa and lifting him up Bhima threw him to the ground with full force, smashing all his limbs. Striking the Rakshasa's neck repeatedly, Bhima severed his head from his body. He did this with the ease of a person plucking a fruit from its stem. Having slain Jatasura, Bhima went to Yudhisthira, and the foremost brahmanas began to eulogize Bhima even as the Maruts praised Indra.


Thus ends Chapter four of the Vana Parva, entitled, Bhima Meets Hanuman and Kills Jatasura.


Chapter Commentary


Another benediction has been obtained by the Pandavas, so how can they be defeated by the Kurus. Whenever one gets the blessings of Vaishnavas, brahmanas and other worshipable superiors, how can there ever be any ill fortune? We must follow in the footsteps of the Pandavas and try for blessings and benedictions from the Vaishnavas for preaching Krishna consciousness in this difficult age of Kali. When the Lord's pure devotees are pleased with our service then certainly Lord Krishna will remove any impediments from our devotional path.



Chapter Five

The Return of Arjuna and the Evil Plan of Duryodhana


After Jatasura had been slain, the royal son of Kunti, Yudhisthira returned to Badrikashrama. One day, upon remembering Arjuna, Yudhisthira gathered his brothers and Draupadi and explained to them, "We have passed these four years peacefully in the forest. Arjuna has informed us through different sages that in the fifth year he will descend from heaven to mount Himavan. This mountain is like unto an abode of the gods. We should now travel there, where we shall soon see the wielder of the Gandiva bow." Having thus made up his mind, Yudhisthira summoned the brahmanas and explained to them his plan. They blest him by saying, "Your plan shall be attended by prosperity."

The Pandavas and their wife accompanied by many pious brahmanas then traveled to the north. They saw many lions, tigers and elephants as they traveled. On the seventeenth day they reached Mount Mainaka and the base of Gandhamadana mountain. Not far from Gandhamadana, Pandu's son beheld the sacred slopes of Himavan, covered with various trees and creepers. There among the blossoming trees, the Pandavas beheld the holy hermitage of Arishtasena. The renowned sage Arishtasena, greeted the Pandavas and the accompanying sages and brahmanas. The Pandavas then spent the fifth year on Mount Himavan waiting for the return of Arjuna. The mountain was celestial with its flower bearing trees, fruits, clear water lakes, and birds of every description. It was indeed the abode of the denizens of heaven. The Pandavas passed their time listening to Lomasa tell various stories from the Puranas.

One day Suparna, a large bird, carried off a powerful and mighty Naga living in the large lake nearby. When this happened the mighty mount Himavan began to tremble and large trees shattered to pieces. All the creatures on the mountain and the Pandavas witnessed this marvel. Then from the top of the mountain the wind brought before the Pandavas various fragrant and beautiful flowers. The Pandavas, Draupadi and their friends saw the heavenly blossoms colored with five hues. When Draupadi saw the flowers, she solicited Bhima, "There are many Rakshasas living on this mountain, O best of the Bharata race. You possess great prowess and the might of your arms is irrepressible. O Bhimasena, perhaps these Rakshasas, terrified by your powerful mace, will leave this mountain, allowing us to behold the summit which is covered with these beautiful blossoms. O Bhima, for a long time I have cherished this thought in my mind."

Bhima, driven by the wish of Draupadi, could not help but fulfill her desire. Taking up his weapons, the club, sword, bow and arrow, Bhima proceeded to clear the mountain of Rakshasas, who happened to be the servants of Kuvera and who guarded the mountain from unwanted intruders. Bhima found a rugged path that only one person could follow. Bhima ascended to the summit and came upon the opulent abode of Kuvera, adorned with golden crystal palaces, surrounded on all sides by golden walls embedded with gems. Gardens filled with flowers were everywhere. The abode was graced with heavenly damsels who were expert at dancing. Casually supporting himself on the end of his bow, Bhima stood beholding the city of Kuvera. The foremost of the Bharatas surveyed the Palace of Kuvera adorned with multi-colored gems. Bhima then blew his conchshell making the hair on the Rakshasas' bodies stand on end. Taking up their weapons, the Yakshas and Rakshasas rushed at Bhima, ordering him not proceed further. The Yakshas and Rakshasas released javelins, darts, arrows, maces, and axes at the powerful son of Pandu. However, Bhima crushed their weapons with his own and then began severing their hands, legs, arms and heads. The Rakshasas tried to surround Bhima like the clouds surround the sun. However, just as the sun disperses clouds, so also Bhima repulsed the oncoming enemy. Terrified at this wielder of weapons, they fled in different directions. Only Maniman, the friend of Kuvera, stood to face Bhima with darts and maces in his hand. He addressed the retreating Rakshasas, "When you go to Kuvera's abode, what will you say to him? That you have been defeated in combat by a mere mortal." Having scorned them, he took up his weapons and rushed at Bhima to kill him. As he rushed toward Bhima like a maddened elephant, Bhima pierced him with three arrows. The mighty Maniman then released his mace with full force. However, Bhima repulsed the mace with his weapons causing a sound and sight like thunder and lightning. In the meantime, the intelligent Rakshasa discharged an frightening iron club, decorated with a golden handle. The club, belching forth flames and emitting tremendous roars, all of a sudden hit Bhima's right arm and then fell to the ground. On being severely wounded, Bhima, with immeasurable prowess, took up his own mace. He then darted speedily toward the mighty Maniman. Maniman took up a huge dart and released it at Bhima to kill him. However, Bhima broke the dart with the end of his mace. The mighty armed Bhima then sprang into the air releasing his mace as Indra releases a thunderbolt. That mace pulverized the mighty Maniman, who fell to the ground, completely devoid of life. The remaining Rakshasas then fled to save their lives.

Meanwhile, Yudhisthira, not seeing Bhima anywhere, took Nakula and Sahadeva and began to ascend the summit of Mount Himavan. On reaching the summit, Yudhisthira saw Bhima holding his weapons and near to him the dead Rakshasas. Yudhisthira embraced Bhima, happy to see him alive. They sat down and Yudhisthira said to his younger brother, "Either through rashness or through ignorance you have committed a sinful act. O hero, because you are leading a life of an ascetic, this slaughter is without cause. This act has certainly offended the heavenly gods. If you seek to do good, never again commit such a deed." Having been rebuked by his brother, Vrikodara began to reflect on what he had said.

Those Yakshas and Rakshasas who had not been killed by Bhima went to Kuvera and told him what had taken place. When Kuvera heard how so many of his servants had been killed and that Maniman had been slain, Kuvera was filled with anger and ordered his men, "Yoke the horses!" Kuvera then ascended his wonderful chariot, which was opulent beyond description, and to the eulogy of thousands of Rakshasas started into the heavens toward Mount Himavan. When the Pandavas saw the large entourage of Kuvera, their hair stood on end. When Kuvera's celestial chariot arrived on the scene, Kuvera smilingly descended and stood before the Pandavas. Thinking that they had committed an offense, the Pandavas bowed down to Kuvera and then stood before him with folded hands. Upon seeing Bhima holding sharpened shafts and ready to fight, Kuvera addressed Yudhisthira, "O son of Dharma, all creatures know that you are engaged in the welfare of all. Therefore, you may dwell on the summit of this mountain. O Pandava, do not be angry with Bhima. These Rakshasas have been slain by destiny. Your brother has been an instrument only. The death of these Rakshasas has been foreseen by the gods. I entertain no anger toward Bhimasena."

Kuvera then turned to Bhima and said, "I do not mind that you have committed this rash act. In trying to please Draupadi, you have disregarded the boundaries of the gods. Actually, I am pleased with you. O Vrikodara, today I have been freed from a terrible curse. For some offense the great rishi, Agastya, had cursed me in anger. You have been the instrument to fulfill this curse. O Bhima, it has been destined that I be disgraced in this way. Therefore, no blame can be attached to you."

"O divine one," Yudhisthira inquired, "why had you been cursed by the great sage Agastya?"

"O King," the lord of the treasures replied, "once there was an assembly of the gods, and I also attended, surrounded by numerous Yakshas carrying fierce weapons. On the way I saw the eminent sage, Agastya, engaged in severe austerity on the bank of the Yamuna. On seeing that muni, flaming and brilliant as fire, seated with upraised arms, facing the sun, my friend, Maniman, from stupidity and foolishness, discharged his stool on the head of that Maharishi. Thereupon the sage cursed me saying, 'Because you have offended me in this way, this Maniman, along with your forces, shall meet death at the hands of a mortal. You shall be distressed on account of your fallen soldiers, but you will be freed from this sin on beholding that mortal.' O Yudhisthira, patience, ability, time, place and prowess--these five lead to success in human affairs. A kshatriya who is endowed with patience can rule the world for a long time. O best of men, Bhima is fearless, but ignorant of proper duty. He has the sense of a child and unforbearing. Please, therefore, check him. You should not return the ashrama of the pious sage Arishtasena. You can stay there until the return of Arjuna. O lord of men, deputed by me, the Gandharvas will give you protection from any harm."

Having heard these words from Kuvera, the lord of wealth, the Pandavas were relieved at heart. Then, Bhima, lowering his weapons, bowed down at the feet of Kuvera. Kuvera, seeing Bhima prostrate before him, desired to give him benedictions. He blest him saying, "May you destroy the pride of your foes, and may you give delight to the pious."

Then turning to Yudhisthira, Kuvera said, "O great King, do live in this romantic region, and the Yakshas will not bother you. Gudakesha will come back soon after attaining all the celestial weapons." After instructing Yudhisthira, Kuvera ascended into the heavens, followed by the host of Yakshas and Rakshasas.

One day as those mighty warriors were thinking of Partha, Indra's chariot suddenly descended from the heavens. It was driven by Matali, and it so happened that Arjuna was on the chariot. Arjuna was fully decorated with ornaments and wearing garlands made of heavenly flowers. Arjuna descended from the chariot and offered obeisances first to Dhaumya and then to Yudhisthira and Bhima and accepted the obeisances of Nakula and Sahadeva. He offered cheerful words to Draupadi, who was overjoyed at his return.

As the Pandavas gazed into the skies, Indra suddenly appeared from the heavens, accompanied by the hosts of demigods. As he descended from his chariot, Arjuna offered his obeisances along with the rest of his brothers. Indra then instructed Yudhisthira, "You are blessed, O Pandava. You shall be a ruler of the earth. At this time, O son of Kunti, you should go to Kamyaka forest and reside there till the time of the twelve years are up." Indra then ascended his chariot and returned to the heavenly planets.

Yudhisthira, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva were very happy to have Arjuna back in their midst, and they questioned him about his travels. Arjuna began to relate how he had been taken to the heavenly planets and how Indra had treated him as his son. He told them of the beauty of the heavenly planets and how he had been cursed by Urvasi to be a eunuch for the period of one year. He also told them how he conquered the Nivatakavachas who had received a benediction from Lord Brahma and were thus unconquerable by the demigods. He told them how he approached their flying city and how he challenged them to fight. They came out of their city 60,000 strong and began to battle with him. They used many demoniac illusions and fought with fierce weapons, but he was able to defeat all of them with Indra's thunderbolt weapon and various other divine astras. Arjuna then told his brothers what Indra has said concerning the future war, "Indra instructed me, 'O son, all the celestial weapons of the devas are in your possession, so no man on earth will be your equal. When you are on the battlefield, the combined forces of Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Shakuni and all others will not equal one sixteenth of your prowess.' And Lord Indra granted me this golden garland and this conchshell, Devadatta. He also gave me this celestial crown and this impenetrable mail capable of protecting the body. These elegant and divine clothes and ornaments were also presented by Indra. Thus I have spent five years in Indra's abode."

The next morning Yudhisthira approached Arjuna requesting, "O Kaunteya, please show me the weapons by which you have vanquished the Danavas." Arjuna then took out his Gandiva bow and commenced to show the weapons in order. When the divine astras had been set, the earth began to tremble and the sun hid itself in the clouds. Suddenly the Rishis, Siddhas, Devarshis, denizens of heaven, Yakshas, Rakshasas, Brahma, Shiva and the Lokapalas appeared on the scene. Narada Muni, speaking on behalf of the devas, addressed Partha in sweet words, "O Arjuna, do not discharge the celestial weapons. These should never be discharged when there is no fit object. And when there is a fit object, they should not be released unless sore pressed by the opponent. O son of the Kurus, to discharge weapons without occasion is fraught with evil. O Dhananjaya, these weapons when properly kept will increase your strength and happiness; but if they are not properly kept, they can destroy the three worlds. You should not act in this way again. O Yudhisthira, you will behold these weapons when Partha will use them for grinding your enemies in battle." On saying this Narada and the heavenly lords left that place, and Yudhisthira was struck with wonder. After this incident the Pandavas started for the Kamyaka forest.

On the way to the Kamyaka, they came upon the ashrama of Vrishaparva near the bank of the Yamuna. There, they spent some time, and one day while Bhima was hunting in the forest, he came face to face with a huge serpent. As Bhima approached the serpent, the huge snake immediately seized Bhimasena in his grip. He began to coil around the body of Bhimasena; and although the son of Kunti had the strength of ten thousand elephants, he could do nothing for the serpent had received a benediction that whatever came into its grip became powerless. Bhima tried to free himself from the grasp of the snake, but it was no use. Meanwhile, Yudhisthira saw that there were many evil omens manifest, and he inquired about Bhimasena's welfare. When he heard that Bhima had gone hunting in the forest, he ordered Partha to stay with Draupadi, and Nakula and Sahadeva to guard the brahmanas. He, along with Dhaumya set out to find Bhima. As they traveled through the forest, they saw Bhima's path, which was marked with toppled trees, dead lions and other furious dead animals. As they searched they saw Bhima lying motionless, enwrapped in the coils of a serpent. Yudhisthira anxiously questioned Bhima, "O son of Kunti, how did you come upon this misfortune? Who is this serpent who appears like a mountain?" Bhima replied, "This mighty serpent has caught me for his food. He is the royal sage Nahusha living in the form of a serpent."

Yudhisthira then requested the serpent, "O great personality, please release my brother, and I will give you some other food to satisfy your belly. Please tell me who your are, and how you have come to accept this form."

"O sinless one," the serpent replied, "I am one of your previous ancestors, the son of Ayu and fifth in descendent from the moon. I was formerly a celebrated King named Nahusha. Due to my past pious activities, I had attained the heavenly realm and was ruling in the absence in Indra. However, I offended the brahmanas, and they cursed me to take this form. They said I would be delivered from this curse when the intelligent Yudhisthira answers my questions."

"You may ask any question that you like," Yudhisthira replied. The serpent began to ask questions, and Yudhisthira answered them to the satisfaction of the serpent. The serpent then released Bhima, and Nahusha again took his form as a demigod. He offered blessings to the Pandavas and again ascended to the heavenly realm.

The Pandavas then continued to make their way to the Kamyaka forest. Upon reaching that wooded region, they made their home there again.

During their stay, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, came there to see His devotees and tried to persuade them to attack the city of Hastinapura and take back their kingdom. Yudhisthira refused to accept the offer of Lord Krishna, for he wanted to wait for the full thirteen years before taking any action.

It so happened that a certain brahmana came to Dhritarastra and related to him the experiences the Pandavas had while in the forest. He told the blind king how Arjuna had attained the celestial planets and acquired the weapons of the demigods. Dhritarastra was very much aggrieved to hear all that had taken place; for he knew at the end of the thirteenth year, his sons and relatives would be killed in a great battle.

Shakuni happened to be listening to the conversation between the brahmana and the King. Shakuni then told Duryodhana and Karna what benedictions Arjuna had received, and together they made a wicked plan. They decided to go to the forest of Dvaitavana, which was in the Kamyaka forest, on the plea of inspecting the cows. Upon seeing the Pandavas dressed in rags, they would laugh at their misfortune and thus humiliate them. With this plan in mind, Shakuni, Duryodhana and Karna approached the King and begged permission to go to Dvaitavana to inspect the cows. The king gave permission, and thus the evil trio began their journey. The procession consisted of eight thousand chariots, thirty thousand elephants, nine thousand horses and many thousands of foot soldiers.

They soon arrived at Dvaitavana forest. There the Kurus had several herds of cows numbering many, many thousands. They began to inspect all these herds and count the exact number that was in each herd. There happened to be a scenic lake nearby, and Duryodhana ordered that tents be erected there. When the servants of Duryodhana reached that lake, they saw that it was filled with Gandharavas, who had descended from the heavenly planets. The servants of Duryodhana returned and told him the situation. The son of Dhritarastra then ordered some of his best men to drive the Gandharavas from the lake. Following their master's order, those soldiers approached the Dvaitavana lake and ordered the Gandharvas, "The mighty King, Duryodhana, is coming here for sport. You must stand aside!"

The Gandharvas began to laugh. "Your wicked King," they replied, "must be devoid of all good sense, or else how could he order the residents of heaven to leave this place. Return to your King and inform him that if he comes here, he will be sent to the abode of death." Thus chastised by the Gandharvas, the king's army returned to the presence of the royal son of Dhritarastra.

Duryodhana was incensed and ordered his soldiers to prepare for battle. When all preparations had been made, the army headed toward the Dvaitavana lake. When they approached the gate leading to the garden, the Gandharvas forbid them to go further, but the Kuru host headed by Duryodhana and Karna did not listen to them and entered the lake region. The Gandharvas went to their leader Chitrasena and told him of the advance of the Kuru army. The Gandharva king ordered his men to attack the intruders. The Gandharvas then assaulted the army of Duryodhana, and seeing the Gandharvas, rushing towards them with upraised weapons, the Kuru warriors fled the lake area. Karna alone stood and faced the enemy. The suta's son checked their advance with a deluge of arrows. He struck the Gandharvas with his sharp pointed shafts, causing their heads to roll on the ground. Although they were being slaughtered in great numbers, the Gandharvas did not retreat but fought with greater valor. King Duryodhana, Shakuni, Duhshasana, Vikarna and the other sons of Dhritarastra appeared on their chariots and began driving the Gandharvas from the lake. The fighting soon became fierce, and anyone who witnessed the exchange of weapons was filled with wonder. Unable to withstand the prowess of the Kuru army, the Gandharvas began to flee Dvaitavana.

Seeing his army routed by the on rush of the Kuru host, Chitrasena, the Gandharva king, became enraged and released weapons that deprived the Kaurava warriors of their senses. By the mystic illusion of the Gandharva king, it appeared that there were ten Gandharvas around each soldier of the Kuru army. Thinking themselves outnumbered, the army broke and ran from the battlefield. Only Karna, Shakuni and Duryodhana remained to fight with the Gandharvas. The son of the sun god stood there on his chariot and fought with the Gandharvas. The Gandharvas, desirous of killing Karna, surrounded his chariot and tried desperately to overcome him. Some killed his charioteer, and some killed his horses. Some destroyed his wheels, and others completely smashed his chariot. While his chariot was being thus attacked, Karna leaped down with sword and shield in hand. He mounted Vikarna's chariot and fled the battlefield to his eternal shame.

After Karna had been defeated, Duryodhana alone stood against the onslaught of the Gandharvas. The Gandharva host attacked his chariot, killing his charioteer and horses. When Duryodhana was deprived of his chariot, Chitrasena rushed towards him and seized him. Duhshasana was also taken in the same way, and so were the other sons of Dhritarastra. After they were captured in this manner, whatever men were left in Duryodhana's army went to the Pandavas for protection. Duryodhana's followers approached Yudhisthira pleading, "O sons of Pritha, the Gandharvas have captured our prince and his brothers. Please save them!" When Bhima heard their calls, he laughed and answered them, "What we wished to accomplish with horses, elephants, and infantry has, indeed, been accomplished by the Gandharvas! The sons of Dhritarastra have come here with evil intentions and have been overtaken by the results of their sinful activities. It seems that there are still some people in this world who are desirous of doing us good."

While Bhima was speaking thus, Yudhisthira corrected him, "This is not the time for cruel words. When a kshatriya is approached with a helpless plea like this, who can refuse to give protection? Our cousins have been captured by the Gandharvas, as well as the ladies of the royal household. This is an insult to our family tradition. It cannot go down in the history of the world that the Kuru warriors were defeated. Let us take up our weapons and attack the Gandharvas."

Hearing Yudhisthira's inspiring words, Arjuna and the sons of Madri pledged protection, and even Bhima readied himself for battle. They then ascended chariots brought for them from the Kuru camp, and approached the Gandharvas, ordering the release of Duryodhana. The Gandharvas refused, and a battle ensued. The Gandharvas attacked the chariots of the Pandavas in the same way as they had attacked the chariots of Karna and Duryodhana. However, by the use of his celestial weapons, Arjuna sent hundreds and thousands of Gandharvas to the abode of death. The Gandharvas could not approach the Pandava's chariots, and as they were being slaughtered, they rose up into the skies to escape arrest. Seeing them fleeing, Arjuna covered them in a network of arrows preventing their escape. The Gandharvas returned these arrows with thousands more. Chitrasena attacked Arjuna with his mystic illusions, but he was checked by the celestial weapons of Arjuna. Resorting to a curtain of mystic power, Chitrasena began to fight Arjuna with greater prowess. Partha, however, dispelled the mystic curtain by means of a weapon known by the name of sabda-veda. When Chitrasena was exhausted in fighting, he revealed himself to his friend Arjuna. When Arjuna saw Chitrasena, he withdrew his weapons and the other sons of Pandu also did the same.

The mighty bowman, Arjuna then smilingly inquired of Chitrasena, "O hero, why have you arrested the sons of Dhritarastra as well as their wives.?"

"Knowing that you were in the forest," Chitrasena replied, "these sinful men have come here to laugh at you. Understanding their intentions, Indra has sent me here to capture Duryodhana and bring him to the heavenly planets for punishment. This wicked prince has now been put in chains; and if it is agreeable to you, I will take him to the presence of Indra."

"O Chitrasena," Arjuna replied, "if you wish to please us, then set Duryodhana free. This is the desire of our brother Yudhisthira."

Chitrasena then requested Arjuna, "This wicked soul is full of false pride and envy. He does not deserve to be set free. If Yudhisthira knew the real reason why these men came here, I am sure he would allow them to be taken to Indra for punishment. Let us go to Yudhisthira, and let him decide the future of these sinful men.

They then went to Yudhisthira and informed him about the conduct of Duryodhana, and after hearing everything, he ordered the release of his cousins. Yudhisthira was pleased with the Gandharvas for not killing Duryodhana and said, "Fortunate it is that although you had the strength, you did not kill Dhritarastra's wicked son and the rest of the Kuru house. This has been a great act of kindness, for the honor of my family has been saved. I am very satisfied with all the Gandharvas. Ask from me anything, and having all your desires fulfilled, return to your celestial abode." The lord of the Gandharvas was pleased with Yudhisthira's humility and returned to his abode. It was then seen by the Pandavas that Indra appeared over the battlefield and showered the dead soldiers with his nectar of immortality. This revived all the Gandharvas, who then returned to the heavenly planets.

When Duryodhana had been released, he was very much ashamed and Yudhisthira admonished him, "O child, never again try to make fun of anyone for such acts will never bring you happiness. Please go back to your kingdom. I wish you well." With his head bent low in extreme humiliation, Duryodhana along with this relatives left the presence of Yudhisthira and went away.


Thus Ends the Fifth Chapter of the Vana Parva, Entitled, The Return of Arjuna and The Evil Plan of Duryodhana.


Chapter Commentary


Here is another example of how impious reactions come when one desires to harm others. In this case Duryodhana got an immediate reaction for his folly. The reaction to the sins at the gambling match took a longer time to fructify. However, all reactions good or bad have their time of maturation. At the battle of the Bharatas at Kurukshetra, Duryodhana would eat the bitter fruit of his sinful activities by watching his entire dynasty destroyed in war. Every action is like a boomerang which comes back to us. As the modern day saying goes, "What goes around, comes around." If we want to avoid all material reactions, either good or bad, one must engage in the devotional service of the Lord. Such action produces no material reaction, but produces a spiritual body in the kingdom of God, where there is no influence of the law of karma. We can attain this state of peace and happiness by chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

King Yudhisthira's transcendental quality is that he is completely free of envy. Even though Duryodhana had come to embarrass the Pandavas and even cause some physical harm, still Yudhisthira ordered that Duryodhana be released and sent back to Hastinapura. This freedom of envy is a quality of the residents of Vaikuntha. The sanskrit word kuntha means anxiety, but the word vaikuntha means freedom from anxiety and envy. If we want to return to the kingdom of God, we must develop the same quality of being non envious. Even if someone wishes to do us some harm, we should follow the guidelines taught to us by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, trinad api sunichena, taror api sahisnuna, amanina amanadena, kirtaniya sada hari. "One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, completely devoid of all prestige and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind, one can chant the holy name constantly."



Chapter Six

The Last Year of Forest Life


After Duryodhana had been humiliated by the Pandavas, he left the Kamyaka forest, determined to give up his life. He told Duhshasana to return to Hastinapura and rule the kingdom. Duhshasana, Karna and Shakuni tried to convince him otherwise, but they failed to do so. Duryodhana spread Kusha grass on the ground and put on the dress of an ascetic. While he was in deep meditation, the Danavas and Daityas witnessed his activities from the heavens. They wanted to stop his act of fasting until death. Thus they ordered that he be brought to their presence. The demons told Duryodhana that he should not give up his life. They told him that many asuras had taken birth on earth to assist him in killing the Pandavas. The demons informed Duryodhana of who he was in his previous life. They said that he had taken birth as the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, and thus his birth was celestial. He was also informed that Karna was a demon in his previous life and was killed by Lord Krishna, Himself. They said, "He will remember his former hatred for Krishna and Arjuna and vanquish them in battle." After speaking to Duryodhana, they returned him to his place of meditation. He awoke as if from a dream and thought, "Now I will fight with the Pandavas and kill them." Thus he went back to Hastinapura along with Karna, Shakuni and Duhshasana and thought nothing of his humiliation.

After this incident Duryodhana wanted to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice with the same pomp and grandeur as Yudhisthira had performed it. However, the brahmanas told him that as long as his father and Yudhisthira were still alive, he could not perform this sacrifice. They informed him of another sacrifice that was almost equal to the Rajasuya and required the subordination of all the kings of the earth. Duryodhana sent Karna to conquer all the earthly kings, and Radha's son accomplished this feat for his friend. The sacrifice was then started and completed with success. Some who also attended the Rajasuya said it did not compare with Yudhisthira's, and others who were friends with Duryodhana said that it was greater than Yudhisthira's. Hearing this praise from his close friends, Duryodhana resided happily in his kingdom.

Once upon a time the great sage Durvasa muni came to the city of Hastinapura and was offfered a royal reception by Duryodhana. As usual, Duryodhana was thinking of doing some harm to the Pandavas. He thought, "If I can satisfy this muni, then he will give me a benediction that I can use against the Pandavas." He thus pleased the muni by his service attitude, and the Muni granted him a benediction. Duryodhana asked that the muni go to the forest along with his 60,000 disciples at the time when Draupadi had already taken her meals. Duryodhana was thinking that the Pandavas would not be able to feed the brahmanas, and Durvasa would then curse them. The muni agreed and went to the Kamyaka forest accompanied by his 60,000 disciples. Yudhisthira greeted them and asked that before eating, they bathe in the Ganges. Yudhisthira asked Draupadi if there were any food left in the pot, and she replied that she had already eaten. She then began to pray to Lord Krishna to save them. At that time Lord Krishna appeared on the scene and asked Draupadi if there was any food left in the pot. She said that there was none. Lord Krishna then went to the kitchen, looked in the pot and saw that there was one grain of food left. He ate that grain, and as soon as He did all the 60,000 brahmanas, who were bathing, felt their stomachs so full of food that they had no appetite to eat anything. They were too embarrassed to return to Yudhisthira for full meals. Thus they went away from that place and by the grace of Lord Krishna, the Pandavas were saved from the curse of a great muni.

One day, when the Pandavas were out hunting, the King of Sindhu, Jayadratha, happened to pass by their cottage in the forest. In the cottage he saw Draupadi, who appeared to be a demigoddess. He was infatuated with love and asked one of his soldiers to inquire about her. The prince went to Draupadi and asked her who her husband was. She told him that she was the wife of the Pandavas, and the prince took the news back to King Jayadratha. The sinful Jayadratha, desiring Draupadi for his wife, approached her and ordered, "You must now give up the Pandavas for they are no more than beggars. I possess an opulent kingdom, and I can give you the treatment you deserve." Draupadi laughed at him, but he grabbed her forcefully and took her to his chariot. Dhaumya chastised Jayadratha with harsh words, but the King would not listen. He put her on his chariot and rode toward his kingdom. Dhaumya followed, pleading with Jayadratha to desist from such a heinous act. Meanwhile, the Pandavas noticed some evil omens and came back to the cottage only to find Draupadi and Dhaumya gone and the maidservant crying. The maidservant told Yudhisthira that King Jayadratha had forcibly taken away Draupadi and that Dhaumya had followed them. The five sons of Pandu were furious, and ascending their chariots, they followed the path taken by Jayadratha. They challenged Jayadratha's army and within a short time thousands of men were slain, including some of Jayadratha's finest princes. Jayadratha, seeing the slaughter, left Draupadi and ran for his life. Bhima and Arjuna pursued him and killed his horses. Jayadratha jumped from his chariot and ran into the forest. Bhima caught him by the hair and threw him to the ground. He repeatedly beat him with his fists till he was unconscious. Arjuna asked that Bhima not kill him, for Yudhisthira would not approve of it. Bhima took out a sharpened arrow and cut off his hair, leaving five tufts in different places on his head. He then told Jayadratha that if he wanted to live he would have to announce that he was a slave to King Yudhisthira. Out of fear Jayadratha agreed, and he was taken in chains to the presence of Ajatrashatru. He was made to say that he was a slave to Yudhisthira, and Yudhisthira; feeling compassion for him, ordered his release.

Jayadratha wanted revenge. He went to the mountains to perform austerities to please Lord Shiva. He ate little and slept little. Lord Shiva became pleased with him and ask him to take a benediction. Jayadratha requested, "Please give me the benediction that I can kill the Pandavas." Lord Shiva replied, "I cannot grant that benediction since they cannot be slain by anyone. However, I will give you a boon that you can defeat in battle at least once all the Pandavas except Arjuna." Saying this much, Lord Shiva disappeared.

It was at this time that Indra came to Karna at Hastinapura in the dress of a brahmana and begged from him his natural armor and earrings. As long as Karna possessed this kundala and kavacha, he could not be killed. Karna offered the brahmana his kingdom instead of his natural armor and earrings, but the brahmana would not be satisfied. Previously, the Sun god had come to Karna warning him that Indra would come in the dress of a brahmana and beg from him his natural armor and earrings. He told his son that he should not part with his armor if he wanted to be successful in killing Arjuna. Karna wanted to be famous as a giver of charity and said he could not refuse any brahmana who came begging something from him. Although Karna knew the brahmana to be Indra, he did not hesitate to give his natural armor and earrings. However, in return he asked for Indra's shakti weapon by which he could kill any opponent in battle. Indra agreed, and Karna received from the heavenly king his shakti weapon. Karna then pealed off his armor which was a part of his body and also cut off his earrings; both were dripping with blood. Indra then returned to his abode, and when the sons of Dhritarastra learned of this incident, they lamented greatly. When the Pandavas headed by Yudhisthira were made aware of this incident, they felt that Arjuna could now kill Karna in battle.

One day while the Pandavas were hunting in the forest, they became very thirsty. Yudhisthira ordered Nakula to bring water from a nearby lake. Nakula hastily left and soon came upon a crystal clear lake inhabited by cranes and filled with lotus flowers. He desired to drink the lake's water; but before he could a voice from the sky ordered, "O child, do not drink the water from this lake for it is in my possession. You may take water only after you have answered my questions." Nakula did not listen to the words of the unembodied voice, and when he started to drink the water, he fell down dead.

After sometime Yudhisthira became anxious about Nakula and sent Sahadeva to find out the cause of the delay. When Sahadeva came upon the lake and saw his brother lying dead, he became much aggrieved. He then went to drink the water of that lake to quench his thirst, but a unembodied voice announced, "Do not drink the water of this lake for it is in my possession. Only after you answer my questions can you take as much as you require." Sahadeva did not listen to the strange voice and drank the water of the lake. When he did, he immediately fell to the ground dead.

When Sahadeva did not return after a long time, Yudhisthira sent Arjuna to find them and bring some water for drinking. When he came upon the lake, he saw both Nakula and Sahadeva dead. He was overwhelmed with lamentation. He began to search the entire forest for the being who had killed his brothers, but he could not find anyone. Arjuna felt fatigued and went to drink water from the lake. He then heard the same voice that his brothers had heard, "Why do you approach the water, O Partha? You shall not be able to drink the water by force. If you, O Kaunteya, answer my questions, then you may drink as much water as you desire." Becoming angry, Arjuna began to release astras that filled all directions with arrows. He released barbed darts, javelins and iron arrows that were capable of hitting the target just by hearing the sound. Then the unembodied voice laughed and spoke, "What is the need of all this trouble? Just answer my questions, and you can take as much water as you desire." Arjuna did not listen to the voice. He went to take water and when he touched the water to his mouth, he fell to the ground dead.

When Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva did not return after some time, Yudhisthira said to Bhima, "Our brothers have not returned from searching for water. Go and see if they have fallen into some difficulty." Bhima then began to search the forests and finally came upon the lake. He saw his brothers lying dead on the ground, and he became overwhelmed with grief. Tears filled his eyes, and he thought to himself, "There is some powerful enemy nearby, and I must fight with him. Therefore, let me quench my thirst." When he went to drink the water, the voice from the heavens announced, "You may drink this water only after you have answered my questions. This lake is in my possession, and you may not drink from it." Bhima did not listen to the voice and went to drink water. When he did, he fell down dead.

Yudhisthira waited for some time, but none of his brothers returned. He rose and followed their path to the lake. When he saw that celestial lake, he was struck with wonder. As he came closer, he saw his brothers lying dead on its bank. He was overwhelmed with lamentation and anxiety filled his heart. He began to think of how Bhima had made his vow to kill the one hundred sons of Dhritarastra, and how Arjuna had vowed to kill Karna. He lamented greatly. He saw that none of them had any marks of being struck by any weapons, and there were no footprints in the area suggesting a battle. He concluded that this must be the work of Yamaraja himself, for who else could defeat these great heroes?

As he thought in this way, he went to drink the water of the lake, but suddenly the voice from the sky ordered, "This lake is in my possession. Your brothers have died by not following my instructions. If you answer my questions, I will allow you to drink the water of this lake." Just then a Yaksha appeared before Yudhisthira, and the first son of Kunti spoke to him, "I do not want possession of your lake. However, I will answer your questions to the best of my ability." The Yaksha then began to pose many questions and Yudhisthira began to answer them one after another. One of those questions was, "What is the most amazing thing in this world?" Yudhisthira answered, "The most wonderful thing is that daily countless creatures are entering the abode of Yamaraja, but those that remain behind think that they are immortal." The Yaksha asked another question, "Where is the absolute truth to be found?" Yudhisthira answered, "Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the shastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate."

The question and answer process went on for some time, and the Yaksha was pleased with Yudhisthira's answers. He then offered a benediction to Yudhisthira that he could have one of his brothers brought back to life. Yudhisthira requested, "Let my brother Nakula be brought back to life." The Yaksha then questioned Yudhisthira, "Why did you pick this brother when you could have saved the great bowman Arjuna or the mighty armed Bhima." Yudhisthira replied, "My father had two wives, Kunti and Madri. I Look upon both equally. Therefore, let Nakula live." The Yaksha then said, "Since you are not seeking profit for yourself in any way, I say let all your brothers live, O best among men."

While the Yaksha was speaking, the brothers of Yudhisthira rose up completely free from fatigue, thirst and hunger. Yudhisthira then inquired from the Yaksha, "My brothers are not capable of being slain by a hundred thousand warriors. How have you killed them? Are you a friend of ours, or are you my father, the great Yamaraja himself.?"

The Yaksha revealed his real form as Yamaraja and said, "I am your father, the Lord of justice. Please know that I have come here to test your merit and to bestow blessings upon you. You are endowed with all good qualities and are very dear to me. You may take from me any benediction you like."

"We have now spent twelve years in the forest," Yudhisthira replied, "and we have to spend another year in disguise. Please give us the benediction that in this last year we may not be discovered."

"I give you this benediction," Yamaraja said, "and say that even if you cover the entire earth in these forms, no one will recognize you. You may now take another benediction from me."

"It is enough that I have beheld this form with my senses." Yudhisthira said, "May, O father, I always conquer lust, greed and anger and may my mind be ever devoted toward the absolute truth and the performance of austerity."

"O my son," the lord of justice replied, "you have been endowed with these qualities from birth, and there is no need to accept them for a second time." Having said these words, the worshipful lord of justice disappeared, and Yudhisthira and his brothers returned to their cottage in the Dvaitavana forest.


Thus Ends the Sixth Chapter of the Vana Parva, Entitled, The Last Year in the Forest Life.


Thus Ends the Vana Parva to the Summary Study of the Great Epic, Mahabharata.


Chapter Commentary


This chapter contains another example of how the Pandavas were saved by the mercy of Lord Krishna. Durvasa Muni had come with the intention of cursing the Pandavas, which would have surely put impediments on their already difficult life in the forest. Draupadi simply thought of the Lord with intense remembrance and the Lord came there personally to save them. When Lord Krishna ate a morsel of food from Draupadi's pot, the bellies of Durvasa Muni and his 60,000 disciples filled up so much so that they could not return to Yudhisthira for a meal. What was available to Draupadi is available today by intense remembrance of the transcendental form of the Lord. Lord Krishna will always give us protection if we simply remember Him. Although He may not manifest His form to us, He is always present within our hearts, and by our remembering Him, He carries what we are lacking. This is one of the great advantages of deity worship. By practice of sadana bhakti, we see the form of Lord Krishna every morning, and this gradually awakens constant remembrance of the Lord, which will intensify during times of distress. The more we remember Lord Krishna, the more our cycle of birth and death comes to an end.

This chapter also contains another example of how saintly Yudhisthira was. When Yudhisthira was being benedicted by Yamaraja, he could have chosen Bhima or Arjuna, thinking of an eminent battle with Duryodhana. Nakula or Sahadeva could not have helped as much as the greatly powerful Bhima or Arjuna. Yudhisthira was not thinking in those terms. He was thinking that since Pandu had two wives, one son should still be living from both wives. Yudhisthira never though in terms of profit for himself.

Conversely, Duryodhana, wanted to perform a Rajasuya sacrifice to make sure his position as king of the world was secure. He was always thinking in a materially motivated way. He never thought of the mercy of the Lord. When Yamaraja saw that Yudhisthira did not care for any profit for himself, he brought all the brothers back to life. Our positions in life do not depend on profit calculation but on the mercy of the Lord.