Arjuna goes to Heaven

taken from the Mahâbhârata
Book 1, Chapter 25

by Krishna Dharma - 1999 



When the brahmins determined an auspicious day, Yudhisthira taught Arjuna the Pratismriti mantras. The king had delayed teaching him as he knew that Arjuna would leave for the Himalayas as soon as he had the knowledge. It would be difficult to live without him. But it was Vyasadeva's desire that he go, so Yudhisthira knew the separation could not be avoided forever. Ultimately, it was probably their only chance to be successful in recovering their kingdom. 

Taking Arjuna aside, Yudhisthira held him by the hands and said, "O descendent of Bharata, the four divisions of the science of arms are held by Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Kama and Ashvatthama. They have all received divine instructions and know how to use every sort of weapon. Having been honored, gratified and supported by Duryodhana, they always seek to do him good. We should not doubt that they will support him in battle. The whole world is now under Duryodhana's sway, and he is our avowed enemy. You are our sole refuge. Depending on you we shall regain our kingdom from Duryodhana. Listen now as I tell you what should be done." 

Yudhisthira then informed Arjuna of Vyasadeva's instructions. He told him that he should leave as soon as possible for the Himalayas and, by meditating on the mantras he was now going to repeat, he should seek the gods' audience in order to receive their weapons. "Allow me to initiate you today, O virtuous one, and go at once to propitiate Indra. Being pleased with you I am sure Indra will give you his weapons and, by his order, so will the other gods." 

Arjuna fully controlled his mind and senses. Then, with due rites, Yudhisthira bestowed the Pratismriti mantras on him. When he was finished Yudhisthira stood up, with tears pricking his eyes as he thought of Arjuna's separation. "Now go, dear brother." 

With his arms and hands clad in iguana skin gauntlets and gloves, and his body covered in golden mail, Arjuna took up his Gandiva bow and his two inexhaustible quivers and stood ready to depart. Brahmins and Siddhas  uttered blessings upon him and, not knowing how long he would be gone, he bade an affectionate farewell to his brothers. 

As Arjuna was about to depart, Draupadi came before him and said, "O mighty-armed Dhananjaya, may all that the noble Kunti desired at your birth, and all that you yourself desire, be accomplished. May none of us ever take birth again in this terrible kshatriya order. I offer my respects to the ascetic brahmins, who are detached from this miserable world. My heart still burns with Duryodhana's insult, but today I grieve even more because you are departing. In your absence we will spend our time thinking only of you. There will be no joy without you. All our hopes rest in you, O hero. May the Lord and all his energies protect you at all times, and may success be yours. Go now and attain your goal." 

Arjuna smiled at Draupadi, circumambulated his brothers and Dhaumya, and then began running swiftly along the path, frightening creatures along the way with his speed. By chanting the mantras Yudhisthira had given him, he felt himself traveling over mountains and forests at the speed of mind. By the end of the first day he arrived at the great Mandara mountain. Arjuna stopped and looked around. The mountain was beautiful with its bluish stone rising up into the clouds. It was covered with blossoming trees, their many-colored flowers creating rich tableaus and their scent captivating his mind. The sound of peacocks, cranes and cuckoos filled the air, and he could see Siddhas and Charanas sporting on the mountain slopes. Arjuna decided to climb the mountain and begin his austerities there. 

Upon reaching a plateau high on the mountain, he suddenly heard a voice resounding in the sky. "Stop!" Arjuna looked around and saw an ascetic sitting at the foot of a tree. The tawny-colored brahmin had a brilliant aura. His lean body was covered in deerskin and his matted locks hung down to his shoulders. The ascetic said, "0 child, who are you? You appear to be a kshatriya. Do you not know that this is the abode of peaceful brahmins who are free from anger? Even to have been able to reach this spot indicates that you already attained a high state of purity. Now perfect your life. You have no need of weapons here. Throw them away." 

Arjuna made it clear that he had no plans to renounce his weapons. "I need my weapons to serve my elder brother Yudhisthira who has been wrongfully deprived of his kingdom. O brahmin, I will not cast them aside." 

Seeing Arjuna's dedication to duty, the ascetic replied, "O slayer of foes, I am pleased with you. Know me to be Shakra (a name of Indra), king of the gods. Ask me for a boon." 

Arjuna was overjoyed. Here was Indra! With folded hands he said, "O exalted one, the boon I desire is that you bestow all your weapons upon me."

Indra smiled. "O Dhananjaya, I can grant you life in the celestial regions of bliss. Ask for this. Why do you desire only my weapons?" 

"How could I incur the world's condemnation by not avenging myself on the enemy and by abandoning my brothers in the forest?" Arjuna's anger rose as he remembered Duryodhana's treachery. 

Indra spoke gently. "O child, when you meet Shiva, I will give you all my weapons. Try to propitiate him, for he is the greatest of the gods. By seeing the three-eyed wielder of the trident, all your desires will be fulfilled." 

After saying this Indra disappeared, and Arjuna was left alone. He decided to remain where he was and begin his austerities and worship of Shiva. He took off his armor and set his weapons down by the same tree where Indra had sat. The tree was situated next to a flowing river, and Arjuna bathed in its clear waters, then sat down to meditate. As he did so, conchshells were heard in the sky and showers of flowers fell from the heavens. Arjuna was pleased by the auspicious sign, and he sat with half-closed eyes, controlled his breathing, and began to intone prayers to Shiva

During the first month of his meditations, Arjuna ate only fruit on every third day. During the second month, he ate fruit only on every sixth day, and during the third month he ate fruit once a fortnight. During the fourth month he lived only on air, standing on the tips of his toes with his arms upraised. He bathed three times a day and kept his mind and senses under perfect control. As a result of his austerities, Arjuna began to glow like the sun. 

In the heavens the celestial rishis grew anxious. They approached Shiva and said, "Arjuna has become greatly effulgent due to his austerities on the breast of the Himalayas. The earth is becoming heated by his asceticism and is sending forth smoke. 0 chief of the gods, you should stop him before he upsets the universal order by the power of his penance." 

Shiva replied, "You need not feel anxiety on account of Phalguni (a name for Arjuna). He does not wish to attain heaven or prosperity. I know his purpose and will satisfy him today." 

The rishis bowed before Shiva and returned to their own abodes. Shiva then assumed the form of a tall, powerful, golden-hued hunter, and descended to the place where Arjuna was meditating. Uma, his consort, accompanied him in a similar costume, and many of his goblin followers, who assumed various forms and wore bright garments, followed them. Many of the female goblins assumed the forms of beautiful women and also descended. As Shiva appeared on the mountainside with his followers, the mountain seemed ablaze with beauty. Strangely, however, all nature became silent. Even the springs and waterfalls ceased their sounds. 

As Shiva arrived, he saw a Danava assume the form of a boar and charge at Arjuna. The demon intended to kill Arjuna, and he roared loudly in challenge. Arjuna heard the boar's roar and quickly lifted and strung his bow. Placing a virulent arrow on his bowstring, Arjuna called out, "I have done you no harm. As you seek to kill me, I shall certainly send you to Yamaraja's abode." 

At the same moment Shiva also trained his arrow on the boar and shouted to Arjuna, "Stop! This dark-colored boar is mine. I saw him first and have already aimed my arrow at him." 

Arjuna ignored Shiva's claim and released his arrow, which sped toward the massive boar. Shiva simultaneously released his arrow and the two shafts both struck the Danava at the same time. There was a sound like thunder as the arrows hit the demonic boar's rock-like body. Assuming his natural form, the demon gave up his life with a terrible cry. 

Arjuna looked around at the hunter. His body shone like a golden mountain. He was surrounded by hundreds of women. Arjuna glared at him. "Who are you, dressed like a hunter and wandering in this solitary forest surrounded by your followers? Are you not afraid? Why have you pierced this boar which I targeted first? Do you not know that this is against all accepted practices in hunting. Indeed you have insulted me and so I will punish you by taking your life." 

The hunter replied with a smile, "O hero, you need not be concerned about me. I always dwell in the forest. But what brings you here? You are obviously royalty, used to living in luxury. How is it that you have adopted an ascetic life?" 

Arjuna held his bow tightly. "Depending on the strength of my arms, I live in this forest. See how I killed this fearful Rakshasa who was intent on killing me." 

The hunter laughed derisively. "It was I who killed this one, not you. I saw him first, and it was by my arrow that he was sent to Death's abode. You are overly proud of your strength. Do not accuse others when you yourself are at fault. O wicked-minded wretch, you have wronged me and will therefore not escape with your life. Stand and receive my arrows. Try to defend yourself, if you can." 

Infuriated, Arjuna immediately struck the hunter with a cluster of swift arrows, but he simply smiled and received Arjuna's shafts without flinching. He called out, "O wretch! Send your fiercest arrows, those that are capable of piercing to the heart." 

Arjuna released another volley of shafts. Becoming angry, Shiva sent back hundreds of his own arrows. A great battle then ensued. Showers of snake-like arrows sped back and forth. As Arjuna countered the hunter's arrows, he was surprised to see that, although struck by countless shafts, his adversary was not affected. The Pandava (son of Pandu) increased the force of his attack, but the hunter stood unmoved. Seeing that he could not shake his foe, Arjuna called out in admiration, "Excellent! Well done!" 

Arjuna looked with wonder at the hunter. Clearly this was not an ordinary man. No one could withstand the force of thousands of arrows shot from the Gandiva without being moved. Perhaps he was a celestial. Arjuna decided to use his mystical weapons. No matter who this was - even if he was a Gandharva or a Yaksha - unless he was actually Shiva himself, Arjuna intended to kill him. 

Arjuna then invoked weapons which fired thousands of arrows blazing like the sun. Shiva cheerfully received all his shafts as a mountain receives a downpour of rain. Then to Arjuna's amazement he found that his celestial quivers were suddenly exhausted. How was that possible? Who was this who swallowed up all his arrows? With what could he fight now? Arjuna raised his great bow like a club and rushed at the hunter. He struck him a number of heavy blows, but Shiva snatched away his bow and drew it into his body. It simply vanished. Arjuna then drew his sword and brought it down upon the hunter's head with all his strength, but it shattered to pieces. 

Arjuna was afraid, but he continued to fight. This time he lifted rocks and boulders and threw them at the hunter. He tore up trees and slung them at the hunter. Still he made no impression. Arjuna's mouth smoked with wrath. He rushed at his foe and pummeled him with his fists. Shiva struck him back and a hand-to-hand fight ensued. They struck one another and grappled furiously, each seizing the other and shoving him with full force. Sparks and smoke flew from their bodies. 

Finally, the hunter released Arjuna and he fell back, dazed, almost unconscious. Arjuna looked at the hunter in astonishment. He had failed to make the least impression on him. Surely this must be the exalted god Shiva. No one else could have fought with such power. 

Arjuna retreated to a distance and quickly fashioned an image of Shiva from the earth. He worshipped it with flowers and as he did so, he saw flowers falling onto the hunter's head. Now he had no doubt. This was the deity he was seeking. Arjuna fell headlong at the god's feet, and as he did so he felt all his fatigue dispelled. 

Shiva was pleased with Arjuna and he spoke to him in a voice as powerful as roaring clouds. "O Phalguni, today you have satisfied me. There is no warrior equal to you in courage or patience. O best of the Bharata race, your strength is practically equal to mine. You were formerly a rishi and have now taken birth to serve the Supreme Lord's purposes. Soon you will acquire weapons with which to defeat your enemies; even if they be celestials. I shall bestow upon you my own irresistible weapon. Now I will give you the eyes to see me in my original form. Behold!" 

Arjuna looked up and saw Shiva with his three eyes, holding a trident, a divine serpent draped around his bluish neck. Arjuna bowed down and prayed, "O great god, O highly exalted one, you are the refuge of all the celestials. The very universe has sprung from you. You are Vishnu in a different form and are unconquerable by gods, demons or men. O Sankara, pray forgive me. It was only to receive your audience that I came to this mountain. Please pardon me for my rashness in fighting with you. I seek your protection." 

Shiva lifted Arjuna to his feet and embraced the Pandava. "I have pardoned you. You are Nara, the friend of Narayana. Previously you two chastised the demon hordes at Indra's coronation. Krishna is that supreme Narayana, and with him you will again punish the wicked. O Partha, take back your Gandiva bow. Your quivers will again become inexhaustible. There is no man on earth equal to you. Ask from me whatever you desire." 

Shiva handed the Gandiva bow to Arjuna and Arjuna said, "O lord, if you are pleased with me, then I humbly ask that you bestow upon me your irresistible personal weapon known as the Pashupata. You destroy the universe with this weapon at the end of creation, and with it I may be victorious over Rakshasas, Danavas, Gandharvas (a class of celestial), Nagas, ghosts and spirits. It will enable me to emerge successfully from the battle I shall fight against Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, and the son of the suta, Karna

Shiva replied, "O son of Kunti, I will give you this weapon. You are capable of holding, throwing, and withdrawing it. Not even Indra, Yama, Kuvera, or Varuna knows the mantras to this weapon - what to speak of any Man. However, you must use it only against celestial fighters. The Pashupata should never be released at lesser enemies or else it may destroy the creation. This weapon is discharged by the mind, eyes, words, or a bow. No one in the three worlds of moving or nonmoving creatures can withstand its force." 

Arjuna then bathed for purification and stood before Shiva to receive the mantras. The god gave his weapon to Arjuna and it then waited upon him just as it waited upon Shiva himself. When the celestials saw the fearful weapon standing in its embodied form by Arjuna's side, the earth trembled and terrible winds blew in all directions. Thousands of conches and trumpets were heard resounding in the sky. Shiva said, "Now go to heaven and receive Indra's weapons." He then departed with Uma and his many followers. [See also Srîmad Bhâgavatam, Canto 1, Chapter 15, verse 12

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When Shiva was gone, Arjuna stood for a few moments gazing at the sky, awed by what had just transpired. He had seen the god of gods. The unknowable deity had touched him with his own hand. Arjuna now considered his enemies already vanquished and his ends accomplished. He possessed Shiva's irresistible weapon. Although he could not discharge the Pashupata at human foes, its very possession made him feel invincible. 

While Arjuna stood absorbed in thought, Varuna appeared before him accompanied by the rivers personified and many Nagas, Siddhas and other lesser gods. Kuvera was also in attendance, his body resembling pure gold and seated upon a splendid chariot. Kuvera was accompanied by countless Yakshas. They stood before Arjuna, illuminating everything with their bodily effulgence. Arjuna also saw in the sky the god of justice, Yamaraja, approaching on his chariot with mace in hand and flanked by the personified forms of Death and Time. 

On a nearby mountain summit, Arjuna saw Indra and his queen Sachi seated on the back of the celestial elephant Airavata and appearing like the rising sun. A white umbrella was being held over his head and he was surrounded by Gandharvas and rishis, who were eulogizing him with Vedic hymns. 

Arjuna chanted numerous prayers in praise of the gods and offered them fruits and water. As he stood gazing in amazement, Yamaraja spoke, his voice as deep as autumnal rain clouds. "Behold, O Arjuna, that all the world's protectors, the Lokapalas (a universal protector, of which there are four: Indra, Yamaraja, Kuvera and Varuna), have come here. We shall bestow upon you divine eyes. O sinless one, you were formerly the rishi Nara. At Brahma's behest, you have taken your birth as a mortal. You shall vanquish in battle the powerful Bhishma and the many other fierce warriors headed by Drona. The enemies of the gods, Daityas (celestial demons and enemies of the gods) and Danavas, have taken their birth in the world of men. These shall all be slain in a great battle in which you will play the main role. Your fame on earth shall be eternal." 

Yamaraja offered his personal weapon, a celestial mace, to Arjuna. The Pandava received the weapon along with the mantras for hurling and withdrawing it. After that, Varuna gave Arjuna his inescapable Nagapasha nooses. Arjuna also received Kuvera's weapon, the Antardhana, which could baffle and render unconscious even mighty Asuras (celestial demon). Then Indra spoke: "O subduer of enemies, you shall perform a great work for the gods. Now you must ascend to heaven. There I will give you my own weapon and other irresistible astras belonging to the celestials. My chariot, driven by my servant Matali, will soon carry you there." 

The Lokapalas then vanished, leaving Arjuna alone. As he looked up, he saw what appeared to be a second sun gradually increasing in brilliance in the sky. The whole region vibrated as the radiance increased. Arjuna realized that this was Indra's chariot descending to earth. The chariot was huge, and it was drawn by ten thousand celestial horses of greenish and golden hue. Matali, in golden armor, was holding the reins. As the chariot approached, Arjuna could see upon it innumerable swords and maces, as well as all kinds of missiles. Axes, darts, lances, and spears of every kind were placed all around the chariot. Celestial thunderbolts and brilliant lightning bolts glowed from its sides. Huge-bodied, fierce Nagas with fiery mouths were seated on the chariot, along with great silver canons furnished with wheels and capable of sending celestial missiles a vast distance. 

Arjuna saw Indra's dark blue flagstaff, the Vaijayanta, standing in the middle of the chariot as straight as a bamboo and as tall as a great palm tree. Then the chariot halted and Matali stood before Arjuna. Bowing low, he said, "O fortunate one, I have been instructed to take you to Shakra. Your father, encircled by the celestials, rishis, Gandharvas and Apsaras, wishes to see you in heaven. Shiva has also ordered me. Ascend this chariot and come to the heavenly regions." 

Arjuna again bathed for purification, then offered prayers to Mount Mandara: "O king of mountains, you are the refuge of pious sages seeking heaven. You have sheltered me and I have lived here happily. I offer you my thanks and bid you farewell." With that, Matali led Arjuna to a flight of crystal steps leading up to the chariot. 

Matali urged the steeds which drew the chariot with the speed of the mind high into the sky. As they entered the celestial regions, Arjuna saw thousands of wondrous chariots carrying shining beings of great beauty. He saw kings and warriors who had been slain in battle and had attained effulgent celestial forms. As they moved along the paths of the gods, Arjuna saw Siddhas, Charanas, rishis, Guhyakas and Apsaras. The region glowed with a brilliance born of the ascetic merits of such beings. Amazed, Arjuna inquired into their identities. The charioteer replied, "These are pious persons, O son of Kunti, stationed in their respective spheres. You have seen their shining abodes from the earth as stars in the firmament." 

The chariot passed through the gate of Indra's planet, where Arjuna saw Airavata, the great white elephant with four tusks. The elephant resembled Mount Kailash with its four summits. Passing through divine regions meant for pious men who had performed great sacrifices and asceticism, they arrived at last in Amaravati, Indra's capital city. 

Arjuna gazed with wide open eyes at the astonishing city [See: SB 5:21-7]. Flowers from all the seasons bloomed simultaneously, and there were groves of sacred trees. Fragrant breezes moved among their golden leaves, creating cascades of brilliant light. Countless mansions and palaces stretched into the distance. Arjuna saw the famous Nandana gardens, in which the gods sported with Apsaras

"Those who turn their backs in battle can never see this place," Matali said, seeing Arjuna's amazement. "Neither can those who are wicked-minded, who have not performed sacrifice, who have not abstained from liquor and meat, who have not bathed in holy rivers nor given charity to brahmins ever reach this abode." 

As they proceeded through the city, Arjuna beheld celestial cars traveling by the occupants' wills. Gandharvas and Apsaras eulogized Arjuna as he passed. He heard the sound of celestial music and of thousands of conchshells and drums. Arjuna entered Indra's magnificent assembly hall and met with the Sadhyas (a class of celestial), Maruts (a class of celestial usually associated with the wind-god) Vishvadevas, and twin Ashvinis. He saw the Adityas, Vasus, Rudras and the many royal saints headed by King Dilipa. Narada Rishi was also present along with the Gandharva leader, Tumbaru

After offering his respects to the assembled personalities, Arjuna approached his father, the king of the gods. Indra was seated beneath his white umbrella and was being fanned by golden-handled and perfumed chamaras (a hand-held whisk made from yak's tail and used for fanning respectable persons). Many pure brahmins praised him with hymns from the Rig and Yajur Vedas, and the Gandharvas and Charanas played celestial instruments of all descriptions for his pleasure. 

Arjuna prostrated himself before Indra, who got down from his throne and embraced him. The thousand-eyed god took Arjuna by the hand and led him back up the flight of golden steps to his bejeweled throne. Indra then had his son sit next to him on the throne, where he shone like a second Indra. With his perfumed hand, Indra affectionately stroked Arjuna's head. Out of love, Indra gently patted and rubbed his arms, which were like gold columns. The deity gazed without satiation at his son's face. Seated together on the throne, Arjuna and Indra appeared like the sun and the moon together in a clear sky. 

Indra gave Arjuna the celestial sight to perceive Amaravati's divine beauty. The city was unimaginably opulent. The Pandava looked around at the numerous effulgent rishis who sat reciting sacred texts from the Vedas. Groups of Gandharvas headed by Tumbaru sang hymns in voices which entirely captivated the mind. As they sang, Apsaras performed exquisite dances full of gestures and sidelong glances. They shook their breasts and moved their broad hips. 

The celestials offered Arjuna the sacred arghya (a drink offering made to respectable persons consisting of honey, milk and ghee) and washed his feet. At Indra's command, Arjuna was then escorted to Indra's palace. Arjuna took up residence there and Indra instructed him in how to use the celestial weapons, and especially the irresistible thunderbolt weapon, Vajra, and Indra's powerful lightning flashes. 

Although living amid splendor and opulence, Arjuna could not forget his brothers in the forest, and he longed to return to them. Whenever he thought of his brothers, he also remembered the circumstances that had brought them to the forest, and he remembered Shakuni, Dushashana, Duryodhana and Karna. Arjuna had no peace. As he was equipped with one powerful weapon after another, he thought only of the inevitable battle that would take place in the future. No one would be able to stand against him now. Those wicked-minded men would be punished. Draupadi would be avenged and Yudhisthira's kingdom would be recovered. 

When Arjuna had become adept at using all the weapons, Indra told him, "You should go to your friend Chitrasena and learn singing and dancing from him. He can teach you such music that does not exist in the world of men and is known only to the celestials. This knowledge will prove useful to you in the future." 

Arjuna thus learned the Gandharva skills. The Pandava did not know why Indra had requested him to study such subjects, but he was sure the god could see by divine intelligence that such knowledge would surely be helpful in the future. 

Arjuna lived in Amaravati for five years, thinking always of his brothers. As the time for him to leave approached, Indra summoned Chitrasena and spoke with him in private. "O chief of the Gandharvas, I have seen Arjuna casting glances at Urvashi. Go to her and have her wait upon the Pandava with all her feminine graces and skills. As you have taught him all the arts of music, so now you should teach him the art of associating with women." 

Chitrasena said, "So be it," and went at once to Urvashi and described Arjuna's many virtues. 

"O lady of fair hips, know that I have come here on Indra's command to ask from you a favor. There is one now living in heaven who is renowned among men for his grace, behavior, beauty, vows and self-control. He is famous for his might and his prowess, and he is respected by the pious. He is also endowed with presence of mind, is a genius, and possesses great energy. That mighty hero is forgiving and without malice. He knows all the Vedas with their many branches, is devoted to his elders, is never boastful, sees even small things as if they were important, and is always the shelter of his dependents. His name is Arjuna, and his father Indra brought him to heaven. O blessed lady, Arjuna seems inclined toward you. Please go to him and allow him to obtain you." 

Urvashi cheerfully replied, "Having heard of Arjuna's virtues, how could I fail to be attracted? Indeed, thinking of that hero I am already stricken by the god of love. O Chitrasena, go now wherever you like and I shall go to him." 

Having succeeded in his mission, the Gandharva left. Urvashi then prepared to meet Arjuna. She bathed and smeared her body with perfumed unguents. Dressing with layers of diaphanous silks, she adorned herself with jewels and gold ornaments, as well as fragrant garlands of brightly colored flowers. She was absorbed in thoughts of Arjuna and her heart was pierced with Cupid's arrows. Inflamed by desire, she imagined herself lying with Arjuna on a soft, wide bed laid over with silk sheets. 

Setting out at a time when the moon began to rise, the thin-waisted Urvashi went toward Arjuna's abode. As she walked, her long black braids, which she had decorated with bunches of flowers, swung around her beautiful white face. Her two finely tapering breasts, adorned with a string of diamonds and pearls and smeared with fragrant sandalwood paste, trembled as she walked gracefully through the gardens. Her high, round hips, covered with thin cloth and decked with golden chains, moved from side to side. The rows of golden bells around her ankles tinkled gently. She defied the splendor of the full moon and was quite capable of breaking the vows of great ascetics. Exhilarated by the little liquor she had drunk and full of desire, she cast glances from side to side and seemed even more alluring. Seeing her pass, the Siddhas and Charanas considered her the finest sight in heaven. She soon arrived at Arjuna's door and sent word to him through the doorkeeper. 

Arjuna immediately invited her into his house. He was anxious that the goddess had come to see him at night. Seeing her incomparable beauty he closed his eyes out of modesty. Arjuna worshipped her as if she were his superior and said, "O foremost of Apsaras, I bow down to you. What is your command? I am your servant." 

Hearing his words, Urvashi was overjoyed. Her voice rang out like tinkling bells. "O best of men, I will tell you what brings me here. When you first came to heaven, a large assembly was convened during which we celebrated your arrival. All the gods and celestials were present, and you were seated by Shakra's side. You saw me then, dancing in the midst of the chief Apsaras. Your gaze rested upon me for some moments and Indra noticed your attentions. Thus he has sent me here through Chitrasena. I have come to wait upon you, O hero. My heart is stolen by your virtues and I am under the control of Kamadeva. This is my wish: let me possess you tonight." 

Arjuna at once covered his ears in shame. "O blessed lady, O most charming one, it is not proper for me to hear you speak such words. You are the wife of my superior. As the illustrious Kunti or the beautiful Sachi, Indra's consort, is to me, so too are you, O goddess. Do not doubt what I say. O lady of sweet smiles, I did indeed gaze upon you, but not out of desire. There was quite another reason." 

Arjuna had heard of Urvashi while at home on the earth. Thousands of years previously she had become Pururava's wife, who was one of Arjuna's ancestors. It was her son who had been the forefather of Arjuna's dynasty. Arjuna told Urvashi that he thus felt quite unable to make her his lover. "O blessed one, when I gazed at you I was simply amazed to see the mother of my dynasty. You should not entertain any other feeling for me than that of your son. 

Urvashi smiled. "O son of Indra, we of the heavenly realms are not fettered by human morality. You need not see me as a superior. I have sported with other sons and grandsons of the Puru dynasty without incurring sin. Be favorable toward me. I am burning with desire and feel devoted to you. Do not reject me, for that is not the practice of virtuous men." 

But Arjuna could not change his attitude. "O beautiful lady, hear what I tell you and let the four directions and all the celestials also hear. You are no different to me than Kunti, Madri or Sachi. I bow my head to you as my mother. Please protect me as your son." 

After Arjuna had spoken in this way, it was clear to Urvashi that he was firm in his determination. Rejected and insulted, she became angry. With knitted brows and quivering lips, she exclaimed, "As you insult a woman who has come to you at your father's command and out of her own desire - a woman pierced by Cupid's arrow - you shall lose your manhood and live as a dancer in the company of women. O Arjuna, you shall become a eunuch and lose all respect." 

With that, Urvashi turned and left Arjuna

Arjuna thought carefully. Surely Indra must have known that this would happen. Why then had he asked Chitrasena to send Urvashi to him? Arjuna went at once to Chitrasena and told him what had transpired, repeatedly mentioning the curse. Chitrasena then went to Indra and informed him of the situation. Indra called for Arjuna and spoke to him in private. 

"O best of men, because you are her son, Kunti is the most glorious mother. You have defeated even the rishis by your self-control and patience. Do not worry. Urvashi's curse will be for your good and will prove useful. You will need to pass your final year of exile incognito. At that time, Urvashi's curse will take effect and, living as a eunuch, no one shall discover you. Having passed one year without your manhood, you shall regain it at the end of that period." 

Arjuna was relieved. The Pandava then stopped worrying about the curse and continued to live happily in the heavens with his father and Chitrasena.  


[Mahâbhârata: Epic that narrates the history of Bharatavarsa (the area governed by emperor Bharata, and name for the country we now call India) the battle of the aristocrats in the Vedic culture during the pastimes of Krishna, out of which the Gîtâ has been taken. See also: Srîmad Bhâgavatam, Canto 5 chapter 7-13)]
See also the Family Tree of the Kuru-Dynasty

Painting of Arjuna by Vlad Holst  
© 1999 by Kenneth Anderson, aka Krishna Dharma 
Torchlight Publishing, Inc., ISBN: 1-887089-17-9