Mahabharata

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IN the beginning of their stay in the forest, Bhima and Draupadi used, on occasions, to argue with Yudhishthira.

They would plead that only righteous anger befitted a kshatriya and that patience and forbearance under slights and insults were not worthy of him.

They would quote weighty authorities and argue vehemently in support of their contention. Yudhishthira would firmly reply that they should abide by the promise they had made and that forbearance was the highest virtue of all.

Bhima was burning with impatience to attack and kill Duryodhana immediately and win back the kingdom. He thought it unworthy of warriors to continue to dwell tamely in the forest.

Bhima said to Yudhishthira: "You speak like those who repeat Vedic mantras and are satisfied with the sound of the words though ignorant of their meaning.  Your intellect has become confused. You are born as a kshatriya and yet you do not think or behave like one. You have become a brahmana by temperament. You know, the scriptures enjoin on a kshatriya sternness and enterprise. We should not let the wicked sons of Dhritarashtra have their way. Vain is the birth of a kshatriya who does not conquer his deceitful enemies. This is my opinion, and to me, if we go to hell by killing a deceitful foe, such hell is heaven. Your forbearance burns us worse than fire. It scorches Arjuna and myself day and night, making us sleepless. Those miscreants have seized our kingdom by fraud and are enjoying it, while you lie torpid like a gorged python. You say that we should abide by our promise. How can the world-renowned Arjuna live incognito? Can the Himalayas be hidden under a handful of grass? How can the lion-hearted Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva live in hiding? Can the famous Draupadi walk about unrecognized by others? Even if we do these impossible things, the son of Dhritarashtra will find out through his spies. Hence, this promise of ours is impossible of performance and has been put on us merely to thrust us out again for another thirteen years. The sastras too support me when I say that a filched promise is no promise. A handful of grass thrown to a tired bull ought to be enough as expiation for breaking such a promise. You should resolve to kill our enemies immediately. There is no higher duty for a kshatriya."

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Bhima was never tired of pressing his view. Draupadi also would refer to the dishonor she had suffered at the hands of Duryodhana, Karna and Duhsasana and would quote authorities from the scriptures that would give Yudhishthira anxiety to think.

He would sometimes answer with common maxims of politics and refer to the relative strength of the parties.  He would say: "Our enemy has such adherents as Bhurisravas, Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Aswatthama. Duryodhana and his brothers are expert in warfare. Many feudatory princes, as well as mighty monarchs, are now on their side. Bhishma and Drona, indeed, have no respect for Duryodhana's character, but will not give him up and are prepared to sacrifice their lives on his side in the battlefield. Karna is a brave and skilful fighter, well versed in the use of all the weapons. The course of war is unpredictable and success is uncertain. There is no use in being hasty." Thus Yudhishthira managed with difficulty to restrain the impatience of the younger Pandavas.

Later, as advised by Vyasa, Arjuna went to the Himalayas to practise austerities for the purpose of getting new weapons from the devas. Arjuna took leave of his brothers and went to Panchali to bid her farewell.

She said: "O Dhananjaya, may you prosper in your mission. May God give you all that Kuntidevi hoped and wished for when you were born. The happiness, life, honor and prosperity of us all depend on you. Return after acquiring new weapons." Thus Panchali sent him forth with auspicious words. 

It is noteworthy that though the voice was Draupadi the wife's, yet the benediction was Kunti the mother's for the words were: "May God give all that Kuntidevi wished and hoped for when you were born."

Arjuna passed through dense forests and reached the mountain of Indrakila, where he met an old brahmana. The ascetic smiled and spoke affectionately to Arjuna:

"Child, you are clad in armor and carry weapons. Who are you? Weapons are of no use here. What do you seek in this garb of a kshatriya in this abode of ascetics and saints who have conquered anger and passion?" That was Indra, the king of gods, who came to have the pleasure of meeting his son.

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Arjuna bowed to his father and said: "I seek arms. Bless me with weapons." Indra replied: "O Dhananjaya, what is the use of weapons? Ask for pleasures or seek to go to higher worlds for enjoyment."

Arjuna answered: "O king of gods, I do not seek pleasures of higher worlds. I have come here after leaving Panchali and my brothers in the forest. I seek but weapons."

The thousand-eyed said: "If you be blessed by the vision of god Siva, the three-eyed god, and obtain his grace, you will receive divine weapons. Do penance unto Siva."

Thus saying Indra disappeared. Then, Arjuna went to the Himalayas and did penance to obtain the grace of Siva. 

Siva under the guise of a hunter and accompanied by his divine spouse Umadevi, entered the forest in pursuit of game.

The chase grew fast and furious, and presently a wild boar started charging Arjuna, who shot an arrow into it with his Gandiva bow at the same moment that the hunter Siva transfixed it with a shaft from his Pinaka bow.

Arjuna shouted in loud voice: "Who are you? Why are you ranging in this forest with your wife? How dare you shoot at the game I had aimed at?"

The hunter replied as though in contempt: "This forest, full of game, belongs to us, who live in it. You do not look tough enough to be a forester. Your limbs and bearing bespeak a soft luxurious life. It is rather for me to ask what you are doing here." He also added that it was his shaft that had killed the boar, and that if Arjuna thought differently be was welcome to fight about it.

Nothing could please Arjuna better. He jumped up and showered snake-like arrows at Siva. To his amazement, they seemed to have no effect on the hunter and fell back hurtless like storm-driven rain from a mountain peak.

When he had no more arrows, he started to strike Siva with his bow. But the hunter seemed not to heed it and wrenched with ease the bow out of Arjuna's hand and burst into laughter.

Arjuna, who had been disarmed with humiliating ease by one who seemed an ordinary hunter of the forest, was struck with amazement, almost amounting to doubt. But undaunted, he drew his sword and continued the combat.

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The sword was split into pieces on the hunter's adamantine frame. There was now nothing to do but to grapple with the formidable unknown. But here again he was outmatched.

The hunter caught him in an iron clasp so close that Arjuna was quite helpless.  Worsted and overmastered, Arjuna humbly sought divine aid and meditated on Siva. As he did so, a light broke on his troubled mind, and at once he knew who the hunter really was.

He fell at the feet of the Lord and, in a broken voice of repentance and adoration he prayed for forgiveness. "I forgive you," said Siva smilingly and gave him back his Gandiva bow, as well as the other weapons, of which he had been deprived. He also bestowed on Arjuna the marvellous Pasupata weapon.

Arjuna's body, battered in the unequal combat, was made whole and perfect by the divine touch of the three-eyed god and became a hundred fold stronger and more brilliant than before.

"Go to heaven and render dutiful respect to your father Indra," said Siva and vanished from view like the setting sun.

Arjuna was overcome with joy and exclaimed: "Have I really seen the Lord face to face and have I been blessed with his divine touch? What more do I need?"

At that moment, Matali, the charioteer of Indra, came there with his chariot and took Arjuna to the kingdom of the gods.