The quintessence of the Mahabharata

[continued from previous issue]

8. Arjuna

Arjuna was the third Pandava. Arjuna means ‘white’. White is purity. Purity his heart undoubtedly was.

Yudhisthira, Bhima and Arjuna were Kunti’s (Pritha’s) sons; therefore, each one was supposed to be known as Partha. But the world knows only Arjuna as the real Partha. His father used to call him Krishna. Krishna means ‘dark’. Arjuna had quite a few more names as well. Dhananjaya, the conqueror of wealth, was one of these. In the battlefield he was always the victor; therefore, he was also called Vijaya, which means ‘victor’. The horses of his chariot were of white colour; therefore, he was known as Shwetaba-hana, or ‘passenger in the white chariot’. His birthday star was Uttarphalghuni; therefore, he was known as Phalguna. Once, when Arjuna conquered the undivine forces, Indra crowned him with the most beautiful crown; therefore, he was known as Kiriti, or ‘one who is wearing a crown’. He was the only supreme hero-archer who could use both hands with equal skill in archery; therefore, he was called Savyasachi, ‘he who strings the bow equally well with either hand’. He had tremendous purity in doing devoted and dedicated service; therefore, he was called Arjuna. He was the indomitable hero; therefore, he was called Jishnu, ‘the indomitable’. His skin was dark; he used to conquer the hearts of all; therefore, he was called Krishna. He conquered sleep; therefore he was called Gurakesha, ‘one who has conquered sleep’.

Arjuna was a supreme hero. Handsome he was. Generous he was. Intelligent he was. Amiable he was. Interesting he was. Inspiring he was.

His immortal bow, Gandiva, he received from Agni, the Fire-god. With Gandiva he fought against Indra and assisted Agni in burning the Khandava forest.

Yudhisthira, the eldest brother, lost in gambling. The five brothers had to go into exile for thirteen years. Arjuna went on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas in order to invoke and please the cosmic gods. He did this so that the gods would grant him celestial weapons. He needed them badly to fight against the Kauravas in later years. In the mountains Arjuna fought against Lord Shiva, who came to him in the guise of an undivine Kirata, or mountaineer. When Arjuna discovered who his foe was he immediately gave up fighting and started worshipping him. Shiva tested his valour. He was highly pleased with Arjuna. He gave Arjuna the Pasupata, one of the most powerful weapons. Indra, Varuna, Yama and Kuvera and others also came and gave Arjuna most powerful weapons.

At the end of thirteen years of exile the Pandava brothers returned to their kingdom. Preparations for the great battle now began. Arjuna chose Sri Krishna as his charioteer. They enjoyed supreme intimacy with each other. Before the great battle of Kurukshetra began, Sri Krishna related to Arjuna the Bhagavad Gita (the song celestial) and revealed to him His universal Form. Friendship was transformed into worship. Arjuna became Sri Krishna’s matchless devotee. In Arjuna Sri Krishna found his supreme satisfaction. Arjuna’s mother, Kunti, loved him most. His preceptor, Drona, loved him most. His grandfather, Vishma, loved him most. Sri Krishna, Lord of the Universe, loved him most.

The Pandavas won. The Kauravas lost. In the outer life Arjuna proved himself to be the unparalleled warrior. In the inner life his inseparable oneness with Sri Krishna on the strength of his devoted and unconditional surrender made him the supreme conqueror of ignorance-night.

Arjuna was the earth-representative of the highest order. Sri Krishna was the world-saviour. Arjuna realised his highest reality in and through Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna manifested his deepest reality in and through Arjuna. Finally, Sri Krishna sang. Arjuna became.

[to be continued]