(Last Updated on : 04/09/2013)
Arjuna was one of the Pandavas, the protagonists of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. He is considered to be one of the greatest archers and warriors and a major historical character in the Dwapara Yuga.
Arjuna was the third son born to Pandu
. His name means shining and brightness. Like his other brothers he too was born through a special boon granted to Kunti by Rishi Durvasa
through her mantra had invoked Indra to give birth to him. Arjuna, a master-archer, was termed as outstanding warrior or "Maharathi" by Guru Dronacharya
An exemplar of skill, duty and compassion as well as a seeker of true knowledge, Arjuna is a magnanimous figure in Hindu myth and theology. He is also known to be a lady's man as he had married four times. He had found a true and loyal friend in his charioteer and brother in law, Lord Krishna
. He was also known to be sensitive and loyal to his friends. The story about Arjuna's concentration is still being narrated to children of modern times to make them understand its essence.
Life of Arjuna
Pandu, the father of Arjuna, was incapable to sire a child. It was happened for the divine curse. Kunti, the wife of King Pandu, had received a boon from Rishi Durvasa, which allowed her to summon any divine being to beget a child. Thus Kunti decided to invoke Dharma
, Lord Vayu
and Lord Indra
and gave birth to 3 sons of divine power. According to legends, once Dronacharya wished to test his students. He hung a wooden bird from the branch of a tree and then summoned his students. One by one, he asked his students to aim for the eye of the wooden bird and be ready to shoot; then, when they were ready, he would ask the student to describe all that he was able to see. The students generally described the garden, the tree, flowers, the branch from which the bird was suspended and the bird itself. Guru Dronacharya then asked them to step aside. He called upon Arjuna and what he could see; to this Arjuna told his Guru that he could only see the bird's eye. The above story is a testimony for Arjuna's diligence and dedication in work.
Marriage of Arjuna
Arjuna first married a dusky and beautiful Draupadi
- the daughter of King Drupada. When Draupadi was very young, her father began to look for a suitable match for her. There were many kings who attended this major event. The Pandavas too attended the Swayamwara
under the disguise of Brahmin
as they were still in exile. There was a contest that the winner prince would get Draupadi. The contest was that there would be a target. The target was a bird which is placed on a revolving disc. It should be struck by an arrow only by looking at its reflection in the water below. A huge bow was kept for that purpose. Most kings failed to even string the bow. Only Arjuna was successful in hitting the target and won Draupadi's hand in marriage.
Besides Draupadi, Arjuna also married a woman by the name Chitraganda. She was a soft-spoken princess of Manipur. But he could not take her with him as her father- the King of Manipur explained to Arjuna that they followed the matrilineal system and so the heir born to Arjuna and Chitraganda had to stay back at Manipur
. Arjuna agreed to it. A son, whom they named Babruvahana, was soon born to them who were to succeed his grandfather.
While Arjuna was in Manipur
, Ulupi, a Naga Tribe
princess of otherwise noble character, became infatuated of him. She abducted by intoxicating him. Ulupi induced an unwilling Arjuna to take her for wife. Later on she returned back Arjuna to the lamenting Chitrangada
. She took care of their son Babruvahana and had a major influence over him.
married Arjuna when he stayed with Lord Krishna in Dwaraka
during a one-year exile. During his stay he got attracted to Subhadra and proposed to her for marriage. She agreed in spite of knowing that Arjuna was already four times married. She also knew that her family would never agree to this marriage. Hence, Krishna facilitated the elopement of the couple and their departure for Indraprastha
. To avoid further controversies from their family, Krishna advised Arjuna and Subhadra that they need to keep this in mind that it was Subhadra who abducted Arjuna and not the other way around. Soon Subhadra gave birth to their son called Abhimanyu
. Once Lord Krishna and Arjuna had gone to Khandava Forest
, there they encountered Lord Agni
- the Lord of Fire who asked their help in consuming the forest in its entirety.
the serpent-king, a friend of Indra resides in it and Indra would thus cause rain whenever Agni tried to burn this forest. It was further revealed that the fire-god had to do this to relieve a sickness he suffered from, hence the importance of destroying the forest. Arjuna told him that while he has training in the divine weapons, he was informed that to withstand the power of Indra's Astras he must have an exceptionally powerful bow; an unbreakable one. Agni then invoked Lord Varuna
, who gave Arjuna the Gandiva, an incredibly powerful bow, which gave its user sure victory in battle. This bow plays a great role in Arjuna's battles to come. Also, he also gave Arjuna a divine chariot, with powerful white horses that do not tire, and are unwounded by normal weapons. Arjuna tells Agni to proceed, and fights with his father in the process. The battle lasts several days and nights. A voice from the sky proclaimed Arjuna and Krishna the victors, and ordered Indra to withdraw.
Curse of Arjuna
Urvashi was a nymph in the Indra Loka. When Arjuna came to Indra Loka
, he was pre-positioned by Urvashi. When Urvashi made advances towards Arjuna, he rejected it outright saying that since she was a nymph in the Indra Loka, she was like a motherly figure to him. To this, Urvashi rebuked him by saying that a nymph was devoid of any earthly relationships like that of sister or mother. Arjuna still resisted her advances by saying that he felt like a child before him. To this Urvashi cursed him that he shall become impotent forever. When Indra intervened and told her to reduce the impact of the curse, she cursed him of impotency for just one year and that he could choose any year within the span of his life.
Arjuna made the use of this curse intelligently as a very effective disguise for the period of one year when he, his brothers and Draupadi all lived incognito while in exile. In the thirteenth year of his exile, he spent it in disguise at the court of King Virata
. Arjuna made use of the curse put on him by the Apsara Urvashi and chose this year in which to live the life of a eunuch. He assumed the name Brihannala. At the end of one year, Arjuna single-handedly defeated a Kaurava of Mahabharata
who had invaded the Virata kingdom.
In appreciation of this valour, and being appraised of the true identity of the Pandavas, King Virata
offered the hand of his daughter Uttara to Arjuna. But Arjuna declined the offer saying that he is too old for her and decided to get her married to his son Abhimanyu.
Battle of Kurukshetra
After thirteen years of exile, the Pandavas returned back and demanded for their kingdom. The Kauravas refused to give it back to them, which led to the outbreak of the Kurukshetra
battle. While Krishna's elder brother Balaram
refused to take sides as both the sides belong to their clan- Yadav clan, Krishna decided to be on the side of Pandavas. Krishna became Arjuna's personal charioteer during the 18-days battle and protected Arjuna upon numerous occasions from injury and death. He also directed Arjuna towards the path of righteousness. This is mentioned in Bhagavat Gita
. During the Kurukshetra battle, Arjuna killed Karna
(who happens to be his brother) at the time when Karna was raising his chariot. Arjuna also killed the king of Sindhu- Jayadratha
whom he held responsible for the death of his son Abhimanyu.
The revelation of Bhagvad Gita
A few hours before the outbreak of the battle, Arjuna's spirits begin to falter, as he did not wish to annihilate his own kins and his guru Dhronacharaya who were in the opposition side. Filled with guilt Arjuna went to Krishna for solution. This was when Lord Krishna revealed Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. Primarily, the Bhagavad Gita is a record of the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The relationship between Arjuna and Krishna is representative of what is ideal for all mankind: "Man guided by God". The Bhagavad Gita records the Lord comforting and guiding a mortal who is facing a terrible moral crisis, and is an important scripture in Hinduism
Arjuna, after the Battle of Kurukshetra
After the war, the Pandavas
took over the kingdom of Hastinapura
. They performed the Asvamedha Yagna
or "horse sacrifice", where after the title of emperor could be assumed. He played a main role in this yagna and contributed towards the expansion of the Pandava domains. In their old age, the Pandavas decided to leave the Kingdom and leave for a pilgrimage. They hand over the Kingdom to Parikshit
- son of Abhimanyu and grandson of Arjuna. On the way to Himalayan Mountain
, each of them one by one departed the world.