Categories: Hindu Scripture

Arjuna-The Heroic Archer of the Mahabharata।Hindu Temple Talk

Arjuna, the third Pandava in Mahabharata, born to Kunti and fathered by Indra, is a special child recognized for his remarkable archery skills. Favoured by Bhishma and Drona, he gains blessings from gods, becoming the world’s mightiest warrior. A pillar of strength alongside Bhima for Yudhishthir, Arjuna’s exceptional abilities help reclaim their kingdom in the Kurukshetra war. His complex friendship with Krishna and rivalry with Karna shape his journey. Explore Arjuna’s story in this guide.

Arjuna

Prior to Arjuna’s Birth

In the serene northern hills near Gandhamadana, Pandu, Kunti, and Madri embraced a life away from their kingdom due to Pandu’s curse preventing him from being intimate with a woman. Before Arjuna’s birth, Yudhishthir and Bhima, born of gods Yama and Vayu, became half-siblings to mighty Hanuman. Meanwhile, in Hastinapur, Gandhari and Dhritarashtra raised their hundred sons, with Duryodhana as the eldest. Though not explicitly stated, Pandu’s sons were raised with the hope of becoming future kings. Pandu’s choice of Indra as a role model taught the vital lesson of valuing justice and strength over personal pride and skill.

The Birth of Arjuna

Arjuna’s arrival, a gift from Indra, unfolds amidst an aura of divine anticipation. Prophetic voices proclaim a life brimming with valor, accomplishment, and boundless renown. The hermitage teems with celestial visitors – Nagas, Gandharvas, and esteemed sages like Bharadwaja, Kashyapa, Gautama, and more. Tumbura’s enchanting melodies resonate, while graceful apsaras dance and wise sages bestow their blessings. Amidst this symphony, it’s vividly evident that the newborn, the third Pandava, is destined to ascend as a paramount hero of his era. Born in the month of Falguna, he’s affectionately referred to as Falguna. Arjuna’s appearance is often depicted with curly hair and a warm, coppery complexion.

The Childhood of Arjuna

Arjuna’s early years are marked by a close bond with his brothers. Born a year after him, Nakula and Sahadeva enter the world with the aid of the Ashwin twins. After a few years, Madri and Pandu pass away, leading Kunti and her sons to return to Hastinapur. Around five years old, Arjuna leaves the serene Gandhamadana and arrives at the royal palace. A favorite of Bhishma, he begins his education under Kripacharya. Unlike the rivalry between Bhima and Duryodhana, Arjuna maintains a friendly demeanor with his Kaurava cousins. As they train in weaponry, Arjuna’s exceptional archery skills make Duryodhana wary.

Drona’s Beloved Student

Arjuna, a young boy of around eight, entered Drona’s life, marking a pivotal moment. Drona swiftly recognized his potential when Arjuna displayed unparalleled focus, impressing the teacher. Arjuna’s dedication was evident as he practiced archery in the dark. Drona pledged to mold him into the finest archer globally, even obstructing a rival’s progress. Drona’s fondness grew as Arjuna saved him from danger and showcased exceptional skills. Due to these incidents and his likable nature, Arjuna became Drona’s favorite student, even surpassing Drona’s own son (Ashwatthama) in his teacher’s affections.

The Grand Graduation Ceremony

At the grand graduation ceremony for the Kuru princes, a showcase of their acquired skills and future rule, a twist unravels. Arjuna, Drona’s prized pupil, takes the spotlight to display his talents. However, a stranger named Karna surprises everyone by flawlessly repeating Arjuna’s feats and challenging him to a duel. Diplomacy, led by Kripa and Bhishma, quells the tension, but Duryodhana supports Karna. Their bond deepens, becoming a recurring thorn for the Pandavas. For Arjuna, this event marks the realization that his equal or superior exists, igniting a lifelong rivalry with Karna. The ceremony becomes a pivotal juncture in the Mahabharata tale.

The Test of Valor

Following the graduation ceremony, Drona tasks his students with a daunting quest: capturing Panchala’s king, Drupada, for ransom. This request demands a war with the mighty Panchala kingdom. The Kuru princes must overcome Panchala’s forces, seizing Drupada as a prisoner. Initially, Arjuna anticipates Kauravas’ failure and secretly lets them take the lead. His prediction proves true, as the Kauravas are defeated. Stepping in, the Pandavas turn the tide and present Drupada to Drona as a token of their victory, solidifying Arjuna’s place of honor.

The Swayamvara of Draupadi

Arjuna wins by hitting the fish’s eye

After escaping Varanavata in disguise, the Pandavas reach Ekachakra. Bhima defeats Bakasura and Vyasa advises them to attend Draupadi’s swayamvara in Panchala. Arjuna wins by hitting the fish’s eye, but Karna is rejected. Post-victory, rivals revolt, defended by Arjuna and Bhima in battles against Karna and Shalya. Safely back, Yudhishthir and Kunti decide Draupadi becomes the common wife. Arjuna agrees, and there’s no discord among the brothers about sharing Draupadi.

Arjuna’s Exile

After a five-day wedding that unites Panchala and the Pandavas, they’re called back to Hastinapur. Following Bhishma’s suggestion, Dhritarashtra grants them Khandavaprastha to rule independently. Yudhishthir becomes king while an arrangement on sharing Draupadi is made – if any brother disrupts another’s time with her, they’ll face twelve-year exile. Soon, Arjuna retrieves his bow from Yudhishthir’s chamber while he’s with Draupadi, leading him to declare his own exile. Despite protests, Arjuna insists and spends twelve years away, marrying Ulupi, Chitrangada, and Subhadra, and fathering Iravan, Babruvahana, and Abhimanyu.

Arjuna’s Unconventional Alliance

During his exile, Arjuna forms alliances with three kings: Ulupi’s father Kauravya, Chitrangada’s father Chitravahana, and Subhadra’s brother Balarama. Subhadra’s alliance is pivotal due to Anarta’s strength. Arjuna bonds with Krishna in Prabhasa, nurturing a lifelong friendship. Krishna urges Arjuna to marry Subhadra, using the connection to enhance Pandavas’ alliance with Anarta instead of the Kauravas. Arjuna obeys, marries Subhadra, and they have Abhimanyu. This strategic union shapes the Mahabharata. Abhimanyu’s fate in the war becomes crucial. After exile, Arjuna returns with Subhadra to Hastinapur, where Krishna stays as a guest, solidifying their unique camaraderie.

Arjuna’s Pact with Agni

Agni

Agni, fire god, seeks Arjuna’s aid to consume Khandava forest plagued by indigestion. Agni’s divine arsenal tempts Arjuna, who agrees to help. Krishna assists as the forest burns, with Arjuna defending against Indra’s attempts to save it. Arjuna gains the Gandiva bow, an unbreakable chariot, and quivers of arrows; Krishna acquires the Sudarshana Chakra. This transformation of Khandava enables Yudhishthir’s ambition, expanding into Indraprastha, the Pandavas’ powerful base for future conquests.

Arjuna’s Exile Adventures

During their twelve-year exile, Arjuna embarks on a five-year quest for divine weapons. He gains the Pashupatastra from Lord Shiva at Indrakila. At Amaravati, Indra’s abode, Arjuna conquers Rakshasas and Danavas, liberating Hiranyapuri. He learns dance from Gandharva Chitrasena, later facing him to free Duryodhana. Arjuna’s refusal of apsara Urvasi’s proposition earns him a curse, experiencing a year as the ‘third gender’ during Virata Parva. As Brihannala, he teaches dance to Princess Uttara. Empowered by his weapons, Arjuna reunites with brothers and wife after his exile, marking his transformative journey.

Arjuna’s Noble Rescue

As Pandavas near the end of their exile, Duryodhana arrives, aiming to mock them. Accompanied by Shakuni and Karna, he clashes with Gandharvas over a lake’s water, leading to a fierce battle. Shakuni and Karna flee, leaving Duryodhana defeated and imprisoned. A servant seeks Pandavas’ help. Yudhishthir, showing grace, sends Arjuna and reluctant Bhima. Arjuna, surprised, recognizes Gandharva leader Chitrasena from Amaravati. Arjuna and Chitrasena engage in a ritualistic duel, leading to Duryodhana’s release. This event underscores Arjuna’s virtuous character and Yudhishthir’s benevolence, bridging the gap between rivals in a moment of need.

Jayadratha’s Grudge and Tragic Fate

As the Pandavas’ exile nears its end, Jayadratha, Saindhava king and Dusshala’s brother, attempts to abduct Draupadi. Arjuna and Bhima chase him down, defeating him and rescuing Draupadi. Humiliated, Jayadratha seeks Shiva’s boon, enabling him to defeat all Pandavas (except Arjuna) in a day. During the Mahabharata war, he holds Drona’s Chakra Vyuha, leading to Abhimanyu’s demise. The following day, Arjuna’s anger results in Jayadratha’s own tragic end. This tale illustrates the fateful consequences of grudges and how they intertwine with the unfolding war’s tragedies.

Arjuna’s Hidden Heroism

During their thirteenth year of exile, the Pandavas must live openly yet concealed. Arjuna becomes Brihannala, of the ‘third gender’, at King Virata’s court. Hidden, he instructs dance to Princess Uttara and only appears at a yearly fair. Brihannala aids in eliminating Kichaka, plotting with Bhima and guarding Draupadi. Most significantly, he singlehandedly defends Matsya from the powerful Kuru army. Arjuna’s dual identity showcases his strategic prowess and undying devotion to his family’s safety, making him a pivotal yet concealed hero.

Arjuna’s Solo Stand

Following Kichaka’s demise, Duryodhana seizes a chance to raid Matsya. Virata, aided by the disguised Pandavas, defends against one front. Meanwhile, a formidable Kuru army, led by Duryodhana, Karna, and others, attacks Matsya’s northeastern border. Brihannala accompanies Bhuminjaya, who falters against the Kurus. Reclaiming his Gandiva, Arjuna alone fights the entire army, skillfully deploying divine weapons and rescuing Matsya’s cattle. Witnessing Arjuna’s might, Bhishma and Drona counsel Duryodhana to abandon war, but he misconstrues their advice. Arjuna’s valiant stand and evolving strength change the dynamics of the impending conflict.

Arjuna’s Unwavering Choice

Amidst the impending war, as dawn broke, Arjuna stood by Krishna’s feet, while Duryodhana claimed the head of the bed. Awakening, Krishna’s gaze fell upon Arjuna, who, to everyone’s astonishment, chose Krishna as his ally over an army. “To conquer, I must stand with you,” Arjuna confessed, requesting Krishna as his charioteer. With divine partnership, Arjuna wielded the Gandiva, his spirit aflame. The boundless strength of their bond made him a force that even time couldn’t erode.

The Bhagavad Gita

Krishna explained that life has a plan

Arjuna was supposed to fight in a big war, but he felt really sad about it. He didn’t want to fight against his teachers and family. He told Krishna he wanted to quit and live in the forest. Krishna explained that life has a plan, and Arjuna shouldn’t question it. He said Arjuna should focus on doing his duty. This talk is called the Bhagavad Gita. By the end, Arjuna felt better. He decided to fight bravely with Krishna’s support.

Victory over Bhishma

Bhishma fell down after getting hit a lot

In a big war, Arjuna wasn’t fighting properly against Bhishma. Krishna was getting annoyed. The Pandavas needed to stop Bhishma, or they would lose. So, they asked Bhishma how to beat him. He said he can’t fight against Shikhandi. On the tenth day, they put Shikhandi in the front and told everyone to protect him. Arjuna started shooting arrows at Bhishma from behind Shikhandi. Bhishma’s armor broke, and he got hurt. Bhishma realized Arjuna was attacking him. He fell down after getting hit a lot. Now, with Drona leading, the war got even more intense.

Vengeance for Abimanyu

Abhimanyu

After a tiring day in battle, Arjuna feels something’s wrong when he gets back. People avoid looking at him, and he notices his son Abhimanyu isn’t there to welcome him like usual. He figures out that something bad happened. The next day, Arjuna is determined to get revenge. He faces tough challenges in the battlefield but doesn’t give up. With Krishna’s help, he reaches Jayadratha just before sunset and fulfills his promise to avenge his son.

Drona’s Death

Drona’s death came from a clever plan proposed by Krishna and carried out by Bhima and Yudhishthir. Bhima tricked Drona by claiming an elephant named Ashwatthama had died. Yudhishthir confirmed it, but sneaked in that it was the elephant. Confused, Drona threw down his weapons. Seizing the chance, Dhrishtadyumna beheaded him. Arjuna disagreed with the strategy and wanted Drona captured, not killed. But Dhrishtadyumna was too excited. Later, an argument over Drona’s death led to conflicts among the warriors, showing the complexities of war ethics.

Karna’s Death

In a pivotal battle of the Mahabharata, Arjuna faces Karna on the seventeenth day. Despite the odds favoring Arjuna and his divine arsenal, Karna fights valiantly. He’s disadvantaged due to lost armor and cursed knowledge. Shalya, his charioteer, secretly supports Arjuna. Karna nearly hits Arjuna’s forehead, but Krishna saves him. Karna’s chariot gets stuck. He seeks time, but Krishna urges no mercy. Remembering Karna’s wrongs, Arjuna shoots a fatal arrow. With Karna’s demise, Arjuna avenges Draupadi’s humiliation, fulfilling his vow.

Arjuna’s Decisive Signal

In the intense battle between Bhima and Duryodhana, a unique moment occurs. Arjuna mimics Duryodhana’s gesture of thigh-slapping, signaling Bhima to target Duryodhana’s thigh unfairly. This contrasts with Arjuna’s usual hesitation in similar situations. Arjuna consults Krishna, who advises Bhima to use unfair tactics. Encouraging Bhima, Arjuna’s thigh slap leads to Duryodhana’s defeat. Bhima strikes Duryodhana’s thighs, ending the war. Krishna’s conch blast announces the Pandavas’ victory, concluding the Mahabharata saga.

Arjuna’s Surprising Defeat

During Yudhishthir’s Ashwamedha sacrifice, Arjuna accompanies a wandering horse. Arriving in Manipura, ruled by his son Babruvahana, their respect turns to confrontation. Babruvahana battles his father, injuring him. Ulupi, appearing mysteriously, explains that Arjuna’s death fulfills Ganga’s curse and spares hellish punishment for Bhishma’s slaying. Ulupi’s Naga-magic revives Arjuna. Defeat to his son doesn’t tarnish Arjuna’s title ‘Vijaya,’ as it was a symbolic loss to himself, preserving his honor.

After Krishna’s Passing

For thirty-six years, Yudhishthir rules as emperor. Dwaraka’s fall ignites the next phase. Gandhari’s curse unfolds, causing Yadavas’ in-fighting. Satyaki and Kritavarma quarrel, leading to mass destruction. Krishna, detached, watches and joins the turmoil. He summons Arjuna, saves Vrishni people, but loses his powers. Arjuna seeks answers from Vyasa. Powers served their purpose, Vyasa says. Arjuna learns it’s time for Pandavas’ final journey. He informs Yudhishthir, marking a turning point.

The Final Journey

The Final Journey

Pandavas embark on their final journey, crowning Parikshit as king. Disguised, they leave with Draupadi. Arjuna still holds Gandiva, but Yudhishthir advises letting go. Reluctantly, Arjuna consents, burning his bow symbolizing success. They head to Meru for heaven. Climbing, Arjuna falls and dies, joining others who fell before him. Bhima questions why Arjuna’s barred from heaven. Yudhishthir reveals pride hindered him. Bhima follows. Yudhishthir alone attains heaven without physical death, closing their chapter.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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