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The Danavas, Nivata-Kavachas, were demons opposed to the gods. The gods found them growing in strength day by day. Numbering thirty million, they lived in the ocean depths. Indra told Arjuna, “As your preceptor, I demand from you my fees. You should undertake a campaign against my enemies, the Nivata-Kavachas. You must destroy them and free the gods from fear of those demons.” Arjuna cheerfully accepted the task. The god gave him the standard war accessory, a conch, Devadatta, the blowing of which could inspire fear in enemies.

Arjuna was taken to the region of the Nivata-Kavachas in Indra’s chariot, driven by Matali. Arjuna successfully destroyed their might and stormed their city, Hiranyapura.

Despite all the entertainment provided by Indra, Arjuna wore a sad countenance, remembering the insults heaped on the Pandavas by Duryodhana and his evil associates. In order to cheer him, Indra approached the apsara, Urvasi, with the request that she make Arjuna happy.

Urvasi, who was already smarting with infatuation for Arjuna, was only too glad to carry out her mission. She approached Arjuna and declared her love for him, recalling the interest with which he gazed at her in Indra’s court while she was dancing. Arjuna explained that his admiration for her was like his admiration for Kunti or Sachi, Indra’s queen. “You were the consort of one of my ancestors. Hence, I think of you as the mother of the Puru race,” he said.

Urvasi explained to Arjuna that apsaras were free spirits and not bound by conventional morality. But Arjuna was unmoved. Arjuna’s stubbornness incensed the apsara who cursed him, “It is at your father’s command that I came to you. When I needed your love you refused me. For this you shall pass some time in female company, deprived of your manhood.”

News of Urvasi’s encounter with Arjuna reached Indra who became pleased with his son’s steadfastness. He called Arjuna and told him, “You have done your mother Kunti proud. But do not despair. This curse of Urvasi will come in handy in the thirteenth year of exile that you and your brothers with Draupadi will have to spend in disguise. Being a eunuch will give you a cover and you can then use your knowledge of dancing.”

Indra called the rishi Lomasa and sent him as his emissary to Yudhisthira to inform him that Arjuna would soon return to earth after mastering all the weapons given to him by his sire.

Soon after the gods left, Indra’s car, huge and splendid, drawn by ten thousand horses of golden hue, arrived. The charioteer, Matali, conveyed Indra’s wish that Arjuna be brought to his court. As Arjuna mounted it, the car flying Indra’s flag and capable of traveling like wind, transported the great warrior to the court of Indra.

When he arrived at Amaravati, Indra’s city, Arjuna was greeted by apsaras and Gandharvas to the chanting of verses by Siddhas and Rishis. As he reached the great hall of Indra, the lord of thunderbolt himself welcomed him. He proudly led his son to his throne and sat him by his side. The divine ladies Gritachi, Rambha, Urvasi, Swayamprabha and many others danced and sang in the court. The splendid Indra instructed the celestial artist Chitrasena to teach Arjuna dance and music.

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