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Even as Arjuna was praying, to his surprise, the Kirata appeared, with the wreath on his head. Arjuna realized that he was in the presence of none other than Lord Maheswara himself. He prostrated before the god and prayed forgiveness for his conduct in attacking him. The god raised him with his arms and embraced him, this time in love.


The mightily pleased Lord of the Mountains heard from Arjuna of his desire to possess arms that could counter the heroes Bhishma, Drona and Kripa. The god told him, “I know you to be the rishi Nara of old who, with Narayana, protected the world from the demons. I shall give you that favourite weapon of mine, Pasupata, the knowledge of which no human or celestial has. It should be used only against a superior foe. Wrongly used, it might destroy the entire universe.” The god then imparted to Arjuna, the knowledge of the use of the weapon.

It was thus that Lord Siva blessed Arjuna with the holy weapon, the mere touch of which purified the prince. The god returned the Gandiva to Arjuna. The two quivers were also restored of their magical quality. “Go now to heaven,” he commanded the devotee who stood with his head bowed and left to his abode in the company of Uma.

Then and there Arjuna went into the meditation of Maheshwara. The penance undertaken by Arjuna was of the severest nature. He shed the armour he was wearing, and clad in deerskin, he prayed. Little by little he reduced his food until, in the fourth month, he subsisted on air alone. He stood on the tip of one toe with his arms joined above his head. The heat radiating from him was such that it became unbearable for all the sages meditating in the region. These sages approached the Lord of the Mountains, Rudra, and appealed to him to protect them from the severe effects of Arjuna’s penance. The all-knowing god smiled and sent them away with the assurance that he would answer his devotee and end his penance.

The god Rudra disguised himself as a Kirata (a tribe of hunters living in the deep woods). Accompanied by his consort, Uma, also disguised, and a host of other women, he appeared where Arjuna was doing penance. Just then a Danava (demon), Muka by name, in the form of a boar, was about to attack Arjuna. Arjuna prepared to release some deadly arrows from his Gandiva on the boar. The Kirata bade him stop. “This mountain of a boar was first sighted by me. Hence it is mine.”
 Disregarding the claim of the Kirata, Arjuna showered his arrows on the boar. The hunter also sent his arrows and pierced the boar at the same time. The boar assumed its original form of a rakshasa and fell roaring.

The angry Kirata questioned Arjuna about his conduct in breaking the hunters’ code. Soon the argument led to Arjuna releasing his shafts on the hunter. The two quivers, which had the quality of being inexhaustible, became empty even as his arrows bounced off the hunter. Arjuna swiped his Gandiva bow on the Kirata who deftly snatched it away. Arjuna took out his sword and aimed a mighty blow on the crown of the hunter. On landing, the sword broke into pieces, as if it had hit a solid rock. Having lost all his weapons, Arjuna pounced on the hunter for physical combat.
 The two were engaged in a fierce fight when a deadly embrace by the hunter caused Arjuna to fall on the ground unconscious. When he regained his senses, the blood-covered Arjuna found the hunter gone. He made an image of the god Siva and worshipped it, asking for strength. He placed a floral wreath on the crown of the image.

Equipped with the Mantra received from Yudhisthira, Arjuna made his way to the Himalayas. Fully armed, with the Gandiva bow in his hand, Arjuna looked resplendent when he reached Indrakila, the region of Indra. A thin, emaciated ascetic stopped him and asked, “Who are you? Why are you armed to your fingernail? You have entered the region where there is no need for fighting. Disarm and seek bliss. Choose any celestial region you desire and live there forever.”

Arjuna refused to disarm. “I have no desire to become a celestial. I have a mission to avenge the insults heaped on me and my brothers by the son of Dhritarashtra. Besides, I cannot forsake my brothers who wait for me at Kamyaka.” The ascetic at once revealed himself to be the god Indra. Paying his respect to the god, Arjuna said, “It is to meet you that I came here. I seek from you your weapons.”

Indra replied, “I am aware of your mission. All my weapons are available for you. But you must first do penance to the greatest of gods, Siva. I shall give you my weapons only if you are able to see him.” With this, the god departed.
Vyasa, who visited the Pandavas, told Yudhisthira, “I could see that Arjuna will slay your foes when the time comes. He should seek the necessary weapons for the purpose from the gods Rudra, Indra, Varuna, Yama and Kubera. I shall teach you a Mantra, which would enable one to behold the gods. You may, in turn, impart the knowledge to Arjuna.”

 Vyasa also advised Yudhisthira to keep moving to different places so that the forests do not get denuded and depleted by their continued presence.

After the sage’s departure, Yudhisthira advised Arjuna, “The Kauravas have stalwarts like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Karna and Aswathamma, with whom all knowledge of wielding weapons reside. You alone amongst us are capable of gaining such mastery in warfare as they possess. The god Indra is the repository of all the weapons of the gods. I have received instruction from the venerable Vyasa of a Mantra which, when recited, will expose to one, the entire universe including the gods. As desired by him, I shall pass that knowledge to you. Use it to seek Indra. Seek from him all his weapons which alone can help us in the battle to come. Seek weapons also from Rudra, Varuna, Yama and Kubera.”

Bowing to his brother’s wishes, Arjuna soon left on his quest for weapons. The remaining Pandavas, heeded to Vyasa’a advice and shifted their camp to the Kamyaka forest once again, this time on the banks of the River Saraswati. There they lived for the next five years.
The Pandavas soon left their retinue and most of their cars at Kamyaka and preceded to the Dwaita forest where, they decided, they would spend their exile. The forest, full of tall trees, surrounded the sacred lake of Dwaitavana. The many Rishis who were performing austerities there blessed the Pandavas. The brahmins who had followed the exiled Kshatriyas continued to live under their benevolence at Dwaita.

Many were the visitors to the humble dwelling of the Pandava heroes at Kamyaka. Their cousins, the Bhojas, the Vrishnis, Krishna among them, and the Andhakas as well as other relatives like Drupada and the king of Chedi, visited them.

Krishna, during a visit, was discussing the plight of the Pandavas, when he expressed his anger at the Kauravas’ behaviour. Arjuna pacified him. In good time, he said, with Krishna’s blessing, their difficult days would come to an end.

Krishna said that had he been present at Hastinapura on that fateful day, he would have prevented the Kauravas’ deceitful dice game. “It was during that time that I was chasing Salwa to his capital in order to end his life.” he said.

Krishna related to the Pandavas, the Vrishnis’ battle with Salwa. He said, “Salwa, the king of Saubha, deciding to avenge the death of Shishupala, ‘his brother-king’, marched on Dwaraka even before I could return from Indraprastha after the Rajasuya sacrifice.

“When I reached Dwaraka, I found that Salwa had already killed many of the eminent Vrishni warriors. He had caused widespread destruction to Dwaraka and was returning triumphantly to Saubha. Angered by the scene, I chased the villain. I finally caught up with him in an island in the ocean. A fierce battle took place when the host of Saubha’s Danava warriors adopted various tactics including illusion. After dispelling them all, I finally released my Sudarshan disc, a weapon capable of destroying the mightiest of enemies. It killed Salwa and returned to me. I learnt of the events in Hastinapura only on my return to Dwaraka after Salwa had been despatched.”
News just then arrived at Hastinapura of the killing of Kirmira, the brother of the Rakshasa Bakasura, by Bhima. The king asked Vidura to give him an account of the event.

Vidura said, “Pandu’s sons, after their expulsion from Hastinapura, traveled three days before reaching the Kamyaka forest. At dead of night, when they were asleep under a tree, there appeared before them a fearful looking rakshasa, a cannibal, Kirmira by name. This Kirmira was the brother of Bakasura, the monster that Bhima killed on an earlier occasion. Recognizing Bhima, the rakshasa wanted to kill Bhima to avenge his brother’s death. A fierce battle took place between Kirmira and Bhima. In the end, by sheer might, the illustrious Pandava strongman killed that terror of the forest. I saw the huge body of the slain rakshasa lying in the forest, when on my way to the Pandavas’ dwelling.”

The story, reflecting the Pandavas’ might, only added to Dhritarashtra’s misery, while Duryodhana was deeply perturbed.

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