Chapter 96: Arjuna’s scorching penance

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.