Arjuna and Ulupi
First, he encounters Ulupi, Kauravya’s daughter. Kauravya is a naga. So Ulupi is a nagakanya and she requests Arjuna for a union. Arjuna agrees because it is Kshatriya Dharma and he cannot refuse. So, from the point of view of Dharma ‑not Kaama-but Dharma, Arjuna agrees and Ulupi and Arjuna unite. Then Arjuna goes his way. Ulupi gives birth to Airavan. Then he encounters, in Manipur, Chitravahana’s daughter, Chitrangada. Chitrangada is given in marriage to him as per Putrika Dharma. According to Putrika Dharma, the father of the girl will retain the son born to the girl, because they don’t have a successor to continue their lineage. Out of the union of Arjuna and Chitrangada is born Babruvahana.
After this, Arjuna goes on a theerthayatra. He visits many holy places. He goes to the Southern Ocean, where he encounters these five holy water bodies, which do not have any rishis or sadhus around them. He is very surprised. Then he comes to know of the crocodiles-five crocodiles- living in those water bodies. He ventures into one and kills the crocodile, after which appears an apsara who is liberated. She says, ”We are five apsaras who had been cursed by a brahmana. Please liberate my other friends as well and we will be grateful to you. We were, in fact told by Narada Muni, when we were cursed, that we would be liberated by you-Arjuna, the Pandava”. So, he liberates all the five apsaras and from then on, rishis could do tapasya on the banks of those sacred spots.
Arjuna and Subhadra
Then, Arjuna goes to Prabhasa, and there, he meets Krishna. Krishna introduces Subhadra to him. Arjuna falls in love with Subhadra at first sight. He tries to meditate, only Subhadra resides in his heart! Krishna knows Arjuna’s condition. So he says to Arjuna, ”There are different ways by which a kshatriya can marry a girl. But I find, in these circumstances, the best to be Subhadrahara. You take her away by force. Kidnap Subhadra.” Krishna arranges for his own chariot to be made available so that Arjuna can take her away. What an awesome friend Sri Krishna is! And Arjuna takes away Subhadra. There are different types of marriages-acceptable forms of marriages. What Arjuna does is an acceptable form of vivaha for kshatriyas, but not for brahmanas, vaishyas and sudras.
The return to Indraprastha
So, by force, Subhadra is taken away, and all the Yadus, the whole of Dwaraka is angry- because they are such powerful people, and how dare Arjuna come as a guest, be received well by them and finally stab them in their back? That is unacceptable! But then, Krishna convinces all of them. He says that it is an acceptable form of marriage and explains the logic and they get convinced. And hence, they go and treat Arjuna as their mapillai. (In Tamil, ’mapillai’ refers to one’s son-in-law or brother-in-law). Hence, they all proceed to Indraprastha, where the marriage is solemnised. Krishna is there and everybody has a good time.
The Pandavas’ children are born
In due course of time, children are born to the Panchapandavas. Abhimanyu is born to Arjuna and Subhadra. Draupadi has five sons-one with each of the Pandava brothers-Pratividya is born to Yudhishthira, Sutasoma to Bhima, Sutakarman to Arjuna, Tatanika to Nakula and Sutasena to Sahadeva. So they have a very good time with children and babies around. It’s a wonderful time‑a very happy time for all of them.
The burning of Khandava vana
That is when Krishna and Arjuna decide to have some time alone, because they are like long-lost friends. Actually, they are the rishis Nara and Narayana who have taken birth on earth as Arjuna and Krishna. They choose to spend time in Khandava vana, along the banks of the Yamuna. There, a blazing brahmana appears, whom they recognize as Agni. Agni says, ”I want to burn this forest to satiate my hunger, but the devas don’t allow me to, because there is Takshaka who dwells within. Takshaka is a friend of Indra, and Indra pours his rains and puts out the fire. So please help me.” Why does Agni have his eyes on Khandava specifically? Because there was, once upon a time, a king named Swetaki. He conducted a lot of yajnas. So many yajnas, one after the other, so many yajnas simultaneously, that all the brahmanas got tired. They said to him, ”Please leave us. Pothum. Mudila da Saami!” (In Tamil: Enough! This is not possible anymore!) And the brahmanas left him. Swetaki approached Rudra. He did immense tapasya and gratified Rudra, who appointed Durvasa-an amsha of Himself-as the rishi who would conduct the yajnas of Swetaki. Then, there was this twelve year long yajna in which so much clarified butter (ghee) was poured into the sacrificial fire that Agni began to suffer from indigestion.
Can Agni suffer from indigestion? Definitely. Anybody can. When we suffer from indigestion, we will see that our state of energy is dull. We are not in our full spirit. When the Jataragni-digestive fire, is blazing, we are in full spirit. When it is doused, we are dull and lethargic. So Agni has lost his splendor. Brahmaji advises Agni, ” You can consume Khandava-burn the Khandava forest. There are many herbs, roots and animals living there. Their flesh and fat will help reinvoke your fire-your appetite. Besides, Khandava has become a home to many rakshasas, asuras and nagas. You go there and burn. ” So Brahmaji has appointed Agni to burn Khandava, but Indra does not allow Agni to consume it completely. Hence Agni approaches Krishna and Arjuna and they agree to help. Arjuna asks for an appropriate bow and arrows. Agni invokes Varuna, who gives Arjuna his Gandiva. This is when Arjuna receives the Gandiva-the famed bow-and two quivers of arrows which are inexhaustible, and an awesome chariot. Also, Arjuna already has superb horses given to him by Angaraparna, the gandharva. And to Krishna, the Sudarshana Chakra is given. In this incarnation, this is given to him for the first time. With these, Krishna and Arjuna do an awesome job. They defeat Indra’s army with all the devas multiple times. And hence, Indra has to give up.
The escape of Ashwasena and Mayasura
But before that, there is a full-fledged war going on. There is Agni burning and Indra pouring his rains simultaneously. Arjuna shoots his arrows in such a way that there is a dome‑a dome of many square miles around the Khandava forest, so that Agni can burn in spite of Indra’s showers. Takshaka is living in that forest. Takshaka’s wife wants to save their son Ashwasena. She swallows him, with his tail pointing out, and tries to rise up. Arjuna, at that moment, cuts off her head. Seeing this, Indra, for an instant, makes Arjuna unconscious with his powers and Ashwasena escapes. Hence Arjuna curses Ashwasena saying, ”You have escaped in a very unholy manner. You did not fight back with me. So you will be infamous. You will not attain to fame.” Then Arjuna fights with even greater vigour. After that, the asura Maya, the architect, who is equal to Vishwakarman of the devas, seeks Arjuna’s protection, and hence Arjuna offers his protection and Krishna and Agni do not harm him. So Mayasura escapes.
The Saranga birds
Then, there are these saranga birds. Their story goes like this-there was this rishi Mandapala, who does awesome tapasya and engages himself in many yajnas. But when he goes to heaven, the door is closed, and it is announced to him, ”You don’t have children. These doors will open only after you beget children. ”Because that is also Dharma. As per the Indian Dharma, there are three aspects to be taken care of. One is the performance of yajnas to satisfy the devas. Another is the study of scriptures to satisfy the rishis. And the third, is having children to satisfy the ancestors-pithris. When we take a human body, we are supposed to incur debts. We are indebted to the devas, to the rishis and to the pithris, and so we have to satisfy them. So the rishi Mandapala assumes the body of a saranga bird and, with his wife Jarita, has four children. The Khandava forest is burning. Mandapala goes to Agni and requests him to spare his children, and Agni agrees. Mandapala then goes to another wife, Lipita. So when Agni is burning the forest, the four children of Jarita and Mandapala, because of their knowledge of the Vedas, satisfy Agni and he does not burn them. And hence, the family is reunited. The young birds know the Vedas because they are rishis who have assumed the form of birds. When Mandapala comes back, at first he is rejected, but then, he explains the reason for leaving to his wife. His wife, Jarita constantly doubts Madapala-just as Arundhati did to Vasishta, and hence Arundhati became a smaller star, compared to Vasishta, in brightness and luminosity. They are binary star systems, both going around each other, around a common center of gravity. We will be looking at this in astronomy.
So Ashwasena, Mayasura and the saranga birds have escaped. The entire forest, along with all other creatures is burnt and Agni has a wonderful time, burning the forest for fifteen days. At the end of it, Indra is actually happy with Arjuna. He grants a boon to Arjuna. Arjuna asks for celestial weapons. Indra says, ”At the appropriate time, I will give you the celestial weapons. ” But Krishna cannot ask for a boon from Indra because he is superior. In the Bhagavata Purana, it is written that that Sri Krishna lifts the Govardhana mountain and protects the all the people of Vrindavan from Indra himself. So Indra is no match for Krishna’s energy. Hence, Krishna cannot ask for a boon from someone who is inferior to Him. So, he simply says, ”Let Arjuna and I be friends forever. ”And Indra says, ”So be it.” Thus ends the Adi parva.
END OF ADI PARVA