Sunday, January 17, 2016


What is Sarala’s take on this, Mr. Sudeep Kanwal asks. Before answering this question, we should like to observe that in the context of Sarala Mahabharata this question translates itself into “Did Arjuna use celestial arrows after the Kurukshetra War?” because in this narrative it is Krishna, not Arjuna, who fought Aswasthama in the episode we have in mind. The latter’s brahmastra killed Uttara’s child in her womb. The child born dead was restored to life by Krishna. For more details, would you please see “The End of Aswasthama’s Story” in this blog?

As Mr. Kanwal says, Arjuna fought many times after the Great War in Vyasa Mahabharata. He had to, because King Yudhisthira had decided to perform aswamedha jajna.  In Sarala’s retelling Arjuna fought many battles too. But not all were related to aswamedha jajna. And sometimes he did use celestial arrows; in the terrible fight against the demon Kadambasura, which had no connection with the jajna, he used the infallible divine arrow pasupata, which he had got from Bhagawan Shiva. This arrow was ineffective against the demon, but that’s a story I will tell some other day. 

In Sarala Mahabharata too Arjuna was in charge of the jajna horse for the aswamedha jajna. Ignoring details, the king of Jenabali, the young Babrubahana, would not release the sacred horse. So Arjuna had to fight against with him. In that encounter Arjuna used pasupata astra to destroy his mighty army. He then used the infallible narayanastra (the arrow of Narayana) against the young king and Babrubahana used brahmastra to counter it. Arjuna’s arrow killed Babrubahana and Babrubahana’s killed Arjuna. The sage Vyasa at Hastinapura learnt about what had happened from the all-knowing Sahadeva and by his yogic powers he travelled a long distance in no time and reached the battlefield. He knew the mritasanjeevani (a mantra that could bring life to the dead) mantra and revived them by using this life-restoring mantra. Incidentally, this episode does not bring in Krishna. More of this story, some other day. 

When the avatara left his mortal body, a deeply disappointed, agitated and confused Arjuna fought furiously with the forest dweller, a deeply troubled and much devastated Jara, who had shot that fatal arrow at Krishna’s foot unknowingly. He used the infallible divine arrows babalastra and manavedi against Jara. Jara had countered them with celestial weapons. The Creator god, Brahma, had to intervene and stop that pointless fight. Let’s keep the rest of the story for another post. 

With Krishna’s leaving for his celestial abode, Arjuna lost the Vaishnavic power. He was no more the same warrior. But he was Indra’s son and Drona’s pupil. The power and knowledge that remained with him was sufficient to tie up Yama’s messengers and then the god of death himself at the time of Suhani’s wedding with Yudhisthira. The celestial arrows that he used then were kala phasa and manavedi . This story occurs in the post “Suhani” in this blog. 

Thus at least on these four occasions Arjuna had used celestial weapons. But in the narrative of these engagements excitement is missing. After the Kurukshetra War, no fight is memorable. From one point of view, the divyastras (divine weapons) become totally ineffective in a rather fundamental sense: they fail to bring intensity and thrill to the narrative.

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