Arjuna’s penance for Pashupatastra

After the game of dice, the Pandavas were sent in exile for twelve years to the forest and one year in incognito. Lord Krishna suggested that while they were spending their time in the forest, the Pandavas should prepare for the great war which may arise between them and the Kauravas in future by acquiring supreme powers for themselves, by performing penance. The Lord advised Nakula and Sahadeva to invoke Ashwini kumaras (the celestial doctors) and acquire unique healing methods and techniques. Bhima was to meet Lord Hanuman and learn the art of concentration and fighting. Yudhisthira and Draupadi were to serve the sages in the forest and get their divine blessings. And finally, the Lord asked Arjuna to go to Indrakeeladri hill (near Vijayawada) and meditate on Lord Shiva to acquire the most powerful weapon Pashupatastra.

Following the advice of Lord Krishna, Arjuna took leave of his brothers to perform intense penance to acquire the powerful Pashupatastra from Lord Shiva himself. Arjuna spent days immersed in penance on Lord Shiva. As his penance became more intense, Lord Shiva decided to test Arjuna before giving him the weapon. When Parvathi and Shiva Ganas came to know about this, they also decided to go in disguise and watch the test of Arjuna. Lord Shiva and Parvathi disguised themselves as hunters, and came to where Arjuna was doing tapas, along with the Siva Ganas who came there as the hunter’s tribesmen.

Meanwhile, a rakshasa by name Muka came in the form of a wild boar to attack Arjuna. Hearing the noise made by the wild boar, Arjuna’s penance got disturbed and he immediately shot an arrow at the boar killing it. At the same time, Shiva who was there in the guise of a hunter, also shot an arrow at the boar. Both Lord Shiva and Arjuna came running and saw the boar lying dead with two arrows piercing through its body. There now arose an argument between the hunter and Arjuna as to who had actually shot the arrow first and killed the boar. The argument finally ended up in battle between the two of them. In the great battle between them, Arjuna exhausted all his arrows and his quiver became empty. The hunter had easily defeated Arjuna. Arjuna then picked up a sword to fight, but the hunter sliced the sword into two. Finally they both started wrestling, and the hunter overpowered Arjuna. He lifted Arjuna again and again and threw him down.

Realizing that he was losing, Arjuna decided to pray to Lord Shiva for strength. He called for a break in fight, quickly made a small Shiva linga out of mud, and invoked the Lord in it by offering flowers. To his astonishment, Arjuna saw the flowers offered by him to the Shiva linga at the hunter’s feet. Arjuna now realized that the hunter who had overpowered him so easily was none other than Lord Shiva Himself. Arjuna fell at the Lord’s feet and begged for forgiveness for engaging in a battle with Him. Lord Shiva and Parvathi gave darshan to Arjuna in their true form and blessed him with the divine weapon “Pashupatastra”. The denizens of the heavens, Lord Indra, Varuna, Yama, Kubera and others also blessed Arjuna by giving him their divine weapons.

Lord Shiva showered his grace and blessings upon Arjuna and gave him the title: “Vijaya” – meaning invincible or the ever-victorious. In Srimad Bhagavat Purana, in the dialogue between Sri Krishna and His devotee Uddhava (Uddhava Geeta) the Lord declares, “among those who are experts in archery, I am Arjuna himself!”

[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]

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