Aranya Parva - 2
Arjuna then did rigorous penance to please Lord Shiva. One day, as he was praying, he heard the sound of a boar and saw it running towards him. Picking up his bow he shot an arrow. Just as his arrow hit the boar, another arrow streaked through the air, killing the boar. It was a Kirata (hunter) who was accompanied by his wife and his troupe.
Arjuna was angry with the Kirata for killing the boar and soon a duel began between them. Try as much as he could, Arjuna failed to defeat the Kirata. To his shock, his inexhaustible quiver ran out of arrows. The Kirata snatched his bow and Arjuna hit the Kirata with his sword but the sword broke into two.
A wrestling duel commenced, and the Kirata flung Arjuna to the ground. Seeing the shiva linga he was worshipping, Arjuna garlanded the linga and prayed to the Lord. Full of energy, he got up and charged toward the Kirata. He was shocked to see the garland on the Kirata’s neck. The Kirata was none other than Shiva, who had come there along with Parvati to test him.
Shiva then blessed Arjuna, returned his bow, and gave him the famed Pashupata weapon. He then left from there. A flying chariot then landed. In it was Matali, Indra’s charioteer. He took Arjuna to Indraloka, where the king of the celestials welcomed him. He made Arjuna sit next to him on his throne. All the celestials then granted weapons to Arjuna and Indra gave him his all-powerful astras.
The sage Lomarsha who came to Indraloka was surprised to see an ordinary human sitting on Indra’s throne. Indra then told Lomarsha that Arjuna was his own son. Indra then advised Lomarsha to take the Pandavas on a pilgrimage while Arjuna was in the celestial world.
Arjuna then spent some time with the Gandharvas where he learnt music and dance. He spent a long time in the celestial world getting weapons and the blessings of the celestials.
Meanwhile, the sage Brihadashwa came to meet the Pandavas. He narrated the story of Nala and Damayanti. Nala too had gambled with his brother and lost his empire, but he did not gamble his wife. He left his wife in the forest and was bitten by a karkotaka snake. He then turned into a dwarf but had the power to restore his real self. Nala then worked for the king of Ayodhya Rituparva.
Damayanti after suffering a lot reached the kingdom of Chedi and stayed there as a sairandhari (maid) to the queen before her father’s men found her. She then returned home and started to search for Nala. Damayanti sent a message that only Nala could understand and got a response from Ayodhya. She then sent a message to the king of Ayodhya through her father informing of her swayamwara.
King Rituparna with the help of Nala who was an expert in horse riding, reached the kingdom of Damayanti’s father along with Nala who drove the chariot. He realized there that was no swayamwara. Impressed with Nala’s knowledge of horse riding, he learnt it from Nala and in exchange taught him how to win at dice.
Finally, Damayanti and Nala were reunited. Nala once again played dice with his brother and regained his kingdom.
After narrating the story, the sage taught Yudhishthira how to play dice.
… to be continued