How Arjuna acquired the Gandiva

Posted on June 11, 2010

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Once there lived a King by the name Swetaki who was known for conducting extremely long yagnas. His priests assisted him for a long time until their bodies became weak and eyes were afflicted by prolonged exposure to the smoke.

One time Swetaki desired to conduct a one hundred years long yagna. But his priests, unwilling to officiate another sacrifice, pretended to be angry and told the King to approach Rudra for help. Swetaki was enraged at this response, but he anyway meditated upon Rudra for a while in the ranges of Kailash. Finally, Mahadeva appeared and agreed to help Swetaki under the condition that the King should first lead a life of Brahmachari for twelve years and continue to pour clarified butter into sacrificial fire without intermission for the whole period. Swetaki did as advised, and a gratified Rudra appointed Durvasa as his priest who officiated the grand hundred-years long yagna .

Swetaki, due to his virtuous nature, ascended to the heavens in his afterlife.

* * *

However, King Swetaki’s feeding of ghee into the sacrificial fire for twelve years left Agni with indigestion.

When Agni approached Brahma for a cure, the Prajapati advised him to consume the Khandava forest along its inhabitants whose fat will cure his indigestion.

Agni subsequently tried to burn the forest seven times, but his efforts were countered its residents such as elephants and snakes who put out the flames with water.

In disappointment, Agni went back to Brahma, who advised him to approach Nara & Narayana, who were on earth in the form of Arjuna and Krishna.

Agni approached the pair when they were spending their time in the woods in the vicinity of the Yamuna. In exchange for their help, Agni arranged for Varuna to give Krishna the Discus (chakrayudha) that had a pole attached to it in the center, and a mace by the name Kaumodaki. Varuna also offered Arjuna the bow Gandiva, two inexhaustible quivers, a chariot made by Viswakarma that had Hanuman in its banner, and white steeds that were born in the region of Gandharvas. It was the same chariot in which Soma (Chandra) had earlier vanquished the Danavas.

Arjuna and Krishna putting Agni's gifts to use (A large statue amidst a fountain close to Bali airport, Denpasar, Indonesia)

Then began the burning of the Khandava forest. The pair of Arjuna and Krisha assisted Agni in consuming the forest along with its inhabitants, which cured Agni’s indigestion.

Source: Mbh Adi Parva, Chapters 224 – 226

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