Friday, 16 December 2011

Arjuna upsets Urvashi. Tells her that he thinks of her as a mother. Mahabharata 74

 While Vachana Bharata has a description of Amaravati, the abode of Indra, the episode concerning Urvashi is missing! It is Kamala's version which tells us how Arjuna, ignorant of the ways of the heavenly damsels, upsets Urvashi and is cursed by her.

The moment Arjuna sat in the chariot, it zoomed up. The earth was no more visible, neither Surya nor Chandra were to be seen. There was only a glow caused by the good deeds of the people! Amaravati was a beautiful city. The gardens were full of  flowers which bloomed and  trees which yielded fruits all the time. The breeze  gently moved the trees and the plants and the air was fragrant. The city was full of  nice houses where in Siddhas (saints), Charanas(celestial singers) and Apsaras moved about. Only those who had earned merit through penance or those who fought  a valiant battle in the wars were permitted to live in the city.

Arjuna enters the court and sees Indra seated on a golden throne, surrounded by Apsaras and singers.  Indra welcomes Arjuna with an embrace and  seats him on the throne next to himself! Indra happy to see his son, continues to gaze at him lovingly, with his thousand eyes and does not get tired of looking at his son. Gandharvas sang and Apsaras danced with grace and beauty.  Later, Arjuna was taken into the palace with due ceremony. Arjuna stayed with his father for five years and was tutored  in the use many powerful weapons. He was also taught  to play music and dance at the suggestion of Indra!

The story of Arjuna's visit ends here in Vachana Bharata. Read on to see what author Kamala has to say:
There was music and dance at his father's court. Arjuna was thrilled as he heard the music and saw the apsaras dance. While he was watching the dance intently, Urvashi, the favourite of Indra, was smitten with love for the dark, handsome Arjuna. She was restless the whole night. Her mind was fixed on Arjuna. She thought of him as her lover. She felt that she had to have him. 
Her love was just unbearable. Suddenly she got up from her bed. She walked towards the mansions of  Arjuna. She was wearing flowers on her arms and her neck. Her form was perfect. It was made for love. Her beautiful skin, glowing like molten gold, was now wet with sweat. Her breasts were perfectly shaped. She walked towards the mansion with her wide beautiful hips swinging gracefully. Wearing a thin mantle which was the colour of clouds, she tempted even the rishis with the beauty of her form.
She reaches her destination and wakes up Arjuna. She looks at him with eyes full of desire. Arjuna is embarrassed. Urvashi shocks him with ' Today at the court I saw you looking at me. I have never seen anyone like you before. I want you. I could not sleep since thoughts of you have banished sleep from my eyes. You must take me and put an end to my suffering. I am burning with love for you.'
Arjuna tells her he thinks of her as a mother, and says 'I looked at you as I had heard that my ancestor Pururavas  was in love with you and that you returned his love. Please do not ask me to think of you in a different manner.' 
Uravasi smiles at him and says:' you do not seem to understand. We apsaras have no age. We are always young. the rules that bind ordinary people do not bind us or affect us. We belong to everyone. I am just a dancer. You will not be committing any sin in accepting my love. I love you and you must not disappoint me. Do you not know that it is the dharma for a man to please the woman who comes to him asking him to satisfy her desire? You must accept me'.

Arjuna does not yield and finally Urvasi out of anger and frustration, she has never been insulted before with a rejection, curses him to become an eunuch.(Indra learning about it, later gets Urvashi to commute it to one year's duration.)

The episode is typical as it transpires that Urvashi's curse will become a blessing. Arjuna's need for a good disguise during the thirteenth year of their exile is thus met. It cannot get better than this!

As a kid, my concept of heaven was simple. All good people go to heaven and enjoy limitless goodies! I also thought it to be a democratic place where all were equal with no special favors accorded to some. 
As I read about Indra lokha it seems I was wrong. Entry into Amaravati was limited to sages and warriors who died in a battle. It meant that Amaravati was essentially full of men! No wonder apsaras were created!

Obviously there are different heavens for the rest of us, hopefully that includes women! It gets complicated as we think about the concept of heaven. I can guarantee that there are many couples who would rather be in different heavens! That may apply to siblings and in general to others as well. Unless of course we become one happy family over there, till it is time to move on or move down!
Curious I  searched the web:
Highway to heaven, Surprisingly  this website says:  The early Hindus never believed in heaven, and never prayed to attain a permanent place there. The earliest concept of afterlife, say Vedic scholars, was that the dead reunite with Mother Nature and live in some other form on this earth.

Vedic folks were satisfied with living their life to the fullest; they never aspired to attain immortality. ....However, as time passed by, the idea of eternity for mortals evolved. Thus later in the same Veda we come to read: "…Grant us food, and may I obtain immortality through my posterity." 
(That was simple enough, but if you search deeper you may get answers or end up being confused.)  
I now quote from the teachings of Sri Kripalu ji, Radha Madav Society.
First of all, the term heaven is largely misunderstood as the dwelling place of God and His angels. Followers of different religions mistake heaven to be the Godly abode. The Vedas say that God's kingdom is very different from heaven, which they refer to as svarg or svarg-lok . There are seven levels of svarg: Bhuvah, Svah, Mahah, Janah, Tapah, Satah and Brahmlok.

Svarg, according to the Vedas, is a temporary abode of transient pleasures, albeit great pleasures. Svarg is included within the realm of Maya, and as such, it is not a Divine Abode. It is above the earth and it accommodates those who have fulfilled the requirements for gaining entrance. Popular belief says that if you have led a good life, without knowingly harming others, and if you have been kind and generous, there will be a seat reserved for you in svarg. And then there are those who believe that simply dying assures one space in svarg. This ignorance leads them to think that their deceased loved ones are dwelling there, awaiting their arrival.

According to the Vedas, if one wishes to attain svarg after death, he must perform the Vedic ceremonies known as yagyas. In the yagya, the officiating pundit recites Sanskrit mantras while offering pure ingredients to the fire with the view to appease the devtas dwelling in svarg-lok. This sounds easy enough until you hear about the six conditions that are to be fulfilled exactly in the performance of yagyas. Three are given below:
1.The recitation of the mantras by the priest must be 100% accurate. Even the slightest mistake made in pronunciation or intonation will greatly alter the meaning of the mantra, bringing great harm to the host.
2.The place where the yagya is hosted, must be a place where no sin has ever been committed.
3.The host must use white money in hosting the yagya. This means that he must have scrupulously donated one dime out of every dollar that he has ever earned. Otherwise, his money is black money.

Fulfilling all the six conditions is nearly impossible, especially in the times that we are living in. But if the host does succeed in fulfilling all six conditions accurately, he will be sent to svarg after death, where he will enjoy material pleasures the likes of which do not exist on earth. He will become a devta in svarg, ruled by Indra. He will be given a very attractive body that never needs cleansing, since it is ever fresh and clean; a body that exudes fragrance at all times. He will be able to attain anything material by simply thinking about it, without making any external effort. 

But that is not all. There is more! 
However, the Mundakopanishad says that only the highly foolish ones desire and reach svarg after death. (1.2.8) The reasons are the following: 
1.The inhabitants of svarg-lok suffer from anger, greed, lust, pride, envy and hypocrisy, just like humans.
2.The Bhagvatam says that one lives in svarg-lok as long as his virtuous actions are intact, (11.10.26) and as soon as they are exhausted, says Mundakopanishad, the soul departs from svarg and is born in lower forms of life on earth. In the Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that the pleasures of svarg are temporary. 
They who have attained enlightenment explain that svarg is a prison. Granted this prison is made of gold, yet it is verily a prison. While in svarg one cannot fulfill the purpose of life, which is God-realization.

Now for the concept of hell. According to Hindu scriptures there are 28 hells, some of which are Aveechi, Kaalsutra, Raurav, Maharaurav and Kumbhipak. These are detailed in Garud Puran and Bhagvatam. Just as Svarg (heaven) is a temporary abode, so is Narak (hell). One is made to suffer the torments of hell as a punishment for one's misdeeds. When one is sent to hell after death, he is given a body that is fit to withstand the torments of hell. Needless to say, hell is not a comfortable place to live in. However, the situation is not hopeless. After finishing its term in hell, the soul is resent to earth in any one of the 8.4 million life-forms. It may be given the body of an insect, bird, tree or an animal. Then, based on the devotion it has performed in innumerable past lifetimes, the soul one day becomes deserving of the most desirable form: the human form.
Once in the possession of the human body, the soul once again has an opportunity to work towards the attainment of heaven, hell, earth or God's Abode.

Actually there is even more to read. If you are curious, just google 'the concept of heaven and hell in hinduism!'

1 comment:


Interesting episode. I wonder what your response would have been vis-a-vis Urvashi