The magical atmosphere that Shiva’s presence had brought about was still palpable when Arjuna saw the four Lokapalas appear in an extraordinary halo of light. Indra, Kuvera, Yama, and Varuna personally gave him their weapons. After teaching him their complicated use, they vanished in the same way as they had come.
The Pandava was still wondering what he had done that so great to have deserved such visions, when he saw Indra’s chariot driven by the celestial Matali approaching.
“Come,” he said to Arjuna, “get on the chariot. Your father wishes to see you; he needs you. I will take you to his kingdom.”
After Arjuna took his seat, the chariot soared skyward like a comet of light.
Traveling at that unimaginable speed, they arrived in a few moments in Amaravati, the capital of Indra. From above, the Pandava observed with amazement the wonders of that city, where beauty pervaded everything, from the houses to the gardens, from the streets to the people who walked there. Arjuna felt amazed and admired the heavenly city.
Upon reaching Indra’s fabulous palace, the Deva welcomed him with open arms and affectionately invited him to sit next to him, on his own throne.
What followed were happy days for Arjuna; entertained at court with every respect, he listened to the Gandharvas playing their musical instruments in an enchanting way and, accompanied by those entrancing sounds, the most famous Apsaras such as Menaka, Rambha, Urvashi and Tilottama danced for his pleasure. Arjuna was happy.
During the dances, the beautiful Urvashi found herself observing that handsome man, and since he returned his gazes with insistence, she believed she had aroused sexual desires in him.
That evening the Apsara went to Indra and asked him:
“Today your son was looking at me all the time. He certainly likes me, and he attracts me too. I would like to ask your permission to go to his rooms tonight.”
The king of Devas, smiling, agreed.
That same night the woman entered the apartment where Arjuna was staying and opened the door to the room where he was sleeping. Urvashi was so beautiful that in the past great and famous sages, after years of practice and sacrifice, just seeing her had not been able to control their senses and likewise great holy monarchs, however fortified by the strict observance of the principles of their dharma, had fallen victim of her extraordinary splendor. Covered in a single veil and with her hair glistening in the moonlight, Urvashi was a wonder of creation. No man could have resisted her.
“Blessed lady,” said Arjuna somewhat stunned, “what can I do for you? Why did you come to see me in the middle of the night?”
“Today, while I was dancing, I noticed that when your eyes fell on me, they were filled with passion. I thought you would want me, and since I like you too, I came here to give you my love.”
“Oh no, you’re wrong. I didn’t look at you with lustful intentions, but with affection and curiosity. Ever since I was a boy, when I was told the story of the life of our ancestor Pururava, I have always tried to imagine you, and I always wondered how fascinating the woman who had made him fall so in love must have been. Having been his partner, you are also one of our ancestors and I cannot consider you in any other way than as a mother equal to Kunti. The devotion I feel for you goes beyond any sexual desire and leads me to regard you with the respect owed to a Devi. For these reasons, I can’t think of you as a lover.”
Urvashi insisted, claiming that their union was not contrary to the principles of religion, but Indra’s righteous son did not relent. Finally, Urvashi, gripped by frustration and humiliation, said:
“Because you haven’t behaved like a man to me, you will soon lose your sexual powers and will become a eunuch.”
Having said those words, she went away furious.
Frightened by that violent curse, Arjuna went to tell his dearest friend, the Gandharva Citrasena, who the following day told Indra what had happened. The celestial monarch spoke to Urvashi who, despite still being bitter by the reject received, agreed to change the curse.
“Since Arjuna did not want to join me for virtuous reasons, he will lose his sexual capacity only for the period of one year, which he himself will be able to choose,” she said.
As we will see later, Urvashi’s outburst would come in handy.
During the time he spent in Amaravati, Pandu’s son learned from his father many things about the art of war, including the use of numerous celestial weapons; from Citrasena, on the other hand, he learned the art of singing and dancing. Those years in Svarga proved to be exceptionally constructive.
One day the sage Lomasa arrived in Amaravati and, taking advantage of the fact that Arjuna was present there, revealed that in the previous life he and Krishna had been the Rishis Nara and Narayana.
Then Indra said:
“Respectable sage, it’s been a long time since Arjuna got here and maybe the brothers and his wife are worried about him. Please tell them you’ve seen him here and that he’s learning enough martial arts to exterminate the treacherous sons of Dhritarastra and their friends. Also, tell them that he will soon return, that they will be able to see him again on the summit of Mandara and that in the meantime they should go in tirtha-yatra to visit holy places and listen to the talks of the sages.”
Lomasa returned to Earth and headed for Kamyaka.
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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