In that splendid and healthy mountain scenery, Draupadi rediscovered the serenity that was typical of her character.
One day, she found a wonderful lotus flower with an intoxicating and very sweet scent, and she wished she could have a great number of them. So, she ran to Bhima.
“Bhima, look how beautiful this lotus is. Smell its perfume. Surely it was brought here by the wind, and there must be many more in the woods not far away. Please get as many as you can because I want to plant them behind the hut.”
After all the hardships she had endured, a few flowers was a small request to make her happy, so the Pandava assured her that he would bring them to her as soon as possible. He got up and went to look for them.
When he reached the thicket of the forest, he began to proceed with the arrogant impulse that was peculiar to him, cutting down trees and causing such a noise that it frightened the animals and made them flee.
Not very far from there lived Hanuman.
“What a strange noise! Who can be making all this fuss? It would be better to go and take a look,” he thought.
Jumping from tree to tree, he came near where Bhima was. He saw him advance at great speed despite any obstacles that stood in his way. There was no doubt that mighty figure, which aroused fear just by looking at it, could be none other than his brother, born of the same energy of Vayu. He thought a meeting between the two would be good. Then he lay on the ground pretending to be a tired old monkey who had fallen asleep in the middle of the path.
When Bhima saw him he said:
“Move away, I must go to get some flowers for my wife. Don’t waste my time, let me pass. If I bump into you, I might harm you.”
“I’m too old and tired and I can’t even move anymore,” he answered. “But since you’re young and strong, do it yourself, or if you’re in such a hurry, jump over my body.”
“It is not right to jump over anyone,” Bhima replied, “because in the body of every living entity resides the Supreme Lord in the form of Paramatma and it is offensive to pass over it. But since you are so old, I will move you there.”
At the thought of Draupadi waiting for the lotus flowers and therefore slightly irritated by that waste of time, Vrikodara grabbed Hanuman by the tail and carelessly prepared to drag him, but how great was his surprise when he found that he could not move him even a millimeter. Amazed by so much weight, he grabbed the tail with both hands and gave a mighty tug, but the result was the same. Turning to the monkey, he noticed that he was watching him mockingly. Bhima then, at the height of his anger, used all his strength; but the outcome was no better.
“Who are you?” he asked him at that point in a humble tone. “You seem devoid of energy, but to resist my strength you have to be some Deva, or some Gandharva, or some strong asura. Tell me who you are.”
The monkey stood up and smiled.
“I am your brother Hanuman, born of your own father, the Deva of the wind. Millions of years ago I helped Sri Rama to eradicate the plague of Treta-yuga. I have been living on these heights for many millennia and today, as soon as I saw you, I felt a great desire to talk to you.”
Bhima finally recognized the Vanara Hanuman and embraced him with brotherly affection. Then they sat down to talk.
“I know the problems that haunt you, and I am sure that thanks to your strength and the valor of Arjuna you will have the advantage over the evil sons of Dhritarastra. I too want to participate in this war, just like in Lanka. Although I will not fight in person, I will be on the flag of Arjuna’s chariot and I will continually shout war cries that will frighten your enemies to death. Also, in this battle my Lord Rama will be present as part of Krishna, so you can only win.”
After talking for a while, Bhima asked his brother to show him the physical form by which he had taken the mountain to Lanka, and Hanuman expanded in a prodigious way. The Pandava was stunned by this marvel.
Then Hanuman hugged his brother again and disappeared.
Then Bhima remembered why he was there. More than ever determined to make Draupadi happy, he impetuously continued to follow the sweet scent of the flowers, resuming the ascent to the mountain. Suddenly, immersed in the dense forest, he found himself in front of stupendous gardens, full of plants and flowers of all kinds and of extraordinary beauty; and there, in a pond guarded by numerous strong and rather menacing-looking Rakshasas, he saw the lotus so desired by Draupadi. Regardless of the guardians, Bhima dived into the lake and began to gather them in large numbers.
The Rakshasas immediately intervened.
“Stop, you, if you don’t want to die! This is the personal garden of Kuvera, the Deva of wealth, and we have a duty to watch over it and to prevent intruders from entering. No one but him can enter and leave it alive. Who are you?”
“I am Bhima, the second of Pandu’s sons, and I have come here to pick these lotus flowers for my wife. I am not afraid of anyone, least of all of you. Your threats do not impress me. So do not bother me if you want to stay alive.”
The Rakshasas, all tall as mountains and with terrible faces like death, not tolerating those provocations, vehemently rushed to the attack. Coming out of the water with the violence of an enraged dragon, the invincible Pandava pounced against that large group and turned it into a bloodbath. Among the many, he even defeated the mighty Maniman, feared by all.
During the fight, someone had managed to escape Bhima’s blows and had run to Kuvera to let him know what had happened.
“A mortal comes this far just to please his wife picks my flowers and exterminates my Rakshasas? It’s impossible. I want to go and see who it is.”
Meanwhile the other Pandavas, worried about Bhima’s prolonged absence, decided to go and check because knowing him they were sure that he had gotten into some trouble. The devastation that he had caused on the way served them to follow his tracks.
Arriving at the lake, they found him panting and roaring like a lion, instilling the same terror as Yama. Using a gigantic tree as a weapon, he slaughtered any Rakshasa who dared to face him.
Meanwhile Kuvera had also arrived and, having recognized Bhima, he immediately understood what had happened. As soon as the son of Vayu, the Deva of the wind, put an end to that terrible extermination, the Pandavas were able to offer their respects.
“Yudhisthira,” Kuvera said, “I was told that a mortal had desecrated my lake and killed many of my most powerful Rakshasas. I wondered who had been able to do such a thing, but now I know it was Bhima. I admit that my guardians have made a serious mistake by preventing him from picking the flowers. Please do not be angry with your brother. Sometimes he is too impulsive, but the truth is that by killing Maniman and the others he helped me to free myself from a curse. I’ll tell you what curse I’m talking about.
“One day, my trusty companion Maniman and I were flying to a conclave of gods, when when in the sky the sage Agastya was seen engaged in very severe asceticism. His body seemed ablaze, like a second sun: it was a single mass of energy. In truth, I could not help but admire him, but my friend made fun of him to the point that he defecated on his head.
“Agastya looked up and saw us. His anger flared up, and his eyes seemed to devour the four cardinal points. Then he said:
“Since this friend of yours has insulted me in this way, he and his troops will perish in battle against a mortal, and you, who did not stop him from committing the insult, will suffer for their loss. Only then will you be free from my curse.”
“Now that Maniman and his soldiers are dead, I am safe. And for that I have to thank your mighty brother.”
After telling that story to the Pandavas, Kuvera left.
Apart from that incident, the days passed quietly, overshadowed only by the anxiety of hugging Arjuna again.
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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