Arjuna already knew that route from having traveled it during the military campaign that preceded the Rajasuya.
Upon arriving at the Gandhamadana Mountain, he remembered how he had climbed it and how much he had wanted to be able to see it again. After delighting in that natural beauty, he continued on his way and arrived at Mount Indrakila. There he decided to stop.
Not far from the place where the Pandava had stopped to rest lived an old ascetic. A Kshatriya on those hills was an unusual thing, so, the ascetic approached him.
“What are you doing with all those weapons?” The ascetic asked. “On these mountains there are no enemies to fight with, and there are no dangers of any kind. Throw them, and perform asceticism in order to deserve boundless joys in the blessed planets. Living in this place it is easy to achieve such destinations.”
“Right now I am not interested in Svarga-loka,” Arjuna retorted, “because I have to help my brother regain his kingdom. I have come here to look for the weapons of the Devas, and I cannot throw away the ones I already possess.”
The ascetic insisted on describing the celestial planets and the joys that can be found there, but Arjuna was determined not to abandon his brother. Then the old man said:
“Son, once again you have behaved in the best way. You do not worry about personal pleasures, which leave no trace when they pass, but you are interested only in fulfilling your duties, which on the contrary can confer you the highest benefit. I am Indra, your father, and soon we will meet again. Now, begin performing sacrifices and meditations for Shiva and borrow his favorite weapon. When this has been done, the other Devas and I will give you other very powerful weapons.”
In that stupendous place of retreat, Arjuna performed a strict asceticism and thought of nothing but seeing Shiva.
His efforts were not lost. Shiva, otherwise called Shankara, the partial incarnation of Narayana, noting the deep devotion of the Pandava, decided to test his warrior ability and his character. Accompanied by his wife Parvati and the other women who constantly keep him company, the great Deva descended from the peaks of Kailasha and took the form of a kirata, a hunter. In a very short time they found themselves in Indrakila.
There lived a Rakshasa named Muka, who hated Bhima for killing many of his closest friends and wanted to take revenge by killing his brother. Thus, he took the form of a huge wild boar and attacked him with fury. When Arjuna heard the sound of the beast’s mighty hooves, Arjuna grabbed the bow and shot an arrow at a lightning speed.
Meanwhile, hidden behind the trees, Shiva had witnessed the scene and at the same moment he also shot a large arrow. The two weapons struck at the same precise moment and with a great crash the large body of the Rakshasa fell to the ground lifeless. Arjuna noticed that the boar had also been hit by someone else and, looking around, he noticed the presence of the Kirata.
“Who are you?” Pandu’s son asked sternly. “This boar was my target, and you shouldn’t have allowed yourself to intervene.”
“You’re wrong,” replied the hunter, “I had seen it before you and in fact, my arrow hit before yours, therefore, the prey is mine.”
Arjuna and the Kirata argued heatedly until anger gripped both of them and a fierce duel broke out.
They fought for a long time, but the Pandava, no matter how hard he tried, could not defeat the adversary. With his body full of wounds, tired, and humiliated, Arjuna meditated on Shiva, and offering a garland to the lingam he adored, humbly asked him for help. When he opened his eyes he saw that the flowers adorned the hunter’s body and realized that his opponent was none other than Shiva himself.
“Please forgive me for not recognizing you earlier,” Arjuna said falling at his sacred feet, “I apologize for offending you by wanting to fight you. No one can beat you in battle, and how could I, a mere mortal, succeed where the greatest asuras have failed?”
But Shankara smiled at him.
“I just wanted to personally confirm your warrior ardor. Now that I have seen it, I want to congratulate you. Now I know that you are qualified to have my weapon. Before the battle, which will begin very soon, I will consign the Pashupata to you and will teach you to use it.”
After blessing him with kind words, Mahadeva disappeared.
This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.
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