Chapter 03 – Arjuna weds

Arjuna was not alone when he left. He journeyed like a king, accompanied by many brahamanas reciting from hold Vedas. They were with him to help him in the forest.

One day Arjuna, in his travels came and had a bath in the Ganges. This was near the foothills of the Himalayas. In the cool morning air, this prince took a dip in the river, clad in a silk cloth. He then took some water in his and offered that to the Gods. He took another dip. He was about to leave when something pulled him off.

I was there, hiding, watching him. The virgin widow of the Naga King, I was smitten with desire watching this dark handsome man, naked (the cloth covering him was wet and clinging to his body) each and every muscle perfectly defined, in his body. I could take it no more. I kidnapped him and before he could realize what had happened, he was off to my kingdom.

My fast chariots carried us swiftly to my kingdom. When Arjuna came to his senses , he saw himself in a room with no roof. Sunlight was coming in and a sacrificial fire was burning there with all material needed for worship, closeby. Seeing that fire Arjuna performed his worship with devotion. After finishing his worship Arjuna looked around. He hard some movement and it seemed to someone running. Anklets were heard. Which meant there was a girl or a woman around. Arjuna suddenly realized that all he had on was a single piece of cloth. Embarrased he tried to cover his modesty with his hands and waited to see what would happen next. He then saw me.

I will not forget the scene. A well built man, scars on his shoulder from holding the bow. Defined features. Long hair. Dark complexion. Two hands in front of his loins trying to protect himself. He seemed amazed and embarassed and confused. I asked him to relax. I told him he was my guest and that I had brought him there. I wanted to know who he was and what was doing in the hills. Also I called my staff and asked them to fetch clothes for the guest.

Dressed and relaxed, Arjuna told me about himself. He was comfortable talking to me. I was lost in him. The feeling seemed mutual. He stayed with me for a few days. We got married in Gandharva style. He made love to me.

After a few days, he relaized he needed to leave. He asked me to go with him, but I refused. My place was with my people, I told him. I told him my heart would be with him and I would be there with him always. He was lonely. He had won Panchali and now she was the wife of all five brothers. I would not leave my land, so I could not be his. He wanted someone his own. I asked him to go to Manipur and said I would leave him there.

With a heavy heart we decided to part. He refused to deck himself and said he was in exile now and was not a prince. I took him to Manipur. He went to explore the kingdom and I went back home to my land to be with my people.

Was this my last meeting with him? I was sad. I was heart broken. Fate had other things in store and somewhere I had a role to play in that. I was also happy. Unknown to Arjuna, I was carrying Arjuna’s seed. That was my consolation.

Arjuna met Chitravahana, the ruler of Manipur. He introduced himself and was hartily welcomed. He met the beautiful Chitrangada there. She was Chitravahana’s only child. Arjuna desired to possess her. He asked for her hand. Chitravahana then told him about Prabhajana. Prabhanjana was childless. He prayed to Mahadeva and was given a boon. The boon was that he would have a child. Everyone in his race would one child child only, is born to every successive descendant of his race. So far there had been only sons. Chitravahana had a daughter. She had been brought up like a son and she was destined to bear the heir to his kingdom. He could not let Chitrangada out of his site. He told Arjuna that he could marry Chitrangada but when she had a child, she would not leave with Arjuna. Arjuna stayed for a few years in Manipur. When Chitrangada at last gave birth to a son, Arjuna left Manipur.

Around this time my son was born too.

He wandered around and one day while taking a bath in river, he was attacked by a crocodile. Arjuna was strong. With all his might he dragged the crocodile from the water. The moment he did that, the crocodile changed into a beautiful maiden. She said had been cursed as she had to entice a sage, deep in meditation. He told us that Arjuna, the mighty prince would deliver us from our curse.

Travelling west wards, Arjuna reached Prabhasha. This was the land of Krishna, Arjuna’s dear friend and cousin. Krishna welcomed him. He told Krishna about the brahmana, his cows, about me, about Chitrangada and his son and about the crocodile.
Krishna took him to Dwarka so could see Krishna’s land and be His guest.

There Arjuna met Bhadra. The beautiful girl was so nice in her looks and nature that all called her SuBhadra. She was Krishna’s sister. Knowing that Arjuna liked his sister, and also knowing what fate had in store, Krishna agreed to give his sister away to Arjuna. With Arjuna’s consent, Krishna requested Vasudeva’s permission. Vasudeva was the father of Krishna and SuBhadra. He agreed to the match.

Krishna’s elder brother was against the match. Krishna advised Arjuna to abduct SuBhadra. He had asked SuBhadra and she had told Krishna that she liked Arjuna wanted to be his wife. Krishna told Arjuna to deck a charriot with all possible weapons and wait near a temple, where SuBhadra would be coming to worship the Gods.

When SuBhadra was coming out of the temple, Arjuna abducted her. Krishna reasoned with his father and others advising them to agree to let Arjuna take SuBhadra away. All agreed and Krishna himself went and fetched both his sister and Arjuna. They were married with full celebrations and when the time of the exile was over, along with SuBhadra, Arjuna left for Khandavaprastha.

He paid his respects to his brother and then approached Panchali. She refused to speak to him and asked him to go to where his new love was. Arjuna decided to do something. He asked SuBhadra to dress like a maid and approach Panchali. SuBhadra paid respects to Kunti and then approached Panchali and said she was there to serve the queen of KhandavaPrashtha. Struck by her humility, Panchali embraced her.

Krishna then took his elder brother to visit SuBhadra. Yudhisthira welcomed all. Balabhadra, Krishna’s brother, seeing his sister happy was pleased. All his anger gone, he blessed all and left. Krishna decided to stay in his aunt’s house. Arjuna’s mother, Kunti, was Krishna’s father, Vasudeva’s sister.

Soon a son was born to Subhadra. He was called Abhimanyu. Around this time Panchali also gave bith to her children.
Prativindhya by Yudhishthira, Sutasoma by Bhima, Srutakarman by Arjuna, Satanika by Nakula, and Srutasena by Sahadeva were born to her by each of her five husbands. Sacred thread ceremony was performed for all the six princes.

Chitrangada’s son was Vabruvahan and my son was Iravat. They grew seperately. I met Chitrangada a few times. We shared a similar story. We both had sons from the same man. We both were not with our love. Due to this, our friendship grew. Our sons became good friends.

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Chapter 01 – Ulupi

I am at the river bank. The banks of the river Iravati, the river named after the mother of the great Naga king Airavata. I dangle my feet in the water. My clothes are getting wet.  Oblivious I sit on the beach. Close by I see a friend, a companion play with her grandchildren. I see her. When I look at her, I both sad and happy. Happy for her. Happy that a friend is happy. I am also sad. Very Sad. My heart cries out. If all was fine, I would have had my son with me. Today he is not there. My husband is not with me. I sit here all alone.

My skin is wrinkled, my hair grey. I walk with a help of a stick. My people are there to fulfill all my wishes. Happiness around me. And I am sad.

I am old now. Feeble. An old queen. No longer a queen but still treated as one. My subjects have been good to me. They have been kind to me when I have been said, they have been beside me when I have needed them. Now I want to be alone.

Dusk approaches. Also time for the tide to come in. My companions pull off the bank of the river. It is now time to go home.

Home.

A home is one has laughter. One has family. One has someone who can be called one’s own.

My home is empty. I have servants. I have friends. No family.

I think of days gone by. When I close my eyes and think I feel I can still hear the laughter of my companions as they run around. Chasing me, Playing Hide and Seek. Dodging the guava trees, the banana groves, the mango trees, hiding behind bushes. Running in the water,playing on the river bank, trying to catch the small water insects.

I see myself steling flowers, stealing fruits, playing games. Growing up. The daughter of the king, I had many friends. My whole life was full of fun and laughter. I was at no loss.

I see three girls running , playing, happy oblivious of the future. One of them is the daughter of the Naga King, Kauravya. That is me, your unfortunate, Uloopi.

I had been named Uloopi as I had a beautiful face, I am told. When in the summer evenings, I would stand near the jasmine vine, wearing jasmine garlands, artists would throng to capture me on their canvas, poets would come for a glimpse of my beauty, to write about their princess.

I see my myself, being trained, educated. The best of the teachers coming to teach me. I grew up, skilled in letters and also war craft. I also learnt medicine. The art of the physicians fascinated me. They would pluck leaves from various plants, mix them together and people would get well after that.

I trained my self to be a medicine girl. I learnt the sciences from the greatest of the sages. It was expected that I learn that. My mother would tell me that all Naga people knew the science and I was no exception.

My quest for knowledge was big. I kept learning. Then I discovered the hidden texts. The science of Sanjivani. The way to bring the dead to life. This too was a science. I learnt of the plants to be collected, how to process them and how to use them.

Weapons were another fascination. I learnt how to wield a sword, how to hold a bow, how to shoot arrows. I practiced well.

Arts were taught to me. I learnt the veena, I learnt singing and I learnt dancing.

I was the only child. When I attained youth , I was married off to a naga king, in the clan of Takshaka.

Like many other women I went off to my husband’s home.

A day after my wedding , my husband had to go to a war.

He went and never returned alive.

I was a widow. A young widow.

I was young, my beauty with me, pining for love, pining for a male companion.

My life went, sometime in my husband’s land, in the kingdom of Takshashila, on the banks of the Iravati river, or sometimes in my father’s home.

I tried my attention to learning. I read a lot, learnt all I could, pining for that one person who would come in my life and free me, deliver me from my passion.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 00 – Why this – An Introduction

I remember seeing a play based on Mahabharata long back. I do not remember the year, but I remember the situation. This was in Delhi in the early 70s. During Durga Puja there used to plays staged at the pandals and on one such occasion, because of rains the play was washed out. This was in Kirti Nagar, New Delhi. The play was later staged in a community hall and I had attended it with my father.

Now that I think back, the year was probably 1972. That was the year my brother was born. And maybe that was the reason why Ma was not there in the hall.

I clearly remember actors in yellow marigold garlands playing various characters. There was one character there who made a fleeting appearance and vanished. This character was Uloopi. At that time I did not think much about that.

Enter the English ChandaMama . This was again in the seventies, probably 74 or 75.

Let me skip to Chandamama for now, and I will get back here.

It was at a newspaper stand in Kirti Nagar that I had seen this magazine. I clearly remember what intrigued me was the drawing of Ekalavya cutting off his thumb. I had bought that and I had read it cover to cover. The magazine had a series going on then, on Mahabharat.

Before this my introduction to Mahabharat had been UpendraKishore Roy Chowdhury’s ‘Chheleder Mahabharat’ (Mahabharat for Boys), a work in Bengali, written by Satyajit Ray’s GrandFather.

The ChandaMama had pictures, well illustrated and it narrated the basic story of the epic.

Back to my story.

The specific issue of the magazine had Arjuna being dragged by Uloopi into a river and then marrying her.

Then, some years later, I came across an Amar Chaitra Katha titled Uloopi.

This was the first time I got to understand this minor character of Mahabharat.

This is an experiment. To write about Uloopi. About Mahabharata. Not knowing much but collecting material from folklore and Mahabharat, I am also trying to add to it, my own thoughts and imagination. This is Mahabharat but from the view of Uloopi (or Ulupi).

This is not a translation. I had done (at least started) an English translation of the Kritivasa Ramayana, which I later saw being posted on blogs without any consideration of even a Thank You. This is my own writing.

I am deeply religious. I believe in my Gods and Goddesses. I also believe in Good and Evil. Mahabharata has demons who are good, Gods who are scheming. This is something that can be enjoyed by all.

Mahabharata has characters who think like present day people, act like them, behave like them.

 

The Mahabharata and in many places the Ramayana talks about the Nagas. Who were they? In 1909 H. PArker wrote ‘Ancient Ceylon’. In this he talks about the Nairs of Kerala as being the Nagas.

The Nagas ruled Patala. Vishnu Purana describes Patala as ‘as more beautiful than Svarga (heaven). Patala is described as filled with splendid jewels, beautiful groves and lakes and lovely demon maidens. Sweet fragrance is in the air and is fused with sweet music. The soil here is white, black, purple, sandy, yellow, stony and also of gold’.

The nagas were probably snake worshippers as snakes ate rats and mice which ate the wheat and rice these people grew and stored.

There are seals and seal impressions found that show that the Indus Valley people also used to worship this serpent deity.

Krishna, the king of Dwarka, was supposed to be an incarnation of Vishnu. On this earth he was the son of Vasudeva. Vasudeva and his sister Kunti were grand children of the Naga Aryaka.  Baldeva or Balabhadra or Balarama , the elder brother of Krishna is said to be reincarnation of Sesha Naga,

While reading about Ulupi, it talks about a princess in Patala, who went to Haridwar , abducted Arjuna and then left him in Manipura. Is this the same Manipura or Manipur that we know of today?

Some reading leads me to believe that Manipur here means land of gems and this was some part in North India where were mines of precious stones and gems.

It is said that Takshaka ,the Naga,  lived in Takshashila, That, if we take present day’s geography, is present day Taxila. The river Ravi which flows from India into Pakistan today, has been mentioned in the Vedas as the river Airavati or Iravati. This river joins the river Jhelum and flows into the Arabian sea.

Taxila is situated in the land between the Indus and the Jhelum rivers. This is supposed to be the same spot where the great snake sacrifice was to take place by Janmajaya or Janmajeya. In this sacrifice, Vaishampayana, a disciple of the Sage Vyasa, had then recited the Mahabharat.

Taken that, most of the happenings of Mahabharata seems to be taking place in the present day Indian subcontinent.

Panchala, the land in which Draupadi or Panchali was from, seems to be in present day Uttar Pradesh or Uttarakhand.

Dwarka is in Gujarat, where Krishna lived so are Mathura and Vrindavan.

One interesting term that is mentioned in Mahabharata is Rakshasha. Who was a Rakshasha?

Historians believe that when the (present day) north India clans tried to take over more land, they had to face the local tribes staying there. These tribes were primarily forest dwellers and they used to protect (Raksha) the forests. The clash between the two tribes created constant tensions.

With the focus of the attention of Mahabharata and other Indian epics being that of the great Kings, the Rakshashas came into light as some people who were against the heroes.

The Raskhasas were not Asuras. The Asuras were a clan in the Puranas who lived and fought with the Gods or Devas. The Rakshasas lived on this earth. Some Rakshasas like Hidimba and Ghatotkacha are mentioned in Mahabharat in good light.

In the book “A Socio-political Study of the Valmiki Ramayana” by Ramashraya Sharma. says “The Rakshasas belonging to the other group (viz. of Rakshasas by birth) are essentially human beings, in spite of the cloak of monstrosity and barbaric splendour imposed on them by an Aryan poet describing the culture and achievements of a hostile people. The origin of these people is to be traced to Salakatankata who is in all probability a personification of night. One important respect in which these Rakshasas are to be distinguished from the Aryans (and all other people of the Ramayana) is the ‘matrilinear character’ of their family life.”

Prabodh Chandra Sengupta in (1951) “The Dānavas in the Mahābhārata” says the Danavas, and other defeated beings (Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Nagas, et cetera) were non-Aryan tribes.

Why Ulupi’s version.

Arjuna had four prominent wives in the Mahabharata. Draupadi is famous. Subhadra, is famous as Krishna’s sister and as mother of Abhimanyu. Chitrangada was immortalized by Rabindranath Tagore in his play Chitrangada. This leaves the Naga princess Ulupi.

Interestingly there is not much material on Ulupi to research on. She is a Naga princess who abducts Arjuna and then appears in the end of Mahabharat.

What would Ulupi do? What was she thinking? That was my idea in this retelling of the great Epic while I read and tell the story.

This is just my begining.

Is this Vyasa’s Mahabharat? 99 percent of this is the Mahabharat. Some bits are from other Puranas which talk of similar stories. For example the Devi Bhagwatam talks about Bhishma and the Vasus stealing Vashishta’s cow, something that is not there is Mahabharata. Then there is the Srimad Bhagwat Puran which a version from Kirshna’s viewpoint.

This is not a simple task to do and this is a slow task.

Also this needs courage. This is the largest epic and so many characters and happenings.

With the name of Durga and saying Sri Ganesh, I start this writing on Uloopi’s version of the Mahabharata.

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