Gaining the Paasupatastra from Shiva – A Warrior’s Courageous fight & the Lord’s Assent
Standing devoutly on one foot, in the middle of the Dvaita Vana, the warrior, Arjuna balanced himself on one foot and chanted the Shiva mantra, to invoke Sadasiva’s blessings & seek a powerful weapon to destroy members of the Kaurava clan, in the battle of Mahabharata particularly, for an enemy named Jayadratha, who was blessed with the boon of being annihilated, only with the greatest of all weapons.
So endearing was his plea that all the Devas or gods, rushed to beckon, the mighty Kailaspati, Lord of mount Kailasa, to protect the warrior & fulfill his desire, so as to enable him to be victorious in battle. Shiva promised his allegiance in the divine mission.
As the course of events were to unfold, Mukasura, a demon from the Kaurava troupe, was found roaming the jungle, in the guise of a wild boar. Creating a fury uprooting trees & unleashing terror he charged at Arjuna. Shiva immediately, manifested himself as Kirata, a hunter along with his assisting henchmen or ganas in tow as tribesmen.
Both the warrior Arjuna & Huntsman, Kirata aimed their arrows at the wild monster. The impact of both strikes from opposing ends, struck the lethal blow & the beast fell strewn with blood to the ground, revealed in his original, bestial form.
Seeing him slain, Arjuna headed to retrieve his weapon or Astra from the spot. In the same instance, Shiva in the guise of Kirata summoned one of his assistant ganas to fetch his arrow. Arjuna found his weapon but was hailed by the Gana who insisted that the arrow belonged to him. Arjuna, of course was erroneously, oblivious to the fact, that the demon was also a victim of Kirata’s arrow.
In defense of his master, the tribesman went on to threaten Arjuna cruely, saying that his master had killed the beast for whose death Arjuna was claiming merit & all his penance & worship would bear no fruit, if he went on with the lie & did not surrender the arrow.
Infuriated at his audacity & deceived by his ordinary appearance, Arjuna, went on to belittle the gana, by calling him a “thief of low birth”, with a master who was nothing but a hunter incapable of matching his Kshatriya or warrior’s prowess. He went on to challenge the master in battle to prove his point & accomplishment.
In a futile attempt, the Gana tried to dissuade him with terrifying thoughts of him losing his life & being unable to recover his kingdom. He urged him to return the arrow & move on in peace. Unfazed by his threats, Arjuna was adamant to prove his mettle in battle & attacked the tribesmen, destroying them skillfully & fearlessly. He now found himself face to face, with the grinning Kirata, who was smeared with ash. In what followed as a fiery duel, Arjuna lost his bow & armour.
Astounded by Kirata’s strength, Arjuna did not give up. He made for his feet & tried to whirl him around. Finally, as he looked up at his face, he recognized Shiva, who eventually revealed himself. Overwhelmed, by his good fortune & ashamed at his folly, he lay prostrate before Nilkanta, the blue necked one and begged forgiveness for his inability to recognize him earlier.
Shiva laughed tenderly & praised him for his sincere devotion & battle for dharma or righteous action. He went on to grant him his personal weapon – the deadly Paasupatastra, to win back his Kingdom & restore family peace & honour. Arjuna returned with it in his quiver & shared his experience with his family.
The significance of this legendary myth is to capture the essence of the Kshatriya or warrior’s unshakable courage & steadfastness in accomplishing righteous action & the corresponding reciprocity from the immortal god. Veiled in the illusion of the tale, is the belief that each individual has within his own being, the resources to acquire, the symbolic weapon of the immortal gods, to fight & overcome desires & attain victory over the senses. The secret ammunition is released by the Mahapurush, only after the individual crosses the ocean of life, with its misery & suffering, as demonstrated in the altercation with the tribesmen. After, thoroughly testing our intentions, aspirations, effort & actions the lord finally reveals himself to the worthy seeker, and grants him the boon or wish most appropriate for his success.
The tale also reveals the magnanimity, of the Deathless Lord, who forgives misgivings of the human being, trapped in relativity & therefore, mercifully, forgets the false claims or limited perception of the individual ego & mind & eventually embraces all souls, suffusing them with his light & wisdom.