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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
The smoke-bannered celestial welcoming with reverence the ruler of the waters, that fourth of the Lokapalas, said unto that eternal god of gods, ‘Give me without loss of time that bow and quiver, and that ape-bannered car also, which were obtained from king Soma. Partha will achieve a great task with Gandiva, and Vasudeva also with the discus! Give both, therefore, unto me today.’ Hearing these words, Varuna replied unto Pavaka, saying, ‘Well, I am giving them.’ He then gave that wonderful jewel of a bow that was endued with great energy. That bow was the enhancer of fame and achievements, and was incapable of being injured by any weapon. It was the chief of all weapons, and the grinder of them all. And it was the smiter of hostile armies and was alone equal to a hundred thousand bows. It was the multiplier of kingdoms, and was variegated with excellent colours. It was well-adorned, and beautiful to behold, and without a mark of weakness or injury anywhere. And it was always worshipped both by the celestials and the Gandharvas.
Varuna also gave two inexhaustible quivers, and he also gave a car furnished with celestial weapons and whose banner bore a large ape. Yoked unto that car were steeds white as silver of the fleecy clouds, and born in the region of the Gandharvas, and decked with golden harness, and resembling in fleetness the wind or the mind. And it was equipped with implement of war, and was incapable of being vanquished by the celestials or the Asuras. Its splendour was great and the sounds of its wheels was tremendous. It delighted the heart of every creature that looked at it. It had been made by Viswakarman, the architect of the universe and one of the lords of creation, after severe ascetic meditation. Its splendour, like that of the sun, was so great that no one could gaze at it. It was the very car from which the lord Soma had vanquished the Danavas.
Resplendent with beauty, it looked like an evening cloud reflecting the effulgence of the setting sun. It was furnished with an excellent flag-staff of golden colour and great beauty. And there sat upon that flag-staff a celestial ape of form fierce like that of a lion or a tiger. Stationed on high, the ape seemed bent upon burning everything it beheld. And upon the (other) flags were various creatures of large size, whose roars and yells caused the enemy’s soldiers to faint.
Then Arjuna, accoutred in mail and armed with the sword, and his fingers cased in leathern gloves, walking round that excellent car adorned with numerous flags and bowing unto the gods, ascended it like a virtuous man riding in the celestial car that bears him to heaven. And taking up that celestial and first of bows created by Brahman of old and called Gandiva, Arjuna was filled with joy. And bowing unto Hutasana, Partha endued with great energy, took up the bow and strung it forcibly. Those who heard the noise that was made while the mighty Pandava strung that bow, quaked with fear. And having obtained that car and that bow, and the two inexhaustible quivers, the son of Kunti became glad and thought himself competent to assist at the task. And Pavaka then gave unto Krishna a discus with an iron pole attached to a hole in the centre. And it was a fiery weapon and became his favourite. Having obtained that weapon, Krishna also became equal to the task. Pavaka then, addressing Krishna, said, ‘With this, O slayer of Madhu, thou shalt be able without doubt to vanquish in battle even foes that are not human. With this weapon, without doubt, thou shalt be superior in battle to men and gods, and Rakshasas and Pisachas, and Daityas and Nagas.
And thou shalt certainly be able with this to smite all. And, O Madhava, hurled by thee in battle at thy foes, this weapon will irresistibly slay the enemy and again come back into thy hands.’ And the lord Varuna, after this, gave unto Krishna a mace, of name Kaumodaki, capable of slaying every Daitya and producing, when hurled, a roar like that of the thunder. Then Arjuna and Achyuta, filled with joy said unto Pavaka, ‘O exalted one, furnished with weapons and knowing their use, possessed of cars with flags and flagstaffs, we are now able to fight with even all the celestials and the Asuras (together), let alone the wielder of the thunderbolt desirous of fighting for the sake of the Naga (his friend Takshaka).’ Arjuna also said, ‘O Pavaka, while Hrishikesa, endued with abundant energy, moves on the field of battle with this discus in hand, there is nothing in the three worlds that he will not be able to consume by hurling this weapon. Having obtained the bow Gandiva and this couple of inexhaustible quivers I also am ready to conquer in battle the three worlds. Therefore, O lord, blaze thou forth as thou likest, surrounding this large forest on every side. We are quite able to help thee.’
And while the forest was burning, hundreds and thousands of living creatures, uttering frightful yells, began to run about in all directions. Some had particular limbs burnt, some were scorched with excessive heat, and some came out, and some ran about from fear. And some clasping their children and some their parents and brothers, died calmly without, from excess of affection, being able to abandon these that were dear to them. And many there were who biting their nether lips rose upwards and soon fell whirling into the blazing element below. And some were seen to roll on the ground with wings, eyes, and feet scorched and burnt. These creatures were all seen to perish there almost soon enough. The tanks and ponds within that forest, heated by the fire around, began to boil; the fishes and the tortoises in them were all seen to perish.
During that great slaughter of living creatures in that forest, the burning bodies of various animals looked as if fire itself had assumed many forms. The birds that took wings to escape from that conflagration were pierced by Arjuna with his shafts, and cut into pieces, they fell down into the burning element below. Pierced all over with Arjuna’s shafts, the birds dropped down into the burning forest, uttering loud cries. The denizens of the forest, struck with those shafts, began to roar and yell. The clamour they raised was like unto the frightful uproar heard during the churning of the ocean (in days of yore).
The mighty flames of the blazing fire reaching the firmament, caused great anxiety to the celestials themselves. Then all the illustrious dwellers in heaven went in a body unto him of a hundred sacrifices and thousand eyes, viz., their chief, that grinder of Asuras. Approaching Indra, the celestial said, ‘Why, O lord of immortals, doth Agni burn these creatures below? Hath the time come for the destruction of the world?’
But the showers were all dried up in the sky itself by the heat of the fire and could not, therefore, reach the fire at all! Then the slayer of Namuchi, getting angry with Agni, collected huge masses of clouds and caused them to yield a heavy downpour. Then with the flames contending with those heavy showers, and with masses of clouds overhead, that forest, filled with smoke and flashes of lightning, became terrible to behold.’”