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This article is about the Hero in the Hindu epic Mahabharata

Arjuna statue.JPG
Children Srutakarma (from draupadi), Abhimanyu (from subhadra), Iravan from (Ulupi) & Babruvahana from (Chitr?ngad?)
Relatives Pandavas, Krishna, Draupadi and Subhadra

Arjuna (in Devanagari: arjuna) is the main central character of the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata and plays a key role in the Bhagavad Gita alongside Krishna. It is believed that Arjuna was best archer in the world at their time. Arjuna was the son of Indra, the king of the celestials, born of Kunti, the first wife of King Pandu in the Kuru Kingdom. In a previous birth he was a saint named Nara who was the lifelong companion of another saint Narayana an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who took rebirth as Lord Krishna. He was the third of the Pandava brothers and was married to Draupadi, Ulupi, Chitr?ngad? and Subhadra (Krishna's and Balarama's sister) at different times. His children included Srutakarma, Iravan, Babruvahana, and Abhimanyu. Arjuna was equal to 2 maharatha class warriors.[1]

Etymology and other names

The name Arjuna has among its meanings "white","clear" and "silver".

  • Phalguna (?) - one born under the star named Uttara Phalguni.
  • Jishnu () - triumphant.
  • Kiritin () - one who wears the celestial diadem, Kiriti, presented by Lord Indra.
  • Shvethavahana () - one with white horses mounted to his pure white chariot.
  • Bibhatsu (?) - one who always fights wars in a fair manner.
  • Vijaya (?) - always wins on every war.
  • Partha () - son of Pritha, another name for Kunti.
  • Savyasachin (?) - ambidextrous, only Arjuna is expert in using both hands equally in archery.
  • Dhananjaya () - one who brings prosperity and wealth in the region where he goes to.
  • Gudakesha (?) - someone who have control over sleeps; also one who has curly hair.
  • Kapidhwaja (?) - having flag of Kapi (monkey) in his chariot. Lord Hanuman stayed on Arjuna's flag during Kurukshetra war.
  • Parantapa () - one who concentrates the most.
  • Gandivadhanvan (?) - one who possessed the mighty bow named Gandiva which was created by Lord Brahma.
  • Gandivadhara () - Gandiva holder.
  • Madhyapandava (?) - the third of Pandavas, younger to Yudhisthira and Bhima and elder to Nakula and Sahadeva[2].

Birth and youth

Indra bestows a favor on Kunti

Arjuna's birth is most celebrated one and he was born 9 months after the birth of krishna. A prophesy is said about his birth and so many gods attended to see him.[3]

After the death of Pandu (and Madri's subsequent sati), the Pandavas and their mother lived in Hastinapura, where they were brought up together with their cousins, the Kaurava brothers. Along with his brothers, Arjuna was trained in religion, science, administration and military arts by Bhishma, their granduncle.[4]

One day, when the princes were playing a game, they lost their ball in a well. When the rest of the children gave up the ball as being lost, Arjuna stayed behind trying to get it. A stranger came by and extracted the ball for him by making a chain of "sarkanda" (a wild grass). When an astonished Arjuna related the story to Bhishma, Bhishma realised that the stranger was none other than Drona. Bhishma asked Drona to become the Kuru princes' teacher. Seeking refuge from Panchala, Drona agreed.[5] Many asuras were killed by him.

Tutelage under Drona

Under Drona's tutelage, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, along with the princes of Hastinapura's allies and vassals, learned weaponry. Arjuna became Drona's favorite and most accomplished pupil; specifically, he became a master in using the bow and the arrow. In a famous incident, Drona deemed that out of all his students, even his own son Ashwatthama, none but Arjuna had the steadfast focus to shoot the eye of a bird on a tree; he was proven right.[6]. One day, on being questioned by Ashwatthama; why was Drona being partial to Arjuna, Drona replied Arjuna that he was not being partial to any-one but his favourite was Arjuna. His intention was very clear that he loved Arjuna but didn't ill-treat anyone. He ordered Ashwatthama to gather all of his students including Ashwatthama to assemble at near by lake that evening. they did as Drona told. Drona was taking bath; suddenly a crocodile appeared attacking Drona. Nobody except Arjuna were dare to enter into lake. Arjuna then jumped into lake & began attacking the mighty crocodile with bare hands. Suddenly crocodile disappeared. Drona told everyone that the crocodile was just illusion and created by himself to test all the princes & Ashwatthama. Drona also scolded the rest that they were not ready to save their teacher except Arjuna. Thus Drona proudly declared that Arjuna was his favourite and pet student. [7]

Marriage to Draupadi

the Swayamvara of Panchala's princess, Draupadi

Pandavas secretly went from Varnavrat after saving themselves from evil plan of Duryodhana, Shakuni and Karna.[8] Still in hiding, the Pandavas disguise themselves as brahmins and attend the Swayamvara of Panchala princess Draupadi. Out of all of the great kings and other Kaurava princes, only Arjuna are able to do the established challenge. The test is to lift, string, and fire Pinakin to pierce the eye of a golden fish whilst only looking at its reflection; Drupada had designed this test with Arjuna in mind. All Kings including Karna and Shalya failed to string the bow and got defeated in task.[9] At last Arjuna came forward and lifted bow with just one hand and hit the target hence he won Draupadi.[10]. Later Karna attacked Arjuna out of jealousy but Arjuna easily defeated him then Karna asked about his real identity, Arjuna smiled and said that he is brahmin then Karna praised him by comparing him with Lord Vishnu. Arjuna threatened to kill Karna which made Karna flee from battlefield. When the brothers returned with Draupadi, Pandavas joked to his mother that they had brought alms. Dismissively, and without looking because she was preoccupied, Kunti asks him to share it with his brothers. Holding his mother's orders as a divine command, he requested his elder brother to accept Draupadi. Draupadi had to marry all five of the Pandavas. Her five sons, one from each of the Pandava brothers, are known as the Upapandavas. Srutakarma is the son of Arjuna.

At this point in the Mahabharata, the Pandavas revealed that they were alive. With both Duryodhana and Yudhishthira being crown princes, tensions are high. Under Bhishma's advice, the kingdom is split, with the Kauravas getting Hastinapur and the Pandavas getting Khandavaprastha. Khandavaprastha, however, was an extremely underdeveloped land and had infertile soil, requiring extensive tilling, so the Pandavas set to work rebuilding the land by burning thousand acre of forest. Their cousins Krishna and Balarama helped them.

Love of Lord Krishna for Arjuna

The friendship bond of Lord Krishna and Arjuna is the most celebrated bond in Hindu mythology followed by the bond of Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman. According to Mahabharata, Arjuna was the incarnation of Lord Nara who was the best friend of Lord Vishnu and along with Nara, Lord Vishnu defeated all the demons after the churning of Ocean Samudra Manthan. According to Lord Shiva, Nara and Lord Vishnu holds the whole universe and incarnates in every Yuga to end the evil and establish righteousness. The love of Lord Krishna for Arjuna is evident from Adi Parva where after the fight in Khandava forest instead of asking any weapon or power Lord Krishna asked Indra that his friendship with Arjuna will remain forever when the latter asked Lord Krishna to ask for a boon. Lord Krishna also described his love for Arjuna in Vana Parva by saying that whoever will hate Arjuna will hate Lord Krishna and whoever will follow Arjuna will follow Lord Krishna. He even said that nobody in the whole world is dearer to him than Arjuna and he can sacrifice anything including his sons, wives and citizens just for the sake of Arjuna. During his final conversation with his father Vasudeva he told him that he wants Arjuna to perform his last rights and also said that Lord Krishna is Arjuna and Arjuna is Lord Krishna. Such was the greatness of Arjuna that the supreme god Lord Krishna was ready to sacrifice anything for him.[11]

Burning of Khandava Vana

The story, this was the first time Arjuna meets Krishna. In any case, Khandavaprastha was where Arjuna and Krishna's friendship is truly forged. Once when roaming in the Khandava Vana, Arjuna and Krishna met the god of fire, Agni. Agni was in great hunger and needed to burn down the entire Khandava Vana to quench his hunger. But Takshaka, the serpent-king lived in the same forest and was a friend of Indra's. So the latter brought down heavy rains to thwart Agni's plans to burn the woods. Agni requested Krishna and Arjuna to help him realise his goal.[12]

Arjuna asked Agni for Gandiva as normal bows were not capable to bear the strength of his arms. The three of them then invoked Varuna, the God of the oceans, who blessed Arjuna with the Gandiva - the agni-moon bow created by Brahma. In this way, Arjuna came into possession of his famous bow. Agni also gave Arjuna an incandescent chariot with four horses yoked, and bearing a flag that would one-day be occupied by celestial apes of Vishwkarma.Arjuna also obtained his famous conch.[]

With Krishna using the Sudarshana Chakra[13] Arjuna and Krishna waged a successful battle against Indra and helped Agni burn down the entire Khandava Vana. Indra's pride in Arjuna's success overcame his anger, and he bestowed greater powers on him. At last all gods, demons and snakes got defeated by Arjuna at this Khandava war.

Saving Mayasura

Sri Krishna tells Mayasura to build a palace.

In their demolition of Khandava, Krishna and Arjuna had saved one demon, Mayasura to build their palace.[12] Thus owing Arjuna a favor, and after being so directed by Krishna, Mayasura said that he would build a palace for Yudhishtra. As Mayasura was a great architect of the Asuras, he soon constructed the Maya assembly hall - a gigantic palace for the Pandavas, filled with ancient books, artifacts, and jewels. This hall was famous for visual illusions. Thus, Khandavaprastha was renamed Indraprastha.[14]

Arjuna's Tirtha-yatra and Indraprastha

Arjuna enters Dharma's Boudoir

Arjuna violated Yudhishthira and Draupadi's privacy while they were playing the game of dice, as he had left the Gandiva in their room. Despite the understanding of all and being forgiven by both Yudhishthira and Draupadi, Arjuna accepted the punishment agreed with Narada and set off on a one-year tirtha-yatra. According to Narada, Arjuna must retire to forest and pass his days as Brahmacharin so Arjuna retired to forest for 1 year.

Ulupi at Nagaloka

One day Arjuna was taking bath in nearby Ganga river flow. Suddenly a current in the river pulled down Arjuna. He fell through regions and reached a place. As soon as he opened eyes, he saw a beautiful woman standing in front of him. The woman introduced herself as Ulupi-the princess of Nagaloka. She also told Arjuna that the current was created by her in order to drag Arjuna to her land because she loved Arjuna very much as Arjuna was the greatest archer and extreme handsome person. Arjuna explained his situation. Ulupi told him that she knew everything. Soon Ulupi married Arjuna and he set-out to finish his pilgrimage. A son, namely Iravan was produced as the union of Arjuna and Ulupi.[15]

Chitr?ngad? at Manipura

Arjuna visited other Tirthas in India, including Kalinga and the ashrams of the Saptarishis, Agastya, Vasishta and Bhrigu. He reached the palace of Manipur. Here he met King Chitravahana's daughter, Chitr?ngad?. After seeing the beauty of Chitr?ngad?, Arjuna fall in love with her hence he asked that the king let them marry. The king accepted Arjuna's proposal because Arjuna was extermely handsome, intelligent and attractive. According to customs of Manipura the son of the princess would become the King of Manipura. It was mutual benefit for Arjuna since Draupadi didn't want other woman equal to queen in Indraprastha. Soon a son was born to them namely Babruvahana.

Meeting Hanuman

Arjuna, after covering various shrines, arrived at Rameshwaram in the south. An age ago, Rama had established a Shivalinga here, seeking the blessings of Shiva before commencing his journey to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita. His army of monkeys and bears had constructed a bridge of stones and trees across the vast ocean. Arjuna gazed at the remains of this bridge that had survived. A thought struck him and he wondered aloud, "Why on Earth did a great archer like Rama have to rely on creatures like monkeys and bears to build a bridge? Why couldn't he have instead bridged the distance with arrows?" His fellow pilgrims shook their heads, clearly at a loss for an answer. Then, a small monkey who had been following the company for quite some distance replied Arjuna that Stalwarts like Sugreeva, Nala, Neela, Angada and Hanuman adorned their ranks. No bridge of arrows could have withstood their weight. The monkey added "Why, no bridge of arrows could even withstand my weight, puny as I am!" Arjuna was quick to take up what he perceived as an implied challenge. "Let us have a wager. I shall lay down a bridge of arrows. I am willing to burn myself if it fails to bear your weight." The monkey agreed. Arjuna, taking the aid of his famed quiver of inexhaustible arrows, laid down a bridge across the ocean. The monkey jumped onto it and no sooner had he walked ten paces than the bridge collapsed. Arjuna helped the monkey out of the water and asked for another attempt. The monkey agreed. Arjuna constructed another bridge, this time laying his arrows closer to each other, and asked the monkey to try again. The monkey set out on the bridge in the direction of the island of Lanka yet again but the bridge collapsed. Arjuna was ashamed of himself. Not wasting any more time, he prepared a pyre and was about to step into it and give up his life, in accordance with the terms of the wager when a youth held him back and stopped him. "What were you about to do, o mighty prince?", asked the boy, surprised. "I was given a challenge and I failed. I do not wish to continue with this life now that I have faced such great shame", replied Arjuna. The boy was aghast. "But was there an adjudicator? Who was there to see if the challenger was playing fair? A contest without a judge is meaningless. Pray construct another bridge and this time, I shall be the judge." Neither Arjuna, nor the monkey could refute the boy's argument and so they got ready for a third round. Infused with some confidence, Arjuna built a third bridge, using every bit of his ingenuity. "There! Try crossing it now", he said to the monkey. The monkey happily obliged. He walked on, but the bridge was still solid. "He must have locked the arrows together better this time", thought the monkey to himself. He began to jump on the bridge but it did not collapse. It stayed strong. The monkey was surprised. "Let me take on the form I took while leaping across the ocean", he thought and lo! He was large as a mountain now. Arjuna was awestruck when he saw that his challenger was none other than the great Hanuman himself. He bowed his head in reverence, realizing that sooner or later his bridge would succumb to the strength of the great monkey. He was humbled. The bridge did not collapse. Not even under the weight of the now gigantic Hanuman. Arjuna was nonplussed. He could not comprehend what was happening. There seemed to be no logical explanation as to why the bridge hadn't broken yet. Apparently, Hanuman couldn't fathom things either. He began jumping on the bridge but it still wouldn't yield. All the while the boy was smiling. In a moment of enlightenment, it struck both participants of the contest that their adjudicator was no ordinary boy. Arjuna and Hanuman fell at his feet and then Vishnu was standing before them. "I am Rama, and I am Krishna. I protected your bridge from collapsing, Arjuna. Vanity and pride undo the best of men. Dear Hanuman, you should have known better than to humiliate Arjuna thus. He is a fine warrior, one of the best of his times. How could you drive him into giving up his life?" Arjuna and Hanuman sought the Lord's forgiveness and He blessed them. "As an act of remorse, I shall stabilize and protect your chariot in the great battle that is imminent.", said Hanuman. "So be it. You shall be present on the banner of Arjuna's chariot when he rides out to do battle in the great war of his age that is to come." [16]

Reaching Dwarka and Subhadra

Arjuna and Subhadra,
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma.

Arjuna moved to other Tirthas, including the southern regions in Kerala. Finally he reached Dwarka, the place where his cousin Krishna resided. Arjuna had, in his childhood, heard about Krishna's sister, Subhadra. Krishna, wishing to further tie their families, knew of Arjuna's visit and devised a plan to arrange their meeting. Accordingly, Arjuna disguised himself as a Yati and stayed at Krishna's palace. Arjuna was attracted to Subhadra and desired to marry her, Krishna understood Arjuna's intension and advised him to kidnap Subhadra then Arjuna kidnapped Subhadra and married with her. After this Balarama became furious upon learning of the abduction but was pacified by Vasudeva, his father, because Lord Krishna knew that whole Dwarka warriors can not defeat Arjuna alone as Arjun was invicible and undefeatable in battle.[17] The couple stayed in Dwaraka for a year, and then another year in Pushkar. However, Draupadi had made it clear that no other Pandava wife would be allowed to stay in her city, so Arjuna, as Krishna had advised, tricked Draupadi into meeting Subhadra as a milkmaid. Draupadi realized she had been tricked, but she forgave Subhadra and let her stay in Indraprastha, allowing her to keep company with Arjuna in the four years when he was not with Draupadi. In due course, the union of Arjuna and Subhadra produced a son, Abhimanyu.[18][19]

Krishna-Arjuna war

Gaya, a Gandharva king, while moving across the skies, spits the pan down his divine plane. It falls into the open palms of Sri Krishna, offering prayers to Sun god Surya. Sri Krishna gets very angry and vows to kill him. Gaya is a great devotee of Krishna. Krishna could not take back his vow. Narada advices Gaya to approach Arjuna and first seek his assurance of protecting him, before revealing about the person set to take his life. As per Narada's advice, the king takes Arjuna's promise for his protection before revealing Krishna's vow to kill him. Arjuna, though surprised, sticks to his word to Gaya. Both Arjuna & Krishna feel very sad about the situation that each of them is going to fight against the most beloved ones. Any number of dialogues between both sides makes no dent in the situation. Intervention of Subhadra, Narada, Rukmini, Satyabhama and others fail resulting in direct combat. War breaks-out & Krishna v/s Arjuna archery-duel starts. Both of them go into fierce fight. The weapons & astras used by both causes heavy destruction. Because Krishna had Kodanda & Arjuna had Gandiva. Both are undefeatable and none of them gets injured. Finally Krishna uses Sudarshana chakra & Arjuna uses Brahmastra. Lord Shiva appears before them and asks them to withdraw their respective destructive weapons to prevent disaster to the world. Krishna explained the intention behind fighting against Arjuna. Many of people including Balarama complained that Krishna was partial to Pandavas. Through this he proved that he was not partial to any-one but to justice. Also he meant that Krishna & Arjuna were equal & the same. He meant that Pandavas were right followers of justice, Arjuna being the most sincere person and that's the reason why he loved them and especially Arjuna very much. [20]

Conquest for Rajasuya

Arjuna on his way to the Rajasuya Yaga
Possible route taken by Arjuna for the Rajasuya sacrifice.

Arjuna was sent south by Yudhishthira to subjugate kingdoms for the Rajasuya Yagya, so that he could be crowned Emperor of Indraprastha. The Mahabharata mentions several kingdoms to the north of Indraprastha which were conquered (or otherwise peacefully bent-the-knee) by Arjuna.[21] In this conquest Arjuna had conquered Northern kurus which was the territory of Lord Indra,[22] It was really the difficult feats for any warrior but Arjuna easily achieved many feats in Rajasuya conquest.


After Yudhishthira succumbed to Shakuni's challenge in the game of dice, the Pandavas were forced to be in exile for 13 years, which included one year in anonymity.

Fight with Chitrasena

After Pandavas lost in dice game and went on for exile, Duryodhana planned to humiliate Pandavas by showing them the luxuries enjoyed by all Kauravas and Karna. So all of them had set to forest where Pandavas were living. In the course of Journey Duryodhana abducted a lady without knowing that she was a Gandharva. Then Gandharvas attacked entire Kauravas and Karna. Karna ran away from battle after getting defeated by Chitrasena[23], At last Gandharvas captured all the Kauravas and their wives. On knowing this Yudhishtira asks Arjuna to free them since its Hastinapur which would be insulted. Arjuna followed his eldest brother's order and defeated Chitrasena. During the fight with Chitrasena, Arjuna had performed extremely impossible feats as he killed 10 lakh Gandharvas(4.5 akshouni) in single shot by using Agneyastra[24]. Apart from Arjuna, no warrior ever achieved this impossible feats even in dream.

Penance for Pashupatastra

From the epic poem Kiratarjuniya: Arjuna recognizes Shiva and surrenders to him. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma, 19th century.

After the battle at Khandava Indra had promised Arjuna to give him all his weapons as a boon for matching him in battle with the requirement that Shiva is pleased with him. Following the advice of Yudhistira to go on a meditation or "tapasya" to attain this divine weapon, Arjuna left his brothers for a penance.

Arjuna traveled for a while before reaching the mountain Indra keeladri, Vijayawada. Here he sat in meditation in the name of Lord Shiva. Arjuna managed to please Lord Shiva by his severe penance in just months because his penance generated so much intense heat that was unbearable to all living creatures of earth which ultimately forced Lord Shiva to come to earth.[25] Shiva appeared soon enough in the guise of a hunter, who challenged Arjuna to a fight. In that fierce battle even 8 forms of Lord Shiva failed to defeat Arjuna,[26] At last Arjuna gratified Mahadeva in battle by showing his prowess then Hunter(Shiva) transformed himself to show his real avatar and blessed Arjuna with the Pashupatastra. Shiva lectures Arjuna on the abilities of the weapon, as well as the judgement he must use while wielding it. It is said that, apart from Lord Shiva and Arjuna no one possessed Pasupata weapon which was capable to destroy whole world.[27]

After Shiva left, the Lokapalas appeared before Arjuna and then Kubera, Yama, and Varuna also blessed each of their potent weapons to Arjuna. Indra then invited his son to his palace in heaven.

Arjuna was amazed at the splendor of his father's palace at Amaravati. Dancers like Urvashi, Tilottama, Rambha and Menaka entertained him. There was a huge banquet serving different varieties of heavenly dishes. Arjuna learnt song and dance from the Gandharva, Chitrasena and Indra himself taught him all the divine weapons and also gave him his Vajra.[28]

Nivata-kavachas and Hiranyapura

Arjuna got the opportunity to test his skill when Indra asked him to defeat his enemy as the price of his training. Arjuna was taken to the palace of the Nivata-kavachas, a tribe of Asuras who had a magnificent palace under the oceans. Arjuna used the Mohini-astra and the Madhava-astra to demolish these asuras.

He was also taken to Hiranyapura, a palace in the sky created by a witch Puloma and his asura tribe of the Kalakanjas. Here Arjuna uses the Raudra-astra and annihilates the demons.[29]

At Virata's Kingdom

Brihannala - Eunuch at Virata's Kingdom

Along with his brothers, Arjuna spent his last year of exile in the kingdom of Matsya. This is the place where Urvashi's curse is implemented and Arjuna becomes a eunuch called Brihannala (within themselves Pandavas called him Vijaya).[30] At the palace, he teaches song and dance, qualities he had learnt from Chitrasena [King of the Gandharvas in Devalok], to the King Virata's daughter, Uttar?. Later, Arjuna arranges for Uttara to become his daughter-in-law by marrying his son Abhimanyu to her. At the same time, he prevents Subhadra from marrying Abhimanyu to Balarama's daughter Vatsala, as the Kurus find marriages between cousins taboo. But Arjuna and Subhadra are cousins too since Kunti (Arjun's Mother) and Vasudeva (Subhadra's father) are brother and sister.

Hearing about the death of Kichaka, Duryodhana surmises that the Pandavas were hiding in Matsya. A host of Kaurava warriors attack Virata, presumably to steal their cattle, but in reality, desiring to pierce the Pandavas' veil of anonymity. Full of bravado, Virata's son Uttar attempts to take on the army by himself while the rest of the Matsya army has been lured away to fight Susharma and the Trigartas. As suggested by Draupadi, Uttar takes Brihannala with him, as his charioteer. When he sees the Kaurava army, Uttar loses his nerve and attempts to flee. There, Arjuna reveals his identity and those of his brothers'. Switching places with Uttar, Arjuna takes up the Gandiva and Devadatta. Eager to defend the land that had given him refuge, Arjuna engaged the legion of Kaurava warriors. All the warriors including Bhisma, Drona, Karna, Kripa and Ashwthama together attacked Arjuna to kill him but Arjuna defeated all of them multiple times.[31] During the battle Arjuna also killed Sangramjit the foster brother of Karna and instead of taking the revenge of his brother, Karna took heroice flight in order to save his life from Arjuna.[32]

Abhimanyu's marriage

Arjuna saved Matsya kingdom from Kurus and brought back all the cattle, sheep etc. As a gratitude Virata king offered his daughter to Arjuna. Arjuna replied Virata king gently that he had taught dance to Uttara. So he was a teacher to Uttara, a teacher treat a student as a child but not as a spouse. Arjuna suggested Virata King to marry Uttara to his son Abhimanyu. Virata king was very much pleased with this offer. In some versions, it is also said that Abhimanyu and Uttara were already in love as Abhimanyu already met Uttara while he was in search of his parents who were in exile. This was noticed by Draupadi and Yudhishtira. Everybody in Dwaraka agreed Arjuna's proposal and soon Balarama with his wife; Krishna with Rukmini; Arjuna, Subhadra and Abhimanyu reached Matsya kingdom. Abhimanyu married Uttara very soon; 4 months before the commencement of the war[33]. Before the war on one day; Krishna took a promise from Arjuna that Arjuna wont use any divine weapons obtained from Lord Indra. Thus Arjuna fought war without using celestial weapons granted by Lord Indra

Kurukshetra War

Bhagavad Gita

Arjuna and Lord Krishna, with Krishna as the sarathi or charioteer

As the battle draws close, Arjuna is overcome with self-doubt about the righteousness of the war against his own kith and kin. He is distraught at the thought of having to fight with his friends and family such as his dear teacher, Drona and grandsire Bhishma. It was then that Krishna took charge and explained the necessity and inevitability of the war to Arjuna. This conversation is a key part of the Mahabharata known as Bhagavad gita, and is considered as a holy scripture of Hinduism.

Arjuna plays the role of the reader in the Bhagavad Gita. As Krishna dispenses the advice, Arjuna asks the questions.The Bhagavad Gita primarily takes the form of philosophical dialogue between Prince Arjuna and Krishna.

Battles fought at Kurukshetra

Defeat of Jayadratha

Arjuna was a key Pandava warrior and played a huge role in the Pandava victory in the Kurukshetra war. Lord Hanuman stayed on Arjuna's chariot flag.

Some of the crucial battles fought by Arjuna are as follows:

  • Fall of Bhishma: According to original Mahabharat Arjuna fairly killed Bhishma on 10th day of kuru war, Shikhandi does not have any role in the matter, though as per one narrative it is Shikhandi who killed Bhishma.
  • Death of Bhagadatta: On the 12th day of the war, Arjuna killed Bhagadatta.
  • Killing of the Trigartas: On 17th day of war, Arjuna killed all the Trigartas.
  • Death of Jayadratha: Arjuna held Jayadratha responsible for Abhimanyu's death on the 13th day of the war. He vowed to kill him the very next day before sunset, failing which he would kill himself by jumping in a pyre.The Kauravas hid Jayadratha from Arjuna in a formation, knowing that Arjuna's death would result in a Kaurava victory. Finally Arjuna defeated all protector of Jaydratha including Karna and Ashwthama and beheaded Jayadratha and made his arrows to carry away Jayadratha's head.[34] This was because Jayadratha had a boon from his father that whoever would be responsible for his head falling to the ground would have his own head blown up. That is why Arjuna carried the severed head of Jayadratha to his father, who was awoken from his meditation by the sudden landing of a severed head on his body and since he ended up dropping it to the ground, he had his head blown up.[35]
  • Death of Karna: The battle between the two continued fiercely. Finally Arjuna killed Karna on 17th day using Anjalikastra.
Arjuna kills Karna

Conquest for Ashvamedha

After the conclusion of the war, the Pandavas take charge of Hastinapura, the undivided realm of their ancestors. Yudhishira appointed Arjuna as the Yuvaraj of Hastinapura.[36] Yudhishthira decided to hold the Ashvamedha Yagna, or "horse sacrifice", to grant them the title of Chakravarti ("Emperor"). Arjuna led the armed forces which followed the horse around its random wanderings. He received the submission of many kings, either without or following an armed confrontation. He was thus instrumental in the expansion of the Pandava domains. Arjuna was the only warrior who alone conquered whole word in Mahabharat, Apart from Arjuna no one warrior ever achieved this feats. In the Ashvamedha Yagna, the horse was stopped by Babruvahana. He defeated Bhima and killed Vrishaketu without knowing that they are his relatives and he was the son of Arjuna. Arjuna fought with Babruvahana and went on upper hand since Arjuna was invincible. Babruvahana then used the divine weapon to kill Arjuna. This divine weapon would kill any person even monstrous demons. Soon Arjuna got killed and the news reached Chitr?ngad?. She scolded him and revealed the truth that he was the son of Arjuna. With the help of Ulupi, Arjuna's life was restored by a gem called Nagamani. Arjuna was very impressed with his son's bravery.

Arjuna built the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple during his conquest in South India. Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is one of the "Divya Desams", the 108 temples of Vishnu revered by the 12 poet saints, or Alwars[37] located near Aranmula, a village in Pathanamthitta District, Kerala, South India.


Arjuna throws his weapons in water as advised by Agni

After Sri Krishna left his mortal body, Arjuna took the citizens of Dwaraka, including 16,100 wives of Krishna, to Indraprastha. On the way, they were attacked by a group of bandits. Arjuna desisted fighting seeing the law of time.

Upon the onset of the Kali yuga and acting on the advice of Vyasa, Arjuna and other Pandavas retired, leaving the throne to their only descendant to survive the war of Kurukshetra, Arjuna's grandson Parikshit. Giving up all their belongings and ties, the Pandavas, accompanied by a dog, made their final journey of pilgrimage to the Himalayas. It is also to be noted that the listener of the Mahabharata is Janamejaya, Parikshit's son.[38]

Except for Yudhishthira, all of the Pandavas grew weak and died before reaching heaven (only Yudhishthira is allowed to keep his mortal body). Arjuna was the fourth one to fall after Draupadi, Sahadeva and Nakula. When Bhima asks Yudhishthira why Arjuna isn't permitted the same, the reason given is Arjuna's over confidence in his skills. Draupadi also falls because while she claimed to love all the Pandavas equally, she had a soft spot for Arjuna . Bhima was the fifth to fall after Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. The reason why Bhima fell is because he enjoyed the suffereings of other people. People may cause suffering sometimes, but not allowed to enjoy them. Nakula fell because he liked his appearance a lot instead of being royal. Arjuna fell because of the over confidence in his skills.[39]

Astras possessed by Arjuna

Astra Deity Effect possessed by
Brahmaastra Brahma Would destroy entire hosts at once and could also counter most other astras. Parashurama, Bhishma, Drona, Arjuna, Krishna, Karna, Kripa, Ashwatthama, Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Ravana , Indrajit.
Indraastra Indra, King of Gods Would bring about a 'shower' of arrows from the sky. Arjuna and Indrajit.
Chandrastra Chandra, god of the Moon This Astra could intensify the brightness such that opponents fail to see the things happening around. Only Arjuna.
Agneyastra Agni, God of Fire The weapon discharged would emit flames inextinguishable through normal means. Rama and Arjuna.
Varunastra Varuna, God of Water The weapon discharged would release torrential volumes of water. This weapon is commonly mentioned as used to counter the Agneyastra. Arjuna, Rama, Hanuman & Krishna.
Bhaumastra Bh?mi, Goddess of Earth The weapon could create tunnels deep into the earth and summon jewels. Arjuna and Rama.
Nagapasha The Nagas Upon impact, this weapon would bind the target in coils of living venomous snakes. Indrajit & Arjuna
Garudastra Garuda A weapon that can defend against Nagaastra when attacked by the opponents. [40] Rama & Arjuna
Anjalika Astra Indra Arjuna killed Karna using this astra.[41] Arjuna, Lakshmana
Vayvayastra Vayu, God of Wind Brings about a gale capable of lifting armies off the ground. Arjuna, Drona,
Suryastra Surya, God of the Sun Creates a dazzling light that would dispel any darkness about and dry up water bodies. Only Arjuna
Vajra Indra, God of Weather Target would be struck with bolts of lightning (vajra referring to Indra's thunderbolt). [42] Vishwamitra and Rama too had Vajra weapon. Vishwamitra, Rama & Arjuna.
Mohini Astra Mohini, an Avatar of Vishnu Dispel any form of maya or sorcery in the vicinity. Only Arjuna
Twashtar Astra Twashtri, the Heavenly Builder When used against a group of opponents (such as an army), would cause them to mistake each other for enemies and fight each other. Only Arjuna
Sammohana/Pramohana Gandharvas Would cause entire hosts/armies to collapse in a trance, causes unconsciousness. Arjuna & Indrajit.
Brahmashirsha astra Brahma Capable of killing devas. Drona, Ashwatthama, Arjuna & Indrajit.
Vaishnavastra Vishnu, the Preserver Would destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. Infallible. [43] Rama, Krishna, Arjuna.
Rudra Astra Shiva, the Destroyer Very destructive in nature and Arjuna obtained this weapon from Lord Shiva,[44][45] Rama & Arjuna.
Pashupatastra Shiva The most powerful weapons among all the astras. It summons a larger number of monsters and a huge spirit which personifies the weapon. Would destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. This astra was capable to destroy whole world. [46] Vishwamitra and Rama too had this weapon [47]. Rama & Arjuna
Sabda-veda astra This weapon prevents an opponent from turning invisible. Used by Arjuna against the Ghandarva king Chitrasena. Arjuna & Krishna
Antardhana Astra Kubera, god of wealth The Antardhana Astra would make things, people or entire places disappear. Only Arjuna.
Prajnastra This weapon was used to restore the senses and thoughts of someone. It was a good counter to the Antardhana Astra and the Sammohana. Indrajit, Drona & Arjuna
Sailastra The Sailastra was used to make heavy winds disappear, meaning it was the counter to Vayvayastra, the wind weapon. Only Arjuna.
Visoshana Indra, King of gods The Visoshana was the drying weapon. It could dry anything. It was an amazing counter to the Varunastra. Only Arjuna
Jyotiksha Astra Surya, god of the Sun The Jyotiksha Astra could brighten a dark area. Only Arjuna.
Sauparna The Sauparna weapon would release crazy birds. Hence, it was a good counter to the Nagastra. Only Arjuna.

Chaubis Avtar

Arjuna is considered as 22th avtar of Lord Vishnu in chaubis avtar, a composition in Dasam Granth traditionally and historically attributed to Guru Gobind Singh.[48]

In popular culture

Arjuna is a popular choice of name for a Hindu male child in the Indian subcontinent. As told in the verses in Harivamsha or Harivamsha Purana, the name Arjuna is cursed by the sage Parashurama. After the defeat of the mighty and evil king Kartavirya Arjuna or otherwise called Sahasra Arjuna, Sage Parashurama pronounced the curse that whoever holds the name Arjuna will never become a king and always be a servant of others.[49]

Modern references

Arjuna Wijaya monument in Jakarta, Indonesia

Arjuna's extraordinary talents and skills have made him a common name in popular culture.

  • The American astronomer Tom Gehrels named a class of asteroids with low inclination, low eccentricity and earth-like orbital period as Arjuna asteroids.[50][51][52]
  • The Arjuna Award is presented every year in India to one talented sportsman in every national sport.
  • Arjun is a third generation main battle tank developed for the Indian Army.
  • Mayilpeeli Thookkam is a ritual art of dance performed in the temples of Kerala. It is also known as Arjuna Nrithyam (lit. Arjuna's dance) as a tribute to his dancing abilities.

There have been a serial and a film based on Arjuna's life and exploits.

Additionally, the protagonist in Steven Pressfield's book The Legend of Bagger Vance, Rannulph Junuh, is based in part on Arjuna (R. Junuh).[53]

Arjuna is also an Archer class Servant in the mobile game Fate/Grand Order. He is a minor antagonist in the E Pluribus Unum story chapter, where he wishes to fight Karna again.

In modern television

In B.R.Chopra's Mahabharat, Arjuna's role is played by Arjun (Firoz Khan).

In 2013 Mahabharat television series, Arjuna is portrayed by Shaheer Sheikh.

Mani Ratnam's 1991 blockbuster Thalapathi was loosely based on the Mahabharata. In the film, Arvind Swamy's character was loosely based on Arjuna.

In Dharmakshetra 2014, actor Ankit Arora portrayed Arjuna.

In 2015 Sony TV serial Suryaputra Karn, actor Navi bhangu played the role of Arjuna.

In Nagarjuna 2015 serial, Rahul Sharma (actor) played Arjuna.


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