From The Mahabharata
Vana Parva, Section XLVI
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Vaisampayana said: One day, knowing that Arjunas glances were cast upon Urvasi,
Indra (the lord of heaven), calling Chitrasena to himself, addressed him in private
saying, "O king of Gandharvas, I am pleased; go thou as my messenger to that foremost
of Apsaras, Urvasi, and let her wait upon that tiger among men, Arjuna. Tell her, saying
these words of mine, as through my instrumentality Arjuna has learnt all the weapons and
other arts, worshipped by all, so should thou make him conversant with the art of
acquitting ones self in female company."
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Thus addressed by Indra, the chief of the Gandharvas, in obedience to that command of
Indra, soon went to Urvasi that foremost of Apsaras. And as he saw her, she recognised him
and delighted him by the welcome she offered and the salutation she gave. And seated at
ease he then smilingly addressed Urvasi, who also was seated at ease, saying, "Let it
be known, O thou of fair hips, that I come hither despatched by the one sole lord of
heaven (Indra) who asks of thee a favour. He who is known amongst gods and men for his
many inborn virtues, for his grace, behaviour, beauty of person, vows and self-control,
who is noted for prowess and respected by the virtuous, and ready witted; who is endued
with genius and splendid energy, is of a forgiving temper and without malice of any kind;
who has studied the four Vedas with their branches, and the Upanishads, and the Puranas
also; viz., (that person is) Arjuna, who is known to thee, O Urvasi. Know thou that hero
is to be made to taste the joys of heaven. Commanded by Indra, let him today obtain thy
feet. Do this, O amiable one, for Arjuna is inclined to thee."
Thus addressed, Urvasi of faultless features assumed a smiling face, and receiving the
words of the Gandharva with high respect, answered with a glad heart.
Urvasi said: Hearing of the virtues that should adorn men, as unfolded by thee, I would
bestow my favours upon any one who happened to possess them. Why should I not then,
choose, Arjuna for a lover? At the command of Indra, and for my friendship for thee, and
moved also by the numerous virtues of Arjuna, I am already under the influence of the god
of love. Go thou, therefore, to the place thou desirest. I shall gladly go to Arjuna.
Vaisampayana said: Having thus sent away the Gandharva successful in his mission, Urvasi
of luminous smiles, moved by the desire of possessing Arjuna, took a bath. And having
performed her ablutions, she decked herself in charming ornaments and splendid garlands of
celestial odour. And inflamed by the god of love, and her heart pierced through and
through by the shafts shot by Manmatha keeping in view the beauty of Arjuna, and her
imagination wholly taken up by the thoughts of Arjuna, she mentally sported with him on a
wide and excellent bed laid over with celestial sheets.
And when the twilight had deepened and the moon was up, that Apsara of high hips set out
for the mansions of Arjuna. And in that mood and with her crisp, soft and long braids
decked with bunches of flowers, she looked extremely beautiful. With her beauty and grace,
and the charm of the motions of her eye-brows and of her soft accents, and her own moon
like face, she seemed to tread, challenging the moon himself. And as she proceeded, her
deep, finely tapering bosoms, decked with a chain of gold and adorned with celestial
unguents and smeared with fragrant sandal paste, began to tremble. And in consequence of
the weight of her bosoms, she was forced to slightly stoop forward at every step, bending
her waist exceedingly beautiful with three folds.
And her loins of faultless shape, the elegant abode of the god of love, furnished with
fair and high and round hips and wide at their lower part as a hill, and decked with
chains of gold, and capable of shaking the saintship of anchorites, being decked with thin
attire, appeared highly graceful. And her feet with fair suppressed ankles, and possessing
flat soles and straight toes of the colour of burnished copper and dorsum high and curved
like tortoise back and marked by the wearing of ornaments furnished with rows of little
bells, looked exceedingly handsome.
And exhilarated with a little liquor which she had taken, and excited by desire, and
moving in diverse attitudes and expressing a sensation of delight, she looked more
handsome than usual. And though heaven abounded with many wonderful objects, yet when
Urvasi proceeded in this manner, the Siddhas and Charanas and Gandharvas regarded her to
be the handsomest object they had cast their eyes upon. And the upper half of her body
clad in an attire of fine texture and cloudy hues, she looked resplendent like a digit of
the moon in the firmament shrouded by fleecy clouds.
And endued with the speed of the winds or the mind, she of luminous smiles soon reached
the mansion of Arjuna, the son of Pandu. And, Urvasi of beautiful eyes, having arrived at
the gate of Arjunas abode sent word through the keeper in attendance. And on
receiving permission, she soon entered that brilliant and charming palace. But, upon
beholding her at night in his mansion, Arjuna, with a fear-stricken heart stepped up to
receive her with respect and as soon as he saw her, the son of Pritha, from modesty,
closed his eyes. And saluting her, he offered the Apsara such worship as is offered unto a
superior. And Arjuna said, O thou foremost of the Apsaras, I reverence thee by
bending my head down. O lady, let me know thy commands. I wait upon thee as thy
Vaisampayana continued: Hearing these words of Arjuna, Urvasi became deprived of her
senses. And she soon represented unto Arjuna all that had passed between her and the
And Urvasi said: O best of men, I shall tell thee all that hath passed between me and
Chitrasena, and why I have come hither. On account of thy coming here, O Arjuna, Mahendra
had convened a large and charming assembly, in which celestial festivities were held. Unto
that assembly came, O best of men, the Rudras and the Adityas and the Aswins and the
Vasus. And there came also numbers of great Rishis and royal sages and Siddhas and
Charanas and Yakshas and great Nagas. And, O thou of expansive eyes, the members of the
assembly resplendent as fire or the sun or the moon, having taken their seats according to
rank, honour and prowess, the Gandharvas began to strike the Vinas (stringed musical
instrument like the Sitar) and sing charming songs of celestial melody.
And, O perpetuator of the Kuru race, the principal Apsaras also commenced to dance. Then,
O son of Pritha, thou hadst looked on me only with a steady gaze. When that assembly of
the celestials broke, commanded by thy father, the gods went away to their respective
places. And the principal Apsaras also went away to their abodes, and others also, O
slayer of foes, commanded by thy father and obtaining his leave. It was then that
Chitrasena sent to me by Indra, and arriving at my abode, O thou of eyes like lotus
leaves, he addressed me, saying, "O thou of the fairest complexion, I have been sent
unto thee by the chief of the celestials. Do thou something that would be agreeable to
Mahendra and myself and to thyself also. O thou of fair hips, seek thou to please Arjuna,
who is brave in battle even like Indra himself, and who is always possessed of
magnanimity." Even these, O son of Pritha, were his words. Thus, O sinless one,
commanded by him and thy father also, I came to thee in order to wait upon thee, O slayer
of foes. My heart hath been attracted by thy virtues, and am already under the influence
of the god of love. And, O hero, even this is my wish, and I have cherished it for ever!
Vaisampayana continued: While in heaven, hearing her speak in this strain, Arjuna was
overcome with bashfulness. And shutting his ears with his hands,
Arjuna said: O blessed lady, fie on my sense of hearing, when thou speakest thus to me.
For, O thou of beautiful face, thou art certainly equal in my estimation unto the wife of
a superior. Even as Kunti of high fortune or Sachi the queen of Indra, art thou to me, O
auspicious one, of this there is no doubt! That I had gazed particularly at thee, O
blessed one, is true. There was a reason for it. I shall truly tell it to thee, O thou of
luminous smiles! In the assembly I gazed at thee with eyes expanded in delight, thinking,
Even this blooming lady is the mother of the Kaurava race. O blessed Apsara,
it behoveth thee not to entertain other feelings towards me, for thou art superior to my
superiors, being the parent of my race.
Hearing these words of Arjuna,
Urvasi answered: O son of the chief of the celestials, we Apsaras are free and unconfined
in our choice. It behoveth thee not, therefore, to esteem me as thy superior. The sons and
grandsons of Purus race, that have come hither in consequence of ascetic merit do
all sport with us, without incurring any sin. Relent therefore, O hero, it behoveth thee
not to send me away. I am burning with desire. I am devoted to thee. Accept me, O thou
giver of proper respect.
Arjuna replied: O beautiful lady of features perfectly faultless, listen. I truly tell
thee. Let the four directions and the transverse directions, let also the gods listen. O
sinless one, as Kunti, or Madri, or Sachi, is to me, so art thou, the parent of my race,
an object of reverence to me. Return, O thou of the fairest complexion. I bend my head
unto thee, and prostrate myself at thy feet. Thou deservest my worship as my own mother;
and it behoveth thee to protect me as a son.
Vaisampayana continued: Thus addressed by Arjuna, Urvasi was deprived of her senses by
wrath. Trembling with rage, and contracting her brows,
Urvasi cursed Arjuna, saying: Since thou disregardest a woman come to thy mansion at the
command of thy father and of her own motion- a woman besides, who is pierced by the shafts
of Kama (Cupid or god of love), therefore, O Arjuna, thou shalt have to pass thy time
among females unregarded, and as a dancer, and destitute of manhood and scorned as an
Vaisampayana continued: Having cursed Arjuna thus, Urvasis lips still quivered in
anger, herself breathing heavily all the while. And she soon returned to her own abode.
And that slayer of foes, Arjuna also sought Chitrasena without loss of time. And having
found him, he told him all that had passed between him and Urvasi in the night. And he
told Chitrasena everything as it had happened, repeatedly referring to the curse
pronounced upon him. And Chitrasena also told everything unto Sakra, who calling his son
unto himself in private, and consoling him in sweet words, smilingly said: O thou
best of beings, thou hast now vanquished even Rishis by the patience and self-control.
But, O giver of proper respect, the curse that Urvasi hath denounced on thee will be to
thy benefit, O child, and stand thee in good stead. O sinless one, you will have on earth
to pass the thirteenth year of your exile, unknown to all (remaining incognito).It is then
that thou shalt suffer the curse of Urvasi. And having passed one year as a dancer without
manhood, thou shalt regain thy power on the expiration of the term.
Thus addressed by Sakra, that slayer of hostile heroes, Arjuna, experienced great delight
and ceased to think of the curse. And Arjuna, the son of Pandu, sported in regions of
heaven with the Gandharva Chitrasena of great celebrity.
The desires of the man that listens to this history of the son of Pandu never run after
lustful ends. The foremost of men, by listening to this account of the awfully pure
conduct of Arjuna, the son of the lord of the celestials, become void of pride and
arrogance and wrath and other faults, and ascending to heaven, sport there in bliss.
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