It all starts with a flying chariot. Actually, it all started in the most innocent of the results of the 5th Devasura Sangrama, the Tarkamaya Sangram. (For other details do visit).
That innocent side-effect of the War was the birth of baby Budha. Budha grew up to marry Ila. They had Pururava and then great King Ayu.
Pururava was great grandson of Sun and Grandson of Moon, He was also a stand in deity for Sun and is associated with Usha (the dawn) so he was also among the original Asvini Kumars.
Happy with the progress of his grandson Pururava, His grand father Soma gave him a flying chariot which is called “Somadatta” and that chariot stayed in that family for many generations passed out to the most powerful senior figure in the family in that generation. It went to Puru, not Yadu.
After that, actually, the Chariot stayed not in the Puru line celebrated in the Epic but actually went to the real son of Bharata and not adopted Bhumanyu. The chariot stayed in the Panchalas till one of them became King of Chedi as well. His name was Vasu, also called Chaidya Vasu for the kingdom he inherited.
Travelling in the flying chariot, he was called Upacharira Vasu, the one who travels in upper regions. He was father to seven sons and a daughter Satyavati (Vyasa Mother). All the warriors of Mahabharata were descended from him one way or another.
The chariot went to his eldest son who founded the kingdom of Magadha, his name was Brahdratha. For next ten generations, Imperial Magadha was most powerful kingdom. The chariot passed to Kushagra, Rishabha, Puspavana, Satyahita, Sudhanva and then to Deergha. Deergha also called Urja or Darva (or these were three brothers) fought the grandson of Satyavati, King Pandu.
Pandu defeated the Magadha forces and killed Deergha in battle. But soon after this great victory and promise of Kuru revival on the horizon, Pandu inexplicably retired to the forest allowing, Deergha’s son Sambhava Jarasandha and grandson Jarasandh to come back strongly and revive the Magadha fortunes.
From Upacharira Vasu to Jarasandha, nine Magadha generations and atleast twelve kings sat on the throne meanwhile, (later in his old age) his daughter Satyavati’s great-grandson Bhima aka fourth in descent from Upacharira killed ninth in descent from Upacharira, Jarasandh.
The death of Jarasandh was a major political change in the structure of Epic Bharata. Sahadeva, son of Jarasandha gave the chariot Somadatta to Bhima (who handed it to Yudhishthara) as part of acknowledging Yudhishthara as the Samraat. Yudhishthara gave that chariot Somadatta to Krishna as part of Ardhya pujana. Thus, Yudhishthara also healed the Yadu Puru breach when the chariot was given to Puru by Yayati. This chariot came in handy for Krishna when Dwarka was attacked by Salwa using Saubha vimana. Krishna used Somadatta to pursue and then kill Shalwa. The Chariot Somadatta was returned to Yudhishthara by Arjuna after the final Yadava civil war along with Kaustubh Mani. Paushya is the last king specifically mentioned as using the chariot and Kaustubh Mani though some probably six generations later Yajnavalkya’s patron, Janaka of Pandava Vairocana line ruling in Mithila and his charioteer use the chariot with similar description.
So that was the story of flying chariot Somadatta. That was not the only famous chariot in the Epic.
- Chitrasena, brother of Duryodhana and son of Dhritrashtra (but not Gandhari) had a divine chariot as well.
- Agastya got a two horse chariot called Viravana from Ilavala which somehow made its way to Bhima as part of Nahusha meeting. But, as it is described as two horse chariot, it was a conveyance and not War chariot.
The most famous chariot was what Agni deva brought to the Arjuna for his use for helping him consume Khandava Vana, the chariot of Varuna, built by Visvakarma and called Idamitthama. It came with four white horses raised by Gandharvas. The Chariot also came with beautiful Dhwajadanda and on the dhvaja sat a huge Vanara who was the size and ferocity of a lion or tiger.
That Vanara is NOT HANUMAN.
Please, Indians are very racist anyway, all Gajomukhas are not Ganesha, all Hayasheershas are not hayagriva, all Rudras are not Siva, All Marutas are not Vayu, All serpents are not Nagas, Vasuki and Takshaka were Uragas, and all Vanaras are not Hanumana.
This Vanara was a Bhuta in form of a Vanara. Bhutas are creations of Rudra. The Vanara on the Chariot mast of Arjuna was a Bhuta and not Vanara born.
When Brahma created Prajapatis, they were responsible for creating population. The Manavas or Humans were divided in Four different groups:
- Dharmapraja, created by Prajapati Dharma, the oldest mind born son of Brahma.
- IsvaraPraja, created by Rudra NilaLohita, the second mind born son of Brahma.
- Kasayapapraja, created by Kasyapa, son of Prajapati Marichi, mind born son of Brahma.
- Pulahapraja, created by Pulaha, mind born son of Brahma.
Bhutas are one of the subdivisions of Pulaha’s creations. Long. ago, Brahma asked the Rudra, Nilalohita, to perform the function of creation. Accordingly he begot thousands of Bhutas in the womb of his wife Sati.
All the issues were the exact replica of his own figure. Lean limbs, long ears, thick hanging lips, red eyes, bushy eyebrows, long, pointed and protruding teeth, long nails, matted dirty hair etc. were the grotesque features of these Bhutas. These music-haters used serpents as their Yajnopavitas (sacred threads). They wore fantastic dress with elephant skin. Their chief weapons were, trident, bow, sword. Nandi, Skanda, Virabhadra, Vinayaka, Sankha, Bhairava, Pancharuli, Gramani ruled these 11 crore Bhutas.
Andhakasura on defeat by Siva became chief of his Bhutas as Bhringi. The chief class of Bhutas who directly attend Siva are called Pasupata Bhutas. The fourteen chiefs of Bhutas in the Raivata Manvantara were among the 4 groups of Gods. One of the Indras was Bhutalimaha who was both the avatar of Siva and Indra.
Pushpadanta and Malyavana were two of the powerful Bhuta chiefs of Siva, one was an elephant and other was Spider. The Spider also later married Ahalya’s daughter Jaya. Similarly, Bhutadhwaja or Kapi was a bhuta who looked like a Vanara.
Why did Agni chose the Bhuta who looked like Vanara for the Flag of Arjuna? Because, the flag of Pandu, father to Arjuna was Kapidhwaja.
Several generations back, the oldest Kuru was Manumasya. He chose to become Rishi and gave up the throne, his cousin Rika became the King. When time came, Rika called all Kuru cousins to choose the next king including his sons. The top three princes which deemed the best included Pratipa, son of his cousin Bhimasena. The runners-up got the thrones in east of Mithila and Vatsa while Pratipa was selected to be King by his uncle Rika despite having sons of his own. The Kurus always selected their kings from the best of the princes available.
Manumasya the Rishi and his disciples would later look after his great greatgrand descendent Parasara when he was little. When Parasara and his brother Ashmaka were children, they were entertained by the Rishis in the forest by turning the local fauna into their humanoid playmates, the Deer became Mrga-Asita and marrying into the Kasyapa family became the priests for the Kuru family, similarly other animals had similar stories, the Cat would spawn the Upamanyu family and most famous of them was Lomasha. The White Vanara would be the teacher to Pandu who took his image as his Flag in the honor of his guru.
On occasion of Virata Yuddha, Arjuna escorted the scared Prince Uttara to the Shami Tree, the hiding place for the weapons. There Uttara took down the weapons and five divine armors of the Pandavas. Agni had given a divine armor to Arjuna, who later got a second one for killing Nivatakavachas. Pandavas acquired atleast four other divine armors.
The Uttara describes the weapons, two bows each for Yudhishthara, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva.
Gandiva is the Bow decorated with 100 little golden flowers.
Bhima‘s Gajaprastha Bow with elephant on its back.
Yudhishthara’s Indragopa Bow with 60 golden Indragopa insects
Nakula’s Three Golden Suns bow
Mica Locusts Bow or Shalbhayantra was Sahadeva’s bow.
- Thousand Naracha Arrows Quiver
- Yellow Vipatha Arrows quiver
Bhima’s second bow: The Black Five Lion Bow with ability to hold and shoot ten Boar ear arrows at one time.
Bhima ‘s quivers :
- The Seven Hundred Naracha Arrows Quiver
- The Green and Gold Arrows Quiver
Nakula’s quiver called Kalapa with legend of five lions.
Sahadeva’s quiver with arrows with sun-heads.
Yudhishthara’s three parvana arrows quiver.
Arjuna’s Shilimukha Sword
Bhima’s VyaghraKosha Sword
Sahadeva’s Naishadha Unbreakable sword kept in Cow skin.
Nakula’s Blue sword in Goatskin.
Yudhishthara’s Gold sheathed Black unbreakable divine sword of 30 inches length.
Then Arjuna remembered Agni to call the Dhwaja created by Visvakarma which contained the Bhutadhawaja Vanara whose tail was like a lion’s. Agni ordered the Bhutas to assemble the Flag and the Flag appeared and assembled on the chariot and Arjuna set out to fight after worshipping his weapons and the chariot like all Kshatriyas do.
The Next thousand slokas tell the story of one of greatest exhibition of fighting skills ever recorded. We will cover it latter.
After returning to the shami tree after the War, Arjuna requested the Bhutas in the Flag to depart and the Vanara along with the other Bhutaganas flew into the sky and the flag vanished. Arjuna reinstalled the Lion flag of Uttara on the Chariot and changed his attire and Uttara and He returned to the city.
Why is the popular imagination associate the vanara with Hanumana when he has nothing to do with Hanuman? For that we have to look at the incident from Vana Parva when Vayu’s sons held a reunion.
Watch this space.