King Yudhishthir decides to perform the Ashwamedha Yagya (अश्वमेध) or “The Horse Sacrifice” to absolve the crimes of war. It is about how Yudhishthir attempts to revive the economy of the shattered kingdom after the destructive war of Kurukshetra. He decided to perform a sacrifice called Ashwamedha. He amassed wealth by mining in the Himalayas for treasures in the ancient kingdom of king Marutta. He distributed that wealth through the Ashwamedha sacrifice to the public. A sacrifice of grand scale creates jobs and income. As part of this sacrifice, general Arjun was sent to collect tribute from the kingdoms. During this journey he met his long lost sister Duhshala in the kingdom of Sindhu and also his long lost son Babruvanaha ruling at Manipura (part of modern Odissha and not to be confused with modern day Manipur to the east of Bangladesh).
The horse enters the Sindhu territory (Sind, Pakistan). Duhshala’s son, Suradha, who was ruling this land, dies of fright on knowing about the approaching army. But he had a young son. Duhshala takes this boy and approaches Arjun and tells him to show mercy on the boy. When Arjun learns that he is responsible for the death of Suradha, his nephew, he feels totally shattered. Arjun always considers Duhshala as almost his own real blood sister (the entire Pandavas and Kauravas had only one female child). He tells Duhshala, “I did not come for war, I came for peace“.
Now it is Duhshala who is shattered. Arjun anoints the boy as the next king of the Sindhu kingdom. Duhshala tells Arjun, and perhaps the whole world, “We need peace. Let us end this strife forever. No more, never, this war.”
The second incident is when Arjun reaches Manipura which is ruled by his son Babhruvahana, via Chitrangada. At first Babhruvahana refused to fight his father but was persuaded by Uloopi (another of Arjun’s wives) to fight. In the battle between Arjun and King Babhruvahana, and the latter killed his father with an arrow.
Repenting of his deed, he determined to kill himself, but he obtained from his stepmother, the Naga princess Uloopi, a gem which restored Arjun to life. This is the only instance of Arjun being ever defeated on the battlefield, but actually Arjun’s death was engineered by Uloopi to counter the curse by Vasu’s who cursed Arjun to die because the way he killed their brother Bhishm.
(to be continued)…