A Summary of the Aranyaka Parva

Note: The Aranyaka Parva (also known as the Vanan Parva) deals with the events that happened while the Pandavas were exiled to the forest after the game of dice. 

This is the 3rd parva of the Mahabharata. It consists of 11664 shlokas (verses) divided into 269 sections.

When the Pandavas left their kingdom to go to the forest, many citizens of their kingdom also followed the wise Yudhishthira. However, having lost all his wealth in the game of dice, he was unable to feed the brahmanas who were following him to the forest. Yudhishthira offers prayers to Surya Dev (the Sun God) upon the instructions of his head priest, Dhaumya, and is gifted with the power to create food and feed the brahmanas.

This parva also contains the incident of Dhritarashtra expelling Vidura. The latter went to the Pandavas, but they advised him to return to Dhritarashtra.

This is followed by the incident of Karna inciting Duryodhana to destroy the Pandavas in the forest. However, Vyasa arrives in Hastinapur and convinces Duryodhan to abandon his wicked plans.

This parva contains the story of Surabhi.

Meanwhile, Maitreya arrived in Hastinapur and suggested a course of action to Dhritarashtra. He also cursed Duryodhana.

Bhima slayed Kirmira in this parva.

After that, the Panchalas and the princes of the Vrishni race found out about Yudhishthira’s plight and went to meet him in the forest. Krishna became intensely angry when he heard about the deceit and was calmed by Arjuna’s words. Draupadi lamented to Krishna about all that had happened and Krishna consoled her and said words to help her regain her composure. Eventually, Krishna returned to Dwarka with Subhadra’s son and Drishtadyumna returned to Panchala with Draupadi’s sons.

After Krishna and Drishtadyumna left, the Pandavas went to the romantic forests of Dwaita. There, Drupadi had a long conversation with Bhima and Yudhishthira. Vyasa Muni also met the Pandavas in the forest and gifted Yudhishthira with the power of Pratismriti (the power of traveling with great speed). After Ved Vyasa left, the Pandavas left Dwaita forest and went to the forest of Kamyaka.

This parva also describes Arjuna’s wanderings in search of weapons. During this time, Arjuna battled with Mahadeva (who was disguised as a hunter) and received the Pashupatastra from Lord Shiva. He also met the lokapalas and received weapons from them. Following this, Arjuna went to the region of Indra.

This parva contains the incident when Yudhishthira cried and lamented upon meeting the great sage, Brihadaswa. The sage narrated the story of Nala and Damyanti to Yudhishthira and also taught him to play dice with skill.

After Sage Brihadaswa left, Rishi Lomasa came from the heavens to meet the Pandavas. He told them about Arjuna’s whereabouts in the regions of Indra and conveyed Arjuna’s message asking the other Pandavas to go on a pilgrimage to various holy places to gain merit.

This parva also contains the story of the pilgrimage of the great sage Narada to the shrine of Putasta.

This parva contains the episode of Indra taking Karna’s protective ear-rings.

The magnificence of Gaya is also described here.

This is followed by two stories related to Rishi Agatsya. The first story is about how he ate the asura Vatapi, and, the second story is about his sexual relationship with Lopamudra due to his desire for a child.

We are also told the story of Rishyasringa who became a brahmachari from a very early age.

This parva contains the story of Parshurama in which he vanquishes Kartavirya and the Haihayas.

The meeting between the Pandavas and the Vrishnis at the sacred place called Prabhasa is also described in this parva.

Next comes the story of Sage Bhrigu’s son, Chyavana, who ensured that the Ashwin twins had a chance to drink the soma juice at King Saryati’s sacrifice. The twins were grateful to Chyavana because the other gods had prevented them from drinking the juice. Consequently, the Ashwins blessed Chayavana with eternal youth.

This parva also describes the stories of King Mandhata and Prince Jantu.

The story of why Indra, Agni, and Dharma examined and tested King Sivi is described next.

Next comes a sacrifice conducted by King Janaka, where there was a dispute between the rishis and Vandi (a great logician and the son of Varuna). Ashtavakra defeats the great Vandi and releases his trapped father from the ocean.

Following this are the stories of Yavakrita and the great Raivya.

After this, the Pandavas go to Gandhamadana and stay in a place called Narayana. Here, Draupadi requests Bhima to bring her a sweet-scented flower. During his journey in search of the flower, Bhima meets Hanuman, has a battle with mighty rakshasas and yakshas, and vanquishes the asura Jata.

After this, the Pandavas meet with the royal sage Vrishaparva and go to the ashram of Arshtishena to live there for some time. Here Draupadi incites Bhima to take revenge against the Kauravas.

Incited by Draupadi’s words, Bhima climbs the Kailasha mountain and has a terrible battle with the yakshas.

After that, the Pandavas meet Kubera and subsequently, Arjuna, after the mighty archer had obtained several celestial weapons. 

Soon after that, Arjuna had an encounter with the Nivatakavachas who stayed in Hiranyaparva. He also had encounters with the Paulomas and Kalakeyas. Arjuna won all these battles.

Then Arjuna tried to display the celestial weapons to Yudhishthira but Sage Narada prevented him from doing so.

This parva also contains the story of the Pandavas leaving Gandhamadana and the story of how Bhima was caught in the grip of a mighty serpent. He was eventually released when Yudhishthira was successfully able to answer certain questions.

After this, the Pandavas returned to the Kamyaka forest. Here, they met Krishna once again.

Soon after the Pandavas met Krishna, Sage Markandeya arrived in Kamyaka forest and recited various stories to the Pandavas. Among these were descriptions of Prithu (the son of Vena), Saraswati, Rishi Tarkhya, Matsya, Indradyumna, Dhundhumara, and Angira.

This parva also contains the meeting of Draupadi and Satyabhama.

After this meeting, the Pandavas returned to the romantic Dwaita forest.

Then they participated in a procession to see calves. There, they saw Duryodhana being held captive. Duryodhana was eventually rescued by Arjuna

Then Yudhishthira saw a deer in a dream.

After this, the Pandavas went back to Kamyaka forest.

This parva also contains the stories of Vrihidraunika and Sage Durvasa.

Also contained in this parva is the incident of Draupadi’s kidnapping by Jayadrata, following which Bhima overpowered him and shaved his head.

This parva, describes in detail, how Lord Rama won the battle against Ravana.

The story of Savitri is also narrated in this parva.

Lord Dharma (the god of justice) gave advice to his son, Yudhishthira, toward the end of this parva. 

The image at the top of this page has been graciously contributed by Ramanarayanadatta astri to the public domain at https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21155695

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