The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Thus despatched by her elder brother, the far-famed daughter of king Matsya, adorned with a golden necklace, ever obedient to her brother and possessed of a waist slender as that of the
wasp, 1 endued with the splendour of Lakshmi herself, 2 decked with the plumes of the peacock of slender make and graceful limbs, her hips encircled by a zone of pearls, her eye-lashes slightly curved, and her form endued with every grace, hastily repaired to the dancing-hall like a flash of lightning rushing towards a mass of dark clouds. 3 And the faultless and auspicious daughter of Virata, of fine teeth and slender-waist, of thighs close unto each other and each like the trunk of an elephant, her person embellished with an excellent garland, sought the son of Pritha like a she-elephant seeking her mate. And like unto a precious gem or the very embodiment of prosperity of Indra, of exceeding beauty and large eyes, that charming and adored and celebrated damsel saluted Arjuna. And saluted by her, Partha asked that maiden of close thighs and golden complexion, saying 'What brings thee hither, a damsel decked in a necklace of gold? Why art thou in such a hurry, O gazelle-eyed maiden? Why is thy face, O beauteous lady, so cheerless? Tell me all this without delay!'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Beholding, O king, his friend, the princess of large-eyes (in that plight), her friend (Arjuna) cheerfully enquired of her (in these words) the cause of her arrival there and then. And having approached that bull among men, the princess, standing in the midst of her female attendants, the displaying proper modesty 4, addressed him, saying, 'The kine of this realm, O Vrihannala, are being driven away by the Kurus, and it is to conquer them that my brother will set out bow in hand. Not long ago his own charioteer was slain in battle, and there is none equal unto the one slain that can act as my brother's charioteer. And unto him striving to obtain a charioteer, Sairindhri,
O Vrihannala, hath spoken about thy skill in the management of steeds. Thou wert formerly the favourite charioteer of Arjuna, and it was with thee that that bull among the sons of Pandu had alone subjugated the whole earth. Do thou, therefore, O Vrihannala, act as the charioteer of my brother. (By this time) our kine have surely been driven away by the Kurus to a great distance. Requested by me if thou dost not
act up to my words, I who am asking this service of thee out of affection, will give up my life!' Thus addressed by this friend of graceful hips, that oppressor of foes, endued with immeasurable prowess, went into the prince's presence. And like unto a she-elephant running after her young one, the princess possessed of large eyes followed that hero advancing with hasty steps like unto an elephant with rent temples. And beholding him from a distance, the prince himself said, 'With thee as his charioteer, Dhananjaya the son of Kunti had gratified Agni at the Khandava forest and subjugated the whole world! The Sairindhri hath spoken of thee to me. She knoweth the Pandavas. Do thou, therefore, O Vrihannala, hold, as thou didst, the reins of my steeds, desirous as I am of righting with the Kurus and rescuing my bovine wealth. Thou wert formerly the beloved charioteer of Arjuna and it was with thee that that bull among the sons of Pandu had alone subjugated the whole earth!' Thus addressed, Vrihannala replied unto the prince, saying, 'What ability have I to act as a charioteer in the field of battle? If it is song or dance of musical instruments or such other things, I can entertain thee therewith, but where is my skill for becoming a charioteer?'
"Uttara said, 'O Vrihannala, be thou a singer or a dancer, hold thou (for the present), without loss of time, the reins of my excellent steeds, mounting upon my car!'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Although that oppressor of foes, the son of Pandu, was acquainted with everything, yet in the presence of Uttara, he began to make many mistakes for the sake of fun. And when he sought to put the coat of mail on his body by raising it upwards, the large-eyed maidens, beholding it, burst out into a loud laughter. And seeing him quite ignorant of putting on armour, Uttara himself equipped Vrihannala with a costly coat of mail. And casing his own person in an excellent armour of solar effulgence, and hoisting his standard bearing the figure of a lion, the prince caused Vrihannala to become his charioteer. And with Vrihannala to hold his reins, the hero set out, taking with him many costly bows and a large number of beautiful arrows. And his friend, Uttara and her maidens then said unto Vrihannala, 'Do thou, O Vrihannala, bring for our dolls (when thou comest back) various kinds of good and fine cloths after vanquishing the Kurus assembled for battle of whom Bhishma and Drona are foremost!' Thus addressed, Partha the son of Pandu, in a voice deep as the roar of the clouds, smilingly said unto that bevy of fair maidens. If, thus 'Uttara can vanquish those mighty warriors in battle, I will certainly bring excellent and beautiful cloths.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Having said these words, the heroic Arjuna urged the steeds towards the Kuru army over which floated innumerable flags. Just, however, as they were starting elderly dames and maidens, and Brahmanas of rigid vows, beholding Uttara seated on his excellent car with Vrihannala as charioteer and under that great banner hoisted on high, walked round the car to bless the hero. And
the women said, 'Let the victory that Arjuna treading like a bull had achieved of old on the occasion of burning the forest of Khandava, be thine, O Vrihannala, when thou encounterest the Kurus today with prince Uttara.'"
66:1 Vedi-Vilagna madhya--Vedi in this connection means a wasp and not, as explained by Mallinatha in his commentary of the Kumarasambhava, a sacrificial platform. I would remark in passing that many of the most poetic and striking adjectives in both the Raghu and the Kumarasambhava of Kalidasa are borrowed unblushingly from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
66:2 Padma patrabha-nibha may also mean 'of the splendour of the gem called Marakata.' Nilakantha, however, shows that this would militate against the adjective Kankojwalatwacham below.
66:3 The princess being of the complexion of burnished gold and Arjuna dark as a mass of clouds, the comparison is exceedingly appropriate. The Vaishnava poets of Bengal never tire of this simile in speaking of Radha and Krishna in the groves of Vrindavana.
66:4 The words in the original is pranayam, lit., love. Nilakantha, however, explains it as meaning modesty, humility. I think, Nilakantha is right. The relations between Arjuna and the princess were like those between father and daughter.
Next: Section XXXVIII