Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rama Setu and Sri Krishna - III: Arjun and Hanuman's tussle over Setu

रामः शस्त्राभृतमहम
raamah shastrabhritaam aham
{Amongst Warriors, I Am Lord Ram!}
Srimad Bhagvad Gita 10.31

It was before the war of Mahabharata had taken place. Arjuna was traveling to different places, performing pilgrimage. In his journeys, he arrived at the famed Rameshwaram and had the darshan of Rama Setu.

Arjuna had heard from Bheeshma Pitamaha and Sri Krisna, the praises of Lord Rama as the Best of the Men, the maryada-purushottama, many times. Even during the 13 years of exile into the forests, he had heard the saga of Rama narraded by sage Markandeya. Once, during those hard days, Draupadi was kidnapped by Jayadratha, and Bheem had rescued Draupadi. Then, Pandava-s were feeling very dejected that their wife had been kidnapped. Sage Markandeya had then narrated to them the story of Lord Rama and his similar ordeal, and how he had rescued Sita.

So, Arjuna was there at Rameshwaram performing pilgrimage, and with Rama on his mind he witnessed the marvel of Setu. Seeing the famed Nala Setu, A doubt arose in his mind. Krishna always says Rama was the best warrior ever, even superior to me. If Rama was really such a great archer, then why did he need to depend upon Nala and the army of vaanara-s to construct the bridge? Why could he not use his archery to build a bridge of arrows? Was Rama such a good archer after all, as Krishna and Bheeshma have told me always?

Such were the doubts that arose in his mind, clouded by his ego, that he was the best archer as everyone said.

Nearby, spending time in solitude at Gandhamadan, in the meditation of Lord Rama, was Pavana-putra Kesari-nandana Mahaveer Hanuman. Hanuman is one of the chiranjivi-s - he never dies. There are seven chiranjivi-s including him. The other six being Ashwatthama, Bali, Vyasa, Vibhishana, Kripacharya and Parashurama. So Hanuman was spending his time in loving memory of his Lord Sri Rama, when he found Arjuna engaged in such thoughts.

In shape of an odinary, old vaanara, he appeared to Arjuna and addressed him. Friend, you do not know how huge-bodied and heavy our vaanara ancestors used to be. It must not have been easy to transport those thousands of crores of very heavy Vanara-s across to Lanka on a bridge of arrows. All the options must have been well-considered by Lord Rama the Best, before the construction of the Setu must have been decided.

Hearing this, Arjuna became even more determined. Why! Certainly a good archer can construct a bridge which can withstand the weight of any number of creatures - what are vaanara-s! If Rama was such a good archer, he must have confidently performed that feat. Even I could do that, had I been there.

Hanuman is the best of the devotees and a divine servant of Lord Rama. It is said that wherever glories of Rama are sung, he is always present with clasped hands and tear-filled eyes. So how could Hanuman hear such criticism of his master? Addressing Arjuna, he said, no archer could construct such a bridge which could withstand the weight of those vaanara-s. Why, you seem to be a kshatriya yourselves, and a warrior at that! Can you construct such a bridge of arrows? It would not even withstand the weight of an old vaanara like me!

The argument ensued and resulted in a challenge. They decided that Arjuna would construct a bridge of his arrows over a nearby water-body, using his skills of archery. Hanuman would then climb on the bridge. If the bridge sustained the weight of Hanuman, then Arjuna would be considered victorious. Otherwise he would lose and enter a burning pyre.

In his arrogance, Arjuna quickly built the bridge of the arrows, and invited Hanuman to test his strength. Chanting the names of Lord Rama, Hanuman had merely kept his tail upon the bridge, that it crumbled down like a pile of sand.

As per the challenge, Arjuna readied a pyre and lit it. As he was about to enter it, a Brahmana appeared there and inquired about the matter. Brahmana was nobody but Lord Krishna who had come to save the life of his dear friend and devotee Arjuna. So Krishna, in form of the Brahman, asked them who was the witness of their agreement. There was none. A deed of challenge without a witness, Brahmana said, was not legal, and there must be one. He then offered to be that witness and asked Arjuna to perform his deed again.

This time, remembering Krishna, Arjuna built a bridge again. Hanuman now climbed the bridge. lo and behold! Nothing happened and the bridge sustained his weight.

Then all of a sudden, both Hanuman and Arjun saw that the brahmana had lent his shoulder to the foundation of the bridge, and in sustaining the weight of Hanuman, he was heavily injured and profusely bleeding. Hanuman immediately realized Lord Rama in the form of Brahmana and Arjun saw Lord Krishna.

Hanuman was very moved by this act, and was not to be consoled. Rama holding the weight of Hanuman! Lord Krishna, who is Lord Rama, then hugged Hanuman and told him that he was so much indebted by the services of Hanuman, that the debt can never be paid back.

In Treta Yuga, you have done so much for me that I am in immense debt. None can ever measure all that you have done for my mission. You carried me on your shoulders over this Setu in that yuga. So, I came to meet my dearest friend in dwaapar yuga and carry him with affection on my shoulders too.'

This way Krishna met his best friend Hanuman, and saved life of another, Arjuna. Hanuman promised to be Arjuna's flag-bearer upon his chariot during the war of Mahabharata.

यत्र यत्र रघुनाथ कीर्तनम, तत्र तत्र कृतमस्तमंजलिम
वाष्पवारी परिपूर्ण लोचनम, मारुतिम नमत राक्षसंतकम
yatra yatra Raghunath kirtanam, Tatra tatra kritmast kanjalim.
vashpavari paripurna lochanam, marutim namat rakshasantakam

(I bow to Maruti whose name expells death to demons, and who, wherever the glory of Shri Rama is sung, is to be seen with clasped hands and tear-filled eyes.)

Also Read:
Rama Setu and Sri Krishna - I: Kamyavana Setu Bandha Kunda
Rama Setu and Sri Krishna - II: Hanuman's Promise to Govardhana
Rama Setu and Sri Krishna - III: Arjun and Hanuman's tussle over Setu
Rama Setu and Sri Krishna - IV: Hanuman Tells Bhimasena About Setu

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