Chitrangada And Arjuna: A Tale From The Mahabharata

In Ages And Cycles Past

In the ages before our own, when the gods and mortals did dwell upon the Earth in that dimension within and without of the sphere of being, before this time of ours when reality preceded Maya which is our current dream like state, did great souls and heroes, champions and gods, spirits and entities such as the Apsara and Dakinis coexist side by side, creating what would become the subjects of the great scriptures- Rig Veda, Upanishad, Ramayana, the song of God the Baghavad Gita and that grand epic recounting the tale of the great Kurukshetra war long ago, in the land of the Gita, the great Mahabharata. Long before the age of the Mauryan and Kushan rulers, before the era of Harsha, there between the banks of the two rivers Saraswati and the Drishadvati, did take place events real and true, reflecting the mighty cosmos to which we all are a part, a reflection of the heavens are we, our mirrored souls; atma, dharma, the understanding of which leads us to seek the path of enlightenment. Long ago, far away, in the cycles of the past which always were and forever will indeed be, our future. We humans create nations and empires, and set in place laws that outwardly reflect our inner morality and sense of virtue. In so doing, much is gained but much is also lost. For when we read the epics of the past we see that what we believe is correct may actually be wrong, a mistaken approach, the application of a common virtue that misrepresents the reality of our existence, notions of social status or gender. There are those who have been relegated to the lowest level of society because of that which has been created by men, laws and rules to live by that would defend and protect the greedy and the powerful from the truth, and they will label that truth as a lie. But truth is a manifestation of Vishnu, brought forth into our universe by the eternal power of Shakti, the primordial feminine reality of all that is, all that ever will be. Men may seek to contain the truth by creating false rule and by utilizing the power of false religion, maintained by a clever and lying priesthood gifted in the art of deception. In containing truth they have been successful. Destroying truth is however an impossibility, for truth is endowed with the power of Shakti, a force that has created even the gods. When Shakti becomes incarnate in our false world, the bearer of that sword of justice slays the evil one, and sets aright they who are deemed worthy to go on with a message of striving and hope. Thus satya, truth, and compassion is born again and again, and the result is a mercy granted to all mankind. This human incarnation is willing to suffer degradation and even death, for it is the power of Shakti within the human soul that is eternal, as death is but a transcendence to another state of being. Birth Of A Princess Chitrangada arose one fine morning and bathed in the stream that ran alongside of the palace in which she was raised. She was now 19 years of age, beautiful in appearance with long black hair falling down on most of the length of her sculpted back, and copper toned was her skin which omitted a most pleasant scent, like that of a garland of flowers floating in a sea of milk. There were a great many suitors who came to ask for Chitrangada's hand in marriage but she refused them all, for her destiny was firmly set in her youth. Her father Chitravahana was the ruler of the city of Manipur. Conscious of the necessity of requiring an heir he prayed to the gods, fasted and performed deep acts of devotion and piety visiting the temple regularly asking them for a son who would become a great warrior and succeed him as king. He made preparations in his chambers, burning an abundance of incense while Brahmins recited holy chants so as to fill the room with their breath and light force. He then invited musicians to perform the appropriate late evening ragas and after dedicating the night to Saraswati he made love to his wife Vasundhara, reciting the names of the gods and the Apsaras as he and his wife engaged in intimate pleasure and enrapture. One day the queen came to him and announced that she was with child. King Chitravahana was overjoyed and thanked the gods and the Apsaras for interceding on his behalf. He often would kiss his wife on the cheek and caress her, for she was the vehicle of his progeny. The duration of her pregnancy was witness to a time of happiness and joy in this marriage between king and queen, and the mighty king could hardly wait for the birth of his expected son. Time passed and Vasundhara began to feel the baby within her move, ready to enter the realm of the world. In the pains of labor and love did Vasundhara give birth at last to the child. Unable to contain his joy King Chitravahana burst into the bed chamber shouting: "To me my son! Let me see the gift the gods have bestowed upon me this day, for all my devotions. At last, my heir is born!" The child was held up but to the king's surprise, the child was no male heir but in fact, a girl. The king held his newly born daughter in his arms for a moment, staring at her, perplexed, then returned the child to the handmaiden as his face fell, clearly forlorn and disappointed. He simply looked at his wife as she lay in the bed, turned away and walked out of the room, shutting himself up in his chambers refusing to see anyone. He neither ate nor drank for days, and would not attend the religious devotions as he always did. He was monitored closely, as the queen thought he might consider suicide, so depressed had Chitravahana become. The king finally accepted a morsel of bread and some fruit, and emerged from his chamber. He hadn't shaved nor performed his ablutions for days and wore a simple homespun sackcloth which was usually reserved for mourning. Queen Vasundhara ran to him and embraced her husband, kissing his face and with tears in her eyes begged forgiveness for not producing the heir he expected. The king gently pushed her away, uninterested in her expressions of love and devotion. Then, he spoke: "You will raise and feed her, clothe her in her younger years, give her all the necessities she needs to live. Then when she is of the correct age I will take hold of my daughter and she will be under my command. I will raise her as a son, she will learn to ride a horse, master archery and the use of the sword. She will become used not to wearing garments of expensive fabrics or imported cloth no, but rather formidable armor of bronze. This, Chitrangada will wear like a second skin and she will excel in athletic moves, in physical and martial prowess. My daughter will command my armies and protect our city from all who dare to invade. One day she will marry and bear a son, so that our line will have a proper male heir to rule. If the gods will not provide me with that heir, I will provide myself with one. Go now Vasundhara, feed my daughter for she is hungry. And when she sleeps upon thy bosom at night, see to it that she is told the story of the great hero gods, of the deeds and might of Durga and Kali, so that their atma will resonate within her and stir her soul to become a great warrior." Queen Vasundhara was forced to give the child a name on her own without consulting the king, since he was absent for days. On the night before giving birth she had a dream in which two Apsara came to her, dancing on the back of an elephant, announcing that the child should be named Chitrangada. The name held two meanings in Sanskrit- implying one who would be decorated with many bracelets and a second meaning, the word chitrangad denoting a leader or minister of high rank. The queen though little of the mysticism behind the name, not knowing whether the new born infant would be a boy or a girl, and simply followed the suggestion of the Apsara in her dream and bestowed the name on her daughter. Little did she or her husband realize at the time that this name would one day manifest in mysterious ways. After a happy childhood with her loving mother and the doting handmaids in the palace, Chitrangada turned ten years of age, and King Chitranvahana came for his daughter with the intent of taking her from the comfort of the palace to the barracks of the Kshatriya warriors. Though confused as to what was now happening, unable to fully understand why she was being taken from her mother, Chitrangada did not cry upon leaving the queen, but kissed her upon the forehead and told her: "I will make thee proud one day, dear mother and will protect you from all harm, I promise, oh thou holy womb who did bear and raise me. My destiny is before me, fear not, for one day I shall return." And with that she left with her father to the barracks of the Kshatriya, looking back at the tear laden face of her mother. The king's word was law and Chitrangada knew that as his daughter she had no right to disobey. The Path To Destiny Upon arriving at the barracks of the recruits who aspired to one day become great Kshatryia warriors Chitrangada's hair was shorn and she was clothed in common male attire so she would resemble any other boy of her age. The recruits were known collectively as 'kush', a word denoting a sacred grass dedicated to and serving Lord Rama. The king informed the old, tough captain of the Kshatriya, Yodha Raj, of his daughter's special situation and paid him handsomely in gold and silver, requesting that he keep her secret and train her so well that when the time came for the inevitable flowers of womanhood to blossom she would be the best in the in the entire squadron and none would question her gender. She was given a name, Yuva, which means simply 'young', so as to not attract attention or curiosity. The captain of the barracks gave his pledge to the king and trained Chitrangada now known as Yuva in the use of the sword and the bow, how to survive in the wild and in the taming and riding of a horse. She became skilled in archery and eventually defeated her opponents in regular contests, all of whom were young men. Yuva went through a severe, regimented discipline in physical exercise and ran with her fellows many leagues over all kinds of harsh terrain, sometimes in full armor to become accustomed to wearing it and was awarded no quarter or special treatment by command of her father the king who insisted that she train as hard as any other young recruit.

One Moonlit night she went down to the river to bathe, alone as usual. She was washing her closely cropped black hair as she stood naked, waist deep in the water. Three of her male comrades came along and stared at her, menacingly. They jeered at her and called her names, claiming she was an imposter who needed to learn a lesson. The three grabbed her and pulled her from the river, and began to abuse this strange boy/girl called Yuva. Two of the recruits, named Ravi and Manish, both physically strong and well muscled youths, held her down while the third, a chubby and rather spoiled recruit from a wealthy princely family, mounted atop her prone body. This fat one, known in the barracks as 'Water Buffalo' was often reprimanded by the captain as he was not a good recruit but whose father bribed Yoda Raj the captain of the Kshatriya as Chitrangada's father had done, with the exception that Chitrangada known at the time as Yuva was an excellent recruit while this fat one could not even lift a sword off the ground. Yodha Raj could not make nor was willing to offer excuses for this spoiled boy whom he despised. Water Buffalo began to kiss her face in quick succession as his unwashed and flabby body smothered her. At first she squirmed and writhed in dusgust but soon simply lay there and allowed him to have his way. He kissed her face and then forced his tongue deep inside in her mouth. She suddenly bit it so hard and clamped down with her teeth that she ripped it off and spit it out, causing him to leap off of her, dripping blood onto his chin. The daughter of the king then turned on the two holding her down and with her strength and knowledge of wrestling managed to throw them off. She kicked Ravi forcefully in the groin and then beat him over the head, forcing him to cower to protect himself. Then, picking up a large rock she hurled it at Manish, which struck him on his shoulder causing him to howl in pain as blood gushed from the wound. The three surprised recruits ran straight to the chamber of Yoda Raj and woke him up. The captain saw the trio and noticed Water Buffalo was unable to speak as he had no tongue in which to do so! Into the chamber walked Yuva dressed now dressed in a simple cloth robe, hair still wet from bathing in the river as all became silent. Yodha Raj demanded an explanation and Yuva related what had happened. The boys denied the story, and said that they observed how Yuva, whom they accused of being a girl and not a male, went to the river at night regularly to meet a lover and perform sex with him which was an act forbidden by the rules of the barracks. The captain knew now they were lying for sure, as it was he himself who gave the girl the permission and command to bathe at the river in this manner: "'Tis I, Yodha Raj, who instructed this Yuva to go to the river and bathe, so I know you are creating a false story just to cover your evil deed. She is not Yuva but her true name is Chitrangada, the daughter of the King of Manipur who did entrust me with her training and welfare. She follows all of my rules and commands diligently and excels in every martial art. You have shamed the barracks and will be dealt with accordingly for this outrage!" Punishments were harsh and false accusations brought against fellow cadets were punishable with death. The next morning the three young men were bound with rope and forced to lie on the ground as a giant war elephant was brought near, who would soon crush them to death underfoot. But Chitrangada pleaded with the captain to spare their lives. Yodha Raj inquired of her: "What would you ask then of these fools for recompense for the wrong they committed upon you?" Name your desire and it shall be carried out" said the captain. "Our law demands that lying and deceit as well as any attempt at sexual encounters while attending the barracks of the Kshatriya are punishable by death." Chitrangada addressed Yodha Raj, the commanders and all the recruits present at the execution, first turning to the fat one known as Water Buffalo, who lost his tongue in the encounter: "The now tongueless one was and will always be useless here in the barracks. Look at him, a pathetic case, so fat and lazy, he is no recruit and will never be a warrior. Such an individual will be a nuisance and a cause for harm if we ever have to face an enemy in battle. Dismiss him to the realm of the world, let him find his own way, and seek his true destiny. Of what good is a warrior who cannot address his enemies or shout out his challenge on the field of battle, not to mention so unfit is his physique for war? Banish him from the barracks, forever." Then she turned to the other two, Ravi and Manish who were trembling with fear, and addressed them in the presence of the recruits, the Kshatriya and their commander: "These two, I request you, oh great and honorable Yoda Raj, to force them to be my attendants. They will obey me and serve me all my days, and will perform all the tasks I command. They must swear loyalty, offer a pranam and kiss my feet in full view of all, and never break the oath of loyalty they are about to swear." Ravi and Manish were unbound and immediately ran to Chitrangada and performed a pranam of salutation. They knelt down and kissed her feet over and over, begging for forgiveness and thanking her for her unexpected kindness and mercy. They swore loyalty and acknowledged her no longer as Yuva but as Chitrangada, daughter of the king of Manipur. To secure the oath Yoda Raj ordered they perform the sacred thread ceremony, the pair tying a thread round their wrists symbolizing they were now disciples of the warrior princess, she their guru and they the shishya, or disciples. They would follow Chitrangada wherever she would go and threaten anyone who dared question her right to train as a man. She would learn in later years that the tongueless one known as Water Buffalo would become a great rishi in the forest, living with animals and communicating using hand gestures with birds, building and maintaining habitats for them. Indeed, the decision of Chitrangada this day had far reaching effects, turning negative desire into positivity. Yoda Raj rose and spoke to the ranks of the barracks: "We have seen great mercy and humility this day, and I do proclaim that Chitrangada doth join with honor the caste of the Kshatriya. Any to whom she issues an order must obey, and you will risk your lives for her without hesitation. Prepare my children, for the day of battle has come, and your training will be tested soon enough on fields that will become a plain of immortality for some, a salon of death for others, for war is not a mere, playful training with your peers but a test of your skills against a fierce adversary. The fierce Scyth people of the northern steppes have invaded our lands, burning and pillaging. You are being called upon to defend our honor. Make ready, as war is upon us." The ranks of young warriors all cheered Chitrangada and began to praise her with shouts of Shaktiya, the name known by the sages as female power and energy, the original force of creation itself. They declared her to be the incarnation of the goddess Durga. Yuva the child had died, and Chitrangada the woman was reborn.

One week later the young cadets of the barracks assembled and were led out by Yodha Raj and King Chitranvahana who came along now to take part in the campaign, riding in a glorious war chariot pulled by two magnificent horses. Chitrangada commanded her own battalion, riding upon a white stallion accompanied by her two loyal attendants Ravi and Manish who rode at her side. She was wearing a splendid armor breastplate that was forged especially for her physique and a helmet, with greaves on her legs and bronze bands protecting her arms. Her round, decorated shield brimmed with short pointed spikes that could be used as a weapon when pushing against the ranks of an enemy. Her sword was a deadly katara type, the kind that one gripped with a fist sometimes called a 'push dagger' though the weapon could be used to either slash or to stab. She also sported a curved talwar at her side as well as a bow and a quiver of arrows. This was to be her first encounter with an enemy in a real battle. As she was confident so was she concerned, for the Scyth were known to be savage and ferocious warriors who took no prisoners on the field of battle. These invaders were the Scythians, a nomadic people dwelling on the steppes beyond the great mountains of snow called Himalaya, feared among all the civilizations of the world. Called by the Manipuri in their language as 'the Scyth', they would come down through the valleys of the great mountains every few years and attack cities, robbing food and stealing any items of gold, silver, or precious gems, killing the men and taking the women and children as slaves and leaving nothing but smoking ruins after they left. Anxiety was a common enough feeling for Chitrangada and her teen aged comrades on this day. Even the older, experienced Kshatriya warriors did not take this campaign lightly. That evening the army settled down close to a swiftly running river and rested. Every soldier went to sleep that night feeling a tightness within their stomach, for nobody knew what the outcome of tomorrow's battle would be against these ferocious horsemen of the steppe.

The next day the army of Manipur was up early. King Chitravahana oversaw the erecting of a pontoon bridge across the swiftly moving river; boats were lashed together and wooden planks placed across them to create a makeshift bridge which could accommodate men, horses, chariots and war elephants. Chitrangada and her two attendants were instructed by Yodha Raj the Kshatriya commander to ride over the bridge, find and observe the invading Scyth army then return to report on their movements, numbers, weaponry and provide other important information. Chitrangada, impatient and impetuous, begged the Yodha Raj to allow her to lead a force of cavalry and make a surprise attack on the Scyth when they would least expect such an assault. The commander refused as this could be risky he thought, and ordered Chitrangada and her two attendees Ravi and Manish to simply do as they were ordered and make their report. So, as Chitrangada rode forth to assess the situation Yodha Raj ordered his forces to cross the river and take up positions on the opposing bank, facing the field where the Scyth attack was expected but now, with their backs dangerously to the river. There they waited for Chitrangada's report and what was expected to be an inevitable and savage attack. Chitrangada and her two attendees reached a high hill that overlooked the plain. She could see the huge mass of the Scythians, their cavalry in front riding hard, moving rapidly towards the river where the Manipuri forces were assembled in the distance and standing firm with their backs to the river. Infantry and war chariots were placed in the front, the war elephants to the rear and the cavalry on the flanks. If this army could hold back the Scythians they could carry the day, but if not they would most surely be pushed into the dangerously swift running waters which were now behind them. Chitrangada assessed the dangerous situation and knew she had to warn her commander, so the trio rode rapidly down the hill in an attempt to get back to their lines. By the time they arrived however, the battle was already under way. The Scythians charged headlong into the ranks of the Manipuri so aggressively that the lines of the defenders began to crumble under the onslaught. The war elephants and the horses of the Manipuri cavalry began to panic, unable to move out and be utilized as they were hemmed in behind the unfortunate foot soldiers being attacked by the ferocious invaders, packed so tightly together they barely had room enough to wave their swords. They were being slaughtered now by the swords, spears and the dangerous arrows shot from the mounted Scythian archers. Many Manipuri soldiers panicked and began to seek safety by turning and jumping into the river in an attempt to get back to the other side where their camp was, but the swift current took them away and many drowned. Blocked by the rapid river and confronted by a fierce, relentless enemy it was clearly a tactical mistake and oversight to have moved the army across to these opposing banks of the river, which now became not an ally but an enemy in this unfolding battle. The Manipuri were caught in a deadly trap and it seemed that all would be slain. The princess of Manipur knew she had to act. Unable to get back to her lines as she and her attendees would have to ride through the Scyth and risk being cut down, she turned to Ravi and Manish and revealed her desperate plan: "We have but one choice this day. We could try to ride through the enemy to get back to our lines only to be slaughtered along with the rest of our comrades. Or, we could attempt to turn the tide of this battle and emerge victorious. She then pointed to the magnificently dressed warrior sitting upon a horse. "Look. See there, the Scyth king in golden armor and his queen with the tall head piece which informs us of her high rank, sitting at his side? I see only four bodyguards with them. We will ride up and using the element of surprise slay his bodyguards and then the king and the queen. In this is our only chance for survival and the survival of our forces. Fear not, we have waited long for this day. Ride now, I command you!"

The trio drew their swords and spurred their horses on. They rode swiftly into the fray straight towards the royal pair who were watching the battle from the rear, surrounded by four bodyguards. The king was laughing with delight, drinking wine from a cup fashioned from the skull of one of his defeated victims as his forces cut down the Manipuri who had nowhere to flee but into a swift river to face death by drowning. Thinking the battle won, his queen stroked her husband's arm affectionately in admiration of his impending victory. Chitrangada arrived suddenly with her two attendees who surprised the bodyguards and slew them instantly, their swords flashing like lightening. The Scythian king froze and looked on in shock as Chitrangada was confronted by his mounted queen who barely had enough time to draw her saber before she was killed instantly by a deep thrust from Chitrangada's katara that caught the woman under her left arm, causing her to fall dead from her horse. The princess now turned in her saddle and slashed once with that same katara and took off the king's head in one fell swoop. The soldiers of both armies, witnessing the death of the royal couple suddenly became silent and stopped fighting for a brief moment as they gazed upon the sudden event in disbelief. Chitrangada dismounted from her horse and held the bloody head of the now deceased king in her hand and cried out to the army of the Scyth on the field:

"See the head of thy king, thou now leaderless dogs! Who will lead you back to the steppes from whence ye came? Run for your lives, for none shall conquer Manipur whilst I live!" The Manipuri infantry began to chant in rhythm "Chi-Tran-Gad-A, Chi-Tran-Gad-A!" over and over, hailing the act of the brave princess. With renewed energy and determination the commander Yodha Raj urged his forces on and the whole army of Manipur charged into the Scyth and began to slay them without mercy, screaming now the name of the terrible goddess Kali whilst taking their revenge. The trumpeting of the war elephants blended with the horns and the drums that signaled the attack, the great beasts now slamming into the Scythian lines crushing warriors underfoot or, using their trunks would snatch some poor unfortunate and throw the individual high into the air who would then come crashing down to his death. The Manipur cavalry, led by old King Chitravahana himself in his war chariot, leveled their lances and attacked the mounted Scyth horsemen, impaling many of them as the sharp blades attached to the wheels of the war chariots cut hundreds of men down as if they were stalks of wheat being cut for harvest. The princess herself was in the thick of the fight and slew many that day, her katara dagger now reddened with the blood of her enemies. The Scyth who could manage to escape the terrible revenge of the Manipuri did so, leaving their wounded comrades to their fate in the hands of the victors, fleeing back towards the mountain passes from whence they came. The battle was finally over. Chitrangada's fury had subsided and when she came to her senses realized the terrible reality of war. Panting and nearly out of breath, she and her attendees dismounted from their horses and stood silently as they gazed at the field covered with the bodies of the dead, so many in some places they lay in heaps on the field. Those who were still alive were moving or flailing their arms, calling out for help or screaming from the pain of their horrific wounds as they lay under the multitude of the corpses of the slain, causing the great heaps of stilled bodies to move somewhat eerily. Training had been hard at the barracks but nothing prepared Chitrangada and her fellow recruits for what was their first battle and experience with war. As she gazed around in a state of shock and awe at the carnage she understood now the wisdom of the sages who taught how the soul was truly stronger than flesh, which yielded easily to the cut of the katara and the talwar, the lance or the ax, the well aimed arrow or the great war mace which smashed armor easily and effectively. Only then did she even notice the bleeding wound on her arm caused by some stray Scythian arrow that grazed her. Ravi received a wound of combat as well, a lance jab having penetrated his thigh. Only Manish remained unscathed that day, and he immediately tended to his princess' wound though she ordered him to help Ravi instead. The victorious Manipuri stripped the dead of their armor and cloaks to be taken as trophies, revealing terrible wounds and cuts on the now naked bodies of what were once the fine muscled physiques of feared warriors. The great plumed helmet of the Scythian king was presented to Chitrangada by a soldier who knelt before her, giving thanks for the bravery she displayed that day. The army gathered round the princess and took up once again the chant "Chi-Tran-Gad-A, Chi-Tran Gad-A!" Her father King Chitranvahana and Yodha Raj the high commander of the Kshatriya approached the princess and offered her a pranam, saluting the great warrioress as she stood proudly along with her two attendees Ravi and Manish. The king then spoke to the gathering: "On this day a great miracle has unfolded before our very eyes. My prayers have been answered and my dream fulfilled, for my daughter is braver than any son I could pray for. She has been trained well by my stalwart Kshatriya commander, Yodhi Raj and has assumed her position among their ranks. Oh daughter, you have proven your worth and your valor upon the field this day, and no father could be prouder than I, no son or daughter more virtuous than thee." The army of Manipur returned to the city, though it was a costly victory. Many of Chitrangada's comrades from the barracks were slain, some so badly wounded they could never fight again. She and her attendant Ravi did receive some minor wounds in this first taste of battle, but pity filled her heart as she saw the more terrible condition of some of her colleagues. She turned to her attendee Manish, who remained unharmed, and looked into his eyes and spoke: "War is a terrible thing. Many of our comrades with whom we trained or competed with in contests are now dead, or their bodies are too mangled for them to continue on this Kshatriya path. But this is my destiny and I shall remain true to my quest as life unfolds before me now, before the eyes of my soul. You Manish, and Ravi too have proven to me that you are indeed loyal, and shall forever more be my brothers". Clasping his hands together in respect, Manish intoned softly the traditional 'namaste' salutation and left to tend to Ravi's wounds, leaving Chitrangada alone now with her thoughts. Manipulation The princess returned to the palace to find her mother Queen Vasundara ill. Her father the king, who for so long had ignored his wife for bearing a daughter rather than a son for him now caressed his wife daily and apologized for his poor treatment of her all these days. Now that his prayers were answered and his daughter was the fulfillment of his visions, he begged his wife for forgiveness for his cruel indifference. But it was too late. Vasundara died the next morning. Chitrangada kissed her forehead and went to be alone in her chambers where the household servants could hear her sobbing incessantly from outside the door. She then began to think to herself that she would never be like her mother, forced to live a life of misery married to a selfish and egocentric man like her father. Her destiny was for other things, learned at the barracks of the Kshatriya in her youth. Yet that caring, love and kindness she received from her mother would remain locked in her breast in a special place, never to be forgotten, and she would go there when she needed comfort. The funeral pyres were lit and Chitrangada placed the holy fire torch in the mouth of her dead mother who was reclining on a bier, her ashes eventually to be scattered on the river Ganges while her soul would rise up and await to be reborn once again. King Chitranvahana wasted no time in expressing his desires. As he had no sons he was in need of an heir for he was indeed growing old. He told Chitrangada that she needed to seek a husband and produce a male offspring, who would bear the title of King of Manipur, and she must do this soon before he too would die. "'Tis thy son who would rule this kingdom. I have sent you to receive training as a warrior and you have become a leader. You have lived as a man all these days but you are in reality a woman and must produce a male heir, lest the line of our clan be ended forever. As ye have saved the army and the kingdom of Manipur in battle, so must ye preserve our line of rule." Chitrangada respected but didn't hold much love in her heart for her father. A part of her hated the man, whom she knew as a selfish and greedy despot. Inside she despised his request to mother a son, but also knew that everything she had achieved until now was a result of his will forced upon her life. "Why dost thou hesitate to act on this request of mine?" The king asked. "What causes you to wait and as I sense it, recoil from mothering a child? The time has come for you to be who you are and grant me an heir". Chitrangada responded with anger in her voice: "Evil man, you ignored my mother all her days because she could not produce a male heir for you, a son who would become a great warrior. So you ripped me from the loving arms of my mother, changed my name and identity, trained me as a warrior among men deliberately concealing my true identity until my bosoms began to grow and my hips became shapely and comely as I transformed from a maiden into a woman on the day blood began to seethe from the Yoni between my legs. I was assaulted and nearly raped, forced to stand on my own and fight for myself lest I would be left for dead. Destiny? No, my destiny was forged by your desire and your greed. I accept my fate, but now you dare command me to be something else, again in the same lifetime? Is there no end to your ignorance and selfish desire, old man? Have you no sense of honor or virtue?" The king responded sternly: "What I did for you was because I wanted to see you grow and become who you really are. Perhaps I was hard and there is a part of you who regrets not having played with dolls with your little friends, or learn to dance or play the flute. Ha! You were brought into this dimension for greater things Chitrangada. Stop acting like a little child and be the great woman you are. You have no choice in the matter for the world knows you as a warrior, not a dancer or an obedient wife serving her husband his daily dish of lentils. If you wish to survive after I am gone you will need to do what is necessary. You must find a husband worthy of your name, and with him bring forth a child, a male heir who you will instruct in the ways of a king. He will protect you as you protect Manipur. If you neglect this, perhaps the Scyth will return or other enemies will burn your kingdom to the ground. You see my daughter, you have your destiny written in the stars even here in this state of illusion the rishis call Maya, and there is nothing you can do but yield to it. Now go out and find a husband and give me an heir." Chitrangada was angry but contemplated the words of the old king. She thought of the name her mother chose for her, inspired by a dream of the visitation of two dancing Apsara. She wore many bracelets indeed, as her name implied, in the form of armor upon her torso and the greaves she wore on her shins, those bronze bands fitted on her muscled arms and the helmet she wore upon her head, protecting her from vicious sword strikes. These were her own, particular bracelets and jewelry. She was also a minister, a leader in the kingdom, having risen to high rank. Indeed, she was the manifestation of the name chosen for her, and thought this must have been her true destiny as foretold by the two Apsara dancing atop an elephant in her mother's dream. Now that she was about to leave her teenage years and move on in life, Chitrangada decided it might be best for her to heed her father's advice and seek a partner, though this man would have to be worthy and an equal in martial prowess and skill. For the next year the princess of Manipur set out to bring an end to the brigandage which was all too common in the kingdom. Groups of bandits were on the prowl stealing from the peasants, robbing temples, harassing shop keepers and abusing women. These separate bands often feuded with one another, affecting the lives of the common people most negatively. Chitrangada along with her two attendants Ravi and Manish led brigades of horsemen against these bandits and one by one hunted them down, usually surrounding them and killing them off to the last man. Those leaders who were captured faced trial in Manipur, where her father the king passed the death sentence upon them. For some who were deemed especially evil the king ordered cruel punishments and tortures to be inflicted on them, such as the gouging out of eyes or being subjected to a thousand cuts of a razor sharp talwar, before they faced inevitable death under the crushing feet of a war elephant. The Reality Of Illusion Far and away in the kingdom of Hastinapur lived a king named Pandu, ruler of the fabled Lunar Dynasty. He had six sons, the Pandavas; Karna, Yudhisthira, Bhima, Nakula, Sahadeva and Arjuna. He had a brother named Dhritarashta who ruled the southern portion of the kingdom. He married many wives and begat one hundred sons who became known collectively as the Kauravas. Together the Pandavas and the Kauravas grew up together and when they came of age ruled the land. But as two kings cannot rule one nation, dozens of cousins cannot establish law and order, for chaos was their legacy. The Pandavas and the Kauravas began to bicker and fight among themselves and created animosity in the kingdom. One of Pandu's wives was Kunti, with whom he fell in love and wished to have a child. She invoked the god Indra, using a mantra she learned from the sage Durvasa. From her union with Pandu she gave birth to a son whom she named Arjuna, a beautiful boy who grew to be talented and intelligent, a disciple of the Brahmin Drona. Arjuna learned spiritual practices as well as how to use weapons especially the bow, in which he excelled. So adept was he with archery that when he came of age he competed in a contest for the hand of the beautiful and independent Draupadi, shooting the eye of a fish with an arrow but aiming, using the fish's reflection in a bowl of water. Perhaps Pandu so loved his son that he spoiled him somewhat, for Arjuna lost interest in things rather quickly and was considered somewhat irresponsible. He began to ignore his wife Draupadi and sought other interests, and shockingly suggested his wife be wed to his brothers. He went off carelessly, as it were, to seek enlightenment and traveled in the forests with the god Krishna, who did accept him as a disciple and friend. Krishna warned Arjuna though, that while they would travel, he had to remember that not all that he sees or realizes is what he may think it is. This world is Maya, a great illusion. To lose sight of this is a most grievous thing, as this is how mankind creates chaos. Together they transversed the woods until they came upon a starving man who begged for food: "Ask of us, old man, and what you beg for ye shall receive" said Arjuna. The man asked for food a second time and again Arjuna repeated his promise to fulfill the old man's wishes. "What would you require?" Asked Arjuna..."Bread? Fruit?" "I need burning wood and ash, for I am Agni the god of fire. You will set a torch to this forest so that I may eat my full". Arjuna and Krishna looked at each other, and pleaded with the god: "We will give you anything, but we cannot start a fire here in these woods. It will all burn all the trees, flowers, the birds and the animals who live here will all be consumed". Agni reminded them of their promise: "You made a promise to give me what I need. Now, fulfill your vow!" Arjuna reluctantly started a fire and lit a torch, then set about burning the forest. The flames rose and the trees all began to burn as animals, birds, snakes and insects sought safety from the inferno. He felt sad and turned to Krishna:

"How can this be, oh Krishna? An old man asked me for food, I wanted to do a good thing, perform charity, and I found evil. Why?" Krishna reminded him: "Did I not inform you of Maya, the realm of illusion? Things are never what they seem. You forgot this teaching and now, see the chaos and destruction you caused for forgetting this. Indeed, men are reluctant to learn the way of enlightenment, and this is why it takes a lifetime to achieve this state. I will come to you again when you are truly ready to follow the path. Farewell." Krishna took his leave of Arjuna, who now felt forlorn and depressed as the forest burned around him. The prince decided to go home. In his absence, Arjuna's brother Yudhisthira called for a game of dice with Karna, his half brother from the Kuaravas, to compete for the hand of the woman Arjuna had all but abandoned, Draupadi. The Pandava Yudhisthira lost the game but Draupadi adamantly refused to be sold and bartered like a goat, and would not be married to Karna. The Kaurava began to curse and insult Draupadi, calling her a whore and the wife of illegitimate sons. Arjuna heard this argument as he entered the palace hall, and a fight broke out between he and Karna, whom he nearly killed. The Kauravas demanded an apology and justice for the insult. As a feud with the Kauravas nearly unravelled before them, the Pandava brothers decided to banish Arjuna, since it was he who left his wife alone in the first place and because of his irresponsibility did the trouble start. Supporting their decision, a runner arrived at the palace to tell the Pandavas of the burning of the great forest, and relayed to the brothers the part that Arjuna played in that disaster. It was decided that Arjuna had to leave the kingdom of Hatinapur the very next morning, exiled for a period of ten years.

Arjuna Meets Chitrangada Arjuna lived the life of a drifter, stopping overnight in village after village. Sometimes he slept in the woods or on some hilltop, and bathed in a stream or river, a life so different from the one he knew at the palace. He desired company and sought the security of a family. One day around sunset he met a group of young men who were camping in the hills. They shared their food with him and asked who he was and from where he had come. Arjuna was careful to not reveal too much, since he knew these men were ruffians and if they knew of his high position they might hold him for ransom. He had done enough to anger his family already. So he made up a story that he was an orphan and lived this life as far as he could remember. He did tell them that he was a fine archer and could ride a horse very well. The leader of the group, a fellow named Kuki, took a liking to Arjuna and asked him if he wanted to join their band, to which Arjuna agreed. They all embraced and welcomed Arjuna to the pack, then went to sleep under the stars and a Moon lit sky. The next day the leader of the pack Kuki brought Arjuna a horse, and the group rode on. They came to a small village which was governed by a wealthy Raja who was very fat, while the peasants all seemed to be starving. The Raja was sitting on his royal chair practicing archery with what seemed to be a fine bow. The leader Kuki wanted to see if Arjun was indeed the archer he said he was. He explained to the Raja, who was an excellent archer indeed, that he should compete with Arjun in an archery contest and if he were to win he should give him his bow. The Raja laughed and accepted the challenge. A target was set up a good distance away, and the Raja dared Arjuna to hit this target, which could barely be seen with the naked eye, so far away it was. The Raja took aim and shot his arrow which sallied through the air then came down on the target in the dead center. All the villagers and the people who gathered around burst into applause and cheered the Raja for his feat. Arjuna then asked for three targets to be placed as far away as the Raja's target was, but each target was to be set two horse lengths apart from each other. Both the Raja and Kuki seemed perplexed and looked on with quizzical looks. Arjuna then carefully placed three arrows onto his bow and pulled the string back tight. He released his grip and the bow sounded a great twang as the arrows went flying, each one soon hitting their target in the very center. All were amazed by the skill of this young man, but the Raja was clearly angry that he was outdone by this ruffian. Kuki the leader of the pack walked up to the Raja to discuss the handing over of the bow to the obvious champion. However, the angry Raja refused to keep his part of the bargain and walked away with the bow and quiver in his hands. Without hesitation Kuki and his thieves attacked the Raja and beat him to the ground, taking his bow and quiver of arrows, and handed these items to Arjuna. They then went to the Raja's house and ransacked the interior, taking any jewelry or items of worth for themselves, including a golden bracelet the Raja's wife wore on her wrist. The fat old man came into the house and attempted to stop the thieves but he was overpowered and thrown to the ground as the thieves took what they wanted from the house. Arjuna didn't take part in the melee, but watched in horror as his comrades revealed their true nature. Then in an instant Kuki ordered them all to mount their horses and ride, fleeing the village. As they rode away they threw small amounts of coins and gems to the poor villagers, and then disappeared from sight. They got their loot, and Arjuna now was the owner of a fine bow and a quiver of arrows.

Arjuna didn't expect to be part of such a band, but he had to have friends and companions he could count on in this dangerous world. One comrade suggested that they could go from village to village and have Arjuna compete in archery contests for gold and silver, and in this way they could stop living a life of crime and get rich in a more legal fashion, if Rajas would only be honest about the deals they make and would live up to their agreements. Archery was highly respected here in the kingdom of Manipur, and Arjuna would be much appreciated. The old Raja though did not forget the assault on his household and went to see the king of Manipur to complain about this particular group of thieves who recently turned his house upside down and threatened both he and his wife. So he asked for an audience with king Chitravahana, the father of Chitrangada, ruler of all Manipur. The Raja explained what happened and demanded that the king do something. Of course he never told the king about the archery contest or the agreement of the prize, for which the old man failed to honor. Chitrangada was present as the Raja told his story and as she was responsible for hunting down criminals and thieves the princess promised the Raja that she would set out to hunt the men down first thing in the morning and bring them to justice. The Raja thanked the king and his daughter, and left the palace. The next morning Chitrangada and her attendees Ravi and Manish armed themselves and set out on horseback to the hills of Manipur nearby, searching for this band of thieves who had to be brought to justice. They took a rocky path through the mountains, where they knew a band of thieves would hide. About midday they came upon the encampment of Kuki and his entourage, a total of six men. Arjuna was not among them, as he was out gathering fruit for lunch. Chitrangada spied upon the group from behind a rock, then ordered her attendees to attack. The three rode down from the hill swiftly into the midst of the camp, waving their swords in the air. Two of the band attempted to resist but were struck down instantly by Ravi and Manish. A third ran up with a spear and thrust at Chitrangada, but it deflected off her bronze breastplate. She struck with her katara and split the man's head in the middle of his crown. Ravi and Manish were each dueling with others as Kuki ran up to Chitrangada swinging a mace. The two parried and fought, Kuki's powerful mace ringing off of Chitrangada's shield. One such blow knocked her to the ground and Kuki tried to smash her head as she was on her back. The princess managed to roll away to avoid his blows and rose up to her feet, slicing at Kuki's calves with her katara as she rose, causing him great pain as he fell, unable now to stand. Then she pushed her katara blade into his chest as the thief raised his chest to meet her sword, then relaxed in the embrace of death. Just at that moment Arjuna rode into the campsite to see his comrades all slain. He took out his bow and let off one arrow from the saddle of his horse which caught Manish in the shoulder, then quickly another that went into his thigh. Another arrow went straight through his throat and protruded from the back of his neck, as Manish fell from his horse. Ravi spurred on his horse to attack Arjuna, but the son of Pandu let loose a volley of three arrows that spread like the trident of Shiva, and all three arrows struck Ravi's horse, bringing the animal down. Then Arjuna rode up close to the now dismounted attendee and let go an arrow into the man's eye, killing him instantly. Chitrangada was shocked to see her two comrades slain so quickly by this unknown assailant, an archer of amazing talent and skill. She took out her own bow and let go an arrow that caught Arjuna in the left elbow, then another that was carefully aimed and struck him in the right hand, and yet another shot into his left shoulder. He was now rendered incapable of manipulating his bow as he spurred on his horse in an effort to get away. Chitrangada followed him in hot pursuit and when she reached him struck at his horse's neck with her whip and pulled hard, causing the animal to trip and fall. She dismounted and stood above the now unhorsed Arjuna, raising her talwar above her head with two hands, ready to bring it down on the prince. "Wait! I am not a thief! I have stolen nothing from anyone" pleaded Arjuna. "Speak then, before you die" responded the princess. "Why did you kill my attendees if you are not with this band? Where did you get that fine bow from, as I know it belongs to the Raja of the nearby village." "I was with them, yes, but not one of them. I can explain." Chitrangada responded: "You can explain when we get back to the palace of my father, the king. And rest assured the Raja will be summoned to see you hang, and his property rightfully returned." Chitrangada bound Arjuna's hands and legs and fastened him to a horse. Upon the backs of two other horses she placed the bodies of her now deceased attendees, Ravi and Manish. Though they had abused her when they were recruits years ago in the barracks of the Kshatriya, they became close friends and confidants to Chitrangada. The man she was bringing back to the palace for trial was their killer and she wanted to see justice fulfilled. On the journey back to the palace she said nothing to Arjuna who was silent as well, wondering what was to become of him in this realm of living realm of illusion. Arjuna was treated for his wounds and the next day brought before the king who asked him who he was, where he was from and what he was doing with that band of thieves. The Raja sat there too, with his wife, awaiting the death penalty to be announced, holding the bow that Arjuna had won in the competition. "Who are you?" asked the king. "Did you not steal this bow from this Raja of the village?" "I met the band of thieves and they took me to the village of this Raja to compete in an archery match with him. I beat him soundly and the arrangement was that to the winner would go this fine bow and quiver. In the aftermath of the match when the Raja refused to give me the bow the band turned violently on his house and did rob it, but I did not partake of that abuse. I am sorry things turned out as they did, but the Raja did not keep his part of our agreement." "Liar!" said the Raja. "He lies because he knows he will be put to death. He is but a thief and a coward." Chitrangada interjected here and asked Arjuna a question: "Where, oh man, did you learn to shoot the bow so well? Never before have I seen a thief to shoot as a noble. Thou, who did slay my comrades so efficiently." Arjuna stood up and addressed the court with noble bearing: "I am Arjuna, son of Pandu, from the kingdom of Hastinapur. I was exiled from my kingdom due to family strife and feuds and was living in the mountains, seeking to survive. I was a victim of circumstance, nothing more. To answer your question oh princess, I was instructed in archery by that sage of renown, the great Drona. To the Raja and his wife I offer my apologies for what the band of thieves did to your home. To you princess Chitrangada, I offer my condolences for your attendees, and before you mighty king, I humble myself and plead for your wisdom, mercy and understanding." The wife of the Raja stood up now and spoke to the king: "The young man is correct, my lord. He engaged in a competition with my husband but he was wronged, for he was the winner of the archery contest and the proud Raja could not bear that one so much younger than he might outdo him." Turning to the Raja, his wife commanded him: "Give him the bow and quiver. They now belong to this son of Pandu. Honored should ye be that one from such a noble family would compete with thee in a competition. Return his prize to him, now." The Raja lowered his eyes in embarrassment and gave the bow and quiver to a servant, who then brought the items to Arjuna. Then he and his wife rose from their place and left the court, silent and without saying a word, returning to their village. King Chitravahana focused on Arjuna now: "Thou art noble indeed, son of Pandu. You may stay here in the palace as my guest and then you may leave after your wounds begin to heal. My daughter did I train as a man to fight and be a champion. You have seen and indeed, experienced her skill, and she doth respect your talent as well. I raised her as if she were a male, since I have no son who could be a legitimate heir to the throne." King Chitranvahana's message was clear and more than implied. Arjuna looked at Chitrangada and she, at him. Their eyes locked and the soul of one recognized the same soul in the other. The pair were in fact in awe of each other. Night came and the inhabitants of the palace went to their chambers to sleep. Chitrangada ordered her servants to see to Arjuna's wounds, and to grant him anything he needed or desired. After a week Arjuna was healing, and he and Chitrangada spent time together taking and laughing, as the pair was becoming familiar and close to one another. King Chitravahana saw this too and was delighted, hoping that his daughter and the son of Pandu might become husband and wife, so as to give the king an heir. The king left the two to dally together, and awaited the day the stranger would ask for her hand in marriage. Late one night Chitrangada crept into the chamber of Arjuna and slipped into his bed. She smelled of perfume and sandalwood, which blended with the musty scent of her copper skin. She then set forth her conditions: "Know that I want you to se me for who and what I am, and to respect me for those qualities. I am not like other women, so remember who has defined your destiny, and to be honest with me in all matters. If you can agree, then take my virginity, it is yours." "No, you are not like most women, and it is for this that I Arjuna am in love with you, and desire for your soul to blend with mine." He began to run his fingers through her dark silky hair and then kissed her on the lips, moving lower onto her breast and then her belly. The princess ran her fingers over Arjuna's strong and sculpted back as the two pulled their bodies together and they made intense love through the night. The king knew this was happening, as he was informed by his servants, but said nothing. He was overjoyed that at least he might have an heir.

Nothing Is As it Seems The next morning Arjuna came to the king and asked for Chitrangada's hand in marriage, for which he approved immediately. He began to call Arjuna 'my son' and was in the best of moods every day. Together Chitrangada and Arjun would ride out with an entourage of escorts, hunting down bands of thieves and administering justice in the land. Word reached Arjuna's brothers in Hastinapur that he was married now to the princess of Manipur, and they visited the palace of the king to announce their alliance. The brothers forgave Arjuna for his past mistakes and welcomed him back whenever he wanted to return to his home. In the course of conversation they told the king various stories of Arjuna and how funny and clever he was as a child. But as the conversation flowed freely soon the word slipped out that Arjuna had some romantic exploits as well, and in fact had some wives waiting for him as well, naming them as Draupadi and Ulupi. Upon learning this, Chitrangada was more than a bit upset. She pulled him aside and demanded an explanation:

"You were married to two other women, and never told me? How could you Arjuna? I am with your child and now I learn from your brothers that you already have women in your possession? And children too? Just who do you think I am?" Arjuna was ashamed but brushed off the accusations. He turned to the king who cared not the least about his extramarital affairs. He told Chitrangada to make not an issue of this, because: "Arjuna is but a man, and men must have multiple women. It is in their wild nature. He has not been with these women for years now, fear not. Now stay healthy and strong, for I await my heir." Chitrangada despised her father now more than ever before, and was learning that men are worse than snakes and scorpions. Perhaps this is so because what she is experiencing isn't really happening. After all, it is all Maya, is it not. But illusion or not, the princess was hurt and experienced mistrust with the man she was married to, and he was clearly no different than her own, selfish father. Arjuna begged Chitrangada to try and understand: "I am done with these women. I even allowed Draupadi to be married to my brothers, so you see that I care not for her, or for Ulupi my second wife. These were arranged marriages, in fact I won Draupadi in a match using my archery skills. I never intended to marry her but I simply wanted to make my father and family happy and respect tradition. I am sure you understand." "And Ulupi? Did you win her in a match as well?" The princess asked. "No. She did desire to be with me and lured me to fall in love. She too is an amazing archer as you are, and I was impressed with her skill." Chitrangada expressed derisive laughter: "Ha! You seem to be obsessed with strong women, are you not? But if you think that you can play with this one to satisfy your fetish, you are mistaken, oh prince. I accept your explanation even though my manipura, my belly chakra tells me not to trust you any more than I would trust my own father. Perhaps it is because I find you amusing, and feel something within for you, and the reality growing within me is your child, the heir to the throne of Manipur. Notice how our city is named for the belly chakra, and we are adept at knowing whether to trust any man or demon." Arjuna embraced his wife and kissed her, then bent down and kissed her belly that was plump with a child within. Any day now and the heir to the throne would be born, and hopefully it will be a male. Chitrangada went into labor pains. In her chamber, her servants administered to her needs as the old palace handmaid, experienced in childbirth, assisted in bringing the baby into the world. Brahmins chanted verses from the holy scriptures and everyone present breathed a common pranayama exercise in rhythm. The princess cried out in pain and was told to push hard to force the child out of her womb. At last, the child could be heard crying and to everyone's joy, it was indeed a male. Arjuna was allowed in the room, as was the king, who both held the baby in their arms. When the child was returned to Chitrangada, she held the up infant up with her two arms and announced to all present the baby's name: "Behold ye all Babruvahana, the son of Chitrangada, princess of Manipur and Arjuna of the house of Pandu, of the Lunar Dynasty! Thou oh child art heir to my father and this kingdom, and I will instruct ye in the ways of becoming that future king." The boy's name was mysterious, but the Brahmins concluded that Babhruvahana meant brown skinned and was affiliated with the animal known as the mongoose, the killer of snakes and protector of homes. Also, the name was associated with the goddess Durga, to whom Chitrangada prayed. Arjuna and Chitrangada were happy and as soon as the boy began to walk they taught him to ride a horse and had a small bow crafted for him, so as to begin his lessons in archery. These were happy days for the family, until a messenger arrived with some upsetting news. Arjuna recongnized the deliverer of the message, for he was old Purush, Punda's personal servant who served the king and his family for decades and was present when Arjuna was born. He told Arjuna that the old king of Hastinapur, Arjuna's father Pandu had died. The five other Pandava brothers were now in competition with each other for the throne. To make matters worse, the Kaurava half brothers from the clan of Pandu's brother Dhritarashta were claiming the throne as well, and it was Karnu who was the most vocal in threatening to go to war with the Pandavas if they refused to give up the throne. Arjuna was curious now, for it was this same Karnu with whom his clan had trouble before, regarding the hand of Draupadi who was lost in a game of dice. Karnu never forgot this slight and now was in open rebellion against the Pandava clan. Arjuna addressed the Purush the messenger: "Old friend, tell me truly. What else do I need to know about this intrigue before I go back to Hastinapur to stand with my brothers and help to bring about understanding and peace to our kingdom?" The old man responded: "Oh Vijraya, victorious and invincible one. There is much that should concern you, for Karnu and your former wife Ulupi have been in negotiation. She makes no secret of her disdain for you, telling all that the selfish son of Pandu left her after he tired of her company and preferred to go off to seek his destiny. There are unfortunately many who agree with her and see you as self centered and egotistical. Ulupi swore to take her revenge and it seems, my lord, that she is doing just that, by causing the downfall of the Lotus Dynasty. War is imminent, and if you get involved whilst ye remain here in Hastinapur, then this kingdom will be cast into the darkness that is about to suffocate your birth land. This is no easy trial for thee, my lord, and I am truly thankful that I am but a house servant who will die a natural death with no possessions. Forgive me if I sound impertinent, oh Arjuna." The son of Pandu knew something had to be done. If he remained in Manipur and his brothers were overthrown it was but a matter of time, perhaps weeks, before the vengeful Karnu and Ulupi would send armies to conquer and perhaps kill Chitrangada and his son, Babhruvahana. Arjuna was trying to undo the irresponsibility of the past, when he was younger and caused grief to his family and to his current wife who always questioned his loyalty and his love. He didn't want this to affect the king of Manipur, Chitrangada and his son at all, so he decided to leave. He had a note written and left in his bed chamber. He wrote that he would return to Hastinapur, for the reason of following his destiny as his karma was once again calling him. One day, if it is destined to be, he would come back and meet Chitrangada and Babhruvahana again. He closed his letter by writing 'life is a cycle, and everything comes around, full circle. We shall certainly meet again.' Arjuna and Purush the old servant slipped out very early in the morning as the birds began to sing and rode back to the palace of the now deceased king Pandu for the purpose of preserving, if at all possible, the glory of the once great Lunar Dynasty. Bahruvahana rose from sleep and went to his fathers chambers to wake him up, as he always did. He noticed Arjuna was not there, and seeing the letter on his bed brought that to Chitrangada. Tears began to fall on her face as she read the letter and Babhruvahana asked her why she was crying, and where his father is. She didn't know the reason why her husband left so suddenly and became angry at what she saw as deceit. She rose tall like the royal warrior princess she was and faced her confused son: "Fear not my son, for thy father has gone for a short while to tend to some issues that need to be settled. He will return soon." But Chitrangada had a feeling in the pit of her stomach that Arjuna was not going to return. She complained to her old father who himself was mildly surprised at this sudden abandonment of his daughter but as always, made no pretension that he cared at all. He had his male heir now and that is all he thought about. Arjuna's work was done, and the man must follow his destiny. It was Babhruvahana's destiny that the king was interested in.

The Never Ending Cycle

Sixteen years passed. One morning king Chitravahana called his daughter to attend court. News was brought by an envoy from Hastinapur that a state of civil war exists between the Pandava and Kaurava clans who were fighting to claim the throne of the Lotus Dynasty. The envoy was sent by the Pandavas to remind the king that one of the Pandava brothers named Arjuna was married once to Chitrangada. Perhaps Manipur would wish at this time to honor and support their allies by marriage in a time of crisis by sending some soldiers to help the Pandavas in their struggle. But king Chitravahana refused to commit: "Why should we involve ourselves in your squabble for the throne? It matters not to us who rules your kingdom, we always lived in peace with whomever sits on throne of the Lotus Dynasty. Your son Arjuna partook of my hospitality and support but abandoned us, thereby relinquishing any claim or title. Manipur will not involve itself in your troubles." The envoy responded that if the Pandavas were successful against the Kauravas in the war they would never forget that Manipur turned its back on them and would make them pay for their betrayal. Old King Chitravahana laughed out loud and ordered the envoy to leave. Before he did so the visitor turned to Chitrangada and insulted her in the presence of all to witness: "So you will allow Ulupi to destroy the kingdom of your former husband? It is good then that he has taken yet another wife, the beautiful and comely Suphadra whom he loves dearly. Why should my lord waste his time with obvious cowards? I can see why he chose to levae you." Chitrangada became enraged and, taking a sword from one of the palace guards cut off the envoy's head. To his assistants she told them to take this head back to the Pandavas and to Arjuna. Old king Chitravahana was shocked at her sudden move and began to yell uncontrollably at his daughter. He began to cough heavily, losing his breath and gasping for air as he was now very old and sick. The old king then suddenly collapsed from the throne he sat upon and fell to the floor. The court guards called for the healers and would take him to his bed chamber to see if the monarch could be revived. But it was too much for the old king, for he died moments later. When Chitrangada was informed of her father's death she as expected showed no emotion, but told the informants that her son was the now king and until he would ascend the throne as a man she would rule Manipur for him. King Chitravahana was placed on the funeral pyre and when the holy torch was handed to Chitrangada to place in his mouth so as to begin the cremation ceremony, she handed the torch to a servant nearby and ordered him to do it instead. She walked away, knowing that at last she was free from the rule of men. The Pandavas and Kauravas were engaged now in a bloody war, each clan intent on wiping out the other. Reports and stories of the battles, the daring deeds of champions and warriors, spread throughout the land. Eventually, these reports reached the ears of Babhruvahana who was now old enough to rule and sit on the throne of Manipur as king, closely guided and advised by his mother Chitrangada. She never spoke of Arjuna, Babhruvahana's father, as the princess was so hurt by Arjuna's deception that she wanted to wipe away any connection to that son of Pandu. Once in a while she would sit alone and contemplate the memory of those joyful days when she and Arjuna lavished their love on their son together. Now, this was but a distant recollection lost in time. She knew that with a war looming not far away she had to be at her son's side who needed her guidance and support. The great war culminated in a battle that lasted eighteen days, fought between the Pandavas and Kauravas on the plain of Kurukshetra. Each day saw armies clash and thousands killed or wounded, one day the Pandavas claiming victory and the next, the Kauravas celebrating their kills. Arjuna's brother Yodhisthira assumed command of their clan while the leadership of the Kauravas changed from day to day. Eventually it was Karna, that same Kaurava who challenged the Pandava brothers for the hand of Arjuna's former wife Draupadi many years ago, who became their undisputed leader. This was a sad war that saw much broken and corrupted alliances between former enemies and good friends as well as loved ones fighting and killing each other- even Arjuna would slay his old teacher and master the sage Drona in one of the encounters with one shot of an arrow from his bow, the same sage who did teach the young prince the art which turned him into a master archer. It was a time of sheer chaos and confusion as well as questionable loyalties, and if ever there was verification required to argue that our life here in this dimension is but Maya, an illusion and a bad dream, it was given credence here at the great battle of Kurukshetra. While the conflict was taking place day after day on the field of Kurukshetra a report came to Chitrangada that a force of Pandavas recently entered the kingdom of Manipur headed by prince Arjuna himself. The report stated that this army seemed desperate and short on supplies, as it was thought to be fleeing and in retreat from someone or some pursuing legion for the force seldom stopped to get water or rest. Closely following a few leagues behind Arjuna's battalion was an army of Kaurava warriors. It seemed that the great war was about to enter Manipur and Chitrangada was concerned. It was also also noted that this Kaurava force was led by a princess named Ulupi, once the wife of Arjuna whom he abandoned years ago, like so many others. She was seeking revenge and was hot on Arjuna's trail. The intrepid and fearless prince feared that Ulupi and the Kauravas were intending to make an alliance with Manipur. For this reason did Arjuna abandon his brothers on the plain of Kurukshetra and entered Manipur so as to convince the city to side with him and stop Ulupi. But Ulupi was clever, as word of the deeds and the faults of nobility traveled fast. She knew that Chitrangada was as upset with Arjuna as she was. By allowing Arjuna's column to pass into her lands perhaps the princess of Manipur would waste no time to confront the prince and perhaps even kill him, sparing Ulupi the terrible deed. Yet Ulupi was not sure of Chitrangada's feelings and felt that this princess had to be convinced. As Arjuna did not stop to rest and made straight for Manipur Ulupi knew she had to reach the royal court before he did, so she directed her army to go round Arjuna by taking a detour that placed her army in front rather than behind him. Arjuna was but a half day away and Ulupi, standing in her war chariot outside the walls of the city of Manipur with her attendants, demanded Chitrangada come out of the palace to speak with her. Ulupi called out from outside the palace walls:

"I am not here to converse with your son Brabhuvahana the king who sits on the throne, the heir to your late father. My business concerns you Chitrangada, as it concerns a selfish and egotistical liar who has hurt us both. Come and parley with me." Chitrangada told Babhruvahana to ready the army as she went alone to speak with Ulupi. The two princesses stared at each other for a moment, Chitrangada in a fine robe and Ulupi already dressed for war wearing scale and red leather armor, her attendees at her side.

"I am Ulupi of Hastinapur. I was once the wife of Arjuna, a self centered man who had his way with my body, promising me happiness and celestial dreams of lovely Apsara dancing on my pillow at night. I was a fool for believing his lies and from what I have been told, you are as well. He is a great deceiver, as his first wife Draupadi informed me. After he left the palace when he tired of her he literally gave her up and forced her to marry all of his five brothers just so he could follow his destiny and seek enlightenment. Even Lord Krishna accepts him after he broke his vow of purity and trust a hundred times. Perhaps the Lord sees something of worth in him that we cannot. I was not so fortunate as you, and I lost my husband after only a few months. I was a great warrior in my youth as were you Chitrangada and never allowed a man to command or control me, until marrying Arjuna. He has even taken another wife, the young and beautiful Suphadhra with whom he is in love and is most dedicated. I had to listen at night to their love making while Arjuna ignores me, the moans and sounds of pleasure that I am forced to hear tormenting me to my core. But alas, he left you a son to rule the kingdom thereby guaranteeing security whilst I had to sit back and watch the Pandava clan bicker and fight among themselves and then with their half siblings, the Kauravas. They had the nerve to ask me for advice while I was rotting away alone! They are all selfish and blind to anything that doesn't concern them and Arjuna is no different from the rest of those serpents. There may be none left after this great bloody battle which is taking place now on the plain of Kurukshetra for many have died and it is surely wise and clever on the part of Lord Arjuna to come here to seek refuge with you. He will discard you and cast ye out and Arjuna, not your son, will sit on that throne. The prince has been so involved with this Pandava and Kaurava war that he isn't even aware that your son sits on the throne now. You will have to decide what to do and quickly, as Arjuna's force is very close now to your city. Though we both in the past would have been competitors for the embrace of this handsome prince, we should now stand as one against this abuser of women, the manipulator Arjuna, the son of Pandu of the Lotus Dynasty."

Chitrangada responded calmly, but firm: "Yes, you speak the truth and there is no question that we both have been wronged. I despise this prince for what he did to me, and to those women upon whom he did cast his spell. He has been irresponsible and for the sake of enlightenment oft did he abandon his duty as prince and husband. There is in my heart a place of compassion for those who seek the path of dharma, those who would abandon physical desire and seek peace through the application of ahimsa. Deep in the recesses of my soul is a memory of Arjuna's kindness, his compassion, and his love of the pursuit of divine truth, satya, though his desire and ego as well as his lust for women seemed never to be satisfied, as women were unable to resist his good looks and the manner in which he swaggers. If he comes here to fight, I shall not hesitate to meet him in armed combat for it is I alone who did wound him once and bettered him with my bow skills. But if he is willing to explain why he left me in my hour of happiness, the only true joy I have ever experienced in my life, then I might allow him to leave Manipur unharmed. I know not why life is such that we are shaped by fate and destiny except that what we are experiencing is Maya, and both you and I as well as Arjuna are but an illusion." Ulupi's face revealed her disappointment at Chitrangada's caution and the small amount of obvious feeling the princess still held in her heart for Arjuna. Now, Ulupi's words of warning would betray her impatience and alarm Chitrangada, who was well accustomed to manipulation and political intrigue: "I hope you will consider what is at stake and make the right decision, for we both know who this man is and what he is capable of. It is your son Babhruvahana who will suffer the most. Be on your guard Chitrangada, as our common enemy approaches." With those words Ulupi ordered her attendant to turn the war chariot around and go back to where her forces were assembled on a hill, waiting for the arrival of Arjuna and hoping Chitrangada would consider her words and commit the army of Manipur to battle against him. She was also clever and cautious this daughter of Manipur, and instructed her son to assemble his forces outside the city walls and await a possible attack. "Fight against whoever attacks you my son, for two armies have brought their war to our lands, they who have never been invited. I will join you shortly and we will see how destiny shall manifest the truth this day. Whichever army attacks you first, fight that enemy and destroy them. I will be at your side, fear ye not.

Battle As the warrior princess was donning her armor and making ready her weapons- the fearful katara dagger and the bow for which she was known, Arjuna arrived on the field outside the walls of Manipur. Seeing the Kaurava army of Ulupi on the hills in the distance, Arjuna rode up on his horse to the forces arrayed in front of the mighty walls of the city and demanded that they heed his word and join their forces with his to fight against Ulupi and the Kauravas. Babhruvahana the king, the son of Chitrangada did not know that this prince, who did seem fine and well groomed, magnificent in his armor sitting upon a white horse was his long lost father for whom he knew nothing of, for Chitrangada never spoke of him. Babhruvahana addressed Arjuna, who in turn had no idea that this young man was his own son: "You come to our lands and dare to demand with whom the kingdom of Manipur should make alliances? Your struggles in Hastinapur have no bearing here, your childish arguments with siblings and rivals are not our concern. Leave this land now lest our brave soldiers crush you and yours into the dust beneath our feet, dog!" Arjuna would not accept such an insult to go unanswered. Raising his legendary golden bow above his head he signaled his army to attack the defenders of Manipur. He must defeat this obstinate young king before Ulupi and the Kaurava commit their forces to battle, as he could be trapped between the two. As they charged headlong to engage the ranks who stood their ground firmly, Babhruvahana ordered his archers to let loose volley after volley of arrows onto the attackers which decimated them by the dozens. Arjuna's Pandava army crashed into the ranks of the Manipuri who fought back exchanging sword blow for sword blow, the maces of the champions crushing helmets and breastplates, breaking bones and skulls upon impact. Talwars and katara swords ripping abdomens and severing jugular veins, spears and lances impaling both warrior and horse as one. Babhruvahana called now for the war chariots and the elephant brigades to attack and these sallied forth crushing men unfortunate enough to be in their path. Seeing the time was right, thinking Chitrangada and the Manipuri decided to ally with her, Ulupi ordered her Kaurava forces to attack Arjuna's brigade which now, as the prince feared, was hemmed in by the two opposing armies. Manipuri war chariots as well as the infantry and cavalry of the Kaurava slaughtered Arjuna's men for whom there was no escape. Arjuna took his bow and, standing upon a small hillock shot two, three, five arrows at a time, each shaft finding a young or an old soldier of Manipur or the Kaurava clan as a target.

Babhruvahana took a bow now and shot off arrows at a rapid rate, killing the Pandava bodyguards who stood about protecting prince Arjuna on the hillock. He took aim at Arjuna and let go a shaft just as Arjuna let one loose as well. The two arrows, flying in opposite directions met in mid air and shattered one another as their points impacted. Then Babhruvahana took another shaft and let it fly, this time low near the ground hoping to hit Arjuna in the calf so as to disable him, but the prince lay down prone and shot his own arrow which caught the incoming shaft and again, shattered it. Babhruvahana loaded three arrows now and let them fly as Arjuna reciprocated with five, shooting his straight up, destroying the arrows in flight. As both Babhruvahana and Arjuna were locked in their own personal archery contest to the death, somewhat fascinated by each other's incredible skill, Chitrangada dashed on her horse dressed in her magnificent bronze armor through the gates of the city to support her son, waving her katara dagger above her head and attacking the surviving Pandava soldiers, cutting them down. Ulupi was pleased to see that she decided to join in the battle against Arjuna and laughed aloud like a mad woman as she urged on her war chariot and struck at the Pandavas with her bow and spear, killing them mercilessly and crushing the unfortunate ones under the vehicle's wheels.

Arjuna's army was decimated and his young foe was determined to kill him. Babhruvahana took one specially crafted arrow, a shaft forged of precious glass that was said to have been kissed by the goddess Kali herself, and called out to the heavens: "With this shaft of glass oh mother Kali allow me to slay this invader so that my destiny will unfold before all present here today, that all will know that I am a mighty king and proclaimed the victor!" Babhruvahana placed the shaft on the bowstring, took aim and let the arrow loose. It made a whistling sound as it flew through the air, the light passing through it created a rainbow of many colors in it's wake. A desperate Arjuna responded by shooting ten arrows at once, hoping to stop this single, glass shaft Bahruvahana unleashed. However it was to no avail as the arrow of Kali destroyed all the arrows of Arjuna. Cutting right through them, splitting them into tiny bits or causing them to burst into flames, the glass arrow found Arjuna's chest, striking him in the very center of the heart chakra. The prince was unable to move, shocked that he would be struck by a single arrow dispatched by who was but a mere lad, an arrow that he knew would prove to be fatal. Arjuna spoke out loud addressing his words to Lord Krishna: "How could this be? Is this illusion? To be killed by a mere boy? Perhaps this is karma since I did slay the great sage Drona who taught me the fine art of archery on the field of Kurukshetra. For this I am sorry, I am sorry for all the sins I committed in my life as I have been a slave to passion and my ego. Forgive me cruel world, for those I have offended." Chitrangada, Ulupi and the surviving soldiers from the Pandava and Kaurava armies all stopped fighting to look upon the wounded prince. Chitrangada dismounted her horse and came running to Arjuna, kneeling down and placing his head on her knee. She removed his helmet and began to stoke his hair. As tears began to run down her face as she looked upon her former lover with eyes of tenderness. Ulupi watched the scene from a slight distance away and was herself silent, somewhat moved by the compassion which Chitrangada showed to the wounded prince Arjuna, who addressed now the princess: "Art thou she, Chitrangada, the woman who defeated me long ago and accepted me as her husband? I promised to return to you one day and now, I am here. Life offers us many challenges if we believe it is reality. Only through the knowledge that all we see, feel and hear around us is in all actuality Maya are we freed from this terrible nightmare. Our best laid plans are thwarted by events beyond our control. I knew not that you were still here, alive and well, since it was not you who came to challenge me but this young warrior who is adept with the use of the bow, so good that one would think the late sage Drona who taught me the art of archery did instruct him. Bring this brave lad here to me that I may congratulate him on his death shot, so skillfully placed." The princess waved her arm and signaled for Babhruvahana to come near. He was looking down upon the vanquished prince who at first coughed, then spoke: "Who art thou, and from whom did ye learn to shoot so well, young warrior?" "I am Babhruvahana, the son of princess Chitrangada who did teach me all I know about archery and the martial arts, for she is the greatest warrior in our kingdom. My mother taught me well to be a warrior and a king, since I know not my father who departed us long ago, never to return." Arjuna looked at Chitrangada and with his eyes asked her if this warrior was indeed the son he left behind long ago. She nodded once, lowering her head and not lifting it again. Arjuna, his mouth open wide but breathing deeply, understood now who the lad was and beckoned him to come even closer: "Come close to me, as my wound permits me not to speak aloud and I am forced to whisper, and death is very near. You hurt for the lack of a father growing up. Before I die, answer me this- if your lost father were to keep his word and return to you, what would you do to keep him with you forever?" Babhruvahana replied: "I would be angry at this man for abandoning my mother and I, but if he be good man, a pious man, a true follower of dharma and he were to repent I might forgive him and do what I can, now as I am the king. I would keep him with me for all my days that we may do now what we could not do together all these years, as father and son, for love resides in the deepest recesses of the heart even though we manifest it not 'pon our countenance, for we are prone to protect ourselves from further hurt and pain. Why dost thou ask this, oh stranger?" At this point Ulupi, moved by a son's discourse and a father's pitiful plea, as well as Chitrangada's expression of deep love and compassion, answered Babhruvahana's question: "Because this man is thy father. He is the man who left you long ago. Behold, he who lies before you is Prince Arjuna, he who conversed with his friend Lord Krishna, the lost husband to Chitrangada, the greatest warrior queen in the land. He too left me and wronged many women in his day and for this reason have I sought revenge for the dishonor and hardship I have had to endure. But now he is near death, and what I have seen today has convinced me that we are all subjects of our ego and the all commanding self, an enemy far more lethal than all the massed armies in the world. Your desire to see once more your lost father, as well as your mother's love and forgiveness for this man who did hurt her beyond imagination is astounding, and today I have learned much. For years I was jealous of your mother Chitrangada and hoped both she and your father here would have killed one another but now, I must put this behind and realize that she is truly the greater warrior. We are all part of this dream, this Maya, this illusion, and only by acknowledging this fact can we wake up to the satya, the truth we seek. Wait..." Ulupi signaled her chariot attendant and he ran up to the spot where Arjuna lay dying, breathing very slowly now as he was near death surrounded by his wife, son and warriors of the Pandava and Kaurava clans who stood about, all of them weeping for the great prince. The attendant carried something wrapped in a cloth in his cupped hands and handed this to Ulupi, who undid the cloth to reveal a shining stone. She explained: "I have been a slave to my ego as any of us but I will correct my crooked path so that my karma and the karma of all present will change for the better. This which I hold in my hands is the healing stone called Nagamani, which was gifted to me when I was a child growing up in the land of the Naga people. The stone can only be used once, for one person or animal, then it loses its power forever. Chitrangada, great princess and warrior queen, I hope you can forgive me as I forgive you for the jealousy we held for each other. Behold, young Babruvahana, your father comes to you. Arjuna, man whom I once loved who did destroy my life, yours this day I duly preserve." Ulupi signalled Chitrangada to come close and together the pair removed Arjuna's armored breastplate which revealed the deep, bloody wound inflicted by the glass arrow of Kali shot at him by his son. She placed the Nagamani stone upon the prince's chest, and addressed the gathering: "Let us praise Lord Shiva, that he might assist in restoring the life force of Arjuna, prince of the Pandava, rulers of the Lotus Dynasty. So many have died on the field of battle as of late, please allow but one to live Lord Shiva. As thou are the consort of Parvati, so doth this man Arjuna have many who love him."

Ulupi began to intone the sacred mantra 'Om Nimah Shivaya', repeating the phrase one hundred and eight times as all in attendance began to recite as well in a beautiful chorus that caused the birds of heaven to fly overhead. Apsara maidens could be seen dancing on the horizon as the Sun began to set. The Nagamani stone lit up and became illuminated as if it held a fire within. Though the light of day was fading the stars shone brightly as comets and meteors streaked across the celestial realms in their thousands. Flashes of light from the far north lit the sky as fireflies in their millions seemingly fluttered about to the chanting of the mantra. The great war had come to an end and animosity was over. A feeling of calm and rebirth generated across the plain outside the city of Manipur. Soldiers went back to their ranks collecting the dead from the bloody field and made ready to return home. After the last warrior had gone only Ulupi and her attendant, Chitrangada and her son Babhruvahana remained with Arjuna who lay motionless on the ground with the Nagamani rock still on his chest, which was dulled now and sparkled no more. Chitrangada, her eyes bursting with tears shouted aloud: "Arjuna! Arise thou prince, for the love of thy son, arise!" Arjuna opened his eyes and looked at Chitrangada, then Babhruvahana and finally at Ulupi. He spoke not save to ask "what?" but Ulupi covered his mouth with her hand. She rose and walked away, back to her war chariot which she mounted, giving the group the traditional hand greeting symbolized by clasped praying hands while intoning "namaste." She waved and her attendant urged on the horses pulling her chariot, which rumbled as it made its way to take the road away from Manipur. Where she would go, now that the Kauravas with whom she sided in this great war were ultimately defeated at the battle of Kurukshetra, was anyone's guess. Life is a migration that leads us to regions and stations we seldom understand regardless of the most carefully thought out plans we make. Ulupi knew this and went on to live as an outcast, to seek where her destiny would lead her in this grand dream, this illusion, this reality of non being we call Maya. Only a small number of the Pandavas survived the great war but they were at least able to maintain control with Arjuna's brother Yudhistira sitting upon the throne of the Lotus Dynasty, or what was left of it. Karna and the Kaurava leaders were all killed in the battle of Kurukshetra, the few who survived were instantly slain outright or enslaved. Hastinapur was once a great kingdom but now was reduced to a tiny fraction of what it was. The war brought about a terrible famine and from this the population- peasants and craftsmen, Brahmin priests and untouchable Shudras were forced to migrate and find a life elsewhere. The glory of the past was gone now, perhaps forever, and only the dusty memories of yesterday comforted those who dared but dream of a tomorrow which most knew in their hearts would likely never come. Epilogue Chitrangada and Babhruvahana brought Arjuna into the security of the palace where he had lived some years ago when he and the princess were bonded in matrimony. Arjuna knew that Chitrangada tended to his wounds here once before, and now nursed him once again. "I defeated you once before, and I defeat you yet again so that you are at my mercy. I wounded you with my arrows and then, through the unraveling of this dream we call life fell in love with a man who gave me a son, but then left me. I nursed you to health then, and I nurse you to health now, once again defeated by the arrow of our son whom I did instruct in the art of archery. Life is indeed a cycle that repeats itself over and over with karma never failing to remind us of all that occurred before." Arjuna responded to his former wife with an apology and a plea: "Surely, I have learned now that life is indeed a cycle and it has been our destiny that we meet again, on the field of battle. My own offspring did wound me, the woman I abused and hurt has taken revenge upon me and now here we are, you an I, together again. The world has turned upside down as great kingdoms rose and fell, and will surely rise again some time in the future. But in this lifetime there are no guarantees. You have showered me with kindness Chitrangada, and I see now that you are not only a warrior or a princess but a great sage, Ma Atma. If it pleases thee, I would remain here with you and Babhruvahana and be a father and a husband for the rest of our days." "No Arjuna, the time for that is long passed" responded Chitrangada. "Your destiny is not here within these palace walls but with your good friend and teacher Lord Krishna, out in the world, in the forests and in mountain passes where you can converse in the languages of the birds and beasts and dwell in a world of enlightenment. You have a young wife back in Hastinapur whom thou dost love like no other. Suphadra is beautiful, patient and kind, and awaits your return. Redeem thy past sins and cleanse thy karma by undoing that ego and the lust that commanded thyself in thy younger days. By letting you go dear Arjuna, I also purify my own karma and the karma of our son. 'Tis the better for all that we do this." Babhruvahana sat silently as he listened intently to the conversation between his parents. He felt strange and a bit confused by all that unfolded over the course of the past two days but accepted it calmly. Chitrangada was worried that he might be angry with her for hiding the fact of his father all these years, but she taught him well: "I am thy son Babhruvahana who would love nothing more than to have thee as my lord and master in my life, dear father. But while I am thy son, thou art but a prince. I must be a king, as my mother instructed me. And a good king I will be, for I was raised by she who thou saw for whom she was, what she was and in fact still is, the greatest woman either of us shall ever know. Farewell, dear father." Upon his announcement and decision, Babhruvahana rose from the cushion he was sitting upon and left the chamber. Arjuna was moved by his son's words which came to him as no surprise. He and Chitrangada stared intensely at each other for a long moment, then stood up as she did the same. This was the time for parting. "I shall take my leave of you now, my princess. One day perhaps we shall meet again in this life or the next and I will endeavor to seek enlightenment now so that in the distant future your soul will look kindly upon mine and see itself reflected. For thou hast been my greatest teacher, my guru, the rishi of the age. Never has there been nor will there ever be any woman on Earth or in the celestial realms who would equal thy countenance." The two folded their hands over the heart chakra and recited the 'namaste', one soul within saluting the same spiritual essence in the body of the other. Arjuna turned and left while Chitrangada raised her right hand in an almost childish, friendly manner of bidding a sad goodbye. As Chitrangada watched from the palace walls, the prince rode away on his horse. She consoled herself with satya, that established truth as written in the Rig Veda, the solitary truth which every rishi proclaims and every individual alive would come to agree with: within we are all gods but in reality we are but mortals, striving to understand, survive and exist in this dream, this illusion we call reality, that mystery that cannot be explained and we know of as Maya.