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Chapter 27

Bhīma Meets Hanumān

The Pāṇḍavas remained in Badarīkā Ashram for six days and nights. On the seventh day, a wind blew up from the northeast, carrying a single celestial lotus. The flower fell at Draupadī’s feet. The princess looked in wonder at the golden thousand-petalled flower. Its fragrance delighted her mind and she was charmed by its beauty. She had never seen anything like it and she showed it to Bhīma. “Just behold this flower, O mighty-armed one. Have you ever seen anything so wonderful? It gladdens my heart and I desire to give it to Yudhiṣṭhira. Please discover where it came from and bring others so that we may take them back to our hermitage in Kāmyaka.”

Draupadī looked at Bhīma with her dark eyes, which were covered with long, curling lashes. Feeling her gaze upon him, Bhīma felt commanded. He was overjoyed at the opportunity to do something for her pleasure. She had suffered so much over the past years. The gentle princess was not suited to forest life, and she still felt the agony of the insults she had suffered in Hastināpura. Now she suffered even more due to Arjuna’s absence. He had always been her favorite among the Pāṇḍavas. Bhīma said, “It will be done. O blessed lady, you will see me return with an armful of these golden flowers.”

Bhīma faced the wind and began to climb the mountain. He traveled swiftly, resembling a furious elephant crashing through the forest. All creatures fled away in fear as he raced ahead, thinking only of Draupadī.

The region through which Bhīma passed became increasingly beautiful. Not only were the trees in full bloom, but the rocks were black stone inlaid with gems. It seemed to Bhīma as if the Goddess Earth had raised her arm adorned with sparkling ornaments in the form of this mountain. Bhīma felt a cool breeze fanning his body, and his energy increased. On all sides he saw numerous Gandharvas and Siddhas sporting on the mountain slopes with their consorts, the beautiful celestial maidens turning their heads sideways to look at the Pāṇḍava as he rushed past. Bhīma scoured the mountainside as he ran, looking everywhere for the lotuses, but he did not find the flowers. He continued higher into the mountain, roaring with exultation at his own strength and power. Hearing the tremendous noise, animals at a distance became afraid. The mountain tigers left their dens and ran about. Some of them tried to attack Bhīma, but he slapped them aside as he ran. He lifted elephants and tossed them at other elephants, clearing his path.

Bhīma then came to a plantain forest. He entered it with force and broke some of the tall trees by hitting against them with his arms and thighs. He was still shouting, and his roars now mixed with the terrified cries of the forest animals. The tumult he created carried for miles.

Suddenly, Bhīma noticed aquatic birds rising into the air not far off, frightened by the noise. Realizing there must be water nearby, and that lotuses grow on water, he made his way toward the birds. Soon, he saw a delightful lake. The Pāṇḍava went down to the water which was adorned by innumerable lotuses and lilies. He dived in and swam about like a maddened elephant. Refreshed and enlivened, he rose from the water and let out a terrific blast from his conch shell. Examining the lotuses, however, he realized that they were not the same as the one Draupadī desired. He set off up the mountain again, following a path leading up from the lake.

He heard a loud noise just ahead of him. The sound echoed all around the mountain and made Bhīma’s hair stand on end. He ran forward to see what could have made such a noise and he found a huge monkey lying across the path, lashing the ground with his long tail and making the earth tremble. The monkey was effulgent and resembled a blazing hill of copper. He had broad shoulders and a slender waist. His face shone like the full moon, and behind his thin lips, Bhīma could see sharp, pearl-white teeth.

Seeing him obstructing his path like a hill, Bhīma roared at him. The monkey, however, did not seem impressed. He slowly opened his reddish eyes and looked lazily at Bhīma. “Why have you awakened me? I am ill and deserve your kindness. Indeed, as a human you should know the codes of religion and show kindness to all lower creatures. O hero, it seems you do not know virtue because you have come here forcefully, destroying animals on your way. Who are you? Where are you going? Do you not know that you cannot proceed further? This path leads to heaven and men cannot access it. Only those who are successful in ascetic practices can go to the celestial regions. Therefore, give up your quest and turn back. Or rest here awhile first and partake of the sweet fruits and cool water. O foremost of men, do not try to force your way past and thus die for nothing.”

Intrigued, Bhīma responded politely. “Who are you, O respectable one? Why are you in the form of a monkey? I myself belong to the royal order. I am a descendent of Kuru and the son of King Pāṇḍu, and I was born in the Lunar dynasty from the union of Kuntī and Vāyu. My name is Bhīma.”

“I am simply a monkey. I shall not allow you to pass. Turn back now. Do not meet with destruction.”

Bhīma felt his anger rising. Who was this ape? “O monkey, I do not ask that you give me permission, nor am I interested to hear your thoughts about my destruction. Stand aside. Do not experience grief at my hands.”

The monkey, still speaking in a lazy voice, said, “I am ill and cannot move. If you must pass me, then step over my body.”

Bhīma shook his head. “How can I step over you when I know that the all-pervading Supersoul, the Lord of all, resides in your heart as he does in the hearts of every being? I cannot disregard him.”

Bhīma looked closely at the monkey and he thought of the great Hanumān, Lord Rāma’s devoted servant. Could this be him? But that monkey had lived in a long past age. How could he still be alive? That would mean he was now almost a million years old. No, it was impossible. Bhīma continued, “Had I not been aware of the Supersoul I would have leapt over you as well as the entire mountain, even as Hanumān leapt across the ocean.”

The monkey turned toward Bhīma and opened his eyes wide. “Who is this Hanumān who leapt over the ocean? Tell me if you can.”

“He was my brother, begotten by the wind-god and endowed with intelligence and strength. He was the best of monkeys and he is celebrated in the Rāmayana. For the sake of Rāma’s wife, Sītā, he leapt a hundred yojanas over the sea to Lanka. I am equal to him in strength and prowess and am thus able to chastise you. Arise, O monkey, and give way. Otherwise, I shall send you to Yamarāja’s abode.”

The monkey remained calm. “I have grown old and cannot move. Please move my tail and make your way past.”

Bhīma moved toward the monkey. This was surely not Hanumān, for Hanumān’s power was limitless. This monkey was simply some insolent and powerless being who deserved to be punished for obstructing his path and refusing to move. Perhaps he was even a Rākṣasa assuming a disguise and waiting for a chance to attack. Bhīma decided to take him by the tail and whirl him around till he died. The Pāṇḍava bent over and carelessly took hold of the monkey’s tail with his left hand. To his surprise, he found that he could not budge the tail.

Placing both hands firmly around the monkey’s tail, Bhīma pulled hard. Still it could not be moved. Bhīma struggled with all his strength. His face was contracted, he was covered with perspiration, and his eyes rolled. Despite his efforts, however, Bhīma could not shift it at all. The Pāṇḍava realized that this was not an ordinary monkey or even a demon as he had supposed. Bowing his head in shame, he stood before the creature with joined palms and said, “Forgive me my harsh words. Are you a Siddha, a Gandharva, or a god? I am curious. Who are you in the shape of a monkey? I seek your refuge and ask you in the mood of a disciple. If it is no secret, then be pleased to tell me.”

The monkey sat up. “O chastiser of enemies, as you are curious I shall tell you. Know me to be the son of that life of the universe, Vāyu, born in the womb of Keshari. I am the monkey named Hanumān whom you mentioned earlier.”

As Bhīma listened in amazement, Hanumān told him in brief the famous history of the Rāmayana, which the Pāṇḍava already knew well. When Hanumān finished speaking, tears fell from Bhīma’s eyes and he fell to the ground to offer his obeisances. Rising up again, he spoke joyfully to the monkey chief. “No one is more fortunate than me, for I have seen my famous and powerful brother. O great one, I have only one desire. Please show me the form with which you jumped over the ocean. I shall then have full faith in your words.”

Hanumān replied, “That form cannot be seen by you or anyone else. When I leapt over the ocean, things were quite different than they are now. It was a different age, and everything was greater. Now that Kali-yuga is about to begin, all things have diminished. I can no longer display that gigantic form because every being must obey the dictates of time. I am no exception. Therefore, please do not ask me to reveal that form.”

Hearing Hanumān speak, Bhīma became curious to learn more from his ancient brother. “Please tell me, O Hanumān, what are the different manners and customs of each age? You have been alive almost since the first age. How have people pursued religion, economic development, pleasure, and liberation in each of the yugas?”

Hanumān began with Satya-yuga. At that time, every living being was self-realized and devoted to the Supreme Lord’s service. With the onset of each successive age, however, everything diminishes and becomes more degraded. Virtue, which was fully manifest in the first age, was diminished by a quarter in each successive age. By now, Hanumān explained, virtue and religion were three-quarters lost. By the end of Kali-yuga, it will have disappeared entirely. Hanumān concluded, “As the ages progress and virtue diminishes, so the nature and abilities of men undergo diminishment. Everything becomes inauspicious. Even the performance of religious acts in this last age produces contrary results. How then can I show the form with which I leapt over the great ocean? And even if I could, why should a wise man such as yourself ask to see something so unnecessary?”

But Bhīma was insistent. He sensed that Hanumān was able to show his most powerful form despite his reluctance. The Pāṇḍava greatly desired to see it and he declared that he would not leave until he was satisfied.

At last the monkey chief relented. Telling Bhīma to stand back, Hanumān rose up from his resting place and expanded his body to massive proportions. He covered all sides and towered above Bhīma, looking like a second Vindhya mountain. In a voice which resounded through the forest he spoke to the awestruck Pāṇḍava.

“O Bhīma, this is the extent to which you are able to see my form. I could go on expanding myself almost without limit. My size and power increase amid foes according to their strength. Rāma’s devoted servants can never be overcome by any enemy.”

Bhīma felt his hair standing erect. Dropping to his knees he said, “O lord, O greatly mighty one, I have seen your form to my satisfaction. You resemble the Maināka mountain. As you are able to show such power, how was it that Rāma had to exert himself to fight with Rāvaṇa? With you by his side, what need was there for him to do battle with that Rākṣasa? It seems to me that you could have immediately and single-handedly crushed Lanka with all its warriors, elephants and chariots.”

Hanumān returned to his normal size and replied solemnly. “O mighty-armed descendent of Bharata, it is exactly as you say. That wretch Rāvaṇa was no match for me, but if I had slain him, then the glory of Daśaratha’s son would have been obscured. By killing the king of the demons and rescuing Sītā, my Lord Rāma has established his fame and glory among men.”

Hanumān then told Bhīma to go back to his brothers. Bhīma explained that he first had to find the source of the thousand-petalled lotuses and Hanumān showed him the way to the forest where they grew. “There is the path which leads to the Saugandhika forest, and there you will see Kuvera’s gardens, which are guarded by the Yakṣas and Rākṣasas. In a great lake lie the flowers which you seek for your wife.”

Hanumān came forward and embraced Bhīma with affection. He briefly instructed him in the science of kingship and then said, “O Bhīma, having once again come in contact with a human I have felt in my mind the presence of my Lord Rāma, who is Viṣṇu incarnate and who is the blazing sun to the lotus, Sītā, and to the darkness called Rāvaṇa. Therefore, I wish to give you a boon. Ask of me whatever you desire. If you wish, I shall go to Hastināpura and kill Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s insignificant sons and grind their city to powder. Or, I can bind Duryodhana and bring him here. Tell me, what can I do for you?”

Bhīma replied that he felt assured of success if Hanumān would simply lend his support and blessings. Even his presence on the battlefield would guarantee victory. Hanumān replied, “When you rush forward for the fight, sending forth lion-like roars, I will add my roars to yours. Remaining on the flagstaff of Arjuna’s chariot, I will strike fear into the hearts of your foes by my terrific yells.”

After embracing his brother once more, Hanumān told him to depart for Saugandhika. Seeing the glint in Bhīma’s impetuous eyes as he made ready to leave, Hanumān held him by the arms and said, “Do not take the flowers forcefully, child. The celestials should always be respected. In this way they will bestow their blessings upon you. As a kṣatriya, you should perform your duty to protect other living beings humbly and keep your passions under control. Go in peace. I bid you farewell.”

Hanumān disappeared and Bhīma headed toward Saugandhika. As he walked he reflected on the majestic form Hanumān had shown him. Who could imagine such a sight either on heaven or on earth? Bhīma also remembered Rāma’s glories and the great battle he had fought for Sītā with Hanumān’s help. Millions of Rākṣasas had been slain. Bhīma knew a similar fight awaited the Pāṇḍavas. Again the all-powerful Lord, the original Supreme Person, would take part in the fight. The world would then be rid of unwanted elements. Duryodhana and his brothers were no better than the sinful Rākṣasas which Kṛṣṇa had destroyed as Lord Rāma. How could they then rule the world? Surely it was the Lord’s desire that they be annihilated.

Soon Bhīma’s mind again drifted to his surroundings. He was moving swiftly again, but the beauty of the woodlands, groves, orchards, lakes and rivers was not lost on him. Still the cool breeze carried that captivating fragrance from the blossoming trees. Herds of wild elephants roved about like masses of clouds, while buffaloes, bears, leopards and deer moved here and there.

Bhīma pressed on. Just after noon, he at last arrived in the Saugandhika region. There he saw the lake filled with fresh golden lotuses, exactly like the one that had blown to Draupadī’s feet. Swans swam upon the lake, and other water birds mingled with them, all making delightful sounds. The lake seemed to be fed by mountain springs that fell into it in cascades that sparkled in the sun. A canopy of green and golden trees, which swayed gently in the breeze, provided shade along the sandy lakeshore. Heaps of precious stones lay here and there. Along with the thousand-petalled lotuses, other charming flowers of a dark blue hue grew on stalks made of vaidurya gems. Bhīma’s mind was stolen by their beauty.

But the thousands of Yakṣa and Rākṣasa guards Kuvera had deployed to protect his lake saw Bhīma arrive. They moved toward him, and their leader shouted, “Who are you, O effulgent one? Why have you come here clad in deerskin yet bearing weapons? We are the Krodhavaśās, guardians of this lake.”

“I am Bhīmasena, Pāṇḍu’s son. I have come with my elder brother Dharmarāja to Badarīkā Ashram. There too is my dear wife, Draupadī. The breeze brought to her an excellent Saugandhika lotus, and she asked me to bring her more. O night-rangers, I have thus come here in order to satisfy that lady of faultless features, for her wish is always my order.”

The Rākṣasa placed his spear on the ground and replied, “O foremost of men, this place is Kuvera’s favorite playground. Humans may not sport here, nor may they take away the flowers and fruits. Only the celestials are permitted to use this lake. Others who try, disregarding the lord of wealth, certainly meet destruction. As you desire to take away the lotuses belonging to Kuvera without his permission, how can you say that you are Dharmarāja’s brother? Do not perform an irreligious act. First ask Kuvera’s permission and then you may enter the lake.”

Bhīma did not care for the warning. He had little regard for Rākṣasas and was certainly not going to be told what to do by them. Completely forgetting Hanumān’s admonishment, he placed his hand on his mace and boomed out, “O Rākṣasas, I do not see the illustrious Kuvera here, and even if I did, I would not pray for these flowers. It is not the duty of kṣatriyas to beg. In any event, this lake has sprung up on the mountain breast and belongs to everyone. Kuvera did not make it, nor did he create the lotuses. Why then should I ask his permission?”

Having said this, Bhīma plunged into the lake and began to gather the lotuses. The Krodhavaśās advanced, shouting at him to desist. Bhīma ignored them. As far as he was concerned the lotuses were the property of their creator, God, not any lesser god. Bhīma felt he had as much right to take them as did Kuvera. The Pāṇḍava knew that Draupadī would first offer them to the Lord before giving them to anyone else.

Seeing Bhīma taking the flowers despite their warnings, the guards charged.

“Seize him!”

“Cut him up!”

“Bind him!”

The Rākṣasas entered the shallow waters and Bhīma stood to receive them. Taking hold of his mace, inlaid with gold and resembling the mace Yamarāja carries, Bhīma shouted back, “Stand and fight!”

The guards surrounded Bhīma. Bhīma whirled his mace and met the advancing Rākṣasas with blows. Heroic and courageous, Vāyu’s son was devoted to virtue and truth and was thus incapable of being vanquished by any enemy through prowess. He killed the Krodhavaśās by the hundreds, beginning with the foremost among them. Many of them fell into the water, their arms and legs broken. Bhīma was a furious whirlwind now. The Rākṣasas could hardly look at him as he fought. They began to flee in fear, taking to the skies.

Seeing the guards retreating, Bhīma lowered his mace and continued to gather lotuses. He drank the lake’s clear water, which tasted like celestial nectar and which restored his energy and strength. As he picked the lotuses, he presented them mentally to Draupadī.

The Krodhavaśās ran back in terror to Kuvera and told him what had happened. The god only smiled and said, “Let Bhīma take as many lotuses as he likes for Draupadī. I already knew he would be coming.”

Hearing their master’s words, the guards returned to the lake and saw Bhīma sporting alone in its waters with a number of lotuses lying near him on the bank. They watched him in silence, keeping a safe distance.