Arjuna exile for 12 years in Mahabharata alone, Why? Do you know that Arjun went into exile for 12 years alone as he broke the mutual agreement between Pandava Brothers? Let’s see the complete story behind Arjuna exile for 12 years.
Pandavas built their capital city Indraprastha after burning Khandava Forest or Khandavprastha. Indra is the protecting deity of that forest. That’s why they named their capital city, Indraprastha.
Narada suggestion to Pandavas:
Once celestial Rishi Narada visited Indraprastha. Narada said to all the Pandavas, “Draupadi is the wife of all of you. Make some arrangements that how you are going to spend time with her. This way there will be no fight between all of you for the sake of Draupadi”.
The story of Shunda and Upashunda:
Furthermore, he told them about two Asura brothers named Shunda and Upashunda. They acquire a boon from Lord Brahma that nobody will be able to slay them unless they kill themselves.
Devas (gods) sent an Apsara named Tilottama to motivate both brothers to fight with each other to acquire her. And eventually, in the process destroy each other. This is what happened when they saw her beauty. Both of them for the sake of Tilottama killed each.
Mutual agreement between Pandavas:
After consulting with each other, Pandavas establish a rule among themselves. And the rule they made was that
When one of them would be sitting with Draupadi, any of the other four who would see that one thus must retire into the forest for twelve years, passing his days as a Brahmacharin (celibate).SECTION CCXIV
It means that they would spend time with Draupadi one by one for 1 year each. In that one year period, if anyone of them would see while any brother was with Draupadi in their chamber, then he would have to enter into exile for 12 years as a celibate. This way there would be no dispute between Pandavas because of Draupadi.
Brahmana asks for help from Pandavas:
One day what happened that some robbers take away the cattle of a Brahmana by force and deception. Brahmana pleaded to Pandavas to help him and started crying in grief.
Arjuna heard his appeal and assured the Brahmana. But there was an obstacle that prevents him from helping him.
The chamber where Pandavas kept their weapons is occupied by Yudhishthira and Draupadi. As per their rule, he cannot enter the chamber. But without his weapons, he is not able to help that poor Brahmana.
Arjuna enters the chamber:
Arjuna thought that at this moment, this Brahmana needs him and helping him should be his topmost priority.
(This situation will, in turn, become the reason for Arjuna exile)
He should not think about disregarding the king by entering into his chamber and should be ready to bear the consequences. He says,
By entering the chamber, I incur the penalty of an exile in the woods. But I must overlook everything… Virtue is superior to the body and lasteth after the body hath perished!SECTION CCXV
Saying this, he entered the chamber where Yudhishthira and Draupadi were together. He talked with Yudhishthira and came out with his bow Gandiva.
And as per the request, Arjuna helped that Brahmana in getting his cattle back from those thieves.
Arjuna exile for 12 years:
After that, he returned back to the capital city where everybody congratulated him.
He approached Yudhisthira and asks for his permission to go into the exile. He says to Yudhishthira that,
Give me leave, O Lord, to observe the vow I took. In beholding thee sitting with Draupadi, I have violated the rule established by ourselves. I shall, therefore, go into the woods, for this is even our understanding.SECTION CCXV
But Yudhisthira told Arjuna that there is no need for him to enter into exile because his intention is good. He knows the reason that why he (Arjuna) entered his chamber. Yudhishthira further says that
There is no displeasure in my mind. The younger brother may, without fault, enter the chamber where the elder brother sits with his wife. It is only the elder brother that acts against the rules of propriety by entering the room where the younger brother sit with his wife.SECTION CCXV
But Arjuna sticks to his decision in order to keep his promise and upholding the truth. After obtaining permission from Yudhisthira (king), he went into exile for 12 years in a forest.
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