Arjuna and Five branches of Dhanurveda (Siva-Arjuna)

Author : Pranshu Saxena

The internet is spawning all sorts of stories for various characters of Mahabharata when Mahabharata has so many stories hidden in the udara (stomach) of it, waiting for right vrika (fire) to raise it to the mind as sweet dhupa (smoke). So I am going to start a new series of actual stories from Mahabharata. Feel free to add to these.

I have added some mood songs or poems or jokes, and have marked those.

Scene: Arjuna returns from twelve years of Exile and Abhimanyu is born

Time: At Indraprastha, before Khandava Vana and after Arjuna returns from Agyatavasa

Place: Indraprastha

After the marriage of Arjuna and Subhadra, Krishna decided to stay in Indraprastha permanently for some time. His wives joined him there. Krishna Arjuna would spend their time along the Yamuna banks and hunting wild boars. (Sometimes when he had free time from his menhir delivery service, Bhima would join in!! Ok this was a joke.).

This is where Krishna met Kalindi and married her. (Bhagvada)

Some time later Subhadra gave birth to Saubhadra and Krishna was overjoyed. Yudhishthara donated gold and 10,000 cows on birth of each child.

PBS Note: The Adityas

The antiquity of the text portions of Mahabharata is ably demonstrated in two places. The chapters which detail the births of Pandavas and the chapters detailing the birth of Pandavas’s children are among the oldest. The pointer to that is the description of Thirteen Adityas in these two places. Yes, Thirteen Adityas. Original Vedas and more ancient texts always mention the thirteen sons of Aditi or Adityas.

The later Puranas boiled them down to twelve Adityas for twelve suns and twelve months. The Ashtavakra story is a later addition is an example of the evidence Scholars use. Ashtavakra has twelve Adityas.

The Thirteen Adityas are twelve plus Vishnu, Parjanya was the 13th one. Vishnu stood in for Malamasa. Malamasa is the concept of Solar-Lunar calendar now again used in modern Indian Panchanga was revived recently. In the period around Mahabharata, four calendars were in vogue. Three calendars had 12 months. Fourth one had 14 months for every fifth year. The concept of half month was used by nature worshipping Rig Veda priests and hence pointer to that ancient Rig Vedic practice in the births of Pandavas and Upa-Pandavas point to the same writer. The chap who divided the Vedas and wrote Mahabharata.

All thirteen Adityas come to bless Arjuna when he was born, all thirteen are named. When Saubhadra was born, he was like Upendra, younger brother to the sons of Draupadi born like twelve Adityas are born to Aditi and Saubhadra being the new Vishnu. This also points to 12 children born to Draupadi, majority would be sons, seven names of boys are mentioned including 5 famous ones Prativindya, Sootsoma, Shrutakarmma, Shatanika, Shrutashana, and also Kirtidharma Nakuli and Srutasena make up seven, these last two reappear in Drona Parva chapter 158 when they die fighting at hands of Asvwathamma. Other five may be girls or boys whose names are not in this chapter. The son of Sahadeva is Vraahi Agni God himself and he will later kill the Rudra Shala in battle. Like in case of Upendra, Parjanya is younger than Vishnu and here Shrutakarma too is younger than Saubhadra.

When Saubhadra was growing up, his fearless nature Abhi and anger Manyu during fights saw Arjuna name him Abhimanyu. Later as result of blessings of the Yagna manthana, Satvatya (aka Subhadra) gave birth to Ashvatatha who shone like Agni produced by Shami and thus second or again (Pradorbhava) Atirathi was born to Arjuna. So Abhimanyu and his less famous brother Ashvatatha are described. As Indra gave up Arjuna, Arjuna with happiness gave up the son but looked after him like Indra always looked out for him.

Mention of Shami indicates this son may be born near the War time (Arani Parva) or he was part of a twin boy and girl (twins are called Shami from two sticks used to create fire, the higher one is Pranava or Om). After a Yagna manthana? Rajasuya or even KhandavaVana or Aswamedha? Like Babruvahana, Iravana, this child was donated to another family.

This definitely answers the question that Bheeshma was able to attack Abhimanyu. Bheeshma had sworn not to fight single sons of any mother. Abhimanyu was not an only son of Subhadra.

Abhimanyu from the very childhood became the favorite of Krishna and he followed Krishna around like stars follow the moon. Krishna himself took over the upbringing of the child and he was brought up in the Palace in Indraprastha assigned to Krishna.

(It is evident that Janamejaya who is the audience of the narration would like to know more about his grandfather and Vaishampayana obliges.)

Like his older brothers, Abhimanyu learned the Vedas and then like his older brothers, Arjuna taught him the four Pada and 10 Vidhi Angas of Dhanurveda and Manusha gyana (Sword fighting).
Arjuna also focused on and taught Abhimanyu the science of weapons, as well as Saushthava, and complete set of actions involving weapons. Abhimanyu became as well versed in Aagama and Prayoga as Arjuna himself.

Saushthava is a particular division of Shastra Shaastra that focuses on and develops self-confidence and ability to use the body of the archer to particular clever positions to achieve excellence and lead to development of extreme skillfulness of the Warrior. As later events would demonstrate, Abhimanyu was the greatest warrior on that battlefield and transcended the name of his father and Guru.

Soon enough, on reaching age, Abhimanyu demonstrated his skills in battles defeating the kings who assailed Yudhishthara or were guilty of crimes and were punished by Yudhishthara. Yudhishthara sent several expeditions, among others, Krishna and Sahadeva to east, Nakula and Sanjaya to west, Arjun was also sent on three expeditions and Yudhishthara lead one vs. Haihayas himself conquering among others their capital and on the way back taking the surrender and union of city of Kanka. Thus earning himself the right to be called Kanka. (These details are in Sabha and Vana Parvas).

Abhimanyu earned his stripes on one of these occasions, striking fast like a serpent moving in from a surprising direction, he overturned the ambush of the ones who dared disrespect all. His valor was like that of Gajaraja and in pride, he roared like a Lion. Shining like Moon on the battlefield, his deep voice challenged the thunder of the clouds itself. Many of the enemies seeing him in action the first time thought of him as Krishna, so much alike his uncle in bravery, skill, physical resemblance and height was Abhimanyu.



Archery and Its components

The section is in neelkantha in early Adi Parva. I have consolidated the Archery section together from the footnotes.

Kripa taught the four branches of Archery thus,
1. Mukta
o The weapons that are released aka Mukta are in this branch of Dhanurveda. And arrow release skill is a sub branch under this branch of Dhanurveda.
o Arjuna also taught to the Upa Panadavs, Panimukta or पाणिमुक्त the next level up ability to shoot Spear and darts using bows or without.

  1. Amkukta
    o The weapons that are not released aka AMUKTA fall under this category. This includes Sword skills of 21 types to tackle incoming arrows. Dhrishtadamyun and Arjuna for example were only experts in all twenty one styles stated. Most warriors were expert in only seven eight styles. Drona was surprised to see Dhrishtadamyun use the twenty one styles.
  2. Muktamukta
    o The weapons that are released and can be called back fall under this branch of the Dhanurveda. Very few warriors even qualify under this branch. It has two sections: Mantras and Weapons. Many warriors may know the mantras and their recall. Not many of those warriors could use weapons that can be thrown and called back. Bhima, Krishna, Arjuna, Satyaki specifically are only warriors who used or could use these weapons off top of my head.
  3. Mantramukta
    o The weapons that are released under control of Mantras without knowing how to call them back is the Mantramukta branch of Dhanurveda. This branch is not advisable according to rules of war.

Dhanurveda is also classified on the weaponry in four branches:

  1. Shastra: weapons that are held in hands.
    2. Astra: Weapons that are released.
    3. Pratyastra: Weapons used to counter the weapons. Missiles hurled in defence. Defensive weapons. Defensive arts.
    4. Parmastra: Supreme weapons. Celestial weapons. Stalking weapons or Smart weapons.

Dhanurveda is also classified in four parts on mode of actions or Angas (limbs).

  1. Aadan
    a. Taking control of the arrows aka shooting down enemy arrows/weapons or drawing arrows away.
    b. Destroying/seizing control enemy weapons
    c. Also actions of using weapons from horseback come under this branch.
  2. Sandhan: Joining two weapons or arts or styles together and also includes
    a. Healing weapons
    b. Air weapons; using air or atmosphere as weapons
    c. Illusory weapons.
    d. Invention
  3. Vimoksha: Opposite of Aadan. Weapon release styles and actions
    a. Letting loose literally.
  4. Samhara: The compiling of information. The Books!
    a. Compendium, Manual of information
    b. The study of Dhanurveda

Kripa mentioned these four. Arjuna taught Upapandavas ten Angas or modes. (Vimoksha is variation of Mokshana here, Samhara or compiling is not there in Arjuna’s list. Again, Kripa may have covered these in under other headings. The mode of teaching is different for all teachers. First two are same.)

  1. Mokshana: Targeted release is Mokshana. Vimoksha is untargeted release. Kripa taught his students untargeted release and Arjuna taught his disciples targeted release. DO NOT LISTEN TO Grandpa Kripa, children!!
  2. Nirvartana: After release of arrows, if you realize that the opponent is weaker or without weapons to defend then the great warriors had the mantra power to recall the arrows. This art is called Vinirvatana.
  3. Sthana: Using various parts of bow and locking arrows in various positions is Sthana art.
  4. Mushti: Using three or four fingers to direct and throw single or multiple arrows without thumb is Mushti.
  5. Prayoga: Using Forefinger and middle finger only to shoot is Prayoga. You can also use Middle finger and middle of thumb to do the same.
  6. Prayashchita Anga (different than Prayshchita Vidhi): Using leather gloves as defensive weapons to repel arrows or Jyaghata (attacked by Prtyanchaa or string) or capturing the string of enemy’s bow is called Prayashchita anga.
  7. Mandala: This is the art form where the chariot moves fast in circular motions and you while presenting a dynamic target and moving fast still have to focus and treat the enemies or targets as static and focus on them, and furthermore target the enemies, using stahna, mushti , prayoga and prayashchita and other arts in full measure to dominate the battlefield.
  8. Rahasya: This is using sound as means to hit the target or targets. This art form involves also shooting with eyes closed. Trust in force, Abhimanyu! I am your father! (Hand raised!)

The Three Vidhis of Archery are:
1. Prayoga: Use.
2. Upasanhara: recall.
3. Avarti: distress prevention. Countering arrows.

Arjuna during Kairata Parva will learn two more special Vidhis from the master of art himself, Siva

  1. Prayashchita: This enables the Archer to bring back to life in case an innocent is killed by the Astra. Arjuna with the knowledge of this Vidya can shoot and use astras regardless of consequences on a large mass of soldiers and would only kill the enemies and can utilize the power of Astra to keep his soldiers and innocents alive. Arjuna never needed to use it for variety of reasons he explained in Udyoga Parva.
  2. Pratighaata: This vidhi enabled the Archer to utilize the power of the enemy’s astra, any astra and turn it back on the enemy literally taking over the power of the astra fired by the enemy and reversing it.

Vayu is lord of the vidhi and Vayuputras inherit it. Hanuman was unbeatable if you fired divine astras at him and so was Bhima. Noting that not many divyastra were fired at them and it was their own conscience which allowed certain weapons to be allowed to be successful, Hanumana respected Brahmastra and allowed himself to be hit.

Bhima taught an art form to Arjuna called Prabhanjana. The ability to tear an object into pieces then entering a Samadhi like state which allowed you to move the pieces using wind as your guide and move it to location you desire. Arjuna used that skill to send the head of Jayadrtha separating it from body and sending it across to where his father was meditating using wind as his hands and ears as his guide in that state of Samadhi. That is why one of the names of Arjuna is PrabhanjanaSutaAtmaja for this skill and deed.

Shree Hari..

Deepak Kumar Jha (A Learner)




One thought on “Arjuna and Five branches of Dhanurveda (Siva-Arjuna)

  1. Pingback: Tree of Dharma Nara Purushartha Pratigya – Arjuna The Victor

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