Mahabharata is one of the two great epics of India; other being Ramayana. The battle of Kurukshetra in Mahabharata is probably the bloodiest war ever fought in the history of human kind. Such is the vastness of this epic that there are innumerable anecdotes comprising this spectacular saga of war, duty, righteousness, evil and every human emotion that has ever been contemporary in the mind of man. Today I would like to share one of these stories which is about the chariot of the uncontested warrior of this epic; Arjun. We have seen him fighting from his chariot with lord shri Krishna as his charioteer in the Kurukshetra battle in pictures or on television but many of us are still oblivious of the story of how Arjun got his chariot and what happened with his chariot after the gory battle of Mahabharata was over.
Arjun had been bestowed with his chariot years before the battle of Mahabharata along with many other great assets which eventually ushered his way through the battleground. The story goes back to the days when Arjun was one day roaming in the khaandav van with shree Krishna and they met a man who was looking as pale as a corpse and looked extremely ill. When asked, he told lord Krishna and Arjun that he was none other than demigod Agni. The reason behind his affliction was that he was suffering from a stomach malady due to too much consumption of ghee and as per lord Brahma he was required to consume the fat of the animals and thus he wished to devour the forest of khaandav which had many snakes, evil spirits and wild beasts but was failed to do so. The reason was that lord Indra was protecting the khaandav van himself as his friend Takshak-the serpent king was residing in there with all his kith and kin. Every time Agni tried to devour the forest, lord Indra summoned the powerful rain clouds to thwart the fire of Agni from consuming the forest. Thus he had no other way to cope with it and he beseeches lord Krishna for help. Lord Krishna and Arjun thus invoked Varun dev, the lord of ocean to help them win over Indra and to help Agni devour the forest of khaandav. Varun dev, pleased and blessed with lord himself asking for help, bestowed him with sudarshan chakra, Arjun with his chariot, Gandeev- the moon bow of the creator lord Brahma. Agni also gave Arjun a radiant chariot with four horses yoked, bearing a flag that would one-day be occupied by Hanuman. Arjun also obtained his famous conch- Devadatt. They then waged a war against Indra and conquered. Lord Indra told Arjun and Krishna that he is trying to save Takshak whom he had promised would be saved by Indra from all the threats anyone could possess on him and his family. Krishna respected the promise made by the king of demigods Indra and allowed Takshak to leave the forest and Takshak got off. Other creatures were barred by Arjun and thus couldn’t escape and eventually were devoured by Agni. After the task was done, lord Krishna asks Vishwakarma, the greatest architect of the universe who is the architect of demigods to make a palace on the land where the khaandav van once was. One more asura was saved by Arjun called Mayasur, from this conflagration. When his life was spared by Krishna and Arjun, Maya had offered his services to them. Krishna instructed Maya to construct a fabulous palace hall full of mirage and illusion for Arjuna’s elder brother, king Yudhishthir at Indraprastha, which becomes the Mayasabha, renowned, beautiful, mysterious and the largest of its kind. It had many specialties such as highly reflective floors that were easily mistaken as the surface of a pool of still water. There was also a pool of water, the surface of which mimicked a decorated floor, into which Duryodhan later fell. So this is how Arjun got his chariot but his chariot was not just a chariot but had a greater significance in accordance with human life and soul which was later described on the battlefield by lord Krishna while preaching the Bhagwad Gita.
It is called the chariot of the body. This chariot had five horses representing the five senses (tongue, eyes, ears, nose and skin) of the human nervous system. The reins, the driving instrument, symbolize the mind; Arjun sitting on the chariot represents the body or the soul of a human being. And lord shree Krishna as a charioteer (Saarthi) represents the super soul; the supreme soul present inside every human being, lord Krishna IS indeed the super soul present in every being ever created. It is not just a chariot but has a meaning which defines the whole life of a human being. Our senses (horses) are controlled by the mind (reins). This mind is controlled by our soul or body (Arjun). And above all is the super supreme soul (Krishna as charioteer) which is present inside us but it depends on us whether we want to pay attention to it or not; whether we let it guide us or just want to guide it our-self and our life as we wish to. The driver is the intelligence, and the passenger is the spirit soul. Lord Hanuman on flag signifies sense control and mind control that gives victory to the higher nature over the lower nature. That chariot has three wheels (Satwa, Rajas, and Tamas); has three kinds of motion (upwards or downwards or transversely, implying superior, inferior, and intermediate birth as brought about by acts); horses apart from senses also represent the time, will of the deities, and one’s own will. It has three naves (white, black, and mixed, implying good acts, evil acts and acts that are of a mixed character).
This is how significant Arjun’s chariot is. It is not just a chariot but a metaphor for human beings. How it ushered Arjun through battlefield towards victory shows us that if senses are controlled with balance in accordance with mind and if mind is controlled by soul which in turn guide itself through super soul, then a human is meant to achieve the righteousness i.e., Dharma.
This was how his chariot was used on the battlefield but ever wondered what happened with it after the Mahabharata war? When the war was over and lord Krishna realized that the mission of this chariot was accomplished, he took the chariot to a deserted place and asked the warrior Arjun to get off the chariot. After Arjun descended from the chariot, lord asked hanuman to leave the chariot along with his flag and hanuman did so. The moment lord hanuman left the chariot, the chariot exploded with a loud bang as if a big weapon had collided with it. With the deafening sound of the detonation and the blazing incandescent had burst the chariot into flames and it had been reduced to ashes and was completely razed. After few moments, Arjun asked lord Krishna the reason behind the bang and everything that had happened just now. Krishna then explained him that the weapons that were used by Maharathi Sage Dronacharya and Maharathi Karna on him and his chariot were so powerful that there was and there could be no escape from them for Arjun and his chariot. They were intended to create the havoc and could not be subdued. They are extremely efficacious and what Arjun had just now witnessed was the result of those celestial weapons launched by Dronacharya and Karna on him. To this Arjun asked why did they take so much time to do what they were intended to? Clearing his suspicion, Krishna told Arjun that it was the presence of Krishna on his chariot that had barred those weapons from creating desired effect by the enemy army. Krishna had made those weapons effect-less for the time being and that was the reason it couldn’t harm Arjun and his chariot. It was also the presence of lord hanuman on the chariot flag which stopped those weapons from coming into effect. Krishna later told Arjun that those celestial weapons used by Karna and Dronacharya were given to them by demigods and thus they had had to make the effect that they were used for and making them null would be the insult of the demigods who bestowed them to Karna or Dronacharya. Hence, to make them make the desired effect it was necessary for them to consume the chariot of Arjun which they had just now done.
Arjun now realized that it was lord Krishna because of whom he had emerged victorious. It was not his but lord Krishna’s victory; as it was the victory of good over evil and without Lord Shree Krishna, Arjun could never defeat the enemy army and its Maharathis the way he did in the Mahabharata war of Kurukshetra.
In this way we get to know that the chariot of Arjun-from being given to him to being consumed by the harsh fire of explosion- had its own significance in this majestic epic and this tale of his chariot is very intriguing in its own.