By Swami Harshananda
Arjuna literally means
- white; fair; clear; bright
- fair in visage, pure in mind and body; illuminating, enlightening; silvery; made of silver; the peacock
- The name of one of the Pāṇḍava princes
- The name of a king of Haihaya
- Name of a mathematician
- Name of a son of the king Nimi;
- the tree Terminalia arjuna;
- the tree Terminalia citrina;
- the tree Lagerstroemia flos-reginae.
Arjuna, one of the five Pāṇḍava princes
Arjuna was most widely known of the five Pāṇḍava princes, a great hero of the Kurukṣetra war (described in the epic Mahābhārata.) and the instrumental cause of the immortal Bhagavadgitā.
- Born as the youngest son of Kuntī, the senior queen of the King Pāṇḍu, by the grace of the god Indra, Arjuna exhibited his valor and skill in archery even from his childhood days, thus becoming the most favorite disciple of Droṇācārya, the superb master of the science of archery.
- Bent upon settling scores with the King Drupada, who had humiliated him, Droṇācārya sought Arjuna’s help in humbling the king’s pride which Arjuna fulfilled
- Later, disguised as a brāhmaṇa, Arjuna successfully pierced the matsya-yantra (a contrivance for testing the skill in archery) and won the hand of Draupadī, Drupada's daughter.
- However, a curious interference of fate made Draupadī, the common wife of all the Pāṇḍava princes. Apart from Draupadī, Arjuna had three more wives :
- He performed severe penance at the Indrakīla mountains to propitiate Lord Śiva. Śiva appeared in the guise of a hunter chieftain and maneuvered a situation in which Arjuna was obliged to fight him! In the resulting dual, he pleased Śiva with his courage and prowess and granted him the celestial weapon pāśu-patāstra.
- Living in disguise under the assumed name Bṛhannalā at the court of the king Virāṭa, he taught dancing to Virāṭa’s daughter, Uttarā. Later he participated in an operation to rescue Virāṭa’s cows from the clutches of the Kauravas, who were decisively beaten in the battle.
- Before the Kurukṣetra war, he approached Srī Kṛṣṇa for help and preferred him as his charioteer in lieue of the entire Yādava army without Kṛṣṇa.
- At the commencement of the war, he was overcome by intense remorse and abhorrence of the killing he would have to do and refused to fight. After Srī Kṛṣṇa’s teaching (known as the Bhagavadgitā) dispelled his ignorance and delusion, he got up and fought to ultimately bring victory and glory to the Pāṇḍavas.
- After Kṛṣṇa’s demise, he went to Dvārakā and while escorting the Yādava ladies to Hastināvatī, was ambushed and conquered by robbers, thereby obliging him to realize that all his strength had been derived from Kṛṣṇa’s grace!
- He died during a Mahāprasthāna (great journey) to heaven.
- Of his children
- Abhimanyu, the son of Subhadrā, was slained in the Kurukṣetra war. Abhimanyu's son, Parīkṣit, succeeded to the royal throne after its abdication by Yudhiṣṭhira.
- Babhruvāhana, the son of Citrāṅgadā became the ruler of Maṇipura.
- Śrutakīrti, son of Draupadī was slain at the end of the Mahabharata war in his sleep
- Irāvān son of Ulupī was slain in the Kurukṣetra war
Kārtavīrya Arjuna, a King of Haihaya
Kārtavīrya Arjun was the son of king Kārtavīrya, the king of Haihaya, was a powerful warrior who was reputed to have one thousand arms, was also known as Arjuna.
Arjun the Mathematician
The well-known Buddhist work Lalitavistara mentions one mathematician Arjuna who was aware of the system of calculating numerals in multiples of 100, commencing from koṭi (one crore), up to 1053.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore
- Arjuna by Jit Majumdar