37. Bhima And Hanuman
DRAUPADI used to complain frequently: "This Kamyaka forest is not beautiful without Arjuna. I find no joy in life in the absence of Arjuna."
The other Pandavas shared Draupadi's wretchedness at separation from Arjuna, who had gone to the Himalayas in quest of divine weapons.
Bhimasena told Draupadi: "Blessed lady, I myself feel the same about Arjuna and what you say makes me thrill with love and sympathy. Bereft of Arjuna, this beautiful forest seems desolate. My mind can know no peace without seeing Arjuna. Sahadeva, how do you feel?"
Sahadeva said: "This hermitage seems to be empty without Arjuna. We shall try whether a change of scene will help us to bear the pain of separation better."
Yudhishthira addressing his priest Dhaumya said: "I have sent my younger brother Arjuna to win divine weapons. That dauntless and dexterous hero has not yet returned. We have sent him to the Himalayas to get from Indra, the king of gods, weapons with which we could conquer Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Aswatthama, since it is certain that these heroes will fight on the side of the sons of Dhritarashtra. Karna knows the secret of divine weapons, and his supreme wish is to fight with Arjuna. I have sent Arjuna to gain Indra's grace and get weapons from him as the Kaurava heroes can be defeated by no other means. Having sent him on a very difficult errand, we cannot live here happily, for we miss him in all our accustomed haunts. I wish to go elsewhere, for that may enable us to bear the separation better. Can you suggest where we could go?"
Dhaumya described many forests and holy places. The Pandavas went the round of those places to relieve themselves to some extent from the pangs of separation.
They spent many years in this pilgrimage and in listening to the traditions, which sanctified each shrine. Draupadi would often feel exhausted by having to traverse mountains and forests. Bhima, sometimes helped by his son Ghalotkacha, would serve and encourage them and make their labors easy.
In the course of their wanderings through the Himalayan regions they came to a terrible forest where the path was rugged and steep.
Yudhishthira was worried and told Bhima that the way would greatly distress Draupadi but that he himself would go on accompanied by Nakula and the sage Lomasa.
He suggested that Bhima and Sahadeva should stay behind at Gangadwara with Draupadi. Bhima would not agree. He said that the pain of separation from Arjuna ought to have taught his brother how much he would suffer if he were parted from Sahadeva, Draupadi and Bhima.
Besides, Bhima could not leave Yudhishthira alone in this forest infested with Rakshasas, demons and wild animals. The way was hard, but he could easily carry Draupadi across the most difficult parts of it. He could carry Nakula and Sahadeva also.
When Bhima said these words, Yudhishthira embraced him and blessed him and wished him an increase of physical strength. Draupadi smiled and said, addressing Yudhishthira: "No one need carry me. I can walk. Do not be anxious about me."
They reached Kulinda, the kingdom of Subahu, on the Himalayas. They accepted the honors rendered to them by that king and rested there awhile. Later on, they went to the charming forest of Narayanasrama and halted there.
One day, a breeze that blew from the northeast wafted a beautiful flower near Draupadi. Draupadi took it in her hands and was so charmed with its fragrance and beauty that she showed it rapturously to Bhima.
"Come and see this flower. What a sweet fragrance! How charming! I shall hand this over to Yudhishthira. Bring some flowers of this kind. We should grow this plant in our Kamyaka forest." Draupadi ran to give the flower to Yudhishthira.
Anxious to please his beloved Draupadi, Bhima went in quest of that plant. He went alone in the direction from which the fragrance seemed to be borne by the breeze, without wasting a thought on the wild beasts that crossed his path.
He presently came to a garden of plantain trees at the foot of a mountain, and there he saw a huge monkey shining like blazing fire, which lay right across his path blocking it.
He tried to frighten the animal out of his way by shouting at it. It only half opened its eyes lazily and drawled: "I am indisposed and so I am lying here. Why lid you wake me? You are a wise human being and I am mere animal. It is proper that the rational man should show mercy to animals as interior creatures. I am afraid you are ignorant of right and wrong. Who are you? Whither are you bound? It is not possible to go further along this mountain path which is the path of the gods. Men cannot cross this limit. Eat what you like of the fruits of this place and if you are wise, go back in peace."
Bhima, unused to being taken so lightly, grew angry and shouted: "Who are you, yourself, you monkey, that indulges in such tall talk? I am a kshatriya hero, a descendant of the Kuru race and a son of Kunti. Know that I am the son of the Wind god. Now move away from the path or stop me at your peril."
Hearing these words the monkey merely smiled and said: "I am, as you say, a monkey, but you will come to destruction if you try to force a way."
Bhima said: "I do not want your advice and it is no concern of yours if I go to destruction. Get up and move out of the way or I will make you."
The monkey replied: "I have no strength to stand up, being but a very old monkey. If you have to go at any cost, jump over me."
Bhima said: "Nothing could be easier but the scriptures forbid it. Otherwise I should jump over you and the mountain in one bound, like Hanuman crossing the ocean."
The monkey remarked as though in surprise: "O best of men, who is that Hanuman who crossed the ocean? If you know his story, enlighten me."
Bhima roared and said: "Have you not heard of Hanuman, my elder brother, who crossed the ocean, a hundred yojanas in breadth, to seek and find Sita, the wife of Rama? I am equal to him in strength and heroism. Well, that is enough talk, now get up and make way and do not provoke me to do you some harm."
The monkey answered: "O mighty hero, be patient. Be gentle as you are strong, and have mercy on the old and weak. I have no strength to rise up as I am decrepit with age. Since you have scruples in jumping over me, kindly move aside my tail and make a path for yourself."
Proud of his immense strength, Bhima thought to pull the monkey out of the way by its tail. But, to his amazement he could not move it in the least, though he exerted all his strength.
He set his jaws and strained every muscle till the very sinews cracked and he was covered with perspiration. But, still, could not move that tail the least, a little bit up or down or sideways. In shame, he bent down his head, and then asked in a chastened mood:
"Who are you? Forgive me and reveal to me whether you are a Siddha, god or Gandharva." Bhima like most strong men, was all respect when he saw one stronger than himself, and spoke like a pupil addressing his master.
Hanuman replied: "O mighty-armed Pandava, know that I am your brother, even that Hanuman, the son of the Wind god, whom you mentioned a little while ago. If you go on this path, which is the road to the spirit-world where the Yakshas and the Rakshasas abide, you will meet with danger and that is why I stop you. No man can go beyond this and live. But here is the stream with its depths where you can find the Saugandhika plant you came to seek."
Bhima was transported with delight: "I count myself the most fortunate of men in that I have been blessed to meet my brother. I wish to see the form in which you crossed the ocean," and he prostrated before Hanuman.
Hanuman smiled and began to increase the size of his body and stood forth firmly to the world like a mountain seeming to fill the landscape.
Bhima was thrilled at actually seeing that divine form of this elder brother, the mere description of which had till then filled him with wonder. He covered his eyes, unable to bear the dazzling light radiating from that figure.
Hanuman said: "Bhima, in the presence of my enemies, my body can grow still more." And Hanuman contracted his body, resuming his former size. He tenderly embraced Bhimasena.
Bhagavan Vyasa says that Bhima felt completely refreshed and became much stronger than before by the embrace of Hanuman.
Hanuman said: "O hero, go to your abode. Think of me whenever you are in need. I felt the same delight when I embraced you that I had in times of yore when I was fortunate enough to touch the divine body of Sri Rama. Ask any boon that you like."
Bhima said: "Blessed are the Pandavas for I have had the good fortune to see you. Inspired with your strength we are sure to conquer our enemies."
Hanuman gave this parting blessing to his brother:
"While you roar like a lion in the battlefield, my voice shall join yours and strike terror into the hearts of your enemies. I shall be present on the flag of the chariot of your brother Arjuna. You will be victorious."
Hanuman pointed out to Bhima the stream nearby, where grew the Saugandhika flowers he had come to seek.
This put Bhima at once in mind of Draupadi who was waiting for his return, and he collected the flowers and returned to her without delay.