It was no dream, O Son of Kunti, for you are blessed among men.

We’re the protectors of the heavenly worlds.

Lord Shiva of the Tri Murti bid us to meet you.

Several godly apparitions appeared before the Pandava prince: Lord Yama Dharmarajah, Dispenser of Justice and Custodian of the Nether Worlds; Lord Varuna, God of the High Seas, Rains, Rivers and Lakes; and Lord Kubera, God of Wealth. The gods gave Arjuna clairvoyant sight, and he saw them in their full pulsating glory.

Yama Dharmarajah appeared fearsome, like an asura. His eyes bulged, frizzy hair smoked, and vapour licked and rose from his oily skin, which was the colour of soot.

O Son of Kunti Devi and brother of the Pious Emperor, Yudhishthira, you and Krishna, the avatars of Maha Vishnu, will lighten Mother Earth’s burden. Allow me to attach my name to your quest. Here, receive my mace and with it the mantras to wield it so you can clear the field in your march to victory.

Arjuna accepted the celestial gift and paid obeisance to the deity. Another message took root in his mind. It was Varuna, Lord of the Waters on Earth. He appeared colourless and took the hues of whatever filled his background. When he first appeared, he looked blue and when he stood with the jungle behind him, he displayed shades of green.

You’re the Champion of Champions in the mortal world and beyond. But not all battles have to end in death. Here then take my nooses. With these celestial ropes you can snare, seize and secure any man, beast or sylvan being.

Varuna taught Arjuna the mantras and intricacies of looping and throwing the nooses. The loops, made of pure crackling energy, took the form of whatever the thrower wished, be it a rope or a fiery whip or a cutting flex-blade. Arjuna learned to snare physical objects, flowing water and waving flames, and he even caught balls of air.

Lord Kubera, the God of Wealth, stepped forward. Jewel studded gold and silver armour covered his entire body. His telepathic voice tinkled as if precious stones caressed gold trinkets in the breeze.

You are already endowed with weapons that no human and even the gods can subdue. Receive my favourite weapon, the Antardhana. It can bend light and render people and places invisible.

After the benedictions, the winds gathered and lightning streaked the skies. The gods departed, leaving Arjuna overwhelmed and humbled. He resolved to return to his family, who waited for him in Kamyaka forest. But it was not to be.

The tempest did not abate. Strong howling winds swept through the jungle on the slopes of the Himavan mountain range. Thunder rended the skies and lightning flashed and slashed through the trees, splitting them apart. Arjuna looked to the dark skies. Sharp rain pelted on his face. He grimaced.

Out of the boiling black clouds, a chariot, drawn by fire-breathing horses, appeared. The charioteer, wielding a fiery snaking whip, lashed the horses and came charging down on Arjuna.

Behold, O Son of Kunti, I come for you.   

The Pandava prince grabbed his bow, Gandiva, and readied for battle.

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