Ulupi, a widow who married Arjuna??
Marrying a widow does not seem to be such an issue during the Mahabharata times, as it became much later. None other than the heroic third Pandav married a widow, Ulupi without any hesitation. Before him, a king by name Ugrayudha proposed to marry Satyavati, the widow of Shantanu. But Bhishma refused to accept that alliance, and that is another story. Meanwhile, Ulupi’s marriage with Arjuna throws light on the fact that a widow was eligible to marry at her will in those times.
Ulupi, a Naga Kanya, was the daughter of Airavatha Kauravya, a Naga chief. She was a widow and childless. Ulupi’s husband was killed by Garuda long ago. Hence, she lived with her father. She was young and beautiful. Her life stagnated, and she saw no hope for herself. Nagas live in the wild, and are very independent, divided in groups headed by Vasuki, Takshaka, Kauravya and others.
Ulupi, the smitten lover
Kauravya’s Nagalok existed under the waters of Bhagirathi river. Ulupi used to come out of her domain once in a while, to visit the temple of Mahadev that existed on the banks of the river. She and her friends would roam there for some time rejuvenating themselves with the flavour of earth, and return to their loka. On one such occasion, her friends happened to see the third Pandav Arjuna, who temporarily established himself on the banks of the Ganga in an ashram.
They were very much elated on seeing the famous Pandava prince there, in the attire of a celibate. What must be the reason for his stay, that too as an ascetic, they wondered. He had a large group of followers, mostly Brahmins who accompanied him from Indraprasth. Within a short while they collected information regarding the reason behind his pilgrimage.
Ulupi did not believe her friends. How could Prince Arjun become an ascetic at such a young age? That too, for twelve long years? Why did his brothers allow him to get out of Indraprasth for such a simple reason of violating a vow? He had entered the private space where his Eldest brother was with Draupadi, only to take his weapons. That too to help a Brahmin whose cows were stolen by thieves!
Ulupi’s friends persuaded her to go and have the good fortune of savouring the beauty of Arjun, who was extremely handsome. ‘Life will be fruitful just by looking at him, when he takes a bath in the river.’ They said. Ulupi could not restrain herself. She wanted to find out for herself if what they said was true indeed.
It was sunset time. Arjun took his bath in Bhagirathi, as was his habit, and closed his eyes meditating on Sankarashiv. Ulupi could not help staring at him. She was standing on his left side but was not seen due to her power of illusion that could make her invisible. And she was totally mesmerised on seeing Arjun who was handsome beyond her imagination. He was dark in complexion with his curly hair tied above his head in such a way that matched his ascetic form.
His beautiful face was so endearing, thought Ulupi. She was smitten by his good physique that must have been the result of his strenuous yoga practice. His mighty shoulders had bow marks, indicating the identity of him as the archer par excellence.
Ulupi could not stand still in the water. She was totally enamored by him, while Arjun did not have the slightest inkling about her presence near him. The water flow suddenly rushed from where Arjun stood and drenched Ulupi making her shiver with her desire. She knew she was a widow but how could that stop her from loving the most desirable warrior of Aryavarth? Ulupi thought that it would be better if she took her life if she failed in getting him as her husband! Life would be worth living if she could spend at least one night with him!
Arjun finished his prayer and turned to move towards the shore. He could not proceed, he felt drowsy. Ulupi used her illusional power and managed to take him to Nagalok, which was under water. After a while Arjun got up to find himself settled on a couch, in a different land that was unknown to him. He got up instantly. He remembered himself finishing his bath and that he was about to return to his ashram to complete his evening ritual.
Arjun looked around and found a beautiful girl standing in a corner, looking at him bashfully, ardently. He understood that look. He then walked towards the fire pit, and closed his eyes in meditation. So chanted his evening prayers.
Ulupi stared at him in disbelief. He was unperturbed and composed, knowing fully well that he was in an unknown place. When Arjun asked her the reason for her outlandish behaviour, Ulupi honestly admitted her intention in abducting him by illusion.