Ulupi: From The World Of Underwater

The lore of the serpents started deep in the waters of Ganga. Little did the serpent know that they had a precious possession who could change the heart of the strongest and mightiest member of the Pandava clan, Arjuna.
Ulupi: The tale of a river nymph; Image Source: Rakhee on Quora- WordPress

Ulupi: The tale of a river nymph; Image Source: Rakhee on Quora- WordPress

She turned her back and went in her direction. She couldn't help but turn back and see the family reunion between Arjuna, Ulupi, and Babruvahana. She knew that Arjuna married her because he was attracted to her back then, but there was no love whatsoever. He didn't have any fatherly feelings for his son, Iravan.

"What will you do now?" asked Chitrangada.

"Arjuna was the boulder who sought to control a river by settling in its route, and his efforts did, for a while, steer our lives. But, in the end, a river follows its path. With your clever brains, I am confident that the two of you will pass through whatever crisis you encounter. My snake river runs serenely and resplendently to the sea. I'm very sure I'll spend the rest of my days with its drops on my head."

Ulupi had her tales to narrate, her own stories to write without Arjuna. She was content with the fact that their tales had crossed each other's path, which was now known as the fables of Arjuna and Ulupi.

She sat near the bank of the Ganges as the water serpents danced to glory in the iridescent green-blue brilliance that radiated from the Naga king's palace. Her soft brown locks cascaded down her slender waist, and the gentle waves of the Ganges touched her gentle feet. Taking a long sigh, Ulupi went back to the days of yore when she swam around like a goldfish- looking all lively and glistening with a charm and excitement that made her look all the more attractive. But she knew that no one would marry her. She was a widow and a warrior, and both statuses would never let her live a happy married life. Ulupi felt as if life had come to a standpoint where she could neither live happily as the daughter of Airavatha Kauravya nor she could find a person who would give her the status of a wife. But little did she know that a storm would come and change her life forever.

Her father's kingdom was situated under the waters of the Bhagirathi river. Ulupi would often come out with her maidens to visit the Mahadev temple, which was situated near the banks of Bhagirathi. One fine day, when she and her friends were taking some time to rejuvenate themselves under the bright sunshine with the sweet flavour of earth, they saw Arjuna from the Pandava clan residing in an ashram near the Ganges. Though Arjuna was in an ascetic attire, he still looked quite handsome. His sculpted torso was on display, and his bearded face made him more handsome. Mesmerised by his looks, Ulupi fell in love with him at first sight. She also got to know the reason behind Arjuna's ascetic avatar.

But she couldn't believe how his brothers could send him on an exile for such a long time just because he went into Draupadi and Yudhisthir's chamber to get his bow to help a Brahmin whose cows were stolen. According to her, this was an injustice against Arjuna.

Ulupi's friends persuaded her to look at Arjuna when he bathed in the Ganges river. "Life will be fruitful just by looking at him when he takes a bath in the river," they said in an excited voice. When they completed the sentence, Ulupi saw Arjuna descending towards the water. She couldn't believe her eyes how a man could be so handsome. She was determined to marry Arjuna and make him her husband. After Arjuna completed his prayers, his eyes went in the direction where Ulupi was standing with an undecipherable expression. Coming near her, Arjuna asked her reason behind her lustful looks.

"As soon as I saw you in the river, I lost myself to you, who should forgive my offence. I have no other alternative that could help me win your grace." Ulupi paused and continued. "I hope you will understand my situation."

Shocked at her confession, Arjuna went silent for some time. He was in a dilemma. He knew that he had committed a crime by breaking the rule of not entering Draupadi's chamber when she was spending time with any one of the Pandavas other than him. Now that he had broken the rule, he had to adopt the lifestyle of a brahmacharya for twelve long years. Ulupi could understand his dilemma and said, "Your vow of adopting the lifestyle of a brahmacharya is limited to Draupadi. And you're going to stay away from her for twelve years, thus fulfilling your promise. If you don't marry me, then I would sacrifice my life."

They finally married and lived a peaceful life. With time their bond grew more robust, and their love for each other yielded a son whom they named Iravan. When Arjuna was about to leave her, Ulupi became emotional, but she knew that she had to take care of Iravan and make him a strong warrior, just like his father. She gave Arjuna a boon that all the living beings under the water would obey him and that he would never be defeated while fighting underwater.

As Iravan grew up to be a solid and courageous warrior like Arjuna, he could not resist meeting his father. He went to heaven to meet Arjuna, who later requested him to participate in the war and fight alongside the Pandavas. When the Kurukshetra war began, Iravan too fought with valour like Arjuna. But on the eighth day of the war, he died while fighting with the demon, Alambusha.

Ulupi snapped out of her reverie. Her eyes were filled with tears. While wiping her tears, she noticed that the water of the Ganges had come to a still, the serpents who were dancing with joy were elevated mid-water, and a loud shriek echoed through the still atmosphere, causing goosebumps on Ulupi's tender skin. She felt that something was wrong. The kind of moroseness she was feeling today was similar to when she lost her son, Iravan, in the war. She realised, however, that now was not the time to linger on the past. She needed to figure out what was causing the rapid shift in the environment.

Rushing to her secret chamber, she opened a box. The Nagamani jewel was changing its colour from burgundy to teal to lavender. She knew that the jewel changed its colour only when the currents changed. Grabbing the Nagamani safely in her hands, she ran outside.

On the other hand, Chitrangada was dumbfounded to see her husband, Arjuna's corpse laden with arrows from all directions. "Mother! See, my first victory. I have killed the mightiest member of the Pandava clan.", said Babruvahan with an excited voice. "My goodness! He was your father, Babru. You have killed your father!" said Chitrangada with a horrified expression. She had hoped that the father-son duo would meet someday, but she did not expect a reunion brought the clarions of death with it. Babruvahana stood still with tears in his eyes and shivering hands.

When Ulupi made her way towards the commotions of the mother-son duo, she couldn't help but discover a rage in her heart that was ready to blow up at any given point in time. Seeing Chitrangada crying her heart out, she couldn't help but feel that she should bring Arjuna back to life. When she saw Arjuna's lifeless body on the ground, she could imagine how her son, Iravan too, was lying on the ground in the same way, and Arjuna had let him die without a second thought. She somewhere knew that the father-son bond was one-sided, just like her love for Arjuna.

Kneeling beside the corpse, Ulupi put the Nagamani on his chest. As all watched in awe, Arjuna came back to life. But he couldn't recognise Ulupi and asked, "Who are you?"

Arjuna with the river nymph, Ulupi; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Arjuna with the river nymph, Ulupi; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Serpents, Sceptres and Unlikely Sisters; Image Source: Manipal The Talk Network

Serpents, Sceptres and Unlikely Sisters; Image Source: Manipal The Talk Network


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