Love does not always find its destination. Unrequited love can not only be painful, it can also make you revengeful.
That is what this tale is all about.
The Pandavas were spending 13 years in exile after Yudistir lost them all in the gamble with Duryodhana. Arjuna decided to visit his father, the king of gods, Lord Indra. Lord Indra was thrilled. He treated his son to the best and exquisite things in Indralok, indulging him like a doting father.
One evening they were watching the celestial apsara Urvashi performing a dance in Indra’s court. Arjuna looked adoringly at Urvashi and seemed to be lost in her beauty and grace. He sat through the performance as if in a trance.
“Wonderful,” he praised her after the dance was over, “You are immensely talented and mesmerizing. No wonder the devas, and gandharvas are so smitten by you!”
She beamed at the lavish praise heaped on her by Indra’s handsome son and his words kept echoing in her ears long after the day was over.
Later, Chitrasen, the gandharava musician visited her. “Ah! Urvashi, you seem to be lost in someone’s thoughts,” he teased.
Urvashi blushed, her cheeks flushed pink.
“Oh ho, so you are blushing now? That can only mean one thing,” he said studying her face, “you are in love, aren’t you my dear?”
She smiled, blushing a little more.
“Do you want me to guess who has stolen your heart, Urvashi?”
She raised an eyebrow, looking surprised.
How would Chitrasen know? Maybe he was just waiting for her to bite the bait.
She kept quiet waiting for him to speak.
“It is Lord Indra’s son,” he said, like he had read her mind. “It is Arjuna, isn't it?”
Urvashi couldn’t control her excitement. “Yes, Chitrasen, yes,” she said throwing out her hands and spinning round and round in circles, “Arjuna is the one who has stolen my heart. But how did you know?”
“That was easy, apsara. He is smitten by you too. I saw him sit transfixed as he looked at you, his gaze never wavering for a moment, like Kamadev had struck him with one of his arrows,” explained Chitrasen.
“You think so?” she asked him, “I caught his gaze a couple of times too! He did not lose a moment before praising me after the performance, like he was waiting just to speak to me.” She laughed hysterically. “What should I do now, Chitrasen?”
“Tell him your feelings, you innocent thing, he is not going to be here forever. Make sure he knows you love him too and do that before he leaves,” he said pinching her cheeks lightly with love before he left.
Urvashi ran to Arjuna’s chamber, partly excited, partly embarrassed. Her heart beat wildly as she tried to think what she would say to him. As she stood at the door to his chamber, she saw him. He was reclining on the couch, eyes closed, bare bodied, a silk vastra draped below his waist. She stood in the doorway, admiring his glistening body, imagining how it would be to lay her head upon his bare chest. She looked at his handsome face, his perfect lips and sharp nose. He had Indra’s charm and Kunti’s beauty.
She tiptoed into his chamber, but the sound of her anklet woke him up. He sat up, surprised to see her.
She sashayed up to him, in her own inimitable style, her silken veil flying all around her, smiling seductively before seating herself beside him.
Arjuna was visibly embarrassed. He stood up with folded hands, “Devi, may I know the reason for your visit?” he asked.
“I have lost my heart to you Arjuna,” she said, trying to put an arm around him.
Arjuna instinctively moved away. He was shocked to hear her speak thus. “No, Devi, you mustn’t speak like that. I have looked upon you as someone to be revered.”
“You can also respect the one you love Arjuna.”
“Forgive me Devi, but I do not have such thoughts for you,” he said beckoning her to leave.
Urvashi was furious. Smote in love, and angry in unrequited love, she cursed him, “For spurning my love, Arjuna, I curse you to lose your manliness and be scorned as a eunuch.”
Arjuna was stupefied. He stood as if turned to stone.
When unrequited love to hatred turned,
Hell had no fury like a woman scorned!
Later, Indra modified the curse, such that Urvashi’s curse would be effective for just a year, and that too of Arjuna’s choice.
And this curse did come handy, during the thirteenth year of exile, when the Pandavas had to live in disguise, Arjuna lived as a eunuch, Brihanalla, teaching dance to young Uttara.
This day..last year...U for Unique