Khandavadahana Parva is the nineteenth Upa Parva in the first Maha Parva named Adi Parva, in the epic Mahabharata. Vyshampayana had narrated the historical events to Janamejaya, on his queries:

What are the other names for this Upa Parva?

This Upa Parva has many names like Khandavadaha, Arjuna’s Indraprastha Dahana, Sarangopakhyana Agnikanda etc.

Burning of the Khandava forest (Credits: Wikipedia)

Why was Khandavadahana necessitated?

Khandavadahana was necessitated due to five reasons.

Firstly, the God or angel of fire appeared in the human form as Pavaka, who had to be satisfied after eradicating his indigestion problem caused by accepting the continuous oblation of only ghee for twelve years performed by the king Shvetaki.

Secondly, Indra had to be satisfied with his protection over the land Indraprastha which was abandoned for more than twelve years after Arjuna had gone into exile. That area was covered by unwanted timber and disturbing creatures. Initially, Ulupi and Nagaraja had started to enjoy that area as per prior approval of Arjuna, permitted by Arjuna himself twelve years back, when he had happened as a guest for one day on the first day of his exile, at their palace. Later, Takshaka and his son Ashwasena also lived for ten years here but they had moved to Hastinapur before Arjuna had returned home after his exile and pilgrimage. But other threatening snakes, bats and disturbing, cruel animals had made that area an unpleasant place, for the enjoyment of demons. The demons’ architect Maya had started to live there.

Thirdly, Yudhishtira would be happy if that area was made as a conference hall and utility area for housing a royal court hall, by utilizing the services of Maya, the architect for demons.

Fourthly, Arjuna and Krishna had to be equipped with proper weapons to accomplish their assignment of heavenly works on this earth as Nara and Narayana. 

The fifth reason was to satisfy the general public by providing the great message of the great power of proper holy fire worship through the life of sage Mandapala, and four Saranga children birds.

All five reasons were fully satisfied in this nineteenth and final Upa Parva of the first Maha Parva called Adi Parva.

What had been done by Shvetaki during his lifetime?

Shvetaki was a great king who had performed many Yaga and Yajnas through many learned scholars. He used to enjoy seeing the white smoke rising out of the ritual fires during the oblations and hence he was famous as Shvetaki. Shveta means white in Sanskrit. The priests and acharyas were tired of sitting near the ritual fires, as their eyes would get infected due to the continuous white smoke. One day, he again wished to conduct one more yajna for one hundred years. But none of the Acharyas agreed to come for conducting the oblations. Even the court priest had denied and told him he would better bring God Shiva for conducting further rituals.

But Shvetaki was a brave king. He never left hope. He straight away went to Kailasa Mountain and started to perform penance. There, he performed penance with sincere devotion towards God Shiva and one day, God had appeared before him asking for his desired boon. He requested Shiva to come to his royal palace and help him conduct the fire rituals and oblations to please all forms of the divine Gods. God Shiva pacified him and explained to him that he was the sole proprietor of the entire world and if Shvetaki would conduct an oblation continuously for twelve years with a continuous flow of cow’s ghee, it would be sufficient to satisfy him. That would bring comfort to the infected eyes of the other acharyas also. But for the rituals, Shiva would direct the famous Rishi Durvasa.

Then, Shvetaki agreed to all the terms and conditions. Shvetaki had observed due care to satisfy Rishi Durvasa and completed all the yajna related rituals including continuously pouring cows’ ghee for twelve years into the burning fire flames. After that performance, his country was under peace and prosperity and for many years thereafter, he lived happily and finally, he was elevated to heaven naturally.      

After educating the Pandava’s children, where did Arjuna go?

One day, Krishna had visited Arjuna at Khandavaprastha. Then Arjuna had completed the teaching of Pandavas’ children. Pandavas’ children had got a good education and Krishna was happy to see them all. Then Arjuna had accompanied Krishna to the bank of river Yamuna for bathing.    

Why did Krishna go to the bank of the river Yamuna from Khandavaprastha?

Krishna went to the bank of river Yamuna from Khandavaprastha along with Arjuna, for bathing and donating dresses to his kinsmen at the riverside.  He had brought many donations for Draupadi and Subhadra and even on the bank of Yamuna fresh items were donated to the deserving people.

What was requested by the strange Brahmin with Arjuna and Krishna when they were on the bank of the Yamuna River?

A strange Brahmin had approached Arjuna and Krishna when they were on the bank of river Yamuna and requested them for help to ignite the forest portion of the Khandava Vana, an abandoned area near Khandavaprastha. On discussion with him, he revealed that he was the fire angel called Pavaka and he had consumed cows’ ghee continuously for twelve years which caused indigestion and since then, additional consumption of these forests was required to balance his stomach pain. The Brahmin had humbly pleaded them, praising their high handed abilities.

What requirements had Arjuna put forward to fulfil the desires of the stranger?

Arjuna had plainly told Pavaka regarding his barehanded situation. Krishna had also come there for bathing in the river. Hence, both of them required weapons to protect him and to face any untoward situation, in case to be faced in future. Thus, Arjuna had put forward the necessity of weapons if the desires of the stranger, Pavaka was to be fulfilled.

What items were received by Arjuna to help burn the Khandava Vana?

Pavaka had provided a celestial bow, an inexhaustible quiver filled with strong and fast arrows to Arjuna to help to burn Khandava Vana. He also procured a chariot with horses and offered them to move in any desired directions. Arjuna had saluted the chariot, circumscribed it. When they wore the weapons and ascended the chariot, their appearance was majestic and glorious.

What items were received by Krishna to help burn the Khandava Vana?

Krishna had received the mace called Kaumodaki and a wheel called Vajranabha. When they held the weapons, they appeared with a divine outlook.

What had been done by the strange Brahmin after Arjuna and Krishna procured strong weapons?

The Pavaka had started to burn the Khandava Vana after Arjuna and Krishna procured strong weapons and the glorious chariot tied with horses.

What did Indra do when Khandava Vana started burning?

Indra thought Takshaka might be in danger due to fire, and started to pour rainwater over the Khandava Vana. But Arjuna and Krishna fired their arrow to drive the raindrops away marvellously.   

Who is Ashwasena?

Ashwasena was the son of Takshaka and he was safe then at Hastinapura. He was the faithful servant working under Indra and hence his protection was mandatory for Indra. But Takshaka was already at Hastinapura and Ashwasena also joined him then safely.

Why Indra desired to rescue Ashwasena?

The services of Ashwasena were required by Indra frequently for controlling the demons. He was a sincere son of Takshaka who had been faithful to his own mother.

What was the special feature of the wheel held by Krishna?

After completing the desired action, the wheel returned to the hand of Krishna. It never failed and it was the special feature of the wheel held by Krishna.

What happened to Takshaka and Ashwasena during Khandava Dahana?

Nothing had happened to Takshaka and Ashwasena during Khandava Dahana.

Where was Maya during Khandava Dahana?

Maya was residing in the vacant house of Takshaka, inside the Khandava Vana when it was burned by Arjuna and Krishna. Maya was the architect of demons. Indra was the enemy of demons and Indra never desired to leave that area for them to enjoy. The aggregate area covered by Indraprastha, Khandavaprastha and Khandava Vana had been allotted to Arjuna since he was born by his blessings. Since for twelve long years Arjuna had gone on pilgrimage, a portion of that land was abandoned and Maya had used it as nobody had objected then.

What happened to Maya?

During Khandava Vana Dahana, Maya was alarmed by the fire but he could not run away since all sides were covered by fire. He surrendered to Arjuna and sought his pardon. Arjuna was sympathetic towards him and assured protection to his life. Maya was safe under the protection of Arjuna.

What was the name of the Brahmin stranger who burnt Khandava Vana?

The name of the stranger who burnt Khandava Vana was Pavaka, the angel of fire God. He had a permanent obligation to protect the land of Indra starting from the Southeast side. He was notorious to maintain extremely cleanliness to satisfy Indra.

Who were Mandapala and Lapita?

Mandapala and Lapita were great learned scholars. They worshipped the fire angel, and Mandapala obtained great ascetic powers by which he could do anything as per his will and desire. He was in a hurry to get into the world of forefathers and left Lapita alone after their marriage and went up to the entrance of heaven. Even though he possessed great ascetic powers, he could not open the doors of heaven. He approached God Brahma and enquired the reason for his failure to open the gate of heaven.

God Brahma explained to him that it was because, since he was a debtor towards his forefathers called Pitrs, and he had not fulfilled his obligations as a family head for the welfare of his children. God Brahma suggested that he offer oblations to fire God for the welfare of his children and pray to him to bless to lead a good human generation on the earth for a long time. He would be eligible to enter after offering prayer to the fire God with oblations to satisfy him. Then Mandapala had returned to the earth to redeem his debts.

Why did he assume the form of a Saranga bird?

Mandapala had no children when he returned to Earth. He wanted to get success quickly in life as the head of a family, with few children. Since birds were hatching quickly, he decided to assume the form of a Saranga bird and marry a female bird, then after his wife lays eggs, he would be free of debts within a short time. He married a Saranga female bird on the same day after assuming the body of a Saranga bird. His second wife, the Saranga bird, later laid four eggs and he left her, to intimate his first wife Lapita, regarding the events.

Who was Jarita?

Jarita was the Saranga female bird and she was the second wife of Mandapala. On approaching Lapita by Mandapala, he knew, Jarita had already got all the four eggs hatched and he announced as the parent of four children then and requested her to adopt all the four children as God Brahma had suggested him to live together.

What were the names of the four Saranga birds?

The first son was named Jaratari, and he was allowed to continue his race as per his desire by getting permission from his mother when he had grown up. When the children had grown up, he had converted them as great scholars after providing them human forms. The second son was named Sarisrikka and later he had married and continued to live under the human race as a good family head. The third son was named Stambamitra, he had learned from his father all the rituals and continued to live under the human race as an ascetic sage. The fourth son was named Drona and later he had learned all the Vedas and continued to live under the human race as a good Rishi. But when all the four birds were hatched from their eggshells, their residence was in the middle of Khandava Vana.

What did Mandapala do to rescue the four Saranga child birds?

Even though initially Lapita was feeling jealous of Jarita, Mandapala had managed to convince Lapita to adopt the four children as her own children, got in a short time without any difficulty by her. As per the instructions of Brahma, Mandapala with Lapita had started to perform rituals in the morning. Lapita had helped Mandapala collect wooden logs and cows’ ghee required for the morning fire kindling and offer oblations to the God of fire.

ॐ मानस्तोके तनये मा न आयुषि मा नो ।
 गोषु मा नो अश्वेषु रीरिषः वीरान्मा नो ।
 रुद्र भामितोऽवधीर्हविष्मन्तो नमसा विधेम ते ॥

Meaning: This is a Vedic hymn, starting with OM. Consider the grandchildren, honour and protect the son, protect their full life period, protect the holy cows, protect the royal energetic horses, consider the brave and energetic people who follow Dharma, if anybody seems to be cruel to the human race, then kill them off mercilessly, otherwise, if anybody is offering ghee to protect Dharma and possess immense quantities of cows’ ghee, then protect them.  In general, the meaning is a prayer to provide a good peaceful life to all. Vedic hymns could be interpreted in several ways according to the views of the people who know Sanskrit.

अन्यथा शरणं  नास्ति त्वमेव शरणं मम ।
 तस्मात्कारुण्य भावेन  रक्ष रक्ष हुताशन॥

Meaning: Oh Ghee consumed fire God; kindly protect me, my family, my children always. Without you, there is none to save us. We have absolutely surrendered to you.

Fire God had appeared before them and assured them regarding protection to his children during the burning of Khandava Vana later. Lapita had heard the prayers of Mandapala and assurances of fire God, hence left the Khandava Vana area and went to a distant place when the burning had started.

Pandavas burn the Khandava forest but Saranga birds survive
Saranga birds survive Khandava dahana (Source: Wikipedia)

What had been done by the four Saranga bird children to save their lives?

In the middle of the Khandava Vana area, when the fire was approaching the residence of Jarita, she was very much distressed, even though her husband, Mandapala had assured her full protection before he left. The four young Saranga bird children could not move since their feathers had not grown then. The young ones cried and requested their mother to escape by flying away in the sky. There were enemies like rats and cats in that forest, near their residence. When the fire God in the form of Pavaka reached near the four young birds, all the four birds one by one praised the capabilities of the fire God and he was very much pleased to remember his assurances given to their father.

Hence, he protected them without touching them. By hearing their praising words, Pavaka had been pleased and requested them to ask for any boons if desired by them. They requested to fulfil their father’s wishes and kill the meagre enemies of the birds, like rats and cats in their neighbourhoods to live comfortably after his fire task, until their father would have visited them. Pavaka had agreed to accomplish their requests and complete his assignments without causing them any trouble.

What was the moral lesson taught by Mandapala?

A sincere believer in God and performer of assigned duties of this world and a person who wished for the welfare of others would never perish. There was a great power in the fire-worship with Vedic chanting system seen throughout India and it was a very primitive method one could come across in all epics in this country. Mandapala was in a hurry to get into heaven prior to his second marriage but later he lived life normally befitting human beings. The more suitable word meaning of Mandapala in Sanskrit would be, like a person who protected the pace of life slow and steady till his successful end. Later, all his four children had become great Rishis. After many years of a happy life, he entered heaven with his two wives naturally and satisfactorily.

What were the boons offered by the satisfied Pavaka after Khandavadahana?

Arjuna had asked for weapons having more powers like fire and air. Pavaka had accompanied Indra and they both assured him that such weapons would reach his hand at the appropriate time. Krishna would always protect Arjuna as offered by the heavenly angels.

What happened to Maya later?

Maya had been rescued by Arjuna and he was instructed to meet him later at his palace, for further works, after permissions of Yudhishthira.

What did Arjuna and Krishna do after the burning of Khandava Vana?

Krishna and Arjuna then watched the scenery by sitting on the river bank.
Khandava Vana fully burnt further for three more days. The first Maha Parva called Adi Parva ends there.

Next post, Mahabharat: Sabhabhavana Parva would be more interesting.

Mahabharat: Lokapala Sabhakhyana would be presented separately in another article.

It is humbly prayed for the blessings of God Krishna upon us.

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