The temple of irAvAn

In addition to the temples of draupadi ammAL there are a cluster of temples of irAvAn close to the point the where my paternal ancestor first immigrated to the Dravida country. Our clanswoman had obtained a detailed account of the itihAsa of irAvAn from one of the most learned smArta bhAratiyAr-s of that locality whose clan was associated with that of our ancestors for a while. Of course the smArta narrative differs quite drastically from the narratives of the tevar and other tamil pAratiyAr-s. It goes thus:

1) airavata was the great lord of the nAga-s and performed the first sarpa-sattra. His son was dhR^itarAShTra. His sons in turn were kauravya and others. kauravya became king of the nAga-s. His daughter was ulUpI the princess of the sarpa-s.

2) ayodo dhaumya of the bhArgava clan had a student named veda also of the bhArgava clan. veda’s student was utanka also of the bhArgava clan. utanka at the behest of veda’s wife had gone to obtain the magical ear-rings from the kShatriya pauShya, but they were stolen from him on the way by the nAga chief takShaka who was ulUpI’s husband’s brother.

3) To retrieve them utanka used spells to indra, such and “fire horse of indra”. The nagas were terrified by the fire horse of indra and were scurrying around in terror when tArkShyo ariShTanemI swept down from the firmament and attacked the husband of the nAga princess ulUpI. He was killed in the fight and eaten by the fierce divaH shyena, the killer of elephants and turtles. The naga princess was thus widowed and led a forlorn existence thereafter.

4) R^iShyashri~Nga, the young udgAtar, lived alone in the forest with his father without any contact with women. He diligently spent all his time learning the rahasya gAnaM-s, the shakvarI-s and the araNyegeya-s. One day the king of a~Nga had sent a comely puMshchali to entice him even as he was practicing the shakvarI, which is verily the vajra of the god of the gods. He was fascinated by her breasts and alluring ball-game that she played and fell prey to his natural instincts to dally with her. Of their coitus was born the terrible rAkShasa, alambuSha was born, who got endowed with the might of the shakvarI in his body.

5)When arjuna pANDuputra, in course of his exile for having interrupted yudhiShThira’s dalliance with draupadi, was performing his pitR^i-tarpaNaM on the banks of the ga~NgA a terrific female uraga arose from the waters and catching him in her coils pulled him down to sarpa-loka. There she gave arjuna a sacrificial fire for him to perform his rites. He duely did so and asked why he had be been brought there. nAga woman told him that she was ulupI the daughter of kauravya the snake-king. She told him that she was alone, with out mate and striken by kAma’s arrows was induced to pull him down to her abode. He protested that it was a sin for him do anything that broke his brahmacharya. She then told him that it would not be a major sin especially since he was being solicited by a mateless woman and was saving her life by giving her an offspring and asked him to dally with her. kauravya asked arjuna to take his daughter as his wife.

6) He duely did so staying over in her abode for a night and then next day she brought him back to the banks of the ga~NgA let him go.

7) Out of this pairing was born the handsome irAvAn. He was abandoned by his uncle takShaka because in the great battle of khANDava, arjuna and his friend kR^iShNa vAsudeva had brutally destroyed the realm of takShaka disobeying indra and the deva-s orders.

8) ulUpI brought irAvAn up on her own and trained him with various weapons and asked him seek arjuna when he was in indra-loka. irAvan duely did so and arjuna showering his affection on him asked him to aid the pANDus in the forthcoming war against the kaurava-s. irAvAn agreed and returned to his region. He obtained the horses bred with the founder of the yajur vedic school tittiri and built a cavalry division.

9) On the 8th day of the great war irAvAn fought a great cavalry battle with the gAndhAra division of shakuni under shakuni’s six fierce clansmen. In a fierce battle that followed arjuna’s son cut down five of the 6 gAndhAra heroes with his sword and mangled the 6th. duryodhana seeing his maternal clansmen savaged thus sent his great friend, R^iShyashri~nga’s son, the rAkshasa alambuSha to kill irAvAn.

10) alambuSha and irAvAn had a fiery encounter in which irAvAn cut his bow with a swift strike of his sword. He then struck alambuSha repeatedly with his battle axe, but the rAkShasa resorting to mAyA tactics confounded the son of arjuna. Finally, a nAga relative of ulUpI came to irAvAn’s aid, but he was devoured by the ArShyashri~nga assuming the form of a garuDa. When irAvan was confounded by the rAkShasa’s mAyA, alambuSha swept down upon him and cut his head off with his sword.

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