Bhima's powerful new wife shows him the wonders of higher realms.
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the Mahabharata continues, Bhima, having killed the man-eater Hidimba, tries to rid himself of the man-eater's sister, who has begun to travel with them.
Bhimasena said, "Raksasas remember their grudges, and they resort to bewildering magic to avenge themselves. Your are one of them, Hidimba! Go now the way of your brother!"
Yudhisthira said, "Bhima, O tiger of men, even if you are angry you must never kill a woman. Protect the sacred law, Pandava, and don't worry about protecting your body. The mighty demon came to kill us, but you cut him down. So what can his sister do to us, even if she is secretly angry?"
Folding her hands in a prayerful sign, Hidimba turned to Kunti (and to Yudhisthira and Arjuna) and pleaded for help.
"O noble woman, you know how much women suffer when struck by the arrows of Cupid. Now, good woman, that pain has reached my heart because of Bhimasena. I tolerated the greatest sorrow, waiting for the right time, but now my time has come to be truly happy. Giving up my best friends, my duties, and my people, O good lady, I chose this tiger of a man, your son, as my husband. Most honored woman, does this chosen man, and do you also, reject my proposal for a wedding because I speak as I do? Whether you consider me a fool or a devoted servant, O fortunate woman, please unite me with your son in sacred marriage! Taking your son, as handsome as a god, I would go with him wherever we wish. And when my desire has been fulfilled, we shall return. Please have faith in me, fair lady.
"If all of you just think of me, then I shall always come to you in times of trouble, and I shall take you, best of men, across impassable roads. When you desire to travel with great speed, I shall carry all of you on my back. But now, please, give me your mercy so that Bhimasena will accept me.
"It is said, 'To escape disaster a man should save his life by whatever means is practical, and one who follows this rule must honor every practical means as his duty. This does not mean, however, that one should resort to evil acts, for even in distress one should maintain one's higher principles. One who knows this is the greatest student of virtue, for calamity often spells the ruin of religious principles and of those who practice them. But virtue preserves one's life, and virtue is the giver of life, so whatever means one adopts to preserve one's virtue cannot be condemned.' "
Yudhisthira said, "It is exactly as you have said, Hidimba; there is no doubt about it. Religion must be practiced as you have described it, slender lady. Bhimasena shall now take his bath and perform his daily rites. Let him take the sacred marriage thread, and you may receive him as your husband before the sun has set. You may travel with him during the days as much as you desire, and at the speed of the mind, but you must always bring Bhimasena back to us at night."
Hidimba the Raksasi then promised, saying, "It shall be so."
Taking Bhimasena, her husband, Hidimba traveled up into the sky and went with him to visit beautiful mountain peaks and sanctuaries of the gods, enchanting abodes always busy with the sounds of deer and birds. Assuming the most beautiful feminine form, adorning herself with all manner of exquisite jewelry, and conversing very sweetly, she gave pleasure in all these places to the son of Pandu.
Similarly, Hidimba delighted him in inaccessible forests and on hilltops filled with flowering trees; in charming lakes bedecked with blossoming lotus flowers; on river islands and beaches where the sand was made of gems; in the waters of the holiest forests; in the mountain rivers; in the lands of the ocean, filled with jewels and gold; in charming villages; in forests of giant Sala trees; in the sacred groves of the gods; on the mountain cliffs; in the abodes of the mystic Guhyakas; in the shrines of the ascetics; and on the banks of the celestial Manasa Lake, which abounds in the fruits and flowers of all seasons.
The Hairless Son
Giving pleasure to Bhima in all these places, going from one to the other at the speed of the mind, the Raksasi eventually gave birth to Bhimasena's son. [Although Hidimba had transformed her body into a beautiful feminine form, she was in fact a Raksasi, and thus her son bore her own original features.] The boy was frightening to behold, with his crooked eyes, great mouth, and conchlike ears. His form was bhima "awesome" his lips bright copper-red, his fanglike teeth very sharp, and his power great. Though an infant, this mighty hero quickly assumed the features of a human adolescent, O king, and attained pre-eminent skill with all weapons.
Raksasa women give birth to their children on the same day they conceive. The children can assume any form at will, and they do in fact appear in many forms.
Bhima's son was a great archer, a great hero with great stamina and strength in his arms. He had great speed, a huge body, and profound mystic power, and he could easily subdue his enemies. Though apparently born from a human father, he had superhuman speed and strength. In mystic power he surpassed all the witches and warlocks, as well as all the human beings.
The hairless child respectfully touched his father's feet, and then the mighty young archer reverently touched the feet of his mother. The parents then gave their child a name.
"His bald head is as bright as a pot," said Bhima to the boy's mother. And thus the boy's name forever after was Ghatotkaca*.
* gata: "pot"; utkaca: "hairless"
Ghatotkaca was always devoted to his uncles the Pandavas, and they always held him dear, for he was ever faithful to them, seeing always to their interest.
"We agreed to live together until our son was born, and that agreement has now expired," said Hidimba to her husband. Making another covenant with Bhima, she went upon her way.
Ghatotkaca then promised that whenever he was needed he would come to serve his father and uncles. Taking leave, that best of the Raksasa race departed toward the north. Lord Indra himself had arranged the birth of this powerful child, who in the future would cause the destruction of the exalted and invincible Karna.
O king, those heroes journeyed quickly from one forest to another. Traveling through the kingdoms of the Matsyas, the Tri-gartas, the Pancalas, and the Kicakas, they observed enchanting regions full of woods and lakes. The Pandavas and Kunti assumed the appearance of ascetics, braiding their matted hair and garbing themselves with tree bark and deerskin. At times the Pandavas traveled hurriedly, carrying their mother, and at times they moved completely at their leisure. By studying the Brahmana portion of the Vedas, all the Vedic supplements, and the moral treatise known as Niti-sastra, they became knowers of the sacred law.
They met on the way their grandfather, the great soul Krsna-dvaipayana Vyasa. The mighty Pandavas and their mother respectfully greeted him and stood with hands folded in veneration.
Sri Vyasadeva said, "I already knew within my mind, O noble Bharatas, how you were driven from your home by the sons of Dhrtarastra, who are set in their irreligious ways. Knowing that, I came, for I desire to do the greatest good for you. You should not be discouraged, for all this will eventually lead to your true happiness. Without doubt, all of you boys [the Kurus and the Pandavas] are equal to me, but when a child is suffering or very young, the relatives show him special affection. Therefore I now have greater affection for you Pandavas. Because of that affection I desire to act for your good. So listen now. Close by is a lovely city where you will have no trouble. Live there in disguise and wait for my return."
Thus encouraging the sons of Prtha, those tamers of foes, Vyasa went directly with them to the city, called Ekacakra, and along the way Vyasadeva encouraged his daughter-in-law Kunti.
"Push on with your life, my daughter, for your child Yudhisthira is the son of Justice, and Yudhisthira will rule over all the kings of the earth as the king of justice! He knows the sacred law, and he is naturally the leader of the world. He will conquer the earth by his virtue, and by the strength of Bhimasena and Arjuna he will enjoy unrivaled sovereignty. Your sons and those of Madri are all maharathas, warriors of the highest caliber. One day, with their minds at peace, they will delight and find happiness in their own kingdom. Having conquered the earth, these tigers of men will offer sacrifice to the Supreme Lord through the Rajasuya, the Asvamedha, and other celebrated rites, in all of which abundant charity will be distributed. Your sons will rule and enjoy the kingdom of their father and forefathers, and they will show great kindness to their loving friends, granting them wealth and happiness."
Having thus spoken, the sage Vyasa settled them in the house of a brahmana and then said to Yudhisthira, the greatest of earthly monarchs, "You must all wait for me here, for I shall come again. By understanding the place and time of our meeting, all of you will know the greatest joy."
O king, the Pandavas and their mother stood with folded hands and said to the sage, "So be it!" Then that incarnation of Godhead Srila Vyasa, that lord and saint, went to another place by his own infallible will.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami led the team of devotee-scholars who completed the translation and commentary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam begun by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Fluent in several languages, Hridayananda Dasa Goswami has extensively taught Krsna consciousness in India, Europe, the United States, and Latin America. He is now doing graduate work in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.