(1500 BC? / Kalpi, Jalaun, Uttar Pradesh / India)

Mahabharata, Book Ii - The Disguised Arjun

Hushed the merry sound of laughter, hushed each suitor in his shame,
Arjun, godlike son of Pritha, from the ranks of Brahmans came,

Guised as priest serene and holy, fair as INDRA's rainbow bright,
All the Brahmans shook their deerskins, cheered him in their hearts' delight!

Some there were with sad misgivings heard the sound of joyous cheer
And their minds were strangely anxious, whispered murmurs spake their fear:

'Wondrous bow which Sisupala, mighty Salya could not strain,
Jarasandha famed for prowesq strove to bend the string in vain,

Can a Brahman weak by nature, and in warlike arms untrained,
Wield the bow which crownéd monarchs, long-armed chieftains have not strained?

Sure the Brahman boy in folly dares a foolish thoughtless deed,
And amidst this throng of monarchs shame will be our only meed,

Youth in youthful pride or madness will a foolish emprise dare,
Sager men should stop his rashness and the Brahman's honour spare!'

'Shame he will not bring unto us,' other Brahmans made reply,
'Rather, in this throng of monarchs, rich renown and honour high,

Like a tusker strong and stately, like Himalay's towering crest,
Stands unmoved the youthful Brahman, ample-shouldered, deep in chest,

Lion-like his gait is agile, and determined is his air,
Trust me he can do an emprise who hath lofty will to dare!

He will do the feat of valour, will not bring disgrace and stain,
Nor is task in all this wide earth which a Brahman tries in vain,

Holy men subsist on wild fruits, in the strength of penance strong,
Spare in form, in spirit mightier than the mightiest warlike throng!

Ask not if 'tis right or foolish when a Brahman tries his fate,
If it leads to woe or glory, fatal fall or fortune great,

Son of rishi Jamadagni baffled kings and chieftains high,
And Agastya stainless rishi drained the boundless ocean dry,

Let this young and daring Brahman undertake the warlike deed,
Let him try and by his prowess win the victor's noble meed!'

While the Brahmans deep revolving hopes and timid fears expressed,
By the bow the youthful Arjun stood unmoved like mountain crest,

Silent round the wondrous weapon thrice the mighty warrior went,
To the God of Gods, ISANA, in a silent prayer he bent,

Then the bow which gathered warriors vainly tried to bend and strain,
And the monarchs of the wide earth sought to string and wield in vain,

Godlike Arjun born of INDRA, filled with VISHNU'S matchless might,
Bent the wondrous bow of Drupad, fixed the shining darts aright,

Through the disc the shining arrows fly with strange and hissing sound,
Hit and pierce the distant target, bring it thundering on the ground!

Shouts of joy and loud applauses did the mighty feat declare,
Heavenly blossoms soft descended, heavenly music thrilled the air,

And the Brahmans shook their deerskins, but each irritated chief
In a lowly muttered whisper spake his rising rage and grief,

Sankha's note and voice of trumpet Arjun's glorious deed prolong,
Bards and heralds chant his praises in a proud and deathless song!

Drupad in the Brahman's mantle knew the hero proud and brave,
'Gainst the rage of baffled suitors sought the gallant prince to save,

With his twin-born youngest brothers left Yudhishthir, peaceful, good,
Bhima marked the gathering tempest and by gallant Arjun stood!

Like a queen the beauteous maiden smiled upon the archer brave,
Flung on him the bridal garland and the bridal robe she gave,

Arjan by his skill and prowess won Pancbala's princess-bride,
People's shouts and Brahmans' blessings sounded joyful far and wide!

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