Krishna and Arjuna nodded to each other and then looked at Agni. "We will protect you Agni. But I think there is something which we need first. " Krishna started speaking as Agni interrupted them.
Agni looked at the two of them curiously and then turned to Arjuna, "Arjuna, you do realize that Indra is your father. You still are willing to fight him for me."
Arjuna smiled as he looked at Krishna and turned back to Agni, "My Lord! What you are doing is right. Indra is wrong. And Krishna is with me. " Arjuna said looking at Krishna again. "So yes. I will fight Indra for you."
Agni looked relieved and looked at the two of them with a sense of pride.
Krishna spoke again, "My Lord! I am entirely confident that I can face up to Indra. But he is the king of Devas. I need some good weapons to fight with him. If I use these earthly weapons, I may not be able to face Indra to the fullest of my ability. Why, these weapons may not even last the first round of attack from Indra! I think you need to provide us with some heavenly weapons, so that we would be better armed to face Indra. "
Agni looked at the two of them considering their request. He slowly nodded his head, "I believe that you are the greatest archer in the world, Arjuna," Arjuna's heart swelled with pride as Agni spoke, "I think you deserve the Gandiva. " Arjuna's eyes opened wide. The Gandiva. That was the ultimate bow which could be had by anyone. The Gandiva bow along with the two quivers of arrows, which were never exhausted. The arrows just reappeared again and again in the quiver. And that weapon was going to be given to him. Arjuna's heart was dancing.
Agni turned to Krishna, "My Lord! I do not really need to tell you the best weapon for you. It is obviously the Sudarshana Chakra. I think it will be perfect for you." Krishna smiled but did not say anything.
Looking at the two of the them, Agni continued, "I will give you a chariot with horses that are as swift as the wind. You just have to think and the horses would turn. I think that will prove very useful during the battle."
Arjuna looked curiously at Agni, "Where is the Gandiva right now?"
"It is with Varuna, the Sea God". Agni said looking at Arjuna. "I think he will give it to me. " Saying this Agni closed his eyes and concentrated.
Arjuna looked with wide eyed wonder as a chariot with beautiful white horses appeared before him. The chariot was filled with weapons of different kinds. But Arjuna had eyes only for the Gandiva. He lovingly picked up the bow and touched it and smiled. He felt a connection with the Gandiva which he had never felt before. The bow felt like it was his. Arjuna closed his eyes and said a prayer of thanks. He then picked up one of the two quivers of the arrows and was strapping one of it to himself.
Krishna smiled as he saw his dark friend look at the Gandiva. Arjuna did not know it, but Krishna knew the importance of Gandiva to Arjuna. The Gandiva was created by the Brahman [the Force which was within all of us]. The Gandiva passed among the greatest of warriors and was the single greatest factor which would decide the winner in any war.
Krishna knew that a great war was coming. Arjuna was going to be one of the most important warriors of the war. The Gandiva coming to him just proved that the war could not be avoided. Krishna sighed and shook his head. He had another job at hand now. He had to deal with Indra now.
Krishna picked up the Sudarshana Chakra and smiled. It felt like he got his friend back. The Sudarshana Chakra was the weapon of Lord Narayana. Now that it had come to Krishna, who was an avatar of Lord Narayana, it just meant that Krishna and Arjuna were starting the path which destiny had set out for them.
Arjuna and Krishna armed themselves and went near the edge of the Khandava forest. Krishna nodded to Agni. Agni then turned to his natural form. A small fire started in the forest of the Khandava.
Meanwhile in the heavens, Indra was enjoying himself unaware of the plans of Agni. As he was relaxing Indra felt something wrong. Indra shook himself. He sensed that something was wrong in the forest of Khandava. Indra gasped. That was the place of Takshak. Agni had been looking to burn the place for a long time. Indra had been able to stop him so far. Indra got up angrily as he looked down at the forest of Khandava. He saw a forest fire and and angrily summoned the thunder and rain clouds. Agni was never going to learn. Indra thought.
Arjuna and Krishna looked at the approaching thunder clouds and both of them pulled out their weapons. Arjuna drew out the Gandiva and pulled out the first arrow. Arjuna daily practiced the art of the archery and he was perfect in it. He fired arrows with such speed as never seen before. Before the thunder clouds got anywhere near the forest of Khandava, there was an umbrella made out of the arrows surrounding the entire forest of the Khandava!
Indra summoned the rain clouds and it started pouring. But even a single drop of the rain water did not touch the Khandava forest. The umbrella made of arrows was so dense that none of the arrows penetrated through it, to reach the forest.
Indra saw that the rain was not having any effect on the forest fire. The fire continued to blaze and it had started to grow bigger. It was then that Indra saw the blanket of arrows surrounding the forest. From high up in the heavens he saw Krishna and Arjuna protecting the fire. Indra fumed.
The inhabitants of the forests were surprised. The asuras, demons and monsters, living the forest were shocked on seeing the forest fire slowly spread throughout the forest.
Time and again forest fires had developed in the forest. But it had always rained at the opportune time, putting out the fires. But the asuras were in for a second shock. it was raining, but the rain was not reaching the forests.
The asuras then saw the two warriors at the edge of the forest protecting the fire from the rain. Angrily, the asuras attacked the two of them from all the sides.
The demons and the monsters might have as well done nothing for all the effect their attacks had. Krishna with his Sudarshana Chakra, Arjuna with his Gandiva. The two of them were more dangerous than the entire army of the asuras. Needless to say the asuras and the nagas were destroyed and routed. Most of them tried to run away, but the forest fire now was becoming huge and the asuras and the nagas were destroyed in the forest.
Takshak, the king of the Snakes was not in the Khandava forest at the time the forest was burning but his son Ashwasena was there. He was very angry when he saw Arjuna and Krishna protecting the fire.
Ashwasena attacked Arjuna from all the sides. Arjuna was fighting Ashwasena and his army.
It was at this time that Indra used a very powerful gust of wind and tried blowing away the cover of arrows surrounding the forest.
Arjuna was fighting Ashwasena, his army and Indra, when a particularly violent gale of wind crashed into him and he fell unconscious. Krishna was rallying and trying to keep up with the fight as his friend was trying to pull himself up.
Ashwasena realized that he could not overcome or defeat Krishna and Arjuna. If he wanted to escape, now was the only chance, with Krishna fighting against all of them. It was just possible that Krishna would not notice that Ashwasena had escaped. Using his soldiers, Ashwasena ran away from the forest. He promised himself that he would destroy Krishna and Arjuna, whenever he got a chance.
Arjuna woke up groggily. He was furious with himself for letting his guard down and letting Indra make him unconscious.
Angrily he picked up the Gandiva. Krishna smiled when he saw his friend awake again.
If Arjuna was good before he had fallen unconscious, now he was brilliant. The asuras and the nagas could not even make out what it was that had hit them. Before they could shout, or even call out for help either the sudarshana chakra or an arrow would come straight at them. The asuras had nowhere to run. At one side was the army of two, Krishna and Arjuna and the other side was a forest fire, which raged on and on. The asuras, demons and monster lost the battle. they were either consumed by the fire or by the weapons of the master warriors.
However Indra was far from accepting defeat. He was after all the king of the Devas. He could not let two humans, no matter who they were, to defeat him. Indra repeatedly tried every single astra he could lay his hands on. But all his efforts were in vain. Krishna and Arjuna neutralized every single weapon he could throw at them.
Indra began to have a grudging respect for the two warriors as he fought them.
Indra tore open mountain peaks and threw it at the two of them, only for the mountain rocks to explode even before it reached anywhere near the Khandava forest. Such was the aim of Arjuna. Indra even threw tree trunks at them. It did not matter to Arjuna whether his father threw any mountain or trees at him. He just destroyed it all with a single minded efficiency.
Indra was losing and he knew it. He had tried everything. but all of it had failed. It was at that time that a heavenly voice was heard.
"INDRA! THE DESTRUCTION OF THE KHANDAVA FOREST WAS DESTINED TO HAPPEN NOW. YOUR FRIEND TAKSHAK IS SAFE AND HE IS NOT IN THE KHANDAVA FOREST. NO ONE CAN DEFEAT KRISHNA AND ARJUNA. STOP THE BATTLE NOW!"
Krishna and Arjuna had also heard the voice. They waited. the dark clouds surrounding the forests looked menacing and angry. What would happen? Would Indra listen to the heavenly voice or would he continue the fight. They waited.
And then suddenly everything stopped.
The sky which looked dark was now gone. The sun came out shining brightly. The place which smelt of thunder and lighting was now all gone. The friends hugged each other and laughed. They had fought against the Lord of the Devas and had won!
The fire raged on and on brilliantly, with nothing to stop it!
Krishna and Arjuna looked far and blinked. Indra, was himself coming down from the heavens majestically on his royal elephant – the Airavatha.
Krishna and Arjuna realized that Indra was looking proud and happy. He was not here to fight. Looking at each other, they nodded and put down their weapons. They bowed to Indra. Indra got down and looked at the two of them with pride.
"You two are the greatest warriors in the world. I had to meet the two of you personally. I am so proud to see how you stood up against me and succeeded." Indra said it sincerely without a trace of regret. Arjuna felt proud of himself. His father caught his shoulders and told him, "You have made me proud of you, my son! For what you have done. I will give you every single weapon, I have and the knowledge of how to use it."
Arjuna looked at Indra with his heart fluttering. This was the dream come true for any warrior. He breathed and fell at Indra's feet.
Indra lovingly picked up his son and embraced him. He then turned to Krishna. He looked at Krishna, who was having his Sudarshana Chakra in one of his hand and his mace in the other hand.
Narayana! Indra thought to himself looking at Krishna. Behind the forest fire raged on and on. "My Lord! What can I give you?"
Krishna bowed to Indra and said, "Why my Lord, there is is something you can do for me."
Indra looked at Krishna and fervently nodded his head, "Anything!"
Krishna smiled, "I have always been friends with Arjuna. What I feel for him is almost greater than friendship. He is a part of me. I wish that our friendship is always remembered by everyone." Indra laughed.
Nara and Narayana. Arjuna and Krishna.
Indra felt grateful to Krishna. Despite winning against him, Krishna still had the courtesy to treat him like the King of the Devas. He nodded his head, "So be it!" He whispered and vanished from there.
After Indra left, the two warriors triumphantly watched the forest fire, waiting for any more attacks. Krishna spotted somebody inside the fire. The person was trying to escape the fire and had succeeded! The person went over the fire. Krishna narrowed his eyes, the man was an asura! Angrily he picked up his Sudarshana Chakra and was about to hurl it. The man rushed forward and fell at Arjuna's feet. "Arjuna! Please. please save me from the fire and Krishna! I may be an asura and I am not an evil man. Please! I will always be in your debt. Please protect me."
Arjuna looked at the man and did not say anything, Krishna still looked at him with his Sudarshana Chakra ready.
Arjuna studied the man. The man looked like he was a very learned man. He also looked like a great devotee of Lord Shiva, despite being an Asura. Such a man did not deserve to die in this fire which killed demons and monsters.
He slowly nodded his head and turned to Krishna. "Krishna! Please leave the man alone. I do not think, he deserves to be killed in the fire. "
Krishna smiled sadly and lowered his Sudarshana Chakra. He realized the man whom Arjuna had saved but he did not say anything.
However the story of the burning of the forest fire is not yet over. Now that Agni was sure that Indra would not stop him, he blazed on and on and the fire actually raged for fourteen days! Nothing from the forest escaped. The only survivors of the forest were Takshak, who was not there at the time of the fire, his son Ashwasena, the asura whom Arjuna had protected, and a few Saranga birds.
[The young ones of the Saranga birds were in the nest, as the fire raged. Not sure of what to do, the young chicks, prayed to Lord Agni to spare their lives. It is said that Agni was so impressed with their devotion that he did not harm them. The fire washed over them, but not a feather on their body was burnt by the fire!]
The man whom Arjuna had saved, looked at the two friends. After the fire was over, he turned to talk to them, "Arjuna! I am in your debt! I need to clear your debt."
Arjuan shook his head. He had not saved the man expecting anything in return.
However Krishna nudged him, "Arjuna! You are talking to Maya. Maya the Asura!"
Arjuna blinked. Maya was the greatest architect in the world. He was the architect of countless structures from a bygone era. Most of Maya’s structures still existed in the world.
Arjuna looked at Maya’s old, majestic face and tired lines around it and felt a greater degree of respect for the man. But he still did not expect anything from the man. He looked at Krishna, wondering what to do.
Krishna smiled and looked at Arjuna, "He is a great man, Arjuna! If he wants to serve his debt, you have to give him a chance. "
Arjuna looked at Krishna and shrugged, "What do I ask from him, my Lord?"
Krishna smiled and looked at Maya, "My Lord! Arjuna and his brothers are going to rule their own kingdom from here. They are going to start ruling the kingdom now. I want you to build a palace for my friend and his brothers. A grand palace, the likes of which has never been seen before. the likes of which will never be seen after this."
Maya nodded as Krishna continued, "I want you to build a palace for my friends, which will make all their enemies burn with jealousy when they look at it."
Maya looked at Krishna for a long time and slowly nodded his head. He did not say anything to Arjuna. But he understood the Dark Lord’s intentions. [According to Hindu mythology the reason for Krishna's avatar was to get rid of the Warrior clans which was destroying the earth. He was born to bring about the Kurukshetra war and destroy all the corrupt warriors in the world.]
According to Krishna's instructions, Maya designed the Indraprasta. The palace of Indraprasta was said to be so grand and magnificent that compared to it every other palace paled to insignificance.
The palace was more or less the reason for the war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. When Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava saw the palace of Indraprasta, he felt so jealous of Pandavas, that he plotted the downfall of the Pandavas. The palace was the reason the Kauravas held the dice game humiliating the Pandavas, which resulting in the Kurukshetra war between the Pandavas and Kauravas.
-From the Mahabharatha