What was Urvashi’s curse to Arjuna?
Indra is the King of Demi-Gods. It is his job to make sure that only people with good intentions and unbreakable devotion reach the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. He uses all his resources in pranking meditating sages and disturbing them out of their meditation. He also has a large number of Apsaras (nymphs) who through their breathtaking beauty help Indra. And the best among these Apsaras is Urvashi.
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Once upon a time, twin Sage brothers named Nara and Narayana were meditating to please Brahma. Indra felt a bit threatened. What if the sages asked Brahma to become the new King of Gods? thought Indra. So he sent his most skilled and beautiful nymphs to distract the sages. The nymphs tried their best, dancing and singing pleasantly but the sages were not distracted. A frustrated Indra came and bowed before the sages, seeking the reason for their unshakable devotion. Nara slapped his thigh and Urvashi was created. Urvashi’s beauty and skills were beyond any of Indra’s nymphs. Nara explained to Indra that beauty means nothing to them and nor do they want anything materialistic like his throne. So the sages gifted Urvashi to Indra as a reminder to let go of his insecurities.
Urvashi also had a minor role in the story of Mahabharata.
Arjuna, along with his brothers and wife Draupadi was sent to a 13-year exile. During this exile, Krishna unfolds the truth about Shakuni and his powers to win any game. Enraged by this cheating, Arjuna starts working on his archery skills while in exile. In order to become better, he starts gaining celestial weapons from different Demi-gods.
Indra was the Godfather of Arjuna. Arjuna started by praying to Indra for his celestial weapon. Impressed by his devotion, Indra invites Arjuna to his abode. Here he meets Urvashi. Urvashi is mesmerized by Arjuna’s handsome face.
Arjuna receives the celestial weapon from Indra and returns to the forest. An intrigued Urvashi asks Indra about Arjuna. She is even more impressed after hearing the whole story of Arjuna. So she follows him into the forest.
Urvashi tries to impress Arjuna by dancing and singing in front of him. She offers to marry him if he agrees. Arjuna is spellbound by her beauty and magnificent skills. But Arjuna was also a man of utmost focus. He regains his sanity and firmly declines the offer. Arjuna reasons with Urvashi stating the fact that she is way older than he was and worked for his Godfather. She was more like a mother to him. This was not meant as an insult but to Urvashi it was. For the first time, a man declined her offer and compared her to his mother. Enraged by his words, Urvashi cursed Arjuna to be loveless forever.
Later upon Indra’s intervention, she reduced the curse to being loveless for a year.
The curse came true in the final year of exile. Arjuna lived a year as a transgender who was neither loved by a man nor a woman. Arjuna used this to disguise himself as a dancer and live in anonymity.
Urvashi has become a popular figure in the literary culture of India. She is shown as the perfect physical representation of femininity. Today we have made it clear that beauty alone does not define femininity but it remains a part of it. In Hinduism femininity represents everything beautiful and gentle like the rivers, flowers, moonlight, and much more. Urvashi’s curse in Mahabharata serves as a reminder that this gentleness should not be confused with weakness. The gentle and calm river is also the bearer of floods.