Mahabharata Parva 37: The Yaksha Yudha Parva

Mahabharata Parvas - Yaksha Yudha Parva - Featured Image - Picture of a lotus representing the Saugandhika

The Mahabharata is a collection of hundred Parvas (or ‘sections’) that tell the story of a long-standing family feud between two sets of cousins – the Kauravas and the Pandavas – for control of the Kuru throne in Hastinapur.

The climactic event of the story is an eighteen-day war that happens between the two factions on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

It is commonly understood that the Pandavas are the protagonists of this tale and the Kauravas the antagonists – though many retellings have appeared over the years that flip this structure.

In this post, we will summarize the Yaksha Yudha Parva.

(For a full summary of the Mahabharata with all hundred Parvas, see Mahabharata Summary: All 100 Parvas Explained.)

Draupadi’s Wish

The Pandavas move northward now, close to the summit of Yakshas and Rakshasas lorded over by Kubera. They set up camp at the hermitage of Sage Arishthishena. Right on their arrival, the Rishi dampens their hopes of visiting the mountain peak.

‘Not suitable for mortal eyes, my king,’ he says. ‘But you can live here as long as you want, and take in the smells and sounds of the place from a distance.’

A few days later, Draupadi approaches Bhimasena. ‘My lord,’ she says, ‘you are the most powerful man I know. Arjuna has won many celestial favours on account of being the son of Indra, but you are no less in my eyes.

‘You have protected us from Rakshasas many times, and but for you, we would perhaps not be here today, alive and well. Will you hear the wish that is burning my heart?’

‘Yes, Draupadi,’ replies Bhima. ‘Anything at all.’

‘I wish to see the summit of Kubera with my two eyes, encircled in your protective embrace. All the Yakshas of the universe cannot touch me when you are by my side.

‘The sounds and smells that come here from the mountain are tantalizing me beyond imagination. Will you see to it, O Vrikodara, that I get to experience the beauty of the place from closer?’

Bhima Sets Out

Bhima does not need more of an invitation than that. He picks up his weapons – a sword, a bow and a mace – and scales the mountain. When he arrives at the entrance to the city of Kubera, a horde of Yaksha guards waylays him.

But even there he sees heaps of gemstones scattered about, golden flowers blooming on every tree, and a rich lustrous sheen coating the wings of birds.

‘I desire to go inside,’ he tells them. ‘I am Bhimasena, the second of the Pandava brothers. Tell your king that I bear him no harm.’

‘No humans are to be allowed inside, by the king’s orders,’ the guards say. ‘If you do not turn back now, we will be forced to use violence upon you, O Prince.’

Bhima reacts to that threat with laughter. He hoists his mace on his shoulder and beckons to the guards.

‘Come, O Yakshas. Come, O Rakshasas. Attack me all at once. Do not bother with trifles such as battle fairness. Let us see if you are more powerful here in Kubera’s land than you are on Earth.’

Bhima Fights the Yakshas

What follows is a period of utter carnage, with the minions of Kubera being tossed around in all directions by the whirling arms of Bhima. Just as the rest of the guards are preparing to flee, there appears on the scene a friend of Kubera’s called Manimana.

He arrives bearing a mace, and hurls it at Bhima, who blocks its path with his own weapon. In the fight that follows, he kills Manimana and sends the rest of the guards flying in fear to Kubera.

Yudhishthir and the other Pandavas hear all this commotion from the hermitage, and after hearing from Draupadi where Bhimasena had gone and why, they pick up their own weapons and climb the mountain.

When they reach the place of battle, they are aghast to find that Bhima had already unleashed a torrent of destruction upon Kubera’s city. They find the second Pandava standing next to the fallen figure of Manimana.

Yudhishthir says to Bhima, ‘I do not know the reasons, Brother, for these actions of yours, but you have committed a deed that is offensive to the gods.

‘And by virtue of being your kinsmen, we must take equal share in your sin. Let us now await the consequences of our actions, and be prepared to bear them, whatever they might be.’

The Pandavas thus assemble at the entrance to the summit of wealth, and await further word from Kubera.

Kubera Arrives

Meanwhile, the Yakshas who were driven off the battlefield by Bhimasena reach Kubera and tell him everything. ‘The heroic Manimana lies dead in the dust, O King,’ they cry.

‘This man calls himself a Pandava, but he fights with the power of a celestial. We did not have the strength to stop him, Your Majesty, and if you do not come to engage with this man in battle, I am afraid our beloved city will be taken over by him and his brothers.

‘Mortal men who invade celestial cities do so with just one purpose.’

Kubera listens with considerable consternation on his face, and gets up with a slap on the thigh. ‘Summon the elephants,’ he orders his men. ‘Untether the horses. Let us go and meet this intruder who has slain our dear friend.’

The army of Yakshas thus move from the palace toward the gate with Kubera at its head (seated on Pushpaka, the flying machine), and they arrive at the mound on which the Pandavas stand, next to the body of Manimana.

Yudhishthir greets the lord of wealth with a humble bow. On his cue, his three brothers follow suit.

‘My brother has erred, my lord Kubera, best of all celestials,’ Yudhishthir says. ‘Drunk with arrogance, he forgot that entry into our city is a matter of privilege, not of force.

‘That is why we have remained outside the gate, waiting for you. Punish us all in the manner you see fit; we shall accept your judgement without protest.’

The Curse on Kubera

To everyone’s surprise, Kubera then smiles. He motions to the Pandavas to rise. ‘I am thankful to Vrikodara that he has chosen to invade my city today.

‘The Yakshas and Rakshasas he killed were already slain by Time. This is true also of Manimana. Grieved as I am by his death, I also understand the necessity of it.

‘Vrikodara today freed me from a terrible curse. Years ago, in the city of Kusasthali, in a conclave of gods, my friend Manimana committed a sin born out of arrogance and stupidity.

‘He discharged excrement on the person of Agastya, who was then performing austerities on the bank of the Yamuna. The sage then, quivering with anger, said:

“Because this friend of yours, this Rakshasa Manimana, has insulted me in your presence out of sheer conceit, I curse him that he shall meet his death at the hands of a mortal, and many of your forces will be annihilated by that powerful being.”

‘I have lived in fear ever since, wondering what form the sage’s words would take. I thought a powerful emperor would climb the Gandhamadana and overthrow me from my own city.

‘But today, with Vrikodara’s actions, I have been delivered from my personal hell, and Manimana from his.’

With this, the Yaksha Yudha Parva ends.