Arjuna, the well known archer prince of the Pandavas was on his way to the Himalayas. The Pandava brothers were in exile for the 12 years due to the cunning game of dice played by their cousin Duryodhana. They were in the process of gathering forces and armies and weapons for the terrible war which was almost inevitable. In the process Arjuna, had decided to go to the Himalayas to pray to Lord Shiva and to gain knowledge and if possible obtain the Divya Astras or celestial weapons. He had a desire to obtain the Paasupata Astra, which was a crescent shaped irresistable weapon capable of colossal destruction and annihilation of anything. Shiva and Kali used it. In the Ramayana, Lakshmana used it against Indrajit. It is said that the weapon could be used only against equals or superiors. It could be used as an arrow with the bow. It was but natural for the great archer Arjuna to desire the possession of the astra.
Arjuna chose a quiet place, built a small hut and hermitage and started his preparation for meditation. He created a Shivalinga with clay, adorned it with the flowers available in the forest, drew a Tripundra (three lines) on the lingam’s forehead and sat down to meditate.He placed his Gandeeva bow and arrow by his side and started his prayer in the earnest . At Mount Kailash, Shiva smiled to himself . Here was this brave son of Indra praying so sincerely for the weapon and victory in the battle which would ensue soon. Shiva wanted to give the weapon to Arjuna, but wanted to test the worthiness before he granted Arjuna’s wish. So he, accompanied by Parvati went disguised as tribal folk. Lord Shiva was a Kirata, or a tribal head, wearing freshly flayed skin of a tiger and his head decorated with a crown of forest flowers. He was wearing the Rudraksha on his neck and the Tripundra on his forehead.
As providence would have it, just then an asura by name Mooka assumed the form of a wild boar and charged into the hermitage . It ran around here and there creating havoc and disturbing Arjuna’s meditation in the process. Arjuna looked up when it charged straight at him. He defended himself with his bare hands and pushed the heavy animal to the floor. It charged at him again compelling him to take his Gandeeva. So skilful an archer he was that Arjuna had shot an arrow at the boar in a split second. The boar fell dead but there were two arrows stuck on its side!!. Arjuna was puzzled at the second arrow when the Kirata appeard from the opposite side with his wife. “The boar is mine ” gruntled the Kirata. “I shot it first”. “No , it is mine” said Arjuna defiantly. He looked at the Kirata with a scorn and was wondering who this uncouth fellow was and wherefrom he had come. The Kirata was adamant . “This is mine. Fight with me if you want it” said he. Arjuna looked at him mockingly and said “Come on if you want”
Then started the great duel. It was an equal fight at the beginning. The Kirata fought with Arjuna with bare hands and they went on wrestling for hours and days together. As the days went on Arjuna started to feel the strain. The Kirata was as strong as ever. No sign of his getting tired.Arjuna suddenly realised that this was unusual. The Kirata had this divine glow on his face and seemed to be gaining more strength. Arjuna decided that this was no human. He stopped fighting and fell at the feet of the Kirata. As he looked up he saw the Majestic Shiva and the beautiful Parvati in their resplendent forms. Arjuna was ashamed to have fought with the Lord due to his ignorance. He pleaded for forgiveness and Lord Shiva blessed him. He gifted to him the Paasupata Astra and described its uses and wished him Victory in the great war Mahabharata to come. Arjuna was extremely thrilled and please to get this much sought after weapon and he praised Lord Shiva with his hymns and Shiva and Parvati disappeared.
This is the story of how Arjuna got the Paasupata Astra, which he is said to have used against Karna and Aswattama.
The image in the story has been clicked by me in Pattadakkal. In the first panel, you can clearly see a boar and Shiva and Arjuna on either sides. Parvathi standing with a baby in the corner. The lower panel depicts Arjuna in his chariot in Mahabharatha war.