Tales from Mahabharata: Arjun and the Bridge

Tales from Mahabharata: Arjun and the Bridge

Aarti Natarajan Sharma

Arjun was a Kshatriya and one of the five Pandavas. The Mahabharata is replete with stories of his valour. He was claimed to be a warrior who could not be defeated and this caused him to be full of pride in himself. Lord Krishna, who was his friend and mentor, decided to teach Arjun a lesson in humility, to show him that a true warrior is never proud but always humble. 


During one of their trips to Dwarka, Lord Krishna and Arjun were chatting about various warriors in history. Lord Krishna told Arjun that Lord Ram was one of the greatest warriors of all time and that the bridge Ram Setu is the greatest feat accomplished by the Vanar (monkey) warriors. No one had ever managed to match or surpass this achievement. Filled with pride, Arjun boasted that he could build a stronger bridge just by his arrows. Lord Krishna accepted Arjun claim. The two of them went to the ocean where Arjun started building a bridge with his arrows.


Just then an old monkey appeared and asked them what they were doing. Arjun replied that he was building a bridge which would surpass Ram Setu in its strength. Hearing this the old monkey started laughing. Arjun was angered at this insolence and challenged the monkey to test it for himself once the bridge was made. The money agreed. 


Once the bridge was ready, the old monkey went up to it and pressed it with his finger. To Arjun’s shock, the bridge collapsed immediately. Not willing to accept defeat, Arjun built another bridge with even stronger arrows. The old monkey stepped on it and walked a little way before the bridge collapsed. Determined to succeed, Arjun tried repeatedly but was unable to build a bridge that held the monkey’s weight. 


Lord Krishna then asked Arjun that if he couldn’t build a bridge which could take the weight of even one monkey, then how could he hope to build one which would be equivalent to the Ram Setu; which allowed thousands from the Vanar Sena (monkey army) to march across on their way to the war in Lanka.  


Arjun’s pride was knocked down. He realised the strength of Lord Ram and his army and repented for thinking that he could equal it. He went to the old monkey and begged for his forgiveness in challenging him. The monkey then revealed his true form of Lord Hanuman. 


Lord Hanuman told Arjun that he could not bear the insult to Lord Ram and had come to teach Arjun a lesson in humility. He goes on to tell Arjun that a true warrior is never egoistical and proud but rather gives credit for his greatness to those around him. 


In this way, Arjun realised that his greatness came from being associated with Lord Krishna and not merely his skills as a warrior. He bowed to Lord Krishna and Lord Hanuman and accepted the lesson in humility.