Arjuna, to whom Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-Gita on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, was the middle of five brothers, who were known as the Pandavas. Their story is told in the Mahabharata, an epic poem that is the history of Greater India at the time of Krishna’s pastime on earth, about five thousand years ago.
The Pandavas were pious and were pure devotees of Krishna, and the eldest of them, Yudhisthira, was meant to be crowned the next emporor. Their legal father was not their biological father, due to a curse upon him that he could have no offspring of his own, and they were all sons of different demigods. Thus they were not ordinary warriors. Then, due to the same curse, the five Pandavas were left fatherless while still young.
They were raised by their uncle, Dhrtarastra, who had them educated along with his own sons. The trouble was that Dhrtarastra’s sons were not pious, and were very envious. The eldest of them, Duryodhana, wanted to be emperor himself, and there were many plots and attempts on the lives of the Pandavas.
This painting shows a scene after one of those attempts. Duryodhana had built a house of very flammable lac, and had invited the Pandavas to stay in it with their mother Kunti. The plot became known and the Pandavas secretly escaped the fire, and they and their mother had fled into the jungle. Here they became exhausted and lay down to sleep under a great banyan tree. All, that is, except Bhima, the second eldest and by far the strongest among them, being the son of the wind-god.Vayu. Bhima stayed up to guard.
During the night, a rakshasa demon named Hidimba, who lived with his sister demon, Hidimbi, in a huge tree nearby, smelled human flesh and sent his sister out to fetch dinner.
She went to where the Pandavas were resting, and saw that Bhima was very handsome. She fell in love with him on the spot, and turned herself into a beautiful woman. She approached Bhima, introduced herself, and confessed that she was a demon sent by her brother to bring the humans back to eat, but said that she no longer wanted to do that. She told Bhima that she wanted to marry him instead.
Bhima was, in fact, attracted to her, but just then her horrible-looking brother came, wondering what was taking so long. Bhima strode out to confront him in battle, leading the demon a ways away from the sleeping family so as not to disturb them.
Fighting a rakshasa demon is no small matter; they are very dangerous, especially at night and even more so in twilight, but Bhima was stronger. The fight was horrendous, and smashed many trees, but the demon could not defeat Bhima.
Bhima’s brothers awoke, and urged him to finish the demon off before the twilight of pre-dawn arrived. Bhima did so, finally killing the demon.
Then he introduced Hidimbi to his family, and especially to his mother. The family considered whether or not to allow Bhima to marry the rakshasi demoness. Hidimbi was very humble and respectful toward them, and they decided to approve the marriage – as long as she did not keep Bhima out at night!
Bhima agreed to stay with her a year, finding time in daytime to be alone with his rakshasa wife, and at the end of the year, she gave birth to a son. The son grew rapidly, not like a human, and Hidimbi took her son with her back into the forest. Years later, in the great war, that son, whose name was Gatotkacha, came to help his father fight against the sons of Dhrtarastra.

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