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I heard that Arjuna was not together with his brothers for 12 years when he was exiled and later he joined them in the 13th year of incognito exile.

So where he was for 12 years?

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Actually Arjuna underwent two separate exiles. One was without his brothers for twelve years and the other was with his brothers for thirteen years. Some people may have intermixed the two.

The first twelve years of exile he faced was because he had to break a mutual agreement that the Pandava brothers had among them and the second thirteen years exile was due to the defeat in the dice game.

Reason for Arjuna entering the twelve years exile:
After the five brothers married Draupadi, Narada visited them and said they should have a mutual agreement of how they will spend time with her. Narada told a story how two invincible demon brothers lost their life fighting over the possession of a apsara. So the five brothers made a rule that they would spend time with Draupadi in turn and no one would interfere while any brother was with her. If anyone did so, then he would have to enter into exile for twelve years as a celibate.

But one day to help a Brahmin save his cow Arjuna needed his Gandiv dhanu for which he had to enter into the room where Yudhisthira and Draupadi were together. After returning Arjuna asked permission from Yudhisthira to go into exile. But Yudhisthira said it is not necessary because his intention was good. However, Arjuna to keep the promise and respecting truth entered into a 12 year exile.

During this 12 year period he wandered many places, took pilgrimage, spend time with sages, married some damsels, spend time with Krishna, abducted and married Subhadra and then returned to Indraprastha. So some of the events are as below:

  1. Spend time performing fire sacrifcies with Brahmanas
  2. Met Ulupi, the daughter of the king of Nagas at the bank of Ganga and spend some time with her.
  3. Leaving Ulupi, he performed many yajna and dana and went through the land of Kalinga to reach at Manipura.
  4. King of Manipura had a daughter Chitrangada. He had no male child as a succesor so he wanted his daughter to have a male child. Arjuna married her and spend three years time in Manipura. When she gave birth to a son, Arjuna took leave from Manipura.
  5. The he went to the southern oceans and spend time with ascetics. There he helped them make the water crocodile free. Then desiring to see Chitragadha again he went to Manipura and after beholding his son Vabhruvahana on throne he proceeded to Gokarna.
  6. Krishna went to meet Arjuna there and brought him to his city. Arjuna fell in love with Subhadra there and married her by abducting. Balarama first opposed to this but later agreed upon Shri Krishna's suggestion. Then Arjuna and Subhadra go to Indraprastha.

Thus Arjuna spend his first twelve years in exile.

Reference:
Mahabharat 1.214-222

  • Strange, it is completely different from what I know. what I know is, shri Krishna ordered Arjuna to spend his 12 years of exile to make himself more fierce and battle ready. So, arjuna did tapasya for almost 12 years and got invitation from his father Indra to Indra lok where he was offered Gandiva weapon to win the battle. Later Arjuna hid the weapon and other weapons of his brothers on a tree while they were in incognito exile for one year. – Mr_Green Jul 18 '14 at 14:32
  • @Mr_Green yeah, stories get morphed sometimes. What you have said is true, Arjuna indeed spent most of his time in austerity, but not in complete exile. Many weapons were with Indra, so Yudhisthira told Arjuna to go to Sakra for instructions goo.gl/cq0GQ7. Arjuna then worshiped Shiva and got Pashupata weapon. Then he went to Indra loka and got many other weapons. But he had already got the Gandiva bow from Varuna during the burning of Khandava forest goo.gl/OEWQUl. And they hid their weapons on a tree as you have said before their incognito exile. – Be Happy Jul 19 '14 at 11:33
  • @BeHappy you used word celibate but then why he married during exile? – Vikas Jul 20 at 17:42
  • @sv. do you have any answer for above comment? – Vikas Jul 20 at 17:42
  • @Vikas "enter into exile for twelve years as a celibate" - this means they have to avoid sexual relationships for 12 years but seems like Arjuna violated it. Have to read what the oath was. You can ask a separate question about it. – sv. Jul 20 at 19:28

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