Iravan, the son of Arjuna and grandson of Pandu, is one of the not-so-known characters mentioned within the epic Mahabharata. Devotees across India worships. Iravat/ Iravant, and Aravat are the other names of Iravan. He is widely worshiped in South India. The Tamil cult of Kuttantavar and therefore the Draupadi cult worships Iravan. Here we will discuss the sacrifice of Iravan in Mahabharat.
Iravan was the son of Arjuna and his consort, Ulupi. Ulupi was the Naga princess. In the Adi parva of Mahabharat, parents of Iravan is mentioned. Arjuna married four wives: Draupadi, Subhadra, Chitrangada and Ulupi. And he had four sons from each wife. The name of the sons are Srutakirti, Abhimanyu, Babhruvahana and Iravan, respectively.
Arjuna met Ulupi at Haridvara (presently Haridwar). Ulupi belonged to the clan of Nagaloka. Arjun got attracted to Ulupi and thus Iravan was born. He met Chitrangada, a daughter of the King of Manipura, in similar way. Babhruvahana was the son of Arjuna and Chitrangada.
As per Bhagawat Gita, Dhritharastra had 100 sons, headed by Duryodhana. He had one daughter named Duhsala. Pandu had five sons, headed by Yudhisthira. Every of those five sons had one son from Draupadi. The names of those five sons of Draupadi, were Prativindhya, Srutasena, Srutakirti, Satanika and Srutakarma.
Besides these five sons, by other wives the Pandavas had many other sons, like Devaka, Ghatotkacha, Sarvagata, Suhotra, Naramitra, Iravan, Babhruvahana and Abhimanyu. From Abhimanyu, Maharaja Pariksit was born, and Maharaja Pariksit had four sons–Janamejaya, Srutasena, Bhimasena and Ugrasena.”
Mythology of Iravan in mahabharat
The pandavas return back after their thirteen years stay out of their kingdom. They want to revisit their kingdom. They sent Krishna to speak to Dhuryodhana. Duryodhana was ruling the dominion within the absence of Pandavas. However, Dhuryodhana, refused to offer them back their kingdom.
He also said that the sole way that the Pandavas could line up of their kingdom was to fight a war. Krishna, realizing that there is not any other way, but to simply accept the war. He told the Pandavas to travel ahead with their preparation for war.
As per rituals, before a war, there needs to be a narabali (human sacrifice). But there was a condition that a person who has 32 lakshanam (morals/characters) were only eligible for sacrifice. There have been only three people that fit into that category – Krishna, Arjuna and Arjuna’s son Aravan.
It was impossible to sacrifice Krishna. While Arjuna is an archery specialist. Sacrificing him would mean losing the war. The sole other possibility left was Aravan. Aravan agreed to sacrifice himself. However, he requested to die only in battle field. Krishna grants him this request. He also made sure that Aravan does not die a virgin. Marriage of Aravan took place before he sacrifices himself.
And so, Aravan sacrifices himself. He was cut into 32 body parts and offered to Goddess Kali. Goddess Kali appears ahead of the Pandavas and blesses them to a victorious battle. And as per granted, Aravan’s body comes back together and he eventually dies a victorious death on the battleground.
The Pandavas needs to do the sacrifice on amavasya (new moon day).
Sahadev , well experienced in astrology, chooses this date. Whoever does this sacrifice, will get more benefits and can win the battle. So, to make sure that the Pandavas win the battle, Lord Krishna comes up with an idea .
Role of Krishna
He does special prayers for his late father (known as tharpanam) each day before amavasya. By right, this needs to be done on the day of amavasya. It created a confusion with the Moon and Sun god. They decided to confront Krishna and appear before him. They question his actions, asking him why he’s doing tharpanam each day before, rather than on a amavsya.
He questions that back, asking them “what does it mean by amavasya”. And to which they reply “the coming together of the moon and therefore the sun”. He then tells them, “aren’t you both together now? So doesn’t that mean that today is amavasya?”. Knowing that Krishna is up to something, they left without a response.
Also, Trishul signifies the beginning of the battle. A yellow cloth is tied around the Trishul and it was planted near the Aravan sanctum. Draupadi planted the sanctum.
Celebration in Tamil Nadu or South India
Temple volunteers re-enact scenes from the Mahabharath throughout this Theemithi period. In the festival, a male dresses himself as Draupadi and the roles of Krishna and the five Pandavas are performed. Holding of swords are the recognition of the Pandavas.
The South India cults that worship Iravan put great focus in a pastime during which he died a heroic death during the 18-day Battle of Kurukshetra. They honor Aravan’s self-sacrifice to the goddess Kali with great ceremony. There is a belief that the sacrifice of Aravan lead to the victory of the Pandavas. Lord Krishna awarded three boons to Aravan for this self-sacrifice.
One among these boons were that the Lord took the female form of Mohini and became married to Aravan. This mythology is re-enacted in Tamil Nadu with an 18-day festival. First there’s a ceremonial marriage, then a celebration of their widowhood following the ritual re-enactment of Aravan’s sacrifice.