B is for Bheema from the Indian epic Mahabharata

Bheema is the second of the five Pandava brothers. He is the son of Queen Kunti and Vayu, the Wind God. His strength is beyond compare. He can uproot trees from their trunks and hurl them across long distances and many a demon meet their sad end through his bare hands. When I think of Bheema, I think strength but I also think food and deep loyalty and love.

He is quite a glutton and even in his childhood, he was known to polish of more than half of the food that his mother put out for him and his four brothers. Food is both his weakness and strength. Knowing his weakness for food, his evil cousins, the hundred Kauravas, feed the child Bheema poisoned sweetened rice, thus paralysing him. Then they throw the huge kid into the river leaving him to drown there. However, Vasuki, the God of snakes who lives underwater takes a great liking to this innocent giant of a boy and gives him elixir to drink and little Bheema returns not only alive but much stronger than he was before. Thanks to his underwater adventure, The little boy returns with the strength of a thousand elephants.

Again, in a strange string of events, that involves honouring theír mother’s words beyond reason, the five Pandavas are married off to princess Draupadi, the daughter of king Dhrupad. Draupadi knows that of her five husbands, The gentle giant Bheema loves her the most. He is most devoted to her and will move mountains to fulfil her every wish.

Once while the five Pandavas are shamed and banished to the forest by their evil cousins, Draupadi fleetingly comes across a heavenly golden lotus with magical powers that for a moment fill her with peace. However the flower soon wilts and she is left wanting more of these beautiful and rare flowers.

Bheema comes to know of her desire and sets off, travelling through mountains, hills, valleys and forests in search of this rare flower. On the way, he has many an adventure and kills many a demon and beast.

At last he comes across a weak old monkey lying across a narrow path. Bheema asks the old monkey to move, so that he can pass. The monkey seems least perturbed even after Bheema tells him that he is one of the revered Pandavas and the son of the wind God. Bheema thinks the weak old thing must be senile and tries to push the monkey aside. But is surprised to find that he cannot even move the tip of the old monkey’s tail.

Now he knows that this is no ordinary monkey and humbly asks the monkey to reveal his true form. And then the monkey sits up and reveals himself as the powerful Hanuman, better known as the devotee of Lord Rama, who had leaped over an ocean in search of Sita in the earlier epic the Ramayana. Hanuman too is the son of Vayu, the Wind God. The older brother embraces Bheema and leads him to the magical lake where the golden lotus bloom in thousands.

Bheema faces many more challenges and ultimately returns home with thousands of the rare flowers in his hands and is elated to see the whisper of a smile on Draupadi’s face.

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