Many incidents faced by Arjuna during his 12 years in Exile. Arjuna marries Ulupi, Chitrangada and Subadhra. Abhimanyu is born.
Arjuna left Indraprastha and went into the forest in exile. He travelled the length and breath of India in these 12 years. Arjuna met several sages, rishis, kshatriyas and visited many places of worship. 12 years is a long time to be away from one's home. In this time, Arjuna encountered many magical and divine beings.
One day Arjuna was performing his daily rites on the banks of river ganga. Once he was done he went on to immerse himself in the holy waters of Ganga. As he was doing this, the daughter of the king of Nagas, Ulupi saw this magnificent warrior from beneath the river. Taken in by the radiant Arjuna, she grabbed him and dragged him deep within the waters into the Naga Kingdom called Kauravya. Ulupi asked Arjuna who he was and he told her. Ulupi said “O great warrior of the Bharata race. I am taken in by your strength and charm. Please accept me as your wife.” Arjuna politely refused but Ulupi was insistent. She pleaded with Arjuna “I lost my heart to you the minute I set eyes on you. You must marry me or I will end my life as I see no purpose in living if I am not with the one I love.” After debating with Ulupi for some time, Arjuna eventually consented. After spending a day in the land of Kauravya, Arjuna left the place. Before retreating back to her kingdom, Ulupi granted Arjuna a boon that he would be invincible in water. That even creatures of sea would be defeated by Arjuna. Arjuna left the banks of Ganga and continued his exile. Ulupi went on to have Arjuna's son and named him Iraavaan. Later, as we will see, Iraavaan returns during the Kurukshetra war to help the Pandavas in battle.
Arjuna then visited many sacred waters and holy places like Vanga and Kalinga. And eventually reached the kingdom of Manipura. There he met Chitravahana - the the king of Manipura. The king had a daughter called Chitrangada. Arjuna immediately fell in love with Chintrangada on seeing her and requested the king that he marry her. Arjuna told the king who he was and why he was here. The king replied to Arjuna “Son, you are certainly a good match for my daughter. But there is one condition. I have only a daughter and no son to become the next king. If you marry my daughter, you must stay here with her until she has a son. Neither you nor my daughter can leave the city of Manipura.” Arjuna agreed and wedded Chitrangada and spent the next 3 years in Manipura with her. Eventually, Arjuna and Chitrangada had a son called Babruvahana. Arjuna then bid farewell to Chitrangada and king Chitravahana and left Manipura.
Let us pause a moment here to note a couple of points. To some of you, it may appear that Arjuna went from place to place and married several women. While that is factually true, it is also noteworthy that all this happened over a period of 12 years. 12 years. That is quite a long time in someone's life. If we pause look back today to the previous 12 years of our lives, we may see that many many incidents have happened. If we, who live in a tight society have had so many experiences in 12 years, imagine someone like Arjuna in the Mahabharata era – exiled from his kingdom for more than a decade wandering from place to place. It is also important to remember that Arjuna was a noble kshatriya and Kshatriyas were known to wed more than once. It was part of the culture of that time.
Back to the story.
After wandering through several more lands, Arjuna finally reached Dwaraka – the kingdom of Krishna. Here, he met Krishna and the two of them embraced each other. Arjuna related the incidents of his travels and Krishna listened intently. In the end Krishna said “What has happened has happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen. All this has a purpose Arjuna.”
When Krishna and Arjuna were in Dwaraka, Arjuna saw a most beautiful girl and immediately enquired about her to Krishna. “Who is that Krishna. She is one of the most beautiful woman I have seen.” To this, Krishna replied that it was Subadhra. Subadhra was Krishna's half sister. i.e. she was born to Vasudeva and Rohini. Remember that Krishna was born to Vasudeva and Devaki. Arjuna asked Krishna's permission to marry Subadhra for which Krishna told him, “Arjuna. There can be no better match for my sister than yourself. However, Balarama, my elder brother, is intent on getting Subadhra married to Dhuriyodhana. Therefore, it is a problem.”
Before we proceed, here's a fact to note. Balarama had taught both Dhuriyodhana and Bhima the art of warfare using the Mace as well as the art Wrestling. While both his students were strong, Dhuriyodhana was technically more proficient. Thus, Dhuriyodhana was Balarama's favorite student. This was the reason Balarama wanted to get his sister married to Dhuriyodhana.
In course of time, Arjuna and Subadhra fell in love with each other. Krishna told Arjuna to take Subadhra in his chariot and ride away to Indraprastha and that he would talk to Balarama in the meanwhile and convince him. Arjuna took Krishna's advice and rode away with Subadhra. Balarama was furious when he learnt this, but Krishna affectionately spoke to his brother and convinced him that Arjuna was the right match for Subadhra. Balarama eventually cooled down and sent messengers to intercept Arjuna's chariot and bring them back to Dwaraka. Arjuna and Subhadra married in Dwaraka and they lived there for a few years. It was during that time that Arjuna and Subadhra had a son. This son was called Abhimanyu.
By this time, Arjuna's exile period was over and he returned to Indraprashta with Subadhra. Krishna accompanied them.
Abhimanyu went on to learn the vedas and rites and warfare and became proficient at everything. He was fearless and brave. He mastered the art of countering any weapon hurled at him. As we will see later in the Mahabharata, Abhimanyu goes on to fight a brave and important battle in the Kurukshetra when the Pandava army needed him the most.
Meanwhile, Draupadi too had 5 children through each of the 5 Pandavas. The five sons of Draupadi were, Pravindhya by Yudhishtra. Sutasoma, by Bhima. Srutakarman by Arjuna. Satanika by Nakula. And Srutasena by Sahadeva.
The Pandavas were finally together with their entire family. Their mother. Wives. And brilliant children. Krishna was by their side at all times providing them valuable advice and counsel. It was happy times.