One of the most intriguing and interesting parts of the Mahabharata is when Arjuna was transformed into a dance teacher and eunuch, ‘Brihannala’, during the final year of Pandava’s 13-year exile (agyatvas).
Arjuna had gone to spend time with Lord Indra to learn more about Divine Arms, whilst visiting his palace Vaijayanta in Amaravati. Here Urvashi, one of the Apsaras, felt attracted to him. Realising the situation, Indra offered Urvashi to Arjuna for marriage. When Urvashi went to charm Arjuna with her beauty, Arjuna resisted and addressed her as ‘mother’ of the Kuru race, since she was once married to King Pururavas of the Kuru dynasty. Feeling insulted at the address, Urvashi cursed Arjuna to live as a eunuch for the rest of his life, but on Lord Indra’s request, she curtailed the curse to one year. Arjun became a eunuch and lived with the women in the palace of King Virata, teaching singing and dancing to the King’s daughter Uttara, calling himself Brihannala.