Kiratarjuniya is a very famous story in the Mahabharata. The two main characters in the story are Kirata (Shiva) and Arjuna. During the exile of Pandavas in the Mahabharata, Sage Vyasa advises the Pandavas to use the exile period to propitiate Gods and become more powerful. Arjuna decided to propitiate Indra for this purpose; he went to the Indrakila Hill and subjected himself to severe austerities.
Indra appeared before Arjuna and asked him to propitiate Shiva as only Mahadev can bless a warrior with different powerful weapons.
Arjuna then started severe penance – by only eating dry leaves and fallen fruits. Arjuna’s penance was so intense that heat began to emit from earth. This made the life of living beings on earth harsh.
Finally Shiva decided to appear before Arjuna as Kirata – the hunter.
When Shiva was approaching Arjuna, He saw a demon in the form of a boar about to jump on to Arjuna.
Arjuna also saw the boar.
Both Arjuna and Kirata shot arrows on the boar. One arrow hit the boar and it fell down dead.
Both Arjuna and Kirata made the claim to the kill.
A battle of words ensued between them. Soon it turned into a fierce fight. First with bows and arrows, then with sword, missiles etc.
All attempts of Arjuna were thwarted by Kirata. Fire missiles were answered with rain missiles. Nagastra was minimized by Garudastra.
Finally both took to hand to hand to combat. Arjuna was easily overpowered by Kirata.
Soon Arjuna realized that Kirata was no human. Arjuna immediately collected some clay and created a Shivling and started showering it with forest flowers.
The forest flowers flew to Kirata’s head. Arjuna at once fell on the feet of Shiva.
Shiva revealed his true form sitting atop Nandi and blessed Arjuna with Pashupatastra.