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Story of Aravan – Iravan

Aravan or Iravan is the son of Arjuna and Ulupi, the Naga Princess. There are two stories of Aravan in vogue. In the Mahabharata, he dies in the Kurukshetra war. In South Indian folklore, he agrees to be sacrificed for Pandava victory in the great war in the Mahabharata. He is also the deity worshiped by the transgender or eunuchs.

In the Mahabharata war, Iravan fights on the side of the Pandavas. Iravan fights the Kauravas along with his Naga warriors. On the eighth day of the war, Iravan finds Shakuni Mama killing Pandava soldiers by shooting arrows on their back.

For this trickery, the entire legion that Shakuni commanded was killed by Iravan and Naga warriors.

Duryodhana who witnessed the destruction of a large part of his army ordered Alambusa, a demon with magical power, to kill Iravan.

Alambusa flies through the air and chops off the head of an unsuspecting Iravan who was engaged in a combat with Shakuni. He was killed through trickery.

Alambusa was later killed by Ghatotkacha, son of Bhima.

Different Story in South India

Aravan story in Tamil Nadu is entirely different. Aravan agrees to do self-sacrifice before Goddess Kali for the victory of the Pandavas. His only wish was to get married before the sacrifice. But no woman was ready to get married for a day.

Sri Krishna then takes the form of Mohini and marries Aravan. This single day marriage is celebrated during the Koovagam Transgender Festival at Koovagam village in Tamil Nadu. Aravan is here known as Koothandavara.

Another addition to the story is that after self-sacrifice the head of Aravan watched the Mahabharata battle from a mountain near Kurukshetra. This is one reason why the head of Aravan is worshiped in many Draupadi Amman Temples in South India.

The head of Aravan watching the Mahabharata war is quite similar to the Khatu Shyam story in North India especially in Rajasthan. Khatu Shyam is also known as Barbareek.