There used to be a king named Kritavirya and Kritavirya‘s son was known as Kartavirya Arjuna. Arjuna performed tapasya for thousands and thousands of years. Through this meditation, he pleased the sage Dattatreya and obtained four wonderful boons from the sage. The first boon gave Arjuna a thousand arms. The second boon gave him the power to use his persuasion to bring back evil people to the righteous path. The third boon was that he would conquer the entire earth and rule it according to the dictates of righteousness. The fourth and final boon was that Arjuna would meet his end at the hands of an individual who was in very way his superior.
Having obtained these boons, Arjuna conquered the whole earth and ruled it well. He performed ten thousand wonderful yajnas. The gods, the sages, the gandharvas and the apsaras always attended these ceremonies. He ruled for eighty-seven thousand years. One of Arjuna‘s amazing deeds was his defeat and capture of Ravana, the king of Lanka.
The sun-god, Surya, once came to visit Arjuna in the disguise of a brahmana. ―I am hungry,‖said Surya. ―Please give me some food to eat. I will reward you well. I am Surya.‖
―What sort of food will please you?‖ asked Arjuna. ―What will I bring?‖ ―I want to eat up all the material objects that there are on earth,‖ replied Surya. ―Please burn them up so that I may eat my fill.‖ ―How do you expect me to burn up all these objects?‖ asked Arjuna. ―I am only a human and have very limited powers.‖ Surya then gave Arjuna many divine arrows and a wonderful quiver to keep these arrows in. These arrows had the property that they burst into flames as soon as they were shot. With these arrows, Arjuna burnt up everything and Surya ate his fill. Hermitages, villages, cities and forests burned. Varuna was the god of the oceans and Varuna had a son named Ashvina. This son performed a lot of tapasya and became a sage named Vashishtha or Apava.
Vashishtha performed tapasya under the water for ten thousand years. When he finished his meditations and returned to his hermitage, he found that the entire place had been burnt up by Arjuna. Vashishtha was greatly incensed. ―Since you have not spared my hermitage, I curse you,‖ said Vashishtha. ―No one who bears your name will ever again become a king. There will be a Pandava named Arjuna, the son of Kunti. But he will not be a king simply because he will bear your name. I also curse you that you will be killed by Parashurama.‖ Arjuna was eventually killed by Parashurama.