In the story of Mahabharatha, Pandu, the father of the five Pandavas was the ruler of the kingdom of Hastinapur. However Pandu incurred the curse of a sage while hunting.
Unhappy over the curse, Pandu decided to leave the kingdom and go to the forests. His two wives Kunti and Madri followed him to the forests.
As the kingdom of Hastinapur was without a king, Dhirtarashtra, the elder blind brother of Pandu was made the king of Hastinapur.
In the forest, Yudhishtar was first born to Kunti and it was only after this that Duryodhana was born to Dhirdarashtra. Being the eldest son of Pandu who was the actual king of Hastinapur, Yudhishtar had to be given the right to rule Hastinapur.
However Duryodhana hated the Pandavas and did not want to give them anything. In his jealousy, Duryodhana tried to have the Pandavas killed in a wax palace in a place called Vanavratha. Luckily the Pandavas survived the attack.
When the Pandavas came back, the blind king having no choice gave a portion of the kingdom in the west of the Yamuna for the Pandavas to rule. This place was called as "Indraprastha" [because this place was protected by Indra, the King of Devas].
Indraprastha was surrounded by a thick forests of Khandava. The forests had plenty of nagas and demons and the people there were constantly plagued by thieves.
If the place had to be ruled, the Pandavas had to get rid of the demons and the thieves.
As Krishna, Arjuna and the others were camping near the forest and talking to each other, a man came to meet them. Arjuna saw that the man had dark circles under his eyes and looked hungry.
Arjuna immediately got up and offered the man a place to sit. "Sir! What is the matter? You look tired and hungry? Is there anything I can do for you?"
Despite his bedraggled appearance the man gave a dry smile and said, "My Lord! I think you and the Dark Lord are the only persons who can do anything for me now."
Krishna pleasantly surprised, "Who are you sir? You have the appearance of a well-to-do man, yet you seem to have fallen in bad days. Tell me your story please. "
The man shook his head, "Not so soon. Krishna! First I want your word, that you will help feed me, only and only then, will I tell you my story. "
Krishna and Arjuna looked at each other. They both realized that the man’s story would not be an ordinary one. They both smiled. Both of them were ready for a new adventure and excitement.
Krishna promised the man, "I promise on behalf of both of us. We will do everything in our power to feed you sir!"
"Now would you tell us your story sir!" Arjuna asked.
The man smiled. "Gladly!" The man vanished and in his place stood Agni, the God of Fire! He had golden skin and his eyes were blazing. In his hand was a flaming ball, but the flame from the ball was very less!
Arjuna somehow felt that Agni, being the God of Fire could afford to be more stronger than this.
"Krishna! Arjuna! As you know, I am Agni!" he said.
Krishna looked surprised, "My Lord! You used to blaze so magnificently before. Why have your power gone down now?"
Agni sighed, "That is the reason I have come to you Krishna," Saying this Agni told them a story.
"My present problems can be attributed to King Swetaketu. King Swetaketu was a good and great king. He wanted to perform a yagna with great splendour, like the ones which has never been done before."
Both Krishna and Arjuna nodded listening to the story with rapt attention as Agni continued, "In fact the yagna he wanted to conduct was so strenuous and would take such a long time that most of the sages were not even willing to do it. Swetaketu was in a fix. He could not start the yagna if the sages did not help him. He did not know what to do. So he prayed to Lord Shiva for help. "
"After meditating on the Lord for a long time, the Three eyed Dark Lord finally appeared before him. When Shwetaketu explained his problem to him, Lord Shiva smiled and immediately gave him a solution.
"Son! Go to Sage Durvasa. He is a powerful sage. He will help you finish your yagna. " Lord Shiva did not mention to Swetaketu that Sage Durvasa was an incarnation of Lord Shiva himself and would have no problems in completing the yagna.
"Happily Swetaketu went to Sage Durvasa. Sage Durvasa agreed to conduct the yagna on the condition that ghee must be continuously poured in the fire for the twelve years that he was going to perform the yagna. King Swetaketu agreed and made arrangement for ghee to be poured in the fire for the twelve years of the yagna."
"The yagna was a grand success and everybody appreciated Shwetaketu and Sage Durvasa for its completion. " Agni sighed as he said the last part.
Arjuna looked at Agni, "Why would the yagna make you unhappy, my Lord?"
Agni said sadly, "The continuous intake of butter, my friend. it has made me weak. That is the reason, my powers are not what it once was. I am becoming weak. Nothing I burn, seems to satisfy me. I am always hungry."
Krishna and Arjuna looked at each other and then at Agni.
Krishna spoke, "What would satisfy your hunger, Agni?"
Agni smiled, "The Khandava forest. The Khandava forest is now becoming a menace. It is becoming a place for demons and monsters. It was decided long ago, that I should burn it up. It would destroy the monsters and demons and also fill my hunger."
Arjuna looked at Agni, "What is preventing you from burning the forest, sir?"
Agni looked at the sky and said, "Indra, the God of the Devas! He is the one who is stopping me!"
Arjuna and Krishna were both surprised as Agni continued, "Indra is friends with Takshak, the king of the Snakes. Takshak lives in the Khandava forest. So every time I decide to burn down the forest, Indra sends torrential rains and puts out the fire. " Agni shook his head. "Now my hunger is almost killing me. If any one can stand up against Indra, it is the two of you. Please. " Agni said desperately, "Please help me. "
Arjuna looked at Agni and said, "So you want us to protect you from Indra, the King of the Devas, while you burn down the forest?"
Agni nodded his head as both the friends looked at each other.