In the Mahabharata, a
Hindu epic text, the Pandavas are the five
acknowledged sons of Pandu, by his two wives
Kunti and Madri, who was
the princess of Madra. Their names are Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna,
Nakula and Sahadeva. All five brothers were married to the same woman,
Together the brothers fought and prevailed in a great war against
their cousins the Kauravas, which came to be known as the Kurukshetra
2 The Pandavas
4 Death of Pandavas
4.1 Krishna's help to Pandavas
5 Parents of Pandavas
6 Description by
Draupadi of Pandavas
7 In literature
8 See also
11 External links
Sahadeva, the youngest brother, in Javanese
Pandava is derived from their father's name,
पाण्डु) and means "descendants (sons) of Pandu". The other
epithets of the
Pandava group are:
Panduputra (Sanskrit: पाण्डुपुत्र) - sons of
Pandavakumara (Sanskrit: पाण्डवकुमार) - young
Kaunteya (Sanskrit: कौन्तेय) - sons of
Kunti (used only
for Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna. They are also called Partha, since
Pritha is another name of Kunti.[clarification needed]
Madreya (Sanskrit: माद्रेय) - sons of
Madri (used only
Nakula and Sahadeva)
Draupadi is presented in a parcheesi game where
gambled away all his material wealth.
Yudhishthira: The eldest
Pandava brother. His name means "one who is
steadfast even during war". His parents were
Kunti and Dharma, god of
virtue, justice and morality. Though he lacked the characteristic
combat prowess of a Kshatriya,
Yudhishthira was one of the most
virtuous men, skilled in the duties of a king and steadfast in the
path of dharma. He was a good king who, along with his brothers,
founded the prosperous city of Indraprastha. In consequence of
Krishna's machinations and also by his brothers' conquest of the
Yudhishthira became the emperor of the world. He performed two
Ashwamedha sacrifices and one
to control the dice from the Sage Brihadaswa and became good at
playing chess. His other names are Ajatshatru ("without enemies") and
Dharmaraja ("admired for virtues").
Bhima: The second
Pandava brother. His name means "of terrible might".
His parents were
Kunti and Vayu, the god of air and wind, who was
known for his might.
Bhima has the physical strength and prowess equal
to ten thousand powerful bull elephants and was very athletic. He was
aggressive and prone to anger. Of all the brothers, he alone opposed
Yudhishthira, although very loyal to him, for his questionable
decisions opposing common sense in the name of dharma.
devoted to his family and was their natural protector. He was a master
in wielding the mace. He was also a powerful archer, having fought
Karna on several occasions.
Bhima was also
very skilled in diverse areas of warfare, including wrestling,
charioteering, riding elephants and sword fighting. Along with Arjuna,
he went on expeditions to conquer the kingdoms to the east and south.
Bhima subjugated the kingdoms of the
eastern direction completely. He slew Krishna's most dangerous enemy,
Jarasandha, in a wrestling bout, and slew the
Kichaka, for molesting Draupadi. During the war,
Bhima was most famous
for slaying one hundred
Duryodhana himself. He was also
skilled in chopping wood, cooking, culinary arts and sciences. Bhima's
other name was Vrikodara ("wolf bellied").
Arjuna: The third
Pandava brother. His name means "of stainless
deeds". His parents were
Kunti and Indra, king of the gods and the god
of the sky and war. He was very virtuous and avoided unjust acts. He
was known for his singleminded concentration and his devotion to
Arjuna was more fortunate than his brothers as he was the
favourite of Bhishma, popular among the people, famous among the gods
and attractive to women. He was the favorite disciple of his guru
Drona, who taught weapons.
Arjuna was ambidextrous and the greatest of
archers, having mastered archery to the highest possible level. He was
rivalled by Bhishma,
Drona and Karna. In those days, archery was
considered to be the foremost of all fighting disciplines, and
Arjuna's mastery over it contributed to his popularity.
Arjuna was a
complete master archer, a supreme chariot warrior and had also
obtained near-perfect mastery over almost all divine, celestial and
esoteric weapons, along with the secrets of invoking and recalling
them. He spent five years acquiring and mastering divine weapons from
Indra and the other gods. He also acquired the mastery over the rarest
and the most powerful weapon, the Pashupatastra, from Lord Shiva
Nakula: The fourth
Pandava brother. His name means "the charming one".
His parents were
Madri and the
Ashwin twin Nasatya. He was attractive,
humble, diplomatic and helpful. During the
Rajasuya Yagna, Nakula
conquered the western direction. During the
Kurukshetra War, he slew
many warriors including many sons of Karna.
Nakula and his younger
twin brother, Sahadeva, were excellent sword fighters.
Nakula was also
a master of equestrian arts and sciences, skilled in wielding unusual
weapons, in chariotry and in riding horses.
Sahadeva: The fifth and the youngest brother of the Pandavas. His name
means "equal to a thousand gods". His parents were
Madri and the
Ashwin twin Dasra.
Sahadeva was the wisest of all the Pandava
brothers, and the most mysterious and introverted. Like Nakula,
Sahadeva was a master of sword fighting. He was also skilled in
fighting and taming wild bulls. Additionally, he was a skilled
cowherd, capable of maintaining cattle, treating their diseases,
assessing their health, milking them and in producing milk products.
Sahadeva acquired mastery over the science of Dharma, religious
scriptures and other branches of knowledge under the tutelage of the
Sage Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods. During the
Sahadeva conquered the southern direction, up to the kingdom of Lanka.
Sahadeva slew the wicked
Shakuni and his
Bhima, the second Pandava, powerful warrior
The story begins with the introduction of the brothers' parents.
Amongst the primary antagonists was
Duryodhana (loosely translated as
"unconquerable"), cousin to the Pandavas. He was the eldest of 100
brothers known as the Kauravas, who were born to Dhritarashtra, the
blind king of Hastinapura, and his queen Gandhari, princess of
The Pandavas were born to
Pandu and his wives,
Madri by the
boon given to
Kunti by Durvasa, that she could have a son by any god
whom she respects without having any marital affair. After Madri's
Pandu voluntary renounced royal life as penance for having
accidentally killed the sage Rishi
Kindama and his wife. At his death,
Pandu that he would surely die if he attempted to
have sexual relationships with his wives. Because of this curse, Kunti
had to use her boon to get sons. She bore him three sons: Yudhishthira
by the god of Dharma,
Bhima by the god of Wind, and
Arjuna by Lord
Indra. At the request of
Pandu she shared this boon with
Madri to get
her sons, the twins
Sahadeva from the divine Ashvin twins.
After the death of
Pandu and Madri's sati,
Kunti brought the Pandavas
back to Hastinapur. As children, the Pandavas and
played together. However,
Bhima (one of the Pandavas) was always at
odds with the Kauravas, particularly with Duryodhana, who refused to
accept the Pandavas as his kin. This usually led to much tension
between the cousins. Insecure and jealous,
intense hatred for the five brothers throughout his childhood and
youth, and following the advice of his maternal uncle Shakuni, often
plotted to get rid of them to clear his path to the lordship of the
This plotting took a grave turn when
Dhritarashtra had to relent to
the will of the masses and rightfully appointed his nephew
Yudhishthira as crown prince. This went against the personal ambitions
of both father and son (
Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana) and drove
Duryodhana into such a rage that he enthusiastically agreed to an evil
Karna to murder Yudhishthira.
the construction of a palace in Varnavrata, secretly built by
incorporating flammable materials into the structure, most notably the
lacquer known as lac. This palace was known as Lakshagraha. Duryodhana
then successfully lobbied
Dhritarashtra to send
represent the royal household in Varnavrata during the celebrations of
Shiva Mahotsava. The plan was to set the palace on fire during the
Yudhishthira would likely be asleep.
Yudhishthira left for
Varnavrata, accompanied by his four brothers and their mother Kunti.
Fortunately for them, the plan was discovered by their paternal uncle
Vidura, who was very loyal to them and an extraordinarily wise man. In
Yudhishthira had been forewarned about this plot by a hermit
who came to him and spoke of an imminent disaster.
Vidura arranged for
a tunnel to be secretly built for the Pandavs to safely escape the
palace as it was set afire.
Pandavas' Journeying With Their Mother
After their flight from the palace, the five brothers lived in the
forests for some time disguised as Brahmins. They heard from a group
of travelling sages about a contest (Swayamvara) being held in the
Kingdom of Panchala that offered the princess Draupadi's hand in
marriage to the winner. The
Swayamvara turned out to rely on the
skills of archery, and Arjuna, who was a peerless archer, entered the
competition and won. When the brothers took
Draupadi to introduce her
to their mother, they announced to
Kunti that they had arrived with
Kunti was busy with some work, and replied without
turning to look at
Draupadi (who was the alms referred to) ordering
the brothers to share the alms equally amongst the five of them. Even
when uttered erroneously, their mother's word was supreme for the
Pandavas, and they agreed to share the princess, who was subsequently
married to all five brothers.
Dhritarashtra heard that the five brothers were alive, he invited
them back to the kingdom. However, in their absence,
succeeded in being made the crown prince. Upon the return of the
Pandavas, the issue of returning Yudhishthira's crown to him was
Dhritarashtra led the subsequent discussions into ambiguity
and agreed to a partition of the kingdom "to do justice to both crown
princes". He retained the developed
Hastinapur for himself and
Duryodhana and gave the barren, arid and hostile lands of
Khandavaprastha to the Pandavas. The Pandavas successfully developed
their land and built a great and lavish city, which was considered
comparable to the heavens, and thus came to be known as Indraprastha.
Reeling under the loss of half the lands of his future kingdom,
Duryodhana's jealousy and rage were further fueled by the Pandavas'
success and prosperity. Eventually
Shakuni sired yet another ploy and
Duryodhana to invite the Pandavas over to his court for a game of
Shakuni was a master at gambling and owned a pair of
dice which magically did his bidding. Owing to this, bet after bet,
Yudhishthira lost all of his wealth, and eventually his kingdom, in
the game. He was then enticed by
Shakuni to place his
brothers as bets.
Yudhishthira fell for it and put his brothers on
stake, losing them too. He then placed himself as a bet and lost
Duryodhana now played another trick and told
he still had his wife
Draupadi to place as a bet and if Yudhishthira
won, he would return everything to the Pandavas.
Yudhishthira fell for
the ruse and bet Draupadi, losing her too. At this point Duryodhana
ordered that Draupadi, who was now a slave to him, be brought to the
court. None of the Pandavas fought for their wife's honour.
Duryodhana's younger brother
Draupadi to the royal
court, pulling her by her hair, insulting her dignity and asserting
that she, like the
Pandava brothers, was now their servant. This
caused immense anguish to all the great warriors seated in the court,
but each of them, namely,
Bhishma (grandsire of the clan), Dronacharya
Kauravas and Pandavas) and
Kripacharya except Vidura
Duryodhana then ordered
Dushasana to disrobe Draupadi
before everyone, as a slave girl has no rights. The elders and
warriors in audience were shocked but did not intervene. As Dushasana
began to disrobe her, she prayed to God to protect her honour, and
Krishna protected her by providing her garments an unending
length. Finally, as the blind king Dhritharasthra realized that this
humiliation could prompt
Draupadi to curse his sons, he intervened,
Draupadi for the behaviour of his sons, and turned the
winnings of dice game back over to the
Pandava brothers, releasing
them from the bondage of slavery.
Arjuna shooting at the eye of a fish to win
Draupadi in marriage,
Incensed at the loss of all that he had won,
suicide and coerced his father into inviting the Pandavas for one last
round of gambling, the terms of which were that the loser would be
condemned to 12 years of exile into forests and a 13th year to be
spent incognito, and if the cover be blown during the 13th year,
another cycle of 13 years would ensue. Obeying their uncle's orders,
the Pandavas played the round and again lost to Shakuni's cheating.
However, this time, their patience had been nearly pushed to its edge.
During the 12 years of exile in the forest, they prepared for war.
Arjuna performed penance and won the entire gamut of celestial weapons
(Divyasatras) as boons from the Gods. They spent the 13th year
masquerading as peasants in the service of the royal family of Virata,
the king of Matsya. Upon completion of the terms of the last bet, the
Pandavas returned and demanded that their kingdom be rightfully
returned to them.
Duryodhana refused to yield Indraprastha. For the
sake of peace and to avert a disastrous war,
Krishna proposed that if
Hastinapur agrees to give the Pandavas only five villages, they would
be satisfied and would make no more demands.
refused, commenting that he would not part even with land as much as
the point of a needle. Thus the stage was set for the great war, for
which the epic of
Mahabharata is known most of all.
The war was intense and lasted 18 days, over the course of which both
parties worked around, bent and even broke rules of warfare. At the
end, all 100
Kaurava brothers and their entire army was slain, with
only four surviving on their side. The Pandavas too lost several
allies but the five brothers survived, along with their cousin, friend
and mentor Krishna, A
Yadava warrior named
Satyaki and Yuyutsu, who
was Dhritarashtra's son through a maid. After having won the war
Yudhishthira was crowned the king.
Death of Pandavas
Yudhishthira and his dog ascending to Heaven
The Pandavas ruled
Hastinapur for 36 years and established a righteous
kingdom. Shortly after the death of Lord Krishna, they all decided
that the time had come for them to renounce the world, as the age of
Kali yuga had started.
So the five Pandavas and
Draupadi left to the path of liberation. For
this purpose they all climbed Mount Kailash, which leads to the Swarga
Loka. Unfortunately on their way, all except
Yudhisthira slipped and
died one by one.
Yudhisthira was accompanied by a dog who was none
other than Lord
The first to die was Draupadi; she was imperfect because she preferred
Arjuna over her other husbands. Then it was Sahadeva, imperfect
because he was smug about his knowledge. He was followed by Nakula,
imperfect because he was arrogant about his good looks. Then fell
Arjuna, Next was Bhima, imperfect because he was a glutton. Only the
eldest Pandava, Yudhisthira, reached the door of Swarga Loka, carried
on Lord Indra's chariot. On reaching Heaven he did not find either his
virtuous brothers or his wife Draupadi. Instead he saw Karna, Bhishma,
Dronacharya etc. and their sons.
He wanted an explanation from Lord Yama, the lord of death. Lord Yama
explained that the
Kauravas had been allowed into heaven because they
died as warriors on the battlefield. This earned them so much merit
and credit that it wiped out all their debts.
Yudhisthira demanded to
know where his brothers and his wife were. He was then taken to hell.
Yama explained that they were experiencing the reactions of their
actions but it was temporary. Once the debt had been repaid, they
would join them in Swarga.
Yudhisthira loyally met his brothers, but
the sight and sound of gore and blood horrified him. Though initially
he was tempted to flee, he mastered himself and remained after hearing
the voices of his beloved brothers and
Draupadi calling out to him,
asking him to stay with them in their misery.
Yudhisthira decided to
remain, ordering the divine charioteer to return. He preferred to live
in hell with good people than in a heaven of his enemies. Eventually
this turned out to be another illusion to test him.
Krishna's help to Pandavas
Five Pandavas in
Wayang form. From left to right: Bhima, Arjuna,
Nakula and Sahadeva. Indonesia Museum, Jakarta.
Krishna, being a well wisher of the Pandavas, helped them in various
ways during the time of their ordeals.
Parents of Pandavas
Kunti leading Gandhari. Description: Gandhari, blindfolded, supporting
Dhritarashtra and following
Dhritarashtra became old and
infirm and retired to the forest. A miniature painting from a
sixteenth-century manuscript of part of the Razmnama, the Persian
translation of the
Hindu epic Mahabharata
The first three of the Pandavas were the sons of Kunti, a
Pandu's first wife. The younger two were the sons of Madri, Pandu's
second wife. Since
Pandu had been cursed to die if ever he had
intercourse with a woman, the actual fatherhood of the children is
traditionally attributed to various gods, in virtue of a boon that
Kunti had received from the sage
Durvasa and had transferred to Madri.
Yudhishthira - son of Yama, the god of righteousness
Bhima - son of Vayu, the wind-god
Arjuna - son of Indra, the sky-god
Nakula - son of Ashwini Gods
Sahadeva - son of Ashwini Gods
Pandu shoots Kindama, who is disguised as a deer
Draupadi of Pandavas
Portrait of Nakula, the
Pandava brother, circa 1725-1750
Pandava brothers were collectively married to Draupadi. On one
Draupadi was kidnapped and abducted from a hermitage in the
forest by the wicked king Jayadratha. When her husbands learned of the
crime, they came in hot pursuit. Seeing them approach, Jayadratha
Draupadi to describe them. Angrily,
Draupadi told the king his
time was up and that the knowledge would do him no good. She then
proceeded to give the description. (Mahabharat, Book III: Varna Parva,
According to Draupadi,
Yudhishthira possessed a "complexion like that
of pure gold, possessed of a prominent nose and large eyes and endued
with a slender make." Master of the spear. He was just, had a correct
sense of morality and was merciful to surrendering foes. Draupadi
Jayadratha to run to
Yudhishthira and to beg for
Bhima as tall and long-armed. In a display of
ferocity, he was "biting his lips and contracting his forehead so as
to bring the two eyebrows together." The master of the mace, his
superhuman feats had earned him great renown. "They that offend him
are never suffered to live. He never forgets a foe. On some pretext or
other he wreaks his vengeance."
Arjuna she praised as the greatest of archers, intelligent, second to
none "with senses under complete control." Neither lust nor fear nor
anger could make him forsake virtue. Though capable of withstanding
any foe, he would never commit an act of cruelty.
Nakula, said Draupadi, was "the most handsome person in the whole
world." An accomplished master swordsman, he was also "versed in every
question of morality and profit" and "endued with high wisdom." He was
unflinchingly devoted to his brothers, who in turn regarded him as
more valuable than their own lives. The name
Nakula generally means
full of love and the male characteristics implied by the name are:
Intelligence, Focus, Hard-Work, Handsomeness, Health, Attractiveness,
Success, Popularity, Respect and unconditional Love.
Sahadeva was the youngest of the brothers and like the others
formidable in war and observant of morality. Master of the swords
"Heroic, intelligent, wise and ever wrathful, there is not another man
equal unto him in intelligence or in eloquence amid assemblies of the
Karna, son of
Kunti and Surya, killed by his own brother Arjuna
Harivamsa Purana (8th century CE) narrates the Jain version of their
Upinder Singh 2016, p. 26.
Chakravarti V. Narasimhan; The Mahabharata. Columbia University Press,
Singh, Upinder (2016), A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India:
From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Pearson Education,
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pandavas.
The Mahābhārata of Vyasa, translated from Sanskrit into English by
Kisari Mohan Ganguli and published online at sacred-texts.com
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Yoga Sutras of Patanjali