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In the Mahabharata, a Hindu
Hindu
epic text, the Pandavas are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu, by his two wives Kunti
Kunti
and Madri, who was the princess of Madra. Their names are Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula
Nakula
and Sahadeva. All five brothers were married to the same woman, Draupadi. Together the brothers fought and prevailed in a great war against their cousins the Kauravas, which came to be known as the Kurukshetra War.

Contents

1 Etymology 2 The Pandavas 3 Story 4 Death of Pandavas

4.1 Krishna's help to Pandavas

5 Parents of Pandavas 6 Description by Draupadi
Draupadi
of Pandavas 7 In literature 8 See also 9 Notes 10 References 11 External links

Etymology[edit]

Sahadeva, the youngest brother, in Javanese Wayang
Wayang
form

The word Pandava
Pandava
is derived from their father's name, Pandu
Pandu
(Sanskrit: पाण्डु) and means "descendants (sons) of Pandu". The other epithets of the Pandava
Pandava
group are:[citation needed]

Panduputra (Sanskrit: पाण्डुपुत्र) - sons of Pandu Pandavakumara (Sanskrit: पाण्डवकुमार) - young Pandavas Kaunteya
Kaunteya
(Sanskrit: कौन्तेय) - sons of Kunti
Kunti
(used only for Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna. They are also called Partha, since Pritha is another name of Kunti.[clarification needed] Madreya
Madreya
(Sanskrit: माद्रेय) - sons of Madri
Madri
(used only for Nakula
Nakula
and Sahadeva)

The Pandavas[edit]

Draupadi
Draupadi
is presented in a parcheesi game where Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
has gambled away all his material wealth.

Yudhishthira: The eldest Pandava
Pandava
brother. His name means "one who is steadfast even during war". His parents were Kunti
Kunti
and Dharma, god of virtue, justice and morality. Though he lacked the characteristic combat prowess of a Kshatriya, Yudhishthira
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 world, Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
became the emperor of the world. He performed two Ashwamedha
Ashwamedha
sacrifices and one Rajasuya
Rajasuya
sacrifice. Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
learnt 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
Pandava
brother. His name means "of terrible might". His parents were Kunti
Kunti
and Vayu, the god of air and wind, who was known for his might. Bhima
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. Bhima
Bhima
was 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 Drona
Drona
and Ashwatthama
Ashwatthama
and Karna
Karna
on several occasions. Bhima
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. During the Rajasuya
Rajasuya
Yagna, Bhima
Bhima
subjugated the kingdoms of the eastern direction completely. He slew Krishna's most dangerous enemy, Jarasandha, in a wrestling bout, and slew the Matsya
Matsya
commander, Kichaka, for molesting Draupadi. During the war, Bhima
Bhima
was most famous for slaying one hundred Kauravas
Kauravas
and Duryodhana
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
Pandava
brother. His name means "of stainless deeds". His parents were Kunti
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 Krishna. Arjuna
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
Arjuna
was ambidextrous and the greatest of archers, having mastered archery to the highest possible level. He was rivalled by Bhishma, Drona
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
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
Indra
and the other gods. He also acquired the mastery over the rarest and the most powerful weapon, the Pashupatastra, from Lord Shiva himself.

Nakula: The fourth Pandava
Pandava
brother. His name means "the charming one". His parents were Madri
Madri
and the Ashwin twin Nasatya. He was attractive, humble, diplomatic and helpful. During the Rajasuya
Rajasuya
Yagna, Nakula conquered the western direction. During the Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra
War, he slew many warriors including many sons of Karna. Nakula
Nakula
and his younger twin brother, Sahadeva, were excellent sword fighters. Nakula
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
Madri
and the Ashwin twin Dasra. Sahadeva
Sahadeva
was the wisest of all the Pandava brothers, and the most mysterious and introverted. Like Nakula, Sahadeva
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
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 Rajasuya
Rajasuya
War, Sahadeva
Sahadeva
conquered the southern direction, up to the kingdom of Lanka. During the Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra
War, Sahadeva
Sahadeva
slew the wicked Shakuni
Shakuni
and his son, Uluka.

Story[edit]

Bhima, the second Pandava, powerful warrior

The story begins with the introduction of the brothers' parents. Amongst the primary antagonists was Duryodhana
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 Gandhara. The Pandavas were born to Pandu
Pandu
and his wives, Kunti
Kunti
and Madri
Madri
by the boon given to Kunti
Kunti
by Durvasa, that she could have a son by any god whom she respects without having any marital affair. After Madri's marriage, Pandu
Pandu
voluntary renounced royal life as penance for having accidentally killed the sage Rishi Kindama
Kindama
and his wife. At his death, Rishi Kindama
Kindama
cursed Pandu
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
Bhima
by the god of Wind, and Arjuna
Arjuna
by Lord Indra. At the request of Pandu
Pandu
she shared this boon with Madri
Madri
to get her sons, the twins Nakula
Nakula
and Sahadeva
Sahadeva
from the divine Ashvin twins. After the death of Pandu
Pandu
and Madri's sati, Kunti
Kunti
brought the Pandavas back to Hastinapur. As children, the Pandavas and Kauravas
Kauravas
often played together. However, Bhima
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, Duryodhana
Duryodhana
harboured 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 Kuru Dynasty. This plotting took a grave turn when Dhritarashtra
Dhritarashtra
had to relent to the will of the masses and rightfully appointed his nephew Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
as crown prince. This went against the personal ambitions of both father and son ( Dhritarashtra
Dhritarashtra
and Duryodhana) and drove Duryodhana
Duryodhana
into such a rage that he enthusiastically agreed to an evil ploy by Shakuni
Shakuni
and Karna
Karna
to murder Yudhishthira. Shakuni
Shakuni
commissioned 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
Dhritarashtra
to send Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
to represent the royal household in Varnavrata during the celebrations of Shiva
Shiva
Mahotsava. The plan was to set the palace on fire during the night while Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
would likely be asleep. Yudhishthira
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 addition, Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
had been forewarned about this plot by a hermit who came to him and spoke of an imminent disaster. Vidura
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
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
Draupadi
to introduce her to their mother, they announced to Kunti
Kunti
that they had arrived with excellent alms. Kunti
Kunti
was busy with some work, and replied without turning to look at Draupadi
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. When Dhritarashtra
Dhritarashtra
heard that the five brothers were alive, he invited them back to the kingdom. However, in their absence, Duryodhana
Duryodhana
had succeeded in being made the crown prince. Upon the return of the Pandavas, the issue of returning Yudhishthira's crown to him was raised. Dhritarashtra
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
Hastinapur
for himself and Duryodhana
Duryodhana
and gave the barren, arid and hostile lands of Khandavaprastha
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
Shakuni
sired yet another ploy and got Duryodhana
Duryodhana
to invite the Pandavas over to his court for a game of dice (gambling). Shakuni
Shakuni
was a master at gambling and owned a pair of dice which magically did his bidding. Owing to this, bet after bet, Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
lost all of his wealth, and eventually his kingdom, in the game. He was then enticed by Duryodhana
Duryodhana
and Shakuni
Shakuni
to place his brothers as bets. Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
fell for it and put his brothers on stake, losing them too. He then placed himself as a bet and lost again. Duryodhana
Duryodhana
now played another trick and told Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
that he still had his wife Draupadi
Draupadi
to place as a bet and if Yudhishthira won, he would return everything to the Pandavas. Yudhishthira
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 Dushasana
Dushasana
dragged Draupadi
Draupadi
to the royal court, pulling her by her hair, insulting her dignity and asserting that she, like the Pandava
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
Bhishma
(grandsire of the clan), Dronacharya (teacher/guru of Kauravas
Kauravas
and Pandavas) and Kripacharya
Kripacharya
except Vidura remained silent. Duryodhana
Duryodhana
then ordered Dushasana
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 Lord Krishna
Krishna
protected her by providing her garments an unending length. Finally, as the blind king Dhritharasthra realized that this humiliation could prompt Draupadi
Draupadi
to curse his sons, he intervened, apologizing to Draupadi
Draupadi
for the behaviour of his sons, and turned the winnings of dice game back over to the Pandava
Pandava
brothers, releasing them from the bondage of slavery.

Arjuna
Arjuna
shooting at the eye of a fish to win Draupadi
Draupadi
in marriage, Kalighat painting

Incensed at the loss of all that he had won, Duryodhana
Duryodhana
threatened 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
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
Duryodhana
refused to yield Indraprastha. For the sake of peace and to avert a disastrous war, Krishna
Krishna
proposed that if Hastinapur
Hastinapur
agrees to give the Pandavas only five villages, they would be satisfied and would make no more demands. Duryodhana
Duryodhana
vehemently 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
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
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
Yadava
warrior named Satyaki
Satyaki
and Yuyutsu, who was Dhritarashtra's son through a maid. After having won the war Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
was crowned the king.[citation needed] Death of Pandavas[edit]

Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
and his dog ascending to Heaven

The Pandavas ruled Hastinapur
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
Kali yuga
had started. So the five Pandavas and Draupadi
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
Yudhisthira
slipped and died one by one. Yudhisthira
Yudhisthira
was accompanied by a dog who was none other than Lord Yama
Yama
himself. The first to die was Draupadi; she was imperfect because she preferred Arjuna
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
Dronacharya
etc. and their sons. He wanted an explanation from Lord Yama, the lord of death. Lord Yama explained that the Kauravas
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
Yudhisthira
demanded to know where his brothers and his wife were. He was then taken to hell. Lord Yama
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
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
Draupadi
calling out to him, asking him to stay with them in their misery. Yudhisthira
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.[citation needed] Krishna's help to Pandavas[edit]

Five Pandavas in Wayang
Wayang
form. From left to right: Bhima, Arjuna, Yudhishthira, Nakula
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[edit]

Kunti
Kunti
leading Gandhari. Description: Gandhari, blindfolded, supporting Dhritarashtra
Dhritarashtra
and following Kunti
Kunti
when Dhritarashtra
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
Hindu
epic Mahabharata

The first three of the Pandavas were the sons of Kunti, a Yadava
Yadava
and Pandu's first wife. The younger two were the sons of Madri, Pandu's second wife. Since Pandu
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
Kunti
had received from the sage Durvasa
Durvasa
and had transferred to Madri. Thus-[citation needed]

Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
- son of Yama, the god of righteousness Bhima
Bhima
- son of Vayu, the wind-god Arjuna
Arjuna
- son of Indra, the sky-god Nakula
Nakula
- son of Ashwini Gods Sahadeva
Sahadeva
- son of Ashwini Gods

Pandu
Pandu
shoots Kindama, who is disguised as a deer

Description by Draupadi
Draupadi
of Pandavas[edit]

Portrait of Nakula, the Pandava
Pandava
brother, circa 1725-1750

The Pandava
Pandava
brothers were collectively married to Draupadi. On one occasion, Draupadi
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 asked Draupadi
Draupadi
to describe them. Angrily, Draupadi
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, Section 268.)

According to Draupadi, Yudhishthira
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 counselled Jayadratha
Jayadratha
to run to Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira
and to beg for forgiveness. Draupadi
Draupadi
described Bhima
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
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
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. Finally, Sahadeva
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 wise."[citation needed]

Karna, son of Kunti
Kunti
and Surya, killed by his own brother Arjuna

In literature[edit] Harivamsa Purana
Harivamsa Purana
(8th century CE) narrates the Jain version of their story.[1] See also[edit]

Upapandavas Karna Mahabharata

Notes[edit]

^ Upinder Singh
Upinder Singh
2016, p. 26.

References[edit]

Chakravarti V. Narasimhan; The Mahabharata. Columbia University Press, 1965. Singh, Upinder (2016), A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Pearson Education, ISBN 978-93-325-6996-6 

External links[edit]

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

v t e

Mahabharata

Books (parvas)

Adi Sabha Vana Virata Udyoga Bhishma Drona Karna Shalya Sauptika Stri Shanti Anushasana Ashvamedhika Ashramavasika Mausala Mahaprasthanika Svargarohana Harivamsa

Kuru Kingdom

Shantanu Ganga Bhishma Satyavati Chitrāngada Vichitravirya Ambika Ambalika Vidura Dhritarashtra Gandhari Pandu Kunti Madri Pandavas

Yudhisthira Bhima Arjuna Nakula Sahadeva

Draupadi Kauravas

Duryodhana Dushasana Vikarna Yuyutsu Dushala

Hidimbi Ghatotkacha Ahilawati Subhadra Uttarā Ulupi Chitrāngadā Abhimanyu Iravan Babruvahana Barbarika Upapandavas Parikshit Janamejaya

Other characters

Amba Ashwatthama Balarama Bhagadatta Brihannala Chekitana Chitrasena Dhrishtadyumna Drona Drupada Durvasa Ekalavya Hidimba Jarasandha Jayadratha Kali
Kali
(demon) Karna Kichaka Kindama Kripa Krishna Kritavarma Mayasura Sanjaya Satyaki Shakuni Shalya Shikhandi Shishupala Bahlika Sudeshna Uttara Kumara Virata Vrishasena Vyasa

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