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Epic Characters of Mahabharatha

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Krishna was a lovable, divine character  from whose flute came divine music and one who was the darling of Brindavan. His uncle, Kamsa, tried his best to kill him as Kamsa was destined to get killed by this divine being. Thus, Kamsa sent Poothani, Shakatasura and Trinavartha in various guises but each one was killed by the young Krishna. Even after Krishna located to Brindavan, Kamsa hounded him in various ways but turned out to be unsuccessful. Together with Balarama, Krishna got rid of  many demons  who haunted a palmgrove. He brought all the Gopas back to life after they drank water filled with Kaliya’s poison. Kaliya’s end came dramatically after Krishna had a mighty duel with him at the end of which Kaliya left the Yamuna for good. Krishna once brought Devendra to his feet by asking all in Brindavan to worship nature and not Devendra as was the practice.  So, when Devendra let his wrath loose by causing torrential rains, Krishna lifted the Goverdhan hill and provided protection  to every being and creature. Later, he killed the mighty elephant, Kuvalayapeeda, and tore apart  Chaanura in a wrestling match with Balarama finishing off Mushtika. Finally he took on Kamsa whom he killed, then released Vasudeva and Devaki from prison. He married Rukmini, and won the hand of Satyabhama. He saved Draupadi’s honour and in the war at Kurukshetra, he became Arjuna’s charioteer and advised him on dharma, etc. This came to be known as the Bhagwad Gita. In all his efforts , his only intention was to establish dharma.



Karna was born to Kunti before she was married as a result of her testing the boon that Durvasa had given her. Afraid of society, she set him afloat in a box. The baby was found by a charioteer, Atiratha, who along with his wife brought him up with all love and care. He then grew up under Dhritharashtra’s care and learnt archery under Drona. He became friends with Duryodhana after which his sole aim was to fight with Arjuna.  When Drona refused to teach him the use of Brahmastra, he approached Sage Parashurama who accepted him as a disciple. Once he killed a cow mistaking it for a wild animal  and got cursed that his chariot’s wheel would get stuck and his head would be severed. Parasurama got infuriated  with him for lying to him about his lineage and cursed him. Jarasandha made peace with the matchless warrior, Karna, and Duryodhana was beholden to him for his support. He gave away his earrings and armour to Indra knowing fully well that  his life span would be shortened without them. He got the use of “Shakthi” in return and his fame as a daanashura  grew. He refused to take Krishna’s advice and join the Pandavas as he felt he couldn’t let down his foster parents and Duryodhana. Even when Kunti told him about his birth and requested him to join his Pandava  brothers, he refused to leave Duryodhana’s side. He fought valiantly in the great Mahabharata war   until Parasurama’s curse came true. Though Karna was a mix of good and bad, he will remain as one who was wronged at birth for no fault of his.



Arjuna was Kunti and Pandu’s son born when Kunti invoked Devendra. At the time of his birth, a loud thunder proclaimed that he would be equal to Vishnu  in courage, to Shiva in prowess and would uphold the name of the Kuru clan. He was Drona’s best student  who learnt the use of Brahmastra upon saving his teacher from the fatal grip of a crocodile. He was able to fulfill his guru’s wish and  thus brought King Drupada to Drona. He agreed to fight against his own guru and proved that he was superior even to him. He was the only one to take Drupada’s challenge and win Draupadi’s hand. He won the divine Pashupatha from none other than Lord Shiva. Not satisfied, he went to Amaravathi and got many more divine weapons and Vajrayudha from Devendra. Under Urvashi’s curse, he became Brihannala for a year. When he was asked to choose between Krishna and the huge Narayani army, he chose Krishna. Karna considered him his greatest enemy and it was but natural that Karna’s end came at the hands of Arjuna. Throughout the Kurukshetra war, he fought valiantly though he was sad at the people against whom he was fighting. He received unforgettable advice from Krishna when he was confused about his role in the war – this has come to us as the great Bhagwad Gita.  Arjuna will remain in everyone’s memory as the best archer, warrior and an upholder of dharma.



Bhima was the son of Vayudeva, born to Kunti when Pandu desired her to have a strong son who would  help dharma thrive. As a baby, when he rolled on the ground once, the rocks broke into pieces but he remained unhurt.  He was good at wrestling, riding and every game he played. Duryodhana who considered Bhima as one of his worst enemies, once pushed him into a deep pool but Bhima went into Nagaloka, where he received nectar from the king of snakes, and this made him even stronger. He saved the world from the clutches of a demon, Hidimba and married the demon’s sister, Hidimbi. He got rid of Bakasura with ease. During Draupadi’s swayamwara when all the disappointed kings and princes tried to attack Arjuna, it was Bhima who wrecked havoc on all.  Bhima convinced the apprehensive Yudhistira to send him and Arjuna to kill Jarasandha so that a rajasuya yagna could be performed in order to send their father Pandu to heaven. He swore to break Duryodhana’s thigh because the latter had invited Draupadi to sit on it and be his queen.  When Dushasana tugged hard at Draupadi’s sari, Bhima swore to rip open his heart and drink blood from it. Bhima was able to  not only enter Saugandhikavana but was able to kill nearly one lakh demons and bring back the divine flowers to Draupadi. He killed Keechaka  and 105 Upakeechakas in order to save Draupadi. During the Mahabharatha war, he killed all the  Kaurava brothers.  Even Drona’s chariot was not spared. Bhima was truly unequalled in strength, forbearance and courage. He discharged his duty as a kshatriya with courage and won Lord SriHari’s favour.



Known as Bhishma Pitamaha, Bhishma was actually Devavratha, King Shanthanu and Mother Ganga’s son. He received a boon from his father that he could choose his own time of death. He vowed never to get married and remained the  constant  guide, teacher, philosopher and friend to the Pandavas and the Kauravas. He kept his promise of never contesting the King’s throne . Accordingly, after his father’s death he made his brothers, Chitrangada and later, Vichitravirya, the kings. After both died, his mother requested him to get married and beget children  to continue the lineage but he refused to break his vow. Later, Vedavyasa blessed Vichitravirya’s queens, Ambika and Ambalike, due to which Dhritarashtra and Pandu were born. Vidura was born to Ambika’s maid. Amba nursed a grudge against Bhishma and asked Parashurama to kill him. Both of them got into a mighty duel and both were advised to stop as they were equal to each other. Bhishma led the Kauravas in the Mahabharatha war but he loved the Pandavas very much and in fact, advised them on how to bring an end to the war. Even when he lay on his bed of arrows he begged Duryodhana to make peace with the Pandavas. As his hour of death approached, Krishna asked Dharmaraja to get all his doubts about dharma, artha, kama and yoga clarified from the learned Bhishma. Bhishma spent 58 nights on the bed of arrows and only after uttarayana set in, he blessed the Pandavas, took SriKrishna’s permission and breathed his last.



Drona was Sage Bharadwaja’s son and the ultimate authority in archery. He learnt the skills of archery and secrets of Agneyastra from Agnivesha, his father’s disciple and taught archery only to kshatriyas. His son, Aswathama, was once ridiculed by some rich boys for not being able to afford drinking milk. Being stung by his poor condition, Drona thought of taking up teaching archery to make some money to improve the family’s financial condition. He went to Parasurama in order to get some wealth but got some divine weapons and the knowledge of their use and retrieval. In spite of  being the best of  friends during their stay at the gurukula, King Drupada insulted him when he visited the king in his palace. He became teacher to the Kuru princes among whom Arjuna turned out to be the best. He refused to accept Ekalavya as a student as he  belonged to the hunter class but he blessed the boy. The boy excelled so much that the guru himself felt threatened as he had sworn to make Arjuna the best archer. So he asked for Ekalavya’s right thumb as gurudakshina. Then, again as gurudakshina, he asked the Kuru princes to bring King Drupada as prisoner. Drona was the commander-in-chief of the Kauravas during the Mahabharatha war. But after losing many great warriors, Duryodhana realized that it was his misfortune that Drona loved the Pandavas so much. Nothing made Drona more sad than to hear his son Aswathama’s  name being announced as ‘No more’. Unable to bear it, he lay down his arms and sat in the rear of his chariot, deep in meditation . His soul left his body and reached Brahmaloka. Dhrishtadyumna  could  succeed in merely severing Drona’s  head from his soul-less  body.



Dharmaraja was true to his name- a person with fortitude, wisdom,courage, tolerance, kindness and righteousness. He was known to be a stickler to the dictates of dharma;thus, when he was invited to play a game of dice with the Kauravas, he didn’t refuse. Infact,  he played until he lost everything he had – his kingdom, wealth, brothers and even Draupadi. He could conquer hatred as can be seen when he sent Arjuna and Bhima to battle against the Gandharvas for the release of the Kauravas.  Jayadratha was spared at his behest even though the latter had dragged Draupadi in his chariot. Only after he answered all the questions posed by the deadly python, Nahusha, did the python release Bhima. He impressed the yaksha so much that instead of one, all his brothers were brought back to life. Later, when the Pandavas lived in cognito in Viratanagar he stopped his brothers from destroying Virata as he was grateful to him for giving them shelter and food. Before the start of the Mahabharatha war, he took the blessings of all the elders though they were on the Kauravas’ side. He was the chosen one to receive lessons in dharma and administration from Bhishma  when he lay on his bed of arrows. Much against his wishes, he was forced to utter a lie to Drona , which he covered up by adding a truth though very softly. He was very moved by all the bloodshed and loss of life caused during the war.  Sage Dwaipayana had to convince him to  taking on the responsibility of becoming the King. He then systematized the administration and gave responsibilities to able men. Kunti, the Pandavas and Draupadi served  and respected Dhritarashtra and Gandhari – they hadn’t received such treatment at their own children’s hands. Yudhistira’s reign as a king was a model one as he was virtue incarnate.



Vidura was Ambika’s maid’s son and an incarnation of Yamadharmaraya. He was born along with Pandu and Dhritarashtra.He was unequalled in righteousness and an expert in ethics. In fact, even Bhisma used to consult him on various matters. Vidura married Parasavi, King Devaka’a daughter. His guidance to Kunti and the Pandavas was invaluable. He helped the Pandavas to escape from the burning lac palace. Vidura  gave very valuable advice to the Kauravas too but they did not take it the way the Pandavas did. Accordingly, he dissuaded Dhritharashtra from organizing the game of dice as he saw the beginning of disaster in that move. Even half way through the game, he begged the king to stop it . His words of wisdom to Duryodhana and Dushasana also fell on deaf ears. He warned Dushasana that he was putting the hangman’s noose round his neck when he dragged Draupadi into the hall. When the Pandavas set off to the forest, Vidura instilled confidence into them. He again advised Dhritarashtra to give half the kingdom to the Pandavas  on their return from the forest but the king remained unfazed; he left everything to fate. After the great war, when Dharmaraja became king, it was Vidura who became his advisor. After serving the young king, he went to the forest and became a mendicant. In the end, as he and Dharmaraja were both children of Yamadharmaraya, he became one with Dharmaraja. His last rites were not performed as he had been leading a sanyasi’s life. Thus he went to the heavenly abode known as santhanika.



Kunti, also known as Pritha, was Krishna’s maternal aunt, Vasudeva’s sister, Shuraraja’s daughter but adopted and brought up by Kuntibhoja. As she served Durvasa well, she got a boon from him – if she invoked a God upon chanting a mantra, she could receive anything she wanted from the God. Karna was born before she was married as a result of her testing  the boon. Unable to  face society, she set the baby afloat in a box. She got married to Pandu who came under a curse due to which he couldn’t  father children. Kunti then made use of Durvasa’s boon and got three children. She then initiated Madri into the mantra and she got two children. Together they were the Pandavas. After Pandu’s death, she and the five children  lived under Dhritarashtra’s care in Hastinapur. She gave good values to her children and instilled courage into them. With a heavy heart she revealed to Karna who he really was and begged him to change over to the Pandavas’ side.  After the war was over, Dharmaraja came to know that Karna was actually his brother. He was furious with his mother for keeping this a secret and cursed the entire race of women.  Kunti knew how Gandhari held the Pandavas responsible for the loss of all her children. Yet, she maintained her equanimity and made Gandhari and Dhritarastra forget their hatred for the Pandavas by serving them. Kunti retired to the forest and engaged herself in tapas. She thus came to be known for some great ideals though her treatment to Karna remains a big question mark.



Draupadi was king Drupada’s daughter born of fire and was destined to bring the end of the Kauravas. She accepted Arjuna to be her husband in the swayamwara but later on became the wife of all the five Pandavas . Sage Vedavyasa convinced Drupada that  Draupadi was Swargalakshmi incarnate and that by marrying the five brothers she was marrying five Indras. Upon Narada’s advice , the brothers drew up a code of conduct. One of the codes was that Draupadi was to take turns and be the wife of one brother for one year. If any other brother intruded while she was with one, the intruder was to go to the forest for twelve years as a punishment. Arjuna had to go through this punishment once  during which he got Subhadra as a wife.  Draupadi was quite angry initially but later became close to Subhadra. During the game of dice played between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, Shakuni provoked Dharmaraja until he bet his wife.  Draupadi was furious and challenged everyone present to think of Dharmaraja’s right to wager her when he had lost all rights including one over himself. Sri Krishna came to her aid when things got out of all control. In spite of  not receiving any help from her brave husbands, when  told to ask for boons, she asked for all her husbands’ freedom from slavery. Suryadeva blessed the Pandavas with a divine vessel, the akshayapathra, which would supply them with unlimited quantity of food for twelve years during their stay in the forest.  Until Draupadi had her meal, the vessel would remain inexhaustible. She once asked Krishna how he could tolerate all the evil being perpetrated by the Kauravas and gave him four reasons why she needed to be protected by Him. Krishna promised to fulfil her wishes. And true to that, she became the empress when Dharmaraja was crowned king after the great Mahabharatha war.