Monday, March 26, 2012

Why Bhima is the real hero of the Mahabharata!

There is many a character that one can claim is the 'real' hero of the Mahabharata. I would leave Krishna out of this discussion. There is no doubt that when the Lord incarnates, He is the protagonist and everything revolves around Him.

Krishna aside, the contenders for the next spot include Arjuna, Krishna, Bhishma, and maybe a few others. Some might even put Duryodhana in their list. I, however, put Bhima on top.

Bhima is born the second son of Pandu and Kunti (an avatar of Vayu). Even as a child, his immense strength is on display. When the Pandava children are playing, Bhima is accidentally dropped on a rock. To the parents' surprise, it is the rock that is shattered and Bhima is as cheerful as ever.

During the training period under Dronacharya, along with the Kauravas, while Arjuna chooses the bow and arrow as his weapon of choice, Bhima picks the gada (mace) and so does Duryodhana. (Duryodhana is also actually taught by Balarama, Krishna's elder brother).

In the Draupadi swayamvara, it is Arjuna who is chosen to contest (shooting a revolving fish's eye, not looking directly at it?). While the popular version of the story tells us that 'Arjuna won Draupadi' but due to Kunti's mistake all the brothers end up 'sharing' her, there are other lesser known versions with deeper explanations. One of the back stories is that Draupadi ends up with '5 husbands' because of a wish that was granted by Shiva to her in her previous birth (as Nalayani, the daughter of Nala and Damayanthi). Instead of getting a husband with her 5 favourite qualities, she ends up getting 5 separate husbands. Shiva also blesses her that she would regain her virginity each morning. I have heard another back story that extends this. 4 other devis (the divine consorts of the other Pandavas I think) also have some similar wish granted, due to which they end up having to share Draupadi's body. It is the right devi that actually inhabits Draupadi's body each time 'Draupadi' is with a Pandava.

In any case, Draupadi herself is considered an avatar of Bharati (consort of Vayu), and hence it cannot be Arjuna that is the 'rightful' husband, even though he is the one that participates in the contest. It sure is Bhima. There is a much longer story behind why Arjuna is chosen to contest, and not Bhima. The story involves Shikhandi (something I recently learned of) and will try to post this sometime soon.

Some other quick points on key Bhima acts/slayings:

1) Even in Duryadhana's court, before Draupadi's vastraapaharana took place, Bhima is all fury, and is controlled by Yudhishtira. He makes a vow to Draupadi that he will bring her the blood of Duhsshasana until which Draupadi vows that she will not wash her hair (?). I don't know of any other Pandava

2) Bhima slays Duryodhana and Duhsshasana in the war. These are the main evil characters in the entire Mahabharata.

3) Bhima sacrifices his son Ghatothkacha without a second thought, for the sake of Dharma. Had it not been for Ghatothkacha, Arjuna may have been harmed by Karna. More on this story later.

4) In no way does Bhima ever doubt that Krishna is the supreme being. Arjuna is in doubt whether Krishna might be harmed, forgetting that Krishna is the one controlling the chariot and Arjuna merely the tool. Yudhishtira is afraid that Duryodhana might harm Krisha when he goes to his court to negotiate peace; again forgetting that He protects all, and there should be no such doubts. I am not taking anything away from Arjuna or Yudhishtira, and I am being nitpicky, but these are devatas we are talking about and each one has his/her position in the hierarchy of the pantheon of Gods.


  1. Haraye namaha,
    Yes Mr. Guru, u r right According to shastra(Vedas n Upanishads ) Vayu devaru is jeevothama ( Hari sarvothama and Vayu jeevothama)so obviously, Sri krishna is Hero of all the time and of all the souls, the hero and best among the souls is Bheema ( Vayu ) coz Sri Krishna is Supreme souls ( Paramathma) Vayu devaru will never get agnana so he is one of parashukla thraya (3 devathas who never get any agnana about lord)

  2. Thank you, Pradeep!
    Can you provide a reference from the Vedas/Upanishads that call out Vayu as Jeevothama? For the benefit of other readers on this blog..

  3. I would say it is almost impossible to say who is the Hero in the great epic Mahabharatha, becuase of the great story and lot of complexities invloved in the charectarization... Arjuna is the only undefeated warrior in the entire epic, but we cant call him as hero because he had no clue of stopping Bhishma in war. Also the way he defeataed Karna is always debatable...It appears that Bhishma is the greatest archer in the entire epic. He was defeated only becuase he wnated to be defeated...But to call him as hero, he didn't lead the story...Bhima was symbol of enoromus strenghth, but it has to be noted that he was clearly defeated by Karna and escaped death just because Karna excused him as he promised Kunthi that he wont harm any other Panadava other than Arjuna. Again the way he defeated Dhuryodhana is arguable. Karna would have been hero of the epic but he fails becuase he was supporting opposition...SO to anser who is the hero, we divide the epic into four parts.. In the intial part of Mahabharatha (until arrival of Pandavs), Bhishma was Hero...From there until the War, Karna was Hero, becuase of the the great behaviours he exibited, During the war, Arjuna was hero becuase he was undefeated and at the end of the war Bhima was the hero becuase he was the one who killed the opposition prince...

  4. Mahabharata is a highly complex epic, and I'm sure one can argue for many characters to be considered the central character. Karna, Arjuna, Krishna, Bhishma.. even Duryodhana, have all been portrayed as central characters.
    However, with Bhima the numbers speak for themselves.

    Arjuna needed to lean on several people during his entire lifetime and during the war - Drona, Krishna, etc.

    Bhishma, having 'equaled' even Parashurama (Amba episode), can be considered the hero. However, even though it was not a case of Parashurama (the Lord Himself) being defeated, one must not take that episode at face value, but look for further expanation.

    As regards Karna vs Bhima, my understanding is that Karna was spared only because Bhima wanted to let Arjuna complete his vow. That Karna had taken a vow of only killing up to one Pandava is of no consequence as regards Bhima.

    During the war (killing all 100 Kauravas), before the war (killing Keechaka, Jarasandha, etc. and also enabling the Rajasuya with little bloodshed) are among the most critical victories in the Mahabharata. Compare these with Arjuna's victories - impressive no doubt - but not going past.

    Bhima is described in absolute superlatives in the Mahabharata -
    bhimasena samo naasti senayoho ubhayoho api |
    pAnditye cha paTuthve cha shUre api cha bale api cha ||
    - in intellect, skill, strength and bravery, there was none his equal on either side of the war, Krishna excluded. With such superlatives, one must use this guidance to analyze every episode, not the other way around. Note by the way, that this description of Bhima does not include specific disciplines such as 'archery' or 'veda shastra'. So, one should not even claim that Arjuna was better than Bhima at archery while Bhima might have been better with the gadaa yuddha. The superlatives used cover all classes of human qualities.


  6. It is naive to get an hero out Mahabharata. Everyone has a different opinion and while I dont think there is a hero(why?? I will come to that later.), at the end of the 10th parva of Mahabharata when the war ends, I felt overwhelmed by two characters , Karna and Bhishma.
    Mahabharata is probably the only epic in Indian mythology(and perhaps world's) which shows the complexity and the grey shades of human nature so well. If Karna and Bhishma were totally evil or if they had fought from the right side, Mahabharata would never be the great epic it is but ended up as another Ramayana or a conventional battle between good and evil. Contrary to what people think, IMHO, Mahabharata is not just merely a battle between good and evil. It is a lesson of good people making incorrect choices and good people succumbing to the negative emotions. And this trait is displayed by almost everyone(including the pandavas) which is why I cannot get a hero out of Mahabharata. What I can certainly find is strong characters in Karna, Bhishma, Draupadi. They are not perfect or ideal but given the situations they were in, they did come out with a lot of character and integrity which any normal human being could probably could never have if put in the same circumstances.

    To dear friend Akshadh Katyal who is compaing Arjuna and Karna, here is a quote fromn Karna Parva of VedVyas Mahabharata

    Hear in brief, O son of Pandu! I regard the mighty Karna as thy equal, or perhaps, thy superior! In energy he is equal to fire. As regards speed, he is equal to the impetuosity of the wind. In wrath, he resembles the Destroyer himself. Endued with might, he resembles a lion in the formation of his body. He is eight ratnis in stature. His arms are large. His chest is broad. He is invincible. He is sensitive. He is a hero. He is, again, the foremost of heroes. He is exceedingly handsome. Possessed of every accomplishment of a warrior, he is a dispeller of the fears of friends. No one, not even the Gods with Vasava at their head, can slay the son of Radha, save thee, as I think. No one possessed of flesh and blood, not even the Gods fighting with great care, not all the warriors (of the three worlds) fighting together can vanquish the son of the chariot-rider.

    This may not mean Karna was the greatest warrior nor does that mean Arjuna was.

  7. Interesting Information! The Mahabharata war happened between the Pandavas and the kauravas. The Kauravas were led by Duriyodhana and the Pandavas by Yudishtra and his brothers Bheema, Arjuna, Nakul and Sahadeva. Among the many interesting facts about the Mahabharatha, one stands out, it is as below. Neither Arjuna, Karna nor Bheeshma were the strongest during the Mahabharatha war. It was Barbarik, Bheema's Grandson and the son Ghatokacha.

  8. Arjun or Yudhisthir didnt have the slightest doubt that Krishna was the supreme lord. But they loved Krishna so much which clouded their judgement!!