Mahabharata Characters list – Mahabharata is one of the two most famous epics of Hindus. It is a representation of the struggle between 2 groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War. It discusses the fates of the Kauravas, the Pandavas, and their successors as also teachings of Krishna that he shared with Arjuna in the battle-field. Unlike Ramayana, Hindus generally avoid keeping a printed copy of Mahabharata at home.
Here is a list of all the major Mahabharata Characters:
Krishna was the son of Vasudeva and Devaki and was also known as Vasudeva Krishna or Vasudeva. Krishna is the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu and is one of the most popular Hindu gods with temples all over the world including the famous ISKCON temples. In his avatar as Krishna, he killed his cruel uncle (his mother’s brother) who had kept Devaki and her husband captive as prisoners. Krishna played a very prominent role in the Mahabharata. His teachings to Arjuna in the war-field of Kurukshetra are listed in the “Bhagwat Gita”, the holy book of Hindus.
Draupadi is the most important female character in Mahabharata. Draupadi, initially named as Krishnaa, was the daughter of King Drupad. She was the wife of Pandavas who fought their cousins (the Kauravas) in the great Kurukshetra War. Draupadi was married to all the five Pandavas. She had five sons, one each from each Pandava, who were called the Upapandavas. Krishna treated her as his sister and protected her when Kauravas tried to do her Cheer-Haran (pulling off her clothes), which is considered one of the major factors of the battle between Kauravas and Pandavas.
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The Pandavas – Yudhishthir, Bhim, Arjun, Nakul, and Sahadeva
Yudhishthira was the eldest son of King Pandu and Queen Kunti. He was the king of Indraprastha (later Hastinapur/Kuru) and was the leader of the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra War. He was blessed with the spiritual vision of future sight by a celestial Rishi. He was known as Dharamraj Yudhishthira. He had 2 wives, Draupadi and Devika. Yudhishthira gave in to Shakuni’s challenge in Pachisi (a dice game) and lost his kingdom, his brothers, and Draupadi. He then played for the second time and lost the rest of his kingdom and was also thus forced into exile for 13 years and 1 year in anonymity. From then on, Yudhishthira proved his upright principles several times. After the completion of the exile, Yudhishthira made several efforts to retrieve his kingdom peacefully but it went in vain and eventually, Yudhishthira was convinced to wage a war by Krishna. Later, knowing the fact that he had an elder brother, Karna, he cursed all women to be never able to hide any secrets.
Bhima was the second born of Pandu and was considered to have the physical strength of 10,000 elephants. He was also responsible for slaying all hundred Kaurav brothers in the Kurukshetra War. Bhima was trained by Kripa and Drona in religion, administration, science, and martial arts. He had 3 wives, Hidimba, Draupadi, and Valandhara. He also had a giant appetite and was known to consume around half of the total food consumed by the Pandavas. It was Duryodhana’s failures and fecklessness against Bhima which angered Duryodhana to try to kill Bhima. It is believed that Duryodhana hatched a plot to poison Bhima and drown him in River Ravi where Vasuki, the Naga king, saved Bhima and also bestowed him with immense strength.
Arjuna is one of the central characters of Mahabharata. He was the spiritual son of Indra and the third Pandava brother. He had 4 wives, Draupadi, Ulupi, Chitrangada, and Subhadra. It was Arjuna who was able to accomplish the established challenge on Draupadi’s Swayamvara. It was also because of Arjuna that Draupadi had to marry all his brothers. Lord Krishna and Arjuna shared a wonderful bond of friendship. He is also believed to be an incarnation of Lord Nara, who was Lord Vishu’s best friend. In a battle to save Hastinapur’s name, Arjuna under the guidance of his eldest brother killed 10 lakh Gandharvas.
Nakul was the fourth Pandav brother. He was Sahadeva’s twin, born to Madri. They were both called Ashvineya together. During the Kurukshetra War, Nakula desired Drupada to become the general of the Pandava army, but it was Yudhishthir and Arjun who opted for Dhristadyumna instead. As a warrior, Nakula was the leader of one of the seven Akshahuni. After the War, Nakula was appointed as the king of the Northern Madra kingdom.
Sahadeva was the youngest of the 5 Pandav brothers. Nakul and Sahadeva were twins whose parents, Pandu and Madri, invoked the Ashwini Kumaras to beget children. He had 2 wives, Draupadi and Vijaya. His core skill was to lay in the welding of sword and Astrology. Sahadeva desired Virata to be the general of the Pandava army for the War, but Yudhishthir and Arjun opted for Dhristadyumna instead. Sahadeva also took an oath to slay Shakuni, which he accomplished on the 18th day of the Kurukshetra War. After the War, Sahadeva was appointed as the king of Southern Madra kingdom (Matsya Kingdom), because of his expertise with the sword.
Kauravs – 99 brothers and one sister
Duryodhana, also known as Suyodhana was the eldest Kaurav brother. He was the crown prince of the Kuru Kingdom along with his cousin Yudhishthira. He used his greater skill in wielding the mace to defeat his opponents. He also learned martial skills from Guru Dronacharya. Although he was loved by his family, he along with his brothers was never seen equal to the Pandavas. Duryodhana was mentored by Shakuni, who masterminded all the plots in Duryodhana’s mind to humiliate and kill the Pandavas. At the time, when the Pandavas returned from exile, Duryodhana rejected to return them their kingdom and brought together an army which included some heavy-weights like Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwatthama, Shrutyudha, and also all those who were critical of him but were forced to fight for him due to their previous commitments. He was eventually killed in the war and appointed Ashwatthama as the army’s supreme commander.
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Dronacharya was the royal guru to both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. He was a ferocious warrior with tremendous combating skills. Guru Dronacharya committed to protecting the realm of Hastinapur and supported the Kauravas. He was a master of advanced military arts, including the divine weapons or Astras and was tricked into believing that Ashwatthama (his son) was killed in the war. It was then when Drona began mourning his son’s death when he was beheaded by Drishtadyumna, during the War. Guru Dronacharya also believed Arjuna to be the most dedicated, hard-working, and naturally talented out of all Pandavas and Kauravas.
Bhishma, also called Bhishma Pitamah, was a fine illustration of ethics and fairness. He was the oldest stalwart of the kingdom of Hastinapur. His personal life was full of solitariness, while his peerless statesmanship and other faultless characteristics still inspire his ardent followers across the world. Bhishma was well known for his promise of celibacy. He was the eighth son of the Kuru King Shantanu and river goddess, Ganga and was blessed with a boon to decide the moment of his death. Bhishma Pitamah was related to both Pandavas and Kauravas through his half-brother, Vichitravirya (Son of Satyavati). He was a great archer and warrior. In the battle of Kurukshetra, Bhishma was the supreme commander of the Kauravas. It was Bhishma who handed the Vishnu Sahasranama to Yudhishthira while he was on his death bed after the Kurukshetra War.
Ved Vyas was the one to write Mahabharata, which is the longest poem ever written. The Mahabharata consists of over 1 lakh shlokas and over 2 lakh individual verse lines. Ved Vyasa is also known as the one who classified the Vedas. He was the son of Satyavati and Parashara.
Dhritarashtra had very low self-esteem and believed that his blindness was a curse. Dhritarashtra envied his brother Pandu and his perfect advice for the betterment of the Kuru dynasty. It was Dhritarashtra’s emotional blindness and materialistic look towards the throne which made his son Duryodhana a hot-headed and egocentric human being. It was Vyasa who offered him with a divine vision so that Dhritarashtra could see the war. Not willing to see his kin slaughtered, Dhritarashtra asked Vyasa to give this boon to his charioteer, Sanjaya. When Lord Krishna displayed his Vishvarupa to Arjuna on the battlefield, Dhritarashtra regretted not possessing the divine vision. Eventually, the result of the war devastated him and all his trueborn sons were killed.
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Karna was the son of Surya and Kunti, who was abandoned by an unmarried Kunti, in a basket in the river. He was then adopted and raised by Radha and Adhiratha Nandana, who found the basket floating on the Ganges. Karna eventually became Duryodhana’s closest friend. It was his assistance that helped Duryodhana perform the Vaishnava Yagna when the Pandavas were in exile. He was an unsung hero of the Mahabharata, an invincible warrior, despite being an ill-fated prince ever since his birth. He teaches us how one can present himself better than their destiny and accomplish everything with determination. He was also regarded as Arjuna’s equal by Duryodhana and was made the king of Anga, after which he pledged his alliance with Duryodhana. He met his biological mother very late in the epic and discovered that he was the older half-brother of those against whom he was fighting. He is a symbol of someone who is rejected but still becomes a man with exceptional abilities, who willingly gives his love and life as a loyal friend. His character is developed to raise major emotional, ethical, moral, and religious dilemmas.
Shakuni, also known as Saubala, was the prince of the Gandhar Kingdom and became king after his father’s death. He is one of the main villains in Mahabharata. He was the brother of Gandhari, the one to poison the mind of his nephew, Duryodhana and also fueled up the destructive war of Mahabharata, becoming the cause of the destruction of the Kauravas. Shakuni is called the mastermind behind the Kurukshetra War. He worked by inciting hatred between the Kauravas and the Pandavas but often failed in his tricks against the Pandavas. He knew that it was only Krishna who had the power and influence to foil his plan of revenge to destroy the lineage of Kuru. This plan of his only came in the plot because he was angry with Bheeshma, who requested his sister, Gandhari’s hand in marriage for the blind prince – Dhritarashtra. He was killed by Sahadeva on the 18th day of the Mahabharata War.
Gandhari is another important character from Mahabharata. She is noted for her piety and virtuous nature and is regarded as an incarnation of Mati, the goddess of Wisdom. She was a princess of Gandhar and married Dhritrashtra with whom she became the mother of Kauravas. She decided to blindfold herself in order to be like her husband and was undisputedly known as the wisest female character of the Mahabharata. Her brother, Shakuni was enraged that Hastinapur offered a blind man for his sister, after having humiliated Gandhar in a war of conquest where all of Shakuni’s brothers were killed.
Ashwatthama was Guru Dronacharya’s son. He was one of the few people to survive the Kurukshetra war and was appointed as the final commander-in-chief of the Kauravas in that war. On Duryodhana’s last breath, Ashwatthama gave him the news of killing all of the 5 sons of Pandavas, whom he killed by planning an attack in the middle of the night. On hearing about the death of their sons Pandavas challenged him. Sage Vyasa interrupted to stop the war. Vyasa convinced the Pandavas to step back whereas Ashwatthama didn’t and he directed his weapon to the womb of pregnant Uttara so that the entire lineage of Pandavas gets finished. As a punishment for the same, Vyasa asked Ashwatthama to surrender the gem on his forehead. Krishna cursed him that he will be alive till the end of Kalyug and his wound will never heal.
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