Dronacharya - Acharya Drona

Dronavadha Upaparva has sections 184 to 192. However, the discussion of the demise of Drona continues into Narayanastramoksha Upaparva. 

The versions of Drona Vadha we know come mostly from retellings in books and on the screen. While the core concept is the same, the (missing) details can make a lot of difference and bring a different perspective. Let’s see what happened in each section. We’ll follow the complete transcreation of Prof. Purushottama Lal for the details. 

Section 184 – Arjuna Lets His Soldiers Rest

This section started with Yudhistira listening to Vyasa’s advice. He gave up his plans to attack Karna (for killing Ghatotkacha) that night. However, he ordered Dhrstadyumna to attack Drona and kill him with the help of other heroes. Dhrstadyumna agreed and went to plan his strategy. On the other side, Dhuryodhana planned his next attack on the Pandavas. However, the soldiers were exhausted and barely able to keep their eyes open. After Arjuna killed Jayadratha, the battle resumed through the evening and continued into late night, resulting in Ghatotkacha’s demise. 

Arjuna saw the state of his soldiers and told them to rest until the moon rose. The Kaurava soldiers noticed this and asked Dhuryodhana and Karna for a respite. Dhuryodhana grudgingly gave them some time to rest. The soldiers praised Arjuna for being considerate and slept on the ground without even bothering to remove their armor. Here, Vyasa described the beauty of the moonrise. The soldiers woke up to resume the fight. 

soldiers resting at Kurukshetra- day 14

Section 185 – Conversation Between Drona and Dhuryodhana

Dhuryodhana lashed out at Drona for the nth time. He said the rest had made Pandavas stronger while the Kauvara army was tired. He blamed Drona for having a soft spot for his enemies and urged him to use the celestial missiles. 

Drona was angered by Dhuryodhana’s words and replied that despite his old age, he had been using all his strength to fight for him. He said that the soldiers aren’t aware of celestial missiles and that using such powerful weapons against them would be ignoble. But since Dhuryodhana is insistent, Drona would do whatever he can and continue to fight. (In Bhishma Parva, Arjuna told Yudhistira he could destroy the Kaurava army in a few hours by using the celestial missiles, but he wouldn’t do it since those weapons are not meant to be used against humans.)

Drona continued that defeating Arjuna, who could rout the Gandharvas and powerful demons, is not an easy task. This irked Dhuryodhana retorted that Drona could stand by and watch as he, Duhshasana, Karna, and Shakuni killed Arjuna that day (night). Drona simply smiled and wished him luck. He added that Dhurydhana was a fool for thinking they could kill Arjuna.

He also said, “I know you are eager to fight. Why do you want all these blameless Kshatriyas to be cut down also? You are the root of this enmity. You go and fight Arjuna if you must. Your maternal uncle, Sakuni, who is learned in Ksatriya-dharma, is here. You should order him, who is so expert in cheating at dice, to battle Arjuna. You and Karrna ecstatically and stupidly boasted in front of Dhrtarastra… Show us the truth of your words – All three of you!… You have done all that needed to be done. You have no debts. So why fear? Face Arjuna! Fight Arjuna!”

Drona left the battlefield. Dhuryodhana divided the Kaurava army into two formations to attack the Pandavas. 

Section 186 – Battle Starts on Day 15

The battle resumed when three-fourths of the night had passed. Aruna, the dawn and sun’s charioteer arrived, lightening the sky. Soon, the sun followed behind. The warriors left their weapons and armor to clean up and perform the morning pooja (and japa). Once done, they donned fresh armor and got ready for the day’s battle. Drona, with his army, went first to attack the Pandava, Somaka, and Panchala army divisions. Dhuryodhana and his army followed behind. 

On the Pandava side, Krishna advised Arjuna to keep Drona to his right and others to his left at all times. Bhima went to Arjuna and told him to do the needful and destroy the enemy. Arjuna nodded. As Krishna drove through Drona and Karna’s ranks, Arjuna wreaked havoc on their armies. 

Meanwhile, Drona was on the north side of the battlefield, butchering the Panchala army. He killed Drupada’s three grandsons and moved on to demolish the Cedis, Kekayas, and Srnjayas. Next, he killed both the old kings, Virata and Drupada, in short duels. Dhrstadyumna was devastated and vowed to end Drona’s carnage that day. The Pandava and Panchala armies attack Drona together. However, Duryodhana & his brothers, Karna, and Sakuni form a protective ring around Drona. No matter how hard they tried, the Pandava army couldn’t breach the protection. 

This annoyed Bhima, who snapped at Dhrstadyumna for not giving his best on the battlefield. He reminded the Panchala prince of his vow to kill Drona but hadn’t achieved it yet. Bhima then attacked Drona’s army and created a breach for the Pandava army to enter. 

Section 187 – Battle Progresses

The warriors were tired due to the lack of rest but continued to fight. Temper issues also arose as they were prickly and irritated. Such thick dust arose that it blocked the sunlight. The battleground had three major encounters simultaneously –

  • Duryodhana and his brothers fought the twins Nakula and Sahadeva 
  • Radha’s son Karna fought Vrkodara-Bhima 
  • Arjuna fought Bharadvaja’s son Drona

Section 188 – Drona vs. Arjuna

Dhuryodhana fought Nakula and lost, while Duhshasana fought Sahadeva. When Sahadeva killed the charioteer, Duhshasana steered his horses and continued to fight. However, he was about to lose to Sahadeva, so Karna stepped in. This made Bhima support Sahadeva, resulting in the duo (Karna and Bhima) fighting each other. Karna killed Bhima’s charioteer, so Bhima jumped into Nakula’s chariot. 

Drona rained many powerful missiles at Arjuna – Aindra, Pasupata, Tvastra, Vayavya, and Varuna missiles. Arjuna repulsed and neutralized them with his weapons. Even the gods and siddhis stopped to witness the battle between the two. Neither could outdo the other. 

Arjuna firing celestial missiles

Section 189 – Dhuryodhana vs. Satyaki

Duhsasana clashed with Dhrstadyumna, which the former lost. Seeing this, Krtavarman and three Kaurava brothers arrived to support Duhshasana. Nakula and Sahadeva came to help Dhrstadyumna. With the twins fighting the others, Dhrstadyumna rushed to attack Drona. Dhuryodhana saw this and went to intervene. Satyaki also did the same. Dhuryodhana and Satyaki came face-to-face. 

Here, Dhuryodhana uncharacteristically reminisces about their childhood friendship instead of launching an attack. He spoke about how they played together as children and said that he loved Satyaki more than his life and blamed everything on the war and greed. (One has to wonder about this sudden ‘change of heart’. Or, it could be his attempt at manipulating Satyaki and making him emotionally vulnerable. After all, Satyaki had defeated Dhuryodhana a few times on the previous days.)

However, Satyaki replied that they were on the battlefield, which is neither a sabha nor a playground. He went on to add that if Dhuryodhana loved him, he should go ahead and kill him. The duo fights a tough battle, raining countless arrows at each other. When Satyaki overpowered Dhuryodhana, Karna went to save him. Bhima didn’t like this, so he rushed to fight Karna. As the battle raged, Yudhistira ordered the Panchala and Matsya armies to join the fight. (The armies possibly spotted fighting when their kings were killed as they needed a new general to lead them.)

The armies and Bhima, with the twins, launched a fresh attack on Drona. They asked Arjuna to separate Drona from the Kaurava army to make it easier. However, Drona targeted Dhrstadyumna and went on the offensive. 

Section 190 – Celestial Message for Drona and the Lie

Despite being killed in large numbers, the Panchalas and Srnjayas continued to face Drona. However, they were also worried that none of them would be left alive if Drona continued the way he did. They also said Arjuna wouldn’t kill his guru, so the chances were bleak. Hearing the repeated murmurs, Krishna told Arjuna that they had to discard dharma for a while, as it was the only way to stop Drona. He gave the idea that Drona would stop if Asvatthaman was dead, so someone should go to Drona and lie to him. The others agreed, and so did Yudhistira, even if he was reluctant. Arjuna, however, was not convinced. Nevertheless, Bhima found an elephant named Asvatthaman, belonging to King Indravarman. He then went to Drona and shouted that Asvatthaman was dead. 

Drona was stunned for a second but recovered. He assured himself that Asvatthaman couldn’t be easily killed. Angrily, he resumed his attack on Dhrstadyumna, who retaliated. Dhrstadyumna was so fierce that everyone lost sight of Drona in the arrow shower. Drona decided he had enough and invoked the Brahma missile to eliminate the entire Panchala army at once. He even killed twenty thousand Panchala warriors and Vasudana, along with fifty Matsya heroes, six hundred Srnjayas, ten thousand elephants, and ten thousand cavalry. 

His attack was so brutal that a host of rishis, led by Havyavaha, the god of fire, approached him. Visvamitra, Jamadgni, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Vasistha, Kasyapa, and Atri came to visit him (in celestial form, visible only to Drona). Sika, Prsni, Garga, Valakhilyas, Bhrgu, Angiras, and other subtle-formed maha-rishis also followed.

They ordered Drona to stop and said, “You have fought using adharma. Your end has come. Drop your weapons, Drona, and look at us. You must not do any more cruel karma. Such behavior does not become you. Give up your weapons! Take your stand on what is eternal! Your days in the world of humans are over. With your Brahma-missile you destroyed those who had no defense against Brahma-missiles. That is not good karma lay down your weapons. Do not delay. Enough of ill deeds and bad karma! No more!”

The words confused Drona, and seeing Dhrstadyumna made him wonder if his end had come. He turned to Yudhistira and asked if his son, Asvatthaman, was dead. 

Krishna convinced Yudhistira that speaking a lie to save lives (of the army) was acceptable. Meanwhile, Bhima came to them and said that he had killed an elephant and informed Drona that Asvatthaman was dead, though Drona didn’t believe those words. He urged Yudhistira to speak the words. 

Yudhistira agreed and said, “Asvatthaman is dead!” and he added, inaudibly, “The elephant.” Yudhisthira’s chariot always sped four-fingers above the ground. But the instant he lied, his chariot’s wheels touched the ground and remained ever so. (Shows that no one can cheat the universe.)

Drona was saddened by the news. He remembered the words of the rishis and felt guilty for killing thousands of the Pandava army. 

Yudhistira's chariot

Section 191 – Drona vs. Dhrstadyumna

Seeing his chance, Dhrstadyumna launched a fresh attack on Drona. However, Drona wasn’t yet ready to give up. He tried to summon his celestial missile to retaliate, but the weapons wouldn’t materialize. He also finished all his arrows. For an instant, he thought to follow the rishis’ advice. However, he didn’t. Instead, Drona picked up his Angiras-bow of celestial make and virulent Brahma-danda arrows to fight Dhrstadyumna. He destroyed Dhrstadyumna’s flagstaff and killed the charioteer. Dhrstadyumna wounded Drona in response. Drona sliced off Dhrstadyumna’s bow and all his weapons. He used nine life-threatening arrows to attack the Panchala prince. 

Dhrstadyumna rode closer to Drona’s chariot, planning to invoke the Brahma missile. The horses of both chariots got entwined even as Drona destroyed the chariot and disintegrated the mace Dhrstadyumna hurled at him. Dhrstadyumna jumped onto Drona’s chariot with a sword, hoping to kill him with it. Drona used a spear to kill Dhrstadyumna’s horses and freed his chariot. 

Here, Dhrstadyumna jumped onto the ground and displayed twenty-one types of swordsmanship moves –

  • Bhranta-on the run fencing, 
  • Udbhranta upraised sword, 
  • Aviddha whirling sword, 
  • Apluta all these three together, 
  • Prasrta sword-tip thrust, 
  • Srta trick thrust, 
  • Parivrtta left and right thrusts, 
  • Nivrtta retreat thrust – With shield in one hand
  • Sampata thrust and parry 
  • Samudirm showing off swordplay 
  • Bharata limb-plunge 
  • Kausika unique swordplay 
  • Satvata under shield-cover thrust.

Drona continued to rain arrows on Dhrstadyumna, who used his sword to repulse them. Drona then nocked a powerful arrow to kill Dhrstadyumna. Here, Sanjaya said that ‘Acarya Drona prepared to kill the pupil who was as dear to him as his own son.

In the next Upaparva, we read many mentions of how Dhrstadyumna committed a crime by killing his guru. (Until now, there was no explicit mention of Dhrstadyumna being Drona’s student. We can presume that this development occurred during the truce years between Panchala and Hastinapura when the Pandavas were ruling Indraprastha.

Satyaki saw this and shot an arrow to slice off Drona’s bow. Satyaki wove his chariot in and out between Drona, Kripa, and Karna, giving Dhrstadyumna a chance to get to safety. Seeing him in action, Arjuna (and Krishna) focused on others attacking them. Arjuna continued to enjoy Satyaki’s prowess and asked Krishna to see how easily the warrior was controlling the enemies and keeping them in check. 

Dhrstadhuymna shocasing his swordsmanship skills

Section 192 – Drona’s Demise

Infuriated, Dhuryodhana, Karna, Kripa, and other Kaurava brothers wounded Satyaki with arrows. He continued to fight fearlessly. Yudhistira, Bhima, and the twins go to reinforce him. Yudhistira told a section of his army to advance toward Drona, who was still fighting with Dhrstadyumna. The Srnjayas did as ordered. 

Drona experienced signs of end, like the trembling of his left arm and a twitch in the left eye. Yet, he continued to fight. He wanted to die after a good fight. However, the Pandava army encircled him. He killed twenty thousand warriors and a hundred thousand elephants (we aren’t sure if he did this again or if it’s a repetition of the earlier count). He tried to invoke the Brahma missile again. 

Bhima rushed to Dhrstadyumna, who was still on the ground, and helped him into his chariot. He encouraged Dhrstadyumna to go and fight Drona, reminding him that he was born for this very purpose. The Panchala prince grabbed a sturdy bow and recommenced his attack on Drona’s army and Drona. The two of them fought again, with Dhrstadyumna neutralizing Drona’s arrows. However, Drona wounded him again. 

Bhima was annoyed. He positioned his chariot close to Drona’s and said, “If learned Brahmins, dissatisfied with their duties as Brahmins, stayed away from the fighting, no Ksatriyas would lose their lives. Ahimsa is said to be to highest dharma. Its root is the Brahmin, and you are the ideal Brahmin. Lapped in love for your son, your wife, for wealth, like an ignorant fool, you have killed so many others. You should be ashamed! For the sake of your son, you have chosen adharma. Forgetting your duties, you have slaughtered those who follow their duties. And the person for whose sake you are fighting, for whose sake you are living is sprawled on the field at the back – He is dead – You do not even know where! How can you disbelieve the word of Dharmaraja Yudhisthira?”

Drona heard Bhima and laid aside his weapons. He called out to Dhuryodhana, Kripa, and Karna and said, “I tell you this again and again: Do your very best on the battlefield. May the Pandavas favor you by not harming you. I am laying aside my weapons.” He then loudly said, “My son!” and sat in his chariot in a yogic position. 

Dhrstadyumna set aside his bow and grabbed a sword. He rushed towards Drona, who was now in deep meditation. A light rose from Drona’s body and traveled toward Heaven. There, it merged with the celestial light and disappeared. The sky suddenly seemed to have two suns and was dazzling with bright intensity. In a blink, everything was normal again. Celestial cries could be heard from above, praising Drona. Dhrstadyumna was stunned for a while, not knowing what to do.

Here, Sanjaya said that only five people witnessed this event – himself (Sanjaya), Krishna, Arjuna, Yudhistira, and Kripa. No one else knew that Drona’s light had already left the body. They saw Dhrstadyumna recover. He went and held Drona’s head by his hair, aiming for the kill. Drona did not move. 

Arjuna shouted, asking Dhrstadyumna to not kill the guru. However, Dhrstadyumna didn’t pay heed. He severed Drona’s head from the body and flung it toward Dhuryodhana’s chariot.

Drona vadha- Drona's death

Bhima hugged Dhrstadyumna and told him he would embrace the Panchala prince again after the death of Karna and the Kaurava brothers. He roared a war cry, which terrified the enemy’s soldiers. 

The Pandava army attacked and scattered Drona’s army. The Kaurava army was terrified and shocked. Unable to react quickly, they fled from the field. Even Dhuryodhana, Karna, and others fled from the field immediately.

Check out more stories from Mahabharata here, here, and here.


Picture Credit: All images have been made on Microsoft Bing.

Image of Bhavachakra contributed by Ms Sarah Welch.


Rishi Veda explained the meaning of everything Uttanka had seen in the city of the serpents. He said, “The two ladies, in the region of the Nagas, were Dhata and Vidhata. The black and white threads represent night and day. The wheel containing twelve spokes being turned by six boys represents the year comprising of six seasons. The man in the region of the Nagas was Parjanya, the God of rain, and the large horse was Agni, the God of fire. The large bull was Airavata, the king of elephants, and the man seated on the bull was Indra. The bull’s dung that you ate was amrit.

You were able to remain alive in the region of the Nagas because you consumed the amrit. Indra is my friend. He helped you because he took mercy on you. It is because of his help that you have returned safely with the earrings.

O Uttanka, now I give you permission to leave. You will have good fortune.”

Thus Rishi Veda, allowed Uttanka to leave after having received the guru-dakshina that Uttanka had insisted on offering.

Note: The story of Uttanka’s experiences in the regions of the Nagas is deeply symbolic. Let’s try to understand why. 

Dhata and Vidhata were the sons of Sage Bhrigu from his wife, Khyati. Khyati had one more child – Goddess Lakshmi. So they were Goddess Lakshmi’s brothers. Dhata was married to Ayati and Vidhata was married toNiyati. 

Ayati and Niyati were daughters of Meru.

Following are the Sanksrit meanings of these names:

Dhata means creator and Ayati means royal.

Vidhata means controller and Niyati means destiny.

The story of Uttanka in the region of the Nagas mentions the creator, controller, royalty, destiny, Indra, time, seasons, day, and night. So the story is allegorical to the creation and certain aspects of creation.

Image of the nine devas, Khleangs artwork from Cambodia (~1000 CE). From left to right: Surya (Sun) on chariot, Chandra (Moon) on pedestal, Shiva on bull, Varuna on crocodile, Indra on elephant, Kubera on horse, Agni on ram, Rahu on clouds and Ketu on lion.

Table of Contents (The Complete Condensed Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: A Summary of the Birth of the Main Characters in the Mahabharata

After hearing about the births of his ancestors and other maharathas who participated in the war at Kurukshetra, Janamejaya wanted to know about their lives in more detail. Not just them, but he wanted to learn the details of all the great kings and he also wanted to know why the celestials were born on earth as humans.

“O king, the reason for the celestials’ birth as humans is a mystery even to many devas, however, I will narrate all the details after bowing to the Supreme.”

Parashuram, the son of Jamadagni, battled with the kshatriyas and destroyed them 21 times. A time soon came when there were no kshatriyas left on earth. At that time, the kshatriya ladies who wanted children used to approach vow-observing brahmans. The ladies had connections with these brahmins to conceive children. Thus the Kshatriya race once again flourished with these virtuous offspring.

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Dharma was properly established at that time and everyone lived a virtuous life. With virtue increasing multifold, the earth became free of sorrow and disease and filled with joy. Seeing all beings live virtuously, Indra poured proper quantities of rain at the proper time and blessed all creatures. This marked the beginning of the Krita Yuga (Satya Yuga).

It was during this blessed time that the asuras were repeatedly defeated by the devas and being deprived of their place in heaven, they began to take birth on earth in royal lineages. Many asuras took birth as animals and rakshashas on earth.

These asuras – arrogant, insolent, and powerful – defeated other bings and established their power in various regions of the earth. As their power increased, they began to oppress all other humans and animals and even insulted the great rishis in their ashrams. Virtue diminished and adharma grew more and more powerful until a point was reached when the earth could no longer support herself.

Thus burdened and filled with fear, the earth, accompanied by rishis, devas, apsaras, and gandharvas, approached Brahma Deva for help.

The creator of the worlds was already aware of her plight. He immediately assured her that he would ask the celestials to be born on earth to ease her burden.

Brahma Deva then summoned the devas and asked them to take birth on earth and enter into conflict with the asuras. He also asked the gandharvas and apsaras to take birth in whatever form they preferred and play a role in helping earth according to their capacity.

The devas immediately accepted Brahma Deva’s words because his words were true, they indicated correct under the present circumstances, and would benefit all creatures.

with the decision to take birth on earth finalised, all the devas went to Sri Vishnu in Vaikuntha, where Indra Deva requested the great Narayana to take an incarnation on earth.

Sri Vishnu replied, “So be it !”

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Indra Deva had a detailed discussion with Sri Vishnu about the latter’s incarnation and how the devas could take birth in various places to assist him.

Thus, Sri vishnu and various celestials incarnated on earth to destroy the rule of the asuras for the benefit of all creatures in the three worlds.

Next Post: Origin Of The Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas, Apsaras, and Various Other Beings


The image on the left shows the five Pandava children and the Ashwini Devas while the image on the right shows Dronacharya and Kripi with Ashwathama (Image Credit: The Mahabharata Part I Comic Book from Archive.org)

Table of Contents (The Complete Condensed Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa’s Birth

Note: This post is a short and quick account of how the main characters of the Mahabharata were born. I have mentioned the circumstances of everyone’s birth but summarised the character description provided in the unabridged Mahabharata. You can read the full character descriptions here.

Bhishma was born to Devi Ganga and the King Shantanu.

Karna was born from the union of Kunti and Surya Deva. He was born with natural armour and bright earrings.

Sri Vishnu, the all-pervading soul, himself was born to Devaki and Vasudeva in the race of Andhaka-Vrishnis for the benefit of all the creatures in the three worlds.

Satyaki and Kritivarma were born in the Vrishni race. Satyaki’s father was Satyaka while Kritivarma’s father was Hridika. Both of them were strong, well-versed in all branches of knowledge and always obeyed Sri Krishna.

Drona was born from the seed of the great rishi Bharadwaja. The seed was kept in a pot and that’s how Drona (the pot born) got his name.

The twins, Kripi and Kripa were born from sage Gautam’s seed which had fallen on a clump of reeds.

Ashwatthama was born to Kripi and Drona.

Dhrishtadyumna was born from the sacrificial fire in a yagna organised by King Drupada. He was born with a bow in his hand and he was destined to destroy Drona. 

The excellent and beautiful Draupadi (also known as Krishnaa) was born from the same sacrificial fire. 

From King Drupada and his wife was born a daughter called Sikhandin who later transformed into a male with the help of a Yaksha named Sthuna.

Sakuni was born to Suvala. Cursed by the gods, he worked against virtue and was the cause of death for many people. 

Gandhari was also born to Suvala. Both Gandhari and Sakuni were knowledgeable in the art of acquiring worldly profit.

Dhritarashtra was born to Ambika (Vichitravirya’s wife) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 

Pandu was born to Ambalika (also Vichitravirya’s wife) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 

Vidura was born from the union of Ambika’s maid (called Parishrami) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. He was an incarnation of Dharma but he was born to a maid due to the curse of a brahmin who was falsely accused of theft because of the way Dharma’s law worked on earth. 

The Pandavas were born to Pandu and his two wives (Kunti and Madri). Yudhishthira was born to Kunti and Dharma (the god of justice). Bhima was born from Kunti and the God of wind (Marut). Arjun was born from the union of Kunti and Indra Deva. The twins, Nakula and Sahadeva) were born to Madri and the Ashwins.

Dhritharashtra and Gandhari gave birth to a hundred sons, with Duryodhana as the eldest. Another son called Yuyutsu was born from Dhritharashtra and a Vaishya woman. out of the 101 sons, 11 were maharathas.

Amoung the Pandavas’ children, Abhimanyu was born from Subhadra (Sri Krishna’s sister) and Arjuna. Draupadi and Yudhishthira had a son called Pritivindhya. Draupadi and Bhima had a son called Sutasoma. Draupadi and Arjuna had a son called Srutakirti. Draupadi and Nakula had a son called Satanika. Draupadi and Sahadeva had a son called Srutasena. Bhima had one more son with Hidimba called Ghatotkacha.

Note: Arjuna also had children from Ulupi (a Naga princess) and Chitrangada (the princess of Manipura). However, these progeny are not mentioned at this point, in the Mahabharata. I have mentioned it here for completeness.

Next Post: Why Did The Celestials Take Birth On Earth As The Pandavas And other Beings

Painting in Angkor Wat of Vyasa narrating the Mahabharata to Sri Ganesha (contributed by By Janice)

Table of Contents (The Complete Condensed Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Satyavati’s Birth

Satyavati grew up into a virtuous and beautiful young woman, and because she was around fisherfolk all the time, her body smelled of fish. This young maiden ferried a boat across the Yamuna River to help her foster family.

One day, Rishi Parashar saw Satyavati when he happened to pass through that region. He became so enamoured by her beauty that a strong desire to unite with this young woman arose in him. 

He approached Satyavati and said, “Accept my embrace, O blessed one.”

Satyavati replied, “O holy one, there are rishis standing on both the banks of the Yamuna. How can I grant you this wish when they can see us clearly?”

Hearing Satyavati’s words, Rishi Parashar created a fog that enveloped that entire region in darkness. Satyavati was filled with wonder when she witnessed this feat of the rishi, and she blushed as soon as she realised the implication of the fog. Feeling shy and embarrassed she said, “O holy one, I am a maiden who lives in her father’s house. I will lose my virginity if I accept your embrace. O sinless one, how will I return home? Think about this O holy one and then do what is correct.”

The noble rishi was pleased by her words. He replied, “O beautiful maiden, you will remain a virgin even if you grant my wish. O maiden with a beautiful smile, ask me for a boon. My words have always come true.”

Satyavati asked the rishi to remove the swell of fish that emanated from her body and replace it with a sweet fragrance. Rishi Parashar immediately granted her wish.

Pleased that her wish was fulfilled, Satyavati’s body immediately manifested its fertile season and she accepted the embrace of the rishi.

After this event, Satyavati always emitted a sweet and beautiful fragrance wherever she went. She became known as Gandhavati and Yojanagandha because her sweet smell left its mark for the distance of one yojana.

The child conceived from her union with Rishi Parashar was born that day itself on an island in the Yamuna. This child was gifted with immense energy. As soon as he was born, he asked for his mother’s permission to practise asceticism and left the island saying that he would appear before her as soon as she thought of him.

This child was called Krishna-Dwaipayana. ‘Krishna’ because he had a dark complexion, and ‘Dwaipayana’ because he was born on an island.

After leaving the island where he was born, the learned Dwaipayana saw, through his inner vision, that virtue and the strength of humans and their lifespan diminishes with the passing of every yuga. 

Motivated by the desire to obtain the favour of Brahman Deva and the brahmanas, Rishi Dwaipayana, organised and classified the four Vedas and was thereafter known as Vyasa. Sometime after that, he composed the Mahabharata which is also known as the fifth Veda.

He taught all these works to Sumanta, Jaimini, Paila, his son Suka, and Vaishampayana.

Next Post: A Summary of the Birth of the Main Characters in the Mahabharata

Click on the image below to check out the book — Namaha.

Satyavati in Javanese Wayang 

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Benefits of Reading the Mahabharata

There was once a king called Vasu in the Paurava dynasty. He was devoted to virtue but was also addicted to hunting. Upon instructions from Indra Deva, the powerful King Vasu conquered the Chedi kingdom. His five sons were as strong and powerful as him and he gave each of them a province to govern. Eventually, his children went on to found their own dynasties.

At one point, Vasu left warfare and his kingdom and retreated to a secluded place to practise severe austerities.

When Indra Deva and the other Devas noticed his austerities, they became concerned because they assumed that Vasu was performing the penances to become the king of heaven. They approached Vasu with the intention of dissuading him from his austerities.

Indra Deva spoke in a gentle tone with the king. He said, “O king, your duty is to ensure that virtue does not diminish on earth. Protect virtue, O king, and virtue, in turn, will protect the universe.”

The chief of the Devas went on to remind him of the beauty and wealth of his kingdom. He reminded Vasu of how virtuous his subjects were. He assured the king that his own virtue would help him eternally see and visit sacred places. Indra also extended his friendship to the king and gave him two gifts. The first was a crystal vehicle that could fly in the air and the second was a lotus garland that would remain perpetually fresh and protect the king from weapons. Indra also gave him a bamboo pole that would protect honest and virtuous people from harm.

Vasu accepted Indra’s request and returned to his kingdom and took on the responsibility of sustaining virtue. The king often coursed the skies in the crystal vehicle gifted by Indra Deva to find out everything that happened in his kingdom and all the three worlds. In the skies, he was greeted by gandharvas and apsaras, and was known as Uparichara.

A year after returning to his kingdom, Vasu planted Indra’s bamboo pole in the ground and established the festival of worshipping Indra by decorating the pole, making offerings, and giving generous gifts.

Some time after that, Vasu married a maiden called Girika who was the daughter of a river called Suktimati that flowed by his capital city. One day, Girika approached Vasu after her menstrual period had ended and the time was conducive to conceive children.

However, on that day, Vasu’s pitris also approached him and asked him to hunt deer for shraddha. The king did not want to disobey his pitris so he went to the forest to hunt for deer while his mind remained occupied with thoughts of his wife. The beautiful spring season, the smell of wonderful flora, the melodious notes of the kokila bird, and the maddened bees buzzing around with excitement intensified the king’s desire to unite with Girika. Sitting under an Asoka tree, and thinking about his beautiful wife, he let out his vital seed on a leaf. Vasu gave the leaf to a hawk and asked him to take it to his wife. But the hawk was attacked on the way to the palace by another hawk and the leaf fell into the waters of the Yamuna river below. As soon as the king’s vital-seed fell into the river, a fish (who was actually an apsara called Adrika) gulped down the king’s vital seed. Ten months later, the fish was captured by some fishermen. When they cut open the fish they were shocked to find two human babies in the fish’s womb. Being Vasu’s subjects, the fishermen went to their king and gave him the babies after telling the strange story of their birth. The king kept the male baby (who eventually became the king of Matsya) and gave the little girl to the fishermen and asked them to raise her like their daughter. This girl, born of King Vasu and the apsara, Adrika, and raised by fishermen was known as Satyavati.

Next Post: Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa’s Birth

Saunaka Kulapati

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Rishi Vaishampayana Sets the Stage With a Brief Story of the Pandavas

Note: In the previous post, we read a brief summary of the Pandavas’ life.

In this post, Rishi Vaishampayana informs us about the benefits of reading the Mahabharata.

Janamejaya said, “O great brahmin, after hearing your summary of the Pandavas, my thirst to hear the entire story has increased even more. Why did those great Pandavas suffer so much? Why did such strong warriors allow themselves to be persecuted by the Kurus? And why did they kill their own kin and gurus? They could not have slain Bhishmaa and Drona without a compelling reason. What was that reason? Tell me everything, O Brahmana.”

Vaishampayana replied. “O king, this history told by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, of immeasurable mental power, is very long. It consists of 100,000 shlokas. Appoint an appropriate time for its narration and I will tell you everything. But, let me first tell you what this great history contains and the benefits of hearing it.”

The person who recites the Mahabharata to others and those who listen to it attain the world of Brahma Deva. This history is holy and excellent. It is equal to the Vedas. The great Rishis also worship this history. It is considered to be a Purana.

It contains useful teachings on artha and kama and it creates the desire for moksha in one’s heart.

The learned earn wealth by reciting it to those who are liberal, truthful, and have faith. 

Great past sins can be negated by listening to this history. Just like the Sun is liberated from Rahu (after an eclipse), those who are cruel and sinful can be liberated from their sins by listening to this story. This history is itself like a mighty sacrifice that produces blessed fruits. Listening to it is a great act of propitiation.

This story is also called Jaya. It should be heard by those who want to be victorious. By hearing it, a king can conquer his foes and reign over the world. A young king should listen to this history with his queen because it will help them give birth to a heroic son or daughter who can reign on the throne after them.

Rishi Vyasa himself said that this history contains the sacred science of dharma, artha, and moksha. He composed it to do good to the world and bring fame to the high-souled Pandavas and other high-souled kshatriyas who were well-versed in all branches of knowledge. Just as this story is being recited in the present times, it will be recited in the future also.

There are some who read this history with the intention to find fault in it. Such people do not benefit from this story. However, those who read it in the right spirit will gain tremendous benefit. They will have no fear of problems or death. They will also be free of sins committed through their body, mind, or words.

This excellent, sacred, and heavenly work gives fame and long life. A person who desires religious (spiritual) merit should organise an event where brahmins can  listen to this history. Such a person gains inexhaustible merit and virtue. The person who recites this story of the various generations of the Kurus becomes purified and acquires a large family.

This history – the Bharata – is equivalent to the Vedas, and the person who has studied it may be regarded as one acquainted with the Vedas. The brahmin who regularly studies this history in the four months of the rainy season has all his sins cleansed. 

This history presents an account of the Devas, the royal sages, the sacred rishis, the sinless Kesava (Sri Krishna who was the God of the Devas), Mahadeva and Goddess Parvati. It informs us about the birth of Kartikeya who was born from the union of Mahadev and Parvati and was then raised by many mothers. It describes the greatness of brahmins and cows. 

This story is a collection of all the Srutis and is fit to be heard by every virtuous person.

The learned person who recites this story to the brahmins during the sacred lunations is cleansed of all sins, and even if such a person does not care for heaven, he reaches Brahma Deva’s world. The person who causes even a small part of this history to be heard by brahmins during a shraddha ceremony makes the shraddha inexhaustible. His pitris become ever gratified by the articles presented to them.

People commit sins every day through their senses or their mind. Some sins are committed knowingly while others are committed unknowingly. All these sins are destroyed by sincerely hearing the Mahabharata.

This history of the exalted birth of the Bharata princes is called the Mahabharata. He who understands the etymology of this name is cleansed of all sins. This history of the Bharata princes is so wonderful that it purifies the person who recites it and the person who hears it. They who have the desire to acquire virtue should hear the entire story.

Rishi Vyasa composed this history in three years. Every day, he would rise, purify himself, perform his ascetic devotions, and work on composing the Mahabharata. That’s why, brahmins should hear this history with the formality of a vow. 

It is said that the joy one gets from hearing this history is greater than the joy of heaven. This story, which is the equivalent of all histories put together, gives the listener purity of heart.

It is said that the Mahabharata has as many gems as the great ocean or Mount Meru. The virtuous person who hears this story or helps others hear it gains the fruit of the Rajasuya Yagna and the horse sacrifice.

This history is sacred and excellent and is equivalent to the Vedas. It is pleasing to the ear, it increases pleasure, cleanses the sins, and is worthy of hearing. 

O king, the person who gives a copy of the Bharata to someone who asks for it performs an action that is equivalent to gifting the entire earth with all her oceans.

O son of Parikshit, now I will recite this beautiful history composed by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. O king, whatever is contained in the Mahabharata with respect to virtue, wealth, pleasure, and liberation may be found elsewhere, but what is not contained in the Mahabharata will not be found anywhere. Such is the immensity of this history that grants virtue to those who hear it, so listen to it carefully.

Note: In the next post, we will find out how Satyavati, the matriach of the Kurus, was born from a King and an Apsara.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Satyavati’s Birth

Image of the Five Pandavas in Wayang form contributed in the public domain by Gunawan Kartapranata.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: King Janamejaya Requests Rishi Vyasa to Narrate the Story of His Ancestors

Note: In the previous post, Raja Janamejaya requested Vyasa Muni to narrate the history of his ancestors (the Kurus). Ved Vyasa, in turn, asked his disciple, Vaishampayana, to narrate the Mahabharata.

Vaishampayana begins the story with a brief summary of the Pandavas’ life, in this post.

The Pandavas were born in the forest and lived their early life with their father, Pandu, mother, Kunti, and Madri (Pandu’s second wife). They lived a simple life surrounded by ascetics. However, after their father’s death, the young boys along with their mother, Kunti, returned to their ancestral home in Hastinapur.

Under the tutelage of Guru Drona, they soon gained expertise in archery and other weapons. The Pandava brothers were radiant, good looking, strong, energetic, and possessed sharp minds. This caused immense jealousy in their Kaurava cousins.

Duryodhana, along with being jealous, also saw the Pandavas as a threat to his sovereignty over Hastinapur’s throne. Along with Karna and his maternal uncle, Shakuni, the crooked-minded Duryodhana constantly troubled and harmed the Pandavas by various means. Duryodhana’s ultimate goal was to gain undisputed control over Hastinapur.

Duryodhana tried poisoning Bhima, but Bhima, who had a stomach like a wolf, digested that poison without any hard to himself. On another occasion, Duryodhana tied Bhima when the latter was sleeping and threw him into the Ganges. Bhima did not wake up immediately. He remained asleep in the water for a little while. In this time, he was bitten by virulent snakes all over his body, but he still did not perish. After waking up, he tore apart the ropes and returned to the surface, as strong as ever.

Vidura, the high-minded uncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas, knew of Duryodhana’s evil intentions. He remained attentive to everything that happened in the palace and protected the Pandavas from Duryodhana’s schemes, just like Indra maintains the happiness of all humans while sitting at a distance in the heavens.

Note: Here, we see one more example of Indra’s nobility. He may be insecure about his position and fame in heaven, but he never flinched from his duty towards humans.

However, Duryodhana could not destroy the Pandavas. He made secret plots against the Pandavas, he attacked openly, but no matter what he tried, the Pandavas remained safe. They were protected by the fates. They had taken birth to play an instrumental role in the great war of Kurukshetra, that would happen in the future. Nothing was capable of destroying them.

Utterly frustrated, he sought advice from Karna, Dushasana, and others. Based on their advice, he built a house of lac and convinced his father, King Dhritarashtra, to send the Pandavas to that inflammable house. Even though Dhritarashtra knew Duryodhana’s intentions, he was overcome with affection for Duryodhana and the desire to be the king. Consequently, he found a tactful way to send the five Pandava brothers along with their mother, Kunti, to Varnavata. However, Vidura was aware of Duryodhana’s intentions. He warned the Pandavas in a secret language when they were leaving.

Kunti and her five sons stayed in the house of lac at Varnavata, as the king of Hastinapur, Dhritarashtra, had asked them to. Since they were aware of the danger, they lived very carefully protecting themselves from Purochana, but unbeknownst to him, they caused an underground tunnel to be constructed according to Vidura’s advice. After the tunnel had been completed, they set the house on fire and escaped through the tunnel. Duryodhana’s spy, the evil Virohana, perished in that fire.

Even though the Pandavas had escaped from the house of lac, they were afraid of being discovered by Duryodhana. So, they fled with their mother into the forest. Bhima married Hidimba in this forest after killing her Rakshasa brother. A son called Ghatotkacha was born to Hidimba and Bhima.

From there, the Pandavas went to the town of Ekachakra, where they lived (disguised as brahmacharini) in a brahmana’s house. There, they lived a simple life just like brahmacharins would. It was in this town that Bhima killed a rakshasa called Vaka and brought relief to the dwellers of Ekachakra.

While staying at Ekachakra, they heard about Draupadi’s swayamvara and went to the kingdom of Panchala to participate in the swayamvara. All five Pandavas married Draupadi and lived in Panchala for a year, after which Kunti, Draupadi, and the Pandavas returned to Hastinapur.

In Hastinapur, they were commanded by Dhritarashtra and Bhishma to take half the kingdom and reside peacefully in the barren land of Khandavaprastha. This decision was taken by the elder Kurus to prevent further conflict between the Kauravas and the Pandavas.

The Pandavas went to Khandavaprastha as commanded by the Kuru elders. They were accompanied by their friends and well-wishers, and they also took with them many jewels and precious stones.

The Pandavas converted Khandavaprastha into a beautiful kingdom with their effort and strength. They subjugated several kingdoms around then, but lived virtuously without being affected by their victories. Thus they gradually rise to power, and Yudhishthira as king, the remaining Pandava brothers, subjugated the kingdoms in the four directions. Bhima conquered the East, Arjuna won the north, Nakula subjugated the west, and Sahadeva brought under his control, the southern regions. 

Sometime after that, Arjuna was exiled for eleven years and eleven months. That high-souled Pandava who was gifted with every virtue, lived in the forest and travelled to various places in that time. In this period, Arjuna visited Sri Krishna in Dwarka. There, he married Sri Krishna’s younger sister, Subhadra. 

Soon after that Arjuna and Sri Krishna gratified Agni Deva by burning the medicinal plants and trees in the Khandava forest to cure the latter’s indigestion. Arjuna was able to perform this difficult task with great ease because he was helped by Sri Krishna. After all,nothing is difficult for Vishnu who can conquer any enemy with ease. Pleased with their efforts, Agni Deva gifted Arjuna an excellent bow called Gandiva, an inexhaustible quiver, and a war-chariot with the figure of Garuda.

While burning the forest, Arjuna protected Maya Asura who had sought his refuge. Maya, desiring to do something to repay Arjuna for his protection, built a beautiful palace for the Pandavas in Indraprastha. The palace was decorated with various jewels and precious stones.

When the wicked Duryodhana saw that palace, he felt jealous of the Pandavas. He deceived Yudhishthira in a game of dice with the help of his uncle, Shakuni, and sent the Pandavas to the forest for thirteen years with the challenge that the last year was to be spent in disguise without being discovered.

After completing the exile of thirteen years, the Pandavas returned to claim their kingdom, however, Duryodhana refused to return their land. Consequently, a war was declared and Pandavas regained their kingdom after slaying Duryodhana and his army. Almost all the kshatriyas from both the sides were slayed in this battle.

This is the story of the Pandavas who never acted under any kind of evil influence. This is also the story of the conflict between the Kurus and the Pandavas.

Note: In the next post, Rishi Vaishampayana Describes the Breadth of the Mahabharata and the Benefits of Reading it.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Benefits of Reading the Mahabharata

Gnana Saraswati temple on the banks of the Godavari river in Basar, Telangana. Many parents bring their children here for their learning ceremony called Akshara Abhyasam.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Names of the Snakes Who Perished in the Sacrifice

Note: This post marks the beginning of the Adivansavatarana sub-parva of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata.

After hearing the complete account of Astika’s birth and how he saved the serpents in the snake sacrifice, Saunaka Kulapati said to Sauti, “O son, you have pleased me by narrating this wonderful and extensive history beginning with Bhrigu’s child. O son, I am very keen to listen to the history composed by Vyasa and the wonderful stories narrated by the sadasyas present at Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. I have been told the sacrifice lasted for a long time and many stories were narrated in the intervals during the yagna. O son, tell me all those stories.”

Sauti replied, “O noble-souled one, the brahmanas discussed many topics based on the Vedas and Rishi Vyasa recited the great history called Bharat.”

Saunaka said, “I wish to hear the great history that describes the glories of the Pandavas. That history was born from the ocean-like mind of that noble rishi, Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, whose soul has been purified by yoga. O son of Suta, narrate that history called the Mahabharata to me. I am very eager to hear it.”

Note: Sauti began his narration with Rishi Vyasa’s birth. The following words were spoken by Sauti to the ascetics of Naimisha forest.

Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa was born on an island in the Yamuna river. His mother was the virgin, Kali, and his father was Sakti’s son, Parasara. As soon as he was born, Vyasa used his will-power to develop his mental and physical faculties. He then went on to master the Vedas and their branches and all the histories. 

Many people practice asceticism, study the Vedas, adhere to vows and fasts, give birth to progeny, perform sacrifices, and yet, certain spiritual blessings stay out of reach for them. However, Rishi Vyasa easily obtained the thing that was out of reach for these people. 

This brahmana rishi, Krishna-Dwaipayana, cherished the truth. He was holy. With knowledge of the supreme Brahma, he could intuit the past. 

With this wisdom and knowledge, Vyasa divided the Vedas into four parts. 

Note: Each of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva) are divided into four layers. Here, the Mahabharata is pointing to the four layers. These layers are the Samhitas, Aranyakas, Brahmanas, and Upanishads. 

The Samhitas are the most ancient layer of the Vedas. They contain mantras, stotras, and blessings. The Aranyakas contain details about rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices. The Brahmanas contain commentaries about the rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices. The Upanishads focus on spiritual knowledge, meditation, and philosophy.

Rishi Vyasa, the sage of sacred deeds and enormous fame, later fathered three sons: Pandu, Dhritarashtra, and Vidur in order to continue Raja Shantanu’s line.

When Rishi Vyasa found out that Raja Janamejaya was installed as the chief priest in his snake sacrifice, he and his disciples went to the sacrificial pavilion. There they saw the royal sage Raja Janamejaya surrounded by sadasyas, ritwiks, and kings from various countries. This scene reminded them of the splendour of Devaraja Indra as he sat in heaven surrounded by devas and learned sages.

When Janamejaya saw Rishi Vyasa arrive at the sacrifice, he arose with great speed and joy, along with his relatives and followers, to welcome the great rishi. After paying him due respect, Janamejaya sought approval from the sadasyas to give Rishi Vyasa a golden seat.  The sadasyas readily agreed to this noble gesture which was similar to the gesture Indra had once made to Brihaspati. 

Once Vyasa was seated on his golden seat, all the kings worshipped him according to the rites laid down in the scriptures. Then Janamejaya offered Sage Vyasa water to wash his feet and mouth. He also gave arghya` and cattle to the sage. Vyasa was pleased by everyone’s conduct. He accepted the gifts and commanded that the cattle should not be slain.

Note: Wikipedia describes ‘Arghya’ as an offering of water, Durva, flowers, and raw grain. In ancient times, arghya was given to a guest as a sign of respect and welcome.

After adoring the sage, Janamejaya bowed to his ancestor (Vyasa Muni was his great-great-grandfather) and inquired about his health. Rishi Vyasa also inquired about the king’s welfare. After that, Rishi Vyasa worshipped the sadasyas just as they had worshipped him some time back.

Janamejaya, along with all the sadasyas, folded their palms and said to Vyasa Muni, “O brahmana, you have witnessed the events that happened in the lives of the Kurus and the Pandavas. We are eager to hear that history from you. What caused the disagreement between them? These were great souls, yet why did they engage in a battle of such a great proportion? Were their minds clouded by fate? O great brahmana, tell us everything that happened in connection with these events.”

Rishi Vyasa looked at his disciple seated next to him and said, “O Vaishampayana, you have heard me narrate the story of Bharata. I would like you to narrate the entire story to the sadasyas and the chiefs assembled here.”

Vaishampayana replied respectfully, “I begin by bowing to my guru (Rishi Vyasa) with reverence and devotion and with the eight parts of my body touching the ground. I also worship with all my heart, the entire assembly of brahmanas and learned people assembled here.” 

Vaishampayana then looked at Janamejaya and said, “O king, you are fit (in mind and soul) to hear this great history. I shall recite the history called Bharata as I have heard it from my high-souled guru. O king, I will tell you why disagreements arose between the Kurus and the Pandavas. I will speak about why the Pandavas were exiled after the game of dice by the Kauravas who desired to rule the entire kingdom. I shall tell you everything, O noble king of the Bharata race.”

Note: In the next post, Rishi Vauishampayana sets the foundation for reciting the story of the Kurus.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Rishi Vaishampayana Sets the Stage With a Brief Story of the Pandavas

Astika asks to stop the snake sacrifice.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Astika Returns Home

Note: In the previous post, we read that Astika went home after saving the snakes and shared the news with his family. When his family expressed the desire to give him a boon, he asked for the protection of humans from virulent snakes.

In this post, we will find out the names of the principal snakes who perished in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice.

You’ll recollect that Ugrasrava Sauti narrated the Mahabharata to Saunak Kulapati and the ascetics who attended his 12-year yagna in Naimisha Forest.

After hearing Astika’s story, Saunak Kulapati wanted to know the names of the snakes that fell into the fire.

Sauti said that billions of snakes fell into that fire. Their number was so great that it was impossible to count them, let alone narrate their names. However, Sauti narrated the names of the principal snakes.

The principal snakes from Vasuki’s race that fell into the fire were huge-bodied and possessed deadly poison. They were blue, red, and white in colour. Their names were:

  • Kotisa
  • Manasa
  • Purna
  • Cala
  • Pala
  • Halmaka
  • Pichchala
  • Kaunapa
  • Cakra
  • Kalavega
  • Prakalana
  • Hiranyavahu
  • Carana
  • Kakshaka
  • Kaladantaka

The principal snakes from Takshaka’s race who perished were:

  • Puchchandaka
  • Mandalaka
  • Pindasektri
  • Ravenaka
  • Uchochikha
  • Carava
  • Bhangas
  • Vilwatejas
  • Virohana
  • Sili
  • Salakara
  • Muka
  • Sukumara
  • Pravepana
  • Mudgara
  • Sisuroman
  • Suroman 
  • Mahahanu

The principal snakes who perished from Airavata’s race were:

  • Paravata
  • Parijata
  • Pandara
  • Harina
  • Krisa
  • Vihanga
  • Sarabha
  • Meda
  • Pramoda
  • Sauhatapana

The principal snakes from the Kauravya race were:

  • Eraka
  • Kundala Veni
  • Veniskandha
  • Kumaraka
  • Vahuka
  • Sringavera
  • Dhurtaka
  • Pratara
  • Astaka

The snakes born in Dhritarashtra’s race were highly poisonous and could move at the speed of wind.

  • Sankukarna
  • Pitharaka
  • Kuthara
  • Sukhana
  • Shechaka
  • Purnangada
  • Purnamukha
  • Prahasa
  • Sakuni
  • Dari
  • Amahatha
  • Kumathaka
  • Sushena
  • Vyaya
  • Bhairava
  • Mundavedanga
  • Pisanga
  • Udraparaka
  • Rishabha
  • Vegavat
  • Pindaraka
  • Raktanga
  • Sarvasaranga
  • Samriddha
  • Patha
  • Vasaka
  • Varahaka
  • Viranaka
  • Suchitra
  • Chitravegika
  • Parasara
  • Tarunaka
  • Maniskandha
  • Aruni

“O Brahmana,” Ugrasrava Sauti said to Saunaka Kulapati after naming the snakes, “There were so many snakes who perished. Some had three heads, some had seven, while others had ten. Their poison was terrible and dangerous. It was capable of creating a fire similar to the fire at the end of a yuga. Many snakes had huge bodies that were as large as a mountain summit, and in length, some of them were as long as two yojanas. They could change their form at will, they could move very fast and were immensely strong. All of them were burnt in that fire.”

Sauti continued, “O Brahmanas, O great descendant of Bhrigu’s race, your ancestor, Pramati, had cheerfully narrated this story to his son, Ruru. And now, I have narrated the same history of the learned Astika, exactly as I heard it. I hope this story that increases the listener’s virtue has satisfied you.”

Note: This post ends the Astika (sub) Parva. 

In the next post, we begin the  Adivansavatarana (sub) Parva, which begins with Janamejaya requesting Rishi Vyasa (during the snake sacrifice) to tell him the Bharata: the complete story of the Kuru clan. Rishi Vyasa directs his disciple Vaishampayana to narrate the Bharata. The story of the Kuru race begins from the Adivansavatarana (sub) Parva.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: King Janamejaya Requests Rishi Vyasa to Narrate the Story of His Ancestors

The day Astika saved the serpents in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice is celebrated as Naga Panchami. The above is a hand-drawn Naga Panchami poster above the main door of a Nepalese House in USA. The image contributed to the public domain by Regmiparwat.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: How Takshaka Was Protected From Falling Into the Fire

Note: In the previous post, we learnt how Takshaka was saved from falling into the fire. 

In this post, the child-sage Astika returns home after successfully saving his maternal relatives and shares the good news with his mother and uncle.

Astika returned home and touched his mother’s and uncle’s feet and joyfully told them everything that had happened at the yagna.

Vasuki and Jaratkaru were delighted that their relatives were safe. Pleased with Astika, they said, “O learned child, you have gratified us with your actions. Ask for a boon, O child. What can we do for you?”

Astika replied, “Let the snakes never harm those Brahmins and other people who cheerfully read the story of my actions with proper attention.”

Vasuki said, “O nephew, it will be exactly as you say. And let me also say that anyone who calls to mind Astika, Artiman, and Sunitha shall have no fear of snakes.”

Vasuki, however, did not stop with these two boons. He wanted to grant one more boon to bring glory to his nephew. He said, “If anyone accosted by a snake says the following words, the snake will not bite him, and, in case the snake does bite him then that snake’s hood will be split into a hundred pieces like the fruit of a Sinsa tree.” 

The words designated by Vasuki were: “I call to mind the famous Astika, born of Jaratkaru, that Astika who saved the snakes from the snake sacrifice. Therefore O fortunate snakes, it is not correct for you to bite me. May you be blessed O snake of virulent poison. O snake, now leave remembering the words of Astika after the snake sacrifice of Janamejaya.”

Astika was also pleased to hear his uncle’s words. 

The child brahmin had saved his maternal relatives from the sacrifice and also having sought safety for humans who remember him when accosted by a snake. Thus having completed his deeds with snakes and humans, Astika left his relatives and went away to live on his own. When his time on earth came to an end, he ascended to heaven leaving behind sons and grandsons.

Note: According to The Mahabharata, reciting this story removes the fear of snakes.

In the next post, we will find out the names of the snakes who perished in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Names of the Snakes Who Perished in the Sacrifice

Idol of Takshaka at Taxakeshwar temple

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Janamejaya Grants Astika’s Boon

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Astika stopped the snake sacrifice just when Takshaka was about to be pulled into the fire. 

In this post, we will find what saved Takshaka from being pulled into the fire at the time when Janamajeya was urging Astika to reconsider his boon.

When Janamajeya was about to grant Astika’s boon, with no knowledge of what Astika would ask for, Astika put his attention on Takshaka and said three times, “Stay, stay, stay.”

At this time, Takshaka had already lost Indra’s protection and the Brahmanas were pouring libations taking Takshaka’s name. Takshaka was pulled all the way to the edge of the fire, but stayed there, suspended in mid-air, because of Astika’s words.

This is how Astika saved Takshaka from perishing.

Note: In the next post, Astika returns home after fulfilling his mission of protecting the virtuous snakes.

This story raises an interesting point. Since Astika saved Takshaka, he must be one of the virtuous snakes even though he took Parikshit’ life by deceit and stole the queen’s earrings from Uttanka. So, what made him virtuous? Thinking about this topic would be a good exercise to introspect into the subtle dharma.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Astika Returns Home