One of the greatest epics ever written, Mahabharata is considered the source of all knowledge of life. The enthralling narration of the Kurukshetra war fought has the Kauravas, and the Pandavas has been dramatized and retold for ages so frequently that almost every Indian knows its brief.
However, are you familiar with the vast treasure of facts and insights that encompass the story?
Many of us know what Mahabharata is all about but are still unknown of the interesting facts about this holy text, mainly due to its large proportion and size, resulting in communication distortions. Still, it has been compiled with accuracy and told multiple times via digital mediums. After the Ramayana, this Indian epic describes the remarkable Indian history during a golden era. For people who wish to learn everything about Mahabharata, this epic has been compiled in several Indian and foreign languages.
Apart from the fact that Bhagwad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata and was written by Ved Vyas, this major Sanskrit epic of Hindu mythology is the most comprehensive text ever written. Mahabharata consists of 100,000 shlokas and over 200,000 individual verse lines. In addition, it is described as the longest poem ever written.
Today, we’ll discuss the lesser-known facts about Mahabharata that haven’t received much attention from its readers. And you’ll gain a fresh perspective to look at the fundamental insights of this incredible story.
So, let’s begin.
Fact 1: Mahabharata was previously named and known as Jaya
This tremendous Indian epic wasn’t always called Mahabharata until very recently. The original epic was called Jaya or Jayam, and then it was referred to as Vijaya, then Bharata till it finally received the last name Mahabharata.
Initially, Jaya constituted of 25,000 verses, while the final form has over 1000 verses. Moreover, Jaya was more about spiritual victory, Vijaya was about material victory, Bharata was the tale of a clan, and Mahabharata included all that along with the wisdom of the land called Bharata-Varsha.
Initially, when Ved Vyas was writing the book, it didn’t have such an elaborate idea. However, it ended up becoming a documentary of realities that still frightens a commoner. The book has been researched by several modern scholars, writers, etc., who’re always amazed at the final version of the epic, which they think addresses the futility of war.
Fact 2: Sahadev, the youngest Pandava, could see the future
The youngest Pandava brother, Sahadev, knew everything that would happen in the future. He knew about the Kurukshetra war; he knew its outcome but remained quiet as he was cursed to die if he revealed the truth.
Some historical versions say that Sahadev consumed his father’s flesh or brains to receive such knowledge, while others mention that he was an astrologer genius. On the contrary, when he got to know about the war, he rushed towards his mother and brothers to tell them the truth; however, he was stopped by Krishna, who asked him to be quiet and not say anything to anybody. He was also advised to answer the question with a question. Hence, he knew everything but couldn’t say it.
Fact 3: Duryodhan’s real name was Suyodhana
It is said that the Kaurava clan was called Sushasana, Suchala, and not Dushasana, Dusshala. These nicknames were given to suit their bad reputation since ‘Du’ in Hindi and Sanskrit holes a negative meaning and ‘Su’ in Hindi and Sanskrit has a positive undertone.
Moreover, it is said that Dhritrashtra named his first-born son Suyodhana. He was given the Duryodhan after defeating Balram, who changed his name to mean an undefeatable warrior.
Fact 4: Ved Vyas was not the name of a person; it was a religious post
Everyone knows that Mahabharata was written by Lord Ganesha and composed by Ved Vyas. However, it is said that before Krishnaweepayan, there were 27 Ved Vyas’ and Krishnaweepayan was the 28th one. He was given this name because he had a wheatish colour similar to Lord Krishna.
Fact 5: Vidur was an avatar of Yamraj
Vidur, the half-brother of the kings Dhritrashtra and Pandu of Hastinapur, was born the son of a sage Vyasa and Sudri, a lady waiting to the queens Ambika and Ambalika. He was born a great scholar of the Dharma Shastra and Artha Shastra. As Rishi Mandavya cursed him to become a Sudra, a lesser intelligent class of men in society, he was born as a human.
Fact 6: Kauravas were against the Pandavas, but not all of them
Two of Dhritrashtra’s sons, Vikarna and Yuyutsu, condemned Duryodhan’s actions and protested against Draupadi’s stake in the dice game. Vikarna, the third son of Gandhari and Dhritrashtra, fought on Duryodhana’s side in the war. Even Bhishma was named as one of the great warriors on the Kaurava side. Yuyutsu was the son of Dhritrashtra and Sughada, Gandhari’s maid. However, before the battle commenced, Yuyutsu shifted from the Kauravas’ side to the Pandava camp, making him the only Kaurava to survive the war.
Fact 7: Abhimanyu had the soul of a demon
In Mahabharata, Abhimanyu was the soul of a demon, Kalyavana. As per Lord Krishna, Abhimanyu was an incarnation of a mighty demon who could later kill him. After burning him, Krishna captured the demon’s soul, took him to Dwaraka, and kept him in the cupboard. However, his only weakness was his partial knowledge of the Chakravyuh.
Krishna launched the Chakravyuh to kill Abhimanyu, as it was the only way for him to attain Moksha. It is also why Krishna never imparts knowledge to anyone on how to come out of the Chakravyuh.
Fact 8: Lord Krishna broke his promise
During the battle, Lord Krishna promised that he would not pick up any arms or weapons. Conversely, Bhishma Pitamah promised Duryodhan that he would fight like a lion, kill Arjun, or make Krishna break his promise. The intense battle between Bhishma and Arjun was leaning to the former’s advantage. Arjun was no match for Bhishma. To save Bhishmapitamah from any embarrassment, Krishna broke his promise and threw down a chariot rein. He jumped into the battle with a chariot’s wheel and charged towards Bhishma to kill him, and he did.
Fact 9: Bhishma Pitamah’s original name was Devrata
Once Devrata accompanied his father, Shantanu, on a fishing trip where his father fell in love with a local fisherwoman, Satyavati. However, Satyavati’s father laid down some conditions where he would only allow his daughter to marry him if her sons became heirs to his throne.
Unable to see his father heartbroken and in such a sad state, Devrata tried to persuade Satyavati to marry his father. However, she said, even if Devrata steps down, his sons would claim the throne later. That is why, Devrata vowed never to marry or sire any children and then came to be known as Bhisma, the Terrible.
Fact 10: Karna was killed due to a Brahman’s curse
Once Karna went to Mahendra Parvat to practice archery with his Vijaya bow. While practising the Shabdbehdi Arrow, Karna mistook a cow for a wild animal and killed him. The Brahman, who was the owner of the cow and used to perform the Agnihotra Rite daily, felt distraught and cursed Karna to die a similar death by his enemy when his attention is diverted or he is not in a combat position. This curse exacts the situation when he removes the chariot wheel from the mud and is shot by Arjun.
Fact 11: Five golden arrows could have killed the Pandavas
During the war, Duryodhan accused Bhisma of going easy on the Pandavas and favouring them. This aggravated Bhisma, who became very angry, took out five arrows, chanted it with mantras, and vowed that these would kill the Pandavas before sunset. Duryodhan suspected that Bhisma would not commit such a wrong and instead took the arrows from him.
Sometime before, Arjun saved Duryodhan life’s when they were living in the forest. So, Duryodhan said that Arjun could ask for something, and he would grant it, to which he replied that he would in an appropriate time. So, during the war, Krishna reminded him of this boon and said that Arjun should ask for the five golden arrows. When Arjun asked for them to Duryodhan, he was shocked as to how he knew about the arrows, to which Arjun replied, Krishna.
Fact 12: Karna was the one who instigated Draupadi’s disrobing
Contrary to popular belief, the disrobing of Draupadi was not a thought act of Duryodhan but Karna. Duryodhan was quiet during the entire session except when he asked Draupadi to come to the court.
Fact 13: Abhimanyu was the son-in-law of Balram
Balram was the father-in-law of Abhimanyu. Moreover, Abhimanyu’s wife, Vatsala, was the daughter of Balram. However, Balram wanted his daughter to marry Laxman, Duryodhan’s son. But Abhimanyu and Vatsala loved each other and wished to get married. Therefore, Abhimanyu asked Ghatotkacha to help him since he knew magic. He tricked Laxman using this magic and terrified him of getting married.
Then, he took Vatsala to Abhimanyu. When Laxman got to know about this, he was red-hot with fury and vowed never to get married, which angered Duryodhan.
Fact 14: The Kurukshetra war included foreigners as well
The real battle was not between Kauravas and Pandavas, but even Rome and Greece were a part of it. This war resulted in the widespread destruction of humanity and structures. Although this war took place some 5000 years earlier, it is said to be the first world war.
Fact 15: Abhimanyu wasn’t killed by seven Maharathis but by one
Much of the common folklore stating that the seven Maharathis of the Chakravhyu were the reason for Abhimanyu’s death is not valid. Abhimanyu was killed by one of the seven Maharathis or warriors, who was Duryodhan’s son. Actually, Dharamsan, the son of Duryodhan, killed Abhimanyu.
Fact 16: Arjun couldn’t save Krishna’s wives
Arjun is said to be the greatest warrior of all time. However, it is not true. During an incident, many of Krishna’s wives were kidnapped by robbers. Some of them resisted, others vanished, and some others were saved. However, Arjun was unable to defend Krishna’s wives from these robbers after Krishna left for Vaikuntha. He couldn’t lift his bow and forgot all his mantras. Due to this, 8 of Krishna’s wives committed suicide, and the robbers kidnapped others.
Fact 17: Bhima’s son Sarvagya was denied the throne
Bhim had one surviving son called Sarvagya, who was not given the throne despite being much elder than Parikshit. Instead, he became the ruler of his mother’s land, Kashi. Interestingly enough, the same had happened with his uncle, Dhrirashtraya. He was denied the throne due to his blindness, which later laid the foundation for the Kurukshetra war. It is said that history repeated itself and laid down consequences as well.
Fact 18: Eklavya was Krishna’s cousin
Quite an unknown fact about the Mahabharata, but Eklavya was the son of Devashrava, Vasudev’s brother who got lost in the forest and was found by a Nishad Hiranyadhanu. Therefore, he was born Dhristadyumna, who later killed Drona. However, Eklavya died protecting his father during the Rukmini Swayamvar. Due to his great sacrifice of Gurudakshina, Krishna blessed Eklavya, saying that he would soon be incarnated and would be able to take revenge on Drona.
Fact 19: Arjun once saved Duryodhan’s life
Once Duryodhan travelled to the Dwaita forest to humiliate the Pandavas along with all his servants from Indraprastha. There was Gandharava Chitrasena and his apsaras enjoying the pond. Duryodhan asked them to leave, but he refused. Then, a heated argument took place between them, and Chitrasena attacked Duryodhan.
The Pandavas who were nearby asked Chitrasena to leave Duryodhan. Since Chitrasena was a friend of Arjun, he spared Duryodhan’s life; however, not before tying him to the vines and setting him on his horse. At that time, Arjun protected Duryodhan, and the latter asked what the former wanted in return. He said he would ask for a boon some other time.
Fact 20: Krishna’s chariot exploded at the end
Krishna rode a chariot which was heavily potent. So, when Arjun was done with the war, Krishna asked him to get off the chariot first, and he will follow. As soon as Krishna got off, the chariot exploded. It is said that the explosion resembled a nuclear one. He explained to Arjun that it is why Krishna asked him to get down on the chariot first.
Fact 21: Bhishma had the boon of choosing his moment of death
Bhishma Pitamah, also called Ganga Putra, was cursed by Shikandi when he was young. He rejected her love, and so she took an oath to kill him herself. However, Bhishma could not be killed unless he lowered his bow. And he won’t lower his bow for nobody expect a woman. As no woman was allowed to enter the battle, Shikandi was born and raised as a man. Bhishma refused to battle with Shikandi. Arjun used this situation and shot a hundred arrows to the ground as there was no way that Bhishma could be killed. Then, since Bhishma had the gift to choose his death, he determined that exact moment.
Fact 22: Arjun was cursed by Urvashi, an Apsara
Urvashi, an Apsara of Indralok, cursed Arjun, saying that he would become a eunuch. Lord Indra replied that this curse would serve as a boon to Arjun during this year-long hiding, and after that period, he would regain his masculinity. In Mahabharata, after the Pandavas spent 12 years in exile in a forest, their 13th year was incognito in the court of King Virat. During this time, Arjun used this curse and lived as a eunuch named Brihannala.
Fact 23: Lord Krishna supported Pandavas because he saw Arjun first
Before the Kurukshetra war, both Arjun and Duryodhan went to Lord Krishna to seek his assistance during the battle. Duryodhan first entered the room and sat beside Krishna’s bed, and when Arjun entered the room, he went to the foot of the bed. When Krishna woke up, he first saw Arjun sitting near his feet and said he would support him.
Fact 24: Jayadrath protected the Kauravas
Since Jayadrath was granted a boon by Lord Shiva that could hold the Pandavas for a day in the battle except for Arjun, who Lord Krishna protected, Jayadrath was using his boon to prevent the Pandavas from entering the Chakravuh. However, when Arjun’s son got killed in the Chakravuh, he killed Jayadrath with his arrow.
Fact 25: Arjun has two other wives apart from Draupadi
Arjun, who was on a pilgrimage for breaking his marital laws with Draupadi, married thrice during that time. These wives were Chitrangada from Manipura, Ulupi from Maga, and Subhadra.
Fact 26: Pandu asked his sons to eat his flesh
The father of Pandavas was a supporter of cannibalism for knowledge transfer. He wished his sons must eat his flesh post his death so that they could earn all the knowledge he has gathered in so many years. Only Sahadev ate a piece, and the moment he consumed it, he was able to see the future but was stopped by God. He later became a blessed astrologer who could see the future.
Fact 27: Mahabharat wasn’t the first battle that took place in Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra belonged to King Kuru, the ancestors of Kauravas and Pandavas. The most crucial piece of information associated with this land is that Mahabharat was fought here. However, Mahabharat wasn’t the first war to be fought in the region. In fact, the battle between Bhishma Pitamah and Lord Pashuram, who considered himself an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, was fought before. However, the battle did not yield any result since none of the warriors could defeat the other.
Fact 28: Draupadi was an avatar of Goddess Durga
Once, at a late hour in the night, Bhima saw Draupadi as Goddess Durga asked for his blood in an empty bowl. Bhima got very scared and narrated the entire tale to his mother, Kunti. After that, Kunti asked Draupadi never to hurt Bhima. As she was a mortal, Draupadi had to promise this to Kunti, yet she continuously kept on biting her lip. Kunti wiped off the blood from Draupadi’s lips and promised her that Bhima would fill the bowl with blood for her.
Fact 29: Duryodhan refused to listen to the Bhagwad Gita
Duryodhan said that he doesn’t need to listen to the Bhagwad Gita since he knows what is right and wrong. In addition, he also noted that some force in this world is helping him choose the right course. Had Duryodhan listened to Krishna’s words in the Bhagwad Gita, the entire war could have been averted.
Fact 30: Chausar was a game of strategy
Readers have this misunderstanding that the game of Chausar depended only on luck However, this is not true. Chausar is also a game of strategy and application. And Shakuni deserved to win the game. He was the master of Chausar, and no one could defeat him. It then became the reason for the Kurukshetra War.
Fact 31: The Mahabharata is divided into 18 books, each of which is called a Parva
The 18 books of the Mahabharata are called Parvas. They are as follows:
- Adi Parva: The Book of the Beginning
- Sabha Parva: The Book of the Assembly Hall
- Vana Parva: The Book of the Forest
- Virata Parva: The Book of Virata
- Udyoga Parva: The Book of the Effort
- Bhisma Parva: The Book of Bhishma
- Drona Parva: The Book of Drona
- Karna Parva: The Book of Karna
- Shalya Parva: The Book of Shalya
- Sauptika Parva: The Book of the Sleeping Warriors
- Stri Parva: The Book of the Women
- Santi Parva: The Book of Peace
- Anushasana Parva: The Book of the Instructions
- Ashvamedhika Parva: The Book of the Horse Sacrifice
- Asramavasika Parva: The Book of the Hermitage
- Mausala Parva: The Book of the Clubs
- Mahaprasthanika Parva: The Book of the Great Journey
- Svargarohana Parva: The Book of the Ascent to Heaven
Each Parva is further divided into chapters, and the chapters are further divided into verses.
The Mahabharata is a vast and complex text, and it can be daunting to try to read it all at once.
Fact 32: The Mahabharata is traditionally attributed to the sage Vyasa
The Mahabharata is traditionally attributed to the sage Vyasa, who is said to have dictated the poem to the god Ganesha. Ganesha is the god of wisdom and learning, and he is said to have written down the Mahabharata without making a single mistake.
The story goes that Vyasa had the entire story of the Mahabharata planned out in his head, but he knew that it would be a daunting task to write it down. So, he prayed to Brahma, the creator god, for help. Brahma suggested that Vyasa should dictate the story to Ganesha, who would be able to write it down quickly and accurately.
Vyasa agreed, and so he began to dictate the Mahabharata to Ganesha. Ganesha wrote down the story as fast as Vyasa could dictate it, and he never made a single mistake. The Mahabharata is said to have taken 18 years to dictate, and Ganesha is said to have written it down on a single palm leaf scroll.
The story of Vyasa and Ganesha is a reminder of the importance of wisdom and learning. Ganesha is the god of wisdom, and he is able to write down the Mahabharata without making a single mistake because he understands the story perfectly. This story also shows the importance of collaboration. Vyasa had a vision for the Mahabharata, but he needed Ganesha’s help to write it down. Together, they were able to create a masterpiece.
Fact 33: The Mahabharata is written in Sanskrit
The Mahabharata is written in Sanskrit, which was the language of ancient India. Sanskrit is a complex and sophisticated language, and it is considered to be one of the oldest languages in the world.
There are several reasons why the Mahabharata was written in Sanskrit. First, Sanskrit was the language of the elite in ancient India. The Mahabharata was a story about kings and princes, and it would have been natural for it to be written in the language of the elite.
Second, Sanskrit was a very expressive language. It was able to convey complex ideas and emotions in a way that other languages could not. This made it the perfect language for a story as complex and epic as the Mahabharata.
Third, Sanskrit was a sacred language. It was the language of the Vedas, the most sacred texts in Hinduism. This made it the perfect language for a story that was about the nature of reality and the relationship between humans and gods.
Fact 34: The Mahabharata contains different genres of literature
The Mahabharata contains many different genres of literature, including poetry, prose, and drama.
- Poetry: The Mahabharata is written in a variety of poetic meters, and it contains many beautiful and evocative poems. These poems explore a wide range of topics, including love, loss, war, and peace.
- Prose: The Mahabharata also contains a great deal of prose, which is used to tell the story and provide background information. This prose is often very detailed and descriptive, and it helps to bring the story to life.
- Drama: The Mahabharata also contains several dramatic scenes, which are often very exciting and suspenseful. These scenes often involve battles, duels, and other forms of conflict.
Fact 35: The Mahabharata is said to contain well over 500 stories with the main narrative
The Mahabharata is said to contain over 500 stories within the main narrative. These stories are often interconnected, and they can be enjoyed on their own or as part of the larger story.
Some of the most famous stories in the Mahabharata include:
- The story of the game of Chausar, which leads to the Kurukshetra War.
- The story of the Pandavas’ exile in the forest. Which is full of adventure and hardship.
- The story of the Bhagavad Gita, which is a philosophical dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna.
- The story of Karna, the tragic hero who is denied his rightful place in society.
- The story of Draupadi, the strong and independent woman who is forced to marry five men.
These are just a few of the many stories that can be found in the Mahabharata. The stories are full of adventure, suspense, and tragedy, and they have been told and retold for centuries.
Fact 36: The Mahabharata is said to contain over 100,000 characters
The Mahabharata is said to contain over 100,000 characters, making it one of the most populous works of fiction ever written. This includes both major and minor characters, as well as gods, demons, and animals.
However, there are a few key characters that are essential to the story. These include:
- The Pandavas: The five Pandava brothers are the protagonists of the story. They are the rightful heirs to the throne of Hastinapura, but they are forced to go into exile after their half-cousins, the Kauravas, cheat them out of their inheritance.
- The Kauravas: The Kauravas are the antagonists of the story. They are the cousins of the Pandavas, and they are determined to prevent the Pandavas from inheriting the throne of Hastinapura.
- Krishna: Krishna is a god who is the advisor and friend of the Pandavas. He is a wise and compassionate teacher, and he helps the Pandavas to navigate the challenges of the story.
- Draupadi: Draupadi is the wife of the Pandavas. She is a strong and independent woman who is forced to marry five men. She is a symbol of courage and determination, and she plays an important role in the story.
These are just a few of the many characters that can be found in the Mahabharata. The characters are full of life and complexity, and they help to make the story a compelling and engaging read.
Fact 37: Arjuna was the only one who had the privilege of seeing Lord Krishna’s Vishwaroopa
Arjuna was the only one who had the privilege of seeing Lord Krishna’s Vishwaroopa or the universal form. This was because Arjuna was the most devoted of the Pandava brothers, and he had the purest heart.
The Vishwaroopa is a manifestation of the entire universe in one form. It is a form that is beyond human comprehension, and it is said to be so vast that it contains all of the gods, demons, and creatures of the universe.
When Arjuna saw the Vishwaroopa, he was overwhelmed by its power and beauty. He saw all of the different forms of the universe, and he understood the interconnectedness of all things. He also saw the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and he understood the purpose of life.
The experience of seeing the Vishwaroopa transformed Arjuna. He became a more confident and compassionate warrior, and he was able to fight the Kurukshetra War with the knowledge that he was fighting for a just cause.
Hope these facts about Mahabharata detail a few things that you never knew. Let us know your views in the comment section below.