Untold Stories from the Mahabharata

Untold Stories from the Mahabharata

Mar 01, 2024Ramthilak M

The Kurukshetra War, the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, makes us ponder over good and evil. The war that caused unspeakable destruction gave us timeless tales of bravery, wisdom and virtue. The result of this great war is known to us all, that is good triumphs over evil and the Pandavas emerged victorious.

However, apart from the main heroes in the epic such as Arjun, Karna, Bhima, Krishna and key members from the Kauravas, there are many interesting tales that are unknown to a lot of us but are remarkable in their own way. After all, this is a story with about 20,000 individual verse lines. 

On hearing multiple praises and stories about Arjun, Bhima and Yudhishthira, we tend to overlook the youngest Pandavas. Sahadeva, the youngest brother and Nakul’s twin possessed special powers. Though young and inexperienced, he was still an important member of the epic. He could look into the future; thus, he knew the outcome of the Kurukshetra War much before it began. He was aware of the sufferings that awaited everyone and even about how Arjun’s son or Drona, the Pandavas’ teacher would be killed. 

Sahadeva rushed to inform his brothers about his premonition but was stopped midway by a stranger, who warned him against foretelling the future. He insisted that Sahadeva keep the information to himself lest he should lose his life. And to make things more interesting he was asked to always, in his time ahead, answer a question with a question. 

The stranger was none other than Lord Krishna.

Sahadeva withheld the information about his knowledge of the future and proceeded with the constant thought about the outcome of every decision that his brothers were going to make. How did he inherit these powers? There are multiple versions of the story of the Mahabharata. One version has it that as a child, Sahadeva had to eat his father’s flesh and brain in order to receive this knowledge. Pandu, in his time away from his royal duties, had gained great knowledge. At the time of his death, he had requested his sons to eat his flesh, which was fulfilled only by Sahadeva. There is another version that mentions him to be an astrologer and genius since birth.


Duryodhana, one of the main antagonists in the Mahabharata, was the eldest and one of the strongest Kauravas. It is said that he was named ‘Suyodhana’ by his father Dhritrashtra. Suyodhana was interested in wielding the mace as a young child. After completing his education under Drona, he was sent to Balarama to further hone his fighting skills. Once in a practice session, he defeated Balarama, who, pleased with his student’s prowess, named him ‘Duryodhana’, which means a warrior who cannot be defeated.

In the context of Hindi and Sanskrit languages, there is another common explanation behind the names of Kauravas. Words that begin with ‘Du’ denote a negative meaning or are antonyms to words that are positive and begin with ‘Su’. Hence, the Kauravas changed their names to match their personalities. Suyodhana, Susshaasana, Suchala became Duryodhana, Dusshaasana, Dusshala respectively and so on. 

Did you also know that there were two Kaurava brothers who actually supported the Pandavas? Vikarna, the third most popular brother after Duryodhana and Dusshaasana, was against the gambling game where Draupadi was used as a stake. When all the other Kauravas misbehaved with Draupadi, Vikarna felt disgusted and protested against it. Although he fought on the side of his brothers, deep down in his heart, he believed that the fight was wrong and unnecessary. Bhishma named him one of the greatest warriors on the side of the Kauravas. 

Yuyutsu, unlike Vikarna, actually fought against his own brothers. Technically a half-brother of the other Kauravas, Yuyutsu was the son of Dhritarashtra born to a maid. He knew that the Pandavas had suffered unnecessarily on the account of his brothers and wanted to make up for it by fighting for them. He went to the Pandava camp and switched sides just minutes before the war began. Yuyutsu became the only Kaurava who fought on the side of the Pandavas. 

Another relatively lesser-known story is that there were five arrows meant to kill the Pandavas in one go. Bhishma had kept them in his control. One day after sunset, when the two armies had returned to their respective camps, Duryodhana accused Bhishma of still rooting for the Pandavas to win and for being lenient towards them. Insulted at his comments, Bhishma cursed the five arrows (one for each brother) that the Pandavas would all be dead by sunset on the following day.

Duryodhana was pleased by this but was still not ready to trust Bhishma. So, he stole the arrows to complete the job himself.

As fate would have it, the following day, Arjun asked Duryodhana to hand over the arrows to him. When he refused, he reminded him that the latter owed Arjun for having saved his life long ago. Duryodhana relented and gave him the arrows.

One more interesting episode involves the last part of their lives or rather their afterlife. Yudhishthira ruled Hastinapur for 36 years after the war and then left for the Himalayas with Draupadi and his brothers in search of heaven. Draupadi, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva died in the course of the journey. Yudhishthira, the lone survivor with a pious heart, was invited by Dharma to enter the heavens as a mortal. 


When he entered the gates of heaven, he was furious to see Duryodhana over there along with all of his brothers and shocked to see his own brothers in hell. When he asked God about this unfair treatment, God replied that the Pandavas were there for all the wrong things that they had done – Karna had insulted Draupadi; Bhima and Arjuna had killed Duryodhana and Karna respectively using unfair means and Nakul and Sahadeva had helped them in the act. All the Kauravas died while fighting in the Kurukshetra, the Land of Kuru. It is said that whoever died on the land of Kuru, while defending their own particular land, must go to heaven. 



This segment teaches us that no matter how good you are in life, no matter how much we fight the evil outside, there is something bad within us. What is good to us may not be good in the eyes of god and vice versa.  

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