Truth of Mahabharat

Did Mahabharata really happen? Is Mahabharata Real?

Did Mahabharata really happen? Is Mahabharata real?

You are reading the most detailed analysis on the historicity of Mahabharata

Mahabharata has a deep association with Hinduism and an enormous influence on modern Hindus and their cultural traditions. Many in India consider Mahabharata as real history and they quote events from the epic as true accounts of history. It has always been a topic of debate if the great epic of Mahabharata can be considered a historical account.

If you ever attempt to find if Mahabharata narrates real accounts of ancient Indian history, you will most likely get one side of the opinion and not the actual facts. People of faith would say that it is indeed real and there is not a shred of doubt that it is indeed our Indian history.

Surprisingly yet, most even come up with a list of points to show that Mahabharata happened for real. This includes a large number of websites, some even with reputation. Furthermore, they claim they have real proof of Mahabharata and its historicity but they severely lack historical evidence and are not free from bias.

On the other hand, people of the scientific community and skeptics out-rightly reject it as history and call it mythology. But they do not address the fact why mythology has such a profound impact on modern Hindu Society.Hoysaleswara Temple 12th century depiction of Mahabharata battle

Surprisingly the evidence-based exploration of Indian History based on archaeological and scientific evidence available to date — has a clear verdict.

However, one has to consider both sides of the argument and examine every piece of evidence available to us to see where they stand the test of the modern scientific evidence-based approach.

How can the collective memory of so many diverse cultures be wrong? Mythology is normally believed by one or two cultures. Not so many as in the case of Mahabharata.

So where does the truth lie? is Mahabharata a myth or reality? We will be looking at all aspects of the argument that proponents of history and proponents of mythology propose.

To be clear, Mahabharata is not only an epic of faith for Hindus, as it is widely recognized. Other religions like Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism also have various associations with Mahabharata and are an integral part of these religions and culture.

In a nutshell, anything that has some origin in India also has some association with Mahabharata. Which in itself is a strong argument that some parts of the epic must be true to have this kind of impact on the collective memory of such diverse societies.

Bhagvat Geeta and its Significance in Mahabharata
Artist depiction of Krishna narrating Bhagvat Geeta to Arjun

Bhagvat Geeta which is one of the most well-known and important holy books in Hinduism is a part of Mahabharata.

Bhagvat Geeta is said to be a documented narrative of god Krishna to Arjun to fulfill his moral obligation and fight in the war of Kurukshetra. It always further raises the question that if Mahabharata is not real then who wrote Geeta and what was the purpose?

We have tried to answer some of the questions by first analyzing what are the available pieces of evidence that suggest Mahabharata is real. I would rather call them arguments for claiming that Mahabharata is a true account of history.

I must acknowledge that some of them present strong reasoning and not mere faith-based arguments.

Let us now examine them. Let us observe the ‘Scientific proof of Mahabharata’
Facts proposed by those who support Mahabharata happened for realDPS Bali Indonesia Kuta. Statue of Arjuna, Krishna, and Bima, the introductory scene of Bhagavad Gita
1. Records of Bharat dynasties and real historical lineageBharat childhood image artist depiction

It is mentioned in Aadiparva, the book of the beginning, which is the first of eighteen books of the Mahabharata (chapter 62) about the records of the Bharat-Dynasty (interestingly the name of India ‘Bharat’ has the origin from it), and its lineage are chronologically recorded.

More than 50 kings and their dynasties starting from king Manu have been mentioned in detail. It seems unusual for a fictional tale to use so many kings and their lineage when just 5-6 kings would be enough for any functional construct.
2. It is written as Itihas (History)Cenotaph of Sage Vyas who wrote Mahabharata

In Mahabharata, the author clearly claims that it is an “Itihas’ (Sanskrit word for History). The words “Puraan” and “Itihas” were explicitly coined by the ancient people to categorize the “ancient” and “recent” events. Both the words denote history that has occurred at different times.

Proponents of those who support the Mahabharata and Kurukshetra war are historical events claim that If the intention of the writer was to write a poem or a work of fiction, he would have stated it to be a “Mahakavya” (epic) or “Katha” (story) which was a tradition at that time.

3. Description of the modern world in ancient times
A depiction of God Krishna

If you get a chance to read the description of Kaliyuga as mentioned in Mahabharata. Whatever Krishna predicted about future civilization in Kalyug (Modern Times) came true, but please note that these were not prophecies but are part of Geeta.

And remember – this was written thousands of years ago! Fiction? many say that it’s likely because there are way too many corroborations and tallying circumstances for it to be fiction.
4. Archaeological evidence of the lost city of DwarkaImage circulated as Dwarka Submerged city

Marine archaeology while exploring the ancient submerged city of Dwaraka in Gujarat, uncovered further evidence in support of statements in the Vedic scriptures.

An entire submerged city at Dwaraka, the ancient port city of Lord Krishna with its massive fort walls, piers, wharves and jetty has been found in the ocean as described in the Mahabharata and other Vedic literature.

Please note that these are claims made by those who support Mahabharata narrates real historical event.

5. Real places mentioned in Mahabharata and archaeological evidenceHatinapur-The capital of Mahabharata kingdom

More than thirty-five sites in North India have yielded archaeological evidence and have been identified as ancient cities described in the Mahabharata.

Copper utensils, iron, seals, gold & silver ornaments, terracotta discs, and painted grey ware pottery have all been found in these sites. Scientific dating of these artifacts corresponds to the non-Aryan-invasion model of Indian antiquity.

All places mentioned in Mahabharata are real places, all are identified and still exist with the same name. For instance, Hastinapur is in UP with multiple pieces of evidence of Mahabharata in Hastinapur.

Indraprastha is present-day Delhi. Dwarka is located on the Gujarat coast. Kurukshetra where the war actually happened is in present-day Haryana very near to Delhi.

Interestingly this is not limited to only India. The Kekaya kingdom is located in today’s Pakistan, the Madra Kingdom is located in today’s Pakistan. The Gandhara Kingdom is located in today’s Afghanistan. The Kambojas Kingdom is located in today’s Iran. The Parama Kamboja Kingdom is located in today’s Tajikistan.

Recently researchers have found the city of Dwarka under the sea in the said place. Mahabharata cities are not limited to present-day India because Mahabharata referred to the Indian subcontinent as Bharat.

6. Progression from Ramayana
Mahabharata is a continuation from Ramayana

Mahabharata is a continuation of the dynasties from Ramayana and it has a well-established coherence in the chain of events. Even the relations between different kings and their dynasties in both the great “epics” match with each other.

If both were mere “epics” written by two entirely different persons, at two different points in times, why would everything match even minute details? Mahabharata occurs thousand of years after Ramayana. What is the need for the author of the Mahabharata to borrow the same ideas and characters as those of the author of Ramayana?

7. Astronomical referencesMahabharata is a continuation from Ramayana

The Udyoga Parva of Mahabharata narrates that, just before the War, Lord Krishna went to Hastinapur in the month of Kartika on the day when the moon was at the asterism Revati.

On His way to Hastinapur, Krishna took rest for a day at a place called Brikasthala, and on that day the moon was at the asterism Bharani. The day on which Duryodhana turned down all the efforts of Krishna and made the war inevitable, the moon was resting at the asterism Pushya.
8. The myth of Aryan invasion theoryDoes the Aryan Theory Have Any Basis and Did Aryan Immigration in India Truly Happen

European scholars brought the nomadic Aryan tribes, into India after 1500 BC. How could these Aryans create the Sanskrit language, gain so much knowledge and write all these texts before 700 BC?

Great Indian thinkers including Lokmanya Tilak, Sri Aurobindo, and Dayanand Sarasvati rejected the European theory.
9. Historical references that are true

Maurya, Gupta, and Indo-Greek dynasties are also recorded in our Purana. These dynasties are accepted only because they are also recorded by Greek historians.

What about the dynasties that existed before the Greek historians?
10. Famous Oppenheimer quoteOppenheimer great physicist mentions Hindu Epic

The architect of the modern atomic bomb who was in charge of the Manhattan Project was asked by a student after the Manhattan explosion, “How do you feel after having exploded the first atomic bomb on earth”.

Oppenheimer’s reply to the question was, “not the first atomic bomb, but a first atomic bomb in modern times”. He strongly believed that nukes were used in ancient India.

As he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, a piece of Hindu scripture ran through the mind of Robert Oppenheimer: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. It is, perhaps, the most well-known line from the Bhagavad-Gita, but also the most misunderstood.
11. Flying vehicles and nuclear warBrahmastra is compared with modern nuclear weapons

The Indian Epics, especially the MAHABHARATA, pick up the thread of the tale of devastation and destruction. Sanskrit scholars could not understand what was being described in the Epics until the dropping of the first atomic bombs on Japan happened. The effects of radiation poisoning also became clear.

Now, these details have been provided with details in Mahabharata. Details provided in Mahabharata can be roughly translated in English below:

Flying a swift and powerful Vimana (Aircraft) hurled a single projectile Charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as ten thousand Suns rose in all its splendor….it was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, Which reduced to ashes.

The Entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas….the corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. Their hair and nails fell out, pottery broke without apparent cause and the birds turned white. After a few hours, all foodstuffs were infected. To escape from this fire, the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment
12. Real places with evidence that correlates with MahabharataChariot and the horses melting the rock

One of the good examples is a place, a few kilometers from Gwalior, Morena (M.P.), India, where the mother of Pandavas the heroes of Mahabharata, Kunti invoked the Mantra given by Maharishi Durvasa and summoned Surya Bhagwan (Sun God) who appeared on a seven horsed chariot.

The dazzling heat of the chariot and the horses melted the rock, leaving imprints on the rock. A picture showing the same.
13. The enormity of details providedMahabharata has enormous details more than what ancient people can manage

The Mahabharata is the longest known epic poem and has been described as “the longest poem ever written”. Its longest version consists of over 100,000 shlokas or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. About 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. (Source: Wikipedia)

In today’s world of smartphones and computers, it may seem easy to maintain coherence with a large amount of data. Consider this in ancient times, where there was no Ctrl+F to search through the enormous documents, maintain consistency and infer stories and cite references.
14. Physics and advanced science in MahabharataGod Krishna showing his divine appearance-Did Mahabharata really happen

Proponents of Mahabharata narrates a historical event also claimed that whether it’s that time travel, quantum mechanics, or gravity all find some mention in Mahabharata. Some prominent political figures in India even claimed that test-tube babies originated during those times.

Further, one of the very first-time travel stories recorded in history appears in the Mahabharata. The story follows a king, his daughter, and their search for a perfect suitor.

Revati was the only daughter of King Kakudmi, a powerful monarch who ruled Kusasthali, a prosperous and advanced kingdom under the sea.

Thinking no one could prove to be good enough to marry his beautiful daughter, Kakudmi took Revati with him to Brahmaloka, the home of Brahma, to ask god’s advice about finding a suitable husband for her.

Brahma was listening to a musical performance when they arrived, and so they waited patiently until the performance was finished. Finally, King Kakudmi humbly bowed and made his request:

“O Brahmâ! To whom shall I betroth this daughter? I have come to you to ask on this point I have searched for many princes and seen also a good many of them and none of them is to my liking and so my mind is not at rest.”

Brahma laughed at the foolishness of the King.

“O, King! The princes that you thought would become the bridegroom of your daughter, all died; their sons and grandsons and their friends even have all passed away.”

Time, as God Brahma goes on to explain, runs differently on different planes of existence. During the time they had waited in Brahmaloka to see him, 27 Chatur-Yugas, had passed on Earth.

Everything that Kakudmi had and owned, his friends and family, his sons and wife, his armies and treasures, had vanished with the time that had passed.

The King and his daughter were overcome with astonishment and grief for everything they had lost, but Brahma comforted them and recommended a worthy husband currently on earth: Balarama, the twin brother of Krishna.

I know, this is as close as it gets to explain the relative nature of time or time travel to make it simple. This feature in our post on Hinduism and Science analysis.
15. RadioactivityRadioactivity finds a similar mention in Mahabharata

There are many claims of radioactivity like in Jodhpur which is at least 710 Km distant from the war of Kurukshetra. Radioactivity has been quoted as one of the scientific arguments presenting evidence at different places in India including giant unexplained crater near Bombay.

Now, these are very strong arguments for Mahabharata to be real history. We examined each of the points and the facts are presented below
Facts that do not support Mahabharata happened for real

1. The Enormous scale of destruction is not possibleMahabharata war destruction, artistic depiction

Four million dead during the war of Kurukshetra is documented in Mahabharata. While scientific studies estimate the world population to be around 115 million in 1000 BC.

If Mahabharata has to be validated as history it has to have occurred before 4000 BC, remember we have good historical records from 5000 BC onward. The world population estimate at that time is about 7 to 28 million in the whole world.

In addition, the fact that only 12 people survived the war. Out of 4 million only 18 people surviving is in itself a miracle, add to that the facts that the righteous (Pandavas) were all surviving and rest 4 were the Kauravas or the not so righteous opponent.

Strength of the armies mentioned in Mahabharata can be found below

Pandava (the righteous brothers)Kauravas (the opponent)7 Akshauhinis
153,090 chariots and chariot-riders
153,090 elephants and elephant-riders
459,270 horses and horse-riders
765,450 infantry
(total 1,530,900 soldiers) 11 Akshauhinis
240,570 chariots and chariot-riders
240,570 elephants and elephant-riders
721,710 horses and horse-riders
1,202,850 infantry
(total 2,405,700 soldiers)

Akshauhinis described in the Mahabharata as a battle formation consisting of 21,870 chariots (Sanskrit Ratha); 21,870 elephants; 65,610 horses and 109,350 infantry as per the Mahabharata
2. Astronomical references are cyclic in nature

Have you heard about the number of years it will take to see a similar lunar eclipse? How do they estimate that?

It is because astronomical data is cyclic in nature and repeats itself every thousand if not hundreds of years. This has real implication for the calculation of timeline which can be seen below in various astronomy based predictions for the date of Mahabharata
P. V. Vartak calculates a date of 16 October 5561 BCE using planetary positions.
P. V. Holey states a date of 13 November 3143 BCE using planetary positions and calendar systems.
Aihole inscriptions give the date of the Kurukshetra war around 3102 BCE.
K. Sadananda, based on translation work, states that the Kurukshetra War started on 22 November 3067 BCE.
B. N. Achar used planetarium software to argue that the Mahabharata War took place in 3067 BCE.
S. Balakrishna concluded a date of 2559 BCE using consecutive lunar eclipses.
R. N. Iyengar concluded a date of 1478 BCE using double eclipses and Saturn+Jupiter conjunctions.
P. R. Sarkar estimates a date of 1298 BCE for the war of Kurukshetra.
V. S. Dubey claims that the war happened near 950 BCE.

If one event has so many different predictions for a date with a range that exceeds 4500 years, it’s almost certain that they didn’t have good references for dating the events. The astronomical dating premise is surely ruled out.

A very important point while discussing the timeline of Mahabharata that needs to be considered is the problem of iron.

Iron Age in India is clearly established to have started around 1500BC or later. In Mahabharata, there are multiple mentions and the use of iron weapons. This puts Mahabharata to be a relatively recent development.
3. The Aryan theory is not ruled out by historians.

Vedas including Rig Veda and Puranas themselves have elaborate details about Aryan’s migration to India. The Rigveda contains accounts of conflicts between the Aryas and the Dasas and Dasyus.

It describes Dasas and Dasyus as people who do not perform sacrifices (Akratu) or obey the commandments of gods (Avrata). While many Indians believe that Aryan migration in India has been a western theory that was manipulated to suit their colonial ambitions, there is a strong basis for Aryan migration theory.
4. Ancient Nuclear war theory is disapprovedAncient Nuclear Explosion Theory

Before I get into the details we must understand why people keep referencing that an ancient atomic bomb was indeed used in Mahabharata, (including our friends from Ancient Aliens series) in the form of a weapon called Bramhastra’ The exact translated version of the text is given below.

Vaishampayana said: “When the thirty-sixth year (after the battle) was reached, the delighter of the Kurus, Yudhishthira, beheld many unusual portents. Winds, dry and strong, and showering gravels, blew from every side.

Birds began to wheel, making circles from right to left. The great rivers ran in opposite directions. The horizon on every side seemed to be always covered with fog. Meteors, showering (blazing) coals, fell on the Earth from the sky.

A single projectile charged with all the power in the Universe… An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as 10,000 suns, rose in all its splendor… It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes an entire race.

The corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. Their hair and nails fell out, pottery broke without any apparent cause, and the birds turned white.

After a few hours, all foodstuffs were infected. To escape from this fire, the soldiers threw themselves into the river.

The Sun’s disc, O king, seemed to be always covered with dust. At its rise, the great luminary of day was shorn of splendour and seemed to be crossed by headless trunks (of human beings). Fierce circles of light were seen every day around both the Sun and the Moon. These circles showed three hues…

There seems to be an eerie reference to the atomic bomb explosion and radioactivity. Right? But there is nothing remotely like this story in any archaeological publications.

Archaeological information about the excavations of Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, and other Indus Valley sites is widely available online and in print, and there is simply no such thing as radioactive skeletons or skeletons in large numbers or holding hands or sprawled in any way that the archaeologists saw reason to print.

Furthermore, the vast majority of radioactive isotopes produced in a nuclear blast have extremely short half-lives measured in seconds, hours, or days, and are reduced to safe levels very quickly.

Those that pose the greatest threat to human health are Cesium-137 and Strontium-90, which have half-lives of 30 and 28 years, and so even these would have been reduced to well below the natural background levels thousands of years ago.

Other long-lived isotopes are produced by nuclear explosions but at much lower amounts.

Note that despite the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no harmful radiation persists today in either city. Put together all the radiation data, and we know for a fact, with no doubt, that any claims of modern radiation in India proving a prehistoric nuclear war are false. So we have good reason to regard the entire story with great skepticism.

So how about this giant unexplained crater near Bombay? Lonar Crater — which is some 775 kilometers southeast of Jodhpur, even farther away — is indeed a real crater. Rim to rim it measures about 1.8 km. It is blasted out of thick layers of volcanic basalt, deposited over the plateau 66 million years ago. If the crater was indeed formed by a nuclear blast 8-12,000 years ago, dating techniques should make this easy to determine.

For a long time, the accepted age of Lonar Crater was 52,000 years; far too old to have been part of this alleged nuclear war. This had been determined by thermoluminescence dating, which tells us when the sample was last molten.

But two newer measurements, using argon-argon radiometric dating instead, found older dates of 570,000 years and 656,000 years, with non-overlapping margins of error.

Reference Dunning, B. “Defusing India’s Ancient Atomic Blasts.” Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 18 Oct 2016.
5. The submerged part of Dwarka is a post-Mauryan siteRemains of the underwater city of Dwarka Photo

The comparative study of surrounding sites indicates that the date of the structures of Dwarka may be between the Historical period and the late medieval period. The paper reviews the earlier hypothesis about the identification and dating of these structures in light of new evidences from the recent underwater explorations.

It is very difficult to say the findings are from ancient age and do not meet the criteria as per Lord Krishna’s Dwarka narration and as per Purana and other ancient texts.

According to ancient Sanskrit literature, Lord Krishna founded the holy city of Dwarka, which subsequently got submerged undersea.

Marine archaeological explorations off Dwarka have brought to light a large number of stone structures, which are semicircular, rectangular and square in shape in water depth ranging from the intertidal zone to 6 m.

They are randomly scattered over a vast area. Besides these structures, a large number of varieties of stone anchors have been noticed along with the structures as well as beyond 6 m water depth

Hence it nowhere corroborates with the ancient Dwarka city narrative.

6. Fictional stories with real settings are common

With all due respect to the epic, there are multiple instances of fictional stories using real settings, places, and people.

These are easy examples to understand. A Few of them that I can mention here is Marvel comics Character ‘ Captain America’ and we all know about Harry Potter, right!
7. Fictional stories do sometimes predict technologies not yet available to them

The Cable Guy (1996) In this film starring Jim Carrey as a disturbed cable guy who tries to make friends there is a scene that predicted the future with creepy accuracy. Jim’s character screams in the rain how every American will have a mix of cable TV, computer, and phone all in one. He even says you will play Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam, predicting online gaming and Google TV at the same time

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Many consider it the greatest space movie ever made. The Oscar-winning masterpiece by Stanley Kubrick has turned out to be the cinematic equivalent of Nostradamus since it predicted not one or two things about the future but several, including tablet computing, the International Space Station, space tourism, and Siri—yes HAL, we’re talking about you. (One of the most fascinating movie villains of modern cinema is this evil voice-controlled computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

WarGames (1983) This awesome eighties film that gave us a young, fresh-looking Matthew Broderick? Well, this silly, low-budget flick predicted hacking and cyber warfare during a time when the Internet as we know it, didn’t even exist. Quite impressive if you think about it: Matthew Broderick as the first hacker in pop culture, no?
8. Archaeology and evidence about the Mahabharata does not correlate

Archaeological explorations and excavations at various places which are mentioned in the Mahabharata like Hastinapura, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Tilpat, Baghpat, Mathura, and Bairat, have given evidence of pottery called Painted Grey Ware, which goes back to c. 1000 BCE.

This shows that these sites were inhabited around this time, and the nature of the remains suggests that the people who lived here shared a pastoral and agricultural living.

There is another sort of evidence from Hastinapura: The Matsya and Vayu Puranas state that during the reign of king Nichakshu (fifth king in the Puranas. There is a strong local tradition that the Purana Qila in New Delhi marks the place where Indraprastha, the capital of the Pandavas, once stood.Purana Quila could be the old Indraprastha?

Shams Siraj Afif’s Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi (14th century) states that Indraprastha was the headquarters of a Pargana (district).

A 14th century stone inscription found in Naraina village in west Delhi also mentions Indraprastha.

The 16th-century Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazl states that Humayun’s fort was built at the place where Indraprastha, capital of the Pandavas, was located long ago.

In fact, till the end of the 19th century, there was a village called Indarpat inside the fort walls.

Excavations carried out at the Purana Qila between 1954 and 1971 revealed several archaeological levels ranging from the 4th century BCE to the 19th century CE.

The discovery of a few stray pieces of PGW indicated the possibility that an older settlement was located somewhere nearby. However, there is no way of knowing for sure whether this settlement had any connection with the Mahabharata.
9. Problem with the timeline when Mahabharata events and Kurukshetra War happened

The single most challenge that anyone who wants to prove that Mahabharata and the war mentioned as Kurukshetra War happened, will be to establish when did it actually happen?

A simple run through the Timeline of Indian History will show why it is so difficult to place the Kurukshetra war and events in Mahabharata on this timeline.

First, it is very clearly established that the first civilized humans in the Indian subcontinent belonged to Mehrgarh (7000 BCE and 5500 BCE) a Neolithic site, which lies on the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan, Pakistan.

This was followed by Indus Valley Civilization (lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, and in its mature form from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE). Vedic Period which is established to predated Ramayana and Mahabharata (As per the epics) was overlapping with the late Indus Valley Civilization and Aryan migration to India.

Aryans were the people who were said to speak an archaic Indo-European language and who were thought to have settled in prehistoric times in ancient Iran and the northern Indian subcontinent.

This puts the dates of Mahabharata to be a narrative of events after 1500 BCE. However, non of the Vedas have any mention of Mahabharata which is natural as the epic itself mentions Vedas as the ultimate source of knowledge.

This pushes down the dates further and almost coincides with the ancient history of India around 500 BCE or later (Near the end of the Late Vedic Period) and coinciding with the Magadh Kingdom.

This region of Greater Magadha had a culture and belief system of its own that predated Hinduism. Much of the second urbanization took place here from c. 500 BCE onwards and it was here that Jainism became strong and Buddhism arose. We have independent sources from that time from Greeks to Babylon, that nowhere mentions a great war as mentioned in Mahabharata.

Considering that even Sumerians had trade contacts with much older Indus Valley Civilization, and there is wide documentation and archaeological evidence from that time, a lack of any reference to war as great as what’s mentioned in the epic is unexplained and supports the fictional nature of the epic.
10. The enormity of the details provided, a long chain of lineage and physics

I must say that I could not find any evidence that can provide you with an answer as to how it was done. All we can say is that it is a brilliant epic with unprecedented creativity and literary skills.

But we have precedence where we did not know how pyramids of Egypt were built and it looked quite impossible for ancient people to have created a structure of that proportion. Now we fully understand how ingenious our ancestors were and how they built them!

So one day we may also find the answer to above questions.
So is Mahabharata fact or fiction, Did Mahabharata really happen?

We are trying to verify the truth of the narrative here, not the setting itself. The way to verify a narrative will be to:
Remove any poetic license, hyperbole, and religious faith here.
Seek credible independent sources which document the narrative with evidence
Find archaeological evidence, artifacts, and documentation that can be clearly traced back to the events of the narrative.

We don’t have very strong evidence for Mahabharata as of today on the given parameters. Our evidence available to date establishes:
It is an iron age narrative
It was set in a universe that has no bearing on scientific reality as we know it – magic and demigods were an integral part of the narrative with various supernatural (believed to be at present) powers and events.
The authors, redactors, and the re-tellers of the epics may have changed the original story, clearly demonstrating that they were aware of the fictional nature of these stories; refer to Jain and Buddhist texts which have competing narratives.
The usual things provided as evidence have mostly been falsified
The Indus Valley civilization was strictly Bronze Age and had nothing to do with the epics
The Gulf of Khambhat has been officially dismissed by the Govt. of India, and their funding revoked and research erased
The submerged part of Dwarka was a post-Mauryan site
In fact, all geographical locations associated with the epics are strictly post-Buddha and largely Puranic

So is Mahabharata real, did Mahabharata really happen as we know today? We have presented positive evidence that points to the fact that it is a work of fiction inspired by real incidents and perhaps real people. However, the narrative is full of fantasies with no evidence to substantiate the facts and therefore not “real”.

As it is often said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”

Without a shred of doubt, Mahabharata is one of the greatest epic known to humans, but the entire narrative cannot be said to be real, based on the present evidence and facts available.

Some of the dark truths of Mahabharat

Anirban Acharjee, Read and analysed authentic versions of Ramayana,Mahabharat

Don't know whether they should be called 'dark’ but these are the truths of Mahabharat that people should know-
Bhishma never lived for the throne of Hastinapura, he had vowed to kill the Pandavas and was never soft on them in battle.The mighty Bhishma defeated all the major warriors from the Pandava side including Bhima, Abhimanyu, Ghatotkacha and Satyaki only with the exception of Arjuna.
Abhimanyu never learnt the chakravyuha formation from the womb of Subhadra, he learnt it from Arjuna himself.
Karna was never invincible with his kavacha and kundala, in fact he was defeated by Arjuna with his armour in Draupadi's Swamywar and an ordinary blade was enough to cut open armour of Karna.
Bhima killed Baka, kirmira and Hidimba who were the equals of Ravana according to Krishna's words.
Satyaki was one of the mightiest warriors from Pandava side, he himself defeated Ashwathama and Drona at the same time, he also defeated Bhishma and even defeated Karna multiple times.
Ashwathama was a better warrior than Bhishma and Karna, he fought Arjuna better and gave him a tougher fight then both Bhishma and Karna, Ashwathama saved Karna thrice from Arjuna.
Bhima was defeated by the elephant saupratika of Bhagadatta which was protected by Vaishnava astra but Bhima alone destroyed the elephant forces of Kalinga.
Abhimanyu defeated Karna, Drona, Ashwathama, Duryodhana, Dushasana, Brihadbala all alone.
Draupadi, Arjuna and Krishna were all dark in complexion and all were called Krishna's.
Arjuna was killed by his son Vabruvahana inorder to get rid of the curse of the vasus, it was pre planned by Arjuna's wife Ullupi.
Eklavya the nishada price was an ally of Jarasandha and was killed by Krishna in battle.
Karna never died unarmed, he was overpowered and ran out of astras against Arjuna. Karna still had his bow and arrows when he climbed down to pull the wheels of his chariot, his last action was to counter a missile of Arjuna.
Duryodhana cheated and decieved Bhima in their mace fight, Bhima kept his vow and defeated Duryodhana. Though Duryodhana was the better mace fighter.
Bhima and Satyaki spared the life of Karna on the battlefield due to oath of Arjuna.
Hanuman was never on Arjuna's flag instead it was the celestial ape created by Vishwakarma, Hanuman only added his powers to the flag.
Krishna was swooned by the maharatha rakshasas known as Samsaptakas, they even overpowered Arjuna but Arjuna killed them all.
Draupadi never rejected Karna at the Swamywar, instead Karna failed to string the bow like all other kings.
Karna defeated Ghatotkacha and his illusions prior before killing him, Ghatotkacha also defeated Karna number of times.
Bhima was the most physically powerful warrior, Arjuna was the mightiest warrior in arms and Drona/ Bhagadatta were the most powerful warriors from kaurava army.

Source: BORI CE & KMG edition of Mahabharata.

Aswathi V. V., Folklore Enthusiast

Mahabharata, known as 'the longest poem ever written' is an ancient Indian epic. The poem is about a family that ends up fighting the 'Kurukshetra War' in two groups (Kauravas and Pandavas) for the throne.

Vyasa (Veda Vyasa) is the author of Mahabharata. However, there are many hypotheses that revolve around the authorship of the legendary work.

A truth about Mahabharata that I found astonishing is that the work has undergone several editions and the titles as well as the content have changed drastically with every version.

The original version believed to be written by Vyasa is known as Jaya. Jaya concentrated on the war and the attainment of spiritual victory after that.

The second version known as Bharata dealt with morality and religious beliefs. It is written by one of Vyasa's pupils, Vaishampanya. It is assumed that there are several versions written at the same time by other pupils of Vyasa, but Bharata is the consolidated one.

Third version written by Sauti is a wisdom of knowledge. Sauti brought all the branches of knowledge he possessed as well as all the isolated stories that were related to the original one in the poem together, hence the name Mahabharata.

After the Muslim Invasion in India, as history says, a lot of temples and religious works were destroyed. If Mahabharata has survived this destruction, it means that it would have undergone an edition again after this!

Determining the authenticity of this great work hence remains a nearly impossible task.

Another shocking truth is that Mahabharata was never a tale that sung the beauty of peace. Although It ends with an explanation as to how one attains Heaven, and speaks about morality, unlike Ramayana, another ancient epic, the entire poem is about rage. This is a fact ignored by a lot of us, even the historians who studied the work in detail.

Despite all the conspiracies, Mahabharata is one of the most popular, powerful and beautiful epics and it remains sacred even now in India.

Reference: Internet

Seema Bharti, Author of Mahabharat's Stories

King Drupada did not have any child.

Fortunately after much consecrations and prayers, the Almighty did bless him with progenies.

Drupada had vowed to wreck vengeance on Bhishma and prayed for a son.

But as destiny would have it, the first born turned out to be a daughter Shikandi.

With a heavy heart, both the king and the queen concealed the fact that it was a girl and not a boy.

All the rites reserved for a son were performed.

Except for Bhishma no one else knew.

When Shikandi came of age, she was married to the king Hiryavarma’s daughter.

The long kept secret became a bone of contention once it was revealed.

Drupada was humiliated and challenged by Shikandi’s father in law.

Left with no choice but to take her life and save Drupada further humiliation, Shikandi leaves for the forest.

But as fate would have it, she encounters Sthunarkarna who offers to loan his male organ for a brief period and take hers.

“ I will do what you desire, but there is a condition. For a limited period of time, I will give you my male organ. But I tell you truthfully that when that time is over, you must return to me.”

Now Shikandi was a man in the true sense to the outside world.

Or rather a man trapped in a woman’s body.

Even the disgruntled father in law was pacified.

Shikandi offered to resume her old self but Sthunakarna refused considering the fact the youth had been honest and without a trace of deceit.

Drupada now had Shikandi train under Drona with other princes.

Source Bibek Debroy’s Mahabharat.

Unknown Hidden Facts: Mahabharata War Interesting Secrets

Teachings of Mahabharat and Shreemad Bhagavad Gita shaped the world culture and consciousness of the world and Bharat. Mahabharat not only witnessed the presence of Bhagwan, demons and their accomplices but also re-established Hindu dharma (morality, virtues) in its full glory for the future generation of Bharat Varsha. In doing so, it also witnessed the biggest war in the history of mankind that will happen only after 0.4 million years from now.
Mind Blowing Mahabharata Facts


1. Krishna rode a chariot that was heavily potent and when Arjun was done with the war, Krishna asked him to get off the chariot first and then he got off. As soon as he got off, the chariot exploded in a huge fireball. That’s when he explained to Arjun why he was asked to get off the chariot first. All the fires, missiles and arrows directed towards Arjun’s Ratha was stopped by Shree Krishna himself to protect Arjun but since the purpose of all these arms was to detonate, it was done after Shree Krishna moved out from the Ratha.

2. Hastinapur (of Bharat Varsha) was the most opulent and developed place in the history of mankind during Mahabharat’s time. It had all the resources that a civilized state comprises of: dams, artificial ponds, irrigation, monuments, temples and learned Sages.

3. Sahadeva (the youngest Pandav) knew everything about the future. He knew that a war was going to occur, but he kept silent because he was under a curse that if he revealed anything to anybody he would die.

4. Arjun’s ‘pilgrimage’ for breaking his marital laws with Draupadi earned him three more wives. They were Chitrangada (Manipura), Ulupi (Naga) and Subhadra.

5. Arjun was unable to defend the wives of Krishna from common robbers after Krishna’s departure to Vaikuntha. His bow became heavy and he forgot all his mantras. The 8 main wives committed suicide. The others were kidnapped by robbers.

6. Yudhistira learnt to play dice form the Sage Vrihadaswa who narrated the story of Nala and Damayanti in their exile.

7. Bhima had one surviving son named Sarvaga by Balandhara, who was not given the throne despite being much elder to Parikshit. He became the ruler of Kashi (his mother’s land) instead.

8. Ekalavya was actually Krishna’s cousin. He was the son of Devashrava (brother of Vasudeva) who got lost in the forest and was found by a Nishada Hiranyadhanu. Ekalavya died protecting his father during Rukmini Swayamvar. He was killed by Krishna. For his great sacrifice of Gurudakshina, Krishna blessed Ekalavya that he would be soon reincarnated and take revenge on Drona. This person was Dhristadyumna (who killed Drona).

9. Krishna himself said to Arjun in Bhagwat Geeta ”O invincible one, you are Nara and I am Hari Narayana, and we, the sages Nara-Narayana, have come to this world at proper time”. (Nara Narayan are considered as the part avatars of Vishnu).

10. Mahabharat is also known as Pancham Veda, the fifth Veda.

11. Krishna broke his promise. In the battle of Mahabharat, Bhagwan Krishna promised that he will not pick up any weapon. On the other hand Bhishma promised Duryodhan that he will fight like a lion and will either kill Arjun or make Bhagwan Krishna break his promise. To respect words of his bhakt Bhisma, Krishna broke his promise and saved Bhisma from embarrassment. The intense battle between Bhishma and Arjun began, but despite being extremely powerful, Arjun was no match to Bhishma. Arjun was soon helpless, Bhagwan Krishna could not tolerate it, he immediately threw down the chariot rein and jumped out of it onto the battle field and lifted one of the chariot’s wheels and charged towards Bhishma determined to kill him. Arjun tried to stop Bhagwan Krishna, but all in vain.

12. Vidura (chief counsel of Dhritharashtra) was the incarnation of Yamaraj after being cursed by Manduk Muni to become a Sudra (the less intelligent class of men in the society) because he killed a small insect by accident, which was not harming him.

13. Some references indicate that Vidura was in possession of a mysterious and very powerful bow – gifted to him by Vishnu himself. The wielder of the bow would not face defeat in battle. When Krishna comes to make peace with the Kauravas – Duryodhana insults Vidura so much that Vidura decides that he will not participate in the war and in an attempt to completely fructify it, he breaks his bow in half.

14. There are different versions of the epic. One version is for Deva Loka.

15. Lots of past incidents including the Amrit Manthan are part of the original Mahabharata epic. The entire epic was narrated as a flashback at the Sarpa Yagna being conducted by Janamejaya, the son of Parikshit (Arjun’s Grandson). There are also inferences which narrate why the Sarpa Yagna had to be conducted, and who were the people acting as catalysts for the Yagna.

16. Krishna knew that the time has come, Arjun and his sister Subhadra are to be united. He confronted Arjun and told him to kidnap her. When Arjun kidnapped her, Balarama and the other Yadavas were furious. They were up in arms and were getting ready to chase Arjun and oust him in battle. Balarama stopped the entire frenzy and exclaimed that Krishna is sitting silently. When asked, Krishna replied that I think what Arjun has done is in accordance with Kshatriya dharma, as it is happening with the permission of Subhadra and family’s wishes (Krishna himself permitted Arjun). That is how Arjun got away with marrying Krishna’s sister Subhadra.

17. Krishna tried to narrate the Bhagavad Gita to Duryodhana. Obviously, if Duryodhana would have been educated, then the entire war would have been averted. But, Duryodhana told Krishna that he already knows what is right and what is wrong. His argument to Krishna was that there is some internal force within him which does not allow his mind to choose what is right. That his Prakriti is not allowing him to act as per his dharma.

18. Krishna is arguably the most difficult character to understand, as without bhakti no one can comprehend the existence of Bhagwan. Once, he even started fighting with Arjun. Bhagwan Shiv got so perturbed that he descended to stop the fight. He asked what Krishna was doing. Krishna’s simple reply was that Arjun needed to fight in battle and hence Krishna was testing Arjun.

19. Mahabharat is indeed a treasure house of knowledge. In the Vana Parvam, Draupadi teaches Patni dharma to Satyabhama. She elaborately explains the duties of a wife and the principles of a Pati-vrata. The teachings are still considered as the best practices for the deserving husbands of today. The golden words invoke sense of pride, respect and gratitude towards husband, that gets replicated in forming able children who in turn also respect their older parents in future.

20. The Kauravas were all mis-named because of their bad reputation. Duryodhana (which means Evil warrior) was actually Suyodhana (Good warrior), Dusshasana (means Bad ruler) was actually Sushaasana (good ruler), Dusshala (meaning one who moves badly) was actually Suchala (one who moves nicely) and so on. Though, India has a population of over 125 crore people today, you will hardly find single individual having names of major Kauravas, even enemies do not call names of their rivals on Kauravas, since it is considered as bad omen. No baby is named after them.

21. In Mahabharat, Shakuni appears to be on the side of Kauravas, but his secret intention was the downfall of both Pandavas and Kauravas. There was bitter past behind his hatred. Tragedy struck Gandhar, on the advice of astrologers, to avert a calamity it was said that Gandhari marry a goat for the Yagna before getting married to Dhritarashtra. Because Gandhari was Kanya and Yagna could have caused harm to her first husband. Technically, this made Gandhari a widow and Dhritarashtra her second husband.

Many years later when her husband Dhritrashtra knows this truth, shocked and enraged, Dhritrashtra puts Gandhari’s entire family, including king Subala in prison. In prison, they were served just one fistful of rice every day. Realizing that this was an elaborate plan to starve them to death, Gandhari’s father declared that none but his youngest son would eat the sparse food being served, so that at least one among them would survive to avenge the death of the rest. The youngest son of king Subala was Shakuni. He survived and swore not to rest until all of Kuru kingdom is destroyed. He used the thigh bones of his father to make the dice with which he was able to defeat the Pandavas in the gambling match, and thus which eventually led to the war at Kurukshetra and also to the destruction of entire Kuru clan. His father twisted his one leg to give him a permanent limp as a constant reminder of revenge.

In some of the versions of Mahabharat, Shakuni is also known as a devotee of Bhagwan Krishna.

22. Draupadi was asked 3 times by Duryodhana to come to the court after her husbands lost her in dicing. Draupadi kept denying and asked Duryodhana to question Yudhistira whether he staked himself first or her first. Duryodhana asked Draupadi to question her husband in court directly. Yet Draupadi refused to come and sent the attendant back. Duryodhana lost his temper and ordered Dusshasana to bring her there at any cost.

23. After the whole incident of Draupadi vastraharan, Draupadi herself apologises to the court saying “I had been dragged here and humiliated. In all that has occured, I did not bow down to the elders of the court and the family. My apologies to them.”

Even in such adverse situation, Draupadi remembered her dharma of Putravadhu. This bought tears in the eyes of elders and Bhisma. Draupadi never said “Andhe Ka Putra Andha” as per original Mahabharat. No single verse is found where Draupadi humiliates guest Duryodhana.

24. Jayadrath, who is mainly held responsible for slaying the 16 year old Abhimanyu (Arjun’s son) in the Chakravyuh, was in fact the only brother-in-law to the 101 Pandava and Kaurava brothers, married to their sister Dushala.

25. The narration of the Bhagavad Gita by Krishna was heard firsthand not only by Arjun but also Hanuman and Sanjay. Hanuman was perched on top of Arjuna’s chariot throughout the battle of Kurukshetra and Sanjay was blessed by Ved Vyas with divine vision in order to narrate the events of the battle to Dhritharashtra.

26. Iranvan, Son of Uloopi and Arjun self-sacrificed to the goddess Kali to show his bhakti towards her and ensure favor and the victory of the Pandavas in the war, with a wish to marry a girl before dying; to fulfill his wish Krishna married to him as Mohini (the roop he took during Samudra Manthan to protect Amrit) and cried after his death like a real wife.

27. Draupadi was a daughter of Panchal King Draupad. She did tapasya and prayed Bhagwan Shiv. After appearance of Shiv, she asked for the boon to marry a great man who had 14 of the best qualities. Bhagwan Shiv informed her such 14 qualities are not possible to be present in the yoni of a human being. But Draupadi insisted, so there upon Bhagwan Shiv granted her a wish – a marriage with 5 great men who would have 14 such great qualities, and also after every morning bath she would regain her virginity.

28. In his previous life, Dhritarashtra was a tyrant king, who one day while walking on the lake side saw a swan bird surrounded by hundred cygnets (young swans). He ordered to remove the swan bird’s eyes and kill all the hundred cygnets just for his passing fancy. Therefore, in next birth he was born blind and all his sons were killed in the war.

29. Bhishma was among the Eight Vasus (attendants to Indra) and was cursed by Sage Vasishtha (वशिष्ठ) for stealing his cow to take birth from Ganga. Although other 7 seven Vasus were drowned by Ganga, after their death, Bhishma was kept alive because of persuasion of his father Shantanu, and thus served the mortal form.

30. Krishna once protested to Yudhishthira that why the king of Indraprastha did not seek his assistance while playing the game of dice. If Sakuni could have played the game of dice on behalf of Duryodhana, then definitely Krishna could have played on behalf of the Pandavas.

31. It is said by some scholars that many verses of Mahabharat composed by Vyas were difficult for his scribe, the God of intelligence, Shree Ganesha to understand. These verses were understood by Ganesh in a split second’s break. This break allowed Vyas to visualize the further verses. But, these verses are so difficult that 80% of them remain unsolved even today. There are 8800 such verses in the Mahabharat. The recall of incidents and writing it all over so accurately was never done before in modern times by anyone.

32. Satyavati (mother of Vyasa) was the daughter of a cursed apsara named Adrika.

33. Ved Vyas was the father of Dhritrashtra, Pandu and Vidura.

34. Ved Vyas (Vyasa) simply wrote the history of his own sons, grandsons and great grandsons – all the while keeping himself entangled in the intricacies of the future of the kingdom of Hastinapur and yet remaining out of it.

35. Out of five Pandavas, three were the sons of Kunti – Yudhisthira from Yama, Bhima from Vayu and Arjuna from Indra. Other two sons, morning and evening stars, Ashwini were of Pandu’s second wife, Madri. All sky gods were called by Kunti to plant their seed in the wombs of these two wives. Pandu was not father of any of his sons.

36. While in exile, the Pandavas were traveling across the country. At one time, it so happened that they reached a forest near Dwarka. They were all resting under a tree when prominent Yadavas came to meet them. The Yadavas were raged at the condition of the Pandavas. They proclaimed that this is not how these virtuous men must suffer. Warriors like Satyaki and others insisted that they shall all go right now and destroy Duryodhana. They argued that the Pandavas were under oath to not attack, not the Yadavas. All were spirited to march to Hastinapur for war. Krishna was silent and everyone looked to him for sermon. Krishna merely pointed at Yudhishthira and said that “if this man agrees, then we shall go to war.”

Yudhishthira folded his hands and said that “You all must please leave us in our state as of now. My dharma has already been fixed. There is an understanding that myself and Duryodhana have arrived at. It is adharma to interpret it differently and fish for loopholes. I must follow my dharma.”

37. In Indralok, Arjun was propositioned by Apsara Urvashi, but he used to address her as ‘mother’. Annoyed with Arjun’s rejection, Urvashi cursed him that he would become a eunuch. When Devraj Indra came to know about the curse, he told Arjun that this curse is going to serve as a boon during the one year stay in hiding and after spending that period, he would regain his masculinity. This proved to be significant in Mahabharat. After spending 12 years in forest, Pandavas spent the 13th year of exile incognito, in the court of King Virat. Arjun used his curse as blessing and lived as a eunuch named Brihannala. This teaches that if adverse condition arises and life is in danger then disguising in any form to escape and remain alive becomes important. Many future kings of Bharat followed this principle of disguise and escaped their death from the evil clutches of enemy. Mahabharat teaches many things including morality and truth which can be practically adapted to save people and his leader’s life.


38. The situation, Bhagwan Krishna helped the Pandavas in Mahabharat. Duryodhan and Arjun both went to Dwarka to meet Bhagwan Krishna to seek his support for the war. Duryodhan was first to reach Dwarka. Satyaki informed that Krishna was asleep. Both Arjun and Duryodhan entered Krishna’s room. Duryodhan who entered the room first, sat on Krishna’s bed besides his head. Arjun went to the foot of the bed and stood there with his hands folded. When Krishna woke up he saw Arjun first. But Duryodhan said that since he came first it was only fair for Krishna to support the Kauravas. However, Krishna smiled and said that since he saw Arjun first so it would only be fair if he supported both the sides. So, on one hand was his famous Narayani army and on the other hand was he alone without any weapon. Duryodhana choose Narayani Sena. Arjun took support of Shree Krishna.

39. Yudhisthir (Yudhishthira) was very well known for his firm adherence to truth. But in the battle of Mahabharat, Drona who was Kauravas commander was killing thousands of Pandavas warriors. Krishna made a plan and Drona was told that Ashwathama has died. The plan was set in motion when Bheema killed an elephant named Ashwathama and loudly proclaimed that he was dead. Drona went up to Yudhisthira to ask him the truth, he replied that he was not sure of who had died, his son or the elephant. Bhagwan Krishna knew that Yudhishthira won’t be able to lie, so when he was speaking the truth, Krishna made loud noise by beating the drums, which dissolved Yudhisthir’s words. Drona was disheartened and laid down his weapons. He was later killed.

40. Mahabharat war lasted mere 18 days but killed millions of people, thousands of elephants and horses. Even today, traces of radiation are found in the places where the war was fought. Scientists often describe, in recent history, first ever nuclear war in the world was fought in India before 3000 BC.

41. After Sri Kirshna left the earth, Pandavas too lost their interest in life. They started their journey to heaven with a dog. All Pandavas lost their lives during the journey. Only Yudhisthir and the dog made it to heaven. That dog was Yamaraj.

42. Karna was born with Kavach and Kundala. Ashwathama had mani on his forehead since birth.

43. Karna’s teacher was Parshuram.

44. Karna and Bhisma never fought together because Karna had taken an oath not to fight till Bhisma is alive and a general of the Kauravas. Later he meets dying Bhisma to pay homage and seek forgiveness for his past errors. Bhisma receives Karna kindly, pardons him with affectionate words, then urges that Karna should not fight the war on Kauravas side because they are wrong and unjust; Bhisma recommends Karna to fight on the side of his step brothers Pandavas because they are on the side of truth and justice. Karna refuses to accept the advice of dying Bhisma.

45. Of the 100 brothers of Kaurava, only Yuyutsu survived the Mahabharata war.

46. Yuyutsu had fought from Pandavas side.

47. Bheem killed 99 brothers of Kauravas.

48. The only person who witnessed the Mahabharat war and is still alive is Ashwathama.

49. Drona was artificially born in a vessel. He was sage Bharadwaj’s son.

50. Krishna forgave Shishupala 100 times before killing him.

51. Mahabharat war is biggest front to front series of battles ever fought in the history of mankind. The size of Pandavas‘ army in the Kurukshetra war was 7 Akshauhinis, and those of Kauravas 11 Akshauhinis. An Akshauhini (Sanskrit: अक्षौहिणी), is described in the Mahabharat as a battle formation consisting of 21,870 chariots (Sanskrit ratha); 21,870 elephants; 65,610 cavalry and 109,350 infantry as per the Mahabharata (Adi Parva 2.15-23).

The ratio is 1 chariot : 1 elephant : 3 cavalry : 5 infantry soldiers. In each of these large number groups (65,610, etc.), the digits add up to 18.

The Akshauhini comprises of Gaja, Ratha, Ashwa and Padhata as follows:

One elephant (Gaja), one chariot (Ratha), three horses (Ashwa) and five foot soldiers (Padhata) form a Patti;

Three Pattis form a Sena-Mukha;

Three Sena-Mukhas make a Gulma;

Three Gulmas a Gana;

Three Ganas a Vahini;

Three Vahinis a Pruthana;

Three Pruthanas a Chamu;

Three Chamus a Anikini;

Ten Anikinis form an Akshauhini. Thus an Akshauhini, by calculation, contains 21,870 elephants, 21,870 chariots, 65,610 Horses, and 109,350 foot soldiers.

52. According to Stri Parva of Mahabharata, when Dhritarashtra asked Yudhishthira about the number of casualties and number of survivors, he answered, “1,66,00,20000 men have fallen in this battle. Of the heroes that have escaped, the number is 240,165. From both the armies – 1 billion, 660 million and 20,000 men died in the battle of Mahabharata.”

Strength of Kuru Army

Kuru Army of 11 Akshauhinis is formed by the kingdom of Hastinapur in alliance with races like the Samshaptakas, Trigartas, the Narayana army, the Sindhu army and Shalya of Madra.

Commanders in Chief of the War for the Kurus: Bhishma (10 days), Drona (5 days), Karna (2 days), Shalya (1 day), Ashwatthama (after Duryodhana loses the mace fight with Bheem)

Atirathis: Jayadratha and Shakuni.
Maharathis: Duryodhana, Dushasana, Vikarna, Kripacharya, Shalya, Bhisma, Dronacharya, Karna and Ashwathama.

Kaurava Army and Duryodhana’s Allies:

Bhagadatta the veteran – 1 Akshauhini
Shalya, king of Madra – 1 Akshauhini
Nila of Mahishmati – 1 Akshauhini (from south)
Kritavarma (Krishna’s Narayani sena of Yadavas) – 1 Akshauhini
Jayadratha (Saindhava) – 1 Akshauhini
Sudakshina, king of Kambhoja – 1 Akshauhini (has Yavanas & Sakas in his troops)
Vinda and Anuvinda (from Avanti) – 1 Akshauhini
Kalinga Forces – 1 Akshauhini
Shakuni of Gandhara – 1 Akshauhini
Susharma of Trigata – 1 Akshauhini
Kurus and other Allies – 1 Akshauhini

Kauravas had 240570 Elephants, 240570 Chariots, 721710 Horses and 1202850 Foot Soldiers.

Strength of Pandava Army


Pandava Army: is a coalition of 7 Akshauhinis, primarily the Panchala and Matsya forces, the Rakshasa forces of Bhima’s son, and Vrishni-Yadava fighters.

Atirathis: Uttara, Shikhandi and Upapandavas
Maharathis: Bhima, Nakula, Yuyutsu, Sahadeva, Yudhishthira, Dhristadyumna, Satyaki, Ghatotkacha,Abhimanyu, Drupada, Virata and Arjuna

Pandava Army and their Allies:

Satyaki of the Vrishni clan – 1 Akshauhini
Ghatotkacha – 1 Akshauhini
Dhrishtaketu, king of Chedis – 1 Akshauhini
Sahadeva, son of Jarasandha – 1 Akshauhini (from Magadha)
Drupada with his sons – 1 Akshauhini
Virata the king of Matsya – 1 Akshauhini
Pandya, Chola and other allies – 1 Akshauhini

The 4 types of units that make up an Akshauhini can also be seen in Chaturanga, the chess, created on the basis of Mahabharat war.

Pandavas had 153090 Elephants, 153090 Chariots, 459270 Horses and 765450 Foot Soldiers.
Interesting Facts Mahabharata War

53. Original name of Mahabharat is Jaya meaning Spiritual victory. Rishi Vyas’s focus was to narrate post-war portion of the history. Vyas knew that the detailed history of his sons and clan would help others to connect dots, that’s how the entire Mahabharat was compiled. As the Jaya was the most brilliantly composed historical archive, later on different clans of Kings who took part in this epic war contributed their part to the history. That is how we got Mahabharat of entire Bharatvarsha. Mahabharata when read multiple times, impart thousands of life lessons. Bhagwan resides in everyone and is operator of everything in this world. Killing Adharmis (terrorists against men, women and humanity) is not sinful. Bhagwan and his accomplices are thousands of years in future, impossible for us to meet them unless we unlock the secret mantras of Bhagwan and deities. We are living in the past. We all are already dead.

54. In Mahabharat, Krishna is the only one to keep his words for all his accomplices and enemies, even to the point of getting misunderstood or cursed later.

a) He saved Bhisma from embarrassment by breaking his own promise.

b) He fulfilled wish of Vali (given in Ram avatar in Tretayug) to avenge his death of getting killed by deceit, Vali in the form of hunter shot arrow at Krishna to end his Leela in Dwaparyug.

c) Krishna kept his words by protecting Arjun and Pandavas every time. Karna was better archer than Arjun. In direct fight, Arjun could have never won against Karna. Krishna got him killed to save Arjun and Pandavas, when his wheel stuck in the battle-field.

d) Krishna fulfilled promise given to the mother of Shishupal that he would forgive 100 sins of her son.

e) Gandhari cursed Krishna that Yaduvanshi would perish like Kauravas got killed in the war. Krishna fulfilled her wish by decimating the entire clan of Yaduvanshi after war. There are many lessons in destruction of Yaduvanshi clan – a person should avoid company of bad people (anti-vedic mlecchas), avoid intoxication, avoid alcohol, control lust, have asceticism (no greed) and follow path of Sanatan Dharma. Yaduvanshis became anti-Vedic and Adharmics, their annihilation was needed.

f) In a fit of rage, Gandhari cursed, Dwarka would get immersed in water. Krishna fulfilled her wish by flooding the Dwarka in to the bed of river.

g) Krishna is actually the greatest donor of the Mahabharat, he gave everything he had to Pandavas and Kauravas – his blessings, himself as Sarathi, his Sudarshan Chakra protection, his Narayani Sena, his sister’s hand to Arjun, his identity as God to serve the Dharma as a normal human being but he appreciated Karna as the biggest donor of all for donating his only Kavach. Even today Karna is known as Danveer Karna due to Krishna.

h) Krishna was present whenever he was expected to be there. Krishna was involved in the Mahabharat but was also externally controlling it. He took many forms to establish dharma. Once in exile, when Sages thought of having Bhojan with Pandavas. Draupadi was embarrassed as there was no food left with them, she had nothing to serve the Sages. She thought of Shree Krishna. Shree Krishna came and ask her to show the pot in which rice was cooked she hesitated and said there is nothing left. Krishna smiled and said to let him see the pot. A grain of cooked rice was visible to Krishna, he eat that single grain of rice, at that moment itself Sages felt their stomach is filled so they never returned from the Snan. Pandavas were saved from the possible curse. Krishna also saved Draupadi from Chirharan when she thought of Shree Krishna to rescue her. Bhagwan Krishna imparted big lesson to people here – Do not waste single grain of rice or food.

i) Barbarik had boon of 3 arrows, he could have finished the war in minutes with these divine arrows. He was the only Vedic Hindu warrior to shoot three arrows at a time. But the dilemma was he took oath at the insistence of Sage that he would fight with the weaker side or the losing army. This means he would have to switch sides as the war progresses. Krishna told him that he would kill Pandavas and Kauravas both; as his oath is destructive to the entire clan of Bharat.

Krishna asked Barbarik to slice his head off and save the clans. Barbarik requested Krishna to allow him to see the entire Mahabharata war. He was blessed that he will remain alive and his head was kept at a position in hill top from where he could see war. He witnessed every thing that happened in the war.

At the end of the war, when he was asked who fought valiantly his response was amazing, he said I only saw Krishna fighting, killing and dying – Sudarshan Chakra was doing everything. I did not see anyone. This highlights the moot point that we can see God or the real solution if we put ourselves external to the situation.

j) Krishna is the only character of Mahabharat who is only understood if you read Mahabharat 108 times continuously. This also proves that he is indeed God. Vastness of Universal God cannot be understood just by reading his few references. Krishna is the complete human being, God and protector of Mahabharat. Mahabharat is the biggest lesson of how Karma works, why and how each human being should perform his or her task.