Uttarā (Mahabharata)

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Not to be confused with Uttara (Mahabharata).
Uttara crying for her husband

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Uttarā or Anglicized as Uttara (उत्तरा) was the daughter of King Virata, at whose court the Pandavas spent a year in concealment during their exile. She was the sister of Prince Uttar.[1]

It is also believed that Uttara had learnt dance from Arjuna during the Pandavas' year of exile-in the Virata's kingdom. Living incognito, as was the term of the banishment, Arjuna lived a life of a eunuch and practiced his art of dance learnt from the apsaras in heaven. Once King Virata realized who Uttara's dance teacher was, he immediately proposed to offer his daughter to Arjuna. However, Arjuna explained to King Virata the doting relationship that a teacher has with his/her student is like that of a parent and child. He then proposed to make Uttara his daughter by marrying her to his son, Abhimanyu.[2]

Uttara was widowed at a very young age when Abhimanyu was killed in the Kurukshetra war. When Abhimanyu died, Uttara tried to burn herself on the pyre of Abhimanyu, but Krishna stopped her from doing so, informing her of her pregnancy.

Towards the end of the Mahabharata war, with Uttara in labor, Ashwathama, son of Dronacharya, while trying to avenge the defeat of Duryodhana and the Kaurava army, engaged in a war with Arjuna. Knowing he could not best Arjuna conventionally, Ashathama invoked the potent Brahmastra, despite the promise he had made to the father/teacher that he would never use such a weapon. When Arjuna fired a Brahmastra to match, Vyasa intervened, commanding both warriors to withdraw their weapons. While Arjuna successfully did so, Ashwatthama did not possess the required knowledge. Krishna suggested that Ashwatthama redirect the weapon to an uninhabited place. Regretful, tired, but still vengeful, Ashwathama decided that if he could not end the Pandavas, he would end their lineage. He fired the weapon at Uttara's womb, attacking the fetus form of Parikshit. Krishna intervened and revived the stillborn baby, giving Parkshit his name. As a repentance, Ashwathama was made to lose his source of power, the jewel that adorned his shining forehead. This loss of the jewel that adorned his forehead made Ashwathama lose his state of mental alertness, and he was forced to retire to obscurity as a derelict in the forests. Parikshit became the heir to the Kuru dynasty and eventually became king of Hastinapur. In due time, Parkishit gave Uttara a grandson, Janamejaya.[3]


  1. ^ Dowson, John (1888). A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature. Trubner & Co., London. p. 1. 
  2. ^ Abhimanyu, Veer. "Marriage with Utthara". Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Narasimhan, C. V. (1997). The Mahabharata: An English Version Based on Selected Verses. Columbia University Press. p. 1.