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For other uses, see Arjuna (disambiguation).
"Partha" redirects here. For the film, see Partha (film).
Arjuna statue.JPG
Devanagari अर्जुन
Consort Draupadi, Subhadra, Ulupi, Chitrangada .

Pandu father, Kunti Mother,

Lord Indra father
Siblings The Pandavas
Children Srutakarma, Abhimanyu, Babruvahana, Iravan were his sons

Arjuna (pronounced [ərˈd͡ʑun] in classical Sanskrit) was the 3rd of the Pandava brothers. He is considered the protagonist of the Mahabharata with Krishna and plays a key role in the Bhagavad Gita.[1][2][3][4] He was married multiple times, to Draupadi, Subhadra (Krishna's sister), Ulupi, and Chitrangada. His children included Srutakarma, Iravan, Babruvahana, and Abhimanyu.

Etymology and other names[edit]

The name Arjuna means "bright" or "shining" (lit. "bright" or "silver" (cf. Latin argentum)).[5] Arjuna in Sanskrit is also interpreted as 'na arjayate Arjuna' which translates to the 'one who is not un-victorius'

The Mahabharata refers to Arjuna by twelve different names. In the story, these names are given when Prince Uttara of Matsya asks Arjuna to prove his identity. The first ten names are spoken by Arjuna himself, while the name "Kapi Dhwaja" is also used to refer to his chariot, the "Nandi Ghosha" .The names and their meanings are as follow:[6][7][8]

  • Arjuna (अर्जुन) - shining or famous like silver.
  • Phalguna (फाल्गुन) - one born under the star named 'Uttara Phalguni'.
  • Jishnu (जिष्णु) - triumphant.
  • Kiritin (किरीटिन्) - one who wears the celestial diadem, Kiriti, presented by Indra.
  • Shwetavahana (श्वेतवाहन) - one with white horses mounted to his chariot.
  • Bibhatsu (बीभत्सु) - one who always fights wars in a fair manner.
  • Vijaya (विजय) - always wins on war.
  • Partha (पार्थ) - son of Pritha, another name for Kunti.
  • Savyasachin (सव्यसाचिन्) - ambidextrous
  • Dhananjaya (धनञ्जय) - one who brings prosperity and wealth in the land where he goes to.
  • Gudakesha (गुडाकेश) - someone who have control over sleeps
  • Kapidhwaja (कपिध्वज) - having flag of Kapi (monkey) in his chariot (Arjuna's flag displayed an image of Hanuman from a previous encounter).
  • Parantapa (परन्तप) - one who concentrates the most, destroyer of enemies from his concentration.
  • Gandivadhanvan (गाण्डीवधन्वन्) - one who possessed the mighty bow named 'Gandiva' which was created by Lord Brahma.
  • Gandivadhara (गाण्डीवधर) - Gandiva holder
  • Madhyapandava (मध्यपाण्डव) - the third of Pandavas, younger to Yudhishthira and Bhima and elder to Nakula and Sahadeva.

Birth and youth[edit]

Boon of Indra to Kunti

Arjuna was born into the royal family of Hastinapura. He was acknowledged as a son of Pandu by his first wife Kunti, though he was fathered by the grace of the god Indra, rather than by Pandu who was cursed that he would die if he tried to father children. Arjuna was the third son, after Yudhishthira and Bhima. Younger to him were the twin sons born of Pandu's second wife Madri, Nakula and Sahadeva.

After the death of Pandu (and Madri's subsequent suicide), the Pandavas and their mother lived in Hastinapura, where they were brought up together with their cousins, the Kaurava brothers. Along with his brothers, Arjuna was trained in religion, science, administration and military arts by Bhishma.

One day, when the princes were playing a game, they lost their ball in a well. When the rest of the children gave up the ball as being lost, Arjuna stayed behind trying to get it. A stranger came by and extracted the ball for him by making a chain of "sarkanda" (a wild grass). When an astonished Arjuna related the story to Bhishma, Bhishma realized that the stranger was none other than Drona. Bhishma asked Drona to become the Kuru princes' teacher. Seeking refuge from Panchala, Drona agreed.

Tutelage under Drona[edit]

Under Drona's tutelage, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, along with the princes of Hastinapura's allies and vassals, learned weaponry. Arjuna became Drona's favorite and most accomplished pupil; specifically, he became a master in using the bow and the arrow. In a famous incident, Drona deemed that out of all his students, even his own son Ashwatthama, none but Arjuna had the steadfast focus to shoot the eye of a bird on a tree; he was proven right.[9]

In two other incidents, the reader sees how Arjuna's destiny is shaped. Arjuna was the only one with the skill and fortitude to save his teacher from an attack from a crocodile. In reality, the attack was a ruse Drona used to test his students. In another story, Arjuna, noticing Bhima eating in the dark, trained himself to shoot accurately without visualizing his target. Impressed by Arjuna, Drona promised his pupil that he would make Arjuna the greatest archer that ever lived or ever would live. Drona adhered to this vow so strongly, that when he discovered a Kirat prince Ekalavya of superior archery skill, Drona demands him into cutting off the thumb of his hand (needed to draw the bow) so that he kept his promise to Arjuna.

As part of his gurudakshina, Arjuna and his brothers, attacked Panchal and captured King Drupada, with Arjuna making the arrest himself. Drona requested this in order to settle an old grudge he had with Drupada. Secretly, Drupada was greatly impressed by Arjuna and wished for him to marry his daughter, Draupadi.

At the end of their training, the Kuru princes displayed their talents to their elders in an arena. There, Arjuna steals the show, using divine weapons to great effect. However, before he can be crowned as the victor of the tournament, he is challenged by Karna. Karna matched Arjuna's feats. But due to his low birth, Karna is not allowed to compete and gets insulted by Bhima and the others for being a sutaputra; this incident marks the beginning of a feud between Karna and Arjuna that lasts until the end of the story.

As the Pandavas and Kauravas grew older, a crown prince had to be named. Yudhishthira won the nomination over Duryodhana. Angered, Duryodhana plotted with his uncle Shakuni, who masterminded a plan to kill the Pandavas. The Kauravas have a house of wax built; they desired to send the Pandavas vacationing to the wax house, under some pretense, before setting the house on fire. Alerted of the scheme by Vidura, the Pandavas evaded the trap. Arjuna and Bhima wanted to declare war, but Yudhishthira cooled them down. Under his orders, Arjuna, Kunti, and the Pandavas faked their deaths and went into hiding.

Marriage to Draupadi[edit]

the Swayamvara of Panchala's princess, Draupadi

Still in hiding, the Pandavas disguise themselves as brahmins and attend the Swayamvara of Panchala princess Draupadi. Out of all of the great kings and other Kaurava princes, only Karna and Arjuna are able to do the established challenge. The test is to lift, string, and fire Pinakin to pierce the eye of a golden fish whilst only looking at its reflection; Drupada had designed this test with Arjuna in mind. At first Karna is able to lift and string the bow, but when he is aiming to fire the shot, Draupadi rejects Karna (in some depictions with Krishna's prodding) for his low-birth. Afterwards, the disguised Arjuna accomplished the stringing and shooting of the bow.

In some versions of the story, Arjuna is the only prince (of the Kaurava/Pandava party) to have interacted with Draupadi before. When attacking/kidnapping Drupada, Draupadi, trained in martial arts due to Panchal's attitudes towards gender neutrality, fights with Arjuna, but Arjuna after some while stops and evades Draupadi, saying that he cannot fight a woman.

In some versions of the Swayamvara, Arjuna is forbidden by Kunti to attend the Swayamvara. Kunti's reasoning is that only Yudhishthira and Duryodhana would be acceptable candidates for Draupadi's hand; anyone else, not set to inherit the throne, would be an insult to Panchal. She allows Bhima to attend because he is Yudhishthira's heir and could win Draupadi for his brother without controversy. When Arjuna disobeys her anyways, as he is firing the arrow, he swears to God that if wins Draupadi's hand, he would never disobey his mother's commands.

When the brothers returned with Draupadi, Arjuna joked to his mother that they had brought alms. Dismissively, and without looking because she was preoccupied, Kunti asks him to share it with his brothers. Holding his mother's orders as a divine command, he requested his elder brother to accept Draupadi. Draupadi had to marry all five of the Pandavas. Her five sons, one from each of the Pandava brothers, are known as the Upapandavas.[10] Srutakarma is the son of Arjuna.

The brothers follow Narada's advice on a sharing arrangement with regard to Draupadi: each brother would have exclusive rights over her for a year, after which the mantle will shift to the next brother. Moreover, any brother intruding on the privacy of the couple would have to go on a twelve-year Tirtha-yatra.

At this point in the Mahabharatha, the Pandavas revealed that they were alive. With both Duryodhana and Yudhishthira being crown princes, tensions are high. Under Bhishma's advice, the kingdom is split, with the Kauravas getting Hastinapur and the Pandavas getting Khandavaprastha. Khandavaprastha, however, was an extremely underdeveloped land and had infertile soil, requiring extensive tilling, so the Pandavas set to work rebuilding the land. Their cousins Krishna and Balarama gave them aid.

Burning of Khandava Vana[edit]

In some versions of the story, this was the first time Arjuna meets Krishna. In any case, Khandavaprastha was where Arjuna and Krishna's friendship is truly forged. Once when roaming in the Khandava Vana, Arjuna and Krishna met the god of fire, Agni. Agni was in great hunger and needed to burn down the entire Khandava Vana to quench his hunger. But Takshaka, the serpent-king lived in the same forest and was a friend of Indra's. So the latter brought down heavy rains to thwart Agni's plans to burn the woods. Agni requested Krishna and Arjuna to help him realize his goal.[11]

The three of them then invoked Varuna, the God of the oceans, who blessed Arjuna with the Gandiva – the moon bow created by Brahma. In this way, Arjuna came into possession of his famous bow. Agni also gave Arjuna an incandescent chariot with four horses yoked, and bearing a flag that would one-day be occupied by Hanuman. Arjuna also obtained his famous conch.[12]

With Krishna using the Sudarshana Chakra[12] Arjuna and Krishna waged a successful battle against Indra and helped Agni burn down the entire Khandava Vana including all its demons and evil spirits. Indra's anger was metered by his pride in his son.

Saving Mayasura[edit]

Srikrishna offer to build a palace, to mayasura

In their demolition of Khandava Krishna and Arjuna had saved one demon, Mayasura.[11] Owing Arjuna a boon, Mayasura told that he would build a palace for Yudhishtra. As Mayasura was a great architect of the Asuras, he soon constructed the Maya assembly hall – a gigantic palace for the Pandavas, filled with ancient books, artifacts, and jewels. This hall was famous for visual illusions. Thus, Khandavaprastha was renamed Indraprastha.[13]

Arjuna's Tirtha-yatra and Indraprastha[edit]

Arjuna enters Dharma's Budoir

During an incident when Takshaka stole Brahmins cows, Arjuna was forced to violate Yudhishthira and Draupadi's privacy while they were playing the game of dice, as he had left the Gandiva in their room. Despite the understanding of all and being forgiven by both Yudhishthira and Draupadi, Arjuna accepted the punishment agreed with Narada and set off on a twelve-year tirtha-yatra.

Meeting Uloopi[edit]

Ulupi meets Arjuna

Arjuna started his pilgrimage by visiting the source of the river Ganga. It was here that he met the Naga princess, Uloopi. She was mesmerized by Arjun and forcefully took him to Naga Lok (the land of the snake-people) and gave him a choice: if he married her, she would let him go; otherwise, she would not. He married her, and they had a son called Iravan.[14][15]

Chitrangadaa at Manipura[edit]

Arjuna visited other Tirthas in India, including Kalinga and the ashrams of the Saptarishis, Agastya, Vasishta and Bhrigu. Finally he reached the palace of Manipur. Here he met king Chitravahana's daughter, Chitrangadaa. Arjun fell in love with her and requested the king for her marriage. Upon discovering Arjuna's true identity, the king readily agreed. Since Chitrangadaa was his oldest child and Manipur practiced equal primogeniture, which Hastinapur did not practice, the king sought a promise from Arjuna that Chitrangadaa and any of her and Arjuna's children would remain in Manipur as Chitravahana's heirs. Arjuna thought for some while and agreed. They both had a son, who survived the Mahabharata war and ruled the small kingdom peacefully.[16][17]

Reaching Dwarka and Subhadra[edit]

Arjuna and Subhadra.
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma.

Arjuna moved to other Tirthas, including the southern regions in Kerala. Finally he reached Dwarka, the place where his cousin Krishna resided. Arjuna had, in his childhood, heard about Krishna's sister, Subhadra. Krishna, wishing to further tie their families, knew of Arjuna's visit and devised a plan to arrange their meet. Accordingly, Arjuna disguised himself as a “yati” and stayed at Krishna's palace. Arjuna fell in love with Subhadra and desired to marry her . Because Balarama had already promised Subhadra to his favorite disciple, Duryodhana, Krishna advised Arjuna to kidnap Subhadra. Balarama became furious upon learning of the abduction but is pacified by Krishna, after he showed that the wedding rein was in Sudhadra's hand, which showed her consent. The couple stayed in Dwaraka for a year, and then another year in Pushkar. However, Draupadi had made it clear that no other Pandava wife would be allowed to stay in her city, so Arjun, as per Krishna's advice, tricked Draupadi into meeting Subhadra as a milkmaid. Draupadi realized she had been tricked, but she forgave Subhadra and let her stay in Indra-prastha, allowing her to give company to Arjuna in the four years when he was not with Draupadi. In due course,Arjuna and Subhadra gave birth to a son, Abhimanyu.[18][19]

Conquest for Rajasuya[edit]

Arjuna went for Rajasuya Yaga
Possible route taken by Arjuna for the Rajasuya sacrifice.

Arjuna was sent north by Yudhishthira to subjugate kingdoms for the Rajasuya Yagya, so that he could be crowned Emperor of Indraprastha. The Mahabharata mentions several kingdoms to the east of Indraprastha which were conquered (or otherwise peacefully bent-the-knee) by Arjuna. Some of them are:[20]

  • Bhagadatta of Pragjyotisha- He repelled Arjuna for eight days straight but impressed with Arjuna's skill agreed to pay tribute. Bhagadatta was also a great friend of Pandu.
  • Vrihanta, the king of Uluka
  • Modapura, Vamadeva, Sudaman, Susankula, the Northern Ulukas, and the kings of those countries and peoples
  • Devaprastha, the city of Senavindu
  • Viswagaswa of Puru's race
  • Seven tribes called Utsava-sanketa
  • Kshatriyas of Kashmir and also king Lohita along with ten minor chiefs
  • Trigartas, the Daravas, the Kokonadas, and various other Kshatriyas
  • town of Avisari
  • Rochamana ruling in Uraga
  • Singhapura adi
  • Regions Suhma and Sumala
  • Valhikas
  • Daradas along with the Kambojas
  • Robber tribes that dwelt in the north-eastern regions
  • Lohas, the eastern Kambojas, and northern Rishikas
  • country of the Limpurushas ruled by Durmaputra
  • Harataka
  • Various lakes and tanks sacred to the Rishis
  • regions ruled by the Gandharvas that lay around the Harataka territories. Here the conqueror took, as tribute from the country, numerous excellent horses called Tittiri, Kalmasha, Manduka.
  • North Harivarsha
  • city of Sakraprastha


After Yudhishthira succumbed to Shakuni's challenge in the game of dice, the Pandavas were forced to be in exile for 13 years, which included one year in anonymity.

Penance for Pashupatastra[edit]


After the battle at Khandava Indra had promised Arjuna to give him all his weapons as a boon for matching him in battle with the requirement that Shiva is pleased with him. Sensing an impending war with the Kauravas, Sage Vyasa advised Arjuna that he obtain the Pashupatastra from Lord Shiva. Following the advice of Sage Vyasa to go on a meditation or "tapasya" to attain this divine weapon, Arjuna left his brothers for a penance.

Arjuna traveled for a while before reaching the mountain Indra keeladri, Vijayawada. Here he sat in meditation in the name of Lord Shiva. Shiva appeared soon enough in the guise of a hunter, who challenged Arjuna to a fight. While being thoroughly dominated by Shiva, Arjuna became confused as to how an ordinary hunter could best a warrior like himself. He prays to Shiva for strength, and then sees the offerings he made to Shiva around the hunter's neck. Shiva was very pleased with the bravery and prowess of the prince. Consequently, Shiva transformed himself to show his real avatar and blessed Arjuna with the Pashupatastra. Shiva lectures Arjuna on the abilities of the weapon, as well as the judgement he must use while wielding it.

After Shiva left the Lokapalas appeared before Arjuna and then Kubera, Yama, and Varuna also blessed each of their potent weapons to Arjuna. Indra then invited his son to his palace in heaven.

Arjuna was amazed at the splendor of his father's palace at Amaravati. Dancers like Urvashi, Tilottama, Rambha and Menaka entertained him. There was a huge banquet serving different varieties of heavenly dishes. Arjuna learnt song and dance from the Gandharva, Chitrasena and Indra himself taught him all the divine weapons and also gave him his Vajra.[21]

Urvashi's curse[edit]

Urvashi's curse

Indra noted the passionate glances exchanged between Arjuna and Urvashi during his stay. However, Arjuna refused her advances, alleging that he had heard of her relationship with his ancestor Pururava, and hence she had the status of a mother, equal in respect to Kunti.[22] Urvashi, annoyed at this, cursed him that he would become a eunuch who would have to live among women, singing and dancing. On Indra's request, and regretting her anger, Urvashi reduced her curse to a period of one year of Arjuna's choice. In some versions of the story, Urvashi curses Arjuna with womanhood, but always reduces the curse to a year's length.

Nivata-kavachas and Hiranyapura[edit]

Arjuna gets the opportunity to test his skill when Indra asked him to defeat his enemy as the price of his training. Arjuna was taken to the palace of the Nivata-kavachas, a tribe of Rakshasas who had a magnificent palace under the oceans. Arjuna used the Mohini-astra and the Madhava-astra to demolish these asuras.

He was also taken to Hiranyapura, a palace in the sky created by a witch Puloma and his asura tribe of the Kalakanjas. Here Arjuna uses the Raudra-astra and annihilates the demons.[23]

Meeting Hanuman[edit]

Continuing his quest, Arjuna visits the site of Rama Setu in Dhanushkodi. There, he openly questions why, if Rama had been such a great archer, he hadn't simply built the bridge out of arrows. Angered at Arjuna's tone and his apparent questioning of Rama's prowess, Hanuman confronts Arjuna in the form of an ordinary monkey and challenges him to prove his superiority by building a bridge of arrows that could bear his (Hanuman's) weight. Tensions escalate until Arjuna pledges to defeat Hanuman or kill himself, going so far as to frivolously use divine weapons to build bridge after bridge, while Hanuman uses his god-given strength to destroy them all. Eventually, Krishna intervenes, chiding Arjuna for his excessive pride and Hanuman for allowing his love of Rama to overcome his pacifism. Regaining his composure, Hanuman pledges to reside in Arjuna's battle standard (flag) during the Kurukshetra war.[24]

Eunuch at Virata's Kingdom[edit]

Brihannala - Eunuch at Virata's Kingdom
Main article: Brihannala

Along with his brothers, Arjuna spent his last year of exile in the kingdom of Matsya. This is the place where Urvashi's curse is implemented and Arjuna becomes a eunuch called Brihannala (within themselves Pandavas called him Vijaya).[25] At the palace, he teaches song and dance, qualities he had learnt from Chitrasena [King of the Gandharvas in Devalok], to the King Virata's daughter, Uttarā. Later, Arjuna arranges for Uttara to become his daughter-in-law by marrying his son Abhimanyu to her. At the same time, he prevents Subhadra from marrying Abhimanyu to Balarama's daughter Vatsala, as the Kurus find cousin-cousin marriages taboo. But Arjun and Subhadra are cousins too since Kunti (Arjun's Mother) and Vasudeva (Subhadra's father) are brother and sister.

Hearing about the death of Kichaka, Duryodhana surmises that the Pandavas were hiding in Matsya. A host of Kaurava warriors attack Virata, presumably to steal their cattle, but in reality, desiring to pierce the Pandavas' veil of anonymity. Full of bravado, Virata's son Uttar attempts to take on the army by himself while the rest of the Matsya army has been lured away to fight Susharma and the Trigartas. Per Draupadi's suggestion, Uttar takes Brihannala with him, as his charioteer. When he sees the Kaurava army, Uttar loses his nerve and attempts to flee. There, Arjuna reveals his identity and those of his brothers'. Switching places with Uttar, Arjuna takes up the Gandiva and Devadatta. Eager to defend the land that had given him refuge, Arjuna dressed up as Brihannala encountered the legion of Kaurava warriors.Virat war is considered as an interpolation by many schlors.Many versions of Mahabharata do not mention it. In some versions Arjuna was defeated by Bhishma Drona and Karna and Arjuna finally chased duryodhana and defeated him . According to many schlors Virat war is an interpolated medicine to recover the cheater and weak image of Arjuna.Schlors do also argue that if Arjuna defeated the Kaurava army in just half a day then why he had done cheating to kill Bhishma Karna Bhagadatta Bhurisrava and Jayadrath in Kurushetra war.[26]

Kurukshetra War[edit]

Bhagavad Gita[edit]

A statue of Arjuna and Lord Krishna, with Krishna as the sarathi or charioteer
Main article: Bhagavad Gita

As the battle draws close, Arjuna is overcome with self-doubt about the righteousness of the war against his own kith and kin. He is distraught at the thought of having to fight with his friends and family such as his dear teacher, Drona and grandsire Bhishma. It was then that Krishna took charge and explained the necessity and inevitability of the war to Arjuna. This conversation is a key part of the Mahabharata known as Bhagavad gita, and is considered as a holy scripture of Hinduism.

Arjuna plays the role of the reader in the Bhagavad Gita. As Krishna dispenses the advice, Arjuna asks the questions.

The Bhagavad Gita primarily takes the form of a philosophical dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna.

Battles fought at Kurukshetra[edit]

Defeat of Jayadratha

Arjuna was a key Pandava warrior and played a huge role in the Kurukshetra war. His flag bore the symbol of Hanuman.[27]

Some of the crucial battles fought by Arjuna are as follows:

  • Death of Bhagadatta: On the thirteenth day when Abhimanyu was slayed. Arjuna was busy fighting Bhagaddata the king of Pragjyotisha who came with a thousand elephants and attacked him. During the battle Bhagaddata shot an irresistible arrow Vaishnavastra which could kill Arjun but he was saved by Krishnas timely intervation. Which fell on Krishna and formed a garland. Bhagadatta was later decapitated by Arjuna's arrow.
  • Fall of Bhishma: Throughout the first nine-days of battle, Arjuna was unable to defeat Bhishma.This was partially due to his own reluctance to fight his grandsire, as well as Bhishma's terrific skill. As Krishna became frustrated with Arjuna, he took up arms against Bhishma himself, at least twice. Not wanting history to blame Arjuna for forcing Krishna to break his vow of non-aggression, Arjuna managed to talk Krishna down and fought with renewed vigor. On the tenth day of the war, after asking Bhishma himself how to best defeat him, Arjuna took Shikhandi in his chariot. As Bhishma would not raise weapons against a woman, Arjuna was able to attack Bhishma unimpeded. Tears flowing from his eyes, Arjuna pierced Bhishma's entire body with arrows, eventually forcing Bhishma to fall down with Arjuna's arrows acting as a bed. Per Bhishma's request, he provided a pillow of arrows for his head, as well as water by piercing the earth and allowing Ganga to nourish her son. Bhishma praises Arjuna for this and asks Duryodhana to make peace with the Pandavas.[28]
  • Killing of the Trigartas: Attempting to distract him so that Dronacharya could capture Yudhishthira, Susharma and the Trigartas challenged Arjuna to a fight to the death. On the twelfth and thirteenth days of battle, Arjuna killed them to a man.[29] And on the eighteenth day, Arjuna killed Susharma with an arrow which ended the Trigarta saga.
  • Death of Jayadratha: Arjuna held Jayadratha responsible for Abhimanyu's death on the thirteenth day of the war. He vowed to kill him the very next day before sunset, failing which he would kill himself by jumping in a pyre. The Kauravas hid Jayadratha from Arjuna in a formation, knowing that Arjuna's death would result in a Kaurava victory. However, Krishna created an artificial eclipse by using his Sudarshana Chakra to hide the sun, forcing Kauravas to believe the day was over and Arjuna's death was imminent. Wishing to mock Arjuna, Jayadratha went to the head of the army in joy, even as the sun emerged from the eclipse. Arjuna makes his arrows to carry away Jayadratha's head. This was because Jayadratha had a boon from his father that whoever would be responsible for his head falling to the ground would have his own head blown up. That is why Arjuna carried the severed head of Jayadratha to his father, who was awoken from his meditation by the sudden landing of a severed head on his body and since he ended up dropping it to the ground, he had his head blown up.
Arjuna Slays Karna, page from a copy of the Razmnama, Mughal period
  • Death of Karna: Karna and Arjuna were sworn enemies in the epic, each having taken an oath to kill the other in the battle. Anticipating a likely battle to the death between Karna and Arjuna, Krishna warned Arjuna calling Karna to be the foremost of the heroes.[30] Lord Krishna reminded Arjuna about the life, prowess, and past heroic actions of Karna.[31]

After the terrible death of Dushassana, Karna decided to personally take on Arjuna and finish him off for once and all. Karna cut his way ruthlessly through the Pandava forces and headed straight for Arjuna. So violet and offensive was Karna's attacks that Arjuna's defenses soon crumbled before it. Karna used Nagastra in an attempt to kill Arjuna, but Krishna saved Arjuna from certain death by lowering the chariot wheel into the earth. Karna and Arjuna then waged a rough war against each other. Karna had Arjuna at his mercy, but spared the latter as the sun was about to set. In some versions, Lord Krishna realized that only a miracle would save Arjuna from death, and he causes the sun to set prematurely.[32]

Lord Krishna made plans to kill Karna by deceit and revealed his plan to Arjuna. Lord Krishna told Arjuna that Karna would be defeated while unarmed and distracted, and that Arjuna should not hesitate when Krishna told him to attack.[33]

On the seventeenth day of battle the two foes faced each other once more. This battle between Arjuna and Karna is perhaps the most cataclysmic and awesome of the great epic. The warriors on the battlefield and the devas in heaven watched the battle in speechless amazement and terrified admiration of the strength and skill of these two greatest of warriors. The battle again continued with neither warriors gaining the upper hand; but then Karna's chariot wheel gets stuck in the mud resulting from a prior curse on Karna. Further, owing to a curse Karna received from his guru Parasurama, Karna forgot the mantra to invoke the Brahmanda astra. Karna got down from his chariot to free the wheel and asked Arjuna to pause, reminding him of the etiquette of war. But Krishna reminded Arjuna of all the incidents - Draupadi’s insult, Abhimanyu’s death and the enraged Arjuna attacked Karna while he was trying to lift his sunken chariot wheel. Karna defended himself and invoked Rudraastra against Arjuna and this astra hit Arjuna on his chest.[34] Swooning, Arjuna lost his grip on his bow, Gandiva, which fell down from his hand for the first time. Following the rules of engagement of war, Karna did not try to kill him but instead tried to utilize the time in extracting the wheels of his chariot. Arjuna recovered and using the Anjalika weapon decapitated the weaponless Karna, who was still trying to lift the sunken chariot wheel. Though it was highly forbidden according to the rules of engagement of the war to attack a weaponless warrior or to attack an enemy from the back, Arjuna was spurred by Lord Krishna to do so.

Conquest for Ashvamedha[edit]

After the conclusion of the war, the Pandavas take charge of Hastinapura, the undivided realm of their ancestors. Yudhishira appointed Arjuna as the Yuvaraj of Hastinapura.[35]

Yudhishthira decided to hold the Ashvamedha Yagna, or "horse sacrifice", to grant them the title of Chakravarti ("Emperor"). Arjuna led the armed forces which followed the horse around its random wanderings. He received the submission of many kings, either without or following an armed confrontation. He was thus instrumental in the expansion of the Pandava domains. Some of the campaigns are as under:

  • Uttarapatha, including those of Pragjyotisha, Uluka, Modapura, Vamadeva, Sudaman, Susankula, Northern Uluka, Puru kingdom of Viswagaswa, Utsava-Sanketa, Lohita, Trigarta, Darava, Abhisara, Kokonada, Ursa, Simhapura, Suhma, Sumala, Balhika, Darada, Kamboja.
  • Transoxiana region (Sakadvipa or Scythia), the Lohas, Parama Kambojas, Northern Rishikas (or Parama Rishikas), Limpurushas, Haratakas, Gandharvas and the Uttarakurus.
  • Trigarta: Ketuvarman and Dhritavarman
  • King Vajradatta, son of Bhagadatta
  • Saindhava
  • Manipura and death by Babruvahana:
Arjuna is killed by his son Babhruvahana in battle - a composite Razmnama illustration circa 1616
Arjuna went to Manipura, where the king was Babruvahana, his own son with Chitrangadaa. Seeing his father Babruvahana came all the way to receive Arjuna. Arjuna was very upset that Babruvahana did not respect the duties worthy of a King and did not ask for war. He cursed his son as a coward and asked him to prepare for war. In the fight between father and son Babruvahana killed Arjuna, but Ulupi, the snake-princess used the Mritasanjivani, a boon from Ganga Devi to bring Arjuna back to life. It is later stated that the defeat was because of Arjuna's using of Shikhandi to plot Bhishma's death and the unethical killing of Karna.[36]
  • Magadha, Rajagriha and King Meghasandhi
  • Chedi and other kingdoms
  • Kasi, Anga, Kosala, Kirata and Tanga kingdoms. Arjuna accepted due honors from respective rulers.
  • Dakarna
  • Nishada: Arjuna was able to defeat the Nishada King, the son of Eklavya.
  • Andhra people led by Mahishaksha, tribes of Kolwa hills
  • Saurashtra, Gokarn city and Prabhaska
  • Dwarvati and Vrishni race
  • Punjab
  • Gandhara
  • Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple

Arjuna built the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple during his conquest in South India.Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is one of the "Divya Desams", the 108 temples of Vishnu revered by the 12 poet saints, or Alwars[37] located near Aranmula, a village in Pathanamthitta District, Kerala, South India.The temple is dedicated to Parthasarathy, Lord Krishna's role as Arjuna's Charioteer in the Mahabharatha war.[38] Legend has it that Arjuna built this temple, to expiate for the sin of having killed Karna on the battlefield, against the dharma of killing an unarmed enemy.


Arjuna throws his weapons in water as advised by Agni

After Shri Krishna left his mortal body, Arjuna took the citizens of Dwaraka including 16,000 women that had formed Krishna's harem to Indraprastha. On the way, they were attacked by a group of bandits. Arjuna fought with them but he already lost his divine energy and even lost the power to wield the celestial bow Gandiva. Arjuna forgot all his celestial weapons and soon his inexhaustible quiver become empty due to the disappearance of divine energy owing to the death of Krishna. Arjuna was defeated by mere robbers and in his very sight the ladies of the Vrishnis, Andhakas and the 16000 wives of Krishna were taken away.[39][40]

Upon the onset of the Kali yuga and as per the advice of Vyasa, Arjuna and other Pandavas retired, leaving the throne to their only descendant to survive the war of Kurukshetra, Arjuna's grandson Parikshit. Giving up all their belongings and ties, the Pandavas, accompanied by a dog, made their final journey of pilgrimage to the Himalayas. It is also to be noted that the listener of the Mahabharata is Janamejaya, Parkishit's son.

Except for Yudhishthira, all of the Pandavas grew weak and died before reaching heaven (only Yudhishthira is allowed to keep his mortal body). Arjuna was the fourth one to fall after Draupadi, Sahadeva and Nakula. When Bhima asks Yudhishthira why Arjuna isn't permitted the same, the reason given is Arjuna's extreme pride in his skills as an archer. Draupadi also falls because while she claimed to love all the Pandavas equally, she had a soft spot for Arjuna.[41]

In popular culture[edit]

Arjuna is one of the most popular choices of name for Hindu male child in the Indian subcontinent. As per the verses in Harivamsha or Harivamsha purana, the name Arjuna is cursed by sage Parashurama. After the defeat of mighty evil king Kartavirya Arjuna or otherwise called Sahasra Arjuna, sage Parashurama cursed that who ever holds the name Arjuna will never become a king and always be a servant of others.[42]

Modern references[edit]

Arjuna's extraordinary talents and skills have made him a common name in popular culture.

  • The American astronomer Tom Gehrels named a class of asteroids with low inclination, low eccentricity and earth-like orbital period as Arjuna asteroids.[43][44][45]
  • The Arjuna Award is presented every year in India to one talented sportsman in every national sport.
  • Arjun is a third generation main battle tank developed for the Indian Army.
  • Mayilpeeli Thookkam is a ritual art of dance performed in the temples of Kerala. It is also known as Arjuna Nrithyam (lit. Arjuna's dance) as a tribute to his dancing abilities.

There have been a serial and a film based on Arjuna's life and exploits.

Additionally, the protagonist in Steven Pressfield's book The Legend of Bagger Vance, Rannulph Junuh, is based in part on Arjuna (R. Junuh).[46]

In Modern Television[edit]

In B.R.Chopra's Mahabharat, Arjuna's role is played by Arjun (Firoz Khan).

In 2013 Mahabharat Television series, Arjuna is portrayed by Shaheer Sheikh.


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