A mughal depiction of Ghatotkacha (top) getting killed by Karna (top left).
Ghatotkacha (Sanskrit: घटोत्कच Ghaṭōtkaca "Bald Pot"), is an important character in the Mahabharata. His name comes from his head, which was hairless (utkaca) and shaped like a ghatam. Ghatotkacha was the son of the Pandava Bhima and the Rakshasi Hidimbi. His maternal parentage made him half-Rakshasa and gave him many magical powers such as the ability to fly, to increase or decrease his size and to become invisible. He was an important fighter from the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra war.
Ghatotkacha was born to Hidimbi and the Pandava Bhima. When traveling the countryside with his brothers and mother as a brahmin, having escaped the lakshagraha, Bhima saved Hidimbi from her wicked brother, Hidimba. Soon after Ghatotkacha was born, Bhima had to leave his family, as he still had duties to complete at Hastinapura. Ghatotkacha grew up under the care of Hidimbi. One day he received a pearl which he later gave to his cousin Abhimanyu. Like his father, Ghatotkacha primarily fought with the mace. Lord Krishna gave him a boon that no one in the world would be able to match his sorcery skills (except Krishna himself). His wife was Ahilawati and his son was Barbarika.
In the Mahābhārata, Ghatotkacha was summoned by Bhima to fight on the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra battle. Invoking his magical powers, he wrought great havoc in the Kaurava army. In particular, after the death of Jayadratha on the fourteenth day of battle, when the battle continued on past sunset, his powers were at their most effective.
At this point in the battle, the Kaurava leader Duryodhana appealed to Karna, to kill Ghatotkacha as the whole Kaurava army was coming close to annihilation due to Ghatotkacha's attacks. Karna possessed a divine weapon called the Shakti, granted by the god Indra. Only able to use it once, Karna had been saving it for his battle with his rival, Arjuna. Unable to refuse Duryodhana, Karna discharged the weapon against Ghatotkacha, killing him. It is said that when Ghatotkacha realized that he was going to die, that he assumed a gigantic size. When the huge body fell, it crushed one akshauhini of the Kaurava army. After his death, Krishna smiled, as Karna no longer had Vasavi Sakthi to use against Arjuna.
In other literature
Ghatotkacha is the main character in Bhasa's play, Madhyamavyayoga. This play depicts a scene in which Ghatotkacha is sent by his mother to bring back a human for her to feast on, but he is hindered by the appearance of his father, Bhima.
In another side-story, Ghatotkacha stumbles upon Abhimanyu and his mother Subhadra, traveling to Dwarka to attend the wedding of her niece Shashirekha to Laxmana, the son of Duryodhana. The two did not recognize each other; Ghatotkacha demanded tribute from Abhimanyu for stepping through his forest. A ferocious battle ensues, with both fighters testing each other's limits. In the meantime, impressed with the fighter's prowess, Hidimbi and Subhadra ask the other about her son's history and lineage. Finally, Abhimanyu manages to get the best of Ghatotkacha, and is about to slay him, when Subhadra stays his hand, having learned Ghatotkacha's true lineage. The cousins embrace, and while tending to their wounds, Abhimanyu shares with Ghatotkacha his predicament. Shashirekha had originally been betrothed to him; however, when the Pandavas had lost Indraprastha, Balarama, Shashirekha's father, was given a pretense to break the betrothal and arrange a marriage with his favourite pupil's son.
Ghatotkacha resolves to help his cousin. He and his followers infiltrate the wedding. Using their maya, they cause mass confusion; in it, Ghatotkacha is able to abscond with Shashirekha. He then bears witness to the wedding of Abhimanyu and Shashirekha.
In the Indonesian Javanese version of the Mahabharata, Ghatotkacha's birth name was Jabang Tetuko. Indonesian version of Ghatotkacha (commonly written as Gatotkaca) also has a human form instead of a Rakshasa, wearing a vest with a sun symbol. He is famous for his nickname, "otot kawat tulang besi" (muscle made of wire and bones made of steel), and Satria Pringgandani (knight of Pringgandani).
In popular culture
- A 2008 animated film Ghatothkach was based on his life. It was directed by Singeetham Srinivas Rao.
- There is a temple built in Manali, Himachal Pradesh for Ghatotkacha near Hidimba Devi Temple.
- Datta, Amaresh (2006-01-01). "The Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature (Volume Two) (Devraj to Jyoti)". ISBN 978-81-260-1194-0.
- Dutt, Romesh. "Maha-Bharata, The Epic of Ancient India".
- Dwaipayana, Vyasa. "The Mahabharata of Krishna".
- Amar Chitra Katha #592, ISBN 9788184821994