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For the Marathi, see Nakul (maharshtra).

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Nakula (lit. 'most handsome in the lineage',[1] Tamil: நகுலன்) was fourth of the five Pandava brothers. Nakula and Sahadeva were twins born to Madri, who had invoked the Ashwini Kumaras using Kunti's boon. Nakula and Sahadeva are referred as Asvineya, as the two physicicans of gods.[2]

Birth and early years[edit]

Due to Pandu's inability to bear children (because of the curse of Rishi Kindama), Kunti had to use the boon given by Sage Durvasa to give birth to her three children. She shared the boon with Pandu's second wife, Madri, who invoked the Ashwini Kumaras to beget Nakula and Sahadeva. The dark-complexioned Nakula was known to be the most handsome person in the Kuru lineage.

In his childhood, Nakula mastered his skills in archery under his father Pandu and a hermit named Suka at the Satasringa ashram. Nakula turned out to be an accomplished wielder of the sword. Along with the other Pandava brothers, Nakula was trained in religion, science, administration, and military arts by the Kuru preceptors Kripacharya and Dronacharya. He was particularly skilled at horse-riding.

Later, Pandu lost his life when he attempted intercourse with his wife, Madri. The latter also immolated herself in her husband's pyre. Nakula and Sahadeva lost both their parents at an early age.

Nakula, as said by Draupadi, was "the most handsome person in the whole world." An accomplished master swordsman, he was also "versed in every question of morality and profit" and "endued with high wisdom." He was unflinchingly devoted to his brothers, who in turn regarded him as more valuable than their own lives. The name Nakula generally means full of love and the male characteristics implied by the name are: Intelligence, Focus, Hard-Work, Handsomeness, Health, Attractiveness, Success, Popularity, Respect, and unconditional Love.

Nakula was the one who always controlled the anger of Bhima because Bhima loved him the most.

Shalya's attempt to make Nakula and Sahadeva his heirs[edit]

Years after Madri had killed herself, King Shalya, her brother, as well as the ruler of the kingdom of Madra, would each year, for a spell, bring his nephews Nakula and Sahadeva to Madra. On their thirteenth birthday, Shalya revealed his intention of making the twins his heirs. Shalya argued that Nakula could be a king one day, instead of fourth-in-line to the throne of Hastinapura... provided that Yudhishthira was named their heir in the first place. The wise Nakula pointed out that Shalya only wanted Nakula and Sahadeva as his heirs, because both were children of god-in fact, Shalya was eschewing his own children with this gambit. Nakula claimed that while he and Sahadeva staying with the Pandavas would give them no power, his brothers and Kunti genuinely loved him, and would never try and make Nakula and Sahadeva their pawns. Nakula laments that by becoming Shalya's heir, he would then become Shalya's pawn. Through some deliberation, Nakula is convinced that Shalya is being genuine. He and Sahadeva become the heirs to the throne, but Sahadeva told his uncle on one condition: they will always stay with the Pandavas.


Later Kunti and the five Pandavas moved to Hastinapura. Nakula greatly improved his archery and swordplay skills under the tutelage of Drona. His expertise and mastery deemed him a Maharathi. He was compared to Kamdeva, the god of love, due to his good looks.

Nakula married Draupadi during this period and had a son, Satanika; who was killed by Ashwatthama in the Kurukshetra War. Nakula also married Karenumati, the daughter of Dhristaketu, who bore him one son, Niramitra; however he was killed by Karna during the war.

Conquest for Rajasuya[edit]

Nakula's military expedition to the western kingdoms, as per epic Mahabharata. He seemed to have followed the Uttarapatha route.

Nakula was sent west by Yudhisthira to subjugate kingdoms for the Rajasuya sacrifice, after crowning as the Emperor of Indraprastha. Nakula set forth to the kingdom once dominated by Vasudeva with a huge army. He first attacked the prosperous mountainous country of Rohitaka. He defeated the Mattamyurakas of the land in a fierce encounter. In another battle with the sage Akrosha, Nakula subjugated the regions of Sairishaka and Mahetta. He also defeated many tribes and small dynasties, including the Dasarnas, the Sivis, the Trigartas, the Amvashtas, the Malavas, the five tribes of the Karnatas, the Madhyamakeyas, the Vattadhanas and the Utsava-sanketas.[3]

It is said that Nakula needed ten-thousand camels to bring the entire wealth back to Indraprastha.[4]


Yudhisthira's loss in the game of dice meant that all Pandavas had to live in exile for 13 years. Once in exile, Jatasura, disguised as a Brahmin, kidnapped Nakula along with Draupadi, Sahadeva and Yudhishthira. Bhima rescued them eventually, and in the fight that ensued, Nakula killed Kshemankara, Mahamaha, and Suratha.[5]

In the 13th year, Nakula disguised himself as an ostler and assumed the name of Granthika (within themselves Pandavas called him Jayasena) at the Kingdom of Matsya. He worked as a horse-trainer who looked after horses in the royal stable.[6]

Role in the Kurukshetra War[edit]

Nakula in Javanese Wayang

Nakula desired Drupada to be the general of the Pandava army, but Yudhisthira and Arjuna opted for Dhristadyumna.[7]

As a warrior, Nakula slew prominent war-heroes on the enemy side. The flag of Nakula's chariot bore the image of a red deer with golden back.[8] Nakula was the leader of one of the seven akshahuni the Pandavas had. Even though his role in the war as others, he played a significant role in the battle. He along with Bhima led the Pandavas in the first day of the battle. He defeated Duhshasana on the first day. He even checked the attacks of warriors like Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Duryodhana, Kritavarma, and Ashwatthama. He kills 180 great warriors when he, Yudhishthira, and Sahadeva attack Bhishma on the ninth day of the war. In the killing of Bhishma, he along with a few others breach Bhishma's inner ring, allowing Arjuna and Shikhandi to bring Bhishma down. He also wounds and defeats his uncle Shalya in battle. He killed three of Karna's sons: Chitrasena, Satyasena, and Sushena on the final day of battle. He fights with valour against Karna on the fifteenth day. He breaks Karna's bow 4 times and wounds him very badly; Nakula manages to prolong the battle for an hour. Being a legendary archer, Karna manages to overcome Nakula, but spares him due to the promise he had made to Kunti.

After the War[edit]

After the war, Yudhisthira appointed Nakula and Sahadeva as the Kings of Madra Pradesh.[9] He even gets the grandest palace of all brothers since he was the most regal looking. He is noted for taking care of Dhritarastra and Gandhari like how he takes care of Kunti.


Upon the onset of the Kali Yuga and the departure of Krishna, the Pandavas retired. Giving up all their belongings and ties, the Pandavas, accompanied by a dog, made their final journey of pilgrimage to the Himalayas.

Excepting Yudhishthira, all of the Pandavas grew weak and died before reaching heaven. Nakula was the third one to fall after Draupadi and Sahadeva. When Bhima asks Yudhishthira why Nakula fell, the reason given is his pride on his beauty and his belief that there was nobody that equalled him in looks.[10]

Special Skills[edit]

  • Horse-keeping: Nakula's deep understanding of horse breeding and training is documented in the Mahabharata after the death of Narakasura by Krishna. In a conversation with Virata, Nakula claimed to know the art of treating all illnesses of horses. He was also a highly skilled charioteer.[11][12]
  • Ayurveda: Being a son of the physicians, Ashwini Kumaras, Nakula was also believed to be an expert in Ayurveda.[13]
  • Sword Fighting: Nakula and his brother, Sahadeva were skilled sword fighters. Nakula was said to ride his horse in the rain and used his sword to deflect every drop. He would emerge completely dry.
  • Diplomacy: Nakula was very handsome and charming man. He was a skilled diplomat.
  • Nakula was a master of unusual weapons.
  • Prophecy: Like his brother, Sahadeva, Nakula could see the future and issue prophecies. However, soon after telling the prophecy, Nakula would completely forget all the visions and predictions, just like a dream.

In the Media[edit]


  1. ^ Parmeshwaranand, Swami (2001). Encyclopaedic dictionary of Purāṇas (1st ed.). New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. p. 900. ISBN 9788176252263. 
  2. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 73. 
  3. ^ Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. Teddington, Middlesex: Echo Library. 2008. p. 72. ISBN 9781406870442. 
  4. ^ Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. Teddington, Middlesex: Echo Library. 2008. p. 72. ISBN 9781406870442. 
  5. ^ Parmeshwaranand, Swami (2001). Encyclopaedic dictionary of Purāṇas (1st ed.). New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. p. 900. ISBN 9788176252263. 
  6. ^ Kapoor, edited by Subodh (2002). The Indian encyclopaedia : biographical, historical, religious, administrative, ethnological, commercial and scientific (1st ed.). New Delhi: Cosmo Publications. p. 4462. ISBN 9788177552713. 
  7. ^ Menon, [translated by] Ramesh (2006). The Mahabharata : a modern rendering. New York: iUniverse, Inc. p. 88. ISBN 9780595401888. 
  8. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  9. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  12. ^ Lochan, Kanjiv (2003). Medicines of early India : with appendix on a rare ancient text (Ed. 1st. ed.). Varanasi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Bhawan. ISBN 9788186937662. 
  13. ^ Charak, K.S. (1999). Surya, the Sun god (1st ed.). Delhi: Uma Publications. ISBN 9788190100823.