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Nakula Pandava.jpg
Spouse(s) Draupadi, Karenumati

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Nakula(Sanskrit: नकुल, 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.

Etymology & Other Names[edit]

Its Sanskrit etymology is "he who is most handsome in the lineage".[1] 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 and his brother Sahadeva, are both called as Ashvineya(आश्विनेय), as they were born from Ashvins.[2] He is also called Madri Nandan.

Birth & 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 fencing and knife throwing under his father Pandu and a hermit named Suka at the Satasringa ashram.[citation needed] Later, Pandu lost his life when he desired his wife's Madri company. The latter also immolated herself in her husband's pyre after giving responsibility of her sons to Kunti.

Life at Hastinapur[edit]


Following Pandu's death, Kunti and the five Pandavas moved to Hastinapura upon Dhritarashtra's invitation. Nakula greatly improved his archery and swordplay skills under the tutelage of Dronacharya, proving excellent in fencing and horse-riding. Along with the other Pandavas and the Kaurava, Nakula was trained in religion, science, administration, and military arts by the Kuru preceptors Kripacharya and Dronacharya.

Nakula married Draupadi during this period and had a son, Satanika.

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

During his brother's Rajasuya, Nakula was tasked with bringing to heel several kingdoms. One of these was the Chedi Kingdom. To cement an alliance, Nakula married Karenumati, daughter of Dhristaketu and granddaughter of Sishupal; she bore him one son, Niramitra.

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 fifteenth birthday[citation needed], 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.[3]


Yudhishthira'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.[4]

In the 13th year, Nakula disguised himself as an ostler and assumed the name of Granthika(in other versions, Jayasena) at the Kingdom of Matsya. He worked as a horse-trainer who looked after horses in the royal stable.[5]

Role In The Kurukshetra War[edit]

Nakula in Javanese Wayang

Nakula desired Drupada to be the general of the Pandava army, but Yudhishthira and Arjuna opted for Dhristadyumna.[6]

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.[7] Nakula was the leader of one of the seventh Akshahuni.

On the 1st day of the war, Nakula defeated Dussasana, sparing his life so that Bhima could fulfill his oath.

On the 11th day, Nakula defeated Shalya, destroying his uncle's chariot.

On the 13th day, his advance into Drona's formation was repulsed by Jayadratha.

On the 14th day, he along with Sahadeva defeated Shakuni and Ulook.

On the 15th day, he was defeated by Duryodhana, being rescued by Chekitana.

On the 16th day, he was badly defeated but spared by Karna.

On the 17th day, he killed Ulook.

After the War[edit]

After the war, Yudhishthira appointed Nakula and Sahadeva as the Kings of Madra kingdom.[8] He is noted for taking care of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari like how he takes care of Kunti.


Upon the onset of Kali Yuga and the departure of Krishna, the Pandavas retired. Giving up all their belongings and ties, 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 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.[9]

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.[10][11]
  • Ayurveda: Being a son of the physicians, Ashwini Kumaras, Nakula was also believed to be an expert in Ayurveda.[12]
  • 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.

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. ^ Rajagopalachari, C. (. (1970). Mahabharata (10 th ed.). Bombay : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
  4. ^ Parmeshwaranand, Swami (2001). Encyclopaedic dictionary of Purāṇas (1st ed.). New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. p. 900. ISBN 9788176252263. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Menon, [translated by] Ramesh (2006). The Mahabharata : a modern rendering. New York: iUniverse, Inc. p. 88. ISBN 9780595401888. 
  7. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  8. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  11. ^ Lochan, Kanjiv (2003). Medicines of early India : with appendix on a rare ancient text (Ed. 1st. ed.). Varanasi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Bhawan. ISBN 9788186937662. 
  12. ^ Charak, K.S. (1999). Surya, the Sun god (1st ed.). Delhi: Uma Publications. ISBN 9788190100823.