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For the Marathi, see Nakul (maharshtra).

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 and Other Names[edit]

In Sanskrit, the word 'Nakula' means 'mongoose'. While its another 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]

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 fencing and knife throwing under his father Pandu and a hermit named Suka at the Satasringa ashram. Later, Pandu lost his life when he attempted intercourse with his wife, Madri. The latter also immolated herself in her husband's pyre, after giving responsibility of her sons to Kunti. Nakula and Sahadeva later cared and brought up by Kunti along with her three sons.


Later Kunti and the five Pandavas moved to Hastinapura. Nakula greatly improved his archery and swordplay skills under the tutelage of Drona. 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.

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 Yudhishthira 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]


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.[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 Yudhishthira 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 Akshauhinis the Pandavas had. Even though his role in the war was not as crucial as Bhima and Arjuna, he played a significant role in the battle. He was a mighty Ratha as rated by Bhishma.

On the 1st day of the war, Nakula was defeated by Dussasana.

On the 7th day, Nakula along with Sahadeva defeated Salya.

On the 11th day, Nakula defeated Salya.

On the 13th day, he was defeated by Jayadratha.

On the 14th day, he along with Sahadeva defeated Sakuni. On the same day, he defeated Vikarna.

On the 14th night, he defeated Sakuni.

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

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

On the 17th day, he was defeated by Karna's son Vrishasena.

After the War[edit]

After the war, Yudhishthira appointed Nakula and Sahadeva as the Kings of Madra Pradesh.[9] He is noted for taking care of Dhritarashtra 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.