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Sahadeva as seen in the Javanese shadow puppet play (wayang)

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Sahadeva (Sanskrit: सहदेव) was the youngest 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]

The word Sahadeva is derived from two Sanskrit words saha (सह) and deva (देव). Saha means 'with' and deva is a Hindu term used for deity. So literally, Sahadeva means 'with Gods'. The another meaning is 'thousand Gods'. Sahadeva and his brother Nakula, are both called as Ashvineya (आश्विनेय), as they were born from Ashvins.[1]

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 (the princess of Madra), who invoked the Ashwini Kumaras to beget Nakula and Sahadeva.

Later, Pandu died due to his Kindama's curse when he attempted an intercourse with his wife, Madri. The latter also immolated herself in her husband's pyre, so Nakula and Sahadeva lost both their parents at an early age. It is also believed that Sahadeva was an incarnation of Shukra, the guru of demons.


Later Kunti and the five Pandavas moved to Hastinapura. Sahadeva's core skill lay in the wielding of the sword.[2] Sahadeva is said to be mild-mannered, bashful, patient, and virtuous.[3]

All five Pandava brothers were wed concurrently to Draupadi, and each had a son by her. Sahadeva's son with Draupadi was Srutasen. Sahadeva also married his maternal cousin Vijaya, the daughter of Dyutimat, the king of Madra, and had a son named Suhotra. His son Suhotra was killed by Karna.

Conquest for Rajasuya[edit]

Sahadeva's military expedition to the southern kingdoms, as per epic Mahabharata.

Sahadeva was sent south by the eldest Pandava Yudhishthira to subjugate kingdoms for the Rajasuya sacrifice, after crowning as the Emperor of Indraprastha. He was specifically chosen for the south because of his expertise with the sword, and because Bhishma opined that Southerners are skilled with sword-fighting in general.[4]

The Mahabharata mentions several kingdoms to the south of Indraprastha which were conquered by Sahadeva. Some of them are as under:[5]

  • Surasenas
  • Pandyan Dynasty
  • Matsya, the king Dantavakra, kings Sukumara, Sumitra, other Matsyas and Patacharas.
  • Vibhishana, the king of Lanka and brother of Ravana. He offered him diverse kinds of jewels and gems, sandalwood, celestial ornaments, costly apparel and valuable pearls.
  • At Kishkindha, the monkey-kings Mainda and Dwivida were defeated in a 7-day war.
  • City of Mahishmati, which was ruled by King Nila. Since the kingdom had the blessings of Agni, a huge fire obstructed the army when Sahadeva tried to invade; later a prayer to Agni enabled Sahadeva to complete the conquest.
  • King Rukmi of Vidarbha and territories of Bhojakata
  • Nishadas, the hill of Gosringa and King Sreenimath.
  • Navarashtra, under King Kunti-Bhoja
  • King Jamvaka, on the banks of the river Charmanwati.
  • Territories lying on the banks of the Venwa.
  • Kingdoms that lay on the banks of the Narmada.
  • Avanti, kings called Vinda and Anuvinda, town of Bhojakata
  • King of Kosala
  • King of Tripura
  • King of Saurashtra
  • Surparaka kingdom, Talakatas and Dandakas
  • Mlechchha tribe living on the sea coast, Nishadas, the cannibals, Karnapravarnas, and the Kalamukhas (a cross between human beings and Rakshasas), and the whole area of the Cole mountains
  • Surabhipatna, and the island called the Copper island, and a mountain called Ramaka.
  • The town of Timingila and a wild tribe known by the name of the Kerakas who were men with one leg.
  • The town of Sanjayanti, countries of the Pashandas, Karahatakas, Paundrayas, Dravidas, Udrakeralas, Andhras, Talavanas, Kalingas and Ushtrakarnikas, Sekas and Yavanas
  • Paurava kingdom


Sahadeva works as a cowherd in exile.

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.

In the 13th year, Sahadeva disguised himself as a Vaishya and assumed the name of Tantipal (within themselves Pandavas called him Jayadbala) at the Kingdom of Virata.[6] He worked as a cowherd who supervised the maintenance and upkeep of all cows in Virata's kingdom.

Role in the Kurukshetra War[edit]

Sahadeva was very good in Astrology. Duryodhana, on the advice of Shakuni approached Sahadeva in order to seek the right time (muhurta) to start the Mahabharata war so that the Kauravas will be victorious. Sahadeva disclosed the same for the Kauravas in spite of knowing that Kauravas were their enemy, as Sahadeva was known to be very honest. Then, Krishna planned to create an eclipse much before the beginning of the war. In the mean time, both Sun and Moon got shocked by Krishna's thought and appeared before Krishna stating that this will create a huge imbalance in the entire Universe. Then, Krishna declared that as Earth, Moon and Sun are together in one place, this in itself was an eclipse.

Krishna once asked Sahadeva, what should be done to stop the war. Sahadeva told him that Krishna must be tied down and imprisoned and all the Pandavas along with Duryodhana must be sent to forest and Karna must be made the king.

Sahadeva desired Virata to be the general of the Pandava army, but Yudhishthira and Arjuna opted for Dhristadyumna.[7]

As a warrior, Sahadeva slew prominent war-heroes on the enemy side. The flag of Sahadeva's chariot bore the image of a silver swan.[8][9] During the gambling loss, he had taken an oath of slaying Shakuni. He accomplished this task successfully on the 18th day of battle. Among other prominent war-heroes killed by Sahadeva were Shakuni's son Uluka and Trigata Prince Niramitra.

After the War[edit]

After the war, Yudhishthira appointed Nakula and Sahadeva as the Kings of Madra Pradesh.[10]


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. Sahadeva was the second one to fall after Draupadi. When Bhima asks Yudhishthira why Sahadeva isn't permitted the same, the reason given is his pride in his wisdom.[11]

Special Skills[edit]

  • Wisdom: Sahadeva was the most intelligent among his brothers. In fact, Yudhisthir refers to him as being intelligent as Brihaspati-the divine teacher of gods. He was also a master in medicine, equastrian skills, bovine veterinary, politics and humanities. He was King Yudhishthira's private counsellor.
  • Astrology: It is said that he was a great astrologer as his brother Nakula, and he even knew about everything including the Mahabharata battle beforehand. But he was cursed that if he disclosed the events to anyone then his head would split into pieces.
  • Swordsmanship: Sahadeva was a master swordsman like his brother, Nakula.

In the media[edit]

In Mahabharat (1988 TV series), Sanjeev acted as Sahadeva.

In Mahabharat (2013 TV series), Lavanya Bharadwaj played this role.


  1. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 73. 
  2. ^ A. van Nooten, Barend. The Mahābhārata; attributed to Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa Volume 131 of Twayne's world authors series: India. 
  3. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  4. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  5. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  6. ^ Subodh Kapoor, ed. (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. ^ Subodh Kapoor, ed. (2002). The Indian encyclopaedia : biographical, historical, religious, administrative, ethnological, commercial and scientific (1st ed.). New Delhi: Cosmo Publications. p. 4462. ISBN 9788177552713. 
  10. ^ "Mahabharata Text". 
  11. ^ Mahabharata Text