Bhima: 10 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered

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Bhima is the second of the Pandavas (in order of birth) in the Mahabharata. He is the third biological son of Kunti – her first being Karna, and second being Yudhishthir. His biological father is Vayu, the wind god. Pandu, the king of Hastinapur, is his adoptive father.

He is considered physically the strongest of the Pandavas. He is also described by Bhishma as the ‘best all-round warrior’ among all the heroes that assemble at Kurukshetra.

Bhima is a mace-fighter, a wrestler, a Rakshasa-killer – and not a bad chariot-archer.

He often takes on the role of the protector of his mother Kunti and his wife Draupadi, especially in the absence of Arjuna. His deep enmity with Duryodhana leads to a climactic mace-fight between the two heroes – in which Bhima kills his cousin.

In this post, we will answer all the questions you’ve ever had about Bhima.

Contents

  1. How was Bhima born?
  2. How did Bhima die?
  3. How did Bhima kill Duryodhana?
  4. How did Bhima kill Jarasandha?
  5. How did Bhima kill Duhsasana?
  6. How did Bhima marry Hidimba?
  7. Where did Bhima meet Hanuman?
  8. Did Bhima love Draupadi the most?
  9. Why did Bhima kill Bakasura?
  10. Was Bhima or Arjuna the most powerful Pandava?
  11. Further Reading

How was Bhima born?

Bhima is the second of the Pandavas. He is born of the union between Kunti, the wife of King Pandu, and Vayu the god of wind. Since Pandu is rendered impotent by the curse of Sage Kindama, he acquiesces to the proposal of Kunti summoning gods with whom to bear children. He then adopts them as his own sons.

Pandu chooses the gods that Kunti is to summon. For the firstborn, he chooses Yama, the god of justice, presumably because he wishes his eldest son to be a wise, just person above all else.

For the second birth, he picks Vayu – in order that the resulting boy will be imbued with the same physical strength. Pandu believes that he will complement the elder brother’s wisdom with his brawn.

Incidentally, for the third birth, Pandu picks Indra – probably reasoning that after picking wisdom and physical power with the first two, it is proper for them to be supported by skill and regality.

With Nakula and Sahadeva, we must remember that Pandu has no say in the matter of picking their fathers. It is Madri who chooses the Ashwin twins to unite with – because she wants to have two children with one use of the incantation.

The birth of Bhima happens at Mount Gandhamadana, and at his birth, a number of celestials announce that he will become the strongest man in the world.

True to this prophecy, Kunti once accidentally drops the infant Bhima from a height onto a rock, but is amazed to see the child unharmed and the rock shattered.  

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How did Bhima die?

Bhima dies quietly – like the rest of his brothers – as an old man while walking up the mountain of Meru. He is the last of the Pandavas to die. With his dying breath, he asks Yudhishthir why he has been denied entry into heaven. Yudhishthir replies: ‘Because you have never conquered your desire for food.’

This is a common theme during the end of the Mahaprasthanika Parva. With the fall of each person – beginning with Draupadi – Bhima asks Yudhishthir why, and the eldest Pandava gives what he thinks is the reason.

With Draupadi, it is because she loved Arjuna the most. Nakula and Sahadeva were vain, the former about his looks and the latter about his wisdom. Arjuna had never managed to master his pride.

And then, as they’re nearing the summit, Bhima falls and begins to die. He asks Yudhishthir why he had been kept away from heaven. Yudhishthir replies: ‘Because you’ve always had indiscriminate love for food.’

It is difficult to ascertain whether Yudhishthir means this literally – that Bhima was actually a glutton – or figuratively – that Bhima was proud about his bodily strength and power.

The former seems unlikely, because in light of all the sins that Bhima has committed – killing countless people in the war, laughing at Dhritarashtra during the old man’s decline, his harsh treatment of Karna – a love of food seems almost insignificant.

But if Yudhishthir is referring to Bhima’s general pride in his body, and therefore overly particular about what he fed it, that falls in line with what we know to be true about Bhima.

It is also more consistent with Yudhishthir’s assessment of his other brothers – who are all proud about something or the other. Conquering pride, therefore, seems to be the overarching requirement if one is to reach heaven in one’s mortal body.

Only a man who has banished pride completely from his heart – pride about anything – is eligible.

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How did Bhima kill Duryodhana?

Bhima kills Duryodhana by smashing his thigh with a mace. At the end of the Kurukshetra war, a mace-fight is set up between Bhima and Duryodhana, during which Duryodhana gains an advantage. Then, following the silent instructions of Krishna and Arjuna, Bhima proceeds to hit Duryodhana below the waist, crushing his thigh.

The single-combat challenge is proposed by Duryodhana, who says, ‘I am left without an army. To make this battle fair, I will fight one of you in a matched duel, and whoever wins it will be given the kingdom.’

This is an absurd offer, one that should have been made before the war began, before countless lives have been lost. Clearly this is only a ruse on Duryodhana’s part to deceive Yudhishthir once again.

Surprisingly, Yudhishthir falls for the bait (much to Krishna’s chagrin) and agrees that whoever wins in the Duryodhana-Bhima mace-battle will become the undisputed king.

During the fight, Duryodhana displays all signs of having been preparing for this moment for years. Arjuna marvels at his cousin’s skill, and asks Krishna to estimate Bhima’s chances.

Krishna declares: ‘Bhima has no chance of winning against Duryodhana as long as he insists on fighting with fair methods.’

The implication is clear: the Pandavas have to once again (after Drona and Bhishma, notably) resort to unjust means in order to kills their foe. Arjuna, with no love lost for Duryodhana, catches the eye of Bhima and slaps his thigh meaningfully.

Bhima understands, and at the next available opportunity, brings the weight of his mace down on Duryodhana’s thigh.

Duryodhana does not die immediately. But he falls to the ground helpless. This is the blow that defeats – and eventually kills – him.

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How did Bhima kill Jarasandha?

Jarasandha is the only obstacle to Yudhishthir’s ambition to become emperor. Krishna takes Arjuna and Bhima in disguise to Magadha to challenge Jarasandha to a wrestling match. Jarasandha agrees to fight Bhima. In the duel, Bhima kills Jarasandha by tearing open the king’s body and throwing the pieces in opposite directions so that they do not join.

The name ‘Jarasandha’ is derived from two words, ‘Jara’ and ‘Sandha’. It means ‘he who has been joined by Jara.’

Jarasandha, as an infant, is born to two women, each of whom gives birth to half his body. Alarmed by this grotesque happening, Jarasandha’s father orders for the half-children to be abandoned in the forest.

Here, a rakshasi named Jara finds the children, and inadvertently puts them together. She is astonished to see that the two pieces fuse to form a single, live child. She brings the child back to the kingdom, and the king joyously accepts the gift.

During Yudhishthir’s Rajasuya, Krishna brings Arjuna and Bhima in disguise to Jarasandha’s palace and challenges the king to a duel. Drunken by pride, Jarasandha picks the strongest-looking of the three to fight: Bhima.

Krishna tells Bhima that the only way to kill Jarasandha is to tear open his body along the ancient fault-line and – crucially – throw the pieces in opposite directions so that they will never be able to join together again.

The wrestling match itself is a one-sided affair. Bhima easily overpowers Jarasandha with the king’s couriers and ministers looking on. And when the time comes, he follows Krishna’s instructions to the letter.

This incident leaves one with many questions: why, for instance, did Jarasandha accept a challenge to wrestle a stranger? Why did his ministers disallow him from doing something so foolish? And how did the citizens and guards stand by and watch while Bhima is killing their king?

But that is how the story unfolds, unbelievable as it is.

Detailed Answer: How did Bhima kill Jarasandha?

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How did Bhima kill Duhsasana?

During the dice game, Bhima takes a vow that he will drink Duhsasana’s blood in order to avenge Draupadi’s humiliation. Toward the end of the Kurukshetra war, he makes good his promise. He defeats his cousin in battle, and then proceeds to tear open Duhsasana’s heart to drink his blood.

Duhsasana is one of the four villains of the Draupadi disrobing incident. The other three are Duryodhana, Shakuni and Karna.

While the other three maintain a sense of decorum during the Pandavas’ humiliation, Duhsasana exhibits some crass behaviour. He dances openly in jubilation when the Pandavas are about to leave, and taunts them with insults.

Also, he is the one chosen by Duryodhana for the task of unclothing Draupadi – an act that Duhsasana attends to with glee.

Bhima’s anger, therefore, is especially passionate when it comes to this man. At the end of the dice game, he takes two vows that he goes on to fulfil: one to break Duryodhana’s thighs, and the other to drink Duhsasana’s blood.

As the Kurukshetra war grinds to a close, fate puts Duhsasana in Bhima’s path. The two cousins fight each other, and of course Bhima wins the battle without much fuss. Then he leaps off the chariot, drags Duhsasana out onto the ground, and tears open his chest with his bare fingers.

He drinks Duhsasana’s blood, and screams at the sky like an animal – as if reminding his ancestors that he has made good his promise.

Later, when Gandhari confronts him about the incident, Bhima confesses that he was blinded by rage in the moment and that he was ashamed of his conduct. He also tells her that he did not actually drink Duhsasana’s blood; he merely touched his lips to it.

Detailed Answer: How did Bhima kill Duhsasana?

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How did Bhima marry Hidimba?

Bhima is the first of the Pandava brothers to marry. After escaping from the burning house of wax in Varanavata, the Pandavas and Kunti find refuge in a forest, where they are accosted by a Rakshasa named Hidimba. Bhima kills this Rakshasa, and marries his sister – whose name is also Hidimba (sometimes called Hidimbi). They have a son, Ghatotkacha.

Hidimbi – we will call her this to differentiate her from her brother – is actually a cannibal who is used to waylaying travellers in the forest along with her brother, and eating them.

When she notices the Pandavas and Kunti resting, though, she falls in love with Bhimasena. She goes back to her brother and confesses her love. Hidimba does not take kindly to the matter, and comes to challenge Bhima to a fight.

Bhima is only too glad to accept. After a short but ferocious duel, he kills Hidimba.

At this moment, Hidimbi emerges from her hiding place and falls at Kunti’s feet. ‘Your son has just killed my brother, Mother,’ she says. ‘And I am in love with him. Please do what you think is proper.’

Kunti suggests that Bhima should marry Hidimbi – and none of the Pandavas have any objection. The wedding takes place, and in no time at all Hidimbi becomes pregnant. She bears Bhima a son who is completely bald like a pot – so they call him Ghatotkacha.

Ghatotkacha immediately grows into manhood (common for Rakshasas) and takes over the duties left behind by Hidimba. Later, he will play an important role in helping the Pandavas during their exile.

He will also bring forth his heroic side in the Kurukshetra war – not least when he performs the ultimate sacrifice by drawing Karna’s weapon, the Vasava, onto himself.

Detailed Answer: How did Bhima marry Hidimbi?

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Where did Bhima meet Hanuman?

Bhima meets Hanuman in the mountainous region surrounding Kubera’s groves. He sets out to collect a certain blue lotus that has caught Draupadi’s eye, and enters a cave in which an old ape is resting. Not knowing that it is Hanuman, Bhima behaves vainly with him. But Hanuman cuts him down to size and eventually blesses him.

Bhima is at first consumed with the desire to pass through the tunnel quickly so as to reach the mountains on the other side, where the blue lotus is said to bloom. But in his path is an old ape sprawled dirtily on the earth.

‘Out of my way!’ says Bhima. ‘I have business to attend.’

And the ape replies: ‘I am too old to move. Please move my tail out of the way and go where you must.’

Bhima tries to kick the money’s tail away, but it refuses to budge. Then he attempts to pick it up and toss it away. He is unable to. When he puts his mace to one side and gives it entire strength even, the tail does not move an inch.

He then understands that this is no ordinary ape. His pride squashed, he bows low to the cave-dweller and asks for his name. The ape smiles and introduces himself as Hanuman.

The two brothers sit together and talk for a bit, and Hanuman educates Bhima about the Ramayana and the four yugas. He then tells his younger brother the whereabouts of the blue lotus, and promises him that in the upcoming war, victory is certain to grace the Pandavas.

‘I will adorn the flagstaff of Arjuna and guide him in the thick of battle,’ says Hanuman, and sends Bhima on his way.

Detailed Answer: Where did Bhima meet Hanuman?

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Did Bhima love Draupadi the most?

No explicit claims are made in the Mahabharata about who loves who the most. But Bhima is the one husband that Draupadi turns to the most in times of her need. Bhima also helps Arjuna fight off the angry suitors at Draupadi’s swayamvara. Some scholars have suggested this as evidence that of all the Pandavas, Bhima loves Draupadi the most.

It is not a secret that Draupadi loves Arjuna the most of all her husbands. An interesting thought experiment is to turn the question on its head and ask: Who among the Pandavas love Draupadi the most?

At the outset, we can rule out Nakula and Sahadeva because they’re effectively just making up the numbers. Of the three elder suspects, Yudhishthir is not one to be consumed by passion or love. His overarching obsession is to duty and wisdom.

Arjuna, despite being the one to win Draupadi’s hand, displays much coolness toward his prize – probably because he has always seen her as an object that he had been commanded to earn for the sake of diplomatic and political interests.

This is not to say that he does not love Draupadi or that he dislikes her. But his interests lie elsewhere. His favourite wife, for instance, is widely known to be Subhadra.

That leaves us with Bhima. Not only is Bhima to be found right by Arjuna’s side when the time comes for them to defend their bride against disgruntled suitors, he is also the most present of all of Draupadi’s five husbands.

Yudhishthir is always consumed by kingly duties. Arjuna exiles himself for twelve years soon after their wedding, and even during the exile he goes away for five years to collect divine weapons.

Bhima is the designated protector of the group. He is also the one person that Draupadi turns to at every moment of crisis. All of this suggests that of all the Pandavas, it is Bhima who loves Draupadi the most.

(However, we must admit that we cannot tell for sure about these things. The above is only a surmise.)

Detailed Answer: Did Bhima love Draupadi the most?

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Why did Bhima kill Bakasura?

After escaping from Varanavata, the Pandavas and Kunti cross the river and take refuge in the city of Ekachakra. They soon discover that this city is suffering at the hands of a demon called Bakasura. Bhima undertakes to free the town of this plague. He goes into Baka’s lair, challenges him to a fight, and kills him.

At Ekachakrapura, the Pandavas and Kunti live at the house of a Brahmin. One day, Kunti witnesses a conversation in the family where the question of ‘whom shall we send?’ is being discussed.

Kunti learns that evening that once a fortnight, the city of Ekachakra sends a cartload of rice, two buffaloes, and one human rider as food to the lair of an Asura named Baka. In exchange for this food, Baka offers ‘protection’ to the city.

(Of course, the evil that Baka offers protection from – is himself. This is not unlike how most modern protection rackets are run, where an entity collects ‘dues’ from residents of a town lest ‘bad things should happen’.)

Kunti listens to this, and pledges Bhima as the person to take Baka’s food to him. The Brahmin family is aghast at the thought of Bhima dying, but Kunti is quietly confident that her son has got this.

Bhima is only too glad to help out. He rides the cart all the way into Baka’s lair, challenges him to a bare-armed fight, and makes short work of him. Then he carries the Asura’s corpse to the city gate in the night and leaves it there.

Much later, one of Bakasura’s brothers, Jatasura, finds the Pandavas and abducts Draupadi. Bhima kills him too.

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Was Bhima or Arjuna the most powerful Pandava?

Arjuna and Bhima are easily the two most powerful warriors fighting on the side of the Panchala army. When asked to estimate their skill, Bhishma tells Duryodhana that Arjuna is great enough to be above all classification, whereas Bhima is the most versatile of all the assembled warriors.

Arjuna’s strength is his deep mastery of one skill – archery. He is not only talented at it, but he has put in countless hours of practice into honing it. And he has earned multiple gifts from divine beings that make him an invincible archer.

Give him a bow and a quiver full of arrows, and he has no peer.

On the other hand, Bhima is a versatile fighter. He is not just extremely strong in his body, but he is skilled in various disciplines. He is good at wrestling, mace-fighting and swordplay. He is good with the javelin.

He can fight against animals with his bare hands. He is dangerous in brawls where there are no rules. He can bring down Rakshasas in a forest where there is plenty of rock-hurling and tree-uprooting.

On top of all this, he is not a bad archer. In fact, his skill levels with archery are just a notch below those of Karna.

When all of this is taken into account, Bhima emerges as the most powerful of all the Pandavas in an all-round sense. While Arjuna is your man if you know that the challenge is going to be archery-related, if you’re uncertain about the kind of situations that may arise, then Bhima is a better bet.

This is actually how the rest of the Pandavas view this too. While Arjuna is left to his own devices to hone his craft to perfection, Bhima is relied upon time and again for rescue operations in a variety of challenges.

Detailed Answer: Bhima and Arjuna: Who is more powerful?

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Further Reading

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