How did Bhima kill Duhsasana?

How did Bhima kill Duhsasana - Featured Image - Picture of a vampire's teeth, representing Bhima's bloodlust for Duhsasana

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.

In this post, we will answer the question: 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.

Read on to discover more about how Bhima killed Duhsasana.

(For answers to all Bhima-related questions, see: Bhima: 10 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)

Seventeenth Day

On the seventeenth day of the Kurukshetra war, a decisive fight breaks out now between Duhsasana and Bhimasena.

The latter draws first blood in this challenge, breaking the bow of his opponent and killing his driver, but the son of Dhritarashtra is equal to the task of defending himself, picking up a new weapon in the blink of an eye, and shooting a cloud of arrows at Bhima while holding the reins of his horses himself.

A bright shaft decked with gold and diamonds now leaves his bow, and pierces through the armour of Vrikodara, at which the latter staggers back and falls down on the terrace of his car, losing consciousness for a while.

Duhsasana Dominates

Bhima is up in a few moments, and begins to roar like an angered lion. Even now Duhsasana continues to dominate the duel, cutting off Bhima’s bow, and then with six shafts injuring Visoka, the Pandava’s charioteer.

Bhima, consumed with rage, hurls a dart at his sworn enemy, but sees it being shattered to pieces by nine well-aimed arrows.

While the soldiers witnessing this battle applaud Duhsasana for his skill, Bhima addresses his cousin and says, ‘Pierced I have been, O hero, deeply by your arrows. But bear now once more the stroke of my mace!’

With those words, a fierce dart resembling the mace of Yama flies from Bhima’s hand toward Duhsasana. It strikes its target on the head, and carries him a distance measured by the length of ten bows away from his chariot.

Bhima’s Announcement

Bhima descends from his own car and runs to where Duhsasana lies prostrate, and with his foot placed on the prince’s chest, looks around at Karna, Suyodhana, Kripa, Ashwatthama and Kritavarma, as if challenging them.

‘Today I am going to slay this wretched one,’ he says. ‘May the powerful warriors of the Kaurava army protect him if they can.’

Picking up a sword and slicing open the chest of his enemy, Bhima then pounds the heel of his foot down on Duhsasana’s throat, not paying attention to whether he is alive or dead.

Crazed with rage, he straddles the son of Dhritarashtra and drinks his warm lifeblood before chopping off his head with two swipes of his sword. ‘I regard my enemy’s blood to be tastier than my mother’s milk, or honey, or clarified butter, or even ambrosia or nectar that the gods drink.’

While the soldiers surrounding him look on in shock, and whisper to one another that he is not a human being, Bhima looks down at his blood-ridden hands, and realizes for the first time that Duhsasana has been dead for a while now.

He laughs softly and says, ‘What more can I do? Death has rescued you from my hands.’

To Krishna and Arjuna, who are present there, Bhima raises his arms in triumph. ‘I have accomplished today the vow I took thirteen years ago that I will drink Duhsasana’s blood.

‘Have no doubt in your minds, O heroes, that I will soon bring this enormous sacrifice to a close by slaying that other beast, Duryodhana, and by kicking his severed head with my foot!’

Bhima’s Vow

During the dice game, Duhsasana is the enforcer of Duryodhana and Karna’s commands. He is the one who drags Draupadi by the hair into the assembly. He is the one who attempts to disrobe her.

He is also the crassest of the Kaurava brothers. When the Pandavas are on their way out of the royal palace, dressed in humble rags and their heads hanging in shame, Duhsasana dances in glee and yells taunts at them.

Bhima takes two vows during this momentous scene:

  • First, he takes an oath that he will one day crush the thigh of Duryodhana. This is to punish Duryodhana’s act of slapping his thigh and beckoning meaningfully to Draupadi – as if he were inviting her to sit on it.
  • Second, he promises his ancestors that he will drink the blood of Duhsasana and revel in its deliciousness.

On the seventeenth day of the battle, Bhima fulfils the second of the two vows. Shortly thereafter, by winning a mace battle against Duryodhana, he completes his first mission as well.

Gandhari’s Censure

After the war is finished, Gandhari summons Bhimasena to her side and asks him these two pointed questions:

  • Why did Bhima resort to unfair means to kill Duryodhana? Surely he knows that it is not right of a mace-fighter to hit his opponent below the waist?
  • Why did Bhima – like a beast – drink the blood of Duhsasana?

Bhima answers these two questions with reverence. ‘Mother,’ he says, ‘your mighty son was too strong to be vanquished by me in fair fight. I had to resort to unfair means to defeat him.

‘Duryodhana has already used deceit against Yudhishthir on many occasions. So I did not consider it improper to use it against him in turn. If I am punished for this in the afterlife, so be it.

‘As for Duhsasana, I know that it is improper to quaff the blood of another man – let alone that of a kinsman. However, you should know that when I drank the blood of Duhsasana, I did not let it pass through my lips down my throat. I merely touched my lips to his bleeding wounds.

‘I did this to honour the vow I took in the assembly during the dice game. In order that my oath does not stay unaccomplished, I made a mere motion that I drank the blood of your son; in truth, it did not pass over my tongue.’

Bhima’s Death

When Bhima dies during the ascent of Mount Meru, Yudhishthir tells him why he has been denied entry into heaven. ‘You have never been able to conquer your love of food, Bhima,’ he says.

It is interesting that neither the killing of Duryodhana nor that of Duhsasana is pointed out by Yudhishthir as the reason for Bhima’s fall. Surely these two acts were much more sinful than mere love of food?

From a neutral point of view, it would appear so. But the gods – at least in Yudhishthir’s opinion – have accepted Bhima’s explanations and have decreed that he is not deserving of punishment for having killed his cousins.

In their estimation, Bhima’s lifelong habit of gluttony is more serious than the way in which he killed Duryodhana and Duhsasana.

Further Reading

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