Mahabharata Parva 31: The Kirmira Vadha Parva

Mahabharata Parvas - Kirmira Vadha - Featured Image - Picture of two fish breathing flames at each other. Representing Bhima and Kirmira fighting

The Mahabharata is a collection of hundred Parvas (or ‘sections’) that tell the story of a long-standing family feud between two sets of cousins – the Kauravas and the Pandavas – for control of the Kuru throne in Hastinapur.

The climactic event of the story is an eighteen-day war that happens between the two factions on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

It is commonly understood that the Pandavas are the protagonists of this tale and the Kauravas the antagonists – though many retellings have appeared over the years that flip this structure.

In this post, we will summarize the Kirmira Vadha Parva.

(For a full summary of the Mahabharata with all hundred Parvas, see Mahabharata Summary: All 100 Parvas Explained.)

Vidura Narrates

Maitreya tells Dhritarashtra that Vidura knows all about the story of Kirmira. The king then asks Vidura about it, and the minister says, ‘When I went to visit the Pandavas, O King, I came upon the dead body of the Rakshasa.

‘At the hermitage of Dhaumya, I heard the Brahmins speak of the battle between Bhimasena and the demon. Here I recite it for your benefit.’

With the Pandavas making their way toward the Kamyaka forest (Vidura says), as they enter the deep section of the woods, a fearsome giant of a Rakshasa waylays their path and howls at them.

The five Pandavas surround Draupadi protectively, and Yudhishthir asks their oppressor: ‘Who are you and where have you come from?’

‘My name is Kirmira,’ the Rakshasa says, ‘and I am the brother of Bakasura. I inhabit these parts of the woods and kill passing travellers for my food. Who are you to have foolishly ventured into my domain?’

Yudhishthir Introduces Himself

Yudhishthir gives details of his lineage, and also introduces his brothers. When Kirmira hears the name of Bhimasena, his eyes light up. ‘Ah!’ he says.

‘I have been searching for you all these years to no avail. Now fate has placed you in my path. Come and fight me, O Pandava. Let me avenge the death of my brother whom you so ruthlessly killed in Ekachakra.’

Arjuna begins to string his Gandiva at these words, but Bhima steps forward with a smile, stretching his arms. ‘Leave this fight to me, Partha,’ he says, and uproots a tree to use as a mace.

Bhima Kills Kirmira

The rest of the section describes the fight between the two. They hurl trees at each other, then rocks, then break off parts of mountains, and at the end wrestle with their bare arms.

The fight ends with Bhima strangling Kirmira, and as the light leaves the Rakshasa’s eyes, he says, ‘You do not have to think of avenging the deaths of Hidimba or Baka anymore, because I am sending you to reside with them in the mansion of Yama.’

Thus freeing the Kamyaka of the annoyance of Kirmira, the Pandavas make their home at the Brahmin hermitage, under Dhaumya’s spiritual leadership.

Thus ends the Kirmira Vadha Parva. From the next story onwards, we’re in the Arjunabhigamana Parva.