Yudhishthir is the eldest of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata. He is the second biological son of Kunti – her first being Karna. His biological father is Yama, the god of justice. Pandu, the king of Hastinapur, is his adoptive father.
Yudhishthir is described by many other characters in the story as the paragon of virtue. He is said to have never spoken an untruth.
He is the only character in the Mahabharata that succeeds in reaching heaven at the end of his life – without having to endure the physical experience of death.
In this post, we will answer the question: Was Yudhishthir jealous of Arjuna?
There is no evidence in the Mahabharata of any bad blood between Yudhishthir and Arjuna. A common modern narrative is to paint Yudhishthir as being jealous of Arjuna, and therefore stealing Draupadi from him. But Yudhishthir’s motivations here are completely egalitarian – he wishes Draupadi to be a binding force between the five brothers, not a corrosive one.
Read on to discover more about whether or not Yudhishthir was jealous of Arjuna.
(For answers to all Yudhishthir-related questions, see Yudhishthir: 10 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
The Most Favoured Pandava
There is no doubt that Arjuna is the most favoured of all the Pandavas. Not only is he the son of the king of the gods – and therefore possessing of some natural advantages in status – he is also the most naturally talented archer of his generation.
He works on his skill with tremendous amounts of grit, dedication and patience. He becomes Drona’s favourite pupil. Then, beginning with the burning of Khandava, he earns several divine gifts that make him the most powerful hero in the world bar none.
His friendship with Krishna gives him even more advantages. He is handsome, he is charming, he is of exemplary conduct, and he is heroic.
All of this is a long way of saying that Arjuna is a very enviable man. In their most private moments, all the men of Arjuna’s generation – his brothers included – have probably felt a stab of envy at Arjuna’s gifts.
(Suggested: Why was Arjuna invincible?)
Sharing of Draupadi
Yudhishthir’s decision to make Draupadi the common wife of all five Pandavas is often held against him. The argument is that Yudhishthir must be envious of Arjuna if he found the need to ‘steal’ Draupadi from him.
In reality, though, Yudhishthir observes how Draupadi is affecting himself and his brothers. He sees that every Pandava is considering her with desire. Therefore, to stop Draupadi from becoming an object over which the five brothers will fight in the future, Yudhishthir decides that she should belong to them all.
In fact, it is precisely to prevent envy from destroying the Pandavas that Yudhishthir takes this step. He sees that there is potential for envy to raise its ugly head; he moves decisively to curb it.
He also does this with due decorum. He privately tells Arjuna his thoughts, and assures him that if he desires to keep Draupadi for himself, he could. But Arjuna defers to Yudhishthir’s judgement in the matter.
Also, it bears noting that if Yudhishthir was driven by envy, he would have decreed that Draupadi should belong to him alone and to no one else. He would not have made her the common wife.
(Suggested: Why did Draupadi marry five Pandavas?)
Might or Forgiveness?
Very early on in the Pandavas’ exile, a long argument breaks out between Yudhishthir and Arjuna. The former takes the view that forgiveness is more important than might, because once you forgive your foe, you have liberated yourself as well as him.
The latter’s position is that forgiveness is only the preserve of the mighty. The weak has no option but to submit to the strong, and often, he who is weak does not have the luxury of choosing whether or not to forgive.
Draupadi and Bhima take Arjuna’s side in the matter, but Yudhishthir persists gamely with his point.
The debate ends with no resolution, but Yudhishthir agrees with Arjuna that regardless of whether might or forgiveness is the more virtuous option, the Pandavas at the moment are no match to the Kauravas in terms of strength.
Drona and Bhishma, especially, are too strong for even Arjuna. So the Pandavas decide that the first thing to do is to let Arjuna journey northward in search of divine weapons that will empower him enough to face Bhishma and Drona confidently.
This argument, thus, becomes the catalyst for Arjuna’s procuring of the Pashupatastra and other weapons.
The Seventeenth Day
Yudhishthir shows some impatience at Arjuna on the seventeenth day of battle.
The context surrounding this incident is this: Yudhishthir has just been driven back to his camp after a bruising battle with Karna. While he is sitting in his tent nursing his wounds, he sees Arjuna and Krishna arrive.
He mistakenly assumes that the two of them have already finished killing Karna, and have now come to give him the good news. He welcomes them jubilantly, and congratulates them on the feat.
Arjuna, of course, bemusedly replies that Karna is still alive, and that they had come merely to check on Yudhishthir’s well-being.
Perhaps because he has laid bare his emotions too soon, or perhaps because he is stung by his own eagerness, Yudhishthir loses his temper and goes on to insult Arjuna in various ways.
Among the things he says to his younger brother, Yudhishthir wonders if the Gandiva has been given to Arjuna in vain. ‘Perhaps you ought to give the great bow to another hero, Partha,’ he says. ‘I am certain that he will do a better job than you.’
(Suggested: Did Arjuna kill Yudhishthir?)
After Yudhishthir has had his say, Arjuna reveals that he has taken a vow that he will kill any man who dares to suggest that he should give up the Gandiva.
He is caught in a dilemma, now. On the one hand he has to kill Yudhishthir, but on the other, harming one’s elder brother is a sin of the highest order. He asks Krishna what to do.
Krishna replies, ‘You should not have taken such a silly vow, Partha. But now that you have, let me suggest that you insult Yudhishthir with words as harsh as you can make them. It has been said that when a younger person insults his elder, the elder is considered to have died.’
So Arjuna proceeds to give Yudhishthir a long speech, enumerating all of Yudhishthir’s faulty decisions and errors. He even goes to the extent of holding Yudhishthir responsible for all of the Pandavas’ many travails.
Yudhishthir accepts these words with good grace. At the end of the tirade, Arjuna – shaking with emotion – falls on his brother’s feet and begs for his forgiveness.
The above examples prove that Arjuna and Yudhishthir don’t always see eye to eye. On several occasions they argue with each other on matters both esoteric and practical.
But all the evidence of Yudhishthir’s actions suggests that he has nothing but love for his younger brother. Arjuna, too, conducts himself with utmost devotion toward his elder brother.
Having said that, we can also admit that Yudhishthir may have been – on occasion – envious of Arjuna for the status he enjoys as the most powerful, most respected warrior of his generation. He may have even resented the fact that all of his wealth – and his title as king – is won for him by the valour of Arjuna and Bhima.
But to his immense credit, he never allows these feelings to show themselves in his actions.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
- Yudhishthir: 10 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Krishna: 36 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Karna: 41 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered