Categories: Hindu Mythology

Barbarik: The Great Warrior of the Mahabharata

Barbarik stands out as one of the most remarkable and compelling characters in the Mahabharata, an epic steeped in tales of valor and divine intervention. Known for his unmatched bravery and exceptional prowess in warfare, Barbarik’s life is a testament to the values of sacrifice and unwavering adherence to principles.


Early Life and Lineage

Barbarik was the eldest son of Ghatotkacha and Ahilavati (Nagkanya Mata), which placed him in a lineage of formidable warriors. Ghatotkacha, his father, was the son of Bhima, one of the five Pandavas, and his mother was a celestial serpent maiden, making Barbarik’s heritage unique and powerful. His brothers, Anjanparva and Meghavarna, also feature in the Mahabharata, adding to the legacy of bravery in the family.

According to certain legends, Barbarik was a reincarnation of a yaksha named Suryavarcha, born again as a human. This divine connection contributed to his extraordinary abilities and destiny.

Teachings and Principle

From a young age, Barbarik was imbued with a strong sense of duty and moral principles. His mother, Ahilavati, taught him an important lesson: always to fight on the side of the defeated. This principle shaped Barbarik’s worldview and guided his actions throughout his life. He became a devout follower of Lord Shiva and received divine blessings, including incredible skills in warfare.

Master of Warfare

Barbarik’s devotion to Lord Shiva was profound

Barbarik’s martial prowess was legendary. He trained rigorously under the guidance of his mother and through severe penance, gained immense powers. His devotion to Lord Shiva was profound, and his penance was rewarded with a bow and three invincible arrows. These arrows had unique powers that set Barbarik apart from all other warriors. He earned the title “Three Banadhari” because of these three arrows, which could conquer the three realms.

The Power of the Three Arrows

Each of Barbarik’s arrows was extraordinarily powerful. He claimed that a single arrow could destroy an entire army. The arrows had the ability to pierce their targets and return to him, making them invincible. If all three arrows were used together, they could create unparalleled chaos across the three worlds. This immense power made Barbarik a critical player in the impending war.

The Journey to Kurukshetra

As the great war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas approached, Barbarik felt compelled to join the battle. True to his mother’s teachings, he vowed to support the losing side to ensure a balance in the fight. With his blue-hued lele horse, Barbarik set off for the battlefield of Kurukshetra, carrying his powerful bow and the three arrows.

Encounter with Lord Krishna

Aware of Barbarik’s potential impact on the war, Lord Krishna decided to test him. Disguised as a Brahmin, Krishna approached Barbarik to understand his intentions and assess his capabilities. Krishna questioned Barbarik about his decision to join the war with only three arrows.

The Challenge

In response, Barbarik confidently explained the formidable power of his arrows. To demonstrate, Krishna challenged him to pierce all the leaves of a nearby peepal tree with a single arrow. Accepting the challenge, Barbarik shot an arrow that targeted all the leaves, including one hidden under Krishna’s foot. This display confirmed Barbarik’s extraordinary abilities and left Krishna impressed but concerned about his potential role in the war.

The Sacrifice of Barbarik

Understanding the implications of Barbarik’s participation, Krishna, still in his Brahmin disguise, requested a donation from him. Bound by his vow to fulfill any request, Barbarik agreed. Krishna then revealed his true identity and asked for Barbarik’s head as the donation, explaining that the battlefield required the sacrifice of a brave warrior’s head for auspiciousness.

Moment of Sacrifice

Despite his initial shock, Barbarik agreed to the request. Before the sacrifice, he asked Krishna to reveal his vast divine form, which Krishna did. On the twelfth day of the Falgun month, Barbarik’s head was placed on a hill overlooking the battlefield, allowing him to witness the entire war.

Witnessing the War

Barbarik’s severed head remained on the hill throughout the Mahabharata war, observing every event. After the war ended, a debate arose among the Pandavas about who should be credited with the victory. Krishna suggested consulting Barbarik’s head, which had seen everything.

The True Witness

When asked, Barbarik’s head testified that it was Krishna’s divine presence, strategies, and guidance that were crucial for the Pandavas’ victory. He recounted seeing Krishna’s Sudarshan Chakra decimating the enemy forces, highlighting Krishna’s pivotal role in the outcome of the war. This acknowledgment underscored Krishna’s divine influence and strategic brilliance.

Legacy as Khatu Shyam

In recognition of Barbarik’s bravery and sacrifice, Krishna blessed him with a special honor. Barbarik would be remembered as Khatu Shyam, a revered figure worshipped in a village named Khatu, which bears Krishna’s name. Krishna also endowed Barbarik’s head with all sixteen of his divine arts, ensuring that Barbarik would be venerated as an embodiment of Krishna himself.

Eternal Reverence

Barbarik’s story is a powerful testament to the virtues of bravery, sacrifice, and unwavering adherence to principles. His life and legacy continue to inspire devotion and respect in the hearts of many. He is worshipped as Khatu Shyam, a symbol of the divine interplay of fate, valor, and devotion.

Barbarik’s tale is not just a story of war but a profound lesson in morality, the power of sacrifice, and the importance of divine guidance in achieving righteousness. His legacy endures, reminding us of the eternal values that transcend time and continue to inspire generations.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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