Who was the elder brother of Pandavas

The family tree and the main characters in the Mahabharata

So that the daring reader of this huge epic does not sink into the sea of ​​a thousand names, a brief overview of the large groups, the main actors and their relationships is given as a reminder. It should be noted, however, that all characters can only be roughly described here. For just as the Indians worship their individual gods and can see in each one the one great deity, so in every actor in the Mahabharata one also finds all the nuances of the one great life. Or as Shakespeare once said: "Nothing in itself is fundamentally good or bad, thinking makes it so."

The main groups in the Mahabharata

The family tree of the Mahabharata

Detailed family tree (also as PDF)


Bhishma

The "grandfather" of the Pandavas and Kauravas.

His mother is St. Ganga and his father is King Shantanu. His seven older brothers were thrown into the river by their mother Ganga because of a curse or blessing (B1K100). He is considered to be the incarnation of the eight vasus (the primal forces of the elements)(B1K99). He made an oath on behalf of his father to renounce the throne and remain childless. For this he received the blessing from him that he can determine the time of his death himself (B1K100). Virtually invincible, he is one of the most powerful at the court of the Kurus, but bound by his oath.

Vyasa

The "island born" and "author of the Mahabharata".

His mother is Satyavati and his father is the Rishi Parasara (B1K63). This makes him the grandfather of the Pandavas and Kauravas. Vyasa has the Mahabharata written down through Ganesha and acts as an agent in this work. He usually lives as a muni in the forest, but occasionally appears as a wise advisor in the plot. When the Kuru lineage to Vichitravirya threatened to expire, his mother Satyavati asked him to father children with Ambalika and Ambika, the widowed wives of Vichitravirya (B1K105). Finally, he sits in the group when the great Mahabharata is told by one of his students about the serpent sacrifice of King Janamejaya, who is practically his great-great-great-grandson.

Another name for Vyasa (the "arranger, compiler") is Krishna-Dwaipayana (the "dark island-born").

Drona

The "pot-born", the "teacher" of the Pandavas and Kauravas.

His father is the great Rishi Bharadvaja. His wife Kripi (the twin sister of Kripa) bare him a son Aswatthaman. Drona is considered to be the incarnation of the heavenly Rishi Vrihaspati. He took over his weaponry from Rama with the ax, the son of Jamadagni (B1K131). Because of a quarrel with King Drupada, he became the teacher of the Pandavas and Kauravas, and with their help subjugated this king (B1K168). His favorite student became Arjuna, whom he loved like his own son.

Kripa

The "heather-born", the teacher of the Kurus and many other warriors.

His father is the sage Saradwan, who was born with arrows in hand (B1K130). His twin sister is Kripi, Drona's wife. Kripa is considered to be the incarnation of the Rudras (Storm gods).

Dhritarashtra

The "blind king" of the Kurus.

He was conceived by Vyasa and born by Ambika (B1K106). He is considered to be the incarnation of a great Gandharva king (B1K67). His younger half-brothers are Pandu and Vidura. His wife is Gandhari and she bore him 100 sons as a result of a blessing (the Kauravas) and the daughter Dushala (B1K116). When the eldest of them, Duryodhana, was born ominous omens were everywhere, and the Brahmins, along with Vidura, urged the king to banish this one son and be satisfied with the remaining 99 (B1K115). Dhritarashtra did not follow the advice. Furthermore, a Vaisya woman gave birth to his son Yuyutsu.

In the physically strong but blind King Dhritarashtra, the great conflict grows between the duties as king for his people and personal selfishness, which manifests itself in a blind infatuation with his sons, especially with the oldest Duryodhana. From this unfolds the great struggle between the Kauravas (his own 100 sons) and the Pandavas (the 5 sons of his half-brother Pandu)which runs through the whole of the Mahabharata.

Pandu

The "pale (sickly) King "the Kurus.

He was conceived by Vyasa and born to Ambalika (B1K106). His older half-brother is Dhritarashtra and his younger Vidura. He is crowned King of the Kurus due to the blindness of Dhritarashtra and shows himself to be a great conqueror. On the hunt, however, he kills a rishi who was mating with a doe in the form of a deer. Thereupon he was cursed that if he enjoyed this happiness he would die himself (B1K118). So he soon retires to the woods with his two wives Kunti and Madri (B1K114), and puts Dhritarashtra on the throne of the Kurus.

Vidura

The "learned and wise adviser" to King Dhritarashtra.

He was conceived by Vyasa and born by a servant (B1K106). His older half-brothers are Dhritarashtra and Pandu. He is considered to be the incarnation of the god of virtue and justice (Dharma or Yama). Because of his birth, he did not have royal status.

Kunti (Pritha)

The first wife of King Pandu and mother of Yudhishthira, Bhima and Arjuna.

Her father is Sura, a leader of the Yadavas, and her brother is Vasudeva, the father of Krishna. She is considered to be the incarnation of the goddess Siddhi (Success). As a young girl she was handed over to the childless Kuntibhoja and grew up in her adoptive father's house. There, because of her virtuous service, she received the blessing of Saint Durvasa to call down the gods with mantras in order to conceive a child from them. As a virgin she tested this gift with the sun god and gave birth to Karna, whom she exposed at the next river (B1K111). Later she uses this blessing to give birth to the sons Yudhishthira, Bhima and Arjuna to the curse-laden King Pandu (B1K120).

She is also called Pritha.

Madri

The second wife of King Pandu and mother of twins Nakula and Sahadeva.

She is the sister of Shalya, the king of the Madras. She is considered to be the incarnation of the goddess Dhriti (Bravery). At the request of the cursed Pandu, Kunti lends her the blessed mantra to conceive a child. She conjures up the Aswin twins and uses this trick to receive two sons, Nakula and Sahadeva. When her husband Pandu dies, Madri goes into the fire and gives Kunti her two sons to be brought up (B1K125).

Gandhari

The wife and queen of the blind king Dhritarashtra.

Her father is Suvala, the king of Gandhara. Her brother is the dice player Shakuni. She is considered to be the incarnation of the goddess Mati (the intellectual, sensual knowledge). Because of her devotion to Shiva, she received the blessing from Vyasa to become the mother of 100 sons. When she found out about her planned wedding to the blind King Dhritarashtra, she closed her own eyes out of love and respect for him. She later gave birth to 100 sons from him (the Kauravas) and a daughter Dushala (B1K115).

Shakuni

The "dice player".

He is the son of King Suvala and the brother of Gandhari. As an incarnation, he symbolizes the dwarpa (the third, just passing age). He is described as an ambitious, deceitful, and unscrupulous dice player. As his uncle, he shapes the character of Duryodhana (Incarnation of the dawning Kali age) and initiated various assassinations on the Pandavas and the fraudulent game of dice between the Kauravas and Pandavas.

Kauravas

The 100 sons of Kuru King Dhritarashtra and his wife Gandhari.

Of the sons, the four most famous were Duryodhana, Dushasana, Vikarna and Chitrasena (B1K117). They grow up protected and proud in the Kuru Palace and only later hear about their half-brothers, the Pandavas. The Kauravas appear as the opposing party to the Pandavas and symbolize the demonic side in the struggle of this world. Duryodhana, the eldest of them, is considered to be the incarnation of Kali (the fourth age of decline) and his brothers as incarnated sons of Rakshasas (B1K67).

Duryodhana

The "selfish".

The eldest of the 100 sons of King Dhritarashtra and his wife Gandhari. He is described as stubborn, vengeful, proud and devoid of wisdom, but extremely physically strong, and he covets the secular inheritance in the form of the entire kingdom of the Kurus for himself as a future king. He is considered to be the incarnation of Kali (the destruction, or the fourth age). With his allies Shakuni, Karna and his 99 brothers, he is the leader of the Kauravas, the opposing party to the Pandavas, who also have a right to the paternal kingdom.

Pandavas

The "five sons of the Pandu King" with his wives Kunti & Madri. Whereby all 5 sons were not conceived by Pandu personally because of a curse, but because of a blessing (which Kunti had received) through the power of mantras (B1K120).

The firstborn is Yudhishthira, followed by Bhima, Arjuna and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva. They grow up together with some Brahmins in the hermitage of their father Pandu in the forest, and only come to the palace of the Kurus after the death of their father (B1K126). The Pandavas are the opponents of the Kauravas and represent the divine side in the struggle of this world. They are also considered to be incarnations of the gods, especially Dharma, Vayu, Indra and the Aswin twins (B1K67). The 5 Pandavas marry their wife Draupadi together (B1K193) and each one more wives. They fathered 11 sons in total (B1K95).

Krishna

The "divine".

His father is Vasudeva of the Yadava family and his mother is Devaki. His sister is Subhadra, one of the later wives of Arjuna. His older half-brother Balarama (Rama with the plow) was born of Rohini (B1K63). Krishna is considered the human incarnation of Vishnu and symbolizes the divine and enlightened ideal on earth. Together with Arjuna, the couple are also called Nara and Narayana (the human soul united with the eternal divine). So he also plays the charioteer of Arjuna in the great fight and teaches him in the world-famous chant of the Bhagavat Gita.

Other names for Krishna (the dark one") are Kesava, Vasudeva, Janardana, Hrishikesha or Govinda.

Balarama

"Rama with the plow"

His father is Vasudeva of the Yadava family and his mother is Rohini. He is the older half-brother of Krishna, and is considered to be the incarnation of Naga Sesha, the thousand-headed serpent who serves as Vishnu's bed. His wife became Revati and his sons are Nishatha and Ulmuka. He taught clubfighting to Bhima and Duryodhana. The close friendship of Krishna and Balarama is often compared to Rama and Lakshmana from the Ramayana.

Other names for Balarama are Halayuda, Valadeva (or Baladeva) or Sankarshana.

Karna

The lost Son".

His biological father is the sun god and his mother is Kunti, who received this son as a virgin and abandoned him on a river. He was born shining like the sun with natural armor and gold earrings. The charioteer Adhiratha (Vicartana) found the baby and adopted it as a son with his wife, Radha (B1K111). Here he grew up in the Suta caste, was taught with the other princes of Drona and received the art of arms from the mystical Rishi Parasurama (Rama with the ax, son of Jamadagni)(B5K62).

Ignorant of his true birth, he ends up on the side of the Kauravas and becomes Duryodhana's best friend. As the incarnation of the sun god, he is extremely powerful and becomes the relentless opponent of Arjuna (Incarnation of Indra who sends the rain)to which he is equal in strength and virtue (B1K138). Only shortly before the great battle does he find out his true birth, that he is actually the oldest of the Pandava brothers and thus the predestined heir to the throne of the Kurus. Within the Suta caste, Karna has several wives, children and grandchildren.

Yudhishthira

The "righteous", the eldest of the Pandavas.

His father was King Pandu and his mother Kunti. He was born before his half-brother Duryodhana (B1K123). He is considered to be the incarnation of Dharma, the god of virtue and justice. With his wife Draupadi he fathered the son Prativindhya, and with Devika, the daughter of Gavashana (King of Saivya), the son of Yaudheya.

According to the traditional line of succession, as well as due to his flawless virtue and truthfulness, he is predestined to be the heir to the throne of the Kuru Empire.

Bhima

The "strong one", the second oldest of the Pandavas.

His father was King Pandu and his mother Kunti (B1K123). He is considered to be the incarnation of Vayu, the god of the wind. Its elemental character is correspondingly powerful and stormy. As a wrestler and club fighter, he is equal to Duryodhana. With the Rakshasa wife Hidimba he fathered the son Ghatotkacha (B1K154), with his wife Draupadi the son Sutasoma, and with his wife Valadhara, the daughter of the king of Kasi, the son Sarvaga.

Arjuna

The "warrior", the third oldest of the Pandavas.

His father was King Pandu and his mother Kunti (B1K123). He is considered to be the incarnation of Indra, the king of the gods, and together with Krishna he is Nara and Narayana (the human soul united with the eternal divine). As a favorite student of Drona, he is hailed as the greatest archer of all time and, due to his close association with Indra, has control over many divine weapons. His equal opponent is Karna.

With his wife Draupadi he fathered the son Srutakirti, with his wife Subhadra (the sister of Krishna)(B1K222) the son Abhimanyu, who would eventually continue the Kuru lineage.

Nakula

The "beautiful and devoted one", one of the twins of the Pandavas.

His father was King Pandu and his mother Madri (B1K124). He is considered to be the incarnation of one of the Aswin twins, and accordingly he is known for his radiant beauty and powerful energy. With his wife Draupadi he fathered the son Satanika, and with his wife Karenumati, the princess of Chedi, the son Niramitra.

Sahadeva

The "scholar", one of the twins of the Pandavas.

His father was King Pandu and his mother Madri (B1K124). He is considered to be the incarnation of one of the Aswin twins, and accordingly he is also known for his radiant beauty and powerful energy. With his wife Draupadi he fathered the son Srutakarma, and with his wife Vijaya, the daughter of Dyutimana (King of Madra), the son of Suhotra.

Draupadi

The wife of the five Pandavas.

Her father is King Drupada and her brothers are Sikhandin and Dhrishtadyumna. Draupadi and Dhrishtadyumna were born as twins from the sacrificial fire (B1K169). She is considered to be the incarnation of Sachi (the wife of Indra) or from Lakshmi (the goddess of beauty). During her spouse choice, she refused Karna and chose Arjuna. And because of their fate (B1K199) and at the word of Kunti, she became the wife of the five Pandavas. With them she had five sons who were incarnations of the heavenly Vasus (the primal forces of the elements) be valid. Their names are Pritivindhya, Sutasoma, Srutakirti, Satanika, and Srutasena.

Dhrishtadyumna

Draupadi and Dhrishtadyumna of Drupada were born as twins from the sacrificial fire (B1K169). Drupada makes this sacrifice for the downfall of his boyfriend Drona, with whom he later became enemies (B1K132). Dhrishtadyumna is considered the incarnation of Agni and was born with natural armor in order to defeat Drona in the great war.

Sikhandin

Sikhandin was born to Drupada, who was later transformed into a boy by a yaksha named Sthuna who wanted to help her. His sister is Draupadi and his brother is Dhrishtadyumna. He is considered the incarnation of a Rakshasa and came to this world because of a curse from Amba to defeat Bhishma in the great war (B5K176).

Aswatthaman

The "son of Drona".

His father was the teacher Drona and his mother Kripi (B1K131). He is considered a partial incarnation of Mahadeva (Shiva), Yama (Death), Kama (Desire) and Krodha (Hate). He is one of the most powerful warriors because of his father's instruction and has mastered the mysteries of the art of arms like no other. But after the death of his father in a great battle, he finally throws aside all virtue and warrior honor and completes the battle with a bloodbath at the dawn of the new, iron age of Kali.