“Whatever is here, is found elsewhere. But what is not here, is nowhere else.” The Adi Parva of the Mahabharata states the above quote with pride, and this quote depicts a faithfully accurate picture of the Mahabharata. This single epic poem, the most extensive in recorded history, encompasses everything. From the innate nature and emotions of human beings, to the gallantry displayed by indescribable warriors, to the rudimentary moral principles engrained in any society, this story captures all of the aspects of humanity and weaves them into a great story. The Mahabharata truly is “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.
I have always been devoted to the statistical approach to knowledge. It gives me the highest level of satisfaction, allowing me to revel in the world of research. For instance, I have always preferred creating a diagrammatic or tabular depiction rather than an artistic piece. I enjoy building extensive maps, family trees, and lists pertaining to Hinduism. That is why I have spent my time researching and constructing this comprehensive family tree of the Mahabharata.
This family tree is intended to depict the central family of the Mahabharata, and only the central family. As I have mentioned earlier, the Mahabharata is the most extensive and deep narrative ever told. It spans over generations and encapsulates various families and entities. But in this tree, I have only depicted the central family of the Mahabharata.
The term “central family” refers to the family around which this epic revolves: the Kuru family. The story of the Mahabharata begins with King Pratipa of the Kuru dynasty, and focuses on his descendants: the Pandavas and the Kauravas. I have included all of the generations from King Pratipa to King Ashwamedhadatta, descended from Arjuna.
At first, the family of the Mahabharata seems self-explanatory and simple. However, as I commenced my research, I encountered the same intrinsic discrepancies and intricacies found in any major Hindu scripture. The earlier generations of the Mahabharata are frankly very straightforward. But as I progressed down the descendancy, I faced more and more opportunities for research and analysis. Researching the Pandava and Bahlika families were especially difficult ordeals. The inconsistencies were numerous, and I found that I had to defer to other sources for more information. To my surprise, I learned that a significant portion of the family is enumerated in the Vedas and Puranas, but not in the Mahabharata itself.
In this family tree, I have displayed all of my research in a comprehensible and conclusive manner. For every entry in this family tree, I have used only the original scriptures, that being the Vedas, Puranas, and Itihasa. See the “References” section at the end of the post for more information. The purpose of the following post is to function as a prolegomena to my family tree. This post describes and enumerates upon my research process and specific sources for this family tree. Please note that this post does not elucidate any stories associated with the characters. The sole purpose of this post is to analyze and prove familial and marital relations.
The Early Generations
As I stated in the introduction, the early generations of the Kuru dynasty are uncomplicated and generally agreed upon by all sources. The Mahabharata starts with Pratipa, a king from the Kuru dynasty. To provide a little background, the Kuru dynasty began from King Kuru, a descendant of Puru. By the time of Pratipa, the Kurus had reconquered much of their land that had been subjugated by martial kings from neighboring kingdoms. They had become the most powerful dynasty of Bharatvarsha.
Anyways, King Pratipa inherited the Kuru throne from his father. Mahabharata Adi Parva Chapter 90 states that Pratipa married Sunanda, the daughter of the king of Sivi. Thereafter, Mahabharata Udyoga Parva Chapter 147 states that Pratipa and Sunanda had three sons (from eldest to youngest): Devapi, Bahlika, and Shantanu. Devapi possessed a skin disease, so he was denied the throne. His story is further described in the Vishnu Purana. Bahlika inherited his maternal grandfather’s throne at Sivi.
Thus, the youngest, Shantanu, was crowned as Pratipa’s successor. The Mahabharata Adi Parva Chapter 92 describes how Shantanu was initially wedded to the Goddess Ganga. She gave birth to eight successive sons. In actuality, these eight were the eight Vasus, incarnated on Earth due to a curse. Ganga killed the first seven, but the last one was saved by Shantanu. He was named Devavrata, and later became famous as Bhishma.
After that, Shantanu married the fisherwoman Satyavati. Chapters 95-96 then state how Shantanu and Satyavati had two children, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Chitrangada was killed by a Gandharva of the same name, so Vichitravirya became the king. Vichitravirya was wedded to Ambika and Ambalika, the daughters of the king of Kashi.
Vichitravirya soon died of overdrinking, and the Kuru family was in a dilemma. There were no rightful descendants to ascend the throne. Satyavati requested Bhishma to beget sons, but Bhishma wouldn’d forget this vow. Mahabharata Adi Parva Chapters 97-100 describe how the Kauravas resulted to niyoga to further their dynasty. Niyoga, prescribed in Manu Smriti Chapter 9, was an ancient practice used in Bharatavarsha. When a husband was incapable of fatherhood or had died without having a child, the wife would appoint another man to help her bear a child. Since Vichitravirya had died childless, Ambika and Ambalika utilized niyoga to bear children. They invited Satyavati’s son Vyasa to beget children with Ambika and Ambalika. As a result of the former unions, Ambika birthed a son named Dhritarashtra, while Ambalika gave birth to Pandu. Because the previous sons were born blind and pale respectively, Satyavati requested Ambika to beget a second child. However, Ambika was scared of Vyasa’s appearance, so she sent her maid, a Shudra woman. Vyasa and the Shudra woman had a child named Vidura. I included Dhritarashtra and Pandu as Vichiravirya’s sons because according to the practice of niyoga, the children are considered the husband’s children. However, I made Vidura the son of Vyasa because he was born from neither of the mothers nor of Vichitravirya.
Satyavati and Veda Vyasa
Before marrying Shantanu, Satyavati actually married Parashara Rishi. This story is recounted in Chapter 57 of the Adi Parva. According to the former section, King Uparichara Vasu once inadvertently had children with the Apsara Adrika. The boy, Matsya, was raised by Uparichara. But the daughter, Satyavati, was raised by a fisherman chief. One day, the rishi Parashara fell in love with her and they eventually had sex. On that very day, a son named Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa was born. He would eventually become renowned as “Veda Vyasa”, the compiler of the Vedas and Puranas, and more importantly, the author of the great epic “The Mahabharata”.
If Veda Vyasa was from the same generation as Vichitravirya, how did he survive to orate the Mahabharata. This answer can be found in the Puranas, which state that Vyasa is a chiranjeevi, or an immortal being. Thus, the great Vyasa still lives today, wandering somewhere in this globe but eluding humanity’s radar.
The Devi Bhagavata Purana Book 1 describes the birth of Shuka, famously known as Shukadeva. According to the former chapter, Vyasa became infatuated with the Apsara Ghritachi. Because of this, the son Shuka was born. According to Chapter 19 of the Devi Bhagavata Purana, Shuka married Pivari, the daughter of a rishi. Through their union were born four sons named Krishna, Gauraprabha, Bhuri, and Devasruta. Afterwards, they had a daughter named Kirti, who would go on to marry King Anuha (the son of King Vibhraja). However, since a family is continued through the man’s side, I didn’t include Kirti’s family. Although Shuka is not a quintessential part of the Mahabharata, I still included him because he is a prominent figure in Hinduism. Along with that, he is responsible for the narration of the Bhagavata Purana, an important on Mahabharata-related subjects.
The Bahlika Anomaly
The Bahlika family was evidently the largest complication in this project. As I mentioned above, Bahlika was Pratipa’s second son. He succeeded his maternal grandfather as the king of Sivi (alternatively spelled Shivi or Sibi). Even though Bahlika’s family isn’t central to the Mahabharata plot line, they still played a significant role in the epic, present during various key incidents. Along with that, they were an important, powerful family in ancient Bharatvarsha and a key branch of the Kuruvansha. Due to these reasons, I included them in my family tree.
The family of the Bahlikas is unrealistically succinct and concise in the canonical Mahabharata and its appendix text, the Harivamsa. According to the Harivamsa Chapter 23, Bahlika had a son named Somadatta. The latter had three sons named (in order of birth) Bhuri, Bhurishravas, and Shala. This is confirmed by the Mahabharata Adi Parva Chapter 177, which states that they all attended Draupadi’s swayamvara. Along with that, all five of them (viz. Bahlika, Somadatta, Bhuri, Bhurishravas, and Shala) were major Kaurava commanders in the war and died at the hands of various warriors. In Chapter 57 of the Bhishma Parva, we also find mention of Shala’s young son (who I called Shalaputra) killed by Dhrishtadyumna. In total, that makes four generations of the family.
Now if you think about this in a logical manner, it makes absolutely no sense. How could Shantanu’s brother Bahlika have fought in the Kurukshetra War? He would have been at least 200 years old at the time of the war, and he should have been long dead. One can argue that he lived via magical means, similar to how Bhishma had the boon of iccha mrityu. But nowhere in the Mahabharata do we see the slightest reference to any such thing. If he truly survived as a result of a boon, we would have encountered at least an allusion to such a thing. Somadatta and his three sons would have also been too old for the war (they would have been older than Dhritarashtra). Along with that, if Shantanu’s family greatly expanded, why was Bahlika’s family conformed to four generations.
We can reasonably assume that this is an inaccuracy in the text of the actual epic. Perhaps, Vyasa simplified the family when he was composing in order to make it less complex and easier to comprehend. There might have also been a textual distortion at some point in the distant past, and this distortion gradually evolved into what we have today. Whatever the case, it is apparent that this is a simplified version of the family.
Solving the Bahlika Anomaly
In this section, I will explain how I gathered evidence and concatenated it to solve the Bahlika family dilemma. The above chart is a graphical representation of what I am going to discuss below. The above chart lists the approximate time of birth in relation to the generation for every figure I am going to mention this section. I highly encourage you to reference this graphic as you read my textual description, as it will be easier to follow along and visually understand.
As I discussed in the previous section, the Mahabharata’s Bahlika family tree has been heavily simplified. I deduced that many of the Bahlika family members were called “Bahlika” or “Somadatta”. This pattern is not unusual, and it can be seen in other dynasties as well. For example, all of the kings of Videha were called Janaka. Sita’s father’s real name was Siradhwaja, but he was called Janaka like his ancestors. There is vague evidence of the multiple “Bahlikas” and “Somadattas” throughout the Mahabharata and Puranas. I am now going to utilize this evidence to establish a family tree.
Firstly, the Matsya Purana Volume 1 Chapter 50 states, “Bahlika was the father of seven sons, known as Bahlisvaras.” When we look at other dynasties, we can observe that the progenitor of the dynasty generally had the most offspring. This pattern can be observed in the Suryavansha, Kasi dynasty, the Anuvansha, etc. Thus I concluded that this Bahlika must be the original Bahlika, and he had seven sons called the “Bahlisvaras”. These seven sons were thus part of generation 3. An important point to note here is that Shantanu was born during Pratipa’s later years. Devapi and Bahlika were older than him by at least twenty years. Hence, I have placed Shantanu as generation 2.5, younger than Bahlika but slightly older than the Bahlisvaras.
The seven Bahlisvaras most likely gave rise to the great dynasties of the northwest. However, the Bahlisvara we are concerned with is Somadatta Ⅰ, the eldest Bahlisvara. He inherited his father’s throne and became the next king. He was slightly younger than Shantanu. His son (generation 4) was Bahlika Ⅱ, the Bahlika who fought in the war.
Now how did I determine all of this? The Brahmanda Purana Section 3 Chapter 71 states, “Rohini and Pauravi were the younger sisters of Bahlika.” The Rohini and Pauravi in question were the eldest wives of Vasudeva, Lord Krishna’s father. They must have been around the same age as Vasudeva. The Bahlika here cannot be the original Bahlika, but rather Bahlika Ⅱ. I had to first determine Vasudeva’s placement in the chart. Shantanu was generation 2.5, and he married Satyavati at an extremely old age. Thus, his youngest son Vichitravirya was generation 4, making Pandu a member of generation 5. Thus, Arjuna was part of generation 6. We know that Krishna was eight years older than Arjuna, so he was also generation 6. However, Vasudeva fathered Krishna really late. Before that, his wife had already given birth to seven sons who were killed by Kansa. Thus, Vasudeva was older than his contemporary, Pandu, making him part of generation 4.5. Rohini and Pauravi were hence also generation 4.5. Since they were the younger sisters of Bahlika Ⅱ, I placed Bahlika Ⅱ as generation 4.
Since Bahlika Ⅱ was born in generation 4, one of the seven Bahlisvaras (generation 3) must have been his father. When we look at Mahabharata Adi Parva Chapter 117, we see that Bahlika is called Somadatta’s son. Thus, the eldest Bahlisvara must have been Somadatta Ⅰ, and his son was Bahlika Ⅱ.
Bahlika Ⅱ was the Bahlika man that fought in the war. He must have been very old, but people during those days had longer lifespans. His son was Somadatta Ⅱ, born in generation 5 as a contemporary of Pandu. This was the Somadatta that fought in the Kurukshetra War. His birth name was Samyamana, but he became famous as Somadatta after his grandfather. The rest of the generations are the same as the Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana Canto 9 Chapter 22, and Vishnu Purana Book 4 Chapter 20. Somadatta Ⅱ had three sons named Bhuri, Bhurishravas, and Shala. They were born in generation 6, the same generation as the Pandavas and Kauravas. Shala’s son was part of generation 7, the same age as Abhimanyu. We know that Somadatta Ⅱ’s real name was Samyamana because Shala was often referred to as Samyamani (meaning the son of Samyamana).
It is important to be aware of the fact that is by no means a definitively accurate family tree of Bahlikas. The Bahlika family is extremely hard to determine because of Vyasa’s simplification. Many of the quotes can be interpreted in different ways. However, this is my deduction of the family tree, based on the limited textual evidence that I could scavenge from the books. I stayed faithful to the original Mahabharata, but added generations based on the Puranas and educated assumptions.
The Garuda Purana Chapter 140 and the Agni Purana Chapter 278 completely stray from the original Mahabharata’s account. I decided to ignore them to stay faithful to the original Mahabharata. I only used information that supplemented the original descendancy, but didn’t disrupt it.
Along with that, there are some passages in the Mahabharata itself which counter everything else. In Chapter 37 of the Ashrama-Vasa Parva, Somadatta is mentioned as the son of Bhurishravas, which is entirely inaccurate. Adding onto that, in the Stri Parva Chapter 24 (after the war), Somadatta is shown as mourning over his son Bhurishravas’s dead body. However, Somadatta Ⅱ was killed by Satyaki in the Drona Parva. How then, could Somadatta be alive after the war. This might indicate a third Somadatta who might have been an uncle. These controversial passages may also simply be faults in the original Mahabharata. I also decided to ignore these passages because they would completely disrupt the established family tree.
As you can see, my family tree of the Bahlikas is based on extensive research but also logical assumptions. But there are also passages that counter it. Because of the simplification and the limited Puranic evidence, we can never confidently establish a family tree of the Bahlikas. However, my family tree is possibly the closest we can ever get to establishing an accurate picture.
The Pandavas and the Kauravas
According to the Mahabharata Adi Parva Chapters 103-105, Dhritarashtra married Gandhari, the daughter of King Subala of Gandhara. Meanwhile, Pandu married Pritha in a swayamvara, in which the bride chose the husband. Pritha was the daughter of King Shurasena of Mathura, and hence Vasudeva’s sister. However, Pritha was adopted by King Kuntibhoja and she became known as Kunti. Thereafter, Pandu married Madri, the daughter of the king of Madra.
The Manusmriti states that a Shudra man can only marry a Shudra woman. Vidura was considered a Shudra man (his mother was Shudra). Therefore, according to tradition, he could only marry a Shudra woman. Bhishma had to find a respectable Shudra woman for Vidura to marry. Soon, he heard that the Yadava king Devaka had a daughter from a Shudra woman. She was married to Vidura, and they had many sons.
The next chapters describe the birth of Dhritarashtra’s sons. Gandhari had a boon from Lord Shiva that she would be the mother of 100 sons. Gandhari became pregnant, but her pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. A lump of flesh emerged from her body. Vyasa divided the flesh into 100 parts and put them into pots.
Soon, the first pot broke and the first child, Duryodhana, emerged. Within a month’s time, 99 other Kauravas were born, the most prominent of whom were Dushasana (for his role in Draupadi’s molestation) and Vikarna (because he was the only righteous Kaurava). Many of the Kauravas’ names begin with the prefix “Du”. This is a major discrepancy, as the prefix “Du” has a negative connotation. Why would Dhritarashtra give his sons evil names? Often in the Mahabharata and the Critical Edition, we see the name “Suyodhana” used in place of Duryodhana. The prefix “Su” literally means “good”. This indicates that the Kauravas were initially “Su-”, but then became “Du-” due to their wicked deeds.
In Chapter 107, we are also introduced to Yuyutsu. The text states, “When Gandhari was afflicted with her expanding belly, the mighty-armed Dhritarashtra used to have a Vaishya made in attendance. O king! Within a year, a son was born to Dhritarashtra. O king! He was immensely famous and wise and he was named Yuyutsu, of mixed lineage.” From the passages, it is clear that Dhritarashtra was frustrated with Gandhari’s miscarriage. In impatience, he most likely slept with his Vaishya maid. Chapter 108 lists Dhritarashtra’s children in order. In the aforementioned list, Yuyutsu directly follows Duryodhana. This means that Yuyutsu was born after Duryodhana, but before the others.
In Chapters 107-108, we are also introduced to Duhshala, Dhritarashtra’s daughter. It states that Dushala was born from a 101st portion of the flesh. In the ordered list in chapter 108, Dushala is younger to Duryodhana, Yuyutsu, Dushasana, and Dushaha. Dushala ultimately marries King Jayadratha of Sindhu.
The next chapters transition to Pandu’s narrative. Pandu had been cursed by Rishi Kindama that if he had sex, he would die. As a result of this, Kunti and Madri used niyoga to beget children. Kunti had a boon that she could invoke any god to have a child with. Kunti first invoked Yama (god of death/dharma) and had a son named Yudhishthira, born before Duryodhana. After that, she invoked Vayu (god of wind) and gave birth to Bhima. Finally, she invoked Indra (king of the gods) and mothered Arjuna.
Meanwhile, Madri became jealous and also desired children. Kunti gave her the mantra to invoke the gods. Madri invoked the Ashvins (twin gods of healing) and gave birth to twins: Nakula and Sahadeva. Thus, the five Pandavas were born as kshetraja (biological father is different from normal father) sons.
The Family of the Kauravas
In the Mahabharata, there are a myriad of references to the family of the 100 Kauravas. Adi Parva Chapter 108 states, “When the time was right, Dhritarashtra considered the matter carefully and married them to wives who were their equals.” This quotation refers to the Kauravas, and states that they all married. Thus, Dhritarashtra had numerous daughters-in-law, and most likely, grandsons numbering among the hundreds. Chapter 18 of the Stri Parva also mentions Dhritarashtra and Gandhari’s daughter-in-laws pitifully mourning their husbands’ deaths. Along with that, the war parvas introduced us to many new names of Kauravas. These Kauravas can most conceivably be the sons of the original 100. There is implicit evidence supporting the previous statement, but I’m not going to elaborate because I haven’t incorporated them in my family tree.
However, I have included Duryodhana’s family, which is detailed in the Mahabharata. It is commonly known that Duryodhana’s wife was Bhanumati. However, “Bhanumati” has no Puranic or Itihasic origin whatsoever. The name “Bhanumati” is not mentioned in the Mahabharata or in the Puranas. According to Shanti Parva Chapter 4, Duryodhana attended the swayamvara of the daughter of King Chitrangada of Kalinga. When Chitrangada’s daughter rejected Duryodhana, he was enraged. He abducted her and then married her in Hastinapura. However, the wife remained unnamed, solely being referred to as Chitrangada’s daughter.
In Drona Parva Chapter 45, Abhimanyu killed Lakshmana, Duryodhana’s son. Later, in the Stri Parva, Duryodhana’s wife was depicted as crying over the death of Duryodhana and her son Lakshmana. It can be inferred that this wife is the daughter of Chitrangada, and Lakshmana was her son.
Along with that, the story of Duryodhana’s daughter Lakshmanaa is told in the Bhagavata Purana, Canto 10, Chapter 68. The story went such that Krishna’s son Samba attempted to abduct her, but failed and was imprisoned by the Kauravas. When Balarama threatened to destroy Hastinapura, the Kauravas allowed them to marry. Again, we don’t know Lakshmanaa’s mother. However, since her name is highly similar to Lakshmana, we can assume they were siblings. Thus, Lakshmanaa’s mother was Chitrangada’s daughter.
We find mention of Dushasana’s son in Drona Parva Chapter 48. He delivered the final blow to kill Abhimanyu on the thirteenth day. However, his name isn’t mentioned, so I didn’t include him on my family tree. Vikarna’s wife is also mentioned in Stri Parva.
Karna: The Son of the Sun
Karna’s birth is detailed in various instances in the epic. A naive Kunti uses her boon to invoke Surya (the sun god) out of total curiosity. However, since she used the mantra to have children, she was obliged to have children with Surya. Their union resulted in the birth of Karna. Karna was abandoned by his mother and adopted by Adhiratha Suta and his wife Radha. Thus, he was an apaviddha son, rejected by his parents and adopted by others. I did not include any of Karna’s adopted family in my family tree as they have no biological connection to him.
The Stri Parva Chapter 21 mentions Karna’s wife weeping over his dead body. However, she remains unnamed throughout the epic. In Chapter 21, Karna’s wife is also called “Vrishasena’s mother” and “Sushena’s mother”. Through this, we know that Karna and his wife had at least two sons named Vrishasena and Sushena. They were both killed in the war by Arjuna and Nakula respectively.
There are also other sons of Karna mentioned in the war parvas. Karna’s sons Satyasena and Chitrasena were killed by Nakula in the Shalya Parva Chapter 9. We also meet Karna’s son Shatrunjaya in Bhishma Parva Chapter 47. Other sons such as Vrishaketu, Prasena, and Bhanusena are not mentioned in the Critical Edition, so I excised them from my family tree. We do not know if these sons are born from the same wife that finds mention in Stri Parva, or if they are born from another wife. Karna probably didn’t have many wives, as sutas weren’t allowed to have a multitude of wives.
The Draupadeyas were the sons of Draupadi and the Pandavas. There were five of them, one for each Pandava. The Critical Edition of the Mahabharata lists the Draupadeyas in various locations:
- Adi Parva, Chapter 57
- Ad Parva, Chapter 90
- Adi Parva, Chapter 213
- Vana Parva, Chapter 13
- Vana Parva, Chapter 224
- Karna Parva, Chapter 39
- Sauptika Parva, Chapter 8
All these aforementioned locations agree on three of the five Draupadeyas: Prativindhya (son of Yudhishthira), Sutasoma (son of Bhima), and Shatanika (son of Nakula). These three were the most notable ones. They played significant parts in the epic and Kurukshetra War, and some are even mentioned in the Puranic texts.
But the other two Upapandavas, the sons of Arjuna and Sahadeva, were more difficult to pinpoint. All of the references I mentioned contradict each other regarding the sons of Arjuna and Sahadeva.
The above references mention three names as the sons of Arjuna and Sahadeva: Shrutakirti, Shrutasena, and Shrutakarman. The name “Shrutakirti” is only mentioned as the son of Arjuna, and not as the son of Sahadeva. We know that the name “Shrutakirti” must be the son of Arjuna because “Kiriti” was a name of Arjuna. The word “Kiriti” means “presented by the king of gods (i.e. Indra)”.
The name “Shrutasena” is only mentioned as the son of Sahadeva, so we can conclude that the “Shrutasena” was the son of Sahadeva. Meanwhile, the name “Shrutakarman” is mentioned differently as both the son of Sahadeva or of Arjuna. Some of the references list him as the son of Sahadeva, while others mention him as the son of Arjuna.
These contradictions put me in a dilemma. I couldn’t understand the identity of “Shrutakarman”- was he the son of Arjuna or Sahadeva? As I flipped through the books, I located a passage that gave me a clue. In Adi Parva Chapter 213, it says, “Shrutakarman was born as a son after hearing of the great deeds performed by Kiriti.” In the footnotes for that sentence, Bibek Debroy states, “He should therefore be thus named, shruta means heard and karma means deed. Kiriti is one of Arjuna’s names.” Hence, this passage and footnote provides concrete evidence which connects Shrutakarman to Arjuna. It explains the meaning of his name, and how it relates to Arjuna.
Along with that, in Karna Parva Chapter 39, Bibek Debroy’s footnotes state, “Shrutakarma and Shrutakirti should be the same…” Bibek Debroy clearly states that Shrutakarma is the same person as Shrutakirti. Both are names for the same person: Arjuna’s son. It may also be that these two names are merely inflections of each other, judging by the common “K”. Whatever the case, we can definitely conclude that “Shrutasena” was the son of Sahadeva and “Shrutakarma/Shrutakirti” was the son of Arjuna. With this aforementioned evidence, we can create a comprehensive list of the Draupadeyas:
- Prativindhya, the son of Yudhishthira
- Sutasoma, the son of Bhima
- Shrutakirti (also known as Shrutakirti), the son of Arjuna
- Shatanika, the son of Nakula
- Shrutasena, the son of Sahadeva
After Draupadi, the other famous Pandava wife is Subhadra. She married Arjuna during his pilgrimage. Subhadra was the daughter of Vasudeva and Rohini, and thus the sister of Balarama and Krishna. She gave birth to the famous Abhimanyu, known for his superhuman performance on the thirteenth day of the war. Although he fought valiantly, he was eventually trapped in the Chakravyuha and brutally slaughtered by six warriors.
The Virata Parva Chapters 66-67 describes Abhimanyu’s marriage with Uttaraa, the daughter of King Virata of Matsya. They had a son named Parikshit. The Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata narrate how he was almost killed by Ashwatthama while in his mother’s womb, but then saved by Lord Krishna.
After the Pandavas left for Hastinapura, Parikshit became the king. According to the Mahabharata Adi Parva Chapter 90, Parikshit married Madravati and gave birth to Janamejaya.
The Satapatha Brahmana, Khanda 8, Adhyaya 5, Brahmana 4 states, “There are those same first two days, and a Jyotis Atiratra: therewith (they sacrificed) for Bhimasena;–those same first two days, and a Go Atiratra: therewith (they sacrificed) for Ugrasena;–those same first two days, and an Ayus Atiratra: therewith (they sacrificed) for Shrutasena. These are the Pariksitiyas…”. The term “Pariksitiyas” obviously connotes “the sons of Parikshit”. In the footnote, the author Julius Eggeling explicates that Bhimasena, Ugrasena, and Shrutasena were Janamejaya’s brothers and thus Parikshit’s sons. This claim is confirmed by the Vishnu Purana Book 4 Chapter 21 and the Bhagavata Purana Canto 9 Chapter 22. To sum up, Parikshit’s sons were Janamejaya, Bhimasena, Shrutasena, and Ugrasena.
The Bhagavata Purana indicates that Janamejaya was the oldest, so he became the next king. He is famous for his Sarpa Satra (snake sacrifice) and his role in the narration of the Mahabharata.
Chapter 90 of the Adi Parva then continues, saying that Janamejaya married Vapushtama from Kasi and had two sons named Shatanika and Shanku. The former (viz. Shatanika) is mentioned in many Puranas, including the Garuda Purana Chapters 140-141 and the Vishnu Purana Book 4 Chapter 21. On the other hand, the latter (viz. Shanku) isn’t mentioned anywhere besides the Mahabharata. However, in my opinion, the Mahabharata is the greatest authority on this particular matter, especially because it pertains to the family of the Mahabharata. Throughout my research for this family tree, I have utilized the Puranas as excellent sources of supplementary information. However, ultimately, the Mahabharata is the largest authority for this content and therefore, must be trusted. That is why I included Shanku in my family tree.
Continuing through the descendancy, Chapter 90 states that Shatanika had a son named Ashwamedhadatta through a wife from Videha. The Vishnu Purana and the Garuda Purana agree with this claim. The Kuru dynasty is completed in the Vishnu Purana, and continues for a few more generations till the last ruler Kshemaka. I have not included these generations on my family tree as they are not connected to the Mahabharata itself.
One last thing to note here is that the Brahma Purana Chapter 11 unveils a completely different descendancy. The Brahma Purana states that Parikshit had two sons named Suryapida and Chandrapida, who had a hundred sons and so on. It is important to remember that the excessive reiteration of the Puranas over the years has caused various discrepancies and alterations. As a researcher, I always side with the perspective supported by the majority. In this scenario, the Brahma Purana’s family tree is unique, while the Mahabharata’s family tree is affirmed by the Vishnu Purana and the Garuda Purana. Exercising the aforementioned principal, I ignored the Brahma Purana.
The Other Family of the Pandavas
Besides Draupadi, the Pandavas had many other wives and children. Some of these wives and children are renowned, such as Hidimba and Ghatotkacha, but others are unknown. First, let’s start with Yudhishthira, the oldest Pandava. There is another wife of Yudhishthira mentioned in the Mahabharata (besides Draupadi). Her name is Devika, and she is only alluded to in one chapter of the entire epic: Adi Parva Chapter 90. It is stated that Devika was the daughter of King Govasana of Sivi. It also says that Yudhishthira and Devika had a son named Yaudheya. He was also known as Devaka, meaning the son of Devika. Moreover, the Puranas also mention Devika. In the Puranas (Matsya Purana Chapter 50 and Vishnu Purana Book 4 Chapter 20), she is variously known as “Yaudheyi” and “Shaivya”. However, they all refer to the same woman, Devika. “Yaudheyi” means the mother of Yaudheya and “Shaivya” means the woman from Sivi.
We all know about Bhima’s Rakshasa wife Hidimba. They married after the Pandavas escaped Varnavrata. Their story is told in the Adi Parva, Chapters 139-143, and in Agni Purana Chapter 178. Through Bhima, Hidimba gave birth to a Rakshasa named Ghatotkacha. We aren’t told much about Ghatotkacha in the Mahabharata itself. However, the Skanda Purana completes the story of Ghatotkacha. The Kaumarika Khanda of the Skanda Purana discusses how Ghatotkacha married the warrior princess Kamakantaka, famously known as Ahilya or Maurvi. They had a son named Barbarika, who is famous for his invincibility. The adventures of Barbarika are enumerated in the Skanda Purana. However, I won’t discuss them here as I don’t want to go off on tangents. In the Drona Parva of the Mahabharata, we learn about another son of Ghatotkacha: Anjana Parva. We don’t know anything about him, only that he was killed by Ashwatthama on the fourteenth night of the war. He might be another son of Kamakantaka, or Ghatotkacha’s son from another wife.
Adi Parva Chapter 90 also mentions Jalandhara (Balandhara) as Bhima’s wife. Jalandhara was the princess of Kashi, possibly the daughter of King Subahu. Bhima obtained her through a viryashulka marriage, in which suitors display a feat of strength to acquire the bride. Bhima and Jalandhara had a son called Sarvaga. Jalandhara and Sarvaga are additionally mentioned in the Vishnu Purana Book 4 Chapter 20, Matsya Purana Chapter 50, and Bhagavata Purana Canto 9 Chapter 22.
Lastly, Ashrama-Vasa Parva Chapter 32 states, “There was a prosperous king who was the leader of an army. That king always challenged Krishna and this one, with a complexion like that of a blue lotus, is his sister. This is the one who is Vrikodara’s chief wife.” Typically in the Mahabharata, “the complexion of a blue lotus” refers to a princess from Chedi. This makes sense, as King Shishupala of Chedi opposed and was eventually killed by Krishna. Hence, we can conclude that Bhima married Shishupala’s sister.
Arjuna obviously married Subhadra, Krishna’s sister, and fathered Abhimanyu. I talked about Abhimanyu’s family and descendants in the previous section. Besides Subhadra, Arjuna married two other ladies during his pilgrimage. The first one was Ulupi, a Naga lady. She was the daughter of King Kauravya of the Nagas. They gave birth to a son named Iravan, who was killed on the eighth day of the war by Alambusha Rakshasa. The second lady was Chitrangada, the daughter of King Chitravahana of Manipura. Their son Babhruvahana was a putrika-dharma son. A putrika-dharma son is a son adopted by his maternal grandfather. King Chitravahana was son-less, so he adopted Babhruvahana as his own. Ulupi and Chitrangada’s stories are narrated in the Sabha Parva, Chapters 206-207. They are also mentioned in Bhagavata Purana Canto 9 Chapter 22.
In Adi Parva Chapter 90, we are informed that Nakula married Karenumati, the daughter of King Shishupala of Chedi. They had a son named Niramitra. She is also briefly alluded to in Ashrama-Vasa Parva Chapter 32, Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, and Matsya Purana.
Lastly, Sahadeva married Vijaya, the daughter of the king of Madra. They had a son named Suhotra. They are mentioned in all of the aforementioned Puranas, and in the Mahabharata Adi Parva Chapter 90. Ashrama-Vasa Parva Chapter 32 also states that Sahadeva married Jarasandha’s daughter. Jarasandha was the emperor of Magadha, and he was slain by Bhima. Sahadeva might have married Jarasandha’s daughter after Jarasandha was killed. This wife isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the texts.
Lastly, the Harivamsa Vishnu Parva Chapter 90 narrates the story of Bhanumati, daughter of the Yadava Bhanu. The story is such that Bhanumati was abducted by the demon Nikumbha, but subsequently saved by Pradyumna, Arjuna, and others. After this incident, upon Krishna’s suggestion, Bhanumati was married to Sahadeva. The unclear part here is the identity of Bhanu, Bhanumati’s father. We are familiar with Bhanu, Krishna’s eldest son with Satyabhama. However, this Bhanu would be younger to Sahadeva, making Bhanumati a little child. This doesn’t make sense, and hence, Bhanumati’s father Bhanu is different from Krishna’s son Bhanu.
We are commonly told that Parikshit was the only living descendant of the Kuru dynasty after the Mahabharata War. That is why he succeeded Yudhishthira as the king. However, through my research, I have learned about many other Pandaveyas (sons of the Pandavas). We know Ghatotkacha, Iravan, Barbarika, and Anjana Parva were killed during or before the war. Babhruvahana was a putrika-dharma son, so he inherited his maternal grandfather’s throne. But what about the other Pandaveyas: Yaudheya, Sarvaga, Niramitra, and Suhotra? Along with them, there were most likely other sons of the Pandavas that haven’t been mentioned in the texts. The Matsya Purana even mentions Prativindhya’s son Yaudheya. Why didn’t these sons/grandsons inherit the throne of Hastinapura?
Ultimately, we can never be sure. We can always form educated assumptions. But the scriptures talk nothing about their lives, so we can never know what truly happened to them. Perhaps they perished in the war; perhaps, they ruled other kingdoms after the war.
Glossary of Key Terms
- Swayamvara: a practice of choosing a husband, from among a host of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age. A swayamvara was generally hosted by the girl’s father and could be a grand event.
- Viryashulka: a practice of choosing a husband, from among a host of suitors, based on their valour. The prince with the most valour and strength would be chosen as the husband.
- Putrika-dharma: when a father was son-less and in need of a successor, he gave his daughter in marriage and took a promise from the son-in-law that the son of them would be counted as his own.
- Niyoga: when a woman’s husband was incapable of fatherhood or had died childless, she would appoint another man to help her bear a child.
- Kshetraja: a child that was born from a woman’s womb, but her husband was not the biological father. They were still treated as the husband’s sons.
- Apaviddha: a child that was rejected by his parents, so he grew up with others. This child could claim the property of his foster family, but could not perform their pind-daan.
- Pind-daan: a Hindu ritual conducted after the cremation of an individual.
- Suta: the child of a Kshatriya father and a Brahmin mother. They were also a class of people during the Mahabharata time. They were generally employed as charioteers or bards/story-tellers.
To learn more about family and casteism laws, traditions, and ideologies in ancient Bharatvarsha, I suggest you read Dharma-related texts such as the Manu Smriti and the Yajnavalkya Smriti. You can also read the Anugita, an addendum to the Bhagavad Gita embedded in the Ashwamedhika Parva of the Mahabharata.
- All references to the Mahabharata are that of the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata, written by the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute (BORI) and translated by Bibek Debroy. The acclaimed Critical Edition is the most trustworthy edition of the Mahabharata. The scholars have used hundreds of manuscripts to compile an accurate version of the Mahabharata.
- The Vishnu Purana by Horace Hayman Wilson
- The Bhagavata Purana by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
- The Garuda Purana by Manmatha Nath Dutt
- The Agni Purana by J.L. Shastri, G.P. Bhatt, and N. Gangadharan
- The Matsya Purana by A. Taluqdar of Oudh Part 1
- The Matsya Purana by A. Taluqdar of Oudh Part 2
- The Brahma Purana by G.P. Bhatt
- The Brahmanda Purana by G.V. Tagare
- The Devi Bhagavata Purana by Swami Vijnanananda
- The Harivamsa by Various Translators (in progress project)
- The Manu Smriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi by Ganganatha Jha
- The Yajnavalkya Smriti with the Commentary of Vijnanevara called the Mitaksara by Rai Bahadur Srisa Chandra Vidyarnava
- The Satapatha Brahmana by Julius Eggeling