Barbarika – Story of “The Unsung Hero” from Mahabharata

Well, most of us have heard about Mahabharata but there are some unsung characters who actually performed heroic tasks. Let’s know one such warrior today named Barbarika.

Barbarika, a furious warrior who could have ended the great war of Mahabharata in just a minute. Surprised? I know you must be thinking how? Who was he? Well, let’s know.

Barbarika was the son of Ghatotkacha and the grandson of Hidimba and Bheem. From the childhood itself, Barbarika was a very courageous warrior. His mother Mata Ahilyavati (daughter of Basuki Naag) taught him the art of warfare.

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The “Bearer of three arrows”

Pleased with Barbarika’s penance, Lord Shiva granted him three meticulous arrows as a boon. Hence, he was honored as “Bearer of three arrows.” Later, Agni Dev (The God of fire) gave him a bow which was capable to mark his victory in the three Worlds.

Now it was time for the Mahabharata war but before it began, Lord Krishna asked all the warriors that in how many days, they alone can end the war? Bhishma, Dronacharya, Karna, Arjun and all the warrior replied to finish the war alone between 20 to 30 days.

Krishna and Pandava brothers already knew that Barbarika was going to participate in the war with his three arrows. Pandava brothers agreed to ask Barbarika to stay away from the war but Krishna disagreed. He knew that Barbarika would not let go of this opportunity to prove himself as the most furious warrior. Krishna then decided to manage the situation in his own way.


The conversation between Brahmin and Barbarika –

Once, while Barbarika was riding his blue horse, a Brahmin came in the way. Brahmin asked Barbarika who he was? “I am the son of Ghatotkacha and Maurvi (Ahilyavati) and the grandson of Bhima and Hidimba and I am the most powerful warrior in the world,” answered Barbarika.

Brahmin then asked him in how many days he can end the Mahabharata war alone? Barbarika proudly answered that he is skilled to finish the war in a single minute. With the sound of disbelief, Brahmin asked him how can he end the war with just three arrows?

  • “With the first arrow, I can mark everything I want to destroy. When I release the third arrow, everything that is marked will be destroyed and the arrow will return to the quiver.
  • The second arrow can mark everything that I wish to save. Now again when I fire the third arrow, everything that isn’t marked will be destroyed.” replied Barbarika.

In a challenging manner, the Brahmin asked Barbarika to destroy all the leaves of the peepal tree below which they were standing. Barbarika, before releasing the arrow closed his eyes. In meanwhile, Brahmin plucked a leaf from the tree and hid it beneath his foot. When Barbarika released his arrow, it destroyed all the leaves and pierced Brahmin’s foot to mark the leaf that was hidden under his foot.

Brahmin then asked Barbarik from whom side will he participate in the war? Without any thought, Barbarika answered, “I have promised my Mother that I will support the weak side. As the Pandavas have only seven Akshauhini armies compared to the eleven of the Kauravas, I will fight for the Pandavas.”

Brahmin then explained Barbarika, “Supporting Pandavas means defeating Kauravas and You cannot kill Bhishma as he has a boon of Ichha-Mrityu  (self-willed death). He can kill all but not Bhishma so then he would have to join Kauravas as they will be weak which will make him kill all the Pandavas.” Barbarik understood that his participation will kill everybody and he alone will be left.

Barbarika remembers his vow to participate in the war so he cannot step back. He asked Brahmin to guide him. Brahmin thus asked him to give his head in charity. Hearing this, Barbarik knew the Brahmin was not mere Brahmin and asked him to reveal his true identity.



The true identity –

The Brahmin appeared in his divine form. Yeah well, your guess is quite right here. The Brahmin was none other than Krishna. “Before giving your head in charity, ask for anything you want”, proposed Krishna. Barbarika touched his feet and asked him that he wish to see the forthcoming battle of Kurukshetra to which Krishna agreed. He placed Barbarika’s head on top of a hill overlooking the battlefield. From the hill, the head of Barbarika watched the entire battle of Mahabharata.

The victory of Pandava brothers filled pride in them. While Arjuna was arrogant about his archery skills, Bhima was proud of his clubbing skills. “Only the one who saw the entire battle is qualified to select the real winner”, said Krishna.

They went on the hill and asked Barbarika’s head who he thinks is the actual reason behind the victory. “All I witnessed was Sudarshan Chakra revolving everywhere destroying Adharma and Mata Draupadi as Mahakali Durga quenching her thirst for Kauravas blood without allowing even a single drop of blood to fall on the Earth,” said Barbarika. Pandavas realized that it was Lord Narayana and Goddess Parvati (Mahakali) who actually destroyed evil, while they were mere instruments.

Pandava’s after the end of war questioned Krishna why he asked for Barbarika’s head? There could have been another way.

Krishna explained, “In Barbarik’s previous birth, he was a Yaksha. When the adharma (wickedness) went par the limits on earth, Devas (Gods) came to seek the help of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu told the Devas that he will soon be incarnated on Earth as a human being and destroy all the evil forces. Meanwhile, a Yaksha told the Devas that he alone is enough to kill all the evil elements on the Earth. Lord Brahma witnessing his arrogance cursed this Yaksha that whenever the time comes to eliminate all the evil forces on Earth, then Lord Vishnu will first kill him. To fulfill the curse, I, Krishna asked for his head in charity before eliminating all the evil forces on Earth.”


Barbarika as Khatu Shyam Ji in Kaliyug –

Obliged by the sacrifice of Barbarika, Krishna grants him a boon. “You will be wholeheartedly worshipped by the name of Shyam in my form when Kaliyug arrives. The devotees who will seek your blessing would be granted their wishes.”

As a result of Krishna’s boon, We now worship Barbarika in the form of Khatu Shyamji. The famous temple named Khatu Shyamji is located in the Sikar district of Rajasthan. There is a Shyam pond at a little distance from the temple where the head of Shri Shyamji had appeared. Many devotees believe that by bathing in that pond, the diseases of the body are cured.


So, this was the story of “The Unsung Hero” from the Mahabharata.

If you know any such personality, not only from mythology but from history or from the current time, do share their stories in the comment below.

yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanirbhavati bhaarata |
abhyuktaanamadarmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyahamh ||

When there is the decay of dharma (righteousness) and the rise of adharma (unrighteousness),
then I (the Lord) am born in this World.

Bhagavat Geeta

Read more such interesting blog: What are 10 Chanakya Neeti (quotes) which everyone should follow?

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