In the era of Mahabharata, there were many skilled and powerful warriors. Although the morals of Mahabharata is more about Dharma and Adharma with a basis of our Karma, it’s always interesting to read about the scales in which the wars were fought, the weapons the warriors possessed, the ups and downs in the battles which the warriors faced and so on.
In this article, I shall discuss the ten greatest and most powerful warriors in Mahabharata. I am not including Lord Krishna and Lord Balaram for obvious reasons. I am not considering Barbarika since he doesn’t belong to Vyasa Mahabharata, rather the Skanda Purana.
The important criteria I am taking are:
- The overall knowledge and skills of the warriors about Warfare.
2) The human and celestial weapons the warriors possessed.
3) The war records of the warriors in different battles of the epic.
PS : (The sources of reference are the texts of the BORI Critical Edition of Mahabharata)
The son of Bhimasena and Hidimba was a dangerous illusionist who knew how to fly and to manipulate his size. He was among the few to pose a threat to Bhagadatta and Bhishma. His roar scared Bhishma and, looking at his performance, Bhishma admitted that none is powerful enough to defeat Ghatotkacha.
He made elephants out of illusions who could torture even the super-strong Supratika, the elephant of Bhagadatta. Also, he avenged the death of his cousin, Iravan, by killing Alambhusa. He also destroyed the demon Alayudha and his army as well in a very fierce battle.
He created havoc in the Kurukshetra war and created such a situation that Karna was forced to use his Vasavi Shakti of Indra that he had taken in exchange of his Kavach and Kundal to kill Arjuna.
Even while dying, he enlarged his body and killed one Akshauhini army by falling on them.
(Section 70, Ghatotkacha Vadha Parva of BORI)
Tied 10. Bhagadatta
The king of Pragjyotisha was a Maharathi and the son of the demon Narakasura who had been killed by Krishna.
During the Rajasuya sacrifice, he fought with Arjuna for eight days. He fought from the Kaurava side in the Kurukshetra war thanks to his enmity with Krishna.
He was a possessor of the arguably most powerful Vaishnava Astra and he used it against Arjuna in the great war. But Krishna being the charioteer of Arjuna stood against the weapon which made the gem of a weapon turn into a garland of flowers. He defeated most of the powerful warriors in the Kurukshetra War including Bhima and Satyaki and along with his giant elephant Supratika, they managed to pose a huge threat to the Pandavas. He also made Ghatotkacha flee away in the battle.
At the end, Arjuna fought him. In a fierce battle, he lost his life after being shot with a powerful weapon by Arjuna.
(section 66, Samshaptaka vadha parva,BORI )
9. Satyaki :
Satyaki, a dearest friend of Arjuna and a disciple and Drona, is the most underrated warrior who was from Yadava clan. He fought from the Pandava side in the war of Kurukshetra and defeated most of the powerful warriors of Kaurava including Drona, Karna, Bhagadatta, Ashwathama, Kripa, Shalya, Duryodhana multiple times. Satyaki killed Jalasandh, Bhurisravas, Sudarshana, Shala, Somadatta, Vinda, Anuvinda, Sushena, etc. in the Kurukshetra war.
He was perhaps the best archer from the Pandava after Arjuna. Maharathi Satyaki was one of the eight key survivors from the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra war apart from Pandavas, Yuyutsu, and Krishna.
(Jayadratha Vadha Parva section 69, Ghatotkacha Vadha Parva section 70 and other sections, BORI)
Bhima, the second son of Kunti and Pandu (although Vayu is his biological father), was not only a great mace fighter, but an excellent archer as well.
He defeated Bhishma, Drona and Ashwathama multiple times and killed all the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war. He won against Karna multiple times in archery and spared his life due to the vow taken by Arjuna.
On the 18th day, Bhima killed one Akshauhini Kaurava army.
He had also killed the powerful Jarasandha after defeating him several times.
He killed the demons Jatasura, Kirmira, Bakasura, Maniman and Hidimba, being the physically strongest.
(Section 9, section 10, section 22 and others, BORI)
The son of Surya, Karna defeated the mighty Jarasandha in a wrestling combat, and at the Swayamvar of Kalinga princess, he defeated all the kings.
Yudhisthira was always afraid of Karna compared to the other warriors of the Kaurava. In the Kurukshetra War, he defeated most of the powerful warriors of Pandavas except Arjuna & Abhimanyu. He killed Ghatotkacha with Vasavi Shakti.
However, his best performance belongs to the 17th day of the War where he used his Vijay bow and his Bhargava Astra against the Panchala and Chedi and destroyed 1.5 Akshauhini army. Also, he could capture Yudhisthira, a feat only he achieved among the commanders of Kaurava. Due to his promise to mother Kunti, he spared the lives of all the Pandava brothers barring Arjuna.
In the end, he and Arjuna fought the most nail-biting battle on the 17th day of the War. It was an interesting combat before Arjuna overpowered him. When finally Arjuna was going to fire Rudrastra , Karna’s chariot wheel got stuck in the mud. After an exchange of Divyastras like Brahmastra and Varunastra, Karna lost his life to the Anjalika Astra of Arjuna.
(section 70 Ghatotkacha Vadha Parva, Section 71 drona vadha parva, Section 73 Karna vadha parva and others, BORI)
The son of Guru Dronacharya was perhaps the most destructive warrior from the Kaurava side who managed to face Ghatotkacha when all his mates were fleeing away and killed 1 Akshauhini demon army at a time.
Further on the 15th day, he used Agneyastra which killed one Akshauhini army at an instant.
He also had the mighty Narayana Astra and Brahmasira and he used the former against the Pandavas after his father’s death. On Krishna’s instructions, Pandavas had to leave their weapons and surrender themselves to the weapon as the weapon doesn’t hamper the unarmed.
He could manage to defeat other powerful warriors like Bhima and Satyaki. It’s believed that he in his furious form was extremely difficult to counter as he was the partial incarnation of Lord Rudra. (section 71 Drona Vadha parva,72 sections Narayana Moksha Parva, BORI)
The reincarnation of Varchas, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, was a highly skilled Maharathi warrior who defeated most of the opponents in the Kurukshetra War. His life span on earth was predestined.
Bhishma along with other warriors from the Kaurava tried to defeat him, but they failed eventually. Abhimanyu also defeated the demon Alambhusa.
Abhimanyu killed more than ten thousand of warriors inside the Chakravyuha and defeated Drona, Karna, Ashwathama, Kripacharya, Duryodhana, and others multiple times without being defeated by them. He also killed many notable soldiers inside the Vyuha. After numerous one to one and group attacks, he still remained undefeated. At last, his bow was broken by Karna from behind. His charioteer and horses were killed as suggested by Drona looking at Abhimanyu’s feats.
He was one of the least defeated warriors in the great war!
(Section 64 Bhishma Vadha parva, 67 Abhimanyu Vadha Parva, BORI)
The incarnation of Brihaspati, Drona was an excellent strategist of war and Pandavas suffered from highest damage when he was the commander in chief of the Kaurava.
Drona killed many of the topmost warriors of opponents like Drupad, Virat and others. He was the mastermind behind Abhimanyu’s death.
He was the only one from the Kaurava side who had knowledge about Chakravyuha. Drona single-handedly killed more than two Akshauhini army in the war. He also had the invincible Narayana Astra.
With weapons, he was invincible which is why Krishna tricked a dead elephant. The only way he died was by withdrawing his weapons after obeying the celestial command.
(section 67,69,71 and others of Drona Parva BORI)
Bhisma was the incarnation of the 8th Vasu Prabhasa. He single-handedly defeated all kings of the earth at the Swayamvar of Kashi Princesses.
Furthermore, in his battle, he could defeat Lord Parshuram with the divine weapon from Vasus, the Praswapa Astra, but he was intervened by Narada.
For 10 days, he killed more than ten thousand soldiers in the Kuru war daily. He was fighting the war half heartedly thanks to his affection towards the Pandavas. But on the last two days before his death, he was almost invincible. Being annoyed with the mildness from Partha, Krishna was about to break his vow of not using any weapon. But Arjuna stopped him.
On the 10th day of the war, Bhishma was put in a bed of arrows thanks to Arjuna who placed Shikhandi in front of him and pierced him with several arrows. (section 64 Bhishma Vadha Parva, BORI)
He was the incarnation of Kama Deva, the god of love and the son of Lord Krishna and Rukmini.
Pradyumna had the Vaishnava Astra with him and by using it, he killed the demon Kalashambara in childhood who had abducted him.
He was the only person to have knowledge about Chakravyuha other than Krishna, Arjuna, and Drona. His arrows were so fast and powerful that Drona and Karna couldn’t counter them.
He had defeated the entire force of Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa and others and also mighty kings like Jarasandha. Pradyumn also defeated Lord Kartikeya. Being a master of illusions, he tied Kauravas and Karna with his maya and finally left them by Krishna’s order. He didn’t take part in the war of Kurukshetra. (Harivamsha, Vishnu Parva, Section 33 Tirtha Yatra Parva, BORI)
The reincarnation of sage Nara (the form of Lord Vishnu), Arjuna had the feats like no one else in the epic. He had the most numbers of powerful celestial weapons including Pashupatastra, Vaishnava Astra and Vajra.
He killed seven Akshauhini army in a day in the Kurukshetra war. Also, he was the only undefeated warrior.
In the Virat war, he single-handedly defeated all the Kaurava army including Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Ashwathama, Kripa and others multiple times and finally used his Sammohana Astra.
He defeated Gandharvas during Ghosha yatra. During the Khandava Dahana, he defeated all the Gods including the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras and even Lord Kartikeya.
In his visit to Swarga, he got weapons from all the Gods and killed the invincible demons Kalakeya and even the Nivata Kavachas whom even Ravana and Indra couldn’t defeat.
Arjuna was ambidextrous who could rapidly use his both hands in the battles with superfast speed. Also, he knew the use of shabdabhedi baan.
So, it’s beyond argument to place Dhananjaya at the top in the list.
(section 19 Khandava Daha Parva, section 31 Kairata Parva, section 32 Indralokabhigamana Parva, section 39 Ghosha Yatra Parva, section 69 Jayadrath Vadh Parva and others, BORI)
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So, these were the greatest warriors of Mahabharata according to me. It’s not difficult to choose 10, but arranging them is difficult. After all, some are extremely knowledgeable and skilled, some have great weapons, some are physically stronger, some have great feats in the battles. So with a combination of all the factors, the list will certainly vary from person to person. However, I tried my best to put my honest and unbiased take on it.
The honorable mentions would include Drishtadyumna, Brihadbala, Jarasandha, Shalya, Kripacharya, Drupad, Kuntibhoja, Susharma, Bhurisravas, Kritaverma, Duryodhana, Jayadrath, Yudhisthira, Nakula, Sahadev, Virat, Shikhandi, Upapandavas, Babrubahana, Iravan, Vrishasena and others.
Source of reference : BORI Critical edition of Mahabharata.
Source of pictures: Google images. The Author or website does not claim any images to be own. They are taken from google for the representation of characters only.
About The Author :
Nipun Kumar Purohit is a student, a learner, an enthusiast of the epic Mahabharata, and also a cinephile. He can be followed and contacted on twitter by clicking here.