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Babruvahana- The warrior who defeated Arjuna
In Mahabharat, the valour and skills of Arjun are unmatched, however, among these stories, there’s also a story of a warrior who not only bested Arjuna but also killed him. And this warrior was no other than Arjuna’s son, Babruvahana.
A folio of Babruvahana from Maharashtra; Image source; Wikimedia commons.

Story of Arjuna's son Babruvahana

How did the father-son come face to face on the battlefield? To know that we have to first know the story of Babruvahana’s birth. Arjuna once accidentally breached the privacy of his brother Yudhistir and Draupadi, and to repent for this act, Arjuna went on a year-long exile. During his exile, he reached the Kingdom of Manipur, ruled by King Chitravahana. King Chitravahana had a daughter named Chitrangda, who was well-versed in warfare. Impressed by her courage and skills, Arjun fell in love with her and both of them got married. Soon Arjun had to leave Manipur to continue his travels. Arjun also married the Naga Princess Ulupi and Subhadra, the sister of Sri Krishna. Unbeknown to him, Chitrangda bore him a son named Babruvahana, who was trained in warfare and battle strategies from a young age.

Years passed and the Pandavas emerged victorious in the Kurukshetra war. However, Ganga cursed Arjun to die by the hand of his son, just as he had killed Ganga’s son Bhishma. Princess Ulupi got to know about this curse and began to think of a means to break it.

Meanwhile, after the war, the Pandavas performed the Ashwamedha Yagya, and Arjun was appointed as the guardian of the Ashwamedha horse. When the horse reached the borders of the Manipur kingdom, Princess Ulupi instigated Babruvahana to capture it. Babruvahana fought and defeated the Pandava forces and easily captured the horse. On the second day of battle, Bheem and Vrishketu, who was Karna’s only son to survive the Kurukshetra war, were sent to defeat Babruvahana. However, he bested Bheema and killed Vrishketu. After the Kurukshetra war, once Pandavas had discovered the true identity of Karna, they had taken Vrishketu under their care and have loved him very much. The death of Vrishketu enraged Arjun who vowed to either avenge his death or immolate himself.

Arjuna, battling his son Babruvahana, a scene from Mahabharat reproduced in Shadow Puppetry; Image source- Wikimedia Commons

On the third day, Babruvahana came face to face with Arjun and they both engaged in a fierce battle. However, Babruvahana used a divine weapon and at the same time Ganga’s curse on Arjun took force and as a result, he was killed. When Babruvahana discovered the true identity of Arjuna, he immediately regretted his actions and wanted to kill himself, at the same time Chitrangda chastised Ulupi for causing Arjun’s death. However the Naga Princess had a trick up her sleeve, she told Chitrangda and Babruvahana about Ganga’s curse and directed Babruvahana to Naaglok to recover the Sanjeevani Mani. Arjun was brought back to life with the powerful gem, but he felt remorse for being the cause of Vrishketu’s death. However, Shri Krishna assured him that he would restore Vrishketu’s life. Later, Babruvahana went on to become the king of Manipur.

The legend of Babruvahana while missing in most of the adaptations in North India, has been widely reproduced in South Indian pop culture. So far, they have been reproduced in several languages like Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Hindi. The Kannada version of the film saw a record 25-week run in the cinema. Besides movies, the legend of Babruvahana is also often the subject matter of shadow plays and regional folklore. The epic of Mahabharat is filled with these fringe characters, who, even though do not play a direct role in the main conflict, still make the story more entertaining and rich for the listener.

Siddharth Tiwari Author
I aspire to read every comic book there is. When I'm not infront of computer working, I'm infront of computer playing videogames.

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