To be fair no one tried to tell us what happened after the Mahabharata war. Mahabharata is indeed the greatest epic ever written. It has a deep-rooted impact on Indian culture, customs and even the way people conduct themselves today. It also has an impact on understanding, what is morally wrong and correct in the Indian culture.
However, most of the knowledge people have about Mahabharata is not from reading or analyzing the actual texts but through various TV series and movies. These entertainment mediums mostly end when the Kurukshetra war ends. We were never told what happened after the great Kurukshetra war in the epic Mahabharata.
While the article covers the events that happened after the Kurukshetra war as mentioned in Mahabharata based on actual ancient texts and as has been told for thousands of years please bear in mind that the Mahabharata is mythological account and you can read more about the historicity of Mahabharata and whether Mahabharata narrates a real history.
Let us now have a look at what happened after the Mahabharata war.
1. There were only 12 people who survived the Kurukshetra war in Mahabharata
Mahabharata was a, in essence, a true world war for the ancient people. It had even greater catastrophic outcome than the modern world wars, almost all people dead when I say all, I mean 3.94 million soldiers. Bear in mind that the population of the earth was nothing compared to the world population today. The only surviving were 12 people and none of them were ordinary soldiers!
Just in case you are interested, they are the 12 people who survived the Mahabharata war
1. The Five Pandavas: The sons of Pandu with two mothers, Kunti and Madri, and husbands to Draupadi
2. Krishna the Lord himself
3. Satyaki: A fierce warrior of the Vrishini clan. Satyaki fought passionately for the Pandavas however his army, Vrishini army fought along with Kauravas due to a promise by Krishna
4. Yuyutsu : The eldest Kaurava. He was the stepbrother of Duryodhana and was born of an unnamed Vaishya mother.
5. Ashwatthama: Son of Guru Dronacharya
6. Kritavarma: A Vrishni warrior
7. Kripacharaya: The teacher of both Kauravas and Pandavas
8. Vrishaketu: The son of great warrior Karna who fought with Kaurava Army
2. The greatest warrior of Mahabharata, Arjuna lost most of his powers
Arjun arguably is one of the central characters and bravest warriors in Mahabharata and the Kurukshetra war. It is said the extraordinary power that Arjuna possessed was to fight the righteous war (Dharm Yudh).
However, things drastically changed after the Kurukshetra war ended. He lost almost all his power, even to the extent that he wasn’t able to fight a few ordinary thieves who tried to kidnap Lord Krishna’s wife. You can read the story here
3. Yudhishthira becomes the crown king to the throne of Hastinapur
Practice during ancient times and even practiced today in India is to pass to the throne of the kingdom to the eldest son. It is quite obvious that in Hindu customs the eldest son becomes the king of the throne.
Nonetheless, Yudhishthira being a truly noble man offers his uncle Dhrirashtra to remain on the throne. He, however, does not agree and leaves the throne for Yudhishthira.
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4. Gandhari Curses Lord Krishna which ultimately leads to the death of his human body
Gandhari on seeing her sons lying dead in the battlefield and their bodies were mutilated by carnivorous worms, birds and animals got very angry and she held Lord Krishna responsible for the death of her sons. She curses him that he will watch his kinsmen dying in front of his very eyes as has they seen their sons dying on the battlefield.
5. Rehabilitation of Kaurava Martyr’s Wives
Draupadi creates a council of women consisting of all the widows of war. The council looks after their rehabilitation and ensures that everyone could support their families financially by providing them with dignified work opportunities.
Wives of Kauravas were given respectable positions in the council and in the palace of Pandavas.
6. Dhritarashtra and Gandhari leave for penance after being taunted by Bhim
After performing the last rituals of son’s and other relatives, Dhritarashtra and others indulges into severe penance and lives upon air only for approximately two years.
In some versions of Mahabharata it is maintained that Bhima used to taunt the old couple due to which they left the kingdom for penance into woods. Kunti the mother of Pandavas and Sanjay also leaves with them
7. The death of central characters in Mahabharata
Dhritrashtra and other four, die in a forest fire in meditating position which they could have escaped but rather chose to die peacefully.
8. Pandavas renounce their kingdom and mortal life and begin their final journey to heaven from the Himalayas
Vyasa tells the Pandavas that they have served the purpose of their life, and now they should leave for their final journey to the Himalayas.
The Pandavas along with their wife Draupadi leave Hastinapur. Along the journey, a dog befriends them. The Pandavas first reach the South, to the sea, and perform rituals there. Near the sea, Lord Agni Deva appears in front of them.
“Oh Arjuna, The bow you are holding is very powerful. It was sent to you by the Gods and devas in order to fight evil and sustain Dharma. Now that the purpose has been served and you too have renounced your duties as Commander in Chief, I think you can return the bow to me. “said Lord Agni Deva.
“Agni Devta, I hope I have fulfilled your expectations. Now that we have renounced the world, I don’t find it reasonable to hold the bow.” saying so Arjuna returns his bow to Agni Deva.
They move from south to southwest and visited places, Ashrams and from there they headed to Dwaraka. The magnificent and glorious city was no more there. The Pandavas see the city flooded and from the land, they could see Krishna’s palace standing among the waters.
The sight of such a beautiful city submerged in the sea made them sad. They turned north and stopped at Rishikesh. From there they started for the Himalayas. They planned to cross mount Meru and reach heaven.
9. While scaling the Great Himalayas, the 4 Pandavas and Draupadi fall and die a mortal death, but Yudhishthira continues and survives
During the journey a dog befriends them and accompanies them for the entire journey. While ascending the Himalayas, Draupadi becomes the first one to fall, followed by Sahadeva, Nakula, Arjuna, and Bhima.
Yudhishthira provides the explanation of their falling due to various sins committed during their lifetime. Only the Yudhishthira and the dog continue on their ascent.
10. Yudhishthira’s final test
As the dog and Yudhishthira climb up the mountain, Lord Indra appears on his chariot and asks Yudhishthira to come to heaven with him. Yudhishthira insists to take the dog along with them. Indra disapproves of the request, however Yudhishthira remains adamant.
It is only later on when Yudhishthira realizes that the dog was actually the deity Dharma, who in awe of Yudhishthir’s virtues, appreciates him. And eventually, he enters in Indra’s chariot to heaven.
11. Parikshit, from Kuru clan becomes the crown king of Hastinapur and continues to rule
Along with his son and successor Janamejaya I, he plays an important role in the consolidation of the Kuru state, the arrangement of Vedic hymns into collections, and the development of the orthodox Srauta ritual, transforming the Kuru realm into the dominant political and cultural center of northern Iron Age India.
12. Reunion in the heaven
The epic Mahabharata describes the reunion of Karna, Pandavas and Kauravas in heaven, where they all get back together, free of angst and rivalry against each other.
13. Gandhari’s curse to Krishna takes 36 years to materialize which leads to end of Krishna and Yadava clan of Dwarka, a period during which Pandavas stay in power
The violence in the Dwaraka cracks open, with Yadavas killing each other. Mausala Parva describes the Lord Krishna’s death in the 36th year, which occurs as a result of an arrow mistakenly shot at him by Jara. A dying Krishna consoles the apologetic Jara and merges in the image of Lord Vishnu.
This event leads to the beginning of Kali Yuga as we know today. What happened after the Mahabharata War, helped shape culturally and philosophically the Indian culture that we know today. The information about Mahabharata was incomplete without knowing the events after the Kurukshetra war.
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