Arjuna is also known as Gudakesha meaning The one who has conquered sleep and who is not affected by sleep.

From B.G. 10.20

अहं आत्मा गुडाकेश सर्व भूतस्य स्थितः अहं अदिश्च् मध्यंच भूतानांन्त एव च

aham atma gudakesa sarva-bhutasaya-sthitah aham adis ca madhyam ca bhutanam anta eva ca

Meaning :

I am the Self, O Guḍākeśa, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.

What is the story of Arjuna conquering sleep and how did he do that? Are there any more Gudakesha people in this world?

  • I vaguely seem to recall this question being asked on the site already, but I can't find it. Perhaps it was asked a while back but then deleted either by the user or by the system. Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 19:38
  • 1
    Some imply/mean sleep as darkness or ignorance also.
    – Pandya
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 5:42
  • I find some stuff; read this, this and this (which shows the Arjuna inspired to practice in the darkness of night) may help you
    – Pandya
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 5:46
  • I think Krishna is eosterically using this name for Arjuna... as this verse is related to Atma Jnana/ Brahman Jnana...
    – Tezz
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 10:14

5 Answers 5


According to a story I know, Arjuna was so desperate of being a great archer as his guru Dronacharya blessed him so.He started practicing archery in the night without caring about sleep and tiredness. So he conquered sleep in that way I think.

This story I found somewhere on the web.Now I could not find it anywhere.So I could not paste the links for you.

  • 6
    According to site rules, you are supposed to Answer a question, only when you are confident about the answer. Also, you should cite sources for your answers. See rules here.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 7:21
  • Kindly provide the citations for your claim as for now its unsourced speculation at best. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 5:25

Another literal meaning of 'Gudakesha' is 'he of the curly hair':

enter image description here

If you notice the Ganguli translation of The Mahabharata at sacred-texts.com, he seems undecided about how he should translate the word 'Gudakesha' initially as it's evident from this line of Adi Parva:

"Vaisampayana said, 'When the heroes of the Vrishni race began to speak repeatedly in this strain, Vasudeva uttered these words pregnant with deep import and consistent with true morality. Gudakesa (the conqueror of sleep or he of the curly hair), by what he hath done, hath not insulted our family. He hath without doubt, rather enhanced our respect. Partha knoweth that we of the Satwata race are never mercenary. The son of Pandu also regardeth a self-choice as doubtful in its results. Who also would approve of ...

However, at most other places, he went with 'the curly hair' meaning of the word, including BG 10.20 you quoted in your question:

"The Holy One said, --

'Well, unto thee I will declare my divine perfections, by means of the principal ones (among them), O chief of the Kurus, for there is no end to the extent of my (perfections).

I am the soul, O thou of curly hair, seated in the heart of every being, I am the beginning, and the middle, and the end also of all beings...

Also, in Udyoga Parva, while advising Duryodhana to mend his ways, Bhishma refers to Arjuna as "Partha, of eyes like lotus-petals, and curly hair...":

And let that foremost of smiters, Bhima, possessed of leonine shoulders and thighs round, and long, and mighty arms, embrace thee. And then let that son of Kunti, Dhananjaya, called also Partha, of eyes like lotus-petals, and curly hair and conch-like neck salute thee respectfully. Then let those tigers among men, the twin Aswins, unrivalled on earth for beauty, wait on thee with affection and reverence as on their preceptor.

Another translation available at IndianScriptures.com also translates the above almost exactly:

enter image description here

Later on, in Aswamedha Parva, Ganguli also footnotes that:

"Vaisampayana said, 'The heroic son of Sakuni, who was a mighty car-warrior among the Gandharas, accompanied by a large force, proceeded against the Kuru hero of curly hair.1


144:1: The etymology of Gudakesa as the lord of Gudaka or sleep, is fanciful.

Within The Mahabharata, if there was any clear evidence of Arjuna being called Gudakesha for having conquered sleep, I'm sure Ganguli would have went with that meaning in his translation.

Also, if Arjuna was especially proud of the fact that he had conquered sleep, I'm sure he too would have recited it as one of his names in his introduction to Uttara; but then he doesn't:

"Arjuna said, 'I will, O son of Virata, tell thee my ten names. Listen thou and compare them with what thou hadst heard before. Listen to them with close attention and concentrated mind. They are:

  1. Arjuna,

  2. Falguna,

  3. Jishnu,

  4. Kiritin,

  5. Swetavahana,

  6. Vibhatsu,

  7. Vijaya,

  8. Krishna,

  9. Savyasachin and

  10. Dhananjaya."

So given that, to answer your second question:

Are there any more Gudakesha people in this world?

Yes, in millions! :)

EDIT: Winthrop Sargeant also translates Gudakesha as "the Thick Haired One"

enter image description here

  • 1
    Translation of Hrishikesha as Bristing Haired one seems far-fetched. Even the german sanskrit dictionary site you mentioned (not that I accept it) earlier does not have that translation. It means lord of senses, similarly gudakesha means lord of sleep. Gudaka is not a made up word. Some Winthrop dude says it is 'generally believed' to be an artificial word.. by who ? People seem to fall head over heels over English translations by westerners than listen to native upanyasams from India.
    – ram
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 5:20
  • 1
    Hrishikesha is "He whose hair consists of the rays of the sun and the moon, which give joy to the world.", see the vishnushahastranaam translation of Adi shankaracharya or see this en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hrishikesha. Plus none of your citations are from vedic scholars and are totally unacceptable because these modern authors just turn and twist our ancient mythology.
    – Yogi
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 5:30
  • @ram Did you read the complete answer? If not please do. Ganguli is an Indian author and his footnotes also say the same thing about Gudakesha. Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 5:33
  • 1
    @Yogi I found Shankara's commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama and there are many different interpretations of Hrishikesha, not a single one. Also, a simple word such as Keshava could be interpreted as "One with beautiful hair (kesha)" - so you can believe whatever you want to! Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 20:23
  • @sv. Sanskrit is very complicated language and the word meaning changes with the context and situation. So you need to analyze the whole situatuion plus a person needs to be a sanskrit master in order to analyze such deep meaning, that is why a vedic scholar is needed to analyze the scriptures.
    – Yogi
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 1:05

Gudakesha = gudaka + isha = sleep + lord = one who conquered sleep (refers to Arjuna)

Since a Sanskrit word can have different meanings, we need to take the context to determine the correct one. Take this verse for e.g. :

evam uktva hrishikesham gudakesha: parantapa

Hrishikesha = hrishika + isha = senses + lord = one who conquered senses (refers to Krishna)

Since Vyasa is immediately referring to Arjuna in the next word as Gudakesha, there is no point in pointing out his curly hair in that context, but rather to show that the conqueror of sleep is talking to the conqueror of senses. And the next word after that is Parantapa (scorcher of foes). Again it is unlikely to point out his curly hair just before calling him a great warrior.

One more thing to note with all translations - The original is in Sanskrit. People who translate it into English, which is a western language, use their western cultures & mindset to interpret the words. To get original intent, you need to listen to proper gurus who have devoted their lives to spirituality, are of satvik guna etc. The best way to get this is through upanyasams (spiritual discourses).

Back to your question of when he conquered sleep:
During Gurukul under Dronacharya, Arjuna was eating at night under a lamp, when a wind blew the lamp out. But his hand automatically placed the food in his mouth even though it was pitch dark. He realized he did not need light to control his arm. So he started practicing shooting in the dark (at night without sleeping).

Regarding other people who conquered sleep:
Vishvamitra gave 2 mantras - Bala & AtiBala to Rama & Lakshmana when he took them to protect his Yagna. I'm not sure which corresponds to which - but one of the mantras conquers hunger and the other conquers sleep.

Source - Mahabharata by Vyasa and Ramayana by Valmiki.

  • 2
    you did not provided the exact link in your answer, and saying the sources as Mahabharata and Ramayana is vague IMHO. Add the links to the points you are making so that anyone can independently go and verify the facts. Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 5:12
  • If you can understand Tamil/Telugu/Hindi, you can listen to upanyasams (spiritual discourses) by various scholars from India and verify independently, like I mentioned in my answer.
    – ram
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 5:15
  • we all as a community will be happy to listen to those, if you can share the links! You can read more in this post as to why giving the Link in your post as Answer is important. Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 5:27
  • @ram Upanyasam don't count as the authentic citations, unless they are words of Great Bramharishi's. Only authentic citations are shruti's and smriti's (smriti verses which do not contradict shrutis).Btw I like your answer but if you cite autentic source with your answer then I will accept your answer.
    – Yogi
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 5:44

Vishwanath Chakravarty gives two explanations of Gudakesa in Sarartha Varshini, his commentary on bhagavadgita. In one explanation, he took sleep as maya.

Here is the significance of the word Gudakesa. Akesa means Visnu (a), Brahma (ka) and Siva (isa). Gudakesa means Arjuna who gives them (akesa) the experience of the sweetness of the Lord’s affection just as sugar (guda) gives the experience of sweetness.(Literally the word would mean “He who is the sugar for Brahma, Visnu and Siva.”). Therefore, Gudakesa refers to he who, by bringing Krsna under his control, gave Visnu, Brahma, and Siva the opportunity to experience Krsna’s sweetness. Where the Supreme Lord Krsna, the crown jewel, source of all avataras, being controlled by prema, followed the orders of His servant Arjuna, how could Visnu, Brahma and Siva, His expansions as guna avataras, show off any of their powers? Instead, they felt they had reached the pinnacle of perfection by manifesting affectionate feelings for the Lord themselves (inspired by Arjuna). The lord of the spiritual sky (Mahavisnu) said: dvijatmamaja me yuvayor didrksuna I brought the brahmana’s sons here because I wanted to see the two of you. SB 10.89.58.

Gudakesa can also mean the lord (isa) of sleep (gudaka), the controller of the senses. Even Krsna, who is the direct controller of bhakti , became controlled by Arjuna’s prema. Thus Arjuna was able to conquer despicable maya or sleep.

Baladeva Vidyabhusana gives the meaning as follows:

Gudakesa means the lord (isa) of sleep (gudaka). Arjuna had conquered sleep by complete absorption in remembrance of the beauty and qualities of his close friend, bhagavan Sri Krsna.

Parikshit also seems to have conquered sleep as well as hunger while he was hearing bhagavatam.

  • guda does not mean sugar.Sarkara is sugar. guda is a crude form of sweet.Its surprising why Arjun gave Guda to Brahma and Shiva instead of giving madhu or sarkara.Sastra says: madhu-abhaave gudam dadyaat meaning guda can be given only if honey is not available.
    – user17294
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 8:25
  • @Partha just understand the mood.. It may be a bit translation issue...it is not literal sugar. It is allegorical/metaphorical..
    – user2612
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 8:26

The dictionary meaning of Gudakesha is :'a person with thick hair':


But so far as my limited knowledge goes, it can mean the one who has perfect control over sleep also. Someone who is able to sleep or remain awake as per his own desire can be called Gudakesha.

I do not understand what is so much complicated or surprising in this! Any great soldier has of course to have full contol over his sleep.All the brave soldiers of the Indian Army (or any Army for that matter) has to conquer sleep. Arjuna being such a great warrior and one vibuti of Sri Krishna (Pandavaanam Dhananjayah) must have had full control over sleep and so he was called Gudakesha.

We must also remember that sometimes these names have been used to complete the eight letters required to maintain the anustup chhanda (and Indrabagra/Upendrabagra in other places of Gita) and therefore so much analysis of these terms seems not that important to me.

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