Shalya was an uncle of two of the Pandavas (Nakula and Sahadeva). Why did he fight on the side of the Kauravas then?

Also, if you could provide the Sanskrit Shlokas to support your answer, that would be great (although, not necessary).

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    @sv.: I am well aware of that. I do not see a new discussion adding more value. In the end, I am not bound to keep a tag in my question. I assume that prerogative lays with person who is asking the question? :) May 2, 2016 at 16:53
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    No, the prerogative doesn't lie with the person asking the question. Tags are chosen in order to properly classify the question so that they can be searched for easily. For instance, if someone wants to know about the stories of Krishna, as opposed to the teachings of Krishna, they can search Krishna and mythology and that will pull up all the questions about stories relating to Krishna found in the Mahabharata, Puranas, Harivamsa, etc. May 2, 2016 at 18:16
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    In any case, I believe that all the stories given in the Vedas, Puranas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata literally happened the way they're described, so in using the mythology tag I'm not casting any doubt about the truth of those stories. May 2, 2016 at 18:17
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    @KeshavSrinivasan: The most common usage of the word myth is 'a widely held but false belief or idea' . I am sure your intention is not to cast any doubt but it does. May 2, 2016 at 18:24
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    @KeshavSrinivasan: Sorry, I do not agree to that. The word mythology also will have two meaning as myth has. Also, the second meaning is a more tec hnical one used only by some of the academics. The first one is used by most of the layman, by normal people. May 2, 2016 at 22:35

1 Answer 1


Shalya was the king of Madra and brother of Pandu's wife Madri, so naturally he wanted to fight on the Pandava side. But when Shalya and his army came, they were greeted by Duryodhana's men, who provided them with food, lodging, and entertainment. Shalya assumed that Yudhisthira was responsible for all this, so he wanted to reward him for the hospitality. But then he found out that Duryodhana was the one responsible, so he was forced out of a sense of honor to reward Duryodhana, as described in this chapter of the Udyoga Parva of the Mahabharata:

And when Salya was exceedingly pleased and ready to grant even his life, Duryodhana, who had remained concealed, came forward and showed himself to his maternal uncle. And the kind of the Madras saw him and understood that it was Duryodhana who had taken all the trouble to receive him. And Salya embraced Duryodhana and said, 'Accept something that you may desire.' Duryodhana thereupon said, 'O thou auspicious one, let thy word be true, grant me a boon. I ask thee to be the leader of all my army.'

So Shalya was tricked into fighting on the Kaurava side, despite his love for the Pandavas. In the course of the war, he killed Abhimanyu's brother-in-law Uttara (as I discuss in this answer), served as thr charioteer of Karna, and finally became the general of the Kaurava side after Karna died. Ultimately Yudishthira was forced to kill Shalya, which must have been an agonizing decision.

It's important to note, by the way, that even while fighting for the Kaurava side, Shalya still supported the Pandavas, and while driving Karna's chariot during Karna's fight with Arjuna he tried to demoralize Karna as much as possible. Shalya was fundamentally a good person put into a terrible situation, forced to fight his own nephews even though he knew that their cause was just.

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    Awesome, the Karna part is rather interesting, I wonder if there is more to it there. May 2, 2016 at 22:42
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    @AmitSaxena Thanks, I added the Uttara link. Regarding the Karna part, here's the request that Yudhishtira makes to Shalya in that Udyoga Parva chapter: "When, O best of kings, the single combat between Karna and Arjuna will take place, I have no doubt thou wilt have to drive Karna's car. On that occasion, if thou art inclined to do good to me, thou must protect Arjuna. O king, thou must likewise so act that the Suta's son Karna may be dispirited and the victory may be ours. Improper it no doubt is; but, O my uncle, for all that thou must do it." Shalya agrees to the request. May 2, 2016 at 22:47
  • Yup, I read that part. Although, I was wondering what exactly Shalya say or do to discourage someone like Karna. Also, how did Karna respond to this. I have asked a separate question regarding this: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/11817/… May 2, 2016 at 22:53

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