From the childhood I was knowing that Yudhishthira had lied just once at the time of Guru Drona Vadha and that was also the half truth half lie. But recently, I came to know that Yudhishthira had also lied at the time of Ajñātavāsa. He had given the wrong introduction to King Virata.

Yudhishthira, came before Virata and addressed him, saying, 'O great king, know me for a Brahmana who, having lost his all hath come to thee for the means of subsistence. I desire, O sinless one, to live here beside thee acting under thy commands, O lord.

Yudhishthira said, "My name is Kanka, and I am a Brahmana belonging to the family known by the name of Vaiyaghra. I am skilled in casting dice, and formerly I was a friend of Yudhishthira."

What I understand from its literal meaning is that Yudhishthira had given wrong introduction of himself. So, my question is Did Yudhishthira lie more than once or is there any other hidden meaning of above sentence?

Please note that, I have a huge respect towards Yudhishthira when it comes to speaking truth. The question came in my mind when I have heard a discussion like this.

  • 1
    Nice question. @UdayKrishna, I don't think even it was a white lie from the perspective of Yudhishtira. It was agreed by Kaurava-s and PAndava-s during Sabha Parva. The information which is not harmful to anyone, can be hardly considered a lie. Hence this may not be a lie for VirAta as well.
    – iammilind
    Oct 21, 2016 at 11:30
  • 2
    "I am skilled in casting dice" .. that's the biggest lie of all his statements :P Nov 22, 2016 at 20:28

3 Answers 3


No, Yudhishtira did not lie in this case.
And this fact is without any hidden or deep meaning.

When we relate "truth" or Satya with just "information", then we can often find contradictions in the behaviours of righteous people. Dharma doesn't solely rely on correct/incorrect information. If that was the case, then all computers will become DhArmik!

PAndava-s were specifically ordered or agreed to remain disguised for the last 1 year after being defeated in dice game. This is found in SabhA parva:

Sakuni then said,--'The old king hath given ye back all your wealth. That is well. But, O bull of the Bharata race, listen to me, there is a stake of great value. Either defeated by ye at dice, dressed in deer skins we shall enter the great forest and live there for twelve years passing the whole of the thirteenth year in some inhabited region, unrecognised, and if recognised return to an exile of another twelve years; or vanquished by us, dressed in deer skins ye shall, with Krishna (Draupadi), live for twelve years in the woods passing the whole of the thirteenth year unrecognised, in some inhabited region. If recognised, an exile of another twelve years is to be the consequence. On the expiry of the thirteenth year, each is to have his kingdom surrendered by the other. O Yudhishthira, with this resolution, play with us, O Bharata, casting the dice.

Yudhishtira was a just king and his duty was towards the well being of the people of his kingdom. Hence for him, the Dharma was to get his kingdom back after 13 years. The condition of remaining unrecognised, was set & agreed as a stipulation. So he Had to disguise himself as someone else. Hence this was neither a lie in technical way nor it was Adharma.

BTW on side note,

"Did Yudhishthira lied more than once?"

Probably you meant "other" as the "supposed" lie which Yudhishtira spoke for Ashwatthama to defeat Drona. According to Krishna, even that was also acceptable in that context. I have discussed that in this answer:

Behold, however, truth as practised is exceedingly difficult to be understood as regards its essential attributes.
Truth may be unutterable, and even falsehood may be utterable where falsehood would become truth and truth would become falsehood. ...
On an occasion of marriage, or of enjoying a woman, or when life is in danger, or when one's entire property is about to be taken away, or for the sake of a BrAhmana, falsehood may be uttered.

So technically even though it was not a perfect truth, it was still DhArmik.

IMO, probably Yudhishtira might have never moved on completely from that game changing half-truth which ultimately resulted in his preceptor's death. He always might have felt attached with it even though Krishna adviced that event to be righteous. That could be the reason, why he had to finally go through a small test in the heaven-hell.


No. It is not a lie. It is the choice of words and how Yudhisthira projected him here, made the difference here.

First let's get to the analysis about Yudhisthira:

  1. He is said as lotus eyed
  2. He was borm on Jayeshta, second month of the year
  3. He was an expert in religion, science and administration
  4. His flag(yes Yudhisthira does have a flag on his chariot) is moon at the center and other planets around it
  5. One of the best master with Chariot and spear
  6. Owned a personal chariot with 1000 beautifully wrought tiger skins

Now look at the name he has given: Kanka

These are the characteristics of the name Kanka:

  • Direct meaning - Scent of Lotus
  • Astrologically, Kanka derives to number 2, with Moon as the ruling planet

Now let's compare notes. Yudhisthra has given him a pen name, Kanka because of his physical attributes(his eyes are like Lotus; but has to be hidden for an year. Only attribute of Lotus flower that is hidden from eyes is it's scent and it's long root. Yudhisthra took the scent for his name, which would still be hidden even if we search up to the roots) and his flag(He will rule under his flag and thus chosen Kanka as it is astrologically under the rule of moon. A name that can very well connect to his true identity, that is based on his physical attributes. A very well, strategically thought name.

Now one down, 2 more to go. Second part is his family name given Vaiyaghra.

He never informed the king that "My name is Kanka of Vaiyaghra family". Instead he informed the king "I am kanka, O king, I belong to the Vaiyaghra family." Now the meaning of Vaiyaghra? "car covered with a tiger's skin". So the indirect translation will be "kanka who belonged to tiger's skin covered car". That is something unique, at least in Mahabharatha, and is owned only by Yudhisthira. This you can read when Yudhisthira bets his car against Sakuni while dicing. From here:

Yudhishthira said,--'This my sacred and victorious and royal car which gladdeneth the heart and hath carried us hither, which is equal unto a thousand cars, which is of symmetrical proportions and covered with tiger-skin, and furnished with excellent wheels and flag-staffs which is handsome, and decked with strings of little bells,

Again, truth that was just hidden enough.

So somehow, two down. Only one to go. That is, he calling himself a Brahmana when he was a Kshatriya. The explanation for this one is a little stretch. One, is that Yudhisthira was not some one who upheld caste based on birth. He was arguing for Hidimbi to marry Bhima. An asura. And Pandavas were already living as Brahmanas for 12 full years. So Yudhisthira, until the return to rule, considering themself as Brahmana should be fine.

I do not have a link but in Nala-Damayandhi and Satyavan-Savithri stories, it was mentioned like if you live seven and a half years as friend or foe, or of a different caste, you become one of them. If this is from Vedas, Yudhisthira indeed knows them and might as well consider himself Brahmana at the exile.


As requested, I've added below how the other brothers and Draupadi named themselves to King Virata.

Bhima as Ballava

Ballava, directly means "A cow herd". Now get to Bhima's attributes: Super strong, one of the best in Mace/Wrestling and even a bigger eater. His guru, Balarama is the only one better than him at that point in terms of Strength and Power fighting. However, Bhima has no equal in terms of eating. It was highlighted in many places, even in Vana parva after Draupadi has Akshaya Patra. So he took his eating skill for disguise. Bhoja is the colloquial term that is used for eating and also synonymous with "Cow herd". To serve full to his appetite, as well as to prevent question about his caste(no one would question his caste, if he has a caste name as his name), he chose Ballava. The best is also to note that he never introduced his caste to King and due to the name, King also never questioned his caste. From here

Then the high-souled son of Pandu, approaching Virata, addressed him in words that were not unsuited to his object, saying, 'O foremost of kings, I am a cook, Vallava by name. I am skilled in dressing dishes. Do thou employ me in the kitchen!'

Draupadi as Sairindhri

Again, a technique that is similar to Bhima yet went a little long further. Add a caste name as your name to avoid people asking your caste. And introduce your work as your name as well. She claims that I am a maid-servant of the Sairindhri class rather than saying "I belong to Sairindhri class/caste". We have to consider the meaning of "I am an independent artisan(hair dresser) who work as a maid-servant in other's house. She indeed told truth that she has five husbands(not a common thing even when polygamy is common) and also said "Draupadi would call her as malini", to give a name to the Queen Sudeshna.

If she is just lying, she indeed need not give true details(especially one where she says that she has 5 husbands)

Sahadeva as Vaisya

Now, this took me some time to understand why it is not a lie. Because Sahadeva introduce himself as

Sahadeva answered in accents deep as the roar of the cloud, 'I am a Vaisya, Arishtanemi by name. I was employed as a cowherd in the service of those bulls of the Kuru race, the sons of Pandu.

Instead of seeing Vaisya as a caste, we should see it as a continuous sentence with the meaning "some one trying to settle down". Like "I am a settler, Arishtanemi by name". Here Arishtanemi shows his role with Pandavas, the rim that holds the Pandavas with his knowledge. He also gives out his true talents and thus the point that he is lying is moot.

Arjuna as Vrihannala

No need to explain his name as he explains it with his introduction itself:

Know me, O king of men, to be Vrihannala, a son or daughter without father or mother.'

This is a curse from Urvashi, it is right to call than Vrihannala(Not Arjuna, who has both father and mother) has only "mother"(cause of the curse) and thus took name as such.

Nakula as Granthika

Both the Ashvineyas(Nakul and Sahadeva) are extremely good at Astrology, fencing and ayurveda. And Nakul is more known for being extrememly handsome. Granthika, has 2 meanings, one of astrologist and other of "long pepper root". So Nakula just announced his mastery and chose the most beautiful Ayurvedic medicinal to match what is he famous for.

Basically, they all nearly announced their mastery or what they are known for, with their names. Best, we can call them as pen names instead of lies.

  • 1
    Very good perspectives. Keep answering.
    – iammilind
    Nov 22, 2016 at 16:23
  • Agree with @iammilind. Do you have similar explanation for the other 4 Pandavas as well or you think they were just lying to the king's face? Question: If Yudhisthira considered himself Brahmana during exile he wasn't supposed to wield weapons or participate in the Virata war. Did he or did he not? I thought he did. Nov 22, 2016 at 19:55
  • Yudhisthra never did wield weapon until the Virata war(until end of their ). Him considering himself as a Brahmana is one of the reasons he never wanted to fight Keechaka when Keechaka was going for Draupadi in Virada. However, Bhima and Arjuna never considered them as Brahmanas and hence took Keechaka down. Nov 23, 2016 at 10:16
  • 1
    All the brothers indeed had a hidden meaning with their names. I will update the answer with names of others as well :-) Nov 23, 2016 at 10:17
  • @iammilind - yudhishtira did not lie even once. if he did he would lose the strength of dharma. a disguise is not a lie. because kings are anyway allowed to disguise to find truth among subjects. when he says to Virata king "i am atma-sama sakha of yudhishtira", he is referring to the fact that one is one's own best friend, so it's not a lie. when he said "ashvatama hata naro va kunjaro" - that's not a lie, he simply said the 2nd part in a lower voice (but his chariot still fell to the ground, not because he lied.. cos he didn't, but because he had a sliver of desire for war to be won).
    – ram
    Jul 13, 2020 at 21:44

Yes, Yudhisthira did lie a second time. Nevertheless, here his lie was not opposed to the concept of Dharma.

This is what Bhishma told Yudhishthira on this difficult issue of when a lie would assume the aspect of truth.

Bhishma said, ‘To tell the truth is consistent with righteousness. There is nothing higher than truth. I shall, now, O Bharata, say unto thee that which is not generally known to men. There where falsehood would assume the aspect of truth, truth should not be told. Then, again, where truth would assume the aspect of falsehood, even falsehood should be said. That ignorant person incurs sin who says truth which is dissociated from righteousness. That person is said to be conversant with duties who can distinguish truth from falsehood [1]. Even a person that is disrespectable, that is of uncleansed soul, and that is very cruel, may succeed in earning great merit as the hunter Valaka by slaying the blind beast (that threatened to destroy all creatures) [2]. How extraordinary it is that a person of foolish understanding, though desirous of acquiring merit (by austere penances) still committed a sinful act [3]! An owl again, on the banks of the Ganges, (by doing an unrighteous deed) obtained great merit [4].The question thou hast asked me is a difficult one, since it is difficult to, say what righteousness is. It is not easy to indicate it. No one in discoursing upon righteousness, can indicate it accurately. Righteousness was declared (by Brahman) for the advancement and growth of all creatures. Therefore, that which leads to advancement and growth is righteousness. Righteousness was declared for restraining creatures from injuring one another. Therefore, that is Righteousness which prevents injury to creatures. Righteousness (Dharma) is so called because it upholds all creatures. In fact, all creatures are upheld by righteousness. Therefore, that is righteousness which is capable of upholding all creatures. Some say that righteousness consists in what has been held in the Srutis. Others do not agree to this. I would not censure them that say so. Everything, again, has not been laid down in the Srutis. Sometimes men (robbers), desirous of obtaining the wealth of some one, make inquiries (for facilitating the act of plunder). One should never answer such inquiries. That is a settled duty. If by maintaining silence, one succeeds in escaping, one should remain silent. If, on the other hand, one’s silence at a time when one must speak rouses suspicion, it would be better on such an occasion to say what is untrue than what is true. This is a settled conclusion. If one can escape from sinful men by even a (false) oath, one may take it without incurring sin. One should not, even if one be able, give away his wealth to sinful men. Wealth given to sinful men afflicts even the giver…… When life is at risk, or on occasion of marriage, one may say an untruth. One that seeks for virtue, does not commit a sin by saying an untruth, if that untruth be used to save the wealth and prosperity of others or for the religious purposes.Having promised to pay, one becomes bound to fulfil his promise. Upon failure, let the self-appropriator be forcible enslaved. If a person without fulfilling a righteous engagement acts with impropriety, he should certainly be afflicted with the rod of chastisement for having adopted such behavior. A deceitful person, falling away from all duties and abandoning those of his own order, always wishes to betake himself to the practices of Asuras for supporting life. Such a sinful wretch living by deceit should be slain by every means. Such sinful men think there is nothing in this word higher than wealth. Such men should never be tolerated. ….. One should, in any matter, behave towards another as that other behaves in that matter. He who practices deceit should be resisted with deceit while one that is honest should be treated with honesty.’

Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section CIX

Sri K. M. Ganguli’s footnotes

[1] i.e., who knows when truth becomes as harmful as untruth, and untruth becomes as righteous as truth.

[2] Vide ante, Karna Parva

[3] Alludes to ante, Karna Parva. The Rishi, by pointing out the place where certain innocent persons had concealed themselves while flying from a company of robbers, incurred the sin of murder.

[4] The allusion is to the story of an owl going to heaven for having, with his beaks, broken a thousand eggs laid by a she-serpent of deadly poison.


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