Nowadays, many soldiers suffer psychological trauma (PTSD) after killing in battle.

Does the Mahabharata mention any of the warriors experiencing PTSD after the war?

  • 2
    :-) I am sure they all practised yoga which helped them gain/regain equanimity. Besides, by genes and training, they were warriors. So an above average ability to withstand the stress of war was inbuilt IMO. This is another reason why varnasrama dharma is relevant and makes sense. Regardless, the bhagavadgita is a result of pre-war traumatic reaction. There are mentions of stress and grief. Not just in the mahabharata but in other puranas as well under various circumstances. The solution offered was always dispassion, detachment, compassion, and knowledge of the ultimate truth. – user1195 Nov 18 '17 at 7:45
  • They had shoka,tatkaalika nispruha, vairagyam and so on, no matter what label it now carries in behavioural science. – Narasimham Nov 18 '17 at 10:03
  • What is shokoa, tatkaalika, and nispruha? – Ikshvaku Nov 18 '17 at 22:53


There were not many main warriors left alive after completing the war. Only 11 notable warriors were alive after the war. So, from them, he was the one who experienced such experience.

American Psychiatric Association defined PTSD as the following:

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or other threats on a person's life.

Yudhishtira felt very distressed after the war and was not willing to take up the throne. This is described in the beginning chapters of the Shanti Parva. After the war was over, his heart was filled with grief and said these words to his brothers

From Shanti Parva section VII,

Beholding those kinsmen of ours that were bent on acquiring the sovereignty of the world slain on the field of battle, such grief hath been ours that one cannot gladden us by giving the sovereignty of even the three worlds. Alas, having slain, for the sake of the earth, such lords of earth as deserved not to be slain by us, we are bearing the weight of existence, deprived of friends and reft of the very objects of life. Like a pack of dogs fighting one another for a piece of meat, a great disaster has overtaken us! That piece of meat is no longer dear to us. They that have been slain should not have been slain for the sake of even the whole earth or mountains of gold, or all the horses and kine in this world.

Desirous of obtaining the things of this earth, I have committed sin, through which, as the Srutis declare, birth and death are brought about. Abandoning the whole of my kingdom, therefore, and the things of this earth, I shall go to the woods, escaping from the ties of the world, freed from grief, and without affection for anything. Do thou govern this earth, on which peace has been restored, and which has been divested of all its thorns. O best of Kuru's race, I have no need for kingdom or for pleasure.

Arjuna was shocked and says that is not why they have slain their enemies in the battle. He recommends to do a horse-sacrifice like the other great emperors did by which the sins committed by the king will be perished and he will be the soverign again. Arjuna says life of a mendicant is suited for a Rishi not a Kshatriya. He adds that he has performed his religious merit (dharma) as a warrior and slain the foes in the battle. He recommends to take up the throne and rule the world.

Ydhishtira was not satisfied by Arjuna's words, he still wanted to retire to woods and live his rest of his life performing penance.

Shanti Parva section IX

Abandoning the pleasures and observance of men of the world, engaged in performing the austerest of penances, I shall wander in the forest, with the animals that have their home there, living on fruit and roots. Pouring libations on the: fire at due hours, and performing ablutions at morn and eve, I shall thin myself by reduced diet, and covering myself with skins, bear matted locks on my head. Enduring cold, wind, and heat as also hunger and thirst and toil, **I shall emaciate my body by penances as laid down in the ordinance*. I shall daily listen to the clear strains of, cheerful birds and animals residing in the woods. I shall enjoy the fragrance of flower-burthened trees and creepers, and see diverse kinds of charming products that grow in the forest.

All the Pandavas and Draupadi also say that renunciation and living in the woods is not the right thing to do.

Nakula explains the importance of Karma and adds that even devatas are dependent on Karma. He tells his elder brother what performing one's own duty and abandoning the desire for fruits is real renouncing and not going to forests for name sake. He recommends to performing own duty i.e., taking up the throne and ruling the kingdom like a Kshatriya. By doing that, he would definitely reach higher worlds than heaven.

From chapter 12 of Shanti Parva,

O bull of Bharata's race, who betakes himself to this mode of life, thinking it to be his duty and abandoning all desire for fruit, is a real renouncer, and not that man of clouded understanding who goes to the woods, abandoning home and its surroundings. A person, again, who under the hypocritical garb of righteousness, fails to forget his desires (even while living in the woods), is bound by the grim King of death with his deadly fetters round the neck......Having in the observance of Kshatriya duties subjugated the world by the aid of thy prowess, and having made presents unto persons conversant with the Vedas, thou canst, O monarch, go to regions higher than heaven. It behoves thee not, O Partha, to indulge in grief.

Sahadeva keeps it short and simple. He says that renouncing mental attachments is important rather than the physical attachments like family, friends etc.,

Shanti Parva section 13

Therefore, driving away all doubts about the immortality of the soul, the man of intelligence should adopt that path which has been trodden by the righteous of old and older times. The life of that king is certainly fruitless who having acquired the entire earth with her mobile and immobile creatures, does not enjoy her. As regards the man again who lives in the forest upon wild fruits and roots, but whose attachment to things of the earth has not ceased, such a one, O king, lives within the jaws of Death.

Daraupadi asks Yudhishtira to enjoy the kingdom he gained and donate the wealth he earned to the brahmanas. By doing sacrifices as prescribed in the Vedas, he could get highest worlds easily by the fruit of them.

His brothers and rishis like Devasthana, Dwaipayana Vyasa explain why Grihasthashrama is given importance over the others through some stories from the past and why he should take up the throne and rule the kingdom.

After a long conversation with his brothers and sages he agrees to rule the kingdom he has earned. This conversation can be considered as the counseling session which soldiers are attending now a days.

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