Why are the lives of Nakula and Sahadeva neglected in most Mahabharata adaptations? Is it because they were not important characters? What do the scriptures have to say about the importance of these characters in the Mahabharata?
Only in the TV series based on Mahābhārata, not in the original Mahābhārata.
Nakula was the most handsome man on earth. He was compared to Kāmadeva due to his good looks. He wast master swordsman and was equally well versed with the bow,mace and other weapons.He had a great talent to ride a horse while it was raining and not get affected by the rain.
Nakula was an expert in Ayurveda.
He was an excellent Horse keeper & rider. Nakula's deep understanding of horse breeding and training is documented in the Mahābhārata after the death of Narakāsura by Kṛṣṇa. In a conversation with Virāta, Nakula claimed to know the art of treating all illnesses of horses. He was also a highly skilled charioteer.
Draupadi described Nakula as
"the most handsome person in the whole world." An accomplished master swordsman, he was also "versed in every question of morality and profit" and "endued with high wisdom." He was unflinchingly devoted to his brothers, who in turn regarded him as more valuable than their own lives. The name Nakula generally means full of love and the male characteristics implied by the name are: Intelligence, Focus, Hard-Work, Handsomeness, Health, Attractiveness, Success, Popularity, Respect and unconditional Love."
In the Rājasūya Yajña, Nakula was given the responsibility to conquer the kingdoms of the west. Nakula captured the whole of the western India for him.He defeated the Sibi ruler,he captured Malva, Kingdom of saurashtra and many other rulers.
Once in the 13 year exile, Jatāsura, disguised as a Brahmin, kidnapped Nakula along with Draupadi, Sahadeva and Yudhiṣṭhira. Bhīma rescued them eventually and in the fight that ensued, Nakula killed Kshemankara, Mahamaha, and Suratha.
When the Yakṣa offered Yudhiṣṭhira to restore one of his brothers back to life, Yudhiṣṭhira chose Nakula.
Role in the KuruKṣētra War
Nakula was given charge of one of the seven Akṣauhiṇī Armies that fought from the Pāṇḍava side. If he was ignored then he would've never got such a huge responsibility in the great war.
As a warrior, Nakula slew prominent war-heroes on the enemy side. The flag of Nakula's chariot bore the image of a red deerwith golden back.
- On the 1st day of the war, Nakula defeated Duḥśāsana, sparing his life so that Bhīma could fulfill his oath.
- On the 11th day, Nakula defeated Śalya, destroying his uncle's chariot.
- On the 13th day, his advance into Droņa's formation was repulsed by Jayadratha.
- On the 14th day, he along with Sahadeva defeated Śakuni & his son Ulūka.
- On the 15th day, he was defeated by Duryodhana, being rescued by Chekitāna.
- On the 16th and 17th day,he gave a tough fight to Karṇa, but was defeated and spared by the latter.
- On the 18th day of the warbhe killed three sons of Karṇa, Suṣēṇa, Chitrasena and Satyasena.
Sahadeva was the finest swordsman on the earth. Of all the brothers Kuntī loved him the most.
Sahadeva had the most knowledge among his brothers; He was a TriKāla Darśī, i.e. he knew about every event of the past, present, and the future. In fact, Yudhiṣṭhira refers to him as being intelligent as Bṛhaspati-the divine teacher of gods. He was also a master in medicine, equastrian skills, bovine veterinary, politics and humanities. He was Samarāta Yudhiṣṭhira's private counsellor.
Yudhiṣṭhira and Kṛṣṇa trusted his knowledge and banked on his advice.He was also a great astrologer.During the Pāṇḍava's conquest on neighbouring kingdoms he played a vital role in many battles.
It is said that he was a great astrologer, and he even knew about everything including the Mahābhārata battle beforehand. But he was cursed that if he disclosed the events to anyone then his head would split into pieces.
A "sahadeva" is someone who is aware of everything but prefers to stay silent
He also learned the Vedas. He mastered his skills in fencing and axe fighting. He also acquired the Nitishastra from Bṛhaspati, Guru of the Devas.
Draupadi described Sahadeva as,
"Sahadeva, the youngest of the brothers and like the others formidable in war and observant of morality. Master of the swords "Heroic, intelligent, wise and ever wrathful, there is not another man equal unto him in intelligence or in eloquence amid assemblies of the wise.Resolute in warfare and a person who can answer any question on moral values and the vedas"
Role in Rājasūya Yajña
It was Sahadeva only, who suggested Kṛṣṇa's name as the person to be worshipped first.
Sahadeva was given the responsibility to conquer the kingdoms of the South.He was specifically chosen for the south because of his expertise with the sword, and because Bhīṣma opined that Southerners are skilled with sword-fighting in general.
The Mahābhārata mentions several kingdoms to the south of Indraprastha which were conquered by Sahadeva. Some of them are as under:
- Pāṇḍya Dynasty
- Matsya, the king Dantavakra, kings Sukumara, Sumitra, other Matsyas and Patacharas.
- Vibhīṣaṇa, the king of Laṅkā and brother of Rāvaṇa. He offered him diverse kinds of jewels and gems, sandalwood, celestial ornaments, costly apparel and valuable pearls.
- At Kiṣkindhā, the monkey-kings Mainda and Dwivida were defeated in a 7-day war.
- City of Māhiṣmatī, which was ruled by King Nila. Since the kingdom had the blessings of Agni, a huge fire obstructed the army when Sahadeva tried to invade; later a prayer to Agni enabled Sahadeva to complete the conquest.
- King Rukmī of Vidarbha and territories of Bhojakata
- Nishadas, the hill of Gosringa and King Srenimat.
- Navarashtra, under King Kunti-Bhoja
- King Jamvaka, on the banks of the river Charmanwati.
- Territories lying on the banks of the Venwa.
- Kingdoms that lay on the banks of the Narmada.
- Avanti, kings called Vinda and Anuvinda, town of Bhojakata
- King of Kosala
- Surparaka kingdom, Talakatas and Daṃḍakāraṇya
- Mlechchha tribe living on the sea coast, Nishadas, the cannibals, Karnapravarnas, and the Kalamukhas (a cross between human beings and Rakshasas) and the whole area of the Cole mountains.
- Surabhipatna and the island called the Copper island, and a mountain called Ramaka.
- The town of Timingila and a wild tribe known by the name of the Kerakas who were men with one leg.
- The town of Sanjayanti, countries of the Pashandas, Karahatakas, Paundrayas, Dravidas, Udrakeralas, Andhras, Talavanas, Kalingas and Ushtrakarnikas, Sekas and Yavanas
- Paurava kingdom
During the gambling loss(Dyut-Krida), Sahadeva had took an oath of slaying Śakuni.
Role in the KuruKṣētra War
Sahadeva was very good in Astrology. Duryodhana, on the advice of Śakuni approached Sahadeva in order to seek the right time (muhurta) to start the Mahābhārata war so that the Kauravas will be victorious. Sahadeva disclosed the same for the Kauravas in spite of knowing that Kauravas were their enemy, as Sahadeva was known to be very honest. This tells Sahadeva was respected by the Kaurava side also. Then, Kṛṣṇa planned to create an eclipse much before the beginning of the war. In the mean time, both Sun and Moon got shocked by Kṛṣṇa's thought and appeared before Kṛṣṇa stating that this will create a huge imbalance in the entire Universe. Then, Kṛṣṇa declared that as Earth, Moon and Sun are together in one place, this in itself was an eclipse.
As a warrior, Sahadeva slew prominent war-heroes on the enemy side. The flag of Sahadeva's chariot bore the image of a silver swan. His conch was called Manipushpaka.
- He defeated 40 brothers of Duryodhana, while fighting them simultaneously.
- On the 14th day, he killed Trigata Prince Niramitra.
- On the 17th day, he killed Śalya's son.
- On the 18th day he killed Śakuni & hia son Ulūka. The main antagonist of the Mahābhārata was slayed by Sahadeva. So how can he be a ignored character.
Instances from Mahābhārata telling about the bond between Nakula & Sahadeva and rest Pāṇḍavas
While the Pāṇḍavas were living in Hastinapur, Nakula&Sahadeva’s maternal uncle, King Shalya, as well as the ruler of the kingdom of Mādra, would each year, for a spell, bring his nephews Nakula and Sahadeva to Mādra. On their fifteenth birthday, Śalya revealed his intention of making the twins his heirs. Śalya argued that Nakula could be a king one day, instead of fourth-in-line to the throne of Hastinapura... provided that Yudhiṣṭhira was named their heir in the first place. The wise Nakula pointed out that Śalya only wanted Nakula and Sahadeva as his heirs, because both were children of god-in fact, Śalya was eschewing his own children with this gambit. Nakula claimed that while he and Sahadeva staying with the Pāṇḍavas would give them no power, his brothers and Kuntī genuinely loved him, and would never try and make Nakula and Sahadeva their pawns. Nakula laments that by becoming Śalya's heir, he would then become Śalya's pawn. Through some deliberation, Nakula is convinced that Śalya is being genuine. He and Sahadeva become the heirs to the throne, but Sahadeva told his uncle on one condition: they will always stay with the Pāṇḍavas.
When Śalya fell into Duryodhana's trick, and was forced to fight for the Kauravas. Then Śalya met the Pāṇḍavas and apologized for his mistake. Nakula and Sahadeva became enraged, saying that Śalya had truly proven that Nakula and Sahadeva weren't real brothers to the Pāṇḍavas, but only step-brothers. Yudhiṣṭhira quickly stepped in and reprimanded the twins, commanding that they were never to again cheapen their relationship by saying they were "step" brothers. At this point, Śalya realised he had underestimated their brotherly bond.
I suggest you not to rely much on TV serials, they are solely made for TRP. Read the Mahābhārata