According to Mahabharata, Puranas and many sources, it is assumed that Pandavas and Kauravas were more than 80 years old when Kurukshetra battle was fought. A detailed discussion on the calculation of ages from different sources can be found here. But how can one fight a deadly war at this age with perfection as shown by the warriors from both the sides? I believe that anything super natural in Mahabharata is written in symbolic way and if we research more, the technical and actual incident can be extracted. So, what exactly does this age group symbolize when octogenarian heroes can fight such a historical battle, as per Hindu Scriptures or from Hinduism pov?

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    @arin1405, what i think is food habbits and environment effects the health and aging of humans. Eg. 200 yrs before shivaji, was assumed to have a body equivalent to 7 average humans of now. But mahabharat is of time 5000 yrs back from now, we can accept such instants. – Mr. K Oct 3 '14 at 4:32
  • @Mr.K Yes we can understand. Even now a days we can see, old people living in rural areas, far from urban pollution and hybrid foods, are able to do hard work even in their 60s and 70s. But my question is can people fight a 18 days long battle with such perfection at their 80s or 90s? Even Bhism was much older than pandavas, kauravas at that time and still people considered him one of the greatest warriors of that time. Has human life span been shortened so much in last 5000 years or is it any sort of mutation? – arin1405 Oct 3 '14 at 4:42
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    @arin1405, their are living examples of this too, like Indian PM, running at this age like a young man. 18 days is a short period, my grandfather, being at the age of 79, cycles daily 25 km, and way back, which I technically cannot do, I don't think its not possible at those times, when environment and eating habits were so healthy. We being of this generation are small minded and diseased, this might be the reason why it looks difficult or impossible for us. – Mr. K Oct 3 '14 at 4:48
  • @Mr.K may be you are right, the life span of pandavas mentioned in Mahabharata may be difficult to believe at this time. – arin1405 Oct 3 '14 at 4:52
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    they way they calcualte age is slightly different, and secondly you can never translate epithets or extoling sentences or sarcasm and take it verbatim. they dont have the 24 hour concept so summer and winter based on amount of daylight they age slow and fast. one of sloka compares beauty of devi lakshmi to rising 10 million suns..if it were true lord vishnu would be blind and scorched by now for looking at her. it is just a poetic comaprision to express the magnificience. – Advaitin Oct 3 '14 at 18:28

As already discussed in the answer here, Vedas clearly declare 100 yrs. Of age to Humans. But this is for normal Human Body. Vedas also declare that it is possible to live long age by making the body purified by the fire of Yoga. Eg. Svetasvatara Upanishad in 2.12 states:

पृथिव्यप्तेजोऽनिलखे समुत्थिते
        पञ्चात्मके योगगुणे प्रवृत्ते ।
न तस्य रोगो न जरा न मृत्युः
        प्राप्तस्य योगाग्निमयं शरीरम् ॥ १२॥

When the fivefold perception of Yoga, arising from (concentrating the mind on) earth, water, light, air and ether, have appeared to the Yogin, then he has become possessed of a body purified by the fire of Yoga, and he will not be touched by disease, old age or death.

Thus, as suggested by the above verse one can attain body purified by fire of Yoga (Prãptasya Yogãgnimayam Shariram). And when the body is purified by fire of Yoga it is free from illness, oldage and death (Na Tasya Rogo Na Jarã Na Mrityu).

During the Mahabharata period there were many mystic and yogic sages like Vyasa, Parashara, etc.. and the warriors who fought Mahabharata war had also powerful Yogic persons as their Guru. So, they certainly purified their body by the fire of Yoga to some level. So, they were able to fight Mahabharata war easily being octogenarian also.

Patanjali Yoga Sutra in 3.47 states:

roopalavanyabalavajrasanhananatvani kayasanpat

The glorifications of the body are beauty, complexion, strength, adamantine hardness.

In the commentary of this Sutra Swami Vivekananda states:

The body becomes indestructible; fire cannot injure it. Nothing can injure it. Nothing can destroy it until the Yogi wishes. “Breaking the rod of time he lives in this universe with his body.” In the Vedas it is written that for that man there is no more disease, death or pain.

  • How would you interpret AV XIX. 93. ("men practicing yoga live for a hundred years")? "In the Vedas it is written that..." - which Vedas is Swami Vivekananda referring to? – Say No To Censorship Feb 21 '17 at 17:01
  • @sv. What do you mean by AV 19.93? Atharvaveda doesn't contain 93rd chapter in 19th book. sacred-texts.com/hin/av/avbook19.htm .... Swami Vivekananda is referring to the same quote of Svetasvatara Upanishad 'Na tasya rogo na jarã na mrityu'... also if you mean Yajurveda 19.93 then that verse doesn't mention the word 'Yoga' in Sanskrit.... – Tezz Feb 22 '17 at 15:33
  • Sorry, typo...yes, meant YV 19.93 not AV. I think YV 19.93 itself doesn't use 'yoga' but the preceding verses do. Anyway, I used Yajurveda tr. by Devi Chand in my answer as the tr. at sacred-texts.com seems rather strange. – Say No To Censorship Feb 22 '17 at 18:25

But how can one fight a deadly war at this age with such perfection?

80-year-olds fighting fierce battles is simply not possible especially when they are nearing the end of their 100-year lives.

Some of the answers to What was the age of all Pandavas during the Mahabharata war? also talk about Bhishma being 140 years old when he died which cannot be true either.

The Yajur Veda at several places § clearly suggests the normal human life is less than 100 years. As you can see below some of the hymns are prayers to Gods to grant men and women 100 years. Only yogis are capable of living for full 100-year lengths.

XIX. 37. May fathers, full of glory and mental peace, purify me with a pure life of a hundred years. May grandfathers, purify me with a pure life of a hundred years. May great grandfathers purify me with a pure life of a hundred years. May learned and calm grandfathers purify me with a happy, pure life of a hundred years. May sedate great-grandfathers purify me with a pure life of a hundred years. May I obtain full length of life.

XIX. 46. My folk yet living among those who live, are of one mind and similar attributes. On me be set their wealth through a hundred years in this world.

XIX. 93. Just as a woman devoted to yoga, engrossed in deep meditation, practising the limbs of yoga puts her soul in contemplation, so should husband and wife free from disease like a good physician, practise the parts of yoga and attain to the beauty of supremacy. As men practising yoga live for a hundred years, so should we, full of happiness, realise the immortal nature of the soul.

XXV. 22. O learned persons, may we live in your company for a hundred years. Let not our bodies decay before that period, in which old age our sons become fathers in turn. Break ye not in the midst our course of fleeting life.

Sītā in this verse from Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa hints that a man normally survives only for a hundred years:

कल्याणी बत गथा इयम् लौकिकी प्रतिभाति मे | एहि जीवन्तम् आनदो नरम् वर्ष शतात् अपि || ५-३४-६

6. aanandaH = joy; eti = rushes; jiivantam- to surviving; naram = man; varSashataadapi = even though (it be) at the end of a hundred years; iyam = this; laukikiir = wordly; gaathaa = adage; pratibhaati = appears; kalyaaNi = auspicious; maa = to me.

'Joy rushes to surviving man even though (it be) as the end of a hundred years' - this popular adage appears true and and auspicious for me.

Īśāvāsyopaniṣad, verse 2 also states the same:

कुर्वन्न् एवेह कर्माणि जिजीविषेच्छतं समाः ।
एवं त्वयि नान्यथेतोऽस्ति न कर्म लिप्यते नरे ॥ २ ॥

kurvann eveha karmāṇi jijīviṣecchataṃ samāḥ |
evaṃ tvayi nānyatheto'sti na karma lipyate nare || 2 ||

2. Always performing karma here, one should desire to live, for a hundred years. So long as thou (seekest to live) a mere man, no other (path) exists (where) activity does not taint thee.

Śaṅkara's Commentary

Kurvanneva = always performing. iha = (here) karmāni = rites such as agnihotra. jijīviṣet = one should desire to live. śatam = one hundred in number. samāḥ = years. For thus much is known to be the maximum age of man. Since (this is) a (mere) iteration (of an empirically known fact) what should be taken as enjoined (here) is that, if one should desire to live a hundred years, he should live only performing karma. evam= in this manner. in regard to you), nare i.e. when you live content to be a mere man. itaḥ i.e., from this present course of performing karma like agnihotra. different course, na asti =does not exist; in which course evil action does not stain; i.e., you do not get tainted by sin. Wherefore if one should desire for life Tone should live) throughout performing karma such as agnihotra prescribed by the śāstra.

Swami Vivekananda offers his opinion on this topic in his lecture The Religion We Are Born In:

In the Puranas we find many things which do not agree with the Vedas. As for instance, it is written in the Puranas that someone lived ten thousand years, another twenty thousand years, but in the Vedas we find :— "Man lives indeed a hundred years."

Which are we to accept in this case? Certainly the Vedas.

§ The only exception is hymn III.62 which suggests some sages can lives 3 times as long as normal humans:

III. 62. May we be endowed with triple life, as a truth-seer sage, or the custodian of knowledge through the grace of God, is endowed with, or as the learned persons enjoy triple life.


One user below commented:

But how does this answer the question? You are (only) supporting that Man cannot live beyond 100 years.

I'm answering by way of negating the premise of the question that several prominent characters (the Pandavas, Bhishma etc.) involved in the Mahābhārata war were in their 80's or 90's and yet they are hale and hearty to engage in a full-blown war. All my citations above attest to the fact from the Vedas that most people simply don't live beyond 100 years. And by common sense, any person or living being which is nearing the end of its life simply cannot have the stamina to engage in several battles during the course of an 18-day war.

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    But how does this answer the question? You are supporting that Man cannot live beyond 100 years. Do you have Sanskrit verses of Yajurveda? – The Destroyer Nov 23 '16 at 5:44
  • @TheDestroyer Answer is in the very first line: 80-year-olds fighting fierce battles is simply not possible especially when they are nearing the end of their 100-year lives. – Say No To Censorship Nov 23 '16 at 5:46
  • Though I actually agree that, according to some answers, Krishna living 125 years doesn't seem sensible at all. Somewhere in sacred-texts, once I read that Drona was 85 years old during the war (but I scarcely remember, where did I read). In that way, it refutes Krishna's possible age of 125 years. However, it also means that one can fight after 80 years as well. According to Bhishma (somewhere), controlling on food has good effects on age. Still interesting finding. – iammilind Nov 23 '16 at 5:46
  • @TheDestroyer For Sanskrit shlokhas see here. – Say No To Censorship Nov 23 '16 at 5:48
  • @iammilind I'm not sure about others but i think Krishna can live 125 years or even more as He is God ((Iswara in Advaita)) and He has power to materialize anything (as He is above Laws of Physical Universe). Moreover, He fully knows His divinity. So, I think you can exclude Krishna. – The Destroyer Nov 23 '16 at 5:53

The premises of this question assumes that most of the main warriors were 80+ years. However in reality, most of them were in their 40s (or early 50s at the max).

Except Drona, Bhishma, Drupada hardly there can be any warrior, who were in their 80s. Drona's age (85 yr) & based on it others' age is discussed in this answer.

However it does say that Drona had shown swiftness like a 16 years old during his last day. So that also means that 80+ years, was still a good age to fight. Now that could be possible mostly due to food habits & abstaining from sex & other sense fulfillment. From Gita, Satvik way of life is suggested to be giving longitivity.

  • Even Bhishma and Drona were I think way older than 85 years old – user20919 Feb 22 at 22:31

Yes, it's indeed wonderful to think about 85+ years of people fighting during the Mahabharata with such a fierce war. Few points:

  1. SAtvika food habits, cleaner environment, exercise rituals, Yogic culture -- can be attributed for such stronger bodies at 80+ years.
    Like other answers, We can assume that the people of those times would be eating sAtvika food and performing Yoga. Here is a source:

    BG 17.8 - Foods that increase life, firmness of mind, strength, health, happiness and delight, and which are succulent, oleaginous, substantial and agreeable, are dear to one endowed with Sattva.

  2. Comparing current time, the pollution and good adulteration has increased. It's quite possible that during Mahabharata times such issues would not have persisted

  3. On the contrary, even in today's time, it's possible to many instances of super human abilities; e.g. Samruai warriors of Japan, certain martial artistes; In such case today & ancient Mahabharata times are comparable

  4. Earlier due to stronger division system, the marriages use to happen within same gotra/castes of Kshatriyas. Which helped the genetic print of their children to become stronger with every passing generation. Such gene pools may or may not retain when people marry in hybrid fashion in modern times.

  5. Opposing argument: According to the sources the majority of the main characters were beyond 85 years. Despite that, there is no mention about the regular soldiers. In comparison of all the warriors (Kurus + Kings + Soldiers + ...), such handful of main characters can be simply discounted as special cases.

  • You should try & merge this with your other answer. – Say No To Censorship Jul 19 '18 at 19:23
  • @sv., Both answers are different in nature. This discusses, why was it possible; while other discusses such long age didn't exist. This answer was in fact deleted in past once. The other answer existed after that. Later a meta post was created for this answer. Merging these 2 will create complications and that meta will be confusing. So I think better to keep them separate. – iammilind Jul 20 '18 at 0:41
  • 'Both answers are different in nature. This discusses, why was it possible; while other discusses such long age didn't exist.' - ok, in that case, to be fair to voters on the main site, you should add a disclaimer to both answers explaining why this is a special case and you need two answers. I still think you could merge both using 'Argument/Explanation 1 & 2' headings - e.g., see this answer by Tezz. He gives two options to the reader/voter to pick from. – Say No To Censorship Jul 20 '18 at 3:12

Like other classes held by their Gurus. It is mandatory to become a YOGI for them and YOG was a routine practice for people of those days. Now if you have read Holy Book of Hinduism Geeta, there at one instance Krishna referred Arjuna as Kshatriya not because he belongs to that clan or caste. It is because he is that level of Yogi. As Krishna clarifies "Arjuna ek Kshtriya shreni ka yogi hai".
Also this is the reason they are able to call super powers exists in our Solar system. Proof of this has been seen later years also. Tansen's deepak rag, Swami Dayanand Saraswati victory over death (he died because he wanted to). These people are yogi, they can control the rear and tear of cells formation in their body. Now a days few animals can do so, they have the ability to regrow their body parts several times in their lifetime.
But people now a days won't believe it because they can't do it or they have never noticed such thing in their life by naked eyes.

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