I am currently reading the Mahabharata, (Adi Parva) by Bibek Debroy, and it has a Chapter called the Vaivahik Parva, which explains how the Pandavas came to be. The relevant section has been explained in the following question already: Who were the previous Indras that incarnated as the Pandavas?, but I will reiterate to keep this question whole.

So Indra follows the maiden to Shiva (unbeknownst to Indra), where Shiva captures him and shows the 4 different Indras in the cave. Shiva orders them to take birth on earth to fulfil the work. Indra then proposes that instead of taking a birth himself, he'll use a part of his power(the semen) to bring to birth a progeny(Arjuna) that will do his work for him.

In popular conception, and even in the Mahabharata earlier, it has been stated that Kunti asked for sons from the Gods, and the Gods then gave her the sons. It has not been mentioned that the sons are actual Gods themselves, whereas the section above describes them to be actual Gods who have to take a birth due to Shiva's command.

This makes the whole narrative confusing and just raises more questions than it answers.

  1. Are Pandavas the Gods themselves in their human form or are they sons of those Gods?
  2. If Gods themselves manifest themselves on Earth, shouldn't their "existence" from the "swarglok"(for the want of a better word) be erased for the time being they exist on Earth?

The chapters also seems incomplete. At the start of the chapter, it says that Yama stopped killing humans, but did continue to kill animals, so the humans were becoming immortal and the Gods went to Brahma. Brahma said it will be over soon after Yama completes his yagna. After listening to this, Gods visit Yama at Bhagirati river where the yagna is taking place. If Yama is doing the Yagna, who's the one who is shown to be captured by Shiva later in the section?

I decided to post the questions under a single question because it is within the same context of the chapter.

  • Related: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/23903/647
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 6:06
  • Short answer: Pandavs were sons of Gods. I don't remember this particular chapter, but all Pandavas were born from Kunti and Madri after they used the mantra to please the gods. Also in later chapters Indra various times called Arjun his son, And Argun called Indra his father, especially when During 12 years of vanwas, Arjun went to heaven to get the divine weapons
    – V.Aggarwal
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 7:22
  • Arjun indeed seems to be the son of Indra(Shakra) as in the chapter Indra says he'll use his semen to birth a progeny. This, however, does not seem to be the case for the other captured Indras(Yama, Varun, Ashvins) Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 7:35
  • Pandavas were human beings. Gods have some peculiar features that humans don't have. Gods don't blink (they have a fixed gaze/stare), their feet don't touch the ground etc. Pandavas did not have such features. hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/28389 @DarshitPatel
    – Rickross
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 8:46
  • 1
    For human beings it does not apply. So, for Gods incarnated as humans it won't apply I guess @YDS
    – Rickross
    Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 9:01

3 Answers 3


Are Pandavas the Gods themselves in their human form or are they sons of those Gods?

As per Markandeya Purana: Chapter 5,

The adorable Indra became incarnate in five forms (5 Pandavas). His wife was born as Draupadi from Agni: she is the wife of Indra alone, and of no one else.

That means Indra alone incarnated as 5 pandavas as son of God's (including himself) and Kunti. Indra's wife Sachi incarnated as Draupadi and married all 5 incarnations of Indra.

By this logic, Pandavas were both sons of Gods (Dharma, Vayu, Indra, Ashvinis) and Gods themselves (Indra).

The Markandeya Purana further says that even a Yogi can have multiple forms then one should not doubt about Indra's 5 forms at the same time as he is king of Gods. Further more, there are instances where more than one incarnations of same god happened at the same time for example, Parashuram, Vyasa, Balrama and Krishna.

If Gods themselves manifest themselves on Earth, shouldn't their "existence" from the "swarglok"(for the want of a better word) be erased for the time being they exist on Earth?

Not necessarily, see Why does Vishnu have eight arms when Krishna and Arjuna go to see him? post. It mentions that Lord Vishnu's incarnation Lord Krishna visited him.


How can Draupadi be a pathivrata (dutiful wife) while being married to 5 men?

  • 1
    I do not understand this kind of circular logic. An entity cannot be a God as well its own progeny as a whole at the same time. It cannot be that other gods like Dharma/Vayu/Ashvins (including Shakra) give birth to forms of Indra(Shakra) himself. My doubt about your answer is Shakra cannot be himself and the Dharma/Vayu/Ashvins and also the Pandavas at the same time. I'd gladly accept if someone posted an answer saying there is an inconsistency in texts, but saying that Pandavas were both sons of Gods and the same Gods themselves is a logical fallacy. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 9:52
  • 1
    So you don't accept the fact that Vishnu's incarnations Parashuram, Vyasa, Balrama and Krishna all were present in Dwapara..Parshuram and Rama were there in Treta and their dispute over Shiva Dhanusha is well known though they were incarnations of the same god Vishnu..so Indra taking 5 forms/incarnations as Pandava should not be doubted..if you understand Hindi, my linked answer have screenshot from Markandya Purana which explains how Indra incarnated as five Pandavas.. it's upto you whether you accept or not but your query is directly answered in Markandya Purana..
    – YDS
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 14:32
  • 1
    I guess it is just difficult to extrapolate "logic" as we know it to something like this. Apologies if my comment came off as rude. However, I'd like to understand more about how the incarnations work in parallel as the form of the same being (God), and have different characteristics/drives/opinions at the same time. I think this confusion is the source of the question I posted. Do any of the texts try to explain how this works? Or perhaps you have other links which I could look at which explain it in an easier way. Regardless, thanks a lot for the answer. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 15:38
  • @DarshitPatel - Parashuram & Vyasa & Balaram were not Purna/Svayam avatars. They are either shakti avesha avatar or svarupa avesha avatar - meaning the power of Bhagavan enters into a Jivatma for a specific time/goal.
    – ram
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 2:27

Arjuna is also said to be Nara of the Nara-Narayana avatara:


"Vyasa said, 'O highly significant is this matter that thou enquirest of me from surprise. I will tell thee everything; listen attentively. He that is called Narayana is older than the oldest ones. For accomplishing some purpose, that creator of the universe took his birth as the son of Dharma. On the mountain of Himavat he underwent the severest ascetic austerities. Endued with mighty energy, and resembling fire or the sun (in splendour), he stood there with arms upraised. Possessed of eyes like: lotus-petals, he emaciated himself there for sixty-six thousand years, subsisting all the while upon air alone. Once more undergoing severe austerities of another kind for twice that period, he filled the space between earth and heaven with his energy. When by those austerities, O sire, he became: like Brahma 1 he then beheld the Master, Origin, and Guardian of the Universe, the Lord of all the gods, the Supreme Deity, who is exceedingly difficult of being gazed at, who is minuter than the minutest and larger than, the largest, who is called Rudra, 2 who is the lord of all the superior ones, who is called Hara and Sambhu, who has matted locks on his head, who is the infuser of life into every form, who is the First cause of all immobile: and mobile things, who is irresistible and of frightful aspect, who is of fierce wrath and great Soul, who is the All-destroyer, and of large heart; who beareth the celestial bow and a couple of quivers, who is cased in golden armour, and whose energy is infinite, who holdeth Pinaka, who is; armed with thunderbolt, a blazing trident, battle axe, mace, and a large sword; whose eye-brows are fair, whose locks are matted, who wieldeth the heavy short club, who hath the moon on his forehead, who is clad in tiger-skin, and who is armed with the bludgeon; who is decked with beautiful angadas, who hath snakes for his sacred thread, and who is surrounded by diverse creatures of the universe and by numerous ghosts and spirits, who is the One, who is the abode of ascetic austerities, and who is highly adored by persons of venerable age; who is Water, Heaven, Sky, Earth, Sun, Moon, Wind and Fire, and who is the measure of the duration of the universe. Persons of wicked behaviour can never obtain a sight of that unborn one, that slayer of all haters of Brahmanas, that giver of emancipation. 3 Only Brahmanas of righteous conduct, when cleansed of their sins and freed from the control of grief, behold him with their mind's eye. In consequence of his ascetic austerities, Narayana obtained a sight of that unfading one, that embodiment of righteousness, that adorable one, that Being having the universe for his form. Beholding that

supreme Abode of all kinds of splendour, that God with a garland of Akshas round his neck, Vasudeva, with gratified soul, became filled with delight which he sought to express by words, heart, understanding, and body. Then Narayana worshipped that Divine Lord, that First cause of the universe, that giver of boons, that puissant one sporting with the fair-limbed Parvati, that high-souled Being surrounded by large bands of ghosts, spirits, that Unborn one, that Supreme Lord, that Embodiment of the unmanifest, that Essence of all causes, that One of unfading power. Having saluted Rudra, that destroyer of the Asura Andhaka, the lotus eyed Narayana, with emotion filling his heart, began to praise the Three-eyed one (in these words), 'O adorable one, O first of all the gods, the creator of everything (viz., the Prajapatis) who are the regents of the world, and who having entered the earth,--thy first work,--had, O lord, protected it before, have all sprung from thee. Gods, Asuras, Nagas, Rakshasas, Pisachas, human beings, birds, Gandharvas, Yakshas and other creatures: with the entire universe, we know, have all sprung from thee. Everything that is done for propitiating Indra, and Yama, and Varuna, and Kuvera and Pitris and Tvashtri, and Soma, is really offered to thee. Form and light, sound and sky, wind and touch, taste and water, scent and earth, 1 time, Brahma himself, the Vedas, the Brahmanas and all these mobile objects, have sprung from thee. Vapours rising from diverse receptacles of water, becoming rain-drops, which failing upon the earth, are separated from one another. When the time of the Universal dissolution comes those individual drops, separated from one another, once more unite together and make the earth one vast expanse of water. He that is learned, thus observing the origin and the destruction, of all things, understands thy oneness. Two birds (viz., Iswara and Jiva), four Aswatthas with their wordy branches (viz., the Vedas), the seven guardians (viz., the five essences or elements and the heart and the understanding), and the ten others that hold this city (viz., the ten senses that constitute the body), have all been created by thee, but thou art separate from and independent of them. The Past, the Future, and the Present, over each of which none can have any sway, are from thee, as also the seven worlds and this universe. I am thy devoted adorer,--be graceful unto me. Do not injure me, by causing evil thoughts to penetrate my heart. Thou art the Soul of souls, incapable of being known. He that knows thee as the Universal Seed, attaineth to Brahma. Desiring to pay thee respects, I am praising thee, endeavouring to ascertain thy real nature, O thou that art incapable of being understood by the very gods. Adored by me, grant me the boons I desire but which are difficult of acquisition. Do not hide thyself in thy illusion.'

"Vyasa continued, 'The blue-throated God, of inconceivable soul, that wielder of Pinaka, that divine Lord ever praised by the Rishis, then gave boons unto Vasudeva who deserved them all. The great God said,

'O Narayana, through my grace, amongst men, gods, and Gandharvas, thou shalt be of immeasurable might and soul. Neither gods, nor Asuras, nor great Uragas, nor Pisachas, nor Gandharvas, nor men, nor Rakshasas, nor birds, nor Nagas, nor any creatures in the Universe, shall ever be able to bear thy prowess. No one amongst even the celestials shall be able to vanquish thee in battle. Through my grace, none shall ever be able to cause thee pain by the weapon of thunderbolt or with any object that is wet or dry, or with any mobile or immobile thing. Thou shalt be superior to myself if thou ever goest to battle against me.' Thus were these boons acquired by Sauri in days of yore. Even that God now walketh the earth (as Vasudeva), beguiling the universe by his illusion.

From Narayana's asceticism was born a great Muni of the name of Nara, equal to Narayana himself. Know that Arjuna is none else than that Nara.

Those two Rishis, said to be older than the oldest gods, take their births in every Yuga for serving the purposes of the world. Thyself also, O thou of great heart, hast been born as a portion of Rudra, by virtue of all thy religious acts and as a consequence of high ascetic austerities, endued with great energy and wrath. Thou wert (in a former life) endued with great wisdom and equal to a god. Regarding the universe to consist only of Mahadeva, thou hadst emaciated thyself by diverse vows from desire of gratifying that God. Assuming the form of a very superior person, that blazes fourth with splendour, thou hast, O giver of honours, worshipped the great god with mantras, with homa, and with offerings. Thus adored by thee in thy former life, the great god became gratified with thee, and granted thee numerous boons, O learned one, that thou hadst cherished in thy heart. Like Kesava's and Arjuna's thy birth acts, and ascetic austerities are also superior. Like them, in thy worship, thou hast, in every Yuga, adored the great God in his Phallic form. Kesava is that devoted worshipper of Rudra who has sprung from Rudra himself. Kesava always worship the Lord Siva, regarding his Phallic emblem to be the origin of the universe. In Kesava is always present that knowledge, in consequence of which he views the identity of Brahman with the: universe and that other knowledge by which the Past, the Present and the Future, the near and the remote, are all seen, as if the whole are before his eyes. The gods, the Siddhas and the great Rishis, adore Kesava for obtaining that highest object in the universe, viz., Mahadeva. Kesava is the creator of everything. The Eternal Krishna should be adored with sacrifices. The Lord Kesava always worshippeth Siva in the Phallic emblem as the origin of all creatures. The God having the bull for his mark cherisheth greater regard for Kesava.'


https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01068.htm https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01068.htm

The pandavas are not incarnations but amsha or portions of the gods. They are spiritual sons of the gods

"And, O monarch, learn that king Yudhishthira was a portion of Dharma; that Bhimasena was of the deity of wind; that Arjuna was of Indra, the chief of the celestials; and that Nakula and Sahadeva, the handsomest beings among all creatures, and unrivalled for beauty on earth, were similarly portions of the twin Aswins.

Draupadi - incarnation of Shachi who is the wife of Indra , Yudhisthira - portion of Yama , Bhima - portion of Vayu , Arjuna - portion of Indra , and Nakula and Sahadeva - Portion of Asvins

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