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.

  • 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 Jul 13 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) – Darshit Patel Jul 13 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 Jul 16 at 8:46
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    For human beings it does not apply. So, for Gods incarnated as humans it won't apply I guess @YDS – Rickross Jul 25 at 9:01

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?

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    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. – Darshit Patel Jul 14 at 9:52
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    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 Jul 14 at 14:32
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    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. – Darshit Patel Jul 14 at 15:38

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