Why was Barbarika sacrificed?

056 Mahabharata Warriors at Angkor Wat

The world has witnessed many battles. However, if there was ever a battle that symbolised the fight for justice and righteousness, it would be the Mahabharata.

That’s why, irrespective of the outcome we respectfully acknowledge the role of Bhishma, Dronacharya and Karna, who fought from the losing side.

There was one warrior whose name does not appear much in history. This warrior was Barbarika, the grandson of Bhima. Inspite of having superior war skills, he could not prove his ability due to his own indecisiveness.

Just before the war, when the polarization of armies and individual warriors was taking place, Krishna wanted to evaluate individual talents. He reviewed everyone and asked how much time they need to finish the war alone. There were tall claims ranging from a week to a month. Barbarika, the youngest warrior to take part in the war, surprised everyone by claiming that he could finish the war in just a few moments. When asked how it was possible, he spoke of his extraordinary expertise in archery, and to everyone’s surprise, said that he could actually vanquish an entire army using just one arrow!

Krishna asked for a demonstration to understand this claim. Barbarika sought permission to pierce all the leaves of a banyan tree using one arrow. When Barbarika was chanting the mantra before releasing the arrow, Krishna took a leaf of the tree and hid it under his feet. Barbarika released the arrow and the arrow did what it was meant to. After piercing all the leaves of the tree, the arrow started revolving around the feet of Krishna, under which he had kept a leaf hidden. The demonstration of this skill surprised all those who were present there, Krishna too was not an exception.

An interesting aspect of the story was that Barbarika had made a pledge to fight only from the side of the weaker army. Krishna knew that this warrior had the capacity to diminish any side, and so the other side would always be the losing one; and if Barbarika changed sides, he would kill everyone on both camps.

Krishna foresaw the dangerous consequences of using Barbarika in the war and decided that Barbarika ought to be sacrificed before the war itself.

Krishna had to intervene again. Through his yoga-maya, he took the form of a Brahmin monk and reached out to Barbarika for a favour in the form of a specific donation. Barbarika assured him that if that donation would be in his power, he could assume it fulfilled. As a beggar, Krishna demanded the head of Barbarika. Barbarika understood Krishna’s yoga-maya and urged the monk to come in his right avatar/form. Krishna did so and understanding Krishna’s visionary objective, Barbarika took no time to cut his head and gave it to Krishna on his own. In return, Krishna granted him a wish to live till the battle of Mahabharata ended and watch the same from a nearby mountain.

Now I have two points to discuss. One, why was Barbarika sacrificed? Was that the only option left to Krishna? Two, if the consequences were different, could Barbarika have proved to be the greatest warrior of time?

Arjuna emerged as the hero of the Great war of Mahabharata. If my assumptions are right, most heroes are made. On the way to their making, lots of Barbarika are sacrificed.

The heroes we know need to be seen in this light.  Are they an Arjuna, a Barbarika or a Krishna? And if you want to be an Arjuna, you need a Krishna. But Krishna had already attained the status of God. Could God also discriminate? There must be a convincing reason.

The other side of the argument is the indecisiveness of Barbarika. He made a pledge which could not make him loyal to anyone. If Krishna allowed Barbarika to participate in the Great War of Mahabharata, he could finish the war only by killing himself because any side represented by Barbarika was the winning one.

My conclusion is that, lord Krishna took a call, in the interest of Dharma, and scheduled the destiny of Barbarika a little early. Krishna’s decision to sacrifice Barbarika gives the message that our skills and knowledge do not count when we are not on the one side of a decision.

Editing inputs by Mr Ajoy Vakil, Strategy and Marketing Consultant, Startup Mentor, Founder of DirectMart

Recently, this story is adopted in ‘theory of indecisiveness’ section of my book ‘The Gita Way’ which is due for release in May 2016. To know more about the book please visit.http://www.amazon.in/dp/9380914873

(Source of the image used in the post: 056 Mahabharata Warriors at Angkor Wat Photograph from Angkor Wat in Cambodia taken by Anandajoti, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons)


Published by Santosh Srivastava

"Jack of all, master of some"

19 thoughts on “Why was Barbarika sacrificed?

  1. A good note rarely heard off..
    A good thought though…Lot of the people get in an indecisive state of mind by reason or by destiny’s choice..

  2. Mahabharat was totaly a dharam youdh.right vs wrong.Barbarika with his promice, has no place to take part in mahabharat war.As because, all maharati warriors has to be killed by different maharati warriors as per their deed in the past.This was design accordingly by Sri Krishna.If Barbarika take part,importance of mahabharat war will not be establish as today.So Sri Krishna decided to kill him before war.

  3. Your blog was really good. Not many people will know about barbarika or even ghattotkach for that matter. But let me tell you about the Mahabharata. It took place in the dwaapar yuga…kalyug and dwaapar yuga personified were friends because they were the time when unrighteousness had greatly exceeded the previous yuga eg. The events of the Mahabharata like draupadi vastra haran were inimaginable in the previous yuga … Hence in kalyuga and dwaapar yug , the side on which were you on I.e – right or wrong mattered and by whatever means you ensure the victory if righteousness doesn’t matter …if it’s for the victory of righteousness then even if you follow the wrong path , that will be forgiven , and hence we get to see such unfair events like that of killing of barbarika or for that matter bhishma ,drona,karna ,duryodhana etc . So to ensure victory of dharma lord Krishna had to do this though this was unjust.

  4. A nice story depicting the Lord Krishna’s policy (Niti) to protect the Pandavas from the ultimate and awarding Moksha to Barbarika

  5. very nice your description of barabrika,as per the boom given by lord krishna he (barbarika)saw the kurukshethra bharath yudh,after war finished arjuna was full of proud for his contribution as a warier in the war,krishna took him(arjuna)to the top of the hill and asked barbarika , who is real worier of dharma yudh then barbarika replied ek budha ek balak they are bheeshma and abhimanyu

  6. Good one, even i read that he is one of the four who heard bhagawat gita from krishna and saw vishvarupa.

  7. So Arjuna asked Krishna if he should use the sword of truth since all around him were only family and friends, and Krishna said yes.

  8. very nice your description of Karabrika,as per the boom given by lord Krishna he (Barbarika)saw the kurukshethra bharath yudh,after war finished arjuna was full of proud for his contribution as a warier in the war,krishna took him(Arjuna)to the top of the hill and asked Barbarika , who is real worrier of dharma yudh then Barbarika replied that Krishna is the real hero of war others were just taking part in it.

  9. Yes, Barbarika replied that he saw only two person in the battle field. One with ‘sudharshan’ chakra killing every one and other ‘Kali’ searching blood in the battle field

  10. Thank you Madan for such a though provoking comment.

    It was possible as Arjuna had most powerful weapon ‘Bramhastra’ which was capable enough to encounter any attack.

    However, before the war it was decided that no one would use ‘Bramhastra’ from either side to ensure a fair war. In case Arjuna used this to kill Barbarika, Kauravas would had a chance to break the rule and use Bramhastra on Pandavas. In Kaurava side Bhishma, Dronacharya and Ashwatthama knew how to release Bramhastra. In such situation defeat for Pandavas was certain.

    Krishna’s decision to kill Barbarika was relevent in this context as well.

  11. But what my point of argument is would Barbarika have been still the greatest warrior if he haven’t possessed those 3 arrows? were his normal fighting skills were as good as Arjuna, Bhishma, Salya, Drona or Karna?

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