Why did the Pandavas go to hell?

·3-min read

After the great war of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas defeated the Kauravas and ruled over the kingdom for the next 36 years. Following this, as was the norm, they renounced the world, named Parikshit, the son of Abhimanyu and grandson of Arjuna as their heir and began ascending Mount Sumeru. It is believed that at the pinnacle of this mythical mountain are the doors to heaven.

Pancha Rathas Hindu Temple. Pancha Rathas is a monument complex at Mahabalipuram, on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture
Pancha Rathas Hindu Temple. Pancha Rathas is a monument complex at Mahabalipuram, on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture

Yudhishthira believed that since all six of them had been wronged their entire life and despite that stuck to the path of fairness and justice they would be able to enter heaven in their mortal form. With this belief they set out for their final journey.

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However, as they kept climbing, they realised just how wrong they were in their assumptions. Before long, Draupadi falls down dead much to the perplexation of Bhima. Yudhishthira, who by now had realised his folly, explains that the reason she died was that she was disproportionately in love with Arjuna when, in fact, she was supposed to love her five husbands equally.

Sahadev falls next. Yudhishthira explains to Bhima again that their youngest brother, though quiet was too proud of his wisdom, which was a sin too. Similarly, Nakul, who is the next to die, was vain about his looks which too was a sin.

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As the three eldest Pandavas continue their trek up Sumeru, Arjuna falls. Yudhishthira explains that the reason why he wasn’t going to enter the heavens in his mortal form was because he was too proud of his skills as an archer. Bima falls next. As he is dying, he asks what his sin was. Yudhishthira smiles and points out that his entire life Bhima never cared about another’s hunger. It was his gluttony that finally cost him his privilege of entering the heavenly realm in his human form.

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Ultimately, Yudhishthira continues his trek all by his lonesome self with just a dog, who’d started following them right at the start, for company. He reaches the pinnacle of Sumeru and sure enough is greeted by Indra, the king of gods. Indra invites him into the chariot but Yudhishthira refuses to enter without the dog. At which point, the dog reveals his true avatar – as Dharma, the divine father of Yudhishthira.

The eldest Pandava thus enters the heavens in his mortal form but is surprised to see the Kauravas there too. He asks for the whereabouts of his brothers and wife and is told that they were, in fact, in hell. Yudhishthira demands to see them and is therefore taken to hell where he sees them in pain. Angry at the thought that the Kauravas were enjoying their time in heaven despite having sinned far more than the Pandavas, Yudhishthira demands to know the reason.

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Indra explains that by virtue of dying on the battlefield that was blessed by their forefather, Kuru, the sins of the Kauravas were washed away. The Pandavas, on the other hand, had to pay for their sins in the netherworld before ascending to the heavens and enjoying the same privileges as the others.

It is thus that all the Pandavas, heroes of the Mahabharata, except Yudhishthira ended up in hell after their passing.

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