Sahadeva’s secret


Years of meditation and austerities in exile had rendered Pandu, the father of the Pandavas a wise and learned man. He had a premonition of his death and instructed his sons –

Years of celibacy and meditation in the forest have given me great knowledge which is embedded in my body. When I die, eat my flesh and all of you will be blessed with great knowledge. That shall be your true inheritance from me.

After Pandu died, his sons cremated his body, but could not bring themselves to follow their father’s instructions. But Sahadeva, the youngest of the sons noticed that ants were carrying a tiny piece of their father’s body before it burnt. Unable to resist himself, he took that piece and put it in his mouth.

In an instant, he knew everything about the world – all that had happened in the past, and all that was going to happen in the future as well.

He started running towards his mother and brothers to tell them about this, when he was stopped by a stranger –

Do you want God as your friend?

Yes said Sahadeva. Then, never voluntarily tell anyone about this wonderful gift of yours. And when any question is asked of you, always reply with another question he was instructed.

Sahadeva immediately realized that he was being addressed to by none other than the Supreme Lord himself. He agreed to these terms and lived a life where he always kept silent despite knowing all the events that were about to transpire and being able to do nothing about them.

As time went on, he realized that the future that he knew about could be deciphered by observing nature and celestial bodies very carefully. He is therefore credited with putting together various occult sciences which help man predict the future.

As for his whole life, Sahadeva kept waiting for people around him, including his brothers to ask the right questions of him and hence was always pictured as a silent, thoughtful person.

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Story courtesy: Dr Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘Jaya : An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata

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I am just speculating here, but while I always knew about the fact that Sahadeva is credited with coming up with the science of astrology, this is the first time I have read about the story of Pandu and his flesh being consumed by his youngest son.

However, this does give a lot of credibility to the stories and legends that one keeps hearing of people practicing some occult sciences and tantric events consuming human flesh and the like.

One way or the other, this does make for an interesting small little tale from the Mahabharata, doesn’t it.

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22 thoughts on “Sahadeva’s secret

    • @Sumeetha, yes, very few versions of the Mahabharata mention this aspect of Sahadeva. He remains one of the most under-discussed of the Pandavas along with his twin Nakula

      • A very interesting tale from Mahabharata .Apart from Sahadeva eating fresh his dead father .There is one more fact about Sahadeva that he was only the person who knew the truth that Krishna partha’s friend was Lord Vasudeva himself who is planning this entire war .So that he duruyodana can be destroyed .😊😊I agree you that Sahadeva was very intelligent and thoughtful person.Lovely post Jairam.

      • When I read this piece again, I remembered one of the death rituals of Brahmins where on the 10th day after the death of the head of the family, the son who does the last rites is made to eat rice that is shaped like the body. Maybe it came about after Pandu’s death, we don’t know.

  1. Very interesting indeed, that the source of his powers came from flesh eating. Although the only other story which I know of in which Sahadeva highlights his astrological prowess is when Duryodana asks him for the auspicious Kalabali date before the great war and Krishna has to step in to save the day. Both the twins were sadly denied footage in my opinion 🙂

    • @Arvind, first up, welcome once again to the comments section of mahabore, as this is the only place which signifies your existence in this material plane 😉

      Quite true when you say that twins were denied footage in this great epic, sad or not, we would’ve only know if any version had given them any footage at all 🙂

  2. its interesting and creepy!
    I couldn’t help but go “ewww” when I read about the flesh-eating part..
    but then, it was interesting because nothing much has ever been said about the last 2 brothers..

  3. Yes, this raises the question whether knowing the future is all that desirable. Because if you know the future, it means that there is only one future, and no matter what you do, you cannot change it. In fact, all that you will (or won’t) do will cause the future to shape up exactly as you’ve seen it.

    So knowing what is fated for you is of no use because you won’t be able to change it. It’s much more fun not knowing and figuring it out on the fly.

    On a different note, Sahadeva’s character in this respect is similar to that of Cassandra in the Iliad. She has the gift of prophecy but also the curse of never being believed.

    More here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassandra

    • @Sharath, so true, it was only when you mentioned her that I was reminded of Cassandra and the parallel to Sahadeva in Greek mythology. Thanks for some material for a follow up post

  4. This is just so interesting. Actually Nakul and Sahadev are the two brothers we know the least about. We’re following Mahabharat on the television these days and we’ve got into googling all kinds of side stories. This one is a very interesting addition. Give us some more, please.

  5. A very interesting tale from Mahabharata .Apart from Sahadeva eating fresh his dead father .There is one more fact about Sahadeva that he was only the person who knew the truth that Krishna partha’s friend was Lord Vasudeva himself who is planning this entire war .So that he duruyodana can be destroyed .I agree you that Sahadeva was very intelligent and thoughtful person.Lovely post Jairam.

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