Glossary of Terms in Indian Scriptures

A list of Characters, Names, Concepts and Stories from Mahabharata, Ramayana and hoards of Indian Scriptures.

Press “Control F” on Keyboard or Search the page from “browser menu” to go to a Specific Term. This page is updated every day with new terms.

MAHABHARATA

It is said that Ved Vyasa initially composed a historic commentary on Kurukshetra war known as Jay (जय). It was around 10000 verses. Vyasa taught this book to 4 of his disciples Shuka (शुक), Pail (पैल), Jaimini (जैमिनी) and Vaishampayan (वैशंपायन). By oral tradition they spread the text amongst their disciples. While narrating this to the disciples they answered queries about the characters in the Jay making additions to the original which was then called Bharat (भारत). The Mahabharata we read today is structured around a dialogue between Sauti/Ugrashravas (उग्रश्रवस्/सौती) a sage narrating it to Shaunaka another sage, covering stories from Jay and Bharata or Vaishmapayana  As earlier he too made additions to address queries and it finally became Maha Bharata a text having 100,000 Verses.
There have been unauthorized intrusions to Mahabharata text as well which are known as Prakshipta (प्रक्षिप्त). BORI has completed a project of publishing a Critical Edition of Mahabharata filtering all the unauthorized and unendorsed intrusion to the text. BORI edition hence is known as the best known source of Mahabharata text.

BHISHMA (भीष्म)

Bhishma was primarily a God descended from the heaven. (He was part of 8 Vasu’s (अष्ट वसु)), He was the 8th son of Ganga the heavenly entity and Shantanu the Kuru king. His real name is Devavrata (देवव्रत). Bhishma was a title awarded to him from heaven after taking his famous oath that, he’ll not claim the Hastinapura throne but will always protect its bearer. He was nobleman powerful with weapons, learned scholar with knowledge gained from heaven, wise like a sage. He was hence respected for all these together. Power, Wisdom, Courage, Nobility, Sacrifice. He obtained knowledge from great masters.

KAURAVAS (101 CHILDREN OF DHRITARASTHRA & GANDHARI)

Duhsala (Sister) , Duryodhana , Dushasana , Vikarna (The good natured one) , Jalagandha , Sama , Saha , Vindha , Anuvindha , Durmukha , Chitrasena , Durdarsha , Durmarsha , Dussaha , Durmada , Dussalan , Dushkarna , Durdhara , karna , Durmarshana , Durvishaha , Durvimochana , Dushpradharsha , Durjaya , Jaitra , Bhurivala , Ravi , Jayatsena , Sujata , Srutavan , Srutanta , Jayat , Chitra , Upachitra , Charuchitra , Chitraksha , Sarasana , Chitrayudha , Chitravarman , Suvarma , Sudarsana , Dhanurgraha , Vivitsu , Subaahu , Nanda , Upananda , Kratha , Vatavega , Nishagin , Kavashin , Paasi , Vikata , Soma , Suvarchasas , Dhanurdhara , Ayobaahu , Mahabaahu , Chithraamga , Chithrakundala , Bheemaratha , Bheemavega , Bheemabela , Ugraayudha , Kundhaadhara , Vrindaaraka , Dridhavarma , Dridhakshathra , Dridhasandha , Jaraasandha , Sathyasandha , Sadaasuvaak , Ugrasravas , Ugrasena , Senaany , Aparaajitha , Kundhasaai , Dridhahastha , Suhastha , Suvarcha , Aadithyakethu , Ugrasaai , Kavachy , Kradhana , Kundhy , Bheemavikra , Alolupa , Abhaya , Dhridhakarmaavu , Dhridharathaasraya , Anaadhrushya , Kundhabhedy , Viraavy , Chithrakundala , Pradhama , Amapramaadhy , Deerkharoma , Suveeryavaan , Dheerkhabaahu , Kaanchanadhwaja , Kundhaasy , Virajas

Brihaspati: Dandaneeti
Shukracharya: Political Science
Vashishtha: Veda and Vedanga
Sanatkumara : Mental and Spiritual knowledge
Markandeya: Yati Jnana
Parashuram: Archery
Indra: Divya Astra

ATHARVAN (अथर्वण)

Traces of Atharvan the sage are found in Mundaka Upanishada. It is said that he was born from the mind of the Brahma. Atharvan (अथर्वण्) was great sage of the Vedic Period. It is believed that he along with Rishi Angirasa were inspired to compose Atharvaveda the Fourth Veda. Sacrificial Process OR Yajna was introduced by Rishi Atharvan. Legend says Atharvan got married to Shanti, daughter of Kardama rishi, and Dadhichi was Athrarvan’s Son. Dadhichi was the great sage who fathered Vajra the unbeatable weapon of Indra

NAKULA (नकुल)

Nakula’s was fourth out of five Pandava brothers. Son of Madri by the boon of Ashwini Kumara. His name meant most handsome in the lineage. They used to compare him with Kaamdeva. He was a great swordsman and skilled in maintaining horses. During the year of exile, he assumed the duty of hostler in the stable of Virata. During the Kurukshetra war he killed Karna’s sons Sushena, Chitrasena and Satyasena. It is said that he was proud of his looks which made him fall during the time of Pandava ascending the heaven. He was 3rd to fall after Draupadi and Sahadeva.

ULUPI (उलुपी)

Ulupi, a character in Mahabharata, was one of Arjuna’s 4 wives. It’s said that she was daughter of Naga king. Arjuna was on pilgrimage and travelling the today’s North East region of India, he was bathing in Ganga when Ulupi got attracted towards him and dragged him into the water world. He after knowing the reality agreed to marry her and they bore a child known as Irawan. Ulupi’s name is also found in Vishnu Purana and Bhagvata Purana

RAGHUVANSHA (रघुवंश)

Raghuvansha is an Epic composed by Kalidasa. It’s a world renowned text covering descendants of Ikshwaku. The poetry, imagery and description is matchless and beautiful.

SHIKHANDI (शिखंडी)

Shikhandi is an interesting character in Mahabharata. There are multiple stories to be passed before we arrive at this character. Bhishma forcefully abducted 3 daughters of Kashi King from their Swayamvara. He wanted them to be married to his half-brother Vichitraveerya. Vichitraveerya married only 2, Ambika and Ambalika because Amba refused saying that she loved Shalva King and can’t marry anyone else. Bhishma returned her to Shalva however ever Shalva refused to accept her since he was defeated by Bhishma during the abduction. Amba returned and asked Bhishma to marry her which he obviously turned down. Amba tried multiple ways to avenge Bhishma like taking Parashurama to fight Bhishma. She later resorted to penance and finally got the boon to be Bhishma’s slayer. She however had to be reborn as a son to Drupada. The son was named Shikhandi. It is said that he was a eunuch and there are couple of more stories about it. Since Bhishma was aware about this he refused to fight a battle against Shikhandi and eventually got killed.

SANDIPANI (सांदिपनी)

Rishi Sandipani was the Guru of Lord Krishna and Balarama in the Mortal Realm. It is said that he was from Ujjain. There is a story in the Bhagavata Purana. Lord Krishna and Balarama studied in the Sandipani Ashrama with their friend Sudama. After completion of their studies, they requested Sandipani to ask for the Guru Dakshina (his fee for educating them) in form of whatever he feels appropriate. Sandipani asked for the restoration of his child, who had disappeared in the ocean at Prabhasa (a place around the Western Coast). Krishna and Balarama found that the son had been snatched away by a demon known as Shankhasura. However, when they found that Sandipani’s son is not with Shankhasura anymore and has been taken away by Yama (Death). Krishna and Balarama finally rescued the sage’s son from Yama himself. Krishna in the process, acquired his famous conch, Panchajanya, from Shankhasura.

PASHUPATA ASTRA (पाशुपात अस्त्र)

The Pashupata Astra is one of those divine weapons which were matchless and extremely destructive. This Astra/weapon belongs to and bears its name from Pashupati i.e. Lord Shiva. It is said that this can be discharged by mind, eyes, words or bow ( by mounting on an arrow). The weapon had the power to annihilate all beings. Very few warriors were bestowed with this weapon after proving themselves worthy of it to Lord Shiva. Literary evidence suggests only 3 great warriors possessed Pashupata Astra. Sage Vishvamitra, Meghanad (Ravana’s Son) and Arjuna. Pashupata was unstoppable by any power hence it was called MantraMukta (Free from any spell). There were rules guiding such weapons. It was forbidden to use it against an unworthy (less powerful) opponent. Arjuna was advised to obtain this weapon and hence he conducted penance (Tapa). Lord Shiva was pleased with this however he first scrutinized Arjuna’s might and will. He appeared in disguise of a hunter. He and Arjuna fought over a prey and Lord Shiva wounded Arjuna in arrow and sword battles. Arjuna realizing that this undefeatable hunter is none other than Lord Shiva. He bowed and sought blessings. Lord Shiva blessed him to be undefeatable and awarded Pashupata Astra.

BHAGADATTA (भगदत्त)

Bhagadatta was the king of Pragjyotishapura (प्रागज्योतीषपुर) Kingdom. He was succeeded by his son Vajradatta. He detested Lord Krishna hence he sided with Kauravas in the Mahabharata war. He was a Maharathi, leading an army of Kiratas. He was a renowned elephant warfare expert. On the 12th day of the Mahabharata war, he fought fiercely with Arjuna on his elephant Supratika. Bhagadatta fired the invincible Vaishnava Astra on Arjuna. Lord Krishna countered it by standing up. The potent weapon touched Krishna’s chest and turned into a garland. Arjuna later shot a lethal arrow and beheaded Bhagadatta.

SHANTANU (शंतनु)

Shantanu was the king of Hastinapura. He was youngest Son of Pratipa after Devapi and Balhik. He got married to Ganga the divine entity. Ganga agreed to marry Shantanu on one condition. He will never cross question any of her actions. After their first son was born, Ganga drowned him into the river. She followed suit with the next 6 as well. Dismayed Shantanu stopped her from doing the same with their 8th son.  Bound by the condition, Ganga with her son left Shantanu. Devavrata was that 8th Son, who later was titled as Bhishma. Shantanu was a great warrior and well-loved ruler. He led a life of Brahmacharya after Ganga’s departure and focused on his empire. Years later Ganga returned with grown up Devavrata and bestowed him to Shantanu. Later Shantanu was attracted towards a fisherman’s daughter Satyawati. Her father, the fisherman put a condition for their marriage that Satyawati’s son will ascend the throne and not Devavrata. Devavrata, for his father’s happiness accepted that and vowed not to desire the throne ever. Shantanu married Satyawati. They had two children Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya. After Shantanu’s death. Vichitraveerya became king of Hastinapura.

KACHA (कच)

Kacha was the son of Rishi (Sage) Brihaspati. Brihaspati was known as Dev Guru (Guru of the Gods). Kacha’s story appears in couple of Indian scriptures including Mahabharata, Matsya Purana and Agni Purana. Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) used to have battles of superiority. Asuras had an upper hand since Shukracharya the Guru of Asuras (Demons) knew a Mantra (spell) that would revive the dead known as Sanjeevani Mantra. Brihaspati sends Kacha to Shukracharya disguised as a disciple to achieve the the Mantra (spell) for Devas (Gods). Kacha impresses Shukracharya’s daughter Devayani and also becomes favourite disciple of Shukracharya. The Asuras (Demons) get to know Kacha’s reality and kill him multiple times to be revived each time by Shukracharya because of Devayani. Finally Asuras (Demons) kill Kacha and burn him to ashes. They mix these ashes in liquor and give it to Shukracharya. When Shukracharya realizes that Kacha is dead and is now gone inside his own stomach he teaches Kacha the Sanjeevani Mantra (spell). Kacha comes out by tearing Shukracharya’s stomach and with the spell revives his teacher! After this Kacha decides to go back to Deva Loka (Abode of the Gods) but is wooed by Devayani. He tells her that she’s like a sister to him since she’s the daughter of his teacher. Furious Devayani curses him that he’ll never be able to use the Sanjeevani Mantra (spell) when he’ll need it.

VRISHAKETU (वृषकेतू)

Vrishaketu the youngest and only surviving son of Karna. It is said that after realizing that Karna was the eldest Kaunteya (Kunti’s Son), Pandavas felt that Vrishaketu being Karna’s son has the right to ascend Hastinapura throne. Dying Karna however didn’t accept the idea. He felt he was a Kaunteya but wasn’t a Pandava. Only a Pandava (Pandu’s lineage) had the right on Hastinapura throne. This idea was accepted by Krishna as well. However the Kingdom of Indraprastha was created by Kaunteyas with no lineage issues, hence Pandava’s decide that Vrishaketu will rule both Indraprastha and Anga, while Parikshit the son of Abhimanyu will rule Hasthinapura.

ASHWATTHAMA (अश्वत्थामा)

Ashwatthama is the son of Dronacharya and Kripi. Drona obtained the son by Lord Shiva’s boon who possessed the same valiance as Lord Shiva. Ashvatthama is born with a gem on his forehead which gives him power over all living beings lower than humans; it protects him from hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Dronacharya lived a simple life, with little money. Hence Ashvatthama had difficult childhood. Legends say his family couldn’t even afford milk. To provide a better life for his family, Drona goes to the Drupada, his classmate and friend and then king of Panchala. However, Drupada humiliates Drona claiming a king and a beggar cannot be friends. After this incident, Kripacharya invites Drona to Hastinapura. On Bhishma’s request Dronacharya becomes the guru of both Pandavas and Kauravas in Hastinapura. Ashwatthama is trained in the art of warfare along with them. Ashwatthama fought the Kurukshetra war on the Kaurava side against the Pandavas. Ashvatthama was appointed as the final commander-in-chief. Ashwathama in feat of rage, attacked Pandava camp at night and slaughtered Draupadi’s sons. When Arjuna countered him later he used Brahma Astra to kill all Pandavas. Arjuna had to use Brahma Astra as the only counter measure. Sage Vyasa appeared and appealed both of them to take back the Astra since it was killing innocent beings. Arjuna took it back however Ashwathama directed it to the womb of Uttara. Lord Krishna revived the dead son of Uttara and cursed Ashwathama  to be a Chiranjivi. Later Ashwatthama ruled the Northern Panchala kingdom which Drona had confiscated from Drupada. He was one of the warriors of Mahabharata war who crossed all limits of conduct and even misused divine Astra’s.

VYASA (व्यास)

Vyasa or Ved Vyasa was son of Sage Parashara and Satyawati, the adopted daughter of fisherman Dusharaj. The story of Vyasa’s birth goes like this. Parashara was wandering around the region of Yamuna river. He was crossing the river by a small ferry steered by Satyawati. He was attracted to Satyawati and asked her consent to be his partner. Satyawati didn’t agree initially because she didn’t want to lose her virginity without getting married. Parashara promised that her virginity will stay intact despite their meeting which could be arranged by his sagely prowess. Satyawati then agreed. After the meeting she gave birth to Vyasa on an island in the Yamuna river itself. Vyasa is also known as Dvaipayana (one born on a Dvipa – Island). Parashara had performed a tough penance for Lord Shiva and Shiva had given him a boon that his son will be a Brahmarshi (Rishi of the highest rank). Vyasa became a Brahmarshi and composed epic like Mahabharat as well as majority of Indian scriptures/texts on philosophy. He composed Brahma Sutra which is known as one of the backbones of Indian Philosophy.

DHRISHTADYUMNA (धृष्टद्युम्न)

Drupada, the Panchala King, desired a son who could kill Dronacharya, who had humiliated Drupada in battle and taken half his kingdom. Drupada undertook a Putrakameshti (पुत्रकामेष्टी) Yajna, a sacrifice to obtain offspring by the blessing of Gods. The sacrifice was conducted with the help of two sage brothers Yaja and Upayaja After making the sacrificial offerings, Dhrishtadyumna emerged from the fire. He was already a fully grown powerful young and armed man along with his sister Draupadi. Even though he was the destined killer of Drona, he was accepted as a student by Drona. Drona taught him advanced military arts. Dhrishtadyumna was the first and only commander-in-chief of the Pandava army in the Kurukshetra war. After hearing rumours Ashwatthama’s death Drona laid down his arms and sat in meditation. Dhrishtadyumna took this opportunity and beheaded him. Ashwathama the last commander in chief of Kaurava army, attacked the Pandava camp during the night on 18th Day, and killed Dhristadyumna by beating and smothering him while he was asleep.

CHIRANJEEVA (चिरंजीव)

There are 7 immortal living beings mentioned in Indian Scriptures.
Ashwatthama – Son of Dronacharya (Mahabharata)
Bali – The Asura King
Vyasa – Sage who composed Mahabharata
Hanumana – Son of Vayu and Anjani. (Ramayana)
Vibhishina/BiBhishana – Ravana’s Brother
Kripa – Kripi’s brother and Guru of the Kauravas. (Mahabharata
Parashurama – An incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
There’s a verse covering all these 7

अश्वत्थामाबलिर्व्यासोहनुमांश्च विभीषण:कृपश्चपरशुरामश्च सप्तैतेचिरंजीविन:।।

AKSHOUHINI

Akshouhini is the unit to count number of troops. The units were divided into 9 types as below
1. पत्ती                                                     1 Elephant + 1 Chariot + 3 Horse + 5 Foot Soldiers
2. सेनामुख        (3 x पत्ती)-                   3 Elephant + 3 Chariot + 9 Horse + 15 Foot Soldiers
3. गुल्म              (3 x सेनामुख)             9 Elephant + 9 Chariot + 27 Horse + 45 Foot Soldiers
4. गण                (3 x गुल्म)                  27 Elephant + 27 Chariot + 81 Horse + 135 Foot Soldiers
5. वाहीनी           (3 x गण)                   81 Elephant + 81 Chariot + 243 Horse + 405 Foot Soldiers
6. पृतना             (3 x वाहिनी)              243 Elephant + 243 Chariot + 729 Horse + 1215 Foot Soldiers
7. चमू                 (3 x पृतना)                729 Elephant + 729 Chariot + 2187 Horse + 3645 Foot Soldiers
8. अनीकिनी      (3 x चमू)                  2187 Elephant + 2187 Chariot + 6561 Horse + 10935 Foot Soldiers
9. अक्षौहिणी      (10 x अनीकिनी)     21870 Elephant + 21870 Chariot + 65610 Horse + 109350 Foot Soldiers

DRONACHARYA (द्रोणाचार्य)

Dronacharya was royal preceptor to the Kauravas and Pandavas. He was the son of sage Bharadwaja (भरद्वाज) and a descendant from the clan of Angirasa (अंगिरस). He was a master of advanced military arts, including the divine weapons or Astras.
Mahabharata tells the story of Drona’s birth. Bharadwaja was attracted by the beauty of a beautiful apsara called Ghritachi on banks of River Ganga who. The sage was overcome by desire producing semen involuntarily out of the visual excitement. He captured this semen in a vessel called a Droṇa. Its believed that a kid sprang from the semen. Hence his name is Dronacharya. Drona spent his early days in poverty and studied at Bharadwaja Gurukul. He learnt Dharma and Weaponry such as archery, together with Drupada, who later became Panchala King. Dronacharya married Kripi, the sister of Kripa, who was the royal teacher of the Kurus in Hastinapura. Kripi and Droṇa had a son, Ashwatthama; born to be brave as Lord Shiva. Having meagre means to run family Drona approached Parasurama. He learnt the Parashurama was giving away his possessions to brahmins. However, by the time Drona reached him, Parasurama only had his knowledge of weapons left to give away. He offered Droṇa the weapons as well as the knowledge of their usage. That’s how Droṇa achieved the greatest weapons in his possession. Again for the sake of his wife and son, Droṇa had to struggle. He decided to go to Drupada his childhood friend and classmate. Drupada during their days at Bharadwaja promised to help Drona anytime he required. However, King Drupada, humiliated Droṇa saying a King and a poor Brahmin can’t be friends. Drona decided to resort to teaching and started roaming for worthy opportunity. While at Hastinapur, he came across the Kuru princes playing some game. With his amazing abilities at Mantra and Archery he solved some of their issue. The princes got mesmerized and informed Bhishma about it. Bhishma realized that this was Drona, and requested him to be the teacher of the Kuru princes for advanced weaponry.

KAURAVAS (101 CHILDREN OF DHRITARASTHRA & GANDHARI)

Duhsala (Sister) , Duryodhana , Dushasana , Vikarna (The good natured one) , Jalagandha , Sama , Saha , Vindha , Anuvindha , Durmukha , Chitrasena , Durdarsha , Durmarsha , Dussaha , Durmada , Dussalan , Dushkarna , Durdhara , karna , Durmarshana , Durvishaha , Durvimochana , Dushpradharsha , Durjaya , Jaitra , Bhurivala , Ravi , Jayatsena , Sujata , Srutavan , Srutanta , Jayat , Chitra , Upachitra , Charuchitra , Chitraksha , Sarasana , Chitrayudha , Chitravarman , Suvarma , Sudarsana , Dhanurgraha , Vivitsu , Subaahu , Nanda , Upananda , Kratha , Vatavega , Nishagin , Kavashin , Paasi , Vikata , Soma , Suvarchasas , Dhanurdhara , Ayobaahu , Mahabaahu , Chithraamga , Chithrakundala , Bheemaratha , Bheemavega , Bheemabela , Ugraayudha , Kundhaadhara , Vrindaaraka , Dridhavarma , Dridhakshathra , Dridhasandha , Jaraasandha , Sathyasandha , Sadaasuvaak , Ugrasravas , Ugrasena , Senaany , Aparaajitha , Kundhasaai , Dridhahastha , Suhastha , Suvarcha , Aadithyakethu , Ugrasaai , Kavachy , Kradhana , Kundhy , Bheemavikra , Alolupa , Abhaya , Dhridhakarmaavu , Dhridharathaasraya , Anaadhrushya , Kundhabhedy , Viraavy , Chithrakundala , Pradhama , Amapramaadhy , Deerkharoma , Suveeryavaan , Dheerkhabaahu , Kaanchanadhwaja , Kundhaasy , Virajas

SHAKUNTALA (शकुंतला)

Shakuntala was daughter of Sage Vishwamitra and Menaka (Apsara, emerging out of Samudra Manthana, churning of the ocean).

Vishwamitra was observing penance which was so powerful that it started shaking the heavens. Lord Indra sent Menaka, an Apsara to break his meditation. Menaka was a beautiful and witty, she was successful in breaking Vishwamitra’s meditation but also fell in love with him. Their union produced a daughter. Vishwamitra after realizing that his meditation was broken, left the place. The daughter was left in the Jungle and was protected by Shakunta birds. Sage Kanva found the girl. He picked her up and brought her up as his own daughter. He named her Shakuntala which meant one protected by the Shakunta birds.

Shakuntala grew up at the Kanva Ashrama and later fell in love with King Dushyanta. Their son is known as Bharata, after whom India is also known as Bharata.

JATAYU AND SAMPATI (जटायु and संपाती)

Jatayu and Sampati were celestial birds, sons of Aruna. Sampati was a demi God.
It is said that they had tremendous power in their wings. Both of them once decided to compete and check who goes closer to the Sun. Jatayu  went too close, Sampati covered him to save him from burning but got his own wings burnt due to the extreme heat of the Sun. He fell down closer to the ocean and stayed their. He helped Hanumana and the Monkey army, which was on the quest for Seeta.
While Ravana was abducting Seeta, Jatayu hindered him but he was badly bruised by Ravana. He died after narrating the story of abduction to Rama. Rama performed his funeral rites.

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