Lessons from how the Mahabharata war was won
• Second Longest Epic of the World
- By Vyasa to Ganesha as “Jaya”,
- By Vaishampayan to Janamejaya as “Bharata”,
Suta/Sauti to the Rishis at Naimisharanya as “Mahabharata”.
Has “mind-boggling” revelations:
- Astronomy: Existence of Uranus (Shweta)
and Neptune (Ksharaka),
- Geography: Lands as far as
Cambodia (Kamboja), Kazakhstan and/or Scandinavia (Uttarakuru),
- Mathematics: Numbers to the
range of 10 raised to powers of 16 and -16,
- Descriptions of weapons
resembling modern day weaponry including Nuclear and/or Chemical weapons,
- Complex Military Formations and
- Philosophy, Psychology,
Sociology, Spirituality, Religion, Politics,
- And, even Modern Management
- Kauravas: 11 Akshouhini’s
- Pandavas: 7 Akshouhini’s
[1 Akshouhini = 21,870 chariots,
21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 foot-soldiers (in a ratio of
In power for 13 years.
Duryodhana has been a benevolent king. There was no guarantee that the subjects really
miss the Pandavas. Not only do
they have the wealth and power of Hastinapur, but also that of Indraprastha,
kingdom that the Pandavas had
taken such labors to build and which had surpassed the Hastina of old in all
degrees. Karna had gone on a
nation-wide conquering quest on behalf of Duryodhana. They are the national
Exiled for 13 years. Have no
kingdom. Their main strength both in terms of political and financial power
on their friends and relatives:
the Panchalas, the Yadavas, the Magadhas and the Chedis.
• Kauravas: “Without
war, will not concede even a needle-prick’s size of the earth.” - Duryodhana
Duryodhana was completely focused on the
War. It was his moment of truth. He had usurped a kingdom, and he
meant to keep it. He had resorted
to any means, foul or fair to get the kingdom, which he believed to be
his, and he was in no mood to give
• Pandavas: “We fight over a
Kingdom, as dogs over a piece of meat.”- Yudhisthira
The Pandavas had been humiliated, their
wife insulted, their kingdom taken. But still they wanted to avoid the
War. The three elder Pandavas were
against the War. They even went as far as making an offer that they will stop
the War in exchange of 5 villages.
• War Lasted 18 Days: 10 Days (Bhisma), 3 Days (Drona), 1½
Days (Karna), ½ Day (no generals), 1 Day (Shalya),
1 Night (Ashwatthama)
• 18th Night of the War: Ashwatthama slaughtered the
Pandava camp while they were sleeping.
• Prior to that:
- Kaurava deaths: Bhishma, Drona, Karna and his sons, Shalya,
Bhagadutta, Bhurisrava, Susharma, Jayadrath,
Duhsasana and all of
Duryodhana’s brothers, Shakuni and Ulooka.
- Pandava deaths: Drupad, Virat and his sons, Abhimanyu,
How did the Pandavas Win?
• Karna went on a country-wide military
mission, subdued the different kingdoms and acquired wealth. But it
meant a loss in terms of both
men and money, and creation of new enemies.
Pandavas: Though in exile they turned their
attention to improving over their weakness
• Arjuna set out on a mission to acquire
• Bhima met his brother Hanuman and
got a blessing of enhanced strength.
• Yudhisthira acquired teachings
from the various wise Rishis, and also learnt the Game of Dice from Gandharava
Chtrasena, lest he was
challenged to yet another dice game. It’s said that he had become undefeatable
Management Lesson: Turn your Weakness into
Kauravas: Centralized power system. The greatest empire
of the time. But not many powerful allies, except from old
from far off places like Gandhara (Shakuni), Sindhu (Jayadrath) and Kambodia (Camboja
Pandavas: No wealth. No power of their own. But powerful
alllies all over India.
• Panchala through Marriage with
• Dwarka throgh marriage with
Arjuna and Subhadra.
• Magadh through marriage of
Shadeva and Vijaya.
• Chedi through marriage of Nakula
• Kasi throgh marriage of Bhima
• Kekaya throgh marriage of
Yudhisthira and Devika.
• Matsya throgh marriage of
Abhimanyu and Uttara.
• The Rakshasas through marriage
of Bhima and Hidimba.
• The Nagas through marriage of
Arjuna and Uloopi.
Management Lesson: Make Powerful Allies
Kauravas: Centralized leadership. One
Head of Army at a time, who has supreme authority of 11 Akshouhini’s of the
Drona, Karna, Shalya and Ashwatthama, in order of succession.
Pandavas: Distributed leadership.
Seven commanders for the seven divisons (1 man commands an Akshouhini each).
• Virat (King of Matsya)
• Drupad (King of
• Sahadeva(King of
• Dhrshtaketu (King
• Satyaki (Only
warrior from Dwarka)
• Shikhandi (Prince
Commander in Chief
Arjuna –Supreme Commander
And, Lord Sri
Krishna – Arjuna’s Charioteer and Counselor.
Management Lesson: Share your responsibilities
Kauravas: No team spirit. They all
fought their individual wars.
• Bhishma: For his Vow to
protect the throne Hastinapur.
• Drona and Kripa:
They owed allegiance to the throne.
• Shalya: Simply
cheated by Duryodhana to be there. Was originally a Pandava ally.
• Karna: To prove
his mantle against Arjuna. Friendship for Duryodhana.
They didn’t get on well with each
• Bhishma and Karna.
• Bhisma and
• Karna and
• Karna and Shalya.
• Shalya and
It was like bees, hornets and
mosquitoes put together in a jar.
Pandavas: One Team, One Goal. As
men, they all had huge respect for Krishna and Yudhisthira. While as warriors
they were in complete
awe of Bhima and Arjuna. Most of them were close relatives – cousins,
More than that, they all were part of the decision-making process. It was their
Management Lesson: Teamwork succeeds where
Individual effort fails.
Kauravas: Except for Duryodhana
nobody wanted the War. All the four main generals had strong ties with the
(grandchildren) – Would kill a thousand soldiers each day but won’t kill the Pandavas.
• Drona (students) –
Won’t kill the Pandavas. Would only capture them.
• Shalya (Nakula-Shadeva’s
maternal uncle): Loved the Pandavas and covertly helped them by humiliating
• Karna (brother to
the Pandavas): Promised not to kill any of the other Pandavas except for
Team of Traitors.
Pandavas: Common goal. But the
individuals had their individual targets. They had their own agenda, which
happened to become
one with the teams’ agenda.
• Shikhandi: Bhisma.
• Satayaki – Bhuris
• Arjuna – Karna.
• Bhima – Duryodhana
and his brothers.
• Sahadeva – Shakuni
and his sons.
• Nakula –Karna’s
Management Lesson: The right team is made by
selecting the right individuals. Get the right person
for the right job.
Kauravas: As already said, the ‘Big
4’ had a big emotional attachment with the 5 Pandavas. Looking further on their
• Bhisma himself gave away the
secret of how to kill him to the Pandavas. He prolonged the War by killing only
inconsequensual soldiers. He did not fight a
warrior like Shikhandi because of his personal bias.
• Drona too indirectly gave
away his secret, by saying he was invulnerable as long as he held a weapon.
Moreover he abandoned
weapons as soon as he knew his son had died.
• Karna did not kill
Yudhisthira and Bhima when he got the chance. He gave away his Kavach and
prior to his War. Karna
fled innumerous times from the War when he was hurt. He didn’t save Duhsasana
when Bhima was killing
• Shalya kept on insulting
Karna while in Battle.
Pandavas: Let’s look at their
• Abhimanyu, just 16 years old.
Ventured beyond enemy lines alone. This was clearly a suicide mission but he
still went in and took a
great part of the Kaurava army down with him. It took the combined effort of 7
Maharathis to take him
• Ghatotkach, even in
death took with him almost half the Kaurava army.
• Yudhisthira, he knew he
couldn’t face Karna in War, but still went in to set an example. Yudhisthira
hesitate to tell a lie or
a twisted truth when faced with the decision of whether to stick to his
integrity or welfare of
• Krishna took up arms
twice and almost entered the War, in spite of his promise, only to be stopped
Management Lessons: The interests of the
Individual should never exceed the Team interest.
The best person for a Job is not the one with the best capabilities but
Krishna: The Greatest Crisis
Manager the world has seen.
Yudhisthira: Low-key strategist.
• On the first day of the War,
he played a Master game. He went over to the Enemy side to seek blessings from
Elders. In reality he
made a covert deal with them, wherein all of them agreed to help him and
secrets of defeating
• While coming back, he took a
calculated risk. He made an offer to all the assembled people to change sides
they wanted to. He
knew well of the lack of cohesiveness among the Kauravas. Yuyutsu, son of
crossed over to the Pandavas.
This exposed the Kauravas’ weakness for all to see.
Management Lessons: Know your enemies
weaknesses and exploit them.
Take Calculated risks.
counsel your own team in moments of need.
Kauravas: Princes brought up in
the comfort of the Royal Palace, matured on romanticized ideals of Power, Fame,
Courage and Valour.
No experience of ground reality.
• Spent the greater part of
their lives in Poverty. Childhood in the Himalayan foothills among Rishis. Spent
year of their exile
among the poor people of Kuru-Panchala. 12 years of Vanvas and 1 year of
• Experienced with the
ground reality. Contact with people from various strata of the society.
Acharyas (Householders, teachers), poor Brahmins, lower-class Potters.
• Different races of
people. Rakshasas, Gandharavas, Apsaras, Nagas. People from different regions
• Sense of Sharing. A Sense
Management Lessons: Know ground realities. Know different
Empowerment of Women
Kauravas: Patriarchal structure.
Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Dhratarashtra, Vidur, Shakuni, Duryodhana, Karna,
Duhsasana. No women in the decision-making
process. Gandhari retreated to the Inner Chambers.
Pandavas : Matriarchal Structure.
• Kunti was the authority
supreme for the Pandavas.
“Whatever my mother says is Dharma to me” - Yudhisthira.
• Draupadi was a companion
in whatever the Pandavas did. She had a big role in all the decision-making.
Without her the Pandavas
would have most probably retired to the forests.
• Even the younger Pandavas,
Ghatotkach, Abhimanyu and Iravan were brought up by their mothers. So the
female influence was
Management Lesson: Women = Better Half. Any
team which doesn’t have women is unbalanced.
The Masculine traits of Aggression
and Dominance should be balanced by the Feminine traits of
Harmony and Sustenance.
• Turn your weaknesses into strengths.
• Turn enemies into allies.
• Share your responsibilities.
• Teamwork scores over Individual
• Right Team = Right set of
Individuals. Assign the right person for the right job.
• Commitment scores over
• Team interests over Individual
• Know your enemy/challenges.
Exploit its weaknesses. Take calculated risks.
• The Right Managers: To inspire,
invigorate, and counsel in crisis.
• Know Ground realities. Accept different
ideologies. Foster sharing and co-operation.
• Empower Women. Gender Balance
is required for stability and administration.