Bhima, as the mighty young warrior of the Mahabharata, was blessed with the strength of 10,000 elephants. There are two traits the second-eldest Pandava is known for – his massive strength and his ferocious appetite for food. The mace was Bhima’s weapon of choice, which he mastered to perfection and was able to help the Pandavas win the Kurukshetra war by single-handedly killing a majority of the Kaurava brothers. Along with being a fierce warrior, whose strength even Lord Indra couldn’t control, he was also a loving, protective brother, who rescued the Pandavas from harm’s way on many occasions.
Kunti was Bhima’s mother while the God of wind, Vayu, was his father, which made Hanuman his half-brother. Bhima was unbeatable as a fighter and consistently out-powered his cousins, the Kauravas, in wrestling bouts when they were children. An envious Duryodhana even tried to kill Bhima by enticing him with a poisonous feast and then drowning him into a river. It was the serpent king Vasuki who rescued Bhima and told him of his cousin brother’s evil deed. Bhima was also the reason why Duryodhana’s attempt to kill the Pandavas in a fire failed as he carried all his four brothers and mother to safety.
After escaping Duryodhana’s murder plot, the Pandavas were living incognito in present day West Bengal. They were told of a demon named Bakasura, who was disrupting lives by eating villagers and their provisions. It was a fearless Bhima who took on Bakasura and killed him, much to the relief of the villagers.
Bhima shared Draupadi as a wife with his four brothers. But he also married a demoness named Hidimbi, or rather, was forced to marry her. Bhima, who was still in hiding with his family, was on guard one day as his brothers and mother slept. A ferocious demon named Hidimba, who had a great appetite for human flesh, wanted to feast on the Pandavas. He sent his sister Hidimbi ahead of him to lure the Pandavas.
Demoness Hidimbi camouflaged into a beautiful woman and encountered Bhima, whom she fell in love with instantly. Her intense feelings coerced her into confessing to Bhima her brother’s evil intentions. Meanwhile, a desperate Hidimba caught his sister talking to Bhima and became infuriated. He attacked Bhima, who managed to overpower the demon. Hidimbi, now left brotherless and desperately in love, asked Bhima to marry her, but he refused. Hidimbi then approached Kunti, who agreed to the union, but on one condition – Hidimbi would leave Bhima alone once they had a child. A far-sighted Kunti convinced her son to marry Hidimbi by telling him that the son born to them would work for the welfare of the Pandavas in the future. This prophecy did indeed come true as Hidimbi and Bhima’s demon son, Gatotkacha fought on the Pandavas’ side in the Kurukshetra war and helped them win.
In the war, Bhima defeated not just the Kaurava brothers, but also Drona and Karna. Despite defeating Karna, he spared his life because of a promise he made to Arjuna. His ultimate victory, however, was over Duryodhana, who he killed on the last day of the war, in a mace fight. After the Pandavas won the war, Bhima was appointed commander-in-chief of Hastinapur and king of the Kamyaka forest. When his family renounced the world and made their final journey to the Himalayas, he followed them. Bhima eventually fell down from exhaustion on this journey and died. While falling, he asked his brother Yudhishthira why his strength gave up on him. Yudhishthira replied that it was Bhima’s vices of gluttony and battle-lust that led to his fall.
Bhima’s character is a lesson in the importance of protecting family at any cost. That was his one major duty (dharma) that he lived by until the end. He never took his strength for granted and worked hard to master the mace. His gluttony got him into trouble, proving that overindulgence can do more harm than good. Most importantly, however, Bhima teaches us that with great power comes great responsibility. It must never be used to prey on the weak, but must always be used for the greater good.