The number killed in the Mahabharata War

My previous article on the Akshouhini gave rise to some interesting discussions in the comments section. Sri Chiraan rightly pointed out that the actual number of people who participated in the war had to be much more. It was, after all, the “Maha”bharata war!

I recalled reading in the Tatparya Nirnaya that the number 18 Akshouhinis was just the core army. The actual army *had* to be much bigger! So I got down to doing some research on this and yes, the Bhaarata has captured this detail as well. We find details of the actual fatalities (and survivors) in the war in the Stri Parva. The Pandavas, along with Krishna, come to meet Dhritharashtra and Gandhari. At one point, Dhritharashtra asks Yudhishthira if he knows the number of people dead and number of survivors. The numbers that Dharma reveals are

  • Fatalities : 1 billion, 660 million and 20,000!!!
  • Survivors : 240,165

Today’s world population is 6 billion, 700 odd million. Even in today’s terms, about 25% of the population got wiped out in the war!

This piece of information is in the Stri Parva (11th Parva) of the Mahabharata. I reproduce below the original shloka(s) and Ganguly’s translation of the same.

dashayutanam ayutam sahasrani cha vimshatihi |
kotyah shashtishcha shat chaiva ye asmin rajamrudhe hataha ||

alakshyaanam tu veeraanam sahasraani chaturdasha |
dasha chaanyani rajendra shataam shashtis cha pancha cha ||

One billion 660 million and 20,000 men have fallen in this battle. Of the heroes that have escaped, the number is 240,165″

Truly, the war was a Maha Yuddha!

17 thoughts on “The number killed in the Mahabharata War

  1. Sanskrit text as such doesn’t speak of break up of fatalities in terms of human, animal and the like. Demographers put the total estimated population of the world at around 6-7 million. Taking Akchauhini as the core, it would mean around 2000000 people to have suffered direct fatalities. Taking the locale of war limited to Kurukshetra and certain odd places, one can accept this number, though with a grain of salt. One billion and odd fatalities seem a poetic hyper bole.

  2. Dear sir Dr. Sheo nandan Pandey, the East India Company truly introduced this doubt of their own smrtis in the mind of the people. Bharata varsha was the entire planet under one Emperor [Hastinapur, now Delhi] and as such all the kings of the planet came to fight, the main warriors fought on holy ground [kuruksetra] but not all of the world’s warriors. The annihilation of leaders had to happen for kali yuga to become the mess it is, the corrupted era it is, their advisors got misplaced and never returned to their place of origin, hence the similarities in world stories around the world. Veda, smrti, upanishad are true, challenged in your mind your scottish and British influenced Indian education.

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