The Mahabharata relates many events which portray the immense might of Bhima. One of the central reasons behind the envy of Duryodhana towards the Pandavas was the inability of the Kauravas to match Bhima's strength. Eventually Bhima is responsible for slaying all hundred Kaurava brothers in the Kurukshetra War.
- Bhima - terrible or awful.
- Bhimasena - he who have a formidable army.
- Vrikodara- wolf bellied or voracious eater.
- Gadadhara- mace holder.
- Jarasandhajit - he who won over Jarasandha.
- Hidimbabhid - he who pierced Hidimba.
- Kichakajit - he who defeated Kichaka.
- Jihmayodhin - fighter against falsehood.
Birth and early years
Once a Brahmin (Harshil)rishi, Kindama and his wife were making love in the forest when Bhima's father Pandu accidentally shot them, mistaking them for deer. Before dying, Kindama cursed the king to die when he embraceses his wife. Due to this curse, Pandu was unable to father children. As an additional penance for the murder, Pandu abdicated the throne of Hastinapura and his blind brother Dhritarashtra took over the reins of the kingdom.
After Pandu's disability, the Pandavas were conceived in an unusual way. His wife, Queen Kunti, had in her youth been granted the power to invoke the Devas by Rishi Durvasa. Each Deva, when invoked, would bless her with a child. Urged by Pandu to use her boons, Kunti gave birth to Bhima by invoking the God of wind, Vayu.
Along with other Pandava brothers, Bhima was trained in religion, science, administration and military arts by the Kuru preceptors, Kripacharya and Dronacharya. Specifically, he became a master in using the mace. Bhima's strong point throughout the epic remains his towering strength. He was so wrathful and strong that it was impossible even for Indra to subdue him in a battle.
Bhima was also renowned for his giant appetite – at times, half of the total food consumed by the Pandavas was eaten by him, which gave rise to his name of Vrikodara, (one with a wolf's belly).
Trouble with Kauravas
Bhima, being as powerful as his father, was a natural bully. He used to play practical jokes on the Kaurava brothers; he used to engage in wrestling bouts where he out-powered them with consummate ease.
His repeated failures and fecklessness against Bhima angered Duryodana so much that he wanted him dead. He hatched a cunning plot where he poisoned Bhima's food and drowned him in River Ganga. Thankfully, the Naga king Vasuki saved Bhima and also apprised him of Duryodana's hatred for him. It is also Vasuki who bestowed him the immense strength of a thousand elephants.
Escaping fire and killing Purochana
Duryodana with his counsellor Purochana hatched a plan to burn the Pandavas alive at a lac palace lakshagraha at Varnavrata that Duryodana had built there, (lacquer is highly inflammable). Thanks to Vidura, the Pandavas managed to escape out from the palace. Bhima played a major role in carrying all five of them (Kunti and brothers) and escaping to safety. Bhima also barricaded the palace of Purochana and set fire to it, thereby ensuring Purochana became a victim of his own evil plot.
Kunti and the Pandavas were living in agnyatavaasa(living incognito) after they escaped from the murder plot(kunti suggests to be incognito to avoid further problems from kauravas) . During their stay at Ekachakra or kaiwara(in Karnataka), they came to know of a demon, Bakasura who troubled people by eating out their provisions. The powerful Bhima brought his might to the fore and trumped Bakasura, much to the delight of the villagers.
Marriage and children
During this time bhima after killing Hidimba meets his sister Hidimbi and eventually get married. They will be blessed with a son Ghatotkach. They both (mother and son)stay out of the pandava's lives and the luxuries of court as promised by hidimba to kunti. Then the Pandavas attended the Swayamvara of Drupada princess, Draupadi. The Pandavas, led by Arjuna, were successful at the Swayamvara. With his brothers, he was married to Draupadi, who gave birth to a son, Sutasoma. At a later stage, Bhima also married Balandhara, the daughter of the king of Kasi, and had a son named Sarvada. Among Bhima's three sons, Sarvada did not participate in the Kurukshetra war, two others were killed by Karna.
Conquest for Rajasuya
When Yudhisthira became emperor of Indraprastha he sent his four younger brothers out in different directions to subjugate kingdoms for the rajasuya sacrifice. Bhima was sent out to the East, since Bhishma thought the easterners were skilled in fighting from the backs of elephants and in fighting with bare arms, he deemed Bhima to be the most ideal person to wage wars in that region. The Mahabharata mentions several kingdoms to the east of Indraprastha which were conquered by Bhima. Some of them are as listed:
- Jarasandha of the Magadha empire. This was the most important win, as Jarasandha had several allies in the region, including Shishupala and Bhagadatta. Krishna tricked Jarasandha into having a wrestling bout with Bhima. This was an agonizing battle that stretched for 13 long days. At the end, Bhima broke Jarasandha's backbone with his knee and tore apart his body into two.
- Panchalas, Gandakas, Videhas
- Dasarnas, where the king called Sudharman with his bare arms fought a fierce battle with Bhima, who later appointed the mighty Sudharman as the first-in-command of his forces.
- Rochamana, the King of Aswamedha
- Pulinda in the south, Kings Sukumara and Sumitra
- Sishupala of Chedi Kingdom, (who welcomed Bhima and hosted and entertained him for thirty days)
- King Srenimat of the country of Kumara
- King Vrihadvala of Kosala
- King Dirghayaghna of Ayodhya
- King Gopalakaksha and the northern Kosalas and the king of Mallas
- Country of Bhallata, as also the mountain of Suktimanta
- King Suvahu of Kasi
- King Kratha of Suparsa
- Matsya, Maladas and the country called Madahara, Mahidara, and the Somadheyas,Vatsabhumi, and the king of the Bhargas, as also the ruler of the Nishadas and Manimat
- Southern Mallas and the Bhagauanta mountain.
- Sarmakas and the Varmakas
- Janaka, the King of the Videhas
- Sakas and other barbarians
- Seven kings of the Kiratas living around the Indra mountain
- Kings Danda, Dandadhara and Girivaraja
- King of Madagiri
- King of Pundra and King Mahaujah who reigned in Kausika-kachchha
- King of Vanga
- Samudrasena, Chandrasena and Tamralipta
- King of the Karvatas and of the Suhmas and the Prasuhmas
- Mlechchha tribes along the coast
After Yudhisthira succumbed to Shakuni's challenge in the game of dice, the Pandavas were forced into exile for 13 years, one of which was in anonymity. The exile period in the forests, saw the Pandavas come face to face with many rakshasas and asuras and Bhima played a crucial role in the epic in rescuing his brothers every time.
Right at the start of the exile, in the woods of Kamyaka, the Pandavas encountered the demon Kirmira, the brother of Bakasura and a friend of Hidimba. A fierce battle ensued between Bhima and the demon, where the two equally matched fighters hurled rocks and trees at each other. Eventually Bhima emerged victorious.
Searching for Saugandhika flower
Once in Badarikasrama forest, Draupadi scented the Saugandhika flower and was deeply attracted to it. The lotus species was not to be located easily. Bhima went in search of the flower and ended up at Kubera's palace. He was stopped in his tracks by the rakshasas called Krodhavasas, but he defeated them all and reached the lotus pond. He also slew the rakshasa Maniman a wicked demon, who had in the past, incurred a curse from Rishi Agastya by spitting on his head. Being unused to the water of the pond, Bhima fell asleep on its shore. Later the Pandavas arrived with Krishna and Draupadi in search of Bhima. They met Kubera who offered them baskets of Saugandhika lotuses and sent them on their way. Kubera was especially happy, as the slaughter of Maniman had relieved him of the curse too. It was also during this search that Bhima met Hanuman (his brother, as both were Vayu's children) in the forest and sought his blessings.
In another minor incident in the epic, Jatasura, a rakshasa disguised as a Brahmin abducted Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Draupadi and the twin brothers, Nakula and Sahadeva during their stay at Badarikasrama. His objective was to seize the weapons of the Pandavas and to ravish Draupadi. Bhima, who was gone hunting during the abduction, was deeply upset when he came to know of Jatasura's evil act on his return. A fierce encounter followed between the two gigantic warriors, where Bhima emerged victorious by decapitating Jatasura and crushing his body.
Humiliation of Jayadratha
In another event in the Kamyaka forests, Jayadratha, a Sindhu King, abducted Draupadi when the Pandavas were away. On returning, the Pandavas learnt about this from Sage Dhaumya, followed and reached Jayadratha's army in the forest. They vanquished his army and he was nabbed by Bhima. Before Bhimasena was about to kill him, Yudhisthira told him not kill him, because he was their brother-in-law. Bhimasena humiliated him by shaving his head and leaving him with just five patches of hair. Jayadratha later plays a major role in the Kurukshetra War in slaying Abhimanyu, but is later trounced by Arjuna, the only Pandava he could not conquer.
Cook at Virata's kingdom
Along with his brothers, Bhima spent his last year of exile in the kingdom of Virata. He disguised himself as a cook named Ballav (within themselves Pandavas called him Jayanta).
Once during a great festival, people from neighbouring countries had come to the kingdom of Virata. There was a wrestling bout where a wrestler from a different state, Jimuta proved to be invincible. Much to the delight of King Virata and his subjects, Bhima challenged Jimuta and knocked him out in no time. This greatly enhanced the reputation of the Pandavas in an unfamiliar territory.
Kichaka, the army commander of Virata, tried to sexually assault Draupadi, who was under the guise of a maid named Sairindhri. Draupadi reported this incident to Bhima. Bhima covered himself with silk robes. He slew him the moment he tried to touch him. Kickaka was crushed and slaughtered in to a meat ball by Bhima. Later Kichaka's allies plotted to murder Sairindri, but Bhima vanquished all of them. 
The archenemy of Virata was King Susharma of the Trigarta Kingdom, under the aegis of Duryodana, waged a battle against Virata by stealing the cows in his kingdom. Bhima lead the other Pandavas and Virata, and helped to rout the army of Susarma easily. Before he was about to strangle Susarma to death, Yudhistira told him to spare him.
By this time, the 13-year exile period was completed and the rivalry between the siblings was renewed.
During the Kurukshetra War
- On the 15th day, he killed the elephant Ashwathama, an important but indirect cause for the death of Drona.
- Bhima was the only warrior who refused to submit to the 'invincible' narayanastra launched by Ashwathama.
- On the final day of the battle, Bhima fought Duryodana and he struck both his thighs with his mace. Thus, he fulfilled the vow he took during Draupadi's undressing.
- Bhima slew Bahlika, the king of Bahlika kingdom and paternal uncle of Bhishma.
- Bhima slew Dushasana, the Kaurava most responsible for undressing Draupadi.
- Bhima is credited with killing all 100 sons of Dhritrashtra and Gandhari.
- Bhima killed 70 percent of the Kaurava's soldiers.
Later years and death
After the war, Dhritarashtra was enraged by Bhima's slaying of all his sons. He tried to crush Bhima, but Krishna, sensing his anger, asked Bhima to show Dhritarashtra an iron statue of his. Dhritarashtra crushed the statue into pieces, but later realised his folly and apologised to Bhima.
Yudhisthira appointed Bhima as the Yuvaraj of Hastinapur after taking charge. Upon the onset of the Kali yuga Bhima and other Pandavas retired, leaving the throne to their only descendant to survive the war of Kurukshetra, Arjuna's grandson Parikshit. Giving up all their belongings and ties, the Pandavas, accompanied by a dog, made their final journey of pilgrimage to the Himalayas.
Bhima is the fifth one to fall after Draupadi, Nakula, Sahadeva and Arjuna. When Bhima tires and falls down, he asks his elder brother why he, Bhima, is unable to complete the journey to heaven. Yudhisthira explains his brother's vice of gluttony, who used to eat too much without thinking about the hunger of others.
Bhima was the strongest and the most ferocious of his brothers. He possessed the strength of ten thousand elephants and was said to be as strong as Indra or Vayu. When Bhima was born, he roared like a blood thirsty tiger. As an infant, he once slipped from his mother's lap and fell of a hill. Bhima not only survived but the boulder on which he landed was smashed to smithereens.
Bhima favored the use of the mace or gada, and was also a great wrestler. He was also the fastest runner and swimmer amongst his brothers. Under Balarama, Bhima mastered the mace, as well as the sword and chariot driving.
Bhima was also very skilled in archery and was deemed as one of the few people to properly wield Arjuna's bow, Gandiva with great skill. He was able to defeat Karna and Drona on a few occasions. Bhima was also well versed in the science of elephants and was skilled in fighting and killing them. He could slay three thousand enemy soldiers with complete ease.
Aside from fighting, Bhima was also a master chef. He was in charge of Virata's kitchen for one year.
In the media
- In the Mahabharat (1988 TV series), Bhima's role was played by Praveen Kumar.
- In the Mahabharat (2013 TV series), Bhima's role was played by Saurav Gurjar.
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