Religions of South Asia, Vol 1, No 2 (2007)

The Pāṇḍavas’ Five Journeys and the Structure of the Mahābhārata

Nick Allen
Issued Date: 14 Dec 2007


A number of five-element structures occurring in the Mahābhārata can be interpreted as expressing an early Indo European pentadic ideology. But in the main plot of the epic, five journeys, each made by one or more Pāṇḍavas, can also be viewed as forming a structure: the initial exile; Arjuna’s visit to the four quarters; the major Pāṇḍava exile (including the Great War); Arjuna’s journey during the horse sacrifice; and the Pāṇḍavas’ final journey to the Himalayas and Heaven. The Pāṇḍavas’ other journeys can be excluded for various reasons, but the fifth journey needs to be seen as reversing the descent from Heaven of the Pāṇḍavas’ divine genitors and the descent from the Himalayas made by the Pāṇḍavas as children. This pentad is examined in terms of the cause of each journey, its leading traveller, and its character and climax. It is argued that the five journeys manifest the pentadic ideology, albeit not in the standard hierarchical order. This has implications for the origin of the epic narrative.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v1i2.165


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