Other names: Bhim, Bheem, Bhimsen
Bhimsen was the son of Pandu (the valiant king of Hastinapur) and Kunti. Mighty Bhima was the second eldest son of the Pandavas after Yudhishthir. Once, King Pandu was hunting in the forest. There, a Sage named Kimidem was with his wife, both of whom were in the form of male and female deer enjoying carnal pleasures. Pandu shot an arrow at the hind of the female deer and she died.
The Sage got very angry and cursed Pandu that the moment Pandu tried to have sexual intercourse, he would die immediately. That is why Pandu could not father any children. But Kunti had an amulet, given her by the sage Durvasa, that could summon any god to father a child with her. Kunti summoned Dharmaraj (The Lord of Dharma) to father Yudhisthir, Vayu (The Lord of Air) to father Bhima, and Indra (The lord of devtas in Heaven) to father Arjun.
Bhim was an expert in mace fighting. He had learnt this art from Krishna’s elder brother Balram. Dhritarashta’s son Duryodhan was always envious of Bhima. When they were young, Duryodhan once poisoned Bhima and got him thrown in the river. But when the snakes bit him in the river, the effect of the first poison given by Duryodhan went away. Later, Nagraj gave nectar to Bhima to drink and awarded him the strength of ten thousand elephants.
When Duryodhan and his uncle Shakuni plotted to kill the Pandavas in the Lakshagriha (house made of wax), Bhim with his strength made a secret escape route out of the Lakshagriha and thereby saved his mother Kunti, his four brothers and himself.
With his brothers, he was married to Draupadi, who gave birth to a son by him by the name Sutasoma. The child that Draupadi bore to Bhima was born after Bhima had performed a thousand Soma Sacrifices thus he came to be called Sutasoma. Bhima also obtained for a wife Valandhara, the daughter of the King of Kasi, and offered his own prowess as dowry and begot upon her a son named Sarvaga. Dhristaketu’s sister also was wedded to Bhima.
While gambling with the Kauravas the Pandavas lost their estate and their wealth and even lost Draupadi in the manipulated game. To shame the Pandavs further, Dushasan, the younger brother of Duryodhan tried to disrobe Draupadi, and Duryodhan made an obscene reference by asking Draupadi to sit on his lap. Bhima got very angry and made a vow then and there to drink Dushasan’s blood and break Duryodhan’s thighs. Due to the gambling loss, the Pandavas had to go away for twelve years of exile.
During their stay in the forest, Hidimba, sister of the demon Hidimb became enamored of Bhima and expressed her desire to marry him, but Hidimb opposed this decision. Bhima killed Hidimb and got married to Hidimba. With this marriage, a son Ghatotkach was born, who was very strong and had the illusionary powers that demons normally possess.
In the war of the Mahabharata, Ghatotkach fought gallantly on the side of the Pandavas and was killed by Karna. There is one and only one temple of Hidimba, in Manali, Himachal Pradesh.
Along with mace fighting, Bhima was also an expert in wrestling. When Yudhishthir expressed his wish to organize Raj Surya Yagya Shri Krishna informed him that Jarasandh, the oppressor King of Magadh, had many Kings as captives and after killing them he would become the biggest king. Thus Raj Surya Yagya could not be completed without killing Jarasandh. Bhima killed Jarasandh while wrestling with him, freed the kings in the prison and gifted the chariot of Ashwamedh to Krishna.
Bhima was a great general in the great battle of Kurukshetra, second in command only to the generalissimo Dhrishtdhyuman, killing six out of the eleven Akshauhinis (an ancient battle formation that consisted of 21,870 chariots 21,870 elephants; 65,610 horse-mounted warriors and 109,350 infantry) of the other side (Kauravas).
Six Akshauhinis adds up to the astronomical figure of around 1,705,860 men and 787,320 beasts, which is testimony to the portrayal of Bhima as the character of supreme physical prowess.
At the end of the war, during the mace fight with Duryodhan, he broke Duryodhan’s thighs and fulfilled his second oath. Bhima had a very big and important share in the victory of Pandavas in the war of Mahabharata. Amongst the most important personalities that he quelled were Baka (head of a cannibalistic race), Kirmira (Baka’s brother), Maniman (leader of the anger-demons in Kuber’s garden), Jarasandh, and Dushasan. He also defeated mighty Dronacharya by breaking his chariot eight times.
During the battle, he killed the elephant Ashwathama, which enabled the Pandavas to spread the falsehood that Ashwathama, son of Drona, had been killed. In the mythological stories, Bhima is said to be the symbol of strength, valour and heroism, and Akbar compared him with the powerful western mythological character Hercules.
After the Mahabharata, Bhima finished his days with his brothers and Draupadi on their great and final journey toward Vaikunth. He was the last to die on the journey, leaving Yudhishthir alone to complete the journey by himself.
While he did possess superhuman strength, he has been portrayed as a man with no lenience for duplicity or tact in many cases – he is portrayed as the only Pandava who constantly pointed out the faults of others, even if they were older or much respected. Being highly sensitive, he swayed between extreme emotions of love and hatred.
Draupadi is often seen to turn to him to salvage her honor (be it in the case of Duryodhan’s defeat or in the case of Kichak’s slaying). Bhima is by far the most important character in the war of the Mahabharata.