Have you ever been fascinated by Indian mythology? I have. Throughout my childhood, until I became an adult, I have been intrigued by my epics of Indian mythology. Of the many stories, Mahabharat, Ramayan, and Krishna Leela dominated my world and mind. Over the years, I have read books and watched televised serials until I was thoroughly disillusioned. The characters that I once found admirable and are popular favorites were suddenly not as I thought they were. Boy, was I disappointed, sigh.
So here are some of Indian mythology’s most overrated characters:
Bhishma tops this list because he was on the top of my favorite Mahabharat characters. I admired his integrity and strength very much and wished to be like him (and perhaps find someone like him). He had a sense of duty and right, and we all know his filial piety and loyalty. My fascination with Bhishma reached its peak during Mahabharat reboot in 2013. However, it was during that time I recognized the biggest flaw of this iconic character–his silence.
In the name of ‘Dharma,’ he chose to remain silent in many instances, even during the brutal Chir Haran of Draupadi. His quest to uphold his Dharma, he let loose an array of Adharma. As much as we can laud his sense of duty and loyalty that led to this, it cannot be denied that his decision to let go of his personal ego and Dharma to stop evil events is appalling.
However, the flaws in Bhishma doesn’t end here. No, he was also the culprit of forcefully arranging marriages of princesses to Hastinapur princes. From Ambika, Amba, and Ambalika to Gandhari, his actions have led to these women marry men, who never valued them enough.
2. Lord Krishna–Mahabharat, Krishna Leela
This one is controversial, I admit. Lord Krishna is Bhagwan and everyone just loves his Leela. He is the Parthasarathy, who was vital in the way the great Mahabharat was ended. In a way, he is the great orchestrator in the Mahabharat epic, one that triumphs even the crafty Sakuni. He is actually the only one of Mahabharat characters that look a stand for Draupadi when she was being humiliated.
However, he is far from being one of the good guys in the spic. Right from the days in Gokul and Vrindavan, Krishna was naughty and always scheming something. However, most of his actions can be excused, him stealing the clothes of gopi who were bathing is not really an innocent prank, now is it? Moreover, throughout his association with Pandavas and Kauravas, he has been quick to resort to trickery to ensure the side of ‘Dharma’ won. But, he is still better than some of the other characters, for sure.
Arjuna is the next favorite of many after Lord Krishna. He is much loved by many for his valor and amazing archery skills. Moreover, he has ethics and a sense of duty and loyalty that is seldom challenged in the epic. However, as good a warrior that Arjuna is, he is not a good husband. Not unlike other Pandavas, Draupadi is not his sole wife.
However, he probably has the most number of extramarital affairs and marriages out of the five. While polygamy was the norm in those days, he could have always chosen not to remarry, but he didn’t. Moreover, Arjuna is simply too proud, which makes him prone to getting his ego hurt and mocking those “beneath hum.” (Karna, anyone?)
4. Lord Rama–Ramayan
At this point, I am convinced you all are going to go for my head. But, before you do, let me make my case. Lord Ram is considered to the epitome of moral standards in the Hindu religion. He is often believed to be the model son, husband, brother, and king. However, I do not agree with that. Growing up I used admire Rama for his integrity and whatnot. However, as I grew up I just could not cope with the way he treats his wife, Sita.
Yes, it may have been him choosing his people over personal happiness, but that is no justification for his actions. Again, I know, this all happened because of Narada’s curse, but still does not excuse his behavior. Leaving his wife out in the forest alone, when she is pregnant, with just Lakshman as a company–that is just cowardice, especially since he did not do the deed himself.
Ah, here we go again, yet another character that Mahabharat fans just love. There are many reasons for people having Karna in their hearts. For one, he is the underdog, Kunti’s eldest son, whom she gave birth to before her marriage. He is seemed to have love Draupati loyally to the end and brought order among both sides during the war after Bhishma’s death. He is the epitome of friendship, loyalty, courage, and benevolence. His charity work has been long appreciated by the fans.
However, as much charitable as Karna was, he was a bitter man who chose the “evil” over “good” to escape his past and cast. If that can be overlooked, one certainly cannot forget his silence and presence during the Chir Haran. In my eyes, Karan lost all my respect over this and his continued support of Duryodhana after his actions.
Her inclusion in this list may be surprising to some and not so much to some others. Draupadi is, without a doubt, one of the most complex Mahabharat characters. From one point of view, she is the victim for having to marry four men aside from the one she truly loves and the Chir Haran incident. While I admire her for her strength and genuinely feel bad for her plight, she is not without her vices.
For starters, she is quite the proud woman (not to mention a little selfish), who readily insulted someone based n their cast. Man, is she wanted to marry Arjun, she should have just said so, and not go along with the Swamyawar drama and insult the participants. But, that all said, Draupati does have a great characterization and character arc throughout Mahabharata.
Last, but certainly not the least is Kunti’s second-eldest son and Hastinapur heir Yudhishtira. He comes at the last because he is the character I have always detested from the beginning, even more so than Sakuni or Duryodhana (and that is saying something). The seemingly just and perfect man, who upholds the values of Dharma and well-versed in politics, is, in fact, your regular misogynistic entitled guy.
Yudhishtira seemed to be convinced that he has the right to wager his brothers and wife! The very act is Adharma, and he should have been punished for the same and not for having said a half-lie about Ashwathama’s death. Yet, he walks scot-free and goes on to rule the mighty kingdom whereas they (Pandavas) blame the Kauravas for the Chir Haran. Isn’t Yudhishtira the bigger culprit here?
Indian mythology has many such characters that are upheld as ideals and yet are quite the opposite. Studying them over again has me convinced that in Ramayan or Mahabharat, there is not a battle between evil and good. Instead, all there is a war between Evil and Lesser Evil.
What do you think of these characters? Who is your favorite mythological character? Let me know in the comments below!