The Story of 5 Uncles of Mahabharata

Like a story that we wrote about the four brother couples of Ramayana including Rama-Lakshmana, Vali-Sugriva, Ravana-Vibhishana, and Sampati-Jatayu, we are now trying to figure out the role played by five maternal uncles in the epic Mahabharata. Two of the famous roles Kamsa and Shakuni are well-known to the audience, and they are considered as blots on this relationship, because they wanted or ended up destroying their own nephews. We will pick three more uncles and see how they fared.


Lord Krishna played multiple roles in this epic. He was a dutiful son, a faithful comrade, a thoughtful king, a brother, a friend, a lover, and of course the director of the whole play. He was also an uncle to the great young hero, Abhimanyu. In fact, he was the teacher of Abhimanyu in warfare. Abhimanyu was the son of Arjuna and Krishna’s sister Subhadra. Lord Krishna loved Abhimanyu dearly and raised him like his own son.

No wonder that Abhimanyu displayed extraordinary courage and valor and died as one of the most revered heroes of the Mahabharata battle. To kill him, six big generals had to attack at once, which was against the rules of that war.

To be the uncle of such a hero is a matter of great pride. Though to have Lord Krishna as your doting uncle is a fortune even gods will envy of. Lord Krishna himself did not have great uncle but he set a great example overcoming his own personal experiences.

Shalva (King of Madra)

A tragedy indeed. He was the maternal uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva. He was the king of Madra. When he was approaching the battleground of Mahabharata war with his big army, he was mischievously welcomed by Duryodhana’s camp on the behest of Shakuni. They knew that his army needed rest and food supplies. Shalva thought such a welcome was obviously offered by his own nephews. He gave them the word that he will fight from their side. Later, he came to know that he had been deceived; however, he kept his word and became the charioteer of Karna.

He was a good uncle but destiny made him stand against his own family members.

Keechaka (The General of Viraat) 

Keechaka was the maternal uncle of Uttara–the prince of Viraat, the kingdom where the Pandavas took shelter while living incognito. He was powerful and only a few in the world could challenge him. He had overpowered the king and lived almost a king completely unchecked for his atrocities. He didn’t help his nephew in becoming a great warrior. When he cast an evil eye on Draupadi, he got killed by Bheema.

He could have strengthened his kingdom by rearing Uttara like Krishna did to Abhimanyu. However, he indulged in his own fantasies and failed as an uncle.

Kamsa (The King of Mathura)

Kamsa was the maternal uncle of Lord Krishna. His uncle Devaka’s daughter Devaki was foretold to be the bearer of the one who would kill Kamsa. Enraged by this celestial declaration, he tried to kill her and her husband Vasudeva. However, on Vasudeva’s request, he imprisoned them and started killed every child she bore. Six children were killed before Balarama and Krishna escaped.

He was later killed by Lord Krishna as was prophesied. He was a powerful king but turned out to be a bad son, bad brother, and bad uncle.

Shakuni (The King of Gandhara)

Shakuni is one of the most remembered maternal uncles along with Kamsa. He was shrewd but treacherous. He was clever but selfish and cunning. He was a strategist but didn’t have a big picture in mind. Right from the childhood, he spewed venom of hatred towards Pandavas and the Kauravas took to him like bees to nectar. He eventually led to the downfall of all the hundred Kauravas, his own sons and himself.

Because Duryodhana had his father blind and his mother blindfolded, Shakuni had the chance to bring him up like anybody and made him a good king–but he chose the path of destruction, hatred, selfishness, and pride, which led all of them towards death.

Indeed, he set one of the worst example of a maternal uncle.

Summing it up 

What we wanted to convey from this compilation is that there are many examples in the history where uncles and relatives provided good counsel and bad advice–the choice is in your hand. It is up to you whether you want to be called a Shakuni Mama or be remembered as Lord Krishna who nurtured Abhimanyu with great qualities.

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