One of the most fascinating figures not only in the Mahabharata but also in Indian folklore is Bheema, the might Pandava who was known for his expertise in wielding the mace.
The second of the Pandavas after Yudhistera, Bheema was almost the same age as Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas. Duryodhana was as adept in Gaada Yudha as Bheema. Duryodhana rated Bheema very highly as a mace warrior and both of them were trained in this art by Balarama, the brother of
Krishna was partial-pardon the use of this word as God cannot be partial to any one except those who do good, Balarama always considered Duryodhana to be his favourite pupil.
When the preparations for the Kurukshetra war are about to commence, Krishna asks each warrior to name his strength, When Bheema does so, Krishna laughs and says Bheema is one thousand times stronger than what he has spoken about.
No wonder, Duryodhana was particularly anxious to get rid of Bheema at the earliest. Another reason for Duryodhana’s fear of Bheema was because this warrior had single handedly vanquished 1,705,860 men and thousands of beasts of the Kaurava army. The Mahabharata gives a graphic account of the destruction that Bheema wrought about during the course of the 18-day war.
It says Bheema had easily vanquished six of the eleven akshaukinis. Each akshaukini comprise more than a lakh and half warriors more than 70,000 animals, including elephants and horses, Apart from 17 lakhs men, Bheema had killed 7,87,320 animals
All remaining Pandavas, their allies and warriors were able to exterminate five akshaukinis.
While Arjuna was a study in superb concentration during the war, Bheema on the other hand engaged in conversation with light hearted banter his charioteer, a son of
Krishna , all through. However, his mace told a different story. It was a huge weapon and the Kauravas were scared of facing it all alone. So they came upon Bheema in groups and also sent elephants in herds to attack him but to no avail. But Bheema was a very skilled elephant rider and the Mahabharata says the strength of his arms equalled ten-thousand elephants.
Bheema’s mace killed among others all the Kauvara brothers, including Duryodhana and Dushasana, Jarasandha, Kichaka, Bakasura and several other demons. Bheema was so powerful that he defeated Karna four times on the 14th day of the Kurukshetra war. He even broke the charriot of Dronacharya eight times and defeated him when Arjuna was trying to kill Jayadratha.
The only non-Kshatriya he killed was Bahlika Raja, a brother of Shantanu who fought against the Pandavas. Bheema was also knowm as Vrikodara as he had a huge appetite. Naturally, he had to be an excellent cook.
Bheema was the second of the avatar of Hanuma-Bheema-Madhwa. When he reincarted as Madhwa several thousand years later after the Mahabharata war, he dug up the mace of Bheema which was buried in the Kurukshetra warfield and showed them to his followers when he visited Delhi. This incident is drying the reign of Balban, the Delhi King. He was the son of Vayu, the God of Wind.
I have an interesting anecdote to narrate about the three avatars. Madhwacharya used to disappear every day for some time and Trivikrama Pandita, an Advaitha scholar who lost a debate to Madhwacharya and became his ardent disciple, wanted to know where the Acharya went and what he did.
One day he saw the acharya going into the Udupi temple. He peeked into the room through a small window and was wonderstruck to see Hanuman worshipping Rama, Bheema worshipping
Krishna and Madhwacharya worshipping Veda Vyasa or Narayana.