The war of Mahabharat was fought between the sons of Dhritarashtra and the sons of Pandu, when the eldest son of Dhritarashtra, Duryodhan refused to allow peaceful existence to his cousins Pandavas. After trying their best to convince Duryodhan otherwise, both the parties met on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Both were backed by their allies from all over the world, but have you ever wondered about the size of these armies?
A total of 18 akshauhinis fought in the war of Mahabharat. Duryodhan had the support of 11 akshauhinis, while Yudhisthira was supported by 7 akshauhinis. Despite being outnumbered, it was Yudhisthira’s army that emerged victorious. Let’s understand the construct of a typical army during Mahabharat era.
One Chariot, One Elephant, five foot soldiers, and three horse riders are collectively called a Patti (पत्ति). Three Patti are called a Senamukh. Three Senamukh are called a Gulm (गुल्म). Three Gulm are called a Gana (गण). Three Gana are called a Vahini. Three Vahini are called a Pritna (पृतना). Three Pritna are called a Chamu (चमू). Three Chamu are called Anikani (अनीकनी). Ten Anikani are called a Akshauhini (अक्षौहिणी).
How Big were the Armies in the Mahabharat War?
Thus one Akshauhini Army consists of 21,870 Chariots, 21,870 Elephants, 65,610 Horses and 1,09,350 Foot Soldiers.
That means Kaurava Army had 2,40,570 Chariots, 2,40,570 Elephants, 7,21,710 Horses and 12,02,850 Foot Soldiers. The Pandava army had 1,53,090 Chariots, 1,53,090 Elephants, 4,59,270 Horses and 7,65,450 Foot Soldiers.
Key Pandava allies were Panchals lead by Drupada and his sons Dhrishtadyumna and Shikhandi, Matsya army lead by Virata and his sons Shankha and Uttara, Vrishni army lead by Satyaki, a part of Magadha army lead by Jarasandha’s son Sahadeva, Chedi army lead by Shishupala’s son Dhrishtaketu and exiled Kekaya brothers along with a Rakshasa army lead by Bhima’s son Ghatotkacha and a Naga army lead by Arjuna’s son Iravan.
Key Kaurava allies were Shrikrishna’s Narayani Sena of Bhoja warriors lead by Kritavarma, Trigarta army lead by Susharma and his brothers, Bahlika’s Kuru army lead by Bahlika, Somadatta and Bhurishrava, Pragjyotishpura’s army lead by Bhagdatta, Anga army lead by Karna, Sindhu army lead by Jayadratha, a Rakshasa army lead by Alambusha, Avanti’s army lead by Vinda and Anuvinda, Gandhar army lead by Shakuni and his brothers and Madra army lead by Shalya.
Rukmi also wanted to fight in the war and approached both Arjuna and Duryodhan but was rejected by both. Arjuna rejected him for his boasting, while Duryodhan did not want someone who had already been rejected by Arjuna. So Rukmi did not participate in the Kurukshetra war.