Murals, Cloths etc in Mahabharat

The pages in the current category are some of the encouraging feed-backs I got about the AncientVoice Web site in the form of emails some running into lengthy dialogs. I spent considerable time receiving and answering them. But all the information generated in these emails are locked up inside them. I thought to make it useful for the general research community, so that the time I spent on it will be useful for more than just two people who are communicating (me and the other person). These contain a wealth of information, naturally emerged during the process of dialogs. It will help to answer similar questions somebody else may have. I can also avoid repeating what I told once. Being myself a researcher who unearth information from the ancient dialogs recorded in the epics and other ancient scriptures, I hope this will be useful for the general research community.

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 17 Nov 2011 11:14 and updated at 17 Nov 2011 11:19

Swastic Pictures is a leading Television content producer in India, with offices in Mumbai and other cities. They wanted to get information on various topics on Mahabharata for their TV serial. The information sought include details on the Pandavas and Kauravas, life of Pandu and Dhritarashtra, the costumes used by the people during Mahabharata period etc.

Research : Murals for Mahabharat


Piyali Kar
Jun 16

to me
Hi Jijith,

I am looking to find the answers for not just flag signs and symbol but more of the wall paintings, fresco's and murals of those times in such kingdoms.
Something which will help us designing the thrones, the Chariots and the inner chambers of such character's in Mahabharat. Mainly Bheeshm, Dhritrashtra, the Pandavas, Karna. etc.
I'll send you more questions on the topic only if you have the above information because I am not sure if such details are provided in any chapter of the book.
Let me know.



Jijith Nadumuri Ravi
Jun 16

to Piyali
Hi Piyali


We cannot find any original murals or wall paintings of people or places that existed during the period of the Pandavas, since they lived during 3100 CE to 3000 BCE period, 5000 years ago.

All the paintings, sketched, murals, frescos etc that are created by artists like Raja Ravi Varma and many temple artists and sculptures were based on the narrations found in Mahabharata itself. I can provide you such narrations from which you can creatively reconstruct the scenes.

Below are some of the narrations that are available from Mahabharata which contains plenty of information for a creative artist or to set up a scene:-

Kekaya kings - maternal cousins of the Pandavas who sided with the Pandavas in Kurukshetra war. They are to the Pandavas like Krishna and Balarama in relation. They were the sons of Kunti's sister married to Kekaya king:-

Kekaya is a western kingdom close to Madra and Gandhara, currently part of Punjab, Pakistan.

Their dress code is purple.

The five brothers of Kekaya, all having purple flags, have joined the Pandavas, surrounded by an Akshauhini of troops. (Mbh.5.57).

Another reference make them look like Indragopaka insects (purple colored insects).:- the Kekaya brothers, all of the hue of Indragopaka insects (Mbh.5.141).

Those five Kekaya brothers, virtuous and possessed of prowess, incapable of being baffled, resembling in hue the insects called Indragopakas, with red coats of mail, red weapons and red banners, those heroes that are the maternal cousins of the Pandavas (Mbh.7.10).

The five Kekaya brothers were borne by steeds of deep red hue. (Mbh.7.23)

In other words the Kekaya warriors on the side of the Pandavas had a distinct red uniform. This clearly resemble the red uniform of some the Greek armies that took part in the battle of Troy 1000 BCE described in Iliad. Greeks indeed had some ancestral connection with the Kekaya region of Pakistani Punjab. They migrated from here to Greece during 2000 BCE periods.

One important chapter that describes symbols displayed on flags and banners of each warrior:-

These were not for decoration. They were essential signs that helped allies and enemies to identify warriors in the thick of a battle. Hence the banners are often hoisted on top of long poles and planted on top of the umbrella of the chariot or held by officials riding on a horse or marching with foot soldiers. These can be seen at a great distance. They served as communication signals for generals to form military configurations and to locate individual warriors in the battle field which is spread several kilometers.

Below is the extract, useful for you:-
Dhritarashtra, said, Describe to me, O Sanjaya, the diverse kinds of standards resplendent with great beauty, of both the Partha and our warriors in that battle' Sanjaya said, Hear, O king, of the diverse kinds of standards of those high-souled warriors. Listen to me as I describe their forms and names.

Indeed, O king, upon the cars of those foremost of car-warriors were seen diverse kinds of standards that shone like blazing flames of fire. Made of gold, or decked with gold, or adorned with strings of gold and each looking like the golden mountain Meru, diverse kinds of standards were there that were highly beautiful. And those standards of the warriors had attached all around them excellent banners. Indeed, having banners of diverse hues attached to them all around, those standards looked exceedingly beautiful. Those banners, again, moved by the wind, looked like fair ladies dancing in the midst of a sporting arena. Endued with the splendour of the rainbow, those banners, O bull of Bharata's race, of those car-warriors, floating in the breeze, highly adorned their cars. The standard, bearing the sign of the ape of fierce face and tail, like that of the lion, belonging to Dhananjaya, seemed to inspire fear in that battle. That standard, O king of the wielder ofGandiva, bearing that foremost of apes, and adorned with many banners, frightened the Kuru host.Similarly, the lion-tail standard-top of Drona's son, O Bharata, we saw, was endued with the effulgence of the rising sun Decked with gold, floating in the breeze, possessed of the splendour of the rainbow, the standard mark of Drona's son appeared on high, inspiring the foremost of Kuruwarriors with joy. The standard of Adhiratha's son bore the mark of an elephant-rope made of gold.

It seemed, O king, in battle to fill the whole welkin. The banner, adorned with gold and garlands, attached to the standard of Karna in battle, shaken by the wind, seemed to dance upon his car.The preceptor of the Pandavas, that Brahmana, given to ascetic penances, viz, Kripa the son ofGotama, had for his mark an excellent bovine bull. That high-souled one, O king, with that bovine bull, looked as resplendent, as the Destroyer of the three cities looks resplendent with his bull.Vrishasena has a peacock made of gold and adorned with jewels and gems. And it stood on his standard, as if in the act of crowing, and always adorned the wan of the army. With that peacock, the car of the high-souled Vrishasena shone, like the car, O king, of Skanda the celestial generalissimo shining with his peacock unrivalled and beautiful ploughshare made of gold and looking like flame of fire. That ploughshare, O sire, looked resplendent on his car. Salya, the ruler of theMadras, we saw, had on his standard-top an image like the presiding goddess of corn, endued with beauty and producing every seed. A silver boar adorned the standard-top of the ruler of theSindhus.

Decked with golden chains, it was of the splendour of a white crystal With that silver mark on his barrier, the ruler of the Sindhus looked as resplendent, as Surya in days of yore in the battle between the celestials and the Asuras. The standard of Somadatta's son, devoted to sacrifices, bore the sign of the sacrificial stake. It was seen to shine like the sun or the moon. That sacrificial stake made of gold, O king of Somadatta's son, looked resplendent like the tall stake erected in the foremost of sacrifices called the Rajasuya. The standard of Salya, O monarch, bearing a huge silver-elephant was adorned, on all sides, with peacocks made of gold. The standard, O bull of Bharata'srace, adorned thy troops like the huge white elephant adorning the host of the celestial king. On the standard decked with gold, of king Duryodhana, was an elephant adorned with gems. Tinkling with the sound of a hundred bells, O king, that standard stood upon the excellent car of that hero. And, O king, thy son, that bull among the Kurus, looked resplendent, O monarch, with that tall standard in battle.

These nine excellent standards stood erect among thy divisions. The tenth standard seen there was of Arjuna, decked with that huge ape. And with that standard Arjuna looked highly resplendent, like Himavat with a blazing fire on its top.

Another useful chapter:-

Colors and other aspects of steeds (horses)
BeholdingVrikodara advancing on a car drawn by steeds of dappled hue like: that of the antelope, the brave grandson of Sini Satyaki proceeded, borne by steeds of a silvery hue.

The irresistible Yudhamanyu, excited with rage, proceeded against Drona, borne by excellent steeds of variegated hue. Dhristadyumna, the son of the Panchala king, proceeded, borne by steeds of great fleetness in trappings of gold and of the hue of pigeons Desirous of protecting his sire, and wishing him complete success, Dhristadyumna's son, Kshatradharman of regulated vows, proceeded,borne by red steeds. Kshatradeva, the son of Sikhandin, himself urging well-decked steeds of the hue of lotus-leaves and with eyes of pure white, proceeded against Drona. Beautiful steeds of theKamvoja breed, decked with the feathers of the green parrot, bearing Nakula, quickly ran towards thy army. Dark steeds of the clouds wrathfully bore Uttamaujas, O Bharata, to battle, against the invincible Drona, standing with arrows aimed. Steeds, fleet as the wind, and of variegated hue, boreSahadeva with upraised weapons to that fierce battle. Of great impetuosity, and possessed of the fleetness of the wind, steeds of the ivory hue and having black manes on the neck, boreYudhishthira, that tiger among men. And many warriors followed Yudhishthira, borne on their steeds, decked in trappings of gold and all fleet as the wind.

Behind the king was the royal chief of the Panchalas, viz, Drupada, with a golden umbrella over his head and himself protected by all those soldiers that followed Yudhishthira. That great bowman among all the kings, viz, Sautabhi, proceeded, borne by beautiful steeds capable of bearing every noise. Accompanied by all the great car-warriors, Virata quickly followed the former. The Kaikeyasand Sikhandin, and Dhrishtaketu, surrounded by their respective troops, followed the ruler ofMatsyas. Excellent steeds of the pale red hue of trumpet-flowers, looked exceedingly beautiful as they bore Virata. Fleet steeds of yellow colour and decked in chains of gold, bore with great speed the son Uttara of that slayer of foes, viz, Virata, the royal chief of the Matsyas. The five Kekayabrothers were borne by steeds of deep red hue. Of the splendour of gold and owning standards of the red hue, and decked with chains of gold, all of them heroes, accomplished in battle, they proceeded, clad in mail, and showering arrows like the very clouds. Excellent steeds, the gift ofTumvuru, of the hue of unbaked earthen pots, bore Sikhandin, the Panchala prince of immeasurable energy. Altogether, twelve thousand mighty car-warriors of the Panchala race proceeded to battle.

Of these, six thousand followed Sikhandin. Sportive steeds, O sire, of the dappled hue of the antelope, bore the son of Sisupal, that tiger among men. That bull among the Chedis, viz,Dhrishtaketu, endued with great strength, and difficult of being vanquished in battle, proceeded, borne by Kamvoja steeds of variegated hue. Excellent steeds of the Sindhu breed, of beautiful limbs, and of the hue of the smoke of straw, quickly bore the Kaikeya prince, Vrihatkshatra. Possessed of eyes of pure white, of the hue of the lotus, born in the country of the Valhikas, and decked with ornaments, bore Sikhandin's son, the brave Kshatradeva Decked in trappings of gold, and possessed of the hue of red silk, quiet steeds bore Senavindu, that chastiser of foes, to battle. Excellent steeds of the hue of cranes, bore to battle the youthful and delicate son of the king of the Kasis, that mighty car-warrior. White steeds with black necks, endued with the speed of the mind, O monarch, and exceedingly obedient to the driver, bore prince Prativindhya. Whitish yellow steeds bore Sutasoma, the son of Arjuna, whom the latter had obtained from Soma himself. He was born in the Kuru city known by the name of Udayendu.

Endued with effulgence of a thousand moons, and because he also had won great renown in an assembly of the Somakas, he came to be called Sutasoma. Steeds of the hue of Sala flowers or of morning sun bore Nakula's son Satanika worthy of every praise. Steeds decked in trappings of gold, and endued with the hue of the peacock's neck, bore that tiger among men, Srutakarman, the son of Draupdi by Bhima. Excellent steeds of the hue of the king-fishers bore Draupadi's son Srutkirti to that battle, who like Partha was an ocean of learning. Steeds of a tawny hue bore the youthfulAbhimanyu who was regarded as superior to Krishna or Partha one and a half times in battle.Gigantic steeds bore Yuyutsu to battle, that only warrior amongst the sons of Dhritarashtra who abandoning his brothers hath sided with the Pandavas. Plump and well-decked steeds of the hue of the dried paddy stalk bore Vardhakshemi of great activity to that dreadful battle. Steeds with black legs, equipped in breast-plates of gold, and exceedingly obedient to the driver, bore youthfulSauchitti to battle. Steeds whose backs were covered with golden armour, decked with chains of gold, well-broken, and of the hue of red silk, bore Srenimat. Steeds of a red hue bore the advancingSatyadhriti accomplished in the science of arms and in the divine Vedas.

That Panchala who was commander of the Pandava army and who took Drona as the victim allotted to his share, that Dhrishtadyumna, was borne by steeds of the hue of pigeons. Him followedSatyadhriti, and Sauchitti irresistible in battle, and Srenimat, and Vasudana, and Vibhu, the son of the ruler of the Kasis. These had fleet steeds of the best Kamvoja breed decked with chains of gold.Each resembling Yama or Vaisravana, they proceeded to battle, striking fear into the hearts of the hostile soldiers. The Prabhadrakas of the Kamvoja country, numbering six thousand, with upraised weapons, with excellent steeds of diverse hues on their gold-decked cars, with stretched bows and making their foes tremble with their showers of arrows and resolved to die together followedDhristadyumna. Excellent steeds of the hue of tawny silk, decked with beautiful chains of gold, cheerfully bore Chekitana. Arjuna's maternal uncle Purujit, otherwise called Kuntibhoja, came borne by excellent steeds of the colour of the rainbow. Steeds of the colour of star-bespangled firmament bore to battle king Rochamana. Steeds of the hue of the red deer, with white streaks over their bodies, bore the Panchala prince Singhasena, the son of Gopati. That tiger among the Panchalaswho is known by the name of Janamejaya, had excellent steeds of the hue of mustard flowers.

Fleet, gigantic and dark blue steeds decked with chains of gold, with backs of the hue of curd and faces of the hue of the moon, bore with great speed the ruler of the Panchalas. Brave steeds with beautiful heads, white as the stalks of reeds, and a splendour resembling that of the firmament or the lotus, bore Dandadhara. Light brown steeds with backs of the hue of the mouse, and with necks proudly drawn up, bore Vyaghradatta to battle. Dark-spotted steeds bore that tiger among men, viz,Sudhanwan, the prince of Panchala. Of fierce impetuosity resembling that of Indra's thunder, beautiful steeds of the hue of Indragopakas, with variegated patches, bore Chitrayudha. Deckedwith golden chains, steeds whose bellies were of the hue of the Chakravaka bore Sukshatra, the son of the ruler of the Kosalas. Beautiful and tall steeds of variegated hue and gigantic bodies, exceedingly docile, and decked with chains of gold, bore Satyadhriti accomplished in battle. Suklaadvanced to battle with his standard and armour and bow and steeds all of the same white hue.Steeds born on the sea-coast and white as the moon, bore Chandrasena of fierce energy, the son of Samudrasena. Steeds of the hue of the blue lotus and decked with ornaments of gold and adorned with beautiful floral wreaths, bore Saiva owning a beautiful car to battle.

Superior steeds of the hue of Kalaya flowers, with white and red streaks, bore Rathasena difficult of being resisted in battle. White steeds bore that king who slew the Patachcharas and who is regarded as the bravest of men. Superior steeds of the hue of Kinsuka flowers bore Chitrayudhadecked with beautiful garlands and owning beautiful armour and weapons and standard. King Nilaadvanced to battle, with standard and armour and bow and banner and steeds all of the same blue colour. Chitra advanced to battle with car-fence and standard and bow all decked with diverse kinds of gems, and beautiful steeds and banner. Excellent steeds of the hue of the lotus bore Hemavarna, the son of Rochamana. Chargers, capable of bearing all kinds of weapons, of brave achievements in battle, possessed of vertebral columns of the hue of reeds, having white testicles, and endued with the colour of the hen's egg, bore Dandaketu. The mighty Sarangadhwaja, endued with wealth of energy, the king of the Pandyas, on steeds of the hue of the moon's rays and decked with armour set with stones of lapis lazuli, advanced upon Drona, stretching his excellent bow. His country having been invaded and his kinsmen having fled, his father had been slain by Krishna in battle.Obtaining weapons then from Bhishma and Drona, Rama and Kripa, prince Sarangadhwaja became, in weapons, the equal of Rukmi and Karna and Arjuna and Achyuta.

He then desired to destroy the city of Dwaraka and subjugate the whole world. Wise friends, however, from desire of doing him good, counselled him against that course. Giving up all thoughts of revenge, he is now ruling his own dominions. Steeds that were all of the hue of the Atrusa flower bore a hundred and forty thousand principle car-warriors that followed that Sarangadhwaja, the king of the Pandyas. Steeds of diverse hues and diverse kinds of forces, bore the heroic Ghatotkacha.Mighty steeds of gigantic size, of the Aratta breed, bore the mighty-armed Vrihanta of red eyes mounted on his golden car, that prince, viz, who, rejecting the opinions of all the Bharatas, hath singly, from his reverence for Yudhishthira. gone over to him, abandoning all his cherished desireSuperior steeds of the hue of gold, followed that foremost of kings viz, the virtuous Yudhishthira at his back. Large number of Prabhadrakas, of celestial shapes, advanced to battle, with steeds of diverse excellent colours. All of them owning standards of gold and prepared to struggle vigorously, proceeded with Bhimasena, and wore the aspect, O monarch, of the denizens of heaven with Indraat their head.

Different Standards

That assembled host of Prabhadrakas was much liked by Dhristadyumna' Bharadwaja's son, however, O monarch, surpassed all the warriors in splendour. His standard, with a black deer-skin waving on its top and the beautiful water-pot, O monarch, that it bore, looked exceedingly beautiful. AndBhimasena's standard, bearing the device of a gigantic lion in silver with its eyes made of lapis lazuli, looked exceedingly resplendent. The standard of Yudhishthira of great energy, bearing the device of a golden moon with planets around it, looked very beautiful. Two large and beautiful kettle-drums, called Nanda and Upananda, were tied to it. Played upon by machinery, these produced excellent music that enhanced the delight of all who heard it. For terrifying the foe, we beheld that tall and fierce standard of Nakula, placed on his car bearing the device of a Sarabha with its back made of gold. A beautiful silver swan with bells and banner terrible to look at and enhancing the grief of the foe, was seen on Sahadeva's standard. The standards of the five sons of Draupadi bore on them the excellent images of Dharma, Marut, Sakra, and the twin Aswins.

On the car, O king, of the youthful Abhimanyu was an excellent standard that bore a golden peacock, which was bright as heated gold. On Ghatotkacha's standard, O king, a vulture shone brightly, and his steeds also were capable of going everywhere at will, like those of Ravana in days of yore.

Different Bows

In Yudhishthira's hands was the celestial bow called Mahendra; and in the hands ofBhimasena, O king, was the celestial bow called Vayavya. For the protection of the three worldsBrahman created a bow. That celestial and indestructible bow was held by Phalguni. The Vaishnavabow was held by Nakula, and the bow called Aswina was held by Sahadeva. That celestial and terrible bow called the Paulastya, was held by Ghatotkacha. The five jewels of bows born by the five sons of Draupadi were the Raudra, the Agneya, the Kauverya, the Yamya, and the Girisa. That excellent and best of bows, called the Raudra, which Rohini's son Valadeva had obtained, the latter gave unto the high-souled son of Subhadra, having been gratified with him. These and many other standards decked with gold, were seen there, belonging to brave warriors, all of which enhanced the fear of their foes.

Research : details on clothes etc

Piyali Kar
Jun 18

to me
Hi Jijith,

Your previous research details proved very helpful and insightful.
Could you also tell me if there were somethings either materials or some piece of clothes or Jewellery which were absolutely mandatory in those days for the Kshatriya's or Rishi's or Dasi's were supposed to wear. Things which one absolutely cant ignore historically or culturally.

Do let me know.


Jijith Nadumuri Ravi
Jun 19

to Piyali
Hi Piyali

There are many references in Mahabharata about dress and ornaments that were used during Mahabharata period. But they are scattered through out the text. I had done some analysis some months back to create illustrative paintings on certain events mentioned in Mahabharata.

Below are some of the analysis results and some of my paintings.:-


The climate in Gangatic plain then was moderate warm. Hence people of Kuru-Panchala, Kasi-Kosala, Anga-Vanga-Kalinga wore only light dress.

This consisted of Uttariya, a single piece garment that is worn around neck and on shoulders, much like how Swami Ramdev wear it.

Then there is Anga-Vastra, another single piece garment worn to cover lower part of the body. This is much like the dhothi / mundu of today.

On top of Anga-Vastra is upa-vastra which reach only up to the end of thighs. Its central portion reach further down.

These three piece of cloths is same for both men and women. Apart from this, women wear another piece of plain cloth to cover their breasts.

These three / four piece of cloths can be of various colors and of various materials. Members of royal family wear silk cloths. During Mahabharata period, there were trade relationships with China and silk materials predominantly comes from China. A kingdom named China (currently Aksai Chin in J&K state) is mentioned in Mahabharata.

Commoners wear same three /four pieces of cloths but made of less costly material like cotton. Sages too wear these but sometimes use only animal skin (like the skin of deers / tigers or elephants).


Head gear / crown is worn by the king or by the warriors during a battle to protect the head.
It is usually made of strong copper coated with gold. Pure gold is not good as a protective material and can be easily destroyed by an arrow or mace.

Then there are ornaments worn on the wrist, on the muscles in the upper arm, necklaces covering the chest and heart, belts to hold lower garments and to cover the stomach. These are not just ornaments but also protect vulnerable regions during a battle. The wrist, upper arm muscles, chest/ heart, naval / stomach is extremely vulnerable to injury during battle. In case of men, these were not made of pure gold but made of hardened copper coated with gold. In case of women these were made of pure gold and importance was given to beauty.


Body armor is worn only during battle (unlike what is shown in BR Chopra's Mahabharata). This includes Karna's body armor. Mostly armors are made of copper strengthened with tin and zinc, which make it almost as hard as steel. Karna's body armor was made of iron which is available in his kingdom named Anga (South Bihar) a region which is even today rich in iron and iron mining industries. During Mahabharata war people were just familiarizing with Iron and its properties. This is why there is so much hype about Karna's body armor. It was one among the first experiment with iron and its use in making body armor, which is usually made of copper.

To reduce weight, sometimes, body armors are made using hard wood, but reinforced on both sides using hard copper and rarely with iron or steel. Some Lohars (Asura Lohars) or blacksmiths in the kingdom of Anga knew how to make steel, by mixing carbon with molten iron.

Sometimes maces, lances and bows were made out of this steel. They were usually very heavy. Examples are the bow that is broken by Rama at Mithila to marry Sita.

Color of cloths:-

Some individual had preferences to some colors. Krishna liked to wear yellow robes, Balarama liked to wear blue robes. As we have seen, Kekaya warriors liked to wear purple. Yudhisthira and Arjuna liked to wear white robes and silver coated ornaments. Bhishma too in his old ages liked to wear white. Duryodhana and Bhima liked to war red cloths. Nakula liked to wear yellow cloths like Krishna, while Sahadeva liked to wear blue cloths like Balarama.

Sakuni liked to wear black cloths.

Vaisyas (traders) usually wore yellow colored cloths, Sudras, black colored cloths, Kshatriyas red or purple cloths and Brahmanas white colored cloths.

The people in colder regions like in Bahlika and Kashmira used woolen cloths or cloths covering their whole body. In Mahabharata it is mentioned that wool is brought to Yudhisthira from colder countries like Kashmira and Bahlika. Bahlika was the regions now comprising north-west Punjab (india / pak), north western Pakistan and eastern Afganistan. The kingdoms in this region include, Kamboja, Madra (of Shalya), Kekaya and Gandhara (of Sakuni).

Below are some of my paintings which could help in this regard:- (In this painting many important kings and people during Mahabharata are included. You can also notice the ornaments, dress and other costumes of men and women. One correction:- the umbrella of the king is not red but must be white.) (Birds eye view of Indraprastha city) (View of the newly constructed building by Asura architect Maya) (Burning of the forest of Khandava) (Location of Kingdoms and cities during Mahabharata in the Map of India) (Location of Kingdoms during Mahabharata in the Map of India)


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