Mahabharata and the Osiris Story of Egypt

V. Krishnakumar

We map Mahabharata story to Osiris story. Our mapping evolves in stages as follows:

Stage 1: We map the four characters Kunthi-Yudhishtira-Draupadi-Duryodhana of Mahabharata to Nut-Osiris-Isis-Seth of Egypt respectively

Stage 2: With this, we map the flow of Mahabharata story to that of Osiris.

Stage 3: We map other events that enrich our mapping

Stage 4: Our analysis

Stage 5: Introducing Draupadi cult of South India

Stage 1: The four characters

Kunthi is the first important character in the great epic, who begets the main players of Mahabharata namely: Karna, Yudhisthira, Bhima and Arjuna; they are born out of her divine contact, which includes in particular the Sun god. Further none of her children are from her actual husband.

Nut, the Egyptian sky goddess begets her three sons and two daughters all from the divine association with Geb, the earth god, and none from her actual husband namely the Sun god Re. She further involves the god Thoth, who is one of her lovers, while delivering these five children. Her sons are: Osiris, Horus Elder and Seth and daughters: Isis and Nephthys. Her children are the principle players of the Osiris story.

Osiris, the greatest king ever of Egypt, was loved by one and all in the country, he brought law and order, was honored as the god of netherworld after death. He was true of speech [1].

We map Osiris to Yudhishtira. Not far off from us, several earlier authors have compared Osiris to Yama, the father of Yudhishthira [11,12]. Yudhishtira, the son of Yama is also viewed as the lord of Dharma, the earthly representative of Yama. Further we will be mapping Draupadi to Isis. It is interesting to note that Yama and his sister Yami marry, as do Osiris and Isis, as pointed out by earlier authors [11,12]. We will add one more point in this direction: Yami is Yamuna river, which is considered black, as is Isis who is dark skinned.

Draupadi is the goddess of fire. She is the greatest goddess [13], most liked and powerful. Draupadi has dark complexion, she is called Krishnaa, meaning black. She is the power behind all Pandavas [13]. She undoes her knot of hair at the defeat of her husbands and vows to tie it after they win over Kauravas. During her stay incognito, she braids the hair of the queen and the women of the harem in Viraata’s palace.

Isis is the goddess of fire [1]. She is the greatest goddess for Egyptians. She is dark skinned [4]. She is immensely powerful, she with her power gave life to Osiris. She shears off a lock of hair at the death of Osiris. She lives incognito in the palace of Byblus, where she braids the hair of the queen and women in the harem.

Another vital point in the comparison of Draupadi with Isis is that, Draupadi is a form of Shakti, and hence can be viewed as mother of Muruga. We will be showing in the next section that Horus, the son of Isis has resemblance to Muruga.

Duryodhana with his one hundred brothers plans to kill Pandavas, finally ends up in a war with them, where he is killed. Seth, with the help of his seventy-two aides, kills Osiris. Horus, son of Osiris kills him after a prolonged war. Seth’s weapon is a gigantic mace [28] (p.193) as is Duryodhana’s.

The points on which the above four characters of Mahabharata and Osiris story are compared capture the unique characteristics in them. For example the description of Draupadi, her incognito stay and untying her hair; the qualities of Yudhisthira and his association with Netherworld and the divine intervention in the case of Kunthi; each of these items map perfectly with their Egyptian counterparts.

Stage 2: Comparing the stories

If one looks at Mahabharata at a glance, what strikes him is the following story: There are three children born out of divine intervention; one of them being the son of the god of truth and netherworld who assesses the good and the bad and rewards or punishes them appropriately; he was one of the greatest kings ever, established high standards of ethics in his kingdom and was loved by one and all; he and his brothers are repeatedly troubled by the villain Duryodhana, with the help of his ninety-nine brothers; at times trying to kill them. Duryodhana’s wrath multiplies with the advent of the beautiful Draupadi whom the Pandavas marry; he plays a good number of tricks to attain her, but fails; ultimately devices a scheme to oust them. The Pandavas and in particular, Draupadi spend life incognito in another kingdom, braiding the hair of the women of the harem; with an oath to keep her hair untied until the wicked Duryodhana is punished and her husband gets justice. Finally in the war, Pandavas win with the outstanding performance of her (Draupadi’s) stepson Abhimanyu.

Now we compare this with the Osiris story. There are two children born out of divine intervention, namely Osiris and Horus; Osiris ultimately being rewarded as the lord of the netherworld who assesses the good and the bad and rewards or punishes them appropriately; he was one of the greatest kings ever, established high standards of ethics in his kingdom and was loved by one and all; he is troubled by the villain Seth with the help of his seventy-two aides by tricking him into a coffin with an intention to kill him. Seth desired the beautiful Isis, who was the wife of Osiris and this was one of the main issues that increased his hatred.  Isis spent her life incognito in another kingdom of Byblus where she was braiding the hair of the women of the harem; she had already sheared off a lock of hair for having lost her husband. Finally in the war her son Horus wins by killing Seth.

Here the two stories look quite similar.

Stage 3: More evidence

The other subtle observations in Mahabharata that have Egyptian counterparts are as follows:

  • Osiris was tricked into an elaborately carved coffin, which was then sealed with lac and thrown into the riverby Seth in an attempt to kill him [1]. We have two Mahabharata counterparts to this story:
    • Bhima, brother of Yudhishtira, was thrown into river by Duryodhana in an attempt to kill him
    • The Pandavas were sent to a house of lac and it was burnt when they were asleep inside with an intention to kill them.
    • Re, the sun god, and the greatest, came on his boat to help Horus in the final battle with Seth [1]. Lord Krishna, the greatest godwas the charioteer of Arjuna in the battle of Mahabharata. Further, Babi the monkey god is on the mast of ferryboat of Re which passes the netherworld at night [5]. Similarly, Hanuman the monkey god, is on the flag of Krishna’s chariot. Other comparisons between Babi and Hanuman will be shown later.
    • Initially, Re, the sun god, was on the side of Seth [87]. Whereas in Mahabharata Karna, the sun of Sun god, actually sides Duryodhana.
    • Abhimanyu the son of Arjuna was a star warrior who was killed in Mahabharata, whereas Horus, the son of Osiris wins in the battle with Seth though troubled at times [1].
    • Lord Krishna helps preserve the womb of Abhimanyu’s wife Shashirekha so that the sole remaining heir of Pandavas survives, similar to the assistance of god Thoth for Isis to conceive Horus after the death of Osiris; this is one of the versions [1].
    • Anubis was believed to have taken a jackal form, or as we guess a wolf form, and go in search of Osiris coffin caught in the sweet smelling tamarisk tree, in order to help Isis [1]. This looks similar to Vrikodara (the other name of Bhima), the man with wolf like belly, searching for the sweet smelling Saugandhika flower desired by Draupadi.
    • Thoth in Egypt has certain qualities of Bhishma of Mahabharata. Thoth comes to Nut’s help in delivering her children who were cursed not to be born by Re. Again he comes to help Isis, when her son Horus, was bitten by a scorpion [1]. Also, Thoth helps Isis while reviving Osiris [1]. He is the mediator for disputes between Horus and Seth [64]. These qualities support his role as a senior family member who acts responsible, therefore mapping to Bhishma. Bhishma brings wives for his brothers, mediates disputes between Pandavas and Kauravas. He is viewed as a senior man who delivers paternal care to the entire family. It is interesting to note that the word Thoth = Thaatha in South India means grandfather, whereas in Sanskrit it means father.
    • The name ‘Kuru-kshetra’ where the war took place, can be compared with ‘Cairo’ the place where Horus and Seth fought [151]; Cairo is derived from Khere-ohe meaning the “place of combat” [151]. Kuru, Cairo and Khere sound similar.
    • The body of Osiris was thrown by Seth at a place called Gehesty, which is a desert [17]. Pandavas were ousted by Duryodhana to a desert called Khandavaprastha. However the name Gehesty looks similar to Hastinapura, the place of Duryodhana.

Stage 4: Our analysis 

The key factor that maps Osiris story to Mahabharata is the similarity between Draupadi and Isis. Both are goddesses of fire, they are of dark complexion. Isis loses her husband and wants to get back his body while Draupadi goes on a mission to get back the kingdom for her spouse; Isis cuts a lock of hair at her husband’s death, while Draupadi undoes the knot of hair at her husband’s distress; both stay incognito while pursuing their mission; both braid the hair of their respective queens while incognito. Further, both are the most revered goddesses of their respective people. Their respective husbands are both the lords of the underworld, known for their goodness, justice and truth. Both their husbands had brought law and order to their respective countries when they were on throne. Further, we have scores of other similarities between the two stories as listed above. Thus we conclude that the two stories have a common origin and their similarity is not a coincidence.

It is also interesting to note that the time of occurrence of the two stories match: Osiris must have lived approximately in 3500 BC. Mahabharata war is claimed to have happened approximately 5000 years ago. See [114] for detailed discussion.

Stage 5: Introducing Draupadi cult of South India

So far we compared the Sanskrit version of Mahabharata with the Osiris story. There are many versions of Mahabharata in India, some of them quite different from the Sanskrit version, in particular the versions of the Draupadi cult of South India.  The stories of Draupadi cult are far more close to Osiris story than the Sanskrit version. We have dedicated a separate article where we study the similarities between Osiris story and the Draupadi cult stories. The conclusions of the Draupadi cult article make our claim more precise: It suggests that Mahabharata must have had its origins in the Egyptian story. We discuss this at the end of Draupadi cult article.


[1] J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, A study in Magic and Religion, 3rd Edition, Macmillan and Co. London, 1914

[4] Muata Ashby, The African origins of Civilization, Religion, Yoga Mysticism, and Ethics Philosophy, 2nd Edition, ISBN 1-884564-50-X, 2005

[5] Richard H Wilkinson, The Complete gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, Thames and Hudson, London, 2003



[13] Alf Hiltebeitel, The Cult of Draupadi, MLBD, New Delhi, 1991


[28] Geraldine Pinch, Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, USA, 2004






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One Response to Mahabharata

  1. Narasimha says:

    Hi I like this

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