The achilles heel in Indian and greek mythology

Indian mythology and Greek mythology – Similarities between gods and characters

The achilles heel is a phrase borrowed from greek mythology which denotes an area of weakness. Achilles was a great fighter who was washed with water of river styx to become invincible. His mother, Thetis held him by his heel and dipped him into the river. His heel was not washed by the water of magical river and that area remained vulnerable and ultimately was cause of his death when a poisonous arrow lodged in his heel.

 The achilles heel in Indian and greek mythology

Krishna – hit by a poisonous arrow in his heel (Mahabharat)

 The achilles heel in Indian and greek mythology

Achilles – dying after hit by an arrow

In indian mythology, the great epic mahabharat has a similar story. Duryodhana, the elder son of kauravas, was summoned by his mother Gandhari as she wanted him to become invincible. He was supposed to appear naked before his mother, so that wherever Gandhari gaze fell, his body became invincible. But Shri Krishna has different plans, and he convinced Durodhana to wear a loin cloth as it would not look good for a son to appear naked in front of his mother. Later in Mahabharat war, this weakness around his thighs enabled Bheem/Bhima to kill Duryodhana.

We see that in Mahabharata, that many great warriors have weaknesses exploited which led to their downfall. Drona’s weakness for his son Ashwaththama, Karna weakness from his teacher Parshuram to forget his skills when he needed them most. But in Duryodhana’s case, it was Shri Krishna’s masterstroke which made Duryodhana vulnerable.

We see that how fascinating and similar above stories are, and to take it further, Shri Krishna tenure at earth ended in the same way achilles died, by a poisonous arrow in lodged in his heel, this was due to a curse by Gandhari. Gandhari cursed him after the war of mahabharat that after thirty six years of the war he and his clan will be finished.

Are we seeing copy here, but the bigger question is, who copied whom?

Shri Krishna and Hercules

6 Responses to “The achilles heel in Indian and greek mythology

  • Interesting comparison of Greek and Indian mytology.

    • Shwet: this is probably off-topic, but since we’ve diescsusd the Chopra Mahabharat on comments before, here goes: the same episode was on Star One just a couple of days ago and I thought it was one of the most impressive episodes in the series – that is, apart from the farcical scenes built around the loin-cloth. It’s the episode just after Karna’s death and there’s a very fatalistic sadness about it, apart from a rare glimpse of Duryodhana’s humanity; never thought I’d say this, but Issar’s performance is seriously good here!

  • i am not agree with word “krishna died” because he is god from his partial expansion mahavishnu unlimited unverses comes out with breathign cycle, he in childhood drank more vicious poison and drunkn life air of putana , he shown whole universe to mother yashoda, and he brought back dead sons of sandipani muni from Yamraj(from patala), the god of death, krishna just ended his leela (kind of divine play in this incarnation).

    • Very correctly observed Nilesh. Definitely agree. Will modify the article. Yes, indeed this was his leela to leave this planet in an ordinary manner as indicated (cursed) by Gandhari.

    • Hi Jai: you’ve mentioned saeervl times in your various posts on the Mahabharata that its nuanced take on all the characters is what appeals to you. In particular, the Kauravas are not merely comic villains. I wonder, though, if underneath this appreciation of motivations and character of the Kauravas and their supporters, Vyasa was not staking his own viewpoint – by giving them names like Duryodhan, Dushasan. Linguistically, at least, the Du prefix suggests negativity, no? Surely Dhritarashtra and Gandhari would not have named their kids so inauspiciously. Their names, instead, would have been Suyodhan, etc. So, Vyasa, by negating these names, is fundamentally casting them as evil. What do you think?

  • This story of Gandhari making Duryodhana’s body invincible is an interpolation in Mahabharata. There are many anamolies in Mahabharata in its present form. Bhima had vowed to brake Duryodhana’s thighs. Why a warrior who was invincible would run away from battle field and let Bhima to kill his brothers ? Again how was it possible that Duryodhna’s impregnable body was extremely mangled as written in Mahabharata ?

    Duryodhana and Bhima were not fighting for a TV show. They were fighting to kill each other. It was not possible to avoid certain parts of opponent’s body in a fierce encounter. Bhima had broken Gandharwa warriors thighs with his mace as well in a battle. Why then it was not unethical to hit their thighs ?

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