Incarnations of Devas, Danavas and Rakshasa in Mahabharata

Sambhava Parva of the Mahabharata shares accounts of the incarnations of devas, danavas, rakshasa, gandharvas, yakshas and apsaras. 

After a time called the Krita Yuga, asuras were born into royal families on Earth. These powerful demons took different forms, like cows, horses, donkeys, camels, buffaloes, and wild animals. Some of them, who were children of Diti and Danu and had been kicked out of heaven, were born as strong and brave kings on Earth. They were fearless and strong and spread all over Earth, making life hard for everyone. They were mean to everyone, including  Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras. They even bothered Maharishis in their hermitages. 

The Earth got upset because these powerful asuras were swollen with valor, power, and strength but lacked righteousness. So, she went to Brahma, the grandfather of all beings in the world. Brahma was sitting with other gods, Brahmanas and Maharashis. Gandharvas and Apsaras worshipped him through hymns and chants. 

When Earth told Brahma what was happening, he already knew everything because he knows everything. Brahma then told Earth that he would send help. Brahma bid her farewell to Earth, and then the creator of all beings commanded the gods to go down to Earth and help fix things. 

Everyone agreed, and they were eager to help. Brahma also summoned the hosts of Gandharvas and apsaras and told them, ‘Go and ensure that parts of you are born on earth in the forms that please you.’

Indra, the king of gods, asked Vishnu (Narayan) to incarnate on the Earth to ensure that the Earth was purified. Narayana and Indra agreed that, together with the gods, they would descend from heaven and be born on Earth in their respective parts. So, one after another, the gods and other heavenly beings were born on Earth into the families of Rajarshis and the Maharshis, just like they wanted, for the destruction of the enemies of the gods and to make the world a better place for everyone.  

Vaishampayana recounted the lineage of Brahma’s six sons (manasputra; aptly called because they were born through the powers of his mind) Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, and Kratu. Vaishampayana also described the lineage of various divine beings and creatures, tracing their origins and relationships. To describe all these is beyond the scope of this blog post, so we request you read Sambhava Parva of Mahabharata. 

This post will describe only gods and demons who incarnate as famous figures in the Mahabharata. 

Character in Mahabharata The Incarnation of 
JarasandhaDanav (demon) known as Viprachitti.
ShishupalaSon of Diti, known as Hiranyakashipu
ShalyaPrahlad’s younger brother Samhrada 
DhrishtaketuPrahlad’s youngest brother, Anuhrada.
BhagadattaAsuras, Bashkala
King DrumaShibi (Son of Diti)
King AmitoujaKetumana (asura)
King UgrasenaSvarbhanu (asura)
King AshokaAshva (asura)
King HardikyaAshvapti (asura)
King DirghaprajnaVrishaparva (asura)
King MallaAjaka (asura)
King RochamanaAshvagriva (asura)
King BrihantaSukshma (asura)
King SenabinduTuhunda (asura)
King PapajitIsripa (asura)
PrativindhyaEkachakra (asura)
King Chitravarmana.Virupaksha (asura)
Suvatsu Hara (asura)
King BahlikaAhara (asura)
King MunjakeshaNichandra (asura)
DevadhipaNikumbha (asura)
Rajarshi PouravaSharabha (asura)
King PrahradaSecond Shalabha (asura)
DronaPart of devarshi Brihaspati
AshvatthamaBorn from three parts (yama, kama, and krodha) of Mahadeva that merged into one.
BhismaOne of the eight vasus
KripaGroup of Rudras 
ShakuniDvapara Yuga
DhritarashtraHamsa (Arishta’s son)
DuryodhanaKali’s part 
Duhshasana, Durmukha, Duhsaha and other brothers of DuryodhanaSons of Pulastya
YudhishthiraPart of Dharma
BhimasenaGod of Winds 
ArjunaKing of the Gods 
Nakula and SahadevaAshvins
AbhimanyuSuvarcha (the mighty son of Soma)
DhrishtadyumnaAgni’s part
ShikhandiA rakshasa 
Five sons of Draupadi From the class of the vishvadevas
Vasudeva (Krishna)Narayan (Vishnu)
BaladevaShesha Nag
PradyumnaPart of Sanatkumara.
Draupadi Goddess Lakshmi
Kunti and MadriSiddhi and Dhriti
GandhariDaughter of Subala


Debroy, Bibek, translator. The Mahabharata. Critical Edition by Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, Penguin Random House India, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-143-42523-6

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