Khatu Shyam – God Of The Defeated From Mahabharat

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Khatu Shyam was a discovery for me on this Jaipur Trip. I heard about it and safely assumed it is a temple dedicated to Krishna – for do we not call him Shyam. Khatu, I assumed must be some local legend associated with him. Well, Krishna is definitely a part of the story of Khatu Shyam but he is not the Khatu Shyam.

If you know Hindu religion even a wee bit, you know we have Gods for every possible rhyme and reason. I can make a long list of Gods to go to for every need, anytime or any emotion. Even then, I was unaware of this God – who is always there to support the defeated. He is called Barbarik and he always supports the one who is defeated. Popularly known as ‘Haare ka Sahara’ i.e. the support of the defeated.

Who is Barbarik or Khatu Shyam?

Khatu Shyam Ji Image
Khatu Shyam Ji Image

Barbarik is the grandson of Bhim – the second Pandav of Mahabharata. His parents are Ghatotkach and Maurvi. Ghatotkach was the son of Bhim and tribal princess Hidimba.

Legend is Barbarik was a brave warrior. He carried a unique triple arrow – or a bow with three arrows. The three arrows could finish any war in a minute. The first arrow would mark the people who need to be protected. The second arrow would mark the people to be killed and the third arrow goes and kills the ones who need to be killed.

Since he was brought up by his mother Maurvi, he followed her advice always. Maurvi taught her son to be on the side of the defeated always.

Barbarik and Mahabharata

Triple Arrow of Barbarik or Khatu Shyam
Triple Arrow of Barbarik or Khatu Shyam

When Mahabharata war was declared, Barbarik, being a warrior wanted to participate in the war. On his way to Kurukshetra, he met Krishna. Krishna tested the powers of his triple arrow and was impressed.  He was now worried that if Barbarik fights, he would finish the war and be left as the only survivor. He also calculated that he would fight from the side that is being defeated and would be switching sides every day – leading to the same result. Krishna realized that Barbarik’s participation in the war had to be stopped. He wanted Pandavas alive at the end of the war.

Krishna asked for Barbarik’s head as it was required to begin the war – the head of a brave person was required as a war ritual. Barbarik agreed but as last wish, he asked Krishna that he wants to witness the war. Krishna then placed his head on top of a hill and Barbarik witnesses the whole Mahabharata War. At the end of the war, he was asked – who won the war? He said – Krishna. Everyone else was just acting as he wished them to.

Krishna gave a boon to Barbarik that in Kaliyug, he would be known by his name. This is how he got the name – Shyam.

Discovery of Khatu Shyam

Khatu Shyam JI Images
Khatu Shyam JI Images

It is said that the head of Barbarik was offered to river Rupawati by Lord Krishna Himself. The head was later found buried at the Khatu village in Sikar district of Rajasthan. It was discovered when a cow started giving milk on top of this head. It was handed over to a Brahmin who worshipped it and meditated on it to reveal the story.

Roop Singh Chauhan – the then ruler of Khatu then received an order to build a temple to Khatu Shyam in his dream. Hence came the first temple of Khatu Shyam in 1027 CE. Temple was built on the 11th day of the Shukla Paksha in Phalgun month of lunar calendar. It is the same day when Barbarik had offered his head to Krishna before the Mahabharata War.

In some versions of the legend, it was the queen of Roop Singh Chauhan – Narmada Kanwar who dreamt of the Khatu Shyam. A stone idol in unique black stone was also found. This is the idol that is worshipped in the main temple today.

Kahtu Shyam has a look of the warrior. He has big mustaches and there is a Veer Ras on his face. He wears fish earrings. His eyes are open and alert.

Khatu Shyam is not just the Kshetra Devata or regional deity of the region but a Kul-Devta or the family deity of many Rajput Chauhan families in and around Sikar.

Visiting Khatu Shyam Ji

Arch at the entry of Khatu Village
Arch at the entry of Khatu Village

We started one morning from Jaipur to visit Khatu Shyam Ji. Sunflower fields that were in full bloom in the month of August. A free-standing arch announced the village of Khatu and it read ‘Shri Shyam Sharnam’. We drove for some more time, I was expecting a giant temple. But when we reached the temple from its back door, it was a tiny little temple.

We were just in time to get the darshan and got a glimpse of the idol in stone.

Khatu Shyam Temple - Rajasthan
Khatu Shyam Temple – Rajasthan

Outside the temple is another temple dedicated to Hanuman called Simha Pol Hanuman.

A unique thing I noticed here is hanging coconuts. Coconuts with a Mouli or red cotton thread bound around are hanging everywhere. These are wish-fulfilling or the votive coconuts. You can make a wish and tie a coconut here. Once the wish is fulfilled, you come back and untie the coconut.

A board outside the temple tells me that there is no temple head. The descendants of the Chauhan Rajputs take care of this temple.

Shyam Kund

Shyam Kund at Khatu
Shyam Kund at Khatu

The place where the head of Barbarik was found is now called Shyam Kund. It is beautiful kund. There are two Kunds or Ponds – one for men that is shown in the image above and the other one for women. This complex houses temple to Gayatri Devi and coconuts can be seen here everywhere.

There is an idol of Krishna with the head of Barbarik at his feet – in a way telling the story of the place.

I wish this was cleaner, it required a lot of faith to step into the premises.

Living Culture of Khatu Shyam

Triple Arrow of Khatu Shyam - the God of the Defeated
Triple Arrow of Khatu Shyam – the God of the Defeated

Everywhere you go in Khatu you would see the three arrows of Khatu Shyam or Barbarik. Most conspicuously you would see them on the cars. It says – Haare Ka Sahara, Baba Shyam Hamara. Meaning – The Supporter of the defeated – Our Shyam.

As I walked around the Khatu town and its small market I found souvenirs of all kinds with the triple arrow bow.

Travel Tips for Khatu Shyam Ji

Coconut Offerings at Khatu Shyam Temple
Coconut Offerings at Khatu Shyam Temple

There are accommodations available in Khatu, but you can do this as a trip from Jaipur.

For Aarti, timings refer to the temple website.

No photography is allowed inside the temple.

If you go on a normal day when the temple is not very crowded, you need 1-2 hours to see the temple and the town.

Recommend you read following articles on Things to do in Jaipur.

  1. Chand Baori at Abhaneri – Most photogenic Stepwell of India
  2. Bhangarh Fort – Visiting the most haunted place in India
  3. Jantar Mantar Jaipur – Must see observatory of Sawai Jai Singh
  4. Top 15 Jaipur Souvenirs to pick – Shopping in Jaipur
  5. Geometry and Gastronomy from Lebua Resort Jaipur

39 COMMENTS

  1. My first reaction upon reading this post was that there is no end to ingenuity in Hindu dharma! It was comforting to learn that Hindus have a deity that can console and support them in the face of defeat. But wait. We need not take ‘defeat’ in the sense of a military defeat only. In life there are occasions when we feel beaten–financially, emotionally, or socially. Yet Hindus are taught to not despair. There is a deity for every ‘rhyme or reason’ as you put it with such felicity. Once again, thanks for this wonderful post.

  2. Recently I read a book in Hindi regarding Assam in which I knew about khattu shyam before I didn’t know anything about this deity,now I read your article and know more about it .

  3. I had goosebumps reading yet another story from the epic! I truly believe that Mahabharata has layers and layers of mystery to be unravelled. Hopefully, have another Jaipur trip in cards in 2018.Will surely visit this temple 🙂

  4. Some of my family members from Jaipur are big believers in khatu shyam ji, and visit this temple every year. Like you, I had assumed that this was a temple devoted to Krishna. Good story.

  5. Wow… such stories come up whenever you dig deeper into any small temple in India! When I think of it, I knew about Barbarik and I had heard of Khatu Shyam but never explored much and never knew that they are the same!

    In fact, in Assam certain communities believe themselves to be descendants of Ghatotkach.

    • Jitaditya, I had never heard of Barbarik but had heard a lot about Khatu Shyam. I know Ghatotkach is very famous in Bali – you see him everywhere on walls, in names of people, but I did not know his Assam connection. I would have expected it closer to places that have Hidimba temple like Manali. India never ceases to amaze me.

  6. I have actually never heard of Khatu Shyam! I love visiting temples, although I am not a religious person at all, mostly because some temples have such intriguing architecture. I went to Rajasthan as a child but did not get to explore much. This is an interesting post, will try to make it to this temple if I ever return to Rajasthan. Thanks for sharing!

  7. This is very informative. I am not familiar with Hindi and so learning about Barbarik is fascinating. I would love to one day visit and explore more of the temples. I like how the culture is very vibrant and rich with the history of Barbarik. Is it possible to do a day trip? If so, what is the nearest city?

  8. The legend of Barbarik is a great story. I don’t know much about Hindu, but the abundance of gods I do know about! Jaipur looks like an interesting place to visit, especially the Kund, though it does not look particularly clean.

  9. Just like you I too had assumed Khatu Shyam to be Krishna. Thanks for unveiling the legend of the son of Ghatotkacha. What a fascinating story. I loved the part where the head of Barbarik says that it was Krishna who won the war, all the others were only acting as he wished. This one sentence epitomises the essence of the Bhagvad Gita.

  10. He appears to be a form of Shiva. The three arrows are a reference to the Trishula that ends the three worlds. Bhima is the son of Vayu, who is also a form of Shiva (similar to Hanuman in Treta Yuga). The myth really is about this trace of Shiva. It is very intriguing that Sri Krishna said he would be known with the name Shyama in Kali Yuga, as Shiva is exactly the opposite of Shyama. It must be a paradox that is beyond discussion via language.

    • I am not sure if these three arrows can be equated to Trishul. Trishul is a standalone weapon while these are just a special kind of arrows. But, then, I know only as much as I have written in this blog post.

  11. hllo Anuradha
    Nice blog . I have never gone to such a place in the past,but i would love to go to this place
    thanks for sharing this article, keep up the good work

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