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Ghatotkacha (Gatotkaca), son of Bhima (Bima), approx. 1970

Ghatotkacha (Gatotkaca), son of Bhima (Bima), approx. 1970

Ghatotkacha (Gatotkaca), son of Bhima (Bima), approx. 1970, by M. Ahim. Indonesia; Ciampea, West Java. Wood, cloth, and mixed media. From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.86.78.

Ghatotkacha (Gatotkaca) is the son of Bhima (Bima), the strongest of the Pandava (Pandawa) brothers, and the princess giant Hidhimba (Arimbi) in the Mahabharata, a great Hindu epic. He is the consummate warrior, symbolizing bravery, loyalty, honesty, and military strength. In a story from the Mahabharata, Bhima calls for his son to help him during the Pandavas’ exile. During the great war between the Pandava brothers and their cousins the Kauravas (Kaurawas), Krishna calls upon Ghatotkacha to fight Karna, Ghatotkacha’s father’s half-brother. Krishna knows that Karna owns a magical lance given to him by the god Indra. This lance has the ability to kill any living creature, but it may be used only once. Although Karna wishes to reserve the lance for killing Arjuna, he is forced to use it to kill Ghatotkacha. While the graceful and refined Arjuna, who represents the ideal man, was once the favorite among wayang characters, Ghatotkacha, recognized for his coarse features and fierce military skills, has since become one of its most important heroes and is often associated with the young men who fought for Indonesia’s independence.