Khatu Shyam, also known as Barbareek, is the grandson of Pandava Bhima. He willingly gave his head in charity to Lord Krishna before the Mahabharata war. It is said that the head of Khatu Shyam was placed atop a hill near the Kurukshetra and it watched the entire Mahabharata war from there.
In his previous birth Khatu Shyam was a Yaksha. Once when Adharma (evil) grew out of control on earth, Vishnu agreed to the prayers of Devas and humans and agreed to take an avatar to bring back Dharma. A Yaksha named Suryavarcha said that not Vishnu but he alone could relieve earth’s burden. For this arrogance he was cursed by Brahma to be born on earth and said that whenever there is an opportunity to relieve earth’s burden he would die at the hands of
Later Khatu Shyam was born as the son of Ghatotkachch and Kamkantakata. Gahotkachch was the son of Bhima, the second of Pandava brothers.
The word about Mahabharata battle spread around the world and Barbareek too came to hear about it. He wished to see the battle and went to take permission from his mother. His mother asked how a powerful warrior like him could watch such a battle from the sidelines. She feared that her brave and courageous would not sit on the sidelines and would join the battle.
Barbareek then said that if ever an opportunity came to participate in the battle he will take the side of the loser.
Barbareek then set out to reach Kurukshetra on his way he met Arjuna and
Krishna who were disguise – in the form of Saints. They were on the look out for great warriors.
When Barbareek displayed his talent in archery,
Krishna knew that he was capable of overrunning any opposition. But Barbareek said he would only join the side that will be losing the great battle. Krishna knew that Kauravas were destined to be defeated and Barbareek joining them was not good for Pandavas.
Thus Barbareek had his curse removed – he had the power to remove Adharma from the face of earth but he wanted to join the side of the losers. He did not realize that those losing the war were on the side of Adharma.
Krishna blessed him that he will be worshipped in future as Khatu Shyam for his sacrifice and courage.
Khatu Shyam is worshipped today in many parts of
North India, especially in Haryana and Rajasthan.