Saturday, April 25, 2009

PDE Mahabharata: Gandhari and Dhritarashtra

Reading Guide. In the previous episode, you met the sons of Pandu, called the Pandavas. In this episode, you will learn about the sons of Dhritarashtra, who are called the Kauravas, after their ancestor, King Kuru. Dhritarashtra's oldest son is named Duryodhana, and the rivalry between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, led by Duryodhana, will be the dominant theme of the epic.

Image: In the illustration below, you will see the blind king Dhritarashtra and his wife, Gandhari, with her eyes blindfolded. Duryodhana defies their good advice, and the wise old grandfather, Bhishma, watches the scene from the sidelines.

Source. The first part is from Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913), and the second part is from The Five Brothers by Elizabeth Seeger (1948). [300 words] Seeger's book is a novel-length retelling of the Mahabharata, rich in detail and characterization as you can see even in this brief excerpt.

Sons of Pandu11. Gandhari and Dhritarashtra | Pandavas and Kauravas

Meanwhile King Pandu's blind brother, Dhritarashtra, had ascended the throne to reign over the kingdom of Bharatavarsha, with Bhishma as his regent until the elder of the young princes should come of age.

Dhritarashtra had taken for wife fair Gandhari, daughter of the Rajah of Gandhara. When she was betrothed, she went unto the king with eyes blindfolded, and ever afterwards she so appeared in his presence.

She became the mother of a hundred sons, the eldest of whom was Duryodhana. These were the princes who were named the Kauravas, after the country of Kurujangala.

Duryodhana's death was ill-omened:

When Duryodhana was born, he had begun to cry and bray like an ass. Hearing him, asses and jackals, crows and vultures had also cried out; violent winds had arisen and fires had broken out in various places.

The king had summoned Bhishma and other wise counselors, and they said to him, "O lord of earth, these frightful omens mean that this eldest son of yours will be the ruin of his people. Abandon him, O King; do good to all the world by casting off this one child! It has been said that one person should be cast off for the sake of a family; that a family should be cast off for the sake of a village; that a village may be cast off for the sake of the whole country, and that the whole earth may be cast off for the sake of the soul."

Although all the wise men counseled him thus, the king had not the heart to follow their advice, out of fondness for his son. He always favored Duryodhana more than his other children, so the boy grew up to be proud and jealous and evil-minded.

Sons of Pandu | Gandhari and Dhritarashtra | Pandavas and Kauravas

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