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In the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, Duryodhana (दुर्योधन, ధుర్యొధనా,ಧುರ್ಯೋಧನಾ Duryodhana, 'difficult to fight with',) was the eldest son of the blind king Dhritarashtra by Queen Gandhari, and the eldest of the one hundred Kaurava brothers. He was the emperor of the world (which then meant Emperor of India, or Bharatvarsha as it was then known), and was the cousin and chief antagonist of the Pandavas.
When Dhritarashtra's wife Gandhari's pregnancy continued for an unusually long period of time, she beat her womb in frustration, in envy of Kunti, the queen of Pandu who had given birth to Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava. This caused a hardened mass of grey-colored flesh to issue from her womb. Gandhari was very shocked and upset. She implored Vyasa, the great sage who had blessed her with one hundred sons, to redeem his words. Vyasa divided the ball of flesh into one hundred and one equal pieces, and put them in pots of ghee, which were sealed and buried into the earth for one year. At the end of the year, the first pot was opened, and Duryodhana emerged.
Duryodhana means "the unconquerable one" or "difficult to fight with". Many people[who?] hold the misconception that he was called Duryodhana because of his misdeeds. Literally, Duryodhana means 'hard to conquer'. His chariot bore a flag depicting a hooded cobra.
Duryodhana's body is said[by whom?] to be made out of lightning, and he is extremely strong, second only to Bhima. He is revered by his younger brothers, especially Dushasana. Learning martial skills from his gurus, Kripa and Drona, he proved to be extremely skilled with the mace. He then went to specialize in mace fighting under Balarama and went on to become his favourite pupil. With the mace he was equal to the much stronger Bhima.
Relationship with Karna
At the martial exhibition where the Kaurava and Pandava princes demonstrate their skills before their elders, their guru Drona and the people of the kingdom, the great effulgent warrior Karna appears and challenges Arjuna, who is considered by Drona to be the best of the warrior princes. But Karna is humiliated when Kripa asks him to ascertain his caste, as it would be inappropriate for unequals to compete.
Duryodhana immediately defends Karna, and makes him king of Anga so that he is regarded as Arjuna's equal. Karna pledges his allegiance and friendship to Duryodhana, as Duryodhana had rescued him from a source of continuing humiliation and hardship. Neither of them know that Karna is in fact Kunti's oldest son, born to (sun god) Surya, before her marriage to Pandu.
A very intense bond of friendship develops between the two, and Duryodhana becomes very close to Karna. It is held that if there was one good quality in Duryodhana, it was his deep affection for his friend Karna.
In the Kurukshetra War, Karna is Duryodhana's greatest hope for victory. He truly believes that Karna is superior to Arjuna, and will inevitably destroy him and his four brothers. When Karna is killed, Duryodhana mourns his death intensely, even more than the death of his brothers.
Duryodhana was married to Bhanumati, daughter of Bhagadatta,king of the city Pragjyotisha. He fathered two children, Laxman Kumara and Lakshmana. Laxman was killed by Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata war. Lakshmana married Samba (Krishna's son) after the latter had abducted her.
Tendencies and schemes
Although loved by all his family, Duryodhana and most of his brothers are not seen on the same level as the Pandavas in their adherence to virtue and duty, and respect of elders. Duryodhana is mentored by his maternal uncle Shakuni, who desires the elevation of his sister's children at the expense of the Pandavas. Shakuni masterminds most of Duryodhana's plots to humiliate and kill the Pandavas.
Duryodhana's hatred for the Pandava brothers stems from his sincere belief that he—being the son of the eldest brother—is the heir apparent to the throne of Hastinapura. His father, in spite of being the eldest son, had to renounce the throne in favor of Pandu because of his blindness. Duryodhana deeply believed that what was rightfully his was being given away to his elder cousin Yudhisthira which was nepotism, he also felt the Pandavas were sons of Kunti, not of Pandu. He never believed in their divine origin, on many occasions questioning it, and always calling them the 'Kaunteya', which means 'sons of Kunti'. He also bore a deep hatred of Bhima, who dominates his brothers in sport and skill with his immense physical power and strength.
Duryodhana attempted to murder Bhima by feeding him a poisoned feast, but Bhima survived due to his immense physical capacity and blessings from celestial Nagas. Duryodhana then participated in a plot by Shakuni involving an architect Purochana who built an inflammable house by incorporating lacquer, animal fat, hay and various other fuels into the walls, and set it on fire when the Pandavas were staying in it during a visit to participate in festive celebrations at Varnavata. However, Purochana was himself killed in the fire, and the Pandavas managed to escape thanks to a brilliant counter-scheme by Vidura.
Usurping The Kingdom
When the princes come of age, Yudhisthira is given half the kingdom and made king of Indraprastha, so as to avoid a clash with the Kaurava princes over the whole Kuru kingdom. Duryodhana becomes the prince regent of Hastinapura, and owing to the age and blindness of his father, he accumulates much control and influence, managing the state affairs himself with a group of his advisors that include his uncle Shakuni, brother Dushasana and friend Karna.
But Duryodhana remains jealous of Yudhisthira, owing to Indraprastha's prosperity and fame exceeding Hastinapura's. When Yudhisthira performs the Rajasuya sacrifice that makes him emperor of the World, Duryodhana is unable to contain his anger, which is intensified when Yudhisthira's queen Draupadi arrogantly taunts him, and his father's blindness, when he slips into a pool of water in the court.
The dice plot, and Draupadi's humiliation
Knowing that an all-out war with the Pandavas may not lead to definitive success, Shakuni devises a scheme to rob Yudhisthira of his kingdom and wealth by defeating him in a game of dice, which Shakuni is an expert at and Yudhisthira a complete novice. Unable to resist the challenge, Yudhisthira gambles away his entire kingdom, his wealth, his four brothers and even his wife, in a series of gambits to retrieve one by staking another.
Karna encourages Duryodhana's brother Dushasana to drag Draupadi into the court and disrobe her, as she is Duryodhana's property after Yudhisthira had gambled everything away to him. Dushasana attempts to strip Draupadi, who is mystically protected by Krishna, who makes her sari inexhaustible. Dushasana exhausts all his might, pulling the sari which never finishes.
Nevertheless, due to this action Bhima swears, he would break Duryodhana's thigh (as Duryodhana asked Draupadi to sit on his thigh).
The first time, King Dhritarashtra and Vidura make Duryodhana re-establish Yudhisthira. But then the plot is repeated, and for this game of dice Shakuni sets the condition that upon losing, Yudhisthira and his brothers must spend thirteen years in exile in the forest before they may reclaim their kingdom. The thirteenth year must be passed incognito, or else the term of exile would be repeated.
During the exile, Duryodhana attempted to humiliate Yudhisthira by flashing his wealth and prowess in their forest of exile. He was however caught in a conflict with the Gandharva king Chitrasena, who captured him. Yudhisthira asked Arjuna and Bhima to rescue Duryodhana, who was humiliated. Setting his mind to die, Duryodhana pledged to fast unto death. He was pacified by Karna, who vowed he will kill Arjuna in battle and to never drink wine until he slayed Arjuna.
Karna now embarked upon a worldwide military campaign to subjugate kings and impose Duryodhana's imperial authority over them. Bringing tribute and allegiance from all the world's kings, Karna helped Duryodhana perform the Vaishnava sacrifice to please Vishnu, and crowned himself emperor of the World, as Yudhisthira did with the Rajasuya.
We may remember that in spite of the fact that he was a personification of evil in the 'Mahabharata', Duryodhana did have some positive traits.
1) Loyal friend and trusting
Duryodhana's wife Bhanumathi and his close friend Karna were playing a game of dice. The stake between them was substantial. As the game progressed, it was evident that Karna was winning and Bhanumathi was losing. Karna could not suppress his delight. Just then Duryodhana entered his queen's chamber. Karna had his back to the door while Bhanumathi was facing it. Seeing her husband coming, she was about to stand up out of respect as was the custom in those good old days. As she was just rising, Karna, thinking that she was trying to get away from the embarrassment of certain defeat in the game, snatched at her drape, studded with pearls.
Tugged at by Karna's powerful hands, the thread snapped and all the pearls rolled on the floor. Queen Bhanumathi was stunned and did not know what to say or do. She was afraid that, for no fault of hers, she would be misunderstood by her husband because of Karna's offensive and insensitive behavior. Bhanumathi was immeasurably upset. Seeing her shocked state and sensing that something was wrong, Karna turned round and saw his friend Duryodhana. He was also deeply shocked and distressed beyond words. Here he was, in the royal chamber, playing a game of dice with his friend's wife and, as if this was not enough, he had the audacity to catch her at the drape, thus embarrassing and endangering her chaste reputation. He stood dumbfounded and transfixed. Surely, Duryodhana would not tolerate such immodesty. He readied himself for the inevitable punishment.
As both she and Karna look down sheepishly, unable to meet Duryodhana's eyes, the Kaurava scion only asks:
"Should I just collect the beads, or string them as well."
Both Bhanumathi and Karna had misjudged him. He had implicit faith and great love for his queen and greater was his faith on his friend Karna. He does not suspect, does not get angry on Karna but helps him in picking up the pearls.
When Karna is killed in the war, Duryodhana mourns his death intensely, even more than the death of his brothers. A translation of one of the many poems that celebrate this shade of the Kaurava prince.
2) Respects merit
He seems to not care about the low birth of Karna and is the only one to vocally support Karna candidature in the archery contest without caring about Caste Inequality. When Guru Kripa humiliated Karna in an martial exhibition where the Kaurava and Pandava princes demonstrate their skills before their elders Duryodhana immediately defended Karna, and made him king of Anga so that Karna can challenge Arjuna.
Karna pledges his allegiance and friendship to Duryodhana, as Duryodhana had rescued him from a source of continuing humiliation and hardship. Neither of them knows that Karna is in fact Kunti's oldest son, born to (sun god) Surya.
Another incident is when knowing Sahadeva’s ability as an astrologer even though Sahadev is going to fight against him in Kurukshetra war, Duryodhan asked him to fix Muhurtha time for commencement of war so that he can win
He strictly adheres to his duties as a 'Kshatriya' (warrior), and even in his last combat, fights bravely. He chooses to face Bhima in combat over all the other Pandavas, whom he could have easily defeated in war.
4) Good King
As Duryodhana is about to die, he looks at Krishna malevolently. “I have been a good king,” he says. “I have conducted myself as a Kshatriya should and have come by death in battle. I’ll die and attain heaven, but you will live in grief and sorrow.” He fell back and flowers rained from the heavens to drop gently on his pain-wracked body. The Pandavas, wincing with shame, turned away.
Legend has it that Yudisthira is angry that Duryodhana, the cause of much evil, has earned a place in heaven. Lord Indra explains that he has served his time in hell, and has also been a good king.
His act of making Karna the King of Anga, also showcased his astuteness because he had earned a loyal ally in Karna, who could match the valour and skill of Pandavas in warfare.
Duryodhana was a skilled strategist also. He managed to win the allegiance King Salya, who was actually the maternal uncle of Pandavas, to fight on his side in battle of Kurukshetra. It so happened that while King Shalya was moving with his army to go and support Yudhishthira, he and his force were looked after extremely well en route. Floored by the hospitality, Shalya offered complete support to the host thinking it was Yudhishthira. Only later did he discover that Duryodhana was the person behind the hospitality, and was thus indebted to him. Duryodhana won over other kings to his side with similar acts.
The Kurukshetra War
At the end of the exile term, Duryodhana refuses to return Yudhisthira's kingdom, despite the counsel of Bhishma, Drona, Vidura and even Krishna, whom he attempted to arrest. Although Dhritarashtra criticizes his son, he tacitly desires that Duryodhana, and not Yudhishitra remain Emperor.
Making war inevitable, Duryodhana gathers support from powerful kings and armies. The most legendary warriors - Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwathama, Bhagadatta, Shalya, even though most of them were critical of him - are forced to fight for Duryodhana. He ends up amassing a larger army than his rivals.
In the war, Duryodhana repeatedly eggs on the invincible Bhishma and Drona to forward his cause, even though his main hope is Karna. He asks Drona to capture Yudhisthira alive, so that he may blackmail the Pandavas into surrender, or force Yudhisthira to gamble again. He also participates in the brutal and unethical killing of Arjuna's son Abhimanyu.
But he is repeatedly frustrated when the Pandavas succeed in downing the two Kuru legends, and is emotionally distraught when Arjuna kills Jayadratha, the king of Sindhu to avenge Abhimanyu. And all along, Bhima is steadily slaying his brothers, increasing his misery and bringing him closer to defeat.
It is said that, Duryodhana never shed a single tear for any of his real brothers who were killed in the battlefield, but when his beloved friend Karna was slain, he was inconsolable.on this day he gets an super power from his mother gandhari, she told him to come in naked befor him, so that she would see him for once by opening her long tied band,the rays from her eyes would make his full body vajra (Diamond),but krishna confuse him and makes to cover his laps area.so when Gandhari saw Duroyodhan his whole body except his laps area became hard like a diamond.
Duryodhana's hopes are finally shattered when Karna is felled by Arjuna as Karna was attacked by Arjuna when he was defenseless and removing the wheel of his chariot, the same way Karna killed Arjuna's son Abhimanyu. He cools his body by entering a lake, all hope of winning lost, yet he prepares for his final battle; for a death befitting a warrior on the battle field and hoping to reunite with his friends and relations in the afterlife. He re-emerges from the lake after Ashwathama and Kripa counsel him to face his destiny with courage.
When Duryodhana faces the Pandava brothers and Krishna alone, Yudhisthira makes him an offer that he may pick any of the Pandava brothers to fight against one-to-one with a weapon of his choice, and that if he defeats that Pandava, Duryodhana shall be deemed the victor of the war.
Duryodhana picks his archnemesis Bhima over the other Pandava brothers whom he could have effortlessly overwhelmed with his skill at fighting with the mace (He could have chosen any other but he ensured a fair fight). Both possessed exceptional physical strength and had been trained by Balarama in mace fighting and wrestling to equal degrees of prowess. After a long and brutal battle stretching many hours, Duryodhana begins to exhaust Bhima.
At this point, Krishna, observing the fight, calls out to Bhima and signals him by repeatedly clapping his own thigh with his hand. To others it would appear like applauding the fight, but as Krishna intended, Bhima was reminded of an oath he had taken after the game of dice to crush Duryodhana's groin as retribution for insults to Draupadi. Bhima viciously attacks Duryodhana with a mace and strikes his groin, and Duryodhana finally falls in battle, mortally wounded. Although Duryodhana bemoans that he was slain by unfair means, given that it was illegal to attack below the waist according to the rules of mace-fighting. Duryodhana cries out,
"I have no interest in becoming a king now, I have lost all interests in this world which is fake and temporary, slain in battle I shall spend the rest of my afterlife in heaven in the company of my friends, relatives and well wishers. You defeated us by cheating and trickery, otherwise the likes of Bhishma, Drona, Karna amongst others were unconquerable. The victory which you obtained is not true victory and your names will bear black stains in the future. I have always been a good son, loyal friend, caring brother, and terrible enemy, while I lived I stamped my foot on the heads of those who dared oppose me in anyway, I am happy to have died fighting and thank everyone who laid his life down for me, I die happy."
It was each Kaurava's aim to protect Duryodhana till his last breath and so every one had vowed that they would fight for him till the end of their lives, so when Duryodhana died, it was after all those who had protected him; he had millions of people protecting him, yet he lost the war. Duryodhana was always going to be the last person to die.
Krishna said "Yes, these men truly were invincible, while fought against fairly, but I had to uphold dharma".
The moderate view of Hindu scholars is that Duryodhana was the personification of evil, and one whose purpose was to defeat the will of Vishnu on Earth. His name itself means 'bad ruler' in Sanskrit. Yet, like most characters of the Mahabharata, he is said to possess a few positive traits as well, due to which he salvages some respect for himself.
Duryodhana is viewed as the product of Dhritarastra's ambition and also in a metaphorical sense, his 'blindness'(i.e, inability to tell good from evil). Duryodhana symbolizes, among other things, jealousy. Bhima's unrestrained, brutal beatings during childhood leave psychological scars on him. His envy was further fueled by the fact that he felt that the Kuru elders preferred the Pandavas to him and his brothers. Duryodhana also symbolizes unfairness, deceit and lust. He endorses the idea of an unfair game of dice, with the detailed plan devised by Shakuni, in order to usurp the Pandavas' kingdom. He is elated at winning Draupadi in the game, and invites her to sit on his thigh, an act which prompts Bhima to vow that he would break the thigh. He has a major role to play in the various acts of injustice and deceit that involve the death of Abhimanyu and the fire at Lakshagraha, among others. Duryodhana is also seen as being overly ambitious and arrogant, repeatedly claiming that he would not even give the Pandavas 'enough land to fit on the tip of a needle.' When asked to sign a treaty of peace with the Pandavas for the benefit of the nation, he claims that he himself is the nation. As Bhishma tells him, it is his short-shortsightedness, arrogance and greed that results in the demise of his entire army, his brothers, and of his friend Karna. He thus personifies a corruption and inversion of various ideals that were dear to the Kuru clan, and which are enumerated in the Bhagavad Gita.
However, as is evident from the discussion in one of the previous sections, he does have some positive 'Gunas'. He decries the means of discrimination employed by Dronacharya. He goes one-step further to accord Karna place among the royals, by crowning him the King of Anga and standing by him whenever anyone pointed a finger at his lower-birth.
At Poruvazhy Peruviruthy Malanada Temple in Kerala's Kollam district, Duryodhana is worshipped as the main deity. It is the only temple in South India, where a Kaurava is considered a God.
In Kumaon region of Uttranchal, several beautifully carved temples are dedicated to Duryodhana and he is worshipped as a minor deity. The mountain tribes of Kumaon fought along with Duryodhana armies in the Mahābhārata war; he was venerated as a capable and generous administrator.
- The Mahabharata (1999) by Krishna Dharma
- From The Mahabharata by Meera Uberoi, Penguin, 2005