Duryodhana showing his army to Drona
In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Duryodhana (दुर्योधन, దుర్యోధన,ದುರ್ಯೋಧನ duryodhana), was the eldest of the hundred sons of blind king Dhritarashtra and Queen Gandhari. Despite being the first born son of the incumbent king, he becomes disqualified as heir to the throne of Hastinapura upon the return of his cousins, the Pandavas, who left their rural forest dwelling upon the death of their father Pandu, the preceding king of Hastinapura and younger brother to Dhrithrashtra. His resultant animosity towards his cousins renders Duryodhana the chief antagonist of the epic.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Birth
- 3 Early Years
- 4 Usurping The Kingdom
- 5 The Kurukshetra War
- 6 Gada-yuddha
- 7 Death
- 8 Evaluation
- 9 Positive traits
- 10 Family
- 11 In media
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Duryodhana, from dur meaning malevolent or difficult and yodhana meaning warrior, can be interpreted as "unconquerable one". On his birth it was considered that he should be named Suyodhana which means "great warrior".
When Dhritarashtra's wife Gandhari's pregnancy continued for an unusually long period of time, she beat her womb in frustration. This caused a hardened mass of grey-coloured flesh to issue from her womb. 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.
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. 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. Because of his blindness, his father had to renounce the throne in favor of the younger Pandu. Duryodhana deeply believed that what was rightfully his was being given away to his elder cousin Yudhisthira. He also felt that the Pandavas were sons of Kunti and Gods(devakin), not of Pandu. He never believed that their divine origin alone proved their superiority, on many occasions questioning their merits, and always calling them the 'Kaunteya'(sons of Kunti). He also bore a deep hatred of Bhima, his agemate, who dominates his brothers in sport and skill with his immense physical power and strength. When they were young, Bhima's bullying and taunting are a constant source of pain for Duryodhana and his brothers.
Duryodhana's body is said by Balarama to be "lightning made flesh". He is revered by his younger brothers, especially Dushasana. Learning martial skills from his gurus, Kripacharya and Dronacharya, 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 favorite pupil.
Tendencies and Schemes
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 occupying it during 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 named the crown prince due to his superior merit. After the Pandavas reveal that they have survived the wax house, with a new wife to boot, Bhisma suggests that the kingdom be divided in order to ease the obvious tension. Yudhishthira is given half the kingdom and made king of Khandavprastha, so as to avoid a clash with the Kaurava princes over the whole Kuru Kingdom. Duryodhana becomes the prince regent of Hastinapur, 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 advisers that include his uncle Shakuni, brother Dushasana and friend Karna.
But Duryodhana remains jealous of Yudhisthira, especially after the Pandavas along with Krishna transform Khandavprastha to Indraprastha. Moreover, Yudhishthira performs the Rajasyua Yagna and gains the authority over several other kingdoms; Indraprastha's prosperity and fame appear to exceed Hastinapura's. Duryodhana is unable to contain his anger, which is intensified when Draupadi arrogantly taunts him about his father's blindness when he slips into a pool of water during a visit to Indraprastha. A popular quote, from later versions of the Mahabhartha, is "a blind man's son is blind".
In early versions of the story, Duryodhana is also motivated by the idea that no matter what, Hastinapur should not remain divided. Yudhishthira shares this belief; both know that eventually, a conflict will arise and the nation will be ultimately reunified.
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 cannot lose in due to his special dice. 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. Duryodhana encouraged his 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. Duryodhana tells Draupadi to sit on his thigh, patting it suggestively. Due to this action, Bhima swears, he would break Duryodhana's thigh. 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.
As an enraged Draupadi is about to curse the Kuru clan, Ghandari intervenes. Fearing retribution by the Pandavas, their allies, and history, Dhritarashtra and Ghandari reverse all of Yudhishthira's losses. But then (either through Duryodhana forcing his father to command the Pandavas to play again, or through the Pandavas' own desire to win a kingdom without bloodshed) the game is repeated. 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. The Pandavas lose and begin their exile.
During the exile, Duryodhana attempts to humiliate the Pandavas by flashing his wealth in their forest of exile. He is however caught in a conflict with the Gandharva king Chitrasena, who captures him. Yudhisthira asks Arjuna and Bhima to rescue Duryodhana. They rescue him, and Duryodhana offers Arjuna a vow that he will fulfill one demand of Arjuna anytime in his life. However, Duryodhana also feels humiliated. Setting his mind to die, Duryodhana pledges to fast unto death. He is pacified by Karna, who vows he will kill Arjuna in battle and to never drink wine until he does so.
Karna embarks 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 helps Duryodhana perform the Vaishnava sacrifice to please Vishnu and crown himself "Emperor of the World", as Yudhisthira did with the Rajasuya.
The Kurukshetra War
Peace Talks and Buildup
At the end of the exile term, Duryodhana refuses to return Yudhisthira's kingdom, despite the counsel of Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Vidura. Although Dhritarashtra criticizes his son, he tacitly desires that Duryodhana retain his throne. In a final attempt at securing peace, Krishna returns with the Pandavas' final proposal: the Pandavas would give up all claims to Indraprastha and Hastinapur in exchange for five villages. Scoffing, Duryodhana says he will not even give five needlepoints of land to the Pandavas. Egged on by Krishna, Duryodhana attempts to arrest him. Krishna reveals his vishwaroopa form. The entire Kaurava court, save for Bhisma, Drona, Vidura, and Dhritarashtra(who was granted divine vision in order to see that by supporting his son, he was going against God), is temporarily blinded by the form. This confirms to those present that Krishna is indeed an avatar of Vishnu, implying that God and dharma lies with the Pandavas. Duryodhana, in some versions of the story an outright atheist brushes off the incident, not convinced of Krishna's divinity, and believing that strength of arms, not philosophy, would win him a war.
Making war inevitable, Duryodhana gathers support from powerful kings and armies, many of whom's alliance Karna had won. The most legendary warriors – Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwathama, Bhagadatta, Shrutyudha, even those who were critical of him – are forced to fight for Duryodhana due to their previous commitments. He ends up amassing a larger army than his rivals.
Shakuni also advises Duryodhana to seek Krishna's help. Duryodhana rushes to Dwarka only to find Krishna sleeping; he waits at the head of Krishna's bed when suddenly, Arjuna arrives with the same goal in mind. Arjuna waits at the foot of Krishna's bed. When Krishna wakes up, both Duryodhana and Arjuna appeal for his alliance. Krishna offers a choice of himself, completely unarmed, or the entire Vrishini army. Duryodhana proclaims that because he arrived first, he should get first-pick. However, Krishna says that because he saw Arjuna first, and because Arjuna is younger, that Arjuna gets the first choice. Duryodhana becomes worried, but is overjoyed when Arjuna elects to reject Krishna's army in favor of Krishna alone. Joyously, Duryodhana returns to Hastinapur with the Vrishini army in-hand, only to be rebuked by Shakuni, who comments that Krishna is worth many armies by himself.
During the War
In the war, Duryodhana repeatedly eggs on the invincible Bhishma and Drona to forward his cause, even though his main hope is Karna. He desires to appoint Karna as his commander-in-chief; however, Karna and Shakuni point out that his already reluctant allies would much rather fight under Bhisma, an older, experienced, god-born, kshatriya than fight under a sutaputra. Reluctantly, Duryodhana appoints Bhisma as the commander in chief. When Bhisma falls to Arjuna, Duryodhana appoints Drona as commander-in-chief and orders him to capture Yudhisthira alive, so that he may blackmail the Pandavas into surrender, or force Yudhisthira to gamble again. On the thirteenth day of battle, his heir Lakshmana is killed by Arjuna's son, Abhimanyu, who proceeds to try and arrest Duryodhana. Duryodhana participates in the brutal and unethical killing of Abhimanyu.
But he is repeatedly frustrated, as the Pandavas succeed in downing Drona, 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. Duryodhana's hopes are finally shattered when Karna is felled by Arjuna. Afterwards, Karna's identity as the eldest son of Kunti is revealed. The Pandavas attempt to cremate Karna's body, and argue that they have the right over Duryodhana, who was only his friend. Duryodhana responds by asking Arjuna "if you wish to say that you had always aimed your arrows at your brother, not my ally, then I will concede to you". Shaken, the Pandavas retract their claim. Duryodhana appoints Shalya as the next commander-and-chief.
On this day, he got a super power from his mother, Gandhari. She told him to meet her naked, so that she could see him once by uncovering her eyes. The rays from her eyes would transform his entire body into Vajra (Diamond). However, Krishna sees him coming from the lake, and mocks Duryodhana's impropriety. This confuses him and makes him cover his thighs. So, when Gandhari sees Duroyodhan, his whole body except his laps area became hard like a diamond.
On the final day of war, Duryodhana takes out his anger by killing Chekitana. As Shalya is killed by Yudhishthira, Duryodhana's paltry army-once eleven akshauhinis strong-breaks, and the army is essentially routed. Having lost his horse, Duryodhana leaves the battlefield. 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 Ashwatthama and Kripa counsel him to face his destiny with courage.
On the eighteenth day of the war, with his army reduced to himself, Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, and Kritvarma, Duryodhana goes to meditate in a lake. When the Pandava brothers and Krishna eventually find him, Duryodhana tells them that he wants to gift the kingdom to them, and retire to the forest. Yudhisthira balks at the offer, telling him that Hastinapur is not Duryodhana's to gift. Instead, he offers that Duryodhana may pick any of the Pandava brothers to fight against one-to-one with a weapon of his choice, with the winner of the conflict the victor of the war.
Despite his proposed advantage over Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Nakula, or Sahadeva with the gada, Duryodhana picks his nemesis Bhima. Despite Bhima's physical advantage, Duryodhana had the better technique due to his devotion to his craft. Also, Gandhari's blessing the night before made his entire upper-body as hard as iron. After a long and brutal battle between the two disciples of Balarama, 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. As 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 (when Duryodhana had commanded Draupadi to sit on his thigh). Bhima viciously attacks Duryodhana with a mace and strikes his groin, mortally wounding Duryodhana. After having his face insultingly kicked by Bhima, 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 had perished; 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".
When the coast is clear, Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, and Kritvarma, having witnessed the fight and not wanting to interrupt so as to rob Duryodhana of his honor, come to Duryodhana's broken body. Duryodhana commands them to take revenge on the Pandavas, and to specifically kill all the Pandava brothers. Using the blood from his body, Duryodhana appoints Ashwatthama as the army's supreme commander.
Already angry at the unarmed killing of his father, Ashwatthama ambushes the Pandava camp at night. The three maharathis lay waste to the sleeping, drunk, and unaware army. Other than those who had been staying in the Kaurava camp, few escape the slaughter. The trio rushes to tell Duryodhana of the news.
At this point, there are different versions of the story. In one version, the three arrive to find that Duryodhana has already died. In another, Ashwatthama lies to Duryodhana that he had killed the Pandava brothers, just to give Duryodhana some happiness before death. In another, Ashwatthama kills the five children of Draupadi, mistaking them for the Pandava brothers since they are staying in the Pandavas' tent; he tells Duryodhana that he has killed the Pandavas in what he perceives is the truth. In yet another version, Ashwatthama knows that he has only killed the Pandavas' children, and informs Duryodhana so; Duryodhana is happy that at least the Pandava lineage will be wiped out. In all these versions, Duryodhana dies after hearing the news. At the same time, Sanjaya loses his divine sight, which he had been using to update Duryodhana's father Dhritarashtra.
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. Yet, like most characters of the Mahabharata, the true picture is not black and white. His name is often mistaken to mean bad ruler, however his name is actually coined from the sanskrit words 'du'/'duh' which means 'difficult' and 'yodhana' which means 'fight'/'war'. So Duryodhana actually means someone who is extremely difficult to fight/defeat or wage war against.
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 was his rival, and since he surpassed Duryodhana in strength, he always beat Duryodhana in every competition and even used to tease him. His envy was further fueled by the fact that he felt that the Kuru elders preferred the god-born 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, to usurp the Pandavas' kingdom. He makes disrespectful remarks about his sister-in-law, his elder brother, and his uncle. 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. 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. Ultimately, he is the example of a major reason for Krishna's birth, as Krishna wished to destroy the institutions of power like the monarchy class because, under the control of those like Duryodhana, they spread adharma instead of dharma.
As aforementioned, he is not without positives. 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. In modern light, his atheism and disrespect for tradition is seen more positively.Dravidian Parties(an array of regional political parties)hailing from Tamil Nadu always quote Duryodhana and Ravan in order to justify their covert stance tactically through means of Pseudo-Antipathy
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, this is considered injustice by Hindus towards Krishna and his devotees, as Duryodhana was a villain in the great epic.
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.
Relationship with Karna
The friendship between Karna and Duryodhana is considered to be a great one, and is used as an example of friendship and loyalty even in modern times.
A list of Duryodhana's 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. 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. 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 clothes, 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 with Karna but helps him in picking up the pearls.
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 Kripa humiliated Karna in the martial exhibition, Duryodhana immediately defended Karna, and made him king of Anga. 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. When Draupadi refuses to allow Karna to string the bod at her Swayamvara because of his low birth, Duryodhana defends him saying "great sages, philosophers, and warriors have no source. They are made great, not born great".
He strictly adheres to his duties as a Kshatriya, 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."
Duryodhana was a skilled strategist. He managed to win the pledge of King Shalya, 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 wanted Shalya mainly so that Karna would have an equivalent charioteer to Arjuna's Krishna.
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.
- The Mahabharata (1999) by Krishna Dharma