Vidura (Sanskrit: विदुर, Vidura) was an important figure in the Mahabharata, a major Hindu epic. He was half-brother to the kings Dhritarashtra and Pandu of Hastinapura, born the son of the sage Vyasa and a lady-in-waiting to the queens Ambika and Ambalika of the city. By some accounts, he was an incarnation of the god of death and justice Yama Dharma Raja, who had been cursed by the sage Mandavya for punishing the latter more harshly than his transgression warranted.
Both Ambika and Ambalika were wives of King Vichitravirya of Hastinapura, who, however, died childless. Anxious to ensure the continuation of the royal lineage, Vichitravirya's mother Satyavati called another of her sons, the ascetic Vyasa (born through Sage Parashara), to bestow motherhood upon the two queens by mating. Vyasa, as a hermit practising severe austerities, was unpleasant and even fearsome in appearance, so much so that Ambika shut her eyes tight when she saw him, and her sister Ambalika went pale with fear. As a result, the sons they bore were respectively the blind Dhritarashtra, and the sickly albino Pandu, neither of whom qualified to become kings.
Thereafter, Satyavati asked Vyasa to grant a son to Ambalika, to ensure that at least one of the boys born would be eligible in all respects. However Ambalika sent the lady-in-waiting to Vyasa, resulting the birth of Vidura. This dutiful lady not being frightened by Vyasa appearance had a normal healthy son born to her. Thus Vidura was born. He was raised and educated by Bhishma as the half-brother of Dhritarashtra and Pandu. However, since neither of his parents was of the blood royal, he was made counsellor to his brothers, the kings, rather than a king himself. Upon the blind Dhritarashtra's succession, he took on the reins of government for all practical purposes, guiding his brother's government until Duryodhana came of age, when he was consigned to a secondary role.
In some versions, it is believed that Vidura is elder to Dhritarashtra and Pandu, for when Bhishma asked Vidura for counsel on the marriages of the three princes, he indicated in order the brides for Vidura - a Yadava girl, Dhritharashtra - Gandhari and Pandu - Madri, in the order of precedence accorded by age. According to this version, Ambika initially sent a maid in her place out of fear of Vyasa, and the sage perceiving an act designed by Destiny for some greater purpose, blesses her with a son, making Vidura an incarnation of Dharma instead of the Mitra-Varuna pair. This event is considered to be a major transition from the Vedic to the Upanishad age. Contemporary translators, however have ignored this due to transcreations. Ambika later was persuaded to present herself to Vyasa, but turned pale and gave birth to Pandu, as recounted above.
Barring Krishna, Vidura was most respected as an advisor by the Pandavas whom he forewarned on various occasions of Duryodhana's plots to exterminate them, such as Duryodhana's plan to burn them alive in the Lakshagraha or "House of Lac". He was known for his statecraft and wisdom.
Krishna respected Vidura for his devotion to people's welfare, and his proficiency in every sphere of knowledge. When Krishna visited Hastinapura as a peace emissary of the Pandavas, he shunned Duryodhana's offer to stay in the royal palace, preferring instead the home of Vidura, on account of him being the only neutral man in the Kaurava court. Vidura was the only person excepting the prince Vikarna, a brother of Duryodhana, who protested against the humiliation of Draupadi in the Kaurava court. According to Krishna, Vidura was considered as Dharmaraja, which means the lord of truth
The reason Lord Krishna stayed in Vidura's chambers for the night instead of Duryodhana's is due to the thoughts which were running through their heads and the difference between them. When Krishna had come to Hastinapura, Duryoshana had presented him with a gracious welcoming committee and the palace was decorated extravagantly for his arrival. A huge feast was also set up so that Krishna may eat to his heart's desires and may find what ever it was that he craved to eat. Upon arrival, however and to Duryodhana's dissapointment, Krishna bluntly refused to eat or stay in his chambers for the night.
The reason he refused so instantaneously is because the reason which harbored inside the mind of Duryodhana. His intention was to give all the pleasures of food and welcome Krishna like a king to slowly convince him to join the side of the Kuravas. He had a plan to destroy the Pandavas and their growing army, the best way to do this was to bring Krishna onto their side. Sensing this intention, Krishna refused. Lord Krishna will always go to the people who have the purest heart and the best intentions. For this reason he stayed with Vidhura. He also knew the food that Vidhura presented was presented with love and affection. Vidhura truly wanted Krishna to reside in his house for the night before leaveing because he truly loved his friend. Krishna also mentioned that there would be two reasons that he would stay in someone's house, if the food was presented with love and also if he was hungry. He was neither hungry nor was the food presented to him with the best intentions of love, so Krishna declined Duryodhana's invite and stayed at Vidhura's house.
In the Sanatsujatiya section of the Mahabharata, shortly before the Kurukshetra War began, Vidura invoked the sage Sanatsujata to answer Dhritarashtra's questions about death. In protest against the Kurukshetra War, Vidura resigned from the post of minister.
After the great battle, Yudhishthira appointed Vidura the prime minister with complete control of the government. However, following the carnage of the war and his own age, Vidura did not have the heart to govern. Soon after, he retired to the forests as an ascetic with Dhritarashtra, and his sisters-in-law Gandhari, and Kunti. He undertook severe penances, and was the first of the royal ascetics to die.
Vidura is considered as the Mahachohan in the Theosophical world. Mahachohan is said to be the chief of a Social Hierarchy of the trans-Himalayan mystics.
Vidura-niti, or Vidura's Statecraft, narrated in the form of a dialogue between Vidura and King Dritrashtra, is considered the precursor in some ways of Chanakyaneeti.
Vidura is held to be a paragon of truth, dutifulness, impartial judgement and steadfast dharma. He is considered the embodiment of the inner consciousness of the Mahabharata.
See also 
- Parvathi Kumar, K., Wisdom Teachings of Vidura, 1997, Dhanishta
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