|Family||Parents see Niyoga|
|Children||Sons from Gandhari|
100 sons including Sugadha
|Relatives||Half-Cousins see Niyoga|
Dhritarashtra (Sanskrit: धृतराष्ट्र, ISO-15919: Dhr̥tarāṣṭra) was a Kuru king who featured heavily in the Hindu epic Mahabharata as the interim King of the Kuru Kingdom with its capital at Hastinapur. He was born to Vichitravirya's first wife Ambika. Dhritarashtra was born blind. He fathered one hundred sons and one daughter, Dushala, by his wife, Gandhari and a son, Yuyutsu, by his wife's maid. These children, including the eldest son Duryodhana, but not including Yuyutsu and Dushala, came to be known as the Kauravas. Gandhari, his wife, sacrificed her eyesight, as he was blind, by blindfolding herself; hence, she could not see.
Etymology and historicity
Dhṛtarāṣṭra means "He who supports/bears the nation"
A historical Kuru King named Dhritarashtra Vaichitravirya is mentioned in the Kāṭhaka Saṃhitā of the Yajurveda (c. 1200–900 BCE) as a descendant of the Rigvedic-era King Sudas of the Bharatas. His cattle was reportedly destroyed as a result of the conflict with the vrātya ascetics; however, this Vedic mention does not provide corroboration for the accuracy of the Mahabharata's account of his reign. Dhritarashtra did not accept the vratyas into his territory, and with the aid of rituals, the vratyas destroyed his cattle. The group of vratyas were led by Vaka Dālbhi of Panchala.
Birth and early life
With Vichitravirya having died of sickness, Bhishma unable to take the throne because of his vow, and Bahlika's line unwilling to leave the Bahlika Kingdom, there was a succession crisis in Hastinapur. Satyavati invites her son Vyasa to impregnate the queens Ambika and Ambalika under the Niyoga practice. When Vyasa went to impregnate Ambika, his scary appearance frightened her, so she closed her eyes during their union; hence, her son was born blind.
Dhritarashtra, along with his younger half-brother Pandu is trained in the military arts by Bhishma and Kripacharya. Hindered by his handicap, Dhritarashtra is unable to wield weapons, but has the strength of one hundred thousand elephants due to boon given by Vyasa, and is said to be so strong that he can crush iron with his bare hands.
When it came time to nominate an heir, Vidura suggested that Pandu would be a better fit because he was not blind. Though bitter at the result, Dhritarashtra willingly conceded the crown, though this act would flower into the protectiveness he would have over his crown later in life. Dhritarashtra marries Gandhari of Hastinapur's weakened and lowly vassal Gandhar; Gandhari covers her eyes with cloth in order to better understand her husband's blindness. He and Gandhari had one hundred sons, called the Kauravas and one daughter Dushala. He also had a son named Yuyutsu with a concubine.
After the incident with Rishi Kindama, Pandu retired to the forest. Hence, Dhritarashtra became the de facto king. Through the blessings of Vyasa, he and Gandhari have one hundred sons and a daughter, with his oldest son, Duryodhana, becoming his heir. Upon Duryodhana's birth, ill omens appeared; many sages and consultants advised Dhritarashtra and Gandhari to abandon the baby. But they refused to do so; Duryodhana grows up with a princely education and his parents thought that he will be a great heir.
However, when Pandu dies, Kunti and her sons come to Hastinapur, living alongside Dhritarashtra's children. Yudhishthira, Pandu's eldest son, is older than Duryodhana. Given that Pandu was the king and that Yudhishthira is born of the god Dharma, he has a strong claim to the throne. A succession crisis begins; though recognizing Yudhishthira's merits, Dhritarashtra favours his own son, blind to his faults. Upon much pressure from the Brahmin council, Vidura, and Bhishma, Dhritarashtra reluctantly names Yudhishthira as his heir.
Division of Hastinapura
After the lakshagraha incident, in which the Pandavas are apparently killed, Dhritarashtra mourns but is able to finally name Duryodhana as his heir. When the Pandavas are revealed to have survived, Duryodhana refuses to cede his title as heir when the obviously sour relations between the Kauravas and the Pandavas come to focus. On Bheeshma's advise, Dhritarashtra splits the country in two, giving Hastinapur to Duryodhana and Khandavprastha to Yudhishthira.
The game of dice
Shakuni, Gandhari's brother, was a master of dice as he could control them. He along with his nephew Duryodhana conspired in a game of dice and invited the Pandavas to gamble. The Pandavas eventually lost their kingdom, wealth, and prestige and were exiled for thirteen years. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, was humiliated in court after Dushasana tried to disrobe her. The helpless blind king only intervened after counselling with Gandhari when Draupadi was going to curse the Kuru dynasty. Though individuals like Vikarna and Vidura objected to the wrongdoing of Duryodhana, most of the spectators were helpless due to their obligations to Hastinapur; Dhritarashtra could have spoken out but did not.
The Kurukshetra War
Lord Krishna as a peace emissary of Pandavas travelled to Hastinapura persuading Kauravas to avoid bloodshed of their own kin. However, Duryodhana conspired to arrest him which resulted in a failure of the mission. After Krishna's peace mission failed and the war seemed inevitable, Vyasa approached Dhritarashtra and offered to grant him a divine vision so that Dhritarashtra could see the war. However, not willing to see his kin slaughtered, Dhritarashtra asked that the boon be given to Sanjaya his charioteer. Sanjaya dutifully narrates the war to his liege, reporting how Bhima killed all his children. Sanjaya would console the blind king while challenging the king with his own viewpoints and morals. When Lord Krishna displayed his Vishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Dhritarashtra regretted not possessing the divine sight.
Dhritarashtra was confident that Bhishma, Drona, Karna and other invincible warriors would make the Kaurava camp victorious. He rejoiced whenever the tide of war turned against the Pandavas. However, the results of the war-devastated him. All of his sons and grandsons were killed in the carnage. Dhritarashtra's only daughter Duhsala was widowed. Yuyutsu had defected to Pandava's side at the onset of war and was the only son of Dhritrashtra who had managed to survive the Kurukshetra War.
Crushing of Bhima's metal statue
Dhritarashtra was furious with Bhima for mercilessly slaying all his sons, especially Duryodhana. After the war ended, the victorious Pandavas arrived at Hastinapur for the formal transfer of power. The Pandavas go to embrace their uncle and give their respects. Dhritarashtra hugged Yudhishthira heartily. When Dhritarashtra turned to Bhima, Lord Krishna sensed the danger and asked Bhima to move Duryodhana's iron statue of Bhima (used by the prince for training) in his place. Dhritarashtra crushed the statue into pieces and then broke down crying, his anger leaving him. Broken and defeated, Dhritarashtra apologized for his folly and wholeheartedly embraced Bhima and the other Pandavas.
Later years and death
After the great war of Mahabharata, the grief-stricken blind king along with his wife Gandhari, sister-in-law Kunti, and half brother Vidura left Hastinapur for penance. It is believed that all of them (except Vidura who predeceased him) perished in a forest fire and attained Moksha.
Throughout his reign as King of Hastinapur, Dhritarashtra was torn between the principles of dharma and his love for his son Duryodhana and often ended up endorsing his son's actions merely out of fatherly love.
Dhritarashtra is physically strong yet mentally weak, who is easily manipulated by his brother in law, Shakuni. Dhritarashtra appears in Mahābhārata sections that have been circulated as separate scriptures, most notably the Bhagavad Gita, whose dialogue was narrated to him.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dhritarashtra.|
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