Dhritarashtra

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This article is about the figure in the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. For the figure in Buddhist mythology, see Dhṛtarāṣṭra.
Dhritarashtra
Dhritarashtra
The blind king Dhrtarastra listens as the visionary narrator Sanjaya relates the events of the battle between the Kaurava and the Pandava clans
Information
Family Vyasa (father)
Ambika (mother)
Pandu (half-brother)
Vidura (half-brother)
Spouse(s) Gandhari(wife), Sughada(concubine)
Children Duryodhana, Dushasana, Vikarna and 97 other sons and Duhsala (daughter) from Gandhari and Yuyutsu from Sughada (concubine of Dhritarashtra)

In the Mahabharata, Dhritarashtra (Sanskrit: धृतराष्ट्र, dhṛtarāshtra; lit. "a good king"[1]) is the King of Hastinapur at the time of the Kurukshetra War, the epic's climactic event. He was born the son of Vichitravirya's first wife Ambika, and was fathered by Veda Vyasa. When Rishi Veda Vyasa approached Ambika to grant her a son under Niyoga system, she got frightened due to his scary appearance and closed her eyes hence her son was born blind. Dhritarashtra was blind from birth,[2] and became father to a hundred and one sons (and one daughter) by his wife Gandhari (Gāndhārī). These children, including the eldest son Duryodhana, came to be known as the Kauravas. Dhritarashtra was half-brother of Pandu and Vidura, and was uncle to the five Pandavas, with whom his sons fought the Kurukshetra War. 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. Thus Dhritarashtra essentially presided over the fall of Hastinapur's kingdom. All of his sons perished in the war, with the exception of Yuyutsu, his son with Gandhari's lady-in-waiting Sughada, who fought on the Pandava side. Dhritarashtra appears in Mahābhārata sections that have been circulated as separate scriptures, most notably the Bhagavad Gita, whose dialogue was narrated to him.

The dice game[edit]

Draupadi disrobed in Dhritarashtra's assembly. Dhritarashtra seated in the centre.

Shakuni,maternal uncle of Duryodhan was a master of sorcery. He along with his nephew conspired the game of dice and invited Pandavas in this game of gambling. Pandavas eventually lost their kingdom, wealth, prestige and were exiled for thirteen years. Draupadi, wife of Pandavas was humiliated in the court after Dushasana tried to disrobe her. The helpless blind king only intervened after counseling with Queen Gandhari and when Draupadi was just about to curse the Kuru dynasty. Intellectual and noble souls such as Vikarna and Vidura objected to the wrongdoing of Duryodhan but they were helpless.

Battle of Kurukshetra[edit]

Dhrutarastra Lament

Lord Krishna as a peace emissary of Pandavas traveled to Hastinapura persuading Kauravas to avoid bloodshed of their own kin. However, Duryodhana conspired to arrest him that resulted in failure of mission. After Krishna's peace mission failed and the war seemed inevitable, Dhritarashtra requested Bhishma to command Kaurava armies. A reluctant Bhishma agreed to do so but Dhritarashtra was keenly interested to get latest notifications about the war. Sanjaya, (Dhritarashtra's advisor and also his charioteer) had the boon of divine vision granted by Sage Vyasa. It was the duty of Sanjaya to break unpleasant news of Dhritarashtra's sons at the hands of Bhima. Sanjaya consoled helpless blind king and frankly kept his viewpoints regarding ethics and moral standards. When Lord Krishna displayed his Vishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Dhritarashtra regretted for not possessing the divine sight. Dhritarashtra was enthusiastic that Bhishma, Guru Drona, Karna and other invincible warriors will make Kaurava camp victorious. He rejoiced whenever the tide of war turned against Pandavas. However, he was devastated to learn that Pandavas were on the triumphant side at the end of great war. All sons of Dhritrashtra and Gandhari were killed in the carnage. Dhritrashtra's only daughter Duhsala was widowed after her husband Jayadratha was assassinated by Arjuna. Yuyutsu (son of Dhritrashtra with Gandhari's lady-in-waiting Sughada) had defected to Pandava side at the onset of war. He was the only son of Dhritrashtra who had managed to survive Kurukshetra War.[3]

Crushing of Bhima's metal statue[edit]

The blind Dhritarashtra attacks the statue of Bhima

Dhritarashtra was furious on Bhima for mercilessly slaying all his sons. After the war ended, the victorious Pandavas arrived at Hastinapur for formal transfer of power. Dhritarashtra insisted Pandavas to hug him one by one. Dhritarashtra embraced Yudhishthira heartily but he had developed enormous enmity for Bhima. When Dhritarashtra turned to Bhima for embracement (blessing as a goodwill gesture), Lord Krishna sensed the danger and asked Bhima to show his iron statue of himself which was used by Duryodhan for practicing Gadayuddha. Dhritarashtra crushed the statue with his full might of one thousand elephants, the iron statue was smashed into pieces. Thus Lord Krishna not only rescued Bhima from the wrath of blind king but also from certain death. Dhritarashtra later apologized for his folly and wholeheartedly embraced Bhima and other Pandavas.[4]

Later years and death[edit]

Kunti leading Dhritarashtra and Gandhari as she goes to the forest in exile

15 years after the great war of Mahabharat, the grief-stricken blind king along with his wife, sister-in-law Kunti and brother Vidura left Hastinapur for penance. It is believed that all of them perished in a forest fire and attained Moksha.[5]

Roles in Bhagavad Gita and Sanatsujatiya[edit]

Sage Sanatsujata teaches Atma vidya to King Dhṛtarāṣṭra

References[edit]

  1. ^ Apte, Vaman Shivaram (1957). "धृतराष्ट्र". A practical Sianskrit-English Dictionary. Poona: Prasad Prakashan. 
  2. ^ "Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide", by Roshen Dalal, p. 230, publisher = Penguin Books India
  3. ^ Yuyutsu was one of the 11 who managed to survive the war.
  4. ^ During the Kurukshetra War
  5. ^ Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti proceed to forest