Dhritarashtra

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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, Vichitravirya (father)
Ambika (mother)
Pandu, Vidura (half-brothers)
Spouse(s) Gandhari
Children Duryodhana, Dushasana, Vikarna and 97 other sons and Duhsala (daughter) from his wife Gandhari
Yuyutsu from Sughada (Gandhari's maid)

In the Mahabharata, Dhritarashtra (Sanskrit: धृतराष्ट्र, dhṛtarāṣṭra; 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. Dhritarashtra was blind from birth,[2] and became father to one hundred sons (and one daughter) by his wife Gandhari (Gāndhārī), with Yuyutsu. These children, including the eldest son Duryodhana, came to be known as the Kauravas.

Birth and Early Life[edit]

With Vichitravirya having died of sickness, Bhishma unable to take the throne because of his vow, and Bahlika's line unwilling to leave Bahlika Kingdom, there was as 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, she got frightened due to his scary appearance and closed her eyes during their union; hence, her son was born blind.[citation needed]

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 is said to be so strong that he can crush iron with his hand.[3]

When it came time to nominate an heir, Vidura suggested that Pandu would be a better fit because he wasn't 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.[4] Dhritarashtra marries Gandhari of Hastinapur's weakened and lowly vassal Ghandar; Gandhari covers her eyes with cloth in order to better understand her husband's blindness.[5]He and Gandhari had one hundred sons, called the Kauravas and one daughter Dushala. He also had a son named Yuyutsu with Sauvali (concubine).

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, Vyasa approached Dhritarashtra and offered to grant him 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.[3]

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 Pandavas. However, the results of the war devastated him. All of his trueborn sons were killed in the carnage. Dhritarashtra's only daughter Duhsala was widowed. Yuyutsu had defected to Pandava side at the onset of war and was the only son of Dhritrashtra who had managed to survive Kurukshetra War.[6]

Crushing of Bhima's metal statue[edit]

The blind Dhritarashtra attacks the statue of Bhima

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 with 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.[7]

Later years and death[edit]

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

After the great war of Mahabharat, 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 perished in a forest fire and attained Moksha.[8]

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. ^ a b Ganguli, Kisari Mohan. The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Translated into English Prose by Kisari Mohan Ganguli. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Web.
  4. ^ Kalyāṇakara, Bā Ha. Dhr̥tarāshṭra. Nāgapūra: Ākāṅkshā Prakāśana, 2007.
  5. ^ Suri, Chander Kanta. The Life and times of Shakuni. Delhi: for All, 1992. Print
  6. ^ Yuyutsu was one of the 11 who managed to survive the war.
  7. ^ During the Kurukshetra War
  8. ^ Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti proceed to forest