GANDHARI – Wife of King Dhritarashthra



In the Mahabharata, Gandhari had the quite traditional roles of daughter, wife, and mother. Even though her sons, the hundred Kauravas, proved to be on the wrong side of righteousness, she was an example of one who practiced sva- dharma, meeting the requirements of her caste and of the stages of life.
Gandhari was the daughter of King Subala of Gandhara, receiving a name referring to her birthplace. She was married to King Dhritarashthra, even though he was blind—because of Dhritarashthra’s lineage and power. Gandhari accepted her father’s choice and literally wedded blindness. From the day they married, she wore a blindfold until her death. She did not wish to see the world that her husband could not see. She gave birth to a hundred sons, the eldest being Duryodhana, and a daughter, their youngest child, named Dussala. Their birth was made possible by divine powers (siddhis) associated with the sage Vyasa. (For more on these births, see the entry on Duryodhana.)
Gandhari’s brother, Ssakuni, was an evil influence on her sons. He trained the Kauravas in dark magic that gave them power to win by deceit. Duryodhana was his best pupil in cheating at dice. Gandhari was not able to counter thesemale influences. When the Bharata war finally ended with the death of all her sons, Gandhari wanted to curse the Pandavas. However, old Vyasa reminded Gandhari of her blessing at the beginning of the war: that victory should go to the side of righteousness. She realized that the deeds of Duryodhana, Sakuni, and others had been justly punished. She did, however, curse Krishna, whom she held responsible for everything: her curse was that all his heirs should be killed and that even he would die by deceit. This curse was said to be the cause of Krishna’s death from a poisoned arrow of a hunter that hit him in the foot—the only place where he was not protected. (For more on Krishna’s partial invulner­ability, see the entry on Durvasa.)
After the death of all her sons in the battle at Kurukshetra, Gandhari retired into the forest and stayed in a hermitage (asrama). Because of her austerities (tapas), Vyasa came and granted her wish to see her sons and relatives again before she died. After she had bathed in the Ganga, all her dead relatives appeared on the shore. Two days later she died in a forest fire, along with her husband, and their companion Kunti, mother of the Pandavas.

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