Mahabharata, through the ‘eyes’ of Gandhari - Times of India
The only solace for Kunti in that unsatisfying triangular relation was Madri a woman and guided her sons from the treacheries plotted by the sons of Gandhari. Thinking aloud, Gandhari compares her condition to Kunti and Madri Futility of war, play of emotions and human relations have shaped this. There was no dispute between Kunti and Gandhari. After King Pandu’s death, Kunti along with her 5 sons came to Hastinapur and the entire childhood of Pandavas passed on in Hastinapur. There was no specific mention about the relationship between Kunti and Gandhari during this.
Some say, Gandhari was cold to her husband. Else, they remained emotionally apart. And, at the very end, it was only the unbearable agony and grief of losing all their sons and grandsons that brought them closer.
He never could come to terms with the bitter fact that Kingship was taken away from him merely because he was blind. It was totally unjust, he felt. He blamed the fate for the cruel trick it played on him. The denial of kingship kept gnawing at his heart. The unexpected death of Pandu, his brother, opened his way to the throne.
He fondly came to believe that his eldest son Duryodhana would surely and rightfully succeed him as the King of Hastinapur. Since he was the king, he strongly believed, his sons should, naturally, be the heir to the throne. He doted on his eldest son; and, supported his every cunning scheme, covertly or otherwise.
Gandhari the good woman was surrounded all her life by a weak and an ambitious husband; a treacherous and scheming brother Shakuni; and, hate filled misguided sons. And, none of them paid heed to her words; andmuch less cared for her feelings. Gandhari the Queen, the mother of hundred sons was indeed a very lonely woman.
As Gandhari helplessly watched her family drift on the path to self destruction, she was torn apart in many directions: But, her agony, loneliness and her predicaments were neither shared nor appreciated by her husband.
Should one attempt to be a replica of his or her spouse? Which is of greater value in a marriage: When Gandhari turned herself blind just to be like her husband, she became a female counterpart of the blind king.
There wereat that timeother options open to her. Had Gandhari stepped into the foray of administering the kingdom on behalf of the blind king; and, taken charge of the affairs of the State as also that of the Royal family, the tale of Mahabharata would have been a far different one.
It surely would not have been a listless account of internecine fratricide. It would have been more forthright and challenging, since Gandhari was a courageous, ambitious woman good at heart.
But, she seemed to have surrendered her initiative rather too easily and too quickly without a thought. She drifted through the vagaries of life blindfolded, helpless and uncared.
As Gandhari stepped into the royal household at Hastinapur, it became evident that her blind prince would never be a King. But, soon thereafter, things did change, for better, with the sudden and untimely death of Pandu the King.
Mahabharata: From The Eyes Of Gandhari
However, to her chagrin, Gandhari soon realized that her blind husband was in fact merely an interim figurehead; and, it was the overbearing patriarch Bhishma who wielded all the power and authority. Gandhari was now desperate to become a mother.
She desired to be a mother of one hundred powerful sons; and, in particular the mother of kings. Her frustration over the foetus growing in her for an unduly long period of two years was getting unbearable. She no longer could carry the long overdue womb that was getting heavier with each passing day. Her patience was running out; and, she could wait no longer. In the fury of frustrationshe strikes hard at her womb; and, delivers to an immature ball of iron-hard flesh.
But, Vyasa, the biological father of her husband, intervened; and, arranged to cut the flesh into one hundred pieces. And, since Gandhari desired for a daughter he cut one more piece. Vyasa arranged to incubate each piece in a separate jar filled with ghee, for another two years. The Kuru clan was thus born out of envy and frustration. And, as a mother Gandhari had to pay a terrible price for her self-inflicted sightlessness.
By then, her sons had gone too far in their ways; and, scarcely had the will or the patience to walk beside their mother. Their fate had been usurped by their scheming and devious uncle Shakuni who, for his own reasons, kept them chained to hate and envy. She was powerless to wean her thoughtless sons away from her dark hearted brother. Gandhari, all her life, had to be a helpless bystander.
More of that, a little later. Here, Gandhari stands in sharp contrast to Kunti who devoted herself, entirely, to protecting and guiding her children through their good and bad days. They invariably consulted her on all important matters. The only occasion they failed to do so landed them in a disastrous situation. It is not the motherhood that distinguishes Gandhari; but, it is her indomitable will, the ability to take decisions and to speak out clearly; and above allher sense of justice and righteousness.
Sense of righteousness 8. Gandhari comes across as an articulate person endowed with an innate sense of justice and righteousness. She is clear in her speech; not afraid to speak out her mind even if it was to be harsh. Gandhari was a woman of substance, of strong will and of passionate nature, which she generally kept under check.
Her sense of righteousness simmers through her sharp speech. Gandhari was not blind to the conspiracies, covert schemes and injustices that went on in the royal courts. Gandhari sensed with dismay the growing ill-will between her first born son Duryodhana and his cousins the Pandavas.
Duryodhana, Dussasana, Karna, and Shakuni.
She went against her husband, asking him, firmly, not to support Duryodhana who was being led astray by Shakuni. She warned the blind King that his escapist and irresponsible acts would reap him a bitter harvest. She urged him to be firm and judicious in dealing with his sons. Gandhari counselled Dhritharastra not to lose perspective of things; and not to confuse the illusion for reality.
She tells him not to harbour false hopes that Duryodhana would win against Pandavas because veteran warriors like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and others are with him. Her unusual ability to speak the bitter truth to her husband surfaces quite often in Sabha Parva and in Udyoga Parva. In the Sabha Parva, She advised her husband to stop the first game of dice. Then again, after the second dice game, Gandhari chides Dhritarastra for allowing Duryodhana to humiliate Draupadi in the open court.
Dhritarastra blinded by his fondness for his sons did not have enough sense to heed to her words of wisdom and caution. She did try honestly to counsel her angry son; pleaded with him to eschew the needless war. But, of course, she too fails to convince him. Duryodhana, raging with anger, storms out of the court. She blames Dhritarastra for undue fondness for his sons and for not disciplining them despite being aware of their unrighteous desires and thoughtless methods.
Krishna too appreciates her efforts: She does bless him heartily. She loves him much and wants him to succeed. And, when war became imminent, she decides to support his efforts fully.
When I look upon your body, each part that I see will become hard as a diamond, unyielding to weapons. Duryodhana felt shy and uncomfortable to appear tally naked before his mother. He, therefore, covered his groin and hips with a leaf tied at the waist. But, her joy was soon cut short as she noticed the leaf around his waist. Gandhari shrieked in horror: Now, that covered part of your body will be vulnerable to weapons.
Your enemies will not fail to strike you there. She wept bitterly and lamented at cruelty of fate which spares none. The horrors of war and heartbreaking plight of the women The eighteen days of war grew more intense and gruesome with each passing day until the night of the seventeen day.
On the eighteenth and the final day, as the horrors of the war ebbed out, Duryodhana, in despair, fled from the field and hid himself in a lake.
Thereafter, that night, his three surviving warriors, in a vengeful night raid, slaughtered Drustaduymna, brother of Draupadi and her five young sons while they were asleep in their beds.
Relentless slaughter and mayhem littered the earth with the blood and guts of millions of men, horses, elephants, while countless dogs, wolves, eagles and vultures feasted on the carcasses. The sorrow of the wailing women is described in Stree Parva. Stree Parva of Mahabharata is an overwhelming, horrific and moving depiction of the devastation that war brings upon women who lost their men folk.
It focuses upon the dichotomy of the male and female elements of war. But, at the same time there is a wicked parody. The sights of women wailing over death and devastations of war are in sharp contrast to scenes, just a few weeks prior, where women, with pride, bid farewell to their men marching smartly into the battle as heroes. She can see things at a distance as if they were very near.
Gandhari then noticed her fallen son Duryodhana and fainted. She then wept over her other sons. Gandhari then moved on to lament on her distraught daughters-in-law and the horrors beset upon them.
They wept uncontrollably for their lost beloveds, sons, brothers and fathers. It was as if they were enacting the destruction of the world at the end of the Age. Women who earlier comforted each other in the most trifling sorrows now ignored other women staggering about in grief: These bewildered women were in shock; helpless, having lost the wits — vast was the wretchedness of the women of Kurus.
The clamour of all those afflicted women bewailing the destruction of their family became thunderous and shook the worlds: Gandhari addresses Krishna emptying her heart: The earth is so muddy with flesh and blood, one can scarcely move upon it. The earth seems to be crammed with fallen heads, hands, every sort of limbs mixed with every other piled in heaps.
Kunti - Wikiquote
On seeing the horror of heaps of body less limbs and limbless bodies, those women beyond reproach, unaccustomed to such miseries, now sink into the bloody mire littered with slaughtered pieces of their husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. Many shriek and wail upon seeing the bodies; and others beat their heads with their delicate palms. These women, after grasping, wailing and weeping uncontrollably for a long while, shivering in their pain are quitting their life.
The best of the women tormented in grief and pain mourn their dear ones wretchedly. What could be more painful to me than this, Keshava that all these women present themselves in such extreme distressful forms? She is particularly devastated by the terrible wrong done to her valiant young husband by the very persons who were supposed to love him and protect him.
Gandhari is regarded a very virtuous woman; a completely devoted and a faithful wife. That is one of the sub-themes of Mahabharata. When after the war, the Pandavas meet their grieving uncle and aunt, they are at first resentful and apprehensive.
Gandhari explains that grief alone is the cause of her anger. I do not want them to perish. He speaks with reason in a courteous and polite tone; and yet is resolute in his stand. His intentions are clear: He sayshe had a duty to to safeguard Dharma. Gandhari apparently accepts his argument and falls silent. As soon as Bheema finished his explanation, Yudhistira in sharp contrast to Bheema needlessly blames himself, his brothersKrishna and even Abhimanyu.
He calls himself and all those men who fought on his side as sinners and begs Gandhari to punish him for following them. I am the cause of the destruction of the earth. And, Gandhari with tearful eyes sighs deeply again and again; not a word escapes her lips.
Gandhari, the Mother with a great heart, pardons the man who killed her one hundred sons and even appeals for his mercy. She however, scorches into black the toenails of the man who did not kill even one of her sons. Did she see through Yudhistira? By then, the pent up anger was swelling up within Gandhari. She could scarcely contain herself. Breathing in quick gasps, she was about to hurl a curse on Yudhistira. But, Vyasa prevailed upon her to desist from doing so. However, some rays of her sight that pierced through the cloth covering her eyes burnt and blackened the toes of Yudhistira as he bent low to touch her feet, in fear and reverence.
When Arjuna saw that, he, in fright, took cover behind Krishna. The episodes in Sarala's Mahabharat are significantly different from those in Vyasa's Sanskrit Mahabharat. Some of these posts have been translated into French, German and Hindi.
Gandhari was issueless when Yudhisthira was born. She felt insecure and worried. To cut a really long story short, by the grace of Durvasa and other eminent sages she became the mother of a hundred children. In contrast, Kunti was just a member of the palace, the mother of fatherless children, and a widow.
She was a non-entity. But she seemed to have been reconciled to her situation. Power and privileges had wiped out that fact from her memory. Gandhari and Kunti used to go to the river Yamuna for bath every morning, Gandhari in the royal style, with her entourage, and Kunti all alone. After bath, they used to go to a Shiva temple to worship; they went separately, not by design though, and did not meet in the temple.
One morning they did, and Gandhari was furious. How dared Kunti worship the Linga in her temple! She shouted at her, but Kunti was not the kind of woman to take it from her sister-in-law, of all people. Gandhari told her that as a widow she was an unfortunate woman and had no right to perform any religious act. Soon tempers rose, they pushed each other, and started fighting in real earnest. That was when Shiva manifested himself. He told the quarrelling women that they, gods, belonged to no one, and would be with anyone who pleased them with offerings.
He told them that he would be with whoever would be the first to worship him the following morning with a hundred golden champak flowers. The Kaurava women left and Kunti locked herself in a room. She was very unhappy.
She knew that each of her sons would be able to give her one such flower, but that added up to just five. She also knew that Gandhari could similarly get one flower each from her children, and it added up to hundred! She knew thus that she was going to be the loser.
After a while Arjun came looking or her. Kunti came out, gave him food, and told him what was troubling her. Arjun told her not to worry; the following morning he was going to get for her a hundred golden champak flowers each with a hundred petals. Kunti woke him up in the morning and reminded him of the flowers. With his arrows he created many, many beautiful champak flowers each having a hundred petals for his mother to worship Shiva with.
Gandhari had told her sons about her quarrel with Kunti and about what Bhagawan Shiva had told them both. She asked her sons to give her a golden champak each. She was already feeling like the winner thinking that if at all, Kunti would be able to get just five flowers of gold. In the morning as she went in style to the temple with a hundred gold champaks and her hundred sons, she saw that there were golden flowers strewn all over the place.
Defeated and sad, she returned.
How could their children have been cordial to each other when they knew their mothers were sometimes even explicitly hostile to each other? She was also apprehensive about her sons because she knew that the Pandavas were stronger.