Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Mahabharata: Gandhari's 100 Sons

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Mahabharata: a Book Report, in which I'm slowly reading through the Hindu epic poem The Mahabharata, and writing a book report on what I read.  

Gandhari (wife of the blind king Dhrtarastra) once came upon her father-in-law, the great seer Vyasa.  He was exhausted and weary, so Gandhari helped him.  In return, Vyasa granted her a "boon" (a special gift of her choosing).  She chose for her boon that she would give birth to 100 sons.

Gandhari was pregnant for two years when she learned that her sister had given birth to a son.  Angry and jealous, Gandhari forced the embryo to fall from her womb.  To her horror, it was a hard, lifeless ball of flesh.  She was about to cast it away, when Vyasa appeared and stopped her.  Gandhari was not pleased with her father-in-law.  Where were the 100 sons she was promised?

The great seer told her not to worry.  He said to fill 100 pots with ghee (a type of butter), separate the lifeless embryo into 100 parts, and place each one into a pot.  After two more years, 100 sons were born from these pots.  These 100 sons would form the infamous Kauravas, arch-enemies of their cousins, the Pandavas.

The eldest son of Gadhari was named Yudhisthira, and after him was born Duryodhana, whom his father loved dearly.  Shortly after Duryodhana was born, there were evil portents: "cries of terrible carrion creatures and the ominous howling of jackals."  The Brahmins and sages warned King Dhrtarastra, saying:

"It is plain that this son of yours (Duryodhana) will bring the line to its end: abandoning him will mean peace, rearing him great calamity.  Be content with 99 sons, O King; and with this one act for the welfare of the world and of your line!  Give up one son for the sake of the family; give up one family for the sake of the village; give up one village for the sake of the kingdom; give up the earth for the sake of yourself!"

But King Dhrtarastra did not heed the advice of the Brahmins and sages.  Out of love for his son, he spared Duryodhana's life, no matter what the consequences.

Gandhari and her 100 sons.

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