The Mahabharata entails the character of Gandhari, who was a daughter of Subala, the king of Gandhara (currently known as Kandahar) and sister of Shakuni. Her name is believed to be derived from the word Gandhara, a region straddling northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan.
During demoiselle days, Gandhari was supposed to have consecrations to bear a hundred children. With this blessing, Bhishma chose Gandhari as an elder daughter-in-law in the Kuru kingdom.
Gandhari’s marriage life
Gandhari was married to the eldest prince, “Dhritarashtra,” of the Kuru kingdom. The Mahabharata epic portrays her as a dedicated wife, righteous, devoted, and beautiful woman. Gandhari is also known as Gandhararajaduhita, Saubaleyi, Saubali, Subalaja, Subalaputri and Subalatmaja.
When Gandhari knew that her husband Dhritarashtra was congenitally blind, she blindfolded herself willingly to impersonate her husband throughout her married life. She renounced her visionary ability as her husband could never cherish, which was a sign of her love and dedication in the Mahabharata epic.
Birth of the Kauravas
Once, Veda Vyasa came to the Gandhari’s palace and blessed Gandhari with her wish to have 100 powerful sons. Gandhari also stated her desire to have a daughter (Dushala) as the youngest. After an unusually long period of pregnancy for 2 years, she had a miscarriage. Rishi Vyasa suggested she keep the fetus and cut that into 101 parts. He treated those parts with herbs and ghee, kept them in pots for two years, and from that 101 parts, living beings came into existence.
A hundred sons of Ghandhari, such as Duryodhana, Duhsasana, Durjaya, Duranta, Durvara, Durvaloka, etc., are known as Kauravas named Dushala who was married to Jayadratha.
As she blindfolded herself, she couldn’t experience the savored faces of her children. She was unable to grow and guide them to the moral pathway. Deprived of true love and care of a mother, Gandhari’s sons grew undisciplined, uncontrolled children. Gandhari’s sons were rarely close to her. Her son’s fortune was preempted with abhorrence and envy by their scheming and guileful uncle called Shakuni. She was helpless and impuissant to bring around her sons from her dark-hearted brother Shakuni.
She suffered a heavy toll due to her self-induced blindness to her motherhood. Although she had an appalling penalty, it can be considered that her ineffable volition and ability to make decisions and articulate well in such a vulnerable situation.
Lamentations in Kurukshetra
After the birth of a first child, “Duryodhana,” evil premonitions emerged, the child began crying like a jackal. Vidura (one who wrote Vidur Niti) and other Brahmans informed Dhritarashtra that such alarming activities would be threatening in the Kuru community and suggested abandoning the first child. But, Dhritarashtra ignored their advice because of his love for his first child and reprobated to do so.
After colossal warfare of the Mahabharata, the Kurukshetra was cluttered with broken chariots of Kauravas, dead bodies of Kauravas including Duryodhana and Dushasana who were known to be villains of the Mahabharata epic with their wives, disheveled hair, higgledy-piggledy attire, shedding tear off and rummaging for their husbands and relatives.
The Gandhari’s sons were slain, against their cousins “Pandavas,” specifically at the hands of Bhima. The Hastinapur was desolate with lamentations and howling of jackals like an awful shadow. Gandhari was lonely, desperate, in anguish with her eyes covered, shedding tears off and crying helplessly. Her tears deepened the uneasiness of silence in the vacated palace because of her hundred sons, more sons, grandsons lying on a dire destructed Hastinapur.
Gandhari’s curse on Lord Krishna
Her wrathfulness turned to Krishna; she ranted infuriatingly to cause such destructions in the Kurukshetra. She cursed him, and all of his subjects would be devastated, and the Yadavas should cease to exist. Lord Krishna accepted her curse with an ever-enigmatic smile. It is believed that Gandhari’s curse took 36 years after the battle between Yadavas occurred, and Yadu was deceased at a festival.
The loss of all of her sons incited an agony within her, which resulted in cursing Lord Krishna in the demolition of Yadavas. Lord Krishna returned to his domicile after living for a hundred and twenty-six years. It is speculated that Dwarka city, known to be a golden city, was sunken down into a sea after seven days of Lord Krishna’s left mortal body.
Death of Gandhari
After fifteen years of war, Gandhari and her husband, Kunti, and Vidur left the palace and retired in the forest. She was also close to Kunti (mother of Pandavas), with whom she esteemed her as an elder sister. It is speculated that they ended their lives together in the Himalayas and departed their lives on a forest fire.
From the Mahabharata epic, it can be concluded that Gandhari was a virtuous woman who endured sufferings in her life is considered to be her extreme internal strength. She lived her entire married life as a blindfolded woman which is painstaking. She was a devoted, faithful wife.
Gandhari was also an honest and devoted worshipper of Lord Shiva. The sacrifice of her eyesight was to bestow her spiritual supremacy. Regardless of depicting Gandhari’s sons as undisciplined in the Mahabharata, Gandhari continually urged her sons to follow the principles of the right pathway and conciliate with Pandavas.