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The image on the left shows the five Pandava children and the Ashwini Devas while the image on the right shows Dronacharya and Kripi with Ashwathama (Image Credit: The Mahabharata Part I Comic Book from Archive.org)

Table of Contents (The Complete Condensed Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa’s Birth


Note: This post is a short and quick account of how the main characters of the Mahabharata were born. I have mentioned the circumstances of everyone’s birth but summarised the character description provided in the unabridged Mahabharata. You can read the full character descriptions here.

Bhishma was born to Devi Ganga and the King Shantanu.

Karna was born from the union of Kunti and Surya Deva. He was born with natural armour and bright earrings.

Sri Vishnu, the all-pervading soul, himself was born to Devaki and Vasudeva in the race of Andhaka-Vrishnis for the benefit of all the creatures in the three worlds.

Satyaki and Kritivarma were born in the Vrishni race. Satyaki’s father was Satyaka while Kritivarma’s father was Hridika. Both of them were strong, well-versed in all branches of knowledge and always obeyed Sri Krishna.

Drona was born from the seed of the great rishi Bharadwaja. The seed was kept in a pot and that’s how Drona (the pot born) got his name.

The twins, Kripi and Kripa were born from sage Gautam’s seed which had fallen on a clump of reeds.

Ashwatthama was born to Kripi and Drona.

Dhrishtadyumna was born from the sacrificial fire in a yagna organised by King Drupada. He was born with a bow in his hand and he was destined to destroy Drona. 

The excellent and beautiful Draupadi (also known as Krishnaa) was born from the same sacrificial fire. 

From King Drupada and his wife was born a daughter called Sikhandin who later transformed into a male with the help of a Yaksha named Sthuna.

Sakuni was born to Suvala. Cursed by the gods, he worked against virtue and was the cause of death for many people. 

Gandhari was also born to Suvala. Both Gandhari and Sakuni were knowledgeable in the art of acquiring worldly profit.

Dhritarashtra was born to Ambika (Vichitravirya’s wife) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 

Pandu was born to Ambalika (also Vichitravirya’s wife) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. 

Vidura was born from the union of Ambika’s maid (called Parishrami) and Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. He was an incarnation of Dharma but he was born to a maid due to the curse of a brahmin who was falsely accused of theft because of the way Dharma’s law worked on earth. 

The Pandavas were born to Pandu and his two wives (Kunti and Madri). Yudhishthira was born to Kunti and Dharma (the god of justice). Bhima was born from Kunti and the God of wind (Marut). Arjun was born from the union of Kunti and Indra Deva. The twins, Nakula and Sahadeva) were born to Madri and the Ashwins.

Dhritharashtra and Gandhari gave birth to a hundred sons, with Duryodhana as the eldest. Another son called Yuyutsu was born from Dhritharashtra and a Vaishya woman. out of the 101 sons, 11 were maharathas.

Amoung the Pandavas’ children, Abhimanyu was born from Subhadra (Sri Krishna’s sister) and Arjuna. Draupadi and Yudhishthira had a son called Pritivindhya. Draupadi and Bhima had a son called Sutasoma. Draupadi and Arjuna had a son called Srutakirti. Draupadi and Nakula had a son called Satanika. Draupadi and Sahadeva had a son called Srutasena. Bhima had one more son with Hidimba called Ghatotkacha.

Note: Arjuna also had children from Ulupi (a Naga princess) and Chitrangada (the princess of Manipura). However, these progeny are not mentioned at this point, in the Mahabharata. I have mentioned it here for completeness.


Next Post: Why Did The Celestials Take Birth On Earth As The Pandavas And other Beings


Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanjaya#/media/File:Sanjayas’s_Foreknowledge.jpg

When Sanjaya (the son of Gavalgana) heard his king wail and sigh like a serpent, he consoled  Dhritarashtra with these words of great importance.

Note: Sauti narrated to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest, the words spoken by Sanjaya to King Dhritarashtra. The words below were spoken by Sanjaya to console the king.

O King, you have heard Ved Vyasa and Sage Narada speak of immensely powerful men who have exerted great effort in the world. These men, who were born into grand royal families shone with worthy qualities. They were well-versed in the science of celestial weapons. They were akin to Indra in their glory. They conquered the world with justice, performed sacrifices with fit offerings to the brahmanas, and were greatly renowned in the world. But, in the end, they had to succumb to the influence of time.

Note: Sanjaya names a few such great kings to Dhritarashtra. I have listed them in bullet points for ease of comprehension.

  • Saivya: the valiant maharatha.
  • Srinjaya: one of the greatest conquerors.
  • Suhotra, Rantideva, and Kakshivanta: kings that were great in their glory.
  • Valhika, Damana, Saryati, Ajita, and Nala.
  • Viswamitra: the destroyer of foes.
  • Amvarisha: of immense strength.
  • Marutta, Manu, Ikshaku, Gaya, and Bharata.
  • Rama: the son of Dasaratha.
  • Sasavindu and Bhagiratha.
  • Kritavirya and Janamejava: the greatly fortunate kings.
  • Yayati: who was assisted by the celestials in performing sacrifices and by whose sacrificial altars were spread across the entire earth.

When Saivya was afflicted due to the loss of his children, Rishi Narada told him the story of these twenty-four kings.

There were many other noble-minded and virtuous kings who lived before these great monarchs. They were:

  • Puru
  • Kuru
  • Yadu
  • Sura and Viswasrawa of great glory
  • Anuha
  • Yuvanaswu
  • Kakutstha
  • Vikrami
  • Raghu
  • Vijava
  • Virihorta
  • Anga
  • Bhava
  • Sweta
  • Vripadguru
  • Usinara
  • Sata-ratha
  • Kanka
  • Duliduha
  • Druma
  • Dambhodbhava
  • Para
  • Vena
  • Sagara
  • Sankriti
  • Nimi
  • Ajeya
  • Parasu
  • Pundra
  • Sambhu
  • The holy Deva-Vridha, Devahuya, Supratika, and Vrihad-ratha
  • Mahatsaha
  • Vinitatma
  • Sukratu
  • Nala: the king of the Nishadas
  • Satyavrata
  • Santabhaya
  • Sumitra
  • The chief Subala
  • Janujangha
  • Anaranya
  • Arka
  • Priyabhritya
  • Chuchi-vrata
  • Balabandhu
  • Nirmardda
  • Ketusringa
  • Brhidbala
  • Dhrishtaketu
  • Brihatketu
  • Driptaketu
  • Niramaya
  • Abikshit
  • Chapala
  • Dhurta
  • Kritbandhu
  • Dridhe-shudhi
  • Mahapurana-sambhavya
  • Pratyanga
  • Paraha
  • Sruti

O great one, even before these, there were hundreds and thousands and millions of kings of great power, wisdom, valor, generosity, magnanimity, faith, truth, purity, simplicity, and mercy who could not avoid death. Their records have been published by sacred bards of former times. They all met the same fate in the end, even though they were blessed with every virtue.

On the other hand, O King, your sons had an evil disposition. They harbored the desire to harm others and were inflamed with great passion and greed. 

You are intelligent, wise, and well-versed in the sastras, O king. Those whose understanding is guided by the sastras never sink under the pressure of misfortune. You know that fate is sometimes kind, and sometimes, severe. Nobody can avert the decrees of fate. Nobody can change the way marked out for him by Divine will. Therefore, it is not appropriate for you to grieve for that which had to happen.

Existence and non-existence, pleasure and pain: everything is rooted in time. It is time that creates everything and it is time that destroys it also. It is time that burns creatures and it is time that extinguishes the fire. All states (the good and the evil), in the three worlds, are caused by time. Time destroys things and creates them anew. Time alone is awake when all things are asleep. No one can overcome time. Time passes over all things without stopping. You know very well, O great King, that everything in the past, present, and future are offsprings of time. Do not throw away your reason, O King, and fall into such intense grief.

Note: After narrating the words of Sanjaya, Sauti tells the ascetics in Naimisha Forest, that Ved Vyasa took these principles as a fact and composed a holy Upanishad (the Mahabharata) that was published to the world by the sacred bards, in the Puranas composed by them.


Table of Contents

Previous: Dhritarashtra’s Lamentation: A Summary of Main Events till the end of the War

Next: The Benefits of Reading the Mahabharata

Image of Dhritarashtra by Raja Ravi Varma

Note: In the previous post, Sauti gave a very brief summary of the Mahabharata, beginning with King Pandy retiring to the forest and ending with the great war at Kurukshetra. In this post, Sauti describes what happens when Dhritarashtra learns about the loss of the Kauravas and the destruction of his race. He is overcome with grief and recollects all the incidents that gave him an intuitive feeling they were heading toward great destruction. Through this lamentation, we also get a summary of all the important events beginning from the Pandavas escaping from the house of lac till the end of the war.

When King Dhritarashtra heard about the victory of the Pandavas in the great war at Kurukshetra, he remembered the decisions of Duryodhana, Karna, and Sakuni and said the following words to Sanjaya:

“Listen to all I have to say about this war, Sanjay, without feeling contempt for me. You are intelligent, wise, and well-versed in the shastras. I was never inclined to go to war, nor did want to destroy my race. I thought of Pandu’s sons as my own. My own sons despised me because I am old and they insisted on doing things they knew were harmful. I am blind, and because of my affection for them, I did not oppose their behavior. I was foolish in my affection for Duryodhana, who himself was constantly growing in folly rather than wisdom. He was unable to accept the wealth and good fortune that the sons of Pandu had acquired. To make matters worse, he was insulted for his awkwardness while walking in their assembly hall. He did not have the strength to defeat the sons of Pandu on the battlefield, nor did he want to put in the effort to obtain wealth and good fortune for himself. As a result, with the help of the king of Gandhara (Sakuni) he conspired to play an unfair game of dice with the Pandavas.”

“Now, I will tell you Sanjaya, everything that happened in the past and my thoughts about those events. You will soon realize that I could see, ahead of time, the consequences of those actions.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna had successfully bent the bow and pierced the strange target at Draupadi’s swayamvara.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna had married Subhadra (Krishna’s sister) after kidnapping her in Dwarka, and her brothers, Krishna and Balarama, entered the Pandava’s capital city, Indraprastha, as friends of Arjuna without any resentment.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna, using his celestial arrow, prevented the downpour caused by Indra (the king of the Gods) and gratified Agni by allowing him to devour the Khandavaprastha forest.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Pandavas along with their mother, Kunti, had escaped from the house of lac, and they were assisted by none other than Vidura, in escaping.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the brave Panchalas had joined the Pandavas after Arjuna pierced the target at Draupadi’s swayamvara.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard Bhima had slain the king of Magadha, Jarasandha, with his bare arms.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Pandavas had performed the grand Rajasuya Yagna after conquering all the other kings and chiefs.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Draupadi, her eyes filled with tears and heart filled with suffering, had been dragged into court during her season of impurity, wearing only one garment,”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the wicked wretch Dussasana attempted to strip Draupadi of that single garment, and he kept on pulling the cloth without reaching its end.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yudhishthira’s powerful brothers remained loyal to him even after he had lost the entire kingdom upon being defeated by Sakuni in the game of dice.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yudhishthira’s virtuous brothers followed him to the forest and made every effort to reduce his discomfort.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Snatakas and noble-minded Brahmins who lived on alms followed Yudhishthira into the forest.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna had obtained that great weapon, the Pasupata, after pleasing the god of gods (Tryambaka), who had appeared to Arjuna in the form of a hunter.

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the just and renowned Arjuna had visited the celestial regions and obtained obtained celestial weapons from Indra himself.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that after obtaining the celestial weapons, Arjuna vanquished the Kalakeyas and Paulomas who had become arrogant on account of a boon they had obtained that made them invincible even to the celestials,”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna, the chastiser of enemies, vanquished the asuras who were threatening Indra’s region.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Bhima, accompanied by the other sons of Kunti along with Vaisravana, reached the country that was not accessible to humans.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that my sons were captured by the Gandharvas when they went to Goshayatra (upon Karna’s advice) and were later freed by Arjuna.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Dharma (the God of justice) disguised himself as a Yaksha and proposed certain questions to Yudhishthira.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that my sons had failed to discover the Pandavas, who were staying at Virata’s palace,  in their year of disguise.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the main warriors from my side had been vanquished by the noble Arjuna who had fought all of them alone.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Vasudeva, of the race of Madhu, who had once covered the whole earth with one foot, was keenly interested in the welfare of the Pandavas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the king of Matsya had offered his virtuous daughter (Uttara) to Arjuna, and the latter accepted her for his son, Abhimanyu.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yudhishthira, who had lost all his wealth, who was exiled and separated from his connections, had still managed to assemble an army of seven akshauhinis.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard Narada mention that Krishna and Arjuna, were in reality, Nara and Narayana, and he had seen them together in the regions of Brahma.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna who was keen to make peace between the Kauravas and Pandavas (for the benefit of mankind) had to leave unsuccessfully after meeting the Kauravas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna showed himself as the entire universe when Karna and Duryodhana tried to imprison him.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna consoled a sorrowful Kunti before leaving.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Pandavas were counseled by Krishna and Bhishma, and Drona (son of Bharadwaj) blessed them.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Karna refused to fight until Bhishma was on the battlefield.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that three powerful energies (Krishna, Arjuna, and the bow Gandiva) had come together.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna showed Arjuna all the worlds within his body when the latter was filled with hesitation and compassion on the battlefield.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Bhishma, the destroyer of foes, killed tens of thousands of charioteers every day in the battle, but had not slain any of the five Pandavas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Bhishma (the righteous son of Ganga) had himself told the Pandavas how they could defeat him in battle.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna placed Shikhandin before him in his chariot and wounded Bhishma of infinite courage.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the aged hero Bhishma, after having slain several warriors of the Shomaka race, was overcome by wounds and lay on a bed of arrows.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna pierced the ground to bring forth a spring of water to quench Bhishma’s thirst when he was lying with thirst on the bed of arrows.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Vayu, Indra, and Surya united as allies for the success of the sons of Kunti, and beasts of prey created fear in us through their inauspicious presence.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Drona who fought on the battlefield using various modes of warfare, did not slay any of the superior Pandavas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Maharatha Sansaptakas of our army appointed for slaying Arjuna were slain by Arjuna himself.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that our impenetrable forces defended by Bharadwaja himself were entered singlehandedly by Abhimanyu – the brave son of Subhadra.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that our Maharathas who were incapable of overcoming Arjuna in battle, celebrated with jubilant faces after surrounding and slaying the boy Abhimanyu.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the foolish Kauravas were shouting in joy after slaying the boy Abhimanyu, and, hearing the news, Arjuna made the famous speech referring to Saindhava.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna had vowed to slay Saindhava and fulfilled his vow in the presence of his enemies.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when Arjuna’s horses were exhausted, Krishna released them, made them drink water, harnessed them, and continued to guide them as before.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when Arjuna’s horses were exhausted, Arjuna stayed in his chariot and succeeded in keeping his attackers at bay.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yuyudhana (of the Vrishni race) created much confusion and fear in Drona’s unbearably powerful army and, having done so, returned to Krishna and Arjuna.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that even though Karna had overpowered Bhima, he allowed the latter to go after addressing him in contemptuous terms and dragging him with the end of his bow.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Drona, Kritivarma, Salya, and the son of Drona could not prevent Saindhava from being slain by Arjuna.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna, through his strategy, had caused Karna to use the celestial weapon (the Sakti) given to him by Indra, on Ghatotkacha.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Sakti that would have certainly slain Arjuna, had to be used by on Ghatotkacha in the battle between Karna and Gjatotkacha.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Dhrishtadyumna broke the rules of battle and slew Drona when the latter was alone in his chariot and had resolved to end his life.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Nakula (the son of Madri) in the presence of the entire army engaged the son of Drona in a one-on-one combat and rode his chariot around him in circles proving himself equal in prowess to Drona’s son.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that upon the death of Drona, his son misused the weapon called Narayana but failed to achieve the destruction of the Pandavas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Bhima drank the blood of Duhsasana on the battlefield without anyone being able to prevent him.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the infinitely brave Karna, invincible in battle, was slain by Arjuna in that war between brothers that was mysterious even to the Gods.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yudhishthira the just overcame, in battle, Duhsasana, the heroic son of Drona, and the fierce Kritivarman.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the brave king of Madra (Salya) dared Krishna in battle but was slain by Yudhishthira.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the wicked Suvala (Sakuni), who had magical powers, and was the root cause of the game of dice and the ensuing feud, was slain in battle by Sahadeva.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the exhausted Duryodhana took refuge in a lake and lay there alone without his chariot and without any strength.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Pandavas, accompanied by Krishna, went to that lake and started insulting Duryodhana, who was incapable of putting up with such harsh words.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Duryodhana was unfairly slain according to the counsel of Krishna.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the son of Drona committed a horrible deed when slaying the Panchals and the sons of Draupadi.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when the son of Drona was pursued by Bhima, he discharged a dangerous weapon (the Aihshika) and injured the embryo in Uttara’s womb.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when the son of Drona discharged the Brahmashira, Arjuna successfully repelled it with another weapon called the Sasti, and ultimately, the son of Drona had to give up the jewel-like outgrowth on his head.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when the son of Drona injured the embryo in Uttara’s womb, he was cursed by both Ved Vyasa and Krishna.”

“Alas! Gandhari, who now doesn’t have any children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, and relatives, is to be pitied.”

“The Pandavas have achieved the difficult task of recovering a kingdom without a rival.”

“Alas! I have heard that only ten warriors are alive after the war. Three from our side and seven from the Pandavas’ camp. In this dreadful conflict, eighteen akshauhinis of kshatriyas have been slain. There is utter darkness around me and I am so overcome with emotion, that I might lose consciousness.”

Dhritarashtra thus cried over his fate and became overcome with extreme sadness. He lost consciousness for some time, but soon came back to his senses and addresses Sanjaya, saying: “After all that has happened, O Sanjaya, after all that has happened, I wish to end my life immediately. I do not find any purpose in this life now.”


Table of Contents

Previous: A Very Brief Summary of the Mahabharata

Next: Sanjaya Consoles Dhritarashtra

Shakuni making his move in the game of dice

When an event of great significance occurs in a story, the reactions of people, in response to that event, give us insights into their nature. These insights help us unravel the thread of subtle dharma in works such as the Mahabharata.
As we know, Duryodhan was filled with jealousy when he witnessed Yudhishthira’s affluence, popularity, virtue, and power during the latter’s Rajasuya Yagna at Indraprastha. Unable to control his jealousy, Duryodhana convinced his father — King Dhritarashtra — to invite the Pandavas to a game of dice. He planned to appoint Shakuni to play on his behalf and rob the Pandavas of their wealth and kingdom.
Shakuni defeated Yudhishthira, through deceitful play, and won the Pandava’s wealth and kingdom. However, by this time, Shakuni, who was drunk on his winning streak, prodded Yudhishthira (who was weakened by his resolve to not decline a challenge) to stake his brothers and himself.
Unsurprisingly, Shakuni won, but, what was surprising is that the game did not stop even then. Shakuni prodded Yudhishthira to stake Draupadi.
It was unimaginable, but Yudhishthira agreed, and all the elders in the assembly hall were shocked and agitated and fell into grief as we see in the two excerpts below.

However, there was one elder who, despite an outward act of virtue, was quite pleased and eager to witness the Pandavas’ humiliation. That elder was Dhritarashtra, as we see in the excerpt below.

Karna and Dussasana laughed, Shakuni was eager to win, and everyone else cried with grief.

Credit: The above excerpts are from Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation of The Mahabharata.

Author’s Note: I was surprised by two characters’ responses while reading this passage.

The first was Dhritarashtra. His indulgent attitude toward Duryodhan and jealousy toward the Pandavas are well known. It came as no surprise when he sanctioned the game of dice, but it was a big surprise to see the King so eager to witness Draupadi being lost in the game of dice.

The other moment of surprise was Karna’s reaction. He is popularly thought of as a generous and noble person who had to deal with exceedingly unfortunate circumstances. However, laughing when Draupadi was staked is hardly a sign of nobility. While it is true that Karna was generous, his nobility is questionable. We will see in future posts that Karna behaved quite abhorrently after Yudhishthira lost Draupadi.

Duryodhana falls into water
Duryodhana falling in an indoor water body

There is an often attributed incident to Draupadi, where she is said to have called Duryodhan a “blind man’s son” after he mistook an artificial pond in their palace at Indraprastha for a crystal floor and slipped into the water. This narrative has been promoted by TV serials, abridged versions, and retellings of the epic. The dialogue that’s popularly used is “Andhe ka putra bhi andha!” It means: a blind man’s son is also blind.

But is this incident really mentioned in the Mahabharata? The short answer is NO — it is not mentioned anywhere in the Unabridged Mahabharata. In the rest of the article, I will describe (with quotes) everything that happened in the Pandava’s palace at Indraprastha, the day after the Rajasuya Yagna, when Duryodhan fell into the indoor pond of water.

I’ll begin with a little background.

The Pandavas established Indraprastha as the capital city of their Kingdom after Dritarashtra gave them the Khandavprastha region, of the ancestral kingdom, as their share. The first goal of the Pandavas was to bring well-being and prosperity to the citizens of the kingdom. After succeeding in this goal, Yudhishthira expressed the desire to perform the Rajasuya Yagna and become the emperor of Bharat. Subsequently, the four Pandavas (Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadev) set out in the four directions, brought all the surrounding kingdoms under their sway, and returned to Indraprastha with large tributes.

Sometime after this, Yudhishthira invited all the kings, who had accepted him as the emperor, and relatives/well-wishers to the final Rajasuya Yagna where he would be crowned as the emperor of Bharat. After the yagna was complete, all the kings returned to their respective kingdoms. However, Duryodhana and Sakuni stayed back to inspect the Pandavas’ magnificent palace.

The day after the yagna, Duryodhan and Sakuni walked around the palace and marveled at the extraordinary designs of the kind they had never seen before in Hastinapur. As we will see in the passage below, Duryodhan bumbled a lot in the palace. He mistook the crystal floor to be an indoor pond and he mistook an indoor pond for a crystal floor. As a result, he fell into the water and got himself wet. When the Pandava brothers saw his bumbling, they laughed aloud. Even the menials laughed at Duryodhan.

The passage where the Pandavas laughed at Duryodhan

Unfortunately, Duryodhan’s misery had no bounds because he went on to be further confounded in the palace. He mistook doors for walls and walls for doors, as seen in the passage below. After several such moments, he took leave from the Pandavas and returned to Hastinapur with his uncle, Shakuni.

Duryodhan leaves for Hastinpur after a few more embarrassing incidents.

As we can see, Draupadi was not even in the picture, so there was no question of her insulting Duryodhan and King Dhritarashtra.

Another important point to note (as we will see in future posts) is that Draupadi did not insult the Kuru elders even when she was disrobed after the game of dice, so it’s really far-fetched to assume that she would have uttered unkind words to uncle, Dhritarashtra, and brother-in-law, Duryodhan, in her own palace.

Now, I’ll jump ahead to another passage. Later, when Duryodhan reached his palace, he recounted the incident to his father, Dhritarashtra. In this talk, he mentioned that Draupadi had laughed at him.

See the passage below.

The passage where Duryodhan narrates, to Dritharashtra, how he was insulted.

As we can see in the passage above, the only thing Duryodhana mentioned to his father was that Draupadi and other servants laughed at him. There was no mention of Draupadi calling him a blind man’s son.

This incident of Draupadi telling Duryodhana: “Andhe ka putra bhi andha,” is purely a figment of certain people’s imagination that has been repeated without verification.

The reason why I consider this piece of information important is because the Mahabharata is an epic about the subtle dharma. In certain instances, the subtle dharma is clearly elucidated by Vyasa Muni and, in other instances, it is left to the reader to introspect and decipher the subtle dharma. In this spiritual exercise, the actions, words, and dilemmas of the characters in the Mahabharata become pointers to the subtle dharma (that is described as being beyond human logic and morality). These are small factoids that the reader considers to understand what the subtle dharma might mean. When we twist these seemingly small details, we obscure the subtle dharma that Vyasa-Muni wanted to describe, thus reducing the Mahabharata from being the fifth Veda into being a mere story of the rivalry between cousins.

Image Credit: Statute of Karna from Bali

When Karna and Duryodhana learned that the Pandavas had planned to return to Hastinapura after their marriage with Draupadi, they were concerned about Duryodhana losing their power in the Kuru kingdom. Duryodhana was the crowned prince and did not want to lose that position. Karna, being his close friend, and someone who disliked the Pandavas with the same intensity, supported Duryodhana in every way he could. With a mutual desire to keep the Pandavas out of power, they approached the king, Dhritarashtra, to make a plan against the Pandavas.

After Duryodhana proposed his plan to use deceit against the Pandavas, Karna was asked for his opinion. He began by explaining to Duryodhana why his strategies may not work against the Pandavas, and then went on to propose his own strategy which was to defeat the Pandavas by force.

Karna explains to Duryodhana why using deceit to injure the Pandavas won’t work.
Karna explains to Duryodhana why creating disunion among the Pandavas and Draupadi was not possible.
Karna explains to Duryodhana why King Drupada cannot be turned against the Pandavas.

After politely refuting Duryodhana’s strategy, Karna proposed his own strategy of using force against the Pandavas as long as they were weaker than the Kauravas.

Karna explains to Duryodhana how to use force against the Pandavas.

Karna follows on to justify his proposal using examples of Indra and Bharat. Both Indra, the lord of heaven, and Bharat, an illustrious Kuru ancestor, had used force to bring their opponents under their control. Therefore, according to Karna, using force was the right way for the brave.

Karna’s reasons for using prowess against the Pandavas.

As we can see, Duryodhana wanted to use deceit while Karna wanted to use force to smite the Pandavas. If you’re wondering whose strategy was used, the answer is — in this case, neither. When they presented their strategies to the king, Dhritarashtra asked them to consult with Bhishma and Drona before finalizing the strategy. When they met Bhishma and Drona, Duryodhana did not even put forth his proposal of deceit while Karna’s proposal of using force against the Pandavas was unacceptable to both the elders. Eventually, it was decided that half the kingdom would be given to the Pandavas.

However, the Kauravas did use deceit. While dividing the kingdom, Dhritarashtra gave Khandavaprastha — the most barren part of the kingdom — to the Pandavas, and kept the part that flourished, for his son Duryodhana.

Author’s Note: I am amazed at how this beautiful epic — The Mahabharata — constantly gives us examples that illustrate the subtle dharma — the dharma that goes beyond rules and formulae. Sri Krishna exhorts us to cultivate “yogastha buddhi” to understand the subtle dharma.

In this example, we see how Karna used the same strategy that the great emperor Bharath had used, and yet, King Bharat’s actions were aligned with dharma while Karna’s were not.


Duryodhana as depicted in Javanese Wayang

Duryodhana hated the Pandavas from the very moment they arrived in Hastinapur unannounced after their father, Pandu’s, death. They were bright, noble, and loved by everyone in the royal court and the kingdom. This not only made Duryodhana jealous but also made him insecure because the Pandavas made more worthy contenders to the Kuru throne.

He started plotting against the Pandavas right from when he and the Pandavas were all children. He attempted to kill Bhima but, due to his plot, Bhima became stronger.

Later, he tried to burn them, along with their mother Kunti, in the house of lac. But the Pandavas and their mother escaped that too. Eventually, while they were still in hiding, the Pandavas married Draupadi (the princess of Panchala) and bounced back with greater strength and allies.

Since they were disguised as brahmanas in Draupadi’s swayamavara, nobody knew the Pandavas had escaped, so when Duryodhana heard about their marriage with Draupadi, he was shocked and alarmed. Shocked because he wasn’t expecting them to be alive, and alarmed, because the Pandavas were now stronger with King Drupada and his relatives as their allies.

Duryodhana feared that he would lose the throne of Hastinapur if they returned, so, once again, his devious mind started hatching plots against his cousins. This time, Duryodhana, along with his co-conspirator, Karna, approached Dritharashtra soon after Vidura informed the king about the Pandavas safe escape from the burning house and their marriage to Draupadi.

Duryodhana’s agitated mind had come up with a few scattered ideas to eliminate the Pandavas, or at least, reduce their threat to him. He lay down his ideas to Dhritarashtra and Karna for their opinion.

Duryodhana began his speech by impressing upon Dhritharashtra the importance of acting quickly against the Pandavas.

Following his warning for quick action, Duryodhana proposed these ideas to eliminate or weaken the Pandavas. These ideas give us a clear glimpse into his desperation and deviousness.

Duryodhana’s seemed to have a preference for creating dissent among the Pandavas and Draupadi because he proposed five ideas to this effect.

(Above) Duryodhana’s proposal to use skillful brahmanas to create enmity between the sons of Kunti (Yudhishthira, Bhima, and Arjuna) and the sons of Madri (Nakula and Sahadev)
Proposal to employ spies to create dissent among all the Pandavas.
Proposal to use spies to incite Draupadi against her five Pandava husbands.
Duryodhana’s proposal to somehow turn the Pandavas against Draupadi.
Proposal to tempt the Pandavas with beautiful maidens to turn Draupadi against them.

However, the scheming did not stop here. Duryodhana had a bagful of tricks. One of his big concerns was the Pandavas’ alliance with King Drupada which increased their military might. He made one proposal to prevent King Drupada from supporting the Pandavas in their claim to Hastinapura’s throne.

Duryodhana’s proposal to bribe King Drupada and his ministers.

In this bag of devious tricks were two proposals that were slightly less devious. One was to convince the Pandavas to settle in the land of their father-in-law, thereby removing any threat from them to Hastinapura’s throne. The other was to use politics to keep the Pandavas under control if they appeared to be obedient to the Kuru elders upon returning to Hastinapura.

Proposal to convince the Pandavas to settle in Panchala (away from Hastinapura).
Duryodhana’s proposal to control the obedient Pandavas using politics.

However, last but not the least, Duryodhana’s final two proposals were the most sinister. The first among them was to slay Bhima and, thereby, weaken the Pandavas while the second was to slay all the Pandavas before they reached Hastinapura.

Duryodhana’s proposal to weaken the Pandavas by slaying Bhima.
Duryodhana’s proposal to slay all the Pandavas.