Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Dhritarashtra included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Dhṛtarāṣṭra

Father of the Kauravas.


(See the genealogy of Arjuna).


Śantanu, a king of the Lunar dynasty, had two wives Gaṅgā and Satyavatī. Gāṅgā, gave birth to eight sons. But seven of them were thrown into the river Gaṅgā. Giving the eighth son Bhīṣma to Śantanu Gaṅgā disappeared. Śantanu then married Satyavatī, a fisher-woman. Satyavatī gave birth to two sons, Citrāṅgada and Vicitravīrya. When Śantanu grew old, Citrāṅgada was anointed as King, as Bhīṣma had taken Brahmavrata (vow of celibacy). Once when Citrāṅgada went to the forest for hunting, a Gandharva of the name Citrāṅgada killed him. So Vicitravīrya became the King of Hastināpura. Bhīṣma took the three daughters of the King of Kāśi, Ambā, Ambikā and Ambālikā by force into his chariot and brought the last two, to Hastināpura to be given as wives to Vicitravīrya. On the way he sent Ambā back. Vicitravīrya married Ambikā and Ambālikā. But shortly after that he also died, before any children were born to him. Fearing that the Lunar dynasty would come to an end, Satyavatī brought her son Vedavyāsa, who was born to her from hermit Parāśara, before her marriage, to Hastināpura. In the night Satyavatī sent Ambikā adorned with ornaments and costly garments, to the bedroom of Vyāsa. But she could not bear to lie with Vyāsa who was clad in barks of the tree and wearing matted hair. Still thinking that it was not right on her part to stand against the wish of her mother, she approached Vyāsa and lay with him with closed eyes. Ambikā became pregnant. The child she gave birth to, was blind. That child was Dhṛtarāṣṭṛa. Next night Ambālikā approached Vyāsa. When she saw Vyāsa she turned pale at his uncouth figure and her face became bloodless. So the child born to her was pale and was called Pāṇḍu. Next night the maid of the queen approached Vyāsa with a joyful heart and so she got Vidura as son, who was extremely wise and intelligent. Thus Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Pāṇḍu and Vidura became sons of the same father.* (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapters, 63 and 105).

Up to marriage.

After the birth of Dhṛtarāṣṭra Vyāsa returned to forest and since then Bhīṣma stood in place of father to the children. Bhīṣma performed 'Upanayana' (investiture with Brahma-string) and other rites of the children. Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Pāṇḍu and Vidura had their education in Hastināpura. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 108).

"dhṛtarāṣṭra, pāṇḍu and the wise vidura the three were brought up as sons by bhīṣma, they became well educated, cultured and devotional, respectful towards vows and fasts, and of good physique earnest in work and they became valiant youths. learned the vedas and veda of archery, clubbing, shield and swords play, elephant-keeping, laws of chastisement, veda śāstras, allied works and epics and the purāṇas, pāṇḍu came out expert archer, dhṛtarāṣṭra the strongest of all. none in the three worlds was equal to vidura, in wisdom and knowledge and righteousness." (m.b. ādi parva, chapter 109)."

Because of his blindness Dhṛtarāṣṭra was not anointed as King. It is stated in Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 108 Stanza 25, that in the place of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Pāṇḍu was anointed the King.

Marriage and birth of children.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra came of marriageable age. Bhīṣma had heard about Gāndhārī, daughter of Subala, the King of Gāndhāra, as a beautiful damsel of good qualities. Moreover she had acquired a boon from Śiva that hundred sons would be born to her. Bhīṣma sent a messenger to Subala with a request to give Gāndhārī as wife to Dhṛtarāṣṭra. Subala was not much pleased at the aspect of getting a blind man as son-in-law. Still he thought of the prestige his family would get by a marriage alliance with the kings of the Pūru Dynasty, and finally agreed. Gāndhārī submitted to the will of her father, and to live with a husband who was blind. She tied her eyes with a cloth. Śakuni the son of Subala brought Gāndhārī to Hastināpura, and gave her to Dhṛtarāṣṭra. With the sanction of Bhīṣma their marriage took place.

Once Gāndhārī feasted Vyāsa who came tired with hunger and thirst. The hermit was pleased with her and blessed her to have hundred sons. Gāndhārī became pregnant. But even after two years no delivery took place. She crushed her womb by force and a lump of flesh came out. At that time Vyāsa came there. He cut the lump into hundred pieces and kept them in ghee-pots. Gandhārī had a desire to get a daughter also. Vyāsa who had known it had cut the lump in such a way that there was a small piece in excess. The pots broke by themselves in due course and hundred sons and a daughter were born. The daughter was named Duśśalā. A son named Yuyutsu also was born to Dhṛtarāṣṭra of a Vaiśya woman. Duryodhana was the eldest of the hundred sons. The children grew up. Duśśalā was given in marriage to Jayadratha, the King of Sindhu. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapters 109 to 116).

Till Bhārata-battle.

At this juncture Pāṇḍu incurred a curse from a hermit that he would die if his wife touched him. With that Pāṇḍu retired to forest with his wives. Dhṛtarāṣṭra was grieved at the separation of his brother. Pāṇḍu died in the forest and Mādrī jumped into fire and died with her husband. Dhṛtarāṣṭra asked Vidura to perform their cremation rites. After that Yudhiṣṭhira became King. The Pāṇḍavas became more and more prosperous. This made the heart of Dhṛtarāṣṭra cloudy. He gave sanction to Duryodhana to transfer the Pāṇḍavas to the lac house in Vāraṇāvata. The lac house caught fire and it was rumoured that the Pāṇḍavas died in the lac house fire, and Dhṛtarāṣṭra shed crocodile tears, and ordered for the mourning and oblation to be performed. After the marriage of Pāñcālī, it came to be known that the Pāṇḍavas were alive and that they were living with Drupada. Dhṛtarāṣṭra recalled them and gave them half of the country. The Pāṇḍavas made Indraprastha their capital and began to rule the kingdom. Yudhiṣṭhira performed the sacrifice of Rājasūya (royal consecration). Dhṛtarāṣṭra also took part in the sacrifice.

Duryodhana wanted to challenge Yudhiṣṭhira to a game of dice. Dhṛtarāṣṭra agreed but advised Duryodhana not to live in enmity with the Pāṇḍavas. The game of dice was played, and Yudhiṣṭhira lost everything the Pāṇḍavas had. Dhṛtarāṣṭra called Pāñcālī and told her that she might ask any boon. She requested that her husband Dharmaputra might b{??} exempted from servitude and the Pāṇḍavas made free. Dhṛtarāṣṭra compelled her to ask for more boons. She replied that according to law Vaiśyas were eligible for one boon, Kṣatriya women two boons, Kings three boons and Brāhmaṇas hundred boons, and since she had already taken two boons, she wanted no more. Dhṛtarāṣṭra who was pleased at this reply gave the Pāṇḍavas freedom and returned all their lost wealth.

Duryodhana wanted to challenge the Pāṇḍavas for a game of dice again. Dhṛtarāṣṭra agreed. This time also Yudhiṣṭhira lost the game. The Pāṇḍavas who had lost everything, were ordered to go to forest for twelve years and to live incognito for one year. The Pāṇḍavas went to the forest with Pāñcālī. Dhṛtarāṣṭra was grieved.

After thirteen years the Pāṇḍavas returned. Duryodhana said that not an inch of land would be given to the Pāṇḍavas. Dhṛtarāṣṭra felt sorry at this Śrī Kṛṣṇa came to talk about conciliation. Duryodhana wanted to take him a prisoner. But Dhṛtarāṣṭra opposed it. Śrī Kṛṣṇa showed Dhṛtarāṣṭra his Viśvarūpa (cosmic form) to see which, Kṛṣṇa gave him sight for the time being for which Dhṛtarāṣṭra was very thankful. The Pāṇḍavas and the Kauravas came to Kurukṣetra for Bhārata-battle. Dhṛtarāṣṭra called Sañjaya to him and asked him about the preparations the parties had made for war. Sañjaya gave a true description of the battle arrays of both parties. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva. Sabhā Parva, Vana Parva, and Udyoga Parva).

Dhṛtarāṣṭra and the battle of Bhārata.

The terrible battle began. The heart of Dhṛtarāṣṭra was grieved with sorrow. When Arjuna vowed that he would kill Jayadratha, Dhṛtarāṣṭra cried aloud. When he knew that Śātyaki had destroyed the army of the Kauravas he became dumb with grief. He praised Bhīma’s valour and blamed his sons. When Sañjaya told him about the fall of Karṇa, Dhṛtarāṣṭra fell down unconscious. He rose up again and attended to the noises from the battlefield. He fell down again when he knew that Śalya and Duryodhana were killed. He rose again and cried for a long time. He gathered the women-folk, his people and went to the battlefield. He broke the metal statue of Bhīma and embraced the Pāṇḍavas. He asked Yudhiṣṭhira to do the mourning and offerings for the dead. It was done accordingly. The Pāṇḍavas respected Dhṛtarāṣṭra. But Bhīma scolded them. Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Gāndhārī were greatly depressed and asked Yudhiṣṭhira to permit them to live in forest. Yudhiṣṭhira tried to prevent it. He kissed on the head of Yudhiṣṭhira. Seeing that they did not eat food he asked them to eat. Yudhiṣṭhira saw that they would eat only if he permitted them to live in forest. At last Yudhiṣṭhira agreed. Dhṛtarāṣṭra accepted money from Dharmaputra and performed mourning and offerings for the dead on a large scale (Mahābhārata Droṇa Parva, Karṇa Parva, Strī Parva, Śānti Parva and Āśramavāsika Parva).

Journey to forest and death.

Afterwards Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Gāndharī went to forest. Kunti followed them. All the subjects followed them a long way, crying. Dhṛtarāṣṭra sent them back and entrusted the teacher Kṛpa and Yuyutsu with the Pāṇḍavas. Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Gāndhārī and Kuntī lived on the Ganges. From there they came to Kurukṣetra and lived in the hermitage of Śatayūpā for a time. During that period Nārada visited them. The Pāṇḍavas and the subjects visited them again. Vyāsa also came there. He took Dhṛtarāṣṭra and the rest of them to the river Ganges and evoked the spirits of those who died in the battle. Vyāsa gave Dhṛtarāṣṭra divine eye to see the departed spirits. After this, at the request of Vyāsa they all returned. Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Gāndhārī and Kuntī went to Gaṅgādvāra and performed severe penance and were burnt to death in a wild fire. The relatives put their remains in the Ganges. The spirits of the three—Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Gāndhārī and Kuntī entered the realm of Kubera. (Mahābhārata Āśramavāsika Parva, Svargārohaṇa Parva).

The names of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.

Ājamīḍha, Ambikāsuta, Āmbikeya, Bhārata, Bharataśārdūla, Bharataśreṣṭha, Bharatarṣabha, Bharatasattama, Kaurava, Kauravaśreṣṭha, Kauravarāja, Kauravendra, Kauravya, Kuruśārdūla, Kuruśreṣṭha, Kurūdvaha, Kurunandana, Kururāja, Kuruvaṃśavardhana, Kuruvṛddha, Vaicitravīrya, Prajñācakṣus etc. have been used as synonyms of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.

*) It is stated in Mahābhārata Āśramavāsika Parva, Chapter 31, Stanza 7 that Dhṛtarāṣṭra was born as the incarnation of a Gandharva having the name Dhṛtarāṣṭra. (See under Dhṛtarāṣṭra III).

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