Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Vidura 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 Vidura

General information.

Vidura was a superhuman being, very famous in the story of Mahābhārata, as a brother of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, as a man of colossal intelligence who had been closely watching the goings and comings of the Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas, as the adviser of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, and as a man of immense learning and wisdom.

Incarnation af Dharmadeva.

There is a story in Mahā-Bhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 107, which describes Vidura as born from a portion of Dharmadeva. The story is given below.

Long ago there was a hermit called Māṇḍavya in India. As he was standing in deep meditation near his hermitage, the men of the King chased some thieves and came to the place where the hermit stood. The robbers placed the stolen property near the hermit and ran away. The king’s men caught the hermit, and the thieves. The King ordered them to be placed on a trident. The thieves died on the trident. But Māṇḍavya was not dead. The King sawed the trident and got Māṇḍavya down. The hermit went to Dharmadeva and asked him what his blame was for suffering the punishment of the trident on him. Dharmadeva replied that the punishment was inflicted for a cruel deed he had done in his childhood. He had caught some flies and made a bunch of them by piercing them with the rib of a coconut-palm leaf. But Māṇḍavya argued that Dharmadeva was not right in punishing him because the Śāstras and rules of righteousness said that mistakes committed by boys below the age of twelve could not be considered to be sins. Further he cursed Dharmadeva that he would take birth on the earth from the womb of a Śūdrā. Accordingly Dharmadeva took birth from the womb of the servant of Ambikā and Ambālikā.


Vidura was born as the brother of Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Pāṇḍu. (For detailed story see under Dhṛtarāṣṭra I, para 2).

Up to marriage.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Pāṇḍu and Vidura spent their younger days in Hastināpura as inseparable brothers. Their teacher was Bhīṣma. Vidura learned the Vedas, Śāstras, Purāṇas, Itihāsas etc. also, along with the education given to a prince such as archery, club-fight, sword-fight, wrestling, controlling elephants etc. He understood that to be righteous was far better than fighting. It is stated in Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 108, that Vidura got the sense of righteousness, and education in fighting, at the same time.

Childhood ended. As Vidura was born to a Brahmin by a Śūdrā woman he had no right to become King. When he grew up, the duty to find a wife for him fell on Bhīṣma. At that time a damsel born to a Brahmin by a Śūdrā woman was being brought up in the palace of King Devaka. With the permission of Devaka, Bhīṣma brought the girl and gave her in marriage to Vidura. It is stated in Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 114, that sons and daughters were born to the couple.

Partiality towards the Pāṇḍavas.

Vidura was the most intelligent and wisest man of his time, and he always favoured righteousness. Though he viewed the Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas with equal favour, in his heart he felt some partiality towards the Pāṇḍavas, because they were virtuous, whereas the Kauravas were becoming more and more wicked. As this partiality arose from his sense of righteousness, nobody could blame Vidura for this. His aim was the prosperity of the Lunar dynasty of Kings.

Many ill omens were seen at the time of the birth of Duryodhana. Vidura understood that if that infant grew up he would be a comet to the Lunar dynasty. It is mentioned in Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 115, that Vidura advised Dhṛtarāṣṭra that it would be better for him to throw away that infant.

The death of Pāṇḍu drew Vidura closer to the Pāṇḍavas. Vidura took the lead in performing the funeral rites and other ceremonies which followed. The Pāṇḍavas. were very sad and miserable at the death of their father. It was at this time that Duryodhana poisoned Bhīmasena, tied him with a rope and threw him into the river Ganges. Bhīmasena was carried to the world of nāgas (serpents). Kuntī felt grieved at the loss of her son Bhīma, but Vidura consoled her.

It was due to the wisdom of Vidura that the Pāṇḍavas escaped from the disaster in the lac-house. As soon as Duryodhana had completed the lac-house, Vidura understood the deception lying hidden under it. and he informed the Pāṇḍavas of everything about it. Moreover he sent a man named Khanaka and made an underground passage from the lac-house. When the lac-house was burnt down, the Pāṇḍavas escaped by the under-ground passage and reached the banks of the Ganges. Vidura had sent a ferryman secretly to take them to the other side of the Ganges. When Bhīṣma got the news that the Pāṇḍavas had been burnt to death in the lac-house he became very sad. It is mentioned in Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 149, that Vidura informed Bhīṣma secretly that the Pāṇḍavas were not dead.

After this event the Pāṇḍavas come into the scene only at the Svayaṃvara (marriage) of Pāñcālī. Bhīṣma and Droṇa proposed that the Pāṇḍavas should be brought back and be given half of the kingdom. Vidura, by his arugments convinced Dhṛtarāṣṭra that the proposal of Bhīṣma and Droṇa was correct. Dhṛtarāṣṭra asked Vidura to bring the Pāṇḍavas back. Vidura went to the city of Drupada and brought the Pāṇḍavas back and consoled their mother Kuntī. After this Yudhiṣṭhira performed Rājasūya (sacrifice of royal consecration). Vidura took part in it and took the charge of financial part of the sacrifice. It was after this that Duryodhana challenged Yudhiṣṭhira for a game of dice. Vidura saw beforehand that this move on the part of Duryodhana was dangerous. So he talked forcibly against this, and gave warning to all concerned. As Duryodhana did not agree with Vidura, he was scolded. But Duryodhana was firm and the game was conducted. Pāñcālī was harassed by means of stripping and the Pāṇḍavas went to the forest. It is stated in Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 3, that Vidura had been witnessing all these scenes with wet eyes.

Separated from the Pāṇḍavas.

When the Pāṇḍavas were driven to the forest, Dhṛtarāṣṭra felt sorry. He became more afraid of the people than he was sorry for the Pāṇḍavas. He understood that his subjects would unite and rise against his sons. He called Vidura and asked him for a remedy. Vidura who was full of impatience, made a speech against the wickedness of the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra and advised him to forsake his own sons and to bring the Pāṇḍavas back and give them the kingdom. Dhṛtarāṣṭra did not like this approach. He said that Vidura was partial to the Pāṇḍavas and asked him to go away from the palace. Vidura became grieved at this. He followed the Pāṇḍavas, and walking a long distance, reached the forest Kāmyaka and met the Pāṇḍavas.

When Vidura had gone Dhṛtarāṣṭra felt miserable. He sent for Vidura and when he returned Dhṛtarāṣṭra begged for pardon. Vidura again became the adviser of Dhṛtarāṣṭra. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 6).

Adviser of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.

The advice of Vidura is famous in Mahābhārata. The main duty of Vidura was to console Dhṛtarāṣṭra by speaking about righteousness when he became troubled in mind because of the constant quarrels between his sons and the Pāṇḍavas. Vidura fulfilled his duty well. Duryodhana was firm on the point that not a dot of land would be given to the Pāṇḍavas. Śrī Kṛṣṇa came to Hastināpura as mediator. Duryodhana showed disrespect to him. Vidura said in strong words that it was wrong on the part of Duryodhana to have done so and compelled Dhṛtarāṣṭra to show due respect and hospitality to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Accordingly Dhṛtarāṣṭra welcomed Śrī Kṛṣṇa and showed respect and hospitality. Knowing this, Duryodhana and his brothers tried to make Śrī Kṛṣṇa a captive. Vidura harshly scolded them for this attempt. Seeing all these impudent actions on the part of his sons, Dhṛtarāṣṭra became distressed. Vidura consoled him by good exhortations. He told Dhṛtarāṣṭra about the transience of life and the importance of the soul. When the battle was fiercely going on in the battleground of Kurukṣetra, Vidura re ained with Dhrtarāṣṭra consoling him and giving him good advice. The death of Bhīṣma was an unbearable grief to Vidura. He took part in the funeral of Bhīṣma. He himself placed the body on the funeral pyre. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 168, Stanza 11).


When Vidura failed in his attempt to ward off a pitched battle between the Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas he felt extremely miserable. Without taking part in the battle, he started on a pilgrimage. Getting the news at Prabhāsaksetra about the end of the battle, he went to the basin of river Yamunā. On the way he heard the news of the passing away of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, from Uddhava. Before death Śrī Kṛṣṇa had revealed that Vidura had heard Uddhavagītā from Maitreya. This book which is in the form of a conversation between Vidura and Maitreya contains the talk between Kapila and Devahūti. Description of the line of Manus, sacrifice of Dakṣa, story of Dhruva, story of Pṛthu, story of Purañjana etc. were the subjects of the talk. (Bhāgavata, 3—4).


The Bhārata-battle came to an end. The Kauravas were exterminated. Efforts were begun to establish law and order. In all these efforts Vidura was a help to the Pāṇḍavas. Still he spent most of his time with the old Dhṛtarāṣṭra. Yudhiṣṭhira came to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and both embraced each other. Seeing this Vidura cried aloud. Vidura advised Yudhiṣṭhira how to carry on the administration of the new government. After this he decided to go to the forest to spend his last days. Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Gāndhārī, Kuntī, Vidura and Śakuni went to the forest. The Pāṇḍavas tried in vain to prevent them from going. When Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Gāndhārī, Kuntī, Vidura, Sañjaya and others started for the forest, even Bhīmasena cried aloud. Pāṇḍavas and the people of the city went along with them up to the river Ganges. On the bank of the Ganges near the hermitage of Śatayūpa, a hermitage was erected and Vidura and the others lived there.

They lived there for nearly six years. The Pāṇḍavas became unable to bear the separation from their elders. Once Dharmaputra dreamt about his mother. Next day the Pāṇḍavas went to the banks of the Ganges. Pāñcālī, Subhadrā, Uttarā and many people of the city followed them. They went to the Śatayūpa-hermitage and saw Dhṛtarāṣṭra and the others. But the great Vidura was not there. When asked about it he got the reply that having become abstemious and having no more desires he was wandering about. Yudhiṣṭhira was greatly troubled.

Next day at dawn when Yudhiṣṭhira went to bathe in the Ganges, on the way he saw Vidura sitting in contemplation with a stone in his mouth. Yudhiṣṭhira stood with joined palms before the lean and weak form of that sage and said "Look, Dharmaputra bows before you." He repeated this several times. But there was no change in Vidura. Yudhiṣṭhira’s disappointment did not last long. For, in a short while Dharmaputra saw that a divine radiance emanated from the body of Vidura and passed on to his body and that the body of Vidura fell lifeless on the ground. This union took place because both Vidura and Yudhiṣṭhira were portions of Dharmadeva. After this Dharmaputra made preparations to burn the body of Vidura. Then an ethereal voice said "Vidura is abstemious. His body should not be burned." Dharmaputra went to the hermitage and informed all, about the death of Vidura. (Mahābhārata Āśramavāsika Parva, Chapters 26 to 28).

Mention is made in Mahābhārata, Svargārohaṇa Parva, Chapter 5, Stanza 22, that Vidura entered Svarga (heaven) and stays there in the form of Dharmadeva.

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