Sadhguru: Dhritarashtra was blind by nature – his wife Gandhari was blind by choice. He was desperate for her to have a child before his brothers’ wives had one, because the firstborn of the new generation would become the king. He whispered all kinds of endearments in Gandhari’s ear so that she would somehow bear him a son. Gandhari became pregnant. Months rolled by, nine turned into ten, eleven – still no delivery. They became anxious. Then they got the news – Pandu’s first son, Yudhishthira, was born. Dhritarashtra and Gandhari went into a depression.
An Ominous Birth
Since Yudhishthira was born first, naturally, he would become the king. Eleven, twelve months went by, and Gandhari still had not delivered. She said, “What is this? Is this dead or alive? Is this human or is this a beast?” Out of frustration, she beat her stomach, but still nothing happened. Then she asked one of her servants to bring a stick and beat her stomach. After that, she aborted, and a dark piece of flesh came out. The moment people saw it, they were terrified because it was not like human flesh – there was something evil and ominous about it.
Suddenly, the whole city of Hastinapur was horrified because they heard terrible sounds – jackals were screaming; wild animals walked the streets; bats were flying in the day time. The signs were clear that something wrong was going to happen. The sages who observed this turned away from Hastinapur. The news spread that the sages had all left. Vidura came and told Dhritarashtra, “We are heading for big trouble.” Dhritarashtra was so anxious to have a child that he said, “Leave it.” And because he could not see, he asked, “What has happened? Why is everyone screaming, and what are all these sounds?”
100 Pots, 100 Sons
Then Gandhari called Vyasa. Once, when Sage Vyasa had come from a long journey and Gandhari had tended to his wounded feet and had taken care of him very well, he had promised her, “Whatever you wish, I will make it yours.” She had said, “I want 100 sons.” He had said, “Fine, you will have 100 sons.” Now, after the abortion, she called Vyasa and said, “What is this? You blessed me with 100 sons, but instead, I deliver a lump of flesh that does not even look human – it is something else. Discard it in the jungle. Bury it somewhere.”
Vyasa said, “Till now, nothing I have said has ever gone wrong, nor is it going to go wrong now. Bring that piece of whatever.” He took it into the cellar and asked them to bring 100 earthen pots, sesame oil, and different kinds of herbs. He cut this piece of flesh into 100 pieces and put them in the pots, sealed them, and kept them in the cellar. Then he noticed a small piece was left. He said, “Bring me one more pot. You will have 100 sons and one daughter.” He put this small piece in the additional pot, sealed it, and also kept it in the cellar. Another year went by. That is why it is said Gandhari was pregnant for two years – one year in her womb, one year in the cellar.
The Boy with Serpent Eyes
After a year passed, the first pot broke, and out of it emerged a huge baby boy with serpent eyes. That means he did not blink – his eyes were steady, unseeing, and straight. Again, ominous sounds and signs occurred; what should happen in the night happened in the day. The blind Dhritarashtra felt something was wrong and asked Vidura, “What is happening? Something is wrong. Is my son born? Please tell me.” Vidura said, “Yes, you have a son.” Slowly, all the other pots started hatching – all the sons came out, and from one pot a little girl.
Vidura said, “You have 100 sons and one daughter. But I am telling you – have your first son killed.” Dhritarashtra said, “What, you ask me to have my firstborn killed? How is that?” Vidura said, “If you have your firstborn killed, you will be doing a great service to yourself, to the Kuru clan, and to humanity. And you will still have 100 children – 99 sons and one girl. They will be harmless without this firstborn. With him, they will be the destruction of the world as we know it.”
In the meantime, Gandhari picked up Duryodhana, their firstborn. She did not hear all these sounds. She did not feel all these omens. She was ecstatic that her first son was born – a huge baby. She was eager to nurture him and make him grow. Then Vidura said, “The wise have always said an individual may be sacrificed for the good of the family, a family for the good of the village, a village for the good of the country. Even the world itself may be sacrificed for the sake of the immortal soul.”
“Oh, my brother, this monstrous child of yours has come from the depths of hell to corrupt and destroy the soul of mankind. Kill him now. I swear, his brothers will be harmless and you can enjoy them – 99 princes! But him, you must not leave alive.” But Dhritarashtra’s attachment to his own flesh and blood was way bigger than his wisdom. So Duryodhana grew up with his 100 siblings in the palace of Hastinapur, while the Pandavas grew up in the forest.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published in Isha Forest Flower, November 2015.