DID QUEEN GANDHARI REALLY LOVE HER HUSBAND AND ACTUALLY DELIVER 101 CHILDREN?
Shakuni was the only surviving brother of Gandhari. Earlier, I wrote a blog on Shakuni, explaining why he was an admirable man, not a crafty conspirator. Now let us talk about Gandhari, the so-called mother of 101 Kaurav siblings.
After losing his chance to ascend the throne due to his Bachelor status, Bhishma became a maniac about getting the blind King Dhritarashtra to marry as many women as possible and beget the maximum number of children.
The moment he came to know that Lord Shiva had given a boon to Gandhari that she would become the mother of 100 sons, he attacked the tiny kingdom of Gandhar. He killed all the Princes except Shakuni and abducted all the Princesses, including Gandhari.
He brought them to Hastinapur and got all of them married to Dhritarashtra. Gandhari being the eldest and the most accomplished woman, became the principal queen.
Folklore says that, due to her love for her blind husband, Gandhari voluntarily blindfolded herself for life. I find it hard to believe. Gandhari was an accomplished princess. But, most unfortunately for her, Bhishma had subjugated her father, murdered her brothers by painful starvation, abducted all her sisters like a herd of animals and were forcibly married to a blind man.
Could any woman in her place fall so much in love with that blind man that she would voluntarily subject herself to the life-long misery of remaining blindfolded?
I guess it was her protest and not love. As a woman in an alien kingdom, she was helpless to protest against the severe injustice meted out to her.
The only silent protest she could lodge was to refuse to ever cast her eyes on her tormentors, including her husband, by blindfolding herself.
Firstly, she was scared of darkness from her childhood. The blindfold had thrown her into the dungeon of perpetual darkness.
As a result, she must have lost her eyesight too in the long run.
It is of topical interest to know that some ophthalmologists experimented by keeping 14 healthy persons blindfolded for only 24 hours in modern times.
When doctors removed their blindfolds, they were in a miserable state. They kept experiencing various kinds of hallucinations. They lost their sense of taste and smell; because the blindfold restricted the airflow through their nostrils.
Blindfolded for life long, Gandhari could have gone blind. The optical nerves connected to her eyes, tissues and muscles around it would have withered, remaining un-used over a long time.
During the epic battle of Kurukshetra, when Bhishma was lying on his death bed made of arrows, Shakuni came to Gandhari. He earnestly requested Gandhari to remove her blindfold only for once and cast her eyes on the dying Bhishma – the cause of her lifelong miseries. But she refused to comply.
Probably she was aware that she could not use her eyes anymore.
As a person, Gandhari was a super-intelligent and highly educated lady. She used to help her husband solve tricky problems whenever needed. When Duryodhana and Shakuni tricked the Pandavas to lose everything they had, they were asked to go into exile for 12 years.
Dhritarashtra remained mute. At that point, Gandhari went to Dhritarashtra as the ruling King and appealed to him to banish Duryodhana from his kingdom for his evil deeds. She urged that he must deliver justice to a wrongdoer as the ruling King, even though the culprit was his son.
She argued her case brilliantly and forwarded such razor-sharp logic. Ultimately Dhritarashtra had to admit that he had done a grave injustice by not containing and punishing Duryodhana. He had to accept that he had failed as a King. He forwarded a cowardly excuse to Gandhari, saying that he could not punish his son due to his blind fatherly affection.
He added that God would not spare Duryodhana for his misdeeds, and he was ready to perish with his son. As a woman, Gandhari could not do anything more. Those days a woman did not have the right to go against her husband’s decision.
The epic says that Gandhari was the mother of 101 children. I have my doubts. The first wife of Feodor Vassilyev (1707 – 1782) held an unbeaten world record for bearing the maximum number of children.
They lived in Shuya, Russia. She delivered 69 children and probably died in the process.
She had 27 confinement between 1725 and 1765 and produced sixteen pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets.
Today scientists are even challenging this record.
Duryodhana had many wives, thanks to Bhishma. He bred like a rabbit. I guess that whosoever out of the queens delivered a child, Gandhari got the credit for them.
Another lesser-known theory propagated was that ancient Indian doctors used to know how to grow babies artificially in earthen pots.
We never will know the truth. But it is medically proven that no single woman can survive the trauma of 101 deliveries.
I conclude that Gandhari was a highly talented, educated and spirited lady. But for her status as a woman those days, she would have been a brilliant ruler. So she deserved much more recognition than she got.