Long before a bitter curse was spoken, before the war for righteousness was won, a girl made a choice. What went on through her mind when she made her choice? Why did she decide to blindfold herself and share her husband’s plight? The girl could have been the eyes of the blind king. She could have become his trusted advisor and the most powerful woman in the Sapt Sindhu. Yet, she chose not to tread upon that path. She gave it all up in the blink of an eye— a blink that she never quite got to finish.
Perhaps the girl knew that long after she made her decision, after The Sage gave her a hundred sons (and a daughter) from a ball of flesh, after spending her entire life following the ways of Dharma— she would be rewarded. The girl, now a woman, spent seventeen days praying—not for the victory of her sons, but for righteousness to win. But after seventeen days of seeing her sons’ blood spill on that cursed land, she’d had enough. So she called him, her oldest, her most beloved, on the eighteenth day. With the power of all her penance, devotion, love, grief, and which ultimately turned into anger—Gandhari untied the silk cloth from behind her head and let her gaze fall on her last living son.
Eighteen days of blood, pain, and loss, and the Kurukshetra War finally came to an end. What happened to her last son? Gandhari heard someone mumbling, and it brought her to a stop. The words that followed felt like a blow to her stomach. “How are we going to tell Gandhari that in the end, all of her sons died?”
She couldn’t get herself to move. She might have had a hundred sons, but that didn’t mean she didn’t love them equally. Her heart kept breaking as that question played over and over in her head. Her lady-in-waiting finds her and tells her that she should be at the throne.
“Would you tell me something?” Gandhari asked the lady. She accepted, saying that she would answer anything Her Majesty wanted to know.
“How did he die?” Her mouth was trembling, and her voice was barely audible. She was clearly on the verge of tears, but she continued. “How did Duryodhana die when I gave him the power he needed?” The lady couldn’t get herself to speak about it, but after a moment, she realised what she had promised.
“At the war, there was a fierce battle, ensured by Lord Krishna. When Duryodhana came to you, the Lord persisted and convinced him to keep on clothes below waist level since, in a mace fight, it is not allowed to hit below it. However, he told Bhima to hit Duryodhana’s thigh. Not having the same strength his upper body did, the blow was hard enough to kill him.”
Anger started to bubble inside her, and sitting on her throne didn’t make the thoughts go away. What can she possibly do with these riches if what matters the most to her is gone? And what can she possibly do to the man who ensured it when he is a Lord?
“Your Majesty, you have a visitor.” One of her servants announced. She nodded, telling him to let the person in.
“My Lady, Gandhari,” her head jerked up at the voice. It was undoubtedly that of Krishna. The anger she’d felt resurfaced, just as intensely. She didn’t wish to hear a single word come out of his mouth, not anymore. He might’ve done good for many, but right now, she was focused on how he had wronged her.
“My Lady, I come here to seek your blessings. I am bound for my kingdom Dwaraka, but I couldn’t leave-” he said, but was interrupted by Gandhari.
“Blessings? What makes you think I will bless you? You killed my children, you ensured it. Yet you think I hold you in high enough regard to bless you!” Gandhari let the anger roll out of her. Before he could speak another word, Gandhari said, “You came here for a blessing, but I choose to curse you. Just the way I lost my sons, you will lose your entire clan. The Yadu dynasty will cease to exist, and there would be nothing the Lord could possibly do about it. Perhaps then, you might begin to understand my agony.” Her voice then dropped to a low murmur, “If it weren’t for you, they would still be here, I would still have them.”
A moment of silence took over the court, and she believed he had left, but then she heard, “I did make several attempts to prevent it, but it was Duryodhana who refused to listen.”
“Such blatant lies! It’s because of you that Duryodhana is dead. You were the one who told him that it’s not allowed to be hit below the waist, so he would need only upper body strength. You were the one who told Bhima he should hit my son on his thigh. You were the one who could’ve prevented all of this from happening, and yet, you didn’t. And now you dare tell me it’s my son’s fault?”
She was still seething with anger and resentment; she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs. She wanted to take off her blindfold and drain his body of life. “I accept your curse,” she heard, and couldn’t help but be surprised. The receding footsteps were the only thing she heard for a while, and then, all fell silent. She broke down right then, not knowing what else to do.
The days that followed didn’t get any better. She didn’t want to eat; neither could she fall asleep. She wondered if she should have stopped her sons from going to war. Regret filled her day and night, and yet, she fought through each day.
In the end, nothing was enough. No person or thing could reverse the damage and the pain. Regret for words spoken and for actions made was all she had left— until she decided to leave. The day she stepped outside the palace gates to spend her last days in the forest with her husband and sister-in-law, she turned back and lingered for a moment longer than the others.
Why take my word on any of this, though? After all, I am the woman who lost all hundred of her sons. All those years ago, should I have chosen differently?
Written by Rajika Ghose and Kaavya Azad for MTTN
Edited by Tulika Somani for MTTN
Featured Image by Bhavna Choudhury for MTTN