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Duryodhan

Other names: Dooryodhan, Duryodhana

King Dhritrashtra of Kuru Vansh (a family name) had a hundred sons. Duryodhan was the eldest of these. He was an avatar of the demon Kali who had bewitched the soul of Nal (King of Nishadh kingdom and husband of Damyanti), forcing him to gamble away his kingdom.The ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, an avatar, avatara or avataram, most commonly refers to the incarnation (bodily manifestation) of a higher being (deva), or the Supreme Being (God) onto planet Earth. …Kali (Demon) is the reigning lord of Kali Yuga and nemesis of Sri Kalki, the 10th and final avatar of Lord Vishnu. …Nala is a character in Hindu mythology. …

 

When Dhritarashtra’s queen Gandhari’s pregnancy continued for an unusually long period of time, she beat her womb in frustration, in envy of Kunti, the queen of Pandu, who had given birth to Yudhisthir, the eldest son of the Pandavas. Due to the actions of Gandhari, a hardened mass of grey-colored flesh emerged from her womb. Gandhari was very shocked and upset at this. She worshipped Vyas, the great sage who had blessed her with one hundred sons, to redeem his words. Vyas divided the flesh ball into one hundred and one equal pieces, and put each of them in pots of ghee, which were sealed and buried in the earth for one year. At the end of the year, when the first pot was opened, it was Duryodhan who emerged.

 

Duryodhan means “hard to conquer”. His chariot bore a flag depicting a hooded cobra. He had a sister named Dushaala. Duryodhan’s body was said to be made out of lightning, and he was extremely powerful. He was revered by his younger brothers, especially Dushasan. Learning martial skills from his gurus, Kripa, Drona and Balram, he was extremely skilful with the mace as his weapon, and the equal of Bhima, the powerful Pandava, in its use. As they were born in Kuru vansh, all the brothers got the best education, along with their cousins, the Pandavas.

She worshipped Vyas, the great sage who had blessed her with one hundred sons, to redeem his words. Vyas divided the flesh ball into one hundred and one equal pieces, and put each of them in pots of ghee, which were sealed and buried in the earth for one year. At the end of the year, when the first pot was opened, it was Duryodhan who emerged.

At the martial exhibition where the Kaurava and Pandava princes demonstrated their skills before their elders, their guru Drona and the people of the kingdom, a great and effulgent warrior, Karna, appeared and challenged Arjun, who was considered by Drona to be the best of the warrior princes. But Karna was humiliated when Kripa asked him to ascertain his caste, as it would be inappropriate for unequals to compete.

 

Duryodhan immediately came to the defense of Karna and made him the king of Angadesh so that he could be regarded as Arjun’s equal. Karna pledged his allegiance and friendship to Duryodhan, as Duryodhan had rescued him from a source of continuing humiliation and hardship for him. Neither of them knew that Karna was in fact Kunti’s eldest son, born to Surya.

 

A very intense bond of friendship developed between the two, and Duryodhan became very close to Karna. It is held that if there was one good quality in Duryodhan, it was his deep affection for his friend Karna. It is said that, Duryodhan never shed a tear even when his real brothers got killed on the battlefield, but when Karna, his beloved friend, was killed he could not be consoled.

Karna, appeared and challenged Arjun, who was considered by Drona to be the best of the warrior princes. But Karna was humiliated when Kripa asked him to ascertain his caste, as it would be inappropriate for unequals to compete.

Although loved by all his family, Duryodhan and most of his brothers are seen as inferior to the Pandavas in their adherence to virtue and duty, and respect of elders. Duryodhan was mentored by his maternal uncle Shakuni, who desired the elevation of his sister’s children at the expense of the Pandavas. It was Shakuni who masterminded most of Duryodhan’s plots to humiliate and kill the Pandavas.

 

Duryodhan and his cousin Bhima had learnt the art of mace from Krishna’s elder brother Balram. Bhima had expertise in the art of mace and so Duryodhan was envious of him. He once tried to kill Bhima by poisoning his food. He had the Laksha-griha (house made of lac) built so that he could have it set on fire one night and thereby kill the Pandavas sleeping inside it, but somehow the Pandavas came to know about this plan and saved themselves from this dastardly plot. After this, Duryodhan, along with his uncle Shakuni organized a dishonest game of dice and by this means, deprived the Pandavas of everything by cheating them. Pandavas had even put their wife Draupadi up as a prize in the game and lost her also to the Kauravas. When Dushasan dragged Draupadi into the courtroom, Duryodhan forced her to sit in his lap, in order to humiliate the Pandavas. Bhima was so angry at this demeaning gesture that he vowed to one-day break Duryodhan’s thighbones with his mace.

 

According to the terms and conditions laid down in the game, Pandavas had to live in exile by residing in the forest, and live incognito for one year. After completing their punishment, when they returned to their kingdom and asked for their kingdom back, Duryodhan would not even agree to give them a piece of their land the size of a needle’s eye. Shri Krishna, as the messenger of the Pandavas, tried to convince Duryodhan but did not succeed. At the end, the war of Mahabharata was fought on the grounds of Kurukshetra.

When Dushasan dragged Draupadi into the courtroom, Duryodhan forced her to sit in his lap, in order to humiliate the Pandavas. Bhima was so angry at this demeaning gesture that he vowed to one-day break Duryodhan’s thighbones with his mace.

Later Duryodhan went to the city of Dwarka, seeking Krishna’s support in the battle that was to be fought against the Pandavas, but he found Krishna asleep. So, he sat close to the head of Krishna’s bed, waiting for Krishna to wake up. Arjun arrived there soon after and, also finding Krishna asleep, he too waited for Krishna to wake up, but he chose to sit at the foot of Krishna’s bed. When Krishna woke up, he first saw Arjun and asked him, “What do you want?” “Hold on,” thundered Duryodhan, fearing that Arjun would ask for what he had come to Dwarka for.  “I came here first so you must ask me that question first.” “ Perhaps you did,” said Krishna sweetly, “Nevertheless, I am asking Arjun the question because when I woke up I laid my eyes on him first. You should have had the humility, or the intelligence, to sit at my feet if you were seeking favors from me. But do not fear; you too shall leave with what you desire.” Then turning to Arjun, Krishna asked, “What do you want – my army or me?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Arjun replied, “You, Krishna, only you.” Duryodhan heaved an audible sigh of relief, for he had come to Dwarka to ask for Krishna’s military support, and, as Krishna promised, he got what he desired.  But, in the end, Duryodhan lost the battle, despite having eleven armies on his side. The Pandavas only had seven but with Krishna on their side, they also had intellectual and spiritual capital that allowed them to skillfully maneuver their limited material resources so as to obtain maximum and definitive results.

After a couple of days of fighting, most of the Kauravas had been destroyed with the exception of Duryodhan and a few others. Queen Gandhari was distraught when she heard that all her sons except Duryodhan had been slain. Despite knowing that Duryodhan was wicked and his cause unrighteous, she decided to help him win. Asking him to bathe and enter her tent naked, she prepared to use the great mystic power of her eyes, blind-folded for many years out of respect for her blind husband, to make his body invincible to all attack in every part. But when Krishna, who was returning after paying the queen a visit, ran into a naked Duryodhan approaching his mother’s tent, he mockingly admonished him for his intent to appear nude before his own mother. Knowing of Gandhari’s intentions, Krishna criticized Duryodhan, who sheepishly covered his groin before entering the tent.

When Krishna woke up, he first saw Arjun and asked him, “What do you want?” “Hold on,” thundered Duryodhan, fearing that Arjun would ask for what he had come to Dwarka for.  “I came here first so you must ask me that question first.” “ Perhaps you did,” said Krishna sweetly, “Nevertheless, I am asking Arjun the question because when I woke up I laid my eyes on him first. You should have had the humility, or the intelligence, to sit at my feet if you were seeking favors from me. But do not fear; you too shall leave with what you desire.” Then turning to Arjun, Krishna asked, “What do you want – my army or me?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Arjun replied, “You, Krishna, only you.” Duryodhan heaved an audible sigh of relief, for he had come to Dwarka to ask for Krishna’s military support, and, as Krishna promised, he got what he desired.  But, in the end, Duryodhan lost the battle, despite having eleven armies on his side. The Pandavas only had seven but with Krishna on their side,

When Gandhari’s eyes fell upon Duryodhan, they mystically made each part of his body invincible. She was shocked to see that Duryodhan had covered his groin, which was thus left unprotected by her mystic power. Duryodhan ran away once he saw the last of his men being slain by the Pandavas. Then, the Pandavas set out to hunt down Duryodhan, but could not find him as he had hidden himself at the bottom of a lake.

 

Upon finding him, the brothers stood on the shore, taunting him and challenging him to come out and fight like a man. Duryodhan, stung at the mockery, could not help responding that it was unfair for them to challenge him all together, as he had no weapon and was all alone. He then said that he would be willing to fight as long as they provided him with a weapon and fought him one by one.

 

Upright, kind-hearted and generous Yudhishtir agreed to give him the weapon of his choice as well as the combatant of his choice and the entire kingdom back if he won. Lord Krishna was furious at this foolish offer, risking another game of chance. Of course, Krishna also knew that because Duryodhan was the first among equals in the use of the mace and was also mostly invulnerable, there was a real risk that Bhima might not have a chance against him. So he advised Bhima to strike Duryodhan below his navel, knowing that this part of Duryodhan’s body was not invincible. Even though this was against the rules, Lord Krishna explained to a reluctant Bhima that even the gods had to resort to trickery when they fought the demons to ensure that good won over evil. In this way, Bhima was able to secure a resounding victory over Duryodhan, and fulfil his vow to break Duryodhan’s thighbones for the insult to Draupadi and then to kill him.

 

All the Kauravas were killed in this war. Duryodhan was one of the main reasons why the war of Mahabharata was fought. His vices of greed and jealousy resulted in his battles against his peace-loving and gentle brothers, and ended with the death of his entire clan.

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