Gandhari: The Virtuous Queen of Hastinapura

Gandhari, a central figure in the Mahabharata, was the queen of Hastinapura and the wife of King Dhritarashtra. Born in the kingdom of Gandhara, she was the daughter of King Subala. Her marriage to Dhritarashtra, who was blind, made her one of the most revered queens in the epic. Gandhari’s life unfolded in the Mahabharata, marked by love, sacrifice, and profound tragedy.

Gandhari’s marriage was not conventional. Upon learning that Dhritarashtra was blind, she chose to blindfold herself for the rest of her life as a sign of solidarity and empathy for her husband. This self-imposed blindness symbolized her unwavering commitment to her spouse.

FatherKing Subala
SonsDuryodhana and 99 others

Marriage to Dhritarashtra

When Dhritarashtra became young, Bhishma suggested selecting princesses from noble lineages for alliance with the Kuru clan. Bhishma was inclined towards Gandhari due to a boon she received for bearing 100 sons. Despite initial hesitation, Gandhari’s father Subala agreed to the alliance with Dhritarashtra, considering the esteemed lineage and conduct of the Kurus.

Upon learning of Dhritarashtra’s blindness and her parents’ agreement to her marriage with him, Gandhari decided to blindfold herself as a sign of devotion to her husband. She resolved to experience only what he could, symbolizing her commitment to sharing in his limitations. Shakuni, Gandhari’s brother, brought her to the Kouravas with abundant wealth.

After being honored by Bhishma, Shakuni returned home. Gandhari impressed the Kurus with her impeccable behavior, attentiveness, and unwavering dedication to her husband, Dhritarashtra.

The Birth of Kauravas

One day, Gandhari received a boon of 100 sons from Vyasa. After some time, she conceived through Dhritarashtra. Gandhari bore the embryo for two years without giving birth and was overcome with grief. (Note: this may be the case of pseudocyesis or false pregnancy, as the most prolonged documented pregnancy is 375 days).

Then she heard that a son had been born to Kunti, as radiant as the morning sun. She lost her patience and violently struck her belly in the birth of a complex mass of flesh. When she was preparing to throw it away, Dvaipayana intervened.

He asked her to bring a hundred pots quickly, fill them with ghee, and sprinkle cool water on this mass of flesh. Sprinkled with water, that mass of flesh divided itself into a hundred parts. Each part of the embryo was only the size of a thumb. As time passed, that mass of flesh gradually became 101 separate parts.

These embryo parts were then placed into the pots, concealed in a secret spot, and carefully guarded. After instructing Subala’s daughter (Gandhari) on when to open the pots, Vyasa made the required arrangements and departed to the Himalayas to engage in his ascetic practices. (Note: This story is similar to the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, which often results in multiple pregnancies.) Within a month, 100 sons and a daughter named Duhshala were born to Gandhari.

Dhritarashtra’s 100 sons were highly skilled in warfare, proficient in Vedic knowledge, wise in governance, and adept in diplomacy. Dhritarashtra married them to wives who matched their qualities. With Gandhari’s consent, he married Duhshala to Jayadratha, the king of Sindhu.

Gandhari’s Deep Connection with Her Sons:

Despite the ominous circumstances of the Kauravas’ birth, Gandhari was a devoted mother. Her deep love and concern for her sons, including the ambitious and flawed Duryodhana, were evident throughout the Mahabharata. She shaped their destinies, though her efforts couldn’t completely steer them away from the path of conflict.

Gandhari’s Role in the Kurukshetra War:

As the events unfolded toward the Kurukshetra War, Gandhari found herself in deep anguish. Despite her maternal instincts warning against the impending disaster, she couldn’t deter her sons from their destructive path. She became a witness to the escalating tensions and, eventually, the devastating war that claimed the lives of many, including her sons.

Gandhari’s Grief and Vow of Silence:

The aftermath of the Kurukshetra War left Gandhari in profound grief. Having lost all her sons and facing the destruction of her lineage, she directed her anger and sorrow toward Lord Krishna. She cursed Krishna and the Yadava clan in a decisive moment, foretelling their destruction.

Stricken with remorse for her words, Gandhari adopted a vow of silence for the rest of her life. This penance was a means of atonement for her curse and a way to withdraw from a world that had witnessed immense suffering.

Gandhari’s Major Saying:

Gandhari’s utterances, especially during the Kurukshetra War and its aftermath reflects her deep emotions. One of her significant sayings is directed at Lord Krishna. In the face of overwhelming loss and grief, Gandhari uttered a curse that had far-reaching consequences:

“O Krishna, may the Yadava race perish like my sons did. May it be exterminated at the hands of each other, being cursed by me due to the death of my sons.”

This curse, while spoken in a moment of intense anguish, unfolded as a tragic prophecy, leading to the eventual demise of the Yadava clan.

Gandhari’s Virtues and Complexity:

Gandhari’s character in the Mahabharata is complex and multifaceted. Her virtues, sacrifices, and moments of inner strength are evident, yet the inevitability of tragedy also marks her journey. Some key aspects of Gandhari’s character include:

Unwavering Devotion:

Gandhari’s decision to blindfold herself in solidarity with her blind husband showcases her unwavering devotion. This act of self-imposed darkness became a symbol of her commitment to share in Dhritarashtra’s limitations.

Vow of Silence:

Gandhari’s vow of silence after the war is a powerful symbol of penance and withdrawal from a world tainted by violence and loss. It underscores her commitment to atone for the consequences of her words and actions.


Gandhari’s inclusion among the central characters of the Mahabharata highlights the intricate web of relationships, sacrifices, and consequences that define the epic. Her journey is a poignant exploration of love, loss, and the inevitable tragedy that unfolds in the face of destiny.

Gandhari’s character remains etched in the annals of Indian mythology as a symbol of devotion, maternal complexity, and the profound impact of one’s choices in the life.

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We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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