(Last Updated on : 09/10/2012)
Duryodhana was the eldest son of Gandhari and Dhritarashtra
. The literal meaning of Duryodhana is 'hard to conquer'. He is believed to be an avatar of demon Kali who had bewitched the soul of Nala
, forcing him to gamble away his kingdom. His younger brothers revered him. He was also an expert with mace weapons. Shakuni is considered to be the mentor of Duryodhana.
According to the myths, the birth of Duryodhana and other Kauravas was unique. Once Vyasa blessed Gandhari that she shall give birth to hundred children. When Gandhari became pregnant, her pregnancy continued for an unusually long period of time, she would beat her womb in frustration and would envy Kunti
, the queen of Pandu
, who had given birth to three of the five Pandavas.
Due to her actions, a hardened mass of flesh emerged from her womb. Gandhari was devastated, and worshipped Vyasa to help her out of this problem.
Vyasa then divided the flesh ball into one hundred equal pieces, and put them in pots of ghee, which were sealed and buried into the earth for one year. At the end of the year, the first pot was opened from which Duryodhana emerged followed by other Kauravas.
When Duryodhana was born, he seemed to be surrounded by bad omen. The elders of the kingdom like Vidhura
advised Dhritarashtra to abandon the child. Infact, Vidhura predicted a violent end of the dynasty. However, Dhritarashtra was too attached to his first-born child and so did not abandon it.
As Duryodhana grew up, he was deemed to be very powerful. It was perceived that his body was made of thunder. Like Ravana
, Duryodhana was well versed with the religious scriptures and was a scholar, but he too misused his knowledge.
He was jealous of the Pandavas, particularly Bhima who used to dominate the Kauravas in sport and skill, with his immense physical power and strength. Out of his intensive jealousy, Duryodhana also attempted to kill Bhima by poisoning his food, however Bhima was safe.
His affinity with Karna
The one good characteristic of Duryodhana was his trust on Karna (illegitimate child of Kunti) whom he considered as his closest friend despite the caste difference.
Duryodhana's affinity with Karna began when at the martial exhibition; the Kaurava and the Pandava princes demonstrated their skills before their elders, their guru Drona and the people of the kingdom. Meanwhile a great and effulgent warrior, Karna appeared and challenged Arjuna
, who is considered by Drona to be the best of the warrior princes. But Karna was humiliated when Kripa asks him to ascertain his caste, as it would be inappropriate for unequal to compete.
Duryodhana immediately defended Karna, and made him the king of Anga so that he is regarded as Arjuna's equal. Karna pledged his friendship to Duryodhana, as Duryodhana had rescued him from the source of continuing humiliation and hardship for him. Neither of them knew that Karna is in fact Kunti's eldest son born to Surya.
A very intense bond of friendship developed between the two, and Duryodhana became very close to Karna.
In the Kurukshetra
War, Karna was Duryodhana's greatest hope for victory. He earnestly believed that Karna is superior to Arjuna, and that he could inevitably destroy him and his four brothers. While devoted to Duryodhana, Karna knows that even though his skills were as good as, if not better than Arjuna's, he was incapable of killing Arjuna as he had Lord Krishna
to protect him. When Karna got killed, Duryodhana mourned his death immensely.
The dice game
When Dhritarashtra announced Yudhisthir as the heir to his throne, Duryodhana was left frustrated. To avoid any misunderstandings, Bhishma suggested to Dhritarashtra to divide the kingdom of Hastinapura. While the arid and barren land was handed over to Yudhisthir, Dhritarashtra kept the prosperous land for himself and his son. However, soon the Pandavas converted the land into a beautiful city called Indraprastha.
When the news of Indraprastha
's beauty reached everywhere, Duryodhana decided to see the city personally. When he went to the Pandava's palace, he mistook water to be flooring and fell into the water. On seeing this Draupadi burst out laughing and insulted him by saying that, a blind man's son would obviously be blind. Duryodhana on hearing this remark left the city in anger. On reaching Hastinapura, Shakuni
(Duryodhana's uncle) planned a plot through which he could forcibly take away all the belongings of the Pandavas.
Shakuni invited the Pandavas for the dice game. Shakuni who was an expert in the game was to play the game against Yudhisthir who was comparatively a novice in the game. As a result of this, Yudhisthir continuously lost the game to Shakuni. In the process he lost everything that he had kept at stake, which included his kingdom, his four brothers, himself and finally his wife too. To add to more insult Duryodhana ordered his brother Dushashana to get Draupadi to the forum. When Dushashana dragged Draupadi by her hair and tried to disrobe her, the elders in the forum were shocked and ashamed by Kaurava's action. Draupadi was left humiliated. Unable to bear this injustice done to the Pandavas, Dhritarashtra and Bhishma made Duryodhana to return back everything back to Yudhisthir.
But when the plot was repeated, Shakuni set the condition that Yudhisthira and his brothers would have to spend thirteen years in exile in the forest before they may receive their kingdom back. He also stated that the thirteenth year must be passed incognito, or else they would be compelled to repeat the term of exile.
When the Pandavas returned back after thirteen years of exile, they asked back for their kingdom. However, Duryodhana did not wish to give it back. Despite by being chided by his elders like Bhishma, Vidhura and Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana remained adamant on his decision. This made the outbreak of Kurukshetra battle inevitable.
By the look at Kaurava's army as compared to that of Pandavas, one could have predicted an easy win for the Kauravas. The reason being that the Kauravas had invincible warriors like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Ashwathama, and Shalya. While Pandavas had only Krishna on their side. Duryodhana would constantly force Bhishma and Drona to blackmail the Pandavas or convince the Pandavas to play another game of dice. Not only this, he was involved in an unethical destruction of Abhimanyu- son of Arjuna.
But little did Duryodhana know that by engaging in unethical ways of battle, he was inviting distraught from the Pandavas side. The Kaurava side begin to slowly loose the battle with the death of stalwarts like Drona, Bhishma and even Karna (who was slain by Arjuna after days of valorious fight). Arjuna also killed atleast thousands of Kuru soliders in a single day to avenge the death of his son Abhimanyu. This made the Kauravas weak.
Duryodhana's hopes began to get shattered and after making some final desperate efforts, he fled the battlefield and hid near a lake, within which he survived by his mystic powers of yoga
. He came out from the river only after Ashwathama and Kripa encouraged him to face his destiny with courage.
On learning that except for Duryodhana all her sons have been killed, Gandhari was left shocked. Despite knowing her son's evil tendencies, Gandhari out of motherly love decides to bless her son. After years of blindfolding her eyes out of respect for her blind husband, Gandhari- an ardent devotee of God Shiva, decided to remove her blindfold to use the great mystic power of her eyes in order to make every part of Duryodhana's body invincible to all attack. For this purpose, she called upon Duryodhana to her tent and told him to appear before her naked. As Duryodhana was entering the tent stark naked, Krishna
who was just leaving her tent criticized Duryodhana who then covered his thigh and roin and appeared before his mother.
When Gandhari's eyes fell on Duryodhana's body, she was shocked to see his thighs and groin covered. Hence, she could not bless his thighs and groin, which became susceptible to the enemy's attack. On the fateful day when Duryodhana fought against Bhima, he began to get exhausted. Finally, on indication of Lord Krishna (who knew that Gandhari had not blessed his thigh and groin), Bhima hit Duryodhana on his thigh. The strike was so hard that it landed Duryodhana on the ground and proved fatal for him.
Before dying, Duryodhana argued that the means used by Bhima to kill him was illegal. To this, Krishna said that Duryodhana was not the right person to argue as not once in his lifetime did he follow the rules.
After the death of Duryodhana, the Pandavas cremated him.