Saturday, June 15, 2019

Lessons from the Mahabharata - Envy 1

hat Duryodhana was driven by envy is known to all. He is also perhaps the best known example of an envious man in the entire epic. His whole life was one long, never ending, rage against his cousins, the Pandavas, who he thought had the better of everything – whether the palace at Indraprastha, whether a beautiful wife in Droupadi, whether in riches, his own “ordinary prosperity” never pleased him, was never enough. That much is well known. What is also known is that if Duryodhana’s envy was like a forest fire, it was Shakuni, his maternal uncle, that kept that fire burning. And we also know that Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana’s blind father was blind to every single fault of his son, turning a literal and figurative blind eye to his son’s faults.

But what about Gandhari? When Pandu was living the life of forced bachelorhood, in mortal fear of Sage Kimdama’s curse, he turned to his wife Kunti to beget sons. Kunti had Sage Durvasa’s mantra that she used to summon Yama, who begat Yudhishtra. Yudhishtra thus became the eldest Pandava. That is not strictly true, since Karna had been born some time back, but since no one but Kunti knew that secret, and because the poor little baby that was Karna  had been cast away in the river, for all practical purposes it was Yudhishtra who would be considered the eldest Pandava.

Meanwhile Gandhari had also been pregnant, but for inexplicable reasons had not given birth. When she heard news of Yudhishtra’s birth, she flew into a rage. A rage of frustration, anger, and envy. Envy because she knew that the rights of the eldest prince, Yudhishtra, would mean that his claim to the throne of Hasitnapura would be foremost. That fit of rage and envy caused her to strike her belly, and she aborted a lump of flesh. From that aborted lump of flesh were born a hundred Kaurava brothers and one sister. The hundred and first lump became Duhshala, who would go on to marry Jayadratha, and that is another story in itself. Gandhari’s envy, literally and figuratively, gave birth to the Kauravas.