Bizzell Reserves call number: PN 6790 .I443 A437 v.644
See the detailed Reading Guide below.
Gandhari's blindfold (pp. 1-5). Princess Gandhari, daughter to King Subala of Ghandara, receives a blessing from Lord Shiva: she will have a hundred sons. Bhishma proposes a marriage between Gandhari and Dhritarashtra, who is the king of the Kurus in Hastinapura, but he is blind. To share her husband's life, Gandhari blindfolds herself, and her brother Shakuni takes her to Hastinapura.
Additional reading: You can read more about Dhritarashtra and why he is blind in the story of his birth: Wikipedia: Dhritarashtra's Birth. You can also read more about Gandhari's brother at Wikipedia: Shakuni.
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Gandhari's sons (pp. 6-13). The maharshi (great rishi) Vyasa confirms the blessing of one hundred sons, but before she has any children, Dhritarashtra's brother, Pandu, has a son by his wife Kunti: Yudhishthira. When Gandhari gives birth, it is to a shapeless lump. Vyasa tells her to prepare a hundred jars of ghee for the sons, and at Gandhari's request he orders one more jar for a daughter. Vyasa cuts up the lump and puts a piece in each jar and tells Gandhari to wait two years. The children take shape in the jars, with Duryodhana the eldest son, but he brays like a donkey when he is born, a bad omen, and Dhritarashtra's brother, Vidura, urges him to abandon the baby. Dhritarashtra refuses and they keep the baby.
Additional reading: You can read about clarified butter, or ghee, at Wikipedia: Ghee. You can also read about Gandhari's only daughter, Wikipedia: Duhshala.
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Duryodhana's jealousy (pp. 13-15). When Dhritarashtra's other brother, Pandu, dies, his widow Kunti and the five Pandavas (sons of Pandu) come to Hastinapura: Yudhishthira is the eldest, and also Bhima, Arjuna, and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva. Gandhari and Kunti love one another and each other's children, but the cousins do not get along. Duryodhana tries to poison his cousin Bhima, but Bhima survives. When Yudhishthira is named to be Dhritarashtra's heir, Duryodhana is furious and his uncle Shakuni helps him to plot against the Pandavas.
Additional reading: You can read the story of Duryodhana's attempt on Bhima's life here: Bhima and the Nagas.
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The game of dice (pp. 16-20). Duryodhana tries to burn the Pandavas in their house, but they escape. When the Pandavas take Draupadi, princess of Panchala, to be their wife, Dhritarashtra gives them half the kingdom and they build a palace at Indraprastha. Shakuni and Duryodhana win the palace and possessions of the Pandavas when Yudhishthira loses a dicing match, and Yudhishthira also gambles away his brothers, himself, and Draupadi. When Duryodhana tries to strip Draupadi in front of everyone, jackals howl: another bad omen. The priests chant "Swasti," and Gandhari realizes that her son is evil. She urges Dhritarashtra to return the winnings to the Pandavas, so he asks Draupadi what she wishes and at her request he restores the Pandavas' kingdom.
Additional reading: These words of good luck — su + asti (swasti — are the same words you see in the noun "swastika," an ancient sign of good luck. You can read more about the ancient swastika at Wikipedia: Swastika. Here is a modern depiction of the good luck sign in modern India: Sanskrit Word in English: Swastika.
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Preparations for war (pp. 20-24). Duryodhana is furious and proposes another game. This time Yudhishthira loses again, and the Pandavas must go into exile. Arjuna vows revenge, and Gandhari realizes that the situation is hopeless. When Draupadi and the Pandavas leave, Kunti stays behind with Gandhari. After the years of exile are over, Gandhari and Dhritarashtra urge Duryodhana to seek peace, especially since Krishna is on the Pandavas' side, but he refuses. Gandhari foresees that Bhima, the second eldest of the Pandavas, will kill her son. Duryodhana also rejects Krishna's mission of peace. Gandhari cannot bless her son's side in the war; she can only bless the side of the righteous. Duryodhana's side, the Kauravas, suffer heavy losses.
Additional reading: For more about Krishna and his role in the war, see Wikipedia: Krishna: Kurukshetra War.
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After the battle (pp. 25-31). In the end, of all the sons of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari die in the war. Vyasa attempts to calm Gandhari's anger. When she meets the surviving Pandava brothers, she is torn between grief and rage. From beneath her blindfold, the burning fire of Gandhari's glance burns Yudhishthira's toe. Despite the blindfold, her spiritual insight allows her to see the dead corpses all over the battlefield and her daughters-in-law grieving over her dead sons. Krishna, whom she addresses as Lord Janardana, accompanies her. When she finds Duryodhana's corpse, she rebukes Krishna for not having stopped the bloodshed. She curses Krishna, calling down the destruction of his people, the Yadavas, and Krishna's own death. He accepts her curse, and Gandhari then goes to the river Ganga to perform funeral rites for her sons.
Additional reading: For more about the importance of the goddess Ganga and the river Ganga (Ganges) in the Hindu tradition, see Wikipedia.