In her maiden state Gandhari worshipped Lord Siva to get a good husband and children. The Lord gives her a boon of 100 sons. But Gandhari's marriage was arranged to Dhritarashtra, the eldest prince of the Hastinapur. He had been born blind. Bhismar is the karta of the Kuru clan. He hears of Siva’s boons and sent a marriage proposal. Bhishma had terrorized King Gandhara into giving her in marriage to a blind man. Thereafter the marriage party proceeded with dowry to Hastinapur. Gandhari only knew of Dhritarashtra’s blindness after she got to Hastinapur. The marriage took place under the guidance of her elder brother Sakuni. Gandhari is said to be the most beautiful woman of her times with wonderful qualities. But she too was subject to human frailties protecting sons and of envy.
HUNDRED SONS: In her benediction, Gandhari pleases Lord Siva for blessings of a child. Both Queen Kunti and Ghandari become pregnant at the same time. However she becomes envious of Queen Kunti when her pregnancy is delayed. Kunti had three Pandava sons by then. So in utter frustration, she gave a blow to her abdomen. This results in the birth of a lump of grey flesh. But she was also a devotee of Vyasadeva, by whose direction, the lump was divided to hundred parts to become a male children. Her ambition to become mother of 100 sons was fulfilled as she answers the Call of Kauravas. Duryodhana was born first, then Dushasana who joins his older brother to plot against the Pandavas.
Gandhari was also devout; in particular an ardent worshipper of Lord Shiva. Gandhari's sacrifice of her eyesight and her austere life was to grant her great spiritual power. Gandhari made a single exception to her blindfolded state, when she removed her blindfold to see Duryodhana rendering his entire body except his loins invulnerable to any foe. This was however to prove fruitless as Bhima smashed Duryodhana's thighs in their decisive encounter on the eighteenth day of the Kurukshetra battle, a move both literally and figuratively below the belt.
GANDHARI’S EYES: According to myths, despite her blinding, the life long sacrifice gave Gandhari’s eyes great powers. If she removed her blindfold, the power retained in her eyes would be transferred to the first thing she saw. In her pledge to be blindfolded, she made one exception and that was to save Duryodhana. He was preparing to fight mighty Bhima. She knew of the unrighteous action sof her sons. Moreover Duryodhana was not as physically strong as Bhima. Gandhari was determined to save her son. “Before you go into battle, son, come before me without any clothes so that I can look upon your body. Every part I see will become impervious to weapons.”
Duryodhana was embarrased to come before his mother totally naked. So he covered his groin and hips with a wide banana leaf tied at the waist. When he came before Gandhari, she removed her blindfold and looked upon her son for the first time in her life. On seeing the leaf around his waist she wept at the vulnerability Durodhana had caused himself. It was too late “Oh my son, what have you done? Now a portion of your body will be vulnerable to weapons. Your enemies will strike you there.” This was what had to happen. Karma does not leave anyone. Mighty Bhima struck Duryodhan on his groins. This is metaphorically stated to be thighs, which part did not enjoy the power of and blessings Gandhari’s eyes, as a result of which Duryodhana bled to death. It also symbolically meant the end of procreation of Kaurava clan...get the drift?
The Mahabaratha narratives show that when Gandhari bound her eyes to the outside world she also had have put a veil on her inner eyes. She was pious no doubt, but failed to check the unjust acts of her sons. Moreover Dhritrashtra had many complexes also. He was not made the King of Hastinapur due to his blindness. Pandu his younger brother, became the King but he never really ruled and died an early death. So Dhritrashtra was the de facto King in Hastinapur. The denial of kingship always gnawed his heart and he too blindly believed that Duryodhana was the rightful heir of Hastinapur more than Yudhhister his nephew. Thus he schemed cunningly against the Pandavas.
Gandhari did not check Dhristrashtra’s evil schemes. She chose not to see the practical world when throughout her life she had an opportunity to see through the blindfold. Dhristrashtra was born blind and by adulthood his body and senses would have been accustomed to not seeing. Rather his other senses would have become sharper to compensate for the visual handicap, as it usually happens with such people. Gandhari on the other hand induced her blindness. She could see and chose not to, both literally and figuratively. And there we have the master story teller, Rishi Vyasa Bhagavan.
KRUKSHETRA BATTLE: Gandhari was never in favour of the Battle of Krukshetra. But this was not stated forcefully and there she had casts her impartial clouds. Mothers! Rather, she blamed Dhritarashtra for the upcoming fratricide. She prompted that the state be divided into two for the sons of Pandu and her own. This was not heeded and all her sons died in battle. When Bhima and Yidhishthira wanted to her blessings, she wanted to curse them, but was checked by Vyasadeva, She could only pitifully mourn the deaths of Duryodhana and Duhsasana before Lord Krishna and the Lord pacified her by transcendental messages. Gandhari also aggrieved for Kunthi’s son Karna and described the lamentations of Karna’s wife to Lord Krishna. She then cursed the Lord. Finally Gandhari was pacified by Vyasadeba when he showed the sons proceeding to the heavenly kingdoms after leaving their mortal body.
CURSE: The symbolic Krukshetra war upheld righteousness. The role of Lord Krishna paved the Pandava victory. This culminated in the inevitable destruction of the Kauravas. Gandhari was deeply hurt over the death of her sons even though they were evil. She personally held Sri Krishna responsible for their annihilation. Even though Sri Krishna enjoyed Kaurava destruction, he had saddened Gandhari. She was only an ordinary women but Krishna could do nothing before a lamenting mother’s heart when she pronounced a vital curse on Lord Krishna and his whole Yadava caste. She cursed that Lord Krishna would perish in 36 years and his followers would die miserably. The curse took effect when a hunter sent an arrow that and killed Krishna during the ensuing days of his life.
Eventually comes a time Krishna seized the inhabitant so Dwarka in such ways and extent that they kill each other. Only the women, Krishna and Balarama were alive. There was massacre. Seeing all this Balarama desolated in a dense forest. After some time the women and children were sent to the city of Kuru to be taken care of by the Pandavas. Sri Krishna took blessings from his father to join Balarama. There he sees Balarama in a Yogi position, A thousand headed snake, the Ananta Naga, came out of his mouth and glided its way to the ocean to be welcomed to their realms. Thus Sri Krishna saw Balarama depart from the real world. He realised his own departure and started to think of Gandhari’s curse. Jara, a hunter mistook Krishna’s left foot for a deer. The prey down, Jara rushed to see that it was Krishna wrapped in yellow robes practicing yoga. He touched Krishna’s feet and apologies. Krishna opened his eyes to comfort the hunter. He duly informs about Jara’s previous life of being Bali who was killed by Vishnu’s avatar, Rama. Krishna then ascended towards the heavens. The whole sky was filled with glory. Krishna passes through Indra’s paradise to reach a place at even higher strate.
Arjuna cremated Krishna. The Lord’s wives including Rukumani became Sati. The Dwarka women became ascetics and nuns. But Gandhari’s curse was not to end. The ocean came about and engulfed the city, thus leaving no trace of the land of Lord Krishna. Gandhari was not a goddess but just the mother of the evil Kauravas. Krishna called them as asuras. Her curse in the Mahabaratha goes on to show that there is nothing one could do to guard against the curse of a virtuous woman.
DEATH: Gandhari was an ideal chaste lady, a life companion of her husband, and therefore when she saw her husband burning in the fire of mystic yoga along with his cottage of leaves, she despaired. She left home after losing her one hundred sons, and in the forest she saw that her most beloved husband was also burning. Now she actually felt alone, and therefore she entered the fire of her husband and followed her husband to death. This is Sati. A chaste wife like Gandhari would feel the separation of her husband to be more burning than actual fire. Yudhisthira performed the death ceremony of his uncle and aunt.
TEMPLE: Beri is a town in Rohtak district in Haryana. It contains the famous Bheemeshwari temple from the Mahabaratha era. Before the Krukshetra battle began, Sri Krishna asks of Bhima to bring the Pandava Kula Devi to the battlefields for her blessings. He goes up to the mountains to pray to the Devi for victory. She agreed to follow on condition that she would not be dropped from Bhima’s lap while proceeding to Krukshetra. As they were travelling, Bhima reached Beri and had to go to the gents so he placed the idol of the deity under a tree. After that he felt thirst and blowed the earth with his gada. After a bath and a drink he attempted to lift the idol. Remembering the condition precedent, he left the idol along the banks of the pond and proceeded to Krukshetra.
Pandavas saw victory after 18 days. Hearing her sons were killed in battle, Gandhari rushes in screams. As she was passing, she saw her own Kula Devi. Thereafter she erected a temple for the Goddess. The temple has become ruins but the seat of the marvellous temple is still there. In Beri, there are two temples. According to folklore, this place was a dense forest. For fear of thieves, Maharishi Durvasa, who was living nearby, would bring the idol of goddess in the outer temple in his lap and at midday he would return it in the inner temple. The process of moving of goddess from inner to outer temple is still going on. The Akhand Jyoti enlightens throughout day and night. The aarti sung by Durvasa is still enchanted everyday and every evening. However Queen Gandhari could not be epitomised as Goddess and she was left only to be remembered as a historical person in the Mahabharata.