Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

A - B - C - D - E - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - P - R - S - T - U - V - Y


Read about Duryodhana at Wikipedia

DURYODHANA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] `Hard to conquer.' The eldest son of King Dhritarashtra, and leader of the Kaurava princes in the great war of the Mahabharata.

His birth was somewhat marvellous. (See Gandhari).

Upon the death of his brother Pandu, Dhritarashtra took his five sons, the Pandava princes, to his own court, and had them educated with his hundred sons. Bickerings and jealousies soon sprang up between the cousins, and Duryodhana took a special dislike to Bhima on account of his skill in the use of the club. Duryodhana had learnt the use of this weapon under Balarama, end was jealous of any rival. He poisoned Bhima and threw his body into the Ganges, but Bhima sank to the regions of the Nagas, where he was restored to health and vigour.

When Dhritarashtra proposed to make Yudhishthira heir-apparent, Duryodhana strongly remonstrated, and the result was that the Pandavas went into exile. Even then his animosity pursued them, and he laid a plot to burn them in their house, from which they escaped and retaliated upon his emissaries.

After the return of the Pandavas from exile, and their establishment at Indraprastha, his anger was further excited by Yudhishthira's performance of the Rajasuya sacrifice. He prevailed on his father to invite the Pandavas to Hastinapura to a gambling match, in which, with the help of his confederate Sakuni, he won from Yudhishthira everything he possessed, even to the freedom of himself, his brothers, and his wife Draupadi. Duryodhana exultingly sent for Draupadi to act as a slave and sweep the room. When she refused to come, his brother, Duhsasana, dragged her in by the hair of her head, and Duryodhana insulted her by inviting her to sit upon his knee. This drew from Bhima a vow that he would one day smadh Duryodhana's thigh. Dhritarashtra interfered, and the result of the gambling was that the Pandavas again went into exile, and were to remain absent thirteen years.

While the Pandavas were living in the forest, Duryodhana went out for the purpose of gratifying his hatred with a sight of their poverty. He was attacked and made prisoner by the Gandharvas, probably hill people, and was rescued by the Pandavas. This incident greatly mortified him.

The exile of the Pandavas drew to a close. War was inevitable, and both parties prepared for the struggle. Duryodhana sought the aid of Krishna, but made the great mistake of accepting Krishna's army in preference to his personal attendance.

He accompanied his army to the field, and on the eighteenth day of the battle, after his party had been utterly defeated, he fled and hid himself in a lake, for he was said to possess the power of remaining under water. He was discovered, and with great difficulty, by taunts and sarcasms, was induced to come out. It was agreed that he and Bhima should fight it out with clubs. The contest was long and furious, and Duryodhana was getting the best of it, when Bhima remembered his vow, and, although it was unfair to strike below the waist, he gave his antagonist such a violent blow on the thigh that the bone was smashed and Duryodhana fell. Then Bhima kicked him on the head and triumphed over him.

Left wounded and alone on the field, he was visited by Aswatthaman, son of Drona, and two other warriors, the only survivors of his army. He thirsted for revenge, and directed them to slay all the Pandavas, and especially to bring him the head of Bhima. These men entered the camp of the enemy, and killed the five youthful sons of the Pandavas. The version of the Mahabharata used by Wheeler adds that these warriors brought the heads of the five youths to Duryodhana, representing them to be the heads of the five brothers. Duryodhana was unable in the twilight to distinguish the features, but he exulted greatly, and desired that Bhima's head might be placed in his hands. With dying energy he pressed it with all his might, and when he found that is crushed, he knew that it was not the head of Bhima. Having discovered the deception that had been played upon him, with a redeeming touch of humanity he reproached Aswatthaman for his horrid deed in slaying the harmless youths, saying with his last breath, "My enmity was against the Pandavas, not against these innocents."

Duryodhana was called also Suyodhana, `good fighter.'

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM