By Swami Harshananda
Gāndhārī is one of the brightest women characters of the Mahābhārata. She was the eldest daughter of Subala, the king of Gāndhāra. She was the chief queen of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, the blind prince of Hastināpura. She was the personification of many virtues including the wifely virtues. It is an irony that Duryodhana, the primary villain of the Kurukṣetra war was her son. She had thirteen brothers and ten sisters. Śakuni, the master plotter of the Kurukṣetra war, was her elder brother. All her sisters also had married Dhṛtarāṣṭra.
Since Dhṛtarāṣṭra was born blind, she decided to bind her eyes with a wrapper and thus remain sightless, voluntarily and willingly. By the grace of Śiva, whom she had worshiped with great devotion, she had secured the boon of getting one hundred sons. Since her delivery was very much delayed, the story goes that she forced the foetus out. The sage Vyāsa, who arrived there at that time averted the disaster and arranged for the proper care of the same. In course of time one hundred sons and one daughter were born out of that fetus. Duryodhana and Duśśāsana were the first two sons.
As her sons grew up she, with great dismay, noticed their animosity and ill-treatment towards the Pāṇḍavas. Her interventions and sage advice had no effect at all upon Duryodhana. She had even taken her own husband to task for his blind infatuation towards their eldest son. When the war between the Pāṇḍavas and the Kauravas became inevitable and when Duryodhana approached her for blessings, she refused to give him the blessing that he be victorious.
When Duryodhana died in the battle, her mother heart was shaken and she wanted to curse Yudhiṣṭira. This was however prevented by the timely intervention of the sage Vyāsa. She consented to live in Hastināpura along with her husband. They were taken good care by Yudhiṣṭira. Later she retired to the forest, along with Kuntī and Dhṛtarāṣṭra and perished in a forest fire.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore