The White Hindu has moved

The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Sympathize With Duryodhana

I think a lot of people like Karna and see him as a good man caught on the wrong side.

Duryodhana, on the other hand, is very much the bad guy of the story. Yet I don't think he was evil. I feel sorry for him because he had so much and was not able to be happy.

I think he is very human. I think I am more like him than like the Pandavas. The Pandavas were born from Gods, Duryodhana from a somewhat-weak man (We can have a discussion about Dhritarashtra another time!)

Duryodhana was lost, confused, discontented without knowing why. He felt things deeply and was hurt easily. He was very, very human.

While many of the other characters are better than us, showing us what to look up to and how to be, I think Duryodhana is our baser instincts.

I've read a number of versions of The Mahabharata, all of them abridged in some way. In fact the only unabridged version I read for a college class, only had the first three books translated at the time. But anyway, the version of the story that always clings to me is the Peter Brook's movie. There's a scene in that movie that makes me cry every time I watch it.

Duryodhana is arguing with his mother. She says something along the lines of, "Why can't you be happy and content with everything that you have?"

He shouts at her, "I want to be discontented...."

A man says: I have enough to eat and wear. I need nothing more! Shame! He says: I don't know anger! Shame! I am like a dried up stream, like a wooden elephant. All because my father was born blind, because one does not give a throne to a blind man...A man's body grows from birth and everyone is delighted in the same way his desire grows, his desire for power.

Of course I think he is wrong, that he should realize the greater truth that the kingdom is not his and it was never meant to be. But my heart aches for him because I know how hard it is to remove one's own desires and see the world as it is without the bias.

I think God had some sympathy for him too, as he did find contentment after death.


  1. duryodhana is the chief guest for this years republic day in india.


  2. One of the things I appreciate about Hinduism is that it does show both sides. There are even temples dedicated to Duryodhana. This is in contrast to the black and white, "with me or against me" approach of the Old Testament and the Qur'an, where every living thing in an enemy's city is evil and should be killed, or devotees are instructed to "kill the non-believers wherever you find them".

  3. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has a soft spot in my heart for him

  4. ravana alike has some very noble qualities, but then hinduism has a very strong weakness:to take the side the dharma

  5. to the best of my understanding - hinduism doesn't codify what is dharma.

    that is why different people interpret dharma differently and act accordingly.

    off hand i can recall two dialogues -
    one between yudhisthira and droupadi ; regarding what dharma dictates after the game of dice and when it was cleared that the dice was loaded.
    second one is between rama and jabali .

    there probably many such examples.

  6. I don't think that siding with dharma is a weakness, certainly, but it is terribly difficult to figure out what the righteous path is sometimes.

  7. History is written by the winners,so we shouldnt take everything written by Pandavas on face value.Pandu was cursed but the curse would have activated only if he made love to a woman,how was that stopping him from doing his duties as a king??He could have send his queens to their parents.Simple.Why did he have to leave the throne?.Besides the kingdom was never his to claim in the first place,he was just a caretaker.So when Duryodhan(REAL name Suyodhan) refused them what they asked,he was only doing the right thing.Why should he part with his kingdom when pandu himself discarded it? Contrary to what people have been told,Draupadi was an arrogant and obnoxious woman who would insult people at the slightest pretext.I even doubt if the rape actually occurred and even if it did what does it tell us about the character of the pandavas,who sat there while thier wife was being molested???Most probably they exaggerated the deeds of duryodhana to justify their own war mongering.They even killed Duryodhan by deception,otherwise he was a strong,fearless and ferocious warrior.Is it a wonder that a legendary warrior like Karna took his side in spite of undergoing all those insults??..

  8. Well, I think Pandu gave up the kingdom because he believed he couldn't have sons.

    You have a different and interesting perspective on this story.

    I personally do not believe that the Mahabharata is fact, so I don't believe that any of it really happened or that it is history. I believe in the power of metaphorical truth and don't find that something being not fact lessens it in any way.

    I think all the characters have their good sides and their flaws and that's one of the things that makes this story so compelling, thousands of years later.

  9. Yes he couldnt have sons becos he couldnt make love but he was entrusted to take care of the kingdom and not to worry about his pro genies.Even if he had kids,they wouldnt have become kings,so what was the point of lamenting over such distraction?
    Mahaabhaarat is a fact alright.There are physical evidence corroborating it but the point is,whether the characters are worth emulating or glorifying?.Well,of course Shri Krishna was the most influential and glorious personality, reverberating through the veins of Hindus till date but Mahaabhaarat was written long after he left for the heavenly abode,so he cant be directly associated with it.He did give the Gitoupdesh to Arjun but not becos Arjun refused to fight out of compassion for his kith and kind but out of sheer fear of the might of his opponents. Heroes become villains and villains become heroes.History is funny and interesting.Unlike Mahaabhaarat,Raamaayan is more close to reality.Raam never demonized Raavan, in fact spoke very highly of him.He was his gatekeeper after all.:)

  10. Actually the throne rightfully belonged to Duryodhana! His father Dhritrashtra WAS blind but he was the ELDER among him and Pandu. Pandu was given the throne only because Dhritrashtra was blind. My point here is that even if Yudishtira was the eldest he was the son of the younger brother Pandu. So technically and morally Yudhistira has NO claim to the throne since in Vedic times the fathers lineage would be considered. Since Dhritrashtra was elder his son Duryodhana was the rightful owner of the throne. I rest my case :D Check Wikipedia if you want more info on Duryodhana.

    1. Well... It's complicated. And that's one of the things I love about Mahabharata. Nothing is straight forward and clear.

      Dhritirastra was older. BUT they did have a law that a blind man could not rule,so Pandava was the official king. That does give Yudhistira a claim. Not a particularly strong claim, but a claim nonetheless.