|Affiliation Human (Incarnation of Kali (demon))|
Family Dhritarashtra (father) Gandhari (mother)
Children Laxman Kumara, Lakshmanaa
Duryodhana (Sanskrit: दुर्योधन) is a major character in the Hindu epic Mahabharata and was the eldest of the Kauravas, the hundred sons of blind king Dhritarashtra and Queen Gandhari. Despite being the first born son of the incumbent king, he becomes disqualified as heir to the throne of Hastinapura upon the return of his cousins, the Pandavas, who left their rural forest dwelling upon the death of their father Pandu, the preceding king of Hastinapura and younger brother to Dhrithrashtra. His resultant animosity towards his cousins renders Duryodhana the chief antagonist of the epic. Karna was the closest friend of Duryodhana. Notably, Duryodhana, with significant assistance from Karna, performs Digvijaya Yatra when the Pandavas are in exile, conquering all kings in every direction of the world, establishing himself as the emperor of the world.
When Gandhari's pregnancy continued for an unusually long period of time, she beat her womb in frustration. This caused a hardened mass of grey-coloured flesh to issue from her womb. She implored Vyasa, the great sage who had blessed her with one hundred sons, to redeem his words. Vyasa divided the ball of flesh into one hundred and one equal pieces, and put them in pots of ghee, which were sealed and buried into the earth for two years. At the end of the second year, the first pot was opened, and Duryodhana emerged.
Although loved by his family, Duryodhana and most of his brothers are not seen on the same level as the Pandavas in their adherence to virtue, duty, and respect for elders. Duryodhana is mentored by his maternal uncle Shakuni, who masterminded most of Duryodhana's plots to humiliate and kill the Pandavas.
Duryodhana's hatred for the Pandavas stems from his sincere belief that he—being the son of the eldest brother—is the heir apparent to the throne of Hastinapura. Because of his blindness, his father had to renounce the throne in favor of the younger Pandu. Duryodhana deeply believed that what was rightfully his was being given away to his older cousin Yudhishthira. He also felt that the Pandavas were sons of Kunti and Gods (devakin), not of Pandu. He never believed that their divine origin alone proved their superiority, on many occasions questioning their merits, and always calling them the 'Kaunteya' (sons of Kunti). He also bore a deep hatred of Bhima, who was his age and dominated his brothers in sport and skill with his immense physical power and strength. When they were young, Bhima's bullying and taunting were a constant source of pain for Duryodhana and his brothers.
Balarama described Duryodhana's body to be "lightning made flesh". He is revered by his younger brothers, especially Dushasana. Learning martial skills from his gurus, Kripacharya and Dronacharya, he proved to be extremely skilled with the mace. He then went to specialize in mace fighting under Balarama and went on to become his favorite pupil.
Tendencies and Schemes
During their childhood Bhima used his brute strength to inflict injuries on the Kaurava brothers. As Bhima was gluttonous, Duryodhana attempted to kill Bhima by feeding him a poisoned feast, but Bhima survived due to the poisonous bites from celestial Nagas which neutralized the poison he had ingested. Duryodhana then participated in a plot by Shakuni to burn the Pandavas at Varnavat; however, they managed to escape the trap.
Usurping The Kingdom
When the princes come of age, Yudhishthira is named as the crown prince due to his superior merits. After the Pandavas reveal that they have survived the wax house, with a new wife to boot, Bhishma suggests that the kingdom be divided in order to ease the obvious tension. Yudhishthira is given half the kingdom and made king of Khandavprastha, so as to avoid a clash with the Kaurava princes over the whole Kuru Kingdom. Duryodhana becomes the prince regent of Hastinapur, and owing to the age and blindness of his father, he accumulates much control and influence, managing the state affairs himself with a group of his advisers that include his uncle Shakuni, brother Dushasana and friend Karna.
But Duryodhana remains jealous of Yudhishthira, especially after the Pandavas along with Krishna transform Khandavprastha to Indraprastha. Moreover, Yudhishthira performs the Rajasyua Yagna and gains the authority over several other kingdoms; Indraprastha's prosperity and fame appear to exceed Hastinapura's. Duryodhana is unable to contain his anger, which is intensified when Draupadi arrogantly taunts him about his father's blindness when he slips into a pool of water during a visit to Indraprastha. A popular quote, from later versions of the Mahabharatha, is "a blind man's son is blind".
In early versions of the story, Duryodhana is also motivated by the idea that no matter what, Hastinapur should not remain divided. Yudhishthira shares this belief; both know that eventually, a conflict will arise and the nation will be ultimately reunified.
The dice plot, and Draupadi's humiliation
Knowing that an all-out war with the Pandavas may not lead to definitive success, Shakuni devises a scheme to rob Yudhishthira of his kingdom and wealth by defeating him in a game of dice, which Shakuni cannot lose due to his superior skill over Yudhishthira's ineptitude and addiction to the game of dice. Unable to resist the challenge, Yudhishthira gambles away his entire kingdom, his wealth, his four brothers and even his wife, in a series of gambits to retrieve one by staking another. Duryodhana encouraged his brother Dushasana to drag Draupadi into the court. As she is Duryodhana's property after Yudhishthira had gambled everything away to him, Duryodhana tells Draupadi to sit on his thigh, patting it suggestively. Due to this action, Bhima swears, he would break Duryodhana's thigh. As an enraged Draupadi is about to curse the Kuru clan, Gandhari intervenes. Fearing retribution by the Pandavas, their allies, and history, Dhritarashtra and Gandhari reverse all of Yudhishthira's losses. But then (either through Duryodhana forcing his father to command the Pandavas to play again, or through the Pandavas' own desire to win a kingdom without bloodshed) the game is repeated. For this game of dice Shakuni sets the condition that upon losing, Yudhishthira and his brothers must spend thirteen years in exile in the forest before they may reclaim their kingdom. The thirteenth year must be passed incognito, or else the term of exile would be repeated. The Pandavas lose and begin their exile.
Conflict with Gandharvas
During the exile of Pandavas, Duryodhana attempts to humiliate the Pandavas by flashing his wealth in their forest of exile. He is however caught in a conflict with the Gandharva king Chitrasena, who captures him. Yudhishthira asks Arjuna and Bhima to rescue Duryodhana. They rescue him, and Duryodhana offers Arjuna a vow that he will fulfill one demand of Arjuna anytime in his life. However, Duryodhana also feels humiliated. Setting his mind to die, Duryodhana pledges to fast unto death. He is pacified by Karna, who vows he will kill Arjuna in battle and to never drink wine until he does so.
Karna took up the task of establishing Duryodhana as the Emperor of the world. Karna embarks upon a worldwide military campaign, otherwise called Digvijaya Yatra. Bringing tribute and allegiance from all the world's kings, Karna helped Duryodhana to perform the Vaishnava yagna to please Vishnu and crown Duryodhana as "Emperor of the World", as Yudhishthira did with the Rajasuya Yagna. No person in the entire universe, except Lord Vishnu, had performed this Vaishnava sacrifice. Duryodhana thus became the most powerful and the wealthiest man in the world. With the help of Karna, Duryodhana even made plans and preparations to conquer Indra, the lord of the heavens and the father of Arjuna in order to become the sovereign ruler of both heaven and earth.
Peace Talks and Buildup
At the end of the exile term, Duryodhana refuses to return Yudhishthira's kingdom, despite the counsel of Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Vidura. Although Dhritarashtra criticizes his son, he tacitly desires that Duryodhana retain his throne. In a final attempt at securing peace, Krishna returns with the Pandavas' final proposal: the Pandavas would give up all claims to Indraprastha and Hastinapur in exchange for five villages. Scoffing, Duryodhana says he will not even give "five needlepoints of land" to the Pandavas. Egged on by Krishna, Duryodhana attempts to arrest him. Krishna reveals his Vishvarupa form. The entire Kaurava court, save for Bhishma, Drona, Vidura, and Dhritarashtra(who was granted divine vision in order to see that by supporting his son, he was going against God), is temporarily blinded by the form. This confirms to those present that Krishna is indeed an avatar of Vishnu, implying that God and dharma lies with the Pandavas. Duryodhana, in some versions of the story an outright atheist, brushes off the incident, not convinced of Krishna's divinity, and believing that strength of arms, not philosophy, would win him a war.
Gathering the army
With war inevitable, Duryodhana gathers support from his powerful vassals. The most legendary warriors – Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwathama, Shrutyudha, even those who were critical of him are forced to fight for Duryodhana due to their previous commitments. He ends up amassing a larger army than his rivals.
Shakuni also advises Duryodhana to seek Krishna's help. Duryodhana rushes to Dwarka only to find Krishna sleeping; he waits at the head of Krishna's bed when suddenly, Arjuna arrives with the same goal in mind. Arjuna waits at the foot of Krishna's bed. When Krishna wakes up, both Duryodhana and Arjuna appeal for his alliance. Krishna offers a choice of himself, completely unarmed, or the entire Vrishini army. Duryodhana proclaims that because he arrived first, he should get first-pick. However, Krishna says that because he saw Arjuna first, and because Arjuna is younger, that Arjuna gets the first choice. Duryodhana becomes worried, but is overjoyed when Arjuna elects to reject Krishna's army in favor of Krishna alone. Joyously, Duryodhana returns to Hastinapur with the Vrishini army in-hand, only to be rebuked by Shakuni, who comments that Krishna is worth many armies by himself.
Duryodhana also manages to win the army of king Shalya, the maternal uncle of the Pandavas. Duryodhana intercepts Shalya's army as it comes to Kurukshetra and offers hospitality; Shalya accepts thinking Yudhishthira had made the offer. After Shalya has enjoyed Duryodhana's comforts, Duryodhana reveals the treachery, and indicates that Shalya is now indebted to him. He uses this indebtedness to extract Shalya's army and support. Duryodhana wanted Shalya mainly so that Karna would have an equivalent charioteer to Arjuna's Krishna.
During the War
In the war, Duryodhana repeatedly eggs on the invincible Bhishma and Drona to forward his cause, even though his main hope is Karna. He desires to appoint Karna as his commander-in-chief; however, Karna and Shakuni point out that his already reluctant allies would much rather fight under Bhishma, an older, experienced, god-born, kshatriya than fight under a suta-putra, son of a charioteer. Reluctantly, Duryodhana appoints Bhishma as the commander in chief. When Bhishma falls to Arjuna, Duryodhana appoints Drona as commander-in-chief and orders him to capture Yudhishthira alive, so that he may blackmail the Pandavas into surrender, or force him to gamble again. On the thirteenth day of battle, his heir Lakshmana is killed by Arjuna's son, Abhimanyu, who proceeds to try and arrest Duryodhana. Duryodhana participates in the brutal and unethical killing of Abhimanyu.
But he is repeatedly frustrated, as the Pandavas succeed in downing Drona, and is emotionally distraught when Arjuna kills Jayadratha, his brother-in-law, to avenge Abhimanyu. And all along, Bhima is steadily slaying his brothers, increasing his misery and bringing him closer to defeat.
It is said that, Duryodhana never shed a single tear for any of his real brothers who were killed in the battlefield, but when his beloved friend Karna was slain, he was inconsolable. Duryodhana's hopes are finally shattered when Karna is felled by the cheating of Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Duryodhana appoints Shalya as the next commander-in-chief.
On the final day of war, Duryodhana takes out his anger by killing Chekitana. As Shalya is killed by Yudhishthira, Duryodhana's paltry army-once eleven akshauhinis strong-breaks, and the army is essentially routed. Having lost his horse, Duryodhana leaves the battlefield. He cools his body by entering a lake, all hope of winning lost, yet he prepares for his final battle; for a death befitting a warrior on the battlefield and hoping to reunite with his friends and relations in the afterlife. He re-emerges from the lake after Ashwatthama and Kripa counsel him to face his destiny with courage.
On the eighteenth day of the war, with his army reduced to himself, Ashwatthama, Kripa and Kritvarma, Duryodhana goes to meditate in a lake. When the Pandavas and Krishna eventually find him, Duryodhana tells them that he wants to gift the kingdom to them, and retire to the forest. Yudhishthira balks at the offer, telling him that Hastinapur is not Duryodhana's to gift. Instead, he offers that Duryodhana may pick any of the Pandava brothers to fight against one-to-one with a weapon of his choice, with the winner of the conflict the victor of the war.
Despite his proposed advantage over Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Nakula, or Sahadeva with the gada, Duryodhana picks his nemesis Bhima. Despite Bhima's physical advantage, Duryodhana had the better technique due to his devotion to his craft. After a long and brutal battle between the two disciples of Balarama, Duryodhana begins to exhaust Bhima, and nearly makes Bhima faint.
At this point, Krishna, observing the fight, calls out to Bhima and signals him by repeatedly clapping his own thigh with his hand. As intended, Bhima was reminded of an oath he had taken after the game of dice to crush Duryodhana's thighs. Bhima viciously attacks Duryodhana with a mace and strikes his thigh, mortally wounding Duryodhana. After having his face insultingly kicked by Bhima, Duryodhana bemoans that he was slain by unfair means, given that it was illegal to attack below the waist. Infuriated at the violation, Balarama, the brother of Lord Krishna, raises his weapon in attack. Lord Krishna consoles Balarama, by reminding him of Duryodhana's evil deeds. Relenting but fuming, Balarama curses Bhima to be known in the world as a crooked warrior and blesses Duryodhana with glory, naming Duryodhana his greatest pupil.
Lying defeated, Duryodhana boasts to the Pandavas about how he will die a glorious death, about how he got to enjoy Hastinapur while the Pandavas were in exile, and about how he would now spend the afterlife in the company of his friends and relatives. He again eviscerates the Pandavas for all their chicanery during the war and decries their legacy. Venerating his own character, Duryodhana proclaims he will die happily. Duryodhana then turns to Krishna and specifically accuses him of engineering his defeat, calling Krishna the most sinful of the lot.
Upon the conclusion of these words of Duryodhana, signs from the heavens (flowers and music) validate the merits of Duryodhana's words. Beholding these exceedingly wonderful things and this worship offered to Duryodhana by heavenly beings, the Pandavas headed by Lord Krishna became ashamed. Hearing the words of Devas and Siddhas that Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Duryodhana, and others were cheated to death, the Pandavas became afflicted with grief and wept in sorrow.
The Pandavas, along with Yuyutsu, Krishna, and Satyaki went to stay in the Kaurava camp, while the rest of the army returns to their camp.
When the coast is clear, Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, and Kritvarma, having witnessed the fight and not wanting to interrupt so as to rob Duryodhana of his honour, come to Duryodhana's broken body. Duryodhana commands them to take revenge on the Pandavas, and to specifically kill all the Pandava brothers and Panchalas. Using the blood from his body, Duryodhana appoints Ashwatthama as the army's supreme commander and the protector of his wealth, country, family, and honor.
Already angry at the deceitful killing of his father Drona, Ashwatthama ambushes the Pandava camp at night. The three maharathis lay waste to the sleeping, drunk, and unaware army. Other than those who had been staying in the Kaurava camp, few escape the slaughter. The trio rushes to tell Duryodhana of the news.
After destroying the entire Pandava camp, Ashwatthama proceeds towards Duryodana with the cut-off heads of the Upapandavas. He told Duryodhana that he only managed to kill the Pandava's children as the Pandavas were not there, and this makes Duryodhana happy, as that means the Pandava lineage would die out. Duryodhana then, having heard the news that was so agreeable to his heart, regained his senses and praised Ashwatthama for achieving what Bhishma, Drona, and Karna had failed to accomplish. Duryodhana died happily with a smile in his face. At the same time, Sanjaya loses his divine sight, which he had been using to update Duryodhana's father Dhritarashtra.
According to the Mahabharata, after entering the svarga with a human body on Indra's invitation, Yudhishthira witnessed that Duryodhana "was seated on a beautiful throne and he shone with the splendour of the sun and around him stood in attendance the goddess of heroism and other angels." Yudhishthira found this insufferable and reminded the dwellers of svarga about his sinful deeds. Following that, Narada smiled at Yudhishthira and said that "the brave Duryodhana had attained his present state by force of kshatriya dharma." The Mahabharata further mentions that in svarga, Duryodhana and his brothers "attained the state of the gods."
Duryodhana is lying in the battle field, awaiting death, badly bruised by the wounds inflicted by Bhima. He kept his three fingers in a raised position and is unable to speak. All the efforts made by his men to understand the meaning proved to be futile. Seeing his plight Krishna approached him and said "I know what issues occupied your mind. I will address them". Krishna identified the issues as:
On hearing this Duryodhana closed all the fingers and rested. Duryodhana concluded that these 3 factors should have surely brought him victory. Had he built a fort around Hastinapur, he could have totally avoided the war in the first place. If Vidura had fought on his side, he would have had the best strategist, even better than Krishna. At last, Duryodhana came to the conclusion that Krishna was in fact the avatar of Lord Vishnu. If Duryodhana had named Ashwatthama the commander of the army after the death of Drona, victory would have surely be his as Ashwatthama was the avatar of Lord Shiva. No one can handle a 'furious' Ashwatthama, the part incarnate of Lord Shiva. All Duryodhana need to do to win the war was to make Ashwatthama furious. The remorse about under-utilizing Ashwatthama prompted Duryodhana to rethink and make Ashwatthama the commander of his army after the war, after his defeat. These events led to the complete destruction of the Pandavas' army. After the night raid of Ashwatthama on the Pandava camp, Duryodhana felt like he had won the war, as the Pandavas lost everything and everyone they cared about.
Duryodhana is a popular choice of analysis. His merits, flaws, symbolism, and relevance are widely discussed.
Urubhanga is a Sanskrit play written by Bhasa in the 2nd or 3rd century AD with Duryodhana as its primary protagonist. Written as a tragedy, the drama focuses on his point of view of the events of Mahabharata. His portrayal as a tragic hero is an especially unique within body of works in Sanskrit drama.
Many Hindus believe that Duryodhana was the personification of Kali. Many critics argue that he is not without positives; many consider Duryodhana as a fair king and there are temples dedicated to him and Kauravas. Scholars believe that like most other characters of the Mahabharata, the true picture is not black and white. His name is often mistaken to mean bad ruler, however his name is actually coined from the Sanskrit words "du"/"duh" which means "difficult" and "yodhana" which means "fight"/"war". So Duryodhana actually means someone who is extremely difficult to fight/defeat or wage war against. Duryodhana is viewed, by some, as the product of Dhritarashtra's ambition and also in a metaphorical sense, his "blindness". He is also praised for his adherence to his duties as a Kshatriya, and even in his last combat, fights bravely. He chooses to face Bhima in combat over all the other Pandavas, with whom he has an advantage in mace fighting. His skills in the mace are also praised; many stories call him the best mace-fighter of the age after Balarama.
According to Mahabharata, when Bhishma has to pick Dhritarashtra's successor, he mentions to Vidura many of Duryodhana's positive qualities in comparison to Yudhishthira. Having spent so many years in the forest, Yudhishthira doesn't have Duryodhana's experience, military expertise, education, and courtly manners. Bhishma adds that Duryodhana is loved by the people, while Yudhishthira is an unknown quantity to them. However, Bhishma ultimately selects Yudhishthira, telling Vidura that in his heart, Duryodhana is a power-hungry, vitriolic individual, while at his core, Yudhishthira is a good man who cares tremendously for his people.
Friendship with Karna
The friendship between Karna and Duryodhana is considered to be a great one, and is used as an example of friendship and loyalty. In the epic, Duryodhana decries the means of discrimination employed by Dronacharya. He goes one step further to accord Karna a place among the royals, by crowning him the King of Anga and standing by him whenever anyone pointed a finger at his lower-birth. He seems to not care about the low birth of Karna and is the only one to vocally support Karna candidature in the archery contest without caring about caste inequality. When Draupadi refuses to allow Karna to string the bow at her Swayamvara because of his low birth, Duryodhana defends him saying "great sages, philosophers, and warriors have no source. They are made great, not born great". In modern light, his disrespect for discrimination and blind following of tradition is seen more positively.
At Poruvazhy Peruviruthy Malanada Temple in Kerala's Kollam district, Duryodhana is worshipped as the main deity. It is the only temple in South India where a Kaurava is considered a God.
In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, several beautifully carved temples are dedicated to Duryodhana and he is worshipped as the deity. The mountain tribes of Kumaon fought along with Duryodhana in the Mahabharata war; he was venerated as a capable and generous administrator.