The Mahabharata Home
(Sambhava Parva continued)
"Vaisampayana said, 'Meanwhile, O Janamejaya, Dhritarashtra begat upon Gandhari a hundred sons, and upon a Vaisya wife another besides those hundred. And Pandu had, by his two wives Kunti and Madri, five sons who were great charioteers and who were all begotten by the celestials for the perpetuation of the Kuru line.'
"Janamejaya said, 'O best of Brahmanas, how did Gandhari bring forth those hundred sons and in how many years? What were also the periods of life allotted to each? How did Dhritarashtra also beget another son in a Vaisya wife? How did Dhritarashtra behave towards his loving obedient, and virtuous wife Gandhari? How were also begotten the five sons of Pandu, those mighty charioteers, even though Pandu himself laboured under the curse of the great Rishi (he slew)? Tell me all this in detail, for my thirst for hearing everything relating to my own ancestor hath not been slaked.'
"Vaisampayana said, 'One day Gandhari entertained with respectful attention the great Dwaipayana who came to her abode, exhausted with hunger and fatigue. Gratified with Gandhari's hospitality, the Rishi gave her the boon she asked for, viz., that she should have a century of sons each equal unto her lord in strength and accomplishments. Some time after Gandhari conceived and she bore the burden in her womb for two long years without being delivered. And she was greatly afflicted at this. It was then that she heard that Kunti had brought forth a son whose splendour was like unto the morning sun. Impatient of the period of gestation which had prolonged so long, and deprived of reason by grief, she struck her womb with great violence without the knowledge of her husband. And thereupon came out of her womb, after two years' growth, a hard mass of flesh like unto an iron ball. When she was about to throw it away, Dwaipayana, learning everything by his spiritual powers, promptly came there, and that first of ascetics beholding that ball of flesh, addressed the daughter of Suvala thus, 'What hast thou done?' Gandhari, without endeavouring to disguise her feelings, addressed the Rishi and said, 'Having heard that Kunti had brought forth a son like unto Surya in splendour, I struck in grief at my womb. Thou hadst, O Rishi, granted me the boon that I should have a hundred sons, but here is only a ball of flesh for those hundred sons!' Vyasa then said, 'Daughter of Suvala, it is even so. But my words can never be futile. I have not spoken an untruth even in jest. I need not speak of other occasions. Let a hundred pots full of clarified butter be brought instantly, and let them be placed at a concealed spot. In the meantime, let cool water be sprinkled over this ball of flesh.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'That ball of flesh then, sprinkled over with
water, became, in time, divided into a hundred and one parts, each about the size of the thumb. These were then put into those pots full of clarified butter that had been placed at a concealed spot and were watched with care. The illustrious Vyasa then said unto the daughter of Suvala that she should open the covers of the pots after full two years. And having said this and made these arrangements, the wise Dwaipayana went to the Himavat mountains for devoting himself to asceticism.
"Then in time, king Duryodhana was born from among those pieces of the ball of flesh that had been deposited in those pots. According to the order of birth, king Yudhishthira was the oldest. The news of Duryodhana's birth was carried to Bhishma and the wise Vidura. The day that the haughty Duryodhana was born was also the birth-day of Bhima of mighty arms and great prowess.
"As soon as Duryodhana was born, he began to cry and bray like an ass. And hearing that sound, the asses, vultures, jackals and crows uttered their respective cries responsively. Violent winds began to blow, and there were fires in various directions. Then king Dhritarashtra in great fear, summoning Bhishma and Vidura and other well-wishers and all the Kurus, and numberless Brahmanas, addressed them and said, 'The oldest of those princes, Yudhishthira, is the perpetuator of our line. By virtue of his birth he hath acquired the kingdom. We have nothing to say to this. But shall this my son born after him become king? Tell me truly what is lawful and right under these circumstances.' As soon as these words were spoken, O Bharata, jackals and other carnivorous animals began to howl ominously And marking those frightful omens all around, the assembled Brahmanas and the wise Vidura replied, 'O king, O bull among men, when these frightful omens are noticeable at the birth of thy eldest son, it is evident that he shall be the exterminator of thy race. The prosperity of all dependeth on his abandonment. Calamity there must be in keeping him. O king, if thou abandonest him, there remain yet thy nine and ninety sons. If thou desirest the good of thy race, abandon him, O Bharata! O king, do good to the world and thy own race by casting off this one child of thine. It hath been said that an individual should be cast off for the sake of the family; that a family should be cast off for the sake of a village; that a village may be abandoned for the sake of the whole country; and that the earth itself may be abandoned for the sake of the soul.' When Vidura and those Brahmanas had stated so, king Dhritarashtra out of affection for his son had not the heart to follow that advice. Then, O king, within a month, were born a full hundred sons unto Dhritarashtra and a daughter also in excess of this hundred. And during the time when Gandhari was in a state of advanced pregnancy, there was a maid servant of the Vaisya class who used to attend on Dhritarashtra. During that year, O king, was begotten upon her by the illustrious Dhritarashtra a son endued with great intelligence who was afterwards named Yuvutsu. And because he was begotten by a
[paragraph continues] Kshatriya upon a Vaisya woman, he came to be called Karna.
"Thus were born unto the wise Dhritarashtra a hundred sons who were all heroes and mighty chariot-fighters, and a daughter over and above the hundred, and another son Yuyutsu of great energy and prowess begotten upon a Vaisya woman.'"
Next: Section CXVI