Was Gandhari jealous of Kunti?

Was Gandhari jealous of Kunti - Featured Image - Picture of two women's faces back to back

Gandhari is the mother of the Kauravas in the Mahabharata. She is the daughter of King Subala, king of Gandhara. She is given in marriage to the blind prince of Hastinapur, Dhritarashtra.

Throughout her life, Gandhari is locked in a competition with Kunti with respect to who will have the more heroic children. Like Dhritarashtra, she is torn between love for her own children and duty that compels her to be civil toward the Pandavas.

She does try to ward Duryodhana off his wicked ways, but fails. In the end, she curses Krishna and the Yadavas with death by civil war. All her anger is thus channelled toward this one wish.

In this post, we will answer the question: Was Gandhari jealous of Kunti?

Gandhari is definitely jealous of Kunti at the time of her marriage, because at that point, Kunti is the queen of Hastinapur. When Pandu leaves, though, Gandhari becomes the queen. She has a brief moment of jealousy when she discovers Kunti has given birth before her, but overall, Gandhari maintains her higher status.

Read on to discover more about whether Gandhari was jealous of Kunti.

(For answers to all Gandhari-related questions, see: Gandhari: 12 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered.)

During Gandhari’s Marriage

Gandhari enters the Mahabharata story as a fully-formed young maiden, the daughter of Subala who is the king of Gandhara. Very little is known about Gandhari’s childhood and early youth.

The first we hear of her is when Bhishma casts his net out wide to find a bride for Dhritarashtra. His search ends in Gandhara, where he negotiates a hefty price for marrying Gandhari to the eldest Kuru prince.

We do not know for certain how much Gandhari did or did not know about the truths concerning Dhritarashtra (whether he was blind, whether he would be king and so on), but we do know that during her wedding ceremony, she takes the vow of blindness.

This suggests that wedding-day-Gandhari knows that she is not going to be queen.

Imagine Gandhari’s position here. She has been brought to the Kuru house as bride. The implication had been that since she would be marrying the firstborn prince she would become queen.

Now she knows the truth. She looks around to see who is going to be queen in her stead. And she sees Kunti.

It goes without saying that Gandhari was probably consumed by jealousy for Kunti.

During Pandu’s Reign

However, fortunately for Gandhari, Pandu happens to be a reluctant king. A year or two into his reign, he takes the decision to leave the kingdom in Dhritarashtra’s hands and retire into the woods.

During this short period, one can imagine Gandhari secretly raging against the unfairness of Bhishma and Vidura, who refuse to even consider the possibility of Dhritarashtra being king.

Gandhari does not take any concrete steps to address the issue, but one might guess that her relationship with Kunti – while being cordial – would have been frosty at best.

With the departure of Pandu for the forest, Gandhari gets her first taste of being queen. This is the first time she is elevated in the pecking order above Kunti.

However, she understands that this is a temporary situation, and that the kingdom should be given back to Pandu when he returns.

Permanence of Status

Gandhari gets another helping of good fortune when Pandu decides that his temporary exile is going to extend indefinitely. He takes Kunti and Madri and goes to the Gandhamadana mountains.

While this solidifies Gandhari’s position as queen (and Dhritarashtra’s as king), she also keeps an eye out for news on Kunti – especially regarding her possible pregnancy.

Gandhari makes it a priority to get pregnant before Kunti does, but is dealt a bad hand when she is forced to carry her pregnancy for two full years. In the meantime, Kunti gets pregnant a year after Gandhari does, and carries her first baby to term naturally.

Vyasa arrives and helps Gandhari deliver her hundred babies, but that takes a further ten months. Her eldest son, Duryodhana, is born on the same day that Bhima is born to Kunti.

During these two years – when Gandhari is waiting for her children to be born, she is again smitten by envy for Kunti, who has given birth to the eldest boy child of that generation.

Death of Pandu

The death of Pandu comes as both good and bad news for Gandhari; good because Pandu can no longer return to ask Dhritarashtra for the kingdom back, bad because now Kunti returns with her sons to stay at the palace.

Though no explicit words are traded to that effect, everyone in the family knows the meaning behind Kunti’s return: she intends to fight on behalf of her sons for their right to the throne.

If Pandu had been alive, it may have been paradoxically better for Gandhari because Pandu would have preferred to live in the forest. Now, Gandhari has to contend with her immediate rival living at the palace.

Here, the roles of the two women are reversed from the early days of their respective marriages. Then, Kunti was the queen and Gandhari had secondary status. Now, it is the other way round.

During Yudhishthir’s Reign

For the number of years that it takes Yudhishthir to establish himself as Indraprastha’s king, Gandhari remains the undisputed queen of the Kuru dynasty.

There is no reason during these years for Gandhari to envy Kunti. Kunti is forced to undergo much suffering with her children, especially during the escape from the house of wax.

But as Yudhishthir becomes king of Indraprastha, Kunti’s status becomes more or less equal to Gandhari’s. And as the Pandavas flex their muscles and become emperors, as Yudhishthir performs his Rajasuya, Kunti becomes arguably more powerful.

During this time, Gandhari has to contend with not only the Pandavas becoming more objectively powerful than her own sons, but much more loved by citizens as well.

Everyone lauds the Pandavas as just and proper and ethical. Her own sons are left behind in the shadows.

These years are therefore tough for Gandhari: her old envy returns, and she finds herself resenting Kunti.

During the Exile

Once again, with Duryodhana winning the dice game and sending the Pandavas away into the forest, Gandhari’s prime position returns. Kunti is reduced to living as a mere noblewoman in Vidura’s house during these thirteen years.

Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana are the most powerful men now, lording over all that Yudhishthir had earned.

What is better, Dhritarashtra has finally emerged from under the control of Bhishma and Vidura. Now he has been taken over by Duryodhana. (This is a good thing for Gandhari’s position as Queen Mother.)

These are perhaps the most peaceful years of Gandhari’s life. There is no envy in her heart for Kunti. Perhaps she allows herself to feel sympathy for Kunti on occasion.

After the War

The Kurukshetra was once again upends the situation. The Pandavas are back in power. And while they look after Gandhari and Dhritarashtra, the couple’s position is decidedly diminished.

Kunti reclaims her role as the Queen Mother, and Gandhari becomes secondary to her.

However, by this time, the two women show enough signs to be quite tired of the whole charade. They are comfortable in each other’s company. Indeed, when Dhritarashtra and Gandhari decide to leave, Kunti accompanies them.

There is a fifteen-year period when Gandhari is forced to play second-fiddle to Kunti, and she perhaps feels envious toward her on occasion. But the evidence is that the two women treat each other with civility.

Further Reading

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