first theme that emerged was “Chosen disability: love and affection”. Most of
the narratives about Gandhari focus on her love and respect for her husband. These
narratives suggest that she blindfolded herself as she did not wish to have the
gift of sight which her husband was deprived of. Neelakantan (2015) wrote in
his book Ajaya – Book 2: Rise of Kali that Gandhari was “the pativrata who had refused the light
denied to her blind husband”. This
equates Gandhari to the perfect wife – a Sati. She is called a Pativrata as she
voluntarily choses blindness to stand in solidarity with her husband. This is
particularly important as Gandhari is often said to be the perfect wife.
Pattnaik (2010) says, “By blindfolding
herself to share her husband’s blindness, Gandhari attains the status of ‘sati’
or the perfect wife. Later in the epic, her sacrifice grants her magical powers.”
This is considered to be a penance which grants Gandhari magical powers –
powers she has achieved because of her piety towards her husband.
second theme that emerged was “Chosen disability: Protest”. Some narratives
suggest that Gandhari blindfolded herself not because she loved her husband,
but because she was appalled at being asked to marry a blind man. Hence, she
chose to blindfold herself instead of having to look at the face of her blind
husband. This corresponds with the aesthetic model of disability, as one
account suggests that the main reason for Gandhari choosing to blindfold
herself was her dislike for looking at her husband’s sightless eyes. According
to Neelakantan (2013), “It had been a
forced marriage, thrust upon a hapless Princess by a powerful man”. This
was one of main reasons for her protesting against it.
third theme that emerged was “Love for children”. Gandhari’s love for her
children is well-documented and remains constant across various narratives.
Gandhari was incredibly fond of Duryodhana, her first-born child. She loved him
so much that she wouldn’t let the courtiers harm him even when his birth was
followed by many ill-omens. She loudly declared that her first-born was her
favourite and she wouldn’t let anyone harm him. To ensure that Duryodhana
became the king of Hastinapuri, Gandhari had a fierce rivalry with Kunti.
Furthurmore, during the Battle of Kurukshetra, Gandhari uses the powers she
gained due to her piety to make Duryodhana invulnerable to the attacks of
others. She always turned a blind eye to the faults of her children, which is
why they turned out to be such villains, according to most narratives.
According to Pattnaik (2010), “Vyasa
wonders if parents are naturally blind to shortcomings of their children like
Dhritarashtra, or if they choose to be blind like Gandhari.”