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The unfair treatment meted out to Dhritarashtra

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The
theme ‘Is it my fault I am sightless?:
Unfair treatment’ explored the unfair treatment meted out to Dhritarashtra
because of his disability. He was always considered to be less worthy than his
brother simply because he was disabled. Such was the prejudice against a
disable king that they chose to make an impotent man the king instead of a
disabled man.

The
second theme that emerged was ‘Making of
a figure of pity and a dependent fool’, which very slightly conveys a grim
subtext in mythological accounts of disability: that a disabled person has to
be extraordinary to earn basic respect.

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The
third theme that emerged was ‘Masquerading:
Use of cleverness and cunning to secure his position’. Dhritarashtra’s case
follows the narrative wherein ‘the masquerade may inflect private and public
space, allowing expression of a public view of disability for political ends’
(Seibers, 2004). Dhritarashtra had to masquerade because the idea of having a
disabled king was quite difficult for most people to follow, and if he didn’t
let others believe that they were the ones actually running the kingdom by
influencing his decisions, he would have been easily replaced by some other
person.

The
fourth theme that emerged was ‘Familial
love for son’.  Every time a parent
chooses to blindly praise their child without acknowledging their flaws, they
are said to be “very much like the blind
Dhritarashtra and the blindfolded Gandhari who regard Duryodhana very highly”.
His blindness is an allegory to his carelessness as a father. He turned a
“blind eye” to the faults of his sons which led to his family’s epic downfall.

The 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 that Gandhari was “the pativrata
who had refused the light denied to her blind husband”. This equates Gandhari to the perfect wife – a Sati.
This is particularly important as Gandhari is often said to be the perfect
wife. Her sacrifice is considered to be a penance which grants Gandhari magical
powers – powers she has achieved because of her piety towards her husband.

            The
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. 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.

            The
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. Furthermore, 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.”

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