- Duryodhana - a leader or a villain
Dr. Mala Sinha
There are some heroes who are labeled by posterity as villains. Duryodhana falls in this category. Even though, in many instances in Mahabharata, Duryodhana displayed qualities of a good leader.
He showed benevolence and large heartedness when he made Karna (a person who did not have acknowledged royal lineage), the King of Anga. This act also showcased his astuteness because he had earned a loyal ally in Karna, who could match the valour and skill of Pandavas in warfare.
Duryodhana was a skilled strategist also. He managed to win the allegiance King Salya, who was actually the maternal uncle of Pandavas, to fight on his side in battle of Kurukshetra. It so happened that while King Shalya was moving with his army to go and support Yudhishthira, he and his force were looked after extremely well en route. Floored by the hospitality, Shalya offered complete support to the host thinking it was Yudhishthira. Only later did he discover that Duryodhana was the person behind the hospitality. This episode indicates that Duryodhana had the capabilities of converting difficult situation favorable.
Duryodhana was also prompt and quick acting; when the time came to seek support from Krishna – he reached Dwarka before Arjun did. Similarly, as soon as war became imminent, Duryodhana met many kings and lined up a formidable force for himself. Some were relatives, while others he won due to his persuasive charm. When the war began he had eleven aksaunis, while Yudhishthira had managed only seven. Each Aksauni is a division of army consisting of 21870 chariots, equal number of elephants , 65160 horses and 109350 soldiers. Pandavas, on the other hand got support mainly from the Krishna’s allies, and there in laws - King Dhrupad and Virat from the marriage of Draupadi and Uttara, (Abhmanyu’s wife). It is also said that Duryodhana was a good king and people in his reign were happy.
Then what makes Duryodhana a villain. First, he had a negative vision - victory for him was not what he had, but what he could take away from the Pandavas. When the kingdom of Hastinapur was divided and the barren half - Khandavaprastha was given to Pandavas, Duryodhana kept Hastinapur with himself. In due course the Pandavas built the land and renamed it Indraprastha, he was jealous of their glory. He then stage managed the infamous dice game and the Pandavas lost everything to him. Just before the war, in a last bid for peace, the Pandavas asked for just five villages, but, he refused saying he would not give land even the size of the tip of a needle. One wonder where was Duryodhana‘s benevolence at this time.
There is no logical reason for his vindictiveness – for the Pandavas had never harmed them. In those days vanquished kings were never humiliated by the victor nor were their land annexed or assets appropriated. Winning had symbolic significance, meant to establish superiority of the victor; this was the noble “Kshatriya value frame” that existed in the times of Mahabharata. Why did Duryodhana fall short here? His aim was not just impoverishing the Pandavas but also humiliating them.
Duryodhana’s think tank - his purohits and advisors were people who were not well versed in matters of Dharma. Dhritarashtra, his father tacitly fanned the flames of ambition and annihilation of Pandavas in him. Karna, his closest friend, was the one who suggested the contemptible act of public disrobing of the well bred Draupadi, and pointing a finger at her character because she was wedded to five brothers. Finally it was Shakuni, his maternal uncle, who cheated on his behalf in the dice game, which reduced the Pandavas to pecuniary.
Thus Duryodhana was weak in the knowledge of dharma, though he was good in implementation. His leadership skills and competencies were put to use for supporting adharma rather than dharma. Duryodhana was a victim of his destructive emotions which his friends and elders watered and fanned – Sibling rivalry in childhood became in adulthood raging flames of anger and hatred that destroyed thousands of innocent lives.
We must remember that dharma is the natural intelligence that keeps the creation in order. It always prevails despite bad leaders and advisors. This is why Duryodhana had to lose in the end. Only truth wins, and dharma is truth. Satyameva Jayate.
POSER- Krishna was the most powerful character in Mahabharata and he failed to reform Duryodhana. Was there any other win – win solution available and also implementable, by which dharma could be upheld, without the carnage of Kurukshetra.
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