A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gandhari’s Hundred Sons

One of my readers sent me the following after reading “Gandhari and her Karma ” dated June 25, 2012, –

Hi Utkarsh………, had a question too. Gandhari had 100 sons, as we all know it takes 9 months for incubating a baby (unless they had machines for the same at that time) and if she had 1 baby at a time, by the time the 100th would be born the first one would be 75! So how old was Gandhari during the war? Or did she give birth to all 100 at the same time? In which case, biologically, it would be difficult for all 100 to survive. What do you think?”

An interesting question and often asked by many. How can someone have 100 sons together or even one after another? Could it be that she had many combinations of twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc. many times over?

Mythology is replete with instances which are known as supra-normal births (beyond the range of normal or scientifically explainable), where births have taken place from fire, any body fluids, like tears and sweat, or from body parts like thigh, etc. This is essentially done, to connote a sense of ‘difference’ on the said character and also to hint that the character is destined to do in-human acts or feats. This was the then author’s way of assigning an importance to the character in reference. We will not get into such instances as all heroes in mythology have had ‘different’ births, like Krishna, Jesus, Hercules, Rama, Ganapati, to name just a few. Mahabharat is full of supra-normal births, be it Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Draupadi and her brother, and of course, Gandhari’s hundred sons.

The birth of Gandhari’s hundred sons, in brief – After Gandhari had conceived it was close to two years and she had not delivered. When she heard the news of Kunti’s children being born in the jungles, she was frustrated and angry and in her state of rage, she started beating her stomach. Soon she delivered a mass of flesh. Vyas had once blessed her with a hundred sons (a common blessing in those days) and when she saw the mass of flesh, he was called. He immediately instructed her to assemble a hundred jars with ghee (oil) in it. Gandhari at this stage expressed her desire to have a daughter too. As soon as the jars were assembled, Vyas divided the ball of flesh into a hundred and one parts and distributed each into the jars. He asked her to cover them and leave them, and soon she was the mother of hundred sons and one daughter.

Many later day thinkers hint at the concept which is better known to us today as ‘in-vitro fertilisation’. Today we know of such methods of IVF and cloning whereby births can be ‘made’ through artificial methods. I am by no means saying that Vyasa was a gynecologist and nor am I saying that people then had knowledge of such modern methods of reproduction. It could just be the figment of a creative writer’s imagination who had imagined a possibility, without going into the intricacies of the method. Also, don’t forget what is said at the beginning of the epic Mahabharata – “What is found herein may also be found elsewhere; What is not found herein does not exist.”

Another theory says that there weren’t a hundred sons, but just two, i.e. Duryodhan and Dushsshan. This gains ground as in the entire epic; these were the only two whose names had cropped up time and again (though later, we have heard of Vikarna, the Kaurava who was against the war). Also, the pregnancy lasting for two years lends credence to this theory. People of antiquity had never quite been able to explain the concept of twins (You can read more about twins in mythology in my earlier series "Twins – A case of peaceful co-existence. " dated May 1, 2011). The two-year pregnancy could have been put in to explain the birth of twins.

Another version is that the evil of Duryodhan was equal to that of hundred people; a concept similar to that of Ravana’s ten heads which implied his immense intelligence and knowledge. Mythology, like fiction also thrives on hyperbole and on a more simplistic note, this could be just that.

Another version takes the help of etymology (the study of the origin of words). Duryodhan means one who is difficult to fight, (‘duh’ – difficult & ‘yodh’ – to fight) representing ego & Dushasana means difficult to control. Representing ‘huge ego’ and ‘lack of control’ as a hundred only gave a sense of proportion to the immense trouble that the duo could unleash.

A philosophic explanation is as follows – Dhritarashtra represented blind mind and Gandhari represented blind intellect following the blind mind. Together they breed unfulfilled desires, dreams and ambitions, all unleashed on what stood for reason and law (dharma). The result of such a clash could only be a war of epic proportions!

The sheer beauty of what the authors of antiquity wrote is brought out by such representations, which to a rationalist mind might seem ridiculous and jest-worthy! Modern thinking should be used to understand the deeper meanings in the myths and not to look down and make fun of what was written way back, when ‘science’ was not a subject. I guess this is what education is all about!

I hope I have been able to answer my readers query!!


  1. Dear Utkarsh, I also do not believe that Gandhari 100 sons. I think that Dhritrastra had more sons than Pandu(perhapes 7 to 10), but not 100 sons. There are few names that comes more than once, such as Duryodhana, Duhshasana, Vikarna, Chitrasena, Durjaya, Durmukha etc. In later days some authers added this story of 100 sons to show that how invincible kaurava side was.

    Mahabharata was told and retold many times. Originaly Mahabharata was 'Jaya' samhita. Authers of later days interpolated Mahabharata to glorify some of the charectors of Mahabharata.

    Though a large part of Mahabharata is the real story and 'itihas' of ancient India, there are few interpolations in Mahabharata. In my view there are few contradictions in Mahabharata such as 1. Birth of Dhritrastra and Pandu( I think that Vichitravirya died few months after his marriage and both his wives were pregnent at that time) 2. Gandhari's 100 sons
    3. Pandu not being the biological father of pandavas( Dhritrastra and his sons were so cunning that they would not have accepted Yudhishthira as the heir of Pandu)
    4. Bhishma's iksha mrityu( Santanu was not a god)
    5. Shikhandi shielding Arjuna(How then Bhishma was able to pierce Arjuna with his arrows? Is it possible for a warrior to sheild other warrior when warriors are fighting in groups? Why Drona and others couldn't deal with poor Shikhandi ?)
    6. Drona performing yoga in the battle field( Drona had been killing ordinary soldiers with his celestial weapons so far and he was never known for his austerities. He didn't give up fighting even after Yudhishthira lied about Ashvatthaman's death. His arrows exhausted after a long battle. Dristidyumna cut down Drona's celestial weapons and he killed Drona when he had no weapon left)
    7. Karna's kavach kundal( Karna lost to Arjuna and Gandharvas when he had his so called inpenetrable kavach and kundal)
    8. Duryodhana becomoming invincible on last day of battle( How then he got wounds and why did he run away from battle field ? Why did he not use his superior skills in mace fighting to save his brothers when Bhima was killing them with his mace?)

    I would like to know your views on above points.

  2. 1. Duryodhana 2. Dushasana 3. Dussalan 4. Jalagandha 5. Sama 6. Saha 7. Vindha 8. Anuvindha 9. Durmukha 10. Chitrasena 11. Durdarsha 12. Durmarsha 13. Dussaha 14. Durmada 15. Vikarna 16. Dushkarna 17. Durdhara 18. Vivinsati 19. Durmarshana 20. Durvishaha 21. Durvimochana 22. Dushpradharsha 23. Durjaya 24. Jaitra 25. Bhurivala 26. Ravi 27. Jayatsena 28. Sujata 29. Srutavan 30. Srutanta 31. Jayat 32. Chitra 33. Upachitra 34. Charuchitra 35. Chitraksha 36. Sarasana 37. Chitrayudha 38. Chitravarman 39. Suvarma 40. Sudarsana 41. Dhanurgraha 42. Vivitsu 43. Subaahu 44. Nanda 45. Upananda 46. Kratha 47. Vatavega 48. Nishagin 49. Kavashin 50. Paasi 51. Vikata 52. Soma 53. Suvarchasas 54. Dhanurdhara 55. Ayobaahu 56. Mahabaahu 57. Chithraamga 58. Chithrakundala 59. Bheemaratha 60. Bheemavega 61. Bheemabela 62. Ugraayudha 63. Kundhaadhara 64. Vrindaaraka 65. Dridhavarma 66. Dridhakshathra 67. Dridhasandha 68. Jaraasandha 69. Sathyasandha 70. Sadaasuvaak 71. Ugrasravas 72. Ugrasena 73. Senaany 74. Aparaajitha 75. Kundhasaai 76. Dridhahastha 77. Suhastha 78. Suvarcha 79. Aadithyakethu 80. Ugrasaai 81. Kavachy 82. Kradhana 83. Kundhy 84. Bheemavikra 85. Alolupa 86. Abhaya 87. Dhridhakarmaavu 88. Dhridharathaasraya 89. Anaadhrushya 90. Kundhabhedy 91. Viraavy 92. Chithrakundala 93. Pradhama 94. Amapramaadhy 95. Deerkharoma 96. Suveeryavaan 97. Dheerkhabaahu 98. Kaanchanadhwaja 99. Kundhaasy 100. Virajas

  3. Karna lost bcoz he had given his kavach n kundal 2 kunti wen kunti told dat he was kuntis son and dat he shud nt fight wid his brothers. But karna disagrees and says dat he cant betray duryodhana but dat kunti can take d kavac n kundal

    1. Karna gave his kavach and kundal to Indra, the father of Arjuna before the war. Indra, scared of Karna's immense power and the protection he has in terms of the kavach and kundal dressed as a poor man and asked Karna of his kavach and kundal as he finished his morning prayers - this was the time when Karna would give anybody anything they might want. hence the name - Data Karna

  4. The Kavach/Kundal were not taken by Kunti. They were taken by Indra on Krishna's insistence, as with them, he was sort of invincible. Indra incidentally happened to be the father of Arjun, karna's main adversary!!